Singing: The Ultimate Detox

Image courtesy of thehoopla.com.au

Image courtesy of thehoopla.com.au

Perhaps it is because I’ll be singing karaoke in January or maybe I just need to howl at the moon—whatever the case, I’ve recently found myself singing loudly, well, everywhere. I do most of my singing on my commute to any one of the three colleges I teach at, but I also sing at home and while running errands.

A while back, I wrote a post on the link between grief and song, but my current penchant for belting out various tunes has me wondering what other connections there might be between singing and everyday life. Here’s a short list of possibilities I’ve come up with:

  • I just like the feeling of being loud
  • Singing acts like a catharsis, a release of frustration (I am a teacher, after all) and, as previously mentioned, grief (I recorded a podcast about my very recent journey with grief after the sudden death of a family member.)
  • I’m super serious about prepping for karaoke
  • One of my not-so-secret wishes is to be a rockstar, and singing loudly helps me live out this dream, even if only for a pretend audience

Whatever the reason (and the list above is by no means exhaustive), I find I always feel refreshed after indulging in some screamo or holding an extra long note. I’m not super into regular “cleanses” that involve only drinking juices or other dietary restrictions, so maybe singing is my detox and way of giving voice (no pun intended) to all that is not language within me yet.

Your turn: Do you like to sing? If so, what are your reasons? Is it for fun or might there be another purpose?

An Imagined WA (Workaholics Anonymous) Meeting

Image courtesy of onlinecareertips.com

Image courtesy of onlinecareertips.com

(Note: This post is the first of it’s kind for me—I wrote it in about five minutes. No editing. No nothing. Stream of consciousness. Makes me nervous, but I trust this is a safe place to let some of this out.)

Hello. My name is Michelle, and I’m a workaholic.

(All: Hi, Michelle).

It might be the result of being the only child of a single parent or just beginning my life with a type-A personality, but I tend to work myself to death. No one asks this of me—I demand it of myself.

And yet, as I get older, I realize I can’t keep up the frenetic pace. I started thinking there was something wrong with me because I couldn’t keep up break-neck speed. But it wasn’t until my husband said, “I’m worried about you” that I was willing to admit that it was my schedule and the pressure I put on myself that was the problem.

This means taking on less work. This means less money, which, as a former welfare recipient, honestly scares the shit out of me. I don’t ever want to rely on the system again. But that can’t be synonymous with not relying on those closest to me.

Yes, it means less of what I’ve grown used to, but what else might it mean? More free time for sure. More time to write, to make art, to sleep (oh, glorious sleep!). More energy for my students. More time with my husband. More reading. Kinda makes the old adage “Less is more” take on a whole new meaning.

Its tough redefining who you thought you were. I thought I was the perpetual happy-go-lucky person, then my depression worsened. I thought I was a type-A person through and through. I think it might be true to a certain extent, but it’s wiping me out. It’s wrecking my health.

I’m scared. I’ve been here before. But all the scary steps I’ve taken in the past have paid dividends, though not always right away. I have to trust (God, myself, the people in my life) that this will also turn out OK.

If We Were Having Coffee…Winter Edition

No picture of me with a drink today. I'm sniffly :(

No picture of me with a drink today. I’m sniffly 😦

(Not sure what this series is about? Check out the first post here!)

If we were having coffee…I’d tell you that I’m not quite ready for school to start. For as much as I enjoy teaching, the holiday break didn’t quite feel like enough time. Perhaps this is because I was sick through most of break (see above photo) and am still trying to get over whatever it is I have. I had my first day of class this past Thursday and am happy to report it went well. This week starts the real grind with assignment sheets and keeping up with reading and grading.

If we were having coffee…I’d tell you that Poetry Monday is on a hiatus. My poetry well is experiencing a bit of a drought. I started Poetry Monday because my cup was full, and I had so much to share. Now I’m struggling a bit, so I’m putting it on an indefinite hold (though I’ll reassess at the mid-year point) to fill my well again. In the meantime, I’ll be sharing other fun things on Mondays (and other days too).

If we were having coffee…I’d tell you that I just wrote a letter to a friend. And it felt awesome! I think letter (or card) writing is a long lost art. Sure, people do it during the holidays, but what about the rest of the year? I vote we bring back snail mail somethin’ fierce!

I’d ask you what you thought of letter writing. I’d also ask when was the last time you wrote an honest-to-goodness handwritten letter.

If we were having coffee…I’d tell you that so far, I’m doing OK with my New Year’s resolutions. I think trimming down the number of goals has a lot to do with it. My goals also focus on areas of my life I really want to improve rather than on areas I “should” improve. Perhaps my favorite goal to work on thus far is daily meditation. I find I look forward to this practice. Who knew sitting still for a few minutes each day could be so rewarding?

I’d ask you what you hope to accomplish this year.

If we were having coffee…I’d tell you that I want to offer one or two writing e-courses this summer and am nervous about it. The usual questions pop up (What if no one signs up? What if people sign up but don’t like it? etc). I’d tell you that I’ve been pushing those thoughts aside and have been trying to move forward.

I’d also tell you there was a way you could help me form these courses. I’ve prepared a short, eight-question survey to gauge interest in these types of courses as well as collect stats on the type of content people would love to see in a writing e-course. Interested in giving your two cents? Take the survey!

If we were having coffee…I’d tell you that my life has all the marking of an adult life, but I still feel like a kid. I’m married. I have a somewhat steady income from my freelance work. I pay rent. But I’m always silly! I don’t know…I guess I figured that at some point I’d feel like I knew what I was doing. I’m actually just enjoying playing….that seems like the real me. I feel like even when my husband and I decide to have kids, we’ll still play. Perhaps that’s a big part of what parenting is: showing your kids how to play well at life.

I’d ask you if there was a moment that really made you feel like an honest-to-goodness adult.

Now it’s your turn! What would you tell me if we were having coffee?

If We Were Having Coffee…Wedding Edition!

Not sure what this feature is all about? Check out the first post here!

Blowing on my hot apple cider!

Blowing on my hot apple cider!

If we were having coffee…I’d tell you that the wedding went so well! Yes, I was stressed at the start of the day, but once we were underway, it was magic!

I nearly cried during the vows.

Vows

All wedding photos by Suzy Rahn

My goodness, the food was delicious!

Om nom nom!

Om nom nom!

The dancing was so fun!

IMG_8608

And I got to spend time with many of the people I care most about!

IMG_8038

Some of my closest friends. I couldn’t get everyone in one shot, alas.

Me and my husband with my side of the family

Me and my husband with my side of the family.

Oh yeah, and I get to spend the rest of my life with the man I love most 🙂

Dip Kiss

Ooh la la!

If we were having coffee…I’d tell you that the honeymoon was so lovely. My husband (still getting used to the title!) and I went on a cruise.

The weather wasn’t ideal, but we had some shining moments.

View from the room on the first full day.

Morning view from the room on the first full day.

View on the last full day.

Sunset on the last full day.

And we met some incredible people!

IMG_1099 IMG_1105 IMG_1108 IMG_1060 IMG_1041

This post would not be complete without a solo of "baby face" George.

This post would not be complete without a selfie of “baby face” George.

If we were having coffee…I’d tell you that coming back to reality after such an incredible week is difficult. But having great people to come back to (yes, even my students) is lovely.

I’d ask you what you think the hardest part of coming back from a vacation is.

If we were having coffee…I’d tell you that while I enjoy teaching, I’m looking forward to the end of the semester and the holiday season.

I’d ask you what your favorite part of December is.

If we were having coffee…I’d tell you I’m behind on my Christmas shopping :-/

I’d ask you how the crazy holiday season is shaping up for you.

Now it’s your turn! What would you tell me if we were having coffee?

If We Were Having Coffee…

A few days ago, I saw this post from Jamie over at Perpetual Page Turner. I thought, “What a super cool idea!” I love that, as a blogger, I can interact with my followers in a more personal way. So, I decided to follow suit and write my own “If We Were Having Coffee” post (thought I enjoy hot chocolate more. But, well, “If We Were Having Coffee” is a way more attractive blog post title than “If We Were Each Partaking in Our Warm Beverages of Choice”).

I've got my cocoa and cinnamon! And why yes, that is Katniss Everdeen behind me.

I’ve got my cocoa and cinnamon! And why yes, that is Katniss Everdeen behind me.

Here’s the idea: I share what’s going on with me right now with you, the reader, as if we were sitting together, cozy and sharing life over warm mugs 🙂 I’m going to ask you questions too, so feel free to respond via comment or e-mail (roaringout (at) gmail (dot) com). So grab a mug of your warm beverage of choice (hmm, maybe that alternate blog title would work…) and join me:

If we were having coffee…I’d tell you that I much prefer hot chocolate with cinnamon.

I’d ask you what your favorite warm beverage is.

If we were having coffee…I’d tell you that I felt like the absolute worst teacher yesterday. I was caught in horrendous traffic with no way of getting in touch with my 8 am class. I arrived 20 minutes late, and my students had understandably left (our classroom is locked and I’m the only one who can open it). They did leave a note with the names of all who were present, which was responsible of them. I felt like “such a fucking failure” (to quote myself from a 10-minute freewrite I did during class time since no students were present). I harp on my students to be on time and to not waste my time, their time, or their fellow classmates’ time, yet that’s exactly what I did, though not intentionally. Even after I e-mailed the class to explain, I felt like it was not enough.

If we were having coffee…I’d tell you that I also practiced being kind to myself yesterday. Everyone makes mistakes. The semester is a month in, and I’ve extended grace to many of my students. I shouldn’t feel ashamed to ask for a bit of grace as well.

I’d ask you about a time when you felt bad, but learned to practice being kind to yourself.

If we were having coffee…I’d tell you that I’m super excited, though nervous, about selling my art at a local craft fair on Sunday. I’ve still got a bunch of prep to do, but it also means that I know I’ll prioritize fun, crafty work!

I’d ask you what opportunities are you excited about. What risks, however small or great, are you taking?

If we were having coffee…I’d tell you I’m also super excited yet nervous about getting married next month. I love that I get to spend the rest of my life with the most amazing man in the universe (I may or may not be biased…), but, oh boy, weddings are a lot of work! I’ve got most things under control, I just don’t like planning for long-term projects. I know everything will be worth it the day of; I just have to keep reminding myself of this fact.

I’d ask you to tell me about a time when you were nervous, but everything turned out OK.

If we were having coffee…I’d tell you that I’m a bit frustrated with myself for not making more “me” time; that is, time to write, to be crafty, to read, to do things that I love.

I’d ask you what you like to do during “me” time. I’d also ask how you make time for the things you love to do, as opposed to the things you have to do.

If we were having coffee…I’d tell you that I’m so excited about fall TV lineups starting again. I love so many shows (Supernatural and Walking Dead, anyone?) that I can barely keep track!

I’d ask you what your favorite fall shows are.

OK, I think that’s good for now. Your turn! Feel free to respond in the comments or via e-mail to me. I’m looking forward to your side of the conversation 🙂

The Wanderer’s Guide to Life

“I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.” ~ Douglas Adams

Galaxies are so large that stars can be consid...

Galaxies are so large that stars can be considered particles next to them (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When I graduated college nearly five years ago, I would not have considered myself a wanderer (or hitchhiker, as is the case with Douglas Adams).  I was a girl with a very narrow focus on life, and I thought I knew what I wanted: a steady 9-5 job as an Editorial Assistant at a publishing company where I would climb the ranks and, when I got married (who knows when that was going to happen!), I’d move out of my mom’s apartment.  In my spare time, all I aspired to do was catch up on reading.

Fast forward a few years, and my life looks very different than the less-than-inspiring version I was aspiring to as a recent college grad (Not that having a steady job is a bad thing, I’ve just since realized I want something more than that).

When I stumbled across the above quote earlier today, it got me thinking of all the sometimes frightening but always wonderful turns my life has taken, particularly in the past three years.  As another exercise in gratitude, I wanted to list some of those changes:

I have two Etsy shops: Remember when I said I used to aspire to simply catch up on reading? I’ve since opened up to online shops where I sell crafts and fine art (btdubs, I’m having a 15% off February sale in both shops now through 2/15!).  Because I have this outlet, I’m constantly thinking of new ideas for projects, which keeps the creative juices flowing.

I freelance, well, everything: I mostly copy edit, proofread, and babysit, but it’s so different than a 9-5.  I’m grateful that I can make my own schedule and even have time for lunch with friends 🙂

I am in a healthy romantic relationship: I used to be the jaded, single woman who thought that all the good guys were either taken, gay, or my best friends.  Nothing I did to garner a relationship seemed to work.  And then one day (like so many people told me, but I never believed them), it just happened.  A friendship I had for about half of my life blossomed.  And it’s been awesome ever since.

I think it is rare to find a person (and I am lucky to have friends like this too) who loves you, flaws and all.  (I know, I know. I’m probably giving most people a toothache right now, especially so close to Valentine’s Day. If you are not in a romantic relationship, let me encourage to live your life fully now, not in a holding pattern.  The right time and right person will come).

I am a professor: I thought this title only came after numerous awards, books, hard work, and lots of coffee (well, tea in my case).  I’m glad that a local community college gave me the chance to be in front of the classroom.  I am in my second semester of teaching, and it has been by turns challenging and rewarding beyond any of my expectations.

I have recently been commissioned to make art: This is something I thought would never happen. I’m comfortable calling myself a writer, but not an artist.  The painting commission I recently received was a really great confidence booster.

I am living on my own (well, with a roommate): For the past two and a half years, I’ve been living with a college buddy of mine.  We play video games and banter about poetry, faith, and Gangam Style (ok, fine, mostly Gangam style).

I have an MFA in Poetry: When I graduated with my bachelor’s degree, I determined that I was done with school.  But then I heard about the Poetry program that my alma mater was starting.  I knew I had to apply.  It’s been a little over two years since I’ve graduated, and spending two years breathing, eating, and sweating poetry was definitely one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

I have a chapbook: A chapbook is a shorter poetry manuscript (about 18-25 pages).  I put one together a few weeks ago, and I’m pretty happy with it.  I didn’t think I’d ever have the time or discipline to put one of these together.  Now I’ve got one and a goal of mine for this year is to get it published with a press.  We’ll see how that turns out!

I find myself continuing to explore different possibilities.  I’ve signed up for bartending school and am looking into certification to be a teaching artist.  I’m also applying to and saving for writer’s residencies and art classes just for fun.  I feel that the world is open to me, and I want to try everything I possibly can!

Ok, so perhaps there is no “Wanderer’s Guide to Life” as the title suggests, but I think that’s because to wander means to explore.  If you have a five (or seven or ten)-step plan for it, the fun is sucked out of the adventures.

Of course, wandering comes with its own worries and questions (for me, some of those questions are: what should I focus my time on primarily?  Do I want a career? Can I pay the bills doing activities I love?), but I’ve found that these bigger questions tend to work themselves out if you put in hard work and pursue the activities that make you feel alive.

If you would have told me about my current life situation five years ago, I wouldn’t have believed you. My options at that time were few because I made it so. My life as it stands now was unthinkable to me back then because it’s completely different than the stereotypical picture I had in my mind.  But when I think about my current circumstances, I smile and know this is exactly where I needed to land.

What is one event in your life that was a pleasant surprise?

Poetry Still Has Teeth

During my first day in the Drew MFA program in 2009, students gathered to hear the faculty talk about a current favorite poem of theirs.  I’ll never forget when Alicia Ostriker, my first mentor, read Jane Mead’s poem “Concerning that Prayer I Cannot Make.”  At the time, I was fresh out of college, living with my mother whose mental illness was, unfortunately, getting the best of her, and wondering how and why my relationship with God was changing…and frightened by it all.

That first stanza unexpectedly hit me, as Florence + the Machine would say, like a train on a track:

Jesus, I am cruelly lonely
and I do not know what I have done
nor do I suspect that you will answer me.

Those three lines felt like I had written them. I was disillusioned with silence from God, yet I desperately wanted to love Him, but didn’t quite know what that looked like anymore.  I was rapidly being asked to grow up in many ways by taking care of my mother and shouldering a full-time job while going back to school. I was also the youngest in the MFA program at the time and felt completely inadequate as a writer. And yet I felt I had to swallow all of my insecurities and carry on like a good little soldier.  I certainly did not think of acknowledging my loneliness, anger, and questions.

This poem changed that.  It showed me that it was ok to question and be bold about it.  To this day, I still think of the last line of that Jane Mead poem where, after addressing Jesus, the poet addresses nature and all that is around her, saying, “Listen, I am holy.”

That last line broke me open.  Though permission is not required to write or to feel or to question, I needed it.  I needed that gateway to open so that I could remember my worth as a person.  I later wrote to my mentor that it was in that poem that I saw pieces of the writer I wanted to become.  I realize now that my connection to the piece was deeper than that.  I saw pieces of the woman I wanted to become–thoughtful, observant, full of questions, and, when need be, brazen. Four years later, these are all qualities I now possess.

Last week, a writer at the Washington Post posted an article asserting that poetry is dead. The main question posed in this article is “Can a poem still change anything?”  Here, in part, is the writer’s answer:

I think the medium might not be loud enough any longer. There are about six people who buy new poetry, but they are not feeling very well. I bumped very lightly into one of them while walking down the sidewalk, and for a while I was terrified that I would have to write to eleven MFA programs explaining why everyone was going to have to apply for grants that year. The last time I stumbled upon a poetry reading, the attendees were almost without exception students of the poet who were there in the hopes of extra credit. One of the poems, if memory serves, consisted of a list of names of Supreme Court justices. I am not saying that it was a bad poem. It was a good poem, within the constraints of what poetry means now. But I think what we mean by poetry is a limp and fangless thing.

This response to poetry both saddened and angered me.  I was angered that someone would flippantly say that a medium I love so much is “a limp and fangless thing.”  And I was saddened that someone could misunderstand such a powerful literary genre so completely. To only look at the numbers is to miss the point.  The author’s perspective is one I would expect from someone who has not been affected by poetry.

And I know that not everyone will be.  Poetry is not for everyone. But to make such a sweeping statement about a genre one is not familiar with is ill-informed.  I hoped that the writer would at least include some tidbits about speaking with lovers of poetry, but she did not.

Poet Daniel Nathan Terry wrote a response to the Washington Post article as well (and after reading it, I wondered if I should enter the conversation because his response is so articulate).  I do not have a story that brings together politics, love, and words so eloquently as he does. But, as seen earlier in this piece, I do have a story of how poetry changed me.  And I’m not the only one.

The fact that poets may not have the most followers on Twitter or that they don’t sell out stadiums does not mean the genre is dead.  Poetry may not make headlines, but I have been in small New York bars and witnessed the audience sigh as one when a poem knocked the breath out of their lungs.  I have seen a poet cry when reading her own poem because the words brought back the memory so vividly.  I have sat at countless tables in cafeterias, cafes, and living rooms talking about the power of the exact right word.  And every one of those people has a story about a line of poetry that sticks with them to this day because it’s power knocked something loose in their souls.  It was that knocking that spurred them to action.

Poetry still has teeth.

And in that sense, yes, I think poetry can change a hell of a lot.  Indeed, that may be the only way anything has ever been changed in a lasting manner–one person, one adversity at a time.

An Exercise in Observation

About two weeks ago, I was sans car.  It was in the shop for some lengthy repair work and I was bumming rides to and from my job.  One evening after work, I decided to do a little exploring.  So I took a walk to the library (I know, wild times, right?).  But the walk ended up being more than picking up some books and getting some fresh air.  I noticed so much more than I usually do when I’m driving down the familiar few blocks to the library.  As soon as I got home, I made a list of all that I had seen (well, what I could remember anyway).  I thought I’d share my journey with all of you:

– Paw prints in one block of sidewalk cement

– What looked likea discarded lotto ticket with “crossword” written across the back

– A new art studio named “Elements”

– A somewhat hidden street I never noticed while driving down the main drag

– A store I previously thought was a gallery.  It was actually an antique store which also happened to sell art.  I saw a huge record player on sale for $250.00.  Not gonna lie, I was tempted to buy it until I realized I have no vinyl (nor a spare few hundred bucks to splurge).  But it looked so cool!  The last time I played records I was a tiny tot living at my grandmother’s house.

– A house with these cool, cracked crystal ball walkway lights (Yay alliteration!).

– A group of older women sitting on the porch talking.  I know this may not sound all that fantastic, but as I walked past them, I was able to appreciate the sound of their language– Arabic, I think.  I could smell their decadent perfume.  It reminded me of my grandmother when she used to have friends over and they would chatter grown-up talk in Spanish for hours.  I’d play amongst them and let the slick, familiar syllables roll off me.

– Artwork outside a small, local music venue.  There was this piece that really struck me.  It looked like a screaming face and it was made out of bits of magazine pages.  It was such an impressive, cohesive piece….must’ve taken hours to make!

– A silk screen printing shop

– A large Italian Ristorante I never noticed before even though I drive down Main Street all the time and have lived in my town for two years.  Now I want to try it.

– The familiar, speckled, uneven pink brick wall that leads to my apartment complex.  I noticed how unique each brick was with its own grooves, its own specks of brown and silver.

– Tiny plants grew above the grass next to the wall.  The plants looked like baby’s breath, but one was a tiny daisy– a curious hint of spring at the end of summer.

When I got home after the walk, I noticed that I got a big bug bite.  For the record, it was totally worth it.  I’m hoping to take a photo walk down Main Street soon when the weather gets a bit cooler.

What about you?  What are some cool things you have observed on walks or hikes?

I’m On A Blog!

I’ll admit it: I’m somewhat scared of putting my thoughts out there into the wide world of the interwebs, but I guess that’s what writing – particularly poetry – is about.  So, here’s my attempt at jumping in.  I’m reminded of lyrics by Sonicflood in their song “Carried Away: “I don’t care where or how deep, I’m gonna jump in with both feet.”

As to the focus of this blog, I’m just going to go with the flow.  I have varied interests (poetry, music, God, anime, etc) and I’m sure I’ll write about them all and more.  I’d like for this blog to be thought-provoking and witty, but we’ll see what happens.  I see this as a place to experiment, to write down scraps of ideas before they make it into poems or to post an MS paint drawing if words fail me.   I’m definitely looking forward to the adventure!

Lastly, I’d love for you – yes, you! – to join me in this startling endeavor we call “life.”  If you’ve stopped by, please let me know.  Leave a comment or shoot me an e-mail or send a message via carrier pigeon.  I love interaction.  Conversation, whether deep, funny, or some curious mix, is one of the greatest past times.

Lastly (for real now!), if you’re wondering where the picture in this post was taken, here’s the answer: The Frying Pan at Chelsea Pier, NYC.  They have good meals at reasonable prices, great burgers, and you get to eat on a boat…now really, what could be better than that?