lemonade, anyone?

There’s that saying, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” Haha, we laugh. Sure. I don’t even like lemonade, but you got it.

Life has given me a lot of lemons over the past ten years.

Yeah, yeah. “Look for the positive — focus on the good!” Isn’t that the other phrase we hear? Easy to say, much easier said than done.

But still we try. Or at least we move on. Or at least we keep getting up every morning, putting two feet on the floor, and shuffling towards the door. We go through the motions without a clear picture of where we’re going — just knowing that this is what we’re supposed to do, this is how to escape the fog and move towards the light.

Someday things will make sense.

We hope.

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Stairway into the fog at Dalmaji Hill, Busan, South Korea, taken on my trip in 2011.

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A detail I never fully explained was why, as a California native, I chose to go to graduate school in Tennessee. Sure, I like Tennessee (I did go to college here), but . . . Move away from my family? Move back to the humidity? Why would any fine-haired new aunt choose to do that? (My hair is incorrigible here, and I miss my nephew so much!)

A simple reason: finances. When I was looking into graduate school, I knew I couldn’t afford to do it on my own. I didn’t want to go deep into student loan debt, so I looked into programs with assistantships that offered funding. UT was one of these, and when I was accepted, I was thrilled. But there was a catch. I’d been accepted to the program, but I hadn’t been offered funding.

Well, damn.

So last April I flew to Tennessee and met with the program’s director and, together, we hatched a crazy plan. I’d move to Tennessee, start school on my own, and reapply for funding in spring. If I got it, I’d be fully funded for the following two years. If I didn’t, well . . . I’d be back to square one.

Well — deep breath — go.

Fast-forward one year and here I am in Tennessee and for months I’ve been waiting to hear if I got funding. I wasn’t on the initial offer list (that was heartbreaking), but as everything shook out, I found out recently that I was, in fact, offered funding for next year.

There is a God, lol.

No, seriously. I’ve had my doubts.

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An optimistic view of Knoxville, looking west. Taken on a ride a couple days ago.

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It’s been all sunshine here in Knoxville for the past couple of days, and yesterday on my drive to class — in my beloved 18-year-old Jetta, sunroof open and windows rolled down — I couldn’t help feeling something I haven’t felt in a very long time: optimistic. I’m still scared sh*tless most days. The future is murky and there’s still sadness behind and a resistance to letting go and always the very real chance of being let down again (and again, and again and again and again). But somewhere in there I hope tenacity is rewarded. Grit is its own strength. And life experience — in all of its varieties — is what connects us.

It’s what’s connected me to you.

Lemonade? Anyone?

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*Lemonade image credit to Smirnoff.com

life in cubicles

deskSometimes life doesn’t give you what you expect. And sometimes that’s okay.

I haven’t written in a while. Not because I haven’t wanted to. Not because I don’t have things to say. It’s just…

There hasn’t been time.

I have thoughts about guilt, family, priorities, life, plans, the unexpected, the past, the future, poetry… (I need to write another poem.)

And perhaps tomorrow I’ll find the time. Perhaps tomorrow, I’ll be able to breathe. As for today… I don’t want to blow surprises by giving rushed summaries because my mind is hurried. And so, please…

How many posts will I write like this, at the end of the work day, in the silence of the office? Just me and the clicking of keys on a keyboard in the cubicle beside me? There’s a man over there who works in a different part of the Agency – I don’t know his name or what he looks like or what he does. But I always know he’s over there because of his clicking… It’s sad when life is to be spent working in cubicles. But then again, life and work in cubicles is important, too…

And I try so hard to be diligent at work, but if I always wait until 5pm…? My posts end up looking like this.

meant to be

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Jessica,

Thanks for writing that very nice article about us three new administratoris in Geyserville. It is always nice to see positive press in the newspapers, or at least a balance. You write very well–clear, concise, and not a lot of fluff. So, thank you again and let us know if you need anything else down the road.

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It’s comments like these that tell me I’m right: I was meant to be a writer. No, not a reporter. A writer.

The article this man mentions is located here. It’s an assignment I got as a freelancer at a local paper here in Santa Rosa. It’s a position I got after being rejected yet again for a full-time reporting job. It’s an opportunity to produce clips and, hopefully, make (more) connections.

My half Ironman was this past Sunday. It didn’t go as planned. I will write more soon, but, in the meantime, thank you–all of you–for your encouragement over these past few years.

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Image: mymodernmet.com

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looking for the bright side

window

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I had it all worked out. And then it didn’t.

I was working as a *teacher’s assistant, applying for jobs elsewhere. The teaching thing wasn’t going well: my student was a nightmare. I dreaded going to work every day, and then —

A reporting job came available. It was at a small paper twenty miles away, and it was perfect. The staff was small; the paper, bi-weekly. I didn’t have a lot of experience, but, surely I stood a chance here.

I had an interview; it went well. Wrote a test article; it went went well, too. And then I waited. And waited. The editor had had a few more interviews to do, so . . . Continue reading

will we never learn?

m-2339Bloody Sunday. Selma. These are names, places, that ring bells in many Americans’ minds. My boyfriend grew up in Alabama. He says every Alabamian’s skin prickles when they hear these terms.

No one has good recollections of Selma.

I won’t tell you all of the things that happened on Bloody Sunday. I myself didn’t know the story until recently. I was writing an article for the newspaper. A local man was there when it happened. He had his story to tell. So it goes.

So it goes that, back in the sixties, African-Americans weren’t allowed to vote — even though they legally were. In the South, in places like Selma, only two percent of blacks had been able to register. Because of this, and because of the senseless killing of a man named Jimmie Lee Jackson, protestors organized a march from Selma to Montgomery on March 7, 1965. They were trying to gain national support for their cause. They were trying to gain what should have already had: Equality. Continue reading

children’s stories

chinese childI was trying to write a children’s story. I wasn’t any good at it.

My language was too dense.
My thoughts, too dull.
My words too extreme.
My heart, too full.

Because you see…

Life is hard, children. And we make it that way. We grow from you — so innocent, wide-eyed, full of joy — and turn into…? Monsters. We are monsters, children. Everyone one of us. Even the best of us. Monsters. Continue reading

the fire in my heart

It may be old news to some, or too distant to matter for others, but for me, the King Fire hits home.

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Placerville is my hometown. Pollock Pines is just up the road. I can’t count the number of times I’ve driven past this sign on my way home from Lake Tahoe. Continue reading

why we write

writer….
Tell tell a story.

To tell our stories.

To share our hearts.

To fall apart.

To pull ourselves together.

To communicate.

To inform.

To breathe in.

To exhale.

To forgive.

To forget.

To remember.

To hope.

To kill hope.

To grieve.

To understand.

To apologize.

To express.

To think.

To garble.

To worry.

To cry.

To laugh.

To sigh.

To hurt.

To heal.

To give.

To receive.

To send secret messages.

To laugh.

To learn.

To love.

To fight.

To die.

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We write because we have no other choice.

Because writing consumes us or we consume it.

Because it gives voice to our tears, wind to our wings, air to our everything.

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We write because we are alive.

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Why do you write? Do you?

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“If I don’t write to empty my mind, I go mad.”

— Lord Byron

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fifty-word lament

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You were right. I never should have followed my heart. I should have been a doctor, or a nurse, or a dentist, or a teacher. Doing what you love means nothing in the world of commercialism. Proving you have talent is impossible when no one will give you a chance.
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A moment of discouragement. I’ll be back soon with happier thoughts. Promise.

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Image: Berkeley Walking Bridge. Mine. All rights reserved.

 

 

dead man’s lament

cemetery 3From darkness I came,
to darkness I went,
and wondered, inane,
how my days were spent.
As there in my grave,
in coffin so cool,
regret was a wave:
“Had I been a fool?”

My days had been good,
my days had been bad,
The life that I led,
was all that I had.
But what had I thought?
How far did I think?
Had I seen it not —
this critical kink?

See, money was mine,
and power and fame.
And all was a sign,
I’d much to acclaim!
And if I lacked love,
I wasn’t to blame.
That came from above,
was God’s little game! Continue reading

lessons not learned (now learned!)

macbookHave you ever done something stupid and said, “That’s it — never again,” and then done it again . . . and again and again?

I have.

Last night, after putzing around on my blog for several hours, I decided to wipe down my MacBook before heading to bed. I am a clean freak, and while I love the sleek design of most Apple products, the fingerprints and other marks that love to show up on my screen drive me nuts. Well, I got out my Windex (I ran out of electronics cleaner a while ago and keep forgetting to replace it), sprayed it on a soft napkin, and then proceeded to “Cypherize” my computer . . . Only there was this one smudge that wouldn’t come off. I rubbed and rubbed . . . It was late, and I was tired, and in my impatience, I decided to use the Windex bottle to spray the spot directly. I did, and wiped it and the rest of the keyboard squeaky clean, and “Wha-la!” I went to bed and forgot all about it . . .

Until this morning. This morning, my keyboard freaked out. Continue reading

message in a bottle

bottle2So I’m chatting with a blogger friend today, and we’re talking — what else? — blogs. And I say, “I feel bad — I haven’t been keeping up with anyone’s blogs lately. Even just responding to comments on my own silly site takes a lot of time . . . I really enjoy your stuff, though! You’re a good writer.”

And he says, “Thank you. You’re an excellent writer, too. And your blog isn’t silly. It’s intense.”

Suddenly, I can’t breathe. I freeze in my tracks.

There it is — that word. INTENSE.

[Banging my head against the wall] “Lol. Intense. Yeah, that’s me . . . Too much so. It’s my greatest strength and biggest flaw.”

And he says, “I only see it as a strength, but . . .” Continue reading

missing

Danshui Harbor

Danshui, Taiwan

Sometimes you don’t know how much something means to you until . . .

I looked. I looked again. What on earth?

My jewelry box was missing.

Where could it have gone?

It was late. I was tired. But I couldn’t sleep–not now. I began searching. Under the bathroom sink, behind the toilet, in my backpack, in the trashcan . . .

In the trashcan? you’re probably thinking. Are you crazy?

Perhaps I should explain. Continue reading

school of hard knocks

KBS-school-of-hard-knocks_pasteup-1024x768I cried yesterday. I never cry.

Because of the weird way in which my local paper works (it’s a tiny paper), content I write often appears online before it appears in the printed edition. This can be both good and bad. It is good when I am eager to see what the editor has done with my work—usually he changes very little, of which I am proud. It is bad, however, when I have made a mistake and someone catches it, but, alas, it is too late to make changes before the article goes to print.

That is what happened this weekend. Continue reading