Sunday, November 29, 2020

Christmas Movies 2

You already know the answer to this. What do Die Hard and The Santa Clause have in common? Yes! They are Christmas movies, but, specifically, they start with unlikely work parties on Christmas Eve!! But what I want to tell you about today is how I got to delight myself by announcing loudly in my head, "It's a Thanksgiving movie!" while re-watching You've Got Mail as a likely Christmas movie!! Tom Hanks sticks his head through a turkey photo op cut-out! There is more than one turkey image in this film, and more than one holiday, and it goes through seasons, ending with love in the spring, but, yes, Christmas is crucial in determining whether the bookshop will survive.

You've Got Mail is based on The Shop Around the Corner (which is based on a Hungarian play), and that resolves on Christmas Eve. We have that one at the library, so it's likely to be up next in my Christmas-movie queue! I remember a sadness at the heart of it, a human complexity sometimes missing in popular contemporary holiday movies, but maybe I'm just becoming a curmudgeon. 

Other surprises from You've Got Mail: character names Kathleen and Christina (my sister and me!)! Kathleen owns the bookshop, and Christina works there. Christina is played by Heather Burns, also in one of my other go-to feel-good, funny movies, Miss Congeniality. Kathleen mentions Rudy Giuliani! She confesses during a break-up scene that she forgot to vote in the mayoral election. His opponent was Ruth Messinger, so she maybe forgot to vote for Ruth.

Yesterday and the day before I took long walks in the Thanksgiving weekend sunshine, mailing a first batch of Christmas cards at the Uptown post office, avoiding the shopping strip (though I do love our local shops), restocked the Little Free Library with children's Christmas books for Iris Harley, and hung a strip of tiny white lights on the patio door to dangle free and loop around the houseplants. I yearn for a tree. We'll see. I have lost track of the day of the week, but since I did all my housework yesterday, I'll call it a Slattern Day in the blog.

Friday, November 27, 2020

Christmas Movies

What do Love, Actually and Die Hard have in common? Well, 1) Alan Rickman as the bad guy 2) airport scenes 3) specifically, a girl running to a guy in an airport and jumping on him, wrapping her legs around his waist, and 4) they are Christmas movies. I have begun the annual watching of the Christmas movies with these two, plus The Santa Clause and White Christmas. (I may have started this in the spring or summer, but I have started it over now in the usual seasonal fashion.)

Not everybody loves Love, Actually, but I do. The lush interludes of music, during which someone does or doesn't get the guy/gal, always grab my heart. Emma Thompson listening to Joni Mitchell, through tears, as Anton Chekhov would say. Certain things always make me laugh, cry, or cringe, and I enjoy the pop songs. But this year, the airport scenes were excruciating. They had all their original power as scenes of love and joy, as people greet each other, but I saw them side by side with news photos of people in airports for Thanksgiving travel, and I ached with worry and dismay.

Because I tend to watch these movies late at night, to fall asleep, I fall asleep. Then I pick up where I left off to see the rest, so I watch them gradually over mostly consecutive nights. This morning, though, I wanted to finish White Christmas with breakfast (yogurt, granola), and tears sprang to my eyes when the old General sees his old soldiers. I'm a silly old fool for love.

I am glad to say these movies have managed to cheer me up, as did a long walk in the afternoon sunshine. I have much to be grateful for, and I am indeed thankful. And I wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving weekend, good vaccine news, and merrier times to come.

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Soft Joys

Probably a cherry cordial Hershey's kiss is not a healthy breakfast, but today it was one of the soft joys keeping me (emotionally & spiritually) alive. We had our weekly grocery shopping date early this morning, and I got the $2.99 special on Hershey's holiday candy (if you buy 5 packages), an item actually on my list, because I had been decorating my house, and it was time to put colorful (individually-wrapped) candy out in the various dishes...for us to eat for several months, as nobody else is coming in our house... Sigh... 

But, back to the joy part, I had no trouble picking out 5 bags of what I wanted, including mint, almond, plain milk chocolate, and peppermint bark bells. Instead of eating breakfast, I was placing the dishes around the house. Somehow, this helps.

Mid-morning at work, I saw the email showing a picture of (individually-wrapped) goodies and little Starbuck's iced coffee bottles! So I had some! Then home to a Honeycrisp apple, and the Governor, live, telling us we are back in Tier 3, to please stay home, starting Friday, to keep us all alive. I am glad that my little chalkboard poems are "soft joys" for those who see them here, or on Facebook or Instagram. I'm grateful they are hitting the spot.

Likewise, I was delighted with the response to my story, "A Retiring Woman," and grateful to Calyx for publishing it online. My daughter and her boyfriend were gripped by it, and she quoted a passage on integrity of voice. My son said he laughed out loud! Yay! It's a long story, and so many people read it and responded. I am wowed. 

Those are big things in my life, but the little, goofy things help, too. One day, I found myself gardening in pearls. Ah, it was Election Day, a lovely warm day, and I was wearing (fake) pearls to honor RBG, and there was yard work to be done. Another day, I was dusting in earrings, post Zoom, which is the only time I put on drop earrings. It felt good to dust, and to re-stack my stacks of books awaiting the second lockdown, as I sometimes think of it, but nobody likes the word "lockdown," and the Governor is just announcing a return to Tier 3, for all of Illinois, to help avoid a firmer stay-at-home order. This is a stay-at-home-as-much-as-you-can situation. Till then...(on a Fat Tuesday in the blog) I've got candy.

Saturday, November 14, 2020


Well, I got over yesterday's cranked-up crankiness and actually got even more work done than expected! So today could be an official Slattern Day, except I am actually working from home this afternoon--virtual poetry event at the library--and, as usual, working on various things in my home and home office before and after that. I am glad that Cranky Doodle Day is a fairly rare day among my "eight days a week" regular blog practice, but I suppose the crankiness can build up.

Today is sort of a sad/glad day, dark and cold outside, with a wind advisory. When I checked the weather app on my phone, the expected precip 

I congratulate all those people who put up their holiday decorations during our warm spell! I am pulling out interior decorations gradually, and I am glad I planted that tiny tree in a pot to decorate with blackberry lily seeds and leftover earrings. Every little bit helps. My chalkboard poem for today is "Sad/Glad," about my children. When I walk into my daughter's room now, I flip the light switch to turn on her string of tree lights left behind...


I walk into the rooms
of my children

who won’t be coming home
for the holidays.

I am glad
they are alive.

I had some good news: my story "A Retiring Woman," which has gone through many revisions and various titles, coming back now to its original title, was first runner up for the Margarita Donnelly Prize in Prose Writing at Calyx. For fellow writers, I've been working on this for years, and years ago I sent it to Calyx, thinking that was the perfect home for it. It was rejected. Back to revision! And back to Calyx! I love how this worked out. 

Also, Calyx is in Oregon, and so is my daughter, so it's a Random Coinciday in the blog!

Friday, November 13, 2020

Friday the 13th

I'm a person who gets a lot done, partly by putting off some of what needs to be done. That is, if something I have to do makes me nervous, I will do a bunch of other stuff first while procrastinating. In that way, everything...and even more...actually gets done! Today, to avoid starting one of these things, I put up my sweet turquoise-colored wooden Christmas tree decorations atop the piano to make myself happy. 

Superstitiously, I also put off posting a poem on my chalkboard by writing a mock-superstitious mock-haiku. No joke, though, I really didn't want to jinx anything by posting the real poem I'd been working on...and I have learned to listen to my gut.

What things make me nervous? Sometimes it's communicating about technology via technology! I'm big on communication but aware that a lot of people don't like to read emails or communicate promptly. So, mixed fear and annoyance about lack of response. Sometimes it's dread of certain people who find fault with anything I do. I know this is probably from their own fears and insecurities, but it still gets to me, hurts my feelings. Sometimes it's because if I say something like that, someone is bound to jump on me and say I'm the one in control of my own responses to other's people's negativity, et cetera, blah blah blah. I'm laughing as I type this but also annoyed!--with them as much as me, BECAUSE, to quote from the musical Company, "I'm a living thing, too, you shithead." Wow, I didn't know that was coming. I guess it's a Cranky Doodle Day in the blog!

Anyhoo, the sun is shining, and it's pretty outside, though still below freezing. I'm staying in today to do all the stuff I am currently putting off. Happy Friday the 13th! As the Internet memes keep saying, "What could go wrong?" I love you, Captain Picard.

Sunday, November 8, 2020

Fingerprint Not Recognized

Could it be all the handwashing and surface wiping? Frequently now my phone says, "Fingerprint not recognized" when I touch my finger to it to see what's up. Am I gradually disappearing? Well, yes, figuratively, but now, I guess, maybe literally! Fingeratively. 

What joy, joy, joy and relief I've been experiencing since yesterday! I'd gone into my front yard at 11:30, maybe to put out the mail? My across-the-street neighbor said, "We've got some good news!" This was the first year her daughter could vote! Yay all around! So many pictures of champagne later in the day, the spread-out family toasting! And all of us had beautiful weather wherever we were, the weather joining in the figuratively/literally thing.

And some terrible sadness, a family member lost to Covid-19. I only hope that family can grieve now inside a feeling of protection and relief surrounding them.

It's Sunday and I've got that "Love thy neighbor as thyself" feeling. Neighbors have been out in the fine weather, so we've been able to chat from an appropriate distance in the fresh air. I still love my back yard neighbors who probably voted differently than I did, the down-the-way not-so-responsible (poop) dog owners, and the neighbor who left conservative/religious books in my Little Free Library as an obvious message (since the yard signs recently in my yard were also an obvious message). Yes, let's heal, work together, and love one another as best we can.

Saturday, November 7, 2020

Freight Train

I'm back to a poem a day on a chalkboard for November, with the easel-style chalkboard moved inside to my home office. So far, though, 1) the weather has been gorgeous and warm, and I could have left it outside, and 2) a lot of my poems are about patience and waiting! 

Turns out, I'm writing longer poems in my head as I walk back and forth to work, but those disappear into the bramble of my brain. I remember salient images from them, and their walking rhythms, but they are mostly gone. That's probably fine. I recall, and often use, a composing/revising technique I learned years ago of writing a draft of a poem and then not looking at it and writing it out again. Only what is important comes back!

Yesterday, freight trains came through town on both my walks. On the way into town, I saw the marvelous graffiti that gave me this small poem that started as a haiku, expanded into a double haiku (not really a thing), was briefly a reverse haibun (also not a thing) in the bramble, and eventually became two stanzas that fit on a chalkboard.

Freight Train

Graffiti on its box cars
gives me the finger
over and over.

I smile in the sun,
admiring the patient art
of angry artists.

On my walk back home, I was joined at the corner by a friend on his way back to our neighborhood. We chatted, masked, for a long time, as all lights were red, waiting for the long freight train to go by. He'd been an election judge at our polling place and gave me a few more details of his day. We waited long enough to see the bad behavior of impatient drivers--turning right or left from the wrong lane, U-turn on a one-way street, driving too fast for the delayed traffic--and eventually witnessed an accident. A young woman took the right turn too fast and smashed the corner of her car into the corner of a building. She began to scream, continued screaming as she got safely out of her car, and as masked people came to help. I was calling 911, and so were several others, evidently, as by the time I got through, the police knew about it.

The train was stopped now, all crossing bars down. I could see that no emergency vehicles would be able to get through until the bars went up. The police station, blocks away, is on the other side of the tracks. Et cetera. Drivers continued to make bad choices, especially when the crossing bars went up, and they surged and turned into the path of police cars to get where they wanted to go, but finally help reached the woman, and she walked into the ambulance with two fellows helping. My friend gave a witness statement, and I chatted with a young man with a bike, who had come to work in the building she'd just hit. He had a bandage on his head from an accident that morning--bike, car--and seemed a bit befuddled, repeating his story with exact words to everyone who came near.

Walking away, I could see how easily we could have been in the driver's path. There were two white turn arrows painted on the street. One pointed to the sidewalk a few feet from where we stood, and one pointed to the building where she had crashed. These are advance warning arrows, but it was as if she had followed the second one exactly. Her car took the arrow's path, not the street. How is she doing now, that young woman? What a horrible day for her, on what a beautiful day.

I went home and collected yard signs for candidates (to return or recycle) and raked the side yard of tulip poplar leaves and sat in the back yard with the squirrels and read a book and drafted more poems and said hello to a tiny dog that had been running around the neighborhood and eventually into my back yard (where the gate is stuck open), explaining some past incidences of poop. And now I know the identity of the dog's people...the back yard neighbors down the way who curse a lot. Maybe they'll turn up in a poem someday.

Sunday, November 1, 2020

Yard Signs, Gun Shots, Trick-or-Treat

I'll start with the gun shots. After some chores on Saturday, a sunny, windy day, I took a long walk on the hiking/biking trail to keep heart and mind open, to see and breathe nature, and to stop by the labyrinth for centering. Right after I walked the labyrinth, calm of mind and loose of limb, as I went to collect phone, mask, and gloves, I heard two gun shots from the apartment complex beside the cancer center. Phone at hand, I called 911 to report this. The officer was calm, like me, and said they'd drive through the complex to check it out. No news of tragedy later that day, no sound of sirens as I continued through the beauty of the afternoon. Somehow, this is my/our life right now, yes? Possible, potential, even probable disaster near at hand, but uncertain, and maybe not. Maybe we'll be OK.

Maybe it was a Halloween prank. We did not turn on our porch light for trick-or-treaters this year. Instead, I put book hedgehogs and candy in the Little Free Library in case anybody came by. Somebody did come by, leaving two bags of peanut M&Ms, my favorite! But I haven't checked yet today to see if some books went home with kids or grownups, and whether I'll need to bring candy back inside. I had put some solar lights in the ground that day, and they worked: they lit up fine at night.

There was a Trump rally in our town on October 22. I found out about it after the fact--900 people at the local baseball stadium. Pictures showed the masked and unmasked, and people sort of spread out in the bleachers. It was a watch party for the debate, with the debate on the big electronic screen out there. Yes, Covid cases have been on the uptick since, but that's happening everywhere. The direct result of the rally that I saw locally was the appearance of yard signs. A news photo from the rally showed all the Republican signs stacked up for people to take, and, sure enough, they started popping up over the next few days in my precinct, which had mostly Democrat yard signs before, plus some perennial Republican incumbent signs.

Of the above, the labyrinth, the fall beauty, and the Little Free Library give me joy and peace. Hang in there, everybody. We really are all in this together. I hope we make it through with as much love and kindness as we can muster, "muster" being a battle term, alas, or a group of peacocks.