Trust, But Verify.


Due to some life-altering realizations and crummy circumstances, this writer is moving back to Oshkosh.

I will be closer to work, comedy and college friends. Financially it doesn’t make sense to stay in Appleton, even though I will miss it dearly. My new place is a refurbished two-bedroom upstairs apartment with hardwood floors and a view of the lake from the street. I will be four blocks from Menominee Park, 7 blocks from work and 8 blocks from Main Street.


Here’s to surrounding myself with single, childless people again in pursuit of the opposite.

Apartment Collage


But I’ll be back, Appleton. How can I stay away for too long?


Kevin Smith is Tough as Shit


A few things Kevin Smith’s memoir Tough Shit: Life Advice from a Fat, Lazy Slob Who Did Good taught me:

1. Bruce Willis is a jackass!

2. I’m partially justified in hating Hollywood.

3. Swearing isn’t an uneducated or lazy American-English accent.

4. “Chubby-chasers” are a real thing.

* * *

Tough ShitThe first two are pretty self explanatory, so let’s start with number 3.

My dad taught me that curse words didn’t count as swear words unless you called someone a name. For example, “Bruce Willis is such a jackass!” Jackass would be considered a swear word in this case. But if I were to stub my toe and wail, “Cock-sucker-mother-fucker!” That entire sentence was just getting creative with curse words. Needless to say, swearing became a HUGE part of my vocabulary.

Then, my controlling ex-boyfriend told me I needed to quit swearing. He would say things like, “You’re a writer. Can’t you think of a more intelligent way to express your frustration?”

And I would reply, “No, I FUCKING can’t!”

Over the years, my dad forgot his little philosophy on swearing and started telling me, “Flea, it’s not lady-like to swear.”

_ _ _

This morning I reached a wonderful moment in Kevin Smith’s book:

Chapter Thirteen: Funny As Shit

“George Carlin was the first person who ever said fuck in my house. Back in the day, the movies didn’t feature that word too prominently; and nobody in my house was allowed to use vulgarity. But here was this intelligent, articulate, thinking man who wielded the word like a rapier–and that was suddenly permitted. The lesson: You can curse if you’ve got an impressive vocabulary to choose from. The conventional wisdom had always been, ‘People who swear are uneducated and lazy.’ This guy Carlin proved you can know a shit-ton of words–you could even command the English language like you’d found its magic lamp–and still opt to employ the occasional (or frequent) F-bomb. Someone cursing didn’t make my father laugh; someone cursing while being humorously truthful could make my father cry laughing. Duly noted.

GeorgeCarlinHappy1“And while [Carlin] seemed to revel in being a rebel, here was a man who also clearly loved the English language, warts and all–even the so-called bad words (although, as George would say, there are no such things as ‘bad words’–only bad intentions).”

Thank you George Carlin; thank you Kevin Smith for bringing this issue to my attention again. Who says women with a wide vocabulary can’t swear?


* * *


Kevin Smith brings this up several times in his memoir: “In much the same way my wife is a chubby-chaser–thus explaining how a hideous fucking CHUD such as myself can get some pussy as fine as Jen Schwalbach’s…”

It resonated with me since a few friends over the last year have brought it to my attention that I might fit into that category. I spent some time thinking about this and what it really means. So I’m being categorized as a chubby-chaser because a few of my past relationships were with someone who was overweight? Not everyone I dated fit into that realm, and even if they did, maybe I dated them because they were more interesting than your average B body type. Maybe it had nothing to do with weight.

Jen Schwalbach gets it. Do you?

Jen Schwalbach gets it. Do you?

Confession time: It didn’t have anything to do with weight. GASP! Perhaps we ought not to be thrown into the chubby-chaser category but the open-minded category instead: blind to color and gender … and weight.

Just like skin color shouldn’t matter, neither should weight. If you’re doing your best to be healthy, then fuck (that was necessary) those judgmental, skinny folks. They clearly miss out on meeting someone actually worth their time!

Chapter Twelve: The Shit That Happened On The Plane

When Kevin Smith was pulled off a Southwest Airlines flight because he was “Too Fat To Fly” for “safety reasons” and the convenience of other passengers, he bombed his Twitter feed with rage reviews as any normal, humiliated person of the 21st century would do. Lucky for him, he’s a celebrity so he got immediate response.

Silent Bob strikes back!

Eventually the manager of Southwest Airlines chased him down in the airport and sent him on another plane in hopes he’d stop tagging them on Twitter with negative messages. But they made another mistake. They stuck him up front with another heavy-set woman. A flight attendant pulled her aside for several minutes and when she returned to her seat, she was crying. So she and Kevin struck up a conversation and she told him that the flight attendant requested she purchased two tickets because she didn’t fit into one seat and that wasn’t fair to the other passengers.

"That's it! I've had enough of these mother-fuckin' Smiths on these mother-fuckin' planes!"

“That’s it! I’ve had enough of these mother-fuckin’ Smiths on these mother-fuckin’ planes!”

“They tried to make it about fat again, ever covering for the jackasses who colluded to get me off the plane. There was no reason for that flight attendant to have that conversation with that girl except to be a cunt. And the girl was telling me through tears, ‘I could still put the armrest down.’ We must’ve been quite a sight: a couple of chubsy-ubsies talkin’ about how proud we were that we could still buckle the seat belt without an extender, and you could tell it was the only shred of dignity we had left.”

Reading that just broke my heart. I don’t need to ask forgiveness for appreciating a little pudge in my life: a little life in my life.

Kevin Smith and all the other overweight people in the world should not have to face these discriminating acts. What makes this any different than a pilot removing someone from a flight because they look like a terrorist?

_ _ _

Why aren’t there stories of husky protagonists finding love and happy-ever-after? Have you ever thought about that? I’m sure all of your heavier friends have when they see these trim, model males always getting the girl. When a story does have a larger main character, there’s always something else in the forefront of the story to ignore the hero’s “fatcomings.”

The-Nutty-ProfessorFor example, in The Nutty Professor, humor is at the forefront. It is meant to poke fun at fat people, not find respect for them. It focuses on an obese man who creates a potion to make him magically turn into a B body type–fit and attractive … and arrogant. Boring, if you ask me.

Or how about Shrek? He’s an ogre. So right off the bat he’s an overweight monster, hidden behind onion layers of emotion. Same with Beauty and the Beast. The beast basically forces the beauty into loving him because he gives her no other options, but lucky for her, by the time she falls in love with him, he turns back into a sexy prince!

Finally, look at Charlotte and Harry in Sex and the City.

“All that’s left are the fatties and the baldies,” one woman says. Charlotte turns around looking for her baldy. You never see those girls date a fatty. Why not? With the personality they gave Harry’s character, he could have been bald, hairy AND fat and he still would have been one hell of a catch!

harry and charlotteNone of these stories are very kind to our fat friends. Where are their love stories?

Don’t shut someone down who has a great personality and is exactly what you’re looking for because he/she is overweight.

She Survived Her Last Summer


Colleen Sutherland enjoying the outdoors.

Colleen Sutherland enjoying the outdoors.


I am so very sad to have to write this blog, but I feel I must. It is the only way to put this all to rest. I know she would want something like this written about her, especially since she could not share much herself in her final days.

A friend, former writing group mentor, traveling storyteller and fellow writer Colleen Sutherland passed away Saturday, Oct. 4. Over the last year and a half, she wrote blog posts to update loved ones about her condition and recovery period in partial sentences with missing letters and poor grammar. Definitely out of the ordinary for her! I remember wondering how she was dealing with this change. I couldn’t imagine what that must have been like.

Wade Peterson and Colleen Sutherland at a coffee shop for their writing group.

Wade Peterson and Colleen Sutherland at a coffee shop for their writing group.

About three years ago, I joined a writing group at Copper Rock Cafe with three others. Colleen was one of them. She often shared fascinating stories from her past, including weddings in Chicago the day Martin Luther King Jr. was killed. She would later write about it as a foreshadowing to her first divorce, as only a brilliant writer would do.

But then there were stories about Gary. They shared a love of nature and travel. Colleen hated the cold and snowy winters, and the two of them would often travel to warmer places so she could find inspiration to write again. When Colleen was depressed in the winter, he was there trying to cheer her up or load her with Vitamin D. When she decided she wanted a puppy after her operation, Gary went and bought her a puppy. She was a woman who believed in love but not in marriage. She was happy with Gary as her lifelong partner. Overtime, this has led me to believe that Colleen may have even been ahead of her time. This is a good indication that her stories may be more powerful years from now.

Black Coffee Fiction Volume 2 with short stories of Colleen Sutherland and Wade Peterson.

Black Coffee Fiction Volume 2 with short stories of Colleen Sutherland and Wade Peterson.

Over the last few years, Colleen and Wade, another writer from our writing group, started Black Coffee Fiction. It was a blog of short stories they published once a week. After about a year of this, they self-published two books! The second contained 33% more caffeine, of course. Colleen’s stories were humorous, typically revolving around finding love at the most inopportune times and depressing Christmas stories. Her work was bold and spotlighted many courageous women. She hated the 1950s culture and lived for the independence and freedom of women in today’s world.

Colleen gave me a new perspective on many things. One moment I will never forget is when we were discussing writing and completing our stories to send for publication. I mentioned how much I struggled finishing anything. How I have eight (or so) unfinished novels and about double that of short stories. She said to me,

“Life is too short to leave your stories unfinished.” She told me my stories should be told, so I should tell them. She also said I needed to work hard to finish them before it was too late to try publishing them.

“I’m nearly 70,” she said. “So I figure I have only a few years left to crank out as many stories as I can.” I didn’t know she would be so right about this. She may have been in her late 60s, but Colleen had the spirit and energy of a 20 year old.

Life’s too short.

I remember realizing how right she was. It was because of her words that day that I even began sending out my first story for publication, and I’m not giving up on it. Especially now that it’s Colleen’s words that are all I have left of her. If I had been able to say goodbye, I would have told her:

Thank you for sharing all your stories with the world, and I’m so happy I met you. Thank you for inspiring me to get published. Even if I don’t, at least I know you had my back. Your words will live on forever!

Life is too damn short.

Gary and Colleen taking Valentine's Day photos together.

Gary and Colleen taking Valentine’s Day photos together.

* * * *

Rest in peace, my dear friend. At least we will always have Toni Morrison and Black Coffee Fiction.

Personality and Writing

Today I decided to take a personality test similar to the Myers-Briggs test. My results: I (introvert) N (intuition) F (feeling) J (judging). I laughed as I read this SPOT ON post about me, myself and I after simply taking a 72 question test.

“INFJs are deeply concerned about their relations with individuals as well as the state of humanity at large. They are, in fact, sometimes mistaken for extroverts because they appear so outgoing and are so genuinely interested in people — a product of the Feeling function they most readily show to the world. On the contrary, INFJs are true introverts, who can only be emotionally intimate and fulfilled with a chosen few from among their long-term friends, family, or obvious ‘soul mates.'”

Making an anti-discrimination poster at an anti-gay rally at UWO in 2006.

Making an end discrimination poster in opposition to an anti-gay protest at UW-Oshkosh in 2006.

I interviewed a woman attending the 2007 Anti-Iraq War in Washington, D.C.

I interviewed a woman attending the 2007 Anti-Iraq War in Washington, D.C., who was fighting against her boyfriend being deployed for a second tour.

I have a history of trying to help tortured souls, but due to other personality traits, I sometimes make things worse.

I have a history of trying to save (those who the literary world refer to as) tortured souls, but due to my other contradicting traits, I sometimes make situations worse.

And, apparently, INFJs are a rare type. I like that. It’s ironic since I had just told a co-worker how much I hated being predictable and always like keeping people on their toes.

“While instinctively courting the personal and organizational demands continually made upon them by others, at intervals INFJs will suddenly withdraw into themselves, sometimes shutting out even their intimates. This apparent paradox is a necessary escape valve for them, providing both time to rebuild their depleted resources and a filter to prevent the emotional overload to which they are so susceptible as inherent “givers.” As a pattern of behavior, it is perhaps the most confusing aspect of the enigmatic INFJ character to outsiders, and hence the most often misunderstood — particularly by those who have little experience with this rare type.”

I attended an Invisible Children protest in 2007 to help stop child soldiers being forced to kill for Joseph Kony.

I attended an Invisible Children protest in 2007 to help stop child soldiers being forced to kill for Joseph Kony.

This passage in particular made me realize why I write and why I’ve always found it to be therapeutic: “Due in part to the unique perspective produced by this alternation between detachment and involvement in the lives of the people around them, INFJs may well have the clearest insights of all the types into the motivations of others, for good and for evil.” Because of this trait, I either write about my own life to figure out why certain situations arose or I write fiction as a way to release those types of people I’ve met and long to understand. The test also says: “Usually self-expression comes more easily to INFJs on paper, as they tend to have strong writing skills.” This is true in so many ways. Having a conversation with me is completely different than reading my short stories.


Writing in my journal for senior high school photos.

Writing in my journal for senior high school photos.

As for career paths, INFJs find themselves working in education and media jobs. Here is a list of all possible jobs for INFJs. “INFJs have a knack for fluency in language and facility in communication. In addition, nonverbal sensitivity enables the INFJ to know and be known by others intimately. Writing, counseling, public service and even politics are areas where INFJs frequently find their niche.”

Check out my full results.

Here’s a breakdown with percentage.

Introvert(22%)  iNtuitive(50%)  Feeling(62%)  Judging(22%)
  • You have slight preference of Introversion over Extraversion (22%)
  • You have moderate preference of Intuition over Sensing (50%)
  • You have distinct preference of Feeling over Thinking (62%)
  • You have slight preference of Judging over Perceiving (22%)

What are your test results?

Blog-On-Blog Action

One of the perks of working as a Communication Specialist in the marketing field is the opportunity to write a blog on the company website. The only rule is that I have to write about a topic related to the communications field.

* * *

My first article focused on Tips to be Comfortable and Healthy at the Office, where I discussed the many methods I’ve used over the years to basically stay sane when you’re working behind a desk in a windowless room.

My swapped out heels for comfortable flip-flops.

My swapped out heels for comfortable flip-flops.

My second article was about Your Brain on Music: Why Bosses Should Allow Headphones at Work. Ever wondered what your favorite genre of music says about your personality? In this article I describe the benefits of listening to music for productivity at work as well as the different genres in relation to the task assigned.

Listening to music at work can increase your productivity level. Photo courtesy of Sketchy Humor.

Listening to music at work can increase your productivity level. Photo courtesy of Sketchy Humor.

Please feel free to leave a comment or two on my blogs and share any information you’d like to add to either topic!

What are your tips to staying healthy behind a desk?

What does music say about your personality?

Hopeful Rejections

I have been getting more and more hopeful rejection letters since I reworked my “Johnny B. Good, Johnny Be Rotten” fiction story and I wanted to share the with you.

hopeful rejection 1


Screen Shot 2014-07-13 at 7.16.15 PM

What have your rejection letters been like?

Out of my Hands

One of the scariest things for a writer to face is death before ever getting published (aside from leaving loved ones behind). Yesterday was one of those days where I had to deal with the possibility of living with a terminal illness. Let me explain …

When I was 9 years old, I was diagnosed with acid reflux aka GERD, which basically means I deal with a burning esophagus about 90 percent of the day. Sometimes it doesn’t matter what I eat, although the fresher my food, the less I burn throughout the day. Surprise, surprise!

My childhood BFFs Lindsey and Haley celebrating my 9th(ish) birthday.

My childhood BFFs Lindsey and Haley celebrating my 9th(ish) birthday.

There were countless nights where I’d wake up at 3 am to vomit or the other thing because of something too acidic that I ate or if I ate too late at night. This led to a lifestyle overhaul. For example, when I first started drinking alcohol at 21 years and 3 months old, I had to learn how to deal with my heartburn before bed. So after returning home from the bars, I would have to eat a slice of bread with butter, drink a full glass of water, take a Tums and let it all settle before I could even think about going to sleep. When I finally did lay down, I slept elevated at a 45-degree angle. But it’s really not all that bad. I suppose I could have much worse diseases to deal with, but I always knew in the back of my mind how important the burning was to my future health.

Lately, it’s been so bad and I could have swore things were getting caught on their way down that I finally gave in and set up an appointment for another EGD, or Endoscopy test. It’s something I hadn’t done since I was 9 years old and the doctors felt it was a good idea to make sure nothing too crazy was starting to happen. They say around year 20 the doctors start to pay a little more attention. I’m now 27. You do the math. I’m a writer; I don’t like using numbers.

Yesterday I had my EGD. I wore my Super(wo)man shirt that my sister bought me because she knew it was the first movie Luke and I saw together before we started dating. I also wore my Tree of Life ring, but asked my mom to wear it for good luck while I had the procedure done.

My doctor is a very religious Muslim from Pakistan with a full beard and a turban on his head. If I wasn’t so terrified of the test and so drugged up afterward, I would have tried to speak to him in arabic, or at least thanked him in arabic. Shukran, man, shukran. I really thought about impressing him by saying Insh’allah aka God Willing. I thought he’d get a kick out of it, but everything moved so fast once I got into the room that my nerves took over and I didn’t have time to be my playful self as I usually am in hospitals. His daughter (a future doctor herself) sat in during the procedure. She liked to smack her gum loudly like a little teenager and looked way too young to be working at a hospital, but I figured this will make her a brilliant doctor someday.

One of the hundreds of images I was given on CD from a veteran in my college speech class in 2009.

One of the hundreds of images I was given on CD from a veteran in my college speech class in 2009.

When I met with his nurse to set up the EGD appointment a few weeks prior to the procedure, Doctor (as they call him) had pamphlets all over the office about what it means to be Muslim and what Islam is really about (aka I’m not a damn terrorist, but I am super religious! If you don’t like it, find another doctor.). I snuck the pamphlet about the Islam/Jesus connection in my purse and read it when I got home. It talked about how Jesus is mentioned in the Quran as an amazing man of God and how Muhammad’s birth (for those who don’t know, he is the prophet in the Quran — the equivalent of Jesus in the Bible) was predicted in the Bible since he is the last and most recent prophet in any religious scripture. I always found that connection between the two religious texts so interesting. It always surprised me that no one talked more about it when fundamentalist Christians and Muslims kill each other over their “difference in beliefs.”

So you know I wasn’t getting completely off topic: It seemed too ironic that faith in a higher being surrounded my EGD appointment and it nearly convinced me that it was possibly a sign I’d have to face death or be fighting to live soon. I kept having nightmares and was terrified I’d have to say goodbye to loved ones. But when it came time to be wheeled down, my nerves lifted a little and I realized everything would be out of my hands. No matter what happened in the next few hours, it was all up to the doctors now. And I was OK with that. I relaxed into the notion that something could go wrong or that the results could be devastating, but it was out of my control until I awoke at the gates of heaven or on the hospital bed. It’s the same feeling I imagine when people terrified of flying feel during liftoff. Or those who are at the brink of death and give up their spirits to God.

After the procedure, they invited my mom into the room (because Lord knows I wasn’t going to remember anything Doctor said, even though I was awake when he spoke) and showed us pictures of my esophagus and stomach. The only thing I remembered him say:

GodSpell at Kimberly High School.

GodSpell at Kimberly High School.

“Here you’ll see you have a benign polyp in your stomach. And it’s nothing to worry about, you know.” Having a tumor-like growth anywhere in your body is scary enough for me, but I trusted his Word.

He did mentioning taking a biopsy from my stomach and esophagus to make sure there weren’t any abnormal cells. I figure it’s only a matter of time, but I felt blessed hearing the word “benign” and “nothing to worry about” for now. It’s pretty much all I remembered until later that night when the anesthetics finally wore off and my memory slowly recovered, one moment at a time.

One of the last memories that returned was of a nurse bringing me to the car in a wheelchair. I was so sluggish in my seat until I heard him say, “Superwoman is leaving the building!” I sat up straighter in my seat and smiled for the people waiting for their loved ones in the lobby.

For now, I don’t have to face a terminal illness; but knowing someday this could change makes me all the more determined to get published.

Always The Hours

the hours_pen

Every time I start to write this post, I hold off on publishing it or I delete it completely. But today I ran into my former english professor (whom I chose not to name for professional reasons) who gave me strength I desperately needed during a difficult time, and decided it was time to finally publish the damn thing.

* * *

I was taking a Women in Literature course during a time when too many people around me were dying, most of them the hours_threegirlsfrom suicide and cancer.

There were two suicides, two attempted suicides, and two cancer deaths in a span of 4 months. Needless to say, it was a very difficult winter for my four college girlfriends and I, but together we all made it through. We had many sleepovers: the four of us in one bed, talking until we fell asleep, wondering who was going to be the next victim. We silently prayed it wasn’t someone we couldn’t live without. We carpooled to attend wakes and funerals. We hit our own rock bottoms at different times–some of us right away, others years later–but had each other to relate. At one point we all lived in California at the same time for three months, as though we were all trying to run away and realized distance had nothing to do with making peace of the past, so we moved back.
There are still good and bad days. Days when you dwell on the language and images of that time, those that you’ve witnessed and those that you’ve created to fill in the blanks.

These bad days often take me back to that class where we were required to watch The Hours (2002) based off the brilliant novel by Michael Cunningham (which I hadn’t read yet at that time). Had I known what the story was about, I probably would have excused myself from the assignment, but since I was already face first in death on screen, I couldn’t move from my seat. My professor came to the front of the class when it was over and asked us for feedback. I sat unnaturally silent in my seat.

the hours_clarissarichard

This is as far as I will take the details of this part of the past for now.

* * *

Life has since brightened tremendously, even while tragedy hovers in every missed phone call or urgent, vague text message from family and friends. Even while anxiety and stress randomly tingle in my limbs. At least sudden panic for absolutely no reason has ceased. The strangest side effect to all of this is that I have gotten into the habit of watching The Hours once a year. In Spring, if I feel ready. It has to be during that time of the year when everything starts to replenish and bloom again. Perhaps I do this as a reminder of those dark times and how beautiful and short life truly is. Perhaps it’s because I need a jolt back to the present when I start dwelling on the past. Perhaps it’s to test my strength when I feel weakness coming on. Whatever the case may be, it feels necessary still. Someday, I hope to overcome this annual habit, but for now it keeps me stable.

So, should you watch it? Read it?

Yes and Yes. If you’re feeling brave, give it a go. Watch it at night, maybe with a friend you trust to see you in a vulnerable state and vise versa. Just don’t expect to run errands or have company afterward. You will need the rest of the night to soak in your thoughts. As for the novel, it is (as I mentioned above) brilliant! I recommend every human being in the universe read it at least once. It is just as powerful, maybe even more than the film.

the hours book

When I visited Tina at the Paperback Book Exchange in Neenah, we discussed that it was one of my favorite novels. Her response: “Ah, yes, such a tragic story. But that’s what we love about it, isn’t it?” Don’t think I didn’t go home and soak in those words!

_ _ _ _ _

“Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself …”

“Dear Leonard. To look life in the face, always, to look life in the face and to know it for what it is. At last to know it, to love it for what it is, and then, to put it away. Leonard, always the years between us, always the years. Always the love. Always the hours.” – Virginia Woolf in The Hours

* * *

Virginia Woolf: “A woman’s whole life in a single day. Just one day. And in that day her whole life.”

Clarissa Vaughn (Mrs. Dalloway): “I remember one morning getting up at dawn, there was such a sense of possibility. You know, that feeling? And I remember thinking to myself: So, this is the beginning of happiness. This is where it starts. And of course there will always be more. It never occurred to me it wasn’t the beginning. It was happiness. It was the moment. Right then.”

“That is what we do. That is what people do. They stay alive for each other.”

Richard: Oh, Mrs. Dalloway … always giving parties to cover the silence.”

Laura Brown: “It would be wonderful to say you regretted it. It would be easy. But what does it mean? What does it mean to regret when you have no choice? It’s what you can bear. There it is. No one’s going to forgive me. It was death. I chose life.”