Sunday, February 16, 2020

Year Seven

Dear Dane,

Roaring into year seven with not much to say.

I have found myself actually missing you this year, beyond grief and anger, just plain old missing you. It's a dangerous place to be, one that could devolve into making you a martyr, but even as I am aware of your faults, there are things about you that I miss keenly.

The deep knowing of you. Your unconscious vulnerability (you really had no idea what you were revealing whenever you got deep, which was a gift of self-protection for you, probably, but also funny and touching because you trusted me with it).

The ease of being with you. The way I was first. How home was what we made it in each other, and that it was a sacred place. Trusting you with my heart and soft places. Your resilience. Your (often annoying but incredibly helpful at times) optimism.

Life is quiet now. You were loud and filled up spaces, and sometimes that meant I shrunk to accommodate that. I don't have to shrink anymore, but filling up an empty space is lonely-making.

I am sad as I write this letter to you, which I suppose is better than the searing anger I have felt in years past, but it is harder as we enter the next seven years. I keep wondering when I get for this to be over, this grief and loss. And I suspect the answer is never, but a little peace would be nice.

Anyway. Your child is still missing you, worried she will forget the sound of your voice and struggling to make her way without your support and love. Dealing with my own grief and misery pales in comparison to watching her suffer.

But you would be so proud of our beautiful daughter. She is good and kind (and stubborn and sometimes an asshole, just like her father), and she loves deeply. She is the best of both of us, and I will be forever grateful to you for that.

Sometimes around the anniversary of your death, you come to me in dreams, and I would really like that if you could manage it. My father has been there lately, a welcome smiling face, and a shadow person I cannot identify but is a dead person I have loved. I would think it was you except you were never one to hide in the corner.

I went for a walk Wednesday at Lake Roland, quietly marking the day we met 21 years ago. On a deserted and hidden trail, a red cardinal led me down the path, almost the entire time. Perhaps that was you.

Always and ever, still loving you, and missing you.


Tuesday, December 31, 2019

The Annual New Year's Blog: 2020 edition

It was here, and now it's gone - last year and this post.

No resolutions.

Happy New Year.

Sunday, December 30, 2018

The Annual New Year's Blog: 2019 Edition

This morning, I reached peak adulthood.

My house is clean, all laundry done, folded, and put away. My bed is made. John Coltrane is playing while I sip coffee and sit on my couch this Sunday morning with the dog snoring softly behind me and the cat dozing next to me on the pillow.

Seems like a good time ruin it with some resolutions.

I haven't done a resolution post in a while, and I contemplated putting it up over on Charm City Edibles, but this seems like a better place for no-nonsense resolution posts, or at least it has been, and why mess with a good thing? Complicating a "resolution" post is the argument sprawled across my social media lately that intentions are better than resolutions. Resolutions are "exercise 2x a week," and intentions are "become healthier." I could be wrong, but a resolution follows one of the credos of successful change, which is to make specific goals to achieve that are measurable. Intentions are vague; if you switch from eating fast food seven times a week to six you are technically living into your intention to be healthier (but are also technically well on your way to heart attack or the diabeetus).

Me, I'll stick with resolutions. I have enough vagueness in my life and too many things that are unstructured to add one more to the mix.

I have spent the last month or so really evaluating myself as a writer, so it's unsurprising that many of my resolutions either directly or indirectly support this evaluation. Mostly, I'd like to write for other people as little as possible while working on finishing some of my own projects. To that end, I present some resolutions for 2019.

1. Go on two writing retreats

This is cheating a little, as two of them are mostly scheduled. In April, I will travel to Canada (outside of Vancouver) and retreat with a motley group of painters, writers, and photographers. In June, the same retreat (with a different cast of characters but the same retreat leader, the inimitable Corey Hardeman) happens in West Virginia. If at all possible, I would like to go back to The Woods in December, a retreat in Cacapon State Park in West Virginia that I attended this year. Turns out, I will need these to actually meet the second of next year's resolutions.

2. Writer's choice: finish the second draft of my novel or the first draft of a cookbook

So this one is up in the air. The novel I wrote in December may or may not be worth continuing, and I won't get a professional opinion on that until mid-February, so I have another project that I want to start working on: interviewing my 100-year-old grandmother and writing a cookbook with her recipes. I have long wanted to formally interview my grandmother, and time is running out on this. One or the other of these provides a little structure for me and something to work on in retreat. I am also open to new projects, as I have felt something burbling around for a while and am focused on exploring that. I have also been writing more poetry, and I feel like there is something happening there as well.

Sounds like this resolution is only half-formed. So we'll see how that ends up.

In the realm of intention setting, I would like to prioritize becoming a better writer this year, working in different areas and just writing more of my own work.  The following resolutions are in support of that.

3. Schedule one more trip

I have two trips planned for 2019, both to Canada (one in March for a week, and one in July/August for three weeks). I would like to plan one more trip, possibly to Isla Mujeres to see the Underwater Museum before it goes away. Even if it's just a weekend. Travel is inspiring to me, and I want to see things. My occupation is portable, and there is no reason why I should not spend my dollars on this.

4. Explore Baltimore (and Maryland)

This is vague, much like some of my writing, but in the nearly five years that I have been back in Maryland, I have not really left my little neighborhood much. My novel is set in Highlandtown, mostly, and I enjoyed learning about that area of the city and visiting during November. Working on the novel in Highlandtown proper was really helpful to get a feel for the neighborhood. There are many places I have not really explored, either when I lived here in the early nineties or since I have been back. Same goes for Maryland. I have a running list of places to visit and things to do, and although I won't post it here, suffice it to say that I would like to cross off, oh, let's say, 75% of the things (random number. It will be fine. Really.).

5. Use my time more effectively

Social media is the Siren song I cannot ignore. I hate it. Although it connects me in important ways to people I might never have met, it is also a crutch, a time suck, and incredibly draining in the end. So I would like to limit my time on social media in 2019. I don't know exactly what that means. I am not sure that weaning myself works, so I may have to restrict days. If that doesn't work, it may be that I just have to delete it altogether.

And that's about it. I'd like to save more money and start a SEP-IRA this year (to avoid the tax man), but we will see if that happens. I won't say I am exactly hopeful about 2019, but I am curious, and that has to be enough.

What are your resolutions for 2019?

Friday, December 30, 2016

The Annual New Year's Blog

This year marks two distinct changes in the bi-annual entry for this blog as well as my entry into the new year.

Change #1: My eyebrows will not be waxed and my legs will not be shaved.

Change #2: My hair is showing distinct bits of grey.

While this may not seem significant to casual readers of this blog (and why would it? This blog is only intermittently utilized lately, which makes the whole endeavor seem casual in and of itself. But I digress.), it is, in fact, a pretty big change.

Since entering adulthod, I have never entered the new year with grey hair or ungroomed eyebrows. This ritual grooming has been grounding and constant, no matter where I am, who I am with, what I am doing, or what the state of my life is in.

So as I sit down to reflect a bit on 2016 and offer up some resolutions, I find myself a bit at loose ends.

It may be the fact that we have been traveling for a week, visiting family, and now have houseguests and are getting ready to drive two hours to visit more family.

I have tried, generally successfully, to avoid the rush and bustle of the holidays, choosing commitments carefully and intentionally, but this year things just lined up one after the other, like planes on a runway.

While all of our activities have been warm and loving, they have still been activities at a time when I prefer to hunker down under a thick blanket with a big bowl of popcorn and a good book or tons of movies. Since I now have a particular friend, this is an especially appealing way to wile away a season.

Regardless, shaved body parts and waxed eyebrows or no, it is now and has always been my routine to look at the year behind on the eve of the year ahead.

As I do so, several things spring to mind.

1. I need to unplug more.

The best times I have had this year have not been online, and the most frustrating moments have been as a result of conversations or interactions on social media. Those moments when checking in or updating my status is not an option have been the best.

2. I need to work more.

Losing my steady, lucrative writing gig halfway through the year was an eye-opener for me. While I have been able to replace much of the income that I lost, the work I am doing is neither steady nor location independent. This has been on my mind lately. I work less so that I have more freedom, but if the work requires me to be in a certain place daily, that's not freedom. Still, I need to work more on things that will eventually become more freeing.

3. I need to continue to focus on engaging with humans.

People suck. Full stop. Nothing illustrated this more than the debacle that was the 2016 election and its aftermath of moronic incidents and conversations (see #1 above: frustrating social media).

However, I have had the privilege of meeting some exceptional humans here in Baltimore, some IRL and some who are local but online (see #1 above: awesome social media). It's easy to focus on the assholes in the world because they are generally loud and easy to point out; I want to focus more on those people who are quietly amazing and worth meeting and engaging with.

4. I need to re-dedicate myself to my personal yoga practice.

After two straight years of yoga teacher training and an average of four classes a week, often with the same teachers, I feel burnt out and at a plateau in my personal yoga practice. On top of that, I am having a nagging little back pain that makes it hard for me to drag myself to the mat. Sure, I teach five times a week, but that's not taking a class. I have been seeking out new teachers at my studio and trying to focus on intention setting at the beginning of each class to try to get as much as I can out of the classes I am taking, but I feel like I need to seek out more rigorous, athletic styles to push past mental and physical blocks.

5. I need to continue to set boundaries and honor what works for me in my personal life (see #3: people suck).

A year of therapy with a really good therapist has helped me uncover some long-held beliefs and patterns that I just don't want to drag into the second half of my life. I is kind, I is smart, and I is important: this is what I need to continue to tell myself moving forward.

For this year, these are the things I want to work on. They are very personal in the sense that I am not trying to change the world, but 2017 seems like a year of pulling back a little; the election of Trump and the impending apocalypse that his neo-Nazi adminstration is facilitating means that it's time for a little prepping (like disaster prepping - canning water and the like). We have had two full years in Baltimore now, and it seems a good time to evaluate and recalibrate what needs changing.

This year,  I will be doing it with grey roots and hairy eyebrows. Seems fitting.

Are there routines that don't seem to apply to you this year? What are your resolutions for 2017?

Monday, February 15, 2016

Entering Year Four: The Worm Has Most Definitely Turned

I was not going to write anything about Dane tomorrow. I was trying to write something because I felt I should, but nothing came. 

Me. At a loss for words. #StopTheFuckingPresses. 

But it turns out I do have words. Maybe no one wants to hear them, or they will be offensive, or maybe we are not supposed to speak ill of the dead.

If you fall into any of those categories, look away now. If you harbor sweet and tender feelings for Dane, keep them to yourself.

This is not about that.

Year One was its own special kind of hell, Year Two was a whirlwind of movement, and Year Three seemed to feature us working on settling in to a new life in Charm City. As we enter Year Four, it seems to be the Year Of The Anger.

So on this anniversary, tomorrow, fuck you, Dane Kolbeck. Fuck you for leaving your child behind. Fuck you for being so selfish and self-involved. And fuck you for once again making me clean up your fucking mess. 

I haven't written anything to, for, or about you in almost a year. It's because I have been so focused on ignoring everything about the narcissistic manner in which you chose to leave this earth. And busy mopping your child off the floor of her room when she is overwhelmed with grief because you cared more for yourself than for her.

I can only heal her so much. You will be a permanent scar that I will never be able to heal for her and that will re-open with every milestone in her life. 

And for that, FUCK YOU.

I am not celebrating your life tomorrow. I doubt I will even attempt to speak fondly of you. I will nod and smile and listen to the child, but I am done glossing over what you have wrought in our lives. 

If we have picked up the pieces it is only with the love and support of every other person you left behind. If we have thrived it is because I have clawed and scratched my way back to life after your colossal act of betrayal. I have recreated myself in three years, but now there is always going to be a piece of me that will never trust anyone to come home.  There will always be that tree. There will always be that car.

As with your child, you have managed to break a fundamental piece of me that will always be broken. Damaged. 

And for that, FUCK YOU.

For all of the damage and destruction you have left in your careless, awful wake, FUCK YOU.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Happy New Year: The Annual Post

As with most of my writing, this post is unplanned.

I have tried in 2015 to become more of a planner in this regard. I bought an actual planner. I bought sticky notes.

I set up a system.

Turns out, I am not a planner when it comes to the written word. I often quote Chuck Close when I think about creative work because it is work and you need to attend to it like a job in the sense that every day you show up and do it.

While I have a fierce work ethic, I don't tend to show up and do it in my own work.

This is, not to put too fine a point on it, a shitty way to treat what matters most to me (other than The Teenager, of course).

Why on earth would I not fling myself wildly, daily, into the abyss of words that is this run-on sentence filled blog?

I think about it daily.

I write something every day.

Just not this.

Now it's the end of the year and I always reflect (among other New Year's eve rituals) on what has come before. My anxiety usually pushes me into the future, but this time every year I consistently think of what has happened over the year.

It's not an uncommon practice. In fact, nearly 50% of goals set on New Year's Eve are still in place six months later, as compared to a mere 17% of goals set other times. So others know what I know: today is a good day to plan to do better.

But I digress, as is my habit. You know, when I have no plan.

So here it is. The annual New Year's Eve post. Last year it was resolutions. In 2013 it was a haiku.

In 2015?

I am at the end and still have no plan. And maybe that's the plan: no plan for 2015. I have goals I want to reach, things I want to do, but I don't want to lose the things I have learned. The tagline of this blog is "seeking joy," and maybe it's time to come back to that.

Say yes.


Open my eyes.

Maybe no plan is exactly the plan.

People who know me might be shocked by that, but things are different. I am different. Life is different.

Whatever your plan/no plan is for 2016, if you are reading this, I wish you joy, abundance, happiness. Knowing you will never step in the same river twice, may you enjoy the feeling of the water on your toes and the gravel beneath your feet. May those you love love you back as wildly and fiercely as their heart allows. And may you continue walking in the direction of your dreams.

Happy New Year.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Giving Tuesday: Five Donations That Don't Involve Money

Even your salad loves it when you give.

Today is Giving Tuesday, the annual push to encourage people to give generously to causes they believe in at least one day of the year.

But what does "generous" mean?

There used to be a commercial that feature round-bellied kids or sad-eyed animals in cages that had the slogan "give until it hurts." I don't believe in that at all. Giving should be joyful and feel really good, warm and fuzzy and bubbly. Yes, I know what the slogan means, but sometimes it's important to reaffirm that giving feels good and should be done as frequently as possible. So we all can see how giving doesn't always mean money, here are five ways to give that are no monetary on Giving Tuesday:

1. Give time: This one is a common suggestion, but what does it mean to give time? Do you have to volunteer for it to count? Nope. Giving time can mean paying full and whole-hearted attention to your kid or your partner as they talk about their day. It can mean taking five or ten minutes and really being with your dog or cat (in the way that they love, even if it means putting up with them licking you, which I hate but which my dogs love.). By giving undivided attention you are sending the message that this person in front of you matters. Maybe this will be the stone in the pond that ripples outward.

2. Give extras: Give away books, clothing, household goods, electronics. Give away furniture and old appliances that work but you don't need. But don't just give them to a thrift store. Find people and organizations in need and give directly to them. Women's shelters for domestic abuse victims always need baby and children's clothes and diapers, and many of the women need professional clothes to interview for work. Contact the shelter and donate directly. Animal shelters always need old blankets and towels, and they can also always use toys, food, and newspapers. Clear out your attic, stop holding onto stuff you don't need, and give it to people who can use it.

Side note: giving away stained and ripped clothing is ungenerous and stingy. Throw those out and do better.

3. Give food: You know those ubiquitous "buy one, get one free" specials at the store? Starting today, bag the free one separately and donate it directly to a food bank. Or go through a community organization and adopt a family through the holidays. This can be especially important for families with children who may get most of their food through school. Once the holidays hit and school goes on break, they may struggle.

Side note: Really focus on nutritious food. My school ran a food bank for two years, and it was astonishing the crap that people donated. The "it's better than nothing" rationale is bullshit. Look for tuna, canned veggies, canned beans, rice, and pasta. Only give what you yourself would eat or feed your family. Stay away from cookies and other processed crap. If you must do that, try to find healthier versions. Low-income folks suffer disproportionately from Type 2 diabetes and obesity. Don't make it worse.

4. Give shelter where there is none: This year, The Teenager and I have made up large Ziploc bags filled with comfort items for homeless people we see. They have hand warmers, socks, a couple bars, travel-sized baby wipes, and a few odds and ends in each. We keep these in the car and hand them out when we get accosted. We carry one around with us. If I am being honest (which I always try to be), I don't 100% trust that a person on the street is going to use my money for food or shelter. I don't believe they are stranded and just trying to get back home. And I have had food thrown back in my face when I have given it to them. But they are people, and I can't do nothing. So we came up with the idea of comfort items and portable foodstuffs. The bags probably cost more to put together than the dollar or two I would give, but that's okay.

5. Give skill: Do you have a vital skill that you can give to the world, free of charge? Can you write a resume, build a bench, teach a class, tutor a child, or train someone to cook? Do that. Is there something you are passionate about that you can offer into the world? Do that. I am a yoga teacher, and my goal is to teach at least one class free a month. In this, I give not only physical fitness but also mindfulness, good karma, and skills to apply in the world; it's a type of giving that goes beyond the class. I am a writer, and I currently mentor two other writers who are just starting out, previewing pitches and pieces and offering suggestions and guidance when needed. This follows the apprenticeship model and also helps me continue to do what I love (teach) while connecting with other humans (which, let's be honest, I don't always love. The other humans. So it helps me get out into the world, which I need. But I digress.). Donating knowledge is the gift that truly keeps on giving.

So don't give until it hurts; give until you are bathed in the soft glow of self-congratulatory generosity. Give until you feel so good about yourself that you glow like a lightning bug. It's okay to feel good about yourself when you give. Give with no expectation of thanks, recognition, or reciprocation. Do it for the sake of the action.

Can you make a pledge to participate in giving, today and in the future? What will you give?