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!