New Project!

Well, I finally had to make that horrible decision to quit my job. You all know how much I loved working at the library, but my health issues were overwhelming and I finally realized that it would be best for me to step back and take care of myself. That was in October and what followed was a few months of shock and depression. I have never been unemployed before so I felt like a failure, in some ways. I learned that working at the library had become a way to define myself and my worth. So quitting meant that I would not only be unemployed but that I would also be without a part of myself.

Although it has been difficult and I wish things could be different, I know it was the right decision. I’m not sure if or when I’ll ever feel “right” again or who I am without the library. As I’ve written in the past, yet again I’m forced to accept a “new normal.” I hope time and rest help me figure out what exactly that is.

If you follow my posts about writing, you’ve probably noticed I haven’t published anything in a couple of years. I haven’t been writing much. That’s another piece of myself that I feel I’ve sort of lost — but not forever. It’s as though that storytelling desire within me has gone dormant. I still force myself to write but I get tired easily or I become unsure of what stories I want to tell. Frustrating, but I’m okay with that for now.

However, I recently decided that maybe I should try a different type of writing and get others involved. A few friends and I have started a new blog called And Then I Got Sick. I hope you follow and share with friends and family who are also struggling with chronic illnesses. Here’s what I can tell you right now:

And then I Got Sick is a realistic look at how we deal – or don’t deal – with the chronic and/or invisible illnesses that have impacted our lives. Too many women (and men) are made to feel guilty if we don’t face our illnesses with boundless wells of hope, positivity, and inspiration porn. While there’s absolutely nothing wrong with having a positive outlook on life and being productive about your health, the expectation that a woman should overcome her illness with grace and courage isn’t always reasonable or fair. Many of us are still trying to manage the basics, deciding if we want our illnesses to be part of our identity or separate from who we are or want to be. Through essays, stories, videos, art, and, of course, humor, we’ll try to balance the positive with the negative. It’s our hope that women with chronic illnesses can come here and learn that they don’t have to feel alone, ashamed, or judged because some days are harder than others.

Publication will begin Summer 2015.

*Currently not open to submissions.

I’m still using this blog for my personal writing updates so don’t forget about me!

Friday Five: Call the Midwife, Groovy Wednesday Addams, Anya’s Ghost…

It’s not Friday, but let’s pretend.

  1. Colds. I have a glorious cold! I haven’t had one in months, maybe even years, but since that I’m back at work I suppose I’ll have them now and then. It might sound crazy that I’m somewhat cheerful about having a cold, but the good thing about them are that eventually they go away, unlike chronic illnesses. Sniffles be gone!

  2. Call the Midwife. If I didn’t have this cold and hadn’t felt so tired today, I wouldn’t have watched this series. It had been recommended to me by library patrons and coworkers, but I wasn’t sure I’d like it. Well, I loved it and will probably read the book now.

  3. Yumm Sauce. I’ve only been to Café Yumm! a couple of times, but I always have a jar of their special Yumm Sauce in the ‘frig. It’s tasty and adds a few extra, nutrional calories to my diet. Highly recommended.

  4. Anya’s Ghost by Vera Brosgol. I read this graphic novel last week — and what a surprising and delightful ghost story. It’s listed as a children’s comic, but I think it’s a great read for all ages. The art is lively and the writing smooth. Check it out!

  5. And last but not least: Wednesday Addams dancing. Isn’t this the most awesome dance ever? I’ve been practicing. I wanna be boss.

Friday Five: Sisterly Love, Saltines & Root Beer, Huston Smith, & Helena Christensen

I haven’t done this in a while. I haven’t even posted anything since December. I’ve been busy (work – yes! I’m still working! A miracle!), resting (I spend so much time resting I haven’t seen some friends for months), and I’m writing. Hooray! I have about four stories I’m close to finishing (one is finished but it’s still under revision).

So here I am, three months later, feeling, for the most part, pretty okay. This past week was a rough one. I survived it but I had to take a few days off to rest and really be strict about what I can and can’t do, what I can and can’t eat. My goal is to start walking to work, which I think will be good for me. My main concern is that it may make me more tired or if I have a medical emergency (pain, attacks of sleepiness, gut issues, etc.) I won’t have a quick getaway.

My spirit animal

But I guess this is it and it’s not so different from other people’s lives, trying to find that balance, that happy medium. For me, it’s acknowledging my limitations, taking advantage of what I can do, managing my health, making time for friends and the other important people in my life. I’m working on it — with breaks now and then.

Well, less about me and more about me and what I’m loving at the moment:

1. My sister’s blog. She’s been making waves with I Quit My Job and Moved to Guam, for which she writes at least one post a week. She shares her perspectives on life in Guam and details her adventures on the island: experiencing a new kind of nature, gorgeous beaches, and the unique and rich culture of the indigenous community. In December, her blog was chosen as 2013’s Best Blog in Guam and last week she was interview by Patti Arroyo on the local newstalk radio station. She was brilliant and it was great to hear her voice. I love you, Donut! Listen here.

2. Saltine crackers. I’m on this kick, eating so many Saltines, plugging up my intestines. They’re not particularly healthy or helpful for my gut, but they are so delicious, so perfect. I prefer them to cookies. Oh, god. I ate too many and…ugh. Delicious devil snacks.

3. Huston Smith. In college I minored in philosophy, specifically the philosophy of religion. As a Freshman I had the opportunity to be an usher (better than nothing!) at a major event called Jesus @ 2000. (I feel I should state that I haven’t been a Christian since middle school, but as a former Catholic the idea of Jesus will always be a part of me.) At the conference I saw the Reverend Al Sharpton, in the office I forwarded the calls about death threats against the Jesus Seminar. The JS was a group of scholars, all Christians themselves, who carefully studied the details of Jesus’ life and his words, finally concluding that he preached sapiential eschatology rather than the apocalyptal eschatology that is popular today. They saw Jesus as both God incarnate, powerful and great and merciful, and as an historical man, a social revolutionary full of conviction and love. They studied the Bible literally and metaphorically.

Obviously, this is a dangerous topic, one deserving of death threats. Lordy!

Anyway, I was 19 at the time, excited to hear divinity scholars, religious leaders, and theologians discuss the many aspects of this man and the world he lived in. I was able to get two friends to help out as ushers as well, and because of that, we were invited to an evening banquet with all the guests, scholars, and speakers, as well as the philosophy department faculty. (No Al Sharpton, though.) It was at this dinner that Huston Smith came up to me and in his happy, gentle way said “Enjoy the food! It’s delicious! Help yourself. Have a drink. Go on — get something to eat. This is the best part!” Earlier that evening, as I listened to his lecture, I became immediately moved. I’d never seen anyone with such a glowing, peaceful face, someone who was so inclusive of all religions, of all paths of seeking the divine, our desire to commune with what is great than us. He balanced science with mysticism. He danced, it was more of a sway (he was in his 70s after all). He told stories of his childhood in China as a son of Christian missionaries. He spoke in such musical tones about his friendships with Martin Luther King, Jr. and Pete Seeger. He spoke about social activism, the idea of God, of Western and Eastern traditions, as well as what he calls the primitive religions. His book The World’s Religions was, in a way, the first introduction of Eastern theology to the West. And all these religions, he himself practiced and studied so that he could expand his experiences, to learn and better understand the divine.

At one point during his lecture, he sang a song — I don’t remember what it was now — but he sang with such a clean, hopeful, content, mischievous voice. It was joyful. At the supper, I was thrilled to meet him in person because what he had said touched me deeply, revealing to me the profundity of human belief and disbelief, hinting at some truth I desperately wanted to know. Still, there was something in me that understood it completely and that’s how I found my connection to Huston Smith. This is important for me to share because at that time I wasn’t a sentimental or a particularly warm, trusting person, yet during his presentation I fought back tears. I’m not sure why, or maybe it was a feeling so deep it overwhelmed me. Smith once said that a human being understanding a shared truth with another — that acknowledgement of truth, the sense of connection as powerful as common sense, that was spirituality. Something like this happens when I read the work of another writer: “That’s me! That’s what I write! Someone knows this style, this interpretation and presentation of us, this truth I’m trying to capture and convey through story.”

I’m not sure how long ago I discarded the idea and experience of spirituality. I know it happened, in part, because of the way others spoke about theirs, how they described their melodramatic communion with nature through folk songs and exercise with an air of conceit. Their distrust of science was unacceptable to me. They seemed to take no notice of anyone else except to say “Be positive. Listen to the wind or moon or stars” or whatever kindled their la-la-land mentality. Being my cynical self, and I acknowledge that I’m also a hypocrite and not good at being good, I decided to leave such bullshit behind. But now, rereading Smith’s autobiography, I’m becoming more open to an honest spirituality.

A few weeks ago, I came across his autobiography while shelving books at the library and I had started a separate post about Huston Smith, one in which I spoke in depth about this very topic, but it became long, convulated, and I questioned my grasp of the scholarly and mystical aspects of divinity studies. (I feel that about this post now but I’ll continue.) I took it home to read and then searched for any videos of interviews or lectures he had given. I found one, a beautiful little piece about our minds and the connection to the divine. Perhaps the science in this clip isn’t perfect, but his imagination, his consideration of what is known as The Ecology of Mind caught my curiosity. That original post had been titled: “March, A Lioness; The TARDIS, The Divine?” Well, March is March, windy with hail storms, rain storms, and tricky sunny weather. The TARDIS of course, is a mystery. As a Doctor Who fan, I was tickled by something Smith said about the “in here” and the “out there.” Don’t you think he’s cleverly suggesting that we are all bigger in the inside? Here’s the clip:

Ah. What a wonderful thought.

4. Now from Huston Smith to Helena Christensen. Talk about divine! I may have said this before, but I think she is one of the most beautiful women I’ve ever seen. I never get tired of looking at her. When I look at her I feel beautiful — isn’t that strange? We’re fortunate to have these alien people, people who brighten our days with their physical perfections. I know the package isn’t everything but why not enjoy it?

Helena Christensen; photographer: Peter Lindbergh; "Nuits d’Orient" Vogue Paris, April 1991

So to end this list, let me say Hoo-hah! Hubba hubba! Ahooooga! Hallelujah! And Amen.

Oops! I still need one more item. This one is easy:

5. Root beer on tap, various bottled root beers, international root beer. This summer I plan on learning about root beer and trying out as many different varieties as I can. Who wants to join me?

Root beer and thin crust pizza forever!

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