Category Archives: Writing

The “Us” in Trust

I am sitting in a black leather recliner, one leg tucked under me, wearing two pairs of black leggings, a pair of heavy wool socks and my cozy maroon Carhartt beanie. There is a foot of snow outside, two off-duty farm dogs snoozing at my feet, and my mind is bursting with creative ideas for the new year. Regularly I get a flash of inspiration, a story idea or an idea for a pictorial essay, less regularly do I actually write them down or bring them to life. I want to change that in 2018 and keep in step with my inspirations.

2017 was one of transition and awakening. It was our second year living in Walton, Oregon and our first year starting our family business, Fog Hollow Farm. In many ways it was a frustrating and uncertain year for me. I left my job at the Post Office and tried to get back into park ranger-ing. My plan was to make that my career again, but I was turned down by Oregon State Parks because of a snafu with my driving privileges. As fate (or whatever) would have it, I was hired by a female-operated chicken farm which taught me a million empowering things that I didn’t even know I was missing in my life.

Many challenges came with that position, chief among them was the shedding of parts of my feminine identity–an experience so powerful I aspire to write more about it–and I know I have a lot to say. I was also challenged to step aside and let a powerful, and beautiful, woman maintain the spotlight. That woman was my boss, and at times I felt uncomfortable in my new role as assistant to a business-running, cow-wrangling, single, blonde ranch-owner. But I kept asking myself, over and over, why I felt threatened and what it would mean to me, and my community, if I could not make peace within myself with the arrangement. I felt, at times, threatened by the many interests that my boyfriend and my boss shared–raising animals, working til you drop, drinking beer. I also felt slightly angered that I had given up so much of myself to cater to the new arrangement–doing what Steve needed me to do for Fog Hollow Farm, working harder than I ever had over at the chicken farm, and bending this way and that way to help others achieve their dreams and pay my bills. What about my dreams? Lord knows I have them! I never asked anyone so much as to hand me a pen!

As time went on, it became clear that I was respected for the work I was doing. “I would give up the business if it meant losing you,” Steve told me. My boss, meanwhile, gave me a seasonal bonus and a hefty raise. Keeping my cool and my emotions in check was paying off. Most importantly, nobody was getting hurt along the way…including me.

Truth be told I liked the work. I don’t mind getting dirty! I can follow through with my obligations. I am likeable and I do have a knack for caring for and working with animals. I was reminded of my own family’s farming roots and my mind began envisioning the many possibilities. Our farm’s success picked up and we even landed an account with a popular local brewery. This was all beyond the scope of my imagination, but I was finding that our hard work could pay off and that relationships could work out, wow!

Seeing my boss dedicate her life to her farm, her home, and her family, even in the midst of her recent divorce, made me open my eyes to the blessings in my life. I was suddenly grateful to the hardworking man who wanted to be by my side and never expressed any doubts about our relationship. I was seeing what it took to create something worthwhile, both professionally and personally. I admired my boss, a lot. 

But I kept presenting opportunities for sabotage, both relationship and career-wise, and I was forced to reexamine my motives. I found, as I already suspected, that my motive was to avoid being hurt or failing. I found that I looked for weak spots and poked at them, attempting to test the foundation. I discovered that what I was used to was things falling  apart. I found through self examination that the foundation of my life is strong,  but that my tampering with it would eventually cause undo wear and tear.

I was reminded that yes, independence is good and it serves it’s place but to undo years of love and compromise is foolhardy. I learned that as much as you spin stories in your head to fuel your achy-breaky heart and past patterns of neglect it still doesn’t make those stories true. I learned, again, that my past would work against me if I let it. I learned that I am growing, evolving woman who does not become less special in the presence of other strong women and who does not, should not, overshadow women or compete. I was reminded that the world we live in does not always support that, but that that is no excuse whatsoever and the world is changing. Rapidly. I learned that I need to maintain stability for myself, sure, but when appropriate I need to share stability–and risk of failure–with others. That’s part of growing up, I guess. That’s part of partnership and family.

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In October Steve and I went back home for a visit. I dove head first into the Smith River on my birthday, October 26th. Because Dad’s house is a school bus shanty, I’ve taken to camping down the road, two miles from my “house”.  At times I am filled with sorrow when I visit home. These little things happen that just should not happen. These little things that remind me of where I am from and how  far I have come. These little things that remind me of how important education is and that make me want to dive head first into a book and never come up for air–I have so much to learn.

Sitting by a campfire, Dad handed me a pot pipe (we regularly smoke pot together and have since I was thirteen), after I inhaled and blew out the smoke Dad asked me, “Hey, that taste like meth to you?”

Dad asked me this very nonchalantly. I almost choked. “I don’t know, Dad,” I told him, “Luckily I don’t know what meth tastes like.” I didn’t pick up the pipe again. And between you and me, I was angered. What kind of dad would even risk his daughter inhaling a substance so dangerous as meth? (For the record, I do know what meth tastes like. But it’s been a very long time and it was a very hard road.)

“Oh, well you never know around here.” He finished.

Fuck. This was my life. I have always know that I never had to leave the school bus. I could have remained on. I could have become a meth head. A young mother. A prostitute. A Wal-Mart checker. A criminal. Imprisoned.

But I didn’t. I became…..a writer. A poet. A social worker. A farmer. A respected friend and dependable lover.

The scars of my childhood still haunt me though. The twisted ways of being. At the farm, my bosses mom and dad often came around during the season to lend a helping hand. The mom would do her laundry, the dad would clear the brush or pick up supplies from the hardware store. They were both there to listen, and give advice. I observed their interactions a lot, sometimes enviously. Meanwhile I would open one of the freezers to organize the inventory and marvel at the supply of meat. In my mindseye, I ran my fingertips across the pork chops and rib eye steaks, thinking  Man! Look at all this money! Sitting right here! Frozen dollar signs! (That was the old me talking, the one who might’ve up and ran off with $150 dollars of meat, thinking she’d struck it rich.)

Dad called anyone “rich” who owned a nice car or who had a decent job. What Dad didn’t know if that folks worked harder than he could’ve even imagined to get where they were. It would be easy to say that things were handed to folks, ‘cept for the fact that they weren’t! Dad had spent so many years sitting around getting high he became disillusioned. He’d forgotten what work even was. He thought it was work to get to the mailbox, get the disability check, and get to town to get it cashed–just like everyone else he associated with did. That ain’t work. And just because he was my dad, well that didn’t mean I had to look up to him still. I felt it healthy to look and him and see him for what he was–someone who handed me a pot pipe that might be laced with meth. It hurt me. I felt so different. Again. And I suddenly felt so lucky that I could pack up my bags and leave.

Back at the farm(s), I carried with me the knowledge of insight. I knew what was on both sides of the fence. Unlike my dad, or my boss, or my boyfriend, I’d been in both places. I knew the work and the sacrifice that went into owning a family business, to having a successful relationship (I was learning); and I also know what happens when you have no familial support, financially or emotionally. Dad was never given much of a chance. His dad had never even been to his house, the property he bought when I was a kid. And Dad’s mom died in a recliner in her late fifties and nobody even ever asked how or why. She was a drunk and a smoker and that’s what probably killed her, end of story. I mean, my family doesn’t even go to the doctors. How’s that for a hillbilly elegy?

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And here I am–fighting tooth and nail not only for a life but for one that is uniquely mine. When I was sixteen I was eligible for emancipation but I held on til I graduated high school and moved out of my grandma’s house when I was seventeen. I have sheltered myself since then. I have worked a ton of different jobs and was the first and only to graduate from college in my family. I feel sorrow and regret that I have not perfected my working and financial life to the point that it is stress-free. It is not. At the beginning of the year, when I found myself with a dwindling savings account and the opportunity to work on the farm I felt scared, helpless and foolish. Scared that my boyfriend would see what a “real” woman was–one who owned her own house and her own business–and leave me. Helpless that I had removed my foundation, which was my government job, a job that was really all this poor girl had going for her. Foolish because I had put all my faith in a relationship, again.

Now, on December 27th, as we gear up for a new year, I see that being where I am now, compared with where I have been, makes me successful–homeowner, business-owner, or not. My spirit is intact, I have goals of my own (and I always have!) and every little thing that I accomplish is done independently and despite many obstacles. Steve, bless his heart, wants nothing but me. It has taken me many months to examine and accept this. And as I sit here, curled up and safe at Steve’s folks house, I breathe in a breath of gratitude and exhale a breath of hope. It will all work out after all. You are safe. You are loved. You are sober. You have your whole life ahead of you.

With the new year, I truly feel that a new life is emerging, birthed from a renewed sense of understanding, honesty and trust. Back at the farm, Dad is farmsitting. I called him on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and the two days since then. No answer. Tonight, we are all going to see the new Star Wars. On Christmas, Steve’s mother placed my stocking in the middle of Steve and his brother’s handmade ones hanging on the mantle. The next day, we had professional family portraits done. Meals are served morning, noon and night and I always help prepare and clean up. Tears well in my eyes and I feel fortunate knowing they are not tears of worry but tears of hope and joy. I feel like a bird who knows she can fly since she finally has an intact, safe nest to return to. My task is to not let my independence get in the way of true love and family, as I am certain it has done in the past.

Peace, love and light, friends. To a new year, a new us, and a renewed sense of trust.

 

 

 

 

I Survived My First Camp Out with NaNoWriMo

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Bar graph provided by NaNoWriMo. When you click on the line it tells you how many words were written that day. Notice the spike near the end.

Proof of what a procrastinator I am. Or not. Notice how the bar graph spikes once I learn that can rewrite 10,000 words in a day, instead of just 1-2,000. Plus, pressure. Plus, full days off. Plus, momentum and flow. Plus, I didn’t think I’d be saying it, but I did it!

Sure. Writing a book is hard. Writing a book is hard whether it’s over the course of 2 and a half years or the course of one month. Over the course of a lifetime or a weekend. What’s difficult about it isn’t the number of words. I’d bet there could be a compelling masterpiece that was only 50 pages long. What’s truly difficult about it is the emotional terrain one covers.

I suppose I can only speak for memoirists in these regards; only no, I am certain writing horror stories is draining in it’s own way. All the closing of the blinds, the paranoia, the bumps in the night. When you are writing you are in that place–you are in childhood or jail or both.

As you can see I barely reached my goal today. I ended at 50, 817 words but three days ago I was way down at 27,000. I cannot explain it but: magic. And those other things I mentioned above and the fact that, yeah, I’m not a quitter. I am not bragging but when things matter to me, they matter to me. If they matter enough to me they will happen. Years ago, I am unsure if I would have accomplished this. Not out of lack of talent or drive but out of FEAR. This time, FEAR almost stopped me dead in my tracks too. Save the fact that I have learned that FEAR has a bigger bark than bite. Little by little, bit by bit, bird by bird–that’s how I navigated the first 28 days of NaNoWriMo. Then I panicked, was provided the luxury of two days off of work, and busted the shit out.

It may sound difficult but I basically kicked it into high gear seeing that I wasn’t going to make my deadline on time at the rate that I was going.

Wanting to be a WINNER I rolled up my sleeves and dug in deeper. This determination, paired with the grace of my story loosening its grip on my heart (the material was highly emotional in the first part of my memoir, then lessened as I got closer to my 50,000 word goal) gave me the boost I needed to reach my goal today.

Fact: my memoir is a lot longer than 50,000 words, so my work is not over.

Fact: because of NaNoWriMo, I have a kick-ass third draft of my memoir (well, almost).

Thanks, NaNoWriMo.

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Yin

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All I know is new beginnings.

That’s what I told him in my latest attempt to avoid the possibility of heartache, like ever. It’s like, if I cut my own arm off it won’t hurt as bad. I will still be in control.

Everything is water and matter, water and matter. Work is matter, rest is water. He is matter, I am water. I am made of matter and water and my brains and my bones depend on its balance.

I run on land. I run away. But I am a water creature, a river rat, and a beach babe so I will make mistakes on land. My horoscope read water upon water upon water so watch out and before I even read part that I cried in the kitchen — more than usual, my tears hot in the soapy vat of dishwater. It was strange and not-common. I knew I was in the wrong because I couldn’t pinpoint, exactly, what was wrong. So I wished – slash – willed it away.

I went to the beach the following day. I thought of what I’d said, “all I know are new beginnings.” I’ll admit, I’ve known a lot of them…but I am water…and I am river…and I am a wave. Water is in a constant state of movement, whether it is flowing, seemingly stagnant, or percolating through the earth, through the matter. I am part of a whole as water. I need not run, because everywhere I go is with him. And everywhere I go is with you. Every new beginning is still part of the whole. Yin. Yang. Beginning. End. I come to understand this.

Mantra for the Sane

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In writing I worry
I have said too much,
too little
I capitalize on
the funny parts
the sick parts
the sad parts
the parts
half worth
anything
to anyone
(likely not)
I leave out how
my Dad religiously
kissed my forehead every
morning before school
or that friends
parents often
said “we can’t afford
to keep  feeding her”
which only made
my hungrier
my cousins
called me
“oinker”
I leave out
the parts where
I was a happy, jolly
normal kid playing
make-believe and house
I leave out the parts where
I do not go hungry
But I remember
the good times
when I do the dishes,
the innocent times
when I sweep the floor,
the carefree times
when I call for the dog,
“I wanted this”
I recall
“This is all I ever
wanted”
I write my past
I plot my future
“I’ll be the husband
and you’ll be the wife”
I remember saying
“I’ll go to the store now
to get the groceries”
It will be so much fun
It is all I ever wanted
It will be so much fun
I recall, hand swirling
in a vat of dishwater,
igniting the suds
It will be so much fun
to be grown
It is all I ever wanted

This becomes a mantra
for the sane

It will be so much fun
to be grown
It is all I ever wanted
I’ll go to the store now
to get the groceries
It will be so much fun

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

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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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.