digging out

In late May, I spent a few days on a private writing retreat back in North Adams, Massachusetts. I grew up in the area and it is the subject of my poetry collection work-in-progress, so it is helpful to me to be back there to work on it. (I wrote about it here for Stream of Consciousness Saturday, so even more rambling than I am when I have the luxury of editing myself.)

Part of the reason it is helpful to be back there is that I’m relieved of most of the caretaking/errands/planning/phoning/corresponding that take up a lot of my brain when I am at home. As if to make up for my being away for a bit, my return was greeted with an avalanche of problems that I may, finally, be at the point of seeing light at the end of the tunnel.

It’s exhausting.

I will not bore you with any details other than to say that anyone who has ever had to deal with a complex issue with a US insurance company has some inkling of what it has been like times three.

The update on the manuscript is that it is in the hands of my poet-friends with an eye toward doing a full review sometime in the next few weeks. I was fortunate that I had returned from North Adams with the poems basically done and ordered. I powered through writing the foreword and end notes before June hit so I was able to pivot to dealing with bureaucracy.

Fingers crossed that personal life will calm down in time for the manuscript review and for a couple of weeks for revision time so that I can send the manuscript out for July submission calls. Tupelo Press just helpfully reminded me that they will be having an open submission period for manuscripts in July. After attending the inaugural Tupelo Press/Studios at MASS MoCA residency week in 2015, I promised that I would send them work. I didn’t think it would be this many years before I would have the manuscript completed, but I am looking forward to finally keeping that promise. I feel especially obligated to send this to them because so many of the poems intersect with MASS MoCA, my time there, and the art.

I will, of course, be sending the manuscript to other publishers and contests because one needs to cast as wide a net as possible to find the right fit between the press and the poet.

One hopes.

Fingers crossed.

blue Christmas

Several years ago, I attended a Blue Christmas service, led by a pastor-friend. It is a service during Advent to help those who are experiencing loss or struggles, acknowledging that the Christmas season is difficult in their circumstances.

It would have been beneficial to attend such a service this year.

I have been preoccupied with caregiving responsibilities and concerns over these last months, which don’t pause just because it is December. I outsourced nearly all the Christmas preparations to my family, even sending holiday cards and letters, which has long been one of my highest priorities. I couldn’t make myself try to sum up what has been a complex year, so spouse B and daughter T wrote a letter instead.

One of the blessings of this year, though, has been that our Christmas celebration has been elongated, starting with St. Nicholas Day on December 6th, which we observed so that we could celebrate with daughter E and granddaughter ABC before they left to spend several weeks with son-in-law L and his family in London. My older sister and her husband came to visit weekend before last. T and I attended Christmas Eve mass at 6:00 last night, with the instrumental ensemble and choir and the handbell choir. T loves handbells and ringing, so it was wonderful to hear them, especially with the new addition of handchimes.

On this Christmas morning, we opened stockings and a few presents, given that we already did stockings and gift exchange for St. Nicholas Day. We will have dinner at noon with Nana and Paco, bringing Nana over from her room in skilled nursing to the main dining room for the holiday buffet, as we did at Thanksgiving. Tomorrow, my younger sister and her family will arrive for a couple of days.

Still, it is difficult for me to feel festive. It’s hard to marvel at the wonder of the Incarnation while thinking about logistics and everyday details.

Perhaps, that is the message, though. The wonder of the Incarnation is that it arrived by everyday means, the birth of a child in complicated circumstances, something that happens around the world every day.

Perhaps, I can take that message into my own heart today, reminding myself that the spirit of Love is within and around us in our everyday experiences, if we only reflect and notice.

Wishing that spirit of Love to each of you,
Joanne

continuing reaction to Orlando

I wrote on Sunday about my early reactions to the shooting at Pulse in Orlando.

Of course, even now, on Tuesday afternoon, reactions are still early, but I wanted to add a bit more.

One interesting thing locally is that some of our local news broadcasters have incorporated reflections on the ACA shooting here in 2009 into their continuing coverage of the Orlando shooting. This linkage does not often happen, but I expect that it may be this time because there is a sense of connection about a specific group of people being targeted. With the American Civic Association shooting in Binghamton, it was immigrants; with Orlando, it was the LGBTQ community, or, perhaps, the Latino community.

My own emotions continue to swirl.

Yesterday afternoon, Sappho’s Circle, a group of women poets convened by Heather Dorn, met. In response to a prompt, I wrote a poem about the deaths this spring, including those in Orlando. Heather suggested that I submit it to Rattle Poets Respond, which publishes a poem weekly that is newly written in response to current events. I was honored that she felt the poem was worthy enough to be considered and I sent it through Submittable this morning.

Rattle is a very competitive publisher, so chances of acceptance are slim, but, after these recent weeks of not writing or submitting at all, it is gratifying to have been able to process events and feelings into a poem, to have shared it with my friends at Sappho’s Circle, and to have sent it off into the ether.

 

 

waiting is hard work

I haven’t been posting much this week because I have been busy helping my dad, known here as Paco, and my mom, aka Nana.

Paco’s doctors had been keeping an eye on a partial blockage in one of his carotid arteries and his last ultrasound revealed that it had reached 70%, which is considered time to intervene.

So, on Wednesday, I brought my parents to the hospital for Paco to have carotid angioplasty with possible stenting.

After a morning of doing bloodwork, starting IVs, and asking more questions than you would think possible, the team was ready to begin.

Nana and I waited in the coronary care waiting room because Paco’s procedure was taking place in the same kind of catheterization lab that is used for heart vessel procedures.

It was the same room in which I sat alone in July 2014 when Nana was in the cath lab while Paco was in surgery.

Not my particular favorite place to be.

After an hour, a nurse came out to tell us that a stent would be needed, which would take another hour.

So, we waited some more…

I was using the hospital’s wi fi to read email and such to keep occupied. A rejection notice came through from a submission that I had sent for expedited review. I should have heard back over two weeks ago and had been anxiously awaiting hearing from the journal. Under other circumstances, I might have been upset by the rejection, but, current priorities and perspective definitely put my reaction in its proper place.

We waited for the second hour we expected – and for most of the next hour, too. Nana was very anxious that something had gone wrong. I tried to be reassuring, knowing that things often take more time than anticipated and that informing the family takes a back seat to caring for the patient, but I don’t think I was very successful.

Happily, a nurse came out and said that he was all set and doing well. We got to see him for a moment in the hall before they took him to his room in the ICU, which is best equipped to monitor the heart and other vital signs after these kinds of procedures. They were supposed to come get us after they got him settled.

After a few more minutes, the doctor came out to speak to us and explain some details.

Then, we waited and waited and waited some more.

When we could finally visit in his room, we waited for his nurse to get back to go over more paperwork and for other practicalities like ordering Paco some dinner.

When Nana and I finally left after having been at the hospital almost eight hours, we were both exhausted.

Waiting is hard work.

Postscript:  Paco stayed overnight and was released around 1 PM the next day. We are all still tired and trying to get back on track. And we have to change the clocks for daylight savings time tonight. Goody.

News from submissions

On Monday, I posted about putting in my first poetry submissions of 2016 and promised that you would be among the first to know if I got an acceptance.

I am pleased to announce that Silver Birch Press has accepted my poem “Crowning Glory” as part of their upcoming “My Mane Memories” series.

Poet-friends, submissions are open through Feb. 29. The call for submissions is here. Unlike many publishers, Silver Birch Press accepts previously published work. Short prose (up to 300 words) is also part of the series.

I will post the link here at Top of JC’s Mind when my poem appears. You’ll also be treated to a new photo featuring my silver mane!

First poetry submissions of the year

I managed to get my act together to do two poetry submissions today, my first of 2016. I have had a poem published this year, though, which you can find here.

I submitted my poem “Crowning Glory” to Silver Birch Press in response to their call for submissions for the “My Mane Memories” series.  Silver Birch is looking for poetry and short prose pieces about your hair. It was a lot of fun to write! Submissions are open through the end of February, so there is time to participate if you like.

I also submitted four poems to The Tishman Review. I had submitted to them last year and received positive feedback, although not an acceptance. They encouraged me to submit again and I finally have. They read blind, though, so they won’t know that I have submitted again until they have decided whether or not to accept. I’m hoping to have chosen the best matches for their editorial preferences. Unlike most of the journals to which I choose to submit, Tishman has a fee to submit, $3 for 90 day response per set of 3-4 poems, or $6 for a two-week response. However, if they accept your work, you do get paid. I’m figuring that if I do ever get paid, I can consider myself a professional poet, instead of just a published one. 😉

So the wait is on. If I get an acceptance, you will be among the first to know!

On being a US Catholic in the days of Pope Francis

While the United States is a very pluralistic country, with its people following hundreds of different spiritual, religious, philosophical, or secular belief systems, seventy million of us consider ourselves to be Roman Catholic.

With Pope Francis travelling in the Northeastern United States these past few days, there has been extensive media coverage, with reporters and interviewees acknowledging that they are Catholic, which is often not brought up in journalism or entertainment here. It has been touching to hear US Catholics talk about their faith and to hear Francis reach out to all people, regardless of their belief in the Divine or not, in keeping with the meaning of the word “catholic” which is “universal.” It is heartening to hear so many respond in kind, saying, “I’m not Catholic but I want to see Francis and hear what he has to say.”

I am Catholic, but do not in any way promote my faith as being any better than another path. It is simply the path that has meaning to me and which is integrated into my being and through which I hope to live out Divine Love in the world. I believe that the vast majority of people are of good will and decry those few who misuse ideology to do violence to or oppress others. Sadly, there have been many instances in which the power structure of the Catholic church has sinned and been guilty of horrible crimes against entire ethnic groups or religions as well as individual persons. These are human failings and not a reflection of God who is good and always loving.

This visit from Pope Francis is a good opportunity to talk about the public perception of the Catholic church and the lived experience of being a US Catholic. People, even many Catholics themselves, think of the Catholic Church as being a set of beliefs and rules that must be adhered to uniformly to belong; much of the Catholic hierarchy has advanced that view in my lifetime, but it is not really what the church teaches. There are a core set of teachings called dogmas which must be accepted in order to be Catholic. These are God-related and articulated in important teachings such as the creed.

There are many other teachings, usually more centered on human activity. The most important of these are doctrines. Catholics are asked to believe these teachings, as well as other teachings at lesser levels of authority, but dissent is possible after considered study and reflection.

The Catholic Church believes in the primacy of conscience, which means that we are called to act in accord to our individual, well-formed conscience. We sin if we violate our conscience and damage our relationship with God and other people. Dissenting from a teaching or breaking a rule is not wrong if we are following our conscience, having seriously considered church teaching on the topic.

Probably the most common experience of this in the United States is dissent from Paul VI’s encyclical Humanae Vitae, which prohibited the use of artificial means of birth control while allowing natural ones. Even though a commission that studied the issue recommended that the church allow contraception, Paul VI was persuaded to continue prohibiting it. Since it was first promulgated in 1968, this teaching has not been accepted by the vast majority of US Catholics, who have the right and responsibility to follow their own consciences on this matter – and on the related issue of using fertility assistance, several means of which, such as artificial insemination and in-vitro fertilization, are also against official Catholic teaching.

Another common misunderstanding is that divorced Catholics can’t receive communion. This isn’t true. The problem comes in when a Catholic who has a civil divorce remarries without an annulment from the church. (More misunderstandings arise over annulments. A Catholic annulment does not mean that there was no marriage; it means that there was a serious impediment to the marriage from the start so that it was not a sacramental marriage. If an annulment is granted, the individuals are then free to enter into a sacramental marriage with another spouse, but the first marriage is still recognized as a civil marriage. Some people are afraid to pursue an annulment because they think their children will then be considered born out of wedlock, but that is not the case.) The reason behind the prohibition against receiving communion in a second marriage without an annulment is that it is considered a public scandal to be living in adultery. So, yes, this is about sex. Someone who is living in a second marriage without an annulment but who is living what the church calls “a chaste life” can receive communion.

Yeah, the officialdom of the Catholic church doesn’t understand sexual behavior very well at all. Unfortunately, this has become an overwhelming focus and attempted means of control by the hierarchy in the United States and elsewhere. It is hopeful that Francis has changed the emphasis to larger human problems, like poverty, environmental degradation, war, violence, and failure to work for justice and the common good.

Francis has already endorsed some procedures to make annulments less cumbersome to obtain and there is hope for further reform. There is also the upcoming Jubilee Year of Mercy, which will offer some other opportunities within the church. The larger impact, though, is Francis’s example of outreach, caring, and concern for all people and for creation. He will empower people toward justice, love, and peace, whether or not all the other bishops follow his lead.

We are taught that the church is the people of God. Some in the hierarchy have acted as though they themselves are the core of the church, more important than the millions upon millions of the laity.

With Francis, we may finally have the opportunity to be truly catholic, that is universal.

Score one for Indian pudding!

I’ve spent an inordinate amount to time over the last couple of days revising one of my poems about Indian pudding for submission to Silver Birch Press’s upcoming “My Sweet Word” series and compiling and formatting the rest of the materials needed – bio, author’s note, photo with caption.

As many of you know, I often wrestle with technical issues, especially when I have to format for MS Word from my non-Windows system and when I have to deal with images of any sort.

It literally took me hours to get everything assembled properly, but I was finally able to hit “send” this morning.

And – drum roll, please! – I am happy to report that I have already received an acceptance! I think my submission must have landed on the top of the inbox on the West Coast for the beginning of their work day.

So, at some point this month or next, I’ll be able to share the link with you, featuring an ever-so-artistic photo of my hands cradling a bowl of Indian pudding with melting vanilla ice cream. I made a batch in the heat of August, just so we could do the photo shoot.

Well, truth be told, not just for the photo shoot….

While we generally don’t make something that has to bake for two hours during the dog days of summer, Indian pudding is still a delicious treat and brings back memories of Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners with family and of B’s great-aunt Gert, whose recipe we use, although I must confess that I have been experimenting with proportions a bit.

It’s always a good time for Indian pudding!

I’m in!

Just an update for all those who have been following my deliberations about attending this residency/workshop at MASS MoCA given by Tupelo Press.

I sent my registration yesterday and have already received confirmation that I am in!!!

I’m so excited – and a bit anxious. Given that it doesn’t take place until mid-November, I’ll have lots of time to get used to the idea that I am really doing this.

Stay tuned! And thanks to everyone who helped me clarify that this was the right path for me at this time!

Acceptance drama!

Alternate title: What happens when you check Submittable late at night when you can’t sleep.

Since coming back from Hawai’i, I’ve been having lots of trouble with sleep, so I got up and decided to check Submittable, which is a tool that many literary journals use to host submissions. I wasn’t expecting much news, because journals also send emails, so I was shocked to see an acceptance! I was excited! Also, slightly terrified, because it seemed that I had inadvertently broken a cardinal rule of simultaneous submissions, which is to immediately withdraw an accepted poem from any other journal which has it under consideration. Most journals only accept previously unpublished work, so it is important that you notify them promptly so that they aren’t spending time reviewing a poem that they can’t include in their publication.

I powered up my desktop, which has my main inbox – which, granted, is overflowing with the mail backlog from traveling. I thought that I had reviewed everything I received in Hawai’i, but, somehow I missed the acceptance email from Wilderness House Literary Review  – which they had sent on July 3rd. I was shocked to read that they accepted all three of the poems I submitted for their next issue!

I quickly wrote a reply, about how excited I was to appear in their journal and apologized for the delay in replying. Then, I brought up my personal submissions database and found that I needed to send notices to only two other journals, because a couple of others had already rejected these poems. Fortunately, each of these journals still has one or two of my poems to consider.

By this point, my pulse had been racing for a while, and going back to bed was out of the question, so I took advantage of the six hour time difference to message E in Hawai’i. I rattled on about this whole wonderful-but-slightly-nerve-wracking drama until I calmed down a bit.

But I knew I still wouldn’t sleep so I wrote this post, scheduling it to come out at a more reasonable hour for most of my readers who share my time zone.

At whatever time anyone does happen to read this though, I am pleased to announce that my poems “(Not) the aunt I remember”, “Fifty-four” and “Downy” will be published in the fall online edition of Wilderness House Literary Review in early October.

You can be sure I will publish the link here at Top of JC’s Mind when it becomes available.

And maybe, in an hour or so, I’ll be able to fall asleep…