Bucket Lists

Do you have a bucket list? How realistic is it? Did you set a time frame for the goals to be attained or just have a “Someday I’d Like To” list?

The older I get the more I realize the importance of setting attainable goals. Not just career goals or writing goals, but life goals. You know, the things you can’t put monetary value on that make you smile. I used to be one of those “Someday I’d Like To” people until I realized the importance of not just living life but making a conscious effort to enjoy life as well.

Happiness isn’t about how many degrees you earn, what model car you drive, how much salary you make, the size of your house, who you marry, or how many children you have. These statuses say nothing about the person you are inside and sadly, some people put all of their effort into obtaining them.

The moment you realize there is more to life than your job title is when you really start to live. So why not start with an attainable bucket list? I recommend creating more than one list, i.e. 1-year, 3-year and 5-year and setting realistic goals for each.

The 1-year list should include realistic things you would like to accomplish within a 1-year time frame. You should have a plan to achieve the goals.

For example: Pay off Credit card debt

If you have a plan to set aside a certain amount of money each month to pay off credit card debt and are diligent then this is a realistic goal. If you do not have a plan to set aside funds and hope to win the lottery to pay off your credit cards or are still waiting for the government to discover oil in your back yard this is not a realistic goal.

Do the same for the 3-year and 5-year bucket lists. A 3-year realistic goal may be to become fluent in a foreign language. A 5-year goal may be obtaining a degree or purchasing a house.

The key word is plan. Bucket list items fail because people are half-heartedly waiting for something to happen instead of believing it can happen and planning for it to come to fruition. Take writing for example. If your dream is to one day become a novelist and you expect a book deal to fall out of the sky without dedicating yourself to the process by writing daily and submitting work how will it ever happen? Words cannot write themselves and dreams cannot be fulfilled without a plan. So what is your plan?

In May, I embarked on a road trip of all road trips. Memorial Day was coming up which meant if I took just two days off from work I could have a 5-day vacation. My normal road trip companion was turning twenty-three and I wanted her to have a birthday she would not forget. This wasn’t just a vacation, but a celebration so the destination was centered around items on her bucket list.

Some of these items included:

  • Ride on a plane
  • Visit Las Vegas
  • Go to California
  • Find Johnny Depp’s Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame
  • Meet Johnny Depp
  • Visit Roswell
  • Get a tattoo

For her, these were all “Someday I’d Like To” items because there was always one reason or another why they weren’t possible. There are times when the impossible is possible if you are willing and flexible enough to make adjustments. If you truly want something in life you have to be willing to jump. So she did, starting with the tattoo. After that, I began searching for destinations.

Originally, the plan was to go to Las Vegas. It is an extremely affordable trip if you’re not big on gambling and are interested in the shows. Las Vegas is nice, but for me the choice was like choosing whether to see a movie in the theater or waiting for it to arrive at Redbox. Las Vegas was my Redbox. Thankfully, she found something she was more interested in that I would also enjoy – Roswell. From there I built our trip based on driving times and activities.

Fort Worth to California (by way of New Mexico) is a little over 1,500 miles, so I rented a car because I did not want to put that many miles on my own vehicle. A 5-day road trip with activities is perhaps a test of sanity, but I was up for the challenge.

I think the thing to do is to enjoy the ride while you’re on it.

— Johnny Depp

Roswell, New Mexico is a nice little city with great history. It is almost a 7-hour drive from Fort Worth, so we relied heavily on traveling music. There is more to Roswell than alien conspiracies, but the famous 1947 UFO incident overshadows the rest so make sure to schedule a UFO tour if you plan to be in town. Dennis Balthaser, resident UFO Researcher,  conducts the Roswell UFO tours and he is legitimate. For $100 a party of 4 can ride with Dennis as he chronicles the history of Roswell and shares what his research has revealed about what happened that night in 1947.

It was truly a pleasure to meet Dennis. He makes no attempt to convert non-believers to believers. He is an extremely intelligent, kind-hearted man who enjoys sharing what he has learned with others. He is also an engineer and has worked on many other amazing projects throughout the world. If you’re a researcher at heart and love history you will not want to miss this tour. Even if you’re a skeptic, driving around the city of Roswell and listening to Dennis talk will provide great insight. We learned so much and have a greater appreciation for the city of Roswell (and science). See for yourself by scheduling  your own UFO tour with Dennis Balthaser.

The next stop on the tour was Albuquerque, NM. It was about a 3-hour drive from Roswell, so after stocking up on alien souvenirs we headed for the hotel in Albuquerque. The sky over this part of New Mexico was too splendid to be real. I was surrounded by intense blues, reds and greens and filled with the urge to stop the car and create something just as beautiful with prose, but the idea that snakes might find the view pleasing as well and decide to venture out for a visit kept my creative soul in the car until we reached the hotel.

The work never matches the dream of perfection the artist has to start with.
— William Faulkner

The next morning, we had tickets to ride the Sandia Peak Tramway. Remember what I said about being flexible and willing to jump? We’re both a bit squeamish when it comes to heights, but this was my idea. The Sandia Peak observation deck is a located in the Cibola National Forest. In the summer hikers brave the altitude and in the winter skiers test their skill. I bought a shirt from the gift store that says “Got Oxygen?” on the front. They weren’t exaggerating. At times we were over 10,000 feet in the air and my lungs felt the exertion of a 400-lb man sitting atop my shoulders.

Once the tram arrives at the top visitors can explore, hike back to the bottom or wait for the next tram. We explored the narrow and sometimes steep mountainside until sanity kicked in and “death by fall” seemed a real possibility. Then we headed back to catch the next tram down. I’m so glad we did this and would definitely recommend it for vacation, but considering we’d faced our fears and were both happier on the ground, once was enough.

“We should all start to live before we get too old. Fear is stupid. So are regrets.”
–Marilyn Monroe

After Sandia, we drove 6.5 hours to a hotel in Phoenix, Arizona to rest. There was nothing remarkable to either of us in Phoenix so we ordered take-out and got a good night’s sleep.

The next morning we drove 5.5 hours from Arizona to Hollywood, California. The scenery was beautiful, but the drive through the mountains – treacherous. Even in a Jeep, terror is an understatement. High altitude, sudden curves, steep hills, narrow roadways, falling rocks – a race car driver’s dream! For me, a nightmare.

After arriving in California we spent the remaining two days as tourists. We saw the Hollywood Walk of Fame and found Johnny Depp’s star, visited Universal Theme Park and toured Universal Studios, participated in an outdoor dance party (complete with Jumbotron) in front of Hard Rock Café Hollywood after a great dinner, entered the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and got sorted for wands, and met Johnny Depp – actually several versions of him at Madame Tussauds.

After an exciting vacation, we returned to Texas by airplane and collapsed from exhaustion. If I had to do it again I would recommend at least a 7-day stay instead because there is so much to see in California, but what an amazing adventure!

Bucket List Tally

  • Ride on a plane
  • Visit Las Vegas
  • Go to California
  • Find Johnny Depp’s Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame
  • Meet Johnny Depp
  • Visit Roswell
  • Get a tattoo

 

The tally proves almost anything is possible with a decent plan. So what are you waiting for? I’d love to hear what’s on your bucket list.

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First Drafts: Chapter One

snoopy writerIs it just me or has January flown by before you had the chance to get comfortable writing 2015? I bid farewell to Tennessee last Friday and returned to Texas after a long absence. To me, two years and eight months seems like forever, but in reality it wasn’t that long at all. I am grateful for the people I met and friendships I formed in Tennessee and will always hold a special place in my heart for the state, but I am happy to finally be home. Well, almost home. I’m not far from Dallas and a trip to Houston is less than 250 miles so that makes me close enough.

Almost Home

In the six weeks since graduation I have not had a moment to breathe. Immediately, I morphed into relocation mode and started considering my options. Then of course there was the actual move. There have been forward steps and backwards steps along the way, but progress by any means is always good. This latest move feels like a first draft. I’m on chapter one and the pages are all crisp and blank. The environment is new, my senses are awakened, there is anticipation mixed with uncertainty, and excitement about the possibility that in any moment something wonderful could happen. As usual, I unconsciously write outside the lines.

We did not get any pictures during this last road trip because we covered 529 miles in about nine hours. I now remember why on previous trips we checked into a hotel after driving for five or six hours. The good news is we arrived without any major mishaps. (That fire hydrant I almost took out with the truck doesn’t count.) The bad news is our furniture was not as lucky. I strongly recommend hiring professional movers to help with every aspect of the relocation process if you plan to travel across several states. The loading process is extremely important and you must make sure all items are firmly secured with tie-downs before traveling even a short distance. It is cheaper to rent a moving truck and do the driving, but I recommend saving enough money to hire a well-known company who specializes in relocation to do the driving instead. You might be broke by the time you arrive to your destination, but you will be less stressed.

Unpacking is moving slowly as we adjust to the new place and find ways to rearrange our possessions in unfamiliar surroundings, but there is joy that comes from seeing our favorite places and familiar conditions (like traffic jams, Barnes & Noble, Whataburger and Shipley’s). My writing room is almost set-up and I am already beginning to feel the familiar longings to put words on paper, create beautiful sentences and develop complex characters. The novel I was working on during thesis is waiting for the story to be finished and I need to feel like a capable, creative writer again instead of someone in transition. I think it is good that I stepped away from it for a bit to give the story a moment to breathe, but too much time away makes everything stale. I have a story to tell that won’t finish itself so my goal is to become more disciplined in order to reach my personal goals. Writers must write. It is what they do. It does not get more simple than that.

What I loved most about attending residencies at Murray State was the bonds formed with other writers within the program. Nothing replaces that kind of support and I cannot stress how important those relationships are. Just knowing the people you interact with understand why you are there (even if you haven’t figured it out yet) makes all the difference in the world. As fellow writers they share your frustrations and recognize the desire to create something remarkable from nothing and have it be appreciated. I find it difficult to explain why I do what I do – why I want to write or my love affair with words. An explanation isn’t necessary for those who speak my language. My only hope is that the rest who do not understand will some day find comfort and enjoyment in reading something I have written and that my words will speak for themselves.

My goals for the next several months are to work, write, read and spend time just enjoying life – once we’re settled, of course. Right now, I am not sure if I will be able to attend AWP 2015. Either way I will keep you posted, but first, I have to finish unpacking.

 

 

 

 

Plot Twist: Destination Unknown

In fiction, conflict can arise and create a plot twist. These plot twists propel the story into a new direction and help “build” the character or get them to where you want them to be. If life were fiction and I were a character, right now we would be encountering my plot twist. It reads something like this:

The fearless Texan, with a yearning to travel and desire for knowledge, sets out to explore the unknown and pursue her dream of becoming a novelist. Setting her sights on graduate school, she heads to Kentucky for an MFA program in creative writing at Murray State and finds a temporary home in Tennessee where she discovers, unlike Texas, they worship pork, not beef, and are accustomed to tornados in the summer and single digit degree weather during winter.

With bachelor’s degree in hand she searches for work in her new surroundings, but encounters resistance within the economy. After completing a three-month sentence in Cashierdom, she loses one month of sanity in Printingville before making her way to Leasetropolis which is surrounded by Plexiglas, has extremely low ceilings and conventional thinkers.

Three residencies, three mentors, three meltdowns, 68 text books, an attempted thesis defense assassination, wretched teaching presentation, confidence-building reading, and almost 945 days later – it’s finally time for graduation, which also means, time to return home.

The festivities are bittersweet for the Texan. An obsessive planner, she is in “relocation mode.” Her thoughts are not on graduation gowns, mortar boards, tassels or honor cords (although they are an honor), but her future: the next job, next home and the next hundred miles wherever they may lead.

Desination Unknown

I have said in the past there is joy in adventure. Yes, there is, unless you are job hunting. There is nothing exciting about being an almost graduate, stalking employment boards, resume revisions, and rejection. You can say it is good practice for when you start submitting your work for publishing, but in reality no writer has positive thoughts about having their work rejected.

Job hunting is in some ways worse than having your writing rejected. At least you get rejection letters. Most companies seeking candidates for employment don’t bother to respond at all – even some placement agencies.  Why such cruel and unnecessary punishment? Is it unrealistic to hope for the career of your dreams? Perhaps, but the dreamer in me is willing to accept a happy-medium. Writers live to write and will usually do whatever it takes to be able to continue doing so.

The magnificent thing about plot twists in writing is the ability to shape the character into the person you need them to be. Sometimes this is through hardship, loss, or frustration, but as long as you are holding the pen or perched in front of your keyboard the story possibilities are endless.

Congratulations to my fellow graduates. We made it! To those of you still on the path, keep fighting for whatever it is that motivates you to be the person you have always wanted to be. No one can stop you from writing, but you. Dream it, claim it, capture it!

As for me, right now my destination is unknown, but there are still 41 days left for another plot twist and who knows what a page turner its may turn out to be.

Destination Unknown

 

This is only a chapter, not the ending . . . The story has yet to be told.

Tennessee Texan

DSCN0151Hello again! Long time no see. I know it’s been ages since I’ve updated you on my progress along the road to my MFA. I apologize for the lengthy absence. I have truly been busy. Since my last update I got through another Tennessee Christmas without seeing my family in Texas and went back to Kentucky to attend my thesis residency in January. Right now I am in the middle of my thesis and to say I’m stressed is a huge understatement.

It has been one year, nine months and ten days since I have seen my friends and family back home in Texas. Sometimes I miss them and sometimes I just miss Texas. I’ve added Texas memorabilia around my apartment to remind me of home, but nothing takes the place of actually being there.

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What is it about Texas that makes me long to return? Honestly, I don’t know. Maybe it is familiarity. Maybe it is simply me being tired of the cold weather and limited choices here in Jackson, but I’m sure once I’m back home I will be wishing to be someplace else (after a little while) because I just have one of those restless spirits. The good thing is I truly feel like I have stepped foot into Dorothy’s shoes. Oz was beautiful, but there truly is no place like home. Tennessee is nice (for the most part), but there is for me, no place other than Texas that I want to live permanently. I wasn’t so sure about that before I left. Leaving was good. Now I know.

Today is the first day the weather has warmed up in quite some time and it is greatly appreciated. I’m sitting outside now on the patio with 5/6 of my household trying to work on thesis materials for my second packet which is due in sixteen days. Yes, I’m counting days because lately there is never enough time. While I’ve been here I’ve experienced many things, a double (almost triple homicide) too close for comfort, numerous tornado scares, racism, a sweet little place that makes the best ham sandwiches I’ve ever tasted, snow, frozen car doors that won’t open – then won’t close, true southern accents, and apartment leasing.

Have you ever received a blessing that brought complications along with it? I guess you might say then it’s not a blessing, but I think it is. It’s just complicated. I’m now working full time – right in the middle of my thesis. The major difference about this position and the positions I’ve held for the past several years, while in school, is there is no downtime and no allowances for being a student. Considering the fact that I moved out here to be closer to MSU one would think I’d drop anything that interfered. It’s not that simple, but I’m doing the best I can and reminding myself to be thankful for each and every blessing. I’ve learned that even hardships can bring about amazing outcomes.

I was planning to attend the AWP Conference in Seattle this year and had booked everything but plane tickets. Then my pet sitter canceled on me so I had to cancel AWP. At first I was really upset about it. Not only did I want to attend my first AWP Conference, I really wanted to see Seattle. If I weren’t working I would have loved nothing better than a road trip, because then I could have seen other parts of the world I might not ever have a chance to see. I do believe everything happens for a reason – even reasons I may not understand. Had I attended,  the packet I’m so desperately trying to complete now would have definitely been late and I would have been even more stressed. There’s always next year’s AWP in Minneapolis. What can be better than checking out Prince’s digs?

Thesis residency in January went better than expected. I chose my first mentor as my thesis advisor and it turns out she only had one other person. We were able to cover all of our material during the residency – something we would not have been able to do had we had a larger class. It was pleasing to have her read the material I’m working on now and see that I have truly grown as a writer. If you asked me what I’ve learned or what changed, I can’t point to any one specific thing. There are so many little things that make up the big picture of progress. I can definitely say if you are on the fence about whether or not to pursue an MFA to go for it. It really is worth it. There is no formula for writing (at lease I don’t think so).  Sure there are things you learn to make it better and methods that help you get to where you want to be in the story, but if you have no creativity inside, no drive to write something really good, and no willpower to keep going even during the tough times then school won’t help. As writers we all have something special inside that churns out stuff that makes us unique. If I had not pursued my MFA I probably wouldn’t have recognized my strengths as a writer or learned  how to nurture them to become a better writer.

It amazes me how you go along in life with one idea about where a journey may lead and end up with so many other amazing gifts when it is almost time for it to come to an end. Since I’ve been here we’ve started a “Something Good Happened Today” box. It was actually an idea I got from someone back home. She was posting on Facebook things she was grateful for, but on a daily basis, and I realized how much easier it was to complain than to recognize the good things (even if they are sometimes small) that happen to us. My daughter and I take a tiny scrap of paper, jot down the event and the date it happened, and put it in a box. At the end of the year we put the little scraps of paper in a plastic bag and read through them. If I were really disciplined I would do it on a weekly basis instead of every time something good happened, but baby steps.

To help me deal with thesis stress I’ve started an exercise program – one that was long overdue. I wanted to lose weight to fit into an outfit I wanted to wear for the banquet after thesis defense, but I also wanted healthier eating habits and a change in my lifestyle. I have a definite goal, but once again baby steps. I’m focusing on three miles a day right now, and getting up in the mornings when I’d much rather stay in bed for an extra fifteen minutes is brutal. So is exercising in the evenings when I get off and remembering to cut down on portions, but I’m optimistic. Exercise is a great way to burn off stress, especially after a day at work.

The leasing industry has a lot of potential for a creative person with tons of energy. With that being said, I don’t recommend it while in the middle of thesis. Time off is unrealistic, writing time must be crammed into a lunch hour (if nothing else is more pressing) or after work, and sleep is the enemy. The great part is that you get to meet some really amazing (and some not so amazing) residents and you get to work with some really fun people. I love trying to meet the needs of our residents and take pleasure when things work out. On the down side I had two evictions this month, but knowing I did everything I could to try and help them, before it got to that point, allows me to not be too upset. I’d be even happier if some of the proposals I’ve submitted to improve our property got approved, but then again baby steps.

My goal when all this is over is to leave here with a completed (or close to finished) novel of fiction. I’m working with linked stories and really enjoying the characters that have introduced themselves to me. Defense is in July and if all goes well, graduation is in December. Who knows what journey will be next after that. Right now, I’m just focusing on one thing at a time. I put them on the refrigerator in case I get sidetracked or overwhelmed.

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Until next time.

 

Time Flies

Flying-Calendar-PagesI can’t believe it is already September. I can’t believe a lot of things, but the idea that there are four more months left in this year completely blows my mind. Where did all the time go? Why, on school of course, and a few chunks (a month or so) went on work. Sometimes this journey I’m on makes me feel like I’m on the inside of a Gusher. You know those supposedly fruit-filled (Lord only knows what’s really on the inside) gummy snacks we ate as kids? The inside is probably squishy with multiple flavors that get sticky when exposed and the gummy outside is like a little pouch that holds it all together.

For a few months now I’ve been trying to squish my aspirations to become a writer (a big portion of which includes being an MFA student) and desire to become a productive member of society (having a “real” job) together into the gummy pouch otherwise known as life.  Sometimes I found it easier to just work on one flavor for a while so I devoted July to work, because (1) I was needed and (2) I was suffering from “I don’t think I really know what I’m doing” syndrome which meant I didn’t get a lot of writing done. Since I was exhausted most of the time from the one flavor I only tormented myself about not writing during the times I was supposed to be sleeping, and then before I knew it life was back to normal. A new semester started and I was once again in employment limbo. For all intensive purposes I still have a job – sort of. Let’s just say it falls into one of those “it’s complicated” categories people use to describe their relationships and move on.

When I don’t analyze it I’m grateful for the time and wisely throw myself into school, focusing on completing assignments. This semester I have eight books to read for my literature class, not including the ones I have yet to buy for the upcoming (unidentified as of yet) research project which will be due, a novel to read for my book review and numerous submissions from budding authors like myself (although they seem to have made more progress) who would like to be published in our literary magazine. When I’m not reading I’m supposed to be writing – that is fine tuning the stories I’ve been working on for my upcoming thesis. So, it is not like I don’t have enough to keep me busy. Still sometimes I can’t help but feel a bit disconnected. The goal is to merge the flavors to create the “flavor explosion” they are always talking about.

I’ve been saying for a while now that I need a vacation. I’m living proof that it is possible to sometimes need a vacation from your vacation. Lately it seems as if I’m operating within constraints when I really just need to breathe – maybe then I will feel more like writing. It’s there I know it. These past few days there have been moments when I know I need to sit down with pen and paper or get to the computer, but there has always been something else that needed to be done as well. I would like to escape from those constraints or at least keep them in check.

There have been times lately when I have said yes to people who have invited me to do things when I really wanted to say no. I wish there were a better way to deal with the outside world when it comes to writing. How do you say I’m sorry I can’t or I’d really like to, but not now without them thinking you’re robbing yourself of life or something or worse – being selfish? The life of a writer is generally solitary. If they are around people all the time how are they supposed to get any writing done? I have the hardest time getting this point across and realize why many lock themselves away.

A road trip about now would be a nice diversion – even a tiny one, but I will have to wait until the new year. When that comes I’m sure I will be traveled-out. In January it’s back to KY for my thesis residency, then towards the end of February we’re off to Seattle for AWP. It will be my first AWP conference and my first time in Seattle. More than anything I would love to do a road trip on that one because there are so many amazing sights to see, but time will most likely not permit, not to mention my pet sitter (my mom) will have a cow if I am gone longer than expected so that trip will most likely be a flight. After that in July, I return to MSU to finish up my program and hopefully successfully defend my thesis.  Needless to say these trips will most likely be a killer on the pocket book so the only road trip I’m getting between now and then will be back and forth to the grocery store – if I’m lucky.

I haven’t submitted anything recently, because I haven’t focused on anything lately besides the stuff for my thesis. I know I need to – I will, just not today. If anyone knows of any great spots in TN (parks, campsites, retreats, etc.) that I could possibly make into a great writing spot please let me know. It has been a little over a year and I’m still “new” here when it comes to exploring.

Balancing Act

I’ve been meaning to blog sooner but I have been so busy lately trying to balance work and school. It is not easy. I’ve been asking my fellow MFA friends how they do it. It is doable they tell me, just extremely difficult.

The thing about writing when you are just starting out is you have to have some kind of job that pays the bills while you pursue your dream. I don’t know many people who expect to become rich by writing or who enter the field expecting to make a lot of money. Like me, they simply write because they love it. With that being said, there has to be a way to find a better balance between the two.

An amazing opportunity opened up for me to enter a new career field and learn a new skill and I accepted the challenge. As it turns out I have a knack for it so there is a possibility that this temporary part-time position that became temporary full-time could become a permanent full-time position, which would be great – I think.

Living out here in this barren employment wasteland I’d be a fool not to take it if offered, but what about my writing? How do I find time to do homework? Work on my book? Hear myself think long enough to be creative? How do I find a balance between the two? What’s the secret to having a job you truly enjoy and staying on the path which leads from aspiring writer to accomplished author?

The thing is, the job isn’t stressful – not really. It’s actually quite fun. It involves meeting new people on an almost daily basis and is in an air conditioned office – a big step up from “cashierdom.” For the most part the clients are nice, the office staff is extremely pleasant and my boss is a jewel.  It is a wonderful opportunity. So how do I make it all work? There was an article in either Poets & Writers or Writers Digest about this particular issue, but I didn’t have time to read it when I saw it. Now I’ll have to dig through my back issues and see if I can find it.

The whole reason I moved to Tennessee was to be closer to campus. An hour and forty minute drive from Jackson is a major improvement from the three-day drive from Houston I did during my first residency. I have a year of the program left and am getting closer to seeing my hard work turn into something positive. My thesis semester officially begins in January so I am trying to get everything ready for it now. Meanwhile, fall semester begins in two weeks. I will be taking my last literature class and working on our campus literary magazine.  Just thinking about it stirs a mix of excitement and apprehension, but I’m hoping it all turns out well. Here are the books we will cover in the literature course.

American Literature 1870-1920

I’ve been in Tennessee almost fourteen months, but it seems like much longer. I’ve met some really amazing people and even a few new friends. I still miss home though. The other day a fellow Texan was on his way to Tennessee and asked me if there was anything I wanted him to bring me from Texas.  The first thing that came to mind was Fry’s since we don’t have one here, but my daughter reminded me that I’ve been going on and on about Whataburger. She said the first thing I’ll probably do when we get back home is stop off at the nearest Whataburger – while we’re still in the moving van.  She’s right about that, so I guess I should have said bring me a Whataburger!

I’m not going to make any traveling plans, even though I would love to get home this year for the holidays since I couldn’t last year. It might be pushing it if I drive back to Texas in December when I’ll only have to be back in Kentucky in January. There is also work to consider which may be a more stable situation by then – who knows. AWP is going to be held in Seattle in March and I’d really like to attend that. I hope to be finished with the story collection (or whatever we’re calling it now)  that I’m working on by then, but that’s optimism speaking not set plans.

More than anything I’d still love a solitary or really small writer’s retreat. No workshops, no lectures, just amazing scenery, peace and quiet to allow the creative voices that live in my head to start communicating again, maybe some jabber here and there from a few fellow writers because they always make everything better, and a little wine because – do I even need to explain this one?

As always I will continue to take each day one adventure at a time. It truly has been a remarkable journey and I’m grateful for every opportunity – even the ones that didn’t go so well because it provides good learning experience and great starting points for stories I might someday write. I know this is only one chapter and there are many more to come.

Until next time.

Road Warrior

I have a million and one things I should be doing, but the only thing (besides writing) that sounds remotely interesting is taking another road trip. My road trip warrior partner is all tripped out, but my heart yearns to see something new even though Tennessee is beautiful this time of year. About this time I would normally be surrounded by numerous suitcases and getting ready to head back to Kentucky for residency, but I’m sitting this one out. Maybe that’s the problem. I’m used to going. I postponed my thesis residency until January because I knew (1) I wouldn’t be able to afford it without financial assistance and (2) I’m not finished with my thesis pieces. This last mentor semester was amazing. I was really able to make a lot of progress, but when it ended I think life stepped in and I haven’t been able to really focus on my writing. I’m in the final week of the summer literature class I mentioned in my last post – the Latin studies one. Surprisingly it hasn’t been bad at all. I still would prefer not to do cultural studies classes, but I was amazed to find some new authors I really liked. We just finished reading Drown and This Is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz. I found both books to be extremely helpful in terms of my own writing – especially my thesis project. It was as if someone handed me a book with answers I didn’t know I had been searching for. When I actually find time to give my thesis project attention again I will at least have more authors to reference in terms of trying to piece everything together in a manner that will stand up to a defense. It seems as if whenever I have a serious project or impending deadline the sky decides to fall about that time as well. Since I’ve been in Tennessee the job situation has been unstable. Besides the fact that the economy is still in the toilet, small towns like the one I’m in don’t really have many options. I never imagined when I decided to get my MFA that there would be times when I would have to pay out of pocket for classes. Financial aid is not what it used to be. Add out-of-state tuition on top of all that and you’ll get the picture. Right now I’m working, but it has been insane trying to jump through hoops to meet the demands of my online class as well. Unlike past online classes I have taken, this particular one requires daily postings and a paper every week. It is only a five week course, but I started it and the job around the same time and I can honestly say there have been times when I have only gotten about two hours of sleep before having to go to work the next day.  Basically it is a five-week course with seven books. To me that is insane. This week I’m scrambling to put together a final major project which requires  reading, research, writing, and some desktop publishing. If I had more time it would actually be fun, but I also have to make time for the last book we are studying and frankly, I just don’t see how it will all add up without me losing my mind in the process. I don’t know how to successfully balance all this with work, but when the class officially ends I will have about four weeks to pull my thesis works into order so my new advisor can have something good to work with. I might have collapsed from exhaustion by the time thesis rolls around, but as long as it’s ready I’m okay with being a zombie for a while. I’ve been thinking a lot about home as well. I miss Texas, but feel I have so much unfinished business to tie up before I return. I can’t believe it has been a year since I have set foot in the state. I don’t know exactly what I miss about it – maybe familiarity for the most part, but there is a sense of pride that develops for one’s hometown once you leave. You never know how much you miss something until you have the courage to leave it. I strongly recommend everyone leave their comfort zone at least once. It definitely builds a stronger appreciation for what you left when you return. On the movie front, I haven’t found time to see Man of Steel, but I hear the soundtrack is great. One thing I’ve had to sacrifice during this MFA journey is watching movies. There are so many I want to see and they just keep adding up. If only there were more hours in the day. Weekends are reserved for reading and completing assignments and everything else just sort of falls wherever it lands. It’s hard trying to explain that sometimes to people. The other day someone accused me of being self-absorbed because I don’t have time to devote to them like I used to. In all honesty, I didn’t have time then, I just sacrificed some things to make myself available. In graduate school there is no free time. If it doesn’t come first you may as well pack up and go back home, because it is impossible to succeed in this program playing catch up. That is why I love having friends who are doing this too. It is like we are suffering together. We feel each other’s pain and speak the same language. We are there to give encouragement when the rejection letters pile in, to collectively indulge in spirits to nurse our wounds, and to kidnap a highly opinionated muse who doesn’t’ know when to quit. I don’t think I’m going to get to do any traveling this year, but if I do you can rest assured I will fill you in on all the details. For those of you lucky enough to get a summer vacation, safe travels and remember to have lots of fun. Happy reading and happy writing! Oh, and Happy “early” Independence Day as well.