Saturday, December 26, 2009

Change is coming

So, you might have nomme de plume. I just started a new blog, which, while I have published several entries over the past week, I have not openly shared with my closest friends. Hell, I haven't even let my husband read it yet. But starting on January 1...there will be an open invitation. Which is why I have changed the name. Now that I will be providing more information and writing on a more consistent basis, I thought it might behoove me to be a bit more least to the rest of the world.

You are welcome to read it and comment...just know that I'd like to keep things on the down-low, if you know what I mean. No need for anyone to know who I am until I'm ready. But feel free to spread the word. The more people I have reading, and commenting, and expecting the next entry, the more likely I am to keep to my daily deadline! Which will benefit everyone, though most-of-all me.

Thanks all...
I'll keep you "posted".

Sunday, October 18, 2009


Today I was doing laundry. I was oblivious, as usual. Living life. Doing the every day. And then, blam. News. News, no one ever wants to hear. News that cannot be talked about or ever really understood. Shock. Sadness. Tears. And this empty feeling of utter human impotence. I, who always have words, have none. Words are not good enough, but maybe my prayers are worth something. I hurt so deeply for my friends who have lost the unspeakable. And I so wish I could do something to help.

(Hug your children.)

Thursday, July 23, 2009

First Steps in Running

Okay, so better late than never...I'm doing a bit of research on beginning a running routine "safely". This is the best article I have read. It's also from a great source. I've been wandering around on the Runner's World website and have found an abundance of useful tips and information that I didn't know when I woke up this morning. Today, I will definitely be resting this knee, doing a few yoga stretches to make it feel better, and icing/heating it before bed.

It feels very weird to be committing to an activity like running. Especially me...Queen Couch Potato herself. Hmmm... And I owe it all to my "training" partner (thanks D.).

Click on the link below to read "10 Steps..."

First Steps

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Running Reality Check

As with Hot Yoga...I have found at least a modicum of internal motivation for my nightly run/walk (4-5 times per week); I'm now almost done with my 3rd week and I've doubled my distance. But, I'm realizing, with a new and slight knee injury, that I have jumped into this without enough knowledge to intelligently stave off pain and future leg/knee/joint problem. For example, after doing a little research, I realize that my shoes are probably all wrong, that I'm possibly running too far, too fast, and that there are a lot of terms with which I am unfamiliar and that are quite possibly affecting me (i.e. pronation/suppination). I'm also feeling in need of expert advice, but living in such an isolated, rural area, it isn't very practical for me to just run down to my local running-gear store and get fitted for the perfect footwear. Apparently, I'm supposed to consider where my other shoes show wear, the arch of my foot, the flexibility, the terrain...and a whole slew of other technical dynamics and design features that sound like some strange foreign language to me. And here I thought this would be simple. Maybe I'm over-complicating it. Wouldn't be the first time. But, I AM sure of this: I need to learn more, be gentle to my skeleton, not be suckered into buying things I don't need, buy better shoes, and KEEP RUNNING!!!

(Anyone have any suggestions on stores where expert advice on running shoes can be found on the Olympic Peninsula or in the Seattle area?) It'll be a little while before I can get to Seattle/Tacoma, but I can put it on my list of things to do when I get there.)

See my next entry for an informative article from Runner's World.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Summer - Intermission

Friday. Alone, but for a sleeping toddler and five snoring pets curled up in various painstakingly-chosen spots throughout the house. Tall glass of ice water on my right, sinful Godiva chocolate bar on my left. Jazz emanates from the speakers. The world is still. Momentarily.

I have spent the day doing a glorious list of "nothing special". A walk down the trail with my son. A mid-day nap. An afternoon viewing of "Beauty and the Beast". A simple dinner of soup and sandwiches. Story time. Bed time. Quiet time.

I need to enjoy every second of this waning freedom, for next week I leave for Boise to take part in Edufest. I come back just in time to celebrate my 3rd wedding anniversary...and then it's off to Idaho again to visit family. Three days after I return, my eighth year of teaching will begin. I cannot believe how quickly this break is going by.

But it's like that now. I remember when each year seemed to last forever. Forever and a day. And now it's seconds. Something to do with having a baby who just seems to be wriggling out of my hands like a salamander (which we saw today but couldn't catch, much to Liam's dismay).

Today's highlights: playing ball in the driveway, dropping everything (literally - it was a full basket of laundry) to run out and watch the Coast Guard helicopter fly overhead - bless them for looping back and flying over again, very low), hearing my son say, "'s nap time," as I faked sleep beside him to encourage him to sleep too, videotaping him blowing kisses...

Couldn't seem to get the video to work right...but listening is a dying art, so maybe this is for the best.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Summer Begins...sort of

Summer schoo's over in a week...then it's jury duty...then it's a week long conference away from my family...then it's a two-week trip to Idaho away from my husband...then it's back to school. Somewhere in there will be a 3rd wedding anniversary and a 2nd birthday.

This is what I'm feeling right now (along with a strong need for a REAL vacation with my husband). Can't really explain why. But here it is, for what it's worth.

"Everlong" - Foo Fighters

Hello, I've waited here for you
Tonight, I throw myself into
And out of the red, out of her head she sang

Come down and waste away with me
Down with me
Slow how you wanted it to be
I'm over my head, out of her head she sang

And I wonder
When I sing along with you
If everything could ever feel this real forever
If anything could ever be this good again
The only thing I'll ever ask of you
You got to promise not to stop when I say when
She sang

Breathe out so I can breathe you in
Hold you in
And now I know you've always been
Out of your head, out of my head I sang

And I wonder
When I sing along with you
If everything could ever feel this real forever
If anything could ever be this good again
The only thing I'll ever ask of you
You got to promise not to stop when I say when
She sang

And I wonder
If everything could ever feel this real forever
If anything could ever be this good again
The only thing I'll ever ask of you
You got to promise not to stop when I say when

Watched a film today worth mentioning. "Feast of Love" Directed by Robert Benton, starring Morgan Freeman, Greg Kinnear, Selma Blair, Radha Mitchell and Billy Burke. The kind of film I like: quiet, reflective, subtle, but poignant. In the vein of (though not as good as) The Hours and Little Children. A nice afternoon-with-a-glass-of-wine-and-a-sleeping-baby kind of film.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Cerebral Violation

Rotten Tomatoes gave it an A-. Roger Ebert gave it 4 1/2 stars. His critique is apt and hard to say any clearer:

Watching [There Will be Blood] is like viewing a natural disaster that you cannot turn away from. By that I do not mean that the movie is bad, any more than it is good. It is a force beyond categories. It has scenes of terror and poignancy, scenes of ruthless chicanery, scenes awesome for their scope, moments echoing with whispers and an ending that in some peculiar way this material demands, because it could not conclude on an appropriate note -- there has been nothing appropriate about it. Those who hate the ending, and there may be many, might be asked to dictate a different one. Something bittersweet, perhaps? Grandly tragic? Only madness can supply a termination for this story.

Visit his website to read a full review.

The NY Times reviewed it as an enigma of film as well, proclaiming the title An American Primitive, Forged in a Crucible of Blood and Oil.

And The Rolling Stone calls it a "beautiful beast of a movie," and states that, "[s]eeing There Will Be Blood is like going ten rounds with a raging bull. You feel so pummeled it's hard to get your head clear." The article goes on to describe the main character, Daniel Plainview, as "the dark underside of the American success story, or, if you want to extend the metaphor, of America itself. He rapes and pillages in the name of progress and winds up estranged from the human species he has long ago forgotten to call his own." The article closes with the summation that this film "hits with hurricane force. Lovers of formula and sugarcoating will hate it. Screw them. In terms of excitement, imagination and rule-busting experimentation, it's a gusher."

I just watched it last night. I know, I came out in 2007 and I'm just getting around to watching it. I'm slow when it comes to contemporary entertainment. But truly...I'd never heard of it until I was flipping through Netflix's library and thought, dismissively, "Enh...I guess...maybe Devin will like it." It finally came up in our que and it still ended up sitting next to the DVD player for a month before we watched it (something about it's near 3-hour run-time that made it less appealing than our other entertainment options).

It's been a long time since I reacted so emotionally to a much so, I actually dreamed scenes from it over and over during the night. This one made me curious, suspicious, expectant...I hated it. But, since hate is so far from indifference, there must have been something wonderfully viral about downright violated my cerebral cortex. And you don't recover from something like that quickly. Or forget it.

There have been few films that have struck me so profoundly. Possibly films like Platoon, Shindler's List, Life is Beautiful, Trainspotting, Kids, Lolita, and link. I vaguely remember feeling about this sick to my stomach and yet rabidly continuing to turn the pages of The Jungle.

P.P.S. I'm so proud that I finally figured out how to use the link function in html. Yay for me, the techno-dope.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Random Acts of Stupidity

"Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former." - Albert Einstein (1879 - 1955)

We've all done something stupid. Some of us have a longer and more elaborate list to share; but no one is immune. I don't say this to excuse my own moments when my intelligence seems to be taking a nap. I just say it to preface my explanation so that you might remember that you too could easily have been in my shoes.

My "Oh, Shit!" might mirror one of your own, in which case there are a pair of us to roll our eyes in synchronicity, sigh, and give ourselves up to the inevitable criticism of those who portend to love us and support us. Why is it that those who love us most are the first to laugh at us (not with us) and never let us live it down when we wake up with "the dumb" and can't "brain" the way we should?

This is my story.

A lovely, late evening. Cold, crisp, clear...the moon so bright in the night sky that no porch light was needed to guide me and my son to the car. Eight o'clock...with my mother-in-law jaunting behind with the baby bag, I pointed up to the sky and diverted my son's attention from leaving grandma's house. He said it sweetly and clearly, "Moon." Awww...

I unlocked the passenger door so I could hit the automatic unlock for the back door and put him in his carseat. I placed my keys out of the way, like I often do, in the door handle so I could buckle him safely in. For all those non-readers out there...this is foreshadowing. You should now have a sense of foreboding and should probably have a vague prediction about what is about to happen.

I closed the door and heard a resonating "Click".

"Oh, Shit."

But, rather than freaking out like I normally would, I was calm. I could think of no other solution than to call my husband to bring me his set of keys. The problem? He is a reserve police officer and he was on duty. The other problem? My cell phone was locked in my car.

So, I borrowed my mother-in-law's phone and called him, only to interrupt his dinner with, "Honey?" (Spouses always open a conversation in which they've done something stupid or potentially fight-worthy with a term of endearment in the form of a question.)

"Honey...we have a problem."
"I locked my keys in my car..."
"...and the baby's inside."

Why is it that when you tell a loved one you've done something stupid they always make you repeat it?

"Do you have one of my car keys with you?"
"Can you bring it to me?"

He took a minute or two to explain my stupidity to his FTO officer and sounded rather exasperated.

"Is your car running?"
"So it's cold inside."

He didn't say it as a question...but as a needle jabbed into my wound of parental inadequacy.

"Okay, we'll be there as soon as we can."

So, not only have a locked my son in the cold, cold car, I've interrupted my husband's dinner. Guilt is now added to my stupidity, creating a lovely cocktail of embarrassment. I'm wondering if he'll show up with his siren blaring and his lights flashing to add horror and shame into the mix.

My mother-in-law and I stood outside the car, talking to and making faces at my son, who appeared to be affected very little by the evening's turn in activity. He yawned several times and played with his own feet. He didn't seem to be judging me...yet. He just seemed confused over the fact that we kept standing outside when I'd just promised him (bribed him) we were going home to see his puppies (it's how I get him to leave willingly without throwing a fit).

Several cars came and went. Finally, the police arrived.

Now, I've had very few dealings with the police. In fact, I can count them on one hand: one wagged his finger at me as I almost ran a stop sign when I was 16, a few showed up to a high school party and told us all to go home, one showed up to take my statement after someone hit my car in a mall parking lot, one banged on my college apartment door in the middle of the night, mistaking my apartment with the noisy one next door, and one pulled me over for a speeding ticket (my very first at age 31).

So, even though it was my husband, maybe you'll understand that there was an air of illicitness about the whole thing. I suddenly got the panicky tingles, like I'd done something very wrong. I apologized profusely and played down my stupidity with a goofy, guilty smile. My husband unlocked the car and opened up the door to my check on him and, I suppose, make sure I hadn't killed him in the process of being dumb. I apologized to his FTO officer...who was riding shotgun.

"He even had to call his sergeant to tell him he was leaving so far out of the normal patrol area."


Suffice it to say, I know I will not be living this down for quite some time.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009


“I want to die in my sleep like my grandfather... Not screaming and yelling like the passengers in his car.” Will Shriner

I remember, distantly, listening to the unsettling story of my grandfather's attempted (or at least considered) suicide. I'm not sure I have all the details, though I am sure I listened with rapt, if not incredulous, attention. Basically the events are thus...

My father, a young boy at the time (my mind loses the age), walked in on my grandfather, while he sat, with his back to the door, on the edge of the bed. My father saw a gun in his hands. He watched him for several minutes (which could have been horrified, stretched seconds), fondling the gun, turning it over in his hands slowly, with a look of great pain on his long, stern face. He ran his hand down his face, rubbing his eyes, as if tired, rubbing away the frustration.

My grandfather never saw my father. My father turned around and walked out. They never spoke of it, and my father never said anything about it to anyone until the moment he placed the memory in my hands. A loaded gun, so much weight to bear.

I know little about my paternal grandfather. His name was William. He fought in WWII. He wore hand-me-down girls' clothing until he was five. He was unhappy and had little humor. He had beautiful handwriting and wrote longing, haunting love letters to my grandmother during the war. He was serious but never finished anything. He smoked all of his cigarettes to the exact same length and then lined them up in the ashtray, pushing the ashes to the side. He drank too much Coke and slept in front of the T.V. He died instantly of an aortic aneurysm, shoveling snow, almost a year to the date before I was born.

I saw his ghost when I was 7, at my grandmother's funeral. He was sitting next to me in the pew. He didn't say anything to me, but he looked as real as any person there, and it felt like I knew him, like it made sense for him to be sitting next to me, silent. I didn't know it was him until a few years later when I saw a picture of him for the first time.

My grandfather was a moody man. Quite possibly bi-polar. Suicidal even. Or at least unhappy.

I wonder sometimes what he left me. Besides letters, beautiful words and romance that seemed to fade as soon as his boots hit American soil. I have this feeling that he lived a different life in his mind. His pen spoke more than his lips ever could, and those around him suffered for it. His wife buried her loneliness in alcohol and died at 70. His daughter struggles to keep her head up as M.S. takes the last bits of strength in her body. His son, an everlasting legacy of both the father and the mother...stoic, troubled, silent, and laughing. His grand-daughter...a leaf hanging, dangling, unwilling to let go of the tree.

Monday, February 9, 2009


“The best things in life are unexpected - because there were no expectations.” - Eli Khamarov

I'm not one for surprise...I like to know what's coming my way, but every once in awhile, I'm reminded why the unexpected is so refreshing, if not a little unsettling.

My expectations are most assuredly the thing that ruin most events. It is when I have none, that I am rarely disappointed. And, because I'm not looking out for what I assume I will see, I am freed to observe what otherwise would have gone unnoticed.

I'm home sick today. Unexpected, yes. I don't often stay home, even if I am sick, because it's actually more work for me to stay home and rest than it is to just go and suffer through the day. But, I gave in, and I'm glad I did.

Besides, things seem weird in the world today.

For example, it's snowing. What the hell is that about? Big, wet, fluffy flakes that have actually taken claim of the damp swamp of brown leaves in my front yard. They are swirling and mesmerizing my young son.

And it's a full moon. Not necessarily happens with quiet regularity. But we are all aware that things somehow move in different circles and land in different positions when the moon bares all to our revolving planet.

And my son has been in a good mood all day, despite the green snot that keeps draining from him angry little nose. Strange. Creepily out of the ordinary.

The house is clean (gasp). The chores are, for the most part done (unheard of). How did I find this unexpected day? And why does it make me suspicious?

Well, I won't question it too hard. Wouldn't want to scare it away. For the time being, it is welcome here.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Slacker's Reprise #1 (because I'm sure this won't be the last time)

You know...I have a tendency to begin things with great gusto. And commitment fades, the guilt rises because I'm not "living up to the promise", and eventually I either throw in the towel and wait for a new surge of momentum, or I plug on through and hope that the cyclical nature of all things will apply, as always, and boost me back into the swing of productivity.


The only thing I really do with great regularity is slack-off. I'm always behind, always stressing about getting ahead.

So here's what I've been up to...grading papers, two district-mandated tests, and making intimate connections with exhaustion. I even tried to read a book...Confessions of a Slacker Wife...but I never finished. How's that for irony?

But, tonight, I updated one of my blogs and am now working on my second, checked-in on Facebook, danced in my living room with my son and played Simon Says (and for the first time, he actually mimicked my every move), took a nice hot bath and read another chapter in the appalling sequel to Twilight (I have to, my students are in love with Edward, and if I can't relate, I can't I'm doing what I have to do, begrudgingly.)

And here I am to simply say, I'm trying. And I haven't given up. And to make it up to myself, not only am I checking in, but I'm offering a word, a writer, some music, and some bizarre food for thought, since I've missed two weeks of them...and I'm not going to hold myself to deadlines I can't keep...even if I'm the only one reading my's silly to make it so routine when this is simply supposed to be an outlet for my stifled creativity. Go me for making fun into work...and see where it got me?

So there.

And begin...a song that always makes me feel better. There simply isn't a way I can be mad when I hear, it just gives me the warm fuzzies...pair this up with a fast drive or a stiff drink and it's better than therapy (and a helluvalot cheaper and easier to replicate).

Writer of the Week: a whole group, actually. I just got done showing "Freedom Writers" to my class, and we are in the midst of an intense unit on social injustice and intolerance in the U.S. that will lead us into a research project on our roots (an ancestry study). My students are 12-13, and were quite affected by the film. The actual story on which it is based was born into word through The Freedom Writers Diary. It's pretty inspiring to think that writing can be so cathartic. It's also a beautiful thing to see my students discussing the importance of reading and writing in understanding yourself, your history, and the world around you. There is also an excellent teaching guide you can purchase separately...and a 3rd book called "Teach with Your Heart". A nice threesome to add to any teacher's professional library. Visit the official website:

Word for the Weekend:
per·spi·ca·cious (adj.)
Having or showing penetrating mental discernment; clear-sighted.
[From Latin, to look through; see perspective.]
perspi·cacious·ly adv.
perspi·cacious·ness n.

A trait which I do not often possess.

Sweetest dreams.

P.S. Do you ever feel like this? And why is it that I can't get over the misspelling of "beginning"?

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Wednesday's word: lackadaisical

Main Entry: lack·a·dai·si·cal Listen to the pronunciation of lackadaisical
Pronunciation: \ˌla-kə-ˈdā-zi-kəl\
Function: adjective
Etymology: irregular from lackaday + -ical
Date: 1768

lacking life, spirit, or zest : languid

I might have chosen lazy. Maybe procrastination. But, this word was so much more fun to say. To lack...a daisy? I lack daisies right's foggy out and cold. I'm tired. But, I wouldn't say I lack life or spirit or zest, as a general rule.

Today, in a parent meeting, a student told me she doesn't like to come to school (tell me something I haven't already heard from dozens of pre-teens). Now, rather than get into an argument about how on earth she could hate to come to school (I mean what teacher doesn't have a thousand geeky reasons why school is fun, and cool, and just plain all-around-good-for-the-soul awesome), I decided to probe into what she'd rather be doing, say, at home. Her response? Nothing. I laughed a bit, disbelieving.

"Really? You can't be telling me just sit there and do nothing at all?"
"No computer, or phone, or book, or television?"
"You stare at the wall?" This said, slack-jawed, in utter disbelief.
"Yep. Sometimes I just sleep cause I get too tired doing nothing."

I was pretty much speechless...for half a second...and then I asked the parent what on earth made this okay in their house. The parent explained how, in all her parenting wisdom, she'd just had it with her daughter's behavior and had decided to just let her sit it out and do nothing. She let her sit there and just be truant, to teach her a lesson of course. After 2 weeks of sitting there and doing nothing (boy, that parent was sure showing her), she ended up in court and was forced to go back to school.

So, lackadaisical? Yes. I, personally, would simply consider her a blob of flesh and bones and organs with a whole bunch of hairspray to top it off and keep it held together (or maybe that's what all the piercings are for).

When we asked about the fact that the child always shows up perfectly coiffed, made-up, and trendily dressed in the latest Hot Topic couture, and whether this had ever been controlled for motivational purposes (i.e. take away the curling iron until she does her damned essay...say no to another dye job until she finishes her math...and give a definite thumbs down to any more face piercings until she suits up for P.E.) her mother looked at us aghast, "I am against keeping those kinds of things from her because that encourages her self-esteem."

How about academic success to boost self-esteem? Maybe a bigger brain is more important that big hair and trendy clothes (haven't we learned anything from the tragedies of Paris and Britney?). I'm just saying... keeping with today's theme...the deadline (since it's only for me, anyway) for this month's show-and-tell is this weekend, when I have time to post (and, of course, come up with something to share).

Night, all.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

History in the making

"Rhetoric is a poor substitute for action, and we have trusted only to rhetoric. If we are really to be a great nation, we must not merely talk; we must act big." Theodore Roosevelt

I have to admit, I am not completely won over by the brilliance of his smile or the smoothness of his words. While I will bow to his articulate tongue and will remain open to the hope for change that he encourages, I will not put a ring in my nose and accept him as the new messiah as have some; I will hold tight to my cup full of skepticism (unless he gives me a reason to dump it down the drain). It is with great reservation that I accept a new government controlled by one party. And it is with great reverence that I welcome a new commander in chief at a time when that particular presidential role is being watched with great global interest.

I do see the historical relevance. And I am not numb to the emotion that comes with such a day as this. Regardless of my personal trepidation, I will say that this president seems to have taken his long awaited position with grace and humility. I can only hope that he remains true to his word and that he is successful.

And I tip my hat to the choices of Aretha Franklin and the poet Elizabeth Alexander.

Praise Song for the Day
By Elizabeth Alexander
updated 12:20 p.m. PT, Tues., Jan. 20, 2009

Following is the complete text of "Praise Song for the Day, A Poem for Barack Obama's Presidential Inauguration" as provided by the publisher.

Each day we go about our business,
walking past each other, catching each other’s
eyes or not, about to speak or speaking.

All about us is noise. All about us is
noise and bramble, thorn and din, each
one of our ancestors on our tongues.

Someone is stitching up a hem, darning
a hole in a uniform, patching a tire,
repairing the things in need of repair.
Story continues below ↓advertisement | your ad here

Someone is trying to make music somewhere,
with a pair of wooden spoons on an oil drum,
with cello, boom box, harmonica, voice.

A woman and her son wait for the bus.
A farmer considers the changing sky.
A teacher says, Take out your pencils. Begin.

We encounter each other in words, words
spiny or smooth, whispered or declaimed,
words to consider, reconsider.

We cross dirt roads and highways that mark
the will of some one and then others, who said
I need to see what’s on the other side.

I know there’s something better down the road.
We need to find a place where we are safe.
We walk into that which we cannot yet see.

Say it plain: that many have died for this day.
Sing the names of the dead who brought us here,
who laid the train tracks, raised the bridges,

picked the cotton and the lettuce, built
brick by brick the glittering edifices
they would then keep clean and work inside of.

Praise song for struggle, praise song for the day.
Praise song for every hand-lettered sign,
the figuring-it-out at kitchen tables.

Some live by love thy neighbor as thyself,
others by first do no harm or take no more
than you need. What if the mightiest word is love?

Love beyond marital, filial, national,
love that casts a widening pool of light,
love with no need to pre-empt grievance.

In today’s sharp sparkle, this winter air,
any thing can be made, any sentence begun.
On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp,

praise song for walking forward in that light.
Copyright © 2009 by Elizabeth Alexander. All rights reserved. Reprinted with the permission of Graywolf Press, Saint Paul, Minnesota. A chapbook edition of Praise Song for the Day will be published on February 6, 2009.

(watch it at:

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Wednesday's word: feh

Main Entry: feh
Part of Speech: interj
Definition: an expression of disgust, disapproval, displeasure
Example: You ate peanut butter? Feh!
Etymology: Yiddish

It seemed like a good choice since I've pushed my procrastination into lateness that has now become...feh.

Yeah...I forgot. Feh.

Yeah...I'm a slacker in every area of my life. Feh.


Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Monday's Music: Florence Khoriaty

(Yes...I'm late need to point it out. I also didn't work out today and I forgot to feed the fish. I'm far from perfect.)

Visit CBC Radio at:

Here, you can listen to songs from Florence Khoriaty (Florence K), one of my new surprise findings. Of course, those who know me well know that I am enamored of "most" things French. No surprise, then, that French music, especially now that I am living so close to Canada, would occasionally find its way into my listening menu.

Take a gander...

And then visit her official website:

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Weekend's Writer: Dorothy Parker

The fabulously depressed Dorothy. Three suicide attempts and a short life filled with liquor, lust, and literature. A prime example of the manic-depressive artist, Dorothy Parker was one of the greats of her time...and continues to remain popular for her sardonic wit and dark humor. Unhappiness, for some, is the greatest inspiration...and the deadliest.

From "American Maters: The Algonquin Round Table"

Robert Sherwood, reviewing cowboy hero Tom Mix: "They say he rides as if he’s part of the horse, but they don’t say which part."

Dorothy Parker: "That woman speaks eighteen languages and can’t say ‘no’ in any of them."

George S. Kaufman: Once when asked by a press agent, "How do I get my leading lady’s name into your newspaper?" Kaufman replied, "Shoot her."

The period that followed the end of World War I was one of gaiety and optimism, and it sparked a new era of creativity in American culture. Surely one of the most profound -- and outrageous -- influences on the times was the group of a dozen or so tastemakers who lunched together at New York City’s Algonquin Hotel. For more than a decade they met daily and came to be known as the Algonquin Round Table. With members such as writers Dorothy Parker, Harold Ross (founder of THE NEW YORKER) and Robert Benchley; columnists Franklin Pierce Adams and Heywood Broun, and Broun’s wife Ruth Hale; critic Alexander Woollcott; comedian Harpo Marx; and playwrights George S. Kaufman, Marc Connelly, Edna Ferber, and Robert Sherwood, the Round Table embodied an era and changed forever the face of American humor.

It all began with an afternoon roast of the NEW YORK TIMES drama critic, Alexander Wollcott. A number of writers met up at the Algonquin Hotel on 44th street and had such a good time that the event was repeated the next day, and the day after that, until the lunch table at the Algonquin was established as a ritual. The core group of friends was sometimes joined by others who attended for short periods or drifted about the periphery of the group, including such notables as actress Tallulah Bankhead and playwright Noel Coward. The Round Table was made up of people with a shared admiration for each other's work. Outspoken and outrageous, they would often quote each other freely in their daily columns.

Round Tabler Edna Ferber, who called them "The Poison Squad," wrote, "They were actually merciless if they disapproved. I have never encountered a more hard-bitten crew. But if they liked what you had done, they did say so publicly and whole-heartedly." Their standards were high, their vocabulary fluent, fresh, astringent, and very, very tough. Both casual and incisive, they had a certain terrible integrity about their work and boundless ambition. Some of the most notable members of the Round Table came together to work on significant collaborative projects. George Kaufman teamed up with Edna Ferber and Marc Connelly on some of his best stage comedies, including DULCY and THE ROYAL FAMILY. Harold Ross of THE NEW YORKER hired both Dorothy Parker as a book reviewer and Robert Benchley as a drama critic.

By 1925, the Round Table was famous. What had started as a private clique became a public amusement. The country-at-large was now attentive to their every word—people often coming to stare at them during lunch. Some began to tire of the constant publicity. The time they spent entertaining and being entertained took its toll on several of the Algonquin members. Robert Sherwood and Robert Benchley moved out of the hotel in order to concentrate on and accomplish their work. In 1927, the controversial execution of Sacco and Vanzetti, whose case had divided the country and the Round Table for six years, seemed to cast a pall over the group’s unchecked antics. Dorothy Parker believed strongly in the pair’s innocence, and upon their deaths she remarked "I had heard someone say and so I said too, that ridicule is the most effective weapon. Well, now I know that there are things that never have been funny and never will be. And I know that ridicule may be a shield but it is not a weapon."

As America entered the Depression and the more somber decade of the 1930s, the bonds that had held the group together loosened; many members moved to Hollywood or on to other interests. "It didn’t end, it just sort of faded," recalled Marc Connelly. A decade after it began, the Algonquin Round Table was over. Not forgotten, the Round Table remains one of the great examples of an American artists’ community and the effects it can have on its time.

And for your viewing pleasure:

I do, indeed, recommend this film...there were things about Jennifer Jason Leigh that irritated me, but, overall, I think it was an excellent and intimate interpretation of who Parker was.

Visit the following website to read a poem of your choice:

Or, attend Parkerfest with the Dorothy Parker Society: Parkerfest began in 1999. It is held in the Spring of odd-numbered years; the next one is in the spring of 2009. Each Parkerfest has been unique and different. We celebrate the life of Dorothy Parker with a speakeasy night, walking tour, Round Table lunch, music, readings, and more. The mood of the weekend is more like a party than a serious "literary" event. More information at:

Friday, January 9, 2009

The witching hour

So, it's late...quiet...and I'm too tired to be up writing. Yet, here I am, knowing I will regret it tomorrow when my son doesn't let me sleep in.

It's just a quick note, really, at the end of a long day.

So many strange things pop in and out of my head...especially when I'm on a writing bender: too much in a short amount of time makes you heady, and it wears you out.

But, I'm sort of loving the fact that writing a blog like this one forces me to take a look at the world around me a bit more closely. Everything is up for scrutiny. Because everything is a potential sentence.

Today's observations and flits of the imagination:

1) Listening to the "modern rock inbox", I found a new band to add to my list of current intrigues:

2) Buying a cart load of junk food at 8 a.m. elicits concerned and appalled stares from other shoppers (in particular, those who are standing behind you in the "15 items or less" line with irritated looks that say, "Whaddya have in there, like 50 items?"; but they neglect to realize that this is the only line open at 8 a.m. when the store is virtually empty).

3) I have too many books in my "current reading" pile. If it falls over, it may well bury one of the cats. I just added "Tales of a Slacker Wife" and "Boys: Women Writers on Raising Sons". Not enough damned time in a day!

4) That new gel-coating varnish flouride the dentist paints on your teeth is disgusting. Not that it's saying much, but I like the gross, squishy foam stuff better. At least I don't have to spend 2 days trying to scrape it off my teeth.

5) Listening to young children read their own poetry out loud makes me wish I had their eyes: check out NWP's Rural Voices Radio.

6) I'm adding the word "opulent" to the word wall.

7) Writers are the world's top procrastinators: none of my writers workshop students were ready to submit to Tidepools today. We had to scramble to get parent signatures on entry forms, print final copies, and come up with bite-sized biographies to attach to them. Funny enough, when I got to the post office to send them, the line was too long and I was more interested in getting to Wine on the Waterfront for a tasty I opted to put it off for yet one more day. The post office is open til 2 pm tomorrow; so I guess I'll be a true procrastinator and put it off until the absolute 11th hour. I'm sure I'll see a few of my discombobulated brethren of the pen tomorrow in line (as I do every year - in sweats with fly-away hair, coffee-stained shirts, and fingernails bitten to the nubs for easier and faster typing), desperately hoping to get those damned envelopes post-marked in time. Deadlines = The only reason anything ever gets published. Believe me, almost everything we read is simply a rough draft ripped out of the death-grip of some writer mumbling, "Just one more look-see...just one more proof-reading glance..." or "I think it still needs some work" or "It's invisible ink; I really HAVE been writing...I'm not putting it off...those blank pages are the greatest novel ever written, you just need lemon juice to read it...and, damn, I'm out."

Sweet dreams are made of these.

Good night y'all...

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Wednesday's Word: Sesquipedalian

Yes, it's a word....and yes, I know I'm a day late (umm...and a dollar or two short, as usual).

Main Entry: ses·qui·pe·da·lian
Pronunciation: \ˌses-kwə-pə-ˈdāl-yən\
Function: adjective
Etymology: Latin sesquipedalis, literally, a foot and a half long, from sesqui- + ped-, pes foot — more at foot
Date: 1656

1 : having many syllables : long 2 : given to or characterized by the use of long words

Ha Ha! Such and apt definition for such a long, multi-syllabic word. I'd never heard this word until I was recently perusing my current Newsweek magazine. I rarely read a magazine article from beginning to end, and this is no exception, but in this week's edition, toward the back is an article titled "Remember Them Well"...a tribute to many of the well-known actors, politicians, scientists, writers, athletes, journalists, etc. who died this last year. A few notable names that made me say..."Aw, what a shame...": Bernie Mac, Yves Saint Laurent, Sydney Pollack, Arthur C. Clark, Charlton Heston, Heath Ledger, Michael Crichton, Robert Mondavi, Estelle Getty, Bo Diddley, Edmund Hillary, George Carlin, Isaac Hayes, Paul Newman.

And three of particular note.

1. Randy Pausch. (Beware...this is a long one, but worth it.) Wondering about the worth of a life? Are you bored? Considering a bucket list? Give this a listen. This guy was given a very short, finite amount of time to do with as he would. So...he inspired thousands. Not bad for 12 months' work.

2. Bettie Page. Hot, hawt, and haute... She was a whole lotta woman...a conundrum, a fiasco, a juxtaposition, naughty and nice, sugar and spice...the muse of the erotic world who turned away from her fame, found religion, and went a little nutty in the end. But her influence on fashion, erotic film and photography, and women's sexuality cannot be denied.

3. William F. Buckley Jr. Okay, not someone I would normally pay homage to, BUT...Newsweek's entry on him is what inspired today's word, so I feel I must spotlight him to some degree. Here's the entry that grabbed my attention (page 85, 12/29/08-1/5/09): "Sure he was the father of American conservatism, the founder of National Review and the champion of Goldwater and Reagan. But he also had one of the century's most perspicacious, peripatetic minds (and he loved sesquipedalian words). He was an expert on sailing, spy novels--and the harpsichord. He died, working, at his desk. Which is just what you'd expect from someone whose collected papers weighed seven tons."


Oh...and R.I.P.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Monday's Music: Pink Martini (Yummy!)

Most nights, at 6 o'clock, I turn the radio dial to 92.9 CBC radio 2. For two blissfully schizophrenic hours, our family listens to, cooks to, dances to, dines to, and lets go of the day to "Tonic"...a program lovingly sculpted and craftily narrated by Katie Malloch. It was during one of these listening adventures that I was turned on to Pink Martini...Latin Jazz that brings back the class and pizazz of the late 50s and early 60s. Fantastic stuff.

Visit the following URL to read a review by NPR and listen to an entire concert!

There are any number of terribly filmed videos of live performances available for your viewing displeasure on you tube. But, if you close your might just be able to conjure images of being in a smoky club, surrounded by dancers so close and filled with such passion that the proprietors of the club may as well begin charging a fee to those sitting and watching like voyeurs in a pay booth.

Here's an example of what I mean:

Their Latin-charged music is sultry and hot at times, light and fluffy at others, and can even be downright depressing. Good stuff. I love music, but it takes an act of the musical deities to get me off the couch to fish a pen that works out of the basket and write them down on the list we keep stuck to the fridge. This band not only woke the made them stand up in their thrones, shake their butts, and scream something sexy I don't understand in Spanish.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Weekend's Writer: Taylor Mali

"No, but I do know that as a teacher snowballs are a huge problem to deal with because they always end in tears or blood or worse. If I hit you with a snowball in the chest then you have the right to retaliate. That's easy. But what if you miss? Do you have the right to hit me as bad as I hit you? What if you accidentally hit me in the face? Then I have the right to stab you in the eye with an icicle, right? It's a slippery slope." (taken from Mali's FAQ page)

I can't remember exactly how I stumbled across Taylor Mali. I'm pretty sure a friend suggested his website several years ago when I was still in college. However it happened, it has been an enduring love affair...not because all of his poetry is exactly astounding (in fact, much of it isn't) but because he is fun, passionate, honest, confessional, real, raw, and uncut (well, I guess I don't really know that for sure). He is witty, comical, and snide, as well...which I like. I also appreciate that he made his way up the ranks through slams and really hard work. And he's a people's poet, not an academic, intellectual aristocrat who smatters a few unintelligable words across the parchment and calls it art...and damn anyone who doesn't get it. As a bonus, he was a teacher, so a lot of his poems are about things very near and dear to my heart. He's even made me shed a tear or two and he's definitely made my students laugh. We're grateful for that.

Just a few days ago, I stumbled across a goldmine on you tube. One led to another, which led to yet another live recording of Mali reading his own work. (There are 50 videos linked on his web page, which can be found in the right-hand column of this blog.)

I've selected two to share, but I entreat you to move on and enjoy the rest. What fun to play in blooming fields of daisies without the fear of being stung.

Happy perusing!