Thursday, December 30, 2010

Night Dreaming

My little one screams
The same terror I have heard
From her
Night after night
Since she was two

"Stay away!"
"But that is mine!"
Or simply the blood-chilling
Screeching fright of being chased by a lion
Or a dark, brooding unseen thing
With a growl

I, too, have had my dreams
But when I was young
They were dreams of flight
Of escape from the ground
A gentle lifting off from rooftops
A soft, not-too-sad goodbye before I floated away
To a kinder place
On my own

Listening to my daughter
When I reach for her
And whisper words to end the dream
I wonder why
Her dreams are not like mine
Why she can't fly,
But why she runs instead from unseen fears

Have I made her life that fearful
When I'd hoped to make her happy?
Not like me when I was young,
Afraid of everything around me
When my dreams were ended, my eyes opened.

Perhaps I had no need
For more fear
Perhaps my dreams allowed me to escape
The fears I knew too well.

Perhaps my daughter
To be human
Must fear something
Even something she cannot see, or name,
But she does not wish
To escape her life, her fearsome life,
As I once did.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Hard Part

The hard part
Isn't living

It's seeing the bad in the world
Watching people take
And take and take

And then still getting up in the morning
Reaching out to others
To give everything.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Light a Candle, and Shine

I've been saying good-bye to a lot of things lately. Tomorrow my family and I take off for a new home and a new life a few thousand miles from where we've been living for the last four and a half years, and the good-byes have been multiplying as time has grown short.

But I have another good-bye to say, one I knew was coming, but one that hit me hard nonetheless. My beloved grandma Jeanne passed away yesterday. I don't know the details yet, but the details don't matter. Jeanne had been sick for a very long time, so I am happy that her suffering is over. I am also grieved, deeply grieved, and today I hope to be able to express why.

I have known Jeanne all my life. I called her Jeanne even as a kid, for the term "grandma" made her feel old. I was one of dozens of grandchildren in a very large extended family. It wasn't until I was fifteen, though, that I really "knew" Jeanne. I spent two weeks that summer with the Three Musketeers--Jeanne, Aunt Sue, and Aunt Leilali--and I believe that was the first time I felt unconditionally loved. Certainly, my older sister had always made it clear that she thought I was great, and even then we were close, but I was a shy child, and it was all too easy to be overlooked and ignored. I didn't really think I was much of anything. My little light burned inside me, but I couldn't really see it.

Jeanne--and my two aunts--saw my light from the moment I walked in the door. I wasn't just a teenager, or just a granddaughter or niece. I was a beautiful little candle, barely lit, but shining out just the same. Jeanne focused on that little light of mine and did all she could to encourage it. She bought me my first pair of glasses when she realized I was pretty much blind. She spent that week telling me how beautiful I looked with glasses. And I felt beautiful, perhaps more beautiful than I ever had before.

Another year she bought me fabric on Mother's Day, telling me, "Every girl should get a Mother's Day present. You'll be a mother some day." And she was right, for I did become a mother. She told me stories, encouraged me, listened to me, watched movies with me, and gave her smile to me over and over. She'd had a hard childhood--far harder than mine--but she smiled every day, and when she smiled the whole world lit up, warm and comforting and encouraging.

I visited Jeanne's house every summer for six years, and my flame grew and grew, glowing brighter with each year, with each word of encouragement. I held onto that flame through the rest of the year, as I hold onto it now, and I have learned to let it shine on my own. Now that she is gone, I know I can keep my flame alive, that I can be strong, that I will do well even if she is not here to encourage me.

But that is precisely why I grieve. Jeanne helped me so much, but I know there are so many out who need a Jeanne of their own--someone to make it clear they are loved and supported, someone to help their flame grow--and she cannot help them anymore.

And so the candle is passed. I have learned from a master, and it's time for me to take up the task in earnest. My two children need the same unconditional love from me, every single day. My students need it, too, as do my friends. The girl who bought my minivan yesterday needs it, so that she can complete her GED and support her three young children. My neighbors need it as they raise kids, work, and pursue their own goals. My new town will need it, so it's my job to keep my candle lit and use it to encourage the lights around me to glow as brightly as they can.

I can't promise to do it well. I've already made some huge mistakes. But it's my job, my task, and I am grateful that I had Jeanne to show me how it's done. Jeanne, the light of your candle will never die, for it lives in me now, as it does in every person you have touched.

I will love you forever.

Sunday, December 12, 2010


Tip-tapping toes
To the bathroom
And a yellow light
My little one is up
For the morning

Glimmering through the haze
Of morning, the sun's
Yellow warmth melts
The blue frost
On neighbor's rooftops

Sparkling from eaves
Patterned across a crisp lawn
Bulbs light the way
With holiday cheer

Over there
Closer with every step
The light at the end of the tunnel
As my heart beats faster

The plane, high in the dark
The black of sky
Seeks the lights below
The strong lines
Guiding it in to its new place

Lights show the path
Of expectation
Of hope
Of rebirth
Of the new

Saturday, December 11, 2010


Tears of sadness
For friends I'll miss
Friends I'll never see again

Tears of regret
The souls I've missed
By passing through
Too quickly

Tears of pain
From the dismissal
From those who averted their eyes
Too self-centered to look at me for a moment

Tears of hope
Of adventure coming
Meeting it will all my energies
To make the next step greater than the last

Tears of promise
To use the everything I have
To become more
To make the world greater

Tears of joy
At new life
New possibilities
A fresh start
A new me

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Is it Time to Panic?

A few weeks ago, after I'd finished packing up the china cabinet and my husband had packed (most of) the man cave, he looked me in the eye and said, "I think we're almost done. This move isn't going to be hard at all."

And he wasn't joking.

Not to be goaded into a false sense of calm, I answered, "We aren't close, and this is going to be hard."

Guess. Go on, guess who was right. You know the answer. Since I'm the one writing this blog, and the title has the word "panic" in it, you know I'm the one who was right. I would guess we're still only 25% done with the packing, and we still have to say good-bye to all the people here, finish getting all documents ready for closing on our new house, pack the other 75%, scrub down the house from top to bottom, go to every doctor (it seems), enroll the kids in the new school, sell two vehicles, sell a bunch of furniture on Craigslist (I just posted it all yesterday), finish both courses, help the hubby recover from oral surgery this coming Thursday... should I keep going? Really?

So here it is: Panic, panic, PANIC, panic, panic, more panic, PANIC, PANIC, PANIC, panic, PANIC!!!!

And that's it. I'm done. All done panicking. It's a waste of time anyway, panicking is, and it will only get me a heart attack. Besides, it makes breathing difficult and gives me a headache.

Now it's time to get to work. I have a library, playroom, and kitchen to pack, along with other ducks to put in a row. Talk to you later!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Christmas at the Piano

My mother-in-law has a great sense of humor.

"Since you don't have anything to do right now," she says, just after we've discussed the move, the end of term grading, the end-of-year optometrist and dentist appointments, the house we're buying, etc., "why don't you practice some Christmas music, so that we can sing carols when you come this Christmas?"

Her words are music to my ears... or at least they are when I sit down at the piano. I stack the dozen or so piano books containing Christmas music in front of me, and start to pick through them. And I am astonished at how much better I play than I did last year, even though I haven't practiced Christmas songs since last December. Some songs I could never really finish last year are pretty easy, even on the first attempt. Wow.

And Mom's request does two things for me, beyond giving me the pleasure of playing Christmas music. For one thing, she's given me license to play every day, even with stacks of papers to grade and a ton of other obligations. And for the other, she's made it clear, in one sentence, that she values me and my gifts and wants me to share them--that she is looking forward to Christmas just a bit more because she'll have piano music playing in the house, because I'll be there playing.

Nice mom. Even nicer because I don't have a tree up this year (no sense in decorating, since we're loading up the truck starting on December 10). Now I get my little bit of Christmas at least once a day, when I sit down, lay my fingers on the antique keys, and play.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Only You

Tell me you are nervous
Tell me you just can't write the way
I want you to

Tell me English
Doesn't fit the way you are
You're too uptight to write
Too scared that what you put on paper
Won't be what I want

Tell me your life has made you
Into a gelatinous mass
Unable to make it through
A tough, tough world

I know better

It isn't the world that holds you back
It isn't my lofty expectations
It isn't that the demands of life are simply too much to bear

The world is not against you
The world wants nothing more than your success

Your enemy is you

But, by all means,
Go on telling yourself you can't do it
Despite all that I might say or do
Call yourself a failure
Say that you can't do it
Over and over and over
Until you believe it

And in the end
You'll be right
And I'll be wrong

But the world
And I
Will be oh so disappointed
For you will have given up
On yourself.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

No Failure

National Novel Writing Month is over. A whole bunch of people wrote 50,000 words, some of them completing the challenge in ten days or less. One blogger commenting on another person's page said he'd written over 100,000 words. (wow!)

I did not win. I did manage over 24,000 words, but I didn't win. I didn't even get quite halfway.

But that doesn't mean I failed. It means I spent over a week finding and obtaining a house for the move to Georgia. It means my students didn't drop off the face of the earth and stop turning in papers. It means my kids still needed help with homework instructions, still had swimming lessons, still went to karate and ballet, still needed help with items with school, still needed to eat. It also means my husband needed a partner to help with the transition.

It means I've been sick for the last two weeks, and will likely go to the doctor tomorrow morning to see if I have now developed a sinus infection (sure feels like it).

But it doesn't mean I've failed. It means I'm now, at the beginning of December, nearly halfway through writing a novel I'd been wanting to start for at least a year. I'm not sure when I'll get the first draft done, or how long it will take to revise it, but I'm farther along with it than I would have been without the NaNoWriMo challenge.

And that means I've won. And I'm proud, and I'm going to end this post and go pat myself on the back. And then I'm going to keep on writing, not until some arbitrary deadline, but until I'm dead. (Then, I guess I'll be out of time. Darn it!)

Now it's your task. Forget what deadlines you haven't met, what tasks still loom on the horizon. What have you DONE this last month? What did you begin? What progress have you made? Let me know, and I'll give you a pat on the back, too!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

I was finally able to post some more novel stuff today. Even better, my husband and I have a contract for a house where we're moving--a HUGE step completed, right in time for Thanksgiving. We've spent the last week touring every house within a ten-mile radius, but our search appears to be over, to the joy of all parties concerned.

Funny, this whole house buying thing. It's one of those few events that make everybody happy. We're happy to be getting this fantastic house to move into down in Georgia, the previous owners are happy to finally have only one mortgage (finally!), and the realtor(s) rejoice to have some income. Our realtor happens to have 3-year-old triplets, so helping support a family makes me even happier.

I'm still sick--my husband and I are taking turns going through tissue boxes--but today's a good day. We're finally getting things done, making friends, and putting all of the pieces together for our move. I'm supposedly on target to finish the novel two days before Christmas (nearly a month late, yes), but at this point, I'm okay with that. I've got a lot to be thankful for this year.

My kids were caught in the snow storms up in the Northeast, but they did so in quite an exciting way. They were out on their grandmother's fiance's boat, already having the time of their lives motoring around on Puget Sound, when the snow began. While all of the adults frantically ran around scraping snow off the windows so they could navigate back to the dock in the blizzard, my kids raptured over the snow, relishing two great adventures all at once.

My kids have it right. Life isn't always a pain. In fact, at least in my experience, it's usually more of a grand adventure. I'm hoping that all of you in the U.S. have a great Thanksgiving holiday (and the rest of you have a great Thursday), and if you've had enough adventure so far, here's to hoping the rest of your year is calm and relaxing.

And now, I need to get back to my novel. Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Falling Behind, Getting Ahead

I'm leaving my calendar up (on the right, in case the red dots lining across this week haven't already caught your attention), even though its colors are rather depressing.

I was surviving through NaNoWriMo. But then I had papers. And more papers, and I was flying out of town on Wednesday, so I needed to get all of those papers back. And pack. And make lists of houses to see in Georgia. And set up appointments for dentists and doctors and optometrists right after Thanksgiving so the kids were all set before we moved.

And I got a cold. (Of COURSE I got a cold! How could I possibly NOT get a cold? I've hardly slept since the semester began.)

But now I'm sitting in my hotel room, with nothing to do except write (and cough and sniffle). And I visit my NaNoWriMo page, knowing it's bad, knowing I haven't written in several days, and I was already behind.

Only it's worse. I'm behind by more that 11,000 words, and at this rate, the stats tell me, I'll finish on December 17. Yikes!

Now what do I do? Give up? Go down to the lobby and eat a bunch of free cookies? Walk out to the highway and get myself hit by a trucker? Go over to the Wal-Mart and apply to be a people greeter, since my writing career is obviously not going to happen?

Nope. I'm going to write. Deadlines, schmeadlines, I've got to write. And write and write and write. Not to keep the red from showing up, but because I'm a writer. Yup, I'm not a people greeter, I'm a writer. And writer's write.

See you December 17! (Just kidding. I'm sure I'll be done by the 15th at least!)

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

One Day at a Time

As you can probably see from my calendar to the right, my NaNoWriMo effort has not been perfect so far. Some days it feels like I can barely get out 600 words, especially between all the other stuff going on in my life.

But I am actually meeting my goal: to write every day. Even if it means my eyes are crossing and I go to bed later than I would like, I write. I'm making it a habit, and I'm making time for it no matter what.

It's also helping me in other ways, especially in relieving stress. In the last few days I've had all sorts of things going on, some bad, some good--but all stressful.

For one thing, I had to rush my son in to the emergency room Sunday night. He couldn't breathe very well, and it turns out he has allergy-induced asthma. By the time he saw a doctor (which was actually pretty quick--way to go, ER!) his lungs were audibly squeaking. Now he is doing much better, and I know that the coughs he'd been having over the past year were actually less severe asthma attacks (nothing like guilt to add to my stress level). For a few years, at least, he will need to keep an inhaler handy, although one doctor said he could eventually grow out of it.

Better--though still stressful--news is that my husband, just this morning, signed on to be the president of a college down South. And that means we're MOVING... by JANUARY! Wow! Fantastic news, but for the next two months I'll be in a maelstrom of activity, packing, planning, and moving--and smiling, of course!

And in the meantime, while my kids and my classes are turning me in all sorts of directions, I'll also be writing. Every day. Without fail. No matter what.

At least something in my life needs to be predictable.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

My Favorite Day

I bet y'all thought today must be my birthday! You know it isn't Christmas, nor is it (American) Thanksgiving. No gifts will be exchanged, no parties planned, no cakes made (thank goodness!).

No, it's just my favorite day in the world, the one day of the year I get an extra hour to work on stuff. I've said about a million times before (on this very blog) that I wish I had a Timeturner (and if you don't know what that is, you need to read the Harry Potter books--or at least the third one). This is the one day when time is turned back for me.

Sure, it's only one hour. But that hour is one of the most precious things I have to use, and I have so much I can do with that one hour:

1. Read more to my kids.
2. Give them their piano lessons this week (unlike last week).
3. Go to zumba.
4. Write my day's installment of my NaNo novel.
5. Assess the 101 essays (okay, this will likely take two hours--but I can get half of it done).
6. Revise 3-4 pages of my Thomas novel.
7. Make and enjoy a gourmet, made-from-scratch dinner or cheesecake.
8. Cut out a dress or blouse to sew.
9. Finish reading The City of Ember.
10. Go through my daughter's clothing (or son's clothing, or my own clothing).

I have a much longer list of possibilities, but these are the most likely. What will you do with this blessed extra hour? Sleep? Whine? Watch the boob tube? Don't do that! Make the hour count for something!

Now I'm all done bossing. I don't want to waste anymore time, for that extra hour is awaiting me, needing all my energy and drive. Make your own hour count! I know I will!

Friday, November 5, 2010

A Little Update

I didn't make my word count yesterday, though I did manage enough to change the day from red to yellow (you can see it in the calendar today). I'm pretty happy, still, for I wrote until my eyes were crossing last night, just to get something in, and I'm in a pretty exciting place in the novel--not sure which way it's going to go.

Unfortunately, given my tendency to be plot driven, I'm going to spend the next few days mapping out an outline of sorts, just to make sure I know the overall sweep of the novel I'm trying to write in a month. I hate it when nothing happens, when characters sit around and talk (or in my case, since it's about a mermaid, swim around and talk), so I have some planning to do.

I wish you luck on all that you are working on. Use your weekend wisely! (I intend to.)

Thursday, November 4, 2010

What's Your Motivation?

Sure, my title is an acting question--I remember the times in college, when even actors with no lines had to figure out their motivation as we worked on a play. The truth is, though, we are all motivated differently, and my students show varied kinds of motivations, some of which I share.

Now, I do have a few students who lack motivation. I'll admit that right off. I just don't see these students very often, since they aren't motivated enough to come to class (or even motivated enough to drop the class so that they don't fail it). All the rest of my students are inspired by some form of motivation:

1. Judgment

This particular motivator is people-centered. Either students go to class because they know their mom will wonder why they are at home when class is happening (and they don't want to upset her) or they want to get good grades so the parents (or girlfriend, etc.) are proud (instead of disappointed), or they may even fear what their teacher thinks of them. I was a member of the latter, although I do understand that what a stranger thinks shouldn't really matter. The point is that these people are working hard, not because they really think it's important, but because other people do, and they want to be judged favorably by those people.

2. Competition

I can't say this is a motivating factor for me--the Navajo blood in me is too strong--but it certainly is for my students. Some of them want to know what everybody else's grade is--tests, quizzes, papers, everything. Envy is the name of the game here. These students might not care that much about what grade they receive, as long as it's the best grade I dish out. However, since I dislike this particular tendency, I never tell them anything. (Other students' grades are none of their damn business.)

3. Grade

For these students, the grade is a sign of whether or not they will make it to heaven. An "A" is average for these people (although a "C" is supposed to be the average), and anything less means they failed. Call them overachievers--I know I do--or perfectionists--I call them that, too--but they are also very hard workers, for they aren't competing against other students in class but against the perfection they imagine themselves capable of. The only problem with this motivation is that it causes students unnecessary stress, and it's stress on the GRADE, not on the LEARNING. Which leads to the (next to) last motivation.

4. Desire to Learn

This is my favorite, but it's not that common. Most students are in my classes because they have to be. They need so many English credits to get an associates or earn their certificate in welding, so they enroll because they have to. But the rare student comes in, takes a course, and then returns for another one which he doesn't need, just because the course will teach him something. I knew a class once--taught by an adjunct instructor--that was told three weeks before the end of the class that, to give them a break, the teacher was canceling the last few weeks and dropping the final research project. They walked, en masse, straight out of her classroom and to the Dean's office to report her. They were furious that she had robbed them of three weeks of learning. Such an event is rare, yet I do see small signs of this nearly every day, when students express frustration that they get a good grade in some class yet feel like the course itself didn't cover anything important. One student recently commented on a religion course, saying, "You know, I took the class because I wanted to learn about different religions--because it interested me--and I haven't learned anything. It's a complete waste of time."

Now I'm looking over at my little NaNoWriMo calendar, and I am glad I posted in my sidebar. I was unable to write on the novel until late last night, but seeing a red mark on day three was highly motivating. Is it because that calendar is public, and all of you might see it? Nope. Is it because my mom might check out the page? Nope. Am I competing with another NoWri? Nope. Is there a grade involved? Nope.

My drive comes from another source, one I haven't discussed, but one that drives nearly all of us, except for those rare students who never show up for class. It isn't what others think of us, but what we think of ourselves that matters most. I don't want to see my calendar filled with red marks. I care about what I think. That is my ultimate motivation.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


Those of you who have been regular visitors to my blog already know my son has issues.

(Isn't it weird that so many of us have "issues"? I think it's weird. Maybe I'm just weird. Or maybe I have issues.)

Anyway, today he came home with his first "PRIDE Slip," which pretty much means he was a creep-o in class today and upset a whole lot of kids. Said mean things, didn't pay attention, cut up in P.E., and the list goes on. Fortunately, the slip only gives three lines of explanation, so the teacher doesn't have to spend the whole afternoon writing it out.

My son and I have a talk, and we establish both what he did and what he should have done. And then I sign it. And he signs it. I even make him write out his last name, spelling it for him since he's in first grade (I told you he had issues).

Is he remorseful. Not really. More matter-of-fact that in the heat of the moment he made some stupid choices, and will try to do differently. But then he picks up the slip and--oh, the change in his demeanor!--his eyes widen with excitement, and then--

"Mom, my name! It's on the other sheet!" Yes, two pages are together, the bottom yellow form creating a lovely blue copy of the top white form.

I'd tell him what kind of paper it is, but I just don't know. It's that paper-that-when-written-on-gets-those-copied-blue-line-things-on-it.

"How does it do that?" he asks me.

Now, I can explain that... so I do... and, tickled, flapping the paper back and forth so that he can see over and over how well the yellow sheet has copied the white, he skips back to his room to put it lovingly into his backpack.

Yup, my son has issues.

Monday, November 1, 2010

My First Time

I don't have the time...

I am too stressed from this limbo land of my husband landing his first huge job...

My kids demand too much of my energy in the afternoons...

I need a nap...

I have three mounds of papers to grade by tomorrow...

I haven't eaten dinner...

My daughter's fundraiser needs a cake made...

My back is hurting...

I haven't watched Glee in three weeks...

I'd really rather eat some of the Halloween candy...

But I haven't finished my Thomas novel revision yet...

My classes are really heating up, and class doesn't end until December 8!

Whew! I'm glad that's over! I got all my excuses out (for now), leaving me ready and willing to take on this year's NaNoWriMo! Hurray for me! Hurray for everyone else taking the plunge, too, pledging to write 50,000 words by November 30!

I thought I would just work on my Thomas novel, missing my opportunity to participate in the National Novel Writing Month yet again. But I've decided against that. I'll work on the Thomas novel in addition to my new one, and I'll make this November my most productive month yet. I've never felt so official in my life.

Anyone else taking the plunge?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

What About Now?

You say you want
To be happy

"If only..."
You begin,
If only jobs were abundant
Your house was nicer
The kids were cleaner
The cat didn't throw up so much
The dishes came out of the dishwasher clean
Your boss appreciated you
You could get that other job
That other role
That other guy
That other body
That other place
That other anything

And in the meantime?

You pout and pine
Grumbling over dirty dishes
And wasted dreams
Longing for times past
Or times to come
If only you can get a break
If only you can wake up in the morning
Ready to face the day
Knowing it's worth living for

Screw that

Stop ignoring what's around you
The sun might be dim
But it's there
The world is turning
You're alive
And fit enough to read this page

Today is just long enough
To get something done
To make a difference
To act
To be happy

Use it
And worry about tomorrow

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Progress... and Stagnation

I've revised more than two chapters of my novel today... so I've been working hard. It's been a tough novel since I first wrote it right after I earned my doctorate, oh, those many years ago, and I've revised in nearly 20 times over since then.

I am now at a break-through point, though. The novel finally feels like it's working. Now I'm at about the 24,000-word level on the revision, with about 60,000 more to go to complete it (of course, then I'll have another revision to go, at least). It's tough, sloggy sort of work, and I keep finding I have to go back through a chapter more than once to make sure I've changed ALL of the verbs (verb tense is my one weakness, so I have to ensure no stupid shifts occur). Slowly but surely, though, I am getting it done. I'll work on it some more this evening, after I've put the kids to bed.

Ah, progress...

On the other hand, just trying to put a novel progress on my blog page has proven to be irritating in the extreme. I follow the directions, think I've done it exactly, but all I earn is error message after error message. It should be simple. It is, according to so many of my blogger pals. But for some reason, success escapes me.

Drat! Stagnation.

And why is that so frustrating? I can tell you why. When I'm managing to tackle Mount Everest, why is it that I can't seem to step over a mole hill? That's like being able to master a recipe like duck l'orange but fudge up buttered toast. And since I hate wasting time, I'm even more pissed off.

I'm going back to the novel. At least I feel like it's within my grasp.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Looking Forward

I am still grading. I will likely be grading until December, so blogging will be scattered.

But I'm not unhappy.

In fact, at this very moment, my blood is pumping with excitement, and I love the world more than I have in several months. Because it is now less than one month until Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I comes out, and you can bet I won't be grading on November 19th! I just spent the last ten minutes watching all 9 TV trailers on Youtube, and I feel like I could fly!

Hurray! Hurray for Harry Potter! I cannot wait!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Invisible Growing--For Jeff

The earth seems stagnant
Dead and waiting
Waiting for something
Not for me

The air oppresses
Hot with moisture
Heavy with pressure
Weighing down on me

Nothing will happen
I think to myself
I will sit in this soil
Fester and rot

But I feel little shoots
Of pain in the roots
Of me

Pushing out into
The deep, wet soil
Heading out where I cannot see

And something in my shoulders
Tells me the sun is growing closer
Am I a little taller?

Is that a branch? A leaf?
Don't tell me those are rosebuds
On my outstretched arms

I thought that I was hopeless
Caught in nothing
Stuck within the stationary

But just as I suspected
I was growing all along
And soon the buds will bloom
Turning into ripest fruit.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Early Morning

Up again
Mind churning
Faster than
The world is turning

Child cries
Cuddle close
Where child lies
While night-time flows

Snoring sounds
Filter in
All around
A softened din
(of sleep)

But I'm awake
The world a weight--
Oh, for God's sake,
It's just to late
(to sleep again).

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Finding Time

I need some good ideas. Day after day I get all sorts of other work done... but not work on my novel. I manage to get all of my grading done on time, manage to keep the kids clean and off on their errands, manage to (mostly) keep the house acceptable (though it's mostly pit right now), but day after day I don't get to my novel.

I'd work on it now, I'm about to put the kids to bed, but I have more papers to grade.

I don't know what I can use, but give me all of the advice you've got, everything you or people you know do to manage time more efficiently.

I don't ask for advice often, but once in a while I figure out I don't know it all. Any ideas?

Monday, October 11, 2010

How Discouraging!

I spent the weekend reading student rough drafts--the first drafts of my current composition class. All were interesting, and some had real potential as writings, even outside of the course.

What I always find most interesting, though, aren't the drafts themselves, but the responses I get once I've returned them with feedback. So many of you are writers, and even if you are not highly sensitive to criticism yourself, you know at least a few writers who are. You can remind me, if you like, how hard it is to hear that something you've written isn't fantastic, and I'll agree.

When I send my own writing out into the world--whether to another writer or a beta reader--I naturally hope to hear how fantastic it is, that I'm going to be the next J.K. Rowling, that it was a life-changing work, etc. That's not what I hear, though, and I am prepared for that. I have pretty thick skin.

My students, however, do not. Their skin is thin, for many of them have not been writing long, and they may have never shared their writing with others before. First they get feedback from others in class, and then they get my response, covered in blue or purple comments. I don't use a red pen, but that doesn't mean the comments don't hurt.

I could be gentler, letting them get by with more, but that wouldn't serve my students in the long run. That would be akin to telling a friend/writer that his or her novel is ready to be published when I couldn't get through it. I don't tell my students what to write, but my #1 task is to help them write what they want to write in the best possible way. And that means I have to be honest.

My students do have it harder than most writers, though. Writers can choose to show their work to no one. Writers can get belligerent when feedback isn't what they want to hear. Writers can send whatever they want--in whatever stage of development--out to agents and editors, and they can curse these people when all they get in return is rejection slips.

My students have to show their work to me, even if they skip the day for peer response. They are forced to hear the criticism. Even worse, they have to use that criticism to revise and improve their papers. They can't ignore due dates or opt out of essay assignments. My classroom is a dictatorship, and I'm in charge. I'm the only editor, the only agent, the only chance they have.

Sounds pretty hopeless for them, doesn't it? It would be akin to the oppression of the setting for V for Vendetta, except for one thing. Just like real editors and agents in the real publishing world, I want my writers to do well. My feedback is intended to hone their writing, to help them accomplish their writing goals better.

Beta readers do the same, expressing when characters, settings, situations, or even individual lines of dialogue don't work, or don't fit with the rest of the work. In fact, I don't know a single person who has ever read my stuff who didn't intend to help me, even if that person didn't quite get what I was after. Yet I know so many writers who are still too afraid of failure to show their work to anyone.

Don't be afraid. Get the feedback. Welcome it. Yes, it might hurt--and you might feel bruised for quite a while--but your writing will be the better for it. The feedback you get will make all the bruises worth it.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Spiders -- For Goth

Is it that their wiggly legs
With hair or plastic looking
Might fall into your runny eggs
When you are busy cooking?

Or do you fear the brown recluse
Who hides inside your closet?
Or patchy webs in that old spruce
That make you want to lose it?

Instead of shivering in your shoes
Or jumping back in fear
Think, "Spiders would make great tattoos
Or fancy underwear."

"I think I'd like to dress like one
For Halloween, or Christmas
Their weaves shine like aluminum
And float between things, weightless

"Perhaps I'll climb into the lap
Of Daddy Longlegs, napping,
Or try a taste of venomed sap
Black Widow makes--most strapping!

"I want to see the world their way
The people passing by
Too big, or running all away,
While I sit in the sky.

"Such an adventure it would be
To be the spider on my knee
If she were I and I were she
A spider, weird and wild, and free."

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Love to Blog... but Can't

The title says it all. Way too many papers to grade.

I'd love to slip in a poem or something, but it would only be about the papers, and thus the poem would automatically stink.

You'll just have to wait.

Sorry! (Believe me, I'm even more sorry than you are!)

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Life Choices

I've always wondered what I wanted to do when I grew up. Sure, I'm pretty old now, but I keep changing my mind. I've been teaching English for over 17 years now... and it's been great... but my husband brought up a question last night, and I'm truly unsure what to answer.

We are in the process of applying for all sorts of jobs for him--well, the same job in all sorts of places across the country--and while some of the colleges that may hire him would be open to my teaching as well, many will not be. Thus, he will suddenly be very, very official, work long hours, and have a fantastic paycheck to do what he truly loves doing, but I might find it pretty difficult to find any teaching work at all.

He'll ask once he gets the call, but last night he wondered aloud whether I even wanted to teach right now. If money were no object (and it would not be), would I want to teach, or not?

I don't know the answer. I love teaching (though I hate grading), but it also takes up a huge portion of my day. I intended to blog this morning, but because I was reading student rough drafts until mid-afternoon, I am only blogging now. And I still haven't written a word of my current novel revision.

I love the social aspect of teaching--and the students are motivated and happy and excited to be there, at least once they catch my enthusiasm--but the grading is really time consuming (since I teach English).

If I don't teach, I suddenly become the official spouse, using the time to write, clean house, paint, exercise, help my kids with homework, sew, etc. It isn't that I wouldn't be busy... nobody keeps busy like I do. I'd be able to volunteer in so many ways, and maybe, just maybe, I'd get some book published.

But I'd miss teaching. It might take a semester or two to realize it, but I'd long for the classroom... and I'd feel a bit lazy, planning out gourmet dinners for the family, spending time on luxuries I couldn't concentrate on before. Is this the way it's supposed to be? Should I just count myself lucky and take the chance?

What do all of you think? The post has only made me more confused. I know I'll talk to the hubby again, probably tonight, but I know most of you have good judgment. Let me know what you see...

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Good Book

I know the book
Has me by the eyes
When I cannot put it down

Not to put the trash out
Do the dishes
Grade my papers
Say hello
Or even go to sleep at night

Or if I do
Or must do
These abhorrent things
--Suddenly abhorrent when the other day
I didn't mind at all--
I sigh and bear them
Thinking only of the worlds
I long for
Where each page
Lingers underneath my hair
And quivers there
Vibrating to the shiver of my spine

Yes, I must do the tasks
Assigned to me
But I will do them quickly
Sloppily, if necessary
(Believe me, it is necessary)

For the book
Its depths
Its words
Its roughish pages

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Walking in the Wet

The streets glisten
Rough-hewn iron
In the rain

No cars
No pets
Only cringing spiders
Webbed in sparkles
Under tree limbs

I watch them
And walk around them
Unwilling to feel the thread
Or their unwelcome legs
Unwilling to harm
Their world

My feet are only noise
Beneath me
My sweat no more a scent
Than newly fallen rain
And we are one
The night and me
Wet, glistening, new

We smile to each other
In parting
As dawn breaks.

Monday, September 27, 2010


Funny how my children's sleeping
Wakes me with a snicker

I slip along the hallway to my
It for me, and I for it
Hours before the sun will rise

My fingers
Long dormant
Curled into my pillow
Itch to press the keys
To get moving

My mind
Buzzing with dreams
And mischief
Longs to blend them both

While all the world sleeps
And keeps me

Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Moon and I

I walk alone (or think I do)
I walk a solitary night
But then, the moon goes with me, too,
A gliding globe of silver-white.

The world is sleeping (or is dead)
The dark of shadows closes in
But moonlight fills my eyes and head
And lights my path without, within.

I fall asleep despite the moon,
Despite its sifting through my world
And dream of tasks to be done soon
While I sleep tense, my fingers curled.

I wake up feeling lost and torn
Certain that the moon is gone
The sky shows it is early morn
I see the path the sun is on.

But there it is, outlasting night
The moon, my boon companion still
Dimmer in the blue of sky
But never lost, never gone
No matter what new road I'm on
And neither she nor I know why.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Blessed Overachievers

School began Monday, and I am already receiving e-mails and calls from students. Yesterday I had this exchange, by telephone:

Student: Hi, Dr. C. I already e-mailed you, but I wanted to cover all my bases, so I'm calling you, too.

Me: Okay.

Student: I ordered my book a while ago, and it was supposed to arrive today, but it didn't. And we have reading due tomorrow. Is there any way I can borrow a book so that I can complete the reading by class time?

Me: Oh, I wouldn't worry about it. I still have students on the waitlist, and I can't let them in until tomorrow, so they won't have texts yet. I won't be giving a quiz on the reading until next week.

Student: (Silence.)

Me: Okay? Does that help? Don't worry about it. Okay?

Student: Yes, but, you see, I'm an overachiever.

And there is the word, that glorious, happy, fantastic word. If you are not an educator, you cannot understand how much beautiful music this word creates inside me, warming me from my toes to the top of my head. I love all of my students--no, I really do, I'm not joking--but I have an especially soft place in my heart for the overachieving ones. Yes, they call me and e-mail me a lot. They turn in rough drafts (sometimes four of them for a single essay), and that may make them a bit more high maintenance. But they are truly fabulous, and, of course, now I'm going to tell you why.

Reason #1: They don't rest on their talents. If anything, they underestimate how skilled they already are, fearing they are going to fail if they don't work extra hard. Any advice or comment they receive they feel grateful for, take to heart, and strive to work on. And this is such a contrast to those who have talent, but don't use it (so disheartening).

Reason #2: They don't see their learning as my responsibility. If they aren't getting something, they already know it's their job to either figure it out or ask for help. I don't even have to meet these students halfway, for they are working diligently from the first moment they step in class.

Reason #3: They are active learners. They do all their homework, participate in all discussions, and do everything I ask (and often more). And they demand to be taught. Nothing makes them more upset than feeling like they are taking a class and getting nothing out of it. Yes, they want a good grade, but they want that grade to mean something.

Reason #4: Their enthusiasm is contagious. If I have one overachiever in class, by the end of the course I have at least eight, for their resolve and work ethic rubs off on other students. They make me enthusiastic, too, and I start getting bummed when I have a weekend, for it means I won't see them for a few days. Teaching for me is invigorating, and a good class makes it even more so.

So, this morning, I lift my coffee cup to all of those overachievers out there. Here's to you, and may you be an overachiever for the rest of your life!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Moment

Lists are fine
Make all the lists you want
Plans might set your path for you
But they won't make you
Take that first step.

Write each list out
Memorize it all
Then shred it up
And toss the white confetti
In the air.

Then move it
Start walking
Doing what it takes
To live right now.

The past is past
The future might be nice
But all that matters now
Is now.
This moment.

You have it
You're alive
You've been blessed
You're lucky
You have great potential
And the world awaits.

What are you doing
To make right now
Your moment?

Monday, September 20, 2010

A Relaxing Beginning

My class starts in about half an hour. I should be nervous. Or at least keyed up or something.

But I'm just sitting here, my stress level at about a two (on a ten-point scale)... nothing to do until class begins...

Why? Several reasons:

1. Preparation. That's all it is. I'd finished my syllabi two weeks ago, sent them off to be copied, and found the neat piles this morning, ready to hand out. All the assignments, readings, due dates, and other elements are organized. Nothing to figure out. Everything is just ready to run, like a well-oiled machine, and I'm looking forward to the adventure, the new students, and pretty much everything (except the grading).

2. Saying no. I turned down a total of four more classes this term, so while I'm surrounded by teachers running around trying to teach 5 or 6 courses, I'm just floating with two (three is full time, and I don't want to teach full time unless I get paid full time). Last fall at this time I was halfway through two courses by now, and I took on four more, finishing them all before December. No, I didn't end up strangling myself before it was over, but I nearly ended up in an asylum.

3. Doing things I love. Yes, instead of thinking about school starting yesterday, I painted. And when I get home this afternoon, I'll be working more on my novel. And playing piano. And reading. Anything I can do to make sure I enjoy the day as well as work through it.

I hope you are as relaxed as I. I hope that knot right below your shoulder blade eases itself out, and you can just chill with a lemonade this afternoon. That's what I intend to do.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Growing Into

Many, many years ago, I looked and acted far different than I do now. I wore baggy t-shirts and big clunky glasses, and people pretty much ignored me (or at least that's how it seemed). I was a shy nerd, quietly acing tests but afraid to make too much of myself. I did everything I could to hide everything I was.

And so it happened that I tended to surprise people. The teacher who set up high school graduation, convinced that I wouldn't be able to put two words together in front of a crowd, assigned me to give the welcome address (instead of the valedictorian speech, though I had the highest GPA). But, to everyone's surprise, my little speech was funny, and entertaining, and, well, really good.

When I auditioned for The Wizard of Oz in college, I walked up to sing a solo, and the director later told me she was cringing, anxious that I was going to totally embarrass myself. But then I sang, blew everybody away, earned the part of Dorothy. Yet she and so many other people had expected nothing from me. I'm not sure that I expected much more--I just knew I liked to sing.

That's the funny thing about expectations. If I expected myself (or anything or anyone else) to be perfect, I would likely be disappointed. Yet I have been lucky to go through life with people not expecting a great deal from me. Sure, I could have used that as a crutch, but I have grown to use it as a challenge. "Oh, you think I'm nothing?" I say to myself. "Just wait and see."

I just returned from an interview with my husband, one where I was almost as analyzed as he was. I feared I wouldn't do so well, that my nerves would get the better of me and I'd catch foot-in-mouth disease... but then I realized, with a shock, that I was expecting too little from me, that I was dismissing my capabilities. And when I was actually in the thick of things, I did fine. I did better than fine. I was good. And it was easy, maybe even easier than giving that graduation speech, easier than singing onstage. It felt natural. It felt like me.

Even a few years ago, I couldn't have done it. And if anybody had seen me in high school, they never would have expected me to do well, either. I would really surprise them now. But I've grown up a lot since then, and every day I become more and more my genuine, un-shy, beautiful, capable self. And I even sometimes surprise myself.

I guess I've grown a lot from that shy kid with the big glasses. Have you?

Sunday, September 12, 2010


I finally mustered up the guts to rewrite the chapter I'd been working on for my novel rewrite. I made the POV first person, and even changed to present tense throughout. Wow, what a difference it made! Suddenly my (character's) voice came through loud and clear. The scene had weight. It had humor (when does that happen?). It flowed beautifully, increased in suspense, and I could feel everything I'd wanted to feel when writing it the first way.

That means I get to start from square (i.e. chapter) one, and do it all. And it's going to be a lot of work. And it's going to take a lot of time. Once I get the whole thing rewritten, it will be like a first draft, necessitating yet another 2-3 revisions minimum. (Yes, I'm a fan of revision.)

But I feel as if my voice is finally coming through. The informality, the playfulness, the anxiety, everything shines through in ways it never has before. I'm so glad I started with this book. Now, when I work on sequels or on my other two completed novels, I'll have a much better feel for my own narrative voice.

It also means I'll be busy. But I'll try to check in. I might even post a first chapter (rewritten) and see what you think. I don't tend to do that too often.

Hope your writing is going as splendidly!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Touch Me

Feeling alone
On a foggy morning
Cut off from all
But your cup of milky coffee?

Touch me
Through the keys
I'm there
Fingers reaching out

Fearing that no one cares
No one is listening
That you'll never break through?

Touch me
Through words of softness
Even resigned acceptance
I'm listening for you.

Don't be alone today
Touch me
Trust me, I'm here.

Friday, September 10, 2010

The Calm at the End


No sound except
The soft clock ticking
Near the soft couch
With its soft burgundy pillows

Children off at school
Learning all they can
Forget in a weekend
Meeting friends they'll see again
In a few short days.

And I?
No tasks that must be done
No labors left remaining
Nothing necessary
Just myself
My cat
And a warm mug of tea to
Pull me out of panic
And unburden
My heavy mind.

It lightens
Even as I write
Until it is weightless
Drifting into a new adventure
A new world
For the taking
Where panic is invented
Suspense is extreme but unworldly
And the happy ending is all planned out.

The weekend awaits
Its arms outstretched to embrace me.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Happy Mediocrity Day to Me!

[Disclaimer: I am really okay. One of my beloved readers actually called me this morning to make sure I was okay after she read this post, so I didn't want any of you to get scared. I'm pretty chipper this morning, but perhaps that doesn't come across in the tone of my post below:]

I've been seeing several celebrations by other blogs lately--five year anniversaries, one- and two-year milestones, so I thought I'd check to see how long I'd had this blog. I know I started blogging on first (and sometime in August, 2007), but I moved from there when my sister and so many others were locked out of their accounts when didn't like what they were saying.

But this is not an anniversary. It seems my first blog here was in April 23, 2009. So I've been blogging one year, four months, and 17 days. Wow! That is so not any kind of milestone! Fantastic!

Oh, and it's not like I've been blogging every day, either. In one month I only wrote six blogs, which comes out to about one blog every five days (see, I can do simple math). That's pretty awful! How much more mediocre can I possibly be?

And this proves something, and it's something I need to remind myself of every now and then: I do not have to be the best at something (or even really good at it) to have fun. I can write crappy poetry, and as long as I toss in a good one now and then (or at least one that rhymes) I can keep my sweet readers coming back. I can offer gardening/editing advice, and people take me seriously.

Now that I think about it, I'm pretty mediocre (and happy) in several facets of my life: I have written three unpublished novels, I play piano badly, my paintings are far from professional, my mom skills are questionable, my housecleaning...well...let's just say Merry Maids wouldn't hire me, I'm only an adjunct English teacher (even with a doctorate), and I still look a bit like I'm wrestling pigs in Zumba. But I'm happy. No gold medals, no sign of physical grace or exceptional talent, but I guess that doesn't really matter much to me.

Today, I embrace my mediocrity. And I embrace all of you (though that's really not comfortable through a laptop--oof!), and thank you for sticking around these last one year, four months and 17 days. You help make my life exceptional!

So, how about you? Anything you delight in being mediocre at? (Notice how I used a preposition at the end of that sentence? Cool, huh?)

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

School Starts Today!

I've been up two hours already this morning... and believe me, 3:30 is not my normal wake-up time, but with my kids going back to school, I've been FREAKING OUT about it!

NOT because I hate being with out them. Sorry, kiddos... love you, but SO happy you are going back to school. I was maybe a week away from running out of the house screaming, but your school began right on time.

NOT because it means they are a year older. I am not nostalgic, and don't pine and weep over the fact that my son no longer says "lello" for "yello" and my daughter is almost as tall as my shoulder. I love that they are growing up (and haven't killed each other yet).

NOT because it means I am 1.5 weeks from starting school myself. I really do LOVE teaching (except the grading--gag!).

I am FREAKING OUT because I fear what my kids will be doing at school. Will my daughter have fallen behind in math and reading, despite what we've worked on this summer? She was giddy last night (meeting her teacher, who seems spectacular), but will her enthusiasm wane when she actually has homework?

I am also FREAKING OUT because of my son's performance last year. He excelled in all academics, and probably already reads at least a grade level above where he is right now, but I was in and out of the principal's office last year (for the reasons why, this example). Should I drive them to school so he's in a good mood? Should I make them ride the bus, and risk his being grumpy when he gets there? Should I make him deal with it and deal with the consequences?

I'm even FREAKING OUT because of the mornings to come. Will they get ready on time, or will the mornings become a nag fest like last year? If that's what they are meant to be, I quit now. Since I don't have to teach for the next week and a half, if one or both of my kids aren't ready on time, I'm going to let them miss the bus (or ride) to school. Hopefully they'll learn fast to get ready.

I have another plan in motion, one that I spent the majority of yesterday on. More details on that tomorrow (or Friday, whenever I get it finished). In the meantime, I am getting an appointment for a massage before the kinks in my back rip my vertebrae apart!

Monday, September 6, 2010

The Sucking Song

My left brain was thinking
(I wish I'd been drinking)
About all my novel-ish stuff.
It woke me this morning
(I should be in mourning!)
To tell me I'd written enough.

No, I wasn't done yet
But still my right mind-set
Was raring to go (so to speak)
It was getting dramatic
Climactic, fantastic
Exciting, the plot at its peak.

But left brain ain't swayed
By the twists that I'd made
It said, in a phrase, "This stuff sucks."
I asked it, "Which part?"
--Oh, the pain in my heart!--
And it said, with a sigh, "Here's the crux:

"The plot is pathetic
The tone apoplectic
Dude, haven't you witnessed the signs?
The prose is too wordy
And Thomas too nerdy
He passes out, like, eighteen times!

"Why don't you step back
Paint a bit, have a snack
Decide where you want this to go.
It'll wait for you here
I'll whisper in your ear
And you'll find your way soon, this I know."

My left brain had won
The damage was done
But I couldn't regret what I'd heard
I know with each letter
The prose will get better
And soon, I will have the last word.

Anyone feeling like your stuff sucks lately? Join the club! It's a bad, bad feeling, but it's also necessary. If you never get to the point where you think your stuff stinks, you can't fix it. Relish in your own suckiness, embrace it--and then fix it.

That's what I'm going to do (after a bit of painting and a snack). Happy writing!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Children's Church

Ever try to ask
38 kids about anything?
One in front raises her hand every time
But is too shy to talk.
Another wiggles with glee,
Announcing to the congregation,
When the microphone meets her,
"I hafta go potty!"

One, obsessed with his own birthday
"September 6th!"
Until the session ends
While three little girls
Hike up skirts to peek
At their own underwear.

Kids fly
In the face of the somber
The peaceful
The serene
Wondering why those big people
Don't just get on with it
And end the boredom.

Like a Jim Carrey comedy
They annoy and
Embarrass us
Even while they make us laugh to tears
And leave us wondering why we came
At all.

Now time for cookies.
("But I don't like cookies," one kid says.)

Saturday, September 4, 2010

You Don't

Don't rock the boat.
Do it this way.
You won't make it.
You're doing it wrong.

We've been taught all along
To conform
That if we don't do
What everybody else in the entire world is doing
We'll be ostracized
Left out
Laughed at
Exposed on YouTube in one scathing

So we hide ourselves.
Our "immature" paintings
Gather dust and spiders in the dark garage
Our manuscripts lurk in convoluted files
On our laptop
Never printed off
Unread by any but our own eyes.
We wear big t-shirts to cover up the bulges
At aerobics class.
We worry
What if we suck?
What if we really don't have what it takes?
("What it takes to what?" I ask you.)
What if we hold out our little self-made bouquet
And someone slaps it down?
What if everyone thinks we're lame?
Or weird?
Or stupid?

Better to be weird
Better to be stupid, crazy, ugly, silly, ridiculous
Than bland.
Than forgettable.
Don't hide your paintings behind your dresser
Set them up on the lawn
With spotlights and big signs
Like a garage sale
Embrace yourself in one humongous hug
Wear tight clothing
Wear bright pink leggings
To emphasize the cellulite!
Show off!
Be happy!

Stop apologizing for your manuscript
And send out those queries
Or, better yet
Pass your manuscript out to strangers on the street
Tell them it's you, in paper form
And they'll love it
And if they don't, you just don't care
And smile all the way
Knowing that no matter many reject you
No matter how they judge you
Hate you
Find you annoying--

You don't.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Why Don't We

Why do we care
if the crystal is Cartier
and not plastic?
If the jeans have some
certain type of rivet
to prove their authenticity?

Why do we care
if we get somewhere
precisely on time
and not later than usual
or not at all?
Does anything really happen?
Are we shot dead?
Sent to jail?

Why do we care if some bum
on the corner
uses the few bucks we give him
to buy another bit of meth
to feed a habit?
Can he kick the addiction
without help from those
who don't have it?
Does judging his need
make us feel better about our own
and save us a few bucks?

Why do we care
what official people
in official places
think of us?
Because we need what they are handing out?
Because we don't want to think?
Can we even trust that they know us at all?

Why don't we care
about each other
the real inside
those around us?
Why don't we say hello?
Why don't we look up
from our palm pilot
or texting phone
or newspaper
or steering wheel
or television
and make eye contact
so someone sees
and we see
another person

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Making Progress

I am now to the point in my novel--tentatively titled The Ghost Portal--when ALL of the remaining text (in the original novel) will go into novel #2 in the series... so it's been pasted onto another document, ready for use when I get started on #2.

I am about 120 pages into Thomas novel #1... and the world is wide open for him. I'd blog more, but I need to work on the novel instead... (sorry!).

Happy writing!

Monday, August 30, 2010

The World is

The world is
Too heavy
For me.
Poverty stretches through countries
Under bridges
In foreclosures
Cardboard signs begging for help
Distended stomachs
Flies eating the living
As they slowly become the dead.

The world is
Too sick
For me.
Diseases can be treated
But when minds flock to twisted ideas
When what is most hateful and evil
Sounds so good to foolish ears
And threatens to destroy all I love
All I believe in
I feel helpless to intervene.

The world is
Beyond me.
I can only keep my own world alive
While I send out my letters
To a world gone wrong
And try to connect
To the other safe havens
Huddled up
For the world to end.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

A Sonnet for Eating

I hope all of you know the sonnet form, but if not, here it is: 14 lines of iambic pentameter (five iambic (unstressed, stressed) feet, with a regular rhyme scheme (all sorts of patterns exist with this one, so I won't spell it out). Here goes:

The Art of Baking

The house is quiet, all are sleeping still
Content to dream, and wait for morning's light
No one feels hunger, but I'm sure they will
And so I prep the kitchen while it's night.
At first the flour, yeast, and soda mix
And then the eggs, the milk, the oil go in;
The stirring is a chore--it's almost six
The kids are will be up soon, my littler kin.
The pans are oiled, ready for the dough
But it must rise first, so I wait and wait
Until it's perfect, patted, formed just so
And in it goes, to meet its tasty fate.
Within the hour the bread comes out to meet
My family, who all slice it up to eat.

Happy baking/writing, everybody.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Summer with Kids

There once were two kids out of school
Who were so bored they started to drool
So tired of Wii
They were fighting with me
And begging me for a swim pool.

We went to the YMCA
Where I tried to entice them with play
They stomped someone's toes
And busted a nose
Yes, it was a horrible day.

But summer is soon to be gone
Along with the tear they've been on.
I know that I'll miss them
And often I'll kiss them
But for now I'll be glad when it's done.

(You see, I can't write a rhyming poem without it being silly. It just isn't in me. Using a limerick format doesn't help, either. At least I'd have a chance if I used the sonnet form.)

(Instead, I'll just stick to free verse.)

Monday, August 23, 2010

All of Everything

When I play
I won't just hear the keys
As they rap against strings
I'll feel the missing ivories
Of B and Treble D
I'll sense the tremble of the sound
On the palms of my hand
Sneeze from the dust of the
Old instrument
And smell its wood oil
Its decay

When I walk outside
I won't just see the blue sky
Or hear the sound of cars on the highway
I'll feel the wind in my ears
The drip of sweat down my neck
My back
Smell the dew, the perspiration
The green of grass and
Bloom of summer flowers
Taste the lip gloss
The warm water bottle
And hear my own breathing.

I won't just see the words
The black letters on a white screen
The rows, paragraphs, sentences
In stark ugliness and form
I'll feel the journey
Sense the movement through time and space
Kiss each character
With pain, harm, evil, good
And mold him into something
More real than he is now
I'll grow the trees
Get drenched with rain
Wade through streams
And hide, seek, run, dream.

Life isn't limited
Isn't only one element
Isn't one sense, one emotion
It isn't television

It's everything.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

In Defense of Poetry

Walking Man picked a bone with me a few days ago (gently, as always) about a comment I'd made regarding what I was writing offline--and apologizing for only posting poetry over the next few weeks or months.

He had a right to question my statement, wondering why I felt poetry was some lesser form of writing, and so here is my apology. Understand that I truly adore poetry. Half of the blogs I follow regularly are made up predominately of poetry, and I find my taste for it increases week by week. I have always found poetry more emotionally resonant than most other forms of the written or spoken word (including films), yet my comments were not meant to disparage poetry in the slightest.

They were not even meant to disparage my own poetry, though I have no delusions that my poetry is fantastic. If anything, writing poetry, at least in my case, is the most subconscious of the types of writing I pursue. A phrase usually comes into my mind, slipping in almost without my noticing, and the images and feelings seep in afterwards, until I can pretty much write the thing in a single sitting, without much revision.

Because of its immediacy, I probably don't give my own poetry the same respect I reserve for my novel and play writing. A single novel takes me years (so far), development happens slowly, and it is much harder for me to do. Instead of an intense session bent over my laptop, poetry feels like a breath of sunlight, a warm bath, something short, blissful, and complete. A moment.

What's fascinating about poetry is that rereading a poem conjures up that same moment, over and over. Wordsworth's host of daffodils always leaves me happy, while Williams' note about eating plums never fails to create its image and simplicity in my mind, again and again. I also don't get sick of good poetry. I can reread it 100 times and still adore it--or adore it more.

Yet I cannot judge poetry. It either resonates with me or doesn't. Its images stir something inside my mind and heart, or they don't. I cannot criticize it, or edit it, unless the poet has used a regular meter and rhyme scheme, and then my editing only addresses the accuracy of the rhythm.

I suppose, in essence, poetry is both easy and beyond me. It's primal, a part of the most basic form of being.

What is it to you? How does it compare to the other genres?

Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Race

[In honor of my husband, who is in a triathlon this morning]

Some come to vie
To see the finish line
To sail past the
Lesser athletes
To win
Finishing second
Means crushing defeat
The medal is all

Others need to feel
They are not alone
To sense the splash of water
The cheers
The breaths
All around
To feel the fingers
Brushing shoulders
Patting backs
See the rows of bikes
To hear the laughs as others
Struggle on
To see those both ahead and behind
To be part of the pack

But happiest are those
In it only for the
Not the end
Not the others
But the feel of water on their skin
The rush of wind
As they pedal downhill
The ache of use
From their legs
As they run the race
To them, the end is nothing
All is in the now.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Settling In

I am FINALLY writing my first novel. I could say "editing," since this will be version, oh, 18 or so of it. However, I've figured out that the way the first one (of a series) was configured did too much too fast, and Thomas (the main character) has to grow far too fast for one book, so I've reorganized and replanned 5 or 6 novels, changing the first one's major event and moving it to the next to last novel in the series.

Now I am essentially revising pieces of the original, and cutting out all the other stuff and saving it on another file I've actually called "Thomas Novel Pieces." These may or may not end up in future novels, but they won't end up in the first one. I will soon run out of stuff to keep in this novel, and the parts I have to write from scratch will get bigger and bigger. I'm excited, though. I get to use much of the NW geography with these novels, including everything from Cape Flattery, which I posted about here, Mt. Rainier, and even the San Andreas Fault.

The whole series will combine my love for the paranormal with the natural world... and at least I will find it exciting.

While I'm writing, though, I'll continue to post poetry... it's the best I can do while I'm busily working on another project.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Cave

Sunlight streams in
Hot and humid
I can hear laughter

But an hour in the sun
Would burn

And I remember how
The sweat
Drips down
My neck
My back
My legs

A giggle echoes
Into the cave
Where I sit
Who can be out there
Braving the danger
Of sunlight?

I listen
The giggle rings through again
Welling up like water
Jingling along
The stone walls
Calling me

It is my own voice
My little child
Cramped inside
This cave for far too long

I step along the sand to meet it
In the burning sun.

Sunday, August 8, 2010


I sought you everywhere
Sliding into sticky pews
Listening for you
The people spoke as if they had you
But I found nothing
Except your echo
Your long-lost footprint
In the golden hymns

I sought you in my love
But in him it took a form
I could not recognize
Full of grand intentions
Not the soft, consenting candle
Lighting the way
Along my darkened path

I sought you in my children
And there I found a little bit of you
Peeking from behind a curtain
At me
A part of you I'd lost years ago
And was too old to gain again

But then I saw the trees
The gray of rain on blackened trunks
The sunlight dipping into dew
On every single blade of grass
And I could feel the dapples of the sun
Within my soul.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Missing You

Tohru Honda smiles from the TV screen
And I think of you
Grinning at the pages of manga with me
Sharing stories and dreams and fantasies

The nights we spent thinking up stupid nursery rhyme versions
Of Fuzzy Wuzzy and Jack be Nimble
I remember them all
Giggling in bed well past bedtime

We don't agree on anything
But never disagree
For our souls connect at the bellybutton
And they always will

No matter the distance
No matter the time between phone calls
No matter the restraints our lives place upon us
The trials, the pain, the sweat, the sadness

I know you are always near
That I can reach you
That you always make sure
I am never alone

Thank you

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Saying No

Go ahead and ask me
Tell me you are really pressed
That students need the course
That you will pay me extra
That you will be eternally grateful
If I take that extra class
(Or maybe two?)

Call me
Tell me how you've missed me
Tell me that you need me
That you need a listening ear
A helping hand
A night out
Without your kids

Write me an e-mail
Asking when I'm coming to visit
For the millionth time
And bringing the kids
(Or leaving them at home)
And showing up, with brownies
Plus my warm and happy personality
To brush things over
Between you and your spouse
(Who's always nicer when I'm there)

Tell me you love me
Or at least that you need me
To love you
So that you feel better
About all that you have done wrong in your life
About all the mistakes you've made
Even towards me

Tell me you're sorry
That you'll make it all better in the end
That I'm terrific
But you just need me to be
One more time
One more semester
One more day

Go on
You can do it
Go ahead and ask.

I can take it.
I've learned to say no.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Blessed Silence

The laughter has died down
From the sleepover below
Even cat has found
His favorite napping spot

Only fans--the white noise of Seattle--
Blowing in cool air at end of day
And soft tapping keys
Intrude upon thoughts tonight.

Noise is overrated

Funny how so many people
Try to break the blessed silence
With complaints about the weather
Phone calls, questions, repeated words

They do not realize the depth to be found
In the listening
In the waiting
In the nothing.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Day to Be Alive

It's a great day to be alive
The still shining when I close my eyes
There's some hard times in the neighborhood
But why can't every day be just this good.
--Travis Tritt

Don't bounce out of bed
The day isn't going to smack you
If you snuggle into sheets
And sleep a little longer

But this new day awaits you
With a grin

Like you felt the night of prom, all dressed up
Or the first day of a new job
The opening credits of a new film

The skills spread around you
Inside you
Your own private toolbox
Of talent, inspiration,
Needing only effort of one

For you alone
To make the day something destined
Something greater
More satisfying
Than it would have been without you

So get up
Pull off the covers
Pull on some clothes (or not!)
Greet the day with your own sly grin
Shake hands with it, like a sister
A partner
Make it what it could be
Not just the stuff of dreams.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Still Not Writing

I'm sorting through some personal stuff right now--filling my life with Zumba in hopes of finding myself happily satisfied with my own psyche, goals, body, etc.

I am also doing research--of the Oxford kind--to finish with a final library book so that I can return it several weeks after it has been due (yikes!)... once the research is done, will I actually work on my novel? No idea.

It's disheartening. I clean out the refrigerator to avoid writing. I Febreze the whole house. I weed. I cut out and sew a new dress (I'm on #3 in just a few weeks). I check my e-mail for the seventh time in a day (no new mail). I do everything I possibly can to avoid writing.

If I knew why I was avoiding it, I'd take steps to stop myself. I just don't know. So many negative voices are drifting around in my head--not just about writing, but about every aspect of my life--and though writing sounds fantastic, when I sit down to do it, I suddenly would rather polish the wood floors.

I hope this ends soon. It's not like me, and I only have two months before my teaching starts up again. I'd like to have something to show for it.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Envy in a Zumba Classroom

She looks in the mirror
Sees the ashy hair
Like hay in a barn
(Her mama always says)
Wonders if her bony knees
Look bad in shorts
Wishes for the legs
On the third girl from the left...

Who's stepping to the side
And sees her stomach isn't what it was
(What it never was, but she wishes it could be)
Her hips show signs of babies
Doughnuts, and genetics
Why do they put this mirror up
So she can see how fat she is
When next to all these skinny people
Just like little miss Hot Pink...

Who shimmies, with futility
Seeing women's breasts
Full and shaking all around her
While her own boyish ones
Practically non-existent
Don't move at all
Babies didn't help, either,
A brief reprieve from flat
Not like the rock star in the front row...

Who always dances in the foreground
Not to see herself
(God forbid!)
But because the Amazon women crowd her out
And she can't see the leader
The one with the perfect legs
The perfect tan
The perfect clothes
The perfect hair

Who's grateful not to face the mirror
So that she doesn't see
Her own imperfections.

Saturday, July 24, 2010


I've had quite the chance to reminisce lately. My husband recently met up with friends from way back in '95, and then just over the last few days we camped with Canadian friends we'd met even earlier, when we were both earning our masters degrees.

My husband loved it. He somehow remembered names of so many people in his program, certain classes, certain parties/days/events/words said. He had a smile on his face the whole time. The friends seemed to like it, too, mentioning certain people and times, smiling, sighing.

Me? Um... not so much. It's not that I hated it. I just find the present far more interesting. I'd rather enjoy the kids as they are now, not as they once were. I don't intentionally forget things, but they have less meaning once they are over. I guess I just don't live in the past.

Either that, or, more likely, these particular "pasts" simply didn't give me much that resonated in my soul, and if they didn't, I pretty much forgot them. I don't miss my life then, don't miss the way I looked or felt then... or at least the parts of my life these people reminded me of were not the parts I cared about that much.

I can't say I reminisce often. I don't go through all of my wedding photos all the time, oohing and ahhing over people's outfits (or my own dress). My kids' baby pictures are even pretty neglected. Perhaps that is why I've never taken up scrapbooking.

Some things do resonate with me, but they are not the kinds of things to share with others. (Perhaps this is where my introverted tendencies shine through.) They are moments when I felt something, moments that were likely only meaningful to me, and trying to share them with friends who were standing there but didn't feel what I felt simply wouldn't work.

After she watched the fourth Harry Potter film, Mom said she didn't like it as much as the previous ones because Harry was on his own so much. But I didn't mind, perhaps because, even if my journey is shared with others, my response to the journey is private. It's mine alone, and thus the experience is too.

Ten people going through the exact same event will see it differently. What recharges my battery--hiking in green forests, playing with my kids, painting, playing piano, writing--will not recharge my husband's, and his interests could not fail to drive me insane. We've been together over 21 years, sharing our lives, yet our life experience is radically different.

Ironically, reading (a primarily solitary activity) gives me the chance to share the inward experience of a person, or a select few (the fewer the better, as far as I'm concerned). It's probably the only chance I'll have to live through another person. Movies do the same, and my experience watching them is always best when I can forget that others are watching, too. Voice-overs allow us to hear thoughts of the characters, so see the world exactly as they do.

Life doesn't offer the same opportunity, for we can never truly share the most intimate world of those around us, even those we are very close to. My children, even when very young, had depths to them I realized I would not ever fathom, and the moment they could speak they also knew instinctively when to keep certain thoughts private. At nine, my daughter already has a seriousness that I cannot penetrate, and probably never will.

And though I seem pretty confessional in this venue, I have parts of myself that I simply haven't shared with anyone. I live around, among, alongside, and cooperatively with tons of people, but they will never truly know who I am. We are all on a shared journey, yet in part we all travel alone.

Your thoughts? What resonates with you from your past, if anything? Do you keep yourself to yourself, or do you share everything with someone? Do you have parts of yourself that you still keep hidden, even from those you love?

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Sources of Inspiration

Like most writers, I am never short on ideas. I do not sit at the computer, day after day, wondering what I want to write. Instead, like most writers I know, I have EIGHTEEN projects in the works (or mumbling to me at night), waiting for me to get my rear in gear, so to speak, and get back to working on them.

These projects have minds of their own, and perhaps I'll blog about these demented minds some day, but each one also comes from a particular source of information.

My first novel came from a dream, a recurring nightmare I had as a teenager. In fact, the dream came to me over the years, and has only ceased since I wrote the first draft of the novel. I dreamed I was a man (and I often dream I am male, for some reason), and a bunch of shadow men were chasing me through a cemetery. I found a white grave marker, a lying statue rather like those placed atop the wealthy dead in Europe for centuries, and the men surrounded me, stabbing me. Sometimes I was the statue, a girl, and I could sense the danger, feel the blood dripping on me, etc. Very frightening.

It became the climax to my first novel.

My second book was inspired by pictures a friend sent me of floods in SE Kansas, a place from which I had recently moved. The town just south of Independence had flooded completely, even leaking oil from its refinery, and the arial pictures she sent me sparked a question about a second flood of biblical proportions.

I told this story through the eyes of a 14-year-old girl, third child of Noah, an Oklahoma farmer.

My third novel came from a particular ghost I researched--Charley, a man who had died in a house fire--but I moved his location to Seattle, changed his age, and created a whole story around him.

My fourth novel idea? Well, it came from a student paper--and art analysis of a painting of a mermaid, shown here.
★★TOP handpaint  OIL  Painting★ A Mermaid ON CANVAS 36"

The research the student had done regarding mermaid history and major stories was fascinating, and I was inspired to create a novel using what I knew (or could find out) about mermaids, sylphs, and other mythical creatures. I hope to start this novel soon.

So, what is your own inspiration? What spark inspires your writing? I'd love to know