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A Writer's Diary

Problems with GoDaddy

Dear Readers,

This is a test. I have tried for three days to edit my last blog entry ("Redefining The Diva") to no avail. I called GoDaddy yesterday afternoon around 1:30. Their "senior technicians" were going to look into the problem and send me a report in 2 to 4 hours. The issue isn't resolved and I haven't heard back from them.

So consider this a test. If you receive notification that I have posted a new blog, ta-daa! It means I can post but not edit.  If you never receive a notice, then it means this blog is dead, dead, dead, and my next stop will be WordPress.

Hey, GoDaddy, if you're listening: The clock is ticking . . .

A Remembrance on St. Patrick's Day: Kateland

It's St. Patrick's Day, which to me means it's time to honor Katie. I've taken to re-posting this on the anniversary of her death as way to honor and celebrate her life. Though Katie has been gone for 11 years, I feel her presence daily. And I love her as much as I did the day she passed. 

And as I said last year, ". . . 
it's fitting to offer it (the blog entry) here again in tribute to one of the great canine loves of my life. And though the piece was written with the idea of honoring her . . . on the day Ireland and all of us with a bit of green in our blood celebrate the Emerald Isle's patron saint, if you would, hold up your Guinness, or your Bushmills, or whatever it is you fancy, and say, "To Katie.  She was a good dog" 


Those of you who have read my memoir, When Katie Wakes, know that the unconditional love of a Labrador/German Shepherd mix named Katie helped see me through the dark days of being a battered woman.

On St. Patrick’s Eve—nine years ago today—I lost my dear Katie. She is buried just steps from me, in the backyard, facing the bay, under the shade of a palm tree. It was where I could find her on most any sunny day.

She was with me for 18 years.

Katie and the mighty Atticus in a game of tug-o-war:



As I buried her–it was about 3 o’clock in the afternoon–a soft rain began to fall; the sky did not clear until morning. My other dogs stayed by her grave, throughout the night, refusing to come in despite the weather. I think they were watching over her soul as it transitioned to some place we can’t yet know.

I find grace in the fact that as I write this, a spring shower has just arrived. I cannot shake the feeling that Katie brought the storm on as a cosmic kiss.

I miss her everyday, but on this anniversary of her passing, with the scent and sound of rain engulfing me, the loss is fresh, new, overwhelming. Yes, indeed, a remembrance is in order.

Katie: a black dog with a white heart, ticklish feet, eyes that left no doubt she was an old soul.

Katie: a wild child who smiled with a largess that escapes even some humans; she showed all her pearly canines.

Katie: she had a sense of humor, knew I was going to cry before I did, and never suffered fools.

Katie: the Houdini of Dogdom, defying the laws of science, escaping through cracks in a fence she couldn’t fit through.

Katie: cow-barker, cat-licker, wind-chaser, sun-bather, lover of the McDonald’s drive-thru.

Katie: Cuban sandwich thief, perceptive, smart, snorer, understood that the dressmaker down the street was just crazy enough to be avoided.

Katie: full of hope, full of light, full of unrepentant dog love.

Katie: died in my arms, not in my heart.

Katie: a patient girl who put up with me singing into her dense coat, “KkkKatie, kkkKatie! You’re the only ddddog that I adore!”

Katie: she loved her Guinness.

Katie: what a good dog she was!

On this St. Paddy’s Eve, if the spirit stirs you, tip one back for Kateland, The Wonder Dog, knowing that there is goodness in this world and that sometimes it arrives on your doorstop with four paws, a wet nose, and a soulful bark.

Heart and soul,

Connie

P.S. A link to love: Adopt a Pet

Rehab for the Hopelessly Vile

Violence and words. Unfortunately, the two are often linked.

My mother beating me with the buckle end of a leather belt doesn't hurt anymore. But the epithets she hurled as easily as she breathed stalk me to this day.

Several years ago, while I soundly slept, someone I trusted broke into my home. I awoke amid the horror, disbelief, and pain engendered by a full on assault. The feeling of terror at being pinned down as he pushed his full weight into me will probably never fully dissipate. The sense of powerlessness and rage still, occasionally, haunts my dreams. However, I've managed to stuff into a mental box most of the hurt inflicted by his physical actions. I'm a careful woman: I rarely inspect its contents.  But the disgusting, demeaning words he hurled broke me. What he said, and then the subsequent ugly whispering of a few of my colleagues I had considered friends, will bring me to my knees if I allow them to surface, if I run my finger across the barbed wire of their intent. So I don't.

But then things happen. Things like the horrific and brutal assault journalist Lara Logan suffered in Egypt. While I was trying to keep my bearings in the light of that news, a handful of so-called journalists weighed in with the despicable vitriol people of lesser minds still aim at rape victims. Salon's Mary Elizabeth William's offered an insightful rumination on their hate speech, so I won't rehash the particulars (read her piece here ), but I feel compelled to point out that hating and/or blaming the victim has no place in a civil or moral society.

Those in the media (and we have stretched that term so thin it is increasingly applied to people who are little more than compulsive tweeters) who think it's okay to damn, demean, and vilify Lara Logan are compounding her trauma. And they--just like the folks who whispered behind my back that rape doesn't really happen, just like a Florida state attorney who contends there is no penetration without cooperation--are culpable. Their violent and irresponsible words are a form of assault.  Their words stick.

I'm not sure when it became okay to publicly spew reckless violence via the spoken and written word. Surely the advent of social networking sites and blogs are in the mix. But I know this: We live in a world where rape as a tool of warfare has again become commonplace, where women can't serve in the U.S. military without risk of sexual assault , where colleges and universities under report and cover-up rapes that occur on their campuses, and where people in positions of power bully rape victims by insinuating they are liars or that they asked for it (yes, that worn out insult is still astoundingly in play). In short, it's 2011 and everyone has a virtual stage thanks to the Internet. And, sure, technology drives wondrous innovations and conveniences. But women still aren't safe.

Here's the thing: People who tweet and blog and otherwise rant-n-rave need to remember that they might be sitting in their living rooms in front of their computer screens, but their words are entering the public dialogue. If you're violent and stupid enough to think that what happened to Lara Logan is okay, if you think that joking about her personal horror is acceptable, then I hope someone takes away your computer privileges and sends you to rehab for the hopelessly vile. This isn't about free speech. This is about the fact that irresponsible, mean-spirited, brutal words incite others to act out in ways that are illegal, morally abhorrent, and violent. Such hate speech sends this message: Women are second class citizens, so it's okay to beat and rape them.

Words matter. Tone matters. Civility and empathy do too.

Virgin Tales from AWP 2011

So, I finally did it: I went to AWP's (Associated Writing Programs) massive conference. I have avoided this conclave of fellow creatives for years. I'm not sure why. I suppose it's because I'm allergic to hype and pomposity. I've always thought my time was better spent at home, writing. But there was an urgent reason to attend the 2011 conference held in DC: to honor my friend, the poet Rane Arroyo, whose passing in May left an enormous cavern in the lives of all who loved him.

Rane, an AWP board member, staunchly (often the lone voice) fought for greater diversity at all levels of the organization. I think the fruits of his labor were on display this past week. And I felt his spirit, usually in the trill of our laughter.

His friends gathered in an austere room named for Thurgood Marshall, and we paid tribute to our friend and colleague by reading his poetry.  As we, one after another, stood at the podium reading Rane Poems, a portrait of the man and the artist began to emerge: his elegance, his humor, his brilliance, his devotion to Glenn Sheldon (his partner of nearly 30 years), his desires, his contributions to this good earth, his enormous love for life. We will never stop missing Rane. But the words spoken that morning will, I believe, help ferry us through our days without him.

I suppose it is a just characterization to say that I was an anti-attendee. I went to only a handful of panels and even fewer readings. But I discovered new friends, hung out with my chosens, and gleefully caught up with cherished folks who--thanks to time and distance--I had not seen in far too long. Amid the hustle, I made my own community.  So it was good. In fact, I think I will pencil in Chicago 2012, just for the sheer joy of it.

Here are the shoes Glenn wore in honor of Rane who, it turns out, was a devotee of Italian footwear:






 

A Writer's Diary: The Caterpillar and The Chrysalis

            
A few weeks ago, I was standing on our back deck, watering my kitchen garden, and was delighted to see 16 black swallowtail butterfly caterpillars ensconced on my oldest parsley plant—the one that for three years has lived in various stages of health in a clay pot by my back door.  I also knew that the plant might very well be sacrificed in the service of the caterpillars who are voracious eaters.

Those of us living out here on the edge of the world—the northern Gulf of Mexico coast—were already experiencing bone shattering grief over BP’s criminal assault on our environment and way of life.  So I relished the opportunity to bear witness to the journey: caterpillar to chrysalis to butterfly.

As I watched the lime green, black striped and yellow polka dot critters munch and poop, munch and poop, and then molt before my very eyes, I remembered seeing a black swallowtail a few days prior frantically hover and flit all over the plant and had thought that it was an odd and beautiful site.  Ah ha!  I had been watching the birth of larval life and hadn’t even realized it.


Worried that my one plant would not suffice, the next day I trekked into town and bought an entire flat of parsley.  Saturday morning, Bill set up a video camera.  Yes, we taped them (video to come, yes indeed!).  Larvae gazing: That's what we call excitement on the edge of nowhere.

Saturday afternoon, I checked on our brood and was saddened to see that their ranks had been reduced by half.  Being pathetically optimistic, I decided that the missing caterpillars had trooped off to begin the next phase of their journey and was miffed that they hadn’t used the long piece of driftwood I had stuck in the clay pot as their chrysalis post.

 Just a few hours later, Bill and I were standing in our kitchen talking when he yelled, “No!”

I followed his gaze to the deck just in time to see a male cardinal swoop in and pick off yet another caterpillar.  So much for my optimism.  Tennyson’s nature red tooth and claw was in full gear.

We immediately moved the remaining six—parsley flats and all—to the screened front porch where, over the next few days, I watched them grow nearly five inches long.  The top of the screen was torn and I observed three of them make a slow ascent out into the world, disappearing into the wild tangle of an unruly cabbage palm.  The next morning, I was delighted to see that two of them had returned.

By week's end, only three remained.  We had protected them long enough that they could continue their amazing journey: Isn't that what humans are supposed to do?  

Still, it’s embarrassing to admit how excited I was when I saw that one of the trio had made its way to the wood header and had begun the process of going into what I have decided was a self-induced coma.  It took only a few hours for it to lose its brilliant colors and morph into a well-concealed brown chrysalis. 


The remaining two ate less and seemed to fall asleep only to wake again and eat some more.  I think they were resisting the journey, content in their parsley jungle.

But DNA has a way of winning out.  I watched as the smaller of the duo made its way to the top.  I was hopeful that it too would drift into a chrysalis coma on my side of the screen.  Thrilled, I watched it approach its chrysalis sibling.  Perhaps I would have my very own private chrysalis farm. 

The caterpillar moved closer and closer—I was smug in my joy—and then to my everlasting horror, the caterpillar began to eat the chrysalis.  I screamed.  I picked up a twig, yelled, "Stop that!" and separated them.  Over and over, I did this until finally—close to being stricken with heat stroke—I gave up and reluctantly decided that nature had to do what nature does. 

I also decided that the chrysalis-eating caterpillar must have come from the same gene pool as the corporate heads of BP, Halliburton, and Transocean; by eating the chrysalis, there would ultimately be less competition and, therefore, more food.  Damn the consequences: greed knocks to smithereens the fair balance of nature and humankind.  The only thing that allowed my to be amused by any of this was my writer's propensity for mocking self-examination.

By morning the caterpillars were gone.  The chrysalis was still there, although what damage it might have sustained I didn’t know.  I moved my parsley farm back to the garden where, with lots of watering and sunshine, it is thriving.

Today, my lovely pit bull, Murmur Lee, began barking, her stubborn gaze pinned to something on the porch.  I looked out and joy shot through me like a meteor arcing through a new moon sky: the metamorphosis of life had taken one more brilliant turn: a beautiful, glorious black swallowtail butterfly lit on the screen. 

These days I latch on to anything I can turn into a talisman.  I look for signs of life amid the devastation BP has wrought and so often only find death.  I seek omens that perhaps all is not lost and run into brick walls composed of corporate neglect and greed.  But today, today I received a reminder, in the form of a winged prayer, that we cannot give up:



From the edge,

Connie May 

A Writer's Diary--We are Not Lazarus: Reflections on the Gulf Disaster

We can't breathe new life into one dead dolphin, or resurrect the legions of dead oiled birds, or resuscitate their chicks that starve to death amid the killing fields. Nor can we assuage their suffering. How does one recreate a wetland rich in marsh grass and wildlife?  How do we dispel the growing silence?  How do we atone?  We are not Lazarus. ... << MORE >>

A Writer's Diary: Finding My Father's Voice via The Kindness of a Stranger

Sometimes, out of the blue, great gifts are bestowed. And that's what happened to me a few months ago when a man I did not know came into possession of a recording I had searched for almost my entire life.  You can read all about it in an essay I wrote for the New York Times' Modern Love feature: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/06/fashion/06Love.html.

 To view the video, click here





I am still processing what the gift of this recording means to me.  I veer from amazement, joy, bittersweet angst, humility, wonder, and then onto something I can't even name. 

I hope you'll read the essay.  I hope it will strike chords deep in your heart.  I hope that as Father's Day approaches--a day that in the past has for me been full of homilies of abandonment--you will whisper into the ear of the person you love most, "I cherish you."

Heart and soul,
Connie May

A Writer's Diary: Remembering Katie

Katie was my beloved companion who passed away on St. Patrick's Eve a decade ago.  I posted this remembrance last year and think it's fitting to offer it here again in tribute of one of the great canine loves of my life. And though the piece was written with the idea of honoring her on the eve of the day Ireland and all of us with a bit of green in our blood celebrate the Emerald Isle's patron saint, if you would, hold up your Guinness, or your Bushmills, or whatever it is you fancy, and say, "To Katie.  She was a good dog" 

And Katie, my dear, as you probably know, it's raining . . .



Those of you who have read my memoir, When Katie Wakes, know that the unconditional love of a Labrador/German Shepherd mix named Katie helped see me through the dark days of being a battered woman.

On St. Patrick’s Eve—nine years ago today—I lost my dear Katie. She is buried just steps from me, in the backyard, facing the bay, under the shade of a palm tree. It was where I could find her on most any sunny day.

She was with me for 18 years.

Katie and the might Atticus in a game of tug-o-war.

As I buried her–it was about 3 o’clock in the afternoon–a soft rain began to fall; the sky did not clear until morning. My other dogs stayed by her grave, throughout the night, refusing to come in despite the weather. I think they were watching over her soul as it transitioned to some place we can’t yet know.

I find grace in the fact that as I write this, a spring shower has just arrived. I cannot shake the feeling that Katie brought the storm on as a cosmic kiss.

I miss her everyday, but on this anniversary of her passing, with the scent and sound of rain engulfing me, the loss is fresh, new, overwhelming. Yes, indeed, a remembrance is in order.

Katie: a black dog with a white heart, ticklish feet, eyes that left no doubt she was an old soul.

Katie: a wild child who smiled with a largess that escapes even some humans; she showed all her pearly canines.

Katie: she had a sense of humor, knew I was going to cry before I did, and never suffered fools.

Katie: the Houdini of Dogdom, defying the laws of science, escaping through cracks in a fence she couldn’t fit through.

Katie: cow-barker, cat-licker, wind-chaser, sun-bather, lover of the McDonald’s drive-thru.

Katie: Cuban sandwich thief, perceptive, smart, snorer, understood that the dressmaker down the street was just crazy enough to be avoided.

Katie: full of hope, full of light, full of unrepentant dog love.

Katie: died in my arms, not in my heart.

Katie: a patient girl who put up with me singing into her dense coat, “KkkKatie, kkkKatie! You’re the only ddddog that I adore!”

Katie: she loved her Guinness.

Katie: what a good dog she was!

On this St. Paddy’s Eve, if the spirit stirs you, tip one back for Kateland, The Wonder Dog, knowing that there is goodness in this world and that sometimes it arrives on your doorstop with four paws, a wet nose, and a soulful bark.

Heart and soul,

Connie

P.S. Links to love: Adopt a PetThe Clarissa Burden Postcard Project, The Clarissa Burden Launch Party in Tampa, Pre-order How Clarissa Burden Learned to Fly, Some Recent Writing, A Good Interview,


A WRITER'S DIARY: Springtime and One Writer's Fearful Blues

My watchful angst slips away as the birds wake from winter's lethargy and prepare for new life.  Even hummingbirds are busy, sipping nectar from fledgling blossoms. Oh yes, I feel it: Spring has opened one eye.

Old timers mark true spring by one of two things: Easter has passed or the pecan trees have begun to leaf.  Experience has taught me to rely on the pecans.  But my pear tree, unable to wait for either, is fully leafed out: pale leaves against cinnamon branches.  A few clusters of white blossoms opened two days ago.




My grapefruit  and tangerine are in deep need of a good feeding.  I'd love to mound the banana with oyster shells but the dogs enjoy nothing more that a good chew on a bivalve.

The winter's heavy rains prompted my jasmine to grow wild all season.  It's now thick and unruly, like a good head of hair.  There is no hint of sky through the green tangle.  An old coon beds down in the vines when it suits him.

Each morning I awake and study the sand for tracks.  Mama bear and her cub have become accustomed to using our property as their gulf-to bay byway.  I'm careful at night.  I believe in every cliche I've ever read about mama bears.

And then there are the coyotes.  I love the sound of the group howl--reminds me of Hank Williams for some reason.  I think Hank possessed a lonesome but longing heart and I hear that same beautiful pathos in the coyote song.  But I also don't allow the dogs into the yard after sunset.

The tides have reflected how uneasy--perhaps unready--this spring is.  Fast currents and wind driven chops have kept the kayaks in their berths.  And it's still cold to this Floridian's thin skin.

As I write, I pause to stare out my window, trying to figure out what is next.  I have a new book to write, another to promote, and a life to live with four dogs and a good husband.  I need to start digging in dirt.  I gotta make things grow. 

I spent all of last year hobbled in various leg casts so the yard was left to its own devices.  This year I plan to assert myself as a gardener and writer.  I need them both to flourish.  I fear that How Clarissa Burden Learned to Fly won't find her readers, as if she's some blind homing pigeon destined to head to China instead of Brooklyn where she might be loved.  I fear everything I plant, every seed I tuck into the warming soil, will die or remain dormant.  Of course, I fear my agent and editor will say, "What was she thinking, starting a new book?"  Oh, yes, I fear. 

It's part of a writer's job, this insecurity.  Perhaps it's our readers' job to say, "Oh, honey, of course it's all going to work out just fine.  Now go write that book.  I need something to read."

As I think about it, I've almost always started a garden in tandem with a new project.  Perhaps my creativity is more seasonal that I know.

And what about you?  What will you grow in your garden this year?

Heart and soul,
Connie

P.S. Links to love: The Clarissa Burden Postcard Project, The Clarissa Burden Launch Party in Tampa, Pre-order How Clarissa Burden Learned to Fly, Some Recent Writing, A Good Interview

Breaking News! The Clarissa Burden I've Got A Secret Postcard Project! What's Your Secret?

We’ve all got them.  They make the world spin and our lives more interesting: Secrets. 

We also have to unburden ourselves from time to time . . .



How Clarissa Burden Learned to Fly’s beleaguered heroine wanders though the early hours of the 2006 summer solstice imagining her husband is dead.  She’s horrified to realizethat she spends 80 percent of her waking hours and a good portion of her dreamtime wracked with spousal death scenarios which, while improbable, rise from her subconscious with all the ease of a sigh.

There is so much Clarissa can’t tell.  She can’t say even to the walls of an empty room, “I’m trapped in a loveless marriage.”  She can’t whisper, “Oh my goodness, every time my husband leaves the house, I imagine him getting run over by an eighteen wheeler.”   No.  She can’t tell a single living being her most fundamental truths.  But you can.

To celebrate the April 2 launch of How Clarissa Burden Learned to Fly, I’m starting The Clarissa Burden I’ve Got a Secret Postcard Project.

Let me prompt you with a few imagined possibilities:

You don’t tell your wife that you stop off twice a week at the local bar on your way home.

This drives you crazy: the way your husband incessantly shakes his peanuts before tossing them down his throat.

You find your partner’s pasta primavera inedible but you simply can’t tell her.

You want to quit your high salaried job and study violin making but you think your spouse would never understand.

Do you hate the way your husband says, “Howdy, sailor,” to your male colleagues?

That trip to Belize?  It wasn’t business.

You’re having an emotional affair.

You’re having a physical affair.

You and your partner are vegans.  You will never let her know that every Wednesday you have a Big Mac for lunch.

You hate being married.

You have a habit or a passion—banal or complex—and  you can’t tell your spouse about it.

I don’t know what your secret is.  But you do.  And I want you to share.  Anonymously.  Celebrate with me the publication of How Clarissa Burden Learned to Fly by sending an anonymous postcard to:

I’ve Got A Secret! The Clarissa Burden Postcard Project
PO Box 98
Panacea, Florida 32346

Or email me anonymously at mail@conniemayfowler.com.

I will post your secrets on my website (www.conniemayfowler.com) and will post one a day on Facebook and Twitter.

And remember: Shhhh!  I won’t tell a soul who you are because this is an anonymous project.