Final Grades, Flowers, and Mother’s Day Beauty

I spent a few hours today looking back at novels I started and wanted to pick back up. I got so lost in one that I added 3,000 words, not noticing how mentally tired I was until I walked away. (3,000 words is about 10 double spaced pages, FYI.) One of the hobbies that continues to make me happy pre- and post-attack is gardening. And my husband continually supports my plant whims and impulse buys. Over the weekend, it was Emperor Wu hostas. I had never seen them in a store before, and they could be mine for $10. They are the largest known hosta variety and exactly what I needed to make a shady back corner feel more lush, tropical, and inviting. Giant 4-5 foot tall hostas might do that. Or they might make it feel like I’ve stepped into Jurassic World. Either way, I really don’t mind.

My final grades got posted, and I am beyond excited. Y’all, I managed to get an A in organic chemistry 2. In fact, I got a 4.0 in cell bio, organic chemistry 2, microbiology, and all of their respective labs! The A in organic is what really flabbergasted me. I adored the biology classes and could read biology textbooks for fun, but I had to work at organic chemistry.

My husband has been with us for three Mother’s Days now. One, we’d barely begun dating. The next, we were newlyweds. And now, I think we’re comfortable and finally know more about who we both are. I was told to go sit upstairs and read on Saturday by my plotting daughter. I read, but I do have superhearing, courtesy of the PTSD. And I heard the sewing machine whirring and wondered what they were plotting. On Mother’s Day, my family gifted me with chocolates (a tried and true, much beloved option) and my daughter had been sewing me a constellation-covered pillow case. Ben bought me plants because he knows anxiety simply can’t survive the thrill of putting a new plant where it will thrive and be beautiful.

But the things that made me happiest were the cards that my family all wrote messages in. My kids are all old enough to say heartfelt things in cards now, and I love it. My eyes roam over the ink, and I soak it in. And for a bonus, we got to hike with a dear friend and her family to a local destination. My kids trudged through 8 miles, four downhill, four uphill. And we saw a few wonders–hundreds of tadpoles, many wildflowers, waterfalls, and huge butterflies. But mostly, I adored my kids seeing new places and experiencing the world. We were all exhausted, but happy.

Poetry: Winter Solstice 2021

Context:

This poem is a wish that the universe would take care of justice for me. I’ve been handed a few glorious moments over the years, moments I felt that the Fates were spinning my villains into the corner they deserved and offering me a window to see. For the record, my husband says that the best revenge is a life well lived. And he’s right. But sometimes I still curse my attacker on my bad days.

My attacker’s court date got pushed back, and it’s been years already. So, I wait. And I recently had what I hope is the final surgery to fix the physical damage from the attack. It was a rough one.

Winter Solstice 2021

Does the frost lick your veins like the post-op splints tickle my nose?

Just a little too cold, a little too painful to sleep.

Does the darkness blend into your shot-in-the-dark soul?

I raise another glass, hoping your nights are long and that you forget the wonder of the galaxy. (It’s you who gobbles nanometers.)

I hope you live in the winter solstice and can’t see the fractals in the frost.

I still stand–a tree in the pitch–awaiting morning’s kiss. But I didn’t forget to watch the night undress the light of a thousand stars.

Election Blues and NaNoWriMo

Like the rest of the country, I am on edge, watching the votes filter in, worried about how close this election is. I’ve bounced from project to project to project in a house that supports that. No one here has batted an eyelash when I piled shelves, toilets, doors, and sinks in weird places. I’m de-1990-ing a couple of bathrooms to wait out the rising pandemic numbers and the vote count.

If we’re going to have to stay home and not be around anyone all winter, we might as well like the house. Or that’s my theory as I dive into things I have been annoyed by, but living with for years.

My computer is not cooperating with my IT know-how. I’m viewing it as a sign from the universe that writing should be delayed for a couple of hours. I decided to give my latest novel a push with NaNoWriMo, and I already had some written, so I think I can meet this goal. 🙂 (NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month. The goal is to write at least 50K words in November.)

For my US readers, hang in there, and don’t be divisive. We all have to still exist together at the end of this process.

Odin yielding to all of the snuggling.

Much love, Jessi (and Odin the German Shepherd)

Where Angels Can’t Follow: Book Birthday

Good morning, y’all. My mom likes to start these book birthdays off with issues that will give me mini-heart attacks at 6AM. (She means well and will be spamming all of her friends with my books all day.) “Your pre-orders aren’t being delivered correctly.” Or “people can’t pre-order on iPhones”. With a bit of Amazon consulting, it was sorted by 7AM, but I was almost relieved when Windows told me it had to configure a feature update. (Incidentally, if you have this problem with a pre-order, don’t delete your app and restart your phone over and over. Just delete the book and download it fresh. It will still be in your Kindle library if you delete it from the device.) Since I was helpless due to the Windows gods, I went for a four mile run listening to the catchy, fast songs from Hamilton. It was just the thing for a book birthday.

I get caught up, probably like most artists, in how well a thing is being received. Do I have reviews? Are they good? Did people love my characters? Did I sell enough to keep doing this? In the end, it doesn’t matter. I give my best words and best characters to my readers. I want to give you the same places to crawl into that I have–beautiful worlds with the kinds of people we want to know.

One of my favorite quotes about creating art is advice from Andy Warhol, “Don’t think about making art, just get it done. Let everyone else decide if it’s good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they are deciding, make even more art.” I’ve been taking Mr. Warhol’s advice, and I have over a hundred pages of Iron Spirits done now. Here’s to knocking out the next two hundred.

I hope you find characters and lines in each of my books that sneak their way into the channels of your brain and that my books are a refuge when you need it. Happy reading!

Poetry: Worse

The anniversary of my attack is looming, a great maw snapping at the smiles and sunshine in my life. I’ve had an uptick in panic attacks, super hearing, and insomnia. I’m operating on caffeine and stubbornness today. It’s enough. This poem was inspired by me asking my significant other if he thinks I’ve gotten worse. Because for some demented reason, I have to know the truth; I have to pry it out like a rotten tooth.

Worse

“You’re getting worse.”
I wrap my arms around myself as far as they’ll go,
protecting my core like your words are hits.
But they don’t keep coming.

I wait for the conditional get-better-now, stop-panicking
receding footsteps.
But there was no or else.
No if-then.

You pulled me closer
as I apologized for more things I can’t help.
I might as well apologize for the rain, too.
And you stop my torrent
like a shut-off valve in the sky.

Where Angels Can’t Follow: Blog Tour Day 5

Good morning! We’re wrapping up the first week of the Where Angels Can’t Follow blog tour. (There’s one more week of blog stops to go, for those of you wondering when I would get back to poetry, writing blogs, and finishing Iron Spirits.) I can’t believe we’re only four days away from the release! I am excited to share the world, the characters, and their hilarity. One of my writing idols, Joss Whedon, once offered this advice for writing, “Make it dark, make it grim, make it tough, but then, for the love of God, tell a joke.” And that was my goal.

Today’s stop on the blog tour is Jazzy Book Reviews. You can find an excerpt of Where Angels Can’t Follow here, if you haven’t gotten to it yet. (At least your wait for the rest won’t be long now!) It’s also one of your last opportunities to enter the Iron Shards giveaway.

https://www.jazzybookreviews.com/2020/09/where-angels-cant-follow-by-jessi.html

Poetry: Un-Days

I know that some of my readers are here because of our mutual love of poetry. And the Where Angels Can’t Follow blog tour is not going to speak to that. So, here’s a new poem I wrote yesterday, which was a hard day for me. I didn’t fall into the hole in my calendar, but I did keep busy with random chores, freezing meals to a ridiculous degree (who needs that much spinach lasagna?!), and finishing the day out with a drink. Odin, the German Shepherd who seems to know when my days are difficult, did not leave my side.

Un-Days

The days we used to celebrate

become holes in the calendar.

Stay-away-from-the-edge,

you-might-fall-in days.


Anniversaries that got crossed out–

absent champagne, flowers, and cards.

Birthdays that aren’t

for people that aren’t.

Days when the world stopped

and our lives fell

into a pit disguised as an ordinary day.


It’s a dubious privilege of aging–

learning how to span the shaky debris over those holes.

I’ll tell you my secret:

don’t look down.

Poetry: Paradise

I recently bought last-minute tickets to hike at Mount Rainier National Park. I had never been to the Pacific Northwest, and after I decided that I was done depriving myself of beauty and the things I love, no one could stop me. So, I hopped on a plane to Seattle and was not disappointed.

There’s a section of Mount Rainier National Park called Paradise. I was there, hiking the Skyline loop surrounded by flabbergasting waterfalls, wildflowers, and Mount Rainier when a woman stomped past me on the trail.

Paradise

Have you ever been to dismal towns called Paradise

and thought the founders lacked imagination?

I have.

But this time, the name fit.

The sleeping volcano dominated the landscape.

The wildflowers filled every spot that no one stepped.

Waterfalls fell with such abundance that no one names them all.

And a woman stomped down the trail,

unflabbergasted by the embarrassment of riches.

Some people are angry even in Paradise.

Poetry: False Beliefs

When you begin trauma therapy, one of the first things you tackle is false beliefs–the ideas that somehow everything is your fault or that you deserve anything terrible that happened. (Survivor’s guilt, years of an abuser telling you that you deserve abuse: there are many kinds of trauma that instill those lies in us.) And as the false beliefs and guilt slide away, you learn to be happy again. To me, that alone was anxiety inducing–where is all of the pain I am used to drowning in? The terror I carry with me?

I was creating some of my own misery by not pursuing things I loved, like I was an afterthought who didn’t deserve consideration. I took on everything everyone else wanted and didn’t know how to say no for a long time. And as you can imagine, people don’t like it when you stop yielding. But no one else will say no for you.

Things have clicked into place for me during the isolation of the pandemic. And I’ve reclaimed my time to journal, my time to read, and time to travel and drink in beauty. Of course, that comes at the price of not doing everything everyone else in my life wanted–not doing laundry for my entire family all of the time, not having an immaculate house, not giving a damn what the neighborhood thinks of my yard, and not volunteering with every organization my kids want to be a part of. The pandemic shut everything down so that I got to see what I was adding back, and the answer is almost nothing that I had before. And I like it.

False Beliefs

I believed The Devil over time.

I believed the terrible things he said about me.

And I began to wonder how anyone wanted me.

I believed no one else would.

And if I was so awful,

then maybe I deserved him.

He punched the wall.

I deserved that.

He broke my lamps, doors, dishes.

I deserved that.

He broke me.

I deserved that.

I’ve served my penance in a hundred miserable ways.

I kept words trapped inside of me, un-writing.

I didn’t allow my eyes to roam over the beautiful words

that other broken wordsmiths wrote.

I didn’t let myself venture underground.

No sparkling speleothems to soak in.

I starved myself of beauty.

I deserved that.

And then the angel came along and wanted what’s best for me.

In every way.

He loves my freckles, my scars,

my hellbent-on-success, impossible goal lists,  

my damn-the-torpedoes approach to life.

And I get to put on a sequined shirt, a leather skirt, a hot pink jacket.

To open the books I’d hoarded for when I was good enough.

To write each day like it’s my last, and the ink is endless.

To linger at waterfalls, wildflowers, and gypsum.

To be happy.


I deserve that.

Poetry: Closet Chair

For eleven months now, I’ve had PTSD, following a violent attack, and my panic attacks are not really going away. It’s not a pretty thing that people want to know about or discuss. We’d all really rather I were normal–whatever that word means.

I really like hiding away in my closet when anxiety creeps in. It’s the quietest place in the house, it’s not so bright there either, and I feel safe in the smaller space. I know it’s odd. Just try to explain your habit of freaking out in your closet next to the impractical shoes to someone you might want to date. It makes you really popular, in case you’re wondering. It’s more of a fifth date confession.

My boyfriend really sees who I am in this closet, the good and the bad. And recently he did a beautiful thing; he put a giant beanbag in there for me.

Closet Chair

The beanbag’s overstuffed and too big for its spot–

a chair for you and a bed for me.

Beige microfiber, in full fluff just below the lowest hanger racks.

It cradles my whole body, hugging me when no one else will.

It’s one of the nicest things anyone’s done for me.

You didn’t try to drag me into the light, puffy-eyed and sniffling,

where you could pretend this isn’t happening.

You didn’t impose a timeline on my recovery,

never treating my panic like it’s fleeting.

You pulled up a chair and invited me to be comfortable

while in pain.

Like a spouse settling into a hospital chair to wait out the night,

you settled in like you’d stay.

In the beanbag for two in my closet.