So, How many heartbeats does it take to write successfully?

I can’t even think how many months it has been since I’ve written. Anything. Anything other than lectures for classes or comments on papers. Maybe some lists of food or things needed, a constant failing of bill paying, this or that, a journal with nothins, broken numbers and endless yarn, frayed. I’m not going through a spell or writer’s block. It was and is a choice.

I’ve taken a strong year now insistent upon not touching letters on plastic to weave words into visions. I insist upon myself. There is no such thing as writer’s block if you have a brain and a beating heart. If you, or me, or anyone really wanted to, we can put one letter next to the other and make a word, a space, and another word. To write is to write is to write. Perfection is over-rated and a deep seething open sore that spends yards of twisted entanglement for a million miles of thought. Write down the worming mess and get over it. So. I’m not going to write anything anyone wants or cares to read. So be it. It should never be about the satisfaction of others. Sure. Success in anything in life is sweet and these moments rock by in a smooth gliding boat oared by others supporting the weight of a million things gone wrong in existed time. But moments, all of them, are fleeting. The creation of all moments takes truth and possibility, and anything outside of this is cemented to repeat in broken circles where one can know what is happening and can know the meaning of it but cannot or will not express how or why the moment is understood. Success is a standard of the good. It is in the Greeks, the Romans, the Hierarchical patterns in religion, Feudal systems, democracies, socialism, the Regimes of past and future. It is what defined the worth of the human spirit and soul. Success completes peace of mind, makes the heart beat right and longer, breaths come sweet upon the tongue, and it is easy to smile. Success is understood. We know it. We know what it means. We know how to explain it for understanding.

Maybe this is what writer’s block really is. This idea of success. Am I blocked because I am unsuccessful in the art? If so, then I am unjustly attaching the process (of which all things are a process) to the result when they should most definitely be their own separate struggles. I use to worry about what approval for others determines the success of the one. But approval cannot happen until completion. One must complete one letter first. So, to me, this defines the completion (upon further approval or disapproval) as it’s own separate entity, something that does not have anything to do with the process of anything. Approval or disapproval (by which one determines personal success through the feedback of others) cannot be fulfilled until the creator of the process has decided the process is over for them. So. What is the block these artists keep talking about?

We, as artists, mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, etc., should be more truthful with ourselves and others when it comes to processing, completing and establishing approval/disapproval. Is it really possible to have writer’s block under these terms? How can you be blocked from existence? From moments? From any process of life? The only blocks one can use are the ones used in walling up the self from that which fears, angers, shames, or creates guilt. Thereby, using the famed terminology of “writer’s block” is a way to acknowledge only a partial truth, another way to avoid that which can cause shame, fear, anger, guilt.

I’ve heard it plenty of times before about “in order to treat (like writer’s block is a completed action when nothing has been processed to begin with) writer’s block, you must look deeper inside.” Yeah. Look deeper alright, but do something more powerful. Own the damned thing to manipulate it, spin it, turn it, try all kinds of things to cause change. Stuck in a rut? Wiggle your ass right out of it.

Maybe instead of giving the issue a power, we should take that power for our own. But, you can’t own anything as your own unless you are completely honest with it. Otherwise, the things come back, the broken circles beg to be straightened out so damned loud they will destroy every part of the soul and heart, health, mobility, agility, intelligence, etc. Speak truth of it.

You don’t have writer’s block because that is a coined term. It is a noun that is not real. You can’t hold it or manipulate it. And, you certainly cannot own it, so why use it as truth? You have to find out what the burden is (or lack thereof). Name the blank screen, the white or yellowed paper empty of your truth. Name it. Ask it why. Make it move, give the noun an action verb. Do you have writer’s block? Do you own that noun? Or, do you name it to keep what’s really going on from coming and scaring, blaming, shaming or guilting you?

Activate it. I have writer’s block. NO. It’s not a damned disease you catch on an overcrowded airplane. I own writer’s block. NO. Because if you owned it, you could do anything you want with it.

How about: There are many things in my life right now that are in a higher need of my attention than the time, energy, and thought I need to create. And that…because I am human and I am in need of things other than success, is okay and a hell of a lot more healthy for the self.

Would that be more truthful and real to you? And by you, the only you I ever truly mean is myself.


Something Other Than…1, 2, 3 and 4

It’s been such a long time since I’ve blogged, or tweeted, and in most cases, even checked my email. I never thought I would do that…evasion. I became, for several months, the evasion artist. I avoided social contact in most places, including online.

I’m slowly returning to writing. I picked up knitting in its place as a means of coping. I needed guiranteed successful results. I needed something to do with my fingers, my hands. I needed to express without thinking. I needed to count, go back and count.

I remember my first job at Waldbaums (egg company…the incredible edible egg). I was sent to the chicken houses first, but then I got the “cool” job after a while. This is where all the teenagers from all over the area were. The guys were packing and stacking boxes, and the girls were on the egg line, working the wand, picking out the bad eggs, elbows deep in chemical wash and tearing up our cuticles as we fast pushed cartons in to boxes before they overflowed on the line and tumbled off the belt. It was hard work. Running back and forth trying to keep up with the eggs in cartons sliding from the big machine or going into the wand room where the light shone through the eggs to show you the cracks and the half-developed embryos. Those were the bad eggs. The eggs that just don’t have it to make it through the shipping process. They were the disabled veterans eggs. All of them came down the belt, rolling, warm, just taken from their momma chickens stuffed 17 in a small cage, the slave class, the breeders. They went through mild chemical washes to get the chicken crap, feathers, blood and everything else off them. In the wand room, it was dark except for the infrared lights underneath the belt. There was a smell to it from broken eggs baking on the lights, but the chemical mist coming through the infinitely dark belt line felt good, and the broken egg yolk on the torn up cuticles and fingers soothed the pain and stopped the bleeding. The eggs bumbled down and through. The light exposed their inner workings. Showed the cracks in endless and unique like a snowflake patterns spindled and shattered outward from a center like spiderwebs. The cracks shown through grey, sometimes blueish or purplish against glowing orange and yellow insides. If the cracks were bad, you stabbed them with a wand, the wand beeped and the egg went with the other disabled veterans into their own disgusting line to be packaged for byproducts such as egg whites, powders for make up, protein shakes, powdered egg mixes for the military and others, Egg Beaters, etcetera etcetra. I would count them. I would count them by spindled pattern designs, separating them into categories that defined them. I would count the disabled eggs that had partial formed embryos in them, of course, by categorizing the development of the embryo first. I would count the disfigured eggs too. The ones that wobbled not in uniform but bumbled down, bumping into the other eggs, never staying in it’s little divot. I would count the partial soft shells as well as I beeped them into the byproduct packaging line. I would count the eggs that had too much crap on them, too. Where no matter how many chemical washes they went through, they still came out crappy. The addicts and poor eggs. And after my wand shift, with the yolk drying and sealing my wounded fingers, I would go out into the brightness and see the teenagers and the poor and the illegals, packing and sealing, running, yelling, the machines drowning all of us out, the smell of chemical wash, burnt yolk, chicken feces, cardboard boxes, machine oil and everything else. I would look down the endless rows of massive machines, and I would count. 12 packers, rotating wanders, on a line of 15 belts to one machine, 35 machines at Big Red, per machine: 2 illegals, 5 poor, 5 teenagers and sometimes somebody younger than 12 years old…if they were good enough to come from the houses where the chickens sat 17 per cage in rows taller than tall and disappearing into oblivion.

It’s how I dealt with it. With the animal cruelty, with the smells, the chemicals, the hard labor at such a ridiculously young age, the poverty, the desperate, the silent and fearful illegals, the fact that I had no other word to explain or call the illegals, the older teen boys taking privet to hit younger teens if they don’t do something right, ganging up on them in corners and throwing punches. If I counted, when I counted, all of it went away. The loud sounds hurting my ears, the constant cackle of chickens, yelling teens, screams, machines, crushing eggshells. It all swooshed and spiraled into processes and numbers, something concrete and safe. A place of zoning of not peace or quiet, but just elemental in form. Counting.

I had to go away from writing. I had to count. I lost much when I left Nebraska. More than I thought I would. For awhile, I lost my own identity. The girl in the chicken houses, packing eggs, shoveling chicken crap, counting chickens. I lost the connection to the empty streets, the connection of me and Mike and Kelly and Mason and Krista and Angie in snow, on bicycles, climbing rooftops and trees, in the creek, late night running. I lost my dad at my fingertips, the home I grew up in. I lost my numbers. I lost my patterns.

But this is a good thing. To lose the patterns sometimes. It’s a good thing to change for real, not to change just to say your changing to your therapist and then you get a new hairdo, lose some weight and start shopping at Macy’s and demanding freedom from your sexual obligations to your husband you only married because you wanted the big wedding so everyone could coo and goo at you. No. This is real change.

So, I needed to count. There’s 78 stitched bound into a circle of worsted weight wool yarn with a number 8 set of needles to form the bottom of a stocking hat. There’s then 75 rows of decreasing stitches after row 45 to formulate the top of the hat of purl 2, knit 2 to provide ribbed effect. When I cable, the interval must be 15 stitches between, with 4 and 4 then 2 slip and 2 turn. And…this is what I do. I count to deal. I count to mourn and to stop thinking. No more thinking, only numbers and immediate completion.

Time returns after the numbers meld away, and I return as well. My counting is almost finished. I’m almost ready.

Hodge Podge.

The kids don’t start school here until September 7th. They’ve had an extended summer vacay. I just wish we had the money to make it a fun one. But, they are adjusting okay. Jake is in football, and that keeps him pretty busy. Yesterday, I met a woman from Korea at Jake’s school. They just moved from Korea in July. She has a very nice son that will also be a freshman at Corvallis High. I can’t wait for Jake to meet him. They also live in our apartment complex. There’s another boy Jake will meet here in a few days. He will also be a freshman at Corvallis. I am glad and grateful for this because Jake is the one I am most worried about. He’s never been one to get on out there and make friends. He was always a fringe boy, slowly and meticulously merging in. I should be more grateful about that. It will help keep him out of trouble.

I’ve been thinking about writing a novel. Don’t know what about. Don’t know why. I just have a couple lines to start it with. Never know, maybe it will just turn into another story, or poem. I wonder if we fictionalize our lives, what kind of movie it would be. Mine, I think, would be one that has more truth in fiction than reality. But, that’s the point, right?

I’m busy with our friends’ kids, picking up and dropping off, doing their chores and cooking the evening meals. I like this. This keeps me busy and mind busy so that I’m not thinking about what I can do, what I can do. I think the biggest challenge of this new life is not having to put important things off because I work. I’m spending lots of time with my own kids (I think Jake’s having trouble with that as well), heck, I’m even crocheting again. It’s amazing how much work I really did do at my last job. Now, I think, “How did I ever do all that?” and the home, and the husband, and the kids, and the spare jobs. It’s put a huge perspective on things.

Dad had surgery on the heart yesterday. They put in a new pumper thingy with a couple extra wires. He says he feels much better already. He’s such a big man that he needed an industrial sized pumper or something. Next week, he’s going to see the Yankees in Minnesota. He wants to come out to watch Jake play football. Mom wants to come for about three weeks in December. I think she’d love it here, and I think Dad would love the weather here. Extreme is not in this weather’s vocabulary. And that changes everything.

Nebraska is full of extremes, and I think the weather plays a big part in it. Extreme heat, cold, snow, storms, rain, ice, etc. If you’re not always working against the extreme, you chill out. The people here are anti-extreme. Very laid back and soft spoken. They have a strange way of showing caution and protection, and to be my age with a 14 year old is not very common. So naturally, there is more protection. I look forward to pacing back a bit. Finish up the crocheting. I’m making hats and scarves that match Jake’s team colors for football. I can do this and write and job hunt and read and edit and submit and cook and pick up/drop off kids and still be in bed by 10 pm. It’s a new life now. Now if only I can get the fleas off the cats and finish repairing bikes. Challenge.

Gotta try these things. Healthy stuff.

Out here in Corvallis, they have a farmer’s market twice a week in the summer. That is way awesome for me. You get organically grown fresh produce and meats at a way cheaper price than it is in Nebraska. This bodes very well for me as my choices of meals and snacks are not centered around heavy grains, meat and butter but around fruits and vegetables. Also, I got a cold. A pretty nasty one. So, I came up with meals this week that are high in vitamin C and other vitamins that are helping me feel better, cleaning out my system of years of heavy abuse. Tim is also very under the weather, so I’m dosing him up with natural vitamins and such away from sugar and more for summer. Here’s two things I came up with. They are so good, I can’t handle myself.

For a frosty drink high in vitamin C. This is an awesome breakfast starter to pump up your metabolism and provide a good energy wake-me-up alternative to caffeine. It makes about 30 oz of drink.

1 large grapefruit
1/2 lemon
1/2 lime
2 sprigs of mint (or more to taste)
2 tablespoons of honey
8-10 oz of purified water
12-14 purified ice cubes

Peel all fruit. Place ice cubes, mint and honey in a blender or processor. Add the fruit. Blend well. Add the water.Blend again until mixed well and slightly frothy. Serve.

Then, I was cooking for several people on a diet with minimal sugar ability. So, I wanted to make a desert that all would enjoy. I came up with this, and I swear it tastes just like a pie.

4 large apples (any kind will do)
1 cup of strawberries
2 oranges
1/2 lemon or lime
4 tablespoons of honey
1 1/2 teaspoons of cinnamon
1 sprig of mint (optional)

Peel and cut and core apples. Squeeze the juice out of the lemon and oranges really well into a large sauce pan. Add honey, mint, cinnamon, strawberries and apples. Cook over medium heat until soft stirring frequently. To thicken for a pie, use 2 tablespoons of flour or tapioca. For use without a pie, serve plain, with yogurt, cool whip or ice cream. Serve warm or cold. Makes 2 pies, 1 crisp or 10 servings.

I don’t know what we are going to do, but I’m sure something will work out okay. I’m learning many new habits and things, and being poor is always a good thing sometimes as it returns you to some kind of inginuity, function or returns you to what are the important things in life. Not so much money as money encourages the spending, but family, kids, time with your spouse, focusing on your art, finding resources. Everything’s new and the world is your stage if you got the right mindset when you’re poor. I just hope I use my stage to do the right things.


Sunday Morning with time to spare.

It’s Sunday morning before the first of August. I like mornings. I wish I was more of a morning person, or a night owl, or someone who doesn’t like to sleep. Sleep is a waste of time, I think sometimes. It takes time away, but the body needs to rest. I learned in the military that the body isn’t the one that needs the rest. It is the mind. I used to go days without sleep, with very little sleep. On average, about four hours, and if I was lucky, six. Many times I would go with one or two hours, catching fifteen minutes here or there on a bus or in a HUMV or truck. I remember how wonderful those fifteen minutes felt. How heavy the body was and how foggy the mind was. Now. I sleep not so much because the body is tired, but because the mind is stressed. Sleep does wonders for the aging body and mind. It heals headaches and body aches, colds and sickness. But to sleep too much is just as bad as it slows the gastro system down, puts on weight, makes you hungry but not a real hungry, causes a depression, slows you down, down, down.

We will clean our little apartment today. When you have no real pressing things going on…a nice apartment cleaning is important. It doesn’t take very long to do. The house would take hours and hours and sometimes a couple of days to clean up. But, here, it takes us four about an hour to get it smelling like pine sol and dust free. That makes cleaning fun. Tim throws on the IPOD. The kids dissappear and clean their room, take out garbage and get the high stuff for me. The cats pretend like it’s a brand new adventure, and Tim flirts with me. Also today we want to go to a swimming hole on the Williamette. It’s supposed to be warm enough to swim. I’m glad. We’ve bee to the pool twice, and it was cold. The water warm. The weather in the 70s. too cold to swim.

I’m submitting stuff left and right. I’ve rewritten stories and revised poems. I went to the Magic Barrel meeting. The Magic Barrel is a once-a-year reading series held to help fight hunger. All the proceeds go to the hungry. Tim will be reading for them in October. There is a journal based out of Corvallis that I am going to go visit on Monday. I want to help them. I will gladly help them for free. It is Calyx Journal. I’ve heard of them, and I’ve read their journal. I also got the privilege to talk to the OSU Press. I would love to help them as well. Things are looking up. I can do good things here, and I am excited to.

The VA has put my case through for reevaluation. Looks like I’m worse off than I thought. But that’s okay. Here, they seem to want to take care of the Vets. There are many more programs for us here, and there is more help. I really need the help. I don’t want to get my hopes up though as they have shooed me away after saying they would help before, so I am reservedly hopeful.

I feel a little out of place here, but I know that will change once a real schedule comes into effect. Right now, I need to enjoy the time and make the best of it. Keep writing. keep submitting. keep finding places to do my publishing work and keep trying to edit other people’s work. I have found new goals. Find a journal or two to be a part of. Find a press or two to be a part of. Start up my own. Establisha web presence as author and editor. Work on Tim’s career. Make something of myself I want to make. It’s a different kind of life, one not quite expected.

Time to…

It’s hard for me to look at pictures from home. Kind of like it’s hard to face things that went bad years ago and didn’t get resolved right. I don’t think Nebraska wasn’t resolved right. I think I resolved that place pretty well. It’s just a loss, somehow. I’m talking to the VA again. Looks like I’ll be super busy with appointments coming up soon. Well, I hope to be and I should be.

Instead of looking at pictures of home, with the weather unbearable hot (just the way I like it), summer as summer really should be, I think I will talk more about my new home. In Corvallis, it is green. Even in the dry season, it is green. I like how the moss tendrils off rotting wood and tree trunks and mud. It spindles, in shades of green and brown, some thick, some thin, some splayed out in discs and round bunches. There’s all kinds of moss. In the dry season, it dries up, but is still green. It feels rough yet soft. I like the moss. I have a big garden here, but I am here too late for any maters or peppers or anything really viney. I also don’t have the necessary tools needed to cultivate the garden. So, eventually, I will get a hoe and a rake and some hand tools, and I will plow up a little section and do the fall and winter season growing things like taters, garlic, onions, lettuce, spinach, spring mix, carrots and other things. The blackberries will soon be in season here and I will like to pick them and jam them and can them.

I find myself, with this new-found time, thinking of things that have to do with time. More time to…instead of I wish I had time to… I like this about Oregon as well. I have time every day now to write and submit. I have time to do layouts and edits. I have time to uphold a clean home. I have time to shop savvy-like. I have time. With time comes a different set of goals and meanings to those goals. I have time to accomplish goals. But I miss teaching, and I miss the press and the people involved with the teaching and the press. I miss Wayne State and I miss my house and the summer. But time will make it better. Time is the healer of all things natural and unnatural.

Germany. I remember.

It feels like it’s still the spring. The weather is not hot enough in Oregon to tell me it is summer, and yet, if I was in Nebraska, I would be gearing up for the end of it all. I’d be making my last trips to the Niobrara River and watching the last of the baseball games fighting mosquitoes and biting flies, unbearable heat and the sun that just darkens and darkens and darkens my skin where only cooler showers calm me down. Maybe it feels not so much like spring, but more like fall. It is dry enough to smell like fall and football and only warming up for a few hours a day. It feels like Germany, the Rhine, the glowing moss trees on the vine-forested floors.

I have not thought of Germany like this for many years. I’m looking for cobbled streets. The smell of dirt older than time and infused with jet fuel and carbon monoxide. I’m looking for falling apart castles, narrow streets, green police cars and recycling bins on every corner where even the glass color has it’s own compartment. It’s been so many years, and I wonder if I’ll ever see it again. I want to. I want to put my feet in the quarry, just a half mile behind Darmstadt Kaserne, just past the constatine wire from the second war caught up in my calf and Seinko laughing at me, calling me a baby as he plucked each rusted burr out and dressed the wounds with combat dressing. Nothing stopped us there. We would run 13 miles up to the mountain that held the castle of Frankenstein, where Mary Shelley came to visit, learned of the original doctor and had her dream. Where we rollerbladed our way around the Rhein Mein Kaserne and airport, another two miles around the Frankfurt airport to the back way and to the subway and train station that connects everything with every place and everyone. All to go to Sachenhauzen to wash down our stress and sorrow and fill our bellies with real gyros you can’t get nowhere else in the world. I’m looking for the sand pits where I played volleyball until my cheeks burned, drinking limed Coronas like water, eating horrible Canteen fries. Playing with better and better players until they ask me to play on a real team on a real court with real athletes in uniform. I’m looking for the Audubon, 5 to be exact to set me through dangerous mountain passes through Switzerland and down to Venice where the beaches are still hot and grey with ash from the last explosion sometime in 42, or 44 or something like that said Hollis. We slept on lawn chairs on a small island in August. Then went home, stopped for Sangria and Wine and drank until we forgot our names. I’m looking for Heidelburg castle. Waiting for Seinko and Ruano to throw me the football, telling me I’m still throwing like a girl, full-contact never felt so good as it did on the green under the castle no war left alone. I’m still looking for the Roman bath underneath the Catholic church just not far from the Rheinzplatz, just East of the Roman wall, seen from the top of the glass mall, behind where Enin sang at a festival for the World Cup.

I’m remembering the gardens of the dead, the cemeteries, the smell of the locals, the paths, the warning signs of mines still unblown, the wild boars on the Neinmeghan marches, Paris and all of the people who tried in a place, in a faction that provides nothing but promise and hard labor and long hours and exhaustion, exhaustion, exhaustion. Oregon lets me remember. I don’t know if that is good yet.

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