Tuesday, August 2, 2016

I emerge after a long absence to vent

1. I dreamed I visited a place that was so beautiful, so full of ice and water, of cliffs and sea creatures, viewed through high, polished windows with a person I loved, that I cried. The way to the place involved a fabric bridge that swayed over an abyss as we drove or rode. The bridge was multi-colored, like a stretched-out quilt.

2. I dreamed of an old friend in two different ways. In the first part of the dream, my husband had told me she’d died; in the second part of the dream, she flowed into my living room, dressed in yellow and smelling of sun.

3. He Who Shall Not Be Named and his son have basically said that all of us who have been sexually harassed in the workplace are to blame for not leaving. But why should we have to leave jobs we love because some Neanderthal with drooping eyelids and large hands can't keep himself from saying things, from reaching for body parts he has no right to touch? In the office, at conventions, on buses on the way from Columbia to the airport in St. Louis. On a train from Paris to Frankfurt. On the UMC campus after I stopped to give directions to a lost student (who harassed me later by following me to my apartment). What does the Orange One expect us to do? Find another job, another school, another career, another train, another bus, another city, another state, another world, another life? Walking away is not always an option. Nor should we have to choose it. Harassers should simply not harass (not pissed about this issue at all).

4. Once, when my child was about 5 or 6 months old and had begun to learn how to sing, she sang to the priest in church (Episcopal) as he delivered his sermon. She did not sing softly; she cooed and called and trilled and shrilled and thrilled. I started to take her out so that she didn't disturb his flow or the rest of the congregation. The priest paused. Let's say he'd been talking about Matthew 10: 7-16. ("Cure the sick, raise the dead, clean the lepers.") He drifted back a few passages, stared directly at me and quoted: "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these." My Girl and I returned to our seat, invited and welcome. If we’d been at an Orange-haired rally, we would have been asked to leave.

5. I have not watched cable or network news since the DNC convention ended last Thursday night, but I have been reading news online. I go to The Guardian’s front page hoping to read something semi-innocuous (to me) about Theresa May or Boris or David. But the powers that be sense I’m an American, and the big, red face in a big, square photo droops down on me, and all the news is about him. Except for those stories where I read about another shooting death or the terrifying spread of the Zika virus. Can we stop obsessing for a bit? Can you give us a moment away from the steamy piles of words, the staccato syntax, the fluffy strands of toddler hair covering the bald spot?

6. My kitty sits next to me on the sofa. I run my fingers between his ears and down his neck, and he purrs, and the stone in my gut begins to dissolve. It will be all right. It will be all right. There, there.

Thursday, December 10, 2015


My younger brother once wrote a letter to a girlfriend in which he said, "I love you fiercely." His friends mocked him; I did not. 

I believe loving fiercely, loving even people we fear, loving "enemies," loving each other, this will be the only way we're going to survive. 

This hate that I keep seeing is poisonous. It has weakened me so that I can barely get out of bed. That's a pity. I have things to do, poems/novels to write, passions to share.

I know people are afraid and that fear leads to hate, but, come on. This is ridiculous. Just stop it already, stop hating. Stop fearing. Listen and love. Please?

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Stepped out of the house to meet a poet friend tonight for dinner. She was mad (crazy) from grading papers; I was mad from wallowing in self-denigration and dust. It was good to sit under the bright lights of Bob Evans, to talk about her students, my frustrating neighbors, her Catholicism, my Anglicanism. She told me about a role playing game for which she is writing a devious character; I told her about my current practice of writing poems beginning with a first line by poets I love.

We laughed.

We talked about the fearful hatred we see on social media and hope that it's only those with loud mouths speaking out.

I ate soup and salad; she ate a sandwich. I drank two glasses of water; she drank three cherry Cokes ("I need the caffeine to get me through later!").

Her lightness lifted me.

Tomorrow, I'm buying a cup of coffee for a local professor I've met only once (she doesn't remember, but I have a long memory and remember every second, even the way her hand felt in mine when we shook) but who might be a good collaborator for me someday. She is bright and passionate. She's a bit more fierce than I am.

Oh, who are we kidding? Everyone in the world is more fierce than I am.

On Friday, I will go to a short Christmas concert.

On Saturday I meet with my lovely teen writers who are pushing themselves to go deeper, to sing louder, to step out of their comfort zones so that they can learn what it's like to write differently, to see the world through different filters (we've been working on "empathy" exercises, though that's not what I've been calling them).

Next week, my darling Girl comes home for holiday break. I'm embarrassed for the state of my house, things I've needed to fix for months and months, but something broken in me hasn't been able to get around to doing or calling or asking or fixing.

Between now and then, I'll do what I can and try not to feel too much shame when she sees the mess. It will be all right.

I'm on the edge of talking myself into teaching a single composition class over the summer, perhaps one in the fall. My poet friend tells me her boss would love to have me back. The thought fills me with dread, but I need the income.

I don't know how to teach; I just know how to mentor.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Dear Friend,

I hope you're having a good, quiet evening with your pups. Don’t worry about reading through my edits. They aren’t a worry for me. I feel good about your project; it’s full of joy and healing.

Tree branches are banging against my house, and they sound like someone pounding on my front door. They sound like fireworks.

This does not help with my skittishness from being certain some random dude with a gun is going to wander into a classroom on the campus where my daughter is studying sculpture, some random dude with a gun —pop pop pop. I can already smell my child’s blood. It’s time to text her again to make sure she’s alive and has working, texting thumbs.

This country is full of madness and pain.



Saturday, July 11, 2015


I so love solitude, the sound only of the refrigerator, my own breathing, the cat purring, eating, digging in the litter box, occasionally my neighbors' lawnmowers. Solitude is where I can hear my own voice, figure out what it's really saying.....

Ah, crap. I'm trying to be too poetic.

Here's a truth I just need to say: Today and yesterday, I felt so lonely that I turned on the Food Network and then the Learning Channel (Oh Lord, I watched Say Yes to the Dress) just so I could hear other people who are totally not like me talking into my living room.

I haven't been lonely (except for a few years in the late '90s and the aughts when my then little daughter suggested I was lonely for my lost self) since about 1987.


I have to admit that I'm lonely for my friend Laura who moved cross-country to Seattle starting June 28. Two cats in her car. The trip was kind of hard (Yes, I'm singing "Our House" in my head as I type). We've been friends for twenty years, spoken at least once a week, more recently connected almost daily.

She's going to have a wonderful life - bookstores, coffee shops, art classes, maybe a cool, low-maintenance condo.

But I think maybe she took all the air with her when she left.

There. That is all.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

neighborly love

I know I'm a terrible neighbor. I neglect my house (the way I neglect my body) with shingles flaking off my roof, siding that needs a good power washing, a paint-chipped garage that has more skin flaws than my face.

I haven't done the "pruning" of the giant weeds in my front yard that will keep things from looking like a lazy recluse lives in my house (oh. wait.).

When I see my neighbors, any neighbors, I do wave and smile and ask how they are and mean the question and tell them their dogs are pretty or their babies look happy or the grandchildren have great charm.

Sometimes, though, I try to dash into my house without speaking, laptop bag swinging from my shoulder, my kitty waiting for me at the door, head butting my hand as soon as I walk in.

Friendliness doesn't make up for the state of my two structures, house and body.

And yet....

And yet it's a discouraging old world.

This is a very small thing.

My neighbors, I'm not sure which ones (well, I'm pretty sure), let their dogs poop in my yard near my garage, next to the alley where I take my trash Monday nights before garbage pick up.

I haven't had a dog since sweet Bridget the smelly and senile Schnauzer died in 2004, and she didn't live long enough to see this house. She died right around the time I closed on this and the house I sold. So. No dogs for a decade.

When I had a dog, I didn't mind scooping up the poop in the backyard, and when I took Bridget for walks, I always carried bags with me for those times when she decided to poop in public (in her case, usually on the public sidewalk because that's the way my sweet, black girl rolled).

Recently, I bought a not-cheap spray from the pet store, a "deterrent" for pets and wild life, have been coating the grass with it. I think it's been working, but this summer is all about the rain. Wash away, wash away.

I am grateful that today the neighbor waited until after my yard guys mowed to let his/her dog defecate in my yard. At least the poop wasn't smashed into the grass this time, so when I donned my yard gloves and shoveled it into the plastic bag the dog owner should have been carrying, I didn't have to work too hard scooping it up.

Of course it rained after the mowing, so the poop was wet and particularly ripe.

I talked to myself as I tied off the bag and set it on the bricks behind my garage, under the lip of the roof where the rain we'll be getting later won't reach it.

"I'm just so discouraged," I muttered (even though another neighbor had people in her driveway doing things. She doesn't have a dog). "I know I'm a crappy neighbor, but you people disappoint me."

Although this dog poop business is a small thing, it adds a layer to my current desolation, a sense that people who pretend to be friendly disrespect me so much they allow their giant dog and their tiny dog to poop in my yard and leave it there for me to clean up.

I'll keep spraying the deterrent after every rain and hope that the day I finally paint the garage, wash the house, fix the roof, prettify the yard, the stranger pooping stops.

If it doesn't?

Well, shit happens.

not a book review

It's been awhile since I've written here. Or to be more accurate, it's been awhile since I've clicked "Publish" when I've written here. I just can't seem to feel anything I write is finished.

Maybe this time.

I'm rereading a book a friend recommended to me fifteen years ago that I couldn't seem to get through then. My friend Cat recommended it to me a couple of years ago, and we've been talking about its premise off and on since then, though I hesitated to try read it again. Finally, I checked it out of the library, and I'm battling my way through it. (Already I can feel myself judging the quality of this blog post. Terrible crap.)

It's not an easy read for me, especially since a previous library patron underlined in ink certain passages that she found relevant (don't ask how I know it's a woman; sometimes I just know things) that I think are bullshit or trivial.

This book is about a personality trait that I most likely have, though I'm in the habit of thinking I'm just a wimpy, whiny, shy, introverted (introverted & shy are not the same thing), bratty, picky, fearful, neurotic recluse (Good golly, Elizabeth! I hope you don't carry those words around in your body. Also, you sure are self-absorbed).

I hate the book, though the information is helpful. I'm only just beginning chapter 3, having trouble figuring out what is wrong with me (because, of course, it's never "their" fault; it's always my fault, whether it's author, friend, colleague, random person at the grocery story). I reached a passage where the author attempted to push an amazing theory a bit further by emulating another researcher/writer, and I shouted, "AHA! It's her adverbs! She uses too many adverbs and uses them badly [ha! adverb!]." (I overuse adverbs and adjectives, so who am I to talk?) Then I laughed and laughed.

"The highly sensitive editor in me does NOT like the writing style of this book," I muttered to Pickles Katz.

I'm going to try to make it at least through chapter 5, which is called "Social Relationships: The Slide into 'Shy'," but so far, this book makes me feel worse about myself instead of better.

(This was originally (another adverb!) a Facebook status update, but I decided to spare people who might be sick of my recent, long updates, which are the result of what my friend Cat calls "mulling" as well as my tendency toward excessive self-disclosure.)