Shredded: A life in strips

I shredded so many old files tonight that my shredder is squeaking and smoking (for reals). It’s a weird feeling feeding the last several years’ worth of documents into the grinding jaws of destruction . . . there’s the bill … Continue reading

Becoming a Warrior of the Light & Discovering the Sacred: A Spiritual Autobiography of Sorts

Last week I had to write my Spiritual Autobiography for the Spirituality and Counseling class I’m taking this quarter. This particular assignment scared me a bit. More than a bit. In fact, just thinking about this assignment made me itch. … Continue reading

Shadows, Poems, & Projections: Just a few haiku

It’s one thing to say I’m going to start writing the truth, as I did in my previous blog. Actually doing it? That’s quite another matter, but here’s a first attempt. When I write these haiku, whom am I speaking to? Who is the “you” in my poetry? As I was reminded in one of my classes last week (rather inelegantly, but still), whenever we point our finger at someone else, we are really pointing back at our shadow selves, those parts of ourselves we are at war with. We are always projecting our fears and hopes, desires and needs onto those around us. And so it is with my poetry. Sure, these may be inspired by a particular person. There’s a muse, to be certain, but on deeper reflection, I am “you.” You are me, and to paraphrase the Beatles, we are all together. Goo goo g’joob.

I loved the way you
Swept the door open and bowed,
Welcoming me in.

We had a language–
an undercurrent, riptide.
I drowned in your words

You bequeathed to me
This gift of desperation
Exquisitely wrapped

Stop outguessing me.
Just walk your way, and I’ll run
mine. We’ll meet midway.

You do walk alone.
Were you breathless, keeping up
With my racing heart?

I’ve been your hostage
Since I read that first poem–
Enslaved by those words.

I am the blue sky
And you are the deep green sea
Breathe the air between

Writing Trouble: A Few Words on Distractions and Truth Telling

Every writer I know has trouble writing. —Joseph Heller

Nearly every night I sit down with my laptop and open it to a blank Word document, convinced that this is the night I will begin my masterpiece, my opus, my version of the Great American Novel. And then I get distracted: laundry, dinner, cats, a funny lump behind my earlobe, the stupid TwoDots game on my phone. Words with Friends. Something. Anything to keep me from putting my thoughts down. There are a million things I will do before I finally succumb to that little voice, that growing voice, that roaring voice, the one that pushes and pulses behind my eyeballs, that makes my heart pound faster. I have to, at some point, listen to that voice, give in to that voice or I will explode. Maya Angelou is credited with saying that there is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside. I agree.homework

Another trouble with writing, with being a writer, particularly if one is a writer of nonfiction, memoir, creative nonfiction, is that telling the truth, or our version of the truth, is bound to offend someone. Probably we will offend someone close to us, a family member, a good friend. And we may throw lots of other folks under the bus—there’s an entire cast of characters from which we can choose: teachers, grandparents, doctors, lawyers, therapists, the barista who forgot your regular order. The waiter who seated you near the kitchen. Really. This is an endless list.

And there are so many reasons we need to keep the peace with all of these folks. We need them to like us. And, what we often forget is that the chances of anyone actually reading what we write is slim. Oh sure, our writing group might, and a teacher, if we’re in school. But Grandma? Uncle Ed? The barista? Not likely. So, really, this is not a good excuse to suppress the urge to write.

Never mind the friends and relatives, though. When I think about writing, about what I want to write, an overwhelming sense of responsibility immobilizes me. I can’t write anything frivolous, I tell myself. What I write should be Serious. And Thoughtful. Well considered. And I should have read as much as possible on the topic. I don’t want to offend anyone. What I write should have a moral, a takeaway, but subtly. I don’t want to be too didactic. My prose should be poetic and authentic. My metaphors had better be spot on. My grammar and punctuation, impeccable. Most importantly, I don’t want to be misunderstood.

mass-distraction-rrv33nNo wonder I freeze up. No wonder I’d rather play gin rummy on my iPad.

But no more. This year I resolve to write the stories. And if you happen to be a character in my life, oh well.

You’ve been warned.

50 Happy Things for 2015: Bloggers Unite in Flood of Gratitude

My first Ragnar leg--1 of 3

My first Ragnar leg–1 of 3

Hello! I’ve been lucky enough to be asked to join a group of bloggers who are writing the 50 things for which they are grateful. The trick was we had to write the list in 10 minutes (adding pictures and links came later and did not count toward the total time).  I had no trouble at all coming up with so many things to be thankful for. Life is rich. I live in a beautiful place. I have a solid support network, good friends, a loving family. When times get hard, I try to remember these things. I started the list off with some of the things I repeat to myself on mornings when running is challenging–I am grateful for my body parts that all work as they should.  If you’d like to join in on the gratitude blogging fun, you can find instructions at the bottom of this blog. Enjoy!

  • Strong legs
  • Healthy heart
  • Good lungs
  • Massage therapy with Kristi
  • Physical therapy with Clare
  • My regular therapy therapist
  • The time I have every day to run
  • The beautiful trails in Bellingham

Chuckanut Trail

Chuckanut Trail–Summer

IMG_0268

Chuckanut Trail–Fall

  • Anna and Taylor
  • My house and home

Taylor, a few years ago

Taylor, a few years ago

Anna, a few years ago :)

Anna, a few more years ago

  • Dungeness crab
  • The Red Wheelbarrow writing community
  • My brother and his family
  • The opportunity to go to school, again
  • The road trip I took this summer
  • Beautiful days on the Oregon coast
  • The trip to Mexico this summer with my brother and niece

madeline_me_mexico

My niece and me in Salulita, Mexico

My brother and my niece, in Chacala, Mexico

My brother and my niece, in Chacala, Mexico

  • Being Freshly Pressed
  • Writing
  • My writing friends
  • Being asked to read my friend’s memoir
  • Money in the bank

The Skedgers (two of us, anyway) at a write out

The Skedgers (two of us, anyway) at a write out

jeep1

The Jeep

Bellingham Bay Marathon, Finisher Medal and 4th place ribbon (in my age group)

Bellingham Bay Marathon, Finisher Medal and 4th place ribbon (in my age group)

Some of my Ragnar team, after the Chuckanut Foot Race

Some of my Ragnar team, after the Chuckanut Foot Race

  • Sweet computer skillz
  • Christmas Eve with the family
  • Friends from school
  • Marge, for letting us stay in her home this quarter
  • New friends
  • Old friends
  • Carpools

The labyrinth at the AROHO retreat, Ghost Ranch, NM

The labyrinth at the AROHO retreat, Ghost Ranch, NM

Pearrygin Lake, Winthrop

Pearrygin Lake, Winthrop

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Anna's new car!

Anna’s new car!


To join in on the fun:

If you’d like to join in, here’s how it works: set a timer for 10 minutes; timing this is critical. Once you start the timer, start your list. The goal is to write 50 things that made you happy in 2015, or 50 thing that you feel grateful for. The idea is to not think too hard; write what comes to mind in the time allotted. When the timer’s done, stop writing. If you haven’t written 50 things, that’s ok. If you have more than 50 things and still have time, keep writing; you can’t feel too happy or too grateful! When I finished my list, I took a few extra minutes to add links and photos.

To join the bloggers who have come together for this project: 1) Write your post and publish it (please copy and paste the instructions from this post, into yours) 2) Click on the link at the bottom of this post. 3) That will take you to another window, where you can past the URL to your post. 4) Follow the prompts, and your post will be added to the Blog Party List.

Please note that only blog posts that include a list of 50 (or an attempt to write 50) things that made you feel Happy or 50 things that you are Grateful for, will be included. Please don’t add a link to a post that isn’t part of this exercise. 

http://www.inlinkz.com/new/view.php?id=592585

U is for Unwritten

UI am on a writing retreat as I type this. For the past two days I’ve been sequestered away with two very quiet and serious writers in a lovely home in a lovely valley. We’ve been very dedicated since we arrived, but I have to say I am having a hell of a time producing much. I need to write a paper for class by Saturday, and I am struggling. I can’t get the words out. My failure has nothing to do with lack of effort on my part. In my attempts to jar something useful loose, I’ve read books and scholarly articles, I have watched videos—some deadly boring (really, if you ever have insomnia watch a video of someone else conducting a counseling session). I’ve listened to relevant and riveting podcasts. Yet, I’ve only managed to squeeze out about 300 words. I am interested in the topic. I enjoy the class. But I’ve got a terrible block around this paper. I’ve even asked for an extension, a request about which I am ambivalent. Is it wise to extend my struggle or should I just grit my teeth and power through?

Perhaps I’m feeling resentful that all during my three-day writing retreat I have felt besieged by this paper. Rather than working on my more creative pursuits, I’ve been straitjacketed by academia. I’ve also been thrown off my game a bit because I haven’t been for a run since Tuesday and it’s now Friday. That, and you know how the digestive system can go awry when it leaves home for more than a day or two. Should I have stayed home this week? Would the words be flowing any easier if I were wrapped in the stifling yet familiar embrace of my normal routine? Doubtful. All quarter, each time I’ve sat down to write anything for either of my classes, I’ve felt this tightness, this overwhelming ennui, and a great urge to close my eyes for a nap. Yet, somehow I have managed to keep up, to crank out the papers and turn them in, complete and on time. Mostly they’ve received excellent feedback, and, upon rereading what I’ve written, I am struck by my ability to string coherent thoughts together, paragraph by grueling paragraph.

So, what gives? Why this epic struggle to engage with the material and shape it into a useful form this week? What am I resisting? I think part of the problem may be that I am emotionally engaged elsewhere—that is, my heart just isn’t in it. My subconscious is busy working on other more compelling issues. If I could write a paper on love and loss, obsession and compulsion, friendship and forgiveness, I would be nearly done by now. If I could write a treatise on the human heart, what drives us in life and love, I would ace this assignment. And even as I type these words, I realize that in a way, this is exactly what I am doing—

My assignment, for my Group Therapy class (it’s a class on how to lead group therapy/group counseling sessions), is to write a proposal for a group that I would like to lead. Since I began my Master’s program in Clinical Mental Health Counseling last year, I have written a few papers about and done more than a little research on counseling transgender individuals. The group I am attempting to write a proposal for now is a transgender support group. I have all of my information. I know the material, the issues, the format, but I’m fighting a major battle to put it all together and get it all down on paper. Why?

I decided to step away for a bit. Stripped my bed. Did some laundry here at the retreat center. I took a shower. And that’s where I was when it hit me—I need to give this paper a more personal twist, breathe some actual life into it, make it less abstract, more tangible. But how? I’m not transgender. I am a cisgendered female (biologically the same gender I was labeled at birth) with no desire to change my identity. Oh sure, every now and then I think it might be awesome to have a penis, if only to experience the power and privilege the penis inspires. Like my occasional fantasy of taking one hit of heroin or meth to experience what must be an awesome high—I ponder the sensations that must accompany the penis. How must that feel? All those nerve endings concentrated in that one place, exposed, expectant, exquisite?

I don’t want to have a full time penis any more than I want a heroin addiction, but I am often misgendered, that is, I am mistaken for a man. Even though I have no desire to change my gender, feel no compunction to make an anatomical correction, I sometimes present as something other than the culturally accepted female norm. I am not tiny. I don’t wear makeup. I keep my hair short. I sometimes wear clothes purchased in the men’s department, but mostly I wear clothes made for women that don’t have ruffles, sparkles, bows, bright colors, or plunging necklines. I eschew high heels and dresses and pretty much anything tight, clinging, or revealing. Do these preferences make me less of a woman? The occasional stranger apparently thinks so.

Last summer I had an experience that brought home for me the fear and real dangers facing trans* folk. I was dressed to go for a run—bright orange racer back tank top, quick dry shorts (men’s since they are longer and don’t ride up as I run), socks, shoes, iPhone in my armband. I parked my Jeep at my favorite running spot, locked the truck, and headed to the bathroom. It was early, maybe 7:30 in the morning. As I opened the bathroom door, a voice behind me hollered something I didn’t quite catch at first. I turned around to find the owner of the voice standing about 20 yards away.

“Did you say something to me?” I asked, genuinely curious.

“Never mind,” he said with a surprised look on his face.

As I entered the women’s restroom and headed for a stall, the words he had yelled rearranged themselves and suddenly made sense: “Hey bro, that’s the women’s bathroom.” Ah, I realized as I sat down to pee, he thought I was a dude going in the wrong restroom. Nice of him to warn me, but how could he have possibly mistaken me for a guy in these tight running clothes? I’m not some thin, lanky runner. I have, shall we say, noticeable curves.

And then the fear settled around me. What if he thinks I am trans*? What if he wants to harm me? What if he realizes I’m a lesbian? Will he think he can do with me as he pleases? What if he hates gays and trans* people (or anyone on the LGBTQQIAP–jesus, that gets longer everyday– spectrum)? What if he is one of those guys whose masculinity is threatened by our very existence? I occasionally worried about running this sometimes lonely trail by myself, but generally shrugged my fears off as unfounded. Now, seeing myself through this particular lens, I felt more vulnerable than ever.

This vulnerability is the way into my paper for Group Therapy. This vulnerability is why the trans* counseling group needs to exist. Thanks for reading. I’m off to finish my paper now.

I’m Baaack! For NaPoWriMo and the 2015 A-to-Z Challenge

I know, I know. It’s been far too long since I last posted. But I’m back, at least for the month of April, to once again participate in the A-to-Z Daily Blog Challenge. If you remember, I did this last year as well, writing a blog a day for 30 days throughout the month of April.

I’m also planning to participate in NaPoWriMo to celebrate National Poetry Month—which is also in April—by writing a poem a day for the month. If all goes according to plan, I’ll be posting a haiku that ties into whatever the daily theme is for my blog.

I haven’t yet decided if I will blog on a theme for the month or leave it open to my daily whims. Some themes I’ve been pondering:

  • Running
  • Writing
  • Menopause

If I go with Running as a theme, here are possible topics for my first few days:

  • A is for April (my running buddy, not the month)
  • B is for Brooks (how is it I can identify the make and model of so many running shoes?)
  • C is for Clothing or Why Does My Closet Smell Like That?
  • D is for Data (How far? How fast? How many calories? Don’t make me run without my Nike app)
  • E is for Eating Everything

If I go with, oh, say, Menopause instead, I could write about these topics:

  • A is for Hot Flashes
  • B is for Black Cohosh Smells and Tastes Terrible
  • C is for Cold Compresses
  • D is for Don’t Touch Me! (I’m too hot)
  • E is for Estrogen, Please (don’t make me grovel)
  • F is for Fire (as in I’m on Fire, again)
  • G is for Get Away From Me (it’s too hot to be this close)
  • H is for Heat (is it HOT in here or is it me?)
  • I is for Igloo (or yes, I DO keep my house that cold)

Or I may just write about whatever pleases me in the moment. Tune in later this week to find out what I’ve decided.

Writing and running
Finding inspiration through
My perspiration