the hours.

virginiawoolfHonestly, sometimes the hardest part of my life is the inertia of the day-to-day. The routine. The same ole. When you add to all of that the desire to share my days with another person…everything is compounded. Don’t get me wrong; I’m pretty sure inertia sets in with another person in the next room, too. No rose-colored glasses here. But it’s still a feeling, it’s my feeling, and it’s not easy. But for the purposes of chasing down positivity: there are plenty of people who aren’t here. So opening my eyes to another day, however drowning in the same ole, is an enormous blessing.

I plan on also chasing down some of the things that brighten my days, things I haven’t done in a while because the emotional and physical energy was thoroughly absent. Museum afternoons. Exploring new cities and places. Getting back to me, one step, one day, at a time.

Your Elephant, After All.

Dearest reader, last Friday, I published my third book. I seem to favor anthologies and this publication is no different: Your Elephant, After All is my third collection, and this time, it’s poetry. I am exceedingly proud of this book, especially because it was born during a difficult time.

book

As you know, life hasn’t been the easiest for me lately. There have been more downs than ups, but thankfully and prayerfully, I continue to push ahead. Two weeks ago, I was wide awake in the early hours of the day (the requisite 3AM), my mind racing, and decided to find something to read. Somehow, I ended up on the Notes app on my phone and somehow, I ended up reading some of my own poetry. Of course, I had nursed plans for a third book of poetry months and months ago, having created the draft and formatting of the pieces in both written and electronic form. But, owing to my creative ADD, my attention soon went elsewhere.  Enter two weeks ago, 3AM, and a resurrected desire to come back to my temporarily abandoned project.
From then on, I started working on the book almost every evening. The title changed. I edited some, if not all, of the poems. draftThe original idea of 22 poems turned into about 38 pieces. I decided that this would be my first book with photographs. Needless to say, if you’re passionate about anything, the process can be enthralling. As an artist, the creating part is nothing short of breathtaking. And honestly, it helped to take my mind off, well, my mind. Even if that meant just a few hours a day of purposeful activity, the refocused energy was welcomed. After a pretty rapid cycle of work, I was finished last mid-week. By Friday, the book was live on Amazon. Some other details about YEAA:
  1. The title came from one of my favorite poems I’ve ever written and it fit perfectly for the theme of the book. To me, elephants (my longtime favorite animal) represent majesty, melancholy, supremacy, sadness. Basically the two-sided coin of life. And these poems run the gamut of all of those things and more.
  2. This was my first time publishing with Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). Before KDP, I used CreateSpace, also owned by Amazon; the two have now combined together. It was a fairly easy process. From cover creation (I used my own artwork, but KDP offers plenty of cover choices to pick from) to establishing the price of the book, the process was smooth. General frustrations came from ensuring that pagination and margins and all that were right, but that’s part of creating something visually appealing, so in the end, it was fine.
  3. YEAA is available in paperback only. Note that my first two books were made available in both hard copy and digital, and I’m aware of what’s more popular and convenient. Nevertheless, I really wanted to explore removing the digital book feature as an option and sticking with hard copy only. Being a reader myself that 99% of the time goes with digital, I also still love physical books. Their feel, their gloss, their look. So I went against my own comfort level and decided to try something different with this collection.

I’m really proud of this newest creation. Not only am I expanding my profile as an author, I was inspired to continue to focus on my work and plan for my next offering. It was also refreshing to just be knee deep in words and formatting and pagination and creating–and away from days of being mired in my own endless thoughts. So here’s to insomnia, I think, which started it all.

Lastly, to you, dear reader and supporter of this tiny corner in the blogverse: thank you. Whether or not you buy my book, you’re always here. I’ll take that.

#triggered

I love that Jhené Aiko posted this on her Instagram story. (Courtesy of The Shade Room.)

I love that she was raw, open, and honest about the depth of her feelings.

I love that she sat with her feelings instead of running away from them and resorting to old, toxic habits.

I love that she spoke purely of the fear she felt in that moment.

I love the hashtag. Because it means that things can be going well, life may improve, darkness may give way to light, pain may dissipate–but a trigger is a trigger. And triggers can happen at any time. And they can push you to back to a place that’s all too familiar.

Which is when it’s time to speak on it, as Jhené did. Release it, find the words, and try very hard to say what you need to. Even if those words are covered in tears. Even if you’re sitting in an empty room. The walls can take it.

Blogtober #30 and #31: We Forgot! We Did It!

#30: Guess who was super busy yesterday and the day went by without the next to last blog entry for Blogtober?

So, yeah, we forgot. Buuuuut…

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#31: We Did It!

Day 31.

A whole month of talking to y’all everyday about my favorite season in some way, shape, or form. A whole month of appreciating each and every one of you who read, commented, liked, and lovingly followed me. A whole month of realizing that I can be way regular on this platform, far more than I have been, and that I thoroughly enjoy every second here on This Square Peg.

Happy Fall, Y’all. Happy awesome month of Blogtober. Happy Autumn. Happy Reading. Happy Blogging. Take time to walk down a leaf-covered road and enjoy every minute of it.

Onwards and Autumn-wards.

Blogtober #26: The Home Stretch. Somewhat.

Readers, we’ve been together for 26 straight autumn days. Blogtober has T-5 days left. I don’t know what to do with myself. Or…do I?

aubreyplaza

Ha! We’re not even done yet. But I wanted to do that. And you get one, too, for sticking with me and reading and liking and commenting and following. The real MVPs? You.

first

Happy Fall Friday, bon weekend, and see ya tomorrow.

How to Adult.

adulting

Because let’s be honest: there was no real manual to prepare for adulting when we were kids, was there? Sure, our parents may have given us advice and even perhaps provided their own living example. But we were destroying playing Legos and watching Jem and the Holograms. We–I, for sure–weren’t paying attention. And then you turn 25 and you’re like…how many more nights do I have to eat peanut butter so I can have enough money to pay my rent this month?! (True story.) Here are five things I wish I had known (or listened to) in advance, but I’m glad I know now:

  1. Adults are just tall kids wearing grown-up clothes. Seriously, the behaviors we saw in classrooms and on playgrounds don’t change that drastically. Tantrums become manageable, attitudes can be hidden, etc. Timmy, now Tim, probably still wants to stick in a frog inside your T-shirt, but instead, he ignores you during the staff meeting. And let’s not get started on Janine and your ongoing issues with parking, personal space, and food in the office fridge. My point is that we may grow up, but not everything goes away. Cliques remain. Mean girls become mean ladies. That sort of thing. And I don’t excuse myself: the way I dealt with life as a 10 year-old versus now means I deal with it better, but trust, I still have my bratty ways. And a strong side eye.
  2. Credit cards are nothing but the work of the devil. My dear Daddy tried to warn me about them. I remember sitting in the car and staring placidly out of the window while he discussed the danger of relying on credit cards. I wasn’t listening. Le sigh. In college, I was offered an Faustian bargain: to get a free mobile phone, all I had to do was sign up for a credit card. Ooh, free phone! Got the phone, the card, and eventually, the bills. It was an interesting journey. I learned the hard way. But I learnt!
  3. Love isn’t a guarantee. Growing up, I saw how difficult things could sometimes be for my parents, who were raising four children while balancing all the things married life and the economy and other responsibilities demanded of them. The unsurprising result: I never imagined myself married. No visions of weddings or my own little children running around. It just seemed hard. I knew my parentsAngela Bower loved each other, but there were so many struggles. I was content imagining myself as a rich advertising executive with high heels and maybe a boyfriend, a la Angela Bower from Who’s the Boss? (Honestly.) But when I got older and recognized that love, despite its wrinkles and hardships, was still love and worth the fight (also seen through my parents’ example, among others), life taught me an interesting lesson: so what? In other words, me finally understanding and wanting love didn’t necessarily guarantee that I would find it or attain it. And so far, love remains elusive. Becoming an adult with adult comprehension was no automatic journey into a love of my own, a lesson that continues to morph before my eyes. But you know what I found? An abiding love for This Square Peg. I’ll take it.
  4.  Assume nothing. Along the adulting highway, I started to believe–really, assume–that folks would act right/make good decisions/not cut me off in traffic/so on because that’s what kind, good, compassionate people do in life: the right thing. Nooooooope. People are complicated creatures, including the person writing all of this. Assume. Nothing.
  5. Questions are really OK. Y’all. I’m about five months from entering a brand new decade in life and I still call my mom/bestie/sister/friends and pose a variety of questions about life, people, work, etc. My bottom line: adulting will never mean an exhaustive understanding of everything. We will still wonder; gaze in confusion; dissect; figure out or try to. And that’s OK. The complexities will continue. But that’s…adulting.

Yeah, I miss those days when I knew nothing about taxes and utility bills and struggle peanut butter and the list continues, but I wouldn’t trade those days for now. It’s nice to see the world through these adulting eyes…I think.

What’s one adulting lesson you wish you knew in advance (but are happy to know it regardless)? Share with your fellow tall kid in grown-up clothes, please…

it chose me.

It was inevitable that fiction would choose me, that my world would become consumed by it. From the fairy tales my mother brought before me, to the fascinating living stories around me, to the nursery rhymes that incited such vivid images in my mind, to the billowing curtain in my childhood bedroom that, to me, offered pretty terrifying possibilities on the other side, my imagination was its own character from the very beginning. When I would hide in the library during recess (we’ll talk about that in another post; praise kind librarians), I would read. And read. And read. All fiction, all topics, all possibilities. A fiction writer was being born. By the age of eight, that writer came alive.

After messing with my dear father a bit about majoring in psychology while filling out my college application (“I want to be a shrink, Daddy.” “No; choose something else.”), I chose English as my major. It was always going to be English; I knew that when I was sixteen years old. Soon thereafter, I chose the concentration for my major: Fiction. For four years, I was ensconced in literature, stories, novels. It was like being in the stacks all over again.

I write poetry, these lovely blog posts, articles, the occasional play, a few songs…

But first and foremost, utterly and completely: I will always be a fiction writer.

fictionquote

What do you love to do that chose you? I’m curious to know…

Starring This Square Peg as Herself.

owlcreek1I was 11 years old, a quiet sixth-grader. That day, we embarked on a field trip to a place called Hemlock Overlook. The bus ride was animated, filled with the excited conversations of my fellow classmates. I silently observed the scenes passing us by and wondered just where we were headed. Field trips had always been fun for me: museums, the zoo. This place was unfamiliar to me and I was curious and anxious about what we would find.

The school bus pulled into a dense, wooded area. It seemed to be a giant park. It was a giant park. A giant park, as I came to learn, that was filled with a variety of physical fitness-inspired activities. Games. A zip line that I eyed warily and ultimately refused to climb. The whole thing was weird and stressful. On one hand, it was nice to hang out with some of the few friends I had in my classroom. I was a shy girl, but there were some kids I was actually comfortable with; I remember some of us sitting around a table and talking/laughing. On the other hand: I wasn’t a fitness girl by any means. Sure, I “played” soccer during recess, which essentially meant just standing around while the real dynamos kicked the ball. This was intense. Needless to say, I was always last in each of these activities and I was always slow.

Then came the rope.

In the middle of the area was a large mud hole. The point was to grab a rope and swing across the hole to get over to the other side. Simple, right? I wanted to throw up. I had already failed at every single activity. Why would this end up in anything other than total disaster? Of course, I was last to go. I gulped. I grabbed the rope. Gravity took over, if only for a few seconds. I was moving. Moments later, all of me was drowning in mud.

Raucous laughter ensued. I think my teacher was even laughing. I was a mess. Clothes, face, everything covered in mud. I wanted to cry, scream, even chuckle a little so they would think I had been on it the whole time, purposely falling into a mud hole for some attempt at comedy.

On the bus ride back to the school, I listened as some of the kids talked about me. The mud on my clothes. How I looked. Describing how I fell in the hole. I remember gazing out of the window and wishing–and it wouldn’t be the first time in my adolescent life–that I could just disappear.

The website for Hemlock Overlook states that these adventures teach the adventurers about team collaboration. If the goal was to teach my classmates, even my teacher, how to collaborate by laughing at me in unison, then, yes, it worked. I learned a few different things from the experience, however. How to be humiliated. How to hold in my tears for more opportune moments when they could be released comfortably. How to sit in the filth of mud and hold my head up while people around me were sending darts by way of words in my direction. No one comforted me. No one patted me on the back and said, “Sorry, This Square Peg, at least you tried.” Nothing like that occurred.

In the past, when I’ve randomly thought about this memory, the clarity of hindsight never comes. My adult brain is rarely able break it down in a palatable way. (For years, I think I even repressed it, not really sharing the story with friends.) But looking back now, I’ve realized a few things about what the experience taught me. For one thing, I have a deep, deep spot in my heart for the kind of kid I was back then. The slower ones, the ones picked last, the ones who aren’t adept at team sports or athletics. Those are the children I want to hug and assure. Secondly, my mother has always reminded me to keep my dignity in any situation. To keep my cool. That moment on the school bus was certainly the beginning of learning how to do just that. Even if my insides were turning into mush. Le sigh.

education

Sometimes it takes place while sitting quietly on a school bus, trying not to cry, trying to hold on. Nevertheless: you learn.

What are your seminal moments from childhood? What did you learn? Share? Pretty please? 

real talk.

blooming

Life will stink.

Life will get messy.

People will let you down.

Friends will shut you out.

Work will feel like a jackhammer.

Creativity will be stifled.

Love will be slow.

Time will lag.

Dreams will remain dreams and not the reality you want.

You will look in the mirror and not like what you see.

This is life. 

But you already know that, don’t you? The hills and valleys of life are readily known by you. And me.

You’re alive. Sometimes you will sag and not bloom, but you’re alive.

It will be OK.

Onwards and Upwards.