Feminism, Freedom, Inspiration, Nature, Poetry, Spirituality, Womanhood, Writing

But I’m Not Perfect Yet

Old poem, old photo, newly paired, never shared:

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But I’m Not Perfect Yet

Why the shampoos
with promising poems
“You’ve really got it now”
“Not your mommas hair-do”
“Beautiful, luscious, supremely clean”
Why all the claims and things
in the ads we see
I know some who
can take it
or leave it—
and why I ever accept it,
I don’t know
I was beaten with it
as a girl
see: media and magazines
images of youthful
concealed women
(concealing whatever doesn’t fit
with the current trend)
see: glowing women or matte
depending on the season
submissive yet dominant
bronzed and flirtatious
You hear confidence is
everything but I don’t believe
that to be true
(I pride humility)
I cannot blame myself
here, and neither should you
Some days I am bland
Some days I am sexy
Some days I’m just decent
and free
but all these days
I am taken with
thoughts of
What I Should Be
My eyes aren’t large enough
My hair won’t lay strait
My clothes just don’t look
that good on my back
Not nearly as good
as they looked strung
up on the rack
I contort myself
with belts and jeans
I pinch, prod and shave
I bleach
chop
polish
and press
I bend over backwards
trying to achieve
a standard that someone
somehow made me believe
I didn’t feel
good-looking
today, it’s true.
I wanted to grab every
woman and ask
“Do you feel this way too??”
I wanted to know
that deep down we
are all just the same
and that on the outside
none of us are ever
what they claim
on the backs of the
bottles of $16 gunk
those are just words and wishes
amounting to junk
intended to make a buck

essay, Feminism, Inspiration, Memoir, Nature, Rant, relationships, Womanhood

Farm Her: New Job, New Life

I work on a farm now, helping care for hundreds of chickens, plenty of pigs, a handful of sheep, a field of cows, and three goats that are up-for-grabs.

My boss, a young woman not much larger than I, is southern-girl-polite, patient with me as I learn the ropes, and incredibly tender with her livestock. She is teaching me how to use power tools, perform animal husbandry, and push a little past what I think I am physically capable of.

So much of what I thought I knew about the world is being called into question. Namely, what I am good for: sitting pretty? Moving things? Growing food? Personality traits and body parts have taken on a whole new meaning. I can’t fall back on pretty, no way, no how. I don’t even put on makeup before I start my day. (So, if you know me at all, you know that everything has changed.) The one thing I have going for me is that I don’t mind getting dirty.

What used to bother me so much about customer service was the shallowness, the trivialness. I have none of that now. My boss is stone-serious about what we do. Because what we do matters. Believe it or not, I’ve only had one or two jobs where that was the case (working for the National Park Service was one, working with incarcerated youth was another. My post office job, well that was somewhere on the border.)

Sure, I’m working a million-gazillion times harder than I ever did before (except for my time cutting down trees with CREC, whadddup!) but it’s a different kind of work. It isn’t so mentally exhausting (not nearly as mentally exhausting as writing!). I whip around on a four-wheeler all day from one task to another with nobody asking me to “smile more,” with nobody’s wonky energy to pick up and take home with me.

I’ve loved all my jobs (maybe that’s a stretch, I’ve had a lot of jobs) but I often regret that I haven’t stuck with one and, you know, Started Making The Big Bucks. But this job? This job is legitimately good for me. This job is wholesome. Educational. Amusing (those piglets!). Active. EMPOWERING. And don’t even get me started on Do You Know Where Your Food Comes From? (I’ll just say: whatever you’re paying for chicken, you’re not paying enough.)

I’ve been feeling like “farming found me” because although I did apply for this job, I also applied for about 10 different State Park jobs before getting turned down and, miraculously, getting a phone call from my new and lovely boss Jenni. And I’m glad I did get turned down by the parks because my exposure to nature at the farm is probably ten-fold what it would’ve been and I’m learning skill sets that will last a lifetime (I can’t believe I’ve made it to 31 without knowing some of these things!)

My values are being turned on their heads. Not all my values, but things like: what makes me a beautiful and valuable human being? What do I really contribute to this world? What does environmentalism really mean to me? And am I willing to act on those values? Where did that jerky come from? How was that animal treated? My former touching stones (shopping for clothes, getting dolled up, watching mindless movies) are eroding beneath me. It’s kind of scary, but exciting. This is just the start of something bigger, a drop in the bucket no doubt, but I am evolving and changing as a person and a woman and I am trying to get a foothold in this strange, brave, and REAL new world.

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Literally me. A photo Jenni snuck of me on one of my first days at work. She posted it on the farm’s Instagram account and titled it “Chicks putting out chicks” #farmher
Memoir, Poetry, Prose, Rant, relationships, Spirituality, Womanhood

Introversion (synonyms: introspection, self-absorbsion, timidness)

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photograph by Kirsten Lara Valenzuela \\ model Crystal Danielle Gasser

 

Introversion. You wonder if is innate or learned.  Is it because you were raised as an only child? Is it because of early childhood trauma or simply because the birds used to laugh at you outside your window? “Mocking” birds, you later learned. Is it because you were raised in a cabin, with just your father and a wood stove for company? What came first, the chicken or the egg? You remember pretending to be ill when childhood friends asked you to play. You felt you couldn’t tell them the truth: that you just wanted to be alone.

You are on Facebook, see a meme: I’m staying inside, it’s too people-y out there, click Like.

It’s like this: as introverts we are inclined to work the night shift, in fire towers, on the homestead. We are willing to stop and look at the moon for a long period of time. We go on to ponder it and everything else within a moment that drags on for a night and the whole next day. We take security personally and are often the guardians of our homes. You go, I’ll stay here. We can almost sense the need to be in a tower somewhere. You always thought Rapunzel really had it made: that long golden hair, impassioned lover, and that bedroom all to herself with few visitors. Twenty four hours is almost not enough time to yourself, you’ve noticed. You could take weeks, a month, of solitude. You need it! You want to scream— as if the world should hand it to you. Your boyfriend leaves to Africa for three weeks and you were just getting used to the new routine when he comes home.

You read Barbara Kingsolver’s Prodigal Summer and High Tide in Tucson.
You can feel someone coming from a mile away.
No one ever sneaks up on you, yet you are often startled.
You are “sensitive” and there’s no way around that. Ever.
You cannot date or live with other sensitive people.                                                                     ……Can’t one of you just go for a walk?

You take up writing.
You notice nuance everywhere.
You suck at wowing a room verbally.
You feel you are often interrupted or misunderstood.
You try to express yourself with as few words as possible.
You notice what everyone around you is doing, even feeling.
You’ve called in sick when really you just needed a “mental health day.”
You feel incredibly guilty, foolish, and weird for this.
You RSVP to parties then panic and not go.
Your one true desire is a full weekend at home.
You read Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.
You prefer the company of just 2-3 friends over dinner or lunch (preferred).
You are a powerhouse one-on-one.
You let few people in but to those you do you are loyal.
You prefer letter-writing as a means of staying connected.
You would never, ever do social things three days in a row.
You are well rested.
You have secrets.
You are sensual.
You like to be in bed.
(some boyfriends find this sexy,
others are appalled.)
You enjoy you.
You notice everybody
else seems to
need company.
You pity them.
You wonder
if you could
ever have a child,
if you should ever
have a child.
You prefer the
company of animals,
radio show hosts.
(But even they can
be too yappy.)

Dreams, essay, Feminism, Inspiration, Love, Memoir, Prose, relationships, Spirituality, Womanhood

A Rainbow for Moonbeam

It’s easy for me to be mad at a mother who isn’t around. But she is out there. I do have a mother and I always have. She’s always been a living, breathing human on the other end of my string, with a paper cup of her own, listening in as I send messages of love/hate/love/hate. It’s certainly not indifference that I offer. Not these days. And I am here to say: I do not hate her. I possibly never have.

Today, I am reaching within the well of myself to find compassion for my mother. I do not have to reach very far. Her face pops up on my computer screen at 10:33 a.m. “Happy to be back at work!” her digital post reads. My heart bulges. She tags me and fourteen other people, coworkers and my siblings. She is beaming. I cannot ignore it, nor do I want to, because just this morning I was stalking my mother’s Facebook page. I noted that she no longer listed her old job at McDonalds (a job she left, oh, maybe a year ago). I narcissistically wondered if that was because I live with an organic farmer and sometimes talk shit about McDonalds, possibly online. Was she ashamed?

Now, here she is in her work uniform saying “Just got off work n home from my first day back! Had so much fun!” and her friends—work friends— are all saying “We’re happy to have you back!” and “Yay Darlene!” and there is a name tag on her black polo Darlene and she has rainbow, a daisy, and a button that reads I Heart Port Huron on her visor. She is a person, my mother. She lives and breathes and decorates her hat. It almost surprises me.

“Feels good doesn’t it? Nice bling! heart heart” I tell her. I use two hearts for emphasis. I do not know how to make the hearts colorful. But I am proud. Four heart proud, but I don’t say it. We do not communicate any other way but Facebook. I must text my grandmother now and tell her the good news.

Every now and then my mother will post an image of a casserole dish.  Inside will be chicken enchiladas or a noodle mystery dish. I do not salivate. I do not yearn for my mother’s cooking. But I do feel envious—of the enchiladas themselves. I am always shocked in childish way that she had time to make enchiladas but not time for me? I am thirty one now. It’s time to get a grip. As a child, I likely internalized the intense emotions I felt when noting, for example, that my mother made long, dangling hippie earrings—several different sets of them. Colorful things that took so many hours of focus and dedication. These pretty colorful things had taken so much of her attention. She could focus on one thing—it could happen.

Now I’m the asshole who, about 2 weeks ago, likely when she was interviewing for her old job, posted a sob story about having no mother. Real actual mother meanwhile sitting down to a Pepsi and a cigarette (that is my memory of her but PEOPLE CAN CHANGE so maybe she was drinking a cup of tea) and seeing her hurt daughter yet again going on and on and on about her. She feels ashamed. She wonders if her friends from McDonalds—other mothers, no doubt, some with upset children, some without—will see what I have written and judge her.

She does not deserve that. Nobody does.

Since I posted The Thing That Revealed So Much, I got to thinking: (a) my mother did some things right and maybe I should write about those things more and (b) my hating her for leaving me is so anti-feminist.

I got to thinking:

My mother has a great personality—I mean she’s fun to be around. People agree on that.

My father loved her, and she loved him. And I have the coauthored diary entry to prove it.

My mother is well respected by her coworkers. She should feel good about that.

My mother is super human. That sounds like a super hero—and maybe it is. Maybe she’s just yet to really unveil herself and fly. Maybe I am super human, being her daughter. I know that I am.

My mother has overcome a lot. I mean she’s still here and kickin’.

My mother had a lot of pressure on her as a child. She was raised by a strong Southern woman, my grandmother, who has always asked me to call her by her first name instead of Grandma.

My mother maybe didn’t get the help she needed when she needed it. Instead she got babies. That is super anti-feminist. Women struggle sometimes.

My mother has very pretty eyes.

My mother never really got any help from the men in her life, it seemed.

I am an adult now, and I see clearly the struggles in life. How one moment we can be totally on-point, the other moment, well: Not. Just really fucking not.

I got to thinking:

I am unemployed. Now is the opportunity to learn something from my mother. “I had so much fun!” she said of her first day back at work. I really need that kind of enthusiasm.

I got to thinking:

My mother was sick, in the hospital. That was why she left her job in the first place. Did I send a card? I should have.

I got to thinking:

There is nothing more miserable than being sick, ill, or in pain. Being of healthy-body, I sometimes forget that. I should not. I really, really should not. I have a lot to learn.

I got to thinking:

My mother moved to one of the poorest economy’s in America a few years before the recession. She is a goddess for finding a job there. I should raise my mother to the level of goddess. She deserves it. We all do.

I got to thinking:

I really overdo it sometimes.

I got to thinking:

I made people cry (even men) at my last poetry event when reading about my mother and our relationship. It was really pathetic. And I brought it all upon myself. I vowed to let some of that go. And it did—it kind of up and flew away right there in the room.

I got to thinking:

I am obsessed with my mother, but it is really just an avalanche of repressed wants and desires from childhood (and especially) adolescence. I can viscerally remember pushing these feelings/wants “away” from me, little did I know they stuck around, like a monkey on my back. Like a backpack of feelings I just couldn’t leave anywhere.

I got to thinking:

I am still unloading the backpack, piece by piece. And I am So Sorry Not Sorry for the witnesses.

I got to thinking:

I would seriously like for my parents to know the deep well of love I hold for them both. If something were to happen to either of them tomorrow—well I would wreck myself with the knowledge of those last few things I said to them. And that is just not fair. I want to make this right. I am going to make this right.

I got to thinking:

The intention of my working through these things in writing is to avoid the subtle self-destruction that our mommy/daddy issues can have on us in life. My parents both have these issues. I mean they could both fill books with the things their parents did and did not do. They could do the same thing that I am doing. My intention is to fill books with words and not myself with toxic substances and people and thoughts. There is a reason I do this: I am sitting and writing instead of smoking and fucking.

I got to thinking:

I got to thinking so many things I started writing them down on post it notes and the backs of business cards. I started collecting notebooks, oh about ten years ago, and now have so many, both blank and filled, that I feel slightly disorganized and certainly a little overwhelmed almost all of the time. But I feel rich in words.

I got to thinking:

I started writing this essay at 10:33 and now it’s 11:44 so really one hour of cutting my heart open and letting it bleed is really not so bad. It’s certainly fucking weird that this is “what I do.”

I got to thinking:

There really is a lot of time in this world. And no time at all, it seems. Time to make amends. Time to make change. Time to waste. Time is relative. Are you in a prison or playing volleyball on a sunny beach? If you are in a prison, time will be slow. If you are on a sunny beach, time will be fast.

I got to thinking:

I dreamed I was in prison the other night. Or in jail, or whatever. It was utterly, absolutely the worst feeling ever. I hated it. I had NEVER FELT THAT WAY. I thought I knew but I DID NOT KNOW. I have been in jail before but WITH FRIENDS. I really had no idea: I think most people don’t. It was a sickening feeling. The fact of being guilty, well that is beside the point. It was inhumane. In prison, time is torture.

I got to thinking:

If I could, I would free my mother from this imprisonment and shame. She does not deserve that, nobody does: it is inhumane. I would, in a heartbeat, pass her the key. Out, out, out! I would insist. Do not let me, or anybody else, imprison you. In essence, I forgive you. I’ve just been trying to make sense of it: for me. For wholly selfish reasons. I neglected your feelings along the way, and I am sorry. Not cool.

I got to thinking:

Of an article I read many years ago (I’ll pull it up now for good measure). “Missing Mom” it read “found in Florida, taken into custody.” Wait what? Running away is illegal? Wait, no now, that aint right. A mom can leave. Dads do it all the time. This woman, once “a perfect mom” was considered dead after leaving her family. A runaway mom is a taboo in our culture. My heart swelled for this woman. I could be her. This is a feminist issue. I almost want to applaud my mother now for leaving.

I got to thinking:

My brothers got the best of her. And the worst of her: this human being.

I got to thinking:

I am far too hard on others (my mother, my father, my boyfriend). I need to soften. I vow to soften. Soften or die.

I got to thinking:

How many more hours am I going to spend in self therapy?

I got to thinking:

How many dollars have I spent on traditional therapy? Zero.

I got to thinking:

I can make it all better through my writing. I have that tool. I am not scribbling anymore, tearing the page with the point of my pen like when I was a teenager. These words that I write have meaning. These black lines and curves can heal.

I got to thinking:

There is only now. There is certainly not yesterday. There is a hint of tomorrow, but not a promise.

I got to thinking:

And staring at my mother’s photo. Her smile speaks loudly. Somebody, somewhere took it for granted at some point. First, I suppose, it was the mother who adopted her out. That kind of leaves this deep gash in a person, I believe. Whether folks like to admit that or not: it’s a thing. I think the gash was passed on when somebody possibly took my mother’s mothers smile for granted, too. And her smile spoke so loudly, so that just aint right.

I got to thinking:

We are all equally important. We of different colors and intellects. We of different degrees of guilt and shame. We of different opportunities.

I got to thinking:

The only way to heal is to treat people good now. With the knowledge that people get hurt and the hurt makes things worse and the pain and violence in turn get bigger. Me, as an adult for example, need to watch the things I do and say with children. They are watching. They will blame me, someday, for not being a better example. As I have blamed (I’m erasing that blame now and replacing it with understanding) those who were supposed to be older and wiser than me. We are all learning. We are all on a spectrum.

I got to thinking:

And staring at my mother’s photo again. My little brothers know her. They “get her.” They’ve lived in the shadow of her shame due to me all their lives. Me, her first born. Her perfect daughter. Blech. Even I know she doesn’t think I’m perfect. But close. Because I’m so mysterious. I’m like that out-of-reach lover. I’m like the grass is always greener. I’m like: enough. Enough already. Swipe the slate clean, mom. I step down from the pedestal. If I could say one thing it would be this: I might’ve done the same thing as you. And, I love you. 

I got to thinking:

Have I said enough already?

I got to thinking:

I need to stretch.

I got to thinking:

Of myself. Like we all do. Like we all should.

I got to thinking:

A rainbow for Moonbeam. Hope.

I got to thinking:

Say something that will let her close that door and move on.

I got to thinking:

Say something that will let you close that door and move on.

I got to thinking:

Say something, anything, to make it better.

I got to thinking:

Stop writing and start working.

I got to thinking:

Stop working and start writing.

I got to thinking:

Do whatever it takes to make it work and make it right.

I got to thinking:

Today is a brand new day. Make it even brand newer.

I got to thinking:

Hope. Hope’s just a word that maybe you’ve said and maybe you’ve heard but that’s what you need man and you need it bad. –Bob Dylan, Last Thoughts on Woody Guthrie

I got to thinking:

The end.

I got to thinking:

The beginning.

Dreams, Inspiration, Love, Poetry

Light

Awakened
a spark of inspiration
in the twirl of a girls umbrella
at a school bus stop
blue and pink
it makes me think
there is a miracle
in every lighted kitchen window
at the end of every road
and inside of every home
tortured souls collide favorably
with their expectations
frightfully forgiving human nature,
through gritted teeth the choices of others
we tuck and prod and unravel ourselves
before taking for granted headlighted vehicles
we watch our hands running away with themselves again
–and the years too
we shoo the children out the door for a day with strangers
we keep the faith

Awakened
a spark of inspiration
a miracle in every lighted
kitchen window
women and children
children and men
alone, together, and illuminated

Dreams, Inspiration, Poetry, relationships, Womanhood, Writing

Poetry Reading at Eugene’s Barnes & Noble March 12th at 3 p.m.

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Poetry Reading at Barnes & Noble  Eugene (above)
1163 Valley River Drive
Eugene, Oregon
March 12, 2017

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I am pleased to remind my friends and readers of this low key poetry reading event at Eugene’s Barnes & Noble. With the Eugene Poetry Foundation as our platform, my cousin Crystal Gasser and I will be reading for fifteen minutes each, followed up by an open mic.

Being it is the fifth consecutive month of our Barnes & Noble readings, I am honored (and only mildly freaked out) to have the stage and the headline. See our flyer below. All are welcome to join! Other poets encouraged to attend!

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Poetry, Womanhood, Writing

Seen/Hidden

My emotional makeup is running.
fushia-colored need blossoms falsely on my cheeks
while neon strikes of pencil glow in
a most unfavorable way
on my eyes and lining my lips
I am drooling down my chin,
which is caving.
The more I paint my outside
the more my inside suffers,
ignored.
The more
pain the more paint,
it seems.
My emotional makeup is running but
I never looked better than after I’ve
washed my face.
Still, every morning
I paint-by-numbers
in an attempt to be
seen and to
be hidden.