Posts Tagged ‘writing’

Fall is back (and so, perhaps, am I).

October 22, 2018

Today is Monday. I usually dread Mondays. They’re crazy, stressful, frantic, and exhausting.

But today when I stepped outside, it was cold. Well, not cold. Brisk. Fallish.

It. Was. Glorious.

I have a lot going on. A kidney stone. Plenty of bills – and not the green kind I want to see spilling out of my purse. A roof leak. A concerning lack of brakes in the car. And a constant struggle with depression and anxiety.

But that brisk air…usually it makes me homesick, that first taste of Fall each year. And, yes, there was a tiny taste of that in the back of my throat. The thing is: I’m a little bit homesick all the time. That taste didn’t grow because of the change in seasons this year.

Right now, I feel like I can come up out of it. I feel like I can change things. I feel like I have things I want to say. Words that want to crawl all up over the pages. That feeling, it’s happened before. I type a lot of “It’s gonna be better” posts. <shrugs> I can’t say if this one is for real. If it will be followed tomorrow with another.

But I don’t want to not write it because of the uncertainty.

I want to open the window, and drink in the Fall air, and let myself hope. I have things to say. And today that thing is: It is Fall-ish outside and I am rejuvenated by it.

I hope it is still Fall-ish tomorrow.

A little bit of why.

July 10, 2018

To know me is to really, really know that reading is my jam. At the moment, I’m devouring Gabby Rivera’s Juliet Takes a Breath. Right?! Right.

It’s life-changingly, gorgeously, unabashedly mine in all possible ways.

So there’s this quote I’ve read about 47 times in a row that goes something like,

Read everything you can push into your skull. Read your mother’s diary. Read Assata. Read everything Gloria Steinem and bell hooks write. Read all of the poems your friends leave in your locker. Read books about your body written by people who have bodies like yours. Read everything that supports your growth as a vibrant, rebel girl human. Read because you’re tired of secrets. ~Raging Flower

And I’m just like: yes. YES. This is just a little bit of why. It’s why I read and why I write.

Because, to me, it’s as essential as breathing.

Ice cream > Magic kisses.

July 5, 2018

Behold! For it is just the magic I needed to wake me up from the deepest slumber.

You can keep your unsolicited (and kinda creepy) kisses from your Disney Princes. I will keep the black raspberry ice cream.


Let’s hope the complete surprise (when I needed it most, too!) sustains me through this bout of depression. I’m just gonna keep writing (and ice creaming) until I don’t have to force myself. Faking it until I’m making it.

…But, um, not with the ice cream. No forced marches there!

Don’t worry: I’m still swimming.

March 25, 2017

I’ve been having quite a time of it lately. I don’t know how it works for you, but when I’m wrestling with something – an idea, a problem, demons, ghosts, tweenagers, break-ups, and the worst of them all, feelings – well, I shut down. I go into power-save mode so I can ensure that I have energy for the most important things. I feed the kids. Supervise homework. Buy groceries. Go to Beauty in the Beast. Force myself to go to work. The girls know I’ve been…not my best. They think I’m sick. [And, honestly, on top of everything else, I have been sick. I made them draw blood to see if I had listeria because of the constant stomach issues and the fact that I’d eaten some of the recalled Sargento cheese. Why you play me like that, cheese?]

Depression isn’t an easy thing. Yes, that’s the most obvious statement I could possibly have made, but here’s the thing: saying it out loud helps. Writing it helps me even more, given my affinity for writerly occupations. Writing is my oxygen. Writing and reading, they’re one of my best measurements to gauge my mental health and overall well-being. This past week (and maybe longer? I don’t know, honestly, how wide this pond has stretched) I haven’t been able to post because I haven’t been able to write. I couldn’t think of anything worthwhile. When I did think of something, I couldn’t imagine that it would hold any value for any one reading it. Why post useless material? But I persisted. I sat every morning and tried to think of anything of value; things that would necessitate more than three sentences to sum things up. Because I wouldn’t let myself just throw my hands in the air (metaphorically; my depression sucks all energy out of me and I couldn’t even throw my hands in the air in exasperation in my head). I made myself type things out, start stories I didn’t like, just to go through the motions. To fucking do something. I have a couple dozen drafts from last week. I might have written something, but I couldn’t post it. I wasn’t close to swimming to shore, but at least I was treading water. When you’re in the muck as bad as I was, “just” treading water is amazing. It’s a gold star. Getting your mind to loosen the grip on the thoughts of uselessness, panic, anxiety, and general despair…it’s exhausting, but also rewarding because a tiny voice is in there telling you that you made a bit of progress. There’s hope. I was still swimming. Or, trying to anyway.

Gracie kept asking for blog posts. A few book club partners asked if they had missed my Thursday reviews. I imagine Kathy is probably one step from boarding a plane and showing up on my doorstep. But other than that, it’s been quiet. Either everyone is giving me space. Or they have been busy and don’t notice. Maybe I’m barely a ripple in their pond.

But that’s okay. Them, waiting it out. It’s what I needed. I don’t know why I was moved to finally write a post tonight. I don’t know why I wanted to explain all of a sudden. I’m not embarrassed by my conditions. Depression and anxiety are heavily stigmatized in our society, and that’s not right. You can’t seek help if you’re afraid to say what’s wrong. If you’re afraid to admit even to yourself what’s wrong. There’s nothing wrong with being depressed. It’s not your fault if you are. Tell yourself what’s wrong. Tell someone else what’s wrong (if you can). And seek self-care and let others care for you, too.

I’m doing better. I kept swimming (just keep swimming – Dory gives the best advice). I know that I have a wonderful village standing by, ready to throw in a life preserver if I need it. I know that things will get better. It won’t always be like this; it won’t always feel like this. I’m okay, guys. I’m writing. And in just a few seconds, I’ll hit the publish button. I’m back. Ish, but hey! I’m here!

Well, hello there, 2015.

January 5, 2015

A brand new shiny year.

I’m feeling pretty optimistic. Productive. Full of vim, vigor, and quite a few words.

Then again, today is my first day back to work in more than two weeks; I have an insanely high number of emails, gobs of reports to run, and let’s not even think about the tatters my To-Do list will be in by the end of the day. So maybe that vim and vigor will be more like rigor mortis come sundown. But we’ll see.

As far as resolutions go, you know I’m not big on those. Well…not unless they’re reading-oriented, and then I have half a shot to accomplish them. But just for chuckles, let’s pretend I do.

Personally, I resolve to try to let things go. To choose happy. (To not barf at my own shiny optimism this early in the god-forsaken morning.) I made a bit of progress, um, sort of inadvertently, in this area last year, and I’d like to see if I can continue the trend on purpose.

In my reading world, I resolve to continue my Stephen King re-read project. I read the first 31 works on his list, starting with Carrie, and I’m currently halfway through “Langoliers”, the first story in his Four Past Midnight collection. I’ve always dipped back into King’s vault – particularly when I needed a pick-me-up – but reading his stories in publication order has been an interesting way to pick my way back through his garden.

I also resolve to read at least two more presidential biographies. They’re not page-turners, but I know an awful lot about Washington and Adams now. It also helps me continue my unofficial yet successful resolution to read more non-fiction.

What it won’t help is this next resolution: to read more books by people of color. I had an abysmal percentage of books by authors of color on my 2014 list: so bad, I don’t even want to write it down where you can see it. And that was with me consciously adding books to my TBR. I think part of the problem is that my reading path is so organic. I carry around a Little Black Book of TBRs, but what I choose to read next depends on what’s available at the library, or on clearance at the used book store, or happens to fall into my hands. Clearly this happenstance formula isn’t working. I need to choose more purposefully.

Finally, I resolve to write more. Blog more, further develop the fiction piece I’ve been quietly working on, write more book reviews, maybe even try my hand at submitting a few pieces. But the first step is definitely writing more.

So there you have it. My resolutions might all be dead come Saturday, but for now: Shiny. Optimistic. Reading. Writing.

God. And inboxes. Oof.

All is calm, all is bright.

December 20, 2013

It’s funny, how things work sometimes. I’ve been quiet, nearly non-existent here on the blog lately. It’s been more than a week since I posted, and even before that I was quieter than usual.

Not that things were quiet at Casa de Katie, obviously – nothing is ever quiet at Casa de Katie – quite the opposite, in fact. Because so much was happening, with ThePlaceThatShallNotBeNamed, some freelance projects, some up and downs with the girls and co-parenting, family health issues, friendship drama, and yes, maybe even a new someone in my life, that I found I was pulling inward more than usual. I had so much to say, but so very much of it was tied into things I didn’t want to (or felt I couldn’t) talk about it. And with the emotional exhaustion that came from sorting everything out in real life, it was honestly easier to talk about nothing than it was to sort out what I could say, what I wanted to say, and what I wanted to stay far, far away from.

Then there was the writer’s block. I had so many large, bulky, energy-consuming things going on that I could not focus my mind on anything trivial to write about. The girls and I spent a lovely afternoon picking out Toys for Tots donation gifts? Meh. We made birdseed feeders out of pinecones and peanut butter? Uh, okay. Fen is learning how to fit in with our neurotic family and tippy-toeing up to the line of it’s-a-good-thing-I-love-you? I just couldn’t summon the energy or the words. Nothing sounded interesting enough. I couldn’t care enough about the topics my meager brainstorms offered up to even try to make you care about reading them. So why bother?

I even stopped caring that I wasn’t posting. My friends were emailing me occasionally to make sure I wasn’t dead. I wasn’t stressing over it. It was okay with me that I had a gap. I knew somehow I’d get past it. I knew that I wasn’t ready to give up the blog entirely, so I just waited it out. Inspiration and desire would come when they came.

I think they might have knocked on the door last night.

One of the books I picked up from the library this past week was Ann Patchett’s This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage, a collection of non-fiction and personal essays. I read the introduction last night, itself a really well written essay about how she broke into writing and why it works for her. I love hearing that certain something in another writer’s voice. I love listening to them set in motion a behind-the-scenes tour of the hows and whys. Patchett talked about the differences in 900-word essays, 1,200-word essays and the unmitigated joy of limitless space and choosing her subjects. Her intro focused more in how she was able to express herself, the very mechanics of it, changed along her journey. And that sparked something in me. I felt the need to write. I felt shiny and full of possibility again. The millstone had fallen away somewhere in those twenty pages. Who the hell cares about capturing memories – I just want to write. Anything. Something. So many somethings.

Kim is here, again, for Christmas. I feel like the merry and bright is finally starting. (Where have I heard that before…?) So many of the stressors are gone, or muted for a bit. It’s the breath I needed and it came in perfect conjunction with the shiny renewal of possibility. Things are untangling themselves, just as I suspected they might if I just waited it out.

Thanks for being patient with me. Thanks for being here, you beautiful gorgeous blank space of blog, you. I am still here, still writing. All is calm, and bright, and just as it should be.

Putting the fun back in essays.

October 14, 2009

It was me, but in print. Last night I started reading Anne Fadiman’s collection of essays, At Large and At Small, and I am captivated. More than that – I’m blown away, even just xiii pages in. From the second paragraph of the Preface, I began exclaiming (often aloud in my bed), “That’s me!” and “I write like that!” and “I love familiar essays!” That I was squirming from literary pleasure came as a bit of relief after Fadiman’s dedication, which alluded to “The Emperor of Ice Cream.” I shivered, but wasn’t sure whether my reaction was because she referenced Wallace Stevens, or whether it was because I’d recognized that she’d done so.

Dedication aside, I tripped over my joy and self-recognition throughout the rest of the Preface, raced to the first essay with trembling anticipation, and promptly stopped short after reading just one sentence:

“The net was green.”

That was all it took. I couldn’t get past its simple perfection. Its catchiness. Is this not the very kind of sentence your composition professors tried to beat into you as the perfect opener? I read and re-read the sentence. When I recovered from mooning over it, I flipped to the next essay. And the next. And the next. “His name is surely part of the problem.” “Of all the serial killers who plied their trade in ancient Attica, Procrustes exercised the highest degree of professional ingenuity.” “In 1779, when Samuel Taylor Coleridge was seven, he asked his mother to slice him some cheese for toasting: ‘no easy matter, it being a crumbly cheese.'” Fadiman already ensorcelled my literary heart from her Preface’s promises of carrying on intimate one-on-one conversations with her Dear Reader. But these opening lines…oh, baby.

At the risk of letting my rambling run completely amok, let me just say that I’ve done this before. This whole thing of falling in love with opening lines. I went through my favorite books, ones that had grabbed my attention, and I copied out the opening lines. I studied them. I tried to crawl inside them to see what made them work. And their negative space: what didn’t they (ergo, I as a writer) do? Opening lines are magical for all of their trickiness. They are the key to opening the door of an author’s field of vision. To pen the absolute right opening line is to blow fairy dust across the tumblers of the lock, wouldn’t you say?

I hope I’ve learned a little of that magic (or, the technicalities of lock-picking, if you prefer). Sometimes I think I’ve got it pinned. I know that I love short, snappy, “cold” openers, like “The net was green.” If I work very hard at it for the rest of my life, maybe my words can produce as much emotion, as much thinking as these xiii pages and four words have done.

Thank god, because I’m low on eye of newt.

January 27, 2009

Remember that craptastic week I had last week? (Hint: say yes.) Well. If you took alllll of the suckitude of my entire week (and a half, but who’s counting?) and compounded it all into twelve hours, then that was the kind of day my sister had yesterday.

She even swore in her away message. It was serious.

Her professor-in-arms had left her a message all stealthy during the night, on her office phone, so that she would be a safe enough distance away when she heard he was leaving the university in three months. I have to admit, it was probably a smart move if you know a) my sister, b) the seriousness that she bestows (rightfully) upon her dissertation, and c) the level of temper my sister displays when she is royally pissed off. I think it almost a lack of commitment to his well-being that he didn’t call from Switzerland, where they rather frown on anything other than stern neutrality.

Kim, on the other hand, has never been neutral in her life. When she found out she was a committee member short on her Dissertation Squad – again – well, I’m happy I was several states away. And I’m never happy about that.

Still, I was going to have to offer my condolences. Truth? I was a little scared.

“Sorry your morning totally sucks.” No reason not to dive right in! Heh. Then I apologized because I couldn’t bake her muffins. It’s what my family does when something sucks: we bake. Blah, blah, not supposed to comfort ourselves with food. YOU go deal with life without warm, happy baked goods and THEN we can talk.

She vented, I soothed; I soothed, she vented. Then I jumped in right on cue to make her laugh and help her plan, otherwise known as Stage 2 of all Good Plans. In fact, I think my plan went something along the lines of kidnapping said professor, brewing some Polyjuice Potion, and standing in for him on her Dissertation Squad. It would have been SO MUCH FUN! I did get my sister to laugh at me, though, so all was cool.

The next step on my sister’s road to recovery was to create further contingency plans…just in case the Polyjuice Potion didn’t quite work, you understand. (Oh, she of little faith.) I wasn’t kidding before when I said my sister and I are superior, highly organized beings. Nope. As soon as my sister had a single free moment, she was commandeering white board space in her office and mapping out various contingency plans, listing names, and color coding every available line of reason. Then she’d break for…oh, work and a meeting…and then dash back to her White Board of Super Emergency Contingency Planning! for ten minutes of brainstorming.

Thank god for her and me and most of all him when she called tonight to cancel the panic. He was leaving, but could still sit on her committee. Thank god. Still. It was nice to pretend to be the super-supportive, swoop-in-to-fix-everything sister for a change. An emergency trip to Philly would have been nice, but I think it’s best for everyone’s sanity that everything worked out in the end.

For now!

In which I get all meta…

September 27, 2008

You wouldn’t know it, but today is a day off for me. You wouldn’t know it because I have been stressed out all morning. All day. And I’m doing it to myself.

I have a bunch of projects that I like to work on in my free time. And, free time being so limited these days – what with working a full-time job, being a single mom, having two small children (one of whom is currently potty training), and worrying about the stability of my job – I tend to push myself to keep up with these projects. I have my blog, I scrapbook memory books for the girls, I’m embroidering a baby blanket for my neighbor, and I’m trying to keep up a daily exercise routine. All of that is on top of anything else I might want to do in my free time – go out, chat with friends, watch some tv, follow football, read. Everything has to fit in somewhere.