Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Work Work vs. Play Work

Now is crunch time for finishing grading and submitting final grade reports. I don't mind this time of the semester as I know I have to get grades in by a certain date, which means once I click the Submit button I'll be free. No more papers to read. No more slogging through essays that make me wonder what these students were doing during high school English classes. No more having to break the news to Susie that just because Mom thinks Susie's writing is awesome, this doesn't mean it actually is.

The downside here is I'll only be free for about two weeks. Then summer session begins. I'm not looking forward to it, but I've decided since I have to teach I'm going to take the opportunity to try out some new ideas. This will entail taking a bit of a different approach, an approach that gets me excited when I think about the possibilities. It could be really, really fantastic. It could also end up being a crash and burn summer I'll want to forget as soon as possible.

Amidst all the grading and putting my summer course together, I learned one of my poems has been accepted for publication. Now I have a grand total of two published poems to my credit (I should say I will have two credits once this poem is released). Woo-hoo! The poem will be available at The Voices Project in early June. When it's there and can be accessed, I'll share the link.

This particular poem is from a series I'm working on. Very personal. Very difficult for me to spend much time on in a given sitting because of the subject matter. But I've found in writing this series, I'm beginning to confront a monster that has been eating away at me for a long, long time. I've shared these poems with two close friends who are my writing buddies, and they are also the only two people in my life who I've opened up to about the situation alluded to in the poem that will be published.

Now I'm torn. I know I need to get back to the grading and getting all the have-to-do work finished, but I really want to pull up my poems and tinker with them. It's amazing how getting a publication notice is like drinking a double espresso. I'm all hyped up. But, I'll be the responsible adult and get back to work work. The play work will have to wait for a bit.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Summertime Fun with Ado

Central Illinois went from winter to summer without a spring this year. We had snow right into April, along with chilly temps until late April. Then a switch was thrown and the temps went from 40's to 70's, 80's, and today we're supposed to hit 90. The humidity is ramping up, too. My hair is getting wavier and wavier with each hot, humid day we have.

I love this weather.

I do like fall, winter, and spring. The changes that come with each are beautiful in and of themselves. But hot and humid I absolutely adore.

Which is why I don't turn the air conditioner on. The kids are okay with this, at least for now. I know Funny Delightful Son isn't a fan of the heat, but he's not complained so far. I imagine if the nights stop cooling off like they've been, then he'll let me know my anti-air conditioner position is problematic.

Ado suffers from the heat. We do our walks early in the day, before seven am, and late in the day, after seven pm. Since we can't go on long walks during the middle of these hot days, I'm devising a plan that will give him the chance to get outside with me. The plan includes this,

but I need one big enough for my 100-pound furry beast. So far, I've not been able to find anything on the market that will do the trick. So my idea is to take this

and modify it to work for Ado. This one has a reinforced floor and can carry 110 pounds. I'd like to add a canopy of some sort to keep the sun off of him, and a cushion for him to sit on. I'll also add rear lights to go with the reflectors, and a caution sign like is used on slow-moving farm equipment.

So, that's the plan. I'm taking this slow as I want to make sure whatever I end up with is safe for Ado and for me. It'd be awful to be out rolling along and a wheel goes flying off or the floor of the cart sags to the ground under him. That would not be a fun trip.

Funny Delightful Son doesn't think Ado will want to sit in this and ride, and he might not. I want to try, though. If he doesn't, I can still use the cart to get groceries, which will help me get closer to my carfree life (every time I write carfree I think how close the word is to carefree --  I do think they go hand-in-hand).

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Finding My Bliss

As Ado and I started off on our late afternoon walk, I thought, I am in charge of my bliss. The longer we walked, the more settled into that idea I became. I felt the same comfort that washed over me last year in mid April, when I walked the grounds of Allerton, listening to the owls calling, and I thought, I am free. It is in these moments that I see the path in front of me more clearly.

I received a critique for my haiku. A 540-word critique on 54 words of haiku. I had to laugh when I saw that. I figured the person really didn't like my poems if the need to write ten times more for critique seemed necessary. The critique was mixed, which is fine, and some good suggestions were offered. I've decided I'm done with the haiku, though, so I won't be making any further changes. I sent a thank-you note to the person who critiqued, then moved on with my day.

A wood thrush, I think. It was really sad to watch it fade away.
This afternoon, Ado and I snuggled on the couch so I could watch a couple episodes of "Superstore." This show is just too funny. Definitely not much to have to think about while watching. Just enjoying the silly humor. Not long into the second episode, a loud thunk drew our attention to the windows. I went over to see what had hit, and huddled on the deck was a brown bird. When I got to it, it showed signs of serious distress. I had a hunch it wasn't going to make it. Ten minutes later, it died in my hand. While I love the wall of windows, I really hate how often birds fly into them. Thankfully most recover and fly off. This was the first that did not.

Prepping the pie.
To help me get out of the funk of the bird dying, I made a strawberry-rhubarb pie. Lovely Beautiful Daughter and I went grocery shopping, and while there I saw the rhubarb. Since it's almost summer, and since I've started cycling again, that means pie is a must. The best pie by far is strawberry-rhubarb, so I bought a pound of rhubarb, two pounds of strawberries, and the pie became a reality.

The pie! Definitely part of the equation for finding my bliss.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Another Area Where I'm Taking Control

So, five days now and no critiques on my haiku. I did receive one comment, basically asking about one or two of the haiku maybe needing a "cutting" word and saying the cricket haiku was the least favorite of the six. I sent the person a thank-you note.

Then, I opened my email to find yet another rejection. This one from a literary magazine I sent some poems to back in early November.

Now, I'm sitting here wondering why I feel the need to be published. The literary magazines don't pay. Most have a small readership. Yet I keep sending my work in hopes one of them will eventually say yes.

Prestige is definitely part of the equation. Being able to put on my vita that I've had work published by recognized literary magazines adds a degree of expertise. In the event I decide to seek employment at another institution, the publishing credits will help me stand out over applicants who don't have publishing credits.

And I have entertained the idea of seeking employment elsewhere. For a moment here and there. But I know I most likely won't. I have a really good thing where I am; I would be a fool to let it go.

The other part of the need-to-be-published equation? Honestly, I'm not sure.

Which got me thinking about self-publishing. I tried this a couple years ago by creating my own website, but I didn't put the time into it the way I needed to. I'm thinking about trying the self-publishing again, just not by trying to do it through a website I create. Right now I'm in the researching and comparing options mode, with the intention to have a plan in place in the next couple of weeks.

Like another area of my life, I finally feel like I'm the one in control. Instead of allowing myself to be at the mercy of someone else or others, I am calling the shots with how my writing reaches an audience.

To celebrate my decision to be in full control of my creative life, here is one of the poems I wrote during sabbatical. I've not shared any of my poetry here because of the rules literary magazines impose on writers. Anything shared here is considered published work and will not be accepted for consideration by many literary magazines. I am so done with that kind of publishing stranglehold.


The Note I Wish I'd Given My Mom

I bought a small rosemary plant
to add to the clay pot
you gifted me
the day my faith went missing,

the one with oregano tendrils spilling
over the chipped rim, down the sides
to shield shallow cracks
when November cold rushes in

I leave it on the splintered deck rail
where it basked in sun warmth
all summer and fall,
even after first frost

leaves stay deep green,
tiny purple flowers surprise
as if sea dew sprinkled a holy blessing
promising continued life.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Seeing a Poem in Everything These Days

So I'm still waiting for a critique on my haiku. Three days. The contest closes May 31st, so several weeks remain for someone to take pity on me and offer up some feedback. I wonder what will happen if my haiku go the rest of the month without being critiqued. All it says in the rules is the entry must be submitted publicly for the duration of the contest. It doesn't say the submission must receive critiques. Honestly, though, I really don't know why of the 25 different entries, mine is the only one without any critique or comment.

The snarky side of me is saying, they're just that good! What could possibly be said about them to make them better than they already are? The paranoid critic side of me is saying, they're so bad no one wants to be the first one to say so. This has been the back and forth in my head for the last three days, and this exchange has been particularly bad today.

I finally copied off the haiku and gave them to a poet friend to read and give me some feedback. He read them, offered some suggestions, and let me know which one was his favorite (also my favorite of the bunch). After he and I talked about them, I went into my submission, made the tweaks he suggested, and upon hitting the submit edit button decided I'm done with that contest. If I receive critiques or comments at this point, I don't care.

Angel Baby would tell me I'm a bit salty right now over this. I guess I am since I played along and offered critiques to others who have entered the contest. That's how it's supposed to work -- give a critique, get a critique. I've noticed, though, that this site like many other areas in our lives, is more a popularity contest at times than truly offering up help. Reputation points are gained for being active both by critiquing work of others and engaging in the forums. I'm not in the forums much, just every now and then if the topic is particularly interesting or funny. I have my opinion of those who hang out in the forums, and that's all I'll say about that.

I did enjoy writing the haiku. I like the challenge of syllable count, imagery, and juxtaposition. Coming up with that shift to create two meanings within a short span can be quite frustrating. Making it happen, though, is very satisfying.

This isn't one I submitted to the contest. The windows over my desk are open wide, a breeze lightly tossing the curtains about, so this is where my mind went:

Afternoon spring breeze
romancing lacy curtains 
sleeping dust motes stir*

I've found no matter what I might be doing, whether I'm walking the trail with Ado, cycling out to work, cooking, or sitting on the back deck watching the birds at the feeder, my mind turns to creating a poem in my head.

*After I posted this, I was fixing dinner and like usual, an idea hit me. I hurriedly jotted down the change so as not to forget it. Just two words make a big difference, I think. I like the new third line over "winter dust motes float" because of the sensuality surrounding "romancing," "sleeping," and "stir."

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Waiting Out the Silence

Instead of grading the last of the papers I have waiting for me, I've been tinkering with some haiku. Writing my own and critiquing that of others. A contest opened up on the site where I submit my work for critique, so I thought, humph, I might as well give it a whirl. During March and April I turned my attention away from the poetry to work on another project, so the contest seemed like an opportunity to churn something out and practice a particular form.

I've found many ideas hit me quite hard during my long walks with Ado, so I snapped the leash onto his collar and we set off. During that walk, three ideas for haiku took shape. As soon as I got home, I started working on them. By the time I finished later that evening, I had six haiku I was happy with. I submitted them to the site for critique, which is required for the contest, and went back to my other project.

Usually it takes all of a couple hours to get multiple critiques on the work submitted to the site. With the haiku, two days have passed and nothing. I just went in to check the reader stats, and I've had 20 people read them, four of these people having read them more than once, but no one has offered a critique or a comment. Nothing. My work apparently has evoked the notorious cricket, cricket, cricket. What's kind of funny is one of my haiku is about crickets! I just don't know why everyone else who has submitted has received multiple critiques or comments. What gives?

Despite the very loud silence in response to my submission, I am finding joy in other things, such as this:

Baltimore Oriole: what a beauty!

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Wiling Away the Weekend

Lovely Beautiful Daughter took me to my first beer tasting yesterday. For nearly two hours, she and I enjoyed local brew and talked. This was just one moment from this past year that I will treasure for a very, very long time.

When we arrived back home, we set to work creating our Cinco de Mayo feast. Steak tacos, fish tacos, and tres leches cake. Guacamole and chips. Mexican beer. I found myself feeling completely stuffed when it was all said and done. As I started cleaning up, Lovely Beautiful Daughter looked out the kitchen window and said, "What? It's dark? There goes hippy horseshoes!" She'd set up the yard game while grilling the steak, but time got away from us as we sat at the table, eating, laughing, and talking about anything and everything.

Today I took three nice walks to try and negate all the comida deliciosa I ate yesterday. This whole weekend turned out absolutely perfect, from the weather, to the food, to the company. I want these kinds of days all the time.