Thursday, December 19, 2013

Why I Don't Blog

[Actually, the title should probably read "Why I Don't Blog That Often" because, clearly, I am blogging right now.]
But here's why, despite having "Blogger" and (more recently) "WordPress," I very rarely blog:
I have ideas that roll around in my head alright, and some of them even manage to make it to paper (both actual and virtual).  Some of these ideas may be good ones; some may even be great ones.  The problem, as I see it, is that if I blog about these and they ARE great (or even good), the essays I create on my web pages are then considered "published," or, at least, they don't qualify as submission material for literary magazines that insist on only pieces that have never appeared publicly in any form.  Unless I plan one day to compile my blogs into a published collection a la The Bloggess (who is awesome, by the way, and if you are unfamiliar with her work, Google her right now!), then my potentially great essay, er blog, is virtually (no pun intended) DEAD TO ME.
Unless, of course, I significantly change it enough later on that I can, guilt-free-ly, submit it to a magazine as unpublished.
But what are the odds that I will ever do that?  Slim to none.
Another reason that I don't blog more often (besides being lazy) is that I've read that the main reason a person should blog is to get "out there" if s/he is a frustrated unpublished writer because, after all, the main reason we writers write is to be read.  I've read several accounts that, beyond blowing off steam or using the blog as some other kind of catharsis, one needn't blog if one is already having at least moderate success at being published.  Since, over the last couple of years, nearly a dozen of my essays have been published in various magazines, that itch of mine is being scratched.  Most likely, since I have few "followers," more people have read my essays in those magazines that published them than would ever have seen them in my blog.
There are, of course the Leslie Pietrzyks (see Work-In-Progress on Blogger!!) who are repeatedly and wonderfully published, teach, AND keep up with a regular blog, and, to those people, I say "Thank You" and "Where DO you find the TIME and MOTIVATION?"  When I'M not grading papers, pretty much the last thing I want to do is put the energy and concentration into an essay or story that I can't submit yet also can't really count as having been "published."  It's just too easy and effortless to click on Candy Crush Saga instead (I'm on level 189 by the way).
But, yes, I have plenty to say.  
For instance, I'm planning an essay about a "secret room" my sister discovered in our grandparents' house and its potential link to the depression that, I've been told, runs in our family.
Banging around in my head is also an essay about how and why my "half" brother (now deceased) broke up with me.  That's right; I said half BROTHER who BROKE UP WITH ME.  Intrigued?  Well, someday you may read about it, but it won't be here or on Blogger.
Also, I just learned a new term (from Augusten Burroughs' book Magical Thinking).  The term, in case you missed it, is "magical thinking," which, when I read the definition (first in his book, then on Wikipedia) I realized applies to me and what I do (though I disagree with the part of the definition that calls it a "schizotypal personality disorder."  Only about an hour ago, I had the idea that I would like to write about my own version of magical thinking.  But not here.
Oh, the ideas just keep coming.  But, you see, I have to SAVE these for the REAL essays.  At least, that's what I tell myself.  Which is why many of my ideas will never actually become a finished product.
So if the "good" or potentially "great" pieces are saved instead of appearing on my blog, what is left?  Well, one need only look at my (very few) past blogs to find my recounting of dreams I've had, rants I've been compelled to write, or other ramblings (like this one) with long silent stretches in between.  Surely not great, probably not good, hopefully not total crap.
Will it change?  Probably not.  But now at least I've explained it.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Where She Wants to Be

I was speaking to someone about something as I left the room.  The details up until now are unimportant.

As I leave one room and step into another, I recognize my surroundings and stop short:  my old house in MA and, specifically, the room we called the Other Side.  Despite having lost this house in 2008, I have just stepped through time.  I instinctively know that I am my present self, fifty three, a mother, an orphan, a teacher - everything that I currently am, yet here I stand, rapidly blinking, taking it all in, every detail of the room just as it was before I left.  I am dreaming of the past.

Or am I?  Perhaps everything I've come to accept as "reality" over the last few years is the dream, and I am actually still living in MA, still a captive of the house on North Common Street in North Brookfield.  This  second possibility scares me.  I feel unbalanced, tilted off the axis I have taken for granted as "fact."  Which is it?  Whom do I ask?  I am alone in the Other Side.  My heart beats harder as I turn back and go out the door I just entered, afraid to see whatever is out there but needing to get my bearings.

The dining room.  Wait, this is somehow wrong.  There is my grandmother's set in the center, my mother's china cabinet between the front windows, everything in its place, even the shag wall-to-wall rug that I have always hated.  One of the first changes that I made when I moved in as an adult was to pull up that twenty five year old monstrosity.  And that's when it hits me:  this room, as I am seeing it, no longer exists, hasn't existed for more years than I have been in North Carolina.  This is the setting of my childhood home.  I am, I realize with relief, dreaming.

It occurs to me in this moment that this dream-flashback may have much more to offer, if I can just hang onto it.  As if I willed it to happen (and perhaps I have), I hear a noise upstairs.

"Ma?"  I call out, fearing disappointment.  Then I hear it, her voice in response.

I tear through the room, rounding the corner, taking the steep stairs as fast as I dare, terrified that I will wake before I can see her, talk to her.  At the very top of the stairs, I turn toward my old bedroom, and there she is, the woman without whom I once could not imagine my life, the only person whose love for me was unconditional:  my mother.  Not the strong, healthy mother from my childhood, but the slightly stooping, slightly frail mother who passed in 1996 and no less beautiful to me.

I throw my arms around her, sobbing like a child, and tell her that I miss her.  I miss laughing with her and talking on the phone with her and shopping with her, and it never gets any easier.  The feeling of loss never lessens, and I know it never will.  And in the seconds that I am in her arms, feeling her love wrapped around me, all of these thoughts go through my head, but all I can manage to choke out is "I miss you."

My mother does not cry.  Ever the nurturer, she tightens her arms around me and says, "I miss you, too."

The moment is fleeting, and I know the dream will soon end.  We release our hold on each other, and she steps back.  Already my surroundings are beginning to fade.  "Wait," I call out, desperately wanting just a little bit more.  Some piece of reassurance.  "Where are you?" I say.  It's awkward and blurted out, but she knows what I'm trying to ask.

"I'm right here," she says and looks around.  Of course she would, if at all possible, return to the house where she was born and where she spent her whole life.  "I stay here but, sometimes, I travel."  Her expression turns slightly mischievous.

Can this be true?  Even though I know I'm dreaming, I cling to the hope that there's some psychic thread allowing her to communicate with me.

"Do you . . . ever travel to see me?"

She only smiles in answer, and, again, of course she would, if at all possible, watch over me, her only daughter, letting me know, now and then, that she's still out there.  Just as she has this morning.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Random Thoughts

I keep thinking I'll get more motivated to write here, but somehow I can always think of so many other things I'd rather be doing, like flossing my teeth, drinking, or playing games on facebook.  I have been reading a great deal, so I guess I shouldn't be too hard on myself.  Yeah, whatever, just another excuse.  Today, for instance, is a day off, day 1 of a 4 day weekend.  One of my students asked me yesterday if I planned to spend this Easter Break working on my next book.  Well, it's now almost 4:00, and so far I've balanced my checkbook.  And played games on facebook.  I've also spent some time debating over whether to have a beer or a mixed drink with my supper.  As you can see, I've been busy.

The truth is, I feel pressured to be witty or profound or something else that doesn't just come easily (for me, anyway) but has to be worked at.  Part of me says to treat my blog as a journal entry, which, granted, might make it seem more accessible for me, but who, then, would want to read it?  I know that if I did consider my blog a sort of diary, I'd simply use it to whine or complain.  Wait, is that what I'm doing anyway?  Then again, is anyone even reading what I write here?  Maybe I shouldn't worry about what I put in here; maybe I'm just kidding myself that I even HAVE an audience.  After all, I subscribe to a few blogs but rarely read them.  Once in a while I read Leslie Pietrzyck's blog, and when I do, I envy the extra hours she obviously has in her day such that she manages to find time for teaching, writing, travelling to conferences AND blogging.  Or, admittedly, she may just spend less time flossing, drinking, or playing games on fb than I do.  I also occasionally visit the pithy, daring, and sometimes crude page of The Bloggess (and if you have never read her work, dear readers (the 2 or 3 of you who may someday read this), then you are definitely missing out.  Her book is excellent, by the way, especially if you are a fan of taxidermy.

Speaking of taxidermy, my husband and I were in the Tractor Supply store the other day (and if you're wondering why I used caps there, that IS the name of the store - this is the South.) buying yet another couple of bags of environmentally correct fuel (i.e. wood pellets) to get us through this ungodly winter that will not let go, when I saw the sign for Baby Chickens and Ducks right next to a rack of books on how to raise various animals for food.  Okay, not exactly taxidermy but just as disgusting as far as I'm concerned.  A vegetarian of about 4 years now, I found myself staring down at the galvanized tubs full of newly hatched babies, imagining their fate and feeling bad.  Maybe a few will live pampered lives as family pets, but I'm guessing most will end up being eaten.

As we returned to the car, Scott said, "If a guy asked me 'How do you raise these? What do they eat?' I'd tell him 'You can't have one.'"

Evidently, my husband felt bad, too, but probably for different reasons.  After all, he still eats meat and doesn't consider it a moral issue.

That night, my daughter (also a vegetarian) told me that, in her opinion, raising one's own meat is more honest and less hypocritical than pretending that the nuggets you're eating have always been breaded and bite-sized.  Chloe also believes that animals raised for food on small farms are probably treated better than those raised en masse on factory farms.  I hope she's right, but I still don't have to like it.  If I had to eat meat to survive, I could, but I don't.  Most of us in this great, developed, consumer-oriented country we live in don't.  People eat meat because they like it, or maybe because they can't imagine NOT eating it, can't imagine what to put in that big space on the plate between the potatoes and the green beans.  So even with high cholesterol, and high blood pressure, and clogged arteries, people doggedly (oh, don't even get me started on the way DOGS are mistreated! THAT'S another blog for another day) hang on to their meat, as if they couldn't go on without it.

I believe it will be a beer this evening, since I will be preparing guacamole with black beans (whole grain chips on the side).  See?  Meatless AND delicious.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

What Is It?

Is it the dropping temperatures?  The shortened days?  The oncoming winter?  Or is it something more . . .

I hate winter, and I'm certainly familiar enough with my current mood from years past not to be surprised by it.  However, I'm never really sure if the cause is seasonal / weather-related or "other."  The possibility of "other" scares me.

There is nothing major in my life that could be the source of my mood.  Overall, I'm not in love with my life, but, then again, I don't hate it.

I'm reasonably happy with my "partner" (a term used by his ex-wife-twice-removed when she refers to me).  We are not married, but we have been together roughly seven years.  Our relationship isn't perfect, but he and I get along well and I love him.  He's a good man, and I know he loves me even if two of his three adult daughters dislike me for being, perhaps, too blunt at times.  At least, I think that's the reason, though it may have little or nothing to do with me.  It may be leftover resentment toward the deceased second wife: their step-mother who was my predecessor (and whom, I'm told, they outright hated).  Another possibility is that they resent me out of loyalty to and sympathy for their addict mother (whose infidelities ultimately led to her divorce from my partner while their daughters were still children).  Too much involvement with these young women and I'm accused by them (and their mother) of interfering, not enough and I'm accused of not caring.  No win.  The fact that both of these young women have children complicates the issue:  how to show interest and caring without overstepping?  I tend to take my cues from my partner; however, if he hangs back, deferring to his volatile ex-wife's "territory" (such as for a birthday party we were all invited to but that he decided we would not attend in order to avoid the ugly scene that would undoubtedly occur), the fault lies with me.  I must be the cause; I am undoubtedly holding him back, keeping him from his daughters and their children.  Similarly, if he fails to fork over money to his oldest (whose attitude of entitlement is only one of her issues), the fault must be mine.  It can't, after all, be that her father feels that a 26 year old should be self-supporting.

But I am not new to the trials that spring from a "blended" family and a bitter, angry ex-wife, and I don't have daily interaction with my partner's two oldest daughters since neither lives with us.  So is this the cause of my mental state?

Nearly every Sunday night, I piss and moan about the beginning of a new week at the college where I put up with uncaring administrators' unrealistic expectations while I struggle to teach students who have been recruited despite woefully poor skills and non-existent study habits.  The attitude that has been prevalent among the Deans and their superiors is that if the students aren't learning, then the faculty are not teaching.  If students miss class, we are not dynamic enough to attract them.  If they miss assignments, we are not motivating them, etc. etc. Meanwhile, we are inundated with paperwork a la the public school system until the mere mention of the words "rubric," "data" and "template" causes bile to rise in our throats.  However, this is not the first time I have been employed at a college whose reputation I watched slowly sink into the mire as faculty fled like rats from a sinking ship.

I have two essays that will appear in literary magazines this month, and I am happy about that even though the book that I finished in July has yet to find either an agent or a publisher.  The MFA program that has occupied the last nearly two years of my life is all over except for the shouting (or, to be more accurate, the craft lecture / defense and public reading), so I no longer have that hanging over my head.  However, I still have trouble sleeping and poor concentration.  I lack motivation to do things I used to do (e.g. to put up decorations for Halloween) and too often feel as if I am forcing myself to get out of bed in the morning.

My sister once surprised me by stating (in a too matter-of-fact tone) that the Girouard family has a history of depression.  If that is true (and there was a first cousin whose unexplained death seemed very much like a suicide.  She had attempted it at least once before.), how does that "history" align with my mother's Irish side?  Not well, I'm guessing.  Too many of my Irish ancestors were alcoholics who drank themselves to death.  Those not addicted to "the beverage" suffered from stress and anxiety - my mother, for instance, who worried and obsessed over everything and had a serious heart condition that began in her early 40s and ultimately killed her.

When I went to a doctor last year for the insomnia, I was given a sleep aid that worked for a while but that my body ultimately built up a tolerance for.  The doctor had also suggested an "anti-stimulant" because I cannot seem to "turn off" my brain that hits high gear the second my head hits the pillow.  I tried one dose and was so jittery I couldn't even function.  St. John's Wort seemed to help even things out and melatonin (both self-prescribed) made sleep a bit less elusive, but after a few months, I became aware of an unwelcome decrease in my libido.  My God!  Sex is the only really fun thing in my life!  My reluctance to take any kind of anti-depressant is due to my fear of the sexual side effects!  I immediately discontinued both remedies and, thankfully, regained my "interest."

Alcohol, the great panacea of the Irish, does not always agree with me.  I can't seem to "hold it" the way I used to and I dislike feeling sick to my stomach.  I have also learned over the years that alcohol is generally not conducive to a satisfying sexual experience.  An obvious alternative is cannabis; however, the downside (its illegality) prohibits me from partaking in something that would both elevate my mood AND allow me to sleep.  Perhaps if I were not a college instructor, I might risk it, but I can't jeopardize my job even if I'm not deliriously happy there.  Did you say exercise?  I thought of that and joined the YMCA three months ago.  I work out 3-4 times a week, but those endorphins are not working for me.  Yes, I have lost a bit of weight (my clothes do fit better) but I'm not really any more focused or joyful.  I have my dark chocolate every day, too, but I'm not feeling those endorphins either.  At least not so I've noticed.

Perhaps I could whine on my blog more often, although, usually, when I'm feeling blue, the last thing I want to do is write.  I'd rather wallow in a facebook hole of Bubble Witch Saga.

To Be Continued . . .

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

He DIDN'T Just Say That, Did He?

Today I witnessed something so offensive, so utterly appalling, that I can barely write about it because I'm still so angry.  I will not name the institution nor the "guest" speaker, but at a college assembly, all present were treated to a tirade that can only be called "hate talk."

This outside, invited speaker, Bible in hand the entire time, railed for about twenty minutes or so about Christianity and the teachings of Jesus Christ as being "the one true religion" and that all other religious beliefs are "bull" unworthy of the respect of people in a "Christian" institution.  Let me explain that these "family assemblies" are mandatory for all faculty, staff, and students and that the college, though a "Christian-based" private institution, has as part of its MISSION STATEMENT that it accommodates students "from all ethnic backgrounds."  Let me also say that I personally have never before encountered any bigoted behavior (religious, racial or otherwise) by members of this institution.

Almost immediately after greeting the audience, the speaker, dressed in jeans and a button-down sports shirt, directed his attention specifically to the faculty, whom he compared to the Philistines, and cautioned that ALL teaching should be Bible based.  It was at about that point that the first faculty member walked out of the auditorium.  The speaker did not, specifically, refer to those of the Jewish faith, but heavily emphasized the sole legitimacy of Jesus Christ's teachings, so the inference was clear.  He did, however, specifically refer to the Muslims when he began speaking about the "meaning" (according to him) behind the Marines' Anthem and to what the term "leathernecks" refers.  He then referred to a specific event (in this country) at which a Muslim group wanted its teachings represented and told the assembly that Muslims need to "assimilate" to the Christianity on which our country was founded or they can "get out."  By this time, perhaps half a dozen faculty members had walked out.  I should mention here that this college has Muslims, Hindus, and other non-Christians as part of its faculty, staff, and student body, though an offense to any of us is an offense to all of us, and by "us" I mean people.

At one point, the speaker had the nerve to refer to Martin Luther King, whose name NEVER should have been associated with this kind of divisive, intolerant ignorance, and standing there, waving his Bible in the air, he declared "Thank God for Martin Luther King."  By then, I was so shocked and traumatized by the experience that I actually missed the specific reason this hate-monger was thanking God for this great man in our history, who preached tolerance and unity - concepts this speaker clearly does not embrace.

When the speaker turned his attention to the homosexual community, I decided I'd had enough and joined the others who had already departed the auditorium.  I heard from a few who remained that he also spoke out about feminism ("It's God the Father, not God the Mother") and mentioned Hitler.  Unfortunately, when I tried to pin anyone down about precisely how he referred to Hitler, I was told that they honestly could not remember details because they had already mentally "shut down."

Overall, about a dozen or so faculty / staff members walked out of the assembly, and though everyone with whom I've since spoken is angry and offended by the verbal assault we all endured, I'm ashamed that MORE faculty / staff and students did not walk out.  I'm MORE ashamed, however, that the administration did not pull this speaker off the stage as soon as it became clear (about two minutes into his spiel) that his words were not only detrimental to the general mood of the first family assembly of the school year, but potentially volatile to young minds easily influenced to hate crimes and violent action towards others who are "different."  This man should NEVER be invited to speak at any assembly of young people, especially at an institution of LEARNING that professes to embrace all races and cultures. Granted, the college's president was not in attendance, and I would like to think that, had he been present, he would NOT have let this misguided individual spew his hatred and intolerance until it reached its end, but I guess we'll never know.  SOMEONE in power should have intervened.  The lame back-peddling that occurred once the speaker wound down and took his seat was too little, too late.  By then, the damage had already been done.  What a sad and disgusting display for ALL of us, but especially for the new faculty and the in-coming freshman to have witnessed. 

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Heart Attack at 50???

I believe that I just heard that Rosie O'Donnell had a heart attack at 50???  Somehow, even now that I am older, I still tend to imagine key people as being older than I am.  I have not yet gotten used to doctors, policemen, clergy, and well-established celebrities as being YOUNGER than I.

I am not one to dwell much on obituaries; I don't check the paper every day, for example. have lived in my current location for only 4 years and therefore don't know many people. However, I gradually became aware that people around my age, an age I once considered "old," are dying.  When I do see an obituary for someone in his 50s or younger, I look for a reason that will put me at ease.  "Kicked in the head by a horse" would be a great reason, since I don't own a horse.  No worries there.  A suicide will sadden me, but there is still a bit of relief.  That person made a conscious decision.  Her death was not due to her body's betrayal.  Cancer, heart attack, et al, however, is a frightening cause of death for someone at a young age.  (Imagine that I now think of 50 as "young.")  But for the grace of God and all that.

Now, 50 year old O'Donnell, who is 3 years younger than I, has had a heart attack sneak up on her.  Okay, yes, she's overweight, but haven't I had twenty pounds or so gradually cling to my stomach, hips, and butt???  True, I've worked out on a more or less regular schedule most of my adult life, but until lately, I've slacked off.  Am I in danger?  Heart disease runs in my family.  My maternal grandmother was only 56 when she died, and my mother had significant heart issues in her 50s that would eventually end her life at 75.

I'm being paranoid, but how does one KNOW?  Is the ticking in my chest a ticking bomb?  A cousin of mine felt an aching in his leg one morning, which he ignored.  That afternoon, he suffered a major coronary and died.  Just like that.  True, if one has to die, that's the way to go (as they say):  without pain and without lingering, but at 59???  No.  Not fair.

Get better, Rosie.  And hopefully, my returning to a regular workout schedule will keep me active and healthy for another 40 years or so.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Back Again (to stay, I hope)

The end of summer, the end of the first week (of workshops) at the college, and now I'm sitting on my deck on this beautiful day trying to motivate myself to WRITE.  I just realized that it has been nearly a year since my last blog.  Shameful.  How can I expect to get followers this way?

So what have I been doing since last year?  I finished my book, The Other Side: A Memoir, and I have just begun searching for a small press to publish it.  Today I sent a query letter to a literary agent.  I have created a web page on google and a facebook page for the book.  I have set up a tumblr account and updated a long abandoned twitter account .  If I could figure out how to straighten out my LinkedIn account, I could update that too!  lol

I am also wrapping up my M.F.A. degree at Converse College and preparing for the upcoming semester at Livingstone College where I teach.  I do plan on using more technology this year and have already created a facebook page for my students.

Will I create NEW work??  Well, I have started an essay about an elderly neighbor who passed last year in a rather bizarre accident.  I hope to work on / complete that essay.

AND I hope to blog on a regular basis (or at least more often).  Wish me luck!