Saturday, October 20, 2012

Life's Tenuous Thread

I write poetry often now. It does not really make me any better at it - over lots and lots of time it might - but I write poetry because it takes less time than doing the refining work necessary for the stories I've finished. Big job that.

Poetry lets me convey a thought, express myself in smaller bits. Sometimes the process is to spit it out, then let it sit and simmer, stirring every once in a while until it gathers flavor and body and taste.

Is it soup yet?

Then at other times, it comes in painfully slow bursts, one fragile segment at a time. Poetry is so far the only thing I've published (as a contributor in a collection for a book, and as a few (5 - but who's counting) contest winners. I like it. I like writing it much more than I like reading it, so I totally understand when friends and family skip my poetry.

Poetry is one of those things that if you give a few minutes to it and it does not "say" something to you, you should go on. Very few are deep enough that you would miss the entirety of a world changing idea on the first pass. You'll know if it's a world changing idea. Something in it will speak to you. You will see yourself, or realize you've thought that exact same thing, or find that the way the poet said something made you see that thing in an entirely new way.

That's exciting.

We don't get to do that in school - find the poetry that speaks to you. And that is too bad. Just think - the one thing you've been unable to express, the feeling you've never been able to make live outside of you is likely sitting somewhere in the pages of a book nearby. Only we don't take the time to look, because we do not know what we are looking for.

This just kills me.

I feel like there is a treasure out there waiting to be found. I feel like if I just find it I will feel connected, loved, saddened by the human condition, and awed in the space and time of the universe. Sometimes I am depressed, convinced I'll never find it, then full of curiosity and looking like a hound for a bone.

But more often than not, I sit and let my mind wander, hopeful that the words will fall upon the page and express the one thing that changes the way someone looks at love, or connection, or sadness, or awe.

It's a thrill.


Jo Taylor


I've written a poem about Postcards of all things - sending it out to the world soon. We'll see what happens.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

For Karen

This is for Karen. My friend and cheerleader. It was her birthday recently and I missed it because I haven't been on Facebook much and I've been working my butt off (see- it's smaller :)) at work.

Happy Birthday!

Karen requested some writing. Here goes.

I am back now.  I was never really gone, but I wasn't here - writing and writing and writing. I had a few things happen this summer that made it impossible to write, but those things are over, or almost over and the writing can commence again with great joy.

The biggest thing to happen was that my son was ill. It was a very strange and random thing. He didn't want me to write anything on Facebook about it - but he said I could blog about it. Little does he know that my Facebook pulls the blog. Ha! I win.

I think it is kind of an interesting story, so I share it for a few reasons. One, there are really odd and random things that happen in this world. Two, having a record of it later may be helpful. Three, my kid is really an amazing young man, and I'd like to let everyone know that. I'm proud because at 15, he is more of a grownup than many, many grownups.

It all started when he got back from Young Life Camp - a christian camp in Northern California where he spent a week in late June. The day after he got back - he got a fever. Nothing spectacular, just a regular, feel like crud fever. Low grade - C maybe (just kidding). 99.1 if I remember right. That was July 1. Since I'm a nurse, I paid him no attention whatsoever.

He continued with said fever for 7 days. Only it got higher - 103.6 - and stayed that way for 3 more days. He looked miserable but not "toxic." When he finally complained of some lower belly pain, my husband overrode my declaration that he was still probably "fine" and we went to the Emergency Department. On a really busy night. Thank you June (super wonderful nurse).

Well, long story short he had a blood infection that had become an infection of one of the bones in his pelvis. Ooops.

5 days in the hospital on IV antibiotics made him feel much better, 2 more weeks of IV antibiotics at home inconvenienced him a bit, but he handled it like a champ, and 2 months of oral antibiotics are almost finished.

We see the pediatric orthopedist and the pediatric infectious disease specialists tomorrow and hopefully get clearance for him to run again. He runs Cross Country and he hasn't been able to run since he was sick. There is a risk of the hamstring muscle attachment to the bone being stronger than the bone and pulling a piece of said bone off. Ouch. Probably all good now and he's ready to go.

I'm so impressed and proud of him.

The other thing that's been keeping me from writing is I am super busy at work. I think it is a combination of being new to the job (8 months is new in my world), having super way high expectations of myself, and truly having a lot to do.

My Dad's been sick too, so I'm driving down to see him every other weekend. He always leaves the TV on those headline news stations (THAT is where I get the news junky side of my personality) and I happened to glance over at the screen. There was a disabled athlete they were interviewing and the banner at the bottom of the screen showed his name. Only I read it wrong. It SAID "Dick Traum" and I, ever the graceful conversationalist, exclaimed "Dick Trauma?" (thinking that's what it read and in my mind saying why in the hell does CNN have dick trauma as a headline?)

My dad didn't skip a beat. He said "That's the worst kind."

Jake about fell on the floor laughing.

Geez I crack myself up.

Just for you Karen. Thank you.


Jo Taylor

Sunday, April 29, 2012

I Miss . . . 2012 version

I miss writing in a way I never thought I would.

My new job, as the Director of an Emergency Department, has me communicating (talking) so much and to/with so many people that I'm sick of hearing myself by the time I get in the car to go home each day. Singing on the drive is not talking, so yes, I still do that. Cecelia Bartoli lately.

Funny thing is, I don't really feel like I'm saying anything. Communicating with staff is fun because of the spectrum of literal and inferred meaning. I have to be more precise in what I say because I excel at inference, and I usually assume the person I'm talking to gets my meaning.

Oops. I've had to fix a few things already due to the literal - inference spectrum.

What other writers may understand though, is my intense desire to write even one good sentence. I want to communicate anxiety, the tenor of sadness, and humor most of all. I write lots of emails and you can't really use humor there because it is bound to be misunderstood. I've gotten brave lately and said funny things and gotten the great satisfaction of surprised faces. I must be intense too often at work. No one knows I'm funny.

Ah well, that will come with time.

If I've written about something, I have control over my response to it (actually - I know in my control freak little mind that I have no control over anything). If I haven't had time to process my experiences by writing, I am at risk. It's not really a logical thought, but it is true. So, hopefully, in July when I have vacation time, I will write.

Pinterest is a new website that lets you waste vast quantities of time in the most enjoyable manner possible. There was a picture of some women in bathing suits and fish hats on their heads. I instantly missed Susan Flinkenshelt. We used to call each other Fish Head. Long story. Anyway, I pinned the picture and that started me thinking about her.

Miss you.

These are the things I missed in my original post on March 7, 2011

I miss lying on the grass and watching the clouds for hours.

I miss a poet I know only as Jonathan because he doesn't post anymore and I still want to read what he has to say.

I miss my baby's neck - he's 14 now and his neck doesn't smell or feel the same.

I miss being able to eat an entire pizza.

I miss a quiet house. My son did not talk until he was 2 1/2, and since then he has not shut up.

I miss the passion I had for changing the world.

I miss the crunch of snow beneath my feet, but I don't at all miss anything else about it.

I miss my friend Kevin. I still hear his laugh sometimes.

I miss being fascinated by ants.

I miss sitting on the swings and talking with my friends.

I miss my characters when I finish their stories.

What do you miss?



Tuesday, March 20, 2012

On Being Wrong

I tried to look up one of my previous posts, one I knew I wrote sometime, but alas cannot find, about Being Wrong. I can't find it because evidently, and this surprises me, I never actually wrote it. This is surprising due to the fact that I am Wrong, and think often about how I am Wrong, and kvetch and worry about said Wrongness a lot - but I hardly ever say it out loud.

Not that I don't try to admit it and make amends, but if I'm thinking it then surely everyone "knows" that I have acknowledged it - don't they?

Yeah, I don't buy it either. One of the things Margaret has a difficult time with is telling Honey about the things she knows for fear of Being Wrong. This fear must be universal, but it plays out in so many ways that it is really hard to pin bad behavior on this fear. It is a driving force in her character though, so I pay attention to how people react to Being Wrong. Sometimes it is exquisitely painful to watch.

Much of medicine is practiced based on fear of Being Wrong. I know, I know that Triage nurses know what's wrong with a patient within 5 minutes as do the doctors who see them next. But for fear of Being Wrong (and a little thing called avoidance of distasteful consequence), we do a bunch of tests and generally come up with the first assumption. Of course, it really isn't quite that simple, and oh yeah, sometimes we are soooo wrong, but wouldn't medicine be much more efficient if we could go with what we knew?

But what if we are Wrong?

The risk, the cost is just too high. No one in medicine thinks for a moment that we should just go with what skilled clinicians know to be true. The cost of Being Wrong is not worth it.

How many things, right now, would the cost of Being Wrong not really be too high?

I don't have an answer. It is just a question. Actually, it is a completely terrible sentence, but I'm leaving it because it's Wrong. And the cost is . . . some of you think I'm a toad.

Oh the horror!

Wait . . . I . . . I think I'm okay.

My fear of being wrong in my writing has much to do with real life fears - Being Wrong and making something bad happen, fear of no one reading all the words I took years and years to write, fear of zombies.

Nurses feel this stomach dropping fear of Wrongness in a whole different dimension than most people - if we are Wrong patients can DIE! That is fear let me tell ya. So I don't mean to equate fear of Being Wrong as a writer to fear of Being Wrong in medicine - it is different.

It's just that . . . you know . . . in writing and in character is much more interesting and believable if the writer has experienced it first hand. And so I practice being, you know (wrong).

I've been excellent at it lately. Home, work, the bank (oh that was baaad). What has struck me as funny even though I detest Being Wrong is how wrong is one of the things that doesn't improve with practice. I find it impossible to believe that I could be More Wrong, or somehow do it better even though I've given it my best shot.

So I would really like to stop Being Wrong as I have not improved at it even with all the practice I've had. Oh, if it were only this easy.


Wednesday, March 14, 2012


I hate to admit it, but I am one of those people who tend to say the same thing over and over in certain situations. You'd think a writer could be more verbally creative "live," but lack of snappy comebacks happens to be one of the main reasons why I "write" as oppose to "speak." Not that I don't speak.

Some of my sayings are from a childhood spent all over America. In Texas, we say, if we do not care about something, that we "don't give a rat's ass." I have no idea why, but we Texans say it anyway. In the South, if someone has done something stupid, we'll say "bless her heart" with just a hint of disdain. I don't remember where I got "fixin" from, it was either Alabama or Texas where we were "fixin to go to church" and all that was implied.

Someone I knew, once upon a time, was from Tulare. I was friends with her daughter and when we went to Sherry's house after school, we'd ask her mom if we could do something just to hear her say, "Don't make me no nevermind." I still laughed just now writing it.

Medicine has its own entire language built around sayings.  FTD - fixin to die,
DRT - dead right there, you get the idea. The funny thing is, "sayings" are not the only things we say without really thinking about it.

The perfunctory "how are you?" when we pass in the hall, the "fine" thrown around like a midget wrestler on Sunday, the "have a nice day!" flying off my tongue like I really mean it . . . wait . . . do I mean it?

I don't too often think about the things I say being sincere or truly inquisitive - I just say them out of habit - don't I?

At the risk of being called Sheldon by those who know my slightly retentive tendencies, I pose an experiment. For the next whole day after you read this (how could you do it before you read it), I challenge you to  not just say the same thing in the same way for just one day. Try something that will take a moment to consider, let the people you see every day know that you have one or two whole minutes for them, not just the seconds we parcel out like cards on a table.

I'm not sure I can do it. And if I did do it, would it annoy the living hell out of those I tried it on?

I think it is a fine goal, to really be asking and want a true response when we ask "how are you?" but frankly, society is not set up to deal with that. Imagine how many hours we would add to our days if we had to think through the entire communication labyrinth without a few easy coins thrown in here and there?

And yet, it is the uncommon statement or question or greeting that means the most in this harried world. I sat down to write this tonight because Karen asked me to, just after "hey, how's it going? . . . work discussion redacted . . . when are you going to write on your blog?" A simple thing perhaps, but thank you Karen for asking and thank you for saying something that touched me.