Thursday, December 25, 2008

Poem Thirteen in the Twelve Poems of Christmas

Like I could stop just like that!

Christmas never really ends, so here's another poems by one of my absolute favorite poets, and from a recent book of unfinished work. 

Suicide of a Moderate Dictator

for Carlos Lacerda

This is a day when truths will out, perhaps;
leak from the dangling telephone ear-phones
sapping the festooned switchboard's strength;
fall from the windows, blow from off the sills,
- the vague, slight unremarkable contents
of emptying ash-trays; rub off on our fingers
like ink from the un-proof-read newspapers,
crocking the way the unfocused photographs
of crooked faces do that soil our coats,
our tropical-weight coats, like slapped-at moths.

Today's a day when those who work
are idling. Those who played must work
and hurry, too, to get it done,
with little dignity or none.
The newspapers are sold; the kiosk shutters
crash down. But anyway, in the night
the headlines wrote themselves, see, on the streets
and sidewalks everywhere; a sediment's splashed
even to the first floors of apartment houses.

This is a day that's beautiful as well,
and warm and clear. At seven o'clock I saw
the dogs being walked along the famous beach
as usual, in a shiny gray-green dawn,
leaving their paw prints draining in the wet.
The line of breakers was steady and the pinkish,
segmented rainbow steadily hung above it.
At eight two little boys were flying kites.

by Elizabeth Bishop
from Edgar Allan Poe & the Juke-Box. Copyright © 2006 by Alice Helen Methfessel

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Here it is: Poem Twelve in The Twelve Poems of Christmas

Thanks to for this lovely poem!

The Worm Before Christmas

'Twas the night before finals and all through the lab
Not a student was sleeping, not even McNabb.
Their projects were finished, completed with care
In hopes that the grades would be easy (and fair).

The students were wired with caffeine in their veins

While visions of quals nearly drove them insane.

With piles of books and a brand-new highlighter,

I had just settled down for another all-nighter –

When out from our gateways arose such a clatter,

I sprang from my desk to see what was the matter

Away to the console I flew like a flash

And logged on as root to fend off a crash

The windows displayed on my brand new Sun-3

Gave oodles of info -- some in 3-D.

When, what to my burning red eyes should appear

But dozens of "nobody" jobs. Oh dear!

With a blitzkrieg invasion, so virulent and firm,

I knew in a moment. It was Morris's Worm!

More rapid than eagles his processes came

And they forked and exec'd and they copied by name!

"Now Dasher! Now Dancer! Now, Prancer and Vixen!

On Comet! On Cupid! On Donner and Blitzen!

To the sites in .rhosts and host.eqi

Now, dash away! dash away! dash away all!"

[ Note: the machines,,, etc., have been renamed deer1, deer2, deer3, etc., so as not to confuse the already burdened students who use those machines. We regret that this poem reflects the older naming scheme and hope it does not confuse the network administrator at your site. -Ed. ]

And then in a twinkling, I heard on the phone,

The complaints of the users (thought I was alone!)

"The load is too high!" "I can't read my files!"

"I can't send my mail over miles and miles!"

I unplugged the net, and was turning around,

When the worm-ridden system went down with a bound.

I fretted, I frittered, I sweated, I wept.

Then finally I core dumped the worm in /tmp.

It was smart and pervasive, a right jolly old stealth,

And I laughed when I saw it, in spite of myself.

A look at the dump of that invasive thread

Soon gave me to know we had nothing to dread.

The next day was slow with no network connections

For we wanted no more of those pesky infections.

But in spite of the news and the noise and the clatter

Soon all became normal, as if naught were the matter.

Then later that month, while all were away,

A virus came calling, and then went away.

The system then told us, when we logged in one night:
"Happy Christmas to all! (You guys aren't so bright.)"

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Twelve Poems of Christmas - Poem Eleven

Because I liked her other poem so much, I couldn't resist. Click here to hear the poem read aloud.

The Best Ex-Husband You Could Ever Ask For

Traveling with my Ex,
we take our daughter and her friend to New York City.
Since we were traveling the same way,
it only made sense.

We settle into an old comfort,
the familiarity of all the years of car trips with our children,
as the girls chatter away in the backseat.
We worry about our sleep-deprived son at college,
and share our amazement at his last paper
he'd emailed both of us for our editing comments.

It's been six years of unwinding the knotted battles,
until they've mostly vanished, forgotten.
What were those battles all about,
when it felt like I was fighting for my life?

He talks of his girlfriend,
of living without making plans.
I gently hold him at a distance,
as he continues to vaguely court me.
as he, perhaps, vaguely courts all women.
We drive, facing our unknown lives ahead,
wondering about what still waits to be lived.

Mid trip, my mind goes blank with his talk
in all the old familiar ways.
This used to feel like dying, again and again.
Today it's like being a tourist
at a historic battleground.
Grass has grown over all the bloodshed.

We settle into the easy silence
of long married couples,
smiling as we overhear the conversations from the backseat.

It is good to find peace.
No furious expectations haunt us,
no heartbreaking slights,
no land-mined conversations.

We are thoughtful about simple things.
Thank you for driving,
for packing food, for trading off on paying tolls,
for finding this great Salsa club in Soho for our teenaged daughter.

We sit together, the parents, smiling and slightly anxious
as a man asks our daughter to dance.
We stand up as well, but tentatively,
following a rhythm and steps we don't know,
dancing like chaste old friends.
We are careful,
discovering this new dance.

by Elizabeth W. Garber

from Listening Inside the Dance: A Life in Maine Infused with Tango. © The Illuminated Sea Press, 2005.

courtesy of The Writer's Almanac

Monday, December 22, 2008

Poem Ten in The Twelve Poems of Christmas

Despite my misgivings about the store named in the title, I thought this was a lovely poem.

Coming Out of Wal-Mart

The child, puny, paling toward albino,
hands fused on the handlebars of a new bike.
The man, a cut-out of the boy, gnome-like,
grizzled, knotted like a strange root,
guides him out, hand on the boy's shoulder.
They speak, but in language softer than hearing.

The boy steers the bike as if he steered
a soap bubble, a blown glass swan, a cloud.

On the walk they go still. Muzak covers them.
Sun crushes. The man is a tiny horse,
gentle at a fence. The boy's eyes are huge
as a fawn's.

He grips hard the orange and pink,
and purple and green striped handlebars,
smiling the fixed sweet smile of the sainted.

by Mark DeFoe
from The Green Chair. © Pringle Tree Press, 2003.
with thanks to The Writer's Almanac

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Poem Nine (and a bonus poem!) in the Twelve Days of Poems

The Duck

Behold the duck
It does not cluck.
A cluck it lacks.
It quacks.
It is special fond
Of a puddle or a pond.
When it dines or sups,
It bottoms ups.

by Ogden Nash
Click here for a bonus poem from Nash!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Poem Eight in the Twelve Days of Poems

Click here to hear the poem read aloud.


Second-year medical student.
An early patient interview
at the Massachusetts General Hospital
Routine hernia repair planned, not done.
Abdomen opened and closed.
Filled with disease, cancer.

The patient is fifty-six,
a workingman, Irish
I sit with him, notice
the St. Christopher medal
around his neck.
Can't hurt, can it? he laughs.
I have become his friend.

I bring him a coloring book picture
that shows this thing, this unfamiliar
organ that melted beneath our hands
at dissection:

Leaving his room, crying,
avoiding classmates,
I take the back stairs.
I find myself locked,
coatless in the courtyard outside.

by Kelley Jean White
from Body Language. © The Library of America.
courtesy of The Writer’s Almanac

Friday, December 19, 2008

Twelve Poems of Christmas - Poem Seven

Poet's Work

advised me:
Learn a trade

I learned
to sit at desk
and condense

No layoffs
from this

by Lorine Niedecker
courtesy of

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Twelve Poems of Christmas - Poem Six

Miracle Ice Cream

Miracle's truck comes down the little avenue,
Scott Joplin ragtime strewn behind it like pearls,
and, yes, you can feel happy
with one piece of your heart.

Take what's still given: in a room's rich shadow
a woman's breasts swinging lightly as she bends.
Early now the pearl of dusk dissolves.
Late, you sit weighing the evening news,
fast-food miracles, ghostly revolutions,
the rest of your heart.

by Adrienne Rich
From Dark Fields of the Republic: Poems 1991-1995

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Twelve Poems of Christmas - Poem Five

Click here to hear the poem read aloud for your listening pleasure. (You might get a little history while you're at it. Relax and enjoy — it's worth it.)

The Tow Truck Driver's Story

You meet all kinds of people in this work.
You have to be polite, twenty-four hours
a day. It was a brutal winter night,
I'd worked since four a.m., finally coming in
to sleep when the phone rang, a guy calling
from up on Appleton ridge, saying
he needs a jump. I asked, "Can't it wait?
There's still snow on the roads, the plows aren't
All through. It'll take me three hours at least
to get there with the roads like this." "Ok,"
he said, "I'll wait." I went to bed an hour,
before he called, "It's an emergency."
The storm had eased as I headed out,
But the wind had been so bad, I had
To stop and climb over the drifts to knock
the snow off signs to see where to go,
a hard dark climb up to Appleton Ridge.
Over three hours to get to a lonely
country farmhouse, light glowing brightly.
Then a man in, I kid you not, a red
Satin smoking jacket comes out and waves.
I think he's waving to me, and wave back,
But it's a garage opener and out of the dark
A door rises, lit like a museum,
A car, glittering white and chrome beauty,
It was a 1954 Mercedes.
A Gull-Wing. You ever heard of them?
I think they only made ten of them.
Its doors lift up like a gull in flight.
I bet it was worth a million dollars.
I ask, "Are you going to take that out?"
"Oh, no, we just got back from Jamaica
I want a jump to make sure it's ok."
It starts like a dream, purrs dangerously.
"Oh good," he says and walks away, waving
his arm to close the door, never saying
a word, left me standing there in the snow.

by Elizabeth W. Garber
from The Mayor and Other Stories of Small Town Life © The Illuminated Sea Press, 2007.
Courtesy of The Writer's Almanac

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Twelve Poems of Christmas - Poem Four

Click on the title to listen to the poet read his work.

A Slice of Wedding Cake

Why have such scores of lovely, gifted girls
Married impossible men?
Simple self-sacrifice may be ruled out,
And missionary endeavour, nine times out of ten.

Repeat 'impossible men': not merely rustic,
Foul-tempered or depraved
(Dramatic foils chosen to show the world
How well women behave, and always have behaved).

Impossible men: idle, illiterate,
Self-pitying, dirty, sly,
For whose appearance even in City parks
Excuses must be made to casual passers-by.

Has God's supply of tolerable husbands
Fallen, in fact, so low?
Or do I always over-value woman
At the expense of man?
Do I?
It might be so.

by Robert Graves

courtesy of poets. org

Monday, December 15, 2008

Poem Three in the Twelve Poems of Christmas

Latin Lessons

The daughter of the local florist taught
us Latin in the seventh grade. We sat
like hothouse flowers nodding in a mist
of conjugations, declining nouns that
made little sense and adjectives that missed
the point. She was elegant, shapely, taut.
She was dazzling and classic, a perfect
example to us of such absolute
adjectives as unique or ideal or perfect.
The room held light. Suffering from acute
puberty, we could still learn case by case
to translate with her from the ancient tongue
by looking past her body to the chaste
scribblings she left on the board. We were young
but knew that the ablative absolute
was not the last word in being a part
of something while feeling ourselves apart
from everything that mattered most. We chased
each other on the ballfield after class
though it did no good. What we caught was not
what we were after, no matter how fast
we ran. She first got sick in early fall.
A change in her voice, a flicker of pain
across her face, and nothing was the same.
She came back to us pale and more slender
than ever, a phantom orchid in strong
wind, correcting our pronoun and gender
agreement, verb tense, going over all
we had forgotten while she was gone. Long
before she left for good in early spring,
she made sure the dead language would remain
alive inside us like a buried spring.

by Floyd Skloot
from The End of Dreams. © Louisiana State University Press.
courtesy of The Writer's Almanac

Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Second Poetry Day of Christmas

Those Winter Sundays

Sundays too my father got up early
And put his clothes on in the blueback cold,
then with cracked hands that ached
from labor in the weekday weather made
banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him.

I'd wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking.
When the rooms were warm, he'd call,
and slowly I would rise and dress,
fearing the chronic angers of that house,

Speaking indifferently to him,
who had driven out the cold
and polished my good shoes as well.
What did I know, what did I know
of love's austere and lonely offices?

by Robert Hayden

Remember, if you have a poem to share, I'd love to hear it!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

The Twelve Poems of Christmas - Poem One

blessing the boats

(at St. Mary's)

may the tide
that is entering even now
the lip of our understanding
carry you out
beyond the face of fear
may you kiss
the wind then turn from it
certain that it will
love your back may you
open your eyes to water
water waving forever
and may you in your innocence
sail through this to that

by Lucille Clifton
From Quilting: Poems 1987-1990 by Lucille Clifton. Copyright © 2001 by Lucille Clifton. Courtesy of

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Ode to a Fickle Nuthatch

Because it's a cool poem....
With thanks to The Writer's Almanac.

Winter and the Nuthatch

Once or twice and maybe again, who knows,
the timid nuthatch will come to me
if I stand still, with something good to eat in my hand.
The first time he did it
he landed smack on his belly, as though
the legs wouldn't cooperate. The next time
he was bolder. Then he became absolutely
wild about those walnuts.

But there was a morning I came late and, guess what,
the nuthatch was flying into a stranger's hand.
To speak plainly, I felt betrayed.
I wanted to say: Mister,
that nuthatch and I have a relationship.
It took hours of standing in the snow
before he would drop from the tree and trust my fingers.
But I didn't say anything.
Nobody owns the sky or the trees.
Nobody owns the hearts of birds.
Still, being human and partial therefore to my own
successes —
though not resentful of others fashioning theirs —

I'll come tomorrow, I believe, quite early.

by Mary Oliver
from Red Bird. © Beacon Press, 2008

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Climbing Back on the Horse — er, Saddle — er....

Had you told me six months ago that I'd have taken half the year off running, I'd have laughed aloud. I was, at that time, in rare form: running an easy five miles a day with occasional weightlifting, looking forward to running through Central Park on my honeymoon.

And then I stepped off a curb.

Then — well, I can't even figure that out, still. Suffice it to say that one doesn't know how to explain a hole in an intestine, even if it runs in the family.

But that's all just horrifying stories that publishers would warn me against because "no one would believe it." (And they wouldn't.) Now I'm trying to get back to where I was six months ago.

Did I mention that it hurts?

Not in that "Oh, please, sweet mother of heaven, let me die and I promise I won't be any trouble to you" way. Been there, done that, didn't even keep the t-shirt.

No, this is more of a "Oh, so that's what that muscle does!" kind of pain. I remember taking a couple of weeks off back in the early aughts when I had some shoulder repairs done. It was hard to start again and my muscles rebelled.

Now, imagine that a dozen times worse.

I don't have my excellent lung capacity anymore. I get a little winded walking up the stairs, much to my surprise. My resting pulse rate and blood pressure are still good, though, so I am not going to die at the gym — but I may feel like it. And I won't like it.

Now, I am not going to throw myself into an exercise program that's too ambitious; convalescence is still too fresh in my mind to make me do something that might reverse my healing. I am not fragile, but I am cautious.

So, if you see me working away with a grimace on one of the elliptical machines at the gym, just let me be. I'll be cheerful again in no time.

I know I will start to appreciate that one-mile run, where suiting up takes longer than the actual experience of running, when it becomes two. Or three. (You get the gist.) And you'll see me on the road only when it's warm enough — I'm not yet running in the sub-freezing winter dawn. I may be crazy, but I'm not yet completely certifiable!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

An Exquisite Poem

If I haven't mentioned it lately, I am so grateful for The Writer's Almanac for publishing poems as wonderful and stunning as this one. Check your local public radio station to see when it airs, or visit the Web site to hear it.


If you are lucky in this life,
you will get to help your enemy
the way I got to help my mother
when she was weakened past the point of saying no.

Into the big enamel tub
half-filled with water
which I had made just right,
I lowered the childish skeleton
she had become.

Her eyelids fluttered as I soaped and rinsed
her belly and her chest,
the sorry ruin of her flanks
and the frayed gray cloud
between her legs.

Some nights, sitting by her bed
book open in my lap
while I listened to the air
move thickly in and out of her dark lungs,
my mind filled up with praise
as lush as music,

amazed at the symmetry and luck
that would offer me the chance to pay
my heavy debt of punishment and love
with love and punishment.

And once I held her dripping wet
in the uncomfortable air
between the wheelchair and the tub,
and she begged me like a child

to stop,
an act of cruelty which we both understood
was the ancient irresistible rejoicing
of power over weakness.

If you are lucky in this life,
you will get to raise the spoon
of pristine, frosty ice cream
to the trusting creature mouth
of your old enemy

because the tastebuds at least are not broken
because there is a bond between you
and sweet is sweet in any language.

by Tony Hoagland
from Donkey Gospel. © Graywolf Press, 1998.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Back Soon, I Promise!

It's been forever — or at least it feels like it. I haven't done much in this space for a while, and I apologize. I will be back soon.

In the meantime, visit a couple of the links you see to your right (under "Cool Links"). There are some fun ones there, like List Universe and Blender's lists. Send me some of your favorite links — I'd love to know what else is out there.

See you soon!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Never Underestimate the Power of the Individual

Conversations lately have identified a lot of confusion, ambivalence and ennui in the American public regarding the November 4 General Election.

In English: either you don't know who you're going to vote for, you think neither party will provide what the country needs or you don't care who wins because it will make no difference in your life.

That is where you are wrong.

First of all, we think there are only U.S. Presidential candidates on the ballot. (Vice presidents are part of the ticket and are not elected separately. Probably a good idea: what if the top two winners weren't of the same party? Could be interesting, could be disastrous.) Contact your local General Registrar and see who and what all is on the ballot. In my area, there are elections for U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives. These people are equally important. If you don't think so, find out what those two branches of the legislative government do, then reassess this opinion.

Get educated: visit the League of Women Voters, a non-partisan resource for election and candidate information.

Now, for those who think their vote is not important: remember way back in the new aught? The 2000 presidential campaign was so close there were arguments over what was a hanging chad (which still sounds dirty). If nothing else, that very close election proved a very important point in our lifetime: individual votes matter.

What do you think designates the Electoral College votes? Yep, my vote. And yours.

A special note to my sisters: remember, women have had the vote in the United States for only a few generations. Many of us have grandmothers who were not allowed to vote. Women were imprisoned for attempting to participate in the electoral process. Don't ever take this privilege for granted.

Okay, so you don't like either of the main party candidates. Well, have you checked your ballot? There are more than two names on the ballot for the U.S. presidential race. If you don't like either of the major party candidates, look to see who else is on your ballot and see if you like any of them — then vote accordingly. There also is this really cool thing called the "write-in" — that lets you write in a name if you think someone not on the ballot deserves to be there. Use these tools wisely: Mickey is fictional, as is Rambo.

Finally, those who choose to not vote: shame on you. I won't use the "people in China would like the chance to vote in a democratic election" line because it didn't work when your mom wanted you to finish the gummy okra on your plate. People are starving for freedom and control of their government, and you throw away those very things.

If you don't vote, I don't want to hear it.

If you do vote, thank you.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

A Poem, Just Because I Like It

I needed a dose of poetry today. I hope you enjoy it, too.

The Scientist

Other fathers might cuss out a lawnmower
that wouldn't catch. Or kick the car.
Mine would simply stop. A physicist, he'd stop
and think awhile, his breath wheezing
through his nose-hiss and hiss, mechanical
until, abruptly, a solution clicked.
Then, step by step, arranging parts
in the sequence they'd come loose,
he'd direct at our lawnmower a logic
even that sullen machine could not refute.
Then, just as systematically, refit
each wrench upon its pegboard silhouette,
re-index every drill bit, every nail—
this small, half-German intellectual
who, although he'd own no gun himself,
let me wear twin Lone Ranger cap pistols
on each hip. You couldn't tell
just what he thought of you. Had he hated
us, he wouldn't have shown it. When,
in that reasoning, mildly troubled tone
of his that meant he might
be disappointed in his son, he once explained,
In war, people hurt with tools,
I shuddered. You couldn't imagine what
he might invent. He was a patient man.

by Jonathan Holden
from The Names of the Rapids. © University of Massachusetts Press, 1986.
Courtesy of The Writer's Almanac.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Banned Books Week: One Way to Choose a Book

This week is Banned Book Week, a recognition of books challenged or banned in American libraries and schools. The American Library Association keeps track of these statistics, and compiles a list every year. I'm always amazed at what makes the list.

In honor of the freedom of expression, and because I want to know what all of the fuss is about, I read a challenged book: The Perks of Being a Wallflower.

I loved it so much, I made Alicia read it.

Frankly, I can see why some people might be uncomfortable reading it. The storyline included drug use, physical abuse, a tense marriage, familial squabbling, teen sexuality, homosexuality, abortion, masturbation, sexual abuse, suicide. Heck, it starts with teen suicide.

The narrator was a 15-year-old boy named Charlie who is writing a series of letters to "a friend." In these letters, he discusses everything happening in his life. He's reading some great literature, meeting new friends, dating, falling in love, watching his sister get slapped by her boyfriend —

Wait, repeat that?

Yes, Charlie sees some pretty incredible stuff. He has to relate to it — a challenge presented to him by his young, enthusiastic first-year English teacher. Charlie can't just watch life. He has to live it.

And when he does, he finds friends, examines his love of his parents, thinks about his dead aunt Helen, discovers he can beat the stuffing out of just about anyone. And cries. He cries a lot. By the end, you understand why.

Stephen Chbosky's compact novel, published by MTV (really!) in 1999 is an incredible book, and one I highly recommend.

No matter your age when you read it, you probably want to discuss some of the content with someone you trust. It can be a little intense, and there are a lot of things characters do that you've been told to not do. Once Alicia finishes it this weekend, we will discuss it.

When you read it, and I hope you do, let me know what you think.

And if you find it's not your cup of tea, find another book. I've read most of the books on the most challenged list, just by chance. Perks was a wild choice, and one I'm glad I made.

Perusing this list is one of the ways to choose a book, and it has always yielded interesting results for me. I think you should give it a try.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Freedom to Read

I've been contacted by an organization trolling for "Banned Book Week" entries on the Internet, and I've been given important news.

Apparently, I don't love my children. Or any children. Or even the U.S. Supreme Court. Maybe even America. And I certainly do not love God. (Wow, and I didn't even realize She was in the mix.)

The gist of the comment was that some children don't need to read some books. You know what? That's right. However, that's for their parents or guardians to decide.

When I was a child, my parents saw every book I was reading. Only once did Mom suggest I wait until I was older to read one book. (Helter Skelter really was a little intense for a 10-year-old.)

But here's the important thing to remember: I walked out of the library with the book.

It is not up to librarians, or committees, or mayors, or the government to decide what I can read. It's up to me and, if I am of an age, my parents.

Are there some books that children shouldn't read? Are there some books I read before I should have? Are there some books that contain objectionable material? Are there some books that shouldn't even see the light of day?

As my grandmother would have said, "Oh, jes."

But woe to the librarian or government official who tries to tell my children, my husband, or me whether we may read it.

Finally, should objectionable materials be in libraries? (I think that's the key issue for the group that tried to re-educate me.) And I phrase my answer in the form of a question: what's objectionable? I find Holocaust deniers objectionable and obscene. You may consider it fact. I like dinosaur books. You might think that's fiction and a challenge to your faith.

We can agree on some things that are unsuitable for the library. (My re-educators cited the U.S. Supreme Court, which has addressed this issue and established some guidelines, a good place to start.) The rest, let us decide for ourselves. I'll take care of my family. You take care of yours.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

1066 and Poetry

This week, Garrison Keillor has highlighted the importance of the Norman Conquest of 1066 in the English language.

Now, for those of you who did not take the History of England class with me, 1066 is the year William the Conqueror did just that to England.

And if you read this week's entries of The Writer's Almanac, you can find out how that helped make English one of the hardest languages to learn.

The next time you lament the fact that someone doesn't speak English, think about to, two and too. Or, better yet, its and it's. It takes a brave person to learn English.

And to that end, here is a poem that sets my teeth on edge. Enjoy!

Windows is Shutting Down

Windows is shutting down, and grammar are
On their last leg. So what am we to do?
A letter of complaint go just so far,
Proving the only one in step are you.

Better, perhaps, to simply let it goes.
A sentence have to be screwed pretty bad
Before they gets to where you doesnt knows
The meaning what it must be meant to had.

The meteor have hit. Extinction spread,
But evolution do not stop for that.
A mutant languages rise from the dead
And all them rules is suddenly old hat.

Too bad for we, us what has had so long
The best seat from the only game in town.
But there it am, and whom can say its wrong?
Those are the break. Windows is shutting down.

by Clive James
from Opal Sunset: Selected poems, 1958–2008
© W.W. Norton & Company, 2008

Sunday, September 14, 2008

"Anti-Wedding" is Anti-Person

After reading the article about Washington Post writers Caitlin Gibson and Rachel Manteuffel's anti-wedding project, I was sickened. They were just as snobbish as the very industry they ridiculed.

In a video on the Washington Post Web site, these journalists thumbed through bridal magazines citing all of the images of material goods that oppressed women because, they said, the industry made women feel bad when they couldn't afford a $15,000 wedding dress.

Then they criticized those who wanted to do just that.

Go ahead, ladies, make the women feel bad for their decisions — join the Wedding Industry Complex Club.

For the record, not all couples want to spend six months' mortgage on a wedding dress. Some want an event that features lace, fondant and flowers but without the hype.

When David and I married this summer, I didn't flip through a single bridal magazine. I did visit The Knot once, though, to find bridal bouquet ideas for Louise, who was making my bouquet.

I was sniffed at by a snooty dress saleswoman (two months? and how much did you want to spend? Oh, well, we can't accommodate you, but let me show you a $20,000 wedding dress....). By Caitlin and Rachel's measure, I suppose I should have felt bad, but I didn't.

Although David and I didn't play the game, I cannot fault a couple who want all the tulle they can handle or a groom's cake in the shape of an armadillo. If you want to buy a Mercedes instead of a Yugo, go for it. Life is about making the best decisions you can, and this is the first a couple will make together.

However, no matter the make and model of the wedding, I hope the blissful couple remember: it's not about the wedding, but the marriage that follows. If you'd do it in a dreary office of the justice of the peace on a Tuesday afternoon, the only witness a tired secretary borrowed from the DMV next door, then you're marrying the right person.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

No Longer Hip

Okay, the soft-focus, feel-good entries are over. Now the hard work begins.

As Wesley said in The Princess Bride, "To the pain."

Recently, when I walked (which was only when I had to), I used some sort of assistive device. I walked slowly, used elevators and sat a lot.

Now I'm trying to walk more frequently and farther. You know, it isn't as easy as I remember it being.

First of all, what happened to all of those muscles I used daily in such torturous ways for lo those many years? They stopped working. Now every move is an "Ow, so that's where that muscle is" moment. (If this is revenge by said muscles, I am in serious trouble.)

I never had a wild childhood or teen years, so now I'm getting my joints. The ankle is an ouch-fest. The knee is a challenge. The hip — oh, the hip; if anyone wants to trade left hips with me, contact me immediately.

I really am no longer hip.

I'd like to think that there's a part of my body that still likes me, but the more I think about it, the less I am convinced. I thought it would be pleased for the siesta and return refreshed and eager, like we all do when school starts in September.

You mean that was just me?

So, I guess I really had unreasonable expectations for my poor person. Thank you all for not mentioning it before. To have had a glimpse into the future with no chance to avoid or change it would have been mean. Silence, in this case, was very golden.

And, yes, I'll continue to walk. Just don't think I'll be happy about it.

And the nice thing is, I can be cranky. I feel well enough now to know the difference between comfort and discomfort — and to have the spirit to kvetch. I'll try to not be insufferable about it, but I make no promises.

"To the pain!"

Friday, September 5, 2008

The Paparazzi

Look to the right of this entry, and down a little bit. See the Cool Links section?

Do you see an entry that intrigues you?

Okay, I'll give you a hint: see what our Personal Paparazzo captured at David's and my nuptials. ("Our" paparazzo would be Steve Hayward. Isn't he great?)

Those who would like to possibly join the Hayward Gallery for The Event of the Century (so far), send in your photos! I'd love to see them!

In the meantime, check out the photos. I think you'll like them. I know David and I do!

Friday, August 29, 2008

Banned Books Week is on the Horizon!

This year, the American Library Association's Banned Books Week will be celebrated September 27 through October 4.

How are you going to mark that week?

I think I will try to read one or more frequently challenged books. I have read quite a few of them (but there's always more from which to choose, I'm afraid). In fact, last year I read And Tango Makes Three.

Really, protesters should know about people like me: I don't turn away from controversy, but wade into the middle of it. I research that which is being protested. If you tell me that something shouldn't be read, what do you think I do? I read it!

So, start shopping at your local library or bookstore. Find that "obscene" or "explicit" book and see for yourself if it's all that and a bag of chips.

Don't let others decide what you can read. Never let others make decisions for you. You're smarter than that. So go exercise that brain and your freedom. See what it's all about.

And whether you agree or not, decide what your course of action will be. This is, after all, the Land of the Free and Home of the Brave. Be both.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

I "Cane" Do it

As David and I walked out of Red Robin tonight after a lovely dinner out, I stepped aside as three people entered the foyer: a father holding the door, a son entering the doorway and a mother bringing up the rear.

The son was a young boy, about age 3, using a 4-wheeled walker. His legs were twisted, but he pressed on with a steady and determined gait.

David greeted him, and the boy had a huge grin on his bespectacled face.

I added my piece: "Those are cool wheels!" (They were much fancier than anything I ever had, hands down.)

The young boy's front tires snagged on the door jam, and his mother reached forward to help him over it.

His father stopped her: "Let him do it. He can do it."

And he did.

And as we stepped outside and made our way to our car, I pressed my head against David's shoulder, tears in my eyes, and managed to whisper, "I'm having a tremendous grateful moment right now."

Don't get me wrong — I'm allowed to feel awful from time to time. Watching last week's women's marathon and this week's men's marathon was hard because I can't run. I had a meltdown today when I realized I made a mistake on my first equipment order, and I hope I can resolve it Monday — not earth-shattering, but still demoralizing that I can't even read a catalog.

But I am walking with a natty cane and I am healing, and for that I am grateful.

Thursday, August 21, 2008


This has been a pretty interesting summer — and everyone has heard the Chinese curse, "May you live in interesting times."

David and I were thrilled to be married June 19. The day was perfect on so many levels. Most importantly, we were together. I couldn't think of anything that would have kept me from that.

There were a couple of things that tried to derail me from the joys of married life: a broken foot (a week after the nuptials) and emergency abdominal surgery (a month and a day after the wedding). One was hard enough, but the two together were formidable — especially when physicians look at only the part they're treating.

Then I had a reality check. I read computer bulletin board postings that began, "I'm 16 and I got my colostomy for my 10th birthday" and "I have been diagnosed with Crohn's disease" or "I'm in stage 2 colon cancer."

Suddenly, I realized just how fortunate I am. My interruptions are temporary.

Sure, I have a few cool new scars, and I'll have to make up a good story in case someone sees them and asks. ("Ninjas" worked for my foot, but probably not for abdominal scars.)

Plus, I am actually walking with a natty new cane now, and standing in the shower and driving myself.

Maybe I can't carry the groceries up the stairs, but that just means I shop for less or not assist the flagging economy myself.

So vacuuming will have to wait until someone is available (and, with the cats lacking opposable thumbs, I see David's name being tossed in the ring for that task).

So I'm a little slower than before. It was all that darting about that got me in trouble in the first place.

So I have to wait to start running for a few more months. That just means I train with David until the ice recedes and I can run the streets safely again. I probably overdid it anyway. (Wait, who said that?)

I'm not saying I'm happy that things happened as they did. Oh, no — catch me on a cranky day and I'll give you what-fer. Right now is not what I anticipated, and I have no illusion that it will pass quickly enough for my liking. There hasn't been enough frolicking for my liking (but is there ever enough, really?). I'm supposed to be drenched in the thrill of being a newlywed, swimming in clear waters in my new bikini, basking in the glow of wedded bliss. So far, I'm zero for three.

However, David has been fabulous. He has tended to me with loving care and I have wanted for nothing (except for Cake Batter ice cream, but that's a different story).

So we stretch out our honeymoon for a little while longer. I can live with that.

I'm just grateful that I will one day leave it all behind. And I'll still have David. I am definitely on the winning end of that situation.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Visit and Discuss

While you're waiting for a blog entry here, visit The List Universe and spend your time hitting both the featured and more obscure lists.

This site has improved greatly both visually and organizationally, so I find it easier to meander.

Go check out a few lists and let me know what you think. What lists did you read? Did you agree? Did you read the other recommended or related lists? How long were you on the site? Have you banned yourself from going there too often? (Wait, that's me.)

Go, read and discuss. And keep me in the loop!

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Taking a Bit of a Break

Ladies and gents, I know don't usually take a long break between posts, but I ask your indulgence for a short while.

I'll be back soon with wit and alleged wisdom, plus a few observations.

See you soon.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Chris' Summer Reading List

Okay, so it's halfway through summer and I've just issued my reading list. Well, to be honest, can you blame me? Everyone crowded around Memorial Day as though Summer Reading Started Then.

We all know Summer Reading Begins After School Lets Out.

However, I was knee-deep in planning a wedding. So, I give myself a pass.

Now that I am healing from a broken foot, Carole has given me a suggestion that has saved me from the brink of insanity: read. Don't worry about what needs to be done around the house. First of all, that's what David is for. (Okay, she didn't say that last part.) Second of all, exactly when will there be another excuse like this one?

"I'm sorry I can't vacuum, but I can't hop on one leg for that long." (Though David did jokingly suggest it, even pantomiming the Chris-hopping-action. We laughed.)

"I can't change the sheets. I just can't stand it."

"Mop? On one foot? On a wet floor? Honey, do you have a life insurance policy on me I don't know about?"

Long story short, it's time to read.

Here is what I plan to read this summer (and not exactly in this order):
  • 20th Century Ghosts. Little by little I finish this very good collection of scary short stories.
  • Ahab's Wife, or the Star-gazer. Carole loves the first line. Can you blame her?
  • Dark Angels. I borrowed it from Karen. She needs it back at some point in the future. Why not now? Anyway, I had picked it up at the library this past winter and never got to it, so now is as good a time as ever.
  • The Garden of Last Days. I still haven't recovered from The House of Sand and Fog, and yet I reach for Dubus' latest novel. What am I thinking?
  • The Golems of Gotham. I loved the title, so I bought it at a library sale a couple of years ago. Re-animating the dead as golems? In New York? As if I could resist.
  • A Great and Terrible Beauty. Carole will soon review the Gemma Doyle trilogy, which she and Corinne loved. I read the first chapter and liked it — but was lured away by Neil Gaiman.
  • Mistress of the Art of Death. I purchased this book a year or so ago and never got to it. Now it has a sequel. Maybe I'd better start the first one....
  • Sheer Abandon. Penny Vincenzi is a Must-Summer-Read.
  • There Will Never Be Another You. Kathy loved this one. I hope to, too. I want to read her autobiography as well. (Carolyn See, not Kathy's — though I'd read that one, too.)
  • Unaccustomed Earth. I started this book as soon as I fished it out of the Amazon box. I set it aside, however, because I wanted her stories to linger. I have enjoyed both of her other tomes, and I will pepper my reading with these wonderful stories.
  • The Year of Pleasures. Another Kathy pick. She hasn't steered me wrong yet!
Does this seem ambitious? Probably. However, I have time on my hands now that I'm not on my feet. Plus, if I get David to row out to the middle of the lake, I get to see him and read. I promise to make the best of this situation.

Wish me luck, and let me know if you can think of any other not-to-be-missed novels!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Crutch Girl: Lookin' Good

Well, the good doctor had good news this morning. I am healing well.

The bone appears to be intact enough to heal without intervention, as do the tendons. After exposing my foot to X-rays again in a week or so, I shall prove that while I'm an over-achiever when it comes to breaking things, I also know how to mend like a champ.

I have to learn patience and limitations, however. Despite multiple offers of assistance from family and friends, I found myself in need of carrying something tonight. And what did I do? I tried to carry it. Getting to the car wasn't too hard, but getting out of the parking lot at home with a couple of books in the grocery bag was.

I only bounced once off Suzie's car.

I didn't dent it, but I managed to bruise a knuckle I need for my crutches (which I tossed, but not far -- I was not that dumb at that moment, but slowly coming to the realization of my folly). I put the bag back in my car (for David to collect when he got home), slammed the door and hobbled up the stairs, swearing softly under my breath.

I managed to make it upstairs and actually change my clothes and straighten up the kitchen before I got too full of myself again. While trying to avoid sitting (and slipping) on the pile of newspapers on the couch, I hopped around to miss it.

And whacked my "good" foot hard enough to make it bleed.

That's when I sat down. Two parts of my body that I need for transit were in disrepair. I was positive I was going to do more damage, so despite my need to wash my hands and go potty (and not in that order), I stayed seated.

I could have scooted up the stairs, crawled to the dryer, folded the clothes and found a way to put them on top of the dryer, then pulled myself up on the washer to reach the soap and fabric softener to start the next load. However, I bet the washer lid would have landed with a solid and sickening crash on my unwounded hand, thus ruining all my other functional limbs and really pissing me off.

I was tired of having to ask for help. I wanted to prove I can take care of myself. The thing is, I can take care of myself: by asking for help.

Now, if I can just avoid hurting myself between now and then, I might survive this ordeal with a little of my dignity intact. I think I learned my lesson tonight. I suggest you all start a pool as to when I will forget it.

Update: For those who started a pool, whoever chose "instantly" won. I do believe it was later that night that I tried again to do more than I should. I warned you.....!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Crutch Girl: Time

You'd think a woman who has no mobility would be blogging and reading her brains out.

You'd think.

Somehow, that's not how it has worked out lately.

I can blame some of it on MySpace. I have posted a lot of photos for family and friends on that site. If you have a MySpace account, send me a notice to "friend" me.

The rest of it is just time. And boy, can things take time!

Take, for example, a shower. Last month, showers — complete with a dab of makeup and a mostly dry head of hair — took about 15 minutes from lights-on to lights-off. Now it takes me nearly that long to get the in and out of the shower stall, with some sudsing in between. (Pulling the ceramic soap dish out of the wall takes a little more time, but not a lot.) Part of it is caution of wet floors. The rest is getting annoyed at getting sweaty again at the exertion of it all. Summer has nothing on hopping for bringing out the sweat.

Leaving the house is a little more time-consuming as well. For a short while longer, there will be no more grabbing my purse and rooting around for my sunglasses while charging down the stairs.

Traveling downstairs is a challenge because crutches and gravity are a scary team. The hopping isn't too slow, but the crutches (being carried or used) add a level of complexity the judges should include in their scoring.

When hopping upstairs, it's just gravity that slows me down. That is, when David has a hold of the crutches. When I'm on my own, the crutches again require management. Vicky has suggested I borrow hers to put at the bottom of the stairs, and I very well might. Plus, let's be honest: by the time it's time to hop upstairs, I've already spent most of my energy on, oh, maneuvering around people not paying attention and waiting for a few elevators because seemingly able people prefer to keep their spot rather than share it with the tired crutch woman. (Don't start me on last night's elevator-full of people laughing because I stood waiting for the next car. Twice. Not a wheelchair, crutch, cane or elderly person in the lot. They laughed when I couldn't get on. Laughed.)

So, Speedy Gonzales I am not. I'm already chronologically challenged, so this does not make my life any easier. Every day brings new discoveries and challenges, such as, "What's appropriate to wear to work that will accommodate my boot?" and "Don't tell me I left my right shoe upstairs!" After a while I decide I don't care who can see through my skirt, I'm not going upstairs one more time for my slip. (Okay, I did go upstairs for the slip, but it was my third trip up the stairs, thus a tough call.)

Long story short, my time is spent doing things that I used to do in a quarter of the time. I'm about to go make myself a bagel for breakfast, and it will entail an elaborately choreographed dance. I'll hop across the room to retrieve the crutches, crutch into the kitchen, step over the cat who will get his soft food first, lumber between the bread basket and the refrigerator, decide I can't carry a drink then finally pull the stool into the kitchen so I can eat at the counter and near the tea. (Bottling the tea and carrying it into the dining room has merit, but not always.)

I'm grateful I'm strong enough to do it. However, it really is a pain. I can't wait to see what the doctor says tomorrow about how long this will be my life. I really hope he doesn't throw in any more surprises. Wish me luck.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Happily Married Ever After

Ladies and gents, the cast of thousands helped bring off the Event of the Century: David's and my wedding. It was fab and fun and I'm thrilled for two reasons: because now David and I are married and because it's behind us.

I had a great time and I heard the guests did, too, but it was juuuuuust a little stressful. I'm not sure why. Everyone else had the tough jobs. I just had to make sure I showed up on time.

And I did, dressed and ready to go. David was there in Kitty Pozer Garden waiting for me, looking more handsome than ever. He stood next to Jackie, who wrote the most beautiful ceremony and vows. She did a couple of really nice things: first, we had a chance to look behind us at our friends and family who came to the wedding; and second, she had us promise to honor each other's dreams.

And in the end, we had a great event. The food was great (thank you, Cheryl!), the company was great (thank you, everyone!) and Old Town Hall was beautifully decorated with the most lovely flowers (thank you, Louise!).

There are lots of photos out there, and I'll let you know when they're posted.

In the meantime, we had a great couple of weeks honeymooning. Manhattan was fabulous and Florida was a great family vacation. I did manage to mix things up with a broken foot as we returned to DC from New York, so the trip to Club Med was a little more sedate than I anticipated. David and I will celebrate the removal of my cast in September with a dip in a pool (location to be determined).

Now, life begins again — for David, right away and for me, after a trip to the orthopedist.

And now begins the best part of the wedding: the marriage. (Woo hoo!)

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Crutch Girl: Top Five Kindnesses

As I begin my second week on crutches, I have discovered the true nature of people: they are thoughtless.

And by that, I mean they do not think. Their actions are rooted not in intentional rudeness or cruelty, but in the very act of not thinking about the consequences of an act.

Here are the top five kindnesses able-bodied people can do for someone who is less mobile or flexible than they are.

1. Don't hover.
Ladies, you know what I mean. Public toilets are a fact and necessity, and women use them by not touching a thing. As a result, sprinkles, splashes, drips and drops are found in great abundance around the toilet, sink, trash can, door — everywhere.

Without two good legs and balance, I need to touch the very places others avoid. I can't tiptoe around messes and I need to lean or balance against the sink. My feet/crutches/wheels need to find purchase on those wet floors. Most importantly, I need to sit.

Despite rumors to the contrary, no one ever died from touching facilities in a public bathroom, so use the facilities the way they were intended and clean up as you go, so to speak. Like in nature: leave nothing behind, especially a mess.

2. Hold the door. I know you're in a hurry. I've been there. However, it costs you 15 seconds to hold the door open for someone whose hands are otherwise occupied on crutches, wheels, gears and the like. If the door is electronic, hit the button, and wait to make sure the person makes it through. You have no idea how important this kindness is.

3. Hold your horses! Yes, I might be less steady on my foot. Yes, I might be slower on my wheels. It may take me a moment to get re-situated while conducting my business. (Try standing/hopping on one foot the entire time you are in line to pay for your groceries.) However, darting in front of me "real quick" to get your business done is rude and disruptive.

Just wait your turn. It may cost you 15 seconds, but unless you're performing CPR, that won't cost you your life.

4. Pay attention. Everyone is in a hurry — including, surprisingly enough, the person hobbling or wheeling through the cafeteria or bookstore. That individual with limited mobility is slower or moving more cautiously for a reason, such as injury (possibly with pain).

I may be slow on my crutches and focused on my path, but I am excruciatingly aware of everyone and everything around me. I can avoid swinging bags, arms, feet, etc. only so well. The rest is up to you. Know what you are doing around a person with limited mobility and possible injury, and actively give them wide berth.

5. Relax. The time it costs to live and let live, so to speak, is infinitesimal. Just for fun, stand still for 30 seconds — it may feel like an eternity, but you will quickly see it really is not that long. Most importantly, it could mean the world to the person next to you.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Crazy-Free, Even a Week and a Half Out

David and I are getting married in a week and a half and everyone is surprised at how calm I am.

Why not? I have the most important things already: David, rings, officiant, friends and cake. Everything else is a bonus.

I say that because I have had the greatest minds at work on this event from the start. Without Carole, I might just now be throwing up my hands and saying, "Exactly what shall I wear?" Without Vicky, a dollop of mascara and a hair clip would be the height of glamor. Without Cheryl, I would be thinking I could make enough tea sandwiches for five dozen people. Without Louise, I'd be flowerless (though Alicia would have swept in to avert a total flower disaster). Without Rachael, I'd have settled for a bakery whose workers thought they were doing me a favor (rather than the other way around). Without Laura, I would have no idea what or how about the hall.

And without David, I would not be getting married.

As you can see, I'm practically just showing up at the event with a pretty dress and a pocket-full of posies.

Oh, rest assured, I have a few worries. I won't be completely calm until Nikki makes it here safe and sound with Cat. (PJ and Valerie are already covered.) I still have to get a final head count (you non-RSVPers know who you are!), David has to finish collecting the music, I have no idea what Jackie will do for the ceremony. I'm sure I forgot something else terribly important. And we haven't quite finished everything for the honeymoon — though, frankly, if all I have to worry about is which Broadway show we will see, life is pretty good. I also worry that dashing off after the reception is going to abandon a few people, but I'm having to work up the guilt, honestly, because we have a wedding night to start!

Frankly, I have David. Life is good. And after the 19th, it will be even better.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Living on Less and the Sacrifice Mindset

Tania Andersen, a Washington Post columnist, recently asked if people could give up their spending ways ("Could You Give Up the Goods and Buy Less?" Washington Post, 6/3/2008). She cited Jeff Yeager, a first-time author who advocated some of his own personal methods in The Ultimate Cheapskate's Road Map to True Riches.

Among the suggestions the author offered was using things longer, like "starter" homes, televisions and stereo equipment. He advocated purchasing food that cost only a certain amount of money. He opined waiting a week before making a big purchase.

All sound ideas, one could think — unless one perused the reader comments at the end of the column.

Talk about naysayers! People wrote that they had to dress nice for work and how mealy apples were at "mainstream" grocery stores. Others noted they didn't have time to grow their own food, not to mention that eating nothing but rice and beans would cause malnutrition.

How did these people equated "sacrifice" with "poverty"? How did they go from "spending less" to farming God's Acre and wearing stretched-out used underwear from Salvation Army? Is it the metro Washington area, or all people this insane?

Not to mention that the author suggested none of those ridiculous ideas.

From the comments, you would think Yeager suggested we all move to the woods in Montana and read by candlelight (using only candles we make ourselves from our earwax and stray hair). Not at all. Wait a week before buying the 45-inch television, he offered. Is that crazy? In DC, apparently, it is.

I also was stunned by the columnist's assertion that none of this was achievable if one had children. Granted, I have never had to withstand the wheedling and whining that sometimes even the best kid can practice. (I've seen Happy Meal toys and some of them are pretty cool, so who can blame them?) However, I also know parents who didn't put up with said whining, whose kids did not have every iteration of Elmo known to humanity (and thank the gods for that!). Keeping children warm, dry and without want does not include emptying out Toys R Us or Pottery Barn Kids.

I'm not a monk. I have belongings. I dine out. I spend money on things I'm sure some people consider wasteful. I'm sure I'd pooh-pooh some more extreme frugality practices, even some I read in The Tightwad Gazette (don't tell Amy Dacyczyn!). However, I am astounded at the closed-mindedness of so many people when it comes to thrift.

Being careful with money is not a bad habit. It used to be an admirable trait. What happened?

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Top Five Things to Do on a Rainy Afternoon

1. Have lunch
Alicia and I saw the sideways rain from our dry and comfy spot in the mall, so we slipped into The Corner Bakery for a bite. It was delicious, and we remained dry.

2. Shop a little longer
Unless you have to leave a building, why bother? Very few things cannot be postponed. I got out of reading Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man three times as an undergraduate. That is evidence enough of this philosophy.

3. Be thrilled you parked in the parking garage
The fact that shopping started at that point is just evidence that, for once, the gods were on your side. It never will happen again.

4. Choose the perfect spot for a nap
While beds are usually prime real estate for this experience, look beyond the expected. That spot on the couch will work just as well. Even that spot on the floor next to the couch. Use your imagination.

5. Start reading Robinson Crusoe
I keep trying, but PayPal keeps thwarting me. AbeBooks hasn't, though, so I heartily recommend that great service. No offense, but eBay doesn't really make purchasing that easy for the dedicated reader like me, and PayPal isn't always our friend.

So, what are your top five things to do on a rainy Saturday afternoon?

Friday, May 23, 2008

Communal Reading: There's Nothing Like It!

We already have established that I'm a compulsive reader. Nothing is safe from my eyes. I would read an aspirin bottle over and over if it was my only source of reading material. (Perish the thought!)

Now, the question is, "What brings me joy when I read?"

I discovered it this weekend as I picked up the book Fluke. Carole reviewed it and loved it, and I thought I'd read it, too. I had just finished Julia's Chocolates and posted my revisit of the book to compliment Carole's review. As we talked about the books she had read that were perched around my house, I watched her peruse two books she was interested in starting: Under the Tuscan Sun and A Great and Terrible Beauty.

"Tell me when you start that one!" I said as I picked up the latter title from the pool table. "I'll start it, too, and we'll read it together." Then I sighed. "I miss that."

What brings me joy when I read: sharing.

Oh, I'm not that altruistic. The act of reading is very pleasurable for me and I'd do it alone. I have. But how much better to share the discovery of a book with a friend?

Carole and I anxiously await the next book by Jasper Fforde or Geraldine Brooks (to name just a couple of our faves). When we get the new book in hand, we choose the day we start, and that's when we crack the spine on the book. It's great to compare where we are and what did we think when — well, you get the gist. I love the conversations that begin, "Where are you?" No salutation, no lead — just the meat (or, for us vegetarians, the tofu) of the conversation.

There are times when one of us sallies forth into the water, then waves our companion into the water. There are times when one of us should. (Or not. Need I mention The Last Templar?) Then there are times when the sand and surf are perfect and we splash in together, jellyfish and horseshoe crabs be darned!

I love when Carole sallies forth. She waves me into some great treats. I love to do that for her, too.

I also love to toss in some unknowns ("It looked good" or "The jacket is intriguing" or "It won the Costa Book Award in 2007, and Geraldine Brooks has a favorable blurb on the cover"). One never knows if the title will pan out, or if the blurbs were more mercenary than honest. Sometimes she loved it and I couldn't find a hook. Other times Carole can't get past the sloth on page 50 (if it's big enough, who could?).

But as nice as the quiet, solitary read is, nothing quite compares to the phone call that starts in the middle:
"Oh, my stars, I can't believe how Jack finally told Mary about the painting!"
"I know!"

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

My Space on MySpace

I have launched myself into social media with MySpace.

To be fair, it wasn't my idea. Those kinds of places seemed destined for college kids or people "looking for trouble" (due to "pirate hat" kinds of photos — is it a children's party or a drunken revelry?). How better to be misunderstood or trapped in cyberspace than with a Web presence that can be misinterpreted?

Then Valerie asked if I was on MySpace. Her siblings, cousins — heck, her entire family was on MySpace. Why wasn't I? (She was nicer than that.)

So, I decided I'd take the plunge. Oh, I'd start by dipping my little toe into the surf. I'd get a page, get Valerie to "friend" me, then I'd be satisfied. I'd be there, lurking — but without any risk.

Then I started posting a photo or two. These were photos I thought the kids would like to see of themselves and their dad. Then there was photos of David. And of them. And of Conor and Karen and Vicky and Alicia and Mel. And of — me. Oh, nothing scandalous (unless you consider a tiny muffin scandal-worthy!). But why not?

The photos were a hit and Val picked up one right away. (It had her boyfriend Jessie in it — how could she resist?) Then a few others of her siblings. Thankfully I figured out how to set the privacy setting before I posted the tiny muffin photo. (Some things just cannot be explained.)

I have "friended" Vicky, too, hoping for photos or videos of Conor.

Now I have one more reason to spend way too much time on the computer. However, the kids are on, which is the real reason to be in MyCyberSpace. So far, very cool. I'll let you know how it goes.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Without Poetry — Now What? Nuptials!

I had a nice niche going there last month with poetry, didn't I? Now I have to think of something original. It won't be hard, especially while planning a wedding.

I had a bit of a shock this past weekend while looking for information on local hair salons. I have one I like to use, but the cost of an "up-do" seemed extravagant. So, being the mindful consumer, I decided to see at what prices others were selling their services.

May I say that weddings are a racket?

We could start with the woman at the Snooty Dress Boutique who audibly sniffed when I told her I was marrying in less than two months — and I didn't want to pay for my wedding dress the same amount I spent on my car. As Carole noted, I could pay that much for a dress and, unless the Sniffy Woman is psychic, she doesn't know that. She never will, either.

But then there was the delightful woman at Gossypia who treated me like her favorite client when I just walked in off the street. She literally pulled dress after dress off the rack for an hour, zipping me in and offering suggestions. When I walked out with nothing (only because they didn't have the dress in my size), she told me where I might find it in my limited time frame, even if it wasn't there, then hugged me and wished me the most happiness.

There's good and trying with anything. My favorite cake bakery surprised me by telling me that as I was ordering a cake for a Thursday, I would need to pick it up myself that afternoon. I'll be stopping by there this week to clarify why I need to pick up a cake a block away on one of the least busy wedding days of the year — then, based on that answer, decide if I want the cake or the service.

But then there are the success stories:
  • My favorite nail place told me to just try to call the day before I needed my nails done — but if I couldn't do that, they'd still take care of me.
  • My caterer is a friend who is personally making sure I get exactly what I want — and at a price that takes the sting out of just about every other financial indignity I've faced so far. She is thinking of all of the things I can't, and I am so thrilled. It really is different when I am on the other side of the aisle, so to speak.
  • My friend Louise is making most of my floral arrangements, and all I have to do is tell her which flowers.
  • My friend Laura oversees Old Town Hall, and she has helped me in every way possible so far — and, I know, will continue to patiently answer my questions. (I just thought of another one!)

Once I stop hyperventilating over the cost of, well, everything (hint: do not shop for bathing suits in the midst of wedding planning), I'll call my hair salon and see exactly what the up-do deal is. Vicky said it was the best money she ever spent, having her makeup and hair done. I'm sure she's right.

I just have to remember to pot the plants in the teacups before my manicure — and put myself in the hands of professionals I hope I can trust.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Final Poem to Close National Poetry Month

Ladies and gentlemen, I've had fun sharing poems with you for the past month. I will continue to do so as the year progresses and we slip into the next National Poetry Month.

I leave you with this poem, one I wrote a few years ago. One of my favorite singing duos is Lowen and Navarro, to whom my buddy Rob introduced me a few years ago. I always write poetry at their concerts.

"If I Was the Rain," written by Eric Lowen, has a wonderful verse:
I'd strike a chord within each each heart
wherever they were torn apart —
and if that helped them heal themselves
maybe we'd find out where forgiveness starts.

Wow, where does forgiveness start? I wondered. Many of my poem's images came pretty quickly. I have to say, I like this poem, and I thank Eric and Dan for their creativity.

I've also been inspired by their songs "Maybe Later" and "If You Loved Me Like That," and one of these days I'll share those poems with you.

In the meantime, my fellow poets who contributed bathroom and daffodil poems should keep their eyes on their mailboxes. The rest of you should keep reading poems.

And if someone knows how to edit in indents on this blog, let me know. The first lines of the second and third stanzas should be further right, but darned if I know how!

Where forgiveness starts

Here at the end of the road, where
sharp, dying brown needles from
ancient pine trees block the moonlight,
the blackened remains of the cabin
rests on its haunches, like a cat.
The floorboards that once
hid under my bed are crumbling
planks, dissolving to dust
in my hands, that still
cover the dented, rusting silver
tin sequestering my journal,
its pages blistered by my shame.

My body remembers
the path to the lake, head ducks low under
limbs of scorched, barren cherry
trees, feet tread over decrepit termite-
ridden asp, skim across sticky leaves
then meet the sharp gravel along
shore, where the waves lap delicately,
as though a creature has
langurously glided past just
below the glassy surface reflecting
the quarter moon dappled by
cirrus clouds.

I dive
to the tangle of roots where it was once
safe and wedge the tin securely in
the velvety ooze. Lacing my fingers through
the veins of ancient silver maple,
I finally feel the shocking ice
water wash away your fingerprints.
The obsidian water and the deafening
silence wrap me like swaddling
cloths, and yet they cannot
bind the one who has come
to let go. I float to the surface,
forgiving myself, the last person
against whom I still hold a grudge.

by Chris Fow

Friday, May 2, 2008

Life-Changing Decisions, and the Last Bathroom Poem

I have to admit, I have no desire to go back and change a single thing in my past. No matter how painful, how catastrophic, how collossally wrong, I wouldn't change a thing. If I did, I wouldn't be here.

Here is good. Here is my besheret, fabulous friends, loving family, crazy cats, rewarding job, comfortable house, hybrid vehicle and never enough books. If I changed "there," I wouldn't be here, and I love here.

So here's a poem about "here" for someone thinking about "there." Oh, then a bathroom poem. Enjoy!

Second Chance

In my dream I return
to the place I went
wrong, and given this
chance to change
things, I go on
down the way I went
before. Even in sleep
I know there is only one go—
and it went well
the first time. Where
it didn't- well, it will
be good to see her again.

by Louis McKee
from Near Occasions of Sin. © Cynic Press.

Is anyone listening?

Faces come and go
Some smiling, others frowning
Children splash their hands under my faucet that is in need of repair
An old man quietly sits as he waits for the sound of splashing water
Through my window I can see the Ferris wheel go round and round
Screams and laughter are heard from a distance

I can smell those world famous dogs sizzling on the grill
If I can see and hear all these things then why, why can’t they hear me?
My paint is peeling
It itches my skin
My vibrant colors are no longer there
I feel so alone and nearly in the dark
Two of my bulbs are no longer bright
If you think its dim now just wait till tonight

If you can hear me then please grant my wish
Change my towel
It smells like a dead fish
Coat me with new blue paint but first scrub the rust
Sweep my feet and get rid of the dust

I want to smell nice and have a new shine
If you look behind my stall you may find a dime
I think it shows heads so do pick it up
Use the money for yourself or simply give it away
Just please grant my wish and make me feel nice
A little rub here and a polish of my brass
Is that too much to ask?

by Bill Kitzerow

Thursday, May 1, 2008

These Poems are Necessary

Because every month really is National Poetry Month, let's keep the party going just a little longer. Enjoy these two poems, including one from a recurring poet in our midst.

Touch Me

Summer is late, my heart.
Words plucked out of the air
some forty years ago
when I was wild with love
and torn almost in two
scatter like leaves this night
of whistling wind and rain.
It is my heart that's late,
it is my song that's flown.
Outdoors all afternoon
under a gunmetal sky
staking my garden down,
I kneeled to the crickets trilling
underfoot as if about
to burst from their crusty shells;
and like a child again
marveled to hear so clear
and brave a music pour
from such a small machine.
What makes the engine go?
Desire, desire, desire.
The longing for the dance
stirs in the buried life.
One season only,
and it's done.
So let the battered old willow
thrash against the windowpanes
and the house timbers creak.
Darling, do you remember
the man you married? Touch me,
remind me who I am.

by Stanley Kunitz
from Staying Alive, Real Poems for Unreal Times. © Miramax Books, 2003.

And, because I can't stop giving you poems, here is one of the bathroom poems:

I Have My Own

I have my own
They share

Mine is mine
Theirs is theirs

Mine has a clean sink
Theirs does not

My toothbrush is in my cabinet
Theirs are not

My shower is new
Theirs is not

I don’t share mine
Only in dire emergencies

I don’t go into theirs
Only in dire emergencies

I am happy with my own
They are not

by Maryclare Maslyn

Don't worry, there's more to come!

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Daffodils, Parents (and a Peek at Tomorrow)

Here are a couple of poems you might like.

Those Winter Sundays

Sundays too my father got up early
And put his clothes on in the blueback cold,
then with cracked hands that ached
from labor in the weekday weather made
banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him.

I'd wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking.
When the rooms were warm, he'd call,
and slowly I would rise and dress,
fearing the chronic angers of that house,

Speaking indifferently to him,
who had driven out the cold
and polished my good shoes as well.
What did I know, what did I know
of love's austere and lonely offices?

by Robert Hayden

Plus a final daffodil poem from my friend, a very gifted poet:

at a girls' school

The halls of our high school
quivered with the voices of girls
selling frilly-mouthed daffodils
to mark the start of Spring.

We girls, our first years there,
wore dark wool and saddle shoes.
In time, we graduated into gray
blazers and dun-colored weejuns.

But always the daffodils returned
to school at the onset of Spring,
as if the first flares of radiant,
sunshiny flowers could erase

everything drab or lackluster
around us -- even dingy winter.

by Lenny Lianne, 2008

And don't think the poems will stop today. The madness and magic will continue! There still is poetry to experience, including poems from you, and even from me. Really. See you tomorrow!

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Manhood and Aunt Cleone

Today, on the eve of the last of National Poetry Month, I offer you two very different poems courtesy of The Writer's Almanac — because I can't decide.

Her Legacy
For Aunt Cleone

After the divorce,
she sent me twenty dollars
tucked into the folds
of her crinkly blue stationery
written hard on both sides.
No use crying
over spilt milk, she said,
still, what a shame. There
never had been divorce
in the family. By then,
I had a child
and could barely remember
my aunt's voice, but her certainties
were plain. No leaping
off cliffs for her.
The whir of the sewing machine,
her shelves lined with canned goods
straight from the garden,
that was more her way. Her long letters,
full of other people's news,
never mentioned
my father's silence,
or her own lack of children.
From a quick how are you,
she'd go right to
the surgery of a neighbor
I would never meet,
or what a nice visit
she'd just enjoyed with Elsie.
Who was Elsie? I never exactly knew.
But, after all, weren't we all part
of the great messy human family?
It swirled around her kitchen,
where she tied a fresh apron
around her waist,
and carried on.
She would hope for the best,
she concluded before signing her name.
Use the money
for something special.
Something just for you.

by Barbara Bloom
from On the Water Meridian. © The Hummingbird Press, 2007

The Rites of Manhood

It's snowing hard enough that the taxis aren't running.
I'm walking home, my night's work finished,
long after midnight, with the whole city to myself,
when across the street I see a very young American sailor
standing over a girl who's kneeling on the sidewalk
and refuses to get up although he's yelling at her
to tell him where she lives so he can take her there
before they both freeze. The pair of them are drunk
and my guess is he picked her up in a bar
and later they got separated from his buddies
and at first it was great fun to play at being
an old salt at liberty in a port full of women with
hinges on their heels, but by now he wants only to
find a solution to the infinitely complex
problem of what to do about her before he falls into
the hands of the police or the shore patrol
—and what keeps this from being squalid is
what's happening to him inside:
if there were other sailors here
it would be possible for him
to abandon her where she is and joke about it
later, but he's alone and the guilt can't be
divided into small forgettable pieces;
he's finding out what it means
to be a man and how different it is
from the way that only hours ago he imagined it.

by Alden Nowlan
from What Happened When He Went to the Store for Bread

Thanks to Maryclare Maslyn and Bill Kitzerow for their bathroom poems; I will publish them next.

Monday, April 28, 2008

The Longly-Weds

Is there a pre-nuptial pasta anniversary? If so, David and I will celebrate it as he tries to snake out the kitchen drain that holds a pound of angel hair pasta (and I thought the hard part was cooking a second pound!).

The Eggshell Debacle of 2004 was temporary, so there is hope....

The Longly-Weds Know

That it isn't about the Golden Anniversary at all,
But about all the unremarkable years
that Hallmark doesn't even make a card for.

It's about the 2nd anniversary when they were surprised
to find they cared for each other more than last year

And the 4th when both kids had chickenpox
and she threw her shoe at him for no real reason

And the 6th when he accidentally got drunk on the way
home from work because being a husband and father
was so damn hard

It's about the 11th and 12th and 13th years when
they discovered they could survive crisis

And the 22nd anniversary when they looked
at each other across the empty nest, and found it good.

It's about the 37th year when she finally
decided she could never change him

And the 38th when he decided
a little change wasn't that bad

It's about the 46th anniversary when they both
bought cards, and forgot to give them to each other

But most of all it's about the end of the 49th year
when they discovered you don't have to be old

to have your 50th anniversary!!!!

by Leah Furnas
from To Love One Another

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Prayers, Daffodils

Today: a poem courtesy of The Writer's Alamanc and the last of the daffodil poems.

Prayer Chain

My mother called to tell me
about an old classmate of mine who

was dying on the parish prayer chain—
or was very sick—or destitute—

or it had not worked out—the marriage—
or the kids were all on drugs—and

all the old mothers were praying intensely
for all the pain of their children

and for life—they were praying for life—
in their quiet rooms—sipping decaf coffee—

I bet they've been praying for me at times—
so I'll find my way—so I won't rob a bank—

I'll take them—the mystical prayers of old mothers—
it matters—all this patient and purposeful love.

by Tim Nolan

As you can tell from the biography, Tim Nolan is a lawyer by trade. The last, but not least, of the daffodil poems comes from another person who helps keep us on the straight and narrow.


The challenge was a bit daffy
but I hear the roar of the trumpets and this quest I must bare

Will I turn yellow and run from fear of trying to enlighten this central crown?

Only time shall tell! ……

Not a rose bud so my sleigh I can not seek

I must be quick witted and firmly plant my feet

It’s April and as you know spring is finally here

I’m not a drinking man but I could sure use a cold beer

The frost of the glass would tickle my tongue as the yellow colored malt will ease my senses

Why a Daffodil? It’s just a silly bulbous plant

Why not something more easily described? The smell of bacon cooked in the morning or the aroma of a fresh pot of coffee on a chilly morning in May

I can hear the trumpets playing softly from its pretty yellow crown

I was hoping some one else could hear it but there is no one else around

I now can see why she does this to me

Mother Nature you are a pest, but since you are here forever and I am just a guest

I will enjoy the sights and smells that you so graciously offer and thank for the rain you send and sunshine on my shoulder

The wind in my back, the sun in my face makes this Daffodil garden such a wonderful place.

by Bill Kitzerow

Remember, today is the deadline for submitting your bathroom poems. Now, I cannot remember which day is which, so if your poem comes in on Monday, who's the wiser? Not I, I assure you. So keep those cards and poems coming!