Category Archives: Creativity

I Choose to Be Here

It’s the middle of Finals Week. Other semesters, I’d be thick in the muck of a grading backlog, trying to get caught up so I could start grading finals. This time, I came soooooo close to having the backlog done before finals started coming in.   Didn’t quite make it, but I’m still in a good place, on track to have grades turned in on December 23.  Which is before Christmas. Which is fantastic.  (I hear from my family I’m not very pleasant when I’m still grading over Christmas.)

Because I am a master procrastinator, and because over the years I’ve been slower than I’d like to in terms of returning graded work to students, I have a spreadsheet going back more than ten years with precise records–when students turned things in & when I returned them.  This semester wasn’t my best ever, but it’s the best in a while.

Why? Was it because it was a lovely, unencumbered semester in which my family life was smooth as pudding and my work life was also smooth and lovely? NO.  We’ve found 7th grade challenging in my house. We’ve been virus magnets this fall. And at work? Well , my campus administrator is moving on. In a couple weeks. And there’s work to be done.

And, oh, what else? Let’s see. My campus is in the process of merging (though we’re not supposed to say “merging” any more, I don’t know why) with a larger campus. All over Wisconsin, fine, little campuses are merging (not-merging) with fine, larger campuses. This has resulted in many, many more meetings and phone calls and emails. None of which are my favorite things about my job.

And yet.  And yet.  I’m feeling as genuinely copacetic as I have felt in a very long time.

Here’s one reason. In September, I listened to Episode 057 ,”How to Stop Fighting Against Your Life & Fall in Love With It Instead,” of the Courage and Clarity podcast. It’s a great podcast–each interview has two episodes. One is the “courage” episode, in which a woman entrepreneur explains how she broke away from her regular life and had the courage to do something risky.  The “clarity” episode explains some specific process or task.

On Episode 057, Steph Crowder (the host, and part of the triumvirate at, which I love, seriously, ♥, and which I’m sure I’ll write about more at some point) interviewed Catherine Rains, the Hotel Artist.  I was hooked early on, because they were talking about “resistance toward the day job.”

Even before the merger-not-merger was announced, I was finding my job challenging. Maybe everyone does?  But I’m working with Fizzle because I’m trying to develop a side hustle in creativity consulting, and part of the motive for that is being able to retire from my day job, which I’ve been doing since 1991. So even though I wouldn’t say I was miserable in September, was I loving my job? Happy to be there every day? Giving it my best? Prolly not.

A lot of this episode resonated with me, but this especially:

Catherine says that at some point she was in an academic job that wasn’t thrilling her, but she was captivated by a phrase she thought of, “What you resist persists.”  So she started doing what she called a game, of saying, “This moment is my destiny” any time she was in an unpleasant moment at work.  She also said, “I have lived my entire life to be sitting here at this moment doing this thing.” She said these things “over and over again for three months, and at the end of three months, I realized I had fallen in love with my job.” Catherine also talks about:

  • “learning new ways to surrender to what’s in front of me, as opposed to resisting it.  Because resisting it is what keeps you stuck where you are.”
  • “I think that what makes people think that they haven’t gotten far enough is because they’re resisting where they already are.”
  • “When I stopped trying to get somewhere else, and fully sunk into where I was, that’s when the next step revealed itself, without me doing anything.”

There was just level after level of resonating for me. Somehow I decided to go for it.  I tried saying “This moment is my destiny” and that phrasing just didn’t resonate with me. Maybe it felt too whoo-whoo. But then I tried, “I choose to be here” instead, and snap!  Every moment when things at work seemed tense, when I was feeling tired of any particular task, when I just wasn’t feeling the love for what I was doing, I said to myself, “I choose to be here.”

It wasn’t as if everything was suddenly rainbows and sunshine, but there was a subtle transformation. Work just felt good. Within a week or two (which seemed sudden), I wasn’t working on my side-hustle to escape my job. I was working on my side-hustle because it was an important thing I wanted to develop to spend some time on now and more time on later.

Work just felt good.

So then when the seismic announcement of the merger-not-merger happened (about which I have many thoughts and feelings), my response wasn’t doom and gloom or terror. My gut-level response was positive. And still is.  And as we move through the muck of making a massive transition for this merger-not-merger (about which I have multiple thoughts and feelings), I’m still saying “I choose to be here.” It makes a huge difference.

It’s a huge part of why I’m feeling so mellow during finals week, looking forward to a full day of grading tomorrow, a Solstice bonfire tomorrow night, more grading on Friday, then an email to students asking them to check my data entry one more time, and then turning in grades on Saturday. Then celebrating Christmas starting on Christmas Eve. And actually taking a week between Christmas and New Years where I don’t check work email. At all.

So right now, at the end of a tumultuous semester, I’m sitting in front of my Christmas tree feeling copacetic even before I take a single sip of the brandy I’ve poured myself. This whole method isn’t just for tense moments at work. It’s also for moments like this. I choose to be here.



Purgatory, Kentucky (5/7)

I like to have a quiet place to pray,
and sitting, waiting, in my truck, well that’s
about as quiet as it ever gets
because the radio died in ’88.
When a radio dies where does its music go?
They say sound waves never really go away.
I don’t understand what all I know
about that. I guess I believe that sound’s a wave.
I guess I believe there are tiny bones in my ear,
a hammer and an anvil and a horseshoe? Is that right?
I wonder if they’ll be taking questions there.
I wonder if it’s always kind of twilight.
There’s the ferry now—I guess it’s time
I got myself in gear and got in line.


Ferry on Highway 169 somewhere in Kentucky (a Creative Commons shot from Edlitmus on Flickr)

David Bowie, RIP

There’s so much to say.  I wasn’t ready for this death.  I hope I can say more at some point.  In the meantime, I’ll re-run a little poem I wrote when he released “Walking the Dead” a couple of years ago–a song and album for which I was so grateful. I hadn’t even realized how much I’d needed a new one from him.


Bowie’s Voice

starched linen right when
it’s not so stiff

piece of paper twisting
in a breeze

sheet of metal
a thin sheet
its sound waves
emerging at the quiet snap
of bending this way
and then that

Bowie’s voice
in “Where Are We Now”

exactly how we ought to speak
to the dead, were we to speak
to the dead, were we dead,
were we out walking the dead.


The Noble Gases

for Max Garland

No wonder I can never remember all eight—
there are only six. I have a placemat
with the periodic table of the elements on it—
I guess it’s time to get it out again.
The ones I never forget are neon
and radon—bar signs and killers in the basement.
I usually remember Superman’s Achille’s heel,
thus krypton, and if I think of Jason, I might
think of Argonauts and thus argon, but
usually I don’t. Almost never will
I think of helium, the most famous one,
the silly voice, the birthday balloon,
the one that can overfill your lungs
and kill you, leeching all your oxygen.

Working on part 2 and 3 of this poem–will post more soon.

What a pleasure it was to hear Max Garland read at the Aldo Leopold Center on an absolutely perfect Wisconsin summer night. I always enjoy his poems and he spoke so earnestly and well about the importance of art, of making it and supporting it, I found I had tears in my eyes a bunch of times.

Here’s a photo I took as I resisted the mingling part of the evening–I couldn’t bear to be inside on such a gorgeous night.

The Aldo Leopold Center outside Baraboo.

The Aldo Leopold Center outside Baraboo.

This poem came in response to his poem “Hydrogen,” which is available through the Western Kentucky University English Department website.


I have fond memories of WKU, where I once participated in a marathon poetry reading. We read forever there. We might still be reading there.


Missing the Magpie

Here’s a long overdue shout-out to my good friend Robert, who contributed to my Indiegogo campaign last year (thanks, and thanks again!). His contribution and others allowed me a “half-battical” last fall, which meant teaching two courses instead of my normal four.  I spent time working on creativity research, and I’ll be offering my first 2-hour workshop this Saturday.


You know how everyone is always posting all kinds of everything on Facebook & Twitter and some of it’s great but so much of it is….not?

What if someone had a blog in which they gathered all kinds of awesome stuff in one place, week after week?  That’s what Robert’s “Magpie Monday” did, and even though there hasn’t been one in a while, it’s still WELL WORTH a look-see because he finds awesome stuff, such as Bookshelf Porn and Ask Baba Yaga and a site with details I didn’t personally actually know or remember about the Piano.


I’m missing Magpie Monday, but at least there are nests to look back through!

Doodling the Future


Trying to doodle how I see my immediate future. It’s atop in this part of this morning’s doodle. Note its blankness.


The middle is this semester’s “half-battical.” A little more room to breathe.


Note the drop-off to DON’T KNOW? at the top of this rickety staircase.


Self-portrait during half-battical.


The bottom here is a normal semester. Not horrible, but really, too, too much.

Spiraling: Writing the Unthinkable


Lynda Barry had us draw spirals today.

I got to do a workshop with her in her Image Lab at the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery, where she is a (jolly good) fellow. It was a writing workshop, but we drew a little. We spiraled.


When we were getting ready to write, or when we were listening to someone else read, we drew spirals.



We were supposed to draw it as tight and close as we could without having the lines touch. I got too big on this one and it turned into a labyrinth.



Sometimes I closed my eyes and drew.



Here’s more of the labyrinth.



Eyes closed for a bit.

I like how these pics look a little spooky. I went to scary places today, and I even wrote a ghost story.