Wednesday, January 18, 2012

A Week For the Record Books

What a week, and it's only Wednesday!  Oh boy, what's hiding in the next couple of days, I wonder!?  As some of you are aware, this has been the year of my undoing...out of work, and job after job has declined to want me. I have felt old and female and fat, far more than at any other time in my life. Monday I had yet another torturous interview, complete with an example of my interaction with the students, consisting of 16 clever Jr. High girls in a treatment center.  They were, not so much. I traveled about 120 miles and then back again to feel like a failure! The staff interview wasn't too bad...great people, but I haven't been in a classroom for going on 1 1/2 years and it was tough.
I sent a note to the fellow who arranged for the interview, expressing my thanks for the opportunity and then hunkered down to wait.  Yesterday, after fighting down nerves all day, I got an email telling me the job would not be extended to me at this time.I crumbled, complete with denial, self- reviling, and hostile thoughts of  running away.  Sometimes things just feel too hard to take for even one minute more!  Then, this morning I got a call from the same fellow, asking me if I'd be willing to accept a position teaching English at their sister school, which is a private all-girls high school residential treatment center, with just 12 students. I almost dropped the phone! I HAVE A JOB!
It didn't seem real for awhile.  I'm going tomorrow to meet the personnel at the center and get the scoop on what's up there. Things are going to get complicated for awhile now, because I have a senior who needs to stay here until graduation in June.  I don't know if I can swing two rent payments, but it's got to be better than $25 to $30 in gas every bloomin' day, to say nothing of the hours traveling.  Chris is mature enough for me to leave him home alone four nights out of seven each week, but....sheesh!  Is there never an easy answer to life's riddles?!! One day at a time for now, I suppose.
So anyway...the mood swings have been spectacular, and I'm on a high at the moment.  Chris is at a ball game and I definitely need to celebrate a little.  I have in mind to show off a bit by posting two of my pieces that have won honors and awards.  Hope you don't mind, but my brain is sizzling and needs validation and re-assurance that I CAN DO THIS!

The first one, Vortex, was published in UVU's literary magazine in 2006. It seems fitting for tonight because it makes reference to angels watching us as we spin through our lives down here below.My mind has been on Robyn today and I feel certain she has had a hand in this amazing turn of events, which will impact my life in ways yet to be seen.

The second addresses my hopeless, too-tired-for-words mood of yesterday, but I'm including it here because it took honors and was published in UVU's literary magazine in 2007.  It was selected as the 1st place poem of the year, and I was asked to read it at the award ceremony.  I was very honored and proud to share it with my esteemed peers. It's titled Everlasting, and reflects on feelings of despair and an overwhelming desire for surcease from life's harsh lessons.

And so:


Spin 'round,'round,'round and fall
all giddy-dizzy down.
Hold fast to long slow grass
to keep from slipping off the edge.

Lay back and watch
the twirling whirligig,
pothered wild
sky and cirrus, weird
birds with circling wings,
silver, streaky jets
whose fisted fumes are cracking open
Heaven's floor, enticing angels
to explore beyond
cyclone skies.

Lay back and watch
while Earth and Heaven catch,
collide to stillness.
Earth is turning, turning, turning.
Who is it then,
that lies back looking
as we spin?

Susan Nielson


When death flies overhead
like a bird, when it
circles, sees, leaves
with wings tapered, pointing up,
then forever is a long way down
a slow road.

Ruts have been cut
in the path with pressing
wheels, blundering
along the same weary trail,
no chance for a shift,
always adrift  with the dust,
wind, whatever comes.

The same fixed sun
moves like a drum,
slogging along a hollow,
stuck in it's course,
counting the same stars
over and over.

It would be fine to stop,
not start again,
no sun coming up, going down,
around and around.
Just rest...stillness,
blessed, beyond reach,

while wheels thunder over,
above.  And you,
in your last rut, 
know none of it.

That would be Heaven enough.

Susan Nielson

Friday, January 13, 2012

Friday the Thirteenth - And the Oscar Goes To....

I took Chris to school this morning and on the way home I happened upon a black cat...

Lucky Me

Coming home,
a smug cat crawled
from knee-high weeds,
and proudly crossed
in front of me.

...suddenly I sat
on velvet seat,
with street-turned-stage,
script written vividly as
I became enchanted fan.

Four practiced feet
pranced fast,
then blurred still faster,
rocky props not stopping
her high-tailed stage routine.

Dramatic black,
like costumed Goth,
her fur spinning silver with tricks
of light, as her act
became a scamper dance.

Her flying exit off-left
lifted me, left me sighing
for encore, but diva disdained
her return, no refrain
for smile-flashing paparazzi me.


Monday, January 9, 2012

Sometimes Strange Things Just Happen... (part 1)

Momma said she named me Susan because my dark eyes reminded her of the Black-Eyed Susans in the little flower bed by Grandpa's big front porch.  The sunny flowers with the ebony pompom centers grew up through the marmalade colored Marigolds and the ruffled purple and white petticoats of the Petunias. I quickly became Susie, not Suzy, kind of plump, kind of plain, with brown hair straight as broom straws, pulled back into a tight, too thick pony tail, crooked bangs sweeping across my forehead.
I was too loud and I giggled entirely too much.  My wardrobe consisted mostly of hand-me-downs, and seeing as how I was fourth down of six sisters, by the time they came to me the dresses were more patchwork than pretty, with sashes torn from their seams. Ree got the dresses second in line and Ree was a tomboy. Schoolyard games of "Kick the Can" or "Red Rover" were death to sashes, which presented themselves as easy targets to anyone gaining the lead from behind. If I did happen to inherit a dress come down from Carol that still had sashes, I made short work of them. Robyn, who was next in line after me, didn't know what a sash was until she turned ten and got a new dress for her birthday. Mary Kaye came after Robyn, poor little thing.  It's a wonder neighbors didn't take up a collection for the sixth girl child!
Momma loved us and told us so on a regular basis.  She also told us She was "gone to China," when she became overwhelmed with our need of her. She never really went to China, but I'll bet she contemplated it nearly every day for many years.
Daddy worked as an accountant and on the side he raised chickens. We had three long wooden chicken coops out back, landscaped with overgrown stink-weeds and haphazard Pottawatomie Plum Bushes.Directly behind the house the egg cellar was build right into the ground.  It's shingled red slope of roof was about all you could see of it. That roof became the ruin of many a pair of pants from the sliding down of it.  The exhilarating, bumpy race down it's sandpapery surface fast became forbidden adventure, one that often got me into trouble and created more patchwork clothes.
We grew up well feed on Momma's ten loaves at a time, smelling like Heaven, home-made bread. Always there were eight for the family and two to share with friends and ailing neighbors.  When she made bread, Momma would let us little ones still at home have a little hunk of dough to make what she called a Henry Loaf.  A Henry Loaf was just like a regular loaf, only baked in a tiny tin that produced tea party size bread.  I loved to be with Momma in the kitchen, the windows frosted with steam, the smell of yeast and browning crust casting it's enchantment.  I felt safe and secure in my perceptions of how things were.
I think back to those easy days of knowing who I was.  I thought I had the answers that Momma sometimes seemed unsure of. Often she would cry for no reason apparent to me, no bruises or band-aids, anyway. I thought I could make her happy if I tried really hard and was a good helper...I thought I could do anything when I was five.  I was convinced I had a pretty good understanding of my sibling-drenched world and how it all fit together.  When I was six there came a prelude to what I came to think of as 'the strangeness." I was grudgingly made to understand how little of the working of my life I had real dominion over.  That's about the time I became afraid of the dark.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

I Was the Fourth

My thoughts have been so much on family for the last few days. With the loss of my sweet Uncle Glenn this week and all the trappings that come with it, it's no wonder, really, that my heart has been beating in rhythm with my dear ones on the other side. My thoughts have been full of my sisters and  mother, wondering if they have been close to us as we wept goodbye and they smiled hello. I often think of them, but the ache is a bit more poignant with the new grief.
My Momma... she was one of those moms that seemed to come knowing what a "real" mother was. There were eventually nine of us, or ten, or eleven or maybe twelve when you take into account foster children and a miscarriage. There were six sisters born all in a row, then three brothers.  As I have grown into adulthood I've considered the effect of six girls on the dynamics of a family. Can you imagine, in days before sonograms, what it must have been like to hear the announcement from the Dr. that it was a girl? ...again?
Mom and dad loved us.  It didn't seem to matter all that much that it was girl, after girl, after girl, or at least it appeared as if that were true, to the six of us before the boys came.  Only now, realizing the humanness of my beautiful mother, do I understand there must have been moments...

Another Head of Hair

A girl again. Another head of hair
to comb, and worries later on, along
with bras and fits of tears, long-legged boys.
But that, with any luck, was still some years 
away.  Today her fears for fierce-eyed girls
were few.  Her guarded thoughts would hold no more
than toes of mottled pink, a mewling mouth,
a pursed, exacting pout of innocent
insistence, siren, demanding more of her
than merely life.  This fragile doll,
diminutive, with Heaven's Breath still clinched
inside her fists, her feather wisps of hair
still drenched with perfect evidence of grace,
was now another care, another need
of her.  She stretched her tired, pliant neck,
her scarlet-ribboned stomach empty now,
it's fullness broken. She bent, kissed tiny curls.

Susan Nielson
Fourth daughter born to: 

Neva Joy Lee

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Delamar Ghosts

We have a gold mining claim, "we" being my Dad and his brothers, all of whom are gone now except for my own dear 88-year-old Father.  It's been in our family for decades and I love hearing stories about it today just as much, or more, as I did as a kid.  It has mysterious beginnings that will require another post to'll just have to trust me when I tell you it'll be worth the wait!
The claim is located in a wind strafed, other worldly desert in South-Eastern Nevada. Joshua Cactus have nearly taken over and rule the barren expanse of rocky outcroppings where the historic claim is located.  It's closest neighbor is a ghost town known as Delamar, once a booming gold mining concern, with a populace of about 3,000 miners and their families.  All that's left are toppled stone buildings, lonely graves, and tales whispered on the breezes that ruffle the overgrown Cheat Grass covering everything. There is a feeling there, and at our claim, that is equal to a delicious shiver!  I am thankful for the shared history that binds Delamar and my own family. With the passing of my beloved Uncle Glenn this week I have been filled with desert longings and a need to share his passion for the bit of unwieldy earth known as "The Lee Boy Claims".  I'll forever listen for his voice in the warm winds murmuring over Delamar and into my heart, claimed long ago.

Delamar Ghosts

Wind hushes
 itself to hear
whispers in tumbled walls
and open stone.
Spiders on Prickly Pear
spindles loom poems
thin, woven white
ciphers worn by the sky.
Life with pick and shovel
once bent here,
breathed air ripe
with coyote cry
and blistered earth.
Myriad small eyes
watch tattered shadows 
cross over  
Dog Weed
and Cheat Grass,

Susan N.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Where Have all the Moments, Hours, Weeks, Months, Years Gone?

I took down my Christmas tree today.  Christmas, and the wonder of them past, present, and future, came close to me again for a few precious moments, as I lifted down an extraordinarily colorful Shrinky Dink star from the tree. It was a gift to me 11 years ago and has a picture of my 5 year-old Chris in the middle of it. I looked at his adorable smile, a tooth missing, gone to grace the collection of the Tooth Fairy. Wasn't this picture taken just days ago?  
Oh no, now I've done it!  I wiped away a miscreant tear sliding down my cheek, and wrapped the star carefully in some crinkly, re-cycled year-after-year tissue, and nestled it gently into the lap of my other Christmas Tree treasures, back into the storage box I had removed it from just a few short weeks ago. A bit of my heart found its way into the box, as well. It's just not possible for a mom to let her five-year-old leave for a whole year without going, too!
The warm memories stored in each ornament will be there waiting to tell me stories again next Christmas, and I'll be just as enthralled then, lifting them up to the twinkling branches for their command performance once more.  I have to wonder though, as I do every year when I put Christmas away, will my tiny bit of heart find it's way back to me from the box or will it be gone with him to some far off Christmas of his own choosing, complete with a Kindergarten picture of his own small child pasted onto a brightly colored star?

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Remembering ... Always, Forever, and No Matter What

Over the time frame of about twenty years I have lost two of my darling sisters to cancer and my adored Mother to Parkinson's Disease.  This week a much loved Uncle joined them and my heart returned to the old ache it has borne before. I wrote a poem at the time my sweet sister, Robyn, left us and have revised it many times since, trying to get it just right, to allow it to speak for me of the nature of things I don't truly comprehend. It is an experimental form poem, wherein the title becomes the first line.  It is also a negative space poem, meaning it addresses something that is empty or vacant or...maybe free is a better description, such as the space between the typed letters you see here. It speaks of the holes in a snowflake that create its beauty and compares it to the hole of the grave that doesn't really hold anything more than just bones, thereby defining the beauty of Heaven.


nothing, arranged
inside a crystal riddle
of happenstance ice. minuscule

perfection, shaped by shifting
chance, like unformed thoughts
that hold a poem. lovely

nothing. only cold bones
are clothed for burial, body
dressed to songs of tears. lovely

nothing, offering up emptiness,
a chrysalis redeemed,
A pristine hope of fullness. Oh, lovely

nothing, hidden, hollow,
empty of hurt, defining Heaven
and snow with a hole.


I love you Uncle Glenn. You'll be missed.

Recipe For a Homemade Princess

By Grandma Susie

Take ten tiny fingers and ten or so toes,
a squeal and a giggle, and a small, upturned nose.
Stir all these together with a tear and a pout
(For a prize winning Princess, you can’t leave these out!)

Next mix in pink cheeks, with a pinch of surprise,
a fringe of fine lashes, and two twinkling eyes.
Blend in a bow and a bright crown of curls,
 a sweet, impish grin that’s select to small girls.

Bake in the sun on a swing or a slide,
then remove when well done, with a piggy-back ride.
Frost with sweet dreams and then proudly bring her
to Mommy and Daddy, wrapped ‘round her little finger.

Princess Charlee,
my "next thing to
perfect" Grandbaby!

What a relief !

Ah...the scary giant half face is gone!  I have a brilliant 16 year old son who knew just what to do.  He pushed keys and opened that, then closed this, cut and pasted several items, then said, "Mom, what did you do?" looked at me like only a 16 year old can, then pushed more keys, opened and closed more windows, moved things around, mumbled something about a widgit..a widgit? What in the heck?  He fairly dazzled me with his clicks and swishes and his profound intensity, his head bent low, his nimble fingers flying, and then -  TaaDaaaa!  The frightening apparition had disappeared from the screen!! My relief was short lived however.  Chris stood, stretched his intertwined fingers outward until they popped and said, "So, did you get all that Mom?"

Monday, January 2, 2012

What in the heck am I doing here?

One has to be fairly secure in ones computer skills to attempt a blog, and while I like to think I am computer savvy, after several hours of trying to set up a blog site, I'm here to tell you I am not! in my computer skills that is, and as to computer savvy,,,we won't even go there at this point in time.  I have inadvertently posted a picture of myself which is half my head, and yet larger than's spooky!  If I were hoping for followers I think this first look would scare them off very effectively, if not leave them in a state of sheer panic. I'm about at that point myself.  Someone had better slap me quick!!!