Something stinky is goin’ down in the Prose Garden.

Maybe it’s the over-abundance of earthworms in dung-enriched soil, or pretentious hyphens.

Maybe you’re taking a dump as you read this. (Yeah, you. I see you.)

Maybe it’s that love is like manure: you have to spread it around so that things can grow.

Speaking of love, we celebrate nine years of wedded matrimony today. Fun fact: did you know that the word for wife in Spanish—esposa—is also the word for handcuffs?

As they say, life is like a garden bed—you never know what you’re gonna get. Unless he builds it like a brick shit house with dank soil and a kwaanza hut roof, then you’re stylin’. Thanks, babydoll.

I ended up with a guy who only knows how to build big fires. Who won’t relax unless he’s asleep. Who tells the best stories in too loud a voice from talking over engines his whole life. Who builds it tough or not at all. Who believes that real work is with your hands, and that they don’t make ‘em like they used to.

Nine years ago I left a good job in California & moved back to Alaska to be with this guy, this third generation Alaskan fisherman whose curly hair is as unruly as his personality. The day after I moved back to Alaska I got pregnant, and within the year I gave birth to my son, bought a house, got married, and started a business. My husband jokes that if I could, I would sleep in a coma for a year.

Basically as soon as I moved in with my boyfriend, I have been pregnant or with children. And as you parentals know, Married…with Children means mess and poop. Every iterations of shit you can imagine.

Don’t get me wrong—I ADORE my kids. As a friend once put it, having children is sort of like having an affair. The hubs gets knocked to the side (sometimes out of the bed) so you can snuggle and dote on your progeny. Hubs is replaced.

Marriage… with kids is stinky. It’s messy and effing hard, even when you have everything in common with your partner, or so I’m told. Ain’t no happily ever after—get that fairy tale shit outta your head.

It’s about trade-offs, sort of like balancing playdates and sanity with the odds of contracting Coronavirus. Do you want someone to bitch at every night after a day of work? Do you want them to bitch at you? Trade-off. Do you want to have someone watch your children for a day even if it means you might kill Grandma? Trade-off. Simple cost-reward analysis.

It’s taking a leap of faith & wondering the answer to what if. It’s jumping full throttle into a volcano & hoping it spits you out without too many gray hairs. It’s rolling with the punches, unless he actually does punch you, in which case contact your local shelter and get the fuck out.

You may have noticed that I have been throwing a few more f-bombs than normal. Honestly, how can you talk about the joys of wedded bliss during Quarantine without swearing?

You may have also noticed that this post has no point. Other than to say “look honey, I finally posted something on Facebook for our anniversary!”

So there you go, darling. A no-cheese anniversary post and testament to our love. We were crazy then and we’re probably more crazy now, except this time crazy doesn’t include hot motorcycle rides, reggae concerts, and copious amounts of [fill in the blank].

And that’s okay. I still love you.

XO,

Summer

photo by Fera Photography

Sandra Cisneros says that “poets are in the professions of transforming grief into light.”

On some level, we all feel grief. In Eastern medicine, they believe that grief settles in the lungs. I have asthma, so I find this particularly interesting. I wonder how grief has affected my lungs, and how poetry could possibly help excavate stuck grief.

Covid-19 is a respiratory disease, so perhaps we need to pay attention to the connection of grief and lungs. I wonder how poetry could help us excavate our own grief. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could all clear our lungs and heart from grief, and transform it into something beautiful and tangible?

Poetry– metaphor, truth– help us do that.

Write on.

Photo by Karim Manjra on Unsplash

(scroll down to watch/read)

I am struggling with this blog post. I’ve been wanting to make an important announcement for more than a month now, but I wasn’t sure how to go about it. How do you announce you won an award without coming across as bragging? It’s kind of impossible.

The truth is I was totally surprised, thrilled, and humbled when I found out in early April that my poem, “Solstice through Aperture,” placed first in the Alaska statewide poetry contest.

YAY!!!! Okay, back to being humble now…

I have to thank the good folks at Fairbanks Arts Association for hosting the contest, and thank you to Ishmael Hope for reading and blind-judging the poems.

Here is a video from the Fairbanks Arts Association of my reading the winning poem, “Solstice through Aperture,” as well as some of my other poems.

For those of you who prefer to read poetry, I have posted a copy of the poem below.

Thanks for reading/watching!

Featured photo by Fera Photography

Oh my gosh you guys, I don’t usually talk like a valley girl, but when I do it’s because I am immensely impressed. The latest edition to come out of University of Alaska Southeast, Tidal Echoes 2020 is the most stunning literary magazine I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading. Leafing through the gorgeous prose and artwork is like taking a nature bath. Here are some of my favorites. (See if you can spot some poems by yours truly.)

This year Tidal Echoes, founded by University of Alaska Southeast, virtually launched their annual showcase of literature and the art. For their first Author Poetry Reading, the magazine asked me to read my poem, “Letter to the Universe,” a poem for girls everywhere. Diane DeSloover also reads her poem about the first time she watched Gigi Monroe perform.

Watch the video here: http://www.uas.alaska.edu/arts_sciences/humanities/tidalechoes/index.html

Everything happens in threes. Last fall my grandmother passed away. A month ago my husband’s father died. I always wondered who’s going to be the third? And then coronavirus happened.

So much grief.

We don’t know anyone personally who has passed from the coronavirus. We live in Juneau Alaska where so far only 10 people have reported contracting the illness.

Still, my five-year-old is having a moment. She keeps telling me she doesn’t want me to die, then dissolving into tears. During bedtime prayers she says please don’t let us die from the coronavirus. In a modern day rendition of ring-around-the-rosy my kids play “I live you die.”

I don’t know where she got this whole death thing. Maybe it’s because she wouldn’t stop licking handrails, so I explained what could happen if mommy got this thing. (Because of my asthma I am high-risk.) Now I don’t take her out into public at all.

It seemed like nothing would stop my daughter from crying. Until she picked up a piece of paper and a pen and wrote “dear Mom, I’m sorry you died.” Then she drew pictures on it.

Now she’s dancing around the room singing. She processed her feelings with the art, took them out of her body and put them on paper. This is how powerful art can be.

I’ve been writing poetry and journaling a lot lately. It helps me process my emotions in a world turned upside down. Making art is my savior. Whatever you can do—writing or journaling or poetry or songwriting, or dancing, painting, beading, crocheting—do it.

Keep creating, everyone! And wash your hands.

Xo.

Photo by Mr. Tt on Unsplash

I’ve always had asthma, starting at age four when I had to live an oxygen tent for a week, and more recently when I wound up in the emergency room with trouble breathing. Yes, I own an emergency inhaler and a nebulizer and I take asthma control medicine. Still, there have been times that none of these worked for me, and I had no choice but to go to the emergency room.

COVID-19 is a respiratory illness, which means that people like me are at high risk for complications from the virus. Until you experience what it’s like to not be able to breathe, it’s hard to understand just how scary it can be. Like many others, I have self-isolated myself and my children in our house, and luckily I am able to be able to work from home.

The fear that I could contract Coronavirus and not be able to breathe continues to linger in the back of my mind. Knowing this has forced me to adjust some of my behavior in positive ways.

  1. Knowing that your life is fragile changes your outlook on life itself. After three hospitalizations in one year, you start to imagine what your obituary might sound like. You wonder what people would say about you if your lungs gave out permanently. Would you feel satisfied as you reflected on life from your hospital bed? Subconsciously you start to plan your life as if this year could be your last. Since my last E.R. visit two years ago, I have checked off more items from my bucket list.
  2. Coronavirus has forced me to decrease the stress, because stress makes me feel like an armadillo’s sitting on my chest. That means not looking at my phone for news updates. I try not to stress the whole homeschooling-while-working-from-home thing. (Easier said that done, I know.) For us, homeschooling includes getting out in nature, quieting our minds, and listening to the sounds of spring. So maybe it’s not algebra— but it’s gotta be science, right?
  3. I write more poetry. Writing poetry calms me, like filling my soul with chamomile tea. It also gives me more perspective. I imagine if I were an alien watching, and you know they are watching, because they started this whole thing.
  4. Toilet paper won’t bring me happiness, but eating well will. The way I eat shapes my mood, and I know that mood affects my health. Now more than ever I try to fill my body with nutritious, nourishing food,and no alcohol. I’ve cut way down on sugar. Sugar equals inflammation, and inflammation is bad for the lungs. Lately I’ve been filling up on tea and coconut water instead.
  5. I’ve discovered that how I speak to my children really can alter my mood and health. If I raise my voice, I get myself more worked up, and if I get worked up, my lungs hurt. So I speak in a calm manner, and I ask everyone that walks into my home to speak that way as well. If I do need to raise my voice, I employ classic a teacher technique and sing across the room.
  6. I feel better and my children feel better if I’m not such a Nazi about screen time, schedules, cleaning, and all those other boxes we’re supposed to check. If we hit the two hours screen time mark, so be it. As long as I don’t get stressed out about it, they don’t get stressed out and it becomes a self-perpetuating cycle of calm.
  7. Time is fluid. Sometimes “recess” goes from ten in the morning until noon. Sometimes bedtime doesn’t happen until 9:30. No matter. As long as we don’t stress, it’s all good.
  8. I ordered some poetry books. I don’t watch TV— it’s too bouncy. This is the slow life, and I’m loving it.
  9. Speaking of slow, I drive my car slower than Grandma, which is cool because it seems like everyone else around me is driving their car slowly, too. Except for the little Roadster that zoomed by me yesterday, which is also awesome because at least people are enjoying their lives!
  10. I like to check Facebook for hilarious coronavirus memes, because laughter is the best medicine.
  11. Finally, a world for introverts! Yes, my extrovert friends are crying, but they’ve had it made for so long that it’s about time we introverts had our moment! Of course, I still miss my friends, and we’ve started calling and videoconferencing. Go figure that it took a Coronavirus outbreak for me to finally get on FaceTime with my sister.
  12. My kids seem to have really bought into this homeschooling thing.  We have a family meeting every morning and talk about what we want to learn or do. The kids have all sorts of ideas! Write zombie stories, make a movie, create a song on Garage Band, ride bikes, make books… They’re digging it and my son is being so much more helpful around the house than when he was in normal school.
  13. I’m saving a lot of money making more meals at home. And my husband is finally on board about building raised beds for a vegetable garden this year!
  14.  I finally have an excuse for not going to the gym.
  15. I hate grocery shopping and now my husband does it all for me!

I am extraordinarily fortunate that I have the option to work from home, and I have resources to buy fresh fruits and vegetables to boost my immune system. We are all being forced into a time out to focus on what is most important, our health– physical, mental, emotional. We are discovering that we are all connected, and that we are only as strong as our weakest link. We are finding ways to help the environment by working, learning, socializing, and learning from home. Hopefully our society will learn from this and adapt to become better stewards to ourselves, each other, and the earth.

As a child, I was always writing stories in my head. Often times these stories took shape as episodes that were part of a larger series I called “Just the Weather” — mini soap operas that only I and my sister knew about, every person that interacted with us an unwitting character.

Currently, I’m reading two debut, out-of-the-box memoirs: one is In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado, and the other is Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls by T Kira Madden. The first is written in the second person: “you did this… you did that…” etc., and I’m starting to believe her. I see what she did there. I am now inside of the book as willing participant, reliving my own abusive relationship alongside hers. And I wonder why I’ve been feeling down lately. She’s gotten under my skin. Is it the second person tense, or her structuring of the novel as mini vignettes, the poetic prose, my connection with her stories, or all the above?

The second, Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls, is written in the first person as most memoirs are, but in the present tense. Be wary of the present tense! the professors warned me. T Kira Madden fears not, and it works. In the present tense, everything is all happening right now, not yesterday, or last week, or twenty years ago. The stakes are rising.

Bouncing between two memoirs, now I find myself talking to myself. “I’m crossing the street to go to the library,” I tell no one. “The elevator lets you in, but won’t deliver you to the library,” I say, as if I were talking to my reader. “Too cold to wait outside, you can ride the elevator for fun, or hang out with the homeless person in the lobby. ”

Now the homeless man and I are both talking to ourselves.

Questions I’m pondering… what are some really good memoirs? Conversely, what makes memoir good?

What are some unique story structures that work?

What does the reader think about reading a story in the second person?

What is the correct pronunciation of memoir anyway? If I say “memwhah” do I sound pretentious?

Feel free to drop answers in the comment box. Have a great weekend. Signing off…

Summer in Juneau, Alaska

(P.S.: summer is definitely over and out up here)

Photo by Siora Photography on Unsplash

Thanksgiving is approaching, and naturally I’m thinking about the power of gratitude. Brené Brown studied happiness in more than 1,000 people over a course of twelve years. She found that every one of her subjects experienced joy as a direct result of feeling grateful. At first, this seems counter-intuitive– after all, shouldn’t joy come first, then gratitude? Dr. Brown found that it’s actually the reverse: practicing gratitude is a necessary precursor for experiencing joy.

I first discovered the power of gratitude during my twenties, when I lived in Jamaica for six months. I was not feeling very thankful at the time, as the home I stayed in was tiny, and the couple that housed me were up in age. My steady diet of chicken and rice had me all plugged up. Mr. and Mrs. Groves peed in a bucket next to their bed at night, and the smell would waft into my room through the large crack in the wall. Even in the world of dancehall reggae, I was required to keep to their strict curfew. I would lie in bed smelling their urine. I was also recently groped on a crowded city bus in the capital of Jamaica, Kingston, by a hand that came out of nowhere. I couldn’t let go of my backpack on my front, for fear of being robbed. I couldn’t let go of the bar I held on to, for fear of being thrown by the herky-jerky bus. I had to stand there with the protruding hand up my crotch until I could get off at the next bus stop.

One day I met a Rastafarian elder and lamented to him about my current situation. Rather than taking pity on me, the Rasta man suggested that I try giving thanks instead. I looked at this thin man in his torn, worn clothing, and long, grey-haired dreadlocks. Despite his stained teeth, he wore a big toothy grin. He seemed very pleased with himself. I wondered how it was possible that this humble man could be more thankful than I, a young, privileged American. And then I felt ashamed.

Noting my confusion, he invited me to come “siddung and reason a lickle bit”. He was not disappointed in my privileged self-pity. Instead, he proceeded to tell me that he had no money, no family, no house. Yet despite his lot, he gave thanks every day. “Life is the greatest gift,” he said.

The Rasta man seemed genuinely content, and the smile lingered in his eyes and the upturned corners of his mouth. I wondered how a man who had nothing but memories could be so grateful. It was as if gratitude alone determined his happy disposition.

The importance of expressing thanks, or gratitude, was a common, refrain I heard from many Rastafarians while living in Jamaica. It amazed me how people with so few worldly possessions, for whom daily life was a struggle of survival, could find so much to be thankful for.

Fast forward twenty years, my daughter spilled her juice all over the floor for the umpteenth time– a big sticky mess, and I had just cleaned!

I thought of that Rastafarian who owned little more than the shirt on his back. Give thanks, give thanks, I reminded myself as I cleaned up my daughter’s mess. Life is the greatest gift…

I had a kitchen that could be cleaned, I had cleaning products, and we could afford juice. Pretty soon my dining table and floor were even cleaner than before the spill. And because I didn’t scold my daughter, her tears dried up quickly.

A few minutes later I heard her outside, singing joyfully to the mountains, and I gave thanks that I had a daughter who holds a mirror up to myself and in turn makes me a better person.

With gratitude, I was already feeling more joyful.

(pictures are my own, taken in 1998)