Meta Disabled Me & I Survived

Meta disabled my Facebook account. Okay. Meta disabled my Facebook AND Instagram account. I was officially Meta-disabled one minute after receiving an email requesting I secure my account because it “looks like” someone may have accessed my account.

I tried to secure my account.

I changed my password.

I waited for the security code through a text.

I waited.

I waited with a new and pending disability.

No text. No code.

I’d only waited a minute, because the next email (a minute later) informed me that my account had been suspended. Though, when I went to log in, they did label this a “disability.”

I spent the next few hours digging the rabbit hole research that, as a writer, I normally thrive. I love finding odd and unusual tiny objects, offering some grand reveal or discovery. Like the time I Googled the type of cigarettes my grandfather smoked and then I kept going, because this is what a writer does. My grandfather penned an essay about a cigarette moment as a POW in 1944.

Thomas Noesges, Back Row, Standing, Third from Left

In my grandfather’s published essay, he said, “They took me to a barracks type of building and told me an ambulance would soon be here to take me to a Lazzarette (hospital) where they had very good doctors who would repair my ankle. While I waited for the ambulance, a German in the uniform of a sergeant of the Luftwaffe approached me and offered his hand in friendship. “I am the one who shot your aircraft,” he said in perfect English. “I am sorry for you and your friends, but for you the war is over.” I asked what type of fighter he flew. “Focke-Wulf 190,” he answered. I offered him one of my cigarettes. He accepted and together we smoked and sat in silence for a brief minute. He saluted me and left.”

Yes. Grandpa Tom shared a cigarette with the German pilot who shot his aircraft down over Prerov, Czechoslovakia enroute to Blechhammer on Dec 17th, 1944. I’m curious. I wanted to know the brand of military issued cigarettes in WWII and specifically, the brand my grandfather shared while in captivity.

NOTE: Those interested, between WWII and 1976, soldiers received in their rations, a mini-pack of either three or four Old Gold, Lucky Strike, Camel, or Chesterfields along with waterproof paper matches.

I like to think Grandpa smoked Lucky Strikes.

While in the cigarette rabbit hole, I’d a memory, as is often the case. Early in my military career, and by this I mean the first week of boot-camp at Lakeland AFB, Texas, I pretended to smoke. I pretended  because I was great at pretending growing up in childhood abuse. I pretended because I wanted the extra “smoke break” afforded smokers. I also pretended so I could feel “cool” and make friends with the other, cooler recruits.

Here’s what I didn’t smoke.

Virginia Slims—menthol and filtered.

The cigarette burned away in my hand, sometimes scorching my fingers. I’d no clue how to take a drag and, after a few “breaks” the TI called me out. Which proved fine. I couldn’t afford the four bucks a carton (I think this was the commissary price in 1985), an extravagant non-habit to invest. And the smokers knew I was a faker. I’m a terrible actor. I most likely lost potential friends in my fake-week-long-almost-smoking non-habit.

I digress.

I loved the Re-search and the Re-memories of cigarettes and smoking and my relationship with myself and the world around me. In 1985, I held no identity. In 1985, I tried to fit in.

Sometimes I still do.

I thought I’d find the same joy Re-searching how to Re-enable my now disabled Facebook and IG accounts.

Here’s what I discovered:

  1. If you look up How to contact Facebook, you will find one of two phone numbers. Both lead to recordings that guide you to log into your account.
  2. The challenge is, if your account is disabled, you can’t log in without the code you receive via text.
  3. If your account is disabled, you won’t receive the code.
  4. You’ll also discover there are a few support emails for Facebook, like,, and These took me 17 minutes to locate.
  5. I emailed.
  6. Crickets.
  7. If you attempt to log in or contact Instagram, you’ll be redirected, I think they called it “encouraged,” to log into your Facebook account for assistance.
  8. Return to number one, begin again. And loop.

NOTE: Completely UN-fun rabbit hole.

This couldn’t happen at a more opportune time. I have a book entering the world.

Small shameless plug here.

I plotted a marketing plan for my book involving social media and my newsletter.

I had social media plans.

I had plans.

And, at this juncture, I really had two options:

  • Quit – Give Up – Throw in the Towel – and Throw a Tantrum
  • Re-Route and Re-Frame

I opted to Re-route and Re-frame because I’ve a neck injury and the last time I threw a tantrum was on January 17th, 2017 after closing simultaneously on two homes and moving my three sons and myself and our two pugs and chiweenie and four chickens and a bearded dragon and a guinea pig in three 26-foot Uhauls during Snowpocalypse, Idaho.

I focused on the chickens.

My friend and handy-dude, Kevin, built—more accurately, rebuilt—their chicken coop in the back yard in two feet of snow. Okay. 15 inches. But you navigate hens and pigs and pugs through snow and I promise you, your memory will file TWO FEET.

I remember throwing my neck out throwing this tantrum. I spent the following week unpacking—and yes, I unpack without sleep until I feel settled—with my right hand numb and that firing nerve-ending pain that nothing, I mean nothing, alleviates.

The chickens survived.

I did too.

Last week, the Facebook Meta Universe felt more challenging. I Re-routed and Re-focused my marketing “campaign” (that’s what I’m calling it) on my newsletter/email list and Twitter. There’s little action and interaction on my Twitter as I mostly re-post from my Instagram. I also share Ilya Kaminsky’s Tweets because he quotes poetry, love, a worthy cause, and I admire his incredible lens and worldview.

See what I mean?

At some point, prior to my new Meta-disability, I noticed the “Share To” button on my Instagram as I re-posted to Twitter (and Facebook). There’s a community called Tumblr.

I opened a Tumblr account.

I lost myself. For a day. Okay, probably three. I fell into the great art on Tumblr, and, this community feels a lovely blend between Instagram and Pinterest. Which reminded me that I have a Pinterest account which has been without attention for six years.

I’ll just leave Pinterest right there.

In the meantime, two days into my disabling social media almost-crisis, one human (thank you, Erin) sent a text, asking if I were okay because she noticed in a group DM on FB that my account was – well – disabled.

If my new disability was more severe, say, heart failure, I would’ve perished. So I did the only thing a normal person who relies on social media (so I thought) does – I sent out a mass email. I wanted to post my Happy Valentine message, and without FB or IG, I felt limited. I wanted to share my Valentine podcast from MING Studio.

Towards the end of my email, I mentioned my current Facebook and Instagram disability.

From this email, ten out of 600 responded with sympathy and an offering to post about my forthcoming book. (Yes. I know how lucky I am).

So here, three days out from my new-distant relationship with two of my social media platforms, I sorted some math. I’m not a fan of math. I’m a writer. But I did the math.

  • I’ve about 5,000 close and dear friends on Facebook. People from high school, universities, the military, my Jewish community, family, my writing community, and many others who lovingly tolerate my existence.
  • I’ve another almost 3,000 peeps on Instagram, though I’ll assume that most are duplicates from Facebook.
  • Another 1300 on Twitter, 3300 on LinkedIn, 250 on Pinterest, and I think five on Tumblr (which I’m most proud).

Let’s narrow this.

Imagine I’ve only 5,000 connections total.

Of 5,000, eleven have checked on me.

This is less than one percent who noticed I no longer existed on two social media platforms.

To be fair, the majority of my close friends rarely use social media and are in touch via in-person coffee, phone calls, texts, and emails. These humans have consistent verification of my alive-ness and rarely comment on my posts, well, because we have our relationship in real time and most of what I post, they’ve already heard me process or whine or luxuriate over. And. They’ve already offered their two cents.

But if less than one percent noticed my absence, I needed to ask myself, “Why post on FB and IG?”

  • Certainly not for book marketing or sales.
  • Possibly for my ego – relating “likes” and “hearts” to acceptance and belonging. I’ll process this one with my therapist later.
  • Potentially to feel a sense of connection to those who live in other time zones, whom I rarely see, but I care about and want to stay in touch and social media is easier than writing letters to 5,000 (or 13,450 if you combine these platforms with my email campaign, without the five on Tumblr and 4,000 contacts in my phone).

NOTE: Yep. 4,000 telephone contacts. I’ve made friends. I circulate through a variety of communities. I connect. I try to keep in touch. I’m not very good at this. Social media has given me a method of outreach.

  • Most likely my ego. I’m a driven human, though not a competitive one. Yes. There’s a difference. I like to know I’m moving forward. I like the measurement stick that I’m evolving. I like to know I’m making a difference.
  • Maybe not my ego. I do hop on social media for 10 minutes twice a day. The first thing I do is send Happy Birthday messages. In 2014 I struggled. My neck had collapsed. As I Re-habbed, I felt isolated, alone, and with my body uncooperative, I fell into an ocean-deep-depression. I dreaded my birthday that year (and quite a few before). But something happened. I’d received over 300 HAPPY BIRTHDAYS on FB and kept checking throughout the day. I felt seen. I felt remembered. And it mattered. And so, I post a happy birthday message every morning for those I know who have a birthday.

Please NOTE: If you are my Facebook friend and you have not received a happy birthday message from me it’s most likely because my account was disabled. Or I was suffering in my own disability and not capable of reaching out that day. I’m sorry. Happy Beautiful Birth Day! I love you.

  • Ego or not, I try to lift others with my posts. I focus on intention – what is this about, what will this offer, how will this help? Much like I approach my writing. I post about funny things in my home, my Newfoundland puppies, my mis-adventures, my blessings. I try not to kvetch. I try to leak some sparkle into the world. I think of technology as an opportunity to bring more good – though I think we’ll soon see with AI and library closures and book banning, there will be less and less sparkle in the world.
  • And still, maybe not my ego. Maybe my heritage. My Jewish Pride. Every Friday, I post a Good Shabbos message with a picture of something that represents light.

This post reminds me: Come from a place of Love and Light. I don’t always succeed. I do always try. And maybe my message or image reminds someone else, there is still Love and Light. Maybe when it feels like there is not, we can be that Love and Light for one another.

This brings me back to my disabled account. Stay with me.

By the eighth day of my FB-IG-disability, after going through Meta’s Privacy Policy contact (which you don’t need account access to fill out this form), someone from the Meta Universe replied via email:

And though they said they couldn’t help me, I received a resolve the next day from both FB and IG.


NOTE: For now, my account is “restricted,” though I’m no longer disabled and clearly hacked. I’m trying to understand what this restriction is and means. I can see that the hacker charged $128 for an ad campaign, and yes, my credit card was used for this, and yes, I’ve disputed this at my bank, and yet…yes, I’m restricted.

The rabbit hole always, and I mean always, offers awareness and opportunity to shine.

Keep reading.

The situation didn’t end. Whoever hacked both accounts, and yes, the accounts are connected but with different emails and passwords, posted some awful antisemitic images.

My brother said, “Don’t take it personally. Just think of it as someone spray-painting your garage with hateful graffiti.”

I’m not sure I feel better yet.

I realized that there’s this possibility: Perhaps my good-intentioned Good Shabbos messages, meant to bring Light to the world, brought chaos and hate to me.

I wasn’t angry. I was shaken.

I yoga-d, EFT-ed, journaled.

Then I Re-Grouped and Re-Framed and Re-built my accounts to a “friend-only” base and Re-moved my public-viewings.

I never journeyed down a true research rabbit hole with my Meta-disability. I ended up in my inner rabbit hole instead. I sorted my “why” on social media:

  • I want to offer good in the world.
  • I want to champion others.
  • I’ve worked hard to rebuild a career in writing following a sharp turn out of the fitness industry, a place I felt successful.
  • Social media offers me space to share my wins too. So yes, I want to champion myself as well.

And I’m wondering if I need this. I’m wondering why I need this.

I’ve never been a bottom-line success measurer.

Instead, I’ve focused on living a significant life. I teach HS teens in the Juvie system. THIS is significant. I’ve raised three incredible young men. My most significant accomplishment.

Now. I’m back on FB and IG.. Now. I’ve a new Tumblr.

And today and still. A statue stands in Troubky, Czechoslovakia, marking the existence of my grandfather’s journey.

And I remember that I come from a lineage of warriors, including a grandfather who shared a cigarette with someone who, labeled as his enemy, became a fellow human in a shattered world. Only four out ten of my grandfather’s crew members had survived the attack.

Here repose American heroes after their last start

Wanderer read and announce to all

We gladly died for you that you live and are free

Don’t forget us.

And perhaps this is what writing and publishing, and social media posts and shares offer – a sort of bronze statue – a singular moment signifying “I existed.”

I did this thing.

I witnessed.

I was here.

(If you want, feel free to respond with your social media WHY.)

How Remodeling My Kitchen Helped Me Revise My Full-Length Poetry Collection

Kitchen Remodel, 2022

In The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron advises, “Mend something,” or “Unclutter,” and “Re-organize a drawer, a closet, a day planner.” If you follow this, you’ll find your keys, your purse, your sunglasses. You’ll also discover rhythm and momentum in your writing. See, the way we live correlates to the way we write. One popular empowerment tool I’ve used for over two decades is the Life Wheel. This offers a visual, showcasing how categories in life overlap one another. For example, when you focus on improving your financial health, you’ll notice progress in other areas such as a reduction in stress, which improves your mental health. And if you’re less stressed, you’re most likely more relaxed and more fun to engage with, which helps cultivate relationships. And if you’re minding your money, you might find that you can afford healthier organic food (which I hate the way “better” food costs more, but that’s a different topic for another day) which, in turn, improves your physical well-being. And so on.

In the world of writing, I find that everything contributes to my writing journey.

Life fuels the writer.

Writing informs life.

The manner in which you live and the intention behind your action(s) (and reactions), impact you as an artist. How you think and your lens of the world is all a part of your narrative.

So why not consider your brain a prime training ground, offering opportunity to orchestrate and spill into better and more succinct methods as a human, as an artist?

Cameron offers de-cluttering, re-organizing, and mending as ideas. I add to this, offering: redecorating. Yes, you can execute a home makeover on a modest budget. Paint and throw pillows and tosses extend a long way, transforming image, energy, and emotion in a room.

I believe that as the brain engages and streamlines tasks in our daily affairs, such as re-grouping and re-processing, these skill sets drip over, pouring into areas, such as writing, painting, choreographing.

If you need to cut words, cut the fat, cut the word count, consider focusing on decluttering, something, anything, somewhere else in your life. One of my favorite tips from master organizer Peter Walsh suggests to completely empty a target cluttered area, say a junk or large utensil drawer, and place everything from that area in a box or container. Set the container in another room, like the garage. Each time an item is needed, add it back to the drawer or closet. After six months, you’ll gain a clear vision of frequently used items and a clearer idea of things no longer needed. For seasonal items, store them with the decorations for that season. For example, Chanukah cookie cutters could be boxed with dreidels and menorahs.  

As I worked my way through remodeling, I redefined my use of drawer space, gifting rarely-used items to others. With new space, I created a snack drawer in place of a large utensil drawer. This has saved hours of searching for a quick and easy nibble between lunch and dinner.

Easy, accessible snack drawer.

One challenge I faced during my re-model was maintaining my kosher restrictions. There’s already planning involved: where to store your spices (near the stove, of course)

…and where to place pots and pans (also near the stove) and where to shelf the oversized serving dishes. A kosher kitchen includes this process but multiplies it by three. Most kosher-keeping Jews separate meat from dairy and pareve (neutral foods, such as eggs) from both. This means that many kosher kitchens have three of everything: three sets of dishes and utensils. Three sets of pots and pans. Three sets of baking items. Many also maintain two ovens and two dishwashers, though in my house, we hand-wash instead.  As I de-cluttered these areas this summer, I heavily re-organized my manuscript, clearing away poems that failed to stay in conversation with the body of the book or moved away from thread.

Here’s a glimpse of my “after” utensil drawers:

Yes, my methods for de-cluttering feels like a ton of work, but the reward is in the ease of maintaining dietary integrity.


My method of decluttering my narrative meets this same standard if I’m to maintain my writing integrity.

I also re-organized my “baggie” drawer:

Food Storage Drawer

I found a similar relationship between writing and restructuring my pantry. I wanted a visual of my pantry items. I also wanted easy storage and accessibility, as much for my sons as for myself. This saves time, which affords me more family and creative time, and probably saves money. We no longer dig four boxes deep to find the cereal we want or to locate brown sugar. This type of restructuring transferred to my writing in, well, structure, especially helpful with poetry. Poetry is both a visual and a literary art. The shape and structure and form inform the work as much as word choice and language. In regards to my manuscript, I also credit my daily discipline of studying for the last 15 years—throughout undergrad and grad school (twice)—my morning habit of honing craft, no matter.

The “after” of the panty.

Use of space – in life and in writing – proves critical. When I purchased this home in 2017, after living on Food Stamps and in Section 8 housing, I wanted only a haven and a sense of permanency for my family. I longed for each room to feel like a hug, an invitation. Each nook holding sacred space to create, read, write, sketch, and dance. Even in a corner of the kitchen there sits an overstuffed chair with a floor lamp, a place to linger with tea and words, should you choose.

Cozy Space to Linger

If you know me, you know I love my coffee and tea. I also sip dark chocolate and what I call my Gold Rush (turmeric, cinnamon, cardamon, and ginger). I have a cappuccino maker, a pour-over, an espresso steamer, and an old-fashioned stove-top glass percolator. I’ve a warming frother and a frothing wand and a honey jar and spoon. I’ve tea infusers, a matcha whisker, and sugared maple to sprinkle on top. A coffee station felt like a spoiled requirement.

Coffee and Tea Station

And yes, there’s a second mini station in my bedroom.

I’m sure there’s a direct link between the slow process of brewing coffee or tea and my writing life. I admit I’m a painfully slow reader. I sit with a book like a long-lost friend. I study every line and underlying emotion, and in each, I seek the shape of my own existence. All the while, I sip something soothing, a hot beverage all day, most days, and every season.

Perhaps I developed this way of thinking over the years, as a competitive athlete, or during my time in service in the Air Force. Regardless, I work my brain out every day. I love puzzles (especially Sudoku) and still wrestle brain gym methods before I meditate.

Yes. I meditate.

One important phase of this remodel included installing a reverse osmosis (with remineralization) water system. I know there are differing opinions surrounding these systems, but science supports their removal of bacteria, viruses, lead, nitrates, mercury, particles, and that’s enough for me.

Under Sink Reverse Osmosis and Remineralization System

I combined two rooms, spread them into one kitchen and dining area. I extended the island into nine glorious feet, built a butler sidebar. Like many families, the kitchen is where we gather for food and friendship. We also needed space to maneuver around while cooking. Sharing my love of cooking with my sons has been a cornerstone to parenting. Cooking offers the measurement of science, the pleasure of art, the background of music, and the joy of creation. As a family, we braid challah, roll homemade pizza dough, slice home fries, and move food from garden to table throughout the summer. There’s infusion in this work—intention and energy—you can taste the love in food that has been orchestrated with care. There is also the spiritual infusion, the energy exchange, heart to heart. In the braiding of bread, there’s meditation. I found this same intentional meditation while braiding narratives, even in poetry. I love the six-braided challah. I love the intricacies of braiding story, poking at the intersections on the page and in life. There’s a knitting, a stitching, in life and in storytelling.

We can train the brain to work through these patterns in daily or weekly tasks, transferring them to our art.

I think of Chelsey Clammer’s work, her beautiful weaving and knitting in her essay collection, Bodyhome. It makes perfect sense that she is also a masterful knitter – sweaters, scarves, hats. I see the correlation between her art, her hands and her mind, as she stretches through complexity, towards clarity, into a polishing.

The kitchen, our kitchen, not just for food.

We create soap, satchels, candles. We use the garden, we use it well—lavendar, rosemary, lemon balm. We jar jams. This year, we crushed Concords off the vine and into juice. We sun-dry tomatoes, freeze peaches and pears for smoothies. We clear the table for board games, card games, and now, my youngest, hosts a weekly DND.

Home. Haven.

If you knew my story, you’d know, I left home as a teen with only a garbage bag stuffed with Levi’s, track spikes, and some 8-track tapes. You’d know I left the military, left one marriage, then another. You’d know I left with my three sons and a duffel full of medical supplies and a single change of clothes for each of us. You’d know, I started over. And over. And this remodel, this year, felt like a complete rebuilding of self and work, built on hope and heart and hard-earned healing love.

Now excuse me while I stitch and patch a pillow—a victim from the latest family pillow fight—and then I’ll return to my memoir, stitch the ending lines, threading and tying the small details, weaving through worlds and words.

On Being Bedazzled

“Braced and Bedazzled,” holds a time in my life I waded in shame.

This essay, every essay, behaves much like a time capsule.

I’d returned to undergrad school after leaving a domestic violent marriage. Soon after, my cervical spine gave way—an old injury taking its toll. I had three young sons to care for, without family, without child support. School seemed my only hope towards a new career path – one out of the fitness industry where I’d honed my identity as an athlete and trainer – and into my dream of creative writing and psychology. A career I felt I could achieve even if my head were strapped in a wheel chair and the use of my hands never returned.

“Braced and Bedazzled” captures these challenges. My three sons and I – lived on welfare, on food-stamps, in section 8 housing. Lived on hope. And when hope failed me, we lived on the hope of others. Like Manuel Guerra, my Vocational Rehab counselor, who kept me going, who believed in me more than I did. And Steve, at Eagle Physical Therapy, week after week across two years, pouring continuous encouragement over my pity party. Steve re-built me, not just in body, he re-built me in spirit and kindness.

And my sons. Gawd. These three young men. They have been my constant source of all things good and kind and loving and sparkly. They have been my reason for every achievement in my life since 2001.

And Boise State University. The accommodations and support from my professors and instructors, who lifted me, semester after semester. I find it no coincidence that here, almost a decade later, I’m an adjunct with BSU, a position I took last month. An opportunity to give back and support new writers.

And then there’s my writerly tribe who read and re-read this essay: Lisa Peterson and Rachel Hollon James. Thank you Lovelies for your love and sacred space with my narrative. To have writers that trust you, that you trust, is so special. Thank you for this gift.

And the beautiful Gayle Brandeis, who mentored me and the essay collection that “Braced and Bedazzled” sits in conversation with. Gayle held me up my entire second semester during my first MFA at the University of Nevada, Reno at Lake Tahoe Fine Arts

And YES. The Rumpus! This journal is a journal I admire, I read and dwell and think deeper. I’m grateful for the page space where I can safely share a vulnerable time in my life.

In September, The Rumpus swirled in narratives themed with disability and education. My narrative is surrounded with pages of powerful words and heart that have changed my lens. I’m thankful for these brave writers. I’m honored to share space with them in The Rumpus.

I’m humbled. I’m Braced. I’m Bedazzled.

NOTE: The names of my sons and others are altered in this essay. Steve gave permission to use his name. And so it is.

The Birth of an Essay

When someone asks, “How long does it take you to write an essay?” I want to answer, “My entire life.” First, I’ve lived through the experience, or witnessed an event, or inspiration sparks through some random fairy wand sprinkling glitter while I sleep. Then I marinade. Sometimes stowing the idea into a brain box, promising, I’ll write about this.

My process is less than consistent. While the idea sits alongside other boxed experiences in my mind, I garden, cook, organize drawers, de-clutter freezers, all the while sorting these boxes. At times, the situation picks at me, like a tiny angry bird needing feeding. Other times, the experience bursts onto my journal pages, squealing and hollering, reminding me to keep my writing promise.

An example of my process might look like this:

  1. I lived through childhood sexual trauma. It messed me up. It damaged my future relationships. It damaged me.
  2. I spent years in therapy unpacking anger and self-inflicted harm (more anger).
  3. I’m still in therapy.
  4. I write around these events, write through them, turn them into poetry, eat them in meals.
  5. Years later, I interview a couple regarding their intimate life.
  6. Here’s the link to that interview: Our Voice – Intimacy Segment
  7. After interviewing the Cramers, I opted to undergo the same procedure, The Mona Lisa.
  8. After the procedure, something unexpected happened, bursting that tucked box.
  9. I dusted that box, opened it, grabbed a pen, and wrote.
  10. Soon after submitting my work, Entropy published the piece.
  11. You can read it here: Mona Lisa by Rebecca Evans

This is one path, one birthing passage of an essay. The road to an essay is not singular or linear or even sensible. Sometimes I avoid the road and that serves me the least, leaving those boxes stacking in my mind, gathering dust, gathering.

Me. No More.

Me. 2008. A time of duplicity.


Me. December 2008.

Me. One month prior to downloading my youngest.

Me. One year prior to fleeing my home, three sons in tow, one duffel stuffed with medical supplies and a handful of diapers.

Me. Looking un-terrified, flexing, posing.

Me. Living in duplicity.

This image is not about body-beauty or suface-pretty. This was an outside-way-of-life. This was me. Pretending. Me. Acting as if everything was fine. Me. Donning a game-face. Me. Keeping myself together at all costs.

Me. Then.

Me. No more.

Thank you to Hags on Fire for publishing this photo-essay.

Writing “Me”

(First Published in Fiction Southeast:

I wrote nonfiction in third person. It’s a strange method to approach narrative, essay and memoir. An unusual way to share a personal story. Most of my work had read like fiction and often, held a gap between the main character (me) and the audience. I told myself that this POV worked, writing my narrative from a “she” instead of a “me” perspective.

In writing groups and workshops, my short stories were processed as if fabricated. Feedback proved difficult, especially when a writer stated, “she would never do that” or “I don’t believe this happened.” Reminders that I’d not established enough of my protagonist (me) on the page. Even better advice consisted of, “you might think about her doing this instead…” followed with ideas on how my character, meaning me, should behave. It felt like a blend between lecturing and counseling. Yes. I wish I more of my interior (me) appeared on the page. Yes. I wish my character (me) had behaved differently. Don’t we all?

Yet my form with third-person memoir had succeeded.

I found, through the use of third-person, I could write the hard stuff, the stuff that damaged me, that changed me, that shamed me. I could write as if I were writing about somebody else. As if this narrative had little to do with my own experiences. In this approach, I found myself raw, real, and willing to commit to truth. I also discovered that I edited less when writing prose more loosely attached to me. Hence the need for “she.”

In 2018, during my first residency at Sierra Nevada’s MFA program, I braced myself to read at open mike. I’d drafted a few excerpts from a larger manuscript stowed in a file, awaiting revision. The section I selected, born from a writing prompt, “If These Old Walls Could Talk.” At the time, I trained in Poetic Therapy and this prompt was often used in group settings.

The essay developed and, as usual, carried a distant third person POV. I further distanced the narrator, offering perspective through my childhood walls. Before the reading, I talked to my mentor, Suzanne Roberts and she gently asked whey I chose third person, why I chose walls.

“This keeps you safe,” she said, “distant from, not only your own story, but from the reader. Your material might be too hard to do this, but maybe try to tell it in first person.”

She pointed out that if I stayed behind the walls, secure, but hidden, I created even more space between my own story and me. Between my reader and me.

The revision of this one-page excerpt brought me to my barren floor that night, alone in a dorm room in late summer Nevada. I had broken other barriers in my writing the first few days in the program, connecting with other writers, searching for my identity as a woman, as a writer. I watched a mamma bear and her two cubs, less than twenty feet from my study group, softly step across campus in the hazy gray sky, reminding me that protection of one’s children need not be brutal or violent, but could simply live as a presence. Reminding me that writing, even with a group of passionate, creative spirits and Mother Nature herself, was ultimately a solo flight. Reminding me that my interpretation of that bear carried a unique lens, that the way I capture story will be through, not just my eyes and my memories, but my heart.

I needed to connect my story to me. I needed to own my story.

My voice cracked, alone in my room, trying to read that single page in first person, aloud to my reflection. I couldn’t. Saying “me” and “I” aloud felt like a stone in my throat. How would I read this in front of a room of writers, many successful published authors. I told myself, if I could read, I could do anything.

I don’t mind the microphone. I’m a public speaker, a motivational coach, a television show host. I was Mrs. Idaho in 2004. I usually accept attention. When it was my turn to speak, I felt unstable standing at the podium. My hands shook and my voice sounded like someone else. I cried. I cried for my own story that I finally felt. One I hadn’t allowed into my heart or out and into the world. I cried for me and for my adopted sister and for any woman or child who has ever been abused.

For the first time, my story mattered. And now every time, I read my words aloud after I write, whether in my journal, on scraps, or a final revision. Giving my story my voice changed me. Breaking down my walls of silence offered purpose in my writing.

And this is why I write.

This is why we write.

On Duende

Published in The Blue Mountain Review, Nov. 2020

Duende. It can feel like a descent into shadow, a murkiness blanketing the earth, suffocating humanity. Some label duende as an emotional nightfall. The term, born from “duen de casa” (master of the house), often relates to elves and goblins and creatures in Spanish and Latin American folklore.

Others think of duende as the spirit of evocation, the emotional response to art.

I think duende is what brings you to tears, brings you chills, your body’s reaction replying to art, despite yourself. My friend and poet, Ken Rodgers, tells me, “it’s intangible and maybe, indefinable. Maybe Bob Dylan. Maybe Picasso.” And he’s right. Duende is all this.

Ken shares, “in Spain, according to Lorca, it’s more apparent in bullfighters and flamenco dancers. Something above conventional beauty, something that hammers the hearts; sinew and bone.”

Frederico Garcia Lorca is credited with grappling the definition of duende in his famous lecture in 1933, “Play and Theory of the Duende.”

For an artist, duende can be as vital as keeping a pulse, guiding the artist to find her limitations, much like a spirit, an option other than the muse. Yet duende is not something that the artist pushes away, but instead, it’s an entity she must wrestle. Think Jacob and his angel. Think hand-to-hand combat. Think hide and seek with a skillful toddler. Unlike the muse or inspiration, the duende conquers both the artist and her audience. In Lorca’s words, duende is “a sort of corkscrew that can get art into the sensibility of an audience…the very dearest thing that life can offer the intellectual.”

Brook Zern, Flamenco aficionado and major contributor to the appreciation of flamenco in the United States, says of duende, “it dilates the mind’s eye, so that the intensity becomes almost unendurable. There is a quality of first-timeness, of reality so heightened and exaggerated that it becomes unreal.”

2020 feels infused with the duende.

Deaths. Hurricanes. Riots. Earthquakes. Fires. Revelation. Plagues. Armageddon.

And Politics.

The world’s aflame and the artist incubates in isolation. We are chilled. We are crying. Our bodies react before our pens reach the page.

Lorca writes, “The duende is a struggle…not in the throat, it clumbs up inside you, from the soles of the feet.”

Perhaps this is the struggle artists are feeling. The world is feeling. Oxygen-less. Motion-less. Hope-less.

Duende lives within all the forms of art, but it gathers its greatest momentum in dance, music, and spoken poetry. These arts need a physical body for audience interpretation. These arts are born and presented and pushed into the world. Perhaps musicians and dancers and poets have a new role in our time, in 2020, a moral obligation to pull the blanket back and fight the good fight, dance with the bull, embrace the battle within, the battle outside of us.

Lorca says, the duende’s arrival “always means radical change in forms. It brings to old planes unknown feelings of freshness, with the quality of something newly created, like a miracle, and it produces an almost religious enthusiasm.”

In a bullfight, you are not really in a fight, you beckon the bull, call the beast near and seduce it. You must do this though you quiver, knowing you face death. In the center, the heat of the dance, you’ll find your duende, your fire. When you do, let it spark and jump and then follow it, linger with it, dance an enchanting and terrifying dance and grow goosebumps while you howl and laugh and cry.

And once you find your duende, I hope you’ll keep it close, allow the miracles and the magic and the necessary change.  

Perhaps, 2020, is the Year of the Duende.

28 Pages of Revision…

Twenty-eight pages. A solid revision day. One goal for this narrative is that each chapter feels complete, carrying the weight of story on its own.

Best writing today:  “I didn’t know I had so much blood inside me. Feeling dizzy, I lowered myself onto the glass, lying on my back as if I were used to a bed such as this. I stared at the ceiling while waiting for Mrs. Heights to come, to help. Our ceiling, the same gray cement color as the floor, thick with cobwebs strewn in corners. It seemed lower than I remembered. I watched a spider drop, trembling on a thread, I swear, inches above my face. I feared spiders. I tasted bile, squeezed my eyes as my body began to shake.”

I know every writer carries a system, a method to “warm up.”

I have a beautiful fountain pen with midnight-purple ink. I love the scratching sound against paper. I love the way it glides across my journal pages. I write long-hand. Three to five pages each morning. I complain, I cry, I sort my shit on those early pages. Julia Cameron refers to this as morning pages. Natalie Goldberg also recommends long-hand writing, developing penmanship, character, disposition, and your nature.

This process connects my mind to my heart, my heart to my hand, my hand to pen and finally, pen to page. It is a quiet process. It is slow. I have a permanent ink stain on my calloused index where the pen rests. It looks like a deep bruise.

Family Adventure = Bowling at Big Al’s. My gutter ball was so slow it stalled in the gutter and I had to flag down a staff member to walk onto the lane and retrieve it. My youngest son beat us all in the first game. My disabled son won the second. I lost every time. I consider myself entertainment in bowling.

Water = forget it.

Core Strength = I sucked in my gut most of the day.

Guitar = it hurts to play. I can strum, but not pick. It is very difficult for me.

New Dish = Chicken Tortellini – Kosher. Coated in salt, cracked pepper, olive oil, rosemary and a titch of lemon juice.

New Discovery = I enjoy my mid-life hot flashes. My feet stay cold and having this new internal heat doesn’t seem a bad deal.

Staying Bright.

Relationship Status

(First Published Idaho Family Magazine 2015, revised 2022)

Feb - bigstockphoto_Pink_Hearts_Wallpaper_2684327

Just like that.  You change your “status”.  In a blink, your label spins into “single” or “in a relationship” or the announcement of, “it’s complicated”.  This is social media. Our measurement of our social status. The platform definer of our existence. And as long as mankind has deemed partnership and marriage an important status symbol, relationships are a major way we’ve defined our value.

We shuffle in the jumble. We mesh into the hype of appearance, posting happy notes of upbeat advice, seeming like we have our sh*t together. Or worse, we might be normal.

A few years ago, though single and happy, I updated my status to “in a relationship.” My phone exploded with question marks and tell-me-more texts. My status doesn’t fit the status quo or the labels offered on social media, or any other box I’ve checked on applications and medical screenings. I was not married. Or single. I was happy in self-partnership. This should be a viable option.

Single-hood, today, should not be a death sentence. It’s a choice. A very satisfying way of life. When I tell someone I’m single, the most frequent response is, “Why?”

I’ve learned to respond with, “Why not?”

Though single means different things to different people, pending on the angle.  To some, single equals an inability to attach. To others, it’s defined as an uncommitted relationship. And still others, view singleness as brokenness.

Our cultural pulse persuades us. Who we are with (in relationship) is an extension of who we are. I don’t disagree. We are influenced by the company we keep. That’s a different essay for a different day. But this line of thinking is limiting. If you’re not with another, then you must carry a lack or a vacancy. A space to fill. Remember the old dating advice: leave empty space in your closet for your soulmate?

We should ask, instead, “Who am I when I am with another? Who do I become?  Am I enhanced in this relationship?” We often shape-shift to maintain relationships. We often lose ourselves. Or at least, I have. When I finally gather the courage and interrogate myself, I find I’m better single. In fact, I’m fabulous when single.

At one time, unrelationship meant I lived in transition. I existed in a void of wait. Wait until the next one comes along. And there’s always a next one if you’re waiting. My singleness, left me in a state of numb-limbo – someplace between relationships and marriages.  When I entered grad school in 2017,  I told myself I was too busy, too quirky, too analytical, and, well, too much. Too much me. I arrived at a state of acceptance. Not of myself, but of my circumstance.

I found business helped me avoid loneliness. Busy insured I had little room in my schedule for anyone else. Yet, in the in-between hours, I somehow still managed to date, still sought a partner. I ended up with less-than-ideal men. The last man advised me to parent differently, to quit my second masters degree, to stop wearing make-up, to quit writing the way I wrote, and, more. The effort of dating drained me. I felt cluttered, lost in someone else’s debris.

In my youth, I remember jotting a Dream Guy List.  You know this checklist. Most have a mental list of their “ideal” human. The traits we track, the characteristics we were taught mattered in potential partners.

At one point, I journaled, “Do I meet my own standards?” I spent a year, give or take, testing myself. Would I qualify as a partner to myself? My list grew shorter, condensing from short-circuit satisfaction to advice I recently heard from a friend:

  1. Believes the best about me
  2. Wants the best for me
  3. Refer to 1 & 2

I had work to do. Okay. I still do. I don’t always believe the best about myself. But every day I’m more date-able. To me.

I’m closer than I’ve ever been.

Valentine’s Day feels like a day when singles feel like outcasts, as if, instead of red hearts, we’re marked with scarlet letters. We forget, singleness is also a gift. There are benefits. Many of us sleep better when single. Many quit worrying about appearance and become more of who they were designed to be. Many live their passions fully. Many spend their time doing exactly what they want, cooking the meals they love, listening to the music they enjoy.

I’m not discarding relationships. They carry value. They teach us about ourselves, providing mirrors, reflections of areas we might need to compromise, adjust, shift. But teaching-relationships can happen with platonic friends or through family. Not every lesson requires intimacy.

Valentine’s Day is a day I celebrate. I cook heart-shaped pancakes for my sons and write myself a love letter. I listen to my favorite music and dance until my neck hurts. I wear something I love, something soft and kind to my body. I embrace myself.  My quirks. My edginess. My analytics and flaws.

I’ll sleep on a pillowcase where I’ve written notes to myself in fabric markers, resting in self-acceptance, realizing, I’ve never really been single or alone. I’ve rejected me, neglected me. I am with the one, singular human who can love me unconditionally. Me. I lost sight of partner-me along my journey of measuring up and fitting in.

My heart is full. My closet is full, stocked with clothes I love. There are no empty hangers dangling in wait. I’m the love of my own life. Status complete.

An Effort to be Unbroken

CWI place winner in President’s Writing Award

Every breath, an effort to be unbroken.
I’ve been a pilgrim, treading along a humbled path.
Without the page, my life would have gone unspoken.

Every bruise, offered a lesson, a valuable token.
Each wrong turn, an alignment from a Higher Wrath.
Every breath, an effort to be unbroken.

Along my journey, filled with honorable coping
There would be glimmers of light–though they faded fast.
Without the page, my life would have gone unspoken.

Despite it all, my heart continued hoping
When my pen touched the page, my soul would be free at last.
Every breath, an effort to be unbroken.

What spilled over–anger, hatred and loathing–
Onto thin paper, now shredded, now trashed.
Without the page, my life would go unspoken.

In the final steps, our imprint of life is spoken
Even unread words offer healing, a cocoon, a cast.
Every breath, an effort to be unbroken.
Without the page, my life would go unspoken.