Sunday, October 30, 2016

Mountain Peak

Climbing to a peak takes training and hard work before the actual climb. There are a scrapes and slides along the way to success. When the time comes for the actual climb, each day is it's own success. It's been a long time coming up to this moment, this first camp on the bigger climb.
    It is with great excitement I announce that for the first time I have had a poem accepted for publication in a national magazine.
    My poem, "Needlepoint" will be in the Fall 2016 issue of Westward Quarterly Magazine.
   
   It is available at www.wwquarterly.com .

   I hope you enjoy the poem. I hope you find your own hope for whatever mountain you're climbing. Thanks for sticking with me this far, on to the next summit.


   

Thursday, August 4, 2016

If you can't be nice, go to your room until you can

I grew up being told everyone puts their pants on one leg at a time. Treat everyone the same. Respect everyone. Don't be mean to anyone. You never know what someone is going through until you've walked in their shoes. And to do unto others what you wanted done unto you, not that would be done unto you.

I try to practice this philosophy towards all people. This can make me a bit of an odd duck. I work in a hospital. I treat the environmental services people the same as the surgeons. Everyone gets a smile, a kind word, a pat on the back, or a kick in the pants; whatever they need that moment.

If I could be called insensitive to anything, it would be that I believe if we would all work harder to simply treat everyone with kindness the media wouldn't be able to manipulate situations. I'm kinda naïve in thinking we all really can get a long.

Recently a new employee came into my work space and I was nice. Shocking, I know. We exchanged what I have always known as niceties. What's your name, where you from, etc. In the coming weeks, I did what I always do; got to know more about the person. One day someone else was in front of that employee and I did what I do, "How's your summer going? Kids ready for school yet?" Simple niceties. The new person stepped up, I asked a question and he stopped, looked at me for a moment, and smiled and answered.

You see, I'm a 50 year old, white woman standing behind a lunch counter and he's a younger, black man earning an advanced degree. He was a hard shell to crack, but it finally happened. He realized that I wasn't afraid of him. I wasn't patronizing him. I wasn't trying to have a token black friend. Our worlds grew a little better.

I have lived places where black lives didn't matter. I have lived places where poor lives didn't matter. I have lived places where military lives didn't matter. 

Those places will never live in me.

Dr. King said he wanted his children to be judged by the content of their character. That is the standard I live by. He did not say he did not want his children to be judged. An important reminder that there must be a standard of excellence.

Muhammad Ali said, "I pity the poor fool", so do I.
Okay, out of context, but it works so well!
Respect the quality of character, pity the fool.

1 Corinthians 10: 23-33 Tells us that all things are lawful, but not all things are helpful. It reminds us that sometimes it is better to put ourselves aside.


There are a lot of "I's" in this blog. My hope is that my experience will remind people that you just don't have to work so hard. Be nice to people. All people.


When a child is bored, read them a book about far away places. Plant a dream of a peace filled world.

Peace, Love and peanut butter cookies for everyone!

Friday, April 22, 2016

Thankfully exhausted

You don't have to hate your job
to wish you didn't have to go to work.
To want to go home,
Having someone to go home to
A home to go to
To love your life
More than your paycheck
To be responsible is right
Wanting to bound out the door
Doesn't mean you hate what you do
Enjoy your life, without guilt
You don't have to hate your job
To wish you didn't have to work.

 

Monday, April 4, 2016

Trying

   Trying is, well, trying.
    It's easy to say things like "don't change for anyone" and "you're true voice is important" to someone else. When I have to convince myself, it's another matter all together.
    I have a goal that I have come to realize can't be achieved from my current position. So I have to change myself to achieve my goal. But then I risk losing my true voice. Which could be a better voice or not. So do I keep putting myself, as I am, who I am, out there? Do I continue to risk rejection? Or do I change to fit in to get in? Or do I buck the whole system, and do the whole thing independently?
    Is anyone else confused?
    Am I bitter? Bitterness is a petty emotion, based on things being decided by others that cause a less than positive outcome for one. Hmmm, nope, not bitter. Not angry.
   Maybe disappointed, I could work with that one. Confused, okay, not so much. I knew I was going up against an established practice that is not accustom to being, well, ordinary.
   Pissed off, yup. At who? Oh, well, hmmm. Myself, I guess. Why? For being so naïve to think that I could be enough. But that's what hope is, right? Fine, my own theme bites me in the backside.
 
    So ends my pity party. Besides, the popcorn's almost gone.

  There are so many disappointments to face. Some are huge, some are small, some are what they are.
Some are deep wounds that change the course of your life. They become the scar that everyone sees, no matter how much you try to hide it. Some are so small, there's no understanding why we give them any time at all, but we keep giving them center stage. Some are disappointing. We accept them for what they are and hope good comes out it. Once the ice cream hits the pavement, all we can do is hope the ants enjoy the treat.

    I don't know what I'm going to do next. But there are a few things I am sure about.
1) I am good enough for this moment. I can improve, as a mater of fact, I hope I never stop growing and improving.
2) There are options, so this is not a dead end street. And if it were, I'd just have to back track to a cross road.
3) The expiration date on microwave popcorn is a real thing to be paid attention to.

   What I'm trying to say. What I'm trying to show. What I'm trying to tell you is, well,

Trying is trying, so keep trying
   
Peace, Love and Peanut butter cookies for everyone (because stale popcorn is not good)

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Don't wait to be your truest you


Sometimes I think about burning my old journals

So that when I die no one has to deal with them

And so no one will read my truest thoughts
Perhaps thinking less of me

When they thought I was so strong and good

Then I realized that those words are, in fact,

My truest feelings and actions

At the best and the worst moments of my living

They show that I was struggling

When people thought I was fine

They show that I was humbled

When people thought I was proud

They show that I was broken hearted

When they thought I was healed

And I wondered

Why hide those words from them

When I die

Perhaps those words will inspire them

To get through the next struggle

They will see that I laughed

When there was much to cry about

They will see that I was proud

When there was still much to be humbled by

They will see that will see my healing

When there was so much breaking my heart

Then I wondered,

Why am I waiting to die

For people to know my truest self

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

What's the word for the caretaker at the end of life?

 When a person is put in the position of taking a young human, be it by birth; adoption; or life circumstances, to raise to self sustainability it's called parenting. What is it called when a person is put in the position of taking an old human to care for until they come to the end of their days? I can't find one word that sums that up to say what this process is the way "I am a parent" does for the opposite process. There ought to be a word for that.
   
 I have found myself in a position that I didn't think I would ever be in, caring for an elderly parent. My parents have both passed away.
     When my mother was ill, I lived several states away and was raising children. When I would talk about going to her and helping to take care of her, she and family members would say they had it under control and would let me know if they needed me. Mom would tell me to take care of my family.
     When my dad was ill, I was on the other side of the country. My family would say that they would let me know when they needed me to come. To wait until I was really needed. Then he was gone.
     I have described myself as "the bad child" for not taking care of my parents. I don't, honestly, believe that my parents would say that about me. It does show the guilt I feel for not being there for them when they needed care.
     My three, wonderful, sisters did a magnificent job of caring for our parents. The sacrifices they made will never be lost to me.
    
    Then, a couple of weeks ago, the tables turned. My partner's mother had a heart attack. Suddenly we were in the chaos of ER's; cardiologists; hospitalists; stents; pharmacies; and cardio rehab.
     We are thankful that she recognized the symptoms and called for help quickly. We are also thankful that we had just moved into our new home together and we have a place for her to stay until she stabilized.
     I never thought I would be pacing the ER floor over a parent. It is a strange place for me. While it certainly isn't what it would have been for my own parents; it has given me a stronger appreciation for my sisters support system. Husband, boyfriend, friends that rallied behind them and propped them up when they couldn't stand any more.
    As many people as we have helping us move into this next phase is phenomenal. We are learning the language of this new world and figuring out what works for our circumstances. There is an understanding of what this turn means. There have been discussions of last wishes and what to do when she's gone. It's a phase of life that I thought I was done with, I'm glad to be here in a support position. Still, there ought to be one word.

Then this:


I turned my head
For just a moment
A blink of the eye, really
An instant

I don't know how it happened
Seems that it was quick
Life being full of
Work, bills, days, holidays

I am not entirely sure,
Just that it took me by surprise
To turn around to find
You had gotten old

Not in numbers of years
That I understood,
In the person before me
That is you

Marking the occasions
Of first times once again.
Fear in your eyes, where
determination once lived

I knew it would happen
Someday had shown up
Caught us both unready
My heart begins to ache

You have turned down
The last road of life
I can only help you
Stay safe as you travel

Taking the car keys
Holding the bicycle seat
Grasping your hand
Supporting your head

The backward steps of dependence,
Of the end resembling the beginning,
Pretending you aren't dependent
Until we can't pretend any more

To say the child
Becomes the parent
Is not entirely true,
Parents get to keep their work






    

Sunday, July 26, 2015

"Writing From the Four Diretions" starts with making sure your compass is true.

     It is odd for me to not immediately write a review about a writing workshop that I have attended. I understand the value of feed back, good or bad. So for it to take me five months to write a review is an astounding amount of time. This review jumps back and forth from Trebor Healey and Saratoga Springs Retreat Center. The venue made the workshop complete. I'm sure it would work other places, but this is the way home feels to me. We'd be family anywhere, but this is our place.

     Writing From The Four Directions, lead by Trebor Healey (http://www.treborhealey.com/) was an event I had looked forward to for over a year. There were a lot of detours to getting there; so when I was finally at Saratoga Springs Retreat Center (http://www.saratogasprings.com/)it was surreal.

     There were three big things that made this especially poignant for me. First, I allowed myself to step away from home after losing my Dad. I feared that the grief I carried with me would distract from the experience. Second, spending money on my craft is something "professionals" do. Taking this trip was, to my thinking, taking a big step in my own view of my work. Third, being the first to do something; even when it is welcomed; is scary. More about that in a minute.

     So, I went. Checking off firsts along the way. The first time I left my state (or county for that matter) to go to a writing workshop. The first time I ever rented a car in my name and was the sole driver. Weird, I know. The first time, this is the biggie, a woman has ever attended "Writing From the Four Directions".
     Trebor and the staff at Saratoga Springs were as excited for me to be there as I was, but would the others be so happy. As we gathered, introducing ourselves individually, then formally in a circle, I remembered the old adage, "open with a joke". "I'm Laura, and I'm not a gay male." As the room erupted in laughter, we all became family.
     Those next few days together were times of trepidation in sharing work, bold honesty, lots of laughter, thought provoking poetry and prose, and tears. 
     Trails that wrap around the retreat center brought times of nurturing friendships and connecting with the earth that is so carefully preserved by the retreat center. Listening to the brook babble it's tales and the wind whistle it's song through the trees took me to a time when wagons and walking brought people to this spot. In the middle of the lawn there is a small plaque, commemorating the post that was there that started this town. I wonder what the trees would say about the people who may have planted them there. And the trees that were there before the people.
    The workshop was structured enough to keep us on track to explore writing exercises, yet loose enough to let the moment be the inspiration. Trebor did a wonderful job of orchestrating the movement of the group.
     As I got into my rental car to return to my life, there was peace that hadn't been with me for a while and joy in the connections I had made.
     So, why then has it taken so long to write this review? If it was all peaches and roses, why not write it right away?
     Time is a great truth teller.
     Trebor and I sat for a little while and looked at some of my poetry. He had taken them the night before and made notes. As we sat there he proceeded to do what Trebor does, he was honest. I listened and tried to ask good questions. But the truth is, my feminine ire rose up. I had not been told how great I am, funny right? No happy voices of assurance. He spoke to me the same way he would any of the guys. I will always be grateful for that.
     Returning home I ran a gambit of emotional responses. "I'm not good. Others have lied to me." Then, "What does he know? Others tell me it's good." Then, my all time favorite, "Who cares about any of this anyway?"
     I love Trebor. I didn't write this review immediately because I knew time would sift out the emotion until the fine powder of truth made the cake rich and fluffy.
     The truth is Trebor is a gay guy. I know, pretty revolutionary stuff right there. Before this two kinds of people had reviewed my poetry, women or straight guys. These two people groups tend to filter their comments through kindness or fear. They are honest, but don't want to hurt feelings; and they don't want a woman to go off on them for being told they need to work on it.
     Trebor wants me to be a better writer. Crazy, I know.
     Having sifted the truth I know a few things. Some of my writing is more feminine than I can explain to Trebor. Women get it without having to explain it. That's okay. Some of my writing is bad. That's okay. Some of my writing ends at a place I'm comfortable with, but he isn't. Neither is bad, it's just different. That's okay.
     What I've learned is to know my audience and write for them, without apologies. To listen to the voices around me, both audible human voices and the whispers and whirls around me. And kick down the box! Take my art to the least likely audience and respectfully listen to their feed back. People who like it, or are like me, will tell me what I want to hear. That's nice, but not helpful. Go where the honesty hurts, pain brings growth.
     I hope that more women will attend Trebor Healey's workshops. His talent for making blunt descriptors poetic and his eloquence in dealing with difficult subject matters, as in "A Horse Named Sorrow", make him a valuable teacher.
     Saratoga Springs Retreat Center is a wonderful setting. Enough creature comforts to be comfortable, but not so much that it detracts from the setting. The staff were all helpful, engaging, and fun. Arnna took very good care of all of us.
     What ever your art is I hope you will go to a place that is very different and learn from the time there. Nurture your mind and spirit to flourish in astounding ways. Find the hope of your art in the differences that surround you.