Wednesday, October 23, 2013

What's in a Name? (The I Have a Name Project)

Names are meaningful. They identify. They humanize. They connect. They conjure emotion and association. When we are nameless, we become less than significant; a number in a demographic. But all demographics are comprised of real people, with real histories, real feelings, and real experiences. Demographics are comprised of people, and those people have names.

All too often, the people who comprise the homeless demographic remain nameless to the general population. They are seen as a nuisance, or a problem to be solved, or an object of pity. When I met Jon Linton, I knew it was not a chance encounter. It was more like divine serendipity. The mutual friend who introduced us had brought us together in a spur of the moment coffee date for entirely different reasons, but when the conversation turned to Jon's ideas for The I Have a Name Project, I knew why we had really been brought together. It's a subject close to my heart.

My mother was homeless for a time. She was not lazy. She was not stupid. She was not just a problem to be solved. Her name was Julie; and she was a human being who was loved. She had schizophrenia, and was part of the most at-risk homeless population of those individuals who suffer from a mental illness.

I am deeply honored to be playing a very small role in this incredibly important project. None of us ever does anything entirely alone, and although Jon is working his ass off, it's going to take a village. If you are moved to do so, please donate. The money will be put to good use. It will serve as love in action, which is the only sort of love that is real. Every penny helps. Give some love to those who rarely hear their names called out with kindness.


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Time Traveling

Guardians and gatekeepers
watchmen and bell towers
travelers and talismans
town squares and lattes
bartering for forebearance
morning light and falling stars
trepidation and continuance
mysticism and myopia
deliverance and domination
the vessel and the open road
abstinence and absolution
rising tide and receding shore
the truth and the telling
the soul and the deathbed
birthing the hours slowly
in the blinking dawn
of something else entirely

Monday, October 14, 2013

Shadow Boxing

It really doesn't matter
how strong and swift
the blows you throw
the stealth and strategy
you bring to the fight
when your opponent
has already left the ring

Saturday, October 12, 2013

When Everything Changes

When the seasons are changing
and the morning chill shrugs off
a few hours after dressing in layers
and the layers of residual lives
reveal themselves in dream or prayer
cobblestone and concrete vows
and all of the grandfathers gather
for the good of the generations
while the generations unaware
wake up and brush their teeth
rub the sleep from their groggy eyes
forgetful as they should be
in order to keep going to work
in order to keep making dinner
in order to keep living in the present
and everything changes

When there is nothing left to denounce
no protest or fanfare surrounding legacy
just the soft blanket of light that rests
warm and heavy on your shoulders
like a prayer shawl, not a death shroud
and you are reborn into the comfort
of knowing who you are and where
you belong, it no longer matters
so much where you came from
or the path where your footfall marred
the ground that was both solid and yielding
 it all changes, no matter which way you go

When it feels like there is nothing left
you begin to see the things that matter
and maya loosens her grip, shakes you
awake and out the door, towards the light
towards the prayers of the grandfathers
towards the becoming that has been waiting
your entire life for you to take notice
and your own prayers come more frequently
and with an ease that defies your own belief
or lack thereof, and you know that you
don't know what you don't know
and it is best to stop trying to figure it out
because it doesn't need your understanding
in order for you to understand it to be true
it isn't changeable and it isn't changing
when everything changes, the conversion
and currency is nothing more than you

Monday, September 30, 2013

Listening Lessons

I was listening from the outside in
a closed door separating me from the sound
not eavesdropping, the sort of listening you do
when there is nothing you can do but listen
the howling, high pitched, hysterical laughter
the contagious, giddy, over the top let loose
and I waxed poetic in my head about what
she could possibly be finding so hilarious
and I was contemplating going inside
to let her know that she had made my day
that her joy was infectious and terminal
and then he stumbled out the door
clutching his sides through his dirty t-shirt
and he continued to howl with laughter
as he sifted through his shopping cart
filled with cardboard boxes and belongings
before peppering me with a series
of nonsensical questions before sitting down
in a chair next to me and sobbing
before the police showed up and he was kind
enough to issue me a conspiratorial warning
before he picked up a menu and pretended
to be reading, pretended to be busy
until they left with their coffee and the laughter
started up again before the questions before
the fit of coughing before more tears
and I was left to wonder to myself
what it means to really listen to someone
when there is so much you can't see

Sunday, September 22, 2013

This Falling

This falling
I am
and we are
and it is
and this falling
is a season
and a way of life.
The fluttering pretense
the toss of the label
and the canned response.
This falling is words
landing on pages
and paychecks.
The tender crash
of old men
sitting on the edge
of the bathtub.
The razor strikes
flesh and sinew
past the falling dark.
It is hours tumbling
into days
rolled into weeks
crashing
into months and years.
Southern Comfort
without the crash and burn
just the thrum and twang
of drawl and steel string.
It's not tripping over
what's behind you
or sifting through remains.
It's the unclenched fist
after the furious fight.
It's falling out of favor
and falling into grace.
Falling into dreams
waking with the ache
of words in languages
I've never spoken
and understand
all the same.
Die Franzosen zogen nach Danzig.
Danzig fing an zu brennen,
Die Franzosen fingen an zu rennen;
Ohne Strumpf und ohne Schuh'
Rannten sie nach Frankreich zu.

It's thorns and branches
the cadence of a racing heart
falling against your ribs
like the footfall of hunters
and climbing a tree
and standing still
as statues waiting
for them to fall.
It's falling in love
with the same person
day after day after day
knowing you're safe
enough to soften
the rough edges
of your soul
to trip into yes
come closer.
Choosing to stay
I choose this heart
to have and to hold
unfold and our stories
fall away like leaves
from stark branches
Fall has always
been my season.
Falling makes
an art of letting go.

Friday, September 20, 2013

What if Prayer is Just Another Word for Love?

It used to get under my skin when people would tell me they were praying for me. It came from a long history of feeling judged and condemned by a religious community. "I'll pray for you," often in reference to my sexuality, could come across less as an act of compassion than a declaration of, "You're bad."

My response to being told that I was being prayed for was not very nice. I'm ashamed now of the times that I responded to those words with, "Please don't," or long explanations of how I wasn't Christian or didn't believe in God, or whatever else it was that spewed out of my mouth.

The shift came in an odd sort of middle of the night epiphany. This is when most of my emotional shifts take place. Lying in the dark, staring at the ceiling, I recalled the voice of a pastor I used to know and love. What he named his love didn't matter. How he chose to label compassion or humility wasn't any of my concern. All that mattered is that he lived what he talked. He was humble. He was a well of compassion. He was love.

And he ended every service by looking at the congregation and saying the words, "I ask that you pray for me, as I always pray for you," and then he would simply walk out.

It mattered because he meant it. It wasn't so much the words. It was the sincerity of the plea, it was the way the inflection was different every time. Sometimes his voice would crack, thick with emotion, as he made his request. Sometimes it was said with joy and sparkling eyes. It may have been repetitive, but it was clearly never spoken on auto pilot. It wasn't just something to say because it was part of the routine. He didn't see himself as someone who was above the people to whom he was speaking. He was right down there in it. He sincerely prayed for the well being of others, and he sincerely asked that others would pray for his own well being. Love is circuitous.

If you tell me that you pray for me now, the only response you will receive from me is, "Thank you."

I don't care if you are praying to God, however you name him or her. I don't care if you are sending out Universal intentions or lighting candles and holding me in the light. I don't care if you're conducting a ritual or crossing your fingers. If you are, in some form, thinking of me with kindness, love, or compassion and wishing goodness upon my soul or my life, thank you.




Sunday, September 15, 2013

Morning Comforts

The frayed edges of an ancient cardigan
hot coffee in a mug that was made by hand
by the gift giver some seven or so years ago
not being able to feel that it is already sunny
and 85 degrees at not quite eight in the morning
dreams that explain nothing and reveal everything
a soft voice, thick with emotion set to rustling trees
and bird call against the backdrop of home
September is halfway over and not slowing down
making the bed before sorting and tossing
in an endless game of what goes and what stays
moving with reverence for the silence
that's pregnant with solitude and beginning
trusting the endings to come soon
I don't need to know anything more than
my readiness because the only way ever
there has been to begin is to stop
over thinking and just start


Sunday, September 8, 2013

The Trail Blazed Me

Helicopters and cop cars
another shooting
another man dead
the third in as many months
within a couple of blocks
of the home that is my haven
you can't raise the dead
only raze your indifference
when it's right outside
your front door
instead of on the news


This morning I was awakened
by the sounds of thunder
and lightning brightening the sky
and the drip, drip, drip of rain
directly onto my bedroom floor
my love affair with the monsoon
is never dampened by
the old leaking roof
and it's drawing to an end
so I kiss it good morning like
I'll never say goodbye

The privilege of another walk
in the rain and returning
home with a coffee in hand
nothing more to annoy me
than the man who calls out
his screen door to beckon
me over, every single morning
it's the same, and he's always
so surprised when my battered
boots never cross his threshold
which is nothing at all
in the grand scheme of things
it's not a bullet and it isn't blood
and it isn't getting raped

Dreams that she loves me
and it feels like home
and I wake up to find
evidence that it's all true
every single morning it's
still true and she is the truest
thing I've ever known
it's not shame or regret
in the grand scheme of things
it's everything, this business
of loving and being loved

I've never blazed a trail
not a single one
no matter the machete
in my hand
no matter the fire
in my belly
no matter the words
in my throat
no matter the matters
at hand, it has
always been and will
always be
the trail that blazed me






Sunday, September 1, 2013

September 1st

Nighttime in the kitchen.
A paper towel for a clean slate.
A dry erase marker to write new dates.
Clean out the freezer.
Throw out a magnet that was purchased while in a pit of despair. Its message is no longer relevant.
Change the home of a postcard that lists the places she finds me.
Start to throw away a card whose message is brief. Realize it is the handwriting that is important and keep it.
Remember a birthday.
Place the picture of my patron deity in a small cardboard box of special significance.
Stare at the calendar holding only two dates. It will not be that sparse for long. Savor the empty.
Think about cleaning the refrigerator and the stove. Decide that it can wait until tomorrow.
Listen to the quiet.
Feel the fear that came on suddenly vanished just as quickly. Feel it, but don't analyze.
Decide to take a break before tackling the dishes.
Start washing dishes.
Just start.
Stop when it's time to stop.
It's a brand new month and there's no reason to cry in this moment.
It's all so fucking beautiful.
September is here.


Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Things I'll Leave On the Doorstep of the Desert

  • Nine and a half years of my life
  • Hundreds of books
  • A worn out couch and chair
  • The parking lot where I was served divorce papers
  • The raging battle that ensued for the next year
  • Friends who became family
  • The nine homes I've lived in during this time
  • Clothing that no longer matches my soul
  • Memories of the many births I was honored to attend here
  • The battle of our life: Family vs. Eating Disorder
  • The coffee houses that were the settings for some of the biggest turning points of my life
  • The best Pho I've ever had in my life
  • Chicken and waffles compulsions that can only be satiated by one restaurant
  • Relationships that ended when they needed to end
  • Watching my little girls turn into teenagers
  • The proclamation that I would never let myself fall in love again
  • Six wild nights with Kali Ma and moments of reckoning
  • Lightning over the mountains
  • Driving in dust storms
  • The last time in my life I'd ever be truly drunk
  • The first draft
  • The last phone call I ever had with my mother
  • And the one telling me she had died
  • My first spoken word performance
  • A flower that only blooms for one night a year and allowed me to be its guest
  • The sweetness of watching my collection of children, birthed and chosen, ask my fiancee to marry me in front of some of our dearest friends
  • My deepest gratitude for holding me so well for so long
  • A love song

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Shunning Fate

I don't want to look to the stars
unless I'm looking in awe
because we're made of the same stuff
Lineage and roots are fine
things for anchoring
but not so much in creating new stories
I can read my own palms
they say that I know how to work hard
my pen leaks, and I've burned myself
a time or two over the years
Instead of interpreting my dreams
I think I'll go live them
the ghosts can rest easy
I won't be haunting them any time
soon
Soon, soon, soon, my future
will reveal itself
in the form of a present

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Come the Rapture

Come the rapture, I will be unapologetic
I'll put on another pot of coffee
and I won't fuck myself over by using
anything less than pure cream
"Yeah, I did that," I'll grin, remembering
I'll light another cigarette
"Yeah, I did that, too. Do you want
a beer before you go?"
I'll shrug when he gets to the part
about beating up a little boy
outside of a Baptist tent revival
"Cut me some slack, I was only eight"

He'll be bumming a smoke
in no time flat, and I'll think
to myself that he has a kind face
and he looks tired
a twinge of sympathy
and I'll concede that I'm sorry
for the moments of overwhelming arrogance
and a self-righteous chip on the shoulder
I'll slice up some fresh fruit and imported cheese
slide a pitcher of water across the table
and ask, "Would you mind? A deep red."

I'll ask for atonement for the times
I didn't call or didn't show up
the times I didn't try hard enough
or remained silent when I should have
spoken up, and the times I spoke
when I should have remained silent
I'll remain unrepentant about the divorce
the ditched classes and the dropping out
the train jumping and unnecessary risks
I'll smirk when we get to the part about
my sexual proclivities and feign shock
"Jesus! That's a bit forward of you.
We've only just met! You're making me blush.
Next you'll be asking me about my finances."


I"ll show him the door and tell him I've
loved every minute of my life
and will gladly stay behind for eternity
I've got plenty of questions of my own
I'm dying to know if the all-powerful
thing was a slight exaggeration
and if not, what was up with the
holy wars, the Holocaust, famines
slavery, anorexia, schizophrenia
rapists and pedophiles
oh my god, did you really just
question me about my sex life?
but I'll leave them unspoken
he looks tired and he has a kind face









Friday, August 16, 2013

Wear Out the Word

How Vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live. - Henry David Thoreau


Have you ever noticed that when you say a word over and over and over again, eventually it loses its power, and then after that it loses its meaning? It's true. Try it. Pick a word. Any word. Say it over and over and over again. Time yourself. Everyone's threshold is different, but eventually it happens.

Thirty seconds?
Two minutes?
Fifteen?

It can be almost frightening; the madness of repetition making you lose your grasp on a common word. After the madness comes clarity. Eventually all of that nonsense leaves you with nothing left to rely on but gut instinct and eye contact. A hand to hold, if you're lucky. The understanding that transcends all of the meaninglessness of words.


One of my daughter's favorite stories about herself as a preschooler involves an incident during that precious window when we learn the power of "bad" words. I don't really believe in bad words. I like them, but I don't believe in them.

So anyway, on this particular occasion I had asked her to stop doing something. It figures that I can't for the life of me remember what that something was, because like most things that preschoolers do that upset us, it couldn't have been that big of a fucking deal.

She didn't like being told to stop doing what she was doing. Who does? She crossed her arms, stared me straight in the eye, jutted out her chin and shouted, "Bitch!"

I set a timer, I think for two minutes, but just like the thing she was supposed to stop doing, I can't really remember. I told her she was welcome to call me a bitch until the timer went off. She couldn't believe her luck. She was in heaven.She gleefully shouted, "Bitch! Bitch! Bitch! Bitch! Bitch! Bitch! Bitch!"

It seemed like it could go on forever. An endless mantra of praise to the mother of dirty words. Until it slowed down and lost some of its oomph. "Bitch... bitch... um. huh. Bitch. bititch... bischt... I wanna stop saying it now."

I looked at the timer and said, "But you have thirty more seconds! I thought you loved this word."

She burst into tears and said, "Stop making me say bitch! I don't wike dat stupid word!"

And I flipped off the timer and we ate brownies or something, and I told her she could say bad words if she wanted to, but only at home because other people might not want her to play with their kids if she said it around them, and not directed at people. She agreed and faithfully adhered to the agreement for many years. All of the power and meaning was gone. She had worn the word out. The thrill was gone.

I've been wearing out a lot of words. One by one, a transcendental forest seeded with forgotten meaning. I'm just so tired of pretending like things matter that don't. I'd rather take a walk and look at the sky, write and receive bullet lists of what our days have held with one of my best friends, in which we don't pontificate or explain too much, or hold my love's hand just to feel its meaning.

Free. Ego. Space. Growth. Power. Raw. Me. I. Think. Feel. Sexuality. Permission. Revision. Story. Tell.
Free. Ego. Space. Growth. Power. Raw. Me. I. Think. Feel. Sexuality. Permission. Revision. Story. Tell.
Free. Ego. Space. Growth. Power. Raw. Me. I. Think. Feel. Sexuality. Permission. Revision. Story. Tell.
Free. Ego. Space. Growth. Power. Raw. Me. I. Think. Feel. Sexuality. Permission. Revision. Story. Tell.
Free. Ego. Space. Growth. Power. Raw. Me. I. Think. Feel. Sexuality. Permission. Revision. Story. Tell.
Free. Ego. Space. Growth. Power. Raw. Me. I. Think. Feel. Sexuality. Permission. Revision. Story. Tell.
Free. Ego. Space. Growth. Power. Raw. Me. I. Think. Feel. Sexuality. Permission. Revision. Story. Tell.
Free. Ego. Space. Growth. Power. Raw. Me. I. Think. Feel. Sexuality. Permission. Revision. Story. Tell.
Free. Ego. Space. Growth. Power. Raw. Me. I. Think. Feel. Sexuality. Permission. Revision. Story. Tell.
Free. Ego. Space. Growth. Power. Raw. Me. I. Think. Feel. Sexuality. Permission. Revision. Story. Tell.
Free. Ego. Space. Growth. Power. Raw. Me. I. Think. Feel. Sexuality. Permission. Revision. Story. Tell.
Free. Ego. Space. Growth. Power. Raw. Me. I. Think. Feel. Sexuality. Permission. Revision. Story. Tell.
Free. Ego. Space. Growth. Power. Raw. Me. I. Think. Feel. Sexuality. Permission. Revision. Story. Tell.
Free. Ego. Space. Growth. Power. Raw. Me. I. Think. Feel. Sexuality. Permission. Revision. Story. Tell.
Free. Ego. Space. Growth. Power. Raw. Me. I. Think. Feel. Sexuality. Permission. Revision. Story. Tell.
Free. Ego. Space. Growth. Power. Raw. Me. I. Think. Feel. Sexuality. Permission. Revision. Story. Tell.

Whatever. Fuck that noise.

Be.
Do.
Love.
Live.
Repeat.

No explanation necessary.




Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Cusping

Learning as I Go

  1. The less often I am afraid to speak my truth, the less often the words are necessary.
  2. Working for myself really is as fantastic as I thought it would be.
  3. It's hard fucking work to be your own boss. And totally worth it.
  4. A client who is pleasant to work with and respects your time and effort is worth ten times more than whatever they are paying you.
  5. A client who treats you like shit will never pay you enough to make it worthwhile (and they rarely pay you as much as the pleasant clients, anyway).
  6. When my house is not clean, I am a mess.
  7. When I'm getting ready for goodbyes, I circle in tight on the people and moments that matter the most and let the rest fall away.
  8. When you genuinely like people as a whole, nice people will find you everywhere and effortlessly.
  9. I have approximately zero interest in who belongs to the who's who in any given social scene. Therefore, I am typically too clueless to be impressed with name dropping. Are you a nice bajillionaire artist? Great. Let's be friends. Are you a super witty, kind homeless dude? Cool. Let's be friends. If you won't cross social barriers, you're missing out. I promise you.
  10. I think everyone should keep a secret list of their superpowers. I bet you have more than you think.
  11. One of my favorite yoga teachers of all time ever was fond of saying, "If you can't smile while you're doing it, it's usually not worth it. That goes for on the mat and off." It's one of my guiding philosophies.
  12. If you love being alive, you can change everything without changing a thing.
  13. If you find someone you love who loves you back, it's beautiful. But if you find someone who loves you unconditionally and you love them unconditionally, and you bring out the best in each other without ever trying to change the other? Say thank you a hundred times a day, make it your religion, and treat it like the holiness that it is.
  14. As my children approach adulthood, I tend to shy away from parenting advice or dogma more and more, beyond, "Love them. Love them. Love them."
  15. One of the only things I will offer up in that arena these days is to beg you to reconsider age segregated friendships. Their lives will be infinitely richer if they are comfortable socializing with people who are much older and much younger. Plus, it's really heartwarming to watch a teenager happily choose to spend their day going to a movie with one of your friends, or coloring with a three year old.
  16. If it matters, don't wait. If it doesn't matter, don't waste your time.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Prayers to an Understanding Woman


 Just this...

Thank you
for her
beautiful
heart
and her
spacious soul

Thank you
for the
knowing
that
transcends
time and space

Thank you
for
the islands
of
freckles
in her green
eyes
where I
am
seen
and
sheltered

Thank you
for the
way her
laugh
fits inside
of mine
with the same
symmetry
as our
entwined
legs
and
interlocking
fingers

Thank you
for this
coexisting
passion
and peace
with
a side
of clarity
and
depth

Thank you
for
the way
she loves
her
children
and
mine
and me

Thank you
for this
Love
that brings
holiness
out
of hiding

Thank you
for
the hollow
bones
of longing
now
filled
with
contentment

Thank you
for
entrusting
me
entrusting
us
to be
us
together

Thank you
for
knowing
I
would rise
to
the occasion
when
I
had sworn
off
love forever

Trust me
to
never
take her
for granted
to
remember
thirty
years from
now
just
how damn
lucky
I am
to have her
and
I will

Take me
home
to her

Take me
home
to her

and
I'll
take care
of
the rest

Promise




Sunday, August 4, 2013

A Raging Storm of Calm

Authentic. It's so overused that it has all but lost its meaning. What does being authentic mean to you? Is it being fully seen by another? Complete honesty? Is it letting it all hang out, no matter what?

I'm all about the honesty factor. Since my children were old enough to comprehend language they've known that they would never, ever get in as much trouble for something they did as they would for lying to me about it. Lying by omission? Same thing. Make it a habit, and unless you came out of my body, you're out of my life.

Being fully seen by another person is a beautiful thing. It's the most reassuring feeling in the world to know that someone's love does not hinge on false perceptions of perfection; that you can be human, and weak, and have annoying habits and still have a soft place to land is a kind of safety and gift that defies words.

And that's where the authenticity line is drawn for me. Because sometimes being fully authentic is a piss poor choice. Honesty is important, but saying what you're thinking is different than acting out your every emotion. Acting them all out is infantile at best and can be dangerous and destructive at its worst.

The last time I had a physical altercation with someone, I was fifteen years old. My children have never been beaten. When they were little and my authentic reaction would have been to spank the shit out of them, I put myself in timeout and told them honestly why I was doing it. They got it. They knew what it felt like to have an out of control temper. My oldest daughter has lived with me, day in and day out, for eighteen full years and claims that I have the patience of a saint. I don't call them names or throw things, and I think I've yelled approximately three times in the past year or two. Had my behaviors always been true to my emotions, this would not be the case.

I don't have the patience of a saint. Not even close. Somewhere along the line, I just realized that feeling something and doing something are two different things and while I had zero say in the things that brought that rage to life, I damn well had the ability and responsibility to learn how to deal with keeping it at bay.

Therapists can be a handy thing for a time, but in the end it boils down to you. And honestly, how many times can you talk about your mother or what happened when you were six before it starts making you more crazy instead of less? For goodness sake. Do it or don't do it. Let it all hang out or act like a decent human being. When it comes to anger and rage, my opinions are strong. Fuck authenticity. Keep that shit on a leash.

When I was younger, I had a lot of people warn me that not allowing my rage to come up and out would eventually cause it to grow and grow until it would come out in some sort of violent explosion or eat me alive. Know what? It didn't. The wildest thing happened. Not feeding it made it weaker. Learning to work with it without pulling other people into my internal shitstorm made me stronger.

I have kids who have zero fear of their mother, and a lot of strong, healthy relationships. When a relationship isn't healthy and shows no sign of changing dramatically any time soon, I let go of it, both for myself and for the other person. And while there was a time twenty plus years ago when the smallest thing could send me into a tailspin of fury, now the feeling of anger, let alone rage, is a rare event. When it does pop up, I know what to do with it, and it's anything but authentic.

I still put myself in timeout. I just call it meditation now. I'll take the calm of practice and self-control over the raging storm of my authenticity any day. I'd rather keep it under control than keep it real.


Sunday, July 28, 2013

Always, I am

Sometimes my mind meets the fork in the road and wants to divide and conquer.
Sometimes my heart.
Always my soul.
Sometimes it's hard.
Sometimes it's easy.
Always it's life.
Sometimes I sit.
Sometimes I move.
Always I am.
There's really no way of getting around it, there's only getting through it.

The monsoon finally arrived, and with it came the blessed relief of clearing the air. The tension had been thick; we were all on edge. I was especially on edge. If you've ever played high-low around the dinner table, this summer has felt like a rapid-cycling bipolar version of that. Of course life is like that, but sometimes it is more pronounced than others. This summer everything has been incredibly pronounced. Every single last day has ricocheted me around the emotional spectrum like a pinball. While it has been intense, it has also been highly informative. I've learned a lot about myself. 

The Short List 

  1. First and foremost, I have learned that I know myself better than I realized. When it comes to what I want, what I need, and what I value, I am rock solid. 
  2. My bullshit tolerance, which has faded greatly over the last three years, seems to have left the building completely. Yes, for other people's bullshit, but especially for my own. I have stripped myself down to a bare boned and terrifyingly realistic look in the mirror. I deeply appreciate the very few people in my life who love me enough to risk being honest when they see me going down that road. It is painful sometimes; but far less painful than the alternative. P.S. It is vulnerable and scary.
  3. I love working. Even when I hate the work. But man, give me work I love and then I really, really love it.
  4. I always fantasized that working for myself, at home, would suit me perfectly. I was right. It does.
  5. I have extreme workaholic tendencies, and have to reign in on myself.
  6. Maslow's Hierarchy doesn't really work for me. I am out of order. Always have been.
     
  7.  I need a decent amount of time alone or in shared silence with people I love in order to be at my best.
  8. My aspirations are much higher than I ever allowed myself to believe or pursue. I think that on some perverse level it felt like a form of selling out. I'm realizing that it is actually the opposite.
  9. I am really, really sick of hearing about being gay not being a choice, no matter how true this might be for most people who are gay. I'm sick of it because it indirectly implies that it is a flaw that can't be helped, no one would choose it if they could be straight, and that if it were a choice it would be a bad one. It's a whole blog post in and of itself. Coming soonish.
  10. When you stop letting people treat you poorly, whether in work situations or in your personal life, they either start treating you better or one of you leaves and the problem is solved.
  11. I am beyond ready to get married.  
  12. I am profoundly grateful and in awe of the mutual love and respect I share with my fiancee, and this gratitude grows daily.
  13. I am really sick of Mary Oliver quotes.
  14. Five to fifteen minutes a day is really all that I care to spend on Facebook.
  15. I'm ready for a drastic haircut.
  16. I am very grateful that I have been able to witness the behaviors of college students of different class and privilege levels. There seem to be astounding differences that manifest around senses of entitlement, arrested development, and artificially extended adolescence. It has solidified my stance that regardless of how much money I do or do not have at any point in my life, my kids will need to work at least very part time while they are in school in order to get financial assistance from me.
  17. There is absolutely nothing in the world that comes anywhere near being as important to me as love and family.
  18. I hope and pray that I never become so calloused that I can  see someone suffering without feeling empathy and acting on it. If I have food and won't share it, change and won't spare it, or more of anything than I need and don't offer it up, I've pretty much failed at the human being gig.
  19. That being said, I have many, many selfish and superficial weak spots, and that really sucks. Ouch. My pride didn't like putting that down here one bit.
  20. My appreciation for plain and concise language grows and grows.
I can feel that the gestational space I've been occupying is growing confining. Because I still have the ridiculous and overwhelming urge to connect everything to reproductive cycles, birth, and death, right now feels like a really long early labor phase. But once it kicks in fully, I know it's gonna fly. I won't even need to actively push. It will just happen. Change is so imminent that it is palpable. I'm ripe and ready. Let's do it.



Sunday, July 14, 2013

Moment by Moment Becomes a Life

Sometimes the silence is the defining I've decided to leave undone. The days don't mind. They don't know the sound of their own names, so they never notice when I don't call.

I'm too busy with the moments to be bothered with the days. My days are a blur, but each moment is tight and concise. They hold themselves steady and unflinching as we meet. 

The days are all the same. I write for a living from the desk in my dining room from the moment I wake up until the moment I hit the pillow, seven days a week. The punctuation marks are a walk with one of my daughters to the convenience store, the occasional splurge on a latte from one of the real coffee joints, doctors appointments, craft projects, poetry read aloud to the kid who suddenly shares my love of the infamous dead. The days don't mind me and I don't mind them.

The clear cut moments are crystalline beacons of truth that set life to rights, as if it were ever anything but right. These are the moments that give my life a definition and rhythm which feels more like a dance than a blur.

A long phone call with my fiancee in which we cover everything from the abandoned house we dream of buying and renovating together to what we're planning to eat for dinner reminds me that I am alive and that I love well and I am loved well. We never cover anything with as much care as we cover one another. Her voice breaks through the oppressive humidity and heat of a desert sky that is begging to rain, but never quite does.

A writing project I love falls in my lap and I feel that I've been paid to play. In the zone with my word play and research, and I am reminded that work does not have to be drudgery, but even when it is paying the bills is as important as artistic autonomy when you have people you love depending on you.

An evening spent with a best friend post-surgery making sure she gets a shower and her meds, prepping food for her in the morning so she won't have to struggle. The moment is just love. It is just a reminder that these are the only things that truly matter. Our reasons for being.

My kids are pulling antics that have a 50/50 chance of ending in injury, asking me to read another page of Run with the Hunted, although I'm not sure they can hear me over their laughter. I am reminded that I was born to give birth to these three. I miss the two who are on the other side of the country with the woman I loved, who was born to birth them.

Moment by moment, the days have taken place without my fumbling or fussing at them to be anything at all. The blurred outlines took shape in the spaces in between, and they are enough. They are everything.


Friday, June 21, 2013

And the Walls Come a Tumblin' Down















A small blip on the radar of my childhood was taking ice skating lessons. I haven't been on the ice for years now. Decades, actually. I don't remember much of it. I probably couldn't even stand up on skates at this point.

The only things that really stuck were learning how to stop and learning how to fall properly. Two of the first lessons are the most important. If you can stop and fall without getting hurt, you're doing pretty well.

Putting on the brakes in time comes pretty naturally to me. I tend to anticipate fairly well and know when its time to stop before I plow into someone or something. Still, occasionally I find myself hitting a wall.

That's when the falling comes into play. Falling properly is an act of faith. It doesn't come naturally to me at all. No matter how much I practice, I still have to fight the urge to throw out my arms to brace myself even though I know it's better to just take it on the hip. Still, I keep falling. So I keep practicing, too. It may never come naturally, but it beats the alternative.

Life, with its series of walls and falls and unpredictable events presents me with ample opportunities to practice. Sometimes I'm grateful and offer up a sincere mantra of, "Thank you, thank you, thank you." Sometimes I want to scream, "Yeah, well fuck you, too!" 

I've been known to do both. Either way, the practice always finds me. And for that, I will always say thank you and leave it at that. 

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Where We Begin

I love you best in the morning
before the day intrudes
and you are the most you
in that space before you
pick up the burdens of the day
which you carry so well
on that back that is so much
stronger than it looks
under clothing and cares

I love you best in the sunrise
when your curls are unruly
and you wear glasses
not contacts while you
fumble with the coffeepot
right before you stop
to turn and put your arms
around my waist
a fortress against intrusions
of budgets, bills, and income

I love you best in the waking hours
in the space between the dreams
of sleep and those of a dawning day
when you pull me in close and
mumble, "Hi," before smiling
and closing your eyes for just
a minute or two more

I love you best when I am at my best
not thinking, processing, or scheming
just feeling and being in the presence
of nothing but the purity of it all
the love that behaves like a faithful
sun and returns again and again
never growing tired of its morning
obligation of calling in the day

I love you best in the morning
because it means that I ended
another day with you and we
both chose the course of our
yes and committed to another
without question, without regret
without what ifs or wandering
I love you best, simply because
you are you, and I am me
and I love you like the sun
loves the Earth in the morning

Homesick, Ready, Go.

Keep me. Keep me as close as everything you once flung so far with the force of your breath, blowing your wishes away, instead of holding them to your breast. Hold me at heart level so I can hear that you're alive and echo back the staccato rhythm of your light. Turn out the light and turn to me. The darkness doesn't mean I'll disappear. Disappear with me. Let's go all the way into the deep morning, where the day won't find us. Find me. I'll wait right here and never go anywhere at all. I never go anywhere, but my life does. My life is a home that takes the long way back to where I stand. I stand so solidly in your love. My every move is a deliberate step towards you. You move me. I move towards you and never away. Keep your wishes close to your breast. I am with you. Keep me close. I'll never leave home again.

Friday, June 14, 2013

The Shared Intimacy of Liminal Space

What next? I don't know. What's for dinner? I don't know. How are we going to pay for that? I don't know. When are you going to be able to move? I don't know. How are things going? I don't know. But are they better? I don't know. Is it lucrative? I don't know. When is the last time you slept? I don't know. Are you ok? I don't know. What can I do to help? stop asking. sit with me. stop asking. just sit. stop asking. be still. stop asking. just love. stop asking.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

In The Details Intro



Nothing fancy. Homegrown and obviously not scripted. A what you see is what you get intro to In the Details: Dwelling in the Epicenter of Beauty e-course.In which I ramble. A lot.

Friday, June 7, 2013

In the Company of Unknowns

“Run with the hunted.”  - Charles Bukowski
I was the sort of sick to my stomach that isn't a sickness at all. It's a deep in the gut knowing that something is... not. quite. right.

I couldn't put my finger on it, and thought I might throw up at any given moment, so I gave up on peace and got out of bed. Antsy. Anticipating. It's a feeling I've known well in the past. I've experienced it when I was on the receiving end of a betrayal of Judas proportion but didn't yet know it. I've felt it right before someone I loved died, and another small handful of traumatic times that blessedly I can't recall in this moment, and with any luck have permanently blocked.

Rather than wind myself up in knots, I just decided to say, "Fuck it," and sat down with the nausea and the not knowing what, but knowing something was off, and that was when the strangest feeling settled in. I wouldn't call it peace. Not exactly. So what is it? My mind got quiet. I grew very still, and very clear, and very calm. And I still didn't know a damn thing.

That's the being alive component of tragedy. The lie is outed, and the heartache settles in. Someone calls and says they are dying, and you start preemptively grieving. Things get too sketchy, and you decide you've had enough, and you get outta Dodge in the middle of the night, leaving behind everything that wouldn't fit into two giant Hefty bags you stuffed in the trunk, with a pot of water still boiling on the stove. It hurts, and it hurts, and it hurts.

But all of the nausea and panic and puking out your angst never would have stopped that hurt. All it ever does is make you crazy with anticipation and wondering while you prepare for its arrival. You know it's coming, regardless of what you do or don't do now. So you may as well get quiet, because you're going to need stores and rations of it when whatever is going to happen finally arrives.

The waiting is the hardest part. At least for me. In the stillness I make peace with the fact that I am not at peace. I have lived through betrayal and death and frantic, unplanned moves. I have left behind entire lifetimes that wouldn't fit into the trunk. Somehow or another, it never did manage to kill me. I might have had to scrape my guts off the sidewalk a time or two and reassemble them at a later date, but who hasn't?

Growing tired of my own histrionics was the kindest thing I ever did for myself. Probably for everyone who has to have any dealings with me, too. Definitely for the people who love me through birth or circumstance. It takes a lot of energy to have an exit strategy for every imaginable tragedy that might set fire to your happiness and leave you burning in your bed. It's kind of a waste of time. If heartache is hunting you, you only have two choices, no matter how many spins you may put on them. You can run. Or you can turn around and stare it down, prepare yourself for a fight. Both have their merits, but you never really know which one will be the right choice until it's an on the spot decision. Plans all fly out the window once the adrenaline sets in. And either way, you usually get out alive.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Crow Medicine

"I saw a crow building a nest, I was watching him very carefully, I was kind of stalking him and he was aware of it. And you know what they do when they become aware of someone stalking them when they build a nest, which is a very vulnerable place to be? They build a decoy nest. It's just for you." -Tom Waits

I am on the phone and we are talking circles. We are speaking nest, cocoon, tree ring, protect the tender green, the pupae, the fragile egg. We are talking acronym, diagnosis, disorder, rock bottom, real. The conversation ambles everywhere and goes nowhere, until the end, when it solidifies into something of substance.

She says, "I love you."

I say, "I love you, too."

And then we are back to circles, nest, cocoon, tree ring, time's up.

I say, " I will call tomorrow. But, hey... I love you."

She says, "I love you, too."

And I hang up the phone knowing that come what may, everything that needed to be said has been said. I watch my shadow sinking down the wall, curl up in a ball, and cry, cry, cry. I don't show it any mercy. I walk right by with barely a glance. And I sit down with my kid and make friendship bracelets, talk about salvation, talk circles of nest, cocoon, tree ring, tender green, pupae, fragile egg, truth. We are laid bare.

I love you. I love you. I love you.

There is never anything more to say.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

These Two Paper Hearts

It is 5:30 p.m. The last kid just left the house, until a different one comes back at some point tonight. My kitchen is disgusting. Every single dish I own is dirty. I need to take the trash out.

I have done two article re-write assignments today,  written two original articles for a client, and am in the middle of the third. Before I can go to bed, there will be a fourth, due before midnight.

There were five phone calls I was supposed to make today, but didn't, and now it's after business hours, so they will hop from today's to do list onto tomorrow's.

I spent the day wishing I was on the other side of the country with my fiancee, who was not having the easiest of days today. Only now she's probably getting ready for bed, and maybe sleep will be easy. And I am here, with articles that need to be written and a kitchen that needs to be cleaned, and a list that grows, no matter how much I cross off.

But in the midst of all of this, I sat down with my sixteen-year-old daughter on the living room floor and we made paper hearts. Her heart says Float, and mine says Try Again, and now they both hang from a ribbon on the wall beside my desk, in between a lotus and a ship anchor, and all that is left to do is try. And try. And try. Just one foot in front of the other, one step at a time, getting up off my ass when I get knocked down. One word, one dish, one heart at a time.

"Be careful," the instructions warned, "sewing paper requires a delicate touch."

But really, it doesn't. Our paper hearts are not so fragile as they seem. You can prick them again and again, weaving thread in and out of the holes, and pretty soon you can't see the holes at all, and everything is held together, tied up and knotted off. I believe that they deserve a delicate touch, but even when they don't receive it, they usually survive the process, and dare I say it, even come out more beautiful in a rustic, shabby chic sort of way.

I'm convinced that the secret is glitter. Everything is more lovely when it catches the light and throws it back out. 






Friday, May 31, 2013

Heart Full of Water, Gut Full of Woods

Trying to predict the future is like trying to drive down a country road at night with no lights while looking out the back window.Peter Drucker 























A vintage sign from Edinburg, Virginia hangs on the wall in my room. Its warning is clear. There is nothing vague or bullshitty about it. This is what you must not do, or this is what will happen when you get caught.

No Hunting Or Trespassing On This Land
                     Day or Night
Persons failing to heed this warning will be dealt with                     
                             according to law.

What is the law? It is the silver arrow, twelve inches or so in length, that hangs directly to the right of the sign. The warning without words is just as clear. Don't make me. I don't want to, but I will. Woe to the person who assumes it was left behind by Cupid. The warning of the sign is an act of compassionate prevention. Just get on out of here. Turn around. Don't do it. The warning of the arrow is the promise that follows if you don't abide compassion with compassion, or at the very least, a solid dose of intelligent fear.

Don't fuck with me. Don't fuck with the people I love. Reverse that. Put them in order of importance. Because if you fuck with the people I love, you are fucking with me in a far worse way than if you simply fuck with me.

The sign and the arrow were gifts from the same friend, given on separate occasions. She knows me well. So well that we have entire conversations where the questions or statements take place silently and the answers are given aloud. It's the sort of communication that works well in situations that call for camouflage.

I've been thinking a lot about the woods, lately. Everyone always associates me with the ocean, not the woods. This makes sense, because when I moved to the ocean as an early twenty-something, I knew that I had come home to something very important. I had started a long, slow, flowing process of forgiveness and redemption, mainly of myself, and I felt safe. I was safe. Yes, it was coming home. But it was coming home to a place I had never been, and it was familiar in the same way that meeting a relative you've never met before is familiar. Foreign-familiar. You don't know the face, but you do. Oh, yes, those are your eyebrows you're looking at. That chin looks like several other chins you know well. The ocean is my baptismal font, my  special blanket, my salvation and my soother. It softens me up and loosens my muscles. Whenever I return to the ocean, I tend to breathe more easily. I slow.

But I didn't grow up near the ocean. I grew up near the woods. I grew up in the Midwest, and I was born in late September. Falling leaves crunching underfoot intoxicate me. Trees are my undoing. Walking through the woods is not foreign-familiar, it is familiar-familiar. It is a completely different sort of homecoming. The woods do not loosen my muscles. My breath does not slow. The woods arouse my senses and wake me up. I am enlivened and alert. Bow hunting is on my list-of-shit-I-will-do. I could bury myself happily in a pile of field guides, binoculars, and camping gear.

Maybe this is why most of the time I lived near the ocean, I didn't live in a house. I camped. I camped for a full year of my life, in every possible scenario. A tent by a pond. A cabin in the woods. An RV damn near everywhere, including directly in front of No Street Camping signs a few blocks from the beach.

It seems ironic to me that during one of the times of my life that did me the most good, people expressed the most concern for me. "My god! She's moved to a place where she doesn't know a soul, joined a weird religion, and is living outside."

You can spin anything to make it sound more crazy and dramatic than it actually is. When I first moved there, into a very socially acceptable suburban apartment complex, with the requisite two swimming pools and a hot tub, with a strip mall across the road,  I was a mouse. I jumped at my own shadow. I cried the first time I heard a police helicopter. I couldn't sleep if I was home alone. I couldn't find my voice if someone cut in front of me in a grocery store line with fifty items in their basket. I was a mouse, and I was an angry mouse. Filled with fury.

By the time I left, I had shed my fear and burned off my fury. I was someone else entirely. I was someone who could swing an ax, lift more than you would expect, put down burdens that never belonged to me, and cook a five course meal on a camp stove or fire. I could wander through the fog on the beach before sunrise without a single thought that anything was going to find me while I was concentrating on the two steps ahead that I could see.

And now I am living far from both the ocean and the woods. I live in the middle of a great big city, in the middle of a desert. The desert is yet another kind of familiar, and the city is more familiar still. And I am still not afraid. The ocean still whispers for me to come home and tame myself. The woods still beg me not to forget my primal self. The sign, the arrow, the altars full of shells, the bookshelf full of homesteading, wild plants, and build your own shelter books.

My wild self is shaped and sheltered, contained and unleashed, by water and trees, sand and concrete. When I leave this place, I wonder what it will have done to me. I wonder, but I don't predict. All I know is that my wishlist doesn't contain much. Just a wedding ring, a typewriter that isn't dependent upon electricity (in case of emergency or choice), a surfboard, and a compound bow.





Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Incredible Disappearance Inherent To Emerging

It was not like I had died, except in all of the ways it was. I quickly figured out who would actually show up after the funeral. Whatever went  into all of the arrangements and rearrangements of life during death, I was never alone. Not even once. Not for a moment. It is like that when things go in unexpected and heart-wrenching ways. Everyone always talks about people disappearing during tragedy, but in my experience, that's not true. After the excitement of mourning, that's when the crowds actually part.

Things are quiet now. Life is different now. It will never again be as it used to be, and I am learning to go with that. The quiet may be a gift in disguise. If tragedy equaled a sort of death, perhaps I am still in the gestational phase of reincarnating into my next life. It is rather womb-like. Insular. I hear the vibrations of the outside world, and I respond in my own ways, but really I am somewhat cocooned.

But I lie. Things are not quiet now. They appear quiet from the outside looking in. Those who know me well, the small handful who inquire, know how much is happening on the inside.I spend at least ninety percent of most of my days in my home. It's not like there is nothing to do here. I venture out to take care of outside necessities, and the sort of things I deem necessary, but others might not, and not much else. My energy is here. My soul is alive and well, but outside of the soul, things can get tricky, and I've had enough tricky for a little while. So. Here I am.

I'm sure that most people have abandoned all hope that I will ever again offer up any sort of fun or excitement, but back to that whole gestational analogy, it's because I'm busy growing things. My mind and heart are bustling with energy and excitement, but most of the tangible evidence is not ready for the outside would. Its skin is thin and papery, and the layers of fat are still building up. Soon enough, practice breathing will give way to actual breath. A series of biological events that many have explained, but none understand, will unfold in the predictable chain reaction that defines a species, and then maybe I'll let out a primal scream, or maybe I'll moan, or be silent, but things will get beautifully messy, what with the blood and fluid everywhere, and I'll remind myself that hemorrhaging three times is quite enough for one person, and I'll remember not to do that again, and something will be born.

Of course this is an inherent part of the process. Emerging looks like disappearance because it is. It is impossible to move into something new while remaining where you were. It's a beautiful thing to see the sun and the moon at the same time, and how often do we? We still trust that they are both in existence at all times. I am trusting the sun and the moon of my life. They will not disappear for good, and neither will I.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Day Ten

It is early, you said
but early is the only time
the sun rises and ten
is more than nine
is more than eight
and you are weary
but you are awakening
the light always returns
the birds are singing
just for you
they are chirping
out a chant
of keep going, keep going
and I am making altars
lighting candles
wrapped in rosaries
not a prayer
to any god
but whispered, nonetheless
just for you
my faith is strong
keep going, keep going

In celebration and gratitude of a dear friend's recovery process, I would like to mark her tenth day of recovery by offering a ten percent discount to anyone who enrolls in my e-course before midnight, and one completely free scholarship to the first person in recovery from addiction who asks. Register here.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

It's a Good Look For You

"What you weave is what you wear" - John Trudell

How we live matters. Today I am settled in for a long day of work. Yesterday I started around noon and finished up around two in the morning. Today will probably be similar. I have several projects going simultaneously, building a freelance portfolio, working on a novel, and designing an e-course, In the Details: Dwelling In the Epicenter of Beauty.

Work has been a shifting and multi-faceted endeavor over the last several months, and the concept of right livelihood has been one that I have been contemplating a lot lately. What exactly does that mean? I think each person has to define it for themselves.

Obviously, everyone needs work that provides at least enough income to provide them with the basics of survival. We all have the right to food, shelter, and other necessities. Because I have children, I will do damn near anything (as long as it is legal and ethical) as a way to provide those things, and I have gladly and gratefully taken jobs in the past that were never a part of my dream scenario. You do whatever you have to do, and while you are doing it you can always take steps to move towards something more fulfilling.

Until January I was doing work that I loved, and providing for my family's basic needs and some fun little extras here and there. Life took some unexpected turns, and due to unanticipated events, there was a period of a few months where it wasn't possible for me to work at all. I'm not even going to front, I found it terrifying. After a time, I also found it soul crushing. Aside from money issues, which were bleak, I like working.

Beyond the very important goal of providing for my family, to me right livelihood means:
1. Doing no harm. I would not consider a job that causes harm to people or the environment.

2. Working with integrity. I won't sell a product or service I know is crap, lie, take advantage of vulnerable people, or step on anyone else to get ahead.

3. Contributing something of value. If I am not forwarding something I believe to be useful, beautiful, or preferably, both, it feels pointless.

Over the last couple of weeks my situation has shifted again. My life is no longer in a place where I am unable to work, but it also isn't where it was before. I can finally get back to work, but I can't go back to working outside the home at this time. My presence is needed here, and even though it doesn't pay, this is my first and most important work.

The other thing I have had to consider is that my hours of availabilty vary drastically, which rules out a lot of more traditional work from home jobs. I can easily fit forty or more hours of work into my week, but one day I may have to work for two hours, pause for several minutes or several hours, work for an hour more, and then stop. The next day I may be able to work for sixteen hours, only pausing to pee or scarf down some food.

In other words, it was time to get really creative, really fast. What appears to be a hindrance at first glance can sometimes turn out to be a blessing in disguise. As I brainstormed possible ways to engage in right livelihood under these extenuating circumstances I can't change, the answers arrived in a flood of clarity.

I had always wanted to write for a living, and I have always enjoyed helping people love their lives a little more. I like working weird hours, often in the middle of the night. Although I have dabbled in these sorts of endeavors over the years, I mostly wrote them off as impractical, something to play with when my kids are grown and out of the house, after I had retired from my "real" job.

But when you run out of options, you also run out of excuses. In the midst of what had felt like this area of my life falling apart, the vision started coming together. Funny enough, I looked for other, more practical options. There weren't any. It is kind of a riot, but I was actually forced into trying my hand at making a living doing what I love.

I am doing my best to be impeccable with both my intentions and my work. I know for certain that Trudell is right. We do end up wearing what we weave. Sometimes for the rest of our lives. I want to be sure it looks good.

What are you weaving right now? Does it fit? Does it feel right? Will you be proud to wear it? Life is too short for anything less.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

The Inside of Out

Jena Strong's second book, The Inside of Out,  is a continuation of her first book, Dont Miss this, in which she shared her personal journey of coming out, motherhood, the end of her marriage, and at last, coming home to herself. It also stands solidly on its own, a complete story in its own right.

The book vacillates between poetry and prose in Jena's inimitable voice, each piece painting a picture so vivid and clear, you will feel as though you are living the events alongside her. The broad spectrum of human experience, so unique to each individual, binds us by the common thread of emotion. Whether or not you have ever been in love with a woman, are personally impacted by gay marriage and politics, or have ever had children, the emotional landscape of Jena's story will feel familiar.

When you look beneath the surface, we are all so much more alike than different. Jena is a gifted storyteller whose words have the ability to make a wide variety of readers focus on our human sameness, without sacrificing the grit and struggle inherent in being different.

Order your copy today. Drop her a note after you have read the book and let her know what hit home for you. I know she would love to hear from you.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Birth, A Story of Living

Tomorrow my middle daughter will turn sixteen. Sixteen always feels like such a significant birthday, and this will be the most poignant one I have yet to experience.  The past year has not been an easy one for her, and there were many times that I feared she might not live to celebrate this birthday at all.

Had things kept going the way they had been, death before sixteen was an entirely reasonable possibility to consider. Eating disorders don't fuck around. Once they get their foot in the door, they take over with ruthless dictatorship. Hers had her so convinced that it was a beautiful way to go out that she even feared consuming water. Water. Let that wash over you for a second.

Don't drown in the thought, though. She is very much alive. Due to the love of a whole lot of people who donated money towards her treatment, and the dedication of the outstanding team at the UCSD Eating Disorders Clinic, and most of all, her own determination and bravery, she is clipping right along in the recovery process. There are good days and bad days, and she still struggles. It will be that way for awhile. But she is fully weight restored and maintaining, and that is no small feat.

She will not spend tomorrow in a hospital. I will not spend tomorrow forcing syringefuls of Gatorade down her throat. She will be going to Comic Con with her best friend. Her sister will be baking cupcakes for her, which she actually wants. She requested vanilla with lemon cream cheese frosting.

This girl. This life. This landmark. We have a lot to celebrate.

Monday, May 20, 2013

This Isn't Berlin

I noticed the bald white patch
of painted over brick
where the command
that read
more like a question
used to live
and for a moment I wanted
to cry
until I remembered
the day I snapped the picture
then I just wanted
to find out the penalty
if I happened to get caught
in the middle of the night
dripping heat
and paint and love all over
that wall and myself
responding to stark white...
Is that a no?

Blank space that never
held a place
for taking three girls
out in the middle
of the night to gather
bags of chips
and pints of ice cream
eating disorder
clinics and 3 a.m. vitals
or taking someone's son
covered in scars
and cowering in corners
from a park bench
watching him sleep
in safety
for six weeks or so
before he ran
because stability
felt too uncertain to trust

Did empty remember
sore nipples and soaked
shirt fronts?
What about chemo
and tumors
crushing pain and kisses
on high cheekbones?

What does cleanliness
have to say
about the night
I almost died during sex
or the way she
gathered me in her arms
the cry, the wail,
the undone
doing time to heal
the sharp smack,
the rough bite,
the soft rain
revealed
the climax and the fall?
Love me.
Love me?
Oh, that wall.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Open For Business

Gestation, incubation, new life. Jena and I have been playing and working, loving and creating, and we are so excited to share our love with you. Most of the time we do that through making our poetry and love notes to each other, our children, and the world at large  public. As an added outlet, we invite you to visit our new store.

This is how we love: Out loud, by seeing what is right in front of us, by finding the beauty in the everyday. All of our stories and poems are highly personal, but they are also universal. Our pictures tell stories in the same vein. They are fully ours, but your interpretation is fully yours. We unite through the sharing.

Faith That Isn't

Hanging on by a thread
is still hanging on
and all of the imperfect
impossibility
comes home to roost
in the rafters of discontent
where you perch
ever so precariously
on the verge
of all you ever hoped for
when the faith that isn't
pretty or precious
pokes holes in the loft
of puffy white clouds
called next time or maybe
landing you presently
on your bruised
and battered ego
ass kicked
no gain or glory
but still hanging on
by that one
sacred thread that
hasn't snapped yet

Saturday, May 18, 2013

A Clean Break

I'm ready for a clean break
not from a relationship
or a dead-end job
or a dead-on criticism

Not even from a place
I have outgrown
or the tedium of days
that roll one into another

Without stopping or staging
I am ready for a clean break
from old prose and problems
creeping into new territory

Of battlegrounds and mythos
tales of comings and goings
that never go anywhere
but into cycles of repetition

I want to break it down
into something I can digest
without getting sick
of the sound of my own voice

I want to shatter heartache
in a wake of crashing
into the sweetness of
something other than walls

I want to snap the bones
of this one time I...
leave them in the desert
let the vultures feast

I want to leave it so
defiled and unrecognizable
that even my ghost won't
believe that it was me

I'll make a clean getaway
to the back end of nowhere
ditch the truck in a ravine
light a fire to raze the dead

A clean break coming
after dirty and broken
after the lost and found
I won't be anything at all

I'll be everything, instead.

Friday, May 17, 2013

The Next Thing Coming


Yesterday I sold my bike. I also sold an extremely overpriced Urban Outfitters stool for next to nothing. Two very happy men walked away with these things, things they procured from Craigslist ads I posted without a second thought while drinking coffee and letting it all go. Little by little, nearly everything I own is making its way into other people's hands. We all feel like we are getting the better end of the deal.

Yesterday, as I wheeled my bike out the front door, my oldest daughter turned to her boyfriend and said, "She's selling all of her stuff! She always sells all of her stuff!"

It's not entirely true. I do sell a lot of my stuff, but I give a lot of it away, too. I used to haul it all to thrift stores, but that was before I started paying attention to the ways people need stuff where I live. Every day, the shopping carts and trucks rumble through, the lids of the dumpsters clunking noisily as people hop in and out of them with the hopes of finding things mistaken for trash. So now I just scrawl FREE/GRATIS in Sharpie on the sides of the boxes and place them outside. I've yet to see a single thing remain through a night.

What remains is what matters. The things I keep are merely symbolic. They symbolize people and moments, neither of which can be bought, sold, or given away. A silver ring with engravings of Hebrew, promising me nothing short of everything I could ever need,
my grandfather's ID bracelet, reminding me of who I am and where I come from. My mother's ashes, heavy and dust, the whisper of where I will go without input.

There is more, of course. I am sitting on a couch and I am not naked. The walls are not bare. There is art. The mantle looks like a tornado swept up the altars of seven different religious traditions and swirled them with family pictures and low budget antique store findings. The bookshelf could not possibly accomodate one more book on its Jenga tower.
The desk is cluttered with manuscript pages in an arrangement that only makes sense to me.

What matters is that what remains is my life as it is. Simple until I clutter it up with too much thinking and not enough living. It's a tendency that holds less and less appeal with time, just like a piece of overpriced and mass produced furniture. It is a cheap way to live, and I can't afford it.

Last night I watched my daughter as she sat on a stage in a bright blue cap and gown, and listened to person after person give speeches about what comes next. Her face flitted between expressions of joy and hopefulness to fear and trepidation. What actually came next was she handed me a rose, there was lots of hugging, and we got milkshakes. And that was that. She had graduated.

It made me think about the feeling that has been relentlessly pulling at me over the last several weeks. It is a feeling of being on the brink of a big change and needing to be ready. It has been occupying more than a little bit of headspace. The reality is that it is already happening. All I need to do is this moment as it arises, and then the next thing, and just like that...

Yes. Just like that.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Like an Exhale, Not a Dude

Over the past thirty-five years I have lived a lot of lives in a lot of places. I love all of the twists and turns that always deposit me exactly where I am. Change is nothing to fear. It is an invitation. Sometimes I turn down the invite because the party just isn't my scene. Sometimes the invitation isn't to a party, and you either show up or everything falls apart. A lot of the time, change is neither. It is more of an embrace, welcoming you into whatever comes next. Over time I have realized it is always best to go with my gut when it comes to change. It always feels like a risk, but never as big of a risk as remaining stagnant. Besides, it isn't like I ever really fail, at least not permanently. Life is self-correcting, and I am usually well attuned to when it is time to move on.

My life has changed in some pretty major ways over the past couple of years, mostly for the better. My writing has changed a lot in that time, too. When I made the decision to stop writing at The New Face of Poverty it felt like the decision to move across the country into a new home, in a new climate, with a new way of life. It is always a big decision to make such a drastic move, and part of the process is deciding what to take along and what to leave behind. After some careful consideration, I decided to leave everything right where it was, as both an offering and a parting gift. Just because it doesn't belong in my new life doesn't mean it is worn out or broken, and if it suits someone else, they should be able to access it.

If you followed me from there to here, all of the old content will remain on that site, but from here on out my new writing will land on this page. If you didn't follow me from anywhere, welcome. Nice to meet you, my name is Mani. You pronounce it Mah-nee, not Manny. Think of how you exhale when doing yoga, not of a big hairy guy. You get a few freebies, but after that it will cost you an iced vanilla latte, or a day of hearing me call you Jane when your name is actually Jen. Your choice.

I have a lot of things in the works that I'm really excited about, and if they happen to be the type of things that appeal to you, I always welcome conversation. I want to know who you are and what your changing life looks like right now. Our stories matter, just like our lives. Tell me about being alive, whatever that means to you.

Today I am living a short walk and many fence posts through my neighborhood, my oldest daughter graduating from high school this evening, missing my fiancee, and crazy good love. I am living in the here and now of writing a novel and knowing I should get up and do the dishes. I am living the day I was given, and it is all good.