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It’s the Chase

Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve realized the importance of education.  From the time I entered the halls of Elk Lake School as a kindergartener to my senior year at the same school, I thought about, and dreamed of, getting a college degree.  Coming from where I do, and seeing the things that I’ve seen, only made the dream stronger until it wasn’t a dream anymore, but a burning need.

So I took a little detour.  So it took me seven years instead of four.  So I wrote research papers in the hospital after giving birth to my daughter.  So I was a lot older than the other students.  So what?  I did it!  Tomorrow’s the day!  I finally get my college degree.

Along the way, while working on my undergrad degree, I dreamed a lot of other dreams.  Some I’ve accomplished, such as publication of my poetry and fiction, getting accepted into a graduate program; while others I have yet to start work on.  I learned a lot of things during my time at Keystone College, like creative writing and literature, science, history, and public speaking, but the most valuable thing that I’ve learned is that it is worth it to dream, and dream big.  It’s worth it to try.  I’ve also learned that accomplishment is not necessarily about catching the dream, but more about what you gain from the chase.  Dream on friends!

Check out The Plume, Keystone’s literary magazine.  My poem, “Breaking Stone,” was the winner of the Cameron Poetry contest, and I’ve been invited to read it for the trustees today!  You can access it here: http://www.keystone.edu/news/publications/pdfs/theplume/ThePlume2012.pdf

 

 

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Posted by on May 18, 2012 in Life, Writing

 

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Wrapping it Up!

Capstone is essentially finished.  The project is done, the essays and journal have been turned in for better or worse.  Only the hour where I present my project to my Committee is left.  When I look back over the course of this project, I can’t even begin to describe the hours: writing, revision, ordering, re-revising, re-ordering; I can’t describe the doubt, the anxiety, the fear, but I can describe the euphoria.  It’s done!  I completed a poetry manuscript!

This is really huge for me.  I’ve always been afraid to commit to a project, for fear that I’d fail. I have to admit that I’m afraid of a lot.  I’m afraid of change; I’m afraid of letting go, and I’m definitely afraid to try sometimes.  Fear does a lot of strange things to us.  It can keep us paralyzed, standing still while opportunities continue to pass us by.  Fear can keep us grounded while others are flying among the stars.

The last five years have been life-changing for me.  Certain events, like having my kids, have brought earth-shattering change in both positive and negative ways.  I’m certainly more apt to do battle over my kids; standing up for them has changed me from a passive person to an aggressive fighter. I’m more prone to emotion because of them. I’m also vulnerable to three tiny people who hold an enormous amount of power over me.  Becoming a parent was rather eye-opening.

Other events, like deciding to finally go back to school, have brought nothing but joy.  Yes, I’ve been slightly nuts, juggling the work with the kids, housework, and life, but I’ve also been working on a goal that I’ve had forever, which was to get my undergraduate degree.  I’ve also been working on a much larger issue without even realizing it: fear.  Every day, I’ve had to fight for what I wanted.  I had to sit in classrooms with peers and professors I didn’t know.  Being an adult student with younger peers was difficult at some points.  I had to adapt to the environment without sacrificing who I was, and why I was there.  I had to give speeches to earn my degree, something I’ve avoided more than spiders for the last ten years. I had to figure out what I really wanted out of my education, and commit to it with all of my drive and determination.

The whole time, I was conquering fears and I didn’t even know it.  During the whole process, I came to realize that I was so afraid of being good at something that I spent my whole life not trying anything.  I was so afraid that I really was a worth-while person that I let myself be that unlikable person my  family always made me feel like. I was so busy protecting myself that I never really let anyone in.  I will never forget the person that told me I could be anyone I wanted, that the past did not dictate my future.  Thanks, Trace, I’ll always be grateful.

When I was writing my presentation for Capstone, I couldn’t help but marvel at the changes in me, not only over the past semester, but over the course of the last few years. I’m smarter, certainly, but I’m stronger.  I’m stronger because I faced a lot of fear and shot it down.  My determination and grit got me through.  I am worth more than I ever let myself feel.

The other day, I got my cap and gown for graduation.  It felt surreal, but so damn good!  I made it.  I’m graduating. I’m headed to graduate school, even won a scholarship.  I didn’t do it alone though.  I have three kids who have sacrificed just as much as I have; the time away was just as hard on them as it was on me.  My in-laws have also given up their time, and re-arranged their schedules to coordinate with mine.  There are no words to express the gratitude I have toward them.  When I walk at graduation, I’m going to look out into that audience and meet the eyes of my family, and know that the moment is just as important to them as it is to me.  My kids will remember that day.  Hopefully, it’s something they strive for, free of fear.

 
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Posted by on April 14, 2012 in Life

 

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The Scoop

I guess I should preface this by saying how sorry I am about abandoning my readers during the last couple of months.  I really enjoy getting my thoughts out there, spewing about the things that are going on in my life, jawing about the things I love like writing and music.  The past two months have been crazy and hectic, what with writing and revising every spare second for my Capstone project (it’s almost finished!), registering Whalen for Kindergarten, CC for preschool (sob), and fighting for extra help and attention for Lucas at school, normal duties like dishes and laundry, family obligations, class three days a week, and homework. Not to mention graduate school applications.  Just re-reading that exhausted me!

Seriously, I like to stay busy.  I think all of the extra things I have going on make me slightly crazy, but very well-rounded.  The juggling keeps me sharp.  And sharp I’ve been.  I’ve probably written about fifty new poems since January, and now I’m in the process of fine-tuning those, writing more, and choosing which ones fit in the poetry manuscript I’m putting together for my Capstone.  The due date is coming up!  Approximately four weeks will see it cranked out and turned in.  Let me say that I’d much rather write than put it together.  I’d never make it in the layout department.  I put together a rough copy of it though; I just couldn’t resist!  To see it, even unfinished, put together was the most incredible high.  I’ve never seen an entire project like this through right to the end.  It amazes me, and also proves to me that I can do it.  I had my doubts if you all recall.

Speaking of highs, I just got the most amazing news yesterday!  I was officially accepted by SUNY Binghamton for the fall 2012 semester.  After the crushing rejection from Penn State (due to program finances, nothing I did), this really lifted my spirits.  See, I recall a certain person who told me to look at smaller schools.  That maybe I wouldn’t hack an intensive graduate program, I might not have a good chance at getting in… I guess you don’t know it all, do you?  Anyway, I’m thrilled that I’ve been accepted to this program, and really looking forward to graduate study.  Provided I survive Biology this semester, of course.

Anyway, I’m glad I’ve pushed myself to the brink of exhaustion and madness in my quest to be the best that I can possibly be at any given moment.  People tell me I worry too much, that I’m too uptight.  Maybe I do, but look what I’ve accomplished… I’ll leave it at that!

 

 
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Posted by on March 15, 2012 in Life

 

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What’s Wrong With Wanting?

I’m a simple girl.  Quite frankly, I prefer no pretenses, false promises, or praise.  If I’m good, fine, that’s great.  If I’m not, I’ll work twice as hard to make myself better.  In fact, I’m so simple that until recently I had no idea there was another world out there.  A world outside of this small, northeastern PA town that I come from, where dead end jobs and alcoholism are expected, if not encouraged.  I’m almost thirty years old, and I’m still learning things like how to speak correctly, how to act in a public, and how to pretend I can find my way around in “polite” company.

To put it bluntly, (and maybe this honesty might bite me in the ass later) I come from nothing.  I come from a two bedroom trailer in the sticks where I lived with my grandparents who were middle school drop-outs.  My grandfather was a talented, self-made man who learned a trade and secured himself a comfortable federal job, my grandmother was a stay-at-home wife, and my mother was a high school drop-out with her first kid under her belt at 16.  By 20, she had two.  My dad was a scumbag loser who never was around.  Yes, my family is a statistic, and I am too by extension.

In school, I was always a little different.  By the time I went to kindergarten, I was reading and writing.  From then on, I was always in the top of my class.  My grandmother was so proud of my work, decorating the cardboard-like cupboards of our trailer with it, and constantly encouraging my greatness.  She always pushed for me to try new things, to come out of my shy shell, and to realize that I could do great things some day.  I remember her telling me, “You’re going to go to college, and you’re going places.  You won’t be stuck here.”

Somewhere along the way, I got lost on this winding path we call life.  In my world where education is ignored, and sometimes frowned upon, I ended up following several wrong roads, from friends,and boyfriends, meeting my father and dealing with my mother’s boyfriends, to drugs, drinking, and recreational sex.  I became a statistic, a teenage bride, married at 19, three kids by 27, and no education.  The girl who graduated near the top of her class made a few wrong turns.  Guess I skipped school the day we learned to read maps :0

Ok, so the point.  Because there is a point to this tragic sob story.  I remember how my grandmother, so simple in her sheltered innocence, thought that by going to any college would automatically open doors for me.  She truly believed that I would fit in on the premise that I was smart.  You know, I don’t think she ever realized how hard it would be for me to break the barriers of both of these worlds.  The blue-collar barrier where people don’t want better, just don’t believe in better, and the white-collar world where people will cut you off at the knees just so you don’t get ideas about possibly bettering yourself.

So I’ve made it through.  I’m graduating in May, barring some disaster, I’ve published work, and I’ve done darn well on my own.  I’ve muddled through the mess of Educationland on my own.  I’ve filed my own financial aid forms since high school, I’ve beat my brains against the wall reading and interpreting literature that I should have read years ago,  I’ve been working on my degree for damn near six years now, I’ve researched graduate schools on my own, begged for reference letters, and debased myself by asking questions that everyone “should” know in a perfect world.  And this is a world that I still truly  know nothing about.  Tonight, someone told me I should probably apply to some smaller schools because they don’t know how well I’ll do at the bigger schools I’ve applied to, or even if I’ll get accepted.  Wow, talk about a feel good moment!

Yeah…. so my question is this:  What’s wrong with wanting?  What’s wrong with fighting and clawing your way out of a rat-trap life, and pushing for the best of possible things?  What’s wrong with trying for the best?  Isn’t it better that I apply to my dream school, like Penn State, and get rejected, than to not apply at all and never know?  What’s wrong with wanting something better for myself, my kids, my family, and even, my world?

 
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Posted by on January 27, 2012 in Life

 

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Out of the Dark Comes Light?

Over the Winter break from school, I wrote a lot.  Mostly poetry, a few sentences of what could become a short story, a few letters.  Some graduate application essays, and very few blogs.  I’ve been told I’m a very serious person.  I also put myself down for that.  I tend to dwell on the darker times, record the black images for further exploration at a later date.  Is there anything wrong with being obsessed with the dark?

Lately, my thoughts are telling me no.  “Write what you know;” that’s common advice from established authors and novices alike.  I know darkness, I’ve lived with it for a very long time.  I also think that writing about the dark brings light.  I’ve been turning that theme over and over in my head.  Light/Dark.  Sun/Shade. Two halves of the whole.  This is no new theme; authors, artists, and musicians have been exploring this for centuries.

It’s interesting to me that my darkest writing is also my best writing.  I fight with myself a lot over this issue. Don’t worry, no one wins these arguments, in case anyone thinks I’m nuts!  I’m constantly trying to force myself to write something happy.  Guess what?  Anything I write that has a remotely happy theme also sucks in a big way.  My best stuff comes from the dark, the shadows that I filter through to reveal slivers of light.   So what, right?

Over break, I also read a lot.  I mean, a lot.  I finished several books I had in progress, and started several more.  Currently, I’m reading a biography of Kurt Cobain. There’s a happy story! (Snort)  Seriously, the man was a genius with music, and he was one dark person.  Tortured genius? I don’t quite go that far, but it comforts me that I’m not alone with my obsession with the dark.  I think I needed to be reminded that many people have gone over to the dark and produced light.

I also finished The Shadow of Sirius, by W.S. Merwin.  Wow, what a collection of poems!  Dark, melancholy, but enlightening as any that I’ve read.  I’ve got a total of seventeen pages marked in this collection, which in my opinion is huge for a collection of poetry.  Normally, I’ll find one or two in a manuscript that I mark for future reference, or just because they struck me in some way.  This book spoke to me in such a positive way, even though it has a dark tone.  Again, out of the darkness comes light.

I guess what I’m getting at is that it’s OK to be dark. I need to stop being so picky with my writing, and my subjects.  So what if I want to write a hundred poems about death?  Dylan Thomas probably wrote at least that many about it, maybe more.  Why should I care if  I’m inspired to write yet another poem about people breaking up? It happens.  Life happens, and it’s not always nice, or easy.  Why not write about it?  Why drive myself nuts writing happy things?  That is the question of the day. If I find an answer, I’ll be sure to share!

A final thought before I hang it up for the day.  The New Visions Showcase was extremely awesome, shame on anyone that missed it!  There were many incredible stories and readers.  My work was well received.  Dark it is, but it is also filled with a tangible emotion, and I think that’s what counts. I read Donnie’s poem, “Faded,” and it never fails to make me choke up.  Maybe people noticed, and if they did, it’s OK.   If it affects me that way, maybe it will affect someone else. I think I forget that.  Thanks to Brian and Jason for having me!

 
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Posted by on January 22, 2012 in Writing

 

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New Visions Reading

So I’m really excited to be reading again next weekend, at New Visions Gallery in Scranton. I was really happy to be asked, and truthfully, it’s been a while.  I was kicking around the idea of reading some fiction, but the trouble is, I haven’t been writing any.  I still love fiction, and I will continue to write it, but lately I’ve been so focused on my Capstone project, which is a chapbook of poetry.  I’ve written quite a few new poems over the break, and I will continue to do so throughout the semester.  Why not read poetry?

Well, I’m going to.  But, let me tell you all, I’m scared to death.  It’s always a little jarring to share a new piece, but to do so in front of a crowd, terrifying.  Don’t get me wrong.  I’ve got a good mix of published poetry thrown in, (so I know at least SOME of it is good), but I’ve also got about five or six un-critiqued pieces. Now these pieces are strong, they’ve got imagery and emotion, they’ve got hours of drafting and revision, but they are still lacking the criticism I’ve become used to in my writing.  I’m half excited to share them, and half shaking in my boots.

See, this is really stepping out of the box for me.  Not only am I writing and revising on my own, I’m also going to share this work.  While I strongly believe in outside criticism, (workshops are essential!) I also believe that I tend to rely too much on outside opinion.  I tend to bash my own work until other writers that I respect tell me it’s good.  At the end of last semester, I had to present a portfolio and my proposal for my Capstone project to a committee. The only criticism I received in the entire presentation was that I need to believe in myself and my own work.  So, I’m taking the committee’s excellent advice, and I’m going to jump off the ledge with these new pieces that I believe are good.

Normally, I hate public speaking, but sharing my work is a little bit different.  I still get nervous, but it’s not the same, “Oh my god, I’m going to forget everything I have to say, and look really stupid” nervous.  Mostly, I have little flutters about standing up in front of people, and I get the whole, “What if I look really stupid in front of these authors or what if my work sucks?”  I mean, I consider myself a writer, and I have a smattering of publication credits.  Do I consider myself the next Kim Addonizio or Gary Jackson?  No way!  It’s humbling to read the work of great poets, both new and old.  But I keep trying 🙂

So, if you’re in the area, looking for something to do, why not come to the reading?  New Visions Gallery, 201 Vine Street in Scranton, January 14th, 7:00 p.m.

 

 

 
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Posted by on January 6, 2012 in Writing

 

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Dear Gram,

It’s been eleven years now, and I still miss you.  I think of you often, especially while I’m holding Courtney in my lap, reading stories like The Very Hungry Caterpillar, and But No Elephants.  When she follows along with the words to Geraldine’s Blanket, her long, blonde hair in pigtails, holding her blankie, I’m bombarded with images of us.  I hold her the way that you held me, encourage her the way that you encouraged me, and love her the way that you loved me.

Every day, we listen to great songs by The Beatles, Zeppelin, Bob Dylan, and The Eagles, and I introduce her to newer bands, like 10 Years, Godsmack, Avenged Sevenfold, Art of Dying, and Five Finger Death Punch.  I remember how you loved Humperdink, but how you put up with some of my bands like Guns N’ Roses, Damn Yankees, and later, Nirvana, just so you could be more involved with what interested me. Years ago, I heard about the time you were Christmas shopping, and you bought me two of the greatest albums ever made. I could picture the shock on your face when you saw the cover of Nevermind, (that’s tame these days) and I know you winced when you heard the Black album for the first time.

Along with great music, I teach her about books.  You’d be so proud of the full-to-bursting bookshelves in my home.  Classics and popular fiction, poetry and biography, plays and naturally, children’s books. When I see the careful way she holds them, reverent, turning pages ever so precisely, I remember the books that you bought me, and how much I loved them.  I remember the way you fed my passion for books. I remember the time you saved the money that Grandpop gave you for things you needed, and how you spent it on a set of dinosaur books for me.  I remember how you kept my most favorite novels, on the shelf next to yours, when I asked you to keep them from mom and her book ban.  I remember how much she hated me reading, and I remember how you told me to never stop.

We read every day.  Sometimes, when she won’t stop pestering me, I read her my assignments for school.  I doubt she understands that she’s been exposed to some really great literature, like Steinbeck, Ibsen, O’Brien, Vonnegut, Frost, Plath, and Eliot, but I know.  I know that I am imitating something good, something that I was taught by an amazing person with a special gift: you.

Yes, Gram, you were gifted.  You were talented and influential.  You loved me.  You loved a little girl who probably drove you nuts with 10,000 questions per day. You encouraged a young child to learn everything she could, about everything she could.  You taught her to expand her thoughts and reach for impossible dreams.  You were my first teacher, and I think you deserve credit for all of the things I’ve accomplished.

Gram, I’m graduating from college in May! I’ve applied to graduate school, and even if I don’t get in, I’ll keep trying anyway. Not too shabby for a girl who grew up in a trailer, had a bum for a father, and a mom who went to ninth grade…  I’ve published several pieces of my writing, too.  The first acceptance letter I ever got made me nostalgic; I had clear visions of the stories I used to “write,” how you’d staple them together, put a title on them, and how you saved them until the day you died.  I only hope that I can live up to the example you were.

I am the most influential person in my daughter’s life, the way that you were the most influential person in mine. She’ll remember that, even if she remembers nothing else.  She’ll remember that someone will always accept her decisions, encourage her dreams, and dream them with her whenever possible.  She’ll know that she has somewhere to go, the way I always went to you.

I miss you terribly.  Those words seem so inadequate for the empty place I have in my life without you.  Someday, I hope that I’ll get the chance to hug you again, throw my arms around your neck the way I did when I was little, and the way that Courtney does to me now.  No matter how busy I am, I have never forgotten you.  I have such a clear picture of you in my mind, and sometimes it’s as if I could extend a hand and touch you. If only I could reach…

Hugs

 

I love you,

Tricia

P.S.  Could you give Donnie a hug for me?  I think he knows how much I miss him, but it never hurts to say.

 
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Posted by on December 16, 2011 in Life

 

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