ISBN-10: 0-486-41586-4

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens


“…the distant savage lair from which the wind was rushing, was the sea; and that the small bundle of shivers growing afraid of it all and beginning to cry, was Pip.”

-Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

Writing in flannel.

Writing in flannel.


I went home this past week for an early Christmas. I don’t know how I managed it, but I was able to see just about everyone I love. I even squeezed in a trip to Hubbard, my high school, and bought sweat pants and a sweatshirt. If someone told me fifteen years ago I’d voluntarily wear the uniform, I would have laughed in his or her face. Fifteen years can really change a person.

I haven’t posted in a while. Don’t fret. I’ve been writing and reading, just not blogs. Today I was called to the desk to write for my dad.

Last Monday was the first time I saw him since I was sixteen.

Fifteen years ago, we parted on less than good terms. It doesn’t matter why we parted that way, only that we had. Six years ago, I heard that he was beaten and left for dead in Marquette Park. The phone call caught me off guard. I was in a place where my life had finally started to make sense. I had just started my MFA, was newly engaged, and happy. I answered the phone thinking my brother, J, was calling to congratulate me.

J told me that my father had been homeless and lived in the park. He was drunk and antagonized a group of youth, gang members, with racial slurs. My father was not expected to make it. I should come home and see him. The phone call left me angry. I told J my father was dead to me, and had been for years. J called me a bitch and we hung up.

I wished those kids had talked to my father and explained why some words were so hurtful or how many people had died over them in the past. I wished they asked him not to use such words, and he instantly rid his vocabulary of them. I know how hard it is to do the right thing in a highly charged emotional moment. I don’t always do the right thing. I’m still learning, too.

A few weeks ago, I told Husband I wanted to see my father again. Husband wondered why after fifteen years I wanted to resume a relationship. Understandably, he was protective of me. The last time I went home I had a small relapse when I was caught off guard by another piece of my past.

ME: I just don’t want that to be the end of the story. When I have children, I want them to know their grandpa. I don’t want to tell them this terrible story of how we parted. I want it to be different.

I was prepared for the worst. My father had suffered severe brain trauma. He was a known alcoholic and drug user. There was something with a long technical term that chronic alcoholics can suffer from in which they have no short-term memory. It’s like a blackout, explained my therapist, T; he may have no recollection of meeting you. There’s a possibility he may not know you.

I called my sister-cousin, D, and asked her if she knew anyone from the old neighborhood who could find my father. She called M. M called a family friend, “born-again” L. He contacted some of the beat police in the area where he thought my father lived. After three days, L learned that my father lived in a shady house, essentially a crack house. L said the house was rough; he once lived in it at his lowest point before he turned himself around. It was in a less than great part of town. L said he could bring my father to a safer meeting place.

Monday came, and L couldn’t make it. I still wanted to see my dad, so I asked D if she would take the train with me. After an hour and a half of travel on the CTA, it turned out my father wasn’t staying in the worst part of town. He lived in my old neighborhood. We knocked on a door to a house that didn’t look shady from the outside other than a foreclosure sticker on the front door. No one answered. We called the landlord for the building. She hadn’t heard of the person we were asking for. We called L one more time. The landlord called back and said my dad was at a bus stop across from Walgreens.

Everyone told me to be prepared, to know what it was I wanted to say to my dad, to know what I wanted to get from this meeting. When I saw him, I said the only thing I could think to say.

ME: Hey old man.

I hugged him. Glad he was still alive.

We both cried until we laughed.

We went to a small restaurant. I had tacos. He had a burrito. I don’t remember what D had. I did my best to catch him up on my life. He did the same. He said when he got the call from L he stayed sober for our meeting. He didn’t do hard drugs anymore. He didn’t drink hard liquor, only beer, at night to help him fall asleep. He was waiting on his social security so he could put a down payment on a house or maybe an apartment. He spent the days helping others when he could, shoveling snow and whatnot. The folks in the elderly home had given him a chair to sit on at the bus stop. He fed the sparrows. He tried to keep busy. He could only listen to music and watch TV so much before he got bored.

He told me he wasn’t jumped in the park. He said he went to help a man push his car out of the snow behind Walgreens, and when he went to help him, he was smashed in the head with a bottle and beaten. His assailants got thirty dollars.

I wish they had just asked for his thirty dollars. Sometimes when I see people pan handling on the street I give them money. I can’t help it. They’re asking. If they spend the money on bus fare or drugs, that’s a problem as society we have to fix together. They’re still asking, not mugging, not robbing.

My father showed me a thin line that extended ear to ear on the back of his neck. It was his scar from brain surgery.

The things I wanted to say were slow coming. I was nervous and anxious to get back to a normal relationship with him. We went to a thrift store in search of an ugly Christmas sweater. We wandered through the isles.

ME: Should I get this withered Nome that looks remarkably similar to Wizzo and contains the soul of a wealthy Egyptian Pharos waiting for a body? It probably was accidently lost to the family sworn to protect it…

Dad: Sure. Everyone needs a souvenir.

I put Wizzo back on the shelf. I had already gotten a T-shirt with thirteen hidden horses as a souvenir earlier in the trip. I asked him if he wanted any clothes. He said he had a whole box full. People gave them to him. He still collected flannels.

I didn’t want our meeting to end. I dragged him to a dollar store and demanded he purchase some beef jerky and books, another small Christmas present to go along with what I had originally brought him: a copy of his father’s manuscript and a story I wrote for him.

He threw in a chocolate bar that donated money to literacy. What the hell. It was Christmas after all. I pulled him into the post office where we got some Ray Charles stamps, so he could write me.

ME: That’ll give you something to do when you’re bored.

I stumbled through his world until I got back on the bus with a hurried Merry Christmas thrown over my shoulder. There were so many other words I wanted to say, but did not know how. It wasn’t until the plane ride home that I started to untangle what had happened. What I truly wanted to say.


Your story does not begin with the reason you were jumped. It starts when a stranger found you on the ground, near dead.

I ask myself, who that stranger was. Did she happen to own a small restaurant, make tacos and burritos and keep a ton of plants? Did I throw a thank you over my shoulder as we walked out because whatever I felt inside I did not know how to say? It could have been anyone who called for you. Could have been a bus driver. Could have been an employee at Walgreens. Could have been someone old. Could have been someone young.

Who was the emergency dispatcher that took that call?

Who drove the ambulance that took you to the hospital?

Who were the first cops on the scene?

Who was the brain surgeon that performed your operations?

Did they know they’d probably never get paid monetarily for their work?

Did they know if the person on their operating table had insurance?

I bet they didn’t even question it.

Who was the first person you saw when you opened your eyes?

Who really sat by your bed for four months?

Who helped you learn to walk and talk again?

Who told you to keep going when I’m sure you may not have wanted to?

Who gave you the clothes that kept you warm?

Who ran the food pantries that now fed you?

Do these people know I wanted to thank you for all you did for me when I was growing up? You let me paint my room green and built floor to ceiling bookshelves in there for your paperbacks. I remember your paperbacks, covers with Conan the Barbarian and scantily clad women cowering behind sword wielding men with way too much dragon in the background. I look back and think in your own way you were trying to surround me with the things you loved. You should see my bookshelves now. I bought forty-seven books only yesterday from the thrift store. Seven cents each. Three rooms in my house are painted green.

Did you know I still remember the Christmas Eve you walked a mile in the snow to the only place open, Walgreens, to get me an alarm clock?

Who worked that Christmas Eve shift when they could have been home with their own families?

Do all these people know that they kept you alive so I could thank you?

Do all these people know we are connected?

Do all these people know how grateful I am?

Do they know that I don’t only think about it when I’m on buses or airplanes?

Dad, did you know I saw you in a stranger’s eyes a few months ago? I told myself that stranger wasn’t you—I only wanted to see you.

Because of all those people I was able to.

Dad, do you know life is not about the past or the future but the moment in which we live?

I think you do.

I may throw “Thank you” and “Merry Christmas” over my shoulder, but I’m not too busy to know what they really mean. Dad, I know how hard it was for you to see me. If we had fought during our meeting, it could have led to a relapse on your part, too.

Do the people that brought us back together know that I have a good story to tell your grandchildren someday?

I hope they do.

I love you. Thank you.

It reads "thanks"

We as a society are doing our best to address the problem of homelessness in America. I was once told if one person in the world loves you don’t give up, you have a reason not to be homeless. Below is a list of resources supported by thousands of people that love and care for those in rough situations. There is no choice so bad that one can’t recover from it.



This is a giant heart I tracked in the hill next to my house.

This is a giant heart I tracked in the hill next to my house.


Homeless Shelters Directory

Street Wise


Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration

US Department of Health and Human Services

Alcoholics Anonymous

Narcotics Anonymous


National Alliance on Mental Illness

United States Department of Labor

If you or someone you know would like to donate items, money, or time, thousands of shelters across America are in need.

I found this list on Sojourner’s* website  as an example of items that may be needed in local shelters near you.

Monetary donations:



Helps offset costs of children’s activity groups


Helps to feed shelter residents for one day


Supports time required to obtain an Order for Protection



-Diapers and Pull-Ups

-Clothing: Contact for specific needs

-African-American Hair Products. Recommended brands include: Ultra Sheen, Pink Lotion, Motions, Cream of Nature, Do Grow, Super Grow, Olive Oil. We’ve found that Walgreens carries the following at very good prices: Organica Hair Food, Shea Butter, Africa’s Best and Coconut Hair Oil.

-Baby wipes (Sensitive Skin)

-Cleaning Supplies (especially bleach, dish soap, floor cleaner and multi-purpose cleaning liquid)

-Paper Products: Paper towels, plates, bowls, etc.

-Twin Sized Plastic Mattress Covers


-Women’s Socks and underwear

-Bulk sized non-perishable healthy snacks (fruit snacks, granola bars, juice boxes, etc)

-Office Supply Gift Cards

-Target Gift Cards

*Sojourner is a local woman and children’s shelter in MN. For specific donations to Sojourner, please call the Program Support Coordinator at 952-351-4062.

**Whenever I go on trips I stock up on all the free lotions, shampoos, etc. By the end of the year I bring them in to the shelter. I heard you can drop off these items at REI and they will pass the donations on for you.


Filed under Books, Growing up, Holidays, Homelessness, Life, Literature, Love, Memoir, Mental Disorders, Non Fiction, Politics, Random, Snow, Writing

ISBN-13: 978-0-7432-8441-7

The Elephant's Secret Sense by Caitlin O'Conell

The Elephant’s Secret Sense by Caitlin O’Conell

Because my blog posts have morphed into some strange hybrid of diary entry and book review, I wanted a model of a classic essay to see just how far off the beaten path of the modern essay I’ve veered. I selected “Shooting An Elephant,” by George Orwell as my example. It was written in 1936, so it seemed classic.

I barely made it though the shooting of an elephant part.

There are things to be said about that essay, building up to the shooting, tragedy of experience, and the truth of the event. Not all writers can make themselves go to the dark places they’d rather forget—or ignore.

It gave me a better glimpse than I had before of the real nature of imperialism—the real motives for which despotic governments act.”

As I read the essay, I thought of all the elephant facts I knew: elephants bury their dead and have graveyards, elephants greet each other, elephants have matriarchs, elephants communicate via feet. Via feet? Wait. Had I remembered that correctly?

It’s not a far-fetched concept. My chair, desk, and entire house have vibrated around me for the last month while workers repave the road in front of my house. Sitting at my desk today is akin to using one of those feet massage machines at Brookfield Zoo. Only difference is I don’t have to pay a dollar for the experience. Husband pays several thousand dollars in taxes over the next ten years. Point being, I know what’s happening without hearing or seeing it.

After a trip to the library, I found out that, yes indeed, elephants do communicate via vibrations in the ground. It’s called seismic communication. Caitlin O’Connell was the first scientist to document and test this phenomenon in elephants. And <<bonus>> she wrote a book about it: The Elephant’s Secret Sense, The Hidden Life of the Wild Herds of Africa.

CO first studied bugs. Hawaiian planthoppers to be exact. The subtle difference between vibrations detected by a planthopper on a leaf and vibrations detected by me at the desk is that the large machinery in front of my house does not intend to mate with me. At least I hope not.

Some seventy years after GO’s essay, those pesky elephants were still up to their crop-raiding-civilization-destroying antics. After her bug work, CO was hired to study the behavior of elephants with the hope of using research to help farmers deter them. She noticed some of the same behaviors of the planthoppers in elephants and set up experiments to prove her theory.

What were the odds that CO would have the opportunity to study both planthoppers and elephants and have the ability to recognize similar patterns between the two? While that is a riveting question, I will have to leave it to a statistician, as it is not the focus of this essay. And according to CO’s book:

My challenge as a scientist wasn’t that there weren’t enough interesting questions to ask but that I would have to remain focused on the first question and find the answer while being open to the next question presenting itself.”

My original question: how far have I veered from the modern essay?

Next question: is there an example of an essay that answers this question?

Next question: what does imperialism have to do with a dead elephant?

Next question: can elephants communicate with their feet?

Next question: what will I have for lunch?

Next question: what do bugs have to do with elephants?

Next question: what do elephant’s feet have to do with imperialism?

Next question: why would anyone want to be a statistician?

Next question: how far have I veered from my original question?

Next question: can I apply reading about elephants to essay writing in general?

The modern and classic essays are both forms of communication that take one small experience and apply it to a larger concept. Except in a modern essay I can get away with stating I had an ice cream cone and a cup of tea for lunch if readers understand how much I have veered without explicitly stating it.

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Filed under Animals, Books, Funny, humor, Life, Non Fiction, Random

ISBN: 978-0-399-15901-5

Let's Pretend This Never Happened (A Mostly True Memoir) by Jenny Lawson

Let’s Pretend This Never Happened (A Mostly True Memoir) by Jenny Lawson


I had the great idea to discuss Let’s Pretend This Never Happened (A Mostly True Memoir) by Jenny Lawson via text message with D.






Apparently we did this stuff when D came to visit:



Yeah, that's shotgun shells.

Yeah, that’s shotgun shells.


This plays music.

This plays music.


Back to the book:


You know what? Let’s not talk about the book. Let’s talk about my life instead.

It’s my birthday week, and I can’t go hiking today as planned. Does it matter that I’ve already gone to see Cirque Du Soleil’s Almaluna?


But one may say, there were peacock feathers, light up nunchucks, the god and goddess of the wind, a lady with a cello that came down from the ceiling, a male pole dancer, a reptile juggling fire, an all women rock band. I had a stale pretzel and bought the CD, commemorative tote, and program with delightful photographs.


Does it count that I went to a thrift store that sold items by the pound and nearly got knocked over by a crowd of professional thrift shoppers that swarmed the bins like angry box elder bugs? Or that I bought a hideous green floral coat with a faux fur collar missing a belt and button that is slightly soiled and two sizes too big out of sheer excitement that I could buy clothing by the pound? The type of coat any pimpess would be proud to flaunt? And what about the worn leather purse I got for only $1.50?

Try again.

What about the sushi?

I eat sushi for breakfast.

Does it matter that I went to the Soap Factory haunted house  and they made me wear headgear and a jump suit because I would jack up my clothes and possibly hurt my face because the haunted house is that intense? Or that I cried the safe word after getting through only two rooms because the actors could touch you and I was separated from the herd only to be told to go into a dark room when I am terrified of the dark? TERRIFIED OF THE DARK.

Not really.

Even though I was taken to Insidious 2 immediately after to make up for the fact that I was only in the haunted house for 7 minutes?


Or that tomorrow I will go to a small town where I plan to hit up every antique store and try not to purchase any books, even though the books will smell like old books which is really mildew, and if I don’t buy the books I can still stand there in the store and huff the books until someone drags me away? And that very same night I’m going to stay in the supposedly most haunted hotel in all of Minnesota?

Not even close.

Okay, how about the fact that I plan on spending the ENTIRE day of my actual birthday writing so I can finish a draft of a short story I’ve been working on for a month that I thought I could bang out in a weekend? There will be ice cream cake . . .


The George Saunders reading on Thursday?

No! No! No!

I have to use up the parks pass that I bought for $25. This means I need to hit up a park at least five times this year. I only went once and it’s already October. I want to feel the “WOW” of fall! I want changing leaves! I want to go hiking!

I want to go hiking for ten minutes and then piss and moan that it’s raining and freezing cold. After which, I buy post cards from the gift shop because, yes, parks in Minnesota have gift shops. Sometimes people forget to bring their pocket knifes. Or those little metal sticks for roasting marshmallows. If you forget the marshmallow sticks, you’re up ship’s creek without a paddle.

Now I can’t do that because the government, which I thought was essentially open all the time like a 7 eleven, is closed. As the Colbert Report pointed out this morning, Smokey the Bear is out of a job. Only I can prevent forest fires people! How can I prevent forest fires if I’m not in the forest today?

You’re lame government. Not only are you ruining my birthday week, but you’re messing up other people’s lives, too. Don’t worry government. As pointed out on JL’s blog—


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Filed under Art, Bipolar Disorder, Books, humor, Life, Literature, Memoir, Non Fiction, Politics, Random, Writing



The Bible In 90 Days New International Version

The Bible In 90 Days New International Version

SPOILER ALERT! There’s a dragon! This post is about the end of a book. If you haven’t read it and want to be surprised, see ya next week. Also, none of my Bibles have an ISBN number, and I’m learning the proper capitalization of G/god so by all means correct me in the comments.

I first read some of the Bible at the tender age of five in Catechism classes. Between cutting out animals for the great flood gluing them to straws to perform a mini puppet show and being told that I was preparing to “marry” God at my First Communion, I distinctly remember being cast out of class for asking logical questions. What does God eat for breakfast? If God made us in His likeness and I’m a girl, then why is God a boy and not a girl? Why would God give me the ability to ask questions if He didn’t want me to ask questions? Who is God’s God? Does God wear underwear? Adults never had answers. LAME.

Twenty years later, I thought it would be a good idea to finish the book. I bought The Bible In 90 Days, New International Version. Ninety days?! I assumed it would take me three years to read such a thick book with such little font. Four months later, I was knee deep in Deuteronomy with some new questions. Why haven’t I seen Jesus, yet? He’s like the main character, shouldn’t he have been introduced in the first chapter? Who wrote this? It’s pretty ambitious… Surely there must be a History Channel special that covers this in one hour.

Five years, several Ancient Aliens programs, and one MFA later, I decided to pick up the good book once more beginning with the end.

The first reason I started with Revelations: It’s a good contrast to the last post. I’m not sure if anyone around here has noticed, but I suffer from Catholic guilt. There’s this creepy underlying theme of my ‘given’ (not chosen) religion that if you sin you must seek forgiveness IMMEDIATELY. YOU WILL BURN IN THE ETERNAL FLAMES OF HELL if you veer from His Plan. Also, His Plan may or may not equal your ETERNAL BURNING from the jump. Those who claim the book is only about love obviously haven’t read the end. That joke will cost me ten Hail Marys. I feel bad for thinking it. Even worse for writing it. Can I get some sunscreen over here?

The second reason I started with the end: I felt it would be a good reference for my big project. I wondered what the epic battle/end was to the number one best selling book of all time. As a non-judgmental person, I wanted to know more about the ultimate judgment. Plus, the project has me attempting to create two imaginary worlds, each with their own imaginary creatures. My guess was that there were bound to be one or two imaginary creatures somewhere in there.

I was not disappointed. Let me just say that the four horsemen are just the tip of the iceberg. There are four creatures covered in eyes with six wings that chant day and night! There’s a zombie Lamb with seven horns and seven eyes! Locusts with man faces, woman hair, lion teeth, and the ability to sting like a scorpion! Horses with lion heads, fire breath, and snake tails! A sea beast with ten horns, seven heads, that look kinda like a leopard but have bear paws and a lion mouth! Did I mention the DRAGON?!

If I were work shopping it, this would be my critique: On the whole this is a pretty solid piece. I liked your use of the first person, third may have given it too much distance. You know, for me, I’m thinking the story really starts after the notes to the seven churches, so you could probably cut them out. The part I found least believable, aside from a wrathful God destroying nonbelievers, was that future people would leave two dead bodies in the street for days. Have we learned nothing from the Bubonic Plague? That’s just giving pestilence the green light. Also, the only woman you have in the story is a drunken adulterous blood-drinking prostitute. Sometimes less is better. I mean this is fine, she’s definitely an interesting character, but consider giving her even more depth by adding a few positive traits. I like that you kept the ending upbeat, giving those in Hades a second chance. The city made of gold was the perfect way to symbolize the greed of humanity and how we changed, but not really. Classic. With a few more drafts and a bit of trimming, I could totally see this getting published in the New Yorker. Totally!

Wait. What? This is nonfiction? John was your great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great a whole lot of greats grandfather? Are you enacting creative license with the use of the first person or did you find his stone tablet diary in a cave? It was a scroll in some pottery? Okay, well this changes things. Yeah, I mean forget what I said about the female character. If she honestly was a drunken adulterous blood-drinking prostitute, then yeah, I mean you’re bound to the limits of what really happened. Otherwise this would be fiction, which, obviously it is not. You know what? You got a good story here. You don’t need to sensationalize it.


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Filed under Books, humor, Life, Literature, Memoir, Non Fiction, Random, Writing

ISBN: 1-57322-333-6

No Death, No Fear by Thich Nhat Hanh

No Death, No Fear by Thich Nhat Hanh

Writing this post is hard when I keep staring out the window. It’s dreary and drizzly, a day for sweaters and leggings and apples and tea and books. I should note that I’ve only just learned how to wear leggings and every day is a good day for tea and books.

I devote autumn to thinking about time. I’m the type of girl who has been known to ask what day it is several times a day. In my defense, people ask for the time more than once a day, and that’s considered normal.

Minutes, hours, days, years, these mean little to me. I tell time by the color of the leaves on trees or lack thereof. My days are measured in keystrokes or yoga poses, sometimes by phone conversations, other times by births and deaths and weddings and graduations.  How many trips the hummingbird makes to the feeder. The distance Shadow and I go for walks. The purr and mewl of my cats.

Journal notes remind me of the end of summer: Why does it cost six bucks to get into a beach on the lake? Who ever thought up the great idea for metal lifeguard chairs? Warm Powerade tastes like warm Jell-O water before it sets. Warm Jell-O water takes me back twenty-five summers to my grandmother’s kitchen, when I measured time by the many uses for a cardboard box—a car, a castle, a place to hide, a hat to ram into the wall with, a Barbie house, a dangerous way to slide down the stairs. Crochet swimsuit equals bad tan lines, transports me back to the beach where a little kid eats a scoop of sand. All I want to do is eat some sand. The texture, not the taste, is an experience I want.  The lifeguard’s whistle is half day. Two ice creams later, the lifeguards return to their posts and a mass of children charge back into the lake. Mass of children charging lake equals the way I’d like to spend the rest of my summers.

Notes from the beginning of autumn: Twelve miles on my bike, over hills, past farmhouses and cornfields equals the breaking apart of a novel, equals imagining all the people in Syria as ribbons floating from the sky as I wish them one-by-one into a better place—a peaceful future. The duration of a car ride equals passing four flags at half-mast. A nation of flags at half-mast equals the end of twelve lives. An intention for those lives equals slipping out of downward dog multiple times, a glance at a clock: 7:15, 7:39.

I measure the time before I was born by others’ lives: Plato, Cervantes, Edgar Allen Poe, Abraham Lincoln, Einstein, Hitler. This reminds me of two ideas of time that have always conflicted in my mind: nothing is permanent and energy cannot be created or destroyed.

Nothing is permanent. People come and go from my life. I have learned to be thankful for the part of their life they spend in mine and learned to let them go without asking for more. Everything dies, ceases to exist, ends. That is, these people and objects move from a state I am familiar with into a state I am not. I first read No Death, No Fear Comforting Wisdom for Life by Thich Nhat Hanh, fifty-eight blog posts, four stories, one screenplay, one-third novel, and half a thesis ago. I found the book, or the book found me, when I most needed it. I return to its knowledge because I forgot that these people never truly leave. Even friendships lost return to me when I see crocks, Sailor Jerry, golf on TV, macaroons, lab-created sapphires, or ketchup and mustard on a sidewalk. Friendships return in the form of a ToDo list that entails tearing up an apartment then eating a sandwich that makes my breath stink.

There is no coming, no going.

All that exists always exists. Energy cannot be created nor destroyed. Manifestations arise when the conditions are right. Manifestations arise when they are needed. Radio waves float around my head. I am only conscious of Justin Timberlake’s voice when a radio is present to transform those waves into a familiar sound. What else exists, undetectable to my senses, waiting for the perfect conditions to arise?

Autumn winds twist and turn the leaves beyond my window. In them I see Syria, Einstein, children running toward a lake, flags at half-mast, the wish I make when I pass fountains, keystrokes, green gone gold. Trials of Van Occupanther by Midlake plays four times for these seven hundred and ninety five words. Autumn winds are the sound of your voice reading this post.

No coming, no going.

The true meaning of time, life.


Filed under Bike Rides, Books, Cats, Growing up, Life, Literature, Love, Memoir, Non Fiction, Random

ISBN: 10-7435-5432-9


Cell by Stephen King

Cell by Stephen King


If anyone wonders where I’ve been all summer, I’d love to say that I’ve been vacationing in the French Rivera. I have no idea where that is on a map. I don’t even know what it looks like, but I’ve heard it’s a sexy place to vacation. In reality I’ve been taking down wallpaper. All summer. My kitchen smells like Suavitel. And sweat. I also had a pit stop in New Orleans and got hit in the face by some beads. I stood up in a wedding in Chicago. I ate some goat. Went on a few trips to the farm; the honeybees are back. I attended a baby shower where the favor was a cd called, Scotch and Vinyl Dust Volume 1. There was a trip to the zoo wherein a really old seal put on a show. I got an idea for a story about an eccentric philanthropist. Went to a fringe show about a big eye that was supposed to be funny but made me cry, as I really connected with the depression part of the show. I dry fired my bow and got a bruise on my arm. Bob Segar made me fall off my bike. I wrote a draft of a story about a giant squid. I went to another wedding where I discovered that if you chug caffeine free diet coke and don’t let it touch the front of your tongue it almost tastes like coke diesel. I thought I broke the third wall, but discovered it was the fourth wall.

But mostly it’s been me vs. wallpaper.

I listened to Cell by Stephen King on cassette tape while I stripped the wallpaper. Yes, cassette tape. Sometime back I wandered into a Boarders with E and asked the clerk where the books on tape were. The clerk gave me a funny look, led me to a shelf, and said all they had were about four books.

Quite a small audio section, I thought. Must be why you’re going out of business Boarders.

Cell was on sale for maybe six bucks. That’s the best thing about SK books. They’re everywhere and all seem to cost under five dollars. Six dollars for an audiobook is a steal. This is what happened when I got to my car after the purchase:

ME: It’s a tape!

E: Yeah.

ME: I thought it was going to be a CD.

E: You asked for a book on tape.

It wasn’t until this year that I found a tape player at the farm. The farm has a variety of strange things, like copper colored Jell-O molds in the shape of fish that sometimes end up in my dreams. I began to listen to the story as I stripped the wallpaper. I was something like half a wall in when the tape stopped. Apparently the player overheated. The next day, I was a third of a wall in when the tape player made this horrible slow motion noise. E-gads! Was it eating SK? No, the tape was fine, but rewind didn’t work. Near the end of the wallpaper, and the end of the book, I got the fine idea to purchase a Walkman from a thrift store for the sum of a dollar-fifty. The Walkman didn’t work either. I changed the batteries.

One may want to know more about Cell, but I’d rather tell readers about the most important part of my summer.

I volunteer with Free Arts Minnesota , an organization that promotes healing through art. I could include their mission statement here, but I’d rather share my experience.

Anyone who follows this blog knows that I have bipolar disorder, and that I sometimes allude to a complicated and tangled past that includes neglect and abuse. What may not be entirely clear is the role art has played throughout my life as a way to cope with such events and transform them into something beautiful and meaningful that I can share with the world. I didn’t have the most ideal living situation when growing up, but what I did have was a strong support system filled with people who provided positive role models for me. These people were teachers, friends, social workers, extended family, and total strangers. Everyone seemed to move in and out of my life exactly when I needed them, providing me with hope, care, understanding, compassion, and good advice.

I speak openly about my experiences, in coffee houses, on the bus, over the cell phone, on a blog because I think there’s a lot of shame associated with these circumstances. Sometimes I feel like I make others nervous, as if these are things we shouldn’t talk about. Other times I think the shame and nervousness are only my own.

A friend sent me the link for Free Arts via Facebook. It was an opportunity that I couldn’t pass. Here was a chance for me to become a role model for children dealing with many of the same issues I had to struggle with growing up.

I don’t exactly have the mentor thing down yet: I told one kid that I liked the breadsticks from Olive Garden instead of giving some sage advice. I told another that her ‘D’ was backwards when it wasn’t. I forget names. When another threw a pen across the room, I didn’t know how to say the pen can do far more damage in your hand instead of thrown. And when another shared a personal story with me, it struck me later how I could have told her to use her art the moment things get bad and not after.

I can’t tell you how one child has impacted me in particular because they all changed me in some way.

This summer the children had the opportunity to work with a local artist, Natasha Pestich. They screen printed hoodies in the theme of identity. Their work will be displayed at the Minneapolis Institute of Art next Thursday, August 22nd, at 6 PM.

If you live in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area, and have a few hours to spare each week, I think you should consider becoming a volunteer. I’d also suggest making a donation through their website.

And so, the summer comes close to an end. The wallpaper is down. Under The Dome is on just in time for me to start painting. I’m starting Finnegan’s Wake and the State Fair will soon begin.

But there are still a few nights left to watch the lightening bugs come out, flickering on and off in a reminder that my life has been and always will be an intersection of those who change me.


Filed under Art, Bipolar Disorder, Books, Fiction, humor, Life, Literature, Mental Disorders, Random, Writing

ISBN: 978-0-06-167373-3

Zen and The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, An Inquiry into Values by Robert M. Pirsig

Zen and The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, An Inquiry into Values by Robert M. Pirsig

I kept calling this book, Zen And The Art of Motorcycle Madness. After this last round of mania, I felt both defeated and exhausted. Two weeks of sheer terror will do that to a person. The idea that it could happen again, at any time, was a whole different type of fear.

I had a hard time shaking one last delusion. It wasn’t a scary delusion, but it was enough for me to freak out a little at coincidences I could ordinarily brush off. 

ME: Why do I keep seeing armadillos everywhere?! They aren’t indigenous to Minnesota.

Husband: Maybe it’s their migration season. Look a humming bird.

ME: What do I do when everything that once brought me pleasure now brings me fear?

Husband: You use your tools and stop being a victim.

Alright. Okay. I’ll go for a run, at noon, in 90 degree weather. Too bad this Walgreens sunscreen smells bad because it’s getting in my eyes and making them BURN. Oh the irony. Who goes running in the hottest part of the day? It doesn’t matter if Whitesnake’s Here I Go Again is my power song, running still blows.

Perhaps my psychologist could help.

ME: I feel like the birds are machines sent by them to watch me.

P: Who is them?

ME: I like your earrings. I don’t know. I haven’t got that far yet.

P: Don’t think about it.

How do you not think about a thing? If I say ice cream, one sees a cone, or tastes it, or thinks the words.

Round two. This time I take a Clonazepam and get on my bike. I don’t apply sunscreen. I kick my helmet across the garage. I feel dangerous today. Why is my bike a hundred pounds? Why doesn’t it have any gears? C’mon On Let Me Ride  is a much better power song. What’s stopping me from running though that cornfield at top speed?

Creepy children. And I’d hate to ruin someone’s crops.

Breaking up with a delusion is very much like leaving a lover. For the first few days one walks around the house, listless, remembering how their lover set a cup on the table, or had the habit of leaving their keys in the door. Then it’s the tears. They liked green. One can’t go outside because the grass is green. A few weeks later, one is mostly okay, but a song on the radio can make them pound the steering wheel in an, “Oh God, Why? Why?” motion.  A year or a couple of months pass and grass is grass and music is music and the whole thing is over.

I had to let the delusion go and face the world. If something freaked me out, I had to tell myself, Not True. Not True. Not True. Not True. La La La. Not True.

I heard that Zen and The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance was about a guy who went crazy and brought himself back to sanity. And it was about a road trip. I was still a little crazy, a little delusional, and apprehensive of self-help books, so this being a memoir seemed like it had the possibility to help. I fired up the Amazon and subjected Husband to my dark side.

ME: I hope this book isn’t about getting Zen and fixing a motorcycle.

Husband: (Silence)

ME: I hope it’s more than that.

Everyone around me told me to do activities that would take my mind off the delusion. In time I would forget about it. Through archery, gardening, taking practice ACT tests online, playing memory card games, doing word searches, laughing with my friends, running two miles on a long country road, I would move past it. In my own snotty way, I just wanted it gone, like a blister or a misquote bite. It wasn’t leaving fast enough. My ACT score would soon be good enough to get me into Arizona State, and I had dreams of Harvard. Or Princeton. I’d settle for Brown. So what if I needed to take SATs—go away delusion!

I found myself most intrigued by the Phaedrus character in the novel. Was this a book about logic? About philosophy? You had me at Socrates RMP. 

For four hundred and eighteen pages I didn’t think of my delusion.


And what about the Zen component? I got a Groupon for twenty heat yoga sessions. And what happens when I feel like I can’t get through this because I get really weirded out by the armadillos?

I’ll just tell myself, bird by mechanical bird, girl, bird by mechanical bird.
















Filed under Bipolar Disorder, Books, Life, Memoir, Writing