Untethered

Last night I stayed up until 3:30 AM finishing a ten page paper on Peter Rock’s My Abandonment (GREAT book), then woke at 7:30 to get my kids up for school. After they left, I had to re-read my paper to make sure it made sense because I was too tired to know if it did last night. Thankfully, it did (I think). Then I rushed to school to take a Women’s’ History final that I crammed for after checking my paper.

And now, I only have one of the Things left to do. I have to finish another (easier and shorter) paper and turn it in electronically by midnight tonight. That is the last Thing required of me to finish my BA in English.

All of a sudden, it hit me, because every semester, all semester long, I look ahead to the next assignment. They’re all in my head, like ok, this Thing is the most urgent, then I will have to do this one, ok this professor offered an extension so that can be pushed back to make room for this other paper, and so on. Now, my schedule has this last paper and nothing behind it. I feel unmoored suddenly! I have been taking classes full time since 2012, and started college originally in 1998. This has been a very long haul, and the end is not just in sight, but right-the-freak-here.

I don’t feel very happy, just worried.  I mean, I feel proud and a little happy, but this has provided structure for my life for years. I hope I can continue a life structure myself. I have done really well in the summers, but those had something in view, and books to read to get ahead. I am applying for MFA programs, so let’s hope I get in so I don’t float off into space or something.

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Lament

On the day Philando Castile died

I knew nothing of it

not his name

which plays in my head repeatedly now

not his face

which I can’t separate from his shirt, white and red

because I was in Disneyland yesterday, you see

with my white family

and we had so much fun

and only used our phones to take smiling pictures

and post them on Facebook

and everything was beautiful.

 

But now, I know

that Alton Sterling was not enough

and Philando Castile won’t be enough

and nothing will ever be enough

to make up for this sin.

 

I look into the face of each black person I pass today

but not too closely

fearing to see the fathomless pain

and knowing

I should bow my head instead of looking because

I have a small son

and I don’t worry about him dying like that

Wanting to say sorry but feeling I shouldn’t speak

Into this grief

 

I am

so sorry

 

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Heigh ho, heigh ho

I’ve been really busy lately (with writing of course, not anything needing to be done like cleaning out the closet or fridge). In May I took an online flash CNF workshop with Kathy Fish and WordTango that I really enjoyed. It was just for a weekend but I met some wonderful writers and got great feedback from them and Kathy Fish. I ended up with something I love. I can’t wait to submit it, but I also purchased a private critique by Kathy so I’m waiting for that to come back. It’s good, because I’m forced to wait and revise instead of getting all excited and sending it off right away (as is my wont).

I have enough submissions out right now anyway–33! This is with contests included, and simultaneous submissions. It’s honestly making me anxious to have so many out. I long to get answers back, even if they’re rejections. I’m not sure how many other people usually have out at once. Maybe this isn’t even a large amount, but it’s the most I’ve ever had out at once.

Next week I’ll start another online workshop, with Chelsey Clammer. I really admire her work (especially her essay “Mother Tongue”) so I’m looking forward to it. This one is 4 weeks long, through WOW! Women on Writing, which is a new site to me. It looks like they have some good class offerings.

Onward and happy writing to all!

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Summertime and the living is easy

I’ve been busy writing as much as I can during these golden weeks when I’m out of school and my kids are not. I did this last summer and spent most of the school year revising and submitting the things I’d written. I’m trying to get a huge stockpile of work to do the same, because in the fall I’ll be pretty busy working on my capstone project for school (linked essays), along with taking my final 15 credit hours.

I have a couple of updates. Yesterday I got an email that my upcoming piece, “This Same Place,” had been a finalist for the Eastern Iowa Review’s Experimental Essay Award. This is the first contest I’ve been a finalist for, and it was a huge surprise and a great honor. I have had a great experience working with the editor, Chila Woychik, and I recommend this classy journal.

I also had a flash essay accepted this week to a planned book– a collection of flash nonfiction humor. It’s in the gathering  material/lining up a publisher stages so it won’t be out for quite a while, but it’ll be an actual printed book (like for sale on Amazon!) so I’m ecstatic.

Lastly, “The Texture of Generations” was reprinted today in Mamalode’s food section, Mamanomnom.

I wish us all a simultaneously productive and relaxing summer!

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Ode to My Lunch

Ode to my lunch
 
Your volume was not a match, o chicken fried steak. Next time
bring a better game.
I am a professional at this–no scrawny vegan Oregonian.
You are gone now, leaving me
with the mashed potatoes and broccoli
that were meant to accompany you through your life.
They did their job; you were not up to your only task.
Goodbye.

cfs

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Thank you, Mr. Steinke

My 10 year old daughter Madeline has an amazing teacher. He is very gentle, peaceful, and encouraging, and fosters a sense of power and autonomy in his classroom. He encourages his students to vote on big things, like the way they want the classroom to work, student government, and small things, like the type of party they want. He won’t step in unless something is unjust or excluding to a student. He currently has them really interested in our country’s election process.

A couple of weeks ago, Mr. Steinke talked to his students about women’s rights and suffrage. Then he said there was something going on right now. Oregon doesn’t have prison nurseries as some (very few) states do, so women stay with their newborn babies only until they are released from the doctor’s care after birth–typically 48 hours or fewer. Mr.Steinke mentioned that this is 48 hours at most in which to breastfeed the infant.

Madi was outraged to hear this. She has seen two babies born. She saw me labor without medication and push her little brother and sister out of my body. She watched me extended breastfeed them both, as I also did for her and her older sister. She knows very well that babies need their mommies, and mommies need their babies. She told Mr. Steinke that she wanted to call the Oregon Supreme Court and express her displeasure with this.

And here comes the amazing part- Mr. Steinke said okay, as long as you have planned out what you want to say. He gave her time to sit down and write out her thoughts, and she used a classroom Chromebook to Google the phone number. Right there in her classroom, surrounded by her classmates and teacher, my ten year old called the Oregon Supreme Court and left a voicemail about babies needing their mothers, their mothers’ milk, and the need for mercy and humanity, even in the prison system. She hotly demanded that they call her school and ask for Madeline Weaver when they return the call (if they have called back, I have not heard about it).

I am embarrassed to say I had not really thought about this issue before. I have done a little googling since then. An estimated 4% of women entering prison are pregnant (pg. 5, first link). This isn’t a huge number. Surely each state could have a facility set aside for this purpose. The women who do get to live with their children in special prison facilities have a significantly lower rate of recidivism, and positive developmental results are also reported for the children able to live with their mothers. My link above even states “the costs incurred to house an infant with his or her mother are less than placing the child in foster care while paying for the parent’s incarceration” (pg. 10, first link).

It makes sense, doesn’t it? Small children need their mothers and the mothers need their children and a reason to overcome the things in their lives that led to prison. Bonding after the mother being released would be very difficult. The child would have been in foster care, if the mother didn’t have to give her up for adoption. Mr. Steinke didn’t discuss this next part, or Madi didn’t hear if he did; my second link says that the mothers must give birth while shackled.This is very inhumane. A laboring woman is not a flight risk. It makes my blood boil to think of it.

So, this blog post is to say thank you, Mr. Steinke. Thank you for recognizing something not many people seem to–children are a part of this country before they are teenagers; they have a voice and can play a part in our justice system.Thanks for empowering Madeline to feel confident that she could call and expect someone to listen.

Report on Incarcerated Parents in Oregon

Helping Moms Behind Bars

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Q & A with Eastern Iowa Review

I have a piece coming out in the second annual printed issue of Eastern Iowa Review (Summer 2016, I think) called “This Same Place.”

The founding editor, Chila Woychik, is great to work with. Here’s a Q & A we did about “This Same Place.”

I can’t wait to get mine; it’s going to be a lovely issue. They are accepting only lyric and experimental/hybrid essays. They’re still open for submissions, so send them something nice!

 

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Two Essays, One Title

This week my essay “Blackberries and Gasoline” was published in Mulberry Fork Reviewa journal which accepts reprints. It is a reprint, technically, but about a third of it is new.

I made a really n00b mistake when I first began submitting to journals last summer. I didn’t let my pieces rest for a while to go back to later–to make sure they were the best they could be. I got too excited and sent stuff out. I thought this piece was ready, but I was wrong. My first acceptance was “Blackberries,” in August, but I had already reworked it when I got the happy email.

I was thrilled but also not sure what to do; when I went to the journal’s guidelines, it clearly stated they want final versions only and couldn’t accept any changes after acceptance. I asked advice from someone I respect, who was teaching an online workshop I was taking.

She said I had to decide what was most important- the publication or living with sending something out into the world that wasn’t ready. She said although this was the first, there’d be other publications for me.  I believed her, and sent a humble email to the editor with the new version. I asked them to take a look and consider using it, claiming ignorance and inexperience, and assuring them that the new piece was better and they’d be happy to have it instead of the first version.

But I chickened out when the editor responded with a firm no (without reading it, because of the guidelines), and sent along, at the same time, the proofs of the first version for me to accept. I don’t like confrontation. I decided to let it be and send it out later to be reprinted.

It’s out now, for real. I feel relieved.

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Thoughts on Structure

Winter break from school 2015-2016.

My children were supposed to be back at school yesterday, but ice on the road demanded school be cancelled yesterday and today.

Reader, I need this ice to melt.

My children are sleeping in later and later daily. I allow it because then fighting will begin later. This means they can’t go to sleep on time at night, though, so it’s a cycle of ruin. They need structure and I am apparently incapable of providing enough of it.

I need to be able to hear my own thoughts for a moment instead of “Mooooom he BIT ME!” “She is a stupid brat and why couldn’t I be the ONLY CHILD??”

Today is my sister’s last day visiting from Louisiana and instead of visiting Chennai Masala (the excellent Indian buffet we love), and schlepping around Portland, we will be watching Hulu and complaining to each other. Just like the last three days. Because the ice is too dangerous to venture out on, even for Indian food.

Sun! I call upon you to melt this enemy!

 

 

 

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