Wednesday, December 2, 2015

On Hiatus Until 2016!

Hey y'all,

It's that time of year again where I don't have much time to blog, so I'm going to take a break until next year! But you can expect another installment of "New Year, New Playlist" to kick things off in 2016. I hope everyone has a safe and happy holiday season, and as always, I will be available via e-mail (


Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Failure to Read

There are times when I am absolutely useless as a reader. This year seems to be worse than most in that regard. I have six months' worth of Smithsonian issues stacked up, plus a few literary magazines that came in awhile back. Since arriving in Louisiana, I haven't finished a book start to finish, though I was able to wrap up my reading on two or three volumes.

Maybe this is okay; I'm not sure. After all, we need to take a break from certain things now and then. But it kind of hurts me that I'm not as active in my reading life as I have been at times in the past. For example, when I was in grad school, I read more than I ever have in my life, and not only because many books were assigned to me--I was able to make my way through many other volumes on my own, as well. But now that I (theoretically) have more time on my hands? I'm a mess!

Of course, none of this has stopped me from going to the bookstore any time I get a chance. So I am making sure that I do my part to support writers in a financial sense. And maybe that's the best we can hope for in times of stress: making the contribution we are able, even if it isn't the one for which we hoped.


Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Not Much, Just Chillin'

There are times when I simply don't have much to say. There may be a million things bouncing around in my brain, but that doesn't mean a single coherent thought will make an appearance and metamorphose into a beautiful blog post.

This is one of those times. But the fact is, I have to keep doing this. It's not my first love, blogging. It's not even my second or my third. Rather, I find it to be an interesting and necessary exercise in sticking to a schedule. Hence these two paragraphs.

That's all.


Wednesday, November 11, 2015

The Louisiana List

As I often do when I have a thing to ponder, I ran this Louisiana move past my friend Maureen prior to making a decision. And, per usual, it was an excellent, multi-day conversation. Below, you'll see the pros and cons list I sent to her across the course of 48 hours or so.


Pro: Beignets.
Con: Bobby Jindal.

Pro: I’ve never been to Louisiana!
Con: I’ve never even been to Louisiana.

Pro: I could work on my French.

Pro: I know people there.
Con: It’s stuck between Mississippi and Texas.

Pro: New experiences.
Con: No more quick, easy access to my Canadian escape route in the event of a Trump presidency. [Side note: as I mentioned previously, I'm now closer to Mexico than Canada, but it's still a good 9 hours away, which makes fleeing the country that much more difficult.]

Pro: Moving to Louisiana would inadvertently help me achieve my goal of visiting half the states by the time I’m 30, because I would have to drive through some new ones on the way.
Con: It’s over 1,000 miles from here to there.

Pro: I wouldn’t have to work retail for awhile.
Con: I would lose my sweet employee discount.

Pro: It would give me an opportunity to quit my job by saying, “Hey, remember that time I have to move to Louisiana next week?”
Con: I would have to make some tough book-packing decisions.


In the end, of course, I came to Louisiana. And it was good.


Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Mo' Money, Mo' Problems

Let's be clear at the start: the "mo' money" referenced in the post title is not my own money, but the amount of money I'm required to deal with each day, because this is a post about retail life.

Working retail took so much out of me. When you're employed in an open area like a store, you always--always--have to be "on." There's no hiding behind a closed office door. Even going to the food court on your lunch break can be strenuous, because you never know when a customer is going to walk by and ask you about their purchase. (This situation is ameliorated slightly by the fact that many eateries give mall employees a 10 percent discount on their orders.)

It's one thing not to be free to sigh or frown or even sneeze too loudly, but for me, what hurt the most was the knowledge that I could be spending that time either reading or writing, or at the very least doing something other than running a register. No disrespect to any of my former co-workers; I got along with all of them, and I remain grateful for that. It's just that retail isn't what I'm supposed to do with my life, and I have always known that. (Maybe not always. But at least since middle school.)

Some people thrive in a retail environment, or at least don't get bummed out by their position. I'm not that girl. And I'm so grateful for the stroke of good luck that allowed me to escape the mall, at least for a few months.


Wednesday, October 28, 2015

No Sleep 'Til Bayou

So. After taking an unintentional, retail-schedule-induced hiatus in September, I ended up having to schedule a second, more deliberate hiatus from posting on this blog. Yes, I had two posts in my queue, which was good, but before I had an opportunity to produce any more, a thing happened: I landed a new job.

But it's not as simple as that. I was given the opportunity to move to Louisiana for the sake of my (non-retail, non-writing) career. As a result, I've been packing and traveling and unpacking and learning the ropes and settling into my new role. 

Prior to 7 October, I had never set foot in Louisiana. This is a brand-new adventure, although the type of employment itself is familiar to me. (Due to privacy concerns, I will not be discussing work in any detail for the time being.) Obviously, a few things in my life have changed, and there are three major ones induced by the move. First, I have never lived anywhere outside the Eastern Time Zone. Second, none of my homes have been west of the Mississippi River. Third, this is the first time I have resided closer to Mexico than Canada.

Thus far, I haven't seen much of the state aside from the roads that brought me to my destination, but I am super-excited about the possibilities for exploration here. If nothing else comes of my time at this job (and I'm sure it will), I know that I'll be able to indulge my love for history and literature while I'm around.

Here's to new adventures!


Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Going the Distance

As some readers know, I am currently working a retail job. The store that employs me is about 45 minutes away from where I currently live. To some, this seems like an absurd commute. However, for many years when I was living in North Carolina, it was not at all unusual for me to have to drive 30, 45, or even 60 minutes in order to get to a doctor's appointment, a mall, or a decent restaurant. To a suburbanite, 45 minutes can seem like an eternity, but it doesn't feel that way to me most days because I still have a certain kind of mentality about distances and times. 

But my views on this continue to evolve. For example, right now, I am dictating this blog post to my phone while I am stuck in a traffic jam on a Thursday afternoon on my way to work. The fact is that my hour-and-a-half round trip commute, which often takes place in the afternoon and late at night, given my current schedule, is starting to wear on me. This is not because I do not enjoy my job; as far as I'm concerned, I have incredibly nice coworkers, and the work is really not so bad. Rather, it's because of those 90 minutes I lose every day.

Those are 90 minutes when I am not--and, in the main, cannot be--working on my writing. As you can tell from this blog post, I've managed to find a way around that, but only in some cases. For me, it is much easier to dictate a blog post than it is to dictate a poem or short story. Dictating a blog post is not unlike having a conversation, even though that conversation is with myself, seeing as how my posts are never particularly universal. (Side note: due to the nature of voice-to-text technology, I'm actually spending a great deal more time transcribing this than I would like; it would seem that my iPhone cannot tell the difference between me saying "poem" and "home," and that hinders my understanding of my own words sometimes.)

Unfortunately, this is not a solid strategy for my poetry, because I am the kind of person who cannot even whip up a piece on my computer; I must have a pen and some paper at my disposal. I am also not the kind of person who can remember a line indefinitely and keep it in my brain if it comes to me at the start of a retail shift, or really any time when I don't have access to materials with which to record the thought. My managers have previously found me with Post-Its, jotting down notes for poems. Luckily, they are very nice people and have never tried to stop me or discipline me for doing such a thing, and I've worked hard to make sure I'm only doing it when the store is slow and I do not have a customer waiting for me.

So, on the one hand, hooray for my brain being able to compose a blog post on the fly! But on the other, boo on the commute. Obviously I'm going to have to find a way to work around this, possibly by giving up a bit of sleep to offset the lost time, or perhaps sitting down during breaks and lunches with the intention of producing something. Because if there's one thing I absolutely cannot do, it is stop writing.


Wednesday, October 7, 2015

What Was Lost

Okay, so. Y'all are going to judge me for this post, and that's understandable, but try to stick with me, okay? Because there are some life lessons here, I think.

Sometime in the next year (I decline to say when, exactly), I'm going to reach a milestone birthday: 30. I am in no way prepared for this eventuality, in spite of having had three decades to brace myself for it.

There are many reasons why I'm overwhelmingly trepidatious about turning 30. Most of them have to do with not being where I thought I would be by that age: career, relationship, and so on. But there is one more, decidedly superficial explanation. I will not be getting my spectacular "Happy 30th Birthday!" gift to myself.

Once upon a time, I decided that I would start saving money with the intention of purchasing a (secondhand) Hermés Kelly at 30. It's the pinnacle of luxury--classier than its more popular sister the Birkin and lovingly hand-crafted from the finest materials in the world by master artisans. This was meant to be my way of congratulating myself for making it so far when I had strong suspicions that I wouldn't. Was the price sure to be steep? Yes. Let's not even talk about how outrageous it would be for me to spend all of my money on such an item or how even just five years ago when I hatched this plan, it would have cost MUCH less to accomplish the task.

But I had made other things happen: I wanted to take a trip outside of North America before I hit a quarter-century, and I managed it through an unexpected stroke of good luck as well as some generosity on the part of others; I wanted to have my second chapbook published before I was 30, and I persevered until I signed not one but two publication contracts. So in a way, I failed myself by not getting enough money together for that Kelly.

This hurts me a little. Not just because I'm materialistic and acquisitive--which I definitely am--but also because it's another reminder of the things I've lost along the way. Before you judge me too harshly, I would like to make it clear that I appreciate everything I DO have: a roof over my head (thanks, Mom and Dad), a job (thanks, Nancy and Becky), a modicum of good health (THANKS, OBAMA!), and more. So this is a sort of lament for what could have been in general, rather than a petulant complaint about an item I don't have in my closet.

Obviously I can--and will--live without yet another handbag, and a costly one, at that. But this knowledge doesn't negate the creeping notion that I may, in fact, be some kind of a failure. After more than a year out of my beloved office, I haven't been able to regain a foothold in my previous career track, which hurts enough in and of itself. More than that, though, I'm the girl who had to move back in with her parents (again, thank you, Mom and Dad) and can't even pay her own cell phone bill or feed herself (seriously, thank you). 

So, you see, it isn't really about the bag.

On the plus side, Little Dog is always at my side, my friends stuck around, my current job mostly doesn't suck, and I haven't run out of books to read. Plus, I get to see Niece and Nephew more often. When I start to get gloomy about the state of my life, I have to list these things off so I don't lose sight of this: not everything was lost.


Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Stumble Your Way Into a New Language Today!

Back in July, I made a brief reference to my so-called self-improvement regimen. As I noted at the time, this consists largely of my attempt to re-learn French, which I never spoke well in the first place.

In the years since I first studied française (circa 1999-2001), I have also taken one and a half years of Spanish courses and made an attempt at some German, which turned out to be useless in spite of the fact that I'm fluent in a Germanic language. The reason I keep coming back to French is not as simple as saying that it was the first language I studied other than my own, although that is true to some extent. It's also wrapped up in the fact that English, as a language, was heavily influenced by French thanks to the Norman Invasion of 1066.

Maybe it's even a little bit because I grew up in what was once a French territory (heyyyy, Antoine Laumet de La Mothe, sieur de Cadillac). But that last explanation doesn't hold much water. The military enclave that grew into the Motor City, Fort Pontchartrain du Détroit, should rightly be pronounced DAY-twa, yet we Michiganders managed to mangle it into Duh-troyt. (This might be a good time to tell you that I hate when people call it DEE-troyt. I am looking in your direction, Chris Sherman.)

My point is this: I have no easily-identifiable motivation for why I'm more inclined toward the study of French. But I'm trying to work with what IS there.

My fluency does not seem to be improving, as evidenced by the fact that I am more or less stuck in the present tense. My methodology is imprecise at best: I use a combination of materials including a used but excellent copy of the level-one French textbook that was employed by my school district when I was going through the system, a text by Barron's called French Now! that totally doesn't suck, and the now-ubiquitous langauge-learning application Duolingo.

Duolingo is great because it allows you to take your lessons along to the doctor's office, your lunch break, what have you. On the other hand, it also tends to produce sentences like this: 

Still, this is better than nothing. While no one forces me to speak French (as I once forced my ESL students to speak English), I have been fairly diligent about studying every day. And I think the fact that I've kept up says something about me, and not just that I spend too much time alone in the house. Rather, it says (to me, at least) that I haven't given up on myself completely, as I have often wanted to do in the past year or so. Plus, it allows me to focus my intellectual energy somewhere in the absence of colleagues and friends who know about and understand my academic pursuits.

Will I ever go to France and put this imperfect knowledge to use? I couldn't say. But at least I'll know my self-improvement plan worked to an extent, and this is one of the first times in my life I can say that.