About My First Book Horizons and How to Order

Introducing My First Poetry Book, "Horizons"

  My first poetry book, Horizons (Atmosphere Press)  AVAILABLE IN PAPERBACK AND AUDIOBOOK NOW!! SEE BELOW TO ORDER!!!! Embark on a captivat...

Monday, September 25, 2023

Dear Friend Letter Seven: This isn't the Way It's Supposed to Go

 September 25, 2023

This Isn’t the Way It’s Supposed to Go

Dear Friend,

This will be my last letter to you. I thought it appropriate that, while looking forward in exploration at where we might go, I might look backwards at how I came to be where I am now.

If you asked me when I was young, I wouldn’t have told you I expected my life to end up this way.  Not that I dreamed of being the blond princess running away with the dashing rich prince. When I was a child, we girls all dreamed of being married to a strapping strong man (if not a prince, could I at least be rescued by some sort of noble knight?) while raising a couple of children.  While I was an undergraduate in college, I had endeavors to be single, childless, and have an impressive career in the federal government through the research division of USDA or the regulatory division of NRCS.

I never imagined at 47 that I’d be a disabled divorced (twice) queer working at the bottom of the totem pole of a large seed sales company in a small city, living alone with my adult son with over 930 poems written but barely having one book published, still living paycheck to paycheck.  But here I am.

What will my future bring? Will I continue in my job here, coming to the office daily, my son eventually finding another home and moving out, leaving me to live alone again?  Will my son buy my house and my parents need my help, meaning I live a hybrid situation, working half of the time in the office, the other half of the time from their house while I assist them?  Will I move to another career this late in my life? Will I find someone that sees past my disability, and finally learn to not lose or suffer in love? Will we live together, or move between our two homes? I don’t know.

I spent most of my life trying to fill a hole I felt inside of me.  That sounds so cliché, I know. I have a love-hate relationship with food: this is the first thing I tried to fill the hole with, developing a strange sort of eating disorder that has affected my body even today. I tried rescuing cats.  I tried drowning my hole in alcohol, or at least forgetting it with my blackout drunks. I tried bad relationships with men and sex. I tried filling my rooms with things, a material lifestyle. I have tried nearly everything: being an alcoholic, I can become addicted to nearly anything.  Nothing worked.

Now I’m over nine years sober. It got worse before it got better: there is a difference between being chemically sober, and being emotionally sober. When I quit drinking, all the problems that I was ignoring (and the hole) were still there—I had to face them first, and fight them.  I had to find a new way to live.  And for me, sometimes I have to learn something a few times before I get the message. Especially when it is very close to me (especially when it is ABOUT me).

I can honestly say that I’m better now. And the hole? Sometimes it is there, sometimes it is filled with contentment, with serenity.  I wake daily and tell myself I will fight.  No matter what kind of day it is.

The United States is obsessed with this idea that we always have to be happy. We are forever in a pursuit of happiness.  Yes, it is a good thing to be happy, but we must also allow ourselves to feel sad. And mad, and disappointed, and joy, and peace, and grief, and the whole gamut of feelings that life sends our way.  I believe this partially where my hole came from: I wasn’t feeling everything. I was trying to numb it all away.  We feel, and we deal.  The key is to not get stuck in just one feeling. And to not feel it alone. You can share your feelings with me. Needing help is okay, and all feelings are okay, and as long as my overall life is not miserable….as long as I have decided to be content with what I have and with what I can reach and that I am not perfect and that no one is…this is a good life.

No, my job is not at the top of the company.  But it is a job with good coworkers that has benefits that I need and hours that help me keep a sane schedule. I haven’t published many books, but I have one book coming out soon, and it is an exciting thing to say I am an author, and have two blogs, and people are excited with me to see this coming to fruition finally…and all things have their time and their purpose. Perhaps there is a reason for the delay. I did it better now that I know more. I do not have a huge circle of friends, but I am involved in groups that understand me, and have a small selection of intimate family and friends that accept me for the strange misfit that I am, and that is better than pretending to be someone just for a large following of fake relationships that fall apart when I need them the most. I know I am wanted when people make time for me.

Speaking of friends….can I count you among them? Where do we stand? In Evan Jones’ essay collection I’ve Been Wrong Before, he says “…we settle for so little knowledge of each other” and this is why I’ve been writing these letters. Now you know more about me.  Will you tell me more about you? What are you afraid of? It is your turn.

But if you take me, you have to take all of me.  I have had men approach me, ask for Rita. I didn’t write these letters, talk about my hypersexuality and mania and illness, to bring her out.  She is destructive and messy and obsessive and possessive when she gets called out. I didn’t write about her to be used or abused again, to be someone’s affair, to be a secret fuck until they work things out with their significant other, or a one-time stand again. When Rita is here, my feelings get confused and my hypomania emerges and scares people away.

I’ve written many poems.  And some of my poems are exploring my feelings about romance, about all kinds of relationships.  My next poems?  You wouldn’t be just a line in a poem. I’ve learned from that. I’ve also learned that I don’t want to suffer for love (any kind…platonic, romantic, family). I won’t be disposable; I want someone who will choose to make time for me, even when there doesn’t seem to be time to be had. My friend who lives miles from me? We make it work. Even when we are being pulled in opposite directions. Perhaps these letters are a little for him, too… we have learned through the many years how to get closer, how to keep it going through decades of change, of friendship.  But now he knows me better through these letters, too.

After all that you have read, after these seven letters, are you still hanging with me? Through the distance, through the miles and the years and the pixels and the Wi-Fi and the reasons for keeping all this inside, the reasons to run away, despite what might hold us back…do I have you to count in my group of fellow misfits and family? Will you want all of me, Julie and Rita, both?

Are we headed towards something, other than a cliff? Am I the one that got away? Do I play You’re Gone for you, too?

Is it too good to be true, or do I still have you?

Hoping to count you as one of us, I sign off again.


With my love to you, dear friend,


Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Dear Friend Letter Six: Who is God; Whose God?

 September 20, 2023

Who is God; Whose God?

Dear Friend,

I have been divorced two times. I have said in other letters that some people consider divorces broken promises to God, but which God? To whose God were those promises made? If God is truly an awesome God (please look up the definition of “awesome”; we overuse it), how do we see, define, and illustrate this power?

I often tell the story of the three blind men and the elephant to explain my view of a higher power.  Three blind men were led to three different parts of the elephant: one to the trunk, one to the ear, and one to the tail.  Which man experienced the elephant? The answer: all of them, just in different ways.  So it is with humans and a higher power, whom I will call God for short typing purposes. The elephant’s ear is still the elephant, just not all of him. One religion explores one part of God, just not all of God.  One religion, one faith, is not all there is. We mortals are not capable of experiencing the whole of this higher power due to our limited time, limited understanding, and imperfect selves.

The United States, especially the conservative population, is heavy into Christianity. Let’s say Christianity is the tail of the elephant. Some Christians will tell you the tail is the whole of the elephant; that there is no other part of God but Christianity.  That is such a limited view of something that is too big for us to comprehend: we are mere mortal beings and not capable of understanding this higher power to claim we know what all is encompassed in the higher power.  There are as many paths to God as there are humans that lived. We cannot see the complete elephant, even if we experience several faiths, several walks of religion, several viewpoints of a higher power in our life.

I am a scientist. How do we look at God through a scientific, factual lens?

Humans have created many names for their deities (or a leader with special knowledge), so it is hard to call this higher power with just one name. Some religions have one deity, some have multiple deities that share their powers, and some religions have several deities that reside together in unison (a conundrum that even they can’t explain). Names include God, Great Spirit, Higher Power, Allah, Buddha, Yahweh, Jehovah, Shiva, Akal Murat, Jesus, Holy Spirit, Holy Ghost. Let’s call them body parts of the elephant. How do you choose just one name for this power, when humans have so many, depending on who you are and where you worship, or what you believe?

Humans have many religions that worship these deities. The difference between faith and religion?  Faith is more of a feeling, an understanding, a trust in the deity (why you worship).  Religion is a set of rules written to follow in order to prove you believe in the deity and must subscribe to in order to belong to their group (how to worship). In each religion, there are stories, rules, myths, and books that have been passed down that include people being said to be specially blessed with powers or skills, or demi-gods who share powers with their deities as well as mortality with the humans. The Bible is one such book of myths and stories.

Churches, mosques, and such buildings are designed to hold worship services and meetings in order to inform and enforce these rules and participate in rituals that demonstrate belief in their deities and bring participants closer together. These churches can be very elite gatherings.  For example, Christianity is separated into various denominations, even numerous non-denominational branches.  Even Lutheranism is split into ELCA (the liberal Evangelicals), Wisconsin Synod (the most conservative and very close to Roman Catholicism), and the Missouri Synod (somewhere in between). I grew up as an ELCA Lutheran.  However, even though I am baptized as a Lutheran, I am not allowed to participate in either of the other Lutherans’ communion because I am not a member of their specific church; they have a rule that is called closed communion; only their people can be forgiven at their church through this ritual; outsiders cannot be included.

That is a cold way of looking at a higher power, and doesn’t even explain the existence of one. Is there even a God? This most recent generation of humans that are becoming adults, (Generation Z that I call iGen) have made some extreme cases in how we see ourselves, and in how we see the world. They have revolutionized gender and sexuality, and are now seeing faith and spirituality through a different lens as well.  One way to “see proof” of a higher power is through stories; this is how the Bible works.  The newer generation is so far removed from the actual timeline of these stories; they come from so long ago, that the believability is sometimes lost behind them.  Current churches seem hateful and scary. The rules of religion have become so stilted, so severe, that the freedom to believe in their own version of God is lost. These young adults aren’t looking for rules, but for inclusivity. This means we will need to rewrite religion.

In AA, we acknowledge a higher power, but insist that it is a higher power of our own understanding.  Each member is invited to see their own version of God as they see them. No required rules, no set pronouns, no designated dogmas behind it. This freedom is attractive to even the agnostics, who haven’t devised their own idea of a higher power yet; they can use the spirituality of the group, the power of the faith that comes from being together as their higher power. 

How do I see God? I see a higher power as a light, a certain flicker of life that exists in anything that changes (including rocks and soil). This light is a guide that is more accepting and personal than rigid and rule-making. The new gatherings of humans, including a contemplative collective that I am a member of, has less recitation and more conversation. Less talking to, more talking with.  Less words of others, more meditation and careful consideration of our own words.  I believe this is a good thing.

There is room for faith AND science, because each living thing is rooted in science and life. We study what we are in awe of.  That light of the higher power intrigues us; we study what we want to understand; we want to understand the rest of the elephant, or at least the part of the elephant that we open minded can see.

Isn’t the world always changing? Isn’t our curiosity expanding our understanding of the world, of each other? Shouldn’t that expand our view of faith, of life, of a higher power, too? I believe these changes are a good thing.

It isn’t a new God; just another path to the elephant that is already there.  Let the blind lead us to their elephants.  Let us see more of the awesome life and wonder of our higher power that resides in all that surrounds us, in all the world we see and experience.

With love, and wishes for a blessing in your lighted life,


Wednesday, September 13, 2023

Dear Friend Letter Five: I Promise to Tell the Truth

 September 13, 2023

I Promise to Tell the Truth

Dear Friend,

In one of the readings that we use for AA meetings, the word “honest” is used three times. One of my biggest pet peeves, one of the things that can permanently turn me away from a person, is someone who lies to me. Even an omission or a failure to tell something can be considered an untruth, can be a lie. If I am trying to cover something up, I am being dishonest.

My first husband was a compulsive liar. He lied about his entire history.  He claimed that he grew up on a farm (a lie: the house his parents lived in at the time in the center of his small town in Iowa was the same house he grew up in); he claimed he lost a pregnant fiancée to a train wreck (a lie: there was no fiancée); he claimed he had hundreds of thousands of dollars in a European bank account from the life insurance of this dead fiancée (a lie: there was no money); he claimed he owned a house in a town close by (a lie: he stopped making house payments and the bank repossessed the house); he claimed he had a military background but was injured and couldn’t continue (a lie: he hadn’t even applied to the military, much less tried to complete boot camp); he claimed he had a near fatal motorcycle accident in California that caused the scar on his chest (a lie: it was from when he was born and they had to re-inflate one of his lungs). He lied about his drinking. He lied about when he got off work. He lied so much, I still don’t believe anything he says until it happens.

So I hate lies. I abhor lies.

But what is the truth? If there is more than one side to a story (and if there is more than one person involved, there usually is), can there be more than one truth?

I thought I knew myself by the time I was in my 20s. Then Rita happened. I had to get used to being someone with manic depression….then manic depression with psychosis. In my 30s, I added “alcoholic” to the list. Another adjustment to who I was. Then in my forties, PTSD and “queer”.

How do you know when you truly know who you are? When you are done with the big reveals, the big changes, the adjustments to the adjectives in front of your name? How do you know when you are doing the right thing?

I don’t know that anyone is ever done changing, done discovering truths about themselves, or is perfect at knowing the proper thing to do at the moment.

Perhaps that is why we change our minds. Perhaps that is why the truth seems to waver, seems to change.

Some people define marriage as a promise to God. So divorce is a broken promise to God. That seems scary: a broken promise to some huge guy in the sky. You leave, you are accused of lying to a deity.

But you may have promised something that could not happen with an antiquated system that doesn’t allow for change.

Look at my “truths”. Why would I want to stay with someone I never knew in the first place? Why would I want to stay when both of us were miserable? What did each of us gain? Looking back, hanging on so long seems absurd. Even our children were being hurt by this. Or in my other marriage, why would I want to stay with someone who didn’t see ME? Someone who used and berated me? Someone who put me in danger?

When is breaking the promise okay? When do I refuse to let an overbearing generation or an antique idea of God tell me what my own contentment or future holds? When is my truth the right truth to tell? When do I refuse to let the “promise” hold my contentment and safety hostage?

Sometimes truth is black and white.  Either you grew up on a farm, or you didn’t and you grew up in a house in the middle of a little bitty town in Iowa. (Or you moved off the farm in fifth grade, and now your farm has been absorbed by the city you moved into, like me). Some people only see the world in black and white, all or nothing. Javert, in Les Miserables by Victor Hugo, thought people could only be all evil or all good.

But much of the world is somewhere in between. Somewhere in the gray area that didn’t fit into Javert’s life, where a convict can be kind, or a man can break the law to feed his family. Just like most of us mean well and struggle with the “right” thing to do, all divorce isn’t “evil” and we all aren’t going to hell for breaking a promise to some big angry God in the sky.

The world is a confusing, swirly place out there, where your truth as you stand can be a little different from my truth where I stand, where we think we are doing the right thing in the beginning but someone changed so our agreement or relationship has to change too and that’s okay, where most of us just want to be content and are striving for that, even if we accidently step on a few toes, and we’re sorry, but we will make amends.

If we’re sincere, and honest, we can get through it together, one step at a time.

I mean this, honestly and sincerely, friend.

Thinking of you.



Wednesday, September 6, 2023

Dear Friend Letter Four: The Q Word


September 6, 2023

The “Q” Word

Dear Friend,

If my being crazy didn’t scare you away, this is the other letter where I imagine you seeing this one itty bitty five-letter word…and never talking to me again.

If you have read any of my previous blogs, if you have picked up my book (at the date of this posting, it isn’t published yet, but will be soon) and read the first few words of my author biography, if you have seen the sign in my front lawn or the flag on the front door of my house…you might see this word…and if you are a typical old-fashioned American, you may assume certain meanings to this word.

The other word that comes before “poet” in my bio, other than “disabled” is…”QUEER”. Yes. Please, before you assume things about the word, about me, read this letter first.

Many cis-gender, heterosexual individuals (if you don’t know what either of those terms mean, you probably belong to both of the groups) assume “queer” means gay. But that would be wrong. I call people who associate themselves with LGBTQIA+ or Pride the Alphabet People. (Look at how our acronym has grown over the years). There are so many definitions of different kinds of gender AND sexuality (and if you don’t know the difference between these, hang on a minute) that often, in order to cover all our bases, or if we don’t fit in a specific category, or if we fit into several, we will just call ourselves queer.  It is kind of a “miscellaneous” kind of word, an “anything other than cis/hetero” term. So “queer” can mean something different for each person that claims it.

Here is what it means for me.

Growing up, I felt that I never quite fit in anywhere.  I was an oddball (and still am). I was born with a female body, so was expected to like and play with and act like a girl “normally” would. But instead of pink, I liked orange.  I played with Barbies, but I also liked to be outside, looking at the plants and insects and creepy-crawlies. When other girls had posters of muscled men and boy bands on their walls, it never occurred to me to want those kind of idols (though my friends from school can tell you I had my fair share of crushes). I got an Agronomy degree (two, actually, but who is counting?), and was the only female in the Agronomy Club AND the soil fertility project on campus where I worked.

What does this all mean? This describes gender roles—the expectation that our culture has on those with certain biological sexes to act a certain way.  Since I have a female body, I am supposed to act as my culture defines how a “girl” is supposed to behave, what a “girl” is supposed to wear, to work, to study, to like, to do. But I don’t conform to those ideals. Technically, my term is Gender Non-Conforming. But I don’t like the idea that there is something we are supposed to conform to in the first place. So I use the word “queer” instead. My gender isn’t a typical female; I’m queer, thanks.

What about sexuality? That’s complicated.  That’s queer, too. Basically, my manic depression changes my desires (Rita wants EVERYONE, my depression wants no one).  When I am stable, the best term to describe me is demisexual. What the heck is that? A form of asexuality, it means I am attracted to people I have an emotional connection with more than I am to any certain physical attributes. As far as gender/biological sex goes, I very much appreciate the female body, enough to be attracted to it visually. The male body is more of a physical touch attraction rather than a visual attraction. So, yes, rather than try to describe this to someone (nope, not heterosexual, and nope, NOT gay, and nope, don’t have time to tell a long-drawn-out story every time…) I just say “queer”. We’re good, right?

So, you cis/hetero folk who have made it this far.  Friend, if you are still here and reading. Most of us alphabet people aren’t as scary strange as you may think we are.  We are just ordinary (some of us extraordinary, some of us a little quirky, some of us still oddballs)….what I mean to say is we are just people, just like you. So I may be queer, but it’s just a step off the path you’re used to.  Not a jump into some bizarre lake full of razor-tooth snakes or anything.

And if I got the chance to choose another song to live in? For this, I would proudly choose The Greatest Showman’s “This is Me”. I hear my daughter boldly stand and sing her solo in a clear voice, this song making me cry near the end of her senior year of high school, as I am just discovering who I really am, already four decades old, and just figuring out it is not a failure to be girly enough, but a proud queer individual who can stand, no mask in hand, and say, “This. Is. Me”.

Are you okay with that, too? Are you proudly standing up, accepting who you are? Do you love the whole of what you see in the mirror? Don’t let the cookie cutter of culture tell you who to be.

Be you.

Thinking of you and loving you just as you are.