Saturday, September 29, 2012

Readjusting: Writing and a PSA

I have been very sick this week and tired from trying to make up work and find my equilibrium after such a wonderful weekend in NYC. That's the bad news. I have some good news though and also, I want to talk about why I was sick. I don't recommend you read that part if you're squeamish when it comes to women's issues, but I felt the need to put it out there today.

The Litr-rary News:

I had a new publication come out this week in EDGE, which I'm really proud of. Actually, I had forgotten that I submitted it and that it was accepted almost a year ago, so when I got the email asking for my address and where to send the contributor's copy, I was thrilled. I reread the piece, cringed and smiled, and clapped my hands. It's a beautiful magazine, and I'm in there with some AMAZING writers, such as Stephanie Dickinson, who I read with in New York last week.


The personal news, and a PSA for women of childbearing age, or anyone who knows women of childbearing age:

I don't talk about this here because a lot of people don't feel comfortable with it and I'm not big on talking about my body in this capacity anyway, but I have this bitch of a disease called Endometriosis. I've had it since I was fifteen, had two surgeries for it in 2005, and still, it affects me. It's basically an issue where my body believes I'm pregnant when I'm not, so my body releases too much estrogen and goes through some of the motions of pregnancy, which results in immobilizing stomach cramps, hormone issues, and general sickness. It's oddly common among redheads, and it is worsened by foods that raise the estrogen in our bodies that include:

  • Soy (tough to be a vegetarian and suffer from this disease)
  • Milk (Dairy)
  • Red Meats
  • Wheat
  • Anything fried
  • Alcohol
  • Anything with a lot of preservatives (Damn it!)
  • Anything that causes an inflammatory reaction (such as sugar)
  • And worst of all: Caffeine

Seems we can't eat anything but veggies, beans, and other health foods. In a way, though, it really keeps me in shape. What I find worst about this disease is, it's a womanly disease, so it makes people incredibly uncomfortable. And more, when you say you have stomach cramps, many times people dismiss it as common (oh, yeah, I get those too, you must have a low tolerance for pain). Believe me, this level of pain is not common.

So why bring this up here, now? Listen folks: when the painful stuff is talked about, we're far more likely to cure it and/or find ways to live more comfortably with it, so I'm putting it out there. In my research over the years, I have found a few things that helped. I do not respond well to birth control or other hormonal therapy because I find myself getting really depressed, and I'm not willing to sacrifice my mind or feeling of control. Further, it was only after I began (and this is just me) hormonal therapy in 2005 that my condition worsened to the point of needing surgery. So, my research has been largely based on a quest to find natural cures.

These are the specific foods that are consistently mentioned by doctors and websites that are supposed to help re-balance hormones, or at minimum not exacerbate the situation:

  • Green Tea
  • All green veggies except spinach (I've actually been advised to stay away from spinach)
  • Almonds
  • Garlic
  • Beans
  • Berries
  • Ginger
  • Cinnamon
I've also read many times that castor oil packs are good for this condition. I have tried this only once to some relief.  Exercise helps a lot. When I'm even a little out of shape, my condition worsens (nice motivator there: excruciating pain). Acupuncture is supposed to help a lot as well. I do not know about this one.

If you go through the sort of pain certain months and people, even doctors, have dismissed it as a low-tolerance for pain or presume again and again that you're pregnant, then say you're fine when you're not, again, you probably have this disease, and I'd suggest finding someone who is familiar with the condition as, sadly, it seems many OBGYNs are not.   


If you think you have it, don't be shy asking me questions about my experience or anything I've tried, learned, etc...

Okay, so I'm feeling better for now, and I'm ready to have an amazing weekend. It's rainy and dark in San Antonio, there have been UFO sightings this week (WTF Texas?!), and I'm thinking somehow it's going to be an awesome weekend. I hope it is. Enjoy yours!


Sunday, September 23, 2012

New York Reading


(Due to my inability to access the Internet, this is being posted a day late. I'm actually back now, and I'm exhausted!)

I am in New York, staying in a hotel that costs less than $110/night and has shared bathrooms (we’re talking a one shower to seven room ratio). I woke up at 3:30AM yesterday morning, flew in to Atlanta, sat next to a sizable man in a cowboy hat who kept doing that mucus-laced inhale thing and swallowing. But I was able to sleep a little (though I woke up worried I'd spoken in my sleep which, apparently, I do when I'm excited.) Then, after getting on the connecting flight, my new seatmates were two women who complained about the airline staff the whole time while sneaking their tiny vodka bottles into their purses and showing me pictures of their children and Kelly Clarkson.
Susan Tepper, settling my nerves before the reading

The cab driver refused to speak to me, no matter how many times I tried to spark up conversation. But he came on time. I was thankful. As we drove the expressway, I became glad for his silence because there was a lot for my sheltered self to take in. He said at the end of our ride that he thought I was from here because I didn’t have my face pressed against the window and I wasn’t taking pictures. I went along with it, thinking it was some kind of compliment.

I checked into my room, exhausted, and I accidentally walked in on someone near naked man lounging on his bed because I unlocked a door with a W on it as opposed to the proper one—right next door. He didn’t move, so I closed the door again. I got dressed and set off to meet Susan Tepper and Joani Reese at a small restaurant a few blocks from the KGB. I almost got down the long stairwell before I realized I had on one black shoe and one brown. I changed one of the shoes as I began to worry that this was not a good sign.

So far, the only problems I’ve had in NYC are that I can’t seem to get Internet, and my SD card on my phone is destroyed, so I am not able to take pictures. Oh, and that my hotel neighbor had loud, unsettling-sounding sex (I hope it was sex) not long after I arrived. The shared tub filled with hair was a little disconcerting, too, but we work with what we got. Again: about $109/night in NYC.
The Readers: Walter, Susan, JP, me, and Roberto
New York, in general, seems a place for fast walkers and short memories. There is no self-consciousness here. If you don’t want to smile and say hi because you feel like shit, good! In fact, don’t do that even if you feel great. I love that. I also love how, if you want to be noticed, you can. Just dress up for the parade. As rumored, people don’t go out of their way to fake niceties; instead, they seem genuinely interested or completely uninterested in each other. The waiter at the small restaurant we stopped at, for instance, was asking about my reading and offering suggestions for things to do after.
Walter Bjorkman, reading from Elsie's World

So, because I didn’t have an SD card, I don’t have any pictures from the event other than those I have copied from JP Reese. The KGB is dark, which I can appreciate after a 14 hour day of travel, but it’s not great for pictures. It is on the second floor, a small room with tight seating and an intimate bar. I read with my good friend JP (Joani), Roberto Carlos Garcia, Stephanie Dickinson, and Walter Bjorkman. Susan Tepper made the whole thing possible, and she made it comfortable.
Feast of San Gennaro Festivities

I went first. I wasn’t nervous so much as I was exhilarated in a way that was needed to balance out a lot of the emptiness I’ve felt surrounding my writing lately.

There was a woman taking photos of me for a local artsy newspaper of some sort, which I'd love to know the name of. She interviewed me briefly after my set, but the next reader was called. I wish I remembered what the name of her publication is, but I was just too excited to meet so many amazing writers that I admire and couldn’t believe had come that I forgot about it. What I found in New York was a community that I felt partially a part of before and feel wholly a part of now.  Writers need to support and lift each other up, and I believe many of us last night felt just that—the support and the desire to support each other.

As for New York: I am at home here. I like to walk fast. I like a city where the house wine doesn’t taste like gasoline. I like a city where a cappuccino is actually a cappuccino (San Antonio: “You want what? Foam?” ... "Here, just let me do it myself."). I like that I can be as anonymous or as known as I want—or so it seemed last night. And I love the diversity, the urgency, the liveliness; the food, the drinks, the grid, and the people.  The city is alive, and I feel alive in it.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

OMG

Here's what I did this week, in a nutshell:

  • Drove my husband to the airport. He was at a conference all week, so it was just me. This started out well. I went to the movies by myself (a sort of strange, semi-awkward treat) and had brunch with friends over the weekend. The week itself was a little less enjoyable, however. 
  • Called my mother to wish her happy birthday on September 11th. She didn't celebrate it on this day for a long time, but it seemed okay this year. I bought her a rosemary bonsai tree, which she said she loved, and I sang to her, completely off-key.
  • Heard the news about the grenade attack and death of Ambassador Christopher Stevens. RIP.  
  • Heard the politicizing of the death Stevens. Heart fell. Stomach turned.
  • Watched in horror as a dog charged toward me and my dog and proceeded to attack my little guy.It was a stray Rottweiler, and I had to break up the fight which wasn't easy. My buddy's okay but was a little shaken that night.
  • Bought medication because, unrelated to the Rottweiler attack I'm sure, my dog also came down with an ear infection.
  • Worked. My workload was insane, both in the corporate world (9 hour days, filled) and in the academic world (still setting up my class in the new system: Canvas (which I love)), so I slept very little. 
  • Worried after my husband called me on Wednesday to say he couldn't walk anymore because his ankle was swollen. It seems he sprained it, and we spent the night researching ways to cope before you get a chance to see a doctor. 
  • Watched the neighborhood and took a lot of walks. My new neighbors--two heavyweight guys with beards who stand outside, smoking and watching the street--have turned out to be a little more entrepreneurial than I would have imagined, which I am sure I'll elaborate on more in fiction or reality sometime in the near future.
  • Submitted a chapbook to a competition, which is pretty nerve-wrecking, but I'm hopeful. It'll be a while before I know. 
  • Compiled all the stories I've written since 2011 and realized I have over 50,000 words, 38,000 of which are thematically pretty close. 
  • Read some amazing work as submitted to PANK, which is like my meditation time. I bought Andrew Porter and Frank Hinton's new books.
  • Decided what I'm reading in New York Friday. (PS: COME!!!!  http://kgbbar.com/calendar/events/fizz3/)
  • Returned to a novel I'd been putting on hold. 
So, this weekend, I plan to sleep. A lot. And, enjoy the beautiful weather. Life is about balance, right?

Saturday, September 8, 2012

I think my plumcot is actually an aprium

I'm eating what was sold to me as a plumcot, which is 50% plum and 50% apricot (not to be confused with a pluot, which has a higher percentage of plum), but I believe I am the victim of false advertising and that I'm eating an aprium because it's rather light in color. Either way, it's an interesting crossbreed, and though I'll likely never buy one again because they're expensive, this one is juicy and sweet, and I want it to last, so I'll take tiny bites. I will likely remember my one plumcot/aprium experience, never knowing the ratio of plum to apricot for sure.

Well, this afternoon snuck up on me and I almost skipped a week here; it still feels like morning. My husband is watching the OSU game and we're enjoying the coolest day in San Antonio in what feels like years (months, in actuality). It's 82° and overcast, and it feels like fall. There's football on TV and pumpkin lattes at Starbucks and a slightly grayer sky. I'm not sure what we'll do if it actually gets down to 65° tonight, but whatever it is, it will no doubt require sweaters or blankets and probably some hot beverages.

This is my favorite time of year because I'm energized by it; there's a certain hopefulness that always comes with the transition from summer to fall, even when this change is as subtle as it is in S. Texas. We won't get a lot of changing leaves, nor will we have rational reasons to wear scarves and gloves, but we'll share the collective renewal.

So, in the midst of renewal, here are my immediate goals:

Enjoy the change
Write some short fiction this week
Read a few online literary journals for inspiration
Chose the final story I'll read in New York on 9.21 (see KGB)
Not buy a Pumpkin Spice Latte from Starbucks but be content to know they're there
Finish designing my online creative writing class, which begins in a month
Ignore the negativity of politics, and just know I'm doing my part by voting in November

Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to clean my keyboard because my plumcot/aprium is getting my fingers sticky and was not designed to be consumed while one writes blogs.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Quinoa and Poetry

As you may know, I'm beginning to cook in my quest for a slightly healthier lifestyle and I'm quite awkward at it. For me, a healthier lifestyle just means running more and microwaving less (eating more real foods and less food-tasting preservatives). Speaking of that, the savory souffle I wanted to make never happened last weekend, but it will. One day. This holiday weekend, however, I have introduced yet another healthy food into my diet and with that came another experiment in the kitchen.

This is a salad, prettier than mine and with cranberries,
but it's somewhat similar (imagine paper plate and bent-pronged fork)
as highlighted on
http://www.tasteofhome.com/Recipes/Quinoa-Wilted-Spinach-Salad
I bought 1/2 a pound of quinoa from Sprouts today because it looks like risotto when I've seen it at restaurants and, after reading that it is actually a seed that is incredibly high in protein and fiber while also being full of iron, thiamine and folate, I figured it'd be pretty near a grain like rice--it'd be something I can work with.

Well, it does not taste like risotto. It looks like it, but taste... yeah, not so much. At the same time, it was really good as a salad compliment. I boiled it with a ton of Italian spice and a little pepper for ten minutes then piled it on the plate and taste tested: Meh. I gave a spoonful to my husband: It needs butter, or honey. In other words, it tastes like nothing because everything that has no taste is cooked with butter or something sweet like honey.

Seeing that quinoa wasn't going to be the staple of my dinner, I made a spinach salad with feta cheese and scooped a little hummus on the side. This, along with a scoop of my quinoa and a little raspberry vinagerette... and just like that: Wow! It was healthy and amazing. Quinoa, in my kitchen, will be a base. It's that type of food that adds a little bulk and is easily enhanced by contrasting flavors. In other words, my husband was right. It just needed a little flavor. I thoroughly enjoyed this salad. Better, that little seed expands like rice, so the 1/2 pound I bought will last me quite some time.

Here are a few really good recipes I found using quinoa that sound  a lot better than my salad thing: http://www.quinoarecipes.com/quinoa-recipes/

In writing news, I have a new poem out there in the world at THRUSH Poetry Journal: "Monday" is a short, fun piece about, well, Mondays. Check it out: http://www.thrushpoetryjournal.com/september-2012-jen-knox.html

I have been writing longer stories, which are difficult to send to journals as many journals have tight word count limits that seem to be decreasing every year. Perhaps this is a sign I should return to my novel. I compiled a few stories into a short chapbook and entered it in the Black Lawrence Press's Spring 2012 Competition. I didn't win. I did, however, get semi-finalist status, which is something. So I'm revisiting this little collection and polishing the stories up just a little more. We'll see. Perhaps I should hold out for a full collection.

Finally, a plea: This week, I got word that I'll be teaching a creative writing class this term at San Antonio College. I really love teaching this class, but I'd like to mix up my bag of prompts a little. I have one that inspires my students so much I can't budge from reusing it, but for the other writing assignments in which I want the students to focus on sensory details and work from an image, I'm still looking. This is a Flex II course, so I have another month. Let me know if you find any images that you think may inspire a story. The rest of the assignment is there, but I need a powerful and dynamic image to work with.

Well, with teaching, the corporate gig, and writing, I'm going to be incredibly busy this fall, so in the meantime, I'm going to thoroughly enjoy this weekend. Three days! I hope you enjoy it as well. Live it up, people.

Observations: Dublin Vacation

Dublin seemed the obvious destination. We would be close to various restaurants and tourist attractions. It would be easy to call a cab or...