December 14, 2011

Who Needs a Bookstore?

Buying books at Amazon is a big, fat win-win for authors and readers alike, argues to Farhad Manjoo at Slate Magazine, because books are cheaper, there's more variety, great reviews, and authors can self-publish with Amazon.

It's a surprising stance considering that the company is not only bullying authors into publishing e-books solely through Amazon, but recently, in an ugly attempt to break the knees of mom-and-pop shops everywhere, the online giant offered a discount, through its app that specifically targeted shoppers at brick and mortar retail stores.

Oh, there's more: E-book readers are now able to download books through the websites of their local, independent bookstores, thereby offering the indies a cut of the profit-- but not if the e-reader is Amazon's Kindle.
Let me be honest: I have made many o' purchase through Amazon. I have an account, and I even have an online wishlist, but I'm beginning to suspect that Amazon is something like the White Witch of Narnia, offering  . . . well, everything, including Turkish Delight, probably. Few can resist. But what will we have to sacrifice in return?

Manjoo makes a few good points in his article, though. I do read Amazon reviews, and while I'm not keen on self-publishing at this point in my career-- that may change after I've peddled my manuscript for another ten years-- it does offer that nifty option for the entrepreneurial author. And yes, the books are cheap.

However, I would rather buy my wares from a bookseller who knows me, chats with me, understands my literary appetites, as well as those of my family, and offers fabulous spot on suggestions. Here's what else I love about a local, independent bookstore: story hour, author events, I like to hold the book in my hands and turn the pages, sit on the floor and read to my children, (sometimes other people's children) drink chai and visit with friends. Indie bookstores all over the country stay open until midnight for big book releases, offer snacks and readings, invite patrons to arrive as a beloved character. It's a party, for book's sake.

Yes, many of these events could be offered at libraries, and are. I love libraries, too, but look at the sad state of American libraries these days. It's difficult to find one that's open when I need it.

There's more: Many local bookstores offer book clubs (and discounts to participants), knitters' night, support-your-whatever night, where a portion of the proceeds go to local schools or non-profit organizations.

A bookstore is more than retail; it's a church for the literary minded. It's a community where people come together and love the word(s). For the love of all that is good and printed, I bid farewell to the Amazon beast. Well, not so much fare well as good riddance.  
Manjoo is right to say that Amazon will save us a few dollars, and I understand these are trod-upon times, but it's not our billfolds that drive us to the bookshop on the corner--  yep, I'm going there; say it with me -- it's our hearts.

December 5, 2011

Nogged Off

America's Favorite Hometown Dairy, Garelick Farms, adds good old fashioned high fructose corn syrup to its egg nog, so that every year I'm torn between choosing local or choosing organic.

It's an insult to hardworking heifers everywhere.

I sent Garelick an email and asked the company to take the HFCS out of its nog. I know many, many mamas who'd be happy to buy local. They wrote back to say that they cannot accept product ideas from consumers.

What? Whom are they trying to please if not consumers? Their pocketbooks, maybe.

I don't want to rant about a local company. Like my children, I encourage them to make good choices. Unlike my children, I'm not required to give them my love when they make poor choices.

I know it's too late for this holiday season, but here's my mini campaign: If you are a New Englander, please ask Garelick Farms to remove high fructose corn syrup from its nog-- and all products, for that matter. Here's the handy dandy link.

If there are enough requests, maybe we'll return to the holidays of yesteryear when we worried only  about the state of our thighs.

November 3, 2011

Star-Spangled Heart

I'm researching women in history and found a WWII advertisment I'd never seen. It hadn't occurred to me, but women in Japan were also being drawn into traditionally male roles during the war-- and were paid less than their male co-workers.  So much in common.

It makes me wonder what I would have done if I had been an American woman in the Rosie age. Would I have felt loyal and true to the cause, or would I have felt-- as I do now-- that my spangles were a bit too tarnished by disappointment to be donned?  

The "girl" in the poster certainly appears to be ambivalent about her decision. Probably not the look they intended.

November 1, 2011

Ploughed Over

I just found out that my poem "Piece by Piece" was chosen by Nick Flynn to appear in the spring issue of Ploughshares. Would it appear terribly immature if I shouted, "Woo Hoo," and did a little happy dance?

Too late, I'm afraid.

October 24, 2011

Kindergarten Conundrum

I'm working myself into a tizzy about the land of kindergarten, where Buckaroo is meant to travel one year from now. We moved to The Woods for many reasons, only one of which was better school choices, but now I find myself reminiscing with some lingering fondness over Sweet P's kindergarten days in California. She spent half days at a neighborhood school, and most parents walked their kids each morning and hung around to chat about the news of the day.

I have several concerns about kindergarten in The Woods, a few of which may be slanderous if I shared them publicly, so I will not. I will share, however, my concern for the overlong school day-- made longer by the 45 minute (each way) bus ride to our little crook of wilderness. I know, I know. Working parents everywhere celebrated over the extended free childcare, and I when I was a single, working, mom, I would have cheered right along beside them. I cringed every month as I wrote that $400 check for Sweet P's full-time preschool/childcare-- and there were months I couldn't afford to write it at all. Fortunately, Sweet P was never given the boot.
But now I'd like to have a choice.

If I'm honest with myself, though, and I do have those moments, I will admit that I have an irrational fear of marauding gangs of five-year-old boys and they ways in which they might cultivate deviltry in my little guy. Hey, we all have our irrational fears, and this is mine. My son is certainly no angel-child, as I'm sure you've gathered if you've spent any time reading this blog, but he has a teaspoon of sweetness at his core, and I'm afraid that public school will force him to bury that tender spot under a mountain of conformity.

I'm working on it. I hope to have let it go by September, 2012, but in the event that doesn't happen Buckaroo and I are dabbling in some homeschool.


I wrote the above post a few weeks ago and didn't have a chance to finish it, but as it happens, life has thrown a long, boring wrench in my plans. The short and short of it is that, as is the case with so many folks, I may not have a choice about this kindergarten business, and Buckaroo will go where so many others have gone before him.

But here's the shaft of light that's keeping me from climbing into my dark cave of despair. Buckaroo decided to take up soccer, and last weekend we ventured out to watch the four- and five-year-old boys bumble around the field. During a break, one pint sized soccer player, whom we'd met once or twice before, reintroduced himself to Buckaroo and gave him a cheek-squishing bear hug.

There are sweet and gentle boys in the world, and they're not all homeschooled, and my best hope is that they will find each other.

October 7, 2011

This Litte Piggy Wore Pink

I am generally a day late when it comes to the media, and sometimes also a dollar short (Hulu, please let me finish last season's Glee-- for free? I'll be your best friend.)

This is something that in hit the scene in April, but I just heard about it while catching up on my Savage Love.  I can't imagine I'm the only slowus pocus in America, so I'm sharing it with you now.

In the full bloom of spring -- maybe not here, but somewhere-- J.Crew ran an ad-ish sort of thing (see it here) featuring their creative director, Jenna Lyons, painting her son's toenails pink, and apparently this created a big hubbub in the conservative community. Some people thought that Lyons was going to make her son gay by dabbing rosy paint on his piggies.

Obviously you can't make someone gay, just like you can't make a gay person straight-- as I'm sure deep down in his heart (or maybe somewhere else?) Marcus Bachmann knows-- so I'm not even going to go there, but here's what I wanted to know: Who said pink is for girls and blue is for boys? Turns out, retailers did, that's who. According to Joe B. Paoletti, author of Pink and Blue: Telling the Girls from the Boys in America, until the 1940s pink was considered a strong boy color, and blue was a delicate girl color in the United States, and then a couple of major retailers decided to mix things up.

Why would they do this? My guess is that they wanted to make money, as it is the job of retailers to sell products, and what better way to make money than to tell parents they're dressing their children all wrong, and they need to run out and buy gender-appropriate clothing. Spend more.

As with most fashion trends, Americans bought it-- in more ways than one-- just as we continue to buy every other fashion trend that comes down the chute (myself included, having just bought Sweet P and new pair of skinny jeans).

So the idea that color is related to gender was completely created by our culture. I'll take it even further and say that the idea that only women should have long hair, wear make-up, high heels (that's a whole separate post) shave legs, wear jewelry, carry purses, and that men . . . shouldn't, is created by our culture, our place in time and geographical location and nothing else.

I have two sons, one given, and one by birth, and they have both at times shown a preference for the rosier color. I wasn't present for Obo's birth, but I know that Buckaroo didn't fly out of my womb knowing these cultural rules. If I tell my sons they can't wear pink, or shame them for appreciating it, not only am I squashing their joy, I'm also happily gulping down the other ideas served up by advertising, including a very narrow definition of beauty: young, anorexic, white, straight. Also, don't forget the idea that happiness doesn't come from within, but from what we can own.

Nope. I'm not eating it, and I'm certainly not feeding it to my children.

Kudos to you, Lyons, even if your job is to sell me something I don't need. Buckaroo and I will join you and your sweet boy for a pedicure party any time.

For more reading on this topic, you may also enjoy Wayne Besen's article, "Why I Support J.Crew's Controversial Pink Toenail Ad" at the Huffington Post.

August 27, 2011

Thimbleberry & Fungi Anniversary

Our dear babysitter concussed herself playing soccer and was not able to spend time with Buckaroo so that Honey Man and I could celebrate our anniversary with the usual comestibles and libations. We're wishing her a speedy recovery-- and not only for our own benefit.

Since the woods were wild with mushrooms after the sudden summer rains, instead of alone time with noodles and wine, we took ourselves (and Buckaroo) on a photographic expedition in the sunshine.
We were told by a friend in the know that, despite all indications to the contrary, these trails are now open to hikers.
Frost's Bolete

Viscid Violet Cort

Mystery Mushroom No. 1

I have to admit that while Honey Man and Buckaroo were scavenging the forest floor for fungi, I was otherly engaged with the black raspberries that dotted sunny spots along the trail.
At least I think they were black raspberries-- after a smidge of research I have determined that blackberry druplets are larger than raspberry druplets (the bramble fruit is in fact a clump of berries also known as druplets).

The other interesting tidbit I learned is that some people call black raspberries thimbleberries and say not to pick them after Michaelmas because the devil has claimed them as his own-- or they're just moldy. You can bet that'll turn up in a poem one day.

Mystery Mushroom No. 2

Crazy Red Fungus

Honey Man wasn't certain about the chanterelles until he researched them at home, so we didn't forage. Next year, though, they might be a lovely appetizer for our seventh anniversary feast.

August 10, 2011

Poem in Honor of Philip Levine's Poet Laureatedness

You Would Not Exist

If I had eaten dinner
If he had not ordered tequila
If Philip Levine had not been invited to read
If your father had not caught up with me in the hallway,
If he had not asked, If I had not said yes,
said no, my boyfriend is waiting in his truck outside
If the boyfriend had not had a meeting
If Levine had not mentioned the apple of his eye
If I had not been the apple of my grandfather’s eye
If your father had not opened a Nalgene bottle full of black licorice,
and peeled an orange, there in the auditorium dark where we floated,
reeking of Cuervo and the fruit on our hands
If he had not ordered Russian apples in the bar, later,
toasted my grandfather, and argued some inane point to silence
If he had not brought me an apple, large and deep red,
waiting by the bike racks while students ran to class
and bells clanged
If we had not ditched English, rode our bikes
through Bidwell, rested under an oak
If I had not, nervous-talking, brought out my fervor
for the Spanish words fuego, incendio— blaze, arson—
If he had not asked, Which fire are you?

Congratulations, Philip Levine! "You Would Not Exist" was first runner-up for the 2006 Many Mountains Moving poetry prize.

August 8, 2011

Fluffernutter, Oh Right!

Buckaroo is quite a conversationalist these days, but his four-year-old topics of interest vary greatly from mine; he prefers to chat about cars, heavy machinery, and Busytown, while I . . . don't. Lately, while conversing, he'd stop me in the middle of my response and demand that I respond differently, sometimes shouting and kicking the floor in frustration.

I couldn't understand his irritation and kept insisting that my response was perfectly valid. Honestly, I was thinking, who'll talk to him if he tries to control both sides of the discussion?

Then one day we were driving, and he was telling me his many and varied thoughts about the rock pile that adorns our dam. When he made a slightly convoluted statement I didn't understand, I said what I usually say, which is, "Oh, right," while distractedly shuffling songs on the iPod.

And then he became quite belligerent and kicked the back of my seat.

"Don't say, 'Oh, right!" he shouted.

"Ok," I said this time, instead of arguing. "What would you like me to say?"

His suggestion involved bathroom humor (his lovely new interest), so I'll save you from that bit of conversation, but we finally agreed that I could say, "Fluffernutter! Oh, right."

But while we brainstormed silly words I remembered something that happened a long time ago.

When I was thirteenish, my friend and I were walking home from school, and she was dissecting new gossip about Duran Duran, and I was only half listening because I was really more of a Michael Jackson fan, which we both knew but never discussed. Also, I really wanted to chat about my latest crush and any possible clues that he might like me, but that conversation had worn thin with her.

So there we were, plodding past the strip mall, when she interrupted her monologue and huffed, "I can tell when you're not listening because you always say, 'Oh, uh-huh, right.'"

And she wasn't wrong.

Well, apparently my conversational bag of tricks hasn't changed much. I realized that with all of his shouting demands and flailing limbs, Buckaroo was trying to say the same thing my friend was trying to say 25 years ago, "Please listen to me." Duh.

Despite his ineloquence, not only did Buckaroo finally make his point, he gave me a tool-- a silly word-- to snap me out of my reverie, whether or not I want to be snapped, so I can pay attention to him.

Now that I'm really pushed to listen, though, I'm wondering if I can say, "Let's talk monster trucks for two more minutes, and then I'd like to discuss the impact of social media on the publishing industry. Whaddya say?"

Probably not.

July 12, 2011


My poem, "Chico, September" is in the current issue of Breakwater Review. Check it out!

April 8, 2011

Poem #8 Now for Something Completely Different

How Does a Dinosaur Brush his Teeth
(with huge thanks to Jane Yolen)

How does a dinosaur brush all his teeth?

Does he run from the sink,
and give his mom grief?

Does he clamp his mouth shut,
paint the mirror with paste?

Does he yank at hand towels
to cover his face?

How does a dinosaur
handle the floss?

Does he shout,
“Stand back, Dad! I am the boss!”?

Does he break the box open,
pull out miles of string?

Does he toss it into the air with a fling?

How does a dinosaur make his throat gargle?

Does he spout a fountain of mouthwash
till Mom is losing her marbles?

Does he spray?
Does he play?
Does he act most unpleasant?

No, a dinosaur doesn’t.

A dinosaur waits
with his mouth open wide
while Dad brushes every tooth inside.

He flosses until each molar’s a pearl,
then sips his mouthwash without even a quarrel.

He gives his mom a minty peck on the lips
and runs off to play.

Mama says, “Have fun, little dinosaur,
and Happy Birthday.”

Buckaroo loves Jane Yolen's How Does a Dinosaur books, and we reference them often when struggling through meal time or doctor's visits. Brushing teeth is also a daily challenge for us, so I re-visioned a Yolen story in honor of Buckaroo's fourth birthday.

Happy Birthday, Little Dinosaur

April 7, 2011

Poem #7

African Mother Carrying Her Child  (Wikimedia Commons) 

what thirty american dollars will buy

five dark godiva tulips
obwisana sa na na
one hundred lindor truffles
the rock it crushed my hand, grandma
two harry & david bunnies
obwisana sa
one ghanaian boy, age twelve
the rock it crushed my hand
one thousand bitter kisses

March 30, 2011

A Bright Month of Poetry

The Poem, Frederico Andreotti
(courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)
April is National Poetry Month, y'all. How do you plan to celebrate? I intend to take up the poem-a-day challenge and post my raw scraps and snippets right here on my bloggity blog. I just hope to keep up as it is also the month of the bunny as well as Buckaroo's Diggity Doggity Dinosaur Birthday.

But the goal here is quantity, not quality-- which seems antithetical to poetry in general, but I may cull a few stellar lines from the herd and turn them into something splendid. Well, it's good to have goals.

This is all by way of saying: You may find some mediocre language here over the next 30 days, some mixed metaphors, failed conceits, and overly alliterated lines. Keep in mind that it's all in the process of becoming-- as am I.

So here I am: another poetry marathoner at the starting line. Feel free to wave your hat as I limp past.

March 28, 2011

Spindled Review

Check out my review of Jacqueline West's first book of poetry, Cherma.

One tidbit I neglected to mention in my review: My female college classmates and I were instructed that we should never consider writing children's books if we wanted to be taken seriously as poets. It turns out that women in many different fields of study were given the same warning: you won't be respected if you choose to work with/ write for children. I'm thrilled to see that West has smashed that particluar glass ceiling with her series, The Books of Elsewhere.

March 17, 2011

A Walk at Winter's End

Welcome to my neighborhood.

I hope you brought boots.

March 16, 2011

Back Story

Rose and Thorn created a cool new section called Back Story where authors talk about their inspiration or writing process. Here's my post about writing the poem, "Problem Solving."

So kind of them to ask me to participate.

March 9, 2011

Stoked with Smoke

The Smoking Poet is out, and I'm in it with some fabulous folks. Take a gander-- or a goose.

March 7, 2011

March Melt

The rain rattled the house all night, washing the snow lakeward, and in the morning I lifted Buckaroo to the window so he could see the bare, bashful patches of dirt, leaves, and acorn caps. He announced, "Spring is coming," and I said, "Let it be so."

Daughter, Walking Ahead

February 25, 2011

Getting It Done

I have a tiny job, a minuscule thing really. Also, I edit fiction and write reviews for an online journal. I read, blog, write poetry, research, edit, revise, submit-- or at least those are things I'd like to do on a regular basis. Oh, and I'm a stay-at-home mom, but maybe I should have mentioned that first.
Hold on, I have to break from writing because my preschooler wants cinnamon untoasted.

Lately, I've been fantasizing about kindergarten. Whereas I was once horrified that our local kindergarten is a day-long program, now I dream of what I could do with all that free time. Maybe in addition to my writing endeavors, I could run the vacuum on occasion and try out that recipe for crème brûlée shoved to the bottom of my kitchen drawers.

I know I'm lucky. I don't have to work a full-time job, and though I say I don't know how I would do it, I also know if I had to, I would do it, because I've done it, and like the vacuuming and cooking, it just gets done.

Hold on while I break up a sibling brawl.

When I get carried away with my free-time fantasy, I have to remind myself of the reason I became a stay-at-home mom-- to be with my kids. My kids, who will be this particular kind of cute for only the next 30 seconds.

And yet, I am dissatisfied. There, I said it. Wrote it, even. I miss using my brain. It's not that parenting is brainless work, because Mama Knows it isn't, but it's a different kind of brainwork.  Maybe this is why I started grad school when Sweet P was two.  Does that make me selfish? Is it selfish to want to be happy . . . ier?

At some point I promised myself that my manuscript would be published by the time I was 30-- a stupid promise given that I have little control over that acceptance letter-- and now I'm looking down the barrel at 40, and I know that's part of what's driving my angst. If I have any control over the publication process, it's researching, writing, editing, revising, submitting; without that I've got nothin'.

Hold on while I search for the lost treasure.

Sometimes I have pains in my chest. Writing pains, as I think of them. I take deep breaths and ask myself: Does it really matter if I never get that book published? In the grand scheme of things, probably not. Still, I can't bring myself to let it go.

Hold on while I steal some sugar.
Hold on while I give some sugar back.

This is a conundrum for mothers everywhere, I imagine, whether it's about mothering and writing or mothering and making movies or mothering and skydiving. And then there are mothers who'd just like clean drinking water, which makes all of my blithering sound so frivolous.

But maybe if I can find the time next week, I'll write about those mothers, too.

For now, though, I've been summoned to wipe a bum.

February 5, 2011

Phoetry (Photo + Poetry) Project #2

To read the second poem in my poetry project at the Fitchburg UU site, click here. This poem was inspired by the albatross photographs from Midway Journey (see previous post).

January 31, 2011

In the Belly of the Albatross

"We’ve come to make sense of this embrace

to see the shapes of ourselves in these birds"

                                                    --Victoria Sloan Jordan

The Great American Garbage Patch-- it almost sounds quaint, doesn't it? As if it might be a junk pile on the back acre of grandpa's farm where one could find and re-purpose a rusty old wagon or a two-wheeled tricycle.

The name doesn't connote the serious nature of it (no pun intended), so perhaps it should be called the Great Pacific Eco-Destroying Cesspool of Plastic and Toxic Sludge. There's been some recent debate about the size of the plastic island in the Pacific, some saying it's as big as the U.S., some saying it's as big as Texas, and some arguing that, no, it's only about one percent of the size of Texas.

I don't know how big one percent of Texas is, but here's the thing: If the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is any bigger than the size of, oh, say, my ass, it's too big, and there are a million reasons why this is true, but here's one of them: the albatross.

Once a month I teach poetry to the children at the Unitarian Church in Fitchburg, Mass. The theme for January is Reuse, Reduce, Recycle, and I wanted to show the children the ways artists and writers employ their talents to make the world a better place.

As I researched environmental poetry I stumbled across Victoria Sloan Jordan's poems about the albatrosses, and I knew it was going to be the lesson. (I didn't swear during the lesson, though, in case you were wondering).

The albatrosses mistake the brightly colored plastic floating in the ocean for food, eat it and starve to death or choke, but not before feeding it to their babies, repeating the cycle. All over the atoll are rotted albatross carcasses, bellies exposed to show the pieces of plastic perfectly intact.  Of the 21 species of albatross, 19 are nearly extinct.

Sloan Jordan wrote about her visit to Midway Atoll with Chris Jordan who photographed the dead albatrosses.

I showed the UU children one of the less graphic photos, and they wrote poems titled, "In the Albatross's Belly," listing what they saw there. One boy's poem began, "No fish."

I didn't know what was happening in the sanctuary while we were downstairs discussing the plastic pieces we saw inside the albatross, but when I opened Rev. Seligman's sermon this morning I found this:

"None of us alone or even collectively can save everyone. We cannot stop homelessness or hunger. We cannot compel those who wield weapons of mass destruction or improvised explosive devices to turn them into ploughshares. We cannot eliminate all forms of exploitation: animal, human, botanical. But we can build an ark. We can create a structure to preserve creation. To preserve the power and relentless testimony of creativity: human, animal and botanical. We can implement ministries urban and rural. We can till the ground and cultivate gardens. We can compost. We can create spaces for contemplation: labyrinths and gardens and walking trails. We can create spaces to memorialize and honor our beloved by partnering with the land and its verdant beings." -- Rev. Leaf Seligman

There are very few things I do well. I can't be trusted with a hammer and most of what I attempt to grow browns and curls, but I like to think I can turn a phrase on occasion. Maybe I can make an ark of words.

What will your ark be?

You may also be interested in Chris Jordan's artwork depicting U.S. mass consumption: Running the Numbers: An American Self-Portrait.

January 28, 2011

Winter Blahs

Most days, it's hard for me to get out of bed, not because I'm old and feeble but because I feel tremendous sadness in the morning. I'm usually able to shake it by the time I've slid Buckaroo's bowl of oatmeal across the table, but some days not.

I know what I need: exercise, poetry, a dose of love, vitamin D, maybe a smidge of therapy, and warm makes-ya-happy-to-be-alive sunshine. The latter is not forthcoming anytime soon, according to the weather report. What's a mama to do? Muddle through.

Reading with the kidlets is a mood booster for everyone in the house, though, so we do it often. Sweet P and I are still reading Little Women, and I just finished reading Charlotte's Web to Buckaroo. In Charlotte's farewell speech to Wilbur, I found a tidbit of wisdom to carry me through the white days:

"Winter will pass, the days will lengthen, the ice will melt in the pasture pond. The song sparrow will return and sing, the frogs will awake, the warm wind will blow again. All these sights and sounds and smells will be yours to enjoy, Wilbur--this lovely world, these precious days."

Amen, Charlotte.

Summer may be a distant speck on the horizon, but, inshallah, when it arrives I'll be around to see it.

January 25, 2011

The Great Bedroom Switcheroo

 Whenever Honey Man (as I've decided to re-title R) stresses about our finances, Frog Mama tells me to remind him that one must let go of money so that it may go forth and multiply and return bigger and better-- or something like that.

Actually, I've never passed that tidbit of wisdom on to Honey Man as I'm afraid he'll snarl at me, but this weekend we put that lesson into practice in a different way. We let go of our bedroom.

When we moved to The Woods, Sweet P took the bunk room, a tiny room next to Buckaroo's which consists of a bunk bed, a small closet, and just enough width for one and a half people to stand shoulder to shoulder. Sweet P was not so bothered by the lack of space (although it was a detriment to slumber parties). Her annoyance centered around the room's lack of complete walls and door, which hindered her ability to escape her family a proper fashion. Also, it meant that when her brother woke nightly at 3 a.m., she woke, too.

Since that moving day, we've promised Sweet P we'd build a bedroom in the basement, but one thing I've learned about home ownership is that there's always a choice between home renovation and vacation, and I'm always inclined toward vacation. It's been more than two years, and the basement is far from finished.

The longer we postponed the bedroom building, the more disgruntled our Sweet P became (even though she enjoys vacation as much as her mother).

We kept stewing in the idea of giving her our bedroom because it's spacious and has a door, but it's the master bedroom, with a master bath, and we are The Masters, right? Plus, we put all that work into decorating it.

But sibling relations came to a head one fateful night, and it became clear that if Sweet P did not have her own space none of us would make it out of this winter alive.

We set aside a whole weekend for the Great Bedroom Switcheroo during which Sweet P moved into our bedroom, we moved into Buckaroo's bedroom, and he moved into Sweet P's matchbox-sized bedroom, which meant clearing the furniture (including a beastly heavy and green antique couch) out of the porchy front room so there would be a place for Buckaroo's many trucks and trains-- so, yes, as Sweet P pointed out Buckaroo does have two rooms like Dudley Dursley.

While it was our idea, Honey Man and I went into the operation begrudgingly as our new, smaller, bedroom also has a dearth of walls and doors and no closet whatsoever, accessories we enjoy immensely, but despite our resistance we hoped that Sweet P might be blown off of her cranky pedestal by the kindness of our selfless act. Of course, that didn't happen. I suppose it's a challenge to feel loving kindness for people who are bestowing their favors most unwillingly.

Well, we made the move, and our backs are sore, but something crazy came out of it.  Our new bedroom is cozier than our old bedroom ever was, and because Buckaroo is just on the other side of the wall in his new bed-fort, he jumps into our bed at 3 a.m. with little to no fanfare, which is a major improvement of our nighttime routine.

Our new bedroom, including the wall hanging that formerly had no wall

The half-painted front room, which was a sore point between Honey Man and me because I could never decide whether or not I liked the shocking blue we chose, is now a cheery play area complemented by the brightness.

Now that Sweet P is tucked away in her new room the pressure is off to finish the basement, and we're going to focus our energy on the upstairs where we actually live now. So sensible. Setting aside a work weekend worked so well we're going to do it again and again and again.

I think I speak for myself and Honey Man when I say that, while we do mourn the loss of our bedroom door and closet, we feel more contended with our house than ever; we've been knocked out of our renovation stupor and can see the possibilities afresh.

The wall between our new bedroom and Buckaroo's
 No, Sweet P is not the blissed out teen we hoped she'd be post-move. She still harrumphs, rolls her eyes, and generally ignores us, but the bedroom switch did bring us all a dose of much-needed peace, and my fantasy is that one day, a long, long, time from now, Sweet P will be the parent of a thirteen-year-old girl, and O how the gratefulness will flow then, and we'll be waiting downriver.

Or maybe not. That's the rub.

In any case, we give, and the giving comes back to us in unexpected ways, so let that be enough.   

January 20, 2011

The Honey Man Tasteth

The Bee Man gave R a dead hive to dissect and examine, explore and tidy. Here, R is scraping at the capped honey so we three greedy bears might have a sample. Not too shabby.

January 19, 2011

Wintery Mix

I wish that a wintery mix were some Chex-like snack with white chocolate morsels and raisins. It is not, much to my dismay, and if it were I've had enough of it to become quite plump with the stuff. It's been a week of snow, sleet, rain, ice, and every variation here in The Woods, and January is slinking by in its slothy way.

I often find myself enjoying nearly erotic fantasies about the SF Bay Area spring that is February.

But Lo and Behold, today as I was picking my way tenderly up the ice rink that is our driveway I discovered these tiny paw prints in the snow. I know they're just squirrel tracks, but there is something delightful about finding the evidence of critters run amok while we're away.

Also, Sweet P returned from her skiing lesson downright cheery this evening, which does the whole family good.

And so, tomorrow is another day. And it's one day closer to the equinox.

January 18, 2011

Phoetry (Photo + Poetry) Project #1

I've started a new project at the Fitchburg UU site. Check it out by clicking your mouse here.

January 16, 2011

Rosie Posie, Take II

I got a little ahead of myself before when I posted the link to my poems in Rose and Thorn, so now, without further hullaballoo, here is the entire Winter Issue of Rose and Thorn. Enjoy!

January 13, 2011

Life without Facebook

I have several thousand New Year's resolutions, but the grandaddy of all my resolutions is that I'll spend more time writing poetry and fiction instead of status updates, sending submissions instead of friend requests. I have a new policy whereas I allow myself to visit the site only on Fridays.

I've been at it three weeks now-- I like to get a jumpstart on resolutions-- and the result is . . . well, the result is nebulous, but my dreams may be suggestive of what's happening in my head.

First, I dream once again of moving back to California. In the last dream, R and I were viewing a victorian with hardwood floors, tall, sunny windows, and a sweet little office for writing. It was, of course, across the street from a coffee shop and book store. I woke bereft.

I also dreamed I was graduating from Chico State all over again, and my last project was to create a painting for one of my professors. I painted an autumn ginkgo for Gary Thompson, from whom I learned to appreciate the ginkgo and the egret. I woke and spent the morning reminiscing about Gary's classes and long post-class afternoons drinking wheat beer with lemon and discussing poetry at the pub with my classmates.

Oprah's lifecoach, Martha Beck, says the goals we set for ourselves are not always what's best for us. We should re-consider our goals, think about how we believe our goals will make us feel, and then decide if there's anything else that will bring that same emotion.

My forever goal is to publish my poetry manuscript, and I can't imagine any reason why that goal is not appropriate for me. Lately, though, every rejection letter or "you-missed-it-by-that-much" letter brings me to a new low in a way it never did before.

After applying Beck's formula for happiness, I realized that, while rejection is never a blast, what I'm really grieving is the loss of the writing scene. I miss those lengthy craft conversations, and I've been trying to bring the scene to me by publishing instead of going to where I might find it.

And it all came to me when I cut back on my Facebook time because Facebook is a bit of a band-aid: it fulfills the need to connect with others, but the connection is mostly superficial, and without Facebook every day, I realized just how incredibly isolated I am from everyone, but especially from other writers. Facebook can't heal that wound.

I've made a plan to attend some local poetry readings-- well, they're not local at all, but I'm going to get myself there come hell . . . Uh, I can't really complete that line since yesterday my attempt to poetize myself was foiled by a blizzard, but I am going to try really, really hard.

And in the meantime I have a conference call this weekend with three lovely poetic type people scattered across the country. In fact, I need to write a poem to share with them, so I'd better get to it.