Thursday, November 30, 2006

Thursday 13: My Holiday List

With two exceptions that occurred many years ago, I love Christmas. I love giving gifts, baking cookies, dropping off little christmas tree cakes to my neighbors, smelling evergreen pine all around me, our Christmas eve tradition with Mike and Clara and Dani and the most precious sleepover here with Jess and Mike. I love the thought that goes into my Christmas stocking, the same Christmas morning breakfast we have had for 25 years, our holiday party when we invite everyone we know from all walks of life. I love the fact that sooner or later I will slow down and realize I am very lucky.

I can tell you what I don't love in just a few words: i hate shopping at malls, I hate packing and mailing all the presents that must go to Colorado Springs and Seattle and Tucson. I hate that I fight the clock to find any semblance of rhythm and slowing down. I hate that the world is so violent. I hate that any child wakes up on Christmas morning without loving parents and presents under a tree.

Here's my holiday list. I hope I get everything I need.

1. Baby Ryan: I hope you come into the world perfect in every way. I know your parents will feel love they cannot even imagine as soon as they see and smell you. I am planning breakfast menus of m & m's and ice cream for when you are older.

2. I hope a publisher picks up this novel I have just finished and I am paid a sufficient advance so I can get it written to an A or A- level within 3-4 months.

3. I hope Ces and I do more words and colors together.

4. Godess Santa: could you help me figure out the role of money in our lives? I know we're not waiting for some far away future to live our lives and live generously but can I really believe in abundance? And do I need to supplement my writing with a day job?

5. I hope jb shines the nightlight in the magic cottage exactly the way she wants to and I will be lucky enough to see and swoon over her fantastic artwork.

6. May I (finally) decide if the tough-love approach of my book agent is good for me or move on and out to someone else who understands I am more delicate than meets the eye.

7. Sign me up for a photography course.

8. I pray the Iraqi people are given the support they need to rebuild their country and live in peace, after my country destroyed their homeland for all the wrong reasons.

9. Please transport me to Weight Watchers and Pilates and get me in shape for once and for all. In my heart, I am too cute to be anything but.

10. Protect my family and friends from anyone and anything that does not help them prosper.

11. I hope for a personal shopper who will stack my closet with the coolest most fashionable clothes.

12. Godess Santa: I would also like someone nearby who can play the guitar so I can host an occasional sing a-long in my living room.

13. I want a flow, a rhythm, a guiding force that helps me live without so many jolts and jagged edges. I don't expect this all the time but I'll be thankful for a little predictable rhythm that governs my days.

And how about you? I'd love to see your holiday list. The singer-songwriter Mary Chapin Carpenter says,
"It's too much to expect, but it's not too much to ask"

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Part 1 and Part 2

Part 1: Today I completed the National Novel Writing Month Contest. 50,000 words and 203 pages! Here's the opening paragraph:

This kind of intensity has happened once before in the last 20 years. Before then, when I was single and searching, and once when I was almost married and mystified, I knew what was happening solely from the hole in my stomach, and sometimes it was even deeper than that. It’s a feeling like no other: a big gapping hole pulsating with forbidden hope, complete with arousal spikes that both excite and shock. It’s being so pre-occupied that you can barely and hardly keep yourself and steady in your present life, and when it really spirals you have to brace yourself—hold on to something, even an arm chair-- to stop the obsessive rereading or retelling or rehearing of the smallest details. It’s exciting beyond words. It’s falling in love.

And here's an ending or two:

1) Somehow I am now linked with someone so different from me that the most entrenched parts of myself have agreed to stretch in every improbable way. I do this for love. I should feel constricted and frustrated, except I have been gently planted on holy and expansive ground. From here on I'll be longing and alone, but I wouldn't have it any other way.

2) James had opened a window and let the fresh air pour in. I left her in his care, a good and kind man devoted to his family. I boarded a plane back home knowing that I would love her, and maybe him, for the rest of my life.

Part 2: 10 Things I Would Never Do

I'm another advocate of "Never say Never". With that in mind, here's my list:

I would never:

1. Betray another person for my own benefit
2. Wear shoes and socks that don't match my clothing
3. Under appreciate the wisdom of the Godess or God in designing procreation (smile)
4. Keep money that didn't belong to me
5. Stop writing
6. Stop reading
7. Stop loving
8. Learn to fly an airplane
9. Become bitter
10. Boycott the Dixie Chicks (double smile)

Monday, November 27, 2006


Dedicated to my efforts to be real:


I’d like to be funny tonight.
I’d like to sit in my favorite chair,
Across from you, grinning
And tell you stories
That start with glee and end with awesome.

I’d like to lean over and
Touch your knee
So you know I am present
As surely as I sit before you.

I’d like to know how you feel
On vacation and at work
And on Sunday mornings
When you read the New York Times.

I’d like to watch your mind
Dance down the street of curiosity
And stop at the curb
Where that lucky penny finds you.

I’ll listen to your stories
Into the night,
Even of the time you eloped
Only to find your mistake
Under the Las Vegas sheets

My eyes will follow you
Into the doorways and along the pathways
And I will nod with empathy
And the commonality of approval.

I can do all these things
As sincerely as I breathe
Because I was given this gift
Long long ago.

I’d like you to know
I keep secrets and honor wishes,
Even the dark ones,
And even when I’m bribed.

So when you slip on your coat
to take your leave
I’d like to think
We both heard you well.

But because there are two of us,
Listening only goes so far.
I too must reveal
my footprints in the squeaky sand.

Tell you who I am? That is harder.
I can tell you why.
It starts with a fact that startles me still:

I can tell you everything
But I will not know
if you see me strong and clear
Or dazed and fragile.

I’ve been apologizing for both and either
Most of my life
And that is a confused place
Not found on any map.

Here’s how it goes:
If you tell me I am strong and confident
I will tell you back--
No, please know I am sensitive,
I cry and fold in two
When I have no back door

And if you tell me I am sensitive
I will be speechless,
Apologizing for a weak defense
And readying to watch you walk away.

It’s not that I don’t know myself:
I cry over love
And when dogs whimper,
And nobody would say I was unkind.

I take to the streets
When integrity’s at stake
And I hide under the bed
When I bite my lower lip
In anticipation of a harsh word or deed.

I am confident and sensitive.
Strong and insecure.
Wise and weak.
Tall and small.

That’s what it is.
That’s all it is.
I cannot tell you why this fact
Decks me until I finally

Relax for the count
Or rise for the occasion.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Colors and Words in Blogland

I started blogging just about a year ago. In some ways it is still a very strange experience for me, particuliarly because I have formed friendships and affections that I would not have believed possible without the reality of in-person connections and/or personal history.

I'm posting this poem for Ces, but I think it reflects friendships in Blogland that are both genuine and awesome. I have given up trying to explain to non-bloggers and/or family members how and why I count certain people I haven't physically met among my friends, but I am pretty sure my fellow bloggers will understand completely.

And, by the way, I am not naming the names of the people who I place in the category of friend but I hope you know who you are. I hope I'm your friend too............

Colors and Words

No skin.
No sound.
No hand at the elbow
Should the shakes come round.

No face or place.
No fashion. No fad.
No coffee. No wine.
No movie line.

Just colors and words
Finding their way
Through some connection
too hard to say.

No history. No blood.
No travels. No mud.
No workspace. No church
No neighbors. No search.

No shopping. No munch.
No face-to-face hunch.
No beat to the punch.
Not even a lunch.

Just colors and words
Quietly heard
A painting, a poem
A friendship, a home.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Thursday 13: Thanksgiving Edition

jb's best friend and room mate for 10 years, mother to a great 17 year old high school senior,
a fine professional photographer, a healthy 53 year old woman, went to bed Saturday night and died in her sleep. This has been a difficult sad week. I've returned home very aware of unfinished business in the form of hopes, dreams, aspirations and practical matters.

God knows I prefer that this blog be uplifting and humorous. No humorous today: my Thanksgiving post is based on how quickly and unexpectedly things can change. I'm taking the opportunity to offer my very own advice about thanks-giving.

If the shoe fits and the wind blows in any or all of these, please considering moving quickly. Move Quickly. It's the little putting-offs that causes big regrets.

1. Make the Call
I have 3 people I think about often. And yet, sometimes months and years go by and I do nothing. This Thanksgiving I will make the call.

2. Write a Love Letter
It's a lost art. And it's a keep sake. Sit down and in your own way say "I love you" in bold letters. And then address an envelope mail it.

3. Apologize
I've made two apologies this year (both rebuffed--happy endings aren't sure things but the effort still counts). I owe one more. Throw pride in the waste basket. Life's too short.

4. Say Thanks
Mom, thanks for the way you brought me up. jb, thanks for supporting me while I write. Gary, thanks for pulling me out of all those jams. I have a hundred 'thank yous' due. I'm starting today, one by one.

5. Take a walk
It's a beautiful world out there. I snub nature at my own peril. How dare I get so immersed in my petty chores and endless responsibilities that I bypass the comfort and beauty of the natural order of things.

6. Remember
Let those memories wrap their arms around you. Cry, honor, feel, visualize the people and events that have shaped you. Let your memories breathe.

7. Pull your documents together
Wills, bills, insurance policies, IRA's: make it easy just in case your best friend jb is
going through your papers and files, stunned and heartbroken, trying to put your affairs in order.

8. Be impeccable with your words
This comes from The Four Agreements. Don't lie. Don't hide. Mean what you say. Keep your promises. Don't be sloppy with what you say and how you say it.

9. Touch
We human beings need a minimum of 8 hugs a day to be happy and healthy. Make sure you get your quota. And make sure that's also true for the people around you.

10. Count Your Stars
I dated a guy who did this all the time: he'd look up and count every star he had going for him. One by one. I learned this habit from him. It's a good one.

11. Tell Jokes
Lighten up and remember what it's like to laugh deep. And out loud.

12. Be Conscious
Since I'm alive and upright, I owe it to myself to keep my my five senses sharp. Keep your eyes and ears and heart wide open, all the time.

13. Never Cut What Can Be Untied
I try to live by this principle. Remember it and you'll avoid alot of problems.


Saturday, November 18, 2006

Just Thinking....

Sometimes I wonder what I can or should be doing to walk the talk, put my money where my mouth is, make the world a better place, etc etc etc. OK--there'll be no political or religious lecture here. I know better: the last time I touched the subject, the response was very quiet. But, folks, really, the world could use a hand. My hand. And your hand. At least occasionally.

So in that spirit, begging your indulgence, here's an excerpt from The Low Road by Marge Piercy. It's self explanatory:

Two people can keep each other sane, can give support, conviction,love, massage, hope, sex. Three people are a delegation,a committee, a wedge. With four you can play bridge and start an organization. With six you can rent a whole house, eat pie for dinner with no seconds, and hold a fund raising party. A dozen make a demonstration. A hundred fill a hall. A thousand have solidarity and your own newsletter; ten thousand, power and your own paper; a hundred thousand, your own media; ten million, your own country. It goes on one at a time. It starts when you care to act. It starts when you do it again, after they said no, it starts when you say
We and know who you mean, and each day, you mean one more.


Thursday, November 16, 2006

Thursday 13: Mish Mash

This week's Thursday 13 is an assortment of events and people. Except that # 13 never showed up.

1. Mike: I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you. For always :-)

2. I apologize for rushing the upcoming holiday season. But this is a tribute to my beloved dog Rosie, via the springer spaniel who sits atop this tree with angel wings.

3 & 4. And speaking of beloved dogs, here are a couple of shots of Stella. In the last 7 months. I have learned about healing. I've seen with my own eyes how the power of love can tranform and remake even the most painful of lives.

4. This is the a view of Provincetown Harbor. I've walked this beach a thousand times, sometimes planning and plotting my future, sometimes remembering my past, and most often staying smack in the present moment, feeling my bare feet in the wet sand and the loving ocean breeze on my grateful face.

5. Francine wants to thank Ces for her fantastic portrait. She wants her to know she feels famous and cute. And she wants to tell her that she would like to be friends-for-life.

6. It's an easy walk from the back door to jb's Magic Cottage. This tiny space is insulated, heated, and welcoming of jb's artwork--these days collages made from found objects and put onto old house windows
7. I like this shot of our front yard light. I leave it on late into the night because I know my neighbor gets comfort from it.

8. OK, my patience is spent. Last winter the city plow destroyed our new fence, which we @@#!! painted by hand and after several reviews denied our claim. Since I hate injustice, I'm on the warpath on this one. I will be devoting time I don't have to straightening this out. And I may lose my temper. OK, I already have....
9. Some events change lives. I came back from two weeks as a Red Cross Volunteer in New Orleans a changed person. I learned about courage and about service. I will never forget.

10. It's still Fall and my walks with Stella look like this. Sometimes I stop and write, often I talk to myself, and just as often I think about the people I love and I'm just about on my knees...

11. This group of folks is affectionately referred to as the Big Yellow. This November, we wrote together, sang together, and shared a magical weekend together. I owe each of them a huge debt for their support and interest in the writer I am becoming.

12. And speaking of huge debts, here's my Mom and Dad. This is really all you need to know. My father's been gone 10 years. But I kind of carry him around with me.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Stretch Marks

It was a short time away. I'm back. And I'm glad.

Last June I wrote a poem on guilt, so it's probably about time to deal with another tricky and useless emotion. This one, by the way, I would happily give away, sell, bury, or burn. The only positive thing I can say about it is at least it reminds me I'm a piece of work and a work in progress....


This one’s a no win.
You can shake your head and pace
and run your hands
through your hair
but you can’t expect.

You can let little tears
fall on your keyboard.
and remember how crazy
that voice within can be
but you can’t expect.

It’s fine to ask,
to put it out there
instead of keeping it inside a tattered box
where your little heart holds a toothpick for protection.
It’s fine to ask, but you can’t expect

because expecting lands you
on a one way road
where you lose no matter what.
You get what you want, maybe,
but only because.

Not for any other reason
you might hope for.
This is how it really works:
first, you have to trust yourself
and then you have to trust

that considerations are given
and choices weighed
and sometimes changes made
for your benefit only
because you can’t expect.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Taking a Break

I'll be away for a little bit covering the bulls in Barcelona, the hills of Iowa, and the Lonely Hearts club in Paris. (I wish....).

Until next time, thanks for stopping by and be well.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Thursday 13: Things that Thrill Me

What a week. 1. Jessica's baby shower was a huge success: 60 fabulous women, a buffet Sunday brunch, unlimited mimosas, and 3 hours worth of baby presents all in one room. Whew! By the way, this daughter of mine is quite a doll.

2. My state of Massachusetts overwhelmingly elected only the 2nd black governor in U. S. history.

3. Look what's gracing my livingroom: Ces' painting, which is so awesome I have no words for it except WOW.

4. Goodbye to Kevin Federline and Donald Rumsfeld on the same day. A thousand YAYS!

5. The next time you have a party, put some marbles in your bathroom medicine cabinet. The first guest who sneaks a peek will have quite a noisy surprise.....

6. Several weeks ago I posted my concerns about torture and politics. I was surprised by how tepid the response was. So I will refrain from saying anything about the mid term elections except for YIPEE! FANTASTIC! THANK YOU GODDESS!

7. Throughout November I am joining many other writers worldwide in writing 175 pages/50,000 words of a novel. So far I'm keeping up, but only because my partner jb is working extra so I can stay home and write.

8. My big yellow weekend writing group included 3 songwriters, acoustic guitars included. After a Saturday night hootenanny in my living room, I am on the prowl for a friend or anybody for that matter who can play enough chords to support frequent sing-alongs. I want to sing with my family and friends (note: this comes from the person who was asked by the catholic nun to only move her lips during those hymns..)

9. It's my observation that people who don't blog don't understand the thrill of it all.

10. Lost, my favorite and only tv show, has lost some of its edge this season. I'm hoping it picks up as the season progresses.

11. I love Christmas. jb and I will have our annual open house holiday party sometime in December, which is notable for significant lights and decorations and quite a spread of interesting food. But the best is Christmas day with Jess and Mike and stockings filled with little gifts that say, "I know who you are and you'll like this!"

12. I would be including more photos in this Thursday 13 if I could figure out how to upload them in the order I want. I am technologically deficient.

13. I am still in love. It's hitting me from all directions. How much can one heart hold, anyway?

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

5 Things--People Collection List

I'm trying this again. Someone who paints and is a nurse politely mentioned that writing mostly about my parents might not have exactly followed the rules of this writterly exercise, the rules being to write 5 things profane or mundane about yourself. And god knows I try to follow the rules when the rules make sense to me and I am so inclined. So:

1. I was voted most popular in my high school class of 660 kids. This was quite an honor much to the dismay of Mary Ellen K., who wanted it more than I did. I haven't seen most of my high school mates in years, but when I do many comment that I'm more serious than I was back then. And that's true. When I was 16 I worked hard at being liked and likable. I was able to slide into and fit into any group, even the National Honor Society, of which i was NOT a member. I was an average student and a hellion who was in detention after school as often as not, but I was always good natured and ready for a laugh. These days, I don't work so hard to be liked and likable, but the good news is that the more authentic me has worked out just fine.

2. Well before Christopher Reeve brought independent living needs to the forefront, I wrote and published the first national resource directory for people with spinal cord injuries and other severe physical disabilities. I wrote to Lily Tomlin, who has a quadriplegic character named Crystal, and asked her to write the introduction. She wrote back saying she was not well enough informed to do that. So I sent another letter, this time addressed directly to Crystal, and asked her to talk to Lily. A week later I received what would become the back cover of the directory, complete with Crystal's "quad" signature.

3. I was trained by the U.S. Military in black-white relations and how to run diversity groups.

4. For two years my apartment in Germany had no hot water. None. My husband and I had to build and wait for a coal fire to heat up the bathroom water tank so we could take our weekly baths. And in bed at night it was so cold I could see my breath even in the dark.

5. I expect to have two self-help books published within the next two years, but my best love is writing poetry. Having a background in counseling is a treasure for a writer, as is living with this irrepressible passion that follows me everywhere. And it doesn't hurt that I think the best of most people, although I can see through phony-baloney like a laserbeam.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Cooking Up Trouble

When the prompt is the Moosewood Cookbook, you can't be surprised when the following poem spills out:

Cooking Up Trouble

Sneaking up the walkway
and through the back door
carrying a recipe filled with lessons
from the great books,

you mix together ingredients
that can be separated
only once
and even then you take your chances.

You start with young hope
sifted through intent and
measured nicely by honest hands
hoping that alone will suffice.

But of course it can’t.
So from the back cabinet
you reach for promises
waiting to be made and kept

and add them with fanfare,
simply because they must be mixed
with integrity--
otherwise they curdle at the first neglect.

This bowl can hold whatever you throw at it,
but not neglect.
And that is because some recipes
when they’re fudged or forsaken

fall into a million pieces
so even the great godesss can not reconstruct them,
and least of all you with your limited skills.
Better to take your time and measure
well enough, really well enough

So that when the rising’s done
you become whole
from those ingredients
you cooked up yourself.
In the offchance or hope that you might want or need to lighten up too, here's my favorite poem these days, courtesy of my pal Melissa and written by America's poet laureate, Billy Collins. Let yourself laugh!

The Country

I wondered about youwhen you
when you told me never to leave
a box of wooden, strike-anywhere matches
lying around the house because the mice

might get into them and start a fire.
But your face was absolutely straight
when you twisted the lid down on the round tin
where the matches, you said, are always stowed.

Who could sleep that night?
Who could whisk away the thought
of the one unlikely mouse
padding along a cold water pipe

behind the floral wallpaper
gripping a single wooden match
between the needles of his teeth?
Who could not see him rounding a corner,

the blue tip scratching against a rough-hewn beam,
the sudden flare, and the creature
for one bright, shining moment
suddenly thrust ahead of his time -

now a fire-starter, now a torchbearer
in a forgotten ritual, little brown druid
illuminating some ancient night.
Who could fail to notice,

lit up in the blazing insulation,
the tiny looks of wonderment on the faces
of his fellow mice, onetime inhabitants
of what once was your house in the country?

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Thursday 13: Love

This Thursday 13 is a tribute to love. I'm full of it. I'm not talking about the garden variety, department store brand of love, but about love that can bring you to your knees and make you better just by being around it, by feeling it, by giving it away and getting it back...the kind of love that can take your breath away, the way a prayer can. I've often and plentifully affirmed and shouted my love for my daughter, my partner and my mom. But there's more--other people who deeply matter:

1. Stella: she's not a person but she fully qualifies. This dog with soulful eyes entered our family 7 months ago expecting nothing. Not kindness, not food, not shelter. Today she wags that long tail of hers so often that she knocks over wine glasses and anything else in its path. Everyday she tells me she loves me. Clearly. Unmistakably.

2. My son-in-law Mike and a not-yet-known baby boy due in January: I continue to be amazed by the love Jess and Mike have for eachother and around them. They are my extended and expanded family and I know it will forever deepen.

3. My dear friend who-shall-be nameless: I can't explain how a kindred soul who speaks my secret language can appear from nowhere and so easily step into my heart and trust. I can't explain it, but I'm deeply grateful.

4. My friends in Northampton: I've always wanted nearby friends who could/would drop by for a morning cup of coffee and stay up late at night helping to plan a party or a funeral. We look at eachother on a Sunday night over pizza and marvel at our good fortune. And I think we're in it for the long haul....

5. My oldest friends: I don't make friends so easily. And even when I do, I put more effort
avoiding being vulnerable than I do planning a vacation. But finally, after years of our ups and downs and arounds, I know I can count on you. And I too would be there for you in a flash.

6. The Big Yellow: There is a small group of folks with whom I have a deep connection, grown from nights or weekends of writing together. You are all so much younger than me and yet the time I spend with you has no boundary or age of interest.

7. Jane: You've saved my life. Maybe forever we'll stop at the boundaries that a counselor-client relationship requires, but I'd do anything for you, and then some.

8. Rosie: It's been two years since you died. I can still see you swimming in the bay, running in the Scarborough fields, sleeping with your head in my lap. You are the best dog, Rosie, and wait for me because we'll play again in the rolling hills of where ever heaven is.

9. Dad: I wish I had been grown up enough and wise enough to be sure you knew and know how much I love you and admire the way you lived and died. I don't know how you of all people got a daughter like me who processes everything inside and out....

10. Jess' friends: You guys have always been my favorites. i hope you know this. I don't see you too often these days, but I'm always loving it when our paths cross.

11. Willa: I hate/despise/deplore that you've died! I still have your voice message on my cell phone and still consult with you whenever I need objective wisdom. You're a friend I can never replace. Fortunately, you've left me enough of yourself that I'm getting by.

12. Provincetown: On the tip of Cape Cod sits a coastal town with a mish-mash of 3000 residents--some combination of artists, gay men and lesbians, and Portuguese fishing families. The place magical. The light bounces off the ocean in impossible ways. This was my home for awhile and the sea salt, creativity, and dysfunction of it all is part of who I am.

13. I'm leaving this spot open to the future.

I'm overwhelmed sometimes by all this deep love. Sometimes it makes me cry. But I'm not apologizing any more than I'm hiding: I'm not sure how much room one person has inside for all the love I'm feeling these days, but I'm thankful for all of it.

And intrigued........