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Friday, February 8, 2019

For My Valentine

Seems we've known each other
forever, but still I want 
to give you something
special for Valentine’s Day.
Maybe just a few words
polished and presented—
a poem perhaps, or a story—
that would mean something—
like small sips of kindness
into brightly-colored balloons,
or a package tied
with swirls of ribbon
too pretty to pull apart.
Of course, packages like that
live up to their promise.
Once I received
a box of long-stemmed roses
from a man 
who was tall and elegant
and wore costly leather gloves
while I wore frazzled wool.
The roses were beautiful,
but not half as beautiful
as the wilting dandelions
I received years later
from the scrunched fist
of the curly-haired child
in muddy sneakers
who traipsed across my
just-mopped kitchen floor
to give them to me
with a kiss 
and an I love you.
That was the spring 
I learned that a real gift
is like a break-away balloon—
love-filled and unexpected.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Sometimes I Wish I Were More Like My Daughter (or the benefits of silliness)

  For months, my grandson's favorite snack was cinnamon graham cookies shaped like dog biscuits. My grandson loved these silly treats and my daughter was thrilled when she came across them in snack-sized bags that he could bring to preschool with him. Every day she packed the same snack: grape tomatoes or baby carrots, a cheese stick, some crackers, and his favorite treat, cinnamon graham dog biscuits. Sometimes the cheese stick or one of the tomatoes came home with him, but always the crackers were gone and the small bag of cinnamon grahams empty. 

That is, until a few weeks ago. Though he still seemed to like the cinnamon grahams when snacking at home, his Spiderman lunchbox now came back with an unused napkin and unopened bag cinnamon grahams. 
    We aren't going to buy them anymore if you aren't going to eat them, my daughter said, emptying his lunchbox and opening the bag of biscuits to eat herself.  
     OK, my grandson said, though he didn't mind munching a few biscuits with my daughter.

     How come you don't like these cookies in your lunchbox anymore? I asked my grandson one  afternoon when he came to my house after school. I had just pulled out a neatly folded napkin and the unopened bag of cinnamon grahams.
     Because Kenny teases me. He says I eat dog biscuits

   Hmmmm... a teachable moment, I thought. Well, maybe you should tell Kenny that the biscuits were really delicious cookies, I said,  and offer him a  cookie to try.  
   My grandson didn't seem convinced but I texted my daughter to at least tell her that the mystery of the unopened cookies had been solved.
    Peer pressure starts young. I texted. Kenny told your son he eats dog biscuits.
    I know! my daughter texted back. He told me that already. I told him to eat them anyway and bark at Kenny.

   I laughed. I bet Kenny would laugh too. Sometimes silliness is the best teacher. It might even be the beginning of a beautiful toddler friendship.

Sunday, December 23, 2018

In a Tangle of too-much Tinsel

Whether or not you celebrate Christmas as I do, I wish all my readers the peace and beauty of this season of hope and promise. As I carry on the traditions of my family, it is impossible not to think of past Christmases. 

My father was a commercial artist with a keen sense of artistry and perfection. He also loved the delicacy of tinsel, a fondness which my siblings and I did not share. In our Christmas Eve enthusiasm, amid the smell and sputter of frying fish, with carols playing in the background and the yule log flickering on the TV, we did not have the patience for the time consuming application of singular silver strands and much preferred the placement of tangled clumps. Too much tinsel, my father would say, removing and returning knotted clusters into impatient hands. Though we no longer decorate our tree with strips of foil,  I do keep an unopened box of tinsel in the bottom of my family's ornament box. Every year, with carols playing softly in background, and real logs crackling in the fireplace, I still hear my father's voice...not too much tinsel, Ann.  Simple is best.

Like presents stacked
in falling snow, 
the years pile on

and perfectly preserved
in the silent, white cold

are Christmas mornings
and Christmas memories—

snowball cookies, struffoli,
and Christmas bread
shaped like frosted trees;

the crinkle of paper,
the laughter and song,

the circle of family,
of love unchanged;

such a gift —
when the wind gusts
and the snow drifts,

such a gift, to remember,
to quite simply remember

tiny twinkling lights
in a tangle of too-much tinsel.


Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Something Wonderful

In August I learned that my editor would be on sabbatical until the new year and publication of my forthcoming verse novel had been postponed until spring. Also postponed was the publication of a handcrafted pamphlet to be printed by a small but creative press. Small presses have limited staff and unexpected situations often affect the production schedule. I was disappointed by the delays, but the lull in publication seemed a perfect time to revamp my website. Unfortunately, revamping a website is not as easy as I thought it would be. A feeling of futility quickly took hold and did not alleviate the void I sometimes feel when not researching or writing. 

I've written about this before— when something I've been working on for so long is finally book-bound, I experience an emptiness that borders on loneliness.  Characters who have become so real, who have risen with me and accompanied me throughout my days are suddenly silent. With my mind echoless and emptied of what ifs, I suddenly feel friendless and alone. I'm not sure all writers experience this, but I do. 

Before beginning another project, I organize my notes— I file the unused thoughts, collect the excised words and quietly go about my day wondering what I'll write next or even if they'll be a next. What if no characters come to call? What if I remain in this soundless gray cave forever, with only a lackluster website to keep me company? 

Then something wonderful happens. Something exquisite. Something quietly extraordinary.  A small platinum pin drops in a dark, silent cave. I see the slim spark, hear a silvery ping and happily spend my days searching to find that sliver of light, straining to hear his or her shy voice emerge from the shadows. 

The path to publication is often filled with delays and disappointments, but today I heard a platinum ping. I pulled out a clean notepad and sharpened pencil. Updated pictures and fancy fonts will have to wait— there is something I need to find out first— someone I need to know. 

I look forward to working with my editor again. Hopefully, next year will bring more childhood dreams sitting on a shelf, and more opportunities to talk with students, librarians and teachers.  But being a writer is not about being published. It isn't about a dazzling website with updated pictures and fancy fonts. Being a writer is writing and something wonderful happens when a platinum pin falls in a darkened cave and I hold my breath searching for the story.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Mama Said

It might have been the most brilliant blog post ever. Words and ideas had been tumbling in my brain all morning. I knew just what I wanted to say and how I wanted to say it. Poetry rather than prose this month. Wow. What a first line! What a metaphor! Let me just finish what I started yesterday. I just need to attach this one PDF file then I'll hit send and blast out this month's post. The new website is still not up and running (getting closer) but I do want to keep up my blog. I've been neglecting it lately and want to settle down and write something more heartfelt. Been thinking about what I wanted to say for days, and this morning, the perfect words popped into my head. Haven't set anything down yet, but the whole  poem is practically written already.  Already the morning sun has burned off  yesterday's leftover clouds and it's going to be a glorious day. I'll get so much done! First the blog post, then  back to my WIP. Pour the coffee and get cracking! Such a great opening line...such a great metaphor...

Hmm..... wonder why my PDF files are's always been so easy to convert PAGES into PDF....let me try this..nope.... still gray... hmm...just downloaded an update—better check the support sites, maybe there's a glitch...oh, here's something, I''ll try that...hmm! guess not...let me try—nope...maybe I should just call support...I don't want to waste time with so many words tumbling in my brain...hello, yes, well I already tried that but I'll try again...nope still gray...still gray...sure I'll share my screen...sure I'll hold...hmm...another royal baby...another political  rally...oh, hello, yes, yes, I'm still here...again...try that again?...nope, still gray...shut down and restart? no problem...nope, still gray.... what keys do you want me to hold down again? oh, ok...yes the screen is blinking...yes, the apple is back...yes, I let go of the start button...nope..files are still gray...still gray...still gray...well yes, I understand...updates have glitches...I understand...thanks for the work-around tip...I'm sure the problem will be resolved shortly...thanks for your help...

The late afternoon sun bathes the yard in a coppery light and my brilliant blog post? Up in smoke, gray and irretrievable as my phantom files... mama said there'd be days like this.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Autumn Haiku

Been working on creating a new website which I had hoped would be up and running by now. In a desperate (and ridiculous) attempt to keep a New Year's resolution from a few years ago, I am posting this picture and Autumn Haiku which links to last month's reflection and reveals my losing battle with the onrush of time.

Already August
swoops to Almost October—
Where'd September go?!?!?!

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Yikes! August Already?

The poem below was inspired by a recent  monologue of Jimmy Kimmel as well as my own backyard observations. I'm not sure how often comedians and poets contemplate the same phenomenon, but certainly the arrival of August elicited the same response from most everyone I know (and many of whom I don't).

You and your friends
always sound 
so surprised when I arrive,
but certainly,
 (especially at your age), 
you knew I’d return
as surely as you knew
I’d leave again.

Why, then, are you surprised?
Patiently, I waited 
as I always wait—
just around around the bend,
in the lengthening shadows,
for the fading call 
of the cricket and katydid. 

Finally, when the endless blue 
bamboozled you,
when the wisteria
wrapped you in her woody arms;
and the honeysuckle and hyacinth 
lulled you to forgetfulness,

I approached. 

My suitcase was packed
(as it always is)
with peaches and pears; 
with mulberries and melons;
goldenrod, sedum,
and well-worn passports 
for the warbler and sparrow.

You take what I have to give
(as you always do),
and when my suitcase 
is empty,
you shudder
and shut me away
never noticing the message 
tucked in my side pocket—

time passes. be kind. forgive your enemies.
most of all, 
do not be surprised—
winter is waiting just around the bend.