Monday, December 29, 2014

Still Perfect

If you asked me about my best friend, Cohen, I would have so much to tell you.  She is fiercely loyal.  She is the most thoughtful person I know.  She remembers every birthday, anniversary, and little event in your life and will probably send you a card and a gift to commemorate it.  She is considerate.  She is smart and funny.  She is my sister.  From the moment we met in 7th grade and throughout the 15 years we've been best friends, she has always been there for me.  She knows all my secrets.  She was right there beside me on my wedding day as my maid of honor.  We've been through it all together.

And in 2013, Cohen was diagnosed with an incurable brain tumor.

Although I often have myself convinced that I have come to terms with it, I haven't and I don't think I ever will.  Most days I talk to Cohen and am thankful for her still intact personality and sense of humor, but today I have just felt sad.

I try to limit my days of sadness because I know Cohen wouldn't want me to be sad for her.  Despite the surgeries, the chemotherapy, the radiation, the stroke, the rehabilitation, the vision loss, and everything else she has been through since her diagnosis, she is strong.  She is resilient.  She has an unwavering faith in God that inspires me.  Even in her illness, she is still more concerned about everyone else than she is about herself.

And today, I felt the sadness creeping in.

I miss my best friend.  We try to talk at least once a day when she is feeling up to it.  I want to know how she is feeling.  I want to know how things are going in her life.  I want to bridge the gap that is between us since I moved to Ohio.

Today, I saw a blog post on Facebook from a site called  The blog is written by a wife and mother of four boys who lost her six-year-old son to a brain tumor a couple years ago.  Reading her story brought back those familiar feelings of sadness and anger that I felt the day Cohen called me and told me the doctors finally had a diagnosis - a rare brain tumor known as an oligodendroglioma grade II.  My husband and I were on our way to watch my brother play baseball when we got the call.  I broke down in the car.  People that close to me didn't get sick, did they?  Surely they didn't get brain tumors?  Certainly Cohen, my Cohen, couldn't possibly have a brain tumor?

The months that followed were hard.  Cohen underwent two major brain surgeries and I had the privilege to be right there next to her the whole way.  I even convinced a nurse to bring a bed into her hospital room so I could sleep right next to her.  She had been my "protector" for years - it was my turn to do the same for her.

It wasn't until a couple weeks later that I got a call from Cohen's stepfather.  He delivered the devastating news to me - Cohen's tumor was terminal.  And in the midst of this tragedy, my beloved grandmother passed away a couple months after Cohen's brain surgery.  Cohen and I had spent a lot of time with my grandmother while we were in college since she lived close.  We were like the three musketeers.  And Cohen was there at my grandmother's funeral, her hair slowly growing back over her freshly scarred head.  Even in her illness, she was there for me.  

Cohen remained optimistic and hopeful.  Her amazing faith in God is what has helped me cope with her diagnosis.  I mean, if Cohen has come to terms with this, then why can't I!?  This past summer, her slow-growing tumor started growing again and caused her to have a stroke.  She lost most of her vision and spent a lot of time in the hospital and in rehabilitation.  I was able to spend a lot of time with her in the hospital.  Despite the stroke, Cohen was still Cohen.  We laughed.  We reminisced.  I sat with her at meal time and fed her her lunch.  Those were precious times with her that I will cherish forever.

I was able to visit Cohen a few weeks ago and take her to lunch.  We went to one of our favorite places that we always used to go to in college and on road trips (we have taken A LOT of road trips over the years).  I helped her find a seat, folded up her walker, and went and ordered our favorite things off the menu.  As I helped her eat, we caught up and talked about our favorite memories.  Her long term memory is impeccable.  I love talking about the summer after our freshman year of high school and the many nights we spent out on the lake swimming and talking about life.  I love talking about our road trip to North Carolina our senior year of college or our trip to Boston the year after we graduated from college.

We have lived so much life together.

So today I have felt sad.  I feel sad and angry that brain tumors exist in this world.  I feel sad and angry that Cohen has this illness.  After we graduated from college, she had plans to travel the world and use her journalism degree.  She was full of life and I hope every single day that God heals her.  I pray that God gives her the chance to live out her dreams.  And I selfishly hope that God let's me have my best friend back.  She's my person.

We have a saying that we've been quoting to each other for years -
"We're still perfect.  Immaculate."

Halloween 2005, our junior year of high school.

Getting ready for "girls' day," November 2014.  Cohen had just finished her chemo and radiation treatments.
If you'd like to know more about Cohen and her journey, I've kept track of everything with posts, updates, and pictures on her fundraising site:

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Poetry Confronting Art

This year during the Christmas season, Justin and I got to worship with our new church family on Christmas Eve.  We got to join my family back in Indiana for Christmas (we made it there at 2:30 in the morning on Christmas since we left after the last Christmas Eve service).  We spent Christmas morning laughing and opening gifts.  We all piled into my dad's truck for our annual trip to my aunt and uncle's house for Christmas dinner.  I talked with my grandfather about my grandmother and how much we miss her.  We honored her with our conversations.  We laughed recalling memories of her.  On Christmas night, we ate snacks and watched movies.  Justin and my brother, Tyler, went hunting together the next day.  We had family game night.  We laughed.  We made memories. 

It was great.

Back in Ohio, I am reminded that God orchestrated our journey here.  I am reminded that God brought my husband here to minister to the kids of St. Paul's and I am so happy.  God has blessed us immensely.  It was a wonderful holiday season.  Happy birthday, Jesus.

Justin got me an amazing stack of books for Christmas and I can't wait to dive in.  First up on my list - Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King.  It's going to be a good one.

Most recently, I had two more journals pick up my poems for publication.  One poem called "The Burial" was picked up for the next edition of Really System.  Another magazine called The Light Ekphrastic ("ekphrastic" refers to a poem written about a work of art) contacted me and asked me to do a collaboration with artist, Brett Busang.  I'm VERY excited about this one and love the mission of this magazine.  Brett selected a poem from the submission I sent in to the magazine (a poem called "Cat People" that I wrote about my best friend) and I selected a painting from his website.  His job is to create a new painting based on my poem and I will be writing a new poem based on his painting.  Both the original poem and painting will appear alongside the new poem and painting in the next issue of the journal.  This is going to be fun.

Really System:

The Light Ekphrastic:

You can take a look at Brett's art here:

I chose the painting Rockpile for the collaboration.

I have done some ekphrastic poetry in the past and am excited to work with Brett and see what perception/interpretation he comes up with for my poem.  In graduate school, I wrote a poem on Remedios Varo's Woman Leaving the Psychoanalyst and Salvador Dali's Autumnal Cannibalism.  Check out the paintings if they aren't familiar to you; you won't be disappointed.

In the spirit of ekphrastic poetry, I wanted to share some recent artwork I've been working on.

Have a happy New Year, everyone.  Read some poetry.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

1000 Paper Cranes

Despite the haunting memories that sometimes come as a result, I like telling people about my dad and what happened to him and what we went through as a family.

It was the worst thing I've ever been through, but despite what happened, it is a story of hope.  It is a story that glorifies God and shows his unimaginable grace and provision.

And since this week has been a week of tragic loss and sadness for so many in our church family, I thought I would share this story of hope.

In 2006, I was a senior in high school.  October 29th was a Sunday and I was home with my mom.  My older brother, Brandon, was a junior at Purdue University.  My dad and my little brother, Tyler, had gone deer hunting together that morning.  Tyler was nine at the time and was still too young to hunt in a tree stand by himself, so he shared with my dad.

At about 9:45 that morning, my mom received a phone call from a police officer saying that my dad had been in a serious accident and was being airlifted to the nearest trauma center which was an hour away. 

We were confused and panicked.  Where was my brother?  What had happened exactly?

My dad and brother were getting out of the tree stand to come home.  Tyler climbed down first.  My dad went to climb down and somehow slipped and fell 20 feet to the ground head-first.  Tyler did more than I could ever have imagined a nine-year-old was capable of after witnessing such an event.  There was blood everywhere and my dad wasn't breathing.  After unsuccessfully searching for my dad's cellphone to call 911, he took off running to the nearest house over a mile away.  A man was outside working in his yard when Tyler made it to the house.  He told the man what happened and he called 911. 

The emergency crew found my dad and put him on a ventilator before airlifting him to the nearest hospital.  My grandfather, who lived near where my dad and brother were hunting, picked Tyler up and drove him to the hospital.  My mom and I met him there.

The emergency room doctor told us that we needed to gather our family together.  My dad had a 1% chance of survival and probably wouldn't make it through the night.  We called my brother at Purdue and told him to get there as soon as possible.  My dad had a broken neck, a broken back (in eight places), multiple skull fractures, and two bleeds in his brain. 

Our family gathered together.  I tried to do what I could to comfort Tyler after what he had just gone through.  We tried to prepare ourselves for what was to come.

We prayed.  We prayed hard.  People prayed with us.  People prayed for us.

And somehow, my dad made it through the night.  As the days passed with my dad on a ventilator in the intensive care unit, our hope increased.  We continued to pray for his healing.  We continued to pray for something that the doctors said was impossible.

After the first few days, the doctors said that if my dad did survive, he would be unable to walk due to his neck injury and would most likely be in a "vegetative state."  We tried to prepare for that reality as a family. 

But as the days passed, the doctors were able to remove him from the ventilator and my dad could breathe on his own.

As the days passed, my dad regained consciousness.

Our hope was growing.  We continued to pray.  People prayed with us.  People prayed for us.

Tyler and I with my dad during his rehabilitation and recovery in the hospital, November 2006.

What ensued was a long road of recovery, rehabilitation, and prayer.  My dad had a devastating brain injury - one that led to many days of pain, anxiety, confusion, and cognitive and memory problems. 

But God answered our prayers.

October 29th was a day that changed all of our lives.  My baby brother witnessed a terrible accident, something that a child should never have to endure or process.  We struggled.  We struggled with whether or not my dad would survive.  We struggled with whether or not he would ever have a quality of life again.  We struggled with why this happened to our family.  But, in the midst of it all, according to the doctors, my dad came back from the dead.

My dad was an airplane pilot.  After months of questioning whether or not my dad would ever regain his ability to walk, his cognitive skills, the basic things that make us human, my dad not only survived, but he thrived.  God healed him.  God gave my dad his life back. 

My dad walked.  My dad went back to fly airplanes again. 

Life has not been without its troubles.  Five years after the accident, my dad developed epilepsy from his prior brain injury and had to retire from flying.  He has had two recent major back surgeries due to the injuries he sustained in the accident.

But my dad is alive.

This story of struggle, sadness, and illness is no longer a story of devastation, it's a story of hope and a tribute to the power of prayer. 

God can come through in a big way.  Pray.  Pray without ceasing.  And love one another.

Me with my dad and mom on my wedding day, 6 years after the accident that almost took my dad's life.

I titled this post "1000 Paper Cranes" because of a story my aunt told me when we were in the hospital with my dad.  An ancient Japanese legend says that if you string 1000 origami cranes together, you can be granted good luck, such as recovery from an illness.  I've never forgotten that story and it always reminds me of time spent with my family in the hospital. 

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Inhale grace. Exhale gratitude.

Justin started working as a youth director of a church about a month ago, and this week we lost one of our youth group kids to tragic circumstances.  We are all shocked and saddened by what happened and it has reminded all of us to hold each other a little tighter, love a little stronger, and remember that we are all united. 

I just want to say - every life matters.  You matter.  You are enough.  You are a child of God.  You are loved.  You are precious.  Never forget that.

Life is precious.  Every single one.


This week has been wonderful, sad, and exhausting all at the same time.  My baby brother, Tyler, became an adult as we celebrated him turning 18 on December 16th.  I can't believe how grown-up he is.  I'm so proud of the young man he has become.  I am grateful everyday for that young man.

Justin and I have spent a lot of time with our new church family this week.  I am completely in awe of the unity of this family of believers and how they come together for each other in the tough times.  I saw amazing moments of prayer in the hospital, in groups of people, at the church...God has been present and he will provide peace for those who are hurting right now in our church family from the tragic loss we suffered this week.

Tonight, we took the youth kids Christmas caroling around the neighborhood.  It was cold, but joyful.  It was great to have everyone together.  I love that God brought Justin and I to this church and this wonderful group of people. 

Along with my recent publications at LEVELER Poetry Mag and Lost Coast Review, I was contacted by the editor of The Main Street Rag today!  They accepted a poem I wrote called "Adoption of the Body" for an upcoming issue of the magazine.  I wrote this poem after returning home from a trip to Missouri with Justin's family last summer. 

This week, I am tired, but I am grateful.  God is good.  I'm surrounded by great people in my life that love and care about my husband and I.  We are very excited about Christmas being just around the corner and returning to Indiana to spend the holiday with my family.

Inhale grace.  Exhale gratitude.

God is good.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

New Poetry

I submitted to a literary journal called Lost Coast Review a few months ago and just heard back from the editor today.  They accepted all five poems in my submission for publication which is very exciting!  This particular submission contained a very interesting group of poems, poems that truly speak to some personal experiences in my life on all areas of the spectrum - joy, sadness, love, admiration, camaraderie...

The link for the Lost Coast Review website is here:

Their website describes the journal as being "culture, philosophy, and literature from the left coast."  Read some of the material on this site from other great poets and writers - you won't be disappointed.  The journal publishes online in Amazon Kindle format and in print.  So what are you waiting for?  Check it out!

The poems in this submission to Lost Coast Review were written during the summer months of 2014 when I was immersed in the poetry of Sylvia Plath and the novels and short stories of JD Salinger. 

I can't wait to see this particular group of poems in print together, their relationship to one another complicated, yet necessary - a small snapshot of my life.

The first poem, "After My Birth," contemplates childhood and growing into a young woman. 

"Edema" is a poem representing the frailty of life.  It is a poem that remembers my grandmother and honors my best friend in the midst of a serious illness.

"Marriage of Two Poets" reflects my summer spent reading the works of Sylvia Plath.  This poem is for her and about her and imagines her fascinating marriage relationship with poet, Ted Hughes.

"Nervous Tissue" was written at the very beginning of the many life changes that have taken place in the past six months and our move to Ohio.  This poem is about trusting God.

And, finally, the poem "Passenger" is my favorite from this submission.  This poem is about my brother and me being in the passenger seat for the first time.  I was always taking care of him as a kid, but this poems recalls the moment I realized the roles reversed.  

These poems will be an upcoming issue of Lost Coast Review.  In the meantime, get out there and read some poetry!  Check out small presses, literary journals, and magazines.  Start writing yourself!

As Sylvia Plath once said, "I write only because / there is a voice within me / that will not be still."

Saturday, December 6, 2014


I was recently contacted by the editor of LEVELER Poetry Mag about a poem I submitted - they accepted it for publication!  The poem will appear on the front page on Sunday, March 8, 2015.  You can visit the LEVELER website here:

One thing that is very awesome and exciting about this particular poetry magazine is that the editor provides some commentary on why a particular piece was chosen for publication.  Here is the website's editor's note and a bit on the selection process:

"To assure our readers we are being responsible editors and to increase the transparency of our editorial process as a whole, each poem published by LEVELER is accompanied by a brief note on our selection entitled levelheaded. Here we look at what a poem conveys and how. In no way do we claim levelheaded is a final, authoritative take on any corresponding poem. Instead, we hope to provide readers with another way into the poem, thereby encouraging closer readings, and ultimately, challenges to our findings."

"Poem selections for LEVELER are made every six to eight months (more frequently when possible). Our initial reading of a batch of submissions is done individually and continually. Roughly twice a year, we meet in person to read through our most recent batch for a second time. In these meetings, we move through every poem individually, paying particular attention to the stronger poems’ goals and methods. While our process is necessarily subjective, we make a point not to let our limited predispositions dictate what we publish. Most of our final editorial decisions are made in our meetings, though stalemates do occur, postponing some decisions. If our editorial tastes differ, we hope the disparity ultimately strengthens our selections (though, undoubtedly, quality work slips through our system). The vast majority of the poetry we publish is selected from regular submissions. However, we do solicit some poems from writers whose work we admire. In all cases, after we have selected poems and notified submitting poets of our decisions, we divide responsibilities in the writing of levelheaded, which are written by individual editors and edited collectively. We determine the order in which we will post the poems, and then we present them, without qualm, to you, the reader."

I'm a big fan of this magazine and the work they do.  Consider visiting the website to read some great poetry from writers like me - and of course visit the website in March!

The poem that was selected for publication at LEVELER is called "Fawn."  The poem was written about my younger brother, Tyler.  Tyler is a wonderful young man and I have had the pleasure of watching him grow over the years since we are eight years apart.  We spent a lot of time together when he was young as I would look after him while my parents were at work and we had the best of times.  "Fawn" is about coming-of-age and watching Tyler grow.  I can't wait for you guys to read it.

In the spirit of my brother and the magic of watching a child grow into adulthood, I wanted to share a mini narrative collage (the combination of text and image) I wrote about my brother when I was in a college writing class.

I also included a couple extra collage pages that were originally part of the story but then just became a part of my overall collage journal.

So I hope my poem lives up to the many collages I've devoted to trying to capture what it was like getting to spend my time with Tyler when he was young.  He is just as charming today as he was back then.

Here's some links to my other recent publications.

Crack the Spine Magazine (bio and link to issue):

Eunoia Review (2 poems):
Dead Flowers:  A Poetry Rag (2 poems):
PDF version can be accessed on their Facebook page (Vol. 2 No. 6)

2River View (2 poems):
A print copy of FIVE2ONE Magazine (my poem is on page 29 of this issue):
Digital version of my poem in FIVE2ONE Magazine:

Futures Trading Magazine:

Small presses need faithful readers to help support the writing community as a whole.  Consider checking out some of these publications and support writers and small presses alike!

And, as always, thanks for visiting my blog!  

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Re-Post: Getting Back to Faith & Trust

Author John Green communicates so clearly how I felt when I was writing this post.  Here is an excerpt from Green's The Fault in Our Stars that communicates how I felt so clearly:
"...the waves tossing me against the rocks then pulling me back out to sea so they could launch me again into the jagged face of the cliff, leaving me floating face-up on the water, undrowned."

The following is a post I wrote on November 10, 2013.  As I was reading back through it, I wanted to re-post it for a few reasons.  First, I know there are lots of people out there struggling with the same thing I was struggling with at this point in time, but I want them to know that things get better and time often does bring healing.  Second, I have experienced firsthand that God's ultimate plan is so much more wonderful and amazing than the plans we think we have for ourselves and those close to us. 

Friends, the dark times are few in life.  I am learning to trust God more than ever.

"There is a crack in's how the light gets in."
-Leonard Cohen


Sunday, November 10, 2013

When people ask me what I do for a living, I tell them I teach in the English departments at Indiana University South Bend and Indiana Tech by day, but by night...I'm a writer.  What I mean when I say that is that writing is what I identify with.  It's who I am.  It's not only what I do but it's how I express myself, and every poem or piece I write contains a piece of me.  I'm an introvert, and it isn't easy for me (or any introvert, for that matter) to express myself to other people, but through writing, I feel like I can do almost anything.  It's the way I cope with and see the world.  It's a part of me. 

And this is why I'm writing today.  My heart has been so heavy lately and I finally asked myself why I haven't been writing it all out.  After all, it's my coping mechanism.  Lately, I can't help but feel like I'm on I'm expecting something bad to happen.  Like the world isn't fair.  Like I've been cheated.

I know so many people are going through so many horrible and devastating things in their lives right now.  I know that, in the grand scheme of things, I have no right to complain about my life.  But I'm going to put all this out there with the hope that it will help me see some positivity and light in situations that I have felt very sad about.  I know God can bring us through something terrible and show us something brilliant in the end.  He's done it before, and I'm trying to remember that he's working now.

When I was 17 years old, my father almost died in a serious accident - an accident that my then 9-year-old brother witnessed.  As you can guess, I coped with the situation of watching my once strong father deteriorate both physically and mentally and my young, sweet brother's brain affected by the horrors of trauma by writing.  The doctors gave my father a 1% chance of survival, but God brought us through that and he survived.  But nothing has ever been the same.  My dad just had his third spinal surgery this past Monday, 7 years after the original accident and he continues to struggle with a multitude of health issues.  My father survived the unsurvivable, and I thank God every single day that we still have him with us.  But why do things like that have to happen to begin with?  Why did my sweet brother have to struggle through years of reliving that trauma?  Why did we all have to watch my father spend months in the hospital in rehabilitation for a broken neck, back, and traumatic brain injury?  Why do we have to watch him suffer through epilepsy?

I often think of my father when I think of what happened with my grandmother this past summer.  My grandmother was an amazing woman and one of my most precious friends in the whole world.  I could tell her anything.  She had been sick for quite some time, and on July 31st, 2013, she passed away in the same hospital my dad was in when he had his accident, just a few rooms away from where we watched over him and prayed for healing in 2006.  It wasn't one of those situations where the hospital called to tell us that she had passed.  As a family, we had to make the decision to stop life support.  We arrived at the hospital around 9:30pm on the 30th and she was taken off life support shortly after.  What followed was an excruciating night of watching my grandmother's vitals slowly drop off until she stopped breathing around 5:35 early the following morning.  I held her hand and was surrounded by my mother, my uncle, my husband, and my brother (the same one that witnessed my dad's accident).  It was one of the most awful experiences of my life.  Nobody should ever have to see anything like that and, honestly, I don't think I've fully coped with it yet.  I keep telling myself that I'm too young to already have a grandparent gone.  My grandma Nancy was the best grandma in the world.  I miss her.  I miss her stories.  I miss our talks.  I just wish I had had more time with her.

There are very few people I can truly talk to in this world (one of the side effects of being an introvert).  But there are/were always three people I could count on - my husband, my grandma, and my best friend, Dee.  Dee and I grew up together.  We went to college together, roomed together for four years in college, and moved in together after we graduated.  We have been through it all together.  We have taken the most amazing trips together.  She was the maid of honor in my wedding.  She is more than a friend, she is my sister.  And this past year has been heartbreaking for her.  In April, she was diagnosed with a brain tumor.  She had three major brain surgeries in the months of April and May to alleviate pressure and remove the portions of the tumor they could get to, but her prognosis is not what we were all hoping for.  I can't possibly imagine what she is feeling through all this, but her strength has been absolutely astonishing.  Her faith in God has not wavered once.  In fact, her reliance on and faith in God has grown through this.  I wish I could grasp that level of faith.  I desperately pray for God to take away her illness, to make her well again, to let her have her old life back.  It's the same desperation I felt with my dad and my grandma.  That selfish desperation that something is being taken away from me.  My heart breaks daily when I think of what has happened to her.

But when did I stop believing in God's plan and have more faith in my own?  When did I stop fully trusting him and his ultimate plan?  God wasn't surprised by any of the things that have happened in my life.  He's got it under control.  He loves me and he loves my dad, my grandma, and Dee.

So how can I get that faith back?  That trust?  How can I stop feeling like everything that matters to me in this world will be taken away by illness, accidents, etc?


I'm glad I'm not in this same place anymore.  I thank God for continuing to teach me how to have faith and trust in Him.  

Monday, December 1, 2014

On Reading

Stephen King wrote a book called On Writing:  A Memoir of the Craft in which he shares with readers the "tricks of the trade" when it comes to being a successful and effective writer.  It is an amazing and brilliant book that is a mix between memoir/autobiography and a practical "how to" volume. 

(Stephen King also happens to be my favorite writer of all time).

So instead of being "on writing," I wanted to share some things "on reading."

I was having lunch with some friends the other day and we stumbled upon a discussion of literature.  As a person with an academic background in literature (and having taught it for a couple years), I always have lots to say on the subject. 

We started with a discussion of the Harry Potter series which, while some may not agree, I consider to be great works of literature.  (Who doesn't love Harry Potter!?)  I was then asked what my favorite book of all time was.


That could take some thought.  But, without thinking, I blurted out Catcher in the Rye.  Why?  Because it is amazing!  The person I was talking to didn't agree - she had read this wonderfully crafted Salinger novel in high school and didn't care for it. 

She asked me about the ducks.
Have any of you read Catcher in the Rye?
To me, the ducks are a perfect representation of Holden's desire for a life less complicated by the responsibilities of adulthood.  Seriously, who doesn't wish for that!?  The character of Holden is so complicated - he is ironic in that he represents the "phoniness" that he so despises in other people.

So this discussion of Catcher in the Rye got me thinking about all of the wonderful works of literature I had the opportunity to read over the summer.  I thought I would share some of them here.

The first book I read was a great poetry collection called Book of Hours by Kevin Young.  I related to this collection on so many levels.  The poems recalled moments of sorrow and pain after suffering a loss.  I felt so connected to this collection after having gone through so much with my own father, losing my beloved grandmother last summer, and watching my best friend in the whole world struggle with a serious illness.  Seriously, check out this book. 

I also read Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five.  I seriously cannot put my love for this book into words, not to mention that Vonnegut was from the great state of Indiana.  Justin and I were going to go to Indianapolis for our two-year anniversary, but we ended up canceling the trip due to his job situation and being in the middle of the interview process for his new job.  But, if we had gone, we were going to visit the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Museum.  Sigh.  I will go there one day. 

After these two books, I decided to binge-read some of JD Salinger's books.  Catcher in the Rye happens to be a book by the great (and reclusive) Salinger, so I decided to check out his other works.  I read Nine Stories, his short story collection that holds the amazingly dark and surprising tale "A Perfect Day for Bananafish," and Franny and Zooey, a book that follows the Glass family, a common theme among Salinger's works.  And then I re-read Catcher in the Rye.  And then I watched a great Salinger documentary on Netflix.  He sounds like he might have been a terrible guy, but he was a brilliant writer.  I think he may come in second on my list of favorite writers.

And then there's Sylvia Plath.

Oh Sylvia.

I found her book Letters Home at a secondhand bookstore and devoured it.  I have read her poetry in the past, but this book provided a completely different angle from which to view her life and work.  The book is a compilation of letters that Sylvia wrote to her family during her time in college and leading up to her suicide.  So then I decided to read Plath's The Bell Jar.  Oh.  My.  Goodness.  This book is a semi-autobiography about her life and her struggle with mental illness.  I read this book in a couple days and soaked up every word. 

Toward the end of the summer, I read some poetry from Jack Gilbert and Charles Bukowski.  I read Gilbert's collected poems and Bukowski's Bone Palace Ballet.  They were both great reads.  Then I got into reading Hemingway.  I always teach Hemingway's "Hills Like White Elephants" in my literature classes, so I jumped in and read The Old Man and the Sea (which I enjoyed) and A Farewell to Arms (which I did not). 

So these are some of my reads from the summer.  If you were to pick one off the list to read, read Catcher in the Rye.  If you aren't into immature teenagers who lie constantly and enjoy ducks in the park, then read The Bell Jar.  If you aren't into reading about poets suffering from mental illness, then you don't appreciate good literature.  :)

Thursday, November 27, 2014

How We Ended Up in Ohio

Many people have asked me how Justin and I ended up moving to Ohio and I love telling the story!  I thought I'd record it on my blog so everyone can read and experience the amazing journey God set the two of us out on that ultimately led us to Maumee, OH.  The whole story starts at the end of July 2014.

I graduated with my masters degree in 2013 and always wanted to go back to school for my PhD, but I wanted to take some time off since I started my masters two weeks after graduating with my bachelors and needed a break.  Back in Indiana, I (for at least another two weeks) teach English to college students at the Indiana University campus in South Bend and the Indiana Tech campus in Mishawaka.  When the fall semester started this past August, I started getting the feeling like I was ready to start looking into doctorate programs and go back to school.  The only school in our area that offered a PhD program in my area of study was the University of Notre Dame, and their program wasn't exactly what I was looking for, so I talked to Justin about looking at schools in other areas.  I started looking at universities all over Indiana and Michigan without finding any programs I was particularly interested in.  I was starting to feel like I was never going to find a program that was a good fit for me, but I started looking at schools in Wisconsin and Ohio (I knew I wanted to stay in the Midwest).  I did a Google search for "universities in Ohio" and came up with many search options, but one particular program stood out to me - a PhD in English program at Bowling Green State University.  I loved everything about the program and, after talking with Justin about it, applied to the program in late July (I later found out that his cousin is a freshman there!).  I knew it would be around March or April of 2015 before I would hear of the department's decision about my application, so the plan was to move in the summer of 2015 to Bowling Green if I was accepted.

In the meantime (unbeknownst to me at the time), Justin started looking for jobs in the area.  (I had originally told him that I didn't want him to start looking for jobs yet because I didn't want him to be disappointed if I didn't get accepted and we had to stay in South Bend).  At the time, Justin was working as a purchasing agent for Dometic Corporation, a company that makes air conditioners, toilets, awnings, etc. for RVs.  This was definitely a "temporary" job for him - as long as I've known Justin, he's wanted to be a youth pastor.  Justin has a bachelors degree in psychology with a minor in religion from Indiana University and is working toward a masters degree in ministry and counseling from Bethel College.  He definitely wasn't working a job that he was passionate about (not to mention he had a very difficult boss), but he was willing to do whatever he needed to support us.  He had applied to countless church/youth positions in the past without any luck and similarly thought that the jobs he was applying to in the Bowling Green area would also be dead ends.  He told me he had applied to a few jobs around Bowling Green, but I didn't think much about it since nothing had ever worked out in the past. 

Some time at the end of August, Justin received an email from St. Paul's Lutheran Church in Maumee, OH (about 20 minutes away from Bowling Green) saying that they wanted to do a Skype interview with him in late September (three weeks away).  He told me about it and we were both surprised to hear back from any of the applications he put in, but I told him to go for it and we would see where it went.  Three weeks later on a Sunday, Justin and I were visiting a new church in Mishawaka (we were transitioning out of our old church) and rushed home after the service so he could set up for his Skype interview.  He rearranged our living room and set up his computer for the interview (after having several problems with the audio).  I sat in the other room and listened to his whole interview and we were both very excited about how well it went (even though the church's audio kept malfunctioning and Justin lost visual on his end).  A couple days later, Justin got another email that he had made it to the next round of interviews and the next Skype interview was scheduled for two weeks later!  We were both very surprised and excited about how everything was moving and couldn't wait to see what happened with this opportunity. 

Two weeks later, we rushed home again after church to set up for the second interview.  This time, two kids from the youth group at St. Paul's joined the interview and asked Justin lots of hard questions and he also gave a short sermon so they could get a sense of his speaking skills and teaching style.  I listened in from the other room and thought he did great.  Justin actually got an email later that night saying that he was moving on to the next round along with two other candidates!  The next step was to do a background check and call all of Justin's references, so they told us it would be about two weeks before we would hear from them again.  The reality of the situation started to hit me that we might be moving much sooner than we thought. 

My job was pressuring me to sign my contract for the following semester (I'm an adjunct professor on a semester-to-semester basis), but our future was up in the air and I was starting to feel anxious about the whole situation despite constant prayer (and having several other people praying for us, although we didn't tell many people about the interview process since we didn't know if it would fall through or not).  I was laying in bed one night praying about the situation and I heard God very clearly say to me, "Justin is going to get this job."  I doubted what I had heard and thought it was my own wishful thinking and rolled over and went to bed.  The next morning at church, I was looking over the program and was about to sign Justin and I up for a growth group that another couple at the church had invited us to join for young married couples.  A woman got up in front of the congregation and announced that the growth group I wanted to join was closed due to too many people signing up for it!  I was upset that we weren't going to get to be in the group when I very clearly heard God speak to me again, and this time there was no doubt that it was his voice:  "I already talked to you about this.  You aren't going to sign up for this group because you and Justin won't be here."  I felt an immediate sense of peace about the whole situation.  Then I heard God say, "Are you going to tell Justin what I've told you, or are you going to keep it to yourself?"  I knew I had to tell him, so I shared with Justin on the way home from church what God had told me.  We both had a great sense of peace about the situation and knew that God would follow through. 

Over the next two weeks, we waited very impatiently to hear from the church about the next round of interviews.  Exactly two weeks after the second Skype interview, Justin and I were sitting at our apartment in South Bend eating lunch when he received a phone call from Bobbie Ramsey, the search committee member that had been in contact with him up until then.  She said that Justin, along with one other candidate, had made it to the final round of interviews and that we were invited to come out to Maumee to visit the church for the final interview.  This is where the story gets good - a communication error led Justin to think that he needed to go out to Maumee for three consecutive weeks, which would put his job at Dometic in jeopardy.  After talking it over, we decided to have Justin talk to his job about taking the time off to visit the church.  We knew God was completely present in the situation and felt at peace about it.

Justin talked to his boss about the situation the next day at work (without divulging the reason for the leave of absence).  Justin had already used all of his vacation days for his graduate school classes, so his boss refused to give him the time off.  Justin called me and we talked about the situation and decided to pull the trigger - he walked into his boss's office and put in his three weeks notice so he would be able to go visit the church for the "three weeks required for the final interview process."  We had a lot of resistance during this time - several people told us we were crazy for having Justin quit his job without a guarantee of another job, but we knew God had big plans for us and we were taking a step in faith.  Later that week, Justin received an email from Bobbie saying that his interview dates were October 28th, 29th, and 30th.  He was confused since he thought he would be going for three weeks, so he called Bobbie to confirm.  Unfortunately, there was a huge error in communication and we found out that we only needed to go to Maumee for three days, but Justin had already quit his job by that time.  We laid in bed staring at the ceiling for awhile, thinking about the fact that Justin had quit his job for no reason, but I knew that this didn't change anything.  God was still in control and this didn't change his plans for us.  I heard God say to me, "I will make all things work together for your good."  We knew God would provide.

Justin's last day of work at Dometic was October 27th, and we left that night to head to Ohio.  Justin's mom's side of the family lives in the Toledo area, so we stayed with his grandmother that night before heading over to the hotel the next day to check in and prepare for the three days of "interviewing."  The three days were long and exhausting, but wonderful.  We had meals with many great couples/families, Justin taught the junior high and high school youth groups, and we met with all the staff members.  We felt great leaving that Thursday and heading back to Indiana.  Jason, the senior pastor, told us the other candidate and his wife would be visiting the church the following week for their interview and that we would hear about the church's final decision in two weeks.  Justin went back to Indiana unemployed and I went back to teaching. 

I should also point out that during this time, my boss at work informed me that enrollment was down and that my class load for the next semester would be cut in half (I am paid per class).  I was devastated at first since Justin didn't have a job and I didn't know how we would get by, but I remembered what God had told me.  He wasn't going to let us fall.  He was closing doors in Indiana. 

On Monday, November 3rd (four days after we returned home from our interview), Justin and I were eating lunch together at our apartment when he received a call from Maumee, OH.  We were surprised since Jason had told us it would be two weeks before we would hear from the church, but it was that afternoon that Jason offered Justin the job of Director of Youth Ministries at St. Paul's Lutheran Church (we found out later that the other candidate had backed out at the last minute, saying he didn't feel like he was being called away from his current church).  Justin would start the job on November 17th - we would never go without a paycheck.  We cried, we laughed, we rejoiced; we were completely in awe of God's grace and majesty.  He had orchestrated this whole situation from the beginning and wrote the most beautiful story of faith for us.  All glory to Jesus. 

We called everyone in our families and our cherished friends who had been praying fervently for us through the whole process.  At that point, we had two weeks to pack, find a place to live, and move, but we were up for the challenge and we knew it would be an easy road since God was so clearly present in the whole situation.  In two weeks, we managed to find a great place to live in South Toledo and make the transition to Ohio.  Justin has been working at St. Paul's for two weeks now and it is where he is meant to be.  I'm so proud of Justin and his willingness to step out in faith to start looking for jobs in the area to begin with.  I can't believe that this whole journey started with my application to Bowling Green State University.  God has set us out on an amazing journey, and even though there were some unexpected bumps along the way, he made all of them work together for our good.  God is so good.  So.  Good.

And I'm still waiting patiently to hear of the status of my application at BGSU.  And next week is my last week of work in South Bend and I can OFFICIALLY be here with my husband in Ohio (I've only been here on the weekends the past few weeks since the semester doesn't end until the second week of December at my job back in South Bend).

Thanks to my family for supporting Justin and I through this whole situation, for praying for us, for encouraging us, and for helping us make this move.  Thanks to my amazing St. Mary's College Impact family (Jill, Dawn, Lizzy, Chloe, Alexis, and Kaylee) for praying me through this whole situation from the very beginning - I love you all so much!  Thanks to St. Paul's Lutheran Church for welcoming Justin and I into your family. 

And thanks to my God for giving Justin and I the faith to follow through with your perfect plan. 

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

trigger man

When I was in grad school, I took several fiction and poetry workshops with big lists of required texts.  Often times, the professor would have us read a poetry collection or book of short stories from authors that were planning on coming to the university at some point during the semester for a reading.  So, we got to read their stuff, then meet them and get them to sign our books!  Very cool. 

My two favorites were Caitlin Horrocks and Jim Ray Daniels, both authors we read in a graduate fiction workshop.  However, in the midst of grad school chaos, I was only able to read the few short stories from the books that were assigned for class.  So, my goal now is to be able to go back and read the collections fully.  I finished Horrocks This is Not Your City and have now moved onto Daniels' Trigger Man:  More Tales of the Motor City.  He signed it for me back in 2012.  And he said his wife's name was Kristin, spelled just like mine.


So here's the book. 

So other than all of the reading I'm trying to accomplish, I've been busy teaching and grading as usual.  I feel some life changes coming on (in the best way possible).  God has been teaching me patience lately, and I'm very excited to see what He has in store for Justin and I. 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

I am, I am, I am

See some of my original photography here:

Contact me through the website if you have questions or are interested in setting up a session.  The fall weather provides beautiful scenery for family photos.  :)

I have an undergraduate degree in English literature with a minor in creative writing and a masters degree in English with a concentration in creative writing, so you can see why I would find this article very interesting.  Study humanities - apparently it makes you more marketable.

And here's a collage for the road:

It's another piece of my graduate thesis.  Eventually I think I may just upload the whole thing.  (By the way, that adorable kid in the picture is my little brother around the age of nine.  He is now seventeen and is much taller).

Friday, September 12, 2014

antique skeleton

I finally got my copy of FIVE2ONE Magazine Issue 7 in the mail!  There are some great writers represented in this issue, and my poem "Antique Skeleton" is featured on page 29. 

Consider supporting a small publishing press (and writers like me!) and order a copy of Issue 7 here:

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

My Workspace

If I'm not grading or prepping for work, I'm often reading, writing, blogging, painting, or a combination of several of those things.  I do a lot of my work from home, so I find that my office atmosphere needs to be precisely "me."  While my husband does store his archery equipment in my office (or, as we have come to call it, the studio), it really has become my little area of the house.  Since I spend quite a bit of time in there, I've collected many posters, paintings, art supplies, journals, etc. that have accumulated over the past couple years Justin and I have lived in our current home. 

My studio inspires me.  It comforts me.  It draws me in.

It allows me to get work done.  To be creative.

My desk.  I love my desk.  I found this desk and chair at an antique shop near where I live.  I fell in love with it and my wonderful husband proceeded to carry it out of the store and into our van in the middle of a snowstorm.  Antiques bring me joy.  Especially this desk.  (Isn't the design on the chair awesome!?)  And then there's my computer.  I like to think of my computer lid as more of a "scrapbook."  That's where all the random stickers I accumulate end up. 

So there's the cloth poster of Jim Morrison covering the window.  And yes, that is a Breaking Bad poster in the background.  The cork boards are covered with some original paintings and photography as well as some random photographs I have accumulated over the years (including a signed photograph of The Doors).  Also, the poster on the ground that you can't see very well is a thrift store find - it's a framed picture of Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are.  Love.  (This room also doubles as a small storage space - just look at my husband's archery stuff and a crate full of laundry supplies).  The joys of living in a small space!

While the built-in drawers look cool, they are mostly a pain.  The house is so old that the drawers are warped and barely open.  And if you can get them open, you will never get them shut.  But this is where I keep some of my art supplies - colored pencils, markers, pens, etc.  I also keep some art projects up on this shelf - some 3D collage work and a couple collages on canvas.  And some photo albums.  I painted a mural on that sloping wall, but I couldn't resist hanging a couple more posters that I didn't have room for (I mean, how could I pass up the Vampire Weekend poster!?).  And somehow my husband's bow is always infiltrating my creative atmosphere.

Some poetry awards adorned with the specific poems that won the awards.  Some more original paintings.  Collage work.  A shout out to Caitlin Horrocks' This is Not Your City.  The lone electrical outlet in the studio, mostly used for my computer power cord or the paper shredder (don't want to end up like that poor guy on Identity Thief).

And, finally, my wonderfully vintage built-in storage cabinet.  The doors and latches are original from when the house was built in the early 1900s.  This is where I keep the paintings and collage work I don't have room to put out, photography supplies (blank CDs, business cards, etc.), paints, old books I buy from Goodwill and destroy for the sake of collage, photo albums, and work stuff (textbooks, prep materials, etc.).  And yes, I do have an anatomy coloring book in there.  And several vintage anatomy textbooks.  And yes, that is a replica of Vincent Van Gogh's Starry Night facing backwards behind the desk. 
I love this room.  I love to put art and photography on display, whether it is mine or the art of someone I admire.  I have Dali's The Metamorphosis of Narcissus hanging in our spare bedroom.  And I love movie posters as a source of art.  I have Alex DeLarge's face from A Clockwork Orange hanging in our bedroom alongside the battered faces of Brad Pitt and Edward Norton on the poster for Fight Club.

It's comforting.  It's inspiring.  It draws me in. 

Monday, September 8, 2014

We are a miraculous age

I was published in FIVE2ONE Magazine earlier this summer and the print edition just became available.  Consider supporting a small press and ordering a copy of Issue 7!  My poem "Antique Skeleton" appears on page 29.

I just started re-reading Caitlin Horrocks' This is Not Your City, a collection of short stories.  I read it for a fiction writing class as a graduate student and Horrocks came to the university to give a reading and sign books.  Her short stories are wonderful and I'm loving this book just as much the second time through.  My favorite story from the book is the first in the collection, "Zolaria."  (When she signed my book at the reading, she even drew a picture of the monster that appears in her story "Zolaria."  Very cool.)  I even teach this story in one of my humanities classes.  If you are looking for a good read, check out this book.  It got me through an hour in a doctor's office waiting room this morning.

"It is July and we are a miraculous age."
-Caitlin Horrocks

Saturday, September 6, 2014

books & movies

I watched the movie Adult World last night.  The main character looks up to Sylvia Plath as a source of poetic guidance. 

Rubia:  "Who's the dead girl on the wall?" (poster)
Amy:  "Sylvia."
Rubia:  "Oh.  How'd she die?"
Amy:  "She stuck her head in the oven."
Rubia:  "That's bananas."

I love that movie.

One of my husband's youth group girls that I've had the pleasure of getting to know let me borrow her copy of The Fault in Our Stars by John Green.  I saw the movie, but I finished the book last night and it was way better.

"Writing does not resurrect.  It buries."

So much truth.

And then there's this...
(Hazel's reaction following the death of Augustus)
"...the waves tossing me against the rocks then pulling me back out to sea so they could launch me again into the jagged face of the cliff, leaving me floating faceup on the water, undrowned."

I've been there.  I'm sure you all have been, too.

Friday, September 5, 2014

"Dada gives itself to nothing"


He was mine.

Where do we go?
Some original collage used in my thesis for graduate school. 

Where do we go?

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

A kiss in the dark from a stranger

Collage featuring The Chronicles of Narnia and poetry from Tim Burton.  And a heart diagram.

Watercolor painting with colored pencil.  Collage.  Brain - melting?  Changing?

An excerpt from my graduate thesis (narrative collage) titled Like Las Vegas.
Can you see?

Visit my webpage to see some of my original photography or to book an appointment.  I'm willing to stand out in the cold/rain/snow to get your picture.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Thursday, August 28, 2014

I write only because

I went back to work at IUSB this week and am starting back at Indiana Tech next week, which means summer is officially over.  It was a great summer full of baseball games, beaches, breweries and distilleries, bike rides, fireworks, road trips, and great summer reads.

Highlights from the summer:

1)  A family road trip to Nebraska with my parents
2)  A family road trip to Missouri/Arkansas with my husband and in-laws
3)  Katy Perry concert with my brother (yes, I love Katy Perry)
4)  Weekend visits to small towns in Michigan for antiquing and visiting breweries (and an organic distillery!)
5)  Watching my brother play a million baseball games with his summer travel team (he is now a senior in high school!)
6)  Getting to spend time with my best friend, Dee (even if it was in the hospital, but she gets to go home tomorrow!)
7)  Finishing off the summer with a SilverHawks game with my husband for Bethel College night (where he is a graduate student)

And, of course, I have to share my reading list from the summer:

Book of Hours by Kevin Young (poetry)
Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger
Nine Stories by JD Salinger
Franny and Zooey by JD Salinger
The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
Bone Palace Ballet by Charles Bukowski (poetry)
The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
Letters Home by Sylvia Plath (my current reading material)

I spent the summer absolutely mesmerized by JD Salinger.  If you haven't read his work, you should.  This was the second time I had read Catcher in the Rye and I loved it even more the second time.  Franny and Zooey was a little more difficult for me to get into, but I loved Salinger's short story collection.  Brilliant.  And then there's The Bell Jar.  Before this summer, I knew of Sylvia Plath and had read a few of her poems in college, but I became enthralled by her writing this summer.  I absorbed every bit of her "life story" in The Bell Jar and skimmed through several books of her collected poems.  And then I found an old copy of Letters Home at a secondhand bookstore and have hardly been able to put it down since.  If I want to be inspired, I read Plath. If I want to be depressed, I read Hemingway.  (I tried my hardest to read A Farewell to Arms this summer, but just could not get into it).

And I got lucky with my own writing this summer.  I had four poems published in various literary journals and magazines over the course of the summer.

Follow the links below to see some of my work:

2River View (2 poems)

FIVE2ONE Magazine

Futures Trading Magazine

I'm still writing as much as I can (in as many different ways as I can).  Poetry.  Blogging.  I have a longer piece of narrative collage in the works.  And I'm still working on photography, painting, and collage-creating.  And school is back in session.  Let the busyness begin.

Here are some collages I've been working on.  Until next time, my friends.

An ode to Sylvia Plath.  Still a work in progress.

St. Andrew the Apostle...or The Old Man and the Sea.

The inspiration came from a tattoo I drew up for my best friend.  She got the tree tattooed on her foot.