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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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Maybe Vonnegut Has A Point!

Lately, I’ve had a lot on my mind, what with the twenty page proposal that’s due for the poetry project that I’m doing for Capstone, the case studies for COMM Theory, the speech I’m preparing on Harley Davidson, and oh, the pesky Vonnegut novels for Advanced Lit.  Such is life during my years at Keystone. I’m usually happy when I’m so busy that I don’t have time to think.  It keeps me out of trouble.  However, the thing on my mind lately is the amount of work that I seem to be doing for nothing. 

Let me explain.  I’m the sort of person that never met a book she didn’t like until… Vonnegut.  I really don’t like his novels.  Before you jump on me with the pitchforks, hear me out.  Academically, I can really appreciate his style, and even laugh at his zany, sci-fi worlds and sarcastic narrators.  I get the point of his stories,  I strongly agree with him, and I am glad that the world has these works of wisdom to look at.  Artistically, I don’t get along with his work because his characters suck.  They have no depth.  They are cardboard cutouts of individuals who really could have come to life, had he put in the effort.  I could argue all day that better characters would have made his books kick us in the head that much harder, but I really don’t have the time or inclination because the man was a genius.

Yes, Kurt Vonnegut was a genius, and no, I still don’t like his works.  I appreciate his penchant for short and to the point statements about life, religion, love, and humanity.  As I wander through the world of academia, I wonder why we have to go on and on about nothing!  Things can be said so simply, even eloquently, if we just cut out the nonsense!  Why should I have to write a twenty paged paper full of hyperbole, when I can say what I’m going to say in three pages or less?  Why should I have a certain word count if I can get the point across in two sentences? 

And here, my friends, my two worlds come into conflict again.  It’s funny because all of my life, I thought that college would make a difference.  I would finally achieve a goal, and be on top of the world.  I’d get to enter the secret society in this world, you know, the one where dads stick around, money grows on trees, and happiness floats around for the taking. I always looked down on my situation.  I was born with an unnatural intelligence in my world.  It couldn’t be any other way; it sure wasn’t fostered and encouraged in my family.  Now, I realize that the white-collar world doesn’t have a handle on happiness.  It doesn’t have anything I don’t have in my world. It just complicates the shit out of things.  We all have the same thoughts, we just voice them differently.  Maybe that’s the truth…

Or, maybe it’s me… I come from the country; a blue-collar place in the middle of the REAL farm-town, where we say what’s on our mind, and we don’t mince words. We drive our pick-ups, work on our own cars, and don’t mind a little dirt.  We can’t worry about the way we communicate, we just do it.  We don’t have time to evaluate why we’re in a relationship; we’re just too poor to get divorced!  Maybe I’m  crazy, but I like it here in the blue-collar world where we don’t get all gaspy when we hear the F-word, we don’t have a word limit on what we say, and we don’t need a Vonnegut novel to tell us that life sucks.  We know, plain and simple.

 
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Posted by on October 19, 2011 in Life

 

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Where’s the Balance?

The fall semester started on Tuesday, and so started my crazy six days a week schedule.  It should be easy.  I mean, I’m taking less credits than I’ve ever taken.  12 credits, four classes should be nothing to me after 18 credit semesters.  Oh, wait, that’s right… It’s Capstone semester.  Capstone.  The word inspires awe, anxiety, fear, and panic attacks in Communications students at Keystone College.  The syllabus is twenty-nine pages long.  The ability to graduate rests on successfully completing this two-semester graduation project.  Nothing I’ve done so far matters, as long as Capstone looms over me. 

Truthfully, I’m less worried about Capstone than other students in my class.  I can do the work.  I can turn things in on time.  Anyone who knows me, knows that I am a dedicated student.  My problem is a bit more complicated, and yet, a bit more simple.  I’m an adult student.  Not only am I older than most of the kids I go to school with, but I also have a few more responsibilities.  Namely,  my three small children, ages six, five, and two.

There is nothing like writing a paper over the chorus of voices, “Mommy, she hit me,” Mommy, I want (name said want),” “Mommy, Sissy needs a diaper,” and my personal favorite, “Mommy?” (look up from paper, see smiling child who really wants nothing, but a bit of my attention).  My problem is finding a balance.  How much effort really needs to go into these papers, when I have real, living beings depending on me for everything?  How much time should be spent wrestling, snuggling, and reading Peter Rabbit, when I have a stack of Vonnegut novels on my desk to be finished for Advanced Lit, a paper to write for Comm Theory, a speech to write for Public Speaking, and a proposal to prepare for Capstone? 

It’s all about balance.  And my life is balanced much like a basketball on a finger.  Any breath of air, one missed day, one emergency with the kids, could send my world spiraling out of control.  Why not just give up school until the kids are older, you might ask.  I’ve asked myself the same question.  The resulting answer looks bleak to me.  I love my kids, and I miss them like crazy when I’m not with them.  I even feel guilty sometimes for leaving them.  But, if I give up my dream to graduate, then I will be a worse parent.  I will be a bitter parent.  There is no reason why I shouldn’t have my dream too.  This is the thing that every mom needs to be reminded of. 

Following your dreams makes you a better parent because it completes you as an individual first.  And the thing is, moms are real people too.  You had a name before you became mom.  This is something I’ve only discovered recently.  When I think back to my own mom, and how strained her relationship had been with her kids, I realized that she had dreams once.  I realized that she was a real person, with a real life.  She just never pursued them.  It was a hard discovery, to realize that I shouldn’t hate this woman for not being her everything, and to see her as an individual, not only my mom.  One of my biggest fears in life is to become my mother.  I love her, but she is a very frustrated,  misplaced human being.  I realize now that I won’t be like her because I am me.  I follow my dreams, focus on what matters to me, and the rest falls into place. 

I still suffer from the famous “mom-guilt,” but I refuse to let it get me down.  I think that it makes me a better student to have outside responsibilities, and I think it makes me a better mom to have school, which has always been my thing.  It’s a challenge, balancing these two lives.  It’s a struggle to sit in class with whining kids who didn’t get enough sleep last night.  It’s a hardship, leaving my baby girl when all I want to do is hold her on the couch and watch a movie.  It’s dangerous, racing home from a 3:15 class at 70 mph so I can grab the boys off of the bus to start their homework.  Some days, I don’t think I can do it anymore.  Then, I remember how strong I’ve been in the past, and I know that somehow, I’ll manage.

 
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Posted by on September 3, 2011 in Life

 

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Some Random Things

First of all, may I say that it is wonderful to be able to use the computer again!  For about a week, the only thing I’ve been able to look at is the back of my eyelid.  I punctured my cornea by jabbing myself in the eye with a pair of scissors.  How did I manage that, you ask?  Well, try cutting your bangs with three kids and a hyper puppy running in and out of the bathroom… That’s beside the point.  For a week, I couldn’t drive, read, watch TV, and even the light from my cell phone pierced my eye like a dagger.  It was pure hell; not so much the pain, but the boredom.  Anyway, it’s almost healed.  I can drive now, and walk out in the early light without my sunglasses.  The afternoon sun is a different story, but this is a start. 

I have to say this whole experience made me appreciate my sight that much more!  I am also grateful for my independence!  I couldn’t imagine spending the rest of my life waiting for rides, or depending on someone else to tend to my responsibilities.  I learned a valuable lesson, (besides: leave the haircutting to licensed professionals) and that is appreciate the little things I normally take for granted.  I’m stepping off of my soapbox to say that I’m one of those people that needs a constant reminder of this.  I’m a spoiled brat, and freely admit it.  I think we all are in some way.  I’m sure I’ll need to be reminded again in the future!  Moving on…

I am loving Night Ranger’s new album, Somewhere in California.  They’ve still got their classic sound, though it’s a bit softer than their late 80’s tone.  I see that they will be in PA, within driving distance for me, twice in late August.  I hope to be able to see them, as they have produced some amazing songs that have stuck with me over the years. 

I started back to school last week.  Let me say that I am one of those geeks that loves school.  I love books, notebooks, the smell of the classroom, and feeling of excitement over learning new things.  Unfortunately, Math gives me little to no excitement. In fact, it gives me the biggest case of anxiety.  I HATE math.  I cry when I try to do the homework, and at the end of the semester, my GPA is going to be in the toilet.  All because I need this stupid class to graduate.  I’ve tried outside sources, asking questions, looking up examples, but nothing clicks.  I do not understand math, and I never will.  However, I will gut through it.  I will get through this class, I will suffer through the homework, five hour classes of torture, and the tests.  And when it is over, I will never look back! 

I am, however, looking forward to the fall semester with increasing joy.  I look forward to being on a schedule again, and I’m also looking forward to Capstone, which is my two semester graduation project.  I’ll also be taking the GRE’s in October, and applying to graduate school in January.  I expect great things from myself this semester, and hope to be able to share my process with all of you.

Keep on pushing through!

 
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Posted by on July 18, 2011 in Life

 

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All I Need is Just a Little Patience

I’m one of those people that needs to be kept busy, else she tends to over-analyze, over-think, and generally drive herself nuts.  I’ve been on summer break for close to a month, and I have been going insane!  I feel like I should be doing more.  More writing, more reading, more running than I’m already doing.  I’ve been literally driving myself crazy.  I find myself thinking about the fall semester, impatient to get started on my Capstone project, (whatever it may be!) and to try my luck at the GRE’s.  I want senior semester to be over at Keystone, so I can start applying to graduate programs that specialize in Creative Writing, which is my first love.  I’m eager to start my life. 

But wait… Didn’t I do that already?  I’m twenty-nine, I’ve got three kids, will be celebrating a tenth wedding anniversary this year, and I’ve been published a couple of times.  Hasn’t my life already started?  I guess it did, somewhere between Great Themes in Literature, “Wonderful Tonight,” and ten thousand dirty diapers.  I was just too busy to notice it.  Isn’t that an ass-kicker?

I need to slow down.  Guns N’ Roses had it right.  “Sad woman take it slow, things will be just fine.  All we need is just a little patience.”  I love this song for so many reasons, but now I have one more.  It reminded me to slow down, and enjoy things.  It reminded me to stop driving myself nuts.  Thanks, Axyl, Slash, Izzy, Duff, and Steven for writing and performing such a great song!

 
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Posted by on June 4, 2011 in Life, Music, Writing

 

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I Never Said Thanks

I’ve talked about this poem before.  It’s the one that won the Cameron Poetry Award, sponsored by the American Academy of Poets.  I’d like to post it here.  It was published in the print version of The Plume, Keystone College’s literary magazine.  Before anyone says, “Oh, she just can’t wait to get more praise,” rest assured, this is not the case. 

I want to post this poem, not only because it is a tribute to Donnie, whom I miss ever so much, but also because this poem is an example of what I wrote in a community workshop.  It was sponsored by poet Brian Fanelli, and he’s going to be running the workshop again here shortly.  It’s listed in his blog, All the Right Notes, which you can access by clicking the link on the side of my blog.  I would urge anyone that is local to try to sign up for this workshop.  I learned so much from him, and he’s a really good person. 

Workshops are SO important for writers!  Feedback is essential to the process, and sometimes, workshops can provide that little push to complete a project if, like me, you procrastinate on a daily basis.  I am finding myself pushing writing to the side, as I am between writing groups at the moment.  Without a set deadline, I find myself saying, “I’ll do it tomorrow,”  This ties into the poem, “I Never Said Thanks,” because I’m always putting off today what I can do tomorrow.  But, sometimes tomorrow doesn’t come.  I urge you to find a group, take the feedback gracefully, and provide feedback of your own.  It’s essential to the writer’s life!

(A note about spacing:  The couplets should be single spaced, but since WordPress is retarded in its spacing, it is what it is.  Enjoy!)

I Never Said Thanks

when he buried my horse on the last day of summer,

dug the hole with the tractor,

told me not to look

when he hooked on with a chain,

leaned an elbow on my shoulder, said,

Let’s get a beer when it was over.

Five years later, on the day of his funeral,

I carried yellow mums in the first stages of bloom,

walnuts crunched under my feet,

and still I remembered

the buzz of flies, the sweat on his brow,

and the taste of light lager.

 
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Posted by on May 18, 2011 in Writing

 

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I Have Two Left Feet & Two Right Boots

I don’t fit.  Anywhere.  I’m not sure I ever will.  I’m not even sure if I want to.  I like being different, in a random sort of way.  I have two left feet, and two right boots.  Some days, I can’t even find my damn boots!  I don’t fit into the blue collar world that I live in.  Sure, I can drink with the best of the guys, I can fix my own car if I need to, and I throw hay all summer long, and actually enjoy it.  I love horses, country nights, and dive bars.  I don’t fit into the academic world, even though I was taught Emily Post manners, and I’m well-read, high-minded, philosophical, and damn it, I’m smart!  I feel confined at the academic functions, longing for a t-shirt and a beer, and restless for stimulation when I’m drinking that beer in the garage, listening to metal.

Everywhere I go, I’m out of place.  No one wants to talk poetry while swilling beer, and no one wants to swig Jack Daniels while dissing Hemingway (God, how I hate that man).  No one in the academic world appreciates my talents as a grease monkey, while no one in my family cares about Robert Frost while they’re trying to put enough hay in to feed the animals over the winter.  I just don’t fit. 

Normally, I’d shrug it off.  It’s no biggie, I’m just an odd-ball.  A little eccentric, but that’s to be expected since I’m a writer.  However, sometimes my worlds collide.  Today, I will be presenting my poem, “I Never Said Thanks,” and a section of my short story, “Healing Speed,” at the Undergraduate Research and Creativity Celebration at Keystone College.  I was told, at the last moment, that I needed to dress somewhat “professional.”  You know what?  I don’t even know what the hell that means.  And there’s nothing like embarrassing yourself by showing up in jeans when everyone’s wearing dress clothes, or dressy clothes when people are in jeans.  I always get it wrong.

Then, it dawned on me.  I’m always going to be out of place.  I can’t help that I live in a world that doesn’t exactly lend itself to dress pants, and nice blouses.  I spend my summers digging in the dirt with my three children.  I’d never even own a blouse that sticky fingers, and spaghetti mouths could ruin in five minutes.  I destroy jeans on the exhaust pipes of my dually diesel, and my days in the garage.  I’m just not made for the academic world of nice clothes, and high heels.  But, there’s a part of me that wants to attend these events, and actually make a good impression. And then there’s the matter of my family.  Most of them couldn’t tell you the meaning of  a poem if you gave them five years.  It’s just not their bag.  I don’t see anything wrong with that.  Except, when I have to read my work in front of them.  Sometimes, they don’t get that poets lie, that fiction writers are writing about something they have never experienced, and half of the time the only criticism I get is that my poetry doesn’t rhyme.  And they get bored at academic functions, quickly.  Yet, I want them there with me.  Not only to share my experiences, but so they can understand what I go through when I step out of our blue collar world.  The confusion, the self-consciousness, the feeling that I’m never going to be good enough.  I spend a lot of time wondering if they’re really excited to be with me, or if they’re just humoring me.

It’s tough living with a foot in both worlds.  Sometimes I feel like I’m going to lose my tenuous grip that’s helping me hover between the two, and fall into one or the other.  I don’t want to lose the experiences in both worlds that allow me to be a well-rounded writer, and person.  Now, I’m realizing I don’t want to fit.  I don’t want to lose my hold on the reality that is me.  This is who I am.  I may have two left feet, but I sure can dance.  Now, I only have to figure out what to wear today!

 
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Posted by on April 27, 2011 in Life

 

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Mixed-Up Genres

So everybody knows that I love all of the writing genres. But, if I was pressed to say which one I love best, it’d be fiction.  It’s much simpler than writing, say a screenplay, or a poem.  (Not that fiction is simple, it’s just easier for me.)  Anyway, Keystone College holds two writing contests every year: The Cameron Poetry contest, and the Cogswell Fiction contest.  Like every person who wants too much, I decided to enter both about a month ago. 

Yesterday, I got an email about the contests.  My poem, “I Never Said Thanks,” won the poetry contest!  I was pretty surprised about it, especially because writing poetry is not my schtick, even though I’m told I’m good at it.  My eyebrows arched when I got to the second line in the email, stating that my story “Healing Speed,” was first runner up in the fiction contest.  It came as a shock to me, not because I think that I’m so great and should win everything, but because it seems that I may have mixed up my genres along the way.  It’s ironic that the next publication credit I will be getting is a poem titled, “I Hate Writing Poetry.”  This poem and two others will be appearing in the Spring edition of The Plume, Keystone’s literary magazine.  I think that says it all.  🙂 

This whole thing makes me laugh when I think about my first Creative Writing class.  It was an introductory class in the summer session, with poet Brian Fanelli.  My first couple of poems were such a disaster; they weren’t pretty.  I remember telling Brian, “I hate writing poetry!”  In fact, he uses that line to introduce me whenever we read somewhere together!  But, like all type-A’s, I decided I just HAD to learn to write poetry.  I took an advanced poetry class at Keystone,  an outside poetry workshop with Brian, and attended a writing group at the Vintage Theater.  I worked really hard, sometimes to the point where I’d want to bang my head off of the desk in frustration.  I know I never thought (in a trillion years) that I’d ever win a poetry contest. 

Over-all, I’m pretty honored that my work was so well received.  I’ve been asked to read “I Never Said Thanks,” and an excerpt of “Healing Speed,” at the Undergraduate Celebration of Research and Creativity this coming Wednesday, and I’m excited to do so.

 
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Posted by on April 20, 2011 in Writing

 

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Stage Fright

Keystone College teachers, Dr. David Elliot, and Amye Archer are hosting a joint reading tonight at the Vintage Theater in Scranton.  6:oo p.m. 119 Penn Avenue.  There will be poetry, fiction, and creative non-fiction being read.  I’ll be reading an essay about how I became such a hard-rock fan/metal-head. 

Thank God I’m not an actress, because I suffer from stage fright.  My knees knock, my heart pounds, my mouth gets dry, and I literally feel like I’m going to pass out when I’m giving a speech, or reading my work.  I had to take an elementary public speaking course a few years ago, and let me tell you, I had to get drunk to pass it.  I literally drank Jack Daniels before I went into the class.  I used to bitch to my friends about how I was never going to use the damn class, why should I be required to take it?  Never say never…

Leave it to me to pick a career where self-promoting is the biggest success/fail factor.  My first public reading  was last October,  when I was invited by a teacher to read a short story at a reading that he put together with Barrelhouse, a D.C. based literary magazine.   I agreed, knowing full well that I was going to be terrified.  I stood up there (with 3 vodka shots under my belt) and somehow managed to get through it.  I thought, ok, now I’ve done it, it’s no big deal.

But, you know what?  It’s a big deal.  Whether it’s a crowd of 50 or 5, I feel scared.  I feel small.  And, I feel as though I never want to do it again.  Something keeps me coming back though.  I think it’s the desire for success.  It’s the drive that makes me give up nights out with my friends to attend a class, or skip the family get-together to get my homework done.  It’s that dedication that made me finish the short story that I was working on for my fiction class, the day after my brother-in-law died.  It’s the desire to succeed, no matter what the cost. 

Stage fright is a fight that I will someday win. Both my second, and third readings were done alcohol free 🙂 .  This will be my fourth reading, and although I’m still terrified, I am also looking forward to it.

 
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Posted by on April 10, 2011 in Writing

 

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