Tuesday, June 02, 2015

2015 Summer Reading Challenge

I am responding to Oliver de la Paz's 2015 Summer Reading Challenge by compiling my own list of 15 books to read from June through August. You can click on Oliver's link to read the guidelines; basically one selects fifteen books, including three that are recommended by others' lists (I like this), and posts commentary as the books are read.

I already started Maggie Nelson's Bluets before packing for my move to Ohio, so I'm not counting it here (I'll finish it as soon as I can find the box it's in!). So my partial, for-now list is below, in no particular order, and I'll add to it over the next couple of weeks with three recommended titles:

  • Ross Gay, Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude [poetry]
  • Porochista Khakpour, Sons & Other Flammable Objects [novel]
  • Oliver Sacks, On the Move [memoir]
  • Hanya Yanagihara, A Little Life [novel]
  • Ada Limon, Lucky Wreck [poetry]
  • Sandra Beasley, I Was the Jukebox [poetry]
  • Kyle Dargan, Honest Engine [poetry]
  • Scott Douglas, Quiet, Please: Dispatches from a Public Librarian [nonfiction]
  • Jericho Brown, The New Testament [poetry]
  • Elizabeth Alexander, The Light of the World [memoir]
  • Josh Weil, The Great Glass Sea [novel]
  • Roger Reeves, King Me [poetry]
6/3 update: I'm poaching a title from Liz Ahl's list: Mimi's Trapeze by Jill Allyn Rosser. (Of course I want to read everything else on her list, too.)

Friday, February 27, 2015

Crossing the line

A terrible workday today, capping off a week of difficult workdays, yet distinguished not so much by my inability to complete all my tasks (I never get everything done) or even my realization that I would have to leave some things unfinished that I've always managed to complete somehow in the past--

But wait. Stop. It's that "somehow" creeping in, when I know precisely how. In the past, week after week, I've sacrificed time and banked it against these Friday deadlines. Not today. Today I needed to leave at 4:30, my scheduled time, and when I saw that it was assumed I would stay late, and when I felt pressured and was subsequently derided for not staying over, something in me finally snapped. Why do I do this? For whose benefit? At little more than ten dollars per hour, the difference in pay is negligible. How did it become so important to me to be the one (the only one) who always arrives on time, who can always be counted on to do more, to constantly interrupt my own work in order to assist others but get negligible help in return? How did I miss the line between hard work and exploitation?

Yet I knew this, too. The corporation that employs me doesn't care about my happiness or well-being; it has no interest in providing me or my coworkers with a living wage.

I'm good at my job. I'm very good at it, I think, and I think my coworkers would agree: I'm dependable, knowledgeable, capable. I take time to help and explain. But here's the thing I keep forgetting: I have been good at every job I've held in my adult life (the sullen teen years should not be counted against anyone). And the only reason I hang onto my current job is that the prospect of searching for, and securing, a new one completely terrifies me.

Okay. Not completely. Not now. When David died, I threw myself into my writing and gardening, choosing not to look for a job and living instead on some insurance money. When Randy died, I threw myself back into work after a week of immobilizing grief and shock. I had no one to go home to now, I remember thinking. But what an awful lie. I have me. When did I let my needs become so minimized? Why did it take me so long to cross the line and say, stop. Stop. This isn't working for me. This isn't who I am or what I want. And even though I'm still frightened by the open-endedness that follows saying No, the sudden yawning space of what-next and how to navigate that (emotionally, financially, logistically), I'd rather set out in fear than grind myself down in service to a soulless corporation.

I'm not quitting my job. I can't afford to, not today. But whatever happens, I am better than this. I deserve better than this.

Saturday, January 10, 2015


Shredding medical records. Setting aside documents that prompt memories--I'd forgotten that--then sweeping them all into two piles, shred and recycle. To be unburdened of memory and its frequent consort, guilt.

Monday, January 05, 2015

The runaround

So there was a letter, dated November 20, indicating a name change of the company administering an insurance policy. So there were the holidays to get through, which is no excuse, I know, because it's an insurance policy when I believed there had been none, but today--today--I finally called immediately after rushing home from work. So there was a policy, but someone named Megan said it had been canceled. I asked when. She said December 1st. I asked why. After a five minute wait, she said it appeared it had been canceled by mistake.

And that it could be reinstated.

And that she could transfer me to the claims department, which she offered to do after I explained that I wanted to file a claim on the policy.

The claims representative, Sally, was very courteous and started the process immediately of sending out forms to me.

My heart rose and sank uncountable times during this conversation. To hope against hope that one might navigate the tide of forms, delays, and red tape that is the insurance industry--to hope that there might be a little money that could help me relocate, if indeed that is what I will need to do this summer--it's almost too much to hope for.

And it should not be such an ordeal. These things should follow as a natural and, indeed, courteous consequence of such traumatic life events. I used to work for an insurance company.

I can hardly breathe for hope that this may bring some small, good outcome.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

The best

"We are not necessarily doubting that God will do the best for us; we are wondering how painful the best will turn out to be."

:: C.S. Lewis

Thursday, December 25, 2014


Up early this morning to lean into the day with some sense of purpose, hopefully to gain a small feeling of accomplishment but mainly to prevent the inertia of wallowing. I started a fresh to-do list, jotting down the immediate with the long-term, the deeper ponderings with more mundane household tasks, in no particular order except as they came to me.

Do laundry. Check. Easy enough, though a two-hour task stretched to four because I kept forgetting about it. I'm still tugged off course by innumerable distractions, not the least of which has been FB, though in my defense, I do try to pop in and back out quickly. Without television, I gave in and reactivated my Netflix account--just one dvd at a time--so if I don't work up the stamina to go out to the movies just yet (I know some of my friends are watching Into the Woods even as I type this, but I just don't want to be the sobbing blubberer that drowns out the dialogue during all the death scenes), at least I can catch up on a few from last year.

Go through his computer files for anything that might help. Check. Lots of pictures deleted (if you're reading this, you know who you are) and some others saved because they're good, and a few others I should delete but haven't yet (if you're reading this, I'd like to know who you are). A copy of his will from 2006, but, alas, I have found no printed (and witnessed) copy. I did find many photos that I would have included in the slide show I put together for Yule. No journal. No letters to me. Not much writing at all. This makes me very sad, because Randy had some wonderful stories (and some harrowing ones about his at-best negligent parents).

Finish emptying the fridge. Check. Out with the yellowed kale and wan scallions in the bottom crisper. Out with the last of the gravy he made for Thanksgiving dinner (do not judge me, bitches; it is hard work to throw away food made by a man whose cooking will be terribly missed). Out with the--what is that?--well, out with it. Make room. Breathe.

Think about making a new will and legal documents. Okay, I'm thinking. I would like to get this out of the way because, well, because my job is stressful beyond belief right now and I spent half of Tuesday at work thinking I might be having a heart attack. Which I didn't. As far as I know. But still, it would suck for my siblings to have to come out to Pennsylvania and try to go through all my stuff with no legal access to my estate. Ha. What a word, estate, conjuring wealth. Because the opposite.

Stop checking Growlr every 15 minutes. Check. Because if anyone wanted to message me, they'd message me, and if anyone wanted anything more, well that's not very likely right now, is it?

Figure out how to cook the pork roast. Okay, I'm not sure I have it figured out, but the damn thing is in the damn crock pot, the potatoes and carrots are nearly tender enough to take out (so they don't go to mush), and though the meat feels nowhere near tender and fork-flaky (if that's a word), I don't think it's supposed to just yet, so points to me for chopping veggies and mincing garlic and searing the meat and figuring out how to cover the rickety, too-small lid with a folded dish towel to keep the steam from completely escaping. Side note on crock pots: You gets what you pays for.

Be kind to anyone who checks in today. Harder than it seems, because some people don't seem to get that Have a great Christmas! is so not the thing to say right now, which means I have to be the better friend, dittoing the sentiment, instead of calling said friends on their insensitivity, which at least in one case has been, for years, a classic pattern of shallow and evading platitudes whenever difficult emotional matters arise in conversation. Said friend has not been dumped because--well, I need to ponder this more deeply, but I think it's because (a) there's history, which means friend knows things about both Randy and me, and could possibly help me sort out some of those events, and (b) I may be a mess, but I know that not everyone is as strong (or tactful, or reliable) as I want/need them to be.

Repot some of the basket plants. Check. Six plants from one gift basket became eight (the palm, which is really a mass of about thirty seedling palms, got teased apart into three smaller clumps). Most are now on R's window sill, where I hope I will remember to water them. The other gift basket will have to wait, because its huge amaryllis, having opened four blossoms, is now set to open more flowers on a second spike. I don't want to mess that up.

Throw out his shoes. Check.

Sort the papers in his room. Check: most into the recycle bin, some into the shredder.

Decide about the press. So much to decide here: do I suspend the press for another year to new submissions while I figure out how and where I will live? Or jump into it, inviting the universe to buoy me along into a regained footing and, hopefully, the kind of growth and recognition I think Seven Kitchen
s deserves? I've made a separate list, a huge list, of items to consider, and all of it needs to be decided by the end of this year. (Yeah, no pressure.)

Write thank you notes. I was saving this for nightfall, which slows me down to a near-standstill. I've managed I think three cards this week and have probably thirty or more to go. I wish I didn't have to go to work tomorrow; a four-day weekend would have been a balm right now. Plus I need to leave the car with my mechanic and can't do that because I've no other way to get to work. Maybe next week somehow. Meanwhile, I'm using an old towel to drape across the opening where my driver's-side window won't close. Keeps the rain mostly out. Cold, cold on the morning drive, though.

Be kind to myself. Working on this. We all have demons. Mine are lately taking the form of various regrets, though I try to dismiss these gently but firmly. What good is looking backward? What's done is so very done. Looking ahead, though, can be terrifying: my new scary mantra, I can do anything, a blade to cut through doubt and my usual fear of the unknown, points keenly at the next moment, and the next after that: Now choose. 

Tuesday, December 23, 2014