Thursday, May 29, 2008

Oh, right, I'm a poet, too!

Last night I did something I love to do and seldom do - I gave a poetry reading, with the other three members of my poetry writing group. It was at a local coffee shop, in a little room off to the side from the main room (where the lovely and loud espresso machine lives), and we had a nice audience - a full room! We each had about 11 minutes to read, which felt very short after all. One of the rules of the reading series is that you read your most recent poem, as well as whatever else you choose to read.

So, a couple things about this experience. Both teaching and readings appeal to the small portion of me that wants to have an audience and a chance to talk about a subject I am comfortable with and.or knowledgeable about. I do not typically like people staring at me, but it was okay and fun last night.

The last poem I read was one that I wrote two days ago. True, portions of it have been drifting around my head for a while, but I didn't start putting them together and filling in the connecting bits until this week. There was a particular image that so often rose in my mind while nursing Cora, and I really wanted to put it in a poem, and I finally found a way to do it.

A couple weeks ago I gathered up some poems for a chapbook, and sent that manuscript off to some competitions. That experience and then getting together poems for the reading, reading them, and hearing people's responses reminded me that I really am a poet. A good one, I think, and I should be doing more with this art I've been given and I've worked at.

So, here's a new summer resolution: send the poems out to magazines! Put the new manuscript together! Write more!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Taking photos blind

The other day Cora wanted to sit on my lap and have me take pictures of us. So I took a few...and then turned the camera around to see the results. Hmmm.

Later, after her nap, she wanted to wear this piece of cloth she calls "the daddy blanket" - it is brown, batiked with white zebras and stars, and Auntie Tricia brought it back from Africa for me. (To my knowledge, Chris has never actually worn this, so I'm not sure why it is the daddy blanket. On a similar note, Cora has decided that Daddy's bathrobe is actually his dress.) Auntie Tricia also brought back a green length of cloth, this one with a fringe, that is batiked with magenta and gold alligators; Cora calls this one "the mama blanket".
In the following photos you can see Cora wrapped up in the daddy blanket. She really likes to wear things like this - she has some playsilks that she also likes to wear like a headscarf. As you can imagine, things quickly went from pensive to silly again - I am sparing the world another fingers-in-the-nose shot.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Antidotes to spring doldrums

Cora, in the process of watering...everything.

A new spring dress!

Fun in the tent at Daddy's birthday party.

Cora, totally accessorized.

Cora with her friend, Harry.

It's never too soon to get your daughter interested in crime scene forensics.

It's fun to color yourself!

Spring and all

Is that the name of the poem that WCW begins with talking about how the weeds on the way to the contagious hospital are starting to grow again? Because, I think that's kind of the day I'm having, where really the best thing you can see is that the weeds are coming back! What luck!

A couple weeks ago I picked up a couple seed packets while we were at Target, thinking it was a good start on my big plans for the garden. Well, it looks like that might have been it for the garden budget this year. I'd wanted to try out that newspaper-mulch-compost cover idea on one big weed-infested flowerbed, but I think instead I'd better start hoping for some pretty weeds.

A while ago I managed to clear a part of one of the many weedy, overgrown flowerbeds out back and I put in delphiniums, cosmos, and marigolds. The cosmos are coming up now. The marigold seeds were two years old; they were, I think, the tenth or eleventh generation harvest from seeds originally bought even before we bought this house. They do not seem to be coming up. I am sad about this. Also about the rosebush, a gift at Cora's birth, that seems to be well and truly dead. I planted batchelor button seeds around it, just in case it changes its mind.

Inside this little patch, separated from its weedier neighbors by a little wire fence, I also placed the little bunny statue my grandma gave me. Everytime she goes out back Cora wants to water "the bunny garden" and she was crouch next to the fence and pet and talk to the bunny. She likes to say bye-bye to the bunny when we leave by the back, too.

Today out front I put in the straw flowers, standard zinnias, and some miniature zinnias. I noticed that only one of the two coral bells is coming back, ditto for the Jacob's ladder, all the creeping phlox seem less robust than usual, the lavendar is making a valiant effort, and the stringy whatever-it-is flower is also trying very hard to look lively. There are some long patches of bare ground lining the walkway to the house, and I don't think the other packet of delphinium is going to work there.

Then I went and looked at the side yard. Wow. Two years of basic neglect and I'm actually kind of surprised to see anything at all growing over there. I can't tell yet if the clematis has survived or been replaced by a look-alike weed. The anemones are halfway through their blooming. The sedum is going bonkers. The striped creeping phlox is doing its best, as is the ground cover carnation-like flower.

Today, I think, is my transition day. Going from the idea that I will have beautiful, or at least totally mulched, gardens this year, to the reality that I will have a few really nice looking spots and a lot of spots I am totally dissatisfied with. And, I think once this transition is complete, I'll be able to come to terms with that dissatisfaction in a way that doesn't make me feel like I might run into a contagious hospital at any moment.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

She really does notice everything we do

The other night Cora wanted to hold the digital camera.
She was sitting on my lap, so I let her.
Then she turned it on.
Then she took a picture of her daddy.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

"I just mulched your bleeding heart."

Chris just came in from the backyard and said this to me. It made me laugh, and I had to save it.

Is it the chorus to a country song? The title of a gardening book? A very specific Hallmark greeting card line? A line from a revernge-driven hero in a movie?

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Happy Birthday, Chris!

There are a lot of birthdays in May! Another Taurus dear to my heart is my husband, Chris, who turns 40 today. 40, as you may already know, is the new 30. So, today on my list of things to accomplish is to bake a delicious chocolate cake with mint buttercream frosting...a cake big enough to hold ALL THOSE CANDLES.

Last night we went to see August Wilson's play The Gem of the Ocean and it was fantastic. While Gem is the last play WIlson wrote, it is the first in his 20th Century series, in which he wrote a play for every decade of the 20th C., tracing the African American experience, primarily in his hometown of Pittsburgh. Gem is set in 1904. This fabulous outing - which included dinner at a nearby restaurant - was my Mother's Day gift (even though all I asked for was a sprinkle donut from the neighborhood bakery).

This is one of the things I love so much about Chris - not only does he know the kinds of things I enjoy doing, but he enjoys them too. I love that we can do things like this together and it isn't like one is making a huge concession to the other. It's fun to be able to drive home along the river, talking about Wilson's plays and comparing the ones we know and talking about the many images of justice and redemption Gem offers the audience to ponder.

He's a good talker, that man of mine, and a good listener. And, he's pretty handsome too.

You know, for an old guy.

Did I mention he's a really good dad, too?

Saturday, May 10, 2008

News of the world

Remember that section of William Carlos Williams's long poem "Asphodel, that Greeny Flower"? The one that talks about getting the news of the world from poetry? About how "it is difficult/ to get the news from poems/ yet men die miserably everyday/for lack/of what is found there"?

Mary Oliver has a new book of poems out, Red Bird, that I just got from the library. This morning after putting Cora down for her nap I opened the book at random, to see what news there was for me. Here is what I found on page 45:

Watching a Documentary about Polar Bears Trying to Survive on the Melting Ice Floes

That God had a plan, I do not doubt.
But what if His plan was, that we would do better?

Today is my Momma's birthday!

Happy birthday, Momma!

I've been thinking about what I should write about my Momma, and how if I actually listed all her best qualities, no one would believe she could possibly exist! (Although I do count her secret streak of deep black humor as one of her best qualities - I know not everyone would, but I do!)

My Momma is an amazing cook who loves to try new recipes and can make anything from the homiest of comfort food to extremely fancy dishes. My favorites include her special salad with warm goat cheese wheels and roasted pear halves, her prime rib, and I have some fond memories of my childhood favorites, meatballs in Yorkshire pudding and hot dog casserole! But one of my favorite childhood memories is her book of kids' cakes and how we could look through it and pick the cake we wanted for our birthdays. My brother Rob was a strict adherent to the castle cake, but I tried to pick a different one every year, with the cat cake being one of my favorites.

She's also possessed of an artist's eye for color and composition, although because she lack's an artist's giant ego (hee hee), she would deny this. We have several quilts that she has made, and each is different and beautiful and loved. I always look forward to hearing about her new projects and seeing them over Skype or in pictures. She is responsible for my own interest in quilting. And each time she branches out into something new, the result is amazing, as with Cora's yo-yo bunny (the beloved Mr Bunny).

She's musical, she's funny, she's got fashion sense and understands accessories (while I still think socks are accessory enough for me), she's a good listener and a good conversation partner, she's keeping herself healthy, she's kind, she's politic, she's a spiritual seeker, she's a good gardener, and she's one of my favorite traveling companions.

But, aside from all this, she is (in my opinion) the perfect mother for me and my fervent hope is that I can be half the mother to Cora that my Momma is to me!

Happy birthday, Momma! I love you!

Sunday, May 4, 2008


It has been quite a weekend. Cora turned two on Saturday, which alone amazes me. You mean it was really just two years ago that we met her face-to-face? Because we don't have any family close by, Cora has had an early entry into the world of birthday parties. Last year she had one at a park and we were lucky with the weather. This year, we were not so weather-lucky, and we moved the party to indoors and I had a frantic day or two of deciding what to DO with seven little girls in our little house. But, the party was a lot of fun, with Wonder Pets, coloring, cupcakes, and dancing with streamers (Chris is still wondering of "Brickhouse" was a good choice, but seriously it was Cora's first favorite song).

I'm glad the party went so well, because the morning was not promising before the party. Without fail, no matter the time of day, if you ask Cora what she wants to eat, she will respond with great enthusiasm and hope: "Pizza!" So, I made her a breakfast pizza, modeled on my memory of a delicious one we once had at a cafe. My breakfast pizza was good, but nowhere near my vision, took much longer than I thought, and Cora was not that interested in actually eating it. Sigh. In the couple hours between pizza and party, there turned out to be many things to whine and complain about, much flopping about of little bodies, and not a lot of cooperation. Going outside to wait for party guests turned out to be the best idea I had all morning, if anyone wants Cora's opinion.

After the party, it turned out that there was to be no napping. Unfortunately for the mommy and daddy who had been up way to late cleaning up. I half-jokingly said to people today that someone had clearly flipped the two-year-old switch in our girl, because she was an ornery handful almost all weekend, with the exception of her party, church this morning, and front-yard clean up time this afternoon (finally some real live springlike weather!). During some pre-dinner coloring she even, for the first time, told me she was going to do something herself: "No, Mama, do myself!" (take the cap off the markers, the beloved markers)! Chris was leaving for a recital this evening and I was dreading having to face bedtime alone.


The ritual of pajamas-teeth-upstairs once again - knock on wood - stood me in good stead. Once upstairs, she wanted to lie in our bed, with covers. So we did, and I told her a little story about how two years ago we first met her, and she interrupted me to make sure I had my head on Daddy's pillow, because she had her head on Mama's, and that's the way it should be. And she lay on her side with her thumb in her mouth, eyes a little heavy, listening to my story. And then she reached out and patted my head and said, "Mama pretty hair." We talked a little more, I carried her into her room, we read some books and sang some songs, and then I set her down in her crib. For the past few nights this has been her cue to jump up and start crying. But tonight she just watched me walk out of her room and then fell asleep. I came downstairs and finished reading a book.

What I liked about our bedtime tonight was that I didn't feel like I had to make her do what I needed her to do, and I didn't feel like I was letting her postpone bedtime indefinitely. It felt like a good mix of what she felt she needed to do - be in our bed for a while - and what I felt she needed to do - be able to fall asleep on her own, without a big exhausting cryfest first. This, I suspect, is two. As so much of the weekend showed, it doesn't always work so seamlessly. But, once in a while, it can, and that is what I want to remember from the weekend Cora turned two.