Friday, July 05, 2013


I have turned 39. Turned. Rounded the edge to 39. 39, the almost forty. The epically almost. ALMOST.

And on my 39th birthday, I got a message that I had won $650. For filling out surveys. Really. Really? Yup, really. I usually don't do that kind of thing (I won't win, so I shouldn't do it), but somehow when I filled them out I thought, shit, I've got something to say that they want to hear, so I'm gonna win that money. And I did.  The. Fuck?

And you know what I realized? I realized that all of the things I didn't enter, didn't venture do because I thought I wouldn't win... I could have won. But I never did. I never won because I stopped myself from ever trying. In my mind I had lost before I had even started.

Before this starts sounding like a motivational speech that a high school football coach might deliver to his group of rag-tag losers, let me say that none of this should be particularly epiphanic. I'm not the smartest person in the world, but I can be pretty insightful sometimes. Sometimes.

How can it be that I made it all the way to 39 without calling myself out on my bullshit? WHO ELSE HASN'T BEEN CALLING ME OUT ON MY BULLSHIT, BUT SHOULD HAVE? YOU? YOU OVER THERE? Did I need more than 10 years of therapy only to NOT GET TO THIS?

Or is it true that I had to "come to it myself"... because, really, that is TOTALLY UNSATISFYING and I dare say really fucking late. I could have come to this at 29 and still had a really productive decade behind me. But no.

As much as I hate to say it, are THEY right? The people who say with age comes wisdom? I think that doesn't fully describe this scenario. I'll work on a catchy headline to try and describe my utter lack of emotional ability to, in a timely manner, recognize this easy truth...:

With Age Comes Giving Less of a Fuck About Failure

Optimism for No Good Reason Might Have Changed Life for the Past Ten Years

I've Done a Lot of Shit, But I Should Have Done a Lot More

"I like to sleep too much!"-- Local Woman Laments

Too many amazing things have happened to people around me-- random people. Now these amazing things are going to happen to me, too. (I happen to have just finished watching the last few minutes of the Muppet Movie with my son... and I may just be high on Muppet fumes), but all Muppet-related disclaimers aside,

I'm Gonna Do Some Shit. And It's Gonna Be Awesome. 

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Where have all the saucers gone?

I've been loading and unloading the dishwasher a lot lately. This might sound like a strange statement, (umm, ok? Was she living with piles of dishes like an episode of Hoarders for years?) but the feeling is true. I had ankle surgery earlier this year and had been laid up for months prior with torn this, fractured that, and for God's sakes don't stand on it! So loading the dishwasher was not something I did for a long, long time. A long blissful, exquisite time.

Like many things that are blissful and exquisite, this time was finite. Ankle open, ankle closed, stand up! I can stand everybody! I'm healed! Oh, wait a minute... I don't get to walk around just being fabulous on my ankle and having people say you can WALK! I thought you'd never walk! Look at you, all walking and shit! 

Which brings me to the dishwasher. Literally. Standing. In front of the dishwasher. That big, yawning, toothless chasm to be filled with this and this and that which must stand up and that which must not under any circumstances stand up. Spoons with avocado (nature's butter, or nature's super glue?) bowls with errant kernels of rice, coffee cups with their planetary rings of dinge. 

Now, my husband actually kind of enjoys loading the dishwasher. It's like grown-up Tetris (I ask: who would ever really want to play grown-up anything?) He likes the challenge of making things fit. Optimizing. I, however, have limited powers as such. I've got some things down, and the rest of it? Enh. Enh enh enh. Shrug. Stick it in, close the door, run that sucker. Ain't nothing in life that's perfect. Some things don't deserve more than a cursory try.

Upon opening, (the big reveal!) warm. clean. smooth. white. And the calisthenics of bend, grasp, unfurl, place. Stack coffee cups, perfect. Tea cups, uncooperative. Their handles force them akimbo like girls with attitudes. The saucers-- do we even use saucers anymore? Who is using saucers? WHY are they using saucers? Reach to the back of the cabinet where saucers belong. One lone saucer upon which to stack. Maybe three total, tops. Out of 12. There were twelve once. Like the lost tribes of the Israelites, at some point there was fullness, there was perfection. And then dispersion. 

From what was once a complete, things have multiplied and divided and disappeared, all without any kind of realization, any kind of whole picture of the state of things. As I finish, shoving spatulas into drawers (they are best nested, with their kind), I think, well, at least I can close the cabinet doors. And no matter how much I may detest loading and unloading the dishwasher, I can do it. And I don't have to stand at the sink and wash everything by hand, like in the days before dishwashers. 

There is equilibrium, somehow. Load, unload. Short stack, tall stack. Perfect fit, precarious jostle. The balance is not in the kitchen, per se, but in the person loading and unloading. The practiced bend and reach. The movement.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011


The "Top 10 Emailed Articles" on the New York Times web site today:

1. An Immune System Trained to Kill Cancer
2. In Study, Fatherhood Leads to Drop in Testosterone
3. If It Feels Right...
4. A Child's Nap Is More Complicated Than It Looks
5. The Stone: The Meaningfulness of Lives
6. The Trouble With Homework
7. In Suburb, Battle Goes Public on Bullying of Gay Students
8. An Impeccable Disaster
9. A Squirt of Insulin May Delay Alzheimer's
10. Well: Is SpongeBob SquarePants Bad for Children?

America, I think we may need to up our meds.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Pretty for you

Not to take the place of words, but sometimes you just need pretty.

This is a picture I took in 2003 in Barcelona of the floor in a house designed by Gaudi.  The shadows are cast from a lace curtain.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Old moon, new moon?

Last night, at 10:38pm, I was quite a sight to see.  Sitting on the leather couch in the basement, wrapped in blankets, a giant metal bowl which had contained my dinner-- 10 cups of popcorn dusted with nutritional yeast-- sobbing.  

Sobbing because I was tired and didn't know how to just go to sleep.  And because my husband has been gone almost a week to a conference in Poland.  And I know it shouldn't make a difference where he's gone to, but the further away he is, the harder gravity pulls the tides up within me.  

I am always shocked by this occurrence: it seems so out of character for me.  But I actually know it very well.  It's the straw widow peeking out.  The straw widow comes out only when the moon is new, and everything is quiet and dark.  

It always seemed strange to me that the new moon is called just that-- new-- because we experience it as an absence.  New suggests, somehow, presence.  

Then again, sometimes for the new to appear, room must be made.  Reminds me of the haiku by Mizuta Masahide:

Barn's burnt down --
I can see the moon.

Sobbing by yourself in your finished basement while watching an episode of a teenage musical drama while your two beautiful, perfect children sleep two floors above you is inane.  Yes, I was sobbing because I was tired.  And overwhelmed.  And unable to let go.  And missing my husband desperately.  

Which is actually, in a sense, redeeming.  I was crying-- stupidly, gulping for air and (though it was dark and I was alone) with a speckled, hottening face-- because in that stupid, stupid teenage love, I could feel the stupid feeling that I needed to feel.  Out of control and desperate for the love of someone I could not have (at least for the moment).  

It's embarrassing to feel you've become untethered.  It's embarrassing-- even in your own basement (perhaps especially in your own basement)-- to let go.  To sob.  

But, to my surprise-- I did just that.  I let it go.  The sobbing did something for me.  

Should that surprise me?  Actually, maybe it shouldn't.  Funny, that thing.  It's like as a baby, all you know is unravel unravel unravel and need the world to swaddle you in.  Then you become that binding for yourself; you become the binding for others. 

Sometimes that unravel unravel unravel is okay.  I really am OK.  Sad, but OK.  I can unravel sometimes, even if just to the floor.  Then I can be retrieved.  I can retrieve myself.  Weave, unweave.  Weave.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Rainbow Connection

In this blog post, MamaH exposes her bedtime tropes, which include mash-ups of AA Milne stories and the Three Stooges, as played by vegetables.  Very small vegetables.  

Baby Broccoli (whose name was a sad attempt at trying to get my son to respect vegetables) cohabits with Pooh and Piglet in the Hundred Acre wood.  Baby Broccoli's sidekick is Baby Corn, and the two little imps are always off on some adventure that Pooh and Piglet have to extricate them from.

Usually, the stories end up in some sort of slapstick race where one unlikely thing happens after the next.  My son thinks they are hilarious.  In fact, they are so hilarious that he ends up jumping up and down in the bed, squealing at the twists and turns in the story, and waking up his little sister who had inevitably *just* settled down to sleep.

I haven't figured out exactly what these two "boys" look like-- do they look like broccoli and corn?  Because that's sort of creepy.  Anyhow, my son doesn't seem to mind. The main thing is that they are funny, single-word-with-exclamation-point-screaming boys.  They appeal.

However, they don't necessarily serve the purpose of a bedtime story to CALM and RELAX.  At the end of the story, my son is inevitably:

a) Belligerent
b) Crying
c) Shouting continuations "...and then they get in a rocket ship and go up up up to the moooooon!"
d) Crying from having laughed so hard

Tonight was "movie night", so that necessitated a shorter version of events, and preferably one that did not involve keeping up the already-past-her-experation-date sister.  

Tonight Baby Broccoli and Baby Corn witnessed a quadruple rainbow in the field across the street, and ran over to catch it.  They ran and ran, feeling like the closer they got to it, the more it receded.  Until they stopped and looked around and realized that they were actually IN the rainbow.  The rainbow enveloped the entire field and became a sort of glowing blanket that skimmed over the surface of the ground.  

The two boys found that they could run and slide on it; they could arc around as though ice skating; the slightest of pressure with their hands or feet could steer them one way or another, as if swimming, or weightless in space.

There need be no end to this story.  No closure, no resolution.  Baby Broccoli, Baby Corn, my son and the rainbow.  Sublime.

Monday, May 16, 2011

I came, I saw, I said too much

Even though my days as a poetry graduate student are far, far behind me, I still seem to have some of the self-perception issues that plagued me in the day.  You see, the job of a poet (at least as I see it) is to say something essential; say it with an economy of words-- only the right words; transmit messages that are encoded and decoded, so they are sort of an app that shows up and opens itself to the reader-- enacting, running the program. 
The problem is, I don't have the will to be a poet.  I have the ideas; I have the language; I have the spiritual desire to make things.  I am just afraid.  I am also inconstant.  I distract easily.  I am a magpie of ideas and images.  Oooooh!  Look at the pretty over there! And zap, moving on.

Except, recently, after a long blogging hiatus and exorbitant facebooking, I signed up to audition for "Listen to Your Mother".  LTYM was started last year by Blogstress with the Mostess and Jewish Humorista Ann Imig, who also happens to have a son with the same name as mine, and who is a parent at my son's former preschool.

Last year I did not read at LTYM.  I feared "I am woman hear me roar" or, worse, Hallmark theater.  When I dared peer into last year's video of LTYM, I was blown away.  Nothing of my fears.  But fierceness.  FIERCENESS.  And people I couldn't have imagined listening to, I listened to.  They had something to say to me.  

So when I saw the call for auditions this year for LTYM I said to myself SHIT.  I don't want to do this I do NOT WANT TO DO THIS.  But my mother self said Screw you it'll be good for you.  Mother knows best, doesn't she?  Crap.

I struggled and struggled.  What did I have to talk about?  What DIDN'T I have to talk about?  Fret fret fret frette.  Frette is a bedspread.  A yucky bedspread.  Write anything.

So, on the urging of a friend,  I wrote a poem.  I fell back on writing a sestina, because I love sestinas (I particularly love this sestina from Elizabeth Bishop called "One Art").  I love the repetition of the end words.  So, here was my sestina.  Not perfect, but not half bad:

Sestina for Six AM

I woke up at six.
Through the monitor, my daughter was having a serious word
 with the assembled animals in her bed.
 What I understood was only a fragment,
 some misbehavior.  Some laughing.  Stop!
 The wards were getting restless.  I the mom! I mom!
 Then the rankling, like a cup against metal bars.  Maaaaaaaamiiiiiiiiiiii
 as if suddenly she were reminded of my existence as the six
 o’clock alarm clicked on at five past to stop
 her machinations.  She utters THE word
 which makes all things happen; which lifts her from her bed
 into the morning which continues like a fragment
 of some conversation from the night before, not rested, but embedded
 and continued.  Even Dora calls out from the infernal talking dollhouse, “Hola, mama!
 as if we must be surrounded by things that fragment
 our thoughts to not let us get too deep; The six
 year old slumbers on.  Sometimes I can hear the murmur of unintelligible words
 through his door, a flow that doesn’t stop
 even when it seems like all motion, all thought should stop.
 It’s like constant traffic, even in bed.
 Syllables being hatched and born into words.
 What is that like?  To be born into words, like mom
 came to mean ME six
 years ago (I have to count on my fingers), as though even that fragment
 of control, of time, escapes me.  I peel fragments
 of the orange and place it on the tray, in front of my daughter and stop
 in thought.  Or out of thought.  Then she counts back to me-- to six
 though she does not-- cannot-- understand numbers.  She sings No more beeeehd
 because it makes sense, doesn’t it to her? Mom
 is the beginning of word.
 are just a convenient way of taking fragments
 and making sense.  Yes, slivered, mom
 is elemental, full-stop.
 Developed or grown from seed in the world’s flower bed.
 In the beginning, God created six 
 days and rested on the seventh. Mom has a word
 for Six AM.  It is eternal.  It does not rest; it fragments.
 Stop.  Go back to bed.

But that was just what got me started.  Now I was furiously trying to find something else-- I was NOT going to read poetry in front of an audience again.  N-O-T, as in NOTHANKYOU.  Then a friend-- Jen over at the Checkered Chicken-- encouraged me to write about my relationship with my mother.  

So apparently that's how I ended up reading on Mother's Day in front of 350 people at the Barrymore Theater in Madison with 12 other amazing mothers.  I still can't believe I did it-- mostly because I can't believe what I said IN FRONT OF 350 PEOPLE, including, apparently, former Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold.  Really?  Did I really have to clue in the Feds in front of Russ freaking Feingold?  

I guess I did.  I will post the video as soon as it is up.  In the meantime, believe me that it was great and awful and freeing.  And now I'm here doing the blog thing again because what more can happen to me if I don't try?  Nothing.  Nothing will happen if you don't try.  Things may happen TO you, but they won't happen FOR you.  

So listen to me.  Pretend I'm your mother.  I'll make you eggs.  Now get out of here.