Thursday, May 31, 2007

Poetry thursday 5.31.07


On our way home: him driving, me navigating
a long road of comfortable conversation
winding northward through Oregon’s rolling verdant hills
we got to Portland
far below the freeway
a gleaming serpentine shape
snaked broadly through the city
he casually remarked
“I forgot the Columbia came this far south,”
with superior sideways glance I pronounced
“That’s the Willamette, not the Columbia”
Matching my smug tone, he asserted
“The Columbia flows through Portland”
growing bold, I baited the braggart
“Care to bet on that?”

We crossed two rivers
on our way home: him driving, me fifty dollars richer.

Claw-foot Tub

I slipped down white-clad cast iron slope
into swirls of steam
stewing in my own juices
percolating with the possibility
that when the water emptied
it would leave behind
rather than residue of shaving cream
and sharp short hairs
a ring of words
I could let dry
then peel away in perfect strings
but when I pulled the plug
they spiraled out of reach
leaving bare porcelain
not poetry.

Early Waking

Sun’s first rays silent
steal across my threshold; I
am there to meet her.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007


Today at Poetry Thursday, Jim Brock set the assignment to show our "life lines". Click here to read more. These are mine:

it is better to be a part of beauty
for one instant and then cease to
exist than to exist forever
and never be a part of beauty

—from "The Lesson of the Moth" by Don Marquis

I discovered Don Marquis in 1982. I was in seventh grade and had already been writing poetry rather prolifically for about three years. Mrs. McClellan, my calligraphy teacher, tasked our class with creating a word picture for our next assignment. I wanted to do a picture of a cat and went to my school library to find the perfect cat poem. I don't remember if it was a knowledgeable librarian or just happy chance that led me to Archy and Mehitabel; it's been too long. What I do know is that Marquis was the first poet I read for pure pleasure, exploring on my own the story of a cockroach with literary aspirations and his feline friend who fancied herself the reincarnation of Cleopatra. To me the genius of Marquis was the deceptive lightness of his work. It was a long time before I followed his example of not taking my art too seriously, but I learned other lessons.

In the same volume that presented me with the perfect poem for my assignment, I also read read "The Lesson of the Moth," in which Archy interviews a suicidal moth. The stark humor of it captured my attention, and the idea that a life of beauty was worth pursuing at any cost. I've reinvented my concept of what constitutes a beautiful life over and over since first reading "The Lesson of the Moth," but what has not changed is my thirst for its pursuit, my utter conviction that much can be borne if I have small oases of quiet perfection with which to sustain myself.

Again, it was so long ago that I can't think of the exact pivotal moment in which Marquis' words were engraved on my heart—but in retrospect, it's clear they were. I wrote this later that same year:

The beauty of life
is not less
for dying.

Monday, May 28, 2007

In memorium

On Memorial Day, it is to those servicemen and women in my family, some who have gone before me and some who are living, that my thoughts are gratefully dedicated. I wish I was close enough to where my grandparents are buried that I could leave some flowers on their graves today, but here’s the best way I can think of to honor their memories from where I am.

Thank you and God bless.

Clark Cottrell, Jr. (World War II), maternal grandfather

Dorothy Parker Carle Cottrell (World War II), maternal grandmother

Francis Marion Cottrell (World War II), great-uncle

Richard Doyle Roberts (World War II), paternal grandfather

Ramona Sue Roberts Steele (Iraq War), sister

Dustin Ballard (Iraq War), brother-in-law

Walter Davis Cottrell (World War II), great-uncle
Richard Thomas Roberts (Vietnam War), father
Mark Lawrence Muchnick (Vietnam War), step-father
Jason Steele (Iraq War), brother-in-law

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Swimsuit edition

Jimmy was such a good sport about going to the doctor's office with me and waiting while I got my blood drawn that afterward we went to the Dollar Tree and he got to pick out some fun stuff. One of his choices was a Spider Man inflatable ring, so when we got home I scrubbed down the pool, filled it up, slathered him with sunscreen (amid some rather nasty whining—"Don't put any on my face, Mom!"), and let him go.

Jimmy's always a bit cautious before getting in the pool for the first time.

He has to test the water.

From several angles.

Now he's ready to get down to business.

The water temperature was a bit bracing.

Here's the one shot where he smiled for the camera.

No more photos; I'm done now!

Friday, May 25, 2007


Yesterday I went in for my glucose screen an hour after drinking the thoroughly disgusting lemon-lime "test beverage". A couple hours later, Nurse Debbie called me with more bad news (as if Tuesday wasn't depressing enough). Apparently the range of normal for sugar in the blood is a count of 140 or lower. My count was 146 points. What that meant was I had to come in immediately for a more extensive test. More test beverage and more needles.

So this morning I showed up at the clinic at 8 a.m., had my blood drawn, drank more vile lemon-lime on the rocks, and then returned every hour on the hour to have my blood drawn three more times. Yeesh. I must say the ladies who work in the lab at the clinic where I go were so pleasant, I almost didn't mind being their personal pincushion over the last two days. I minded even less when Nurse Debbie called me back ten minutes ago and told me that no, I don't have gestational diabetes. She tempered the good news with a caveat that my sugar was at the high end of the normal range, so I will probably have to have another glucose screen (the extended three-hour director's cut) in another month. In the meantime, my doctor wants me to go off sugar. I just smiled and said, "I'm way ahead of you."

Jim made the comment last night that whatever happened with the test, this could be considered as a warning shot across the bow. I completely agree. I've been pretty cavalier in the past about my health, but I simply can't afford to be anymore. I intend to make the most of this reprieve by working on some serious lifestyle changes that I want to be permanent. I'm reminded of a wonderful quote by Goethe taped on the wall above my desk, which seems particularly relevant now:

"Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative and creation, there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favor all manner of unforeseen incidents, meetings and material assistance which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now."

And as Rosie the Riveter succinctly says: "We can do it!"

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Poetry thursday 5.24.07

Most Exquisite Swell

Eleven o’clock, drifting to sleep, water
breaking, me a sudden tangle of wet sheets
as contractions washed over in savage waves
caught in the undertow, I had to force myself
to breathe, to find their rhythm—first in, then out—
barely relaxed in the lull between each swell.

Surprised, I noticed glad tears begin to swell
knew this was only beginning, the water
harbinger of that new life coming out
of me, so I peeled away the chilled, drenched sheets
as a trickle coursed down my legs, felt myself
surrender to sobs that heaved in salty waves.

I dressed: a dry shirt; a skirt draped in soft waves
hiding the towel that staunched the ebb and swell
weeping from my ready womb; shoes; then wrapped myself
in a warm blue coat, azure as calm water
against black March rain showering down in sheets
so prepared with a small suitcase I set out.

At the hospital, I was quickly thrust out
of labor’s deep groove, cast up on livid waves
subjected to IV, laid on sterile sheets
all those things I did not want, the viscous swell
of impotent rage congealed by ice water
a cup of cold comfort to hydrate myself.

Hours passed, ample time to flagellate myself
for failing to progress, to push my child out
after bearing down I slipped under water
drowning in self-doubt, sinking below waves
of sorrow for my frailty, a woeful swell
my defeat marked by the whiteness of the sheets.

Faced with decision I abandoned those sheets
chose gurney ride, harsh lights, at last gave myself
to liberating knife slice below the swell
of ripe belly, pressing, tugging, lifting out
tiny body, new life from my own, as waves
rocked me to sleep, swept me into calm water.

Mingled blood and water, rage and joy, those waves
ebbed away after the most exquisite swell
swaddled in soft sheets, I saw him for myself.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

In the slow lane

What a rare morning. I've always considered myself a night-owl and ventured only of grudging necessity into the behavior of morning people after giving birth to Jimmy. However, this is one of those days where I could swear that I've changed my spots to stripes.

I got up at 5:20 and for some reason was immune to my usual creakiness getting out of bed. I dressed, grabbed my swim gear, crept down the stairs, ate a banana, and arrived at the pool at 5:40. My swim buddy Debbie's still taking care of her daughter, so I was swimming solo. In the slow lane, it was just me and Kurt for most of my 30-minute swim. With only the two of us, we had room to each take a side of the slow lane and swim at our own paces: him, with his leisurely backstroke, and me alternating crawl-, back- and breaststrokes. I met Kurt last summer when I started swimming for triathlon training. He's ninety. He told me that he's been swimming at the public pool most mornings for 25 years now. We got to know each other a little by chatting in the sauna (which will sadly continue to be off-limits to me for the next few months).

About 6:05, Kurt finished and for 10 glorious minutes, the slow lane was mine alone. No old lady pile-ups, where I have to pass two or three silver-haired swimmers in short succession; no scraping up against the wall as I veer to the right to let a faster swimmer pass. Just me and the slow lane, enveloping my body in its cool blue ripples as I swim at my steady, deliberate pace.

Monday, May 21, 2007

It's over, sugar

I got some bad news today. I went in this morning for my normal monthly prenatal check-up, did the usual: peed in a cup, got my blood pressure checked, listened to the baby's heartbeat on the doppler. Then Jimmy and I went for a swim at the public pool, and when we got back there was a message on the machine from Debbie, my doctor's nurse. Apparently they found traces of sugar in my urine, and so instead of going in mid-June for my glucose screening, I am now going in this Thursday. Oh, yay—I don't have to wait to chug down that nasty test beverage and get my blood drawn (needles are one of my least favorite things ever). Here's hoping that the test will be negative.

The whole thing has got me thinking, though. Shortly before I got pregnant with Jimmy, I started on a sugar-free diet, which I stuck to faithfully up through my fifth month—when we went on a cruise and I tanked. Even so, I got back on the wagon and didn't have any problems with gestational diabetes during that first pregnancy. Off and on since then I've gone sugar-free; most recently it was last summer when I was training for a triathlon. From late May to September, I stayed sugar-free and after the triathlon was over, I bought myself a cute Rosie the Riveter biking jersey ("We Can Do It!") as a reward for all my hard work.

I've decided that whether the test results from this coming Thursday are positive or negative, it's time to get back on the sugar-free wagon. It won't be easy. For one thing, I've got a wicked sweet tooth. I can keep it under control as long as my cupboards are cleared of foods that are off limits. For another another thing (and this one is the hardest), my son and husband love to bake; that's their male bonding time (go figure). In the past when I've gone sugar-free I've gotten the sad-puppy-eyes from Jim who feels like having the house be emptied of sugary junk is a personal affront to him. But I think I'll be getting a little more support now that it's a medical issue. So wish me luck. I'm putting it here in black and white to help myself stick to my guns and do what I know will be best for me (and the baby): no sugar until I eat a piece of Jim's home-made carrot cake for birthday #38 this October. We can do it!

Sunday, May 20, 2007


Inspiration can come from the most wonderfully unexpected places. Today it came from Clare, someone I've never met who asked me a question for which I did not know the answer.

Clare commented on the Gingersnap eyes post and asked me if curly-bugs were the same as roly-poly bugs. I had no idea, having called them potato bugs myself, since I was a kid. Fortunately, I have a friend in Wikipedia, and there I learned of the small marvel, Armadillidium vulgare, commonly known as the potato bug, curly-bug, roly-poly bug, sow bug or woodlouse. Amazingly, these tiny creatures are more closely related to shrimp and crabs than to other "bugs", belonging to the sub-phylum Crustacea. Spiders and insects are also arthropods, but belong to the sub-phyla of Chelicerata and Hexapoda, respectively.

For those of you whose eyes are beginning to glaze over, bear with me. Curly-bugs are a huge deal here at the Big Red House. While Jimmy claims that his favorite bug is the butterfly, he spends a lot more up-close-and-personal time with curly-bugs (largely, I suspect, because they're easier to catch). As his mother, I feel duty-bound to be up to speed on his favorite creatures so that I can educate him as accurately as possible when he asks all those inevitable "Why?" questions. And lucky me, I get to learn something in the process. So, thanks to Clare, I get to learn and be creative all in the same day because in the midst of all this enlightenment, the curly-bug also became my inspiration for a poem—how cool is that?

Curly-bug Envy

I, too, would seem to be
closely related to a crab
(to confirm
just ask those who’ve seen me
before breakfast)
the resemblance ends there
for I’ve
no tiny arthropod body
with which to scuttle
under a stone
when it would do myself
and others
the most good
no segmented arthropod body
with which to curl
into a minute ball
pulling my hardened outer shell
tightly around myself
shielding from shame
my softest secret parts
I’m left to covet
that most lowly and capable
of crustaceans
the humble curly-bug.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Creating joy

It's true. The very fact I'm blogging right now means I'm avoiding lawn maintenance. Which is okay. I've promised myself that after a hectic, crazy-making week, I'm going to take today in small bite-sized chunks. Each chunk will consist of something that really needs to get done (mowing, laundry, dishes) and in between, I will put my feet up and relax so that my ankles don't look like elephant legs by the end of the day. Blogging is just one of those in-betweens, so I can push the lawn mower a little further, for a little longer.

This morning I came down to my sewing/computer room to check email and noticed a yellow piece of paper beside my keyboard, half hidden by forget-me-not seed packets. Scrawled across the agenda for a women's conference I attended last May were my notes on one of the workshops, "Creating Joy In Our Lives". I remember the workshop leader was a dynamic Mexican American woman who is a social worker. She asked for a volunteer to assist with an object lesson, said she needed someone fairly strong. I had been working out with weights in training for a triathlon, so I raised my hand and she picked me. I came to the front of the room and she proceeded to load me down with heavy textbooks. I was confident in my strength as well as my stamina, and at first that seemed to be justified. Both my arms were full, and she ran out of books. Her eyebrows shot up momentarily, but without missing a beat she grabbed more books from some shelves in the room and kept piling them on. This went on for about two minutes, maybe two and a half. I was pleased with my feat of strength as I saw surprised looks on the faces of the other women in the room. Suddenly, I felt my arms buckle and I panicked. Sure enough, first one stack and then the other slid to the floor. Like a lightbulb flicking on in my head, I immediately knew where she was going with this object lesson.

After we cleaned up the books, the speaker went on to make her point: creating joy isn't possible when we are overloading ourselves. The physical sensation of losing control was so visceral that it brought that point home to me in a way nothing else ever had. I felt awash with gratitude, because I knew how much I needed to learn this particular lesson, and I realized that I wouldn't have got it on such a deep level if I hadn't been the one to hold and then drop all the books.

It comes back to me clearly now as I look at the hastily scribbled words on yellow paper:

each season has its own challenges
drop unrealistic expectations of ourselves and others
love ourselves just a little bit as much as God loves us
find rest in our daily lives

I'm struck by the fact that as much as I need to be busy, I also need that rest: a time to reflect, to replenish and simply to have balance. And it's up to me to create it for myself. I can't be blaming the people in my life for not intuitively noticing my needs; I have to take the initiative to ask for help if I need it, to take responsibility for nurturing myself.

Let's hope I can still remember this tomorrow!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Poetry thursday 5.17.07


Flesh laid open to the bone
in time scabbed over
scarred, not healed
hardened to rancor:
a twisted treasure
I held close
savoring the peculiar pleasure
of silent spite.

But malice is a stone
bitterly cold to the touch
damning, deceptively
burdensome to bear.

One day I stumbled under the load
saw how weary, wasted I’d become
how the only one I was wounding
was me.

Oh, how I wanted
to fling that stone away
as far, as fast as I had strength
I expected releasing to be harder
Worried I might have to
suffer for my spite
but somehow wanting was enough
and I let go.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Gingersnap eyes

Today is double bonus day here at chicklegirl! Not only do you get photos of my adorable man-child, but I'm throwing in a newly-minted poem, absolutely free of charge. It doesn't get much better than this. At least not from me, the poet laureate of cheapskate moms.

My Boy

Just when I think
petrified fruit snacks
filthy socks
and squalid tantrums
define the limits of my days,
sunlight kisses
the thick chocolate fringe
of lashes
framing upturned gingersnap eyes
and I fall in love all over again.

Y'all can thank Grammy Lo for this little photo essay of Jimmy; she requested some new pix.

Look at those disgustingly long eyelashes. No mascara or eyelash curlers required. We can thank Daddy for that little windfall from the genetic lottery.

And now for your viewing pleasure, a few of Jimmy's life lessons:

Always put an elm tree in its proper place.

Remember to stop and smell the flowers.

A watched curly-bug never opens.

Oh, and don't ever put your curly-bug in a spray bottle ...

... 'cause it won't come out.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Nightmare on elm street

I'm not a horror movie fan. Once, during my junior year of high school, I went on an ill-advised date with my then-boyfriend (also ill-advised, but that's another post unto itself) to see A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddy's Revenge. Why I went, I'll never know; I hadn't seen the first installment, so I had no burning need to find out why Freddy needed revenge, or how he would get it. I spent most of the movie in a semi-fetal position, with my knees obstructing my view of the screen, whimper-whispering, "Is it over yet? Is it over yet?"

In retrospect, I'm re-evaluating my initial impression of that movie. It's not a psychotic undead killer with razor blade fingernails and a complexion in dire need of Mederma that's so horrific after all. No. It's contemplating the possibility of an entire street lined with elm trees. Let me elucidate.

When we first moved to The Big Red House (as Jimmy calls it) almost two years ago, we were in love with the beautiful mature maple and elm trees providing ample shade to the property, but dismayed at the state of the front lawn. Half of it was missing. Apparently the previous tenants had been parking on it and their tires had dragged gravel up from the entrance of the alley right next to it.

In spite of the fact that we were only renting, I wanted a nice lawn for Jimmy to play on, so I spent a sweltering week in September going at that half of the yard with a pick ax and a hoe, breaking up the soil, turning it under, re-seeding the lawn, and fertilizing. In spite of the rocky soil, the grass sprouted and grew, and that side of the yard began to look a little less forlorn. I felt modestly pleased with my hard work.

Then fall came. The big tree above my new patch of grass dumped an immense load of leaves, and when I got a bad cold that hung on for a couple of weeks, I couldn't keep up on the raking. Enter the fall rains, followed quickly by snow (because fall lasts about five minutes where we live) and a thick, choking blanket of elm leaves was sealed on, suffocating the tender new lawn.

Spring arrived and I got out with a garden rake to pry off the dried, hardened layers of leaves. Surprisingly, some of the grass had survived, but it looked rather mangy. Then in mid-spring, something horrific occured that I never anticipated: the elm tree started to bloom. Dogwoods are lovely when they bloom. Cherry trees have inspired a thousand haiku with their delicate blossoms. Not elm trees. No, when an elm tree blooms, the only inspiration in mind is to put a tree removal service on speed dial. Within a week, the surviving lawn was stifled in a deluge of small, round elm seeds. Then it rained, and the elm seeds turned to a pasty mulch the consistency of cold oatmeal. After weeks of rain, my poor grass was once again choked under a layer of elm debris, and emerged even mangier than before.

That is why I say the notion of an entire street lined with elm trees is far more terrifying to me than any Hollywood-concocted horror monger. Now I can see why the former tenants parked on the lawn: they had given up. The onslaught of elm seeds and elm leaves, spring and fall, year after year, had worn them down. I could no longer judge them for parking on the lawn because now, I too, knew of the dreaded elm. If ever hell had an official tree, the elm it would be. But for me, it became personal. I had sowed the seed, watered tenderly, and watched the grass grow. I was a woman with a mission. I would never resort to parking on the grave of my grass.

Fast forward to the following fall. I was hyper-vigilant with the rake. Come rain, come sleet, I was out there, even if I had a cold and my nose ran like a faucet. I was on those elm leaves. When the winter snow finally settled on our lawn, I was pleased to see that it was virtually leaf-free. Now spring is here again, and the elms are blooming. I've got my rake at the ready to attack and keep my poor lawn from suffocating yet again. Wish me luck; I'm going to need it.

Behold the mighty lawn killer, largest elm in our yard. For some idea of the scale, that's Jimmy and the goodly-sized two-story Big Red House next to it. euphemistically calls the Siberian elm (Ulmus pumila) a "dirty tree" and elaborates that "Many arborists consider the Siberian elm an undesirable street tree due to its weak wood and prolific seeding." You're telling me. Our trees just barely started seeding, but here's a small sample of the aftermath from last year's seed dump.

A clump of three smaller elms in the far back corner of our yard.

This is the only one of the elms that actually pulls its own weight by providing hours of solid entertainment for Jimmy. See that stuff that looks like snow falling? Those are the seeds. They fall like that, 24/7 for about two weeks. Yep.

Here's what happened to the one elm tree that got in the way of Jim's satellite dish TV. Kinda makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside just looking at it. But I'm not bitter.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Extreme makeover: chicklegirl edition

Or maybe I should call this "Sleep Deprivation, Again". Yeah, I decided it was time for a new look. I was thinking something a little cleaner, a little more playful, and above all, something visually representative of my chickliness. While I realize chicle tab gum is not the height of sophistication, those who know me also know I have no pretensions in that direction. And as the saying goes, "Even an old barn looks better with a fresh coat of paint."

Since I took a nap on Sunday afternoon and wasn't feeling tired come bedtime, the time was ripe to do all the requisite crazymaking tweaks in Paintshop and HTML. I've now effectively killed three hours of prime sleep time. What have I learned from this? Even when I'm sick, no naps for me! Suffering will follow in mere hours, I'm certain.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Happy Mother's Day

Mom and me in 1970: wow, we were young ...

... And again in 1987: looking more and more alike.

Mother's Day has got me feeling nostalgic, so I dug through my photo vaults and found these rare gems. I remember about the time the second picture was taken, people were often telling me how much I sounded like my Mom, or looked like her. Being seventeen, that was so, like, not cool!

I'm a little wiser now. Because we live further apart, I don't hear it any more, but I would know how to take it now. I would smile and say, "Thank you; what an amazing compliment!" Here's looking at you, Mom!

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Insomnia revisited

Sometimes not being able to sleep is a good thing. Really good. In spite of going to bed well past eleven last night, my eyes popped open at about five this morning. I think it may have been because the Afrin was wearing off and my sinuses were starting to drain, but some ideas started bouncing around my brain and I couldn't drift off again. So I crept out of bed, grabbed a pen and legal pad, headed into the spare room, and camped out on my rocking chair. Here's what happened:

Strong Enough to Let Go

For a few fleeting months
I loved you unseeing, unknowing
forging a bond too strong to crumble
no matter the strain.
By the time you arrived in my world
with a fierce, triumphant cry
I could barely tear my besotted eyes away
to let you sleep an hour.
In those first luxurious months
I could please you with a word, a smile
and you clung to me with tender need.
By then it had already begun.
Too soon you pulled away, stood alone
returning for comfort, assurance
a little less each day.
My besotted eyes opened
I saw a boy instead of a baby
a child who would grow to a man
who would someday leave my world
with that same triumphant cry.
I knew then that I
must unmake what I had wrought
must teach you to forge for yourself
a spirit strong enough to let go
of me.
And so when I tuck you in each night
I hold you close
knowing I must let you go
a little more each morning when you wake.

Friday, May 11, 2007


I'm feeling inspired.

I realized recently that one of the reasons I got into blogging (besides having a place to post pix for all the out-of-town grandparents) is that I miss writing. Not that I flatter myself what I write is good enough that other people would admire it, let alone want to pay for it, but I miss the good it does me to articulate my thoughts and put them down. I've been a journal writer since third grade, and dabbled in writing poetry for almost as long. As a mom I've found trouble making the time for writing of any kind; blogging is the closest I get most days.

But in the past week I've been exploring other blogs, and encountered some by truly original, artistic women. Today I found a link to Pioneer Woman through Aubrey's blog. I was impressed by the way that Ree used her blog as an expression of creativity and it got me thinking that this is something missing from my life. Not that I don't do creative things from time to time, but often my creativity is expressed in more practical ways, like sewing clothes or explaining to Jimmy why curly bugs don't want to come in our house. So looking at some good photography and good writing, I'm feeling inspired to get back to my roots and do the things that I love to do. In that spirit, I went out in the back yard and snapped some pix of my favorite flowers. And here's a sentimental poem about them that I first penned in 1993, but that I'm resurrecting and revamping on the eve of my recommitment to poetry.

Other People’s Flowers (Redux, May 2007)

I used to borrow flowers from my neighbors’ yards
small grimy fistfuls, brilliant bouquets
of other people’s flowers
until mom marched me, shamefaced but unrepentant
to return them with apologies I didn’t mean.
The house on Donovan Street
where I lived in when I was ten
had lofty lilac trees, covered in May
with fragrant festoons of
snowy white, delicate lavender, rich purple.
Perhaps they held no allure for me then
seeing as they were in my own front yard.
Older now, I am haunted by
the purple ghosts of lilacs past
each time I catch the scent of lilacs
I find myself in the warm twilit yard on Donovan Street
lying on the cool green carpet of lawn
white and purple blossoms swaying softly above.
The house where I live now
has a single small lilac bush out front
it did not bloom this spring.
One night last week after dark I got into my car
drove the mile and a half
to Donovan Street.
They were waiting for me
they knew I couldn’t stay away
and I came for them.
The dusky purple smell enveloped me
and I did not resist.
Unrepentant I drove home
with a trunkful
of other people’s flowers.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Sleep deprivation

I know that what appears to be one of life's cruel tricks is sometimes actually a blessing in disguise. In the throes of sleep deprivation after I first had Jimmy, I realized that pregnancy related insomnia (and having to get up and use the bathroom a half-dozen times in the course of a night) was actually a providential preparation that conditioned me to be able to quickly fall asleep again after getting up for a 2 a.m. feeding.

So, intellectually I know that, but the prosaic reality of it is challenging at the moment. Sometime after 3:30 this morning, I woke up and couldn't fall asleep again. I tossed and turned for almost an hour as my sinuses drained and then got congested again; I made a pilgrimage to the bathroom, tossed and turned for a few more minutes, and finally gave up. It's been a week since I've gotten up early to swim laps at the public pool before Jim goes to work. My regular exercise buddy, Debbie, is on hiatus from our pre-dawn workouts because her youngest daughter just had surgery last week, and I'm having a hard time getting my act together without knowing that she'll be waiting outside my front door for me at 5:45 a.m.

So I went to bed early last night with high hopes of getting back in the swim, only to be confronted by the demon of insomnia. At 4:30 I got up, pried my eyes open, popped in my contacts, and crept downstairs with my swim gear. I ate a banana, camped out in front of the computer until 5:15, then got dressed and headed to the pool. After 35 minutes of swimming laps, I headed home feeling invigorated. Perhaps I could make it through the morning after all! Before Jim came downstairs to leave for work, I had already had breakfast, checked out the weekly grocery specials on the internet, made my shopping list, and started to get caught up on my emails.

Shortly after Jim left, Jimmy came downstairs, still groggy and wanting to cuddle on the couch. Once he ate breakfast, we headed upstairs to get dressed. Sometime when I wasn't looking, he must have slipped on his cranky pants; suddenly, he was contrary and belligerent. Despite the lack of sleep, I was feeling magnanimous and patient, and I told him that if he could use his nice voice and good manners for the rest of the morning, I would take him to the park when we were done at the grocery store. He tried. He really did.

We stopped at home to put away the groceries, and as I was bending down to put yogurt in the refrigerator, the fatigue hit me like a wave. I told Jimmy we would leave soon, but that Mom needed to put her feet up for a few minutes to rest. An hour later, poor Jimmy nudged me awake: "Mom, are we going to the park yet?" By that time, it was almost noon, so I told him that we would go to the park after lunch. Not satisfied with this scenario, Jimmy returned to his cranky ways. I was still feeling bleary-eyed and I knew that if I didn't eat something, I would lose my patience, fast. So I chose to do the superficially selfish thing and ate my own lunch first, knowing that it would allow me to cope better with his needs in the long run.

And now that Jimmy is done with his cheese sandwich, I'd better do what is best for both of us, wrap this up, and get to the park! Because then I can come home, pop The Aristocats in the DVD player, and crash out on the couch with Jimmy while he watches O'Malley the Alley Cat romancing Duchess. We all have to have something to look forward to, right?

Wednesday, May 09, 2007


Last week when I was getting my massage, I noticed some familiar music playing. I asked my massage therapist the name of the CD. It turned out to be "Classical Healing" by Tom Barabas, but the track I recognized was listed simply as "Adagio," with no composer credited. It started to bug me, like when I was obsessing about Katie the Cleaning Lady. But the more I thought about it, I knew that I had heard the music on a movie soundtrack and that it was playing during a tragic scene, maybe during a war. So I got on the internet and went to my trusty friend, IMDB. There I searched movie soundtracks for "Adagio" and amongst the many hits I found a movie that I had seen, "Gallipoli". Looking at the movie's soundtrack listing gave me the name of the composer, Tomaso Albinoni, and a more exact title of the piece of music, "Adagio in G minor for strings and organ."

I saw "Gallipoli" for the first time in a high school history class, when we were studying World War I. Directed by Peter Weir and starring a very young Mel Gibson, it was a scathing idictment of the British role in the loss of life of Australian soldiers, as well as a general anti-war piece. Weir is a great craftsman of film and one of the things that makes his movies even more compelling is his selection of music. I think that the music is what made this movie stay with me for so long, even though it isn't my favorite movie by Weir. "Adagio in G minor" is one of the most hauntingly beautiful pieces of music I've ever heard: aching, poignant and compelling.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Strange bedfellows

We adopted Will and Fiona from the King County pound at the end October 1999, right after we moved to a new apartment that allowed pets. By the time a baby came along in 2003, the cats were entrenched as the resident roost-rulers. It has been only recently that Will tentatively established a relationship with Jimmy and finally forgave us for bringing home a usurper (interesting that Jimmy's given name, James, means "supplanter"). For Fiona, the jury is still out.

In the last month or so, Will has started joining us for bedtime stories, camping out on the furthest corner of the bed so that he can get some time with his people while maintaining a safe distance from eager fingers. As soon as the lights are out and prayers and songs are over, he leaves with me and returns to the safer realms downstairs. Which is why the scene above was such a surprise to me when I went to check on Jimmy the other night, before going to bed.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Market memories

For our anniversary, Jim and I escaped to Seattle for the weekend and spent Saturday night at the Inn at the Market (courtesy of a gift certificate Jim won as a door prize at work). It was fun to get away together, and to be in a place that held so many memories for me.

I used to skip class with my best friend Holly and take a bus down to the Market, sit at a cafe several floors above the market center, and people watch for hours at a time. My first job in high school was working at a Market bead store, strictly under the table for $25 a day. I remember how at the full moon, all the pimps, dealers, ghosts, and really weird people would suddenly come out of the cracks and become fully visible even down in the mezzanine where I worked. This was a world so foreign from the home life my parents created that I was entranced and terrified all at once because it, too, came to feel like home.

Jim and I prowled around for as long as my swelling feet allowed, bought bagels from the Three Girls Bakery where I used to buy sandwiches, potato salad and an apple fritter for lunch, then searched the Post Alley in vain for an Italian place (name long since forgotten) that used to have the most piquant parmesan cheese. Some things were different, but many still the same. What surprised me most was that it still smelled exactly as I remembered: that unmistakeable combination of assorted human smells, decomposing vegetable matter, and fish; somehow repellant and yet intoxicating at the same time.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Twelve years

May 6, 1995. Twelve years and still having way too much fun. Happy anniversary, honey!

Thursday, May 03, 2007

What bliss is this?

There's nothing quite like being good to yourself. Not that I think the world should revolve around me, but I think it's a vital part of emotional health to do things for yourself every so often that give you an emotional and/or physical boost.

I've been getting therapeutic massages for about seven years now, and I highly recommend massage as the perfectly healthful, non-fattening and relatively economical way to be good to yourself. I started back when I was in college because I had problems with a repetitive stress injury in my back. The injury was brought on because I spent so much time on the computer between my job and schoolwork. I started getting therapeutic massages about every four months (usually the weekend after finals) and my back problems subsided.

Now that I've ventured into the wilds of motherhood, I don't have the time (or the money) to get a massage quite so often. When I was expecting Jimmy, my doula was a massage therapist, and I got a couple of wonderful pre-natal massages. Lately I've been feeling pretty sore and creaky, and I decided it was time again. So I went for an hour-and-a-half massage this evening and it was wonderful. The lady I see uses hot stone massage and it was ... ahhhhh.