Thursday, December 31, 2015

A Year of Darkness and Light

Today I stopped by my favorite coffee shop for a final treat before beginning the Whole 30, a diet which I am forlornly referring to as "30 days without cheese" (and a long list of other things).  Instead of one drink of the week, they had two:  Dark Side and Light Side lattes.  Although this is no doubt in celebration of the long-anticipated release of a certain movie, I thought it was the perfect summation of what 2015 has been for me.

So many tragic events have happened around the world and closer to home.  I have had tough parenting moments and difficult situations at work.  Yet, I've also seen instances of love, kindness, generosity, and courage.  These points of light shine through the darkness and give me hope.  Most notably, this is the first year I have not worried about whether our children would be ours forever.  The adoption was final in December 2014 and it is as if they were "born from my own body."  We thank God every night for keeping our family together.

In the midst of our relief, parenting continues to be the hardest job I have ever done.  At this point, I have forgiven my parents for any "mistakes" they made and recognize them for the superheroes they truly are (Wonder Woman and Thor).  I try to remind myself to savor the special moments like when a sweet little voice says, "Mommy, I love you so much."  It's difficult to see now, but I believe one day I will look back and see the constellation of my life, a mixture of darkness and light.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Courage & Commitment: Running is Never Easy

2013 was a year of achievement for me.  February saw the publication of my debut chapbook, Fertility Rites, by Finishing Line Press.  Needless to say this was a dream come true.  In October, I ran in my first half marathon (more on that later).  And in December, my eleven-year journey toward a bachelor's degree finally came to an end and I proudly walked across the stage with the words summa cum laude ringing in my ears.

But 2013 was also a year of adversity and probably one of the most difficult years of my life.  It was our first full year as foster parents, an experience that has tested me in ways I never expected.  Of course, it has brought joy to my life as well, but I'm not going to sugarcoat it.  (If you have read much of my work, you will know I'm honest).  There were many days I did not think I would survive the strain of parenting, working full-time, and going to school part-time.  Those were the days that required much in the way of courage and commitment.

Despite all this hecticity, I was full of new-year optimism when I set the lofty goal of running a half marathon.  Among the six of us (my husband, sisters, and brothers-in-law), I was the only one who had not run a half so the pressure was on.  By April, I was registered for the Iron Horse Half Marathon in Midway, KY and we all planned on running it together.

The thing about running a half (13.1 miles) is that even the most experienced runner has to train for it.  Luckily, I had an encouraging running coach--my younger sister Angie, who had completed at least two half marathons at that point.  Not so luckily, my stressful schedule made training difficult.  During one of our training runs, Angie said to me, "No one gives you a mile. You take it."  I believe she was quoting someone else, but what she said was very true for me both in running and in the rest of my life.  It inspired me to write the following poem:

I took that mile
in no one's shoes but my own.
Eked it out of the unyielding road.
Arms pumping, legs burning,
lungs yanking
oxygen from the air.
I took that mile
and will take another 
and yet another
until the distance
is run.

I wish I could say this inspiration was enough to get me across the finish line.  Although I started strong, I missed some key training runs in July and August.  Getting back on track meant that I would have to increase mileage quickly instead of gradually.  Several weeks before the race and during an eight-mile training run, the discomfort and numbness in my feet became excruciating pain by mile six (side note:  this was not due to my shoes which I had been properly fitted for by the experts at John's Run Walk Shop).  Still, I refused to stop and hobbled on to the eight-mile mark.  I finished with tears in my eyes because I knew it was not likely I would improve enough to maintain the 14-minute-mile pace required for the Iron Horse.

The thought of not being able to reach my goal was devastating to me.  I was so determined and had worked so hard.  Luckily, I read a book that helped me come to terms with this:  What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami.  This was an inspiration to me both as a runner and as a writer.  Murakami's advice and the pace requirement are probably the two things that kept me from pushing myself too far and doing irreparable damage to my feet.

October 13th dawned crisp and clear.  I crossed the starting line with 1499 other runners, praying for a miracle, but at peace with my physical limitations.  I would do my best.  It was an absolutely glorious and frabjous day.  The sun rose over the rolling hills of Midway as we ran past drystone rock walls and fields of galloping horses.  I powered up the hills while many of my fellow runners walked.  But by the halfway point, I was well behind the pace runner and the pain in my feet was excruciating once again.   It was time to stop.  I hobbled back into town to watch the others cross the finish line.

I know, I know this is not the ending you were hoping for, but here are the facts:  I ran 6.55 miles in 1.5 hours without walking a single hill, two years ago I could barely run for 30 seconds, and my longest run to date is 8 miles.  No, I did not reach my goal, but I am still proud of what I have accomplished.  Maybe someday I will finish what I started.  Some dreams are worth pursuing no matter how much time it takes.  It took eleven years to finish my degree, but I finally did it.  Running, just like life, is never easy and you can't expect quick results.  To achieve anything meaningful takes courage and commitment.

Friday, August 16, 2013

The Dynamics of Motherhood

After 15 months, I can say with authority that parenthood is not for the faint of heart. I can't count the number of times I have asked the question, "What have I done?" But thankfully, I inherited a mixture of courage and tenacity that keeps me going through the tough times. I now know that those people who talk of parenthood like it is some idyllic paradise are either editing, lying, or so sleep-deprived that their memory is on the blink. Parenthood is hard. It is no joke. It changes everything about your life. But there are moments that make all the tough times totally worth it. When I walk through the door and two kids fling their arms around my legs shouting, "Mommy's home! Mommy's home!" Or when a little girl snuggles in my arms. (Just a couple of examples). So needless to say, I have had good reason to neglect my blog. But hopefully, I am mastering the art of multi-tasking and can get back to posting regularly.

To summarize the last several months: presales for Fertility Rites were sufficient for a print run of 250. The chapbook came out in mid February and at the end of March, I had a release party at Purdy's Coffee Co in Richmond. I've not done much promotion since then, but on September 5th, I will be the featured reader at the open mic at Babylon Cafe on Main Street in Richmond. I will also be selling copies of my book at Skunk Fest in North Ridgeville, OH on September 7th. I'm hoping to line up other promotional events as well. I have not forgotten my commitment to devote blog posts to my good friends and fellow poets, Julie Hensley and Eric Sutherland. I owe both of them big time!

But for now, I will end with a poem about this new phase of my life, entitled, "Dynamics of Motherhood."

One shoulder an arm,
one elbow a hand.
My chest is an arm,
my chin a hand.

Equal parts rubber and iron,
each part of me
flexes, stretches, morphs,
and is renamed
to increase utility.

Me? Me? Who is she?

One minute a weightlifter
the next a downy bed,
a new dimension of capabilities
evolving into super-humanity.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Lisa Karon Richardson and the Smith Corona

Lisa Karon Richardson and I met in college and have been friends ever since.  She is now a published author and mainly writes historical fiction.  Her most recent publication is one of four novellas in a collection entitled Colonial Courtships.  Her novel, The Magistrate's Folly, is being published by Harlequin and will release in early 2013.  Another novella and first book in a series are planned for release next fall.  Lisa has earned a reputation for meticulous research and I know from personal experience that this reputation is well-deserved.

During our freshman year of college, student access to computers was limited to a few decrepit machines in the library which made typing papers a challenge.  With the ink barely dry on my office assistant certification from vocational school, I proudly (and naively) offered to type both Lisa and Rick's research papers for Missions class.  Of course, I procrastinated until the night before they were due, but thankfully, I was able to borrow a smith corona word processor from an upperclassman.  I'm pretty sure I typed Rick's paper first because, after all, he was (and still is) the love of my life.  That left Lisa's paper for the wee small hours of the morning.

Despite my superior typing skills, it was slow going.  Lisa had chosen to do her paper on India and her research was very thorough.  In fact, it was so thorough and the paper so lengthy that it was like typing Strong's Exhaustive India.  Okay, I admit I'm exaggerating, but at 3:00 am that is how it felt.  The situation was made worse by the fact that, in order to not disturb my sleeping roommate, I had to muffle the smith corona with a pillow each time I printed out a page.  Somehow, I made it through my first all-nighter and our papers were submitted on time.  Needless to say, I didn't offer to type any more of Lisa's papers.

All joking aside, I am glad Lisa has put her research skills to good use and I look forward to reading her novella in Colonial Courtships which I recently purchased from Amazon.  Who knows?  I may pull another all-nighter to finish reading it.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Sign of the Bluet

Thanks to my good friend and fellow writer, Lisa Karon Richardson, I am a guest blogger today on and have a post there promoting Fertility Rites.  Today's Versions of Chai post is intended to be additional content to the Inkwell one, so if you haven't already read it, I suggest going to Inkwell Inspirations first.

To explain why I considered the bluet a sign from God that I was going to survive my loss, I need to give some background on this tiny wildflower.  Bluets, or Houstonia caerulea, prefer somewhat rocky soil and tend to grow at the edge of wooded areas.  They are plentiful in the part of southeastern Kentucky where I grew up.  Something about these flowers always intrigued me.  As a kid, I thought they were forget-me-nots.  I later discovered this was not the case, but could not find out what they were called.  I used to carry one around with me, pressed in a notebook, so I could ask plant enthusiasts to identify it.  The original draft of the following poem was actually written before my sister finally identified the flower as a bluet.  In the poem, I describe the bluet as a representation of myself, which is why I knew the bluet I saw that day was a message meant especially for me.


Four petals
of misty light blue
fading to white
before a sunny yellow center
balanced on a stem
as slender as thread
a blue star in a sky of green
quivering in the breeze
a dainty ballerina
trembling on satin points.

That's me
that blue flower
growing wild beneath the world's knees
curling its toes up in the hills
hugging them close.
That's me
that tiny bit of wilderness
visible only to those
willing to give a second glance.

Bluet  Houstonia caerulea

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Rick McGee: writer, illustrator, skunk promoter....

Advance sales have officially started for my poetry chapbook and the front cover image has been loaded on the site!  Here is a direct link to where you can preorder a copy that will ship in February:  The number of preorders directly affects how large the total print run will be.  My goal is to have 105 preorders so the total print run can be 500.  Please spread the word!
As I mentioned in my last post, I would like to honor some of the people who have supported me with this project.  First and foremost is my husband, Rick McGee.  For the two of us, it was a case of love at first word and 17 years later, the words are still flowing.  But enough about that....  Rick is a renaissance man who has many talents in addition to writing.  A few of these artistic talents are showcased in a comic book about an orphaned skunk named Ramone Cologne.  I've posted a picture of the front cover of the first issue:  A Skunk's Tale.  So far, two issues have been published and a third is currently in progress.  To find out more or order copies of the books, visit

There are so many good things I could say about Rick that it is hard to narrow them down, but one of them is the discipline he shows in his work.  I have watched him spend countless hours drawing, painting, and writing.  He doesn't just talk about all the creative things he wants to do.  He does them!  And often he does so while I am sitting on the couch being lazy.  Somehow his dedication hasn't rubbed off on me yet, but occasionally, it motivates me into action.

Thank you Rick for supporting me and being my inspiration!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Publication Update and Preorder Info

Since my last post, life has been a whirlwind.  I know my blog has been pretty much silent for the last year.  Part of that time, I was in the dark room being developed, but several months ago, I emerged into a life that is colorful once again.  So many things have happened this year:  I ran a 5k, became a mother to two foster children, and of course, my long-time dream of publication is now coming true.

Amidst all the spinning plates, I somehow managed to meet my contract deadline and the publication of Fertility Rites is on track.  Advance sales officially start on Monday, October 22nd; however, the chapbook is already available for preorder at  Just click on "Preorder Forthcoming Titles" on the right-hand side of the page.  The books are listed alphabetically by title and Fertility Rites is listed on the second page.  Preordered copies of the book are supposed to ship on February 1st.  Unfortunately, they don't have a thumbnail image of the cover up yet, but hopefully, it will be on Monday.  I'm posting the image of the front cover here so you can see what it looks like.

The cover was designed by Tonya Leigh Morgan who also designed the Versions of Chai logo.  Once again, she has taken my wisp of a concept and turned into much more than I ever thought it would be.  She is a very talented artist and I am truly blessed to call her my friend.  In addition to Tonya, there are others whose help has been invaluable to me on this project.  First of all, none of this would be possible without the support and encouragement of my husband, writer and illustrator Rick McGee.  I know I can face anything with him by my side.  Over the next few days, my blog posts will honor Rick and some of the other writers who have supported me:  Julie Hensley, Lisa Karon Richardson, Katerina Stoykova-Klemer, and Eric Scott Sutherland.

To the few followers of my blog, you may wonder what has happened to some of my previous posts.  As you know, I had posted rough drafts of several of the chapbook poems along with commentary.  The poems themselves have been removed, but the commentary remains.  If you want to read the poems in their final versions, you will have to buy the book!