I Got Daddy Issues

It's Hard
Original Poem, Property of VS Enterprises. Be polite and cite!

Continuing this week’s exploration of the artistic struggle, I thought it’d be fun to dig through the crates, find a composition about “struggling,” and explore the emotions and events which evoked the piece. I shall take the phenomenological approach and react first, then reflect.

How old was I when I composed this? 2006…it’s 2015 now…that puts me at 29 years of age. Ooh! What a particularly conflicting year. End of February-beginning of March-ish, I had received an acceptance letter from The Graduate School at Penn State University. I was absolutely stoked, so stoked that I jumped onto my motorcycle, burned it to the job site, found my co-worker/secret lover, pulled him aside, and whispered, “I’ve got some big news!” expecting him to be proud of what I was about to relay.

Oh gosh, I remember being filled with excitement, wide eyed and eager to announce this achievement. Emotionally, I was still in that phase of thinking guys I’m fucking care about me as a person, so of course, when he interpreted my excitement as something regarding him and his mediocre achievements in the workplace, I was stunned! Clearly it had to do with me, how is he making it about him??

Dumb silly cunt I was.

The acceptance letter meant two things: one, despite being away from academia for seven years, my past academic achievements coupled with my professional achievements validated a Masters candidacy at one of the top three research facilities in the country, possible PhD if I was so emboldened. Second, my professional achievements since high school had risen me to executive leadership qualification, and all I needed was a Master in something to FINALLY break through The Glass Ceiling.

But again… dumb silly cunt I was.

Instead of taking his lack of care as a cue to tell him to fuck off, I collapsed into a depression. I recall taking a day off to make a three day weekend (I would fake physical illnesses because I was too embarrassed to admit my mental disorder then) and I sat there, a pajama pity party in full swing, writing sad, woe-is-me, nobody-loves-me poetry.

Thank the Universe for Penn State! And thanks to Spirit for trumping Ego, because I’m certain if Ego wrote back to Penn State, Ego would’ve said, “Thanks but I need to work on my career/desperate need for male affection right now.”

Spirit wrote an enthusiastic confirmation letter back, and in August 2006, I moved to State College, PA and became a Nittany Lion.

Reflecting on this poem now, I’m glad I kept it. It demonstrates the inner turmoil of the futility of trying to please Society. I did everything right, I followed all the rules, I followed all definitions of “success,” and despite all my sacrifices, I was not worthy of unconditional love.

It’s what comics fondly call “IGDI Girl.” I had Daddy Issues, but not with my father; it was the macro issue of having excelled in traditionally masculine roles as a woman. At the time, I was the only female salaried employee in the entire division. I ran a crew of twelve, all men. They took orders from me, orders I relayed straight from the executive director, whose weekly meetings I attended and contributed to. The acceptance letter was another stroke on the masculine tally board: I was going for a Master of Science in an economics concentration, not the stuff for girls.

I was 29, single, well-paid, no babies, I owned a sedan and a motorcycle, and I lived in an exclusive condominium. I was living the life!

A man’s life.

Critiquing this poem, I realize in bright technicolor the why of the matter…what man would want a woman who’s better at being a man than he is?

No wonder I was lonely…


FLASHBACK: Can Communication Technology Bring Communities Together?

View of houses along 219 from inside Copper Kettle Restaurant, Johnsonburg, Pennsylvania, 2008.

This morning’s dream I was revisiting one of the locations where I was sourcing data for my Penn State University graduate research. What played back was the moment I visited with an informant, an octogenarian, a lifetime resident of the town, and his face when I entered his living room. He was standing, but you could tell it was difficult for him to remain standing, so I insisted we sit after he clasped my hand in greeting. You could tell his wife at this stage in their marriage had succumbed to full-time care-taking, as she shook her head at him and told him to stop staring. But his face, dear reader, it was the most awesome face I’ve ever observed! His blue eyes were wide and brilliant, the lines around them were lifted, his smile was half mooned and fixed in awe. Although his skin was liver splotched and Northern Tier pale, there was a glow. I’ve never experienced such genuine appreciation for my presence, and I doubt I ever will again. The glow, his glow, was what woke me up this morning, necessary after quite a tumultuous week.

So I was motivated to look up Ye Olde Thesis, the first work I published as an adult. Mom has a hardback copy, the other, for whatever reason, my ex insisted on keeping. But it is a public work, and accessible on the Webby Web, and if you are in need of a Dostoevsky-esque work to help you get to sleep, feel free to download: https://etda.libraries.psu.edu/paper/8320/

Appendix C has all the phenomenological aspects of my research experience, but my fave part is the thesis conclusion. I’ve cut and pasted it for you here, and bear in mind, this was my mindset seven years ago as of this post. My writing style is much sharper and I’m less idealistic, but the question, Can communication technology bring communities together? is still very much fresh in my mind:

Thesis Conclusion 

I don’t consider this research as “work”. It is and ultimately this is merely
data collection. But for me, this thesis is insight to the rural way of life, the
culture of PA and an overall validation that I’m doing my part to positively
contribute to a rural dweller’s well-being.

I kept a thesis journal the entire time at Penn State University. When it
came time to prepare this reflection, I sat and read all my entries. It was
humorous and insightful and depressing all at the same time. I found the entry
that described this idea about communication technology and its impact on
society. To read it now after the research experience is humbling. Where my

mind was at then and where my mind is now is the same, except now I can run

my mouth and use science to back it up!

I close this thesis with the actual journal

May 20, 2007: Discovery. I haven’t really accomplished a damn
thing in the realm of this MS other than realizing how frightened I
am of people that are genuinely smarter than me. As much as I
avoid competition I find that it’s essential in order to get things
done around here.
I’ve whined and moped enough. Feigned interest and appreciation
enough. There’s plenty of people leaving this institution that truly
deserve the degrees they are awarded. I, on the other hand, am
sitting here waiting for the other shoe to drop.
Let’s face it: the two things you are good at is 1) telling people what
to do and 2) running your mouth as if you know what you’re talking
about. How transparent do you want to continue to be?
What do I like? I like the way I was raised; amongst different
groups of people within a very isolated community. I like to
interface with people, and I seek out those that have something
strikingly different about them. I like to fix things and situations
because I tend to be the one in the room least likely to panic. I want
to help. I always want to help, to the point where I sacrifice my
efforts for the greater good.
I’m a fan of technology related to communication. The Internet,
cell phones, GPS, GIS; it’s all useful. I don’t care to know how it
works; not anymore anyways. But I have this notion that of all
technological advancements afforded to us, communication
technology has helped a good majority of us to connect with one
So can communication technology bring communities together? I
think of how I grew up on base and had to correspond via letters
and anxiously wait for a response. I listened to local radio stations
and we watched European and AFN channels on TV. Now, with the
advancements in technology, the means of communicating have
garnered a quicker response time and have brought separated lives
much more closer [sic], even if in all dimensions except physical.
I figure that I’ve learned more about rural communities to respect
them and to certify that these areas are enriched by many aspects.

I think by investing in rural communities, by making communication 

technology more assessable, community and economic growth can
But of course, what is most cherished about these neighborhoods is
that there is low reliance on mechanisms that speed processes
along. Even in that one reading where the guy had to invest in
another phone line since his ordering system was upgraded by his
distributor, people are really ambivalent of investing in anything
that changes their way of life. So how do you “sell” communication
technology in a tradition-heavy, low maintenance community? Will
the investments benefit a few? How will local government and
businesses assist in this investment? What would it do to a
community’s culture?
I feel that collaboration has proved in many dimensions the
capability of people to change for the greater good. I think people
that dwell in rural areas are afraid of what they do not know, and
naturally shy away from strange technology. We also are
experiencing a population aging and thus contributing to the local
economy by lesser and lesser means.
Communities that have similar issues but are only limited by
distance can develop a grass-roots e-organization with the ability to
talk to each other on how to manage similar problems. I think
about the distances that female Australian farmers travel just so
they can carry dialogue and not feel so alone in the world given
their regional isolation. We need to know that we aren’t alone in
this big world. We can shatter barriers by promoting dialogue
across shoulders without the stigmas of physical features. And I
think when people are given an opportunity to learn from one
another without working thru a middle man (like extension offices
or government agencies) we feel a sense of empowerment and
capability. And from there, anything seems possible. And
communication tools like the Internet can help.
That sounds about right. –IMES

Anything to declare? Don’t Go To Punxsutawney

Because I love you, I’m gonna save you some dignity. Trust me, you’ll understand after you read.

Back in the yearin Oh Seven, I had me a curio bout the Nordie folk tale of a rabbey en him magick hole. (Shouts to David Mitchell, yo) This was the beginning of Spring semester 2007. A fellow cohort in my Science Technology and Society graduate minor program, Jenn, a lifelong Pennsylvanian, said she and her brother may be planning to go up to Punxsutawney for Groundhog Day. I said, hey, if that happens, count me in. Doubt I’ll ever be up in these parts again, sounds like a thing to do.

The only thing you miss out on is scoring a bawse G Day shirt like mine.

Early, I’m talkin’ errrrrrrrly that 2nd of February, we leave from State College after a very necessary stop at Sheetz for brekky and coffee up on 322W towards the town of that very spirited tradition, the witnessing of a ground rodent’s shadow to predict if the winter continues longer. I knew of it from the Bill Murray classic, Groundhog Day, and I remember our February school room calendars decorated with Punxsutawney Phil along with hearts and cupids and head shots of presidents.

I figured a place with ‘Punx’ in its name would be, by default, cool. It ain’t. Alright, first, the early morning call is because the crowd gets thick around 5am. If you want a good view of the ceremony, you have to be in town, up the hill (there’s a hill), in position, and you cannot leave that position lest risk losing view. There’s no stadium seating around the hole, go figure. It’s an hour and a half drive from State College, so I figure we’re relatively okay.

We smartly filled up at Large Grocery Store Complex with snacks and sandwich goods in a cooler to keep with us as we hold position. Sure, there’s tents set up for hot cocoa and street food and artisanal wares, but again, risk losing optimum rodent viewing. Interesting was the moment Jenn mentioned, ‘you have to look out for my brother. He’s a little strange.’ Like, grab girls’ butts as they pass him in the crowd strange, or has a sniper rifle in his long coat and plans to take Punxsutawney Phil out strange? Before I could ask for clarification, she hits me with, ‘oh, and… No alcohol allowed on the hill.’


It’s Six Degrees Fahrenheit at 5am. Whiskey needs to be in my life, as a survival tool. She coulda mentioned this before we left, so I could’ve had my flask at the ready. But they check bags and monitor the crowd for such things. As they say up in dem parts, criminey!!

So alright, early ass morning, no alcohol, trapped like sardines til The Big Show. Just when the sun starts making its way up, signaling time for Phil to do his thing, Jenn’s brother is nowhere around us. She casually says, ‘He escaped.’ Escaped? That’s the verb we’re using? Someone escaping in a large crowd on purpose can only mean terror/disaster/hysteria. At that moment, not my problem, cuz here comes a bunch of old, White men wearing top hats, waistcoats, coattails, spats, I mean, they’re into this. And the fact they’re only wearing that and no furs or thermals means they’re dedicated to the game. Super Bowl XLVIII ticket holders have nothing on the Committee, or whatever they’re called.

The crowd clusters, I crane and crook into a clean view of the tree stump Phil’s gonna do the observation from. Then with much applause, a HUGE dirt rodent is hoisted in the air by the Committee Head. Then he’s placed on the stump. And then…

and THEN…

…every member of the committee enters into a huddle OVER Punxsy Phil! Blocking out the sun with their bodies! Really??

To which one steps back and proclaims whatever Phil saw, which I couldn’t hear, because I was screaming out, ‘DIS IS BUUUUUUSHHHEEEEIIIITTTT!’ If it wasn’t for the fact there was a pancake breakfast on the Main Street immediately after, I may have snatched Jenn by her pretty brown curls and shook her body with them.

Miraculously her brother showed up, with no explanation as to where he went. I housed about six to eight pancakes, a low number, because I wasn’t thawed out completely. The Main Street was lined with tents, activity centers, booths, street shows, all that you would expect for a holiday celebration. The local movie house played all day, you guessed it, Bill Murray’s Groundhog Day. You can tell the local chamber and officials put a lot of effort into providing entertainment for all us shmucks who just got conned by Marmota Monax and his well-dressed henchmen.

Jenn made up for the lackluster show by taking us to a winery she knew about off of 322W on the way back home. Years of cell damage limit me from remembering the location, the owner’s name, or the name of the fantastic blush I had, but it sure did make up for the farce that is Punxsutawney Phil’s Big Day.

Finals Schminals!

The Pennsylvania State University
The Pennsylvania State University

It’s finals week at ye olde alma mater (see what I did there?). Remember finals? FINALS. Mind, body, and spirit just wigging out to appease the professor.

Take a break, Sojourner of The Optimal Grade Point Average. I invite you to indulge in a bit of escapism. Enjoy my top 3 popular posts of the last week:

FOOD PORN: This British Divorce Party Ain’t Over!

FLASH FICTION: Eviction Number Four

FEATURED BLOGGER: How To Lead Infantrywomen in Combat


Permed, Pulled, Puffy: A History of Von’s Hair

It was either the car gets washed, or I get a haircut. Not both. The weather forecast called for rain, so haircut it was.

I like going to hair academies, because I make for an interesting test bunny. I have three different textures on my head: bone-straight indigenous thanks to Mom, tight kinky curl thanks to Dad, and a mutation based on recessive genes merging and deciding, eff it, let’s invent a straight-curl-wave-frizz! She’ll love that.

A weird thing happened though, when I moved to Florida. My curls didn’t curl anymore. I’d wash my hair, and it’d stay loose and straight. Something in the water, maybe? I even did the Caribbean dip, letting my head soak in the salt water of the Gulf so it’ll remember to curl. Nothing. The stylist I had for all of 2012 wondered if I was heat styling or relaxing my hair chemically. No and no. Florida, the beach, the subtropics, changed my hair. It left me slightly despondent, I have fun with curls and people can’t stop with the compliments. I took it as a sign from the Universe emphasizing, ‘Less time on the facade, more time on the infrastructure.’ And so we did. Rocked out creatively, mentally, spiritually, and paid little mind to the direction my hair went.

The epitome of egoism, hair styles. Looking back at these photos, I could see the levels of escalation and descension my sense of self took. Let’s step through some of these in detail, shall we?


Mushroom hairstyle, color block silk top, neon background. Yes, indeed it's 1992!
Mushroom hairstyle, color block silk top, neon background. Yes, indeed it’s 1992!

I *owned* the 90’s hairstyle. Stacked mushroom? Flip outs? Pin back high ponytail? All me. My hair was going through the ordeal of being styled and treated by a woman who had no earthly idea how to style Black hair other than put it in rollers. So at about 14, I took over my hair responsibilities. I spent countless hours at my friends’ homes doing hair in order to learn how to correctly style my own. Slumber parties, I’d learn how to braid while the White girls learned to use a hot iron at the right temperature for my texture. And of course, a few of my Black friends introduced me to the terror that is The Hot Comb. But, gotta say, my shit was fresh.

poetic-justice-movie-poster-1993-1020204623Janet Jackson in Poetic Justice did it for me. I needed to rock braids. I already have too much hair to begin with, but I was insistent to get full locks done. My mother’s co-worker did hair at her house, and I spent morning to evening getting waist length hair put in. This is probably why I have a strong neck today; all that Yaki added to my shoulder length hair weighed 200 pounds, easy. Did it stop me from whipping it around like it wasn’t a problem? Not at all. Did it again, but shorter, with flips to the end. A different woman did them, and I remember opening and closing her shop, first and last customer. And I didn’t keep them in more than two weeks. That’s when I started actualizing my commitment issues.


I was the epitome of self-absorbed, as this multicolored Beyonce fail of a 'do suggests.
I was the epitome of self-absorbed, as this multicolored Beyonce fail of a ‘do suggests.

Oh, I was feeling way too good about myself, and my hair had to show it. Decent paying job, lovely condominium, my Honda *and* my Suzuki sitting in the parking lot. And the prettiest boy magnet as a pet, my curly-haired Black cocker spaniel, Bear. They say your daemon reflects your demeanor. Bear was pretty, snobbish, spoiled, and an attention-whore. His mama, no different. That’s when I started hitting the white crack on some overtime, plus bleaching, plus multicolors, plus spending $100s of dollars on high-end products and master designers. I’ll have to reflect further to decide if I achieved a positive return-on-investment from that era, but my immediate sense is, NO.


Ya know, the more I write about it, the more Penn State was a turning point. I turned 30 during graduate school, and the gift I bestowed to myself was getting off the dependence on chemical hair treatments. I went to the shop, and told my Philly-bred stylist to cut it all off. Everyone gasped. She did ask, “Are you having a Waiting To Exhale moment?” I responded with something to the effect of, “This isn’t about a man. This is about me.” What grew from that was thick, kinky, beautiful curls. They were fun, easy to manage, and wow, what a relief to my meager pocket book on a student’s salary. The highlight was showing up at the Euroclub’s 70s themed party and everyone complimenting my Afro wig. Wig? This is MY HAIR. I won the costume contest, just by showing up.

Thanks to Shanyce, we're back to normal!
Thanks to Shanyce, we’re back to normal!

Friday afternoon, Miss Shanyce cleaned up my shaggy straight hair, complimenting the entire time, “You have such pretty hair.” I take good care of it, but it spends more time in wraps and clips than styled out. My operating rule is, if I can pull it all back in a ponytail holder, it’s too long. So when Shanyce cleaned it back up to the chin, I said, “Let’s wash it and see how tight the curls get.” “What curls?” “You’ll see.” Two of the instructors noted how lovely the curls looked in the back, like Shanyce had done a permanent. I just smile and said, “That’s my hair.” They were nice enough to capture pics, and I sent them to Shanyce so she can add to her portfolio. When I can afford a personal stylist, I’m looking for you, sweetie!


Reinvention and Reciprocity

You should feel this breeze coming in from the lake through my balcony door. Magnificent. Magical. Mesmerizing. Memphisto…no wait. Wrong M.

It fills my studio with a crisp, cool air, good for the lungs, the sinuses, good to give me goose bumps so I can stay energized. Yup, Blitzkrieg still on, with a NaNoWriMo session this morning as a slight interlude. Both works are progressing wonderfully. A little fatigued, but in a way one feels fatigued after a great workout. Pumped, energetic, slightly sweaty, needing to take a piss.

This year I have the great fortune of being missed while stashed away in the Treehouse. I’ve had guests over, I’ve had people feed me, well-wishers via text, and a few Tweets of love. For that, I am grateful. The last two years were quiet and solitary, what I absolutely wanted. This year, plugging away at the final stretch of the manuscript, mere weeks away from book launch, hanging out with you cool catz on this new bloggy blog, and I’m getting invites to perform, to play and to party, invites I can’t fulfill UNTIL THE BLITZKRIEG IS OVER. I’m treating those invites as rewards. Von, Master of Self-Discipline.

Already fielding Thanksgiving plans. I try to cook at one and hang out at the others. Not gonna stretch myself thin this year, but I am looking forward to cooking for more than myself and Bobby T. I do miss house parties. How’s it go? ‘I hate people, but I love gatherings!’ No, really. I do enjoy cooking, and for lots of people. It’s my form of reciprocity; I have so many people in my life and inner circle I appreciate, I look forward to spending time with them, and I’m grateful they check on me even when I say, leave me alone!

So check this out…I was going through my winter clothes bag, only to discover everything I had was a size extra large or higher. Former Fat Girl Problems, amirite? I found my favorite hoodie I used to rock all over campus, and hated the thought of Goodwilling it, when I was struck with a brilliant idea. I sent a text to The Sprite: I am commissioning you to make a pillow. Her response:

I had a couple of small pillows doing nothing in my closet, so I brought the hoodie and the pillows to her last week. Today at her house, she presented the completed work, noting it was super easy and she watched Futurama while making it. I like the thought of Bender encouraging her creativity forward.

But look at this awesomeness in the gallery! That pillow would’ve cost probably $40 at the bookstore. And it really is gorgeous; it doesn’t look like it ever was a pullover. But that’s Marie for ya; magic at the sewing machine. I told her, you need to Pin Dat Shit!!

So while you enjoy your weekend, I will do the same whilst my fingers go clackity clack clack and my brain oozes amazing plots and twists. If you’re still rockin’ out on NaNo, kudos to you homeskillet!

Working sans music tonight. It’s gettin’ REAL.

I Come From The Water

Original Post Date August 14, 2013 at 01:32 PM

Von finds the answers to her editing problems underwater. Dive in!

swimmingThe story goes, my siblings and I learned how to swim by being tossed in the deep end of the pool, and the goal was to reach the awaiting parent on the opposite end before sinking. The story goes, we each were initiated while still in diapers. I can only assume this strategy was deployed during a time when we wouldn’t retain any trauma. Thus, I don’t concretely know when I started swimming, I just know I’m a natural swimmer.

When my family was stationed at Fort Hood, Texas during the early 80s, the parents would entertain us three hooligans by visiting the Thomas Pool or the Blue Pool quite regularly. On one visit, my father did something so amazing, it blew my five year old mind. He plunged into the deep end of the pool, and he sat at the bottom, cool and collective, sending up a bubble on occasion to my perplexed face hanging over the side. He seemed to be down there for hours. He’d surface, just as cool and collective, as if he was breathing underwater the entire time. I had it in my head to learn how to do that.

A few pool visits in, and I figured out how to manage my air intake so I can manage the pressure against my body and keep myself from floating. When the lifeguards would blow the whistle to clear the pool for break, I used it as a signal to submerge and sit on the bottom of the deep end. I thought it was hilarious when the duped lifeguard violently blew his whistle from his comfortable post at the sight of me popping up. The other kids found this spectacle entertaining, and encouraged me to keep doing it. Of course, the lifeguards caught on and my mother, needing to be spared any further embarrassment, made me stop messing with them.

The interesting thing was, on the rare occasion a lifeguard did see me underwater, he or she never came in for me. So it became affixed temporally that underwater is a safe zone, a place where I can separate from someone annoying or something bothersome. During my graduate years at Penn State University, I regularly visited the campus natatorium with fellow swimmers from my department, and, as I carved out lap after lap in that NCAA pool, I was able to clear out bottlenecks related to my research, revisit issues with my thesis, or curse the name of certain professors giving me a hard time.

Last week, while reviewing my notes, I realized a certain sub-character was making herself more relevant. I had a direction for her, but she seemed to want another trajectory. It halted all my activity. I looked at my bikini hanging on my bathroom door, and knew I had to take it to the water. It took a few rounds to deconstruct and reconstruct the storyline, scenario by scenario, but once I finally broke the surface, it was figured out.