Friday, December 30, 2011

New Year New You

More vegetables.

Less bullshit.

More acc' ent' uate the positive.

Less wallow in the glorious oozy sticky negative.

More walk-taking.

Less talking, unless talking is unavoidable.

In that case, see above: Less bullshit. More vegetables.

More opening your heart "like a lotus," though you used to snicker at your yoga teacher for saying it.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

BLEEP

Let me say this: chronic pain &^%$ing sucks $#@! balls, big $#@!* balls that %$&^#* hairs and assclog the *&^!@ing drain.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Treating TMJ With Poetry Proves Ineffective

Things You'll Need To Treat TMJ, according to the LiveStrong website:

NSAIDs
Bite guard
Muscle relaxant
Tricyclic antidepressants
Corticosteroids and botulinum toxin

Things They Don't Mention You'll Need:

Hope. Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul that blah blah blah.
An Emily Dickinson blow up doll.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Carols for Parents

Christian's awake.
Again? When will the kid sleep through the night?
We haven't had a Silent Night in six years.
O Holy Night. The power's out.
All over the Little Town of Bethlehem, PA?
Light the torch, Jeanette Isabella!
O Come, O Come, Emmanuel, call it a flashlight. And it's right where you put it last time: in the kitchen drawer under the microwave.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

A Four Letter Word

"The heart knows a hundred thousand ways to speak." - Rumi

Speaking from the heart is a cliche, we all know this.

In fact, it is such a cliche for me that to let my heart talk - the only way I can do this is not to speak. It gets ruined on the way out of my mouth, do you feel this way? My heart speaks when I fold the kids' laundry, it says, "Fuck every laundry TV ad that's ever been made, with the woman, fully-made up, and smiling and pairing socks."

Even hallowed words can be hollow, even the good ones. If I were to tell you that I really really love you - despite all the laundry that we co-create -- that just sounds lame, 7th grade passed-note-ish, not expressive of a deepness that cannot be expressed, am I wrong? So I have stopped.

Instead at the end of the day, with the last dishes put away, and the eye of the washing machine closed, I pat the space on the couch next to me that is empty and I will not talk, and you will not talk, and that way we'll know.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Mushroom or Personality Trait?

Polypore

Omnivore

Chrome-foot

Lead-foot

Dunce-cap

Wine-cap

Wino

Scaly Fiber Head

Yellow-spored

Yellow-bellied

Hairy-stalked

Beefsteak

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Keeping Quiet, Giving Nothing

for once on the face of the earth,
let's not speak in any language;
let's stop for a second,
and not move our arms so much.

- Pablo Neruda from the poem, "Keeping Quiet"

All is calm, all is bright like the song. Not really. All is chaos, and not enough tape, didn't I tell you to buy more tape? and incendiary sugar cookies; I set the smoke alarm off last night.

I say bah to Christmas, feh. I'm not bah-humbugging in a Dickensian I hate laughter and cheer and fat geese, but with a Eastern European vulgar hand gesture, meaning, what's all this fuss, all this stuff, this messed up meshugas.

On the 26th of December, much what I'm rushing to wrap will be landfill, or gyring in the Pacific Ocean. I think of the whales. I think the Easter Islanders, how they cut down all their trees to erect those giant stone heads.

Since I burned the cookies, I have nothing to give and let me tell you that's freedom, a profound divine absence. I'm still moving my arms a great deal, but it's to clear the smoke from the room.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Haiku of My Middle School Lunches

Why do I never
have a Ho-Ho, Connie
Miller has a Ho-Ho.

Big expectations,
lunch money. Lunch lady smiles:
Try fish on a bun.

Salad bar bacon.
Rule: Not cool to like bacon.
Years later, it's reversed.

Mom sends in cupcakes
with a sweet note: Dearest Lamb.
Turns my stomach.

Grandma is staying
making meatloaf sandwiches.
I rather she not.

Egg yoke on seeded
rye, made cafeteria
hell, the smell, a joke.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

My Short-Lived Career As An Art Critic

"What's that a picture of? Is it a house? A hugely oversized eyeball? Is it our family on swings at the playground at dusk? What the hell is it?"

"Mom," they say, "why does it always have to be something?"

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Sandalwood

When my father was a graduate student he became friends with Denanjay from Bombay, now Mumbai, and a fellow graduate student. When my sister was born, Jay became her godfather, and when Jay returned to India, he took being her godfather in the correct manner: that he should avoid spiritual prattle, and instead provide exotic presents.

I was green with envy. My godmother lived in France, or so my parents told me, as a way of explaining her hands-off approach.

One of the presents Jay sent was a garland of exquisitely crafted sandalwood roses. Each rose so paper thin you could hardly believe it. I marveled. It was a thing so fragrant that it perfumed the linen in the linen closet where my mother hung it, for safekeeping. As in, away from Elizabeth.

Because it did not belong to me, and because my sister didn't seem to see the extreme value of it, the more I wanted it. I would go into the linen closet and think of elephants, and dream that my godmother was from India, too. Claude, whom I met years later, was extremely stylish, and warm, and scented with Paris, and that made up for a lot. But still, sandalwood.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Etiquette, EtiKIDette

My mother tells the story of when my sister and I went for the first time to the University Club, my grandparents' formal supper club in Pittsburgh, when we were five and eight.

We didn't know what forks to use for our salads of endive and walnut, and, worse, we skirmished around the potted palms, in our patent leather shoes, giving each other sparks. Little barbarians. I remember it being fun. I remember the ladies' "powder room" that had what my grandmother called "a divan." "Funny bone" was another word my grandmother used.

My mother, burning with embarrassment, leashed and took us home, and coached us for the next twenty years in fish forks and water goblets. A viscountess couldn't more politely spear an asparagus. But when it is necessary?

We don't "dine," we snarf, inhale, snorffle, vacuum, and in ten minutes whatever was on the table is in our cells, fueling.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Pagan. Period.

I'm a lapsed high-church Episcopalian of Russian Polish German Jewish heritage, on my mother's side, back when that land changed hands, and on my father's side, Scots-Irish, raised on the moors to eat porridge, related to the "Sinners in the Hands of An Angry God" Puritan Jonathan Edwards.

As a child in Costa Rica, my husband was born Catholic, but this mother thought that through, found it lacking, and became Jehovah's Witness. His religion now is soccer. With a side of French bread. The man really loves his baguette. The staff of life, I say. But he finds that too Biblical; he is rather crunchy.

What on earth to raise the kids? I say Earth worshipping, foragers, with a streak of literacy, and a love of kindness like the Dali Lama, and like the Sufi mystics, an urge to whirl.

I'll light some incense for that, get a pet sacred cow, put a fire on the hearth, like Hestia, Greek goddess of the hearth for whom I have a special fondness. She sat apart from her brothers and sister Olympians, and focused on the rotating spit, and made mean S'mores.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Sugar: The Opiate Of My People

The scientific research is in: sugar has the same effect on brain chemistry as cocaine. It is as addictive as heroin. We're a nation of fat addicts. So what am I doing laying out a plate of cookies for my after-school children? I should be putting out a syringe.

I was overweight as a child. My mother as a child was overweight. My mother's mother was overweight. We were all called chunky or chubby or soft or plump; these words were semi-kind. In high school I worked in a bakery called Waldorf's, making cheese danish. Those halcyon days! Before anyone knew better about black and white frosted cookies, how they are, basically, death.

What should one eat? Michael Pollan's pithy "Not too much. Mostly plants," is not helpful. What I need is a shopping list and a rigid Victorian nanny.

I know there is such a thing called "food" but where is that in my pantry? "Food" requires making it, requires thinking, and time, in a way that a Snickers bar does not. I don't even like Snickers. But that's what I mean: Big Sugar is as effective at brand creation as is Big Pharma, and their products are easier to say and more delicious. Zyrtec is hard. A candy company would kick Cymbalta to the curb. Mallomar. Doesn't that sound better, mellow?

I can rattle off the names of candy bars but I cannot rattle off the names of heirloom beets and I don't mean to make Alice Waters weep. I'm just an average American mom who wants her kids to eat, to "Ess!" as my grandmother would say, pressing another serving of strudel on us all.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Lord of The Bee Dance

I want to talk about dancing.

How at parties I've put on music, danceable, and people continue to talk. I've turned the music up, and people respond by talking louder and then I turn the music up louder still and people begin to shout as if they are at a 20-something bar. It occurs to nobody to begin to move, but to yell.

When I was in Venezuela years ago, visiting a then boyfriend, at every single party everybody danced. Therefore, I danced, because there was no one to talk to, or shout at. They were all on the dance floor, even the very old, and the seemingly frail, even my boyfriend's very pregnant cousin, wearing, si, a leopard print catsuit.

I've started to dance more now that I have children. Because they don't know what's impossible. (Por ejemplo: Leopard print catsuits.)

Children can respond to music however they like. My son has a dance that is uniquely his and he's been doing it since he could stand. It is a waggle bee dance, I think. He sticks out his butt, waggles it as if a bee signifying where the pollen is, three miles away, in the cornflower. Then he makes little circles and flaps his arms.

Is it art? I don't know. But it is a response to life: wail in, dance out.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Storytelling

When I am writing and my son comes over and asks, "What are you doing Mommy?" I say, "I am writing a story."

And, incredulous, he asks,"You have a story?" as if he is saying, "Mommy is good only for pouring my milk, and occasionally for helping me get going on my bike."

As if it's a lie.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Invocation of The Muses

Sing Muses

of the anxious suburban mom would be your servant for NaNoWriMo. Let her words and her chipped fingernail polish be meet and right in thy sight.

Let her herniated cervical disc be as a 20-year-old, plump, nourished and bouncy and not painful as she writes, hunched over late at night after the children have gone to bed, and her husband too.

The disc, it has been painful. For the pain she has received several spinal blocks. There appears to be no god of herniated cervical discs though one thinks of Shiva, destroyer of worlds, Muses, could you introduce her? Like if you know Shiva, like if you know if he wants a sacrifice of 19th century British novels to make the pain go away and to restore her to health so that she may continue to read 19th-century British novels in bed without her hands going numb?

That would be a great. And not such a sacrifice.

She is your humble servant, but no so humble that she doesn't have aspirations to write 50,000 words in one month. Laugh not Muses. You extend your favors to heros with chutzpah and she would rather than the laundry, the dishes, and the six-year-old's homework, do this.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Chinese Poet Li Po On Halloween

The birds have vanished into the sky,
and now the last cloud drains away.

We sit together, the mountains and me,
until only the mountain remains.

- Li Po


The costumes have vanished into the attic
and now the last face paint drains away.

We sit together, the leftover candy and me,
until only the Bit o' Honeys remain.

- Suburban Mother of Two

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Candy Is Dandy, But Hypocritical

With trickle of Kit Kats from Target it started, like rain drops on a tin roof in the tropics. Then, monsooning, candy passed by kids on the playground, at the Halloween bake sales, in orange felt pumpkin-shaped bags, like heroin.

And they act like it. Like pee-wee addicts, my kids, they hoarde, cajole, walk the sidewalks asking huskily, "Got any Skittles? I've got the shakes, man, can't ride my bike right."

Amid all the talk of childhood obesity we still have: Big Candy. It's caramel covered, chocolate enrobed pecan turtles kind of nuts. Like Big Pharma. Like Big Tobacco. Business pushing candy cloaked in the charm of children going house to house begging.

"Be The Cool House," the sign at Target says. That's the trick. Buy the full-sized Butterfingers. No one wants to be the one on the block that passes out pencils. But you can't have it both ways, Ken Burns "Prohibition" taught me that, Epidemic of Diabetes, and Candy Freak.

But I try. Amid the nausea coming down from bag of Twix, I can't do the laundry right, man, I can't carpool. I am a candy corn. It is an affliction, I blame my mother, I might try to snort one one up my nostril, snort it, but not in front of the children.

Monday, October 17, 2011

He Leaves The Gold Hidden In The Mountains

Not that I understood the first Book of The Tao, but I'm reading Stephen Mitchell's The Second Book of The Tao now.

"How fine life becomes when what you want is exactly what you have" is Mitchell's exegesis on Chuang-tzu's line, "The Master leaves the gold hidden in the mountains, and the pearl at the bottom of the sea."

But if there's gold in them thar' mountains you better believe I'm hefting a pickax. Ditto a submersible and an oxygen tank to get at that pearl. I clamor! I shimmy! Exactly what I want is what I don't have.

If the Tao is like a river, I'm no river otter, dipping in, all sleek. I'm nearby though, like an elephant at one of those depressing nature show's dwindling water holes, trunk-deep in the mud, nearby and thirsty.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Soloing

A cat left alone for too long gets mad and pees on all the furniture. I don't do that. I tend to drift, like a raft. I'm soloing around the world called our living room, with the kids, husband away, again.

I might end up in Azores.

We might have a great time.

I also might cry into my pillow: Please don't ask me to pour another glass of milk, please don't ask me. Also, stop quibbling about who is taller! Who cares who is taller? Who cares? Stop fighting! You are not the boss of me.

Except they are. My responsibilities. Beauties. Albatrosses and professors. The next generation.

I get out the crayons, and hope that no one bites.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Animalia

I like to be around pigs, horses and cows. I'm allergic to cats. The dogs that I am not allergic to I like to be around. If I had the opportunity to be around a friendly lion that would not bite my arm off I would.

Goldfish are not that interesting. We tried geckos, but failed. Feeding them all those poor live crickets, struggling to find safe corners in the tank turned my stomach. So we're trying 4-H.

We can "share" the raising of a pig with another family, the lady told me. Time sharing pigs, this is the motto of my family.

I want to go to the state fair with our Clover and bring back a prize and be so proud. And then eat her, isn't that the way of the world? but not my world. In my world, she comes home, writes "My Mom Is Terrific" with her snout in our sandbox.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Traditional. Candy.

Smoke 'em if you've got 'em, but we have a dearth of customs and traditions in my family.

We're not religious, well I am but I hide it from my husband who needs not know about my subscription to On Being the podcast for "meaning, religion, ethics and ideas."

When holidays come I think, gosh, other people seem to have so many colorful, flavorful romps, and all I have come up with so far is Chicken Friday. (Waaaay back, on my mother's side I may be Jewish, so I light some candles. I like this, but, as a gong, it's meh.)

In my family our big whoop, when we sound our barbaric yawp and feel the membrane between us and our ancestors shudder, and reality and spirituality cleave...is when we snarf down candy at Halloween.

Snarfing Down Candy at Halloween is communion with the makers of candy, with sweetness, with life at its finest. Like a sacred Druidical rite.

Each piece of Kit Kat is a fingerbone of a saint that was gluttonous and still, the Lord adored him. The flattened fruit roll-ups Torah scrolls. Amein. Let's trade.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Crafty

When, as a mother, I don't know what to do (as is frequent) or it's a rainy day, or it's both a rainy day and I don't know what to do (as is frequent) I get out the craft basket.

Glue, scraps of felt, sequins, whatnots. There is an embroidery needle that is purposefully very blunt, and a hoop of canvas.

The kids encircle me, I imagine it is a hearth scene by a Flemish master. There is a single candle in the painting, which illuminates our gentle and open faces with it's warm maternal glow. Look how content the dog is! (We don't have a dog.) Look at the grapes! As if lit from within by individual purple lanterns! (We don't have grapes. We unartfully have snack crackers, of peanut butter.) How we dream!

How we craft, as in the olden days, before television, before the Wii, before hot water, before electricity, when families bowed their heads together over a common purpose, for instance, making out of different shapes of pasta, a Halloween skeleton, following the directions of the Martha Stewart website.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

More Mindfulness

Yesterday I focused on my breath. Got a anatomy book out and located my lungs.

Then I forgot my focus, as usual. But once or twice caught it and was surprised as an old dog might be by the successful catch of a squirrel. Got it by the tail, Master! Look, here it is, my breath, hanging upside down in my teeth! Master! Look! Woof!

Woof! was the sound of my breath leaving my body. Gone. On to the next doggish task.

Gnawing on things. Licking. Barking at things.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Do You Know Where Your Lungs Are?

I didn't. And was breathing into the wrong place. Dummy.

They begin a bit above your collarbone, and are small. They end at your bra-closure if you wear a bra. If you don't wear a bra, they end where, if you did wear one, you would hook and eye it.

They don't hang way down on either side of your torso like Dali clocks, like I thought they did.

Turns out there ain't no lung in your belly. So all that talk about "belly breathing?" in yoga and meditation. It's a metaphor. It's so confusing. Turns out I've been breathing in to and out of -- my small intestine. Dummy.

No wonder I breathe little puffs, and sometimes not at all.

Better to choose yet another metaphor and breathe, into your armpits. There might actually be lung there.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Joy of Cooking recipes, Or, A Life

"Galantine of Fowl," taken from The Joy of Cooking, the 2006 edition, defines the rush of early love: "it is an extravagant production that begins with the boning process."

Ten years into marriage I can say that our boning process is short.

Married life is more often like "Crispy Roast Duck:"

"pull out the pieces of fat from the openings of the body and neck cavities, then place duck down on a V-rack and prick the skin all over in 20 to 30 places." But why limit the merciless pricking?

Add children. From "About Rolled, Molded and Shaped Cookies."

"Shaping cookies is such fun that children should be encouraged to learn to make them for themselves." I very much agree. Let them make bread too, and raise themselves, with their own yeast, I say.

Over time, with age, you become "A Preserve." "If pulp in the bag is still flavorful and does not contain seeds or tough bits of peel. Then simmer down to fruit-butter thickness, adding a few sweet spices, if desired."

But do not go so gentle in that good night of "Jellies and Preserves", a few tough bits are good, for texture, and chew.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Obstacle and The Path

"The obstacle is the path." - Zen proverb


Let that sink in and make your brain sizzle and hurt.

Hurt in a good way, in the way that Zen proverbs are supposed to make your brain burn, and your mind confused, so that you bypass your consciousness, so that you "live the layers, not in the litter," as poet Stanley Kunitz wrote.

That line, he said, came to him in a dream.

The obstacle is the path and the dream becomes the line.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

A List of The Common Adjectives Describing Chocolate

The mouthfeel is lush, like a mid-century nude.
The texture is a Renaissance fox-brown velvet worn by a countess who also that evening at the opera seria was wearing Venetian gold and her lover.

The color is rich.

The flavor of chocolate is intense, chocolatey, sometimes even green with high notes of Spice Road, and base notes of forbidden temples crawling with lianas and big-leafed, heart-shaped addictive plants in the tropics.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Handwritten

I wrote in a legal notebook for the first time in awhile and later picked it up. What are those cuniforms and pictographs, I wondered, what is that -- is that English? It could be Aramaic.

I didn't have to read what I'd written, and I wouldn't have been able to. I was simply writing as a hand/brain/pen exercise, as one might try to draw a basket of paper bags, as I was instructed to do once in an art class, and failed to.


Oh, I thought, so that's my handwriting. I write like I'm a big shot pharmacist in a hurry to have an affair, and a drink.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Basket of Figs

My mother is is philosophical about figs, looks at a basket of them and sighs.

It's fall, she says, with the weltschmerz available to those who are German. It's really, truly fall. Gone is spring, she says, taking a bite. At least these, in their perfect ripeness, at lease these, right before their ultimate decay, they're perfect. I had a melancholic childhood, obviously.

However, there were figs, and plenty of them: big fat California ones that when the juice ran down your chin hinted of another way of life, a hedonistic, embodied Mediterranean way, where for fun people talked loud, and danced, and at weddings they shot fireworks into the air, and didn't read Goethe.

A big fig tree grew by the farmhouse and my mother would be thrilled as only the German can be thrilled to forage in its branches. I was instructed to hold the colander, and I loved it's various heavinesses as my mother worked. First, a puppy in my arms, then it would be so full of purple figs, it'd feel like Newfoundland.

Monday, September 12, 2011

The Zen Master Goes Back-To-School Shopping

When the back to school shopper shops, the furrow is smooth, as when the plough driver drives the plough, and the oxen pull. It is not hard to understand!

When breathing, breathe!

When finding three ring binders and ball point pens, just find them. Go to isle 7 and find them!

Here is a koan. Customer Service, how does one translate this? Mu, in Japanese, or Wu, in Chinese. Or, in English, nothingness.

Have a goal and simultaneously have no goal, like the good archer, or, the harried mother in the sutra of The All-White Sneakers, With A No-mark Sole.

Like a river that stays within it's banks, this is our way, joriki, the power of concentration on kelly green polo shirts that are suitable for uniforms.

How the swans land on the lake is how you want to approach the checkout line.

But that comes with practice.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Left Over

My husband accuses me of putting whatever into a pot and adding what's on hand and calling it dinner. But that's my magic, I remind him.

In a half-lemon, I see a challenge, in a wilting bunch of beets. Quinoa. Perhaps one could make a gallette? A potage? Top the thing with feta and call it Greek-style. I've found sunchokes, clamoring in the crisper for something to do, some larger purpose.

Occasionally the melange is sublime, like great art, and like great art, unrepeatable. No one asked Van Gogh to paint another starry night or sunflowers, likewise no one has ever asked for a repeat of Potato In Phyllo. However, as Churchill said about life, but could have said about cooking for a family with young children: "success is going from failure to failure without any loss of enthusiasm."

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Alone At Last

I smell the wet earth smell of #2 pencils and know apples are ripening. On the squat, perfectly round pumpkins, the farmers are setting their price.

For the first time in two months, the sounds of my own breathing, and the endless dryer, are the only sounds in the house. Shiva be praised! Ho! Four directions! No one is demanding my attention. The sheets are folded and in the closet, not purple-crayoned and bunched up down the hallway, a course for the river of running, shouting kids.

No one is hooting things I don't understand like, "She touched my penguin!" so I don't have to know what it all means. All I have to make is my own lunch, and write. Godamnit.

I consider this. I wanted this. Just me and the dryer and in the orchard, the apples, with the kids back at school; aloneness, but it is like the door a dog is always on the wrong side of.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Too Darn Hot

Extreme heat makes for good Taoists. Non-doing is all one can do.

My method is under a tree, in the shade, wearing a humongous hat, sipping from a straw something icy, and looking like the eccentric, the one every neighborhood has, and every kid remembers as that lady.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Are We Fiction?

My son, 6, and I have spend the summer working through his school's recommended reading readiness workbook. Yesterday's lesson was the letter "V." Piece of cake, the letter "V." Compared it to today's lesson: fiction vs. non-fiction.

The workbook states: non-fiction is things that could happen, fiction is things that could not happen, things that are pretend. I explain that non-fiction is a lion attacking a gazelle (we saw this mess on PBS), fiction is a mouse in a tutu. My daughter, who is four, puts her chisel against this wall, and chinks out the first brick. "Mice do wear tutus," she says. "Haven't you seen Angelina Ballerina?"

My son brings out the jackhammer. "But what about us, Mom? Are we fiction or non-fiction?" I say, we're non-fiction with conviction but, truly, I'm not sure.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Blackberrying

You lean forward into not away from brambles like a normal person, shinny your unprotected forearm into narrow thorn-thronged passages when blackberrying. It is a state of mind as much as it is an activity of the body.

You must forget the goal, and simultaneously have only the goal in mind. It's like Zen archery. You must intuit the nothingness that is the fat ripe delicious warm globe. You must know that already you and the blackberry are one in this phenomenal universe.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Be Like The Frog

I'm reading about Zen. "Reading Zen" is a koan, since one cannot read meditation into the bones. But I'm book-centric, and word-needy, and I have to start somewhere. I'm reading Suzuki's Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind.

Some nuggets:

"We should appreciate what we are doing. There is no preparation for something else."

"If we are like a frog we are always ourselves."

So I practiced not preparing for something else, for a second. It was a freeing, terrible second, and awesome in the original sense of awe.

Then I tried to be a frog. My pyramid shape, the weight of me, my goggle eyes. I sat like a frog while I watched So You Think You Can Dance, eyeing the contestants, my tongue licking out occasionally at a bowl of vanilla ice cream. That's the closest I've been to Nirvana.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Working the Edges

I'm a rhombus, shaped like a diamond. I have four equal sides and four corners; they are where I am pointy, flinty, and where I am most ill at ease, at the edges. Wish I was smooth as a circle, serene as the moon. A moon never, as we say, "works at the edge."

Working at the edge is one foot on the scaffolding, one foot in the mist.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Growing Out

Growing one's hair out is a state of mind. For the last three years I've been growing my hair out from a scalp-close pixie, waiting like a fool for the ship called Long Luxuriant Mane to come in, hoping against the odds. I have fine thin hair, the kind ads on tv ask about in voice-overs that are always melancholy: Do you have fine thin hair?

Would bobby pins make it bearable? Handband? No. What about a rhinestone clip? Finally, this morning, I said fuck it.

The wan, mouse-brown inches fell to the floor and with them the months. That hair must hold the evidence the pain clinic, the ice packs, the medicines, and the life that I once imagined would be mine. It feels good to be rid of it. I'm not a pixie anymore, I'll never be a Godiva; what's real right now is, as the gurus say, "being present, being vulnerable." So I've got a bob that bares the neck.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Beginner's Mind

I've started meditating. Hold the snickers, friends, I know that I've started many things only to give them up. (See: knitting, the no sugar diet, daily exercise, and making adorable flowers out of felt.)

My mother asks, "Notice anything different yet, honey?"
I say, "Mom, I'm trying to divorce myself from outcomes."
"Oh."

So far, the only thing I've noticed is that meditation is to be looking in on one's mind as if peering over a wall to watch the neighbors who are always fighting. Look at them fighting! What an bunch of assholes! You think to yourself: She ought to leave him, except you're experiencing yourself. This is all going on in your mind.

You're instructed to let these thoughts pass like clouds. Well I friggin' can't. I'm lassoing clouds, attached to every memory, anticipating the future, planning, plotting, rubbing my hands together, mwahahaha, and completely out of touch with what I am supposed to be in touch: the present moment.

Breathing. Oh, yeah. That.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Nutritive Poetry

Reading poetry seems like the practice of goofballs and the overly literary until you need it. There will be a time when you need it.

I sipped occasionally at the cup of poetry, spilling at will when I would find someone eating a piece of fruit. I would say, "Do I dare to eat a peach?" And I would laugh inwardly, knowingly, smugly.

Poetry isn't a tea biscuit to me anymore. It's meat. It's the point. Where else to find the words for the emotions you did not know you had? I get in there, climb into poems, with my ladder propped against the apple tree. Yehuda Amichai wrote "You mustn't show weakness and you've got to have a tan" and I think, oh my god. Exactly. This is looking for parking in the parking lot in the NW Baltimore suburbs. How did Amichai know?

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Salmon Stream of Consciousness

Salmon, the color, is awesome, it's shaka, which is Hawaiian slang for awesome. If I were to decide these things, chakra colors, it'd be the color for the belly or hara, the Japanese martial art term for the seat of the gut.

My gut will later on be filled with cake. Today is my birthday.

Cake is one of those things that is great to anticipate. Like getting together with old friends. You anticipate what you might talk about, the ground you might cover, the connection. I think about the quality of the icing. Whipped cream is so rich yet so light. There's physics here, as there is with friends who have known you a long time, and still.

The gut is trust. When my gut said "this endodontist is not a good endodontist" I should not have overridden that with my grey matter and stayed in the chair for the root canal. Now I have TMJ. You learn these things as you go. When your gut says "get up out of that chair," you should get up. The gut takes in the Elvis sculpture in the endodontist's waiting room and makes the necessary connections.

Salmon also is my favorite fish, lightly grilled, with lemon.

One day we all will return to the stream, I think. The sun will set like in a poem, glowing orange, all belly. Like in the poem Lycidas, and we will have new pasture. Until then, cake.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Hot Mindfulness

There's hot, and then there's hot like my grandfathers remember. They were pre-A.C.

One of my grandfathers told me stories of working in Pittsburgh in the heat of the summer, in a three piece suit, in a building had only fans. He was a patent lawyer. My other grandfather, he'd say, "You don't know from hot. Summers it was so hot, my family slept out on the fire escape it was so hot."

Compared to these sweating men, my ancestors, I've got no homeostasis. I'm a post A.C., Generation X weakling, mewling when the thermometer goes way up. I would never wear a three piece suit in August, it's an absurdity, like British cream tea in India, with caravan of saucers. "Why did you do that?" I asked my grandfather.

Why ever be uncomfortable, if you don't have to be? Because sometimes you will be uncomfortable and there will be no choice: call it aging, or illness or something tiny, like grit in your shoe. To be a little uncomfortable, to work with an edge, is the way to learn about edges, and there are many of them.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Mantra

I'm not a pray-er or a meditator, but I'm thinking the time is ripe for me to become one or the other, and to have a mantra. Not just any old one: "lotus" or "peace" or "love thy neighbor." Those are good. But I need something new, something jazzy and effervescent like "bubble machine" or "clandestine."

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Horse Racing

My grandmother got me in to Triple Crown horse racing. I remember eating popcorn with her on that first Saturday in May, watching the Kentucky Derby. And she and I knew it was the most exciting two minutes in sports.

Then comes the Preakness. Long gone were the hats and Southern grace of the Kentucky Derby and far in the future was the Belmont Stakes' faint air of aristocracy. Here at the Preakness we have we have the manimal, Kegasus. It's less about the horses and more about the...fillies.

It's supposed to edify us, Baltimore, to host the second leg of the Triple Crown.
Horse racing is the definition of "sprezzatura," seeming ease, feigned artlessness, making the terribly difficult look like a breeze. It has an ugly underbelly, with drugs, inbreeding, and mistreatment, but when it comes to watching from the rail, all you see is a pure rare form of manimal beauty.

We watch and learn from the pounding horses running the homestretch and the jockeys hanging on for the trip of their life, what it means, despite all the odds, to have heart.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Science of Description

Description is a science. There are rules.

Example: you have to get the details, which is as difficult as embroidering a bee on to lace. You have to get "beeness" across even though you are using thread, and a needle, and the base is lace, and bees are made of flesh.

Its an impossible task, really.

And so easy to make the bee look more like a polka dot.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Perfume Review: Flowerbomb

Like the bloodhound, like the male moth, I have a powerful schnozzle.

So I figured I'd perfume review, starting today, starting right now with a scent strip from the inside of InStyle Magazine that I smelled from a distance of the length of a football field.

Most reviewers identify top, middle, and bottom notes and evoke sensual comparisons, but like the male moth I have not a clue if Flowerbomb is a floral chypre mossy oak with hints of schist that reminds me of a child's yellow marble or an Oriental wet orchid hybrid that brings to mind an evening dancing at low tide in the market with someone I've just met.

Friends, all I know is that wearing it was, for me, like being in a hot delivery truck of cheese and cherry Danish.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Bum Ice

My vertebral column is not what it once was as you, dear reader, know well. I have DDD (degenerative disk disease), a herniated disk in my neck, and (but wait...there's more!!!) an ill-healed coccyx and sacral cysts.

It's the subject of sacral cysts I turn to today. They are literally a pain in the ass and therefore, since I want to have a life despite the pain, and live with a shred of dignity, I have become a bum icer.

Like other (the few, the proud) bum icers I use what I can: frozen peas, fancy ice packs from the chiropractor, frozen shredded coconut, you know, whatever. I'm omnivorous.

Wouldn't you know, I chose frozen shredded coconut as my bum ice of choice for my son's recent school picnic. The cool rectangle was perfect: so thin, so unobtrusive 'neath my mom jeans, it was almost like I was wearing nothing, no assistive devices whatsoever.

But lo, I was soon sitting in a pool of sweet, delicious, coconut milk, with a lot of explaining to do. Bum ice.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Pink Out

I've been dressing my daughter in pink since she was newborn, on cultural autopilot, without thinking. And here I thought I was a discerning adult woman, a skeptic of all things labeled "girl."

I went to Smith in the 90s, when Riot Grrrl was rampant and we were all daughters of mothers who at macrame consciousness raisers in the 70s checked out their own cervixes (cervixi?) and marched for a better, more egalitarian Eden.

At that time, when we were 19, we thought we could punk rock in an apron. Some of my friends quilted ferociously. I made Barbara Kruger-esque collages and font-nerded out making bold and sans serif the word DENTATA.

The womanhood that was waiting for us seemed rigorous, raw and lionine. Dare I name the band Hole?

Little girls today wear sparkle-plastic heels and ballet-pink nails and twirl. Pink! Pink back when I was coming of age was fuschia, gnarly, chipped.

What have I been spoon-feeding my daughter? Princesses, fairies, "prettyness" and a distinct lack of body-knowledge, I think. Without Peggy Orenstein's great book Cinderella Are My Daughter I would still have my head in the soft pink sand of modern girlhood. It's just so soft, and pink.

What happened to the righteousness and momentum of the 70s, to the 3rd wave of feminism on which I surfed? My daughter is too young to make a purchase, so why am I purchasing for her heels? Pink boas? Why are any of us? Let's stop before we slap down another dollar for Disney, and save it instead for the future which is we want our daughters to be able to think for themselves.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Art, Work, Children

Children's imaginations are expansively outside the box, where green can be the color of sky and hair. Maybe the sky has hair. It's perpetually groovy where they live.

Before I knew better I'd say, "That's our house!" And my son would look at me as if a better place for me might be the zoo. I would reconsider, remember the advice of parenting books and say, "Is that a house?"
He would continue to stare at me, dumfounded that I didn't get what he'd drawn was The Batmobile. "That red square is the bat elevator." Then he added, "That's where the inventing happens."
"What inventing?"
"You know."
"I don't know. Do bats invent?"

He'd look at me as one considers a fence post, and then he'd run off to his friends who plainly got The Batmobile, leaving me to muse on Picasso: "Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up."

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Obeying Pain

To goodness and wisdom we only make promises; pain we obey. - Marcel Proust


In my life until now, physical pain was something philosophical, something that happened to other people, the old, the infirm, the people in TV documentaries about disasters who cried on camera. Poor them, the poor dears, I would say, holding a tissue to my eyes while I watched, sympathetic to them, but removed from them by my radiant health. I flagrantly used action verbs: run, jump, gambol, dance, walk, skip. I used the word embodied to mean the joy I had in myself.

Now that sit is an action verb, and every movement has a consequence, "embodied" has a different meaning to me. Inside these misfiring nerve fibers I am trapped, I am embodied.

In his play No Exit Sartre famously wrote hell is other people, but I disagree, hell is yourself in your body in pain, the kind of pain that has no topography, it's a pure straight white line endlessly moving forward like an arrow. Without choice, you obey.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

ImpostaMom

The selfless calm voice of modern parenting, the one that pretends to be a video recording device, "When I came into the room I saw a begonia on the floor and two children biting each other on the forearm in what appears to be a very angry way" really irritates me.

I caught myself recently, playing to the audience of other "good moms" when my son took someone else's son's train. This is what I said: "Now honey," I said, "that other little boy was playing with it first. I know you really want that train and right now that train has captured your attention so completely that no other toy seems desirable, and it is hard to part with a toy of such awesomeness and quality, but you don't like it when someone grabs a train from you. How we play with our friends is that we share trains. Remember when we talked about sharing and compromise during Family Share Time yesterday?"

I was playing ImpostaMom! Why didn't I simply say: Give the toy back, son, and be done with it?

ImpostaMom is walking, talking fakery. Well meaning fakery of course, designed to make ourselves feel superior about our care of our children compared to those "bad moms" (that we are not like) that yell and demand fealty "just because we said so," but it is still fake, fake, fake as store-bought cupcakes.

The most honest I've been with my kids was after the episode described above of the forearm biting and the begonia. I said I needed to take a time out in a hot bath because I was feeling extremely irritated. They asked what's "irritated." And we all learned something.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

My Collection

I'm not a collector, I lack the gene. If there is a group of anything in my house, it is an accident, and the group is usually of spatulas and boring.

I have an uncle who collects masks, another who collects books, my mother is a careful curator of amethyst jewelry, my father would like another piano or three, and my husband collects vintage Star Trek ornaments that is, he did, until I shamed him out of it. (I'm so sorry, honey, I didn't understand.)

Why four or five of the same thing, when the one suffices? Then I found a bowl at a flea market that spoke to me. It called out to me. It was 1930s yellow-ware with a thick lip and deep concavity, enough to raise three loaves of bread dough in. It transfixed me with its old fashioned femininity. All those bread-baking and biscuit-making women! My people!

I like what bowls mean. Plates don't embrace, but bowls do. They're open, giving, and yet also receptive. They make it look easy, but an excellent life's work would be trying to be like a bowl.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Ha Ha

According to various online dictionaries, a haha (n.) approximates sound of laughter. The definition I prefer these days is that a haha is an unseen ditch.

In a peerless country landscape you are walking as I have been walking, with not a care in the world save the usual suburban maternal American cares, and then. That damn unseen ditch.

It is different for everyone. The landscape that at one point felt like it could go on to the horizon at least, and maybe forever, does not. For one thing, there's this ditch. And who is as witty as Oscar Wilde who said, "We're all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars." Nice thought old buddy, old pal, but the dimensions of this ditch are broad and the walls steep, Oscar.

Pain that goes on for more than three months is called chronic. I am now living a definition as are hundreds of thousands of other people. Make that all of us gutter-dwellers, such as we are. We're trying our damndest, whatever way we can, to focus on points of light that flicker far away. Hold my hand. Haha.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Sick Funny

Goody Bastos has been a passion project of unserious frippery. But recently, life circumstances have taken an uncertain turn, and now, if I had gills I would let humor flow over them, thereby oxygenating. I've found no solace in my MRI reports of degenerated disks, insurance forms, and pamphlets on chronic pain clinics. My doctors are as serious as the carpets in their waiting rooms.

We sick don't need serious. We're overdosed on overhead lighting and chrome. We need humor. Sick humor. I know this because in the last few weeks I have been drawn as if by true love to Mr. Noodle. He is the clown on Sesame Street who has trouble putting his pants on. He puts them on his head and can't see. The kids on the show laugh and say, "Mr. Noodle, don't you know how to put pants on?"

Being ill is like having pants on your head. How the world was, it isn't anymore, and you travel in it differently, darkly, with films, reports, nerve conduction studies, and bottles of pills. What I want to do is laugh until it hurts less.

Monday, February 28, 2011

My Oscar Fashion

Dress: Drawstring-waist sweatpants, in periwinkle, with a zipped hoodie in what some might fashionably call fawn and others might more realistically call beige.

Handbag: Brown paper bag, by Trader Joe's, full of cheese doodles.

Hair: Semi-up do (concept by the actress herself)

Accessories: I once memorably used a paper clip to secure my semi-up do when there were no bobby pins; the kids had put them all one by one down the drain, because, quote "it might be interesting."

Makeup: Lip balm by Chapstick, in "original."

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Kids' Homemade Valentine Cards

Front: (blank)
Inside: Dear Momy.

Front: (glitter glue abstract art of a goat. It could be.)
Inside: I lve u. From: Me!

Front: (crayoned heart side by side with a crayoned cat)
Inside: (blank)

Front: Surprize Vlntne!
Inside: (a gargantuan heap of glitter)

Front: Lve u Mama do u like?
Inside: (half eaten Tootsieroll pop)

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

If Mafiosos Were Plant Biologists

Stomata you?

Godfather, forgive me. Lately because of, you know, a little this, a little that I feel deciduous.

You worry too much. Don't worry so much, Johnny. You're gonna make Order of Coiniferales.

You mean the order of mostly evergreen trees and shrubs having usually needle-shaped or scalelike leaves and including forms (as pines) with true cones and others (as yews) with an arillate fruit? I'm honored, Godfather.

Don't be such a pistil, Johnny. Just kiss the ring.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Love Two Weeks

Suffer yourself to learn many words for one thing. - Srikanth Reddy


For fourteen days in February I get in to love, head-over-assedly, decadently, as into an expensive sports car I've had the audacity to rent. After that I forget again for 50 weeks.

What was that speed and precision-tuning like? That supple interior? That Italian stitching? What mad pursuit? I don't drive like that all year so why try? To keep gunning the engine? Why? After Valentine's nothing for a sweet nothing is what I've got in my pocket. I'm happy to see you, sure, but I won't be caught with a heart-shaped card.

This year, it's going to be different; I am determined to keep the driving gloves on. I plan to keep them on past the 15th, when all the hearts go stale. I might make it even into spring, being loving.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Pillow Talk

You've been married awhile when stay-up-late, work-be-damned, tell-me-again-about-band-camp pillow talk turns into talk about pillows. You lie among the assortment and chat about their heft, softness, thread count, down count. Yes or no to memory foam.

Improvements could be made. There are now pillows made specifically for side sleepers. A satin-covered full-size body pillow could be invited in, to share in a very vanilla threesome. Small round pillows are available. But no.

Endurance. Making do. Loving what is. Old shoe. The marriage itself is that flat old pillow that must be folded several times, orgami-like, to lift the nape just perfectly so from the mattress. It stays.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

On Finding My Nana’s Diary From 1927, When She Was Twelve, and Comparing It To My Diary from 1985, When I Was Twelve

Nana’s Diary: Served tea with mother after church. How I admire how graceful she is! I want to be just like her.


My Diary: SUPER annoying. Like I have to go to church? I, like, fucking don’t.


Nana’s Diary: Continued work on embroidering the scarf for our neighbor, who has pneumonia. So wish she’d get well! I made a cherry pie with leftover pastry scraps.


Nana’s Diary: Dear Diary, I promised you complete honesty, and I gave you my word, and father says that is the most important thing: one's word. I made that sound like I made the cherry pie all by myself. Mother showed me and Sissy how to roll out the dough; I did do the filling on my own but I won’t let that go to my head!

Nana’s Diary: Sissy has such grace! If only I could be half as pretty when I grow up. She’ll be a darling bride! I am embroidering linens for her. I hope it brings her lots of happiness. I want to bring people lots of happiness!

My Diary: Does anyone care what makes me happy? Did Mom drive me to school? Nooo. But she drove Lucy to school. What the FUCK???


Nana’s Diary: Papa says there is going to be another war. I feel absolutely ill and am praying for peace. Knitting scarves so I feel I am doing something.


Nana's Diary:
What's important, I think, is to participate in the lives of others, to have compassion, to be a helpmate, don't you think so too, Diary?


My Diary: Here's a list of things I want: I want the new Cure album, a Benetton sweatshirt, in teal, my mom to FUCKING get over herself with the constant SUPER ANNOYINGNESS!!!!!

My Diary: Cont. Not to have to go to piano lessons again, ever. Assaf Gordon in my homeroom hahahahaha! PSYCH! Diary! You know me so well! The only person I really love is all of the girls in Bananarama.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Freshwater Men of the Mid-Atlantic: A Guide

Yellow Bullhead

Up to eighteen inches!

Chain Pickerel

Also known as Jack, it is by far the easiest of the pikes.

Hickory Shad

Often smoked but more frequently pickled.

White Sucker

A common bottom-forager, frequently found in bars.

Freshwater Drum

Like a contented husband, makes a grunting sound when near the surface on calm days

Monday, January 10, 2011

Tweeting From The Birdfeeder

Blue jay! Everyone scatter!

Fletch, the neighbor's lumbering fat Labrador! Quick, everyone scatter!

Nevermind. Friggin' titmice. They're easily confused with the Labrador if you have a resting heartbeat of 200 like I do.

Scatter!

Why?

Because in the birdfeeder is a seed I haven't seen before. It's an unknown seed. Unfamiliar to me. It's freaking me out.

Scatter, everyone! Squirrel!

Okay, okay. It's not a squirrel.

Regroup. Breathe.

Bring your heart rates back down to 200 by thinking about the seeds that are familiar.

It was just the friggin' titmice.

But you never know.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Meteorology For Toddlers

Weather is all around us.

The weather can be hot. When the weather is hot, the right choice is to run around fast wearing nothing. This cools a body off and simultaneously heats a body up and that's called science.

It can be warm. In this case, maybe just underpants and a tantrum.

Some days the weather is clear. There are no clouds. On these days, it is good to dig in the dirt with a spoon, as it is good to dig in the dirt with a spoon after a rainstorm in the season called spring. See also: mud season A whole season devoted to mud!

Wind is moving air. Wind brings us the weather.

A fart is also air. It brings us hilarity. But not to the big thunderheads known as parents who experience the weather differently due to their great height. Mostly what they experience are high pressure systems day after day.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Romance As A Series of Yoga Poses

Upward-facing dog.

Triangle Pose.

Confusing.

Pose of I'm Not Dating Anyone, Anymore. It's Just Too Difficult.

Oh, But Look!

Tying The Slip-Knot.

Untying.

Dog.

Snake.

Cow.

Taking A Few Months Off For Self-Exploration at Kripalu.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Le Fond or, A Riff on The New Year

The caramelized food bits left at the bottom of the pan.

The culinary food term, French for "base" or "foundation."

But you would not say "my fond hurts," even if you were French.

Or, "you're being a real pain in my fond."

Is it an expression of endearment? Yes. Ex: M. Arbuthnot was very fond of dogs.

He once was not fond of dogs because he'd been bitten by a terrier as a child, but now he is. He owns terriers. It's the kind of a transformation that happens sometimes in the best fiction, but rarely in real life.

It's a pan sauce made with the dried up caramelized dark bits of the past. Yet it is the beginning of something new.

And so what are you cooking?