Monday, October 31, 2011

Dress Up

Listening to a morning forecast that included creepy clouds, I grew nostalgic. Halloween used to be my favorite holiday--after the 4th of July, of course. Evenings filled with dress up and candy, weekends packed with trips to pumpkin patches and haunted houses, and kitchens consumed with fumes of apple pie and cider.

I recall picking out patterns and watching my mother slave away at her sewing machine, stitching our new identities piece by piece. The anticipation grew with every passing day, as we tried the legs, and then the arms and she adjusted as necessary. When show time commenced, nerves tumbled like boulders in my belly. Never one for surprises, I suddenly worried about long shadows and dark porches, leaf piles and bushes. Fearful possibilities played in the background of my mind as I shuffled down the street attempting to embody whomever I decided to become.

As I got older, my love for Halloween took a different turn. In high school we watched movies that managed to sabotage every dark corner in my imagination. Jack Nicholson remained with my friends for one scary evening; he still haunts me to this day. In college, Halloween ushered in homecoming and bonfires, and post-college parties offered parades and contests with huge prizes.

Then I became a teacher, and Halloween meant the end of first quarter; translation: piles and piles of grading. By the time the actual day arrives, I usually have little time to work myself into a temporary identity. My costumes generally involve last minute assembling and a lot of remorse. Surrounded by really creative get-ups, the annual bumming out begins. Why couldn't I think of something good?

This year, I have no costume. Sitting at a computer in a condo far away from trick-or-treaters, it would be entirely possible for me to miss the whole affair. Yet deep down, I know there are people everywhere setting aside their baggage and their worries, so they can step into the uniform of a superhero, or into the shoes of their favorite celebrity, or into the skin of a wildly colorful animal, and pretend--for one night--to be exactly who they wish to be at that particular moment in time.

Next year, I need to start planning a little early. Life can get pretty heavy sometimes; I don't want to miss out on my day off.

Sunday, October 30, 2011


Excitement bathed us just as profoundly as moonlight. Despite the crisp chill in the air, by the fourth quarter, no one felt anything but anxiety and anticipation. Would we pull this one off? Would we actually maintain our lead? Would this difficult season produce a win over a team like Wisconsin?

With a minute and 30 seconds left in the game, Wisconsin scored, deflating just a little bit of the buzz. Then OSU returned a kickoff to field goal range. Despite the fact we had 1:30 left, we could kick a field goal to tie it. But we went for it all, a hail mary to the endzone, leaving only 20 ticks remaining on the clock. The stadium exploded; jumping, high-fiving, blistering enthusiasm burned through the cold as the entire student body--and a few adults forgetting their age--bled onto the field. Streams of scarlet filled 100 yards worth of grass, joining the band and the team as they sang the alma mater.

Equally as energized, I jumped and cheered with the best of them, but my husband and I observed the mayhem from our seats, watching the crowd spill onto the field, listening to "Carmen Ohio" as it faded into the night. As I snapped photos, I reflected upon the phenomenon of large groups of people tuned into a bloody battle. Easily the most exciting ending I've ever witnessed live in the 'Shoe, I couldn't help but transport myself back to the Colosseo, imagining the roar and the adrenaline-rush they must have felt when one of their warriors successfully battled a lion or a tiger or some other monstrosity who should have destroyed them.

Then I retreated back to just a few moments before glory descended on Ohio Stadium. We all watched an injured player sprawled out on the field right in front of us; he grabbed his knee and appeared to be in tremendous anguish. Trainers tended to him, while grown men behind and in front of me chanted "baby," "get up," and several other comments I shall choose to censor from my post.

I have no idea who the Wisconsin player was or how serious his injury happened to be, but I don't believe it matters. He was hurt, and given the intensity of the game, I'm quite certain he would not be rolling on the field unless something significant plagued him. Those guys are tough; they endure levels of pain most people could not manage, and yet they roll, they rise and they persevere play after play.

Fans, on the other hand, sit, adorned in layers of comfortable clothing (some are also adorned in layers of liquid warmth), and they act like the toughest men who have graced the earth. They often forget they are taunting kids. It seems reasonable to cheer for your team when they succeed--or even to rejoice when the other team fails--but no reasonable person should berate a kid who has been injured. They aren't professional warriors battling tigers and lions during the height of the Roman Empire; some of them are 18 years old. They are just kids, kids learning and growing and trying their very best to figure out who they are.

And so, negative fans, here is my message to you: just because you sport a pseudo jersey, and spend ridiculous amounts of money on tickets, you are not entitled to be a jerk. In the words of Theodore Roosevelt: "It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, who's face is marred by dust, sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; who knows the great devotion; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at best knows in the end the high achievement of triumph, and who at the worst, if he fails by daring greatly, knows his place shall never be with those timid and cold souls who know neither victory nor defeat."

Root for the kids, but realize you are a mere observer. The game belongs to them.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

A Relic

PROMPT: Find an interesting picture of an object--one that you took, or one that you discovered. Look at that object 2 different ways (modified from the prompt my friend, Betty wrote about yesterday).

Picture: I snapped this photo in London during the summer of 2009. It has been years since I saw an actual phone booth, and I could not help but to stop and to stare and to snap.


My stuttering soles stumble on stones
Step by step, springing past the iron bars
Striping my view of freedom
Shadows trail me--
Morphing as I move
The ruddy outline of an object shines
A refuge in the distance
Growing brighter, the cardinal hued box
Greets me with a choice--
I stop
I pull
Secure--I sink
Uncoil the cord,
Press the raised keys,
And wait.


From here,
I can watch--undisturbed--
I can observe nature's paintbrush disperse chlorophyll
And memorize the escape of every loose stone
I can inspect clumps of excess paint on the posts beside me,
And follow branches as they tumble from the blanket above
From here, I can watch the world shift
Gazing through the filmed windows,
Smudged with old particles of bad breath
And tarnished with filth,
I study Amorphous figures stumbling by,
Squinting to define them,
They fail to notice me.
Tripping texters, absorbed in conversation
Just a few years before,
I bustled with attention
Now, I am a relic
An antiquated garnish
A statue commemorating the past
The perfect hiding spot
For children raised without me.

Friday, October 28, 2011


"Would you mind listening to my poem," she asked, as if an answer other than yes existed.
Eager to tangle my reality with her mind, I sank my chin into my palm, set my eyes to the little speck hovering in the distance before me, and I curled my right lower lip into its thinking spot, beneath my two front teeth.

She began.

She lit the space between words and thought on fire.

Her language, a branding iron, scarred me with acute profundity.

Wishing to preserve the honor of her ideas, I will not quote them here. Nevertheless, they have been pulsing in my brain since 12:48 p.m., each beat reminding me why I love my job.

For 30 minutes we sat and picked a part ideas--lines of verse twisting paradoxes, churning out the wisdom of letting go in order to embrace something more, and hypothetical characters who seem to be vying for leading roles in the story she currently has baking in her imagination.

While we talked, she scribbled, she pondered, she questioned and she sought to perfect whatever she aimed to create. Brilliant though she is, what most impressed me was the commitment gripping her, a strong hold no amount of homework or social pressure could unwind. Midst an endless pile of other tasks--a choir concert, multiple honors and AP classes and high school life, her commitment to write, and to get it right, blared from the tip of her tongue.

I listened. I questioned. I admired. Doggedly determined to honor the lines tapping at her mind, her passion infected the room with vitality. It seeped from the drop-ceiling and grimy cinder blocks. And drip by drip, it coated me with life.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Quest to Prevent a Funeral for Unspoken Words

PROMPT: My friend Betty wrote "I hold little funerals for unspoken words" in one of her posts a few days ago. Take her line and run with it. Or answer the following question: for what do you hold little funerals?


"Unless you speak--unless you breathe life into your words--they die," I explained to my friend Anna on the very third night of our friendship. Forced together through our job, we became friends that night. Picking apart everything from Rocky, to the usefulness of garlic, to the gift of language, we bantered endlessly.

Most would find our conversation odd. Anna is a physical education teacher and she readily admits to finishing only two books throughout the duration of high school. She wasn't one to discuss literature or philosophy, but she was certainly one to discuss life. She burned with passion, but her passion seeped into the development of character, not into pages of pressed letters bound by wise sages.

I just so happened to burn for both.

And so we talked. Propped up on high stools, beneath buzzing florescents and worn paneled fans, we talked. Blood rushing to the raised vein decorating both of our foreheads, we talked. Voices fading, deepening, cracking with dryness, we talked.

And we listened.

That's when I knew she would be a significant person in my life. A friend always good for the exchange of ideas. A co-conspirator in the quest to prevent little funerals for unspoken words and nascent ideas.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Cause and Effect

PROMPT: Sign into facebook. Find a status that strikes you. Write it down as the title of your poem. Go...

Paulo Coelho's status: "A Life without a cause is a life without an effect."


A Life Without A Cause Is a Life Without an Effect

A speck of dust in an abandoned space
Canned spinach rusting in my pantry
One contract, one loan, one move from being tossed

Formalities in the midst of philosophy
Fashionable clothes prancing in solidarity
Against the backdrop of genius

A campaign ad laced with arsenic
Negative rhetoric reverberating in stadiums
Bounding from mouths of men who never threw a ball

An impersonal card
An oxidized penny trampled and disregarded,
Pressed into asphalt, nostalgic for its luster.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

From Up There...

PROMPT: Think of multiple sides of a situation. Tell the story from one perspective. Then tell it from the others.


Today, one of my former students brought an assignment to me and asked me to read through it and provide feedback. The assignment required her to tell the same story from three different vantage points, using three different voices. I thought this would be fun so I spent a little extra time on it. This is based on a true story.


"The girls in the book--they have cute outfits and Melinda, she just wears old ones. I really like outfits and clothes and so I could relate," I explained to the class when Miss. L asked us to talk about Melinda's hard times in the book.

I was so glad I thought of something I could say. Maybe other people didn't notice the outfits, but I noticed the outfits. I mean, Melinda didn't have nice sweaters or anything like the Marthas in the book. So I wanted everyone to know. That's why I raised my hand.

I think M and C really liked my comment because they smiled. They always wear cute outfits and they have different purses every day. Sometimes I am not allowed to carry my purse because Mr. O told me I lose focus. It is hard because I like my purse and I like to get out my gum and I like to carry my pencil in there. It's a cute purse and it makes me feel better.

Everyone tells me I can only have three comments, but sometimes I forget. I don't really get to talk too much to my friends. I only see them during this period. Just when I was thinking about lunch, Miss. L asked what "ostracized" meant and T said it meant outcast. That just made me think about lunch again.

"I can relate to Melinda," I told them. I already made my three comments but Miss L. didn't stop me, so I kept going.

"I can understand sometimes what it's like, you know? I know how it feels to be ostracized. Sometimes I want to sit with other people just like Melinda."

I remembered my vocabulary word, ostracized, and I think I used it the right way. Miss L. really liked that. She smiled so big at me.


"Melinda's struggles increase in this section of the Speak. How do the trees she is drawing in art class reflect these struggles?" Miss. L asked the class, as everyone started to flip through their annotations.

I knew the trees represented her state of mind, but the guy I like is sitting across from me and we just started texting. I decided it would be better to act like I was looking for the answer. That way, Miss L won't call on me and I won't say anything stupid in front of B.

"Her tree looks like it was hit by lightening," M said, quoting the page, looking up at me to see if I thought it sounded okay. I smiled back and then looked down.

A few other hands shot up, but K started talking again.

"The girls in the book--they have cute outfits and Melinda, she just wears old ones. I really like outfits and clothes and so I could relate," she blurted out before Miss. L even called on her.

Sometimes she doesn't wait. The aid who goes around with her taps on her desk if she talks too much. Every single day she brings up random things that have nothing to do with class. Miss. L tries to tie it into our discussion, but it flat out doesn't relate at all and then we have to listen to either Miss L or the aid re-explain the rules. "Three comments, K, do you want this to be one of them?" they ask, as if she hasn't heard it a million times.

I glanced back up at M and smiled. She started to giggle and I couldn't help it. I started to giggle too. K is so random sometimes and she doesn't even understand why it's funny.

Then Miss L started walking toward us, glaring at us like we just did the worst thing ever. Before she could open her mouth though, K blurted out again. It was her fourth comment of the day, so I was hoping Miss L would leave me alone and go through the rules again. I turned and looked at her, waiting for something good.

"I can relate to Melinda. I can understand sometimes what it's like. I know how it feels to be ostracized. Sometimes I want to sit with other people just like Melinda."

I couldn't even look up at M. This was going to be bad.

"K, the cafeteria is so busy during lunch. I'm sure there are people in this class who would want to eat with you," Miss L. said before she went on to talk about how each of us goes through moments of feeling left out, and so we need to all look out for each other.

"Continue to look for a few more examples of how the trees represent Melinda," Miss L instructed and then called me and M out into the hall. We couldn't have done anything too bad. All we did was laugh.

"Girls, never--never will you ever exchange laughter at the expense of another human being. Very few things raise my blood pressure, but this sets me on fire," she told us before going on and making us feel even worse. "You will not make fun of her--at least not when I'm around."

Miss L was fuming. She wasn't really yelling, but her face shook. K didn't didn't understand why we were laughing, so it couldn't have been mean. No one else knew. It was just an inside joke for us.

"You will not laugh or giggle at someone else's expense," Miss L whispered, the edges of her lips curling in the process. Then she swallowed and stared at us for what seemed like forever.

"She deserves respect just like you do. You will treat her with respect. Even if she doesn't get what's going on, I do. You will not act like that in my classroom," she declared and then she walked back into the room.


K's hand darted into the air. My stomach twitched a little, and I swallowed. Literally anything could escape her mouth, and I had to be on my toes, ready to validate it, ready to validate her.

Sometimes it was easy to weave her comments into the discussion because they had some inkling of a connection; other times, her tangents sent my brain buzzing a thousand miles an hour as I planned what I should say in response.

"The girls in the book--they have cute outfits and Melinda, she just wears old ones. I really like outfits and clothes and so I could relate," she said before I could even call on her.

"Good, K. You're right. She did have different outfits. She didn't fit with that clan, so she was ostracized from them. What does ostracized mean again," I asked the class.

"Outcast," T responded while I noticed M and C exchanging grins and giggles and eye rolls. C twirled her hair; M chewed on her manicured nails. N, O, P, Q, R and S gazed over in adoration.

A window hovered before me. I could either pretend to ignore it so we could stay in line with the other class, or I could call them out. Square, direct, and risky. They will tell me they didn't mean it, or that they were laughing about something else. They might decide to never listen to another thing again for the whole rest of the year.

Or maybe they would change.

I took a deep breath, then K blurted out again, holding all air in surrender.

"I can relate to Melinda," she began and my heart unraveled bit by bit by bit.

"I can understand sometimes what it's like. I know how it feels to be ostracized. Sometimes I want to sit with other people just like Melinda."

"I'm sure there are people in this class who would want to eat with you," I said to her, wishing so badly my hope would come true. "We all need to look out for each other," I began to explain before I redirected the class back to their books.

As soon as they were all searching again, I jumped through the metaphoric window.

"M and C," I uttered steadily. "M and C, please come out into the hall."

Monday, October 24, 2011

What to write...

PROMPT: Consider the following quote and react: "We cannot waste time. We can only waste ourselves. ~George M. Adams

I've been wasting myself for the last twenty minutes--which is why this quote gripped me. Upon finishing droves of chores--cleaning the bathroom, cooking dinner, grocery shopping and paying bills, I gazed at the clock. A healthy 11:12 p.m. glared back at me; dread ensued.

I enjoy writing; in fact, I love writing. I generally cherish this space in my day and I've committed to preserving it. Yet tonight, as I considered topics--all of which managed to produce disinterest--I turned around and salivated at the sight of my bed. I didn't like any of the prompts on my brainstormed prompt list, so I googled ideas. I looked up the meaning of my name, I looked at old assignments and I peered outside to see if any interesting people happened to be hovering outside my window.


I pulled up a list of quotes and I found four pages worth of inspiration. With the quarter ending and my pile of grading growing higher, all of them seemed to deserve more energy than I had to give--all of them except for the George Adams quote.

See, once I decided on my topic, I realized that I wasted 23 minutes coming up with an idea. Those 23 minutes could have been spent working on anything else. Searching for the perfect this, or the perfect that, I managed to squander 23 good minutes of my life.

Then I started to think about the notion of wasted time, and realized that in any particular situation I always have a choice. I have a choice to make the most of the seconds I get, or I have a choice to waste them. I have a choice to resist, or a choice to enlist. I have a choice to see the positive in my situation, or a choice to complain about it. After all, even if I am entirely disinterested in the present, my brain is always propped up on my shoulders, and it is more than capable of learning, of planning, of problem solving and of imaginative rendezvous. If I choose to be bored or annoyed or whiny, then I cannot blame my plight on anyone else.

And so, tonight I didn't waste 20 minutes of time, I suppose I wasted 20 minutes of myself. Tomorrow, I'll try to do better.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

It was then that...

PROMPT: Begin with the words "It was then that..." and write a poem out of what comes next.

It was then that joy became real
I could smell it--
Gardenias and hair spray
After shave and roses
Sunshine and vanilla

It was then that joy became real
I could hear it
Wind cooing around us
Laughter bleeding like food coloring
Trumpets and organs and song

It was then that joy became real
I could taste it
Lipstick and toothpaste
Fermented grapes
Marinara and starch

It was then that joy became real
I could see it
My rock up ahead
Smile from ear to ear
A beacon of light guiding me home.


My husband and I just finished choosing wedding pictures for our album. After spending the day watching our faces, our families and our friends, I couldn't help but feel a sensory attack of joy.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Road Rage

"Patience is something you admire in the driver behind you, but not in the one ahead" (unknown)



Just like morning, I want to embrace you. I want to breath deeply. I want to instantly see the big picture. I want to slow my heart rate, ease the coursing of my blood, and muffle the urges that haunt me to act—every. single. moment. of. the. day.

Despite wanting to embrace you though, you seem inconsistent with any part of how I live my life; you just don't seem to suit my personality--so I think it's time for us to talk. After all, I take on more tasks than I should, and I go about them at approximately three-thousand miles per hour. I feel validated when I check items off of my to-do list. I hate procrastination and I rarely sit still. Watching television is torture—unless I'm sorting through mail or planning out what I will do once the show ends.

Because I don't embody you, I shuffle my feet. I often trip when I hit uneven cement, because I don't take the time to raise at the knee and progress through the walking motion properly. I actually engaged in a who-can-pee-faster competition with a group of people at a New York City hotspot, and it wasn't even close. I smoked the entire competition; they squirted Purell on my palms afterwards because they didn't think it was possible for me to have washed my hands.

I watch patient people with envy, and that's not only because they seem to trip far less than me, or because they run into fewer walls. I envy them because I love to observe. I love to absorb. I love to live free of the nervous feeling in the pit of my stomach that always seems to harass me, telling me to hurry up.

As much as I envy the slow movers though, I must admit they bring out the feisty side of me. I am overly eager when they struggle to spit out words. I grow annoyed when they don’t figure out what they want to order while they’re standing in line. And my blood pressure soars when I miss a stoplight, waiting for them to crawl through crosswalks. When the speed limit is twenty-five miles per hour, I want them to drive no slower than thirty. If they are casually pedaling a bike at a far lower rate of speed than the cars on the road beside them, I want them to hug the curb and let me pass.

I also want to stop feeling this way. It’s absurd. Very few things are important enough to warrant my behavior. Very few things require immediacy. Very few things are the end of the world. Ironically, I once told a student who was struggling with a college decision that I thought she should "take a deep breath." Then I went on--very matter-of-factly--to explain that "at the end of the day, it isn’t the end of the world.” If she didn't like her first year of college, she could always transfer some where else. I made it as easy as that.

Oh how I wish I could take my own advice. Oh how I wish I could laugh at myself for getting antsy. Oh how I wish I could simplify my life enough to stop stressing about being late, or finishing my work quickly.

I may never master the virtue of being patient, but I know I need to work on slowing down. My hybrid might help out the environment, but my high-octane commute is taking years off my life. So I’m going to try to breathe a little deeper. I’m going to think happy thoughts as I drive. And I’m going to find some way to emulate the bikers—and actually enjoy the ride.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Throwing Like A Girl

PROMPT: Think of a childhood memory. Then imagine or tell the backstory that led up to it.


"Elbow up like this, wrist cocked," she instructed, raising her arm to a 90 degree angle, and bending it at the crease.

"Make sure your hips are open," she continued, twisting her waist and staggering her feet just right.

"Then you need to follow through."

She modeled this as well, releasing the ball just above her head, before closing her hips and extending her arm. My teammates tried to mimic her motions.

Weaving in and out of two lines of girls, she caught the ones with sagging arms or square hips, patiently lifting their bony, little elbows and swiveling their teeny, tiny waists to just the right spot. Some of the girls did fine with their hips but habitually jammed their elbows into their ribs, flinging the ball like a frisbe. Others mistook throwing for shot put, pushing it--instead of snapping it--to their partners. Regardless of the issue, my mom continued to demonstrate, and she continued to explain.

I never recall a hint of agitation in her voice, even though she must have explained these mechanics a thousand times over the course of a season. Instead of yelling and screaming and throwing her arms up in desperation, my mom simply reviewed the process--yet again--explaining just what we needed to do to fix our problem. In time, we got better and better and better.

After a few weeks of practice, the games began--out on the grass fields. We were not yet important enough in the food chain of little league to play on dirt, so they threw down temporary bases and created foul lines with spray paint. I don't remember many things about those games, but I do remember one of our first ones. We were up to bat, and I recall standing on the sidelines, cheering for some little girl who bounded for the batters box. The little girl nicked the ball, and a slow dribbler died in front of the third baseman, who picked it up, and tossed it across the field without moving her feet, or her hips, or her elbows. She did everything my mom told us not to do; instead of explaining how to fix it though, her coach simply shouted to her from the bench, "open up your hips and step with your opposite foot so you don't throw like a girl."

I didn't think too much about his comment then, but I didn't forget it. As I grew older, I watched girls play at every level. The talent pool grew stronger and stronger, and pretty soon, I was traveling all over the country to compete against, and with, the very best girls who donned uniforms, and nestled their palms into perfectly worn mitts. These girls had long outgrown atrocious throwing habits, and coaching had become more about strategy and minutia--the angle we took around bases, how quickly we got out of the batter's box, and just how to spin a rise ball. None of us were throwing improperly, but all of us were still girls.

When a reporter interviewed us both about our youth sports experience, I realized that my moments on the grassy field were nothing like the moments my mom got, dressed up as a boy just so she could play ball. I didn't realize there were no formal little league teams, or travel ball teams or high school teams where she could play. She learned everything she knew from men, and she found a way to satisfy her urge to compete even though it wasn't widely acceptable for her to do so.

Then she had me.

And she decided my life would be different. I would get to play just like my brother. And even though she was the only woman who coached in little league--and had to fight to be allowed to do so--she was willing to fight because she knew it was right. She knew more about softball than many of the men standing on the sidelines. She had patience and compassion and the ability to explain. She also had strength; a strength I didn't come to appreciate or to admire until many years later.

Now, every time I hear someone say "don't throw like a girl," I can't help but recall the man on the opposing sideline, the man who should have shown the little girl how to fix her feet, the man who may never realize the err in his ways. If I had to choose between him and my mom, you better believe I'd choose to throw like a girl any day.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

My Throne

I'm borrowing a prompt tonight from my friend Betty (Betty Blogs):

A combination of two writing exercises: Try to identify your earliest childhood memory. Write down everything you can remember about it. Rewrite it as a scene. You may choose to do this from your current perspective or from the perspective you had at that age AND/OR Write a 200-word description of a place. You can use any and all sensory descriptions but sight: you can describe what it feels like, sounds like, smells like and even tastes like. Try to write the description in such a way that people will not miss the visual details. (I also played around with present tense)

I suppose my nose must have twitched as I assumed a spot on the sideline. Dust and grass clung to the air like a heavy humidity, and I remember that those drops always forged red, raised bumps when the allergist dotted me with manufactured doses of nature once every year. My mother inserted needles into my arm each week to combat the attacks though, so maybe the shots worked better than I can recall. Or maybe I was too busy bursting with pride to ever take notice.

Several times a week, I got to sit in my spot--a little past the out-of-play line in the deep left field. I didn't wear a tiara or sport a fancy dress, but that spot was my throne. From there, I could touch the sky. I could see the expanse of the outfield and the sea of grass that stretched beyond it. I could gaze at an infield in the distance, and grow enchanted by its speckling of light cocoa fairy dust. And I could inhale the delicious fumes of freshly cut grass, sweaty leather and stale chalk. Most importantly though, from my spot in left field--with my tiny little monkey buried into my chest--I could sit and admire my king. I could sit and admire my father.

Dad defended the outfield like a lion. He tracked, chased and caught every potential threat, covering more ground than anyone else who took the field. He hustled with every crack of the bat, backing up bases, eliminating gaps, and launching balls into the infield with precision and authority. And he brought me there to watch it. I got the honor of trotting with him to the outfield. It didn't matter how tired his legs were from running bases, or how many extra innings the game demanded. Every single time he went out to the outfield, he took me with him. And I cherished every collision his cleats made with the earth as he carried me to my most treasured place in the world.

Each spring when the green seeps back into the earth, when the sun starts burning through the winter, and when the dust loosens enough to fly, my mind retreats back to the ball field. Back to the center of my universe. Back to the place where I laughed and dreamed--where I yearned to grow up and be just like him, my lion, my hero.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


PROMPT: Think of the most recent surreal moment you can recall. Retell that moment with a retrospective lens. Go...

"Uh...I think a snow leopard just ran in front of my car," I choked out, interrupting my father's thoughtful response to some insipid observation I made about a daily detail I can no longer recall.

"Where are you?" he inquired, momentarily entertaining the possibility that I could be near the zoo, and that perhaps a furry little creature happened to sneak out into Dublin, and grace me with his presence.

"I'm on Kinnear Road," I explained, identifying a street smack dab between Ohio State's campus and a small suburban neighborhood.

Our conversation met a moment of silence, then my father muffled his chuckles. To be perfectly honest, he was justified in his response. My imagination occasionally spins out of control, and stories hop on board. I generally own up to the bi-products of my creative license, but occasionally, my strange celebrity encounters, or turns of bad luck and good luck are actually 100% true.

"Maybe you should hang up and focus on the road right now," he offered diplomatically, evidence of suppressed laughter lingered in the breath between words.

Ignoring every trace of disbelief, I agreed.

"I know. This is seriously the strangest thing," I explained, "I'm kind of freaked out by it."

"You're safe in the car; just pay attention to the road. I don't think the snow leapord will follow you downtown."

I snorted light-heartedly at his sarcasm; then, I hung up. Stunned, I rode the rest of the way in silence, trying to process the defined muscles and jarring speed of the creature who darted in front of me, and directly into the woods. His face caught my eyes for a brief moment before he disappeared, and the cat-like features--the scrunched face, the diagonal eyes, the svelte ball of dotted ivory fur--replayed over and over in my memory. He was too big to be a household cat, he ran like a deer, and he appeared to be the size of dog. If he wasn't a snow leopard, he had to be something pretty important on the chain of authoritative felines.

Before my husband even made it entirely inside the door, I told him about my snow leopard.

He paused very patiently, fighting the edges of his mouth who so desperately yearned for an explosion--a sudden burst of laughter looming on the horizon of his first few words.

"I'm pretty sure we don't have snow leopards in Ohio," he said about as nicely as one could respond to something that seemed positively absurd. I provided specific details about my creature, insisting that it was not any of the common animals I typically see on a regular Friday night.

"Maybe it was a bobcat," he offered, going on to explain that his mother saw one in their backyard several years back.

Ill-equip with at-hand knowledge regarding exotic animals, and unable to defend my observation with any specific scientific classification, I promptly shuffled to the computer and searched images of bobcats and snow leopards.

Gazing at a criminal lineup of large cats, I eliminated the animals one by one, until a single cat remained. I studied his pictures for a while, captivated, in particular, by the image of him staring off to left. He was my man. He was my creature. He was my bobcat.

"Babe, it was a bobcat. I swear I saw a bobcat," I determined, searching for information about him. Reading about the habitat and tendencies of bobcats, I ultimately learned that the little guy gave me a glimmer of something few get to see--him. Stealth and secretive creatures, bobcats are rarely spotted. It's not really their thing to pounce across a suburban street at 5pm on a Friday night. On this Friday night, however, my bobcat decided to shift reality and grace me with his presence.

As strange and as jarring as my observation was, my quick dash of fur was no match for the surreal experience many Ohioans had to endure this morning when they woke up to see lions, Bengal tigers, bears, baboons and wolves wandering around their neighborhood. I cannot even begin to imagine the processing one endures when he sees characters from the jungle pounce into his reality. I also cannot process the tremendous loss our world endured as a result of one man's selfishness. Authorities had to kill 49 beautiful, strong, innocent animals in order to save humans who live around them.

The whole situation saddens me. I understand why the shootings had to take place, but I am angry that the animals were ever put in that position. I am angry that it is so easy for people--who have no business owning powerful creatures--to gain ownership of them, to enslave them on their property to satisfy some selfish obsession. If that man cannot live without those animals, then he should move to Africa to live with them; he shouldn't force them to move here where they are locked up and denied the basic pleasures of being free. Those animals lost their life for no reason. None. Unless we pass stronger regulations, they have all died in vein.

As I pondered their plight, I also could not help but think about my bobcat. I couldn't help but imagine how selfish we have been to steal his land. He seems out of place today, but at one time this was his place. When I reported his existence to authorities, I did so because I didn't want children or pets to be eaten. As I think about him today, I worry that my phone call might lead him to the same demise as the 49 other innocent animals who were victims of human greed.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Teeter Totter

I met with a whole host of students today, advising them, pushing them, and when necessary, redirecting them. Two of my classes have a project due tomorrow, and many of them have been caught by the manipulative drug of procrastination. Their only homework last week was to work on this assignment, and despite the checkpoints along the way, many put off the hard thinking until the night before.

As I sat with my last student of the day--a very bright, motivated young man--I found him seeking approval for his very haphazard plan. He had accomplished a little--but not much--more than when we conferenced last week. As he spread out his papers and walked me through his thinking, he did so hurriedly. Merely wanting my blessing, he stumbled over my questioning. As we walked through, piece by piece, I saw an average plan plotting out. When I looked into his mind, I saw so much more. Realizing he is running out of time, I debated whether or not to let him work to create his pieces as best as he can, or to push him to make them just a little more.

"That will work------but, I think if you do that, you will be taking the easy way," I blurted, realizing I made my choice.

"What do you mean by that?" he asked, gazing up at me with concerned eyes.

"It is the obvious way to go about it, and I suppose it would be an okay way to get across your message. If you think a little bit deeper about it though, I think you can come up with a more evocative way to make your point. In essence, you can think of a better means to deliver your information--one that will make your point nearly as much as what you are actually saying in your argument."

His brain began to swell. He was not average. He was not trying to produce obvious work. Regardless of how far behind he was, he would not accept "okay." I watched his mind churn a bit as he squirmed in his seat. He reached for his pen a few times, scribbling and crossing out several ideas before looking back up in defeat.

"Think about other ways you can show inverse relationships," I offered. "Think math and science maybe...this doesn't have to be a traditional piece of 'English-y' writing."

He tilted his head.

"How might you show the balance of relationships? You can display your argument in a totally unconventional way--in fact, the display you pick could very well make your point clearer--like the right graph or grid or map can showcase data clearer. Think beyond the me what you mean. We have to get you outside the literal box. Look at this as a problem you are trying to solve."

My student continued to brainstorm. Jotting a few notes to himself, I watched his brain seize control of his eyes. I watched him disconnect to a different place, an uncomfortable place, the place between reality and magic, the place where miracles help us grow.

When he left tonight, I found myself thinking about his predicament. He was good at following the rules; they've served him quite well. Nevertheless, he also wants to escape them. He wants control over the direction of his work. He wants to devise solutions to healthcare mysteries. He wants independence. Yet, when he gets it, he finds himself nearly paralyzed. He is so indoctrinated by the rules, he has to make a conscious effort to break free from them. He squirms with gray space. He wants me to tell him what to do, what to write, how to position his argument. When I question him, and push him, he retreats--until he pushes forward. Until he opens his mind. Until he commits to the cause. Until he knocks down the walls and looks beyond them.

This particular conference struck me because rules have been on my mind lately. My last two posts have been, in some ways, contradictory. In one post I express my appreciation for chains, for rules. I talk about how they guide us--protect us--until we are ready for what comes next. In last night's post, I talk about the freedom of a child. I talk about play, innocence, wild fancy.

Which do I really believe?

I suppose I believe in both. Anyone who knows me knows I am a rule follower. I hate being late. I follow directions--literally. I stop at stop signs on vacant streets, and I drive the right way in parking lots even if that means I have to drive around the block. I watch every single slide in redundant, poorly constructed training presentations; I don't skip to the quiz at end like most everyone else.

Deep down though, I have a rebel knocking on the inner walls of my body. She is bold and brave. She doesn't want me to take the easy road, or the average road; she wants me to find my own way, making up my own rules as I go. She wants me to put down my work and let my mind play on the keys like my feet used to play on the playground--forcefully, wildly, imaginatively, assertively. When I ignore her, she stirs. She taunts. She tells me that she deserves to be loved too.

Just like my student needs to figure out how to show the inverse relationship of the protagonist's parental support in the text we're reading, I need to figure out how to balance my own inner relationships. And I suppose he does too. I suppose we both need to eradicate the inverse nature of the two in our lives. We both need to shift the rebel and the rule-follower a little closer to center, so our totter planks never hit the ground.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Crumbles of Burgundy

This is a snapshot of my notes from a poetry class I took this summer from Dr. Anna Soter. I found them tonight, looking for something else. I hope they inspire you as much as they inspired me. Here is my gut response to these words tonight:

Crumbles of burgundy collect at my feet.
Slightly ajar, the room's in view.
An infinite number of planks,
Anchored by thick ropes of two,
Arc little children,
Through the measures of the sky,
Swinging outward and receding inward,
To the wind's sweet lullaby.

A tangerine rests softly
On blanket of periwinkle blue;
Today, there's no room for cotton,
Or tears to cloud the room.
Once the children finish flying,
Each will toss off his shoes.
And his toes will tickle prickly,
Trampolines of grassy goo.
Green apple blades bend nicely
In the sand beside the shade,
And kids dream so wildly,
Living outside the worldly cage.

That's where the magic happens,
Where truth begins to emerge.
Ideas crawl out of shadows;
Creativity starts to surge.
In this place where the children listen
To the whispers of the trees,
Magic swirls around them
Through lines of poetry.

In time, they walk, however,
One by one, back to the door.
Consumed by responsibility,
They eventually yearn for more.
As they reach to turn the handle,
As they wrap their fingers around the knob,
Rust, like pumice, scrapes them;
They work to hold back sobs.
Continuing to bear the friction,
Harsh against raw skin,
Their mind wanders wildly
Back to the sandbox again.

Sunday, October 16, 2011


A few years back, I stopped by New York on my way to Europe. Tasked with photographing "interesting things in nature," I wandered around the city with my camera, hoping to find something that might satisfy the requirement. I planned to take a creativity class in Florence, and we got our assignment after I departed nature-ridden Ohio. Trapped in a mecca of urban life, the task initially concerned me. Central Park was no where near where I needed to be, so I had to rely on the concrete haven of Union Square. I spun beneath a few trees before finally landing on a small patch of flowers. Gripped by the juxtaposition of nature and metropolitan boundaries, I could not remove my eyes from the daisies.

They spoke to me. As if they were waiting for their moment--knowing perfectly well it would come--they hovered peacefully behind the black chains. Existing in their own space, they danced in the wind, growing, blooming, coloring the drab, gray landscape with their yellow brilliance. I studied them for a while, wondering if they would be grander in a garden, or if their place behind the chain was worth the view. Perhaps they were happy where they were. Perhaps they were proud of their home in Union Square. Perhaps they enjoyed the performers, the story-tellers, the lovers meeting, the artists drawing pictures of them glowing against the backdrop like fireflies in the darkness.

I eventually left the daisies, but the daisies clearly haven't left me. When I thought about my silly exercise of pantoum writing yesterday, my mind returned to the New York City daisies that were no longer alive anywhere but in my images. See, when I started, I didn't want to repeat my lines. I didn't want to continue writing about the silly bear poised atop my worn, wooden ladder. I didn't want to maintain the rules I made; I wanted to stop mid-step and choose new ones.

I kept going though, and through the terrible verse I produced, I managed to take myself back to the musings of my childhood. I took myself back to a girl who used to narrate her dreams aloud--fantasizing about her first book getting accepted, or about winning an oscar; in so doing, I realized the little girl in me still does that. She still dreams aloud in her room when she's all alone, all alone except for the tiny, little bear stooped in the corner, a bear who has been with her through thick and thin, from room to room, moving from state to state. That bear has seen me when I've been my most vulnerable, and she has never fallen apart. She has never laughed; she has never told me to be realistic. In my moments of reverie, she always accepted me, sitting, as bright and as reliable as the sun.

Long after I wanted to stop my pantoum game last night, I managed to write the last stanza. In that stanza, I captured what I most wanted to say. As soon as time escaped and I was free play with my own rules, I removed the chains and I rewrote the verse. It still isn't anything special (and there are some serious meter issues), but it happened only because I started out with rules; I started out with chains. If I would have tossed the chains aside before I was ready to be picked, I wouldn't have made it all the way back to the core of my memories.

And so, I suppose chains can be good sometimes, because sometimes they're meant to preserve us until we're ready for what comes next. Hopefully one day my chains will fall on a much grander scale than they did last night. Hopefully one day, I'll live on like the daisies, inspiring a grander search for truth.


Stopped on a worn, wooden ladder
Quiet as the sun in the sky
Real as the rays that touch me
"It's possible," he says with his eyes
Dreams manifesting like water
Chains crumble so I might emerge
On the edge of possibility I totter
As reality and reverie converge
My tongue scribbles language aloud
Energy ignites and it bleeds
His presence on that worn wooden ladder
Fills space with lucidity
Quiet as the sun in the sky
Real as the rays that touch me
The bear on the worn, wooden ladder
Tells me, "it's okay to believe."

Saturday, October 15, 2011

"It's Possible," He Says With His Eyes

It's Saturday night, I'm staying in to grade. Let's have a little silly fun with patterned poetry.

  1. Walk to the window and write down the first thing that you see.
  2. Grab a book you used for some class, think of your favorite number, turn to that page and write the first word, phrase or sentence you see.
  3. Walk into your room. Look around, what is the first odd thing you see? Write it down.
  4. Don't begin your time until you capture your three details.

Now, use one, two or three of your items to write a Pantoum poem
  • Each stanza is four lines, about the same length
  • When you get to the second stanza, use the 2nd and 4th line of your first stanza as the 1st and 3rd line of your second stanza
  • Continue this pattern for as long as you can.
  • OPTIONAL: If you really want to get specific, the last stanza must feature the first line of the poem as the very last line, and the 3rd line of the first stanza is the 2nd line of your last stanza



-Teddy bear propped on a step ladder

He governs from the corner
Propped on his worn wooden throne
Head tilted, like a king, pondering
While musings meander alone.

Propped on his worn wooden throne
He listens to my hypothetical interactions
While musings meander alone
Sensibility and absurdity colliding

He listens to my hypothetical interactions
Dreams manifesting like water
Sensibility and absurdity colliding
On the edge of possibility I totter

Dreams manifesting like water
Rules disappear and I emerge
On the edge of possibility I totter
In that space it all seems to converge

Rules disappear and I emerge
My tongue scribbles language aloud
In that space it all seems to converge
Pebbles jet out of a cloud

My tongue scribbles language aloud
The walls welcome all they can see
Pebbles jet out of a cloud
I press my toe on the stones before me

The walls welcome all they can see
Energy ignites and bleeds
I press my toe on the stones before me
The world spins into lucidity

Energy ignites and bleeds
I do not see him in the darkness but
The world spins into lucidity
He watches me as I press and

I do not see him in the darkness but
Stooped on a worn wooden ladder
He watches me as I press and
He remembers every familiar step

Stooped on a worn wooden ladder
Quiet as the sun in the sky
He remembers every familiar step
"It's possible," he says with his eyes

Quiet as the sun in the sky
Real as the rays that touch me
"It's possible," he says with his eyes
"It's possible," now give it a try.

Friday, October 14, 2011


The moment I clicked on the post button last night--the moment my screen faded from my control and the wheel spun my words into a fixed space in time--I immediately wanted to change them. I wanted to pry open the page and reorganize it. I wanted to scribble "show, don't tell" beside my burst of pontification regarding the abundance of opportunities we all have to learn. I wanted to regain control of something I let go.

Instead, I read the entry to my husband, who responded with silence.

"You don't like it," I mumbled under my breath as a surge of regret spread across my gut like ink on a wet napkin.

"I'm just processing," he assured me. Then he asked to revisit the words with his eyes rather than relying merely on his ears.

"Who is the 'we'?" he asked, eyes scrunched in a moment of close pondering.

"The U.S., our society, all of us," I responded, somewhat uncertain where he was going.

"Everyone but you, right? Because you are the one doing the thinking, and engaging and searching. You are the one who is able to arrive at these conclusions, so by using 'we' you are, in some way, separating yourself from it."

I squirmed in my seat; my palms perspired. The computer sat a few inches from me. The "edit" pen at the bottom of the screen taunted me. I wanted to click it. I wanted to fix the ambiguity. I suddenly feared that my efforts would offend a whole host of people who might presume that I am an arrogant know-it-all who has set out to write in an effort to push my complete understanding of the world.

"In the first paragraph, I say I 'hope' to be able to listen, engage, search,' so my intention was to include myself in the collective 'we.' I certainly didn't mean to separate myself from my own examination," I tried to explain as I scoured my language over and over imagining all of the people out there who could possibly be offended by the fact that I elevated myself above them.

"But then you go on to share that you have everything figured out. You're strength is showing your point. When you tell people your conclusions about life, it creates a distance that isn't there when you explain what ever happened to you that made you realize whatever you realized," he offered, trying to push me.

I gazed back at the computer screen. He was right. Darn it. He was so right and there was nothing I could do to fix it. I wanted so badly to reach forward, grab my computer and pluck out my conclusions so I could replace them with a story about where they originated.

"But I had twenty minutes," I offered desperately. "Granted I took 25 minutes because I got up to get my headphones, but I had so little time to think of an idea, write about that idea and somehow make my point with that idea. I agree that it would have been better if I would have started with a story, but I started out writing to figure out what I had to say."

"I'm not trying to criticize you. Your writing is great. I'm just trying to give you feedback so you can keep it in mind for future entries."

"I want to take it down," I whispered as I considered the effect of what I tossed into the world, into eyes I may never meet. "I don't want to offend anyone. I was just trying to spread the message that we all need to slow down and accept failure. We can be so consumed with rushing and perfection that we stop learning and seeing and trying."

"I'm not going to let you take it down. I'm not going to let you quit this. Listen to your own advice," he said, reaching for my hand.

I shook, thinking about not returning to my words. It pained me to get the feedback he gave me, and not be able to use it to improve what I wrote. But then I realized that is what I do with my students. I give them feedback on papers they probably won't fix. I give them as much of my brain as my husband gave me of his, and I do it because I want them to be better next time. I want them to learn; I want them to grow. My husband wants the same for me.

It was so hard to close my computer last night, but I woke up today bursting with empathy. We can't always revise, we can't always re-live, we can't always redo. Sometimes, we just have to reflect, and then close our computer and go on.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Rise and Shine

I rose this morning, but I didn't shine. I tried to embody the spirit of "path seeking," but my eyes weren't quite wide enough to gain the full periphery. I opted for late night writing instead, hoping to spend an entire day immersed in full awareness, listening, engaging, searching.

Every day, we are inundated with opportunities to learn. Whether that learning transpires as the attainment of knowledge, or through an awareness of self, or it is embodied in some philosophical concept that suddenly presents itself through the course of various interactions--those opportunities are there if we let them strike us. On any given day, if we take the time, any one of us could ascertain some deeper meaning about what that day offered. Obviously some days present more meaning than others, but some sort of meaning would be evident if we committed ourselves to discovering it.

The problem is that we often rise and shine and run. We dart down paths with out delving into the dirt that paves them. We rush to the end point looming in the distance, and if someone asks us to explain what that point is, few of us could articulate what we are chasing. The end of the day? Friday night? January 1? The start of summer? Our wedding day? Landmark birthdays? Retirement? Our golden anniversary? Death?

Today, I spent almost every moment outside of the classroom grading. In nearly 70% of the essays I read, my students identified that their primary motivation for getting good grades is pleasing their parents and getting into a good college so they could ultimately land a good job. They fear what the news tells them: jobs are scarce and they better be pretty darn fantastic if they plan to go anywhere. While their goals seem very similar to the goals I would have identified, the desperation lining them broke my heart. The number of kids with anxiety disorders and depression seems to rise every year. While the media covers the effect of the recession on adults without jobs, I see very little about how it is affecting kids. I see very little out there encouraging them to smile and laugh and play. I see very little about the resilience of the American spirit. I see nothing telling them that they are supposed to make mistakes and learn from them. These kids are not in the category of failing students; these kids are some of the brightest kids I've ever seen.

While it is nice to rise and shine and recognize that all paths are ours to seek, sometimes we need to know that mistakes can help make us who we are. They show us what we need to learn, what we need to see, what we need to do. They inspire us. They move us. They help us appreciate our successes. That never changes. Not with a recession or a depression or a job crunch. Our failures--or at least our willingness to risk failure and grow from failure--helps us to saunter down our path at a pace where instincts can come alive, where we can bend down slowly and dip our fingers into the dirt. Where we can feel. Where we can think. Where we can actually seek.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


AUTOMATIC WRITING: write the first word that comes to mind. Shut your eyes and type. Capture everything that pops into your brain. There is only one rule for this one:

1. You can't stop typing until the time is up (amendment: except to take a sip of coffee).

Morning. I want to love you. I want to embrace you. I want to bound out of bed in the morning, wrap my arms around you and squeeze. I want to wiggle inside your layers and appreciate each one. I want to locate your bliss. I want to understand those people who just wake up happy. Instantly. In the midst of a screaming alarm. In spite of the fact that they have to drag their body from beneath the warm mountain of cotton that cradles them. And despite the fact that they must pry themselves away, finger by finger, from their cuddling loved one. Even before I had a cuddling loved one cuddling beside me, I had a hard time prying myself away from my cuddling pillow. From the piece of perfectly mashed feathers nestled within my arms.

I just don't want to do it. I don't want to leave this space of dreaming and imagining, warmth and silence and force myself, one tip toe at a time, to struggle out of some place safe and comfortable, and onto the chilled wooden floor, harsh and uninviting. I don't want to waver in the face the darkness, deciding whether to punish my eyes with an attack of luminescence--abrasive and jarring in a way I'm not sure you ever get used to, or take my chances with adapting eyes, rubbing my lids in an effort to gaze through the black cloak that engulfs me and fumble around for coffee grinds and cereal.

No. Sometimes, morning, I don't want you to come. You are an uninvited guest and you are often rude when you pound on my door. You steal me away from my night. And as if you weren't bad enough on your own, you arrive on days like today with buckets of water. Pouring rain.

And so as much as I want to love you, sometimes I just can't do it. Some days I just want to reject you and curse you and roll over and sleep. Today was one of those days. Today, I turned to my husband and said, "maybe I should do this at night."

He just shook his head and grinned. "I was thinking the same thing."

As you know, my husband is one of your followers. He loves you. He celebrates you. He greets you every day with really funny, terrible jokes and makes it somewhat possible for me to see the promise in how I might come to like you. He knows I still have some work to do. Maybe I need to build up to this. Or maybe, ending my day with these thoughts will serve me better. They will help me write through the lens of my days, rather than create the lens through which I might try to see my days. And so maybe I'll try that tomorrow. Evening. Night. Darkness. Maybe I can find a crack of light inside of you.

Times up. Good morning.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011


PROMPT: Grab the closest book. Think of your favorite number. Turn to that page and write the first full sentence you see. Write the story that comes next.

The Help; Page 9

“She got this way a clearing her throat real delicate-like that get everybody’s attention without they even knowing she made em do it.”

Alice turned her head. When no one could see her face, the edges of her lips bent up slightly. Thomas had her pinned. He was the only one who seemed to catch on to her antics. The rest of the table moved on, squinting their eyes and carrying on about their business.

Even though she got caught, it was nice to be understood. It was nice to have someone know you inside and out, even the bad stuff.

Thomas changed the game. He barreled into her life, propping everything she ever wanted on his back. The weight encumbered him some—enough to stop and catch his breath sometimes—but never too much to greet her with a smile.


This little morning diversion offered me a strange woman and a strange man whose sole purpose was to get me thinking about love. Love in the sense of real. Love in the sense of understanding. Love in the sense of accountability. Love in the sense of one who can see into us.

I woke up late to write this morning—on day one. Scrambling around the kitchen, making coffee and throwing together lunches, I bounded frantically around my exceptionally small kitchen--not small, of course, for New York standards, but microscopic for Midwest ones. My husband emerged from the shower, noticed my flurrying, and inquired about the cause.

“I’m not going to be able to write on day one. Day one,” I mumbled irritated, boasting the very tone I hoped my writing would minimize.

“Just start right now. Don’t cheat by writing for longer than you said you would. Sit down and just write.”

He pointed in the most loving way possible; I sat. Then I opened my laptop, I picked a prompt and I attempted to summon the Muses. My faucet of inspiration seemed to be as empty as my coffee cup. And so I stopped. I refilled and I decided that part of journaling is being okay with whatever comes--or doesn't come.

Today when my husband reached for my shoulders and told me to just write, I realized that he could see into me in a way no else quite can; he was my Thomas. As strange as my blogging commitment might seem to him, he knows it means a lot to me, and so because he loves me, he keeps me accountable. He helps me to accept being real. And at the end of the day, even when my hair is messy and I’m scattered and disappointed in myself, he understands. Even if I didn’t get off to a perfect start, I will start my day remembering that I’m loved. I’m not sure I could devise a better beginning.

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Rules

I'm not in Washington, or on Wall Street, or the president of a company who could hire you. Though I desperately wish I did,
I do not possess the power to eradicate genocide, terrorism or bigotry. And I do not have the means to fix our debt crisis, fund your mortgage, or save all of our failing schools.

I can, however, help you escape. I can offer you a space where you are free to imagine. Where you are free to play and dream and embrace the positive energy we keep squashing with our fears and desperation.

The rules are simple.

1. I will offer one prompt every day. Sometimes, I'll post pictures or poems or excerpts; other times, I'll offer questions, statements and words.

2. Then, I'll dedicate 20 minutes to the assignment. That's it. No perfecting or polishing. Just raw thinking.

3. I challenge you to join me. See the world through a different lens and watch what it does to the rest of your day. Write in your journal, post on my blog, or simply tangle yourself in my ponderings. Agree, disagree or hop on the next tangent out of town. Just do something.

Sunday, October 09, 2011


Like this little, crooked, golden tree, Carrie inspired me today. It's been years since I've seen her, but on Thursday, I noticed a link to her blog and I spent a few hours flipping through the pages. It was then that I remembered my blog, a poor, lost space tucked away into the past.

I filled that little blog with a single entry in 2009, then, following my return from Italy, I abandoned her. My Italian rendezvous inspired a book, and I committed myself to a manuscript. I spent all of my free time assembling thoughts inside the confines of a Word document.

I wish I would have kept my blog alive throughout that time. My brain was buzzing and it would have been nice to preserve tangent thoughts that didn't quite fit into the manuscript. Unfortunately, I struggled to accept the raw nature of blogging. I wanted to fine tune my ideas, and I couldn't find the time to focus on both my book and my blog.

Today, Carrie helped me to view the process differently. She told me to think of this space as a journal. My manuscript can still be my manuscript, and I can still wrestle with it inside the privacy of my own mind. My blog, however, is where I can play, explore--grow. It is where I can grant people access to my imagination, allowing them to play inside my world too.

I left the table knee-deep in thought. Wandering to Gooddale Park, I took refuge on a bench, pondered my plans and graded a few papers. Shortly into the venture, I looked up and saw my little golden tree.

She stood there boldly, a speck beneath two lush monstrosities. Bending upwards, basking in a beauty that could only precede death, she boasted an awareness of an answer, a necessary ticket to the place that comes next. A few tomorrows from now, my little tree will invariably lose her luster. Today though, she glowed. She glowed knowing that when she's bare and cold and small--a tiny collection of bark cowering beneath and beside far grander trunks and branches--she will be churning out something wonderful inside. Something green. Something complicated and simple. Something absolutely brilliant. This knowledge will give her the strength to stand, to push against the sharp, bitter wind and dream big dreams about spring.

And so, just like that little tree will shed her leaves in a few days time, I'm shedding my leaves today. I'm getting rid of the me who was so bogged down by my desire to compose tidy text that I failed to return to a forum intended for frequent visits. I'm shedding the fearful blogger--the perfectionist who struggles to accept a page with typos and occasional disorganization, the part of me chanting "I'm-too-busy-to-write," the part of me declaring, "I-don't-know-what-I'm-doing."

She's gone, leaving me somewhat naked as I dismantle my insecurities one by one. As my bare branches invariably shiver, I will keep pushing against the wind. I will keep braving the cold. And I will keep churning the green inside, dreaming that I, too, will get a spring.