June 29, 2007

Bowling Birthday

I broke with my tradition of bowling under an alias yesterday (thought it might be confusing for D, for one thing), and celebrated my birthday with some fully-attributed family bowling. As you can see from this automated scorer display, first-time bowler D was ahead after the first frame.

We played one game of bumper bowling at Colonial Lanes, a gianormous cavern of a place that it's hard to imagine ever having been full. (Bumper bowling is designed to remove the pain of gutter balls from your game... the gutters are filled with a long padded railing that gently bounces your errant balls back into play.)

D used a 6 pound ball (the lightest they had) and only dropped it perilously close to his precious toes twice.

T and I shared a ball, and she bowled the only strike of the night a few seconds after this shot:

Then my camera batteries flashed empty, so no pictures of the boy or birthday girl in action! :-(

We'll just have to go back...

June 28, 2007

Insomniac in a Strange Bed


There’s me,
and there’s sleep,
and then there’s the something
in the way.


do not enter the picture.


This morning at five am he called to me
I pushed up onto my elbow
rolled out and onto my feet
half angry half scared
(why in the world would he be awake now?)
except he wasn’t.
I charged into his room
towering over him, heart pounding,
and found him
sunk deep into sleep, open-mouthed.
Whatever I’d heard had come from me.


I case strange rooms like a burglar.
What will I take with me?A mental map of the carpet design,
a new pillow-turning technique,
memorized cable channel numbers,
the sound of the clock numbers flipping.
The bed that kicked me out at home
seems generous in comparison to this.
I sit at the desk and write notes
to myself on hotel stationery,

something to do when cast adrift.

(Thanks to the women of Poetry Thursday
for their continuing inspiration,
and to Jaxter, for letting me "lift" a title.)

June 26, 2007

Crawly Haiku

One daddy longlegs
makes a mountain of our tent –
we watch from inside.

"Ants belong outside,"
he announces, fist gently
cradling one.

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

June 22, 2007

Hooky Haiku

Playing hooky –
the only question, what
to bring on the train

(Thanks to my friend cloudscome,
for her continuing inspiration,
and hello to the good people of Poetry Friday!)

(Updated after our trip to include this haiku from the homeward leg...)

High white clouds look on
while our train races the sun
and sleep claims my boy

(You were right, Auntie Nish;
this was about two minutes
after we rolled out of Penn Station!)

June 21, 2007

Rain Haiku

So tired today
couldn't resist last night's show
(clouds across the moon)

Last night's rain –

not enough for puddles,
but such loud birdsong!

(Thank you to my partner T, who made the connection
between rain and birdsong.)

PS: New post over at Yogabeans!

June 19, 2007

Wildflower Haiku

Cornflowers leaning,
blown by perpetual wind –
hot rushing traffic

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

(I saw these on the way into work this morning. At the end of the day, I walked along the shoulder next to the highway, waited for the light to stop the cars, and quickly took the closeup of these cornflower shots. Then the light changed and I took the one of the car zooming by. It was so bright I couldn't check to see what I'd gotten, and too hot to stand around for another try. Glad it worked out.)

PS: Happy Juneteenth! May the good news that has taken so long to reach you arrive today!

PPS: Bonus haiku!

Red-winged blackbird
at the top of a tree,
holding, balancing

(More thanks to friend R,
who watched this bird and told me
of its struggles on this windy afternoon.)

June 17, 2007

Race Day

The June Fete is our local medical center's annual fund-raiser. For the third year in a row, D participated in a one-mile "fun run" just after the more serious 10K for grownups. D looks forward to this event all spring, and also enjoys the chance to show off his broad jump skills. I especially liked the way he looked me in the eye mid-jump, as if to say, "Hey Mommy, are you getting this?" I was.

The End of Beginning School

The end of the school year is an absolutely CRAZY time for those of us who work in schools. We have three people in our family, and each one of us is affiliated with a different school, so we were crazy times three last week!

On June 7th D celebrated his last week of Beginning School with a terrific evening "window" onto what their work together this year has been like:

The songs are the same,
the teacher, and the guitar –
we the only change.

Twenty years from now
we'll see this picture and think,
"Already you, then."

Stories in the tent
every child listening closely –
even moths want in

We capped off the evening with a sleep-over... and you really haven't lived until you've hung out with a bunch of five year-olds hopped up on S'mores and excitement, up way past their bedtimes and determined to catch each and every firefly!

June 15, 2007

Woven In

Oh, Mr. Schwartz, we are so sorry not to have been able to visit with you one last time! I told D. the sad news of your passing this evening, and I prefaced it by explaining that I had some news to share that wasn't so much sad for him as it was sad for his Auntie Nish.

After we talked for a bit, D looked at me gravely and said, "You were wrong about that, Mommy. It is sad for me that Mr. Schwartz is gone."

This was a truly special cat, whose life was so entwined with our friend's that it's a little hard to imagine her NY apartment without Mr. Schwartz cleverly tucked away into some corner.

If you think about the small moments in your day that are special to you, the way you like the feel of the wooden handle of your favorite paring knife, the two squirrels who play tag around your front tree in the morning, the smell of your favorite bar of soap... little things that you hardly ever give a conscious thought to but which bring you a small trickle of pleasure... Mr. Schwartz was an expert at creating those kinds of moments. He was completely woven into those little moments of our friend's life. We were happy to share in some of them.


I think it's possible that I already am my weirdest self.

How long have I been weird? I guess I'd have to check with my parents. I can just imagine it: "We knew from her earliest cries that this was going to be a weird one." Certainly my sister can attest to my weirditude from her perspective, and that goes back into the '60's, when weird was the coin of the realm.

When I was a kid, I started small. I was weird because I gave my dolls buzz cuts. I was weird because milk stayed my favorite drink long after everyone else had switched allegiances to soda. I was weird because I whistled all the time.

As I got older, the ball kept right on rolling. Even fate seemed to play a role, as I was weird in ways I couldn't have controlled. Everyone else's broken bones? Arms and legs. Me? Rib and jaw. I was weird enough that my father – when I balked at the very end of my church's confirmation process – thought that I was being weird for weirdness' sake. And maybe I was. I started to question the collective judgment of my peers. They'd been wrong about Shakespeare. Maybe they were wrong about the importance of proms as well.

So I was eccentric in non-gender-conforming ways, non-music-conforming ways, non-sport-conforming ways, non-literature-conforming ways. Which is to say, I didn't shave my legs, was constantly in search of the next great undiscovered singer-songwriter while everyone else was into rock 'n' roll, couldn't care less about hockey (in upstate NY), and wrote and read poetry. Without it having been assigned to me.

At some point my weirdness became a point of quiet pride. My earlier suspicions that crowd-think wasn't all it was cracked up to be became an ingrained resistance... it's gotten to the point now that I'm actually weirded out (pun intended!) when my tastes seem to coincide with the majority's. Voting for Clinton and then seeing him win? Completely freaky.

So what's the difference between weird and eccentric? I think weirdness runs deeper and is less likely to be considered harmless. Weirdness implies a kind of criticism, I think, or at least a conscious engagement with and distancing from the possibility of being normal.

But it's all good. Because really, isn't everyone pretty weird when you get right down to it? Truth being stranger than fiction and all? And wouldn't it be great if we could all revel in our weirdnesses, instead of worrying about how to smush our square peg selves into the boringly perfect mainstream holes the commercial world is carving out for us all the time?

PS: Friends, I know I've only scratched the surface of weirdness here... c'mon and share in the comments, won't you? Yours or mine, whatever comes to mind.

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

June 14, 2007

The good, the sad, and the scary

(photo courtesy of Boston Globe staff photographer George Rizer)

First the good news: In Massachusetts today, members of the LGBTQ and allies community are jumping for joy and heaving sighs of relief. In a straight (ahem) up and down vote with no debate, MA legislators voted NOT to allow an anti-gay marriage amendment
designed to reverse the 2003 MA ruling legalizing gay marriage there to appear as a constitutional ballot question in 2008. This is a good thing; it means, among other things, that D's aunties get to stay married!

Now the sad news: Earlier this week, community activist Robin Malta was found dead in his New Orleans apartment. None of his wide circle of friends and supporters can imagine a gentle and gregarious soul like Robin having any enemies, but the evidence points to murder. My heart goes out to the community in New Orleans, who have already been through so much.

Finally, the scary news is that Bush's nominee for our next Surgeon General is
James Holsinger. If you need some background information, click here. (But only if you're not worried about your blood pressure.) For Pete's sake. I continue to long for a day when the LGBTQ and allies community would be so powerful that people would be scared to even THINK about putting forth candidates like this. A girl can dream.

June 13, 2007

These Bags I Carry

Who am I fooling
with these sturdy canvas bags
carried back and forth?

I'm not trying to fool anyone, actually, and it's a good thing... a few "spot" inspections of the stuff I regularly haul in and out of work would show a remarkable consistency. Papers and plastic forks and business cards and crumpled receipts and empty Ziplocs and books... all being hauled in and out without ever being touched, let alone dealt with.

Anyone who works in a school will tell you: May is a blur. A whirlwind. A rollercoaster that only runs downhill. You can't believe it's May. And then you blink and find yourself looking at June.

So. The ten month people at my school have gone now. The hallways are quiet... a little spookily so. I've got less than 200 emails in my work inbox. So maybe, just maybe, I'll get to the bottom of one of those bags tomorrow. Or maybe I'm just fooling myself again.

PS: Our modem at home has been dying a slow and aggravating death, but now that my new tech friend Victor at Verizon has confirmed this technological tragedy, we can put in a request for a new modem and go back to our shameless internet ways. Until then, it may be a little light on the photos around here. Sorry 'bout that. And thank you, unnamed neighbor with a strong moochable signal in the interim.)

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

June 08, 2007

Muy Caliente!

I was a no-spaghetti-sauce-for-me-thank-you kind of kid.

Despite the fact that my father makes this incredible homemade sauce, angelhair with margarine was my idea of culinary heaven for most of my childhood.

Ditto bread with butter.

Hamburgers and hotdogs were only acceptable if they were unadorned: no cheese, no relish, no ketchup, and certainly no mustard.

My cousin was even more of a purist; when she came to visit us when I was seven or so, I remember being dumbfounded by her professed dislike of mashed potatoes. How could anyone not like mashed potatoes?

In the land of Mommyblogs, there seems to be a fair amount of concern expressed about what kids will and won't eat. (Alice of Finslippy had a post last month about her son's refusal to eat practically anything and got 110 comments' worth of commiseration and advice. Not that I'm jealous or anything.)

I don't know if my own mother found my relatively narrow childhood dietary horizon constraining. (I rarely think to ask these sorts of questions, and when I do, she invariably says, "Oh, honey, I don't remember.") Probably she got very tired of serving me plain everything. And maybe I was darned lucky that she didn't snap and force some tomato sauce down my throat. But I don't remember her saying anything about it. And somehow, along the way from there to here, I learned to appreciate and enjoy food and spices from all over the globe; Ethiopian food, which I first learned to love in West Philadelphia, fresh eye-wateringly hot salsa which I probably first tried in college, fabulous curries from India which are thankfully plentiful here in central New Jersey. One of the main reasons I want to go back to Turkey someday is that I want another crack at that fabulous food.

Oh, and the little moments in my own kitchen, like the smell of fresh cilantro, crushed between my fingers as I get ready to make some fresh guacamole? It's 10:45 and now I'm hungry for lunch.

When I worked at The College of New Jersey, a school full of warm and interesting people that I enjoyed working with, I did have one complaint. I could never get anyone to go out for anything other than pizza or a burger. Sushi? Nothing doing. Thai? "Isn't that spicy?" Indian? Nope.

I feel about spice the way I feel about God. I wouldn't want a life without, but I think there's possibly no point in evangelizing. Either you're ready to take a test bite with your hand on a glass of water, or you're not. Either you feel a call to develop in a spiritual direction or you don't. As my famously wise sister says, "It's your job to put the food in front of them. It's not your job to make them eat it."

But I do believe that who you are today may have little recognizable connection to who you will be tomorrow. And that's the spice of life.

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

June 05, 2007


This morning before work I scored over half a million points on the flash touch-typing game Fingerjig. Sounds pretty good until you see that there are people out there who can regularly score over two million. Yowsa, those are some flying fingers!

As I work to maintain and improve my touch-typing skills, I notice, as I think Sassafras Mama has noted about her attempts at online daily SET, that focus really makes a difference.

And if focus is a muscle – regular readers will by now be familiar with my propensity for thinking of practically everything in muscular terms, maybe to compensate for my clear couch potato tendencies – if focus is a muscle, it's something that needs to be flexed, but not clenched.

My life is so multilayered these days; if I focus "like a laser" on one task, it's likely that I'm ignoring something else that needs attention. If I get tense about making mistakes while typing, I make more. If I'm trying to be especially quiet so as not to wake other members of my family first thing in the morning... CRASH!

So here's today's model for focusing without freezing:

This is D on a tire-swing traverse challenge. It's basically a series of five or so tires hung from a common overhead guy wire, each one just far enough from the next that you need to really swing and stretch in order to make the transition. The goal is to try to make it from the first tire to the last without touching the ground. And here he is, doing it. Holding on tightly, but looking determinedly at the next tire, aware already of the need to keep moving.

Another thing that helps focus? Support. Look at all the loving adults surrounding him in a "hands off but ready" kind of way.

The next time I start to lose focus or stall out? I'm taking another look at that picture.

(Thanks to the women of Mama Says Om
for their continuing inspiration.)

June 04, 2007

Architecture Haiku

New thatch on the roof,
oil for the garden gate's squeak –
now I'm ready, rain!

(Thanks to the women of One Deep Breath
for their continuing inspiration,
and to the hard-working folks at Building Conservation,
from whose site I lifted this fabulous photo.)

June 02, 2007

Country Mouse

I grew up in the town of Big Flats.

(First commenter to guess which state wins a prize. No Googling. Friends who already know should please sit on their hands.)

During my childhood, there was a sign along the highway leading up to the town that proudly declared, "Big Flats, Planned and Growing." I can still see the slanted, 50's-era typeface in my mind's eye.

But it never really did grow, at least not that I noticed; the Big Flats phonebook was more like a booklet, with just 1200 people claiming our little corner of the world as home.

Everyone knew everyone. It was a company town, so pretty much everyone's parents worked for the same company. I would probably go crazy if I lived there now. But man, was it a good place to grow up.

Living in a town that small as a kid meant, among other things, that I rode my bike pretty much anywhere I liked. My parents trusted me, and they also knew that if something went wrong that someone we knew could be counted on to help me out. Until I went to college, the only strawberries I'd ever eaten were ones that someone in my family had picked by hand. (Big Flats, as you might have guessed, is in a river valley with some good growing soil.) And when I needed a haircut, I just went and got one, telling PJ that my mom would pay her the next time she came in.

It wasn't all roses and sunshine. There were certainly moments when the lack of privacy was trying. Compared to what I'm used to now, Big Flats' cultural offerings were meagre. And the people of the town represented a pretty thin slice of the range of human diversity.

When I go back to visit, I see people I went to high school with and can't imagine still living there. But I do feel like growing up in a place that was so tightly knitted together helped me to develop an unusually strong commitment to and appreciation of the role of community in my life.

When our son was two years old, he spent a few mornings a week in the care of a fabulous local woman here in NJ. She took D and her other charges for long walks into our not-so-small town, and as a result he got to know shopkeepers and postal clerks who I didn't even know.

The first time we went into a store and the manager said, "Hi, D!" I grinned from ear to ear. Anyplace can feel like a small town if you put a little effort into it.

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