Sunday, March 26, 2023

Hello Beautiful

OK, I'm suddenly trendy, as I'm reading Oprah's new Book Club selection! It's Hello Beautiful, by Ann Napolitano, and I started it soon after reading her previous book, Dear Edward, which I understand is now a tv series. My paperback edition of Dear Edward, a Read with Jenna selection, had the first chapter of Hello Beautiful in it, so I was twice dipped in its opening sadness and basketball escape.

Also, hello, Beautiful! Thanks for reading my blog. I ran into one of my blog readers last night in person at the theatre. What a joy, and I am so touched! He said he has read some books based on my blog accounts, and he also enjoys my chalkboard poems. This just warms my heart! And I needed warming up, as it's been cold and gloomy for a few days, but yesterday the sun came out, and there was a clear sky with stars and a fingernail moon last night!

It was a busy, but entertaining, Saturday. In the afternoon, I went to The Lost King, about Richard III, inviting my dad, who has written a play about the king and would be familiar with all the basic research and discrepancies! Delightful movie with Sally Hawkins, followed by a panel discussion of theatre and history experts from the university. And a young woman in the audience who had read the book the movie is based on. I remember the news of finding Richard's bones in a car park! That shouldn't be a spoiler! It was on the news! And it's history! The movie tells another story, too, her story!

The balance of cloudy gloom with sunshine carries on in my poetry life, too. A rejection gets balanced by a request to reprint a poem, and going over proofs of some forthcoming poems. And I just keep writing. It's all over the place: chalkboard, computer, composition notebook, notepad for grocery lists, and my shower brain, where dialogue for a script also just spouted out like water or song. Or like water up the basement drain, after saturating rain, when I'm trying to do laundry, making it a half Slattern Day in the blog. But the sun came out, and I'm happy, and the bunnies in the yard, a true rhyme, are hoppy.

Saturday, March 18, 2023

Tiny...Dead Things

Well, I went to work today, not to work, but to put up a theatre-library display, due to a collaboration between institutions, library and theatre, and ended up helping patrons and talking to visitors and just hanging out! Indoors. Because it was freezing outside, still is, and now it's snowing again. Poop! Maybe March is the cruelest month.

This picture has the stage manager in it, who played a lot of bagpipes last night.

The play is Tiny Beautiful Things, adapted by Nia Vardalos (My Big Fat Greek Wedding) from the book by Cheryl Strayed. So, book and playscript are in the display, along with various versions of Wild, and a bunch of nonfiction books that relate to the topics* in the letters that people wrote to Strayed when she was Sugar for the Dear Sugar column of The Rumpus. Already, many of the young people I talk with have already read the book and are delighted and surprised to learn about the play! Tiny Beautiful Things, the tv series, drops April 7 at Hulu.

*including This Body I Wore, by Diana Goetsch, mentioned in this blog entry (where I lost my car).

When I got home, I also didn't work, meaning do any housework, making it a Slattern Day in the blog. As usual it is also a Poetry Someday, as I wrote two morning poems, one on my chalkboard, to a mouse I found dead in a trap this morning by the refrigerator (sorry, Mouse!) and one in a Lenten online workshop where lately I have been doing mostly prose, so a poem was a nice surprise. I did catch up on some computer work. Sigh... Tough week of hospital visits for my dad, so I was staying with my mom, therefore. Lost a little sleep. For escape...and because we saw the season finale of The Last of Us, I am reading World War Z. I am hoping the mouse does not reanimate.

Friday, March 10, 2023

Tiny Poems

Last night I participated in a lovely event at the Chenoa Public Library, a presentation about Fugue, an artist book with photographs by Ken Kashian and tiny poems by me. You can see a little video about it, with a fugue as background music, at Ken's website and at the Fugue link above. Part of the joy was the absolute attention of the audience, and part was conversing with them afterwards in a relaxed and cozy way on a rainy night, us warm inside in comfortable chairs donated by other libraries! In fact, Sheryl the director and I realized we had attended the same regional library conference the day before. I guess that makes it a Random Coinciday as well as a Poetry Someday in the blog! Other coincidences: the library director had participated in a theatre in town that I work with, and I went to high school with her husband and his brothers. He farmed up the road from where I lived, and my son and his hometown have the same name! 

The town and its library are very near the Weston Cemetery Prairie Nature Preserve, where the poems and photos are set. Not everyone in the audience had been there yet, but they'll be visiting soon! I was so honored that people felt reverence for the place, and reverent in our space last night, thanks to the photos and poems, and, I think, the sense of community.

Also, I finally read Educated, by Tara Westover, that everyone had told me to read. Wow, were they right. What a story! Right up there with Women Talking, by Miriam Toews, about women overcoming oppression and violence and being uneducated, and finding a way out, a way to live their lives. We hope. I read a good article--where? LA Times?!--about how Women Talking, the film, won't win Best Picture at the Oscars, but that the real "win" was being nominated. I think it ends (paraphrasing here), But wouldn't it be nice if we lived in a world where it could win? Yes. 

And, by the way, can I invite myself to anyone's Oscar party? My tv doesn't get ABC. Well, if not, I guess we could watch the season finale of The Last of Us! But I do love watching the Oscars live.

Friday, March 3, 2023

Real ID

Speaking of cars, my Real ID arrived in the (damp) mail today, shortly before the rain turned to icy snow. It was raining when I went to renew my license before it expired on my birthday, and I eagerly awaited the safe arrival of the Real ID, signed by a new Secretary of State, recently elected. But it still has Abraham Lincoln's face on it, as well as my own. I look OK in this picture! I am smiling. And it's all thanks to the DMV women; they took my picture twice, as in the first some hair had fallen into my eye, and the one woman knew there might be trouble if both my blue eyes were not evident. Ironically, 1) I am not wearing glasses in the photo; they don't let you--glare, eye color, etc. even though 2) the license requires me to wear glasses. So, in a way, it's not the Real ME!

Chalkboard poems continue. Reading continues. I read a sort of magical realism short novel, The Crane Husband, by Kelly Barnhill because the description reminded me of a poem I had written a couple years back where a woman marries a sandhill crane. This was darker than that, though the poem is also about a cryptid, the Mothman, who might actually be a sandhill crane. I love my life, but it is sometimes hard to explain to people who are not me. Let's just say I used to live in Kearney, Nebraska, and also passed through there on a trip west during sandhill crane nesting season.

I think there was more I meant to tell you, but it's Friday, it's snowing, and I am already drinking wine (in hopes of a nap...have I mentioned my weird sleeping patterns during the pandemic?)

Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Dude, ...Car?

I had a "Dude, where's my car?" moment today. I left work carrying two bags and a  large framed photograph of a gorgeous egret and went up to the 4th floor of the parking garage and on up to the unroofed deck, sun shining, where I had left my car. It was not there. There was this long, unhappy, awkward moment, a little drift into the future, police station, trying to explain, insurance, etc. Then I thought, "Maybe that was yesterday."

It is very strange that tomorrow will suddenly be March. Yes, February is a short month. Yes, it can have wildly variable weather. Often there is a lovely thaw right around my birthday, with warm temperatures and sunshine. Sweater weather, even. A feeling of spring!

Will March come in like a lion or a lamb? We've already had a wind advisory. (See chalkboard poem above!) I am still writing a poem (or more) a day for Lent. The chalked-in date should help me keep track of day, month, year. But, dude, I lost my car.

It was in a ground lot. Back down I went, on the convenient parking-garage elevator, found my car, secured the art, and drove home, stalled for a time by a freight train, pretty common in my little town. We got lots of work done on the tracks and crossing signals, to make way for a bullet train, but it hasn't quite come. Instead, these long freight trains. My excellent plan, were I in transportation power, would be for laborers to build tracks around the town for freight trains and save the in-town tracks and crossings for passenger trains. Jobs for rail workers, peace and convenience for the town, financing from the railroads. The government already paid for the previous work.

I got some of my work-at-home done before family chaos ensued. I don't know yet whether that has been resolved, or ever really can be. I'm sad about the falling apart of everything. And joyful and grateful about all the rest--the ongoing love, the sweet memories. The shiny green Mardi Gras/ St. Patrick's Day beads.

Meanwhile, alas, people are suffering from so many things. Another earthquake! Ongoing pandemic. Political tension, divisiveness. And those wild, private eruptions, where someone somehow thinks murder is the only answer. It isn't. But you have to have some empathy and imagination to find another. And maybe your upbringing prevented that...for a while. But now, hey, aren't you a grownup? Couldn't you take some responsibility? I don't know. I haven't been driven to murderous impulses, but I did lose my car.

Also meanwhile I was reading This Body I Wore, a memoir by poet Diana Goetsch, who previously lived and wrote as Douglas Goetsch. I so admire her transition! I am grateful to have learned so much from her book, and so glad she got to be who she really is! Again, so many of us are suffering, and some of us find a way through to joy, freedom, and light!

Meanwhile, as well, I have elevated Fat Tuesday into February itself, gaining winter's usual 1-3 pounds in one short month. Need to resume walking and swimming soon, so this body I wear won't get too heavy to carry around with me up to the 4th floor of the parking garage...

Saturday, February 25, 2023

Sound Healing

Last night my friend Kim took me out for my birthday. We lay on the floor of a local yoga studio for a sound healing. Pillows, yoga mats, gongs, maybe rain sticks, singing bowls, a thunderstorm. At some point my hands began to dance. At times I thought I might be in a science fiction movie. We had little pillowed eye masks so the sense of hearing would be enhanced. It was actually really loud, and I hope my ears survive. But I think we both got sort of healed! Feeling loose and competent today. Even got my tax organizer filled out!

I had lunch with my folks, and took them some of my poems for a mini-poetry reading afterwards. My mom has been asking about my poems, so I took a batch of recently accepted ones. (When I got home, it was time to approve a proof of one of these, making it a Random Coinciday in the blog!) They read the typescript afterwards. Mom liked them a lot. Dad fell asleep but also liked them intermittently when he woke up. "They're very spare and mature," he said. I sure hope so! This is my Route 66 year! I'm planning to get my kicks! (Well, that doesn't sound very mature.) I have the appropriate bobby pins and Route 66 earrings for it! See the tiny tires?! (You can get some, too, at Ryburn Place when it reopens in March.)

I'm reading several books simultaneously. Sometimes, it's how I sleep. (See my dad, above.) One of them is Really Good, Actually by Monica Heisey, a comedian, about a divorce. Ah, and we just watched 1) the remake, via mini-series, of Scenes From a Marriage, recommended by my daughter and 2) the original Ingmar Bergman film, which, I just realized was also a television mini-series at first, then had a theatrical release as a longish film. The new one is a wonderfully close adaptation, with cool variations, and also very different, contemporary, with a meta aspect that incorporates Covid & masks. Great acting, all around.

And I am back at the chalkboard. A poem a day in February and maybe all of Lent. We'll see.

Tuesday, February 21, 2023

Fat Tuesday

I often forget that Fat Tuesday is actually one of the "eight days a week" of this blog. Now it actually is Fat Tuesday--Mardi Gras--so I have the opportunity to remember! We got a little cake for Valentine's Day and had just finished it up when my husband got another one to celebrate my birthday. We haven't eaten it yet because we had chocolate milkshakes as part of my requested carryout birthday dinner while we watched episodes of The Last of Us, based on a videogame, recommended by our kids. It contains some hungry people and some excellent eating, plus comic conflict over sandwiches. My birthday dinner involved a cheeseburger and fries. I am still full and still awake, and Fat Tuesday has arrived, and I've retrieved shiny Mardi Gras necklaces and hung them from doorknobs, planning to take some to decorate my mom's doorway when I visit tomorrow. Some are green and can stick around for St. Patrick's Day.

My life has a lot of this rolling, get-goofy-things-done quality these days. My tiny chalkboard poems have begun again. Yoga, for various reasons, has once again been set aside, so maybe a poem a day for Lent and a tiny poem a day on the chalkboard will be my new Yoga of Poetry. It's a new deep black chalkboard, as I felt the urge coming on and ordered it...when?! The green chalkboard I used before has been retired, like a basketball star's jersey, as it was the Welcome board for my daughter's wedding and still bears that greeting! In this tiny poem with no punctuation we are both growing older, the poet and the afternoon light.

I re-read A Visit from the Goon Squad, by Jennifer Egan, for a book group and to prepare for reading its sequel.* The goon of Time makes this a Random Coinciday in the blog, too. I loved this book, which feels really pertinent right now--the "pointers" (babies who like songs and point at them) seem like "influencers" on social media--as does The Last of Us, with a pandemic caused not by a virus but by fungi. There were no mushrooms on my cheeseburger.

*The Candy House. Yep, Fat Tuesday!

Wednesday, February 15, 2023

Needle-Pricked Brain

I guess I am needing escape into mythic fantasy these days, as I work hard in real life to solve many ongoing problems. So I am reading Circe, by Madeline Miller, a free book that I picked up at church about a witch. Ha! She is confined to her island and is just now, halfway through, meeting Odysseus and showing him her fancy loom, fashioned by Daedalus. (Yes, father of Icarus and maker of wings.) At times, Circe has a "needle-pricked brain," and so do I.

Earlier this month, I read the wonderful collection of writings, edited by Jesmyn Ward, The Fire This Time, inspired by current events as well as James Baldwin, of The Fire Next Time. I had been wanting to read Ward's book for a long time, and there it was on a library display table, so I snatched it up! 

My parents are adjusting to their recent move. Ups and downs. Their new apartment is beautiful, comfy, cozy, and contains their own furniture, paintings, books, family photos, refrigerator magnets, and so on. It was a beautiful move, thanks to the company Beautiful Life. If you need to move, or your parents do, and you live in central Illinois, get in touch with Julie Holliday of Beautiful Life! Also, see if you can get my sister to come help out. She's also a whiz at this! (Ah, I am giving her Circe when I'm done with it!!)

Meanwhile, I had curtain speeches to give and talks to facilitate and documents to edit. I had poems to revise and send out. I got an acceptance, yay! That was good news to report to my mom, who is always thrilled when I get a poem accepted (as am I!). Then there was Valentine's Day. My husband and I celebrated as we celebrate every Tuesday morning: senior shopping at 7 a.m. But this time we got a lovely little chocolate mousse cake. And we are still eating it.

Sunday, January 29, 2023

A Tale of Two Re-Reads

I am engaged in re-reading two novels with two book clubs, one that meets by Zoom and one in person. They gloriously connect, making it a Random Coinciday in the blog. And one begins with a poem, making it a Poetry Someday! Friday, the Zoom group discussed The Master and Margarita, by Mikhail Bulgakov, one of my favorite novels ever, in part due to its novel-within-the-novel about Pontius Pilate and Yeshua. Right now, I am immersed in the re-reading of A Gentleman in Moscow, by Amor Towles, in which a man is confined to the Metropol Hotel on house arrest. (Is somebody making a movie of this yet?!*) Both novels take place in Moscow during the Bolshevik Revolution and its aftermath, in the 1920s and thereabouts, and on page 84 of A Gentleman in Moscow, Bulgakov is mentioned in a list of beloved Russian poets. In fact (fiction), the book begins with a poem by the beloved (fictional) poet Count Alexander Hyich Rostov, the hero in house arrest.

*Wikipedia tells me A Gentleman in Moscow is being adapted into a limited series to be released on Paramount+ and Showtime. It was to star Kenneth Branagh, but now will star Ewan McGregor. OK, then!

These two books, along with the Geena Davis memoir I am about to return to the library, have given great calm and delight and relief as I cuddle up on the couch under a blue fleece in the wee hours or the hours in between helping my parents prepare for a big move. Working hard with my wonderful sister, who has returned from Abe & Mary  Lincoln research in Springfield to cook and to sort, organize, launder, etc.--whatever needs doing. So, yes, we are still tidying, and it is still magical. And exhausting. In physical and emotional ways. Reading as a comfort is also the ongoing awakening of empathy, so it all helps.

Also, both novels contain significant cats and dogs! They help, too.

Thursday, January 26, 2023

Still Tidying, But Elsewhere

As the title says, I'm still tidying, but elsewhere these days. My sister and I have been tidying, organizing, labeling, and "staging" in preparation for my parents' move from a 100+ year-old farmhouse (that we grew up in) to a two-bedroom independent living apartment in a retirement community. It's a time of ongoing grief and overwhelming stress, and we haven't been able to engage our parents in "the life-changing magic of tidying up." But we have made headway on organizing, donating, and tossing my mom's clothes and shoes. My dad is another story. (He'll tell it!)

To calm down, my sister has left town (she's on a research leave!!), and I have been reading Dying of Politeness, a memoir by Geena Davis. I love Geena Davis! She is fun, funny, smart, a wonderful actress and a world class archer. Her mother had Alzheimer's, making this a Random Coinciday in the blog. I so connect with Geena Davis's shyness. I am so glad she feels more confidence and badassery now! And, wow, about the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media. She is making a difference in our world!

I have also been reading The XX Brain, by Lisa Mosconi, which is 1) not so calming 2) affecting my grocery shopping: more blueberries and (finally available!) salmon. It is disheartening to read, I think in the foreword by Maria Shriver, that Alzheimer's arrives in the brain 20-30 years before it presents. And yet!: it's never too late to increase exercise, start the Mediterranean diet, do crossword puzzles and other brain games, and advocate for oneself with doctors. Sigh...  Lisa Mosconi for women's health and Geena Davis for gender awareness, yay, thank you!!

Friday, January 20, 2023

The Yoga of Laundry

I was getting along fine with my new year's routines of morning yoga, coffee, reading & writing, work, random housework, and various meetings and commitments, when I became mindful of my underwear drawer. It was looking pretty sparse! Hadn't I just laundered the bedsheets? Um, yes, but then days/weeks went by. So how mindful am I, anyway?

But you know what? I have already sent out two poetry submissions, and it's still the middle of January. I don't think I got going on poetry submissions until February of last year. So, poetry or clean underwear, which will it be? Happy to say, both, thank goodness! And one of these submissions contained three poems written this January!! In the new Poems 2023 folder! So that's how on top of it I am at this particular moment, which is the only moment I've got. And in responsible recycling mode, I am re-using my Submissions 2020 folder, which still had room on it for notes, for 2023 submissions. Because I am still tied to paper and pen, in addition to electronic recordkeeping, or my brain will explode/atrophy.

Speaking of mindfulness, I know I am probably not very mindful of the present moment when I start writing this blog entry in my head while Rodney Yee is guiding me through two minutes of meditation as I sit cross-legged on the floor. In clean undies. And aqua flannel jammies that match my yoga mat.

Sunday, January 15, 2023


I'm talking literal balance here, like a flamingo's ability to stand on one leg. Recently I attended a mindfulness hour at my local library, doing fine with the seated meditation portion and noticing a balance issue with the walking meditation. Perhaps it was a rhythm issue, and if I'd been in charge of my own rhythm and pace I'd have had less of a balance problem. But, after we walked in a large circle together around our circle of chairs, the leader did say the first time he tried this he had balance issues!

My usual walking meditation is 1) walking on the local trail 2) walking an outdoor labyrinth, just off this same trail. All of this takes place in the three seasons not known as winter! I miss walking outdoors, and I miss a certain balance of mind lately, too, as I am preoccupied these days with some family wamily issues that will sort themselves out pretty soon...though certain stresses will be ongoing. So I was delighted and grateful to discover on the day it was happening that I actually had the mindfulness hour free, could still sign up, and could actually attend.

I also practice my balance by 1) putting on pants 2) putting on shoes. Sometimes I try to stand like a crane, one leg straight, one leg bent, to put on each shoe. This morning, by chance, Facebook offered me a picture of the flamingo sculpture at the Tampa airport, making it a Random Coinciday in the blog! Also, I dreamed of putting on a shoe. And often I write poems while walking, a different kind of walking meditation. (Thank you to Wikipedia & Facebook for these images!)

Sunday, January 8, 2023

The Yoga of Housework

It's back on with me and Rodney Yee in terms of A.M. Yoga in the new year. Taking yoga class with my daughter in Portland, OR inspired me to 1) stay flexible 2) get more flexible 3) get stronger 4) also resume my arm strength exercises with little two-pound pink hand-held cushiony weights. I could not take my fabulous aqua yoga mat on the plane, but my daughter has extra mats, and told me after our heated yoga class together that I had done fine even though my mat was upside down. (Nerves.) All of us as a family also took the class she taught at another studio. Not a heated class, but right after one, so it was plenty hot, despite the door open to fresh air in the rainy alley between classes!

Anyhoo, morning yoga is going fine since then, except for two mornings, including today, when sleep disruption has left me on the couch, sleeping with a book open on my chest. Sigh...  No problem! On those days I can do "The Yoga of Housework," a focussed, meditative, vigorous activity that, like today, might involve changing and laundering the queen-sized sheets. And unfurling different quilts or comforters!

"The Yoga of Housework" might also involve taking down the minimal holiday decorations, and leaving some up. And, naturally, it re-connects me with Marie Kondo and the art of tidying up! Ah, the shoes I forgot--Navy blue Keds--in my original encounter with "the life-changing magic of tidying up" are now in Portland, OR, left behind when my suitcase got too full of hand-me-ups from my daughter (size 8P pants, always welcome!!), so they are now hers, making this a Random Coinciday in the blog! And not really a Slattern Day, though otherwise a day of rest. 

Friday, January 6, 2023

Pink Donut

In my last blog post, Champagne Poetry, I spoke of the fabulous patisserie we visited in Portland, Oregon, and here is the pastry case, featuring the Pink Donut--a perfect Simpsons donut, also reflected in Christmas ornaments I gave the wedding couple in May, which we saw on their tree in December, and which I ate for breakfast in its Champagne Poetry form. As you see, this was a $7.99 donut, and it was good. And look at those mangos! Here at home, it has been a tough day, lots going on. It's exhausting, but it's all working out, thanks to love and family wamily. It's not really a Cranky Doodle Day, despite the eight-days-a-week blog post label, but I so am glad it's Friday. Happy Epiphany.

Sunday, January 1, 2023

Champagne Poetry

Happy New Year, everybody! I do hope 2023 will be a good year for us all, walking out of some of our woes and into more of our joys. I'm very aware of people's losses and changes and the lingering trauma of these pandemic years. We'll we be walking together, won't we? We got to spend Christmas with our kids in Portland, Oregon, where they both were, amazingly, able to buy houses this fall, after a wild real estate market began to settle down a bit. It was great to see them in their new lives and neighborhoods! We hiked the snowy trail to Tamanawas Falls, and saw the waterfall rushing over frozen sections of itself, misting up into the air and gently raining down on us and the heaps of white snow and blue ice. Just lovely. A magical trail of snow and ice laden trees (primarily cedar and Douglas fir), alternately silent or accompanied by the rushing creek, depending on the bends in the trail. That was Christmas Day.

Tuesday morning we visited a charming patisserie, Champagne Poetry, for breakfast. We had delicious treats, coffee, and tea...but, as it was breakfast, no champagne. It's all in shades of pink with a rose wall and neon wings, as evidenced by the wacky picture of me and cooler picture of my son! Back home before New Year's Eve, some of us had a wee bit of champagne before feeling sleepy by nine p.m. But yay for those who made it to midnight!