February 28, 2007

Moseying Along

Today’s time outside was downtown. A kind of puddle-jumping, meter-feeding, racing-to-the-corner, sparkling, cocoa-fortified, hand-holding mosey. Lovely.

(You may double-click the picture
to see its larger version.

Thank you to the folks at Create-A-Thing
for their continuing inspiration.)

February 26, 2007

The Snow Day That Wasn't

This week's prompt at One Deep Breath is "color(ful)" and despite this haiku's lack of obvious color, it sprung from that prompt... the events described in the body of this post, coupled with thinking about the way that color can signal surprise and change, led me here:

Melting ice cracks, then
slides, then tumbles off the roof –
cartwheeling towards spring.

It didn’t look like it was going to be a good day for spending time outside. Not only because of the weather (wet, grey, cold), but because I stayed up late last night watching TV at S's while we reassured each other that of course Monday would be a snow day.

That way lies trouble, friends.

Still, I did manage to get out in it, despite my exhaustion. Decided to take the path of least resistance and walk in the woods behind my son’s school before going in to pick him up. At first, I was somewhat crabbily focused on the non-snowiness of it all… lots of mud, the constant sound of dripping. Then I gradually started to notice more textures… dry wood in a shed and a pile of wet wood just outside. The stillness of the wrought-iron cemetery gate vs. the spatter of roof runoff o’ertopping its gutter. Two trees had managed to hold onto some color, and seemed almost proud; I imagined myself to be taking their portraits.

Then the contrast between the outdoors and the riotous color and whirl of D’s cartwheels:

(Thanks to the people at One Deep Breath
and Thing-A-Day
for their continuing inspiration.)

February 25, 2007

Canal Walk

Today a friend unexpectedly offered to allow D to tag along as she took her daughter to a riding lesson. Time alone!

Without this week's theme, I probably would have busied myself with multiple rounds of Shooot, a couple of loads of laundry, maybe some pre-tax organizing. But it was day 25, so I was all about getting myself outside.

I headed off to the D&R canal towpath, and was struck by the emptiness. Was everyone else either hunkered down for the coming storm, or out getting emergency provisions? I stood in the middle a usually busy road and took a picture with no fear. The lake, which was teeming with skaters just a few days ago, is busy melting.

(Thanks to the folks at Thing-A-Day
for their continuing inspiration,
and to my friend E,
who enabled my solitary walk today.)

February 24, 2007

Hide and Seek

As we left the house, I told D it was supposed to go up to 39 degrees today. "That's pretty warm," he said with five year-old authority. "And in the woods it will be even warmer." "Probably so," I said, "why do you think?" "Because all those trees block the cold," he quickly answered.

No thickets in today's woods, just lots and lots of tall old trees, many of them oak, and leaves deep enough to level out the hollows. We climbed and played hide and seek. It did seem warmer. The best way to hide was to snuggle right up against a big trunk and try to stop panting from having run there. No one stayed lost.

(Thanks to the folks over at Thing-A-Day
for their inspiration. Thanks in part to them, I've created something
every day this month (so far), and the proof is over here.)

Sunday Scribblings: Puzzle

Tonight, as we got ready to welcome friends, we noticed a very still squirrel taking a nap in the middle of our street. Terrible place for a nap.

Of course I knew at once that the squirrel was dead, but D, having much less experience with such things, was going to need some convincing.

Remembering one of my partner's guiding philosophies of parenting – say yes as often as you can, and no only when you feel you must – I answered "yes" when D asked if we could go see the napping squirrel.

Except for the blood, she looked quite peaceful, and relatively unharmed. Her fur ruffled in the breeze, giving D false cause for hope, and he just couldn't seem to believe that something that looked so close to alive could be so far from it.

"Squirrels are so fast," he said, "why didn't it just run away? I don't see any holes. How could just a bonk on the head make you dead? What about the squirrel's spirit?" I don't remember wrestling with these questions as a child, although I guess I must have. D was at once fascinated to see something that was truly dead – a close inspection of the squirrel over time showed that she wasn't breathing – and sad that there was one less squirrel to watch. (We had just been talking the other day about how much fun they seem to have as they play tag around the tree trunks, and we couldn't help but wonder if the squirrel lingering in the front yard was a special friend.)

I don't like squirrels, particularly. One less squirrel in the world isn't much to me. But I had this instinct to model a deeper reverence for life, and found myself asking D if he thought it would be a good idea if we moved the squirrel out of the road, so that she wouldn't get hit by any more cars. He immediately assented.

So I put on a disposable glove, steeled myself, went back outside, and lifted up the squirrel. She was still supple, even a little warm. Now I did feel sorry. I gently carried her out of further harm's way to rest at the base of a large street tree at the edge of our property. Having seen enough up-close sadness for one day, D watched from our livingroom window, trying to work out the puzzle of life and death.

February 23, 2007

Winter Wind

Brrrrr! One of those days here when you want to pull your hat down over your ears when the weather announcer tells you how much colder it will feel with the wind chill. Anything that was wet outside today turned to ice. Our front lawn? Ice. Our walkway? Ice.

I walked in my neighborhood after work and before picking D up from school. At at corner near my house, there is a stand of three or four very tall pine trees, and the wind today was having its way with them. Further down the block, I saw a single pine nestled in among a stand of deciduous trees, and the frantically waving branches of the pine made it look as if the tree were trying to escape.

I walked and watched the pines and saw my fingers go redder and redder with each picture I took. When I came home, I made corn muffins.

(Thanks to the good folks at Thing-A-Day
for their continuing inspiration.)

February 22, 2007

Into the Woods

I spend very little time outside in February. And the relative lack of snow has made the outdoors seem less inviting this year. But my boy and I are in danger of developing a serious case of cabin fever, so for my last week of "thing-a-day" I'm spending time outside. Just to be there. Tonight we went exploring in the Broadmead woods. D was drawn to the thorny thicket. I was drawn to the towering trees. We stayed until it was almost too dark to find our way out. Deeply satisfying.

(Thanks to the people of Thing-A-Day
for their continuing inspiration.)

February 21, 2007

Poetry Thursday - the body knows

Body of Knowledge


At the bend of my wrist
two faint blue-grey dots
memorialize some fifth-grade
school bus tomfoolery:
the tip of a number two pencil
went in and out, twice,
and on the way out,
drew. The eraser wouldn't fit.


At the edge of my hand,
a small raised island
marks the day I learned
just how cleanly glass can cut.
The fortune tellers hesitate
over the spot every time,
but will never divulge
which line it is I cut short.


In the flat pale valley
between my breasts,
a chicken pox scar
from the one scab I let myself
peel away.
Such exquisite relief!
and I was sure I'd chosen a spot
that no one would ever see.


After the crash,
my head and the car spinning,
the doctor on duty in the ER
dashed upstairs for a tray of finer silks.
He babied me until a gunshot wound rolled in,
so you'd have to be pretty close
to see, just above my left orbital bone,
a tiny section of track.

(Thanks to the women of Poetry Thursday
for their continuing inspiration.
Not to mention the good folks at Thing-A-Day.)

February 20, 2007

For cloudscome

My blogfriend cloudscome reports that she and her boys have been battling illness. This goes out to her and everyone else dealing with the February blues. (Don't worry, D's fine at the moment; it's an old picture.)

(Spellcheck doesn't like "blogfriend," and to spellcheck I say, "Get used to it.")

(Thanks to the good people at Thing-A-Day
for their continuing inspiration. I am participating
in a month-long daily creative exercise, which this week is taking
the shape of mailed art. To see more of my entries, you can surf on over here.)

Something Sad, Something Scary

First, the sad news: human rights activist Barbara Gittings passed away on Sunday. She was a trailblazer and an inspiration; the story is here, if you'd like to read it.

The scary news is that D's school brought in the super-cool Lizard Guys for an in-school program yesterday and, you guessed it, our young man is now on fire for a blue tongued skink. Wants one. In his room. Knows that no one in our family could possibly be allergic to it. Is very excited and looking for an answer soon. His cousins have a dog, his best friend has two kitties, and as far as he's concerned, the writing's on the wall.


Please, gentle reader, delurk and give me some advice, I beg you!

February 19, 2007

Frozen Morning and SPICES Fibs

(Today's poems are guided by the first six numbers of the Fibonacci series, which dictates the syllable counts of 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, and 8 in each of the successive lines.)

thirty two.
Instead of birdsong,
wake to the sound of tires spinning!

The prompt at One Deep Breath this week recommended that we consider adding some "spice" to our writing, however we might define that. When Quakers talk about SPICES, we are often referring to some of the most widely-known tenets of the Quaker faith: Simplicity, Peace, Integrity, Community, Equality, and Stewardship. So...

be our
gift to those
who already have
everything they need? Think simple.

when it seems
to offer truly
safe space for the weary fighters.

to teach
our young son:
instead of swearing,
or promising? Be trustworthy.

one boat and
we are all in it.
(Repeat every day, as needed.)

a life which
was grounded in deep
equality? Could we begin?

Not yours.
Ours to share.
Our lives, our planet,
all held in trust for the children.

(Thanks to the women of One Deep Breath
for their continuing inspiration.)

Code Monkey

Yes, I'm totally grooving on the new Patty Griffin album (so far Burgundy Shoes makes me cry every time), but I believe that this latest Jonathan Coulter offering may be my favorite song for the next three hours:

Code Monkey get up get coffee
Code Monkey go to job
Code Monkey have boring meeting
With boring manager Rob
Rob say Code Monkey very dilligent
But his output stink
His code not “functional” or “elegant”
What do Code Monkey think?
Code Monkey think maybe manager want to write god damned login page himself
Code Monkey not say it out loud
Code Monkey not crazy, just proud

Code Monkey like Fritos
Code Monkey like Tab and Mountain Dew
Code Monkey very simple man
With big warm fuzzy secret heart:
Code Monkey like you

(more verses to follow)

Click here to head over to a page where you can hear it. And c'mon back later for some poetry.

February 18, 2007

Show and Tell, Grownup Edition

We had such a great time tonight at Princeton Friends' Meeting 3rd Sunday Gathering! We invited friends from our community to come prepared for "grownup show and tell," and of course the range and depth of folks' interests was absolutely inspiring. Little folks D and Z from the Beginning School showed us how it was done, but the real "meat of the order" came once the grownups took center stage.

Nancy taught herself tatting from a book, and showed off a number of other hand-crafted crocheted or knitted items that were greeted with appreciative "oohs and ahhs." Lenora has been working magic with polymer clay for over fifteen years and has such a deft touch that folks keep wondering if it's enamel, or possibly miniature painting. Weedie's album of her family's annual Christmas cards was a fabulous chronicle of both her family's life and the times. Judith shared some hand-dyed fabrics as well as handmade beads, quilting, a remarkable cloth bowl, and some amazing knitting that incorporated both cloth and yarn. Robert played his Japanese end-blown Shakuhachi flute, which I think we all could have fallen into a trance listening to. Tim played a modern penny whistle and waxed rhapsodic about English country dancing and its happy role in his life. Kate had us all asking when we could please come visit she and her husband's model train layout. Sally sat modestly knitting a blanket that we finally got her to hold up so that we could admire it. And Allen had us absolutely falling out laughing with tales from his and Susan's years of keeping and hand-shearing sheep. I'm probably even forgetting someone.

People are especially beautiful when lit from within by a love of what they're talking about. Whoever decided that Show and Tell should be relegated to the 7-and-under set was dead wrong. Everyone should have this kind of chance to share their interests with others.

February 16, 2007

Camp Crush

I could have figured it out at Camp Comstock, I guess, but I didn't. Not having any frame of reference or the necessary language, I had no way to know that what I was feeling for the beautiful leggy counselor whose camp name was Moonbeam was a crush of the first order.

All I knew was that I wanted to follow her around like a puppy dog... and did, as much as I could. I can still feel the annoyance I felt about the existence of other campers; all I wanted was to be alone with Moonbeam and drink her in.

I didn't know yet that I was gay, didn't know that I would be taking on the challenge of winning the affection of an older woman a few more times in the years to come. But I did know that it was thrilling to try to get past her counselor persona and down to something closer to her true self.

I remember walking along the edge of the lake looking for stones with naturally occurring holes – lucky stones, according to camp lore – and trying desperately to match my pace to hers, while simultaneously trying to make it all seem natural and/or coincidental. When I managed to get her talking about her non-camp life, it felt like a break-through, and at one point, in recounting a story about her parents, she let her non-camp name slip. I immediately knew that this was yet another way for me to demonstrate my unusual maturity, and so said nothing about it, either to her or to the other girls.
But at night, after lights out, I consoled myself with the knowledge that I was the only one who knew who she really was.

Of course I never saw her again, and it was only years later, in the light of retrospect, that I realized how kind she had been to me. I haven't looked at this picture in over twenty years, but I was pretty sure I still had it. I remember the day we finished the raft, a beautiful, clear day, with me insisting that I needed a picture of not just the raft, but her in front of it. Cracking jokes and getting her to agree.

I was so pleased to have made her smile.

(Thanks to the women of Sunday Scribblings
for their continuing inspiration.
And to she who was called Moonbeam.)

February 15, 2007

You (Collage)

You were the one who took care of me while my mother worked. You taught me how to draw clouds and swimming swans. You held me on your lap. You came home from the hospital when I was three. You held the towel as I stepped dripping from the tub. You said, "Why bless your little heart." You called me on the phone and talked to me as if I mattered. You were not interested in learning secret codes with me. You were older, and there was something about your silver hair that set me thrumming. You never sang. You said once that you were leaving something in God's hands, and seemed so calm about it. You studied for the algebra exam with me and then finally gave up, skipping rocks down by the creek. You left the top two buttons of your shirts undone. You were sent away to school and wrote me letters. You helped me learn to ski, remember that day when we kept almost sitting down on the t-bar? You betrayed me and confessed and cried and cried. You had a beautiful singing voice and drove us all crazy by seeming not to care. You were the one I wanted to kiss. You thought that I would never learn to cook. You met me our first year in college. You took the art class that I was the nude model for. You sat at my table even though I was eating through a straw. You were the one who loved and left me. You were my roommate during the "you can if you want to" year. You warned me. You could hardly walk, towards the end.

(Thanks to the women of Poetry Thursday
and the folks over at the Creative Act/ Create-A-Thing-A-Day project
for their continuing inspiration.)

February 14, 2007

Snow Day!

A messy mix of snow and ice resulted in snow days at both D's and my schools today... happy Valentine's Day, indeed!

I stayed in and drank tea, while D saw an entrepeneurial opportunity and got busy. Cleaned Tama's car and our walk, and then got to work across the street at the Scott's house!

We're lucky to have such kind and generous neighbors... the wintry mix was still coming down as he finished, so they probably had to do it all over again, but D came home with the princely sum of $4 clutched in his be-mittened hand. He's saving up for a huge Transformer, so was quite pleased with himself.

(I've written up two more stories from the My Life In Stories project
as a part of my participation in the Creative Art project this month.
Can you spot the new ones?
This coming week, I'm thinking about doing a little mail art
for my creative acts... tell me in comments if you're craving snailmail.)

February 12, 2007

Be Prepared

My first encounter with racism that was too overt to be explained away happened when I was in ninth grade. (The story of that encounter, written in part as my daily contribution to the Creative Act project, is here.)

There have been multiple subsequent experiences, but each time I have been taken by surprise. (I am someone who does not naturally go through my days with my guard up, and my journey through life is buoyed along by white privilege.)

I don't know when my son will experience racism that is so undisguised as to be unavoidable. (I don't think he has yet.) I think about what feels like an inevitability, and I want to try to help prepare him to be ready to confront it when it comes.

But how do I explain something so fundamentally unexplainable?

So far, we've been talking about prejudices in terms of how they play out in people's individual lives. D knows that some people (like George Bush) think that boys should only be able to marry girls, and girls should only be able to marry boys. He also knows that in our family we think that love is the thing that really makes the family. We've talked about the idea that good ideas have lasting power, and that the person who killed Martin Luther King, Jr. killed his body, but not his ideas or his dreams or the ideas and dreams of the people who learned from him. My five year-old son knows the story of Rosa Parks' and others' civil disobedience, and we've talked about how sometimes a country's laws are outdated and wrong and in need of changing. And we talk about how change is hard for people, and that some people's ideas are so out of step and old fashioned that it makes it hard for them and the people around them.

It's a start.

I remember that when we were hoping to become parents, the high school students I spoke to as a part of the local PFLAG speaker's bureau would often ask me, "Aren't you worried about what your kid will have to face as a boy with two moms?" And I said that for me, discrimination on the basis of sexual minority status is a known quantity. I've seen it, heard it, fought it, been laid low by it, and come back to fight again. I'm pretty confident that we'll be able to equip him with the tools he'll need to stand up for himself in that regard, in part because I know we'll have lots of life experience to draw on.

I'm much more nervous about my ability to prepare him to deal with racism.

(Thanks to Kwynne over at LesbianFamily.org for getting the ball
rolling on this for me, and to the Creative Act project
for their inspiration this month.)

Haiku - Shelter

What kept us going
was the thought of a warm cup
of cocoa back home.

(Many thanks to the women of One Deep Breath
for their continuing inspiration.)

Haiku - Cat

Not quite casual,
the neighbor's cat celebrates
dawn with a mouse hunt.

February 11, 2007


We told her that we were getting her tires checked. We lied.

With the help of the fabulous Sassafras Mama & her boy, D and I snuck off and had a CD player installed in Tama's car. (It's a 1995 Altima, so was without what we now consider to be a basic amenity.)

It was a big hit and a total surprise. D really got into being in on the secret, and we both delighted in finally spilling the beans. Valentine's Day elfing is fun city!

Meanwhile, I've got three more days of stories to write from my list... still open to suggestions/requests...

February 10, 2007


Start your day with an hour or so of wrestling:

Add an hour or so of learning to slide on the ice:

And I guarantee you, you'll drop like a stone when the lights finally go out!

(Today is also Week 2, Day 3 of my participation
in the Creative Act project. Today's addition to the
My Life in Stories Project is here.)

February 09, 2007

Yummy - Sunday Scribblings

(My own personal contribution to the yumminess quotient of the world...
chocolate mousse cake from scratch, with powdered sugar from a stencil I found on the internet.)

Language has periodically gotten in the way of my enjoyment of the yummier things in life.

Several foods which eventually made it onto my all-time favorites list spent many years languishing in a kind of purgatory.

The only kinds of cheese I'd ever eaten when I heard about cheesecake for the first time were cheddar cheese and American cheese. I just couldn't imagine how either of those and cake could play well together, so I turned up my nose at cheesecake for years. So sad.

Sourdough bread met a similar fate. I thought grownups were crazy to deliberately seek out something with a name so clearly warning of an unhappy experience. Finally I accidentally ate a slice of sourdough bread, loved it, and THEN realized what I'd been missing all along.

So now my food motto is, "If it's dead, I'll try it." I don't care what you call it; I don't want to miss out again!

(Thanks to the women of Sunday Scribblings
for their continuing inspiration. In other news,
my contributions to the Creative Act project this week
are going to be additions to the My Life In Stories Project.
Today's entry is here. If you see a title that piques your interest,
let me know in the comments; maybe I'll write that one next!)

February 08, 2007

On the other hand...

There is, of course, an upside to our current weather situation.

I'm going to be trying to write up (down?) some of the stories from the My Life In Stories project in the coming week; any requests?

Poem later today, if I get lucky.

Update: no poem, but my account of my Personal Snow Day is here.

February 07, 2007

Top 5 Signs That It's Ccccccold (!)

5) turning the key in my car's ignition is acccompanied by prayer

4) Lake Carnegie is completely frozen

3) wardrobe is coordinated according to whether longjohns can be accomodated

2) the radio announcer chirpily tries to make 20 degrees sound like a heat wave

1) our five year old plaintively asks for soup for breakfast

(Tip of the hat to Sassafras Mama,
from whom I lifted this meme.)

February 06, 2007

Imagined History 6 - Courage

(This post is nonfiction and part of my participation this month in the Creative Act project. My theme this week is Imagined History.)

Courage doesn't always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice
at the end of the day saying "I will try again tomorrow."
~ Anonymous

When I came out at my very first job after college, it was a big deal. Not so much to me, or even to my co-workers, but to the wider world. Or it certainly felt so.

It's hard to explain in words how much the landscape around sexual orientation has changed since the mid-1980's when I was navigating it for the first time.

In those times, there were very few corporations that had extended health benefits to same-sex domestic partners. (I think there were some software companies that were mostly the exception proving the rule.) If you wanted protection, education was pretty much your only other option as industries go. And there was what felt like a one-to-one correspondence between people who were willing to say the word "gay" out loud and people who were gay. The tarring effect of the gay "brush" was so powerful that people wanting to avoid it were afraid to even say the word out loud.

And it was in this climate that I began my first job after college. I had been saying the words "gay" and "I" in the same sentence for about two years when I arrived at the University of Pennsylvania's Undergraduate Admissions Office. I already had the sense that the work of staying closeted was work that I didn't want, but at the same time I didn't know what to expect in my new environment. So I stayed quiet. And watched. And ultimately made my decision.

Years afterward, at my farewell party as I left Penn after working there for almost ten years, several of my colleagues caught me off guard by citing my unusual courage. I was quick to correct them. Because although it did take
some courage on my part to come out and keep coming out, my work was made immeasurably easier by the fact that there was someone who had gone before me. What I watched, in those first few months as a waged employee, was how people treated Janine Wright, who had been hired the year before me and who I had quickly identified as gay. She probably came right out and told me. Just as she had other folks in the office. And as I watched, and saw her successfully bring her whole self to her work, I quickly made what felt like an easy decision: I wanted that, too. So I followed her lead.

A year later, Janine had moved onto other things, and although our paths crossed a few times afterwards, we didn't stay in touch. I probably never thanked her properly. And if she happened to stumble across this post, I think the odds are good that she wouldn't think of herself as being unusually courageous, either. She could probably tell the story of how events in her life had conspired to make the steps she took possible.

But maybe that's the nature of courage. It comes to find you, rather than the other way around. And if you're living into your gifts and leadings, it will sometimes "read" as courage to those around you.

I think about these kinds of things much more now that I'm a parent, and a living example – ready or not! – to a young person who is an absolute
sponge for life. Guess I'll know I've done something right when someday, someone calls him courageous... while he's doing something just because it feels right.

(Many thanks to the folks at The Creative Act

for their inspiring challenge this month, and to
the women of Mama Says Om for their continuing inspiration.)

February 05, 2007

Imagined History 5

(Some portion of this post is fictitious – at least the first sentence is true – and part of my participation this month in the Creative Act project. My theme this week is Imagined History.)

I was one of those good girls who liked school. When home got crazy, school was a haven. The right answers seemed within easy reach.

When it came time to apply for college, there was a little tension – this was almost fifty years ago, remember – because my father wasn't altogether comfortable with the idea of his girl going away to school. Finally he let me apply, and I ended up getting in to all three schools I'd sent applications to: Connecticut College, Rivier (up in New Hampshire), and even Radcliffe.

I don't know if this kind of thing still happens, but back then people were very private and prideful about money. At least my father was. There were scholarships at Conn and Radcliffe that I could have applied for, but he would have needed to fill out a confidential form detailing our family's financial situation, and he just wouldn't do it.

I know now that I could have moved out and petitioned the schools to consider me as an independent student, but I don't think anyone in my life knew about that then. So I went to Rivier. And that's why my French is French-Canadian.

(Many thanks to the folks at The Creative Act
for their inspiring challenge this month,
and to AP, who inadvertently inspired this story today.)

Haiku - Dusk

Eye-watering cold
and the graveyard wall at dusk –
distinctions blurring.

(Thanks as ever to the women of One Deep Breath
for their continuing inspiration.)

Haiku - Courage

How can we be sure,
we creatures at water's edge?
Who will step out first?

The pond's gone solid
while clouds scud across the moon.
A friction-free world.

(Thanks to the women of One Deep Breath
and Mama Says Om for their continuing inspiration.)

February 04, 2007

Imagined History 4

(Some portion of this post is fictitious, although at least the first sentence is true. It has been written as part of my participation this month in the Creative Act project. My theme this week is Imagined History.)

I started taking dance lessons when I was about four, I guess, with a woman who I never heard anyone call anything other than Madame Helena. Tall and regal, she seemed as if she'd come from another country (I think she had an accent), and she could correct the angle of your turnout with one quick glance in your direction. She was a force of nature, and the only game in town. If you wanted to dance in Elmira, NY, Madame Helena was going to be a part of your life.

I don't remember deciding to dance; I was probably small enough that the idea was a combination of mine and my mother's. But once I began, it was clear that I was in it for the long haul. Every year, a few more of the girls who I'd started with dropped out, moving on to gymnastics or swimming or horseback riding, and there I was, climbing the stairs to Madame Helena's studio with my pink tights and black leotard safely tucked into my dance bag.

Since dance classes at Madame Helena's were largely organized according to how long you'd been dancing, by the time I was eleven or so I was the youngest person in every class I took. I got a lot of positive feedback from my parents and other grownups in my life, and I remember enjoying the sense of mastery that came from learning a new set of combinations, but I don't remember that much about actually dancing. Which could be because it wasn't ever all that connected to the core of who I was, or because I blocked it out later.

One day, and I've never been able to remember the specifics, I overheard someone talking to my mother about my dancing, and something about that conversation brought into sharp focus that my "youngest kid in the class" status had eclipsed (at least for this woman) any real consideration of my abilities as a dancer. I was a curiousity.

A little while later, I told my mom that I wanted to quit taking lessons. And I never really danced again.

(Many thanks to the folks at The Creative Act
for their inspiring challenge this month.)

February 03, 2007

Imagined History 3

(This post is mostly fiction – at least the first sentence is true – and part of my participation this month in the Creative Act project. My theme this week is Imagined History.)

When I was a child, my father's father had an amazing garden. Garden doesn't even feel like the right word for it; it seemed more like an entirely separate world to me. And maybe because in those early years I only saw it once a year – my grandparents lived in Pittsburgh, which was about a five hour drive from Big Flats, my home town – it was impossible for me to imagine that my grandfather's elaborate, terraced garden had been planned and created by him. Just as I hadn't yet made the connection between books and authors, Opa's garden was less his creation than a wonder of the world that I couldn't wait to explore.

We have a home movie of me helping him in the garden when I was about six years old, and sometimes I wonder how my life would have turned out if my father hadn't decided to test out his new 8mm camera that day. Early in the film, I am carrying armfuls of trimmed branches down the central steps and then out of the frame. A few minutes later, you can see me crouched in the shade of my grandfather, a tiny pair of trimming scissors in my hand as I snip as directed while he holds a rose branch between the thorns. He then gives me the rose, and tells me to take it to my mother, and this is the part of the movie that the rest of my family always comments on.

"Look, there he is," my father will say teasingly, "mommy's best boy!" My mom always puts up a protest. "It was sweet! You can give me roses anytime, Jimmy."

But the part of the movie that always stood out for me was the look on my face as I carried the branches down to the compost, carefully feeling with my little foot for the next step. So proud. And then, again, the look on my face as I listen to my grandfather talk about how to choose a pruning spot. Such concentration.

When I was about twelve years old, I finally figured out that my grandfather wasn't just the caretaker of his garden, he was its creator. And as soon I figured that out, it's what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.

My father (the engineer) and my mother (the chemist) were taken aback, I think, in the beginning. But I wore them down with the persistent fact of my happiness. And I am happy with my choice.

But I do sometimes wonder what my life would have been like if some other home movie had been the one that got played over and over again.

(Many thanks to the folks at The Creative Act
for their inspiring challenge this month.)

February 02, 2007

Sunday Scribblings - Goodbye

He doesn't want me to go. And I don't want to go, either. And yet we do this, every weekday, as we head off to our separate schools. Most mornings his sadness is masked by his excitement to see his friends and teachers at school. But some days, the goodbye is really hard.

For the first three years of his life, there were few of these; the idea of leaving him in someon
e else's care was so hard that I quit my waged work to stay home.

But then the money ran out, and I started to long for a life in which I was contributing to a broader enterprise than the well-being of my own family. He began to show signs of being able to stand up for himself and ask for what he wanted and needed. And I found a really great job.
We have a tradition now that started one day when I said, "Hey, did I tell you yet today that I love you? "No," he said with a smile, "but you do." Now we go through that call-and-response almost every day. "Oh my gosh! Did I tell you yet today that I love you?!" "No, but you do." It means I get to tell him I love him many many times, all the while pretending that I'm not sure I have yet. It means that if I do forget to say it, he knows that it's true anyway. It means that I know that he knows. And it means that the goodbye is forgiven.

Gotta go scoop up my boy now.


(Thanks to the women of Sunday Scribblings
for their continuing inspiration.)

Imagined History 2

(This post is mostly fiction – at least the first sentence is true – and part of my participation this month in the Creative Act project. My theme this week is Imagined History.)

When I was a junior in high school, my beautiful friend Lynette talked me into trying out for the school play. I tagged along, mostly to keep her company, and as soon as I got to the audition I realized that I'd made a mistake; these were the people I should have been hanging around with from the beginning.

Although I have a hammy side, and got a part in that first show, I quickly gravitated to the tech crew backstage, drawn by the twin lures of lingo and behind-the-scenes knowledge. It was one of the first times that I felt like I was bringing my whole self to school. I loved learning the tricks of the trade, from hanging and focusing lights to putting up false walls and painting screens to look like almost anything.

By the time I was a senior, I had painted more backdrops than anyone else in the building, and designers were starting to draw with me and my crew in mind. I could make canvas look like marble, plastic look like wood, you name it. There was something so powerful in knowing that I was helping to draw the audience into an alternative universe and keep them there. All I wanted to do was paint.

I should probably have gone directly to a studio. Or maybe an apprentice program.

But in my house, when I was growing up, all the sentences about college started with "when." So I went to college (UMass, sight unseen), and although I had a mostly good experience, I couldn't help but feel out of place.

Coming from a tiny little town, I was used to being a known quantity, and could never really adjust to the opportunities for anonymity that life at a big school offered. And I couldn't get Monica Russ out of my mind.

Monica Russ was only a year older than me in high school, but I might not have known her at all if it hadn't been for drama club. She had dark, almost black hair, deep dark eyes, and beautiful skin. She was the first person my age who used eyeliner in a way that didn't make me roll my eyes in response. Backstage, she quickly became the makeup girl of choice, and in the one play that I did have a role in, was the only one who could do my makeup.

I'd worn glasses for most of my life, had only recently gotten contacts, and never wore makeup. My eyes seemed anxious in a way that was completely beyond my control. As soon as a grease pencil got anywhere near my eyes, they would well up and ruin whatever work had already been done. Somehow Monica, with her easy smile and gentle touch, slipped past my defenses and got the job done.

Students in my school stuck to their class year, so we never really became friends, although I would have liked nothing more. But we did share some poetry, enough to know that we were both serious about it, and a few times she let me share her seat on the bus to and from drama competitions.

Then, suddenly, she was gone. Never having hung out with a senior before, I hadn't known to think ahead and ask about her post-high school plans. And even if I had figured that out, I might not have done it; I got the sense that maybe the sentences in her family didn't all start with "when." I got up the nerve to call her house once, but hung up when a man (her father?) answered. What would I have said? "Hi, I've never called this number before, but I'm a sort of friend of Monica's and I was just wondering where she is now?" I couldn't do it. And then the chance was gone.

So here I was, three years later in a chilly UMass studio art class with a teacher whose work I found completely uninteresting. Trying to concentrate on perspective drawing but instead remembering drama club. Thinking about her sweet hands on my face as she worked to keep my eyes from crying, and wondering again where Monica Russ was now.

(Thanks to the people of the Creative Act project,
to my best friend CD, and to Monica Russ,
wherever she is, for their inspiration.)

February 01, 2007

Imagined History 1

(This post is mostly fiction – at least the first sentence is true – and part of my participation this month in the Creative Act project. My theme this week is Imagined History.)

When I was a junior in college, my mother was diagnosed with ovarian cancer.

When my father called to tell me, he sounded more shaken than I could ever remember. At first I misunderstood him and thought that he was talking about my grandmother. Once I figured out that it was my mom who was sick, I hastily informed the dean of students of my situation, and drove home.

Every test led to another test. Chemo followed surgery, which in turn followed radiation. For a while I was doing the 8-hour drive back and forth every weekend, but then something came up on a Tuesday after I'd just gotten back to school, and something inside me gave way.

I stood in the middle of my dorm room and did a slow turn, mentally calculating what I'd be willing to leave behind. I wrote a note to my roommate. And then, with a plastic trash bag full of stuff over my shoulder, I left.

When people ask me where I went to college, I tell them. And then I pray that they're not going to ask me the next question: "Oh, when did you graduate?" Because I didn't.

My mom died a year and a month after her initial diagnosis, while I was back at my parents' house getting her a change of clothes. Three months later I met Jon. My office in the community art center looks out over the pond he dug that first summer. Next week I'm scheduled for my annual OB/Gyn appointment, and even all these years later I struggle with getting up the courage to go.

(Many thanks to the folks at The Creative Act
for their inspiring challenge this month.)

Mother to Mother

(Wendy Cook, of the fabulous MotherRising, has asked me to be her interviewee this month for her ongoing series of Mom to Mom interviews. [blush] Of course I said yes!)

Mom: Shelley

Of: D, born on September 3rd, 2001 ("Five and a third" as I write this)

Where: NJ

Blog: But Wait, There's More!

1. In what ways has becoming a mother changed you?

As soon as I opened myself up to the possibility of parenting, I could feel the changes start. I spent the length of my pregnancy practicing patience, because I knew myself well enough to know that those muscles were going to need to be in MUCH better shape once a small someone joined our family. There's still room for growth, but I've definitely gotten better. Since becoming a mother I have also become much more politically active. I carry in my heart this image of my almost-grown son asking me questions like, "What did you do about the war in Iraq?" or "Did you ever do anything about AIDS, mom?" Who knows if we'll ever have those conversations, but I feel this intense responsibility to live into my expressed values now, to "walk the walk." I am more willing to say "no," and more aware in general of time as a precious, non-renewable resource. I don't listen to the radio anymore in the mornings, because I can't predict when the next utterance of "roadside bomb" or "suicide bomber" might be, and I don't want those phrases in D's head. I spend much less time in retail space now than I did in my pre-parenthood years, again because I don't want that to be a significant part of D's childhood. I am simultaneously proud and humbled that I gave birth. Sometimes now, for fun, when a healthcare person is apologizing for a needle stick or some such, I'll look at them and say, "Please. I gave birth." I love that.

So much has changed. I am more in love with my partner, and with life in general, because of D's inadvertent role as the daily bringer of wonder and goofiness into our lives. I look at adolescent boys completely differently (might ours turn out like that one?). I am constantly running on two clocks: mine, and his. I have largely let go of the concept of sleeping in. My television-watching has dwindled to almost nil. I spend more time at the public library, but less time reading. I think nothing of finishing off leftover whatever. Oh wait... that was true before. :-)

2. What is one tip you would like to share about mothering?

Judge not, lest ye be judged. Seriously, moms are so invested in their decisions (midwife or doctor, homebirth or hospital, breastfed or bottle, on-demand or scheduled feedings, cloth or store-bought or no diapers, co-sleeping or crib sleeping, uncut or circumcised, TV or no, video games or no, and the list goes on and on) that the path to holier-than-thou-itude can be super-short. If you start choosing up sides you'll find out pretty quickly how lonely life can be. By the same token, I think it's important to decide early on what things you will not "up with put," as my father would say, and commit to sticking to them. External influences can be very hard to resist.

(My non-blogging life partner's answer to this is so fabulous that I have to share it: "Say 'yes' reflexively, and 'no' selectively.")

3. What is your creative outlet/medium?

I blog, sing, teach high school students, bake, co-write nonsense songs with my son, whip out my camera at a moment's notice, and write essays, poetry, and a teensy bit of fiction.

4. How do you find time for creativity?

Stolen moments, mostly. I ignore the mess that is our house, and my partner's pre-sleep routine takes longer than mine. I pathetically eat lunch in my office while hunched over my laptop (but no crumbs in the keyboard, I swear!). I've also lately been "swapping out" listening to the news on the way to work in favor of writing haiku... at least some mornings!

5. Why do you blog/journal?
I started blogging when I was making the shift back to waged work after spending three years mothering our son at home. It was a way to keep my friends up-to-date with my search without having to slog through the depressing (at least at the beginning) details. Then I discovered that blogging is a great way to chronicle the little things you think you'll remember but in fact probably won't. Plus, as a natural extrovert and ham, I like the idea of having an "always on" presence in the world that enables people to connect with me on their own terms, as their lives and schedules permit. I love that strangers and I can find each other and discover that we are actually members of the same tribe. Finally, I have recently found, with prompts like those at One Deep Breath, Mama Says Om, and Sunday Scribblings, that blogging has become a way to reaffirm my sense of myself as a writer. So the list of reasons is a moving but growing target.

6. Which blogs do you frequent?
Right now, I'm grooving on Sassafras Mama, a wrung sponge, GenreCookShop, and Beyond the Fields We Know. I check in on brainhell almost every day, to see how he's doing. And ze frank's video blog has become "my show..." I even helped get the Running Fool across the country.

7. Who are some bloggers that you would like to meet?

Other than you, Wendy? :-) I'd love to meet everyone who's ever posted a kind, thoughtful, odd, or funny comment at But Wait, There's More! and I'd love to meet just a few of the other people to whom I feel indebted: Keri Smith of Wish Jar Journal, Patti Digh of 37days, Susan and Jennifer of One Deep Breath, Stefan Bucher of Daily Monster, Dana and Liz Elayne of Poetry Thursday, all the wonderful people who are pouring their time and talent out into the deepening ocean of gifts that the blogosphere has become for me.

Whew! That was fun; thanks for listening.