2018-01-13 About ‘August and Everything After’

Last night on my way home from getting groceries one of my favorite Counting Crows songs came up in the shuffle. I could only listen for like a minute before I had to skip to the next song. It wasn’t because it reminds me of something unpleasant. It’s because when Adam sings live, and it was obviously a recording of a live show, he tends to go “off script”, and just sing whatever he wants.

Maybe those departures are arrangements that are well planned out and practices, but they are so different from the studio recording, that one can’t even try to sing along. I like to sing along. I especially like to sing along to my favorites.. the ones I know by heart because my heart is so moved by them.

So when that song came on, I was so excited because I haven’t heard it in a while. After a few versus though, I was disgusted and had to hit “next”. It did leave me wanting to revisit the Crows so that’s my selection this morning for my morning workout (the original recording of ‘August and Everything After’, which is my favorite album of theirs).

Now that that is established, there are three places this can go…

1.) Backstory of the road trip my sister and I took in 2008 to see Counting Crows live in Chicago.

2.) The narritave I wrote about Adam after that experience.

3.) The significance in the title of that album in my relationship with Matt.

I’m really not sure which way to go on this. #1 could be long and I’m not sure I’ve got time for that. #2 Is still one of my favorites after all these years, but I’d rather just post it again instead of writing about it (show don’t tell 😉). #3 feels right for this moment…

As long as I’ve been writing, as far back as I can remember and have content to show for my efforts, I’ve had a thing with naming my Work. I’ve organized, cataloged, grouped, named and described everything.

Every journal had a name. Every poem from those journals was collected and copied together in a separate location, and each of those extracted sets was given a name. I put a lot of thought into all the names so there’s significance in all of it.

One has to recognize that all those early artifacts were pre 1992. There was no cloud online or copy-paste or even typed writing. It was all hand written, reviewed, revisited, page after page. Even the colors of the folders I selected had significance and I spent a great deal of time on all of it.

I still have most of that work. It’s in a box on a shelf in my bedroom closet and on my list of things to grab if there’s time, in an emergency. The notebooks are so worn and delicately still attached to their spiral binding. The folders are in better shape, and there’s even extra folders in the box because I once had hopes of more. Most of that stuff is garbage rambling of an emotional teenage girl. It’s not worth anything to anyone but me, but it is a record and that means something to me.

I didn’t get my typewriter (a Brother AX24, I believe) until I was a senior in HS, and I only ever used it for school Work In HS and my first years in college. I’ve got very little from those days and my personal writing remained handwritten. Incidentally that was also about the time I started dating Brian and I graduated from community college the same month we got married.

What followed was a long drought in my writing. I went from writing hundreds of pages to writing virtually nothing at all… for years. I guess that’s what adult life does to a person.

Work, relationships, tv and movies replaced my original go-to for what to do with my time. I had my career and I had my babies and for a very long time, I really didn’t have the time to write.

It was not until 2008 that my life started to change. Time accounting is important to me so I feel the need to point out that for 15 years of my life, there was very little writing. I had a few small random journals from when I was pregnant or after I had C and was trying to lose weight, and a few random blurbs and poems inspired by fairly significant events, but not more than that. Sadly.

2008 was the year I finally came to the end of what I was willing to endure with my marriage. Not to be dismissed is the nudge I got from starting to have feelings for another man. The latter may have fueled the fire for the former, but both were turning points and I started to write again.

Incidentally, 2008 was also the year my sisters and I went to Chicago to see the Counting Crows. I did not intend to make a circle back to this, but there it is.

What followed in the years to come was my divorce and more writing. Then dating again and more writing. Falling in love is sweet and capturing that with poetry and words is priceless. I admit my writing waned again in the middle of my relationship with Matt, but as soon as there were issues, it picked up again. With each new phase, I was documenting everything and just as before categorizing and labeling.

I had collections named for the person I was dating or that time in my life and this time, most of it was electronic and either in folders on my laptop or online or both. When I started using Evernote in 2009 it made things so much easier. When I started my blog in 2010, I found joy in the organization of it all.

My need for labeling things probably contributes to my desire to have multiple blogs. So this one is for stream of consciousness journaling and that one for poetry and creative writing. It all makes sense to me and that’s the way I like it.

I start dating Matt in August of 2011. When we started, I was sure that this was it. I’d finally found the one and we were a great match and it was going to last forever. I think he thought so too. We both liked the Counting Crows and one of the first things we did in our relationship was share all of our favorite music. The “notebook” I have from that time in my life, right up to our relationship breathing it’s last breath is therefore called “August and Everything After”.

That’s a long, mostly irrelevant story just to get to a very brief conclusion. But I guess that’s just how it goes sometimes. I’m still sad that “Everything After” only lasted for about 5 years and I really have not yet come to conclude what the current phase of my life shall be titled. Most of the time, the inspiration for that doesn’t really come until there is something noteworthy to make it make sense.

For now, I’ll just keep being Miss SugarCookie and rolling along with the punches, singing my tunes.

“I am the Rain King”
~Miss SugarCookie

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2018-01-06 MFA Residency Day 6 – A Song Stuck On Repeat

After a while, all the days here seem to run together and there’s no difference from one to the next. It’s a steady rotation that cycles through eating and workshop and lecture and readings and then more eating. There’s lots of eating. I’ve never eaten this regularly since before I left home at 18.

I typically like that kind of routine but without all the comforts of home it starts to feel like Work trips I’ve been on where I have to be “on”, and it’s getting downright exhausting. Last night I tried to break up the monotony by having a couple glasses of wine at and after dinner. It was a little temporary relief from my anxiety, but not much.

I slept like garbage again last night so that’s not helping.

Something else a little different from yesterday was the dynamic in workshop. It was my day to be “workshopped”.

We all had to submit a small sampling of our work before residency and this was collected into packets and distributed to everyone. Then each day in workshop someone’s work comes under scrutiny by a small group (seven people, two faculty and five students). Yesterday it was my “turn”.

I’ve never had anyone ever give me feedback on anything I’ve written before, outside of teachers in school which was over 20 years ago now. It was interesting.

Interesting is a word you use when something is different but you’re not sure how you feel about it yet. Or, in my case, you have mixed emotions you haven’t figured out how to express yet. Let me see if I can give it a shot…

Some of the feedback was obvious, and conclusions I had already come to in doing a deeper dive into my own work this past month. Having someone validate that was good though, because it means I’m on the right track. That felt great.

(I need to include less abstraction and more concrete details and imagery. Too much rhyme that’s not necessary).

Other comments were more generalizations about me as a writer and they were very intuitive and I had to hold back tears. Literally. It wasn’t bad, but just hit so close to the heart of my life and that was surprising. Perhaps those comments were somewhat colored from previous interactions at Residency, but I’d like to think it comes through in my writing, which is what I want.

Those tears I was holding back were fueled with emotion (as I often am under the surface), but it wasn’t a bad thing.

After our time was up I had to go straight downstairs for the next lecture and so I had to push those emotions down. It wasn’t until after that that I was able to go back to the sanctuary of my room and let it out. I think I had more than just workshop bottled inside.

It was probably the last two or three days of emotional moments. It felt good to let it out.

It was like that break in the middle of the song where the singer makes a departure from the established patterns of melody and verse. It was refreshing.

And then we had to eat again.

I write of this like they are forcing us to eat, shoving the food in our general direction. That’s not the case, but if you don’t go to the dining room during meal hours, you don’t get to eat. That creates the feeling of being forced to eat. One could also leave for a meal, but that would of course involve leaving and coming back, and the schedule is pretty tight for that during the day. If I left to go somewhere at night I’d probably get in my car to drive and end up at my house and in that case, I’m not taking advantage of things I’ve paid for.

This whole thing is quite expensive and why would I pay for a night in a hotel or a meal at some shitty Mexican restaurant if I’ve already paid for filet? That’s just crazy talk.

In any case, these days and nights that are like a song stuck on repeat are nearing their end, so I just want to make the most of the time I have left. At the moment that means getting off this treadmill and going back to my room to get ready for breakfast.

Until Next Time,

~Miss SugarCookie

2018-01-01 Ringing In My Ears

It must be New Years, because there’s ringing in my ears. It’s a nice departure from all those songs that are always stuck in my head. Truth.

As I comb through some of my poetry to decide what’s good, bad, worthy, worth giving another look, or just plain ready for the “X-file”, I’m noticing more than just a couple of times I mention music. More specifically having a song stuck in my head or a song that reminds me of a particular feeling or moment in my life. I think that’s pretty common, but why does it seem important enough to keep bubbling up?

I don’t have the answer, of course, or I would not be asking the question. I’ve got lots of questions, as always, and never as many answers. At least today, as a new year breaks the horizon and starts to rise, I have the answer to the cliffhanger question that has been stirring all week and hit its apex yesterday. The question was who my mentor will be this semester.

Now I know, and am quite pleased about the result. In all honesty, I’m not sure there would have been a bad pairing, Just different. Still, I think that my mentor is ideal for me and where I am in my “writing life” right now.

If there’s one thing I’ve had to come to terms with very quickly this week is just how green I am. I really want to impress people but there’s no way to get around a question when it’s asked.

“So who do you like to read? Who are your favorites?”. I’ve been asked this question by one person or another at least four times. The first time was the first night at dinner, I just fumbled and in a very round-about way replied something that indicated that I don’t know. Epic fail.

The second and third times I formulated a little better of an answer which also indicated that I didn’t have any but with some context of my history and the fact that I’ve never studied literature or poetry. That’s no excuse of course, but it made me feel a little better and at least I was being honest.

Then I started leading with that honesty bit. I think by that time I had come to terms with just how truly uneducated I am about fine arts. For the love of god, one of the lecturers asked the question today in class about free verse and I had no clue what the answer was. I’m in a masters program for poetry and that’s something I should know.

I’ve taken so many secret little notes for things I need to look up later. I know in a few short weeks our first assignments will be due and I’m scared as hell I won’t be able to process everything from residency AND do a quality job on that.

On the brighter side, I’ve written about 3 new poems and have fodder for about a dozen more. I can’t even begin to describe how fantastic that is (except I just did).

Maybe the next time someone asks who I like, I should just look them straight in the eye and say REM, Cake, One Republic, Fall Out Bot, And Blue October. That will give them a tiny window into my brain.

Tomorrow is the day for student readings. I’m going last. That’s probably a mistake, but it is what it is and like everything else, it WILL be ok.

Keep On Ringing, Keep On Singing.

Happy New Year!

~Miss SugarCookie

2017-12-26 And the Winner Is…

My Christmas Day turned out to be far superior to Christmas Eve. I think that the “it” factor was all about obligation.

Christmas Eve was all about me running myself crazy about both real and imagined expectations. And as I predicted, everything went just fine and the only real complaint I had was that I was so sleep deprived and had a few guests who stayed until about 11:30pm despite me mentioning I had not slept more than 8 hours the past two days.

Listen.. if you can’t take that hint, that’s a red flag. I guess add that to the pile of things on one side of the scale. It’s getting heavy now. Too heavy. Time to dump the marbles and start again.

On Christmas Day all those obligations just melted away. I was able to let the kids sleep in and nobody was there to tell me that I shouldn’t. We had our traditional Christmas breakfast of pop-can cinnamon rolls and bacon. I even lifted my self-imposed gluten free rule and had a few. They were wal-mart brand, which is not as good as pillsbury, but it was still a pretty great meal together.

Then we opened gifts and everyone was happy with what they received although I gave C the serious stink-eye because he didn’t give me anything. His sister is so generous with her time and diy talents AND her money. I don’t know how he turned out so different.

After that Brian came to get them and I had the rest of the day to do whatever I wanted. If the gym had been open, I’d have been all over that but as it was not.. I had to figure something else out.

One of the upgrades I got when I bought my current house was a large, luxory whirlpool bath tub complete with massage jets. I also have the proper infrastructure of two 40 gallon water heaters to support the use of that upgrade. It was for sure a tick** in the win column when I was deciding whether or not to purchase the house, but it was not the reason I pulled the trigger on the deal. I rarely use it.

In fact, I’ve only used it about three times now, including yesterday. Like starting a fire in the fireplace, it’s a time commitment and since I have other priorities consuming my time I really do r even think about it. Yesterday was the exception.

I filled my coffee cup with Jam Jar and filled my bathtub with hot water and bubbles and just sat back listening to music and relaxing for about an hour. It was pretty great.

When I was done with that I had leftovers, enrolled in school, and then finally, at long last, treated myself to that nap I’ve been coveting. It was also pretty great.

My plan for dinner was to go to the Dragon Cafe, just like all those other people who were so over Christmas and didn’t want to cook. Now here’s where my worlds collide…

I blog almost every day and I know there are a few “real” human beings that actually read what I write, but I sort of try to forget about that and just continue writing as if nobody is really paying attention. Kind of like that “Dance like nobody is watching” thing, only with a blog.

However, after posting yesterday about going to Dragon, I had one of those people reach out to me to offer to go with me to dinner. I gave Brian the first right of refusal, and then I happily accepted the offer. (Hi Vis.. Thanks again).

I’m really grateful for everything in my life and dinner yesterday was just a nice reminder of just a few of the things I sometimes forget about. There are people out in the world who care and are listening. No matter what our situation is, we are NOT alone.

Quick tangent.. as I write this, Alan Walker’s song “Alone”, came up in the shuffle. The chorus is “I know I’m not alone”. Of the thousand+ songs on my phone, for that one to come up right now is too freaky appropriate. Wow.

Anyway, last year around this time I felt so alone. I was at rock-bottom and had exhausted all that I had to try and climb out of my hole (or so I thought). But there were people there for me. They took care of me in my darkest hour. They made sure I didn’t drown and saw me safely to my bed. It was truly one of the worst nights of my life and I was not alone.

(Here’s where I could comment that it wasn’t the angels watching over me.. it was real people. But I won’t cuz this blog is for me damnit). 😉

So Vis and I had a nice meal at the Dragon with good, honest conversation and like the other things from my day, it was also pretty great. And I was super greatful I was not alone.

After dinner I went to get my kids and Z and I ended up watching a movie together. Also great.

So if you are keeping score like I am.. that’s 5 to zero. Christmas Day is the clear victor over Christmas Eve this year in the battle for the holidays. And among the other things I’m grateful for, the fact that it’s all over is now is definitely one of them.

Time to switch gears now… make some money, learn some new things, and prep for my MFA residency starting this week.

Peace and Love,

~Miss SugarCookie

** I looked up the definition of the word ‘Tic” and the way I was using it, the appropriate spelling is “Tick”, according to Merriam-Webster. A “tic” is a nervous twitch or quirky response. Why then, I ask myself, is the game tic-tac-toe spelled that way? Things that make you go “hmmm”.

2017-11-18 Twenty Five Years Ago

I have this app on my phone that sends push notifications so I can be alerted when any of my fans are coming to town. It’s called “Bandsintown”. I gave it permission to scan through my the music library on my phone and then it sort of does the rest as far as alerting me when new shows are announced or there are other things of interest going on. Today I had a notification from R.E.M. What?

R.E.M hasn’t been active for many years now, but that band was on the top of my list back in the day and was one of those favorites I had in common with both Brian and my biggest HS crush, Scott. Whenever one of their songs comes up in the master shuffle, it kind of reminds me of those “dating days”. Of course when I saw the notification, I was like “whoa, what could this be about?”.

As it turns out, it is the 25th anniversary of them releasing the album “Automatic for the People”. This is one of my all-time favorite albums and I’ve probably played every song on it a hundred times. The song “Nightswiming” is in my top 25. I’ve probably played IT several hundred times.

That song in particular does not elicit thoughts of other people or memories about high school and college, but it’s very methodical and therapeutic and the lyrics speak to me in a very profound way. It is an emotionally liberating song for me. If I had to pick a song that captures the essence of me, that one may just be it.

Since I had that notification early today, I’ve been listening to that album all day. I’ve just now switched my shuffle to include the other five albums I have in my library. This includes:
Dead Letter Office
Document
Eponymous
Green
Monster
Automatic for the People (of course).

I still have the physical CDs of all of these. That’s how we acquired our music 25 years ago. I own them. I don’t have to rely on some streaming music service or paying some subscription fee to listen. I might never get on that train.

Yup, 25 years ago, R.E.M. was releasing a new album/CD and I was in my sophomore year in college dating a guy who had just started his military career in the Air Force. That seems like a lifetime ago. Oh how time flies.

Thanks “Bandsintown”, for the temporary time machine and for keeping tabs on all my fans so I don’t have to.

Throwback Saturday,
~Miss SugarCookie

PS. I’ve never wondered until today what R.E.M. stood for. I mean I know REM stands for Rapid Eye Movement, but it never occurred to me the acronym for the band could be something else. I googled it and it isn’t something else. Apparently it was chosen at random from the dictionary by band member Michael Stipe (according to the almighty wiki). Of the other names they considered, this one is far superior in my opinion. I may not have had the same affinity for a band called “Cans of Piss”. Just sayin’.