Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Dartboard Barbie


We have creative daughters. This is a good thing. Still, sometimes their ingenuity is somewhat unexpected. Even at times...disturbing. This is what Great Scott found in the living room this morning amid their cheery post-Christmas play.
I'm just grateful my brother-in-law didn't find those throwing knives he wanted to give them.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Purple is a Christmas Color

Tonight my sister and I dyed my hair (a first!) for Christmas.

Purple.

I adore it.

Tomorrow Great Scott, the girls and I go to his mother's. (The mother who took him aside when he told her we were getting married 16 years ago, and asked him why he couldn't find a good Baptist girl.)

The timing is not, alas, entirely accidental.

I am not a particularly virtuous woman. (I am however, a very happy one!)



Update: Pictures below as requested.

Before Christmas

After Christmas

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Thursday Thirteen: Impressions at a Memorial Service

I've not posted a Thursday Thirteen list in a long time. I like lists. They are a genre of literature all to themselves. I'm not so fond of joining things. Therefore I will compromise. I reserve the option of posting a Thursday Thirteen list but will do it without using the formatting or linkage that go along with the original and official deeliebopper.

Today was Dr. Nancy Walker's memorial service. Below are thirteen thoughts or observations that ran through my head.

1. It is cold.

2. What wonderful people are Witt and Leslie Salley (who were of great help to her and were with her when she died)! How glad I am to have met them.

3. THAT was Nancy?! (On seeing a picture of her in a poofy dress in her teen years)

4. Her mother looks very much like her, only perhaps a little softer, more approachable.

5. Her sister has a wonderful sense of humor.

6. Having people get up and speak (a "Nancy roast" Nancy and a friend called it) is so much nicer than having a sermon! (Great Scott take note. Please no sermons at my funeral!)

7. While there was not an overabundance of flowers, the stories I heard told about her today make us all bloom into laughter over and over.

8. It is amazing how many lives a teacher of teachers (or a Teacher of Teachers, as Dr. George Jenson put it) can impact. She potentially influences and inspires not just her own students, but their students as well.

9. I did not know that she went back to finish her degree after her daughter's death. Somehow it seemed to me that she'd probably always been clicking through the halls of higher education, setting students quivering in their boots with one glance over her tiny wire-rimmed glasses.

10. Van Morrison's music can be perfect for a memorial service.

11. It is good to let down the guard of professional veneer and be human.

12. The passing of an exceptional person brings choking grief, but borne together with others who loved and appreciated her, that grief is somehow transformed into a shared joy in having known her.

13. Nancy was an exceptional person. One of the characteristics that made her such was that she treated those who knew her as exceptional people as well, worthy of being listened to, capable of accomplishing their goals, and unique and valuable in themselves. I was struck, as person after person, student after student, colleague after colleague stood to honor her, by how right she was.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Day Six

School is canceled again tomorrow for both Great Scott and both girls.

I know why ferrets eat their young.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Dr. Nancy L. Walker

This morning I opened my inbox to find an email from a stranger, but one who was a friend of a friend. My friend, a beloved one-time teacher, has died.

Nancy Walker taught composition and rhetoric classes for years at Missouri State University, although when Great Scott and I attended her classes and sought her out in her third floor office, MSU was SMSU, Southwest Missouri State University. The transition from one name to another was difficult to make, almost as difficult as trying to imagine the university without her after her retirement a couple of years ago. To try to imagine the world without her will be harder yet. I do not think I can do it. I know I do not wish to. Blessedly, I do not have to. "Everything is to the point," she often said. That saying is only one of many things about her that has become as much a part of me as the permanent callous on the side of my right middle finger, the one worn by the friction of pen against flesh.

We had kept in loose contact over the last 15 years since my leaving all pretense of academia. Great Scott saw her occasionally after he began working again on a master's degree. Only last week I'd emailed her. This morning after reading of her death, I found one of her essays (excerpt below) in the online archives of The Oklahoma Review. She was a most exceptional person. She will be missed beyond measure.

A chickadee (life-span twelve years) chatters at the bird feeder, snatching a sunflower seed to relish on a near-by oak branch. A cardinal (life-span fifteen years) sits on an oak branch while the bluebirds (life-span eight years) dip in the bird bath. A bank of leaves surrounds the still-blooming geraniums -- the inevitable transition from autumn to winter when time goes south slowly.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Poetry Meme for an Icy Day

The day continues. . . I found this meme at Of Books and Bicycles. Go tell Dorthy hello.

1. The first poem I remember reading/hearing/reacting to was....Nursery rhymes were the first poems I heard. My mother used to read me a lot of nursery rhymes from a large anthology of varied children’s literature. These memories go back as far as I can recall—two years old, maybe eighteen months old. Always she emphasized the rhythm as she read, often singing them. I suspect this is a large part of why I now have an instinctive feel for rhythm and rhyme.

The first poem that struck me with an appreciable emotional impact was Mary Oliver’s “The Swimming Lesson”. I felt stunned after reading it, as though someone had struck me and knocked away my breath. It very much spoke to the reality in which I was living at the time.

2. I was forced to memorize (name of poem) in school and........Joyce Kilmer'sI think that I shall never see/ a poem as lovely as a tree...” Three other children and I were dressed up in colonial costumes and performed our poems in the county courtroom, for a bicentennial program of some kind. I remember being faintly irritated at having to perform in public and fairly relieved that I didn’t have trouble pronouncing any words, unlike one of my friends who repeatedly stumbled over the word “sinewy” in his poem, “The Village Blacksmith”. We were eight years old.

3. I read/don't read poetry because....I read poetry because it surprises and reassures me I am not alone. I read poetry because of my ongoing love affair with words and the beauty and meaning they can carry when they are well-placed. I read poetry because very often it says what I most long to hear and am most afraid of hearing; it speaks to a deeper part of myself than I am comfortable with, a part that cannot be denied, regardless of discomfort.

4. A poem I'm likely to think about when asked about a favorite poem is .......Mary Oliver’s “The Kingfisher” or “The Kookaburras”; Job chapters 38-41 or Psalm 104; Jane Kenyon’s “Let Evening Come”: Michael Burn’s “For my Son, Who Wants to Know What I Think About God”; Kathleen Norris’s “Afterward”; Naomi Shihab Nye’s “Why I Could Not Accept Your Invitation” or “The Art of Disappearing”.

5. I write/don't write poetry, but..............I write poetry, but I don’t feel comfortable calling myself a poet. I do sometimes, for the sake of simplicity, but it is always with a certain amount of uneasiness, as though I am claiming for myself something much bigger than I could ever understand, let alone be. In her book The Cloister Walk, Kathleen Norris draws a parallel between the poet and the prophet, a parallel deemed uncannily applicable by that inner voice which speaks the authoritative “Yes” or “No” without my having much say in the matter. Writing poetry is rarely a completely willing activity on my part; it is more like breathing when inhalation is painful.

6. My experience with reading poetry differs from my experience with reading other types of literature.....Poetry takes me deeper much faster. It is less entertaining, for the most part, and more demanding.

7. I find poetry......everywhere, in nearly everything, although sometimes I have to purposefully look for it, and I may not always like what it’s saying. Always, though, I find poetry worthwhile, although this doesn’t apply to ALL poetry. I’m picky. The good stuff, though, is continually speaking, whether in words or in images or life.

8. The last time I heard poetry....was last night. The Older Daughter read her latest creation to us at the table. The latest draft of her latest creation, I should say. I would love to go to more (or any!) official poetry readings, but getting out at night is difficult when Great Scott doesn’t get home until 7 or 8, and we live an hour away from the nearest quality readings (in good weather). I pine.

9. I think poetry is like....a shining net woven of words. If done skillfully enough, it catches and holds meaning within it, something magical and mystical and at the same time very practical.

I'm tagging anyone who'd like to tackle this, but especially Julie and Michael and Beth.

First Ice of the Season




Above is our lilac bush at 8:30 this morning.
Yesterday's high was 72 degrees F. Today's high we hit first thing in the morning at 33 degrees. Great Scott and I sat up to watch the news last night. The advancing front was impressive, especially the sharp line of temperature difference. In front of it were temperatures in the 60's well into the evening. Behind it numbers in the 30's were the rule. Schools across southwest Missouri are closed in anticipation of the 6+ hours of ice that have begun already with an anticipated 4-6 inches of snow to follow in our area.
I filled the tub with water this morning in preparation for the power outage that is probably immanent due to the lines being downed by ice and broken branches. Great Scott is washing dishes (What a Man!) and is playing Christmas music; the girls have just climbed out of bed at 9:30. Today we will probably put up the Christmas tree. The cats want out. Then they want in. They want out. In. Out. In. Out. They are angry. They have gone to the study upstairs to curl in Great Scott's desk chair and sleep in disgust.
Rain continues to fall, freezing on branches and grass. Forgive me; I rather love it.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Creative Genius Runs Amok..Like a Turkey with Its Head Cut Off

This weekend the girls made turkey cookies--happy little turkey cookies like this:



I was helping and taking pictures when I noticed a strange aberation among the happy little turkey cookies. One of them had three eyes.

"What is this?" I asked.

"That one," replied The Younger Daughter sweetly, "is a mutant. You don't have to worry about him, though. He's nice. It's the devil turkeys I'm making with the red M&M's that you have to watch out for."


We ate the devil turkeys promptly, lest they slay us. Thus, sadly, no pictures.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Thanksgiving News

Over Thanksgiving, Michael Wells, editor of Rogue Poetry Review, announced that he was nominating one of my poems, "Mania", for inclusion in the 2006 Pushcart Prize Anthology. I'm honored for "Mania" to have been chosen, of course, as some of you know, since I emailed you to share the rejoicing.

One of you sent back a response that made me laugh aloud at the keyboard, probably because it so accurately captured how I felt, myself: "WAHOO! PUSHCART NOMINATION! AFFIRMATION, BABY!"

"Now that," said Great Scott, who had come to investigate my outburst, "is a man who understands!" Indeed.

If you follow the link from Rogue Poetry Review to read "Mania", I'd like to explain that it was written about the manic phase of bipolar disorder, a state often characterized by high energy, restlessness, sleeplessness, pressurized thoughts and speech and sometimes by rhyming "clanging" word association, and irritability capable of escalating into violent or other self-destructive behavior before crashing into depression. The mockingbird in the poem is the manic phase itself. Bipolar disorder is also sometimes associated with heightened states of creativity/production, and some people with the disorder are reluctant or refuse to take medication for fear no longer being able to create as fluidly and profusely as before--or even not at all.

A second note: I really, really DO like mockingbirds. A lot.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Stairs

I fell down them this morning. After sitting at the bottom crying for a little while (and frightening the girls by doing so, I'm afraid), I carefully dragged myself into the bathroom and from a sitting position pressed a cold washcloth over my left foot, which was the only thing feeling any sharp pain. Eventually it stopped. Only after I got home from taking the girls to school did I begin to feel the deeper bruisings.

Some days are like this. You take steps you've taken everyday for weeks, months, years. You do everything the way you've always done it, and suddenly a stair worn smooth is taken with a little too much nonchalance, and you find yourself landing in a battered heap at the bottom. You relieve the immediate damage, but later find yourself the unexpected recipient of steady pain. It accompanies you throughout the day, purple bruises rising through the flesh, messages from the interior.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Friday Quote: The Mind

"Sometimes the mind, for reasons we don't necessarily understand, just decides to go to the store for a quart of milk. "

--Diane Frolov and Andrew Schneider

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Aaaaaarrgghh!!

Great Scott was sitting on the floor flipping through the teacher’s guide of his literature textbook when his eye caught the phrase “endstopped line” in the back. At first he was pleased. Then I heard him say grimly, “Wait a minute. This is listed under the Index of Skills.”

Under the Index of Skills?!?!?

Can you hear the screaming from there?

Friday, November 10, 2006

Screech Owl

Yesterday afternoon when I stopped at the mailbox on my way to pick up the girls, a dead bird about the same body size of a dove was lying beside the driveway. I walked past it on the way back to the car, and suddenly a small detail registered: feathered toes. I retraced my steps, stooped to lift the ruffled body in my hands and found I was holding a small, grey screech owl, not long dead, still soft and pliable, one wing broken and hanging at an odd angle, one eye missing, but with no blood or guts marring its perfection. Its feathers were as soft as mist, softer than The Great Golden Sun Cat's white belly, so soft my fingertips could barely feel them at all. "Oh, baby," I heard myself breath involuntarily, "I'm so sorry." I laid him in the shade behind the mailbox, and on the way home stopped to pick him up, laying him on some papers on The Younger Daughter's lap in the backseat.

When we got to the house, the girls and I held him and gently admired him, straightening his broken wing and tucking it back against his body. We stroked his white and grey breast and with our index fingers traced his legs and feet, the feathers as fine as fur upon his curled toes. Carefully I lifted his "ear" tufts to show the girls what he would have looked like with them aloft, then smoothed them down again. At last, spade in hand, we took his small body to the northern creek where the screech owls call on summer evenings. The Older Daughter guarded him from Tongue Depressor Kitty while I dug a hole. We lined it with long autumn grasses, laid him in the nest and covered him over with more grasses and finally soft, rich dirt. The Younger Daughter said a prayer. We scattered dead leaves over the newly disturbed earth and left buckbrush, its arcing branches full of bright berries and paling leaves, on the grave.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

On Writing Sonnets

Last week a very dear friend sent me a gift in the mail: Mark Jarman's Unholy Sonnets. I've been reading through these with a great deal of admiration. Sonnets--well done sonnets--fascinate and impress me. Personally, I very much enjoy writing sonnets, but am entirely unable to write serious ones. There is something about the form that for me invites absurdity in the act of composition. It's very sad. Truly.


Raining Cats and Frogs

When angels weep and startled toads descend
from out the cloud-veiled heavens in a burst
of rain, I strain in efforts to defend
my brain from overload. Unless we’re cursed
with Egypt’s ancient plagues I can’t see how
amphibians can shower from above.
And why not larger beasts (perhaps a cow)
the cherubs out of heaven thus might shove?
Still, since these frogs are croaking ‘round my feet
the best of it I set myself to make.
T’refuse angelic bounty is not meet,
so I will set aside my taste for steak
and, putting to good use what hast been given,
will glut on frog-legs lightning-fried in heaven.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Election Evening 2006: A Family Event

The last thing the girls said to me when they got out of the car at school this morning was, "Don't forget to vote!" Tonight The Younger Daughter decorated her new rinsing cup with the word "Vote!" around its rim and mock election returns on the sides. This is what happens when a family sits around the television watching the incoming election statistics the way it watches its favorite movies.

I understand that Missouri's senatorial race is one of national interest. Certainly its stem cell initiative is. As I write, Great Scott calls out numbers from the next room, numbers that don't really mean very much yet, with only 5% reporting. Both matters are going to be exceedingly close. One thing that the Talent/McCaskill race and the stem cell initiative have done is to increase voter turnout in this state; estimates thus far are higher than they've been since the 1994 election, we heard on the news tonight. Evidently some locations were unprepared. Near Joplin, a shortage of ballots necessitated photocopying ballots that will have to be hand counted, so Missouri's final tally may not be known until tomorrow morning.

I was 2 months old, so the family legend goes, when my grandfather sat me on his knee and asked, "How's my little Republican today?" Most of my family (ok, all of them that I know of) are Republicans, although not so adamantly as was my grandfather, and I was certainly raised from a Republican viewpoint. That said, I was also raised (by my very rational and logical father) to find out the facts and think hard about them, to recognize ways that political ads (on both ends of the spectrum) twist and use facts to a particular politician's advantage, and to not ever simply turn off my brain. I don't vote a straight party ticket (Sorry, Grandpa), and I'm not entirely happy with everything that's gone on in this administration. As a matter of fact, I don't know that "Republican" is an entirely apt description, although "Democrat" wouldn't be, either.

It would be my hope that as our girls grow up, they'll stay interested and enthusiastic about doing their research and voting, even if their views don't coincide with my own. What I would most like for them to do is to think, to consider what is said and what is strategically not said and to carefully form their conclusions and decisions. It's a family tradition, after all.

Notes: Part 2

Back in September I blogged about having to rewrite The Older Daughter's absence excuse. It had been a little too out of the ordinary for her tastes. The Younger Daughter, however, has no such reservations. She loves odd notes, the wilder the better. Together, we have entirely too much fun with her teachers.

Mrs. K.,

Would it be possible for you to dash off a note to me when [The Younger Daughter] fails to turn in an assignment?...We find that hanging [The Younger Daughter] upside down and lashing her bare feet with wet noodles is a much better deterrent if applied promptly after an infraction.

Thank you,
Cindy Lawson


Have I mentioned that this school (and our family) is blessed with extraordinarily good-humored faculty as a whole? A very good thing.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

A Young Dragon's Guide to Proper Behavior

1. Always (all ways) be polite to other dragons.

2. Mind your hoard. If you keep it tidy, you'll know at once if any of it goes missing.

3. Don't be a messy eater. Clean up the armor bits when you're finished.

4. Turn your head away from other dragons when you sneeze. No one likes to be singed.

5. Be respectful of your parent dragons. They are bigger and meaner than you.


Ingenuity is the name of the game in raising precocious children, we are discovering. The younger one is very into dragons. Dragons and pirates. I'm seeing a treasure factor pattern here. Might explain the state of her lair.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Decadence


Friday Quote: On Friendship

"Oh, the comfort, the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person, having neither to weigh thoughts nor to measure words, but pouring them all out, just as they are, chaff and grain together, certain that a faithful hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and with a breath of kindness blow the rest away."

--George Eliot

Because of the isolation of our location, in part, but even more because of my own distrustful nature, I do not have very many such friends, and the ones I do have are far away, our contacts few and far between. This makes them all the more valued.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Poetry Portal: Arteroids

Poetry can take you into whole new dimensions. Here's positive proof.

(Link gleefully borrowed from Traveller in an Antique Land.)

Friday, October 27, 2006

Friday Quote: On Books

"A man loses contact with reality if he is not surrounded by his
books."


--Fran├žois Mitterand

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Procrastination Aids: The Right Pet

Every good wife should give her husband the opportunity to make a catty remark once in awhile.

Your Ideal Pet is a Cat

You're both aloof, introverted, and moody.
And your friends secretly wish that you were declawed!

Monday, October 23, 2006

Procrastination Aids: How Multiple Are You?


HowManyOfMe.com
LogoThere are:
19
people with my name
in the U.S.A.

How many have your name?



Unabashedly filtched from Carter's Little Pill.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Publication: Rogue Poetry Review

Rogue Poetry Review's premier issue is now online.

Before you check it out, I'd like to ask a couple of favors, especially from those of you who don't read Quotidian Light because of its poetry connection.

1. Please read the poems aloud or at least under your breath. Not just mine-- all the poems you read. Poetry is as much sound play and taken in by the ear as it is a visual experience of words across a page. If you can't "hear" a poem, you're missing at least half of it, and perhaps more than half, since poetry is fully incarnate only in one's body, a physical creation, spoken into complete being through breath and flesh.

2. (For those of my readers who have never read my work.) I am a Christian. I am a poet. This does not mean that my poetry resembles Helen Steiner Rice's or ever will or ever should. (Thank you, Lord!) If either of my two poems at RPR offend you, feel free to email me or pray for me, if it will make you feel better; I will not be offended. (My email is accessible through my blogger profile.) If you are vociferously affronted, I'll probably pray for you, too.

3. Comment, comment, comment! Not just on my poems there, but on the other poets' work, as well, and please do read the other poems that are up at RPR. Tell the poets what you like and what you think. Rogue Poetry Review's editor, Michael Wells, has set RPR up in a blog format that allows for such comments on each poet's work; please use that. We will love you forever.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Blog Break

I am taking a month off from church. I am lying low here at home, seeing only my immediate family and, when I take the girls to school and then go by her house, my grandmother. Occasionally I will talk to my siblings or parents on the phone, but for the most part, I'm scaling back all people activity. This time of year seems to take a lot out of me, so much this time around that I'm needing to pull back from my blogging activity as well. Needing to pull back from a lot of things, although I'm not able to entirely.

In a few days I do expect to be able to post a link to an online journal that will be publishing two of my poems. The first issue isn't up yet, but I'll link it when it is.

I will be reading emails, although I expect not to be blog reading for a bit. Feel free.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Top Ten Literary Crushes

I stumbled across this post over at Chelsea's blog and knew at once I would have to pilfer the idea. Below you will find, in no particular order, ten of my worst literary crushes.

1. Legolas from Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. Long before Orlando Bloom ever stepped into leggings or glued on his rubber elf-ears, I was smitten. Badly.

2. Thomas the Disciple from the New Testament. He who by pragmatism guarded his heart as best he could against a hope so great it would crush him were it to prove hopeless, after all.

3. Fritti Tailchaser from Tailchaser's Song. For bravery and humility, Fritti has most of his human hero-counterparts beaten by a far shot. The best cat in literature, save, perhaps for Christopher Smart's Geoffery.

4. Coren from The Forgotten Beasts of Eld. Persistent in love and loving, even in the face of his own confusion. Kind, even in anger.

5. Morgan of Hed from The Riddle-Master of Hed trilogy. A man who knows the worth of riddles, of myths and legends and how they surface unexpectedly in the lives of even the most unsuspecting people. A man who pushes hard after understanding and full knowledge of deep things.

6. Pwyll Twiceborn from The Fionavar Tapesty books. Self-sacrificing (literally), gentle, wise, solid.

7. Winnie-the-Pooh. C'mon. Who hasn't been in love with Pooh since you were old enough to say his name?

8. Professor Lupin from the Harry Potter books. My guilty secret. (Oh, alright! I admit Neville Longbottom is right up there, too.)

9. Mr. Knightly from Emma. The perfect big-brother, close friend turned true love and husband. I swoon. Of course, Jane Austin is excellent at penning perfect men, those creatures of excellence with perhaps just one flaw tiny enough to render them not only human, but more perfect than they'd be if they were...well...perfect. Mr. Darcy, for example.

10. Professor Bhaer from Little Women. Yes, I was unhappy when Jo turned Laurie down, but when Professor Bhaer rescued Jo in the rain, I knew he was a man of quality.

Bonus: Young Matt from The Shepherd of the Hills. Who wouldn't be at least a little twitterpated at a guy who would take on a mountain lion bare-handed and risk his life to save his city-boy rival who is there to whisk away his true love?

[Note: Below you will find other Top Ten Literary Crush confessions.]

Julie Carter at Carter's Little Pill

Monday, October 02, 2006

Fatherly Advice

Tonight my dad sent me an email with a link to important information he thought I should know.

This is one of many reasons he's the best dad in the world.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Friday Quote: On One's Self

"To enter one's own self, it is necessary to go armed to the teeth."

--Paul Valery

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Eulogy

Today was the funeral. The temperature was chilly and dropping this morning, with a brisk wind and thickly clouded skies. It felt like late October for this part of the country. My grandmother is cautious about getting out in cold weather since a bad winter a couple of years ago during which we nearly lost her to pneumonia and heart complications, so she decided not to attend the graveside services, although she did still want to go to Jane's funeral.

As I sat beside my grandmother in the funeral home, I had to wonder if things could get much worse. The pianist was...well, rusty might be a kind word. The singers were...very...they knew most of the words. And the speaker was...well intentioned, I'm sure. I sat in a pink, vinyl padded chair that made startling noises when one shifted one's weight and tried to hold very still. I counted lonely looking carnations in a couple of scraggly funeral arrangements. I considered the wallpaper border, the strategically placed boxes of Kleenex and the polyester suit jackets of the gentlemen in front of us. I remembered passing out in this room when I was twelve, at my piano teacher's husband's funeral. I remembered standing jam-packed here when I was fourteen with my friends at a crowded funeral for one of our close classmates whose brother had shot him, their step-mother and step-sister after school one day. I remembered a double funeral here ten years ago for two of a good friend's brothers, killed in a car wreck when one fell asleep at the wheel late at night. I remembered visitation in this room seven years ago, after my grandfather died; it was overflowing with flowers then, full of friends and family, photographs and shared memories. That night, the night it should have been least bearable for me, given the closeness of our family, it was a good place to be. I listened again to the halting piano playing, the somewhat wandering singing, the rather befuddling (or befuddled) speaker. I let my gaze linger on the lavender roses in the lavishly lovely casket spray. I considered the way the men in the polyester jackets put their arms around their wives or bowed their heads during the prayer, the way they slowly made their way down the aisle to pay their last respects, hats in hand.

Good Lord, the last thing I want at my funeral is music like this or this kind of speaking! But..the people. If good people could say of me what I heard a young man behind me saying of Jane...I could maybe bear even this room. "The Bible says to man is alloted eighty years. Jane had ninety-three, and she used that gift well."

To use our gift well, not in light of accomplishments or successes, but in light of people, of lives touched. I cannot think of a better eulogy.

If You Can't Beat 'Em...

Great Scott turned off the television tonight and walked over to my desk. "[State politician] has a new slogan for her campaign," he told me. "'There's something wrong in Washington.'" He paused. "I guess she wants to be in on it."

From Light to Light

Tuesday morning I took my nearly 90 year-old grandmother on a trip to her doctor's. From the waiting room windows I could see across the highway to a lovely golf course with a fountain and lots of trees and open swaths of grass, a beautiful view. Doing my best to ignore Family Feud on the waiting room television, I opened my journal and took out a fountain pen.

9:22 a.m.

The sun is shining this morning The trees throw light back from their leaves, leaves that are showing the beginning of the autumn change, some darkening, some paling, some shifting from the greens they've held so faithfully all summer. The air is relatively still today. The sunshine lies stretched across the golf course lawn like a languorous cat. In the fountain, water glints and flashes as it ripples to the sides. The air glows about us, a lazy, living thing.

I've always loved autumn, the quieting of the natural world, the softening of the crickets' and cicadas' intense songs, the hush of wind through drying grasses, the graceful silver of spiders' balloon threads streaming from every rising stem across the fields as the lowering western sun sets them afire.

3:10 p.m.

I've been at my grandmother's all afternoon, since we returned home. A few minutes ago she got a call from a good friend's sister, telling her that Jane died this morning. My grandmother had just been putting together a copy of the local paper, intending to take it to Jane this evening.

I'm not sure what "this morning" meant, whether Jane breathed from life to life in the sleepy darkness of predawn or in the bright sunshine of the mid-morning I wrote about only hours ago. Either way, I like to think she stepped from one world to the next nimbly, her feet newly quickened and sure, a bright smile on her face as her Beloved took her hand to steady her crossing.

Autumn is a beautiful time of year. The leaves, of course, are gorgeous. It's the quality of light, though, that I love fiercely; there is something brighter, more immediate about it, as though it shines richly forth from another realm, one that draws closer to this world as the earth dutifully begins her descent into the winter darkness that precedes a more brilliant light and life. I'd never really thought of it all that way until Tuesday with Jane's passing and all this amazing, painfully glorious light.

Friday, September 22, 2006

In My Sleep

Great Scott tells me I've been shrieking in my sleep again. Not horribly loudly, but enough to startle him awake. He's been sleeping on the couch when this happens, although he often switches to the couch partway through the night simply because if he wakes up, he has a hard time falling asleep again.

When we were first married, I often had nightmares or night terrors in which I would try to scream and fight myself awake and couldn't. In reality, I WAS screaming--very loudly--and sometimes physically fighting, too, although I didn't know it at the time. Great Scott would try irritably to wake me up, usually to no avail and often with some element of risk. ("It was the punching me in the head...like a speedbag...that sort of...got to me," he says as he reads this now. Hmmm...come to think of it, maybe this has something to do with why he moves to the couch.)

I don't think this round is quite as bad. For one thing, I'm told I'm not nearly as loud, and I'm not attacking anyone, either. Still, it's one more thing that tells me something needs to give somewhere, one more small red flag flapping frantically in a rising wind.

Tears

This week I have cried three times.

I am not a crier, in general. Crying is not reasonable. It accomplished nothing and more often than not muddies conflicts and intensifies difficult emotions, is merely complicating rather than productive to any given situation. This is my stance on the matter. Nevertheless, Monday when I walked in the door from taking the girls to school, I sat down on the couch, dropped my head in my hands and sobbed; Tuesday night, reading Mary Oliver's newest book, Thirst, in a bathtub full of warm, rosewood-scented water somewhere near midnight, I had to close my eyes and lay the book aside, choking on tears; and this morning driving home from the school drop-off, I found my knuckles clenching white on the steering wheel, the road blurring before me, my body tight with tears yet again.

Maybe it's just the season. Autumn has, as I've written before, always been a difficult time for me. Coming after the year it does, this time, it has quite a bit of deeply stored pain to tap into. Much has gone on this year regarding my extended family and church, and I've carried a heaviness that surfaces everytime we watch the movie Serenity (as we do often here at PossumBox Lane) and the character River Tam cries out, "...it isn't mine. And I shouldn't have to carry it. It isn't mine!"

"I need a month off from church," I told Great Scott, "as soon as the girls are back in school." How to explain the crush of sorrow when one sets foot in the sanctuary? How to explain the cessation of breath?

Friday Quote: On Prayer

"I know a lot of fancy words,
I tear them from my heart and my tongue.
Then I pray."

--Mary Oliver
an excerpt from the poem, "Six Recognitions of the Lord"
from Thirst

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Celebrate International Talk Like a Pirate Day!

Every year we observe International Talk Like a Pirate Day. At least, some of us do. Great Scott gives his students extra credit for answering roll with the reply, "Arrgh!" I roust the girls out of their bed with a cheery, "Avast, ye landlubbers and scurvy dogs!" And I see that Jeremy has posted a rousing pirate ditty.

For those of you who aren't as confident of your pirate lingo skills, Quotidian Light is happy to provide you with access to an educational video. (Link compliments of my father, who instilled in me my great love of all the finer things in life.)

Friday, September 15, 2006

Friday Quote: On Writing

"We should be told: Write fast, write close to the bone, write for ten hours straight until you're not thinking in words anymore but in colors, in smells, in waves of memory. Write what you care about. Don't waste any more of your life on what does not matter to you."

--Bonnie Friedman
from Writing Past Dark

The Note

To: The Mighty, Mighty Powers of Jr. High Administration

[Older Daughter's Name] was absent yesterday (Thursday, September 15th) due to sickness. She spent the day pining. It was pitiful to behold, yea, verily.

'An it please your Worships, please allow her to collect make-up work today that she might labor upon it over the weekend and present it complete upon the first day of the new week next.

You have our gratitude,
Cindy Lawson


"Mom," said our older daughter, eyeing the note I'd written, "this note is a little bit..." She paused, then gave me a look that was part disapproval, part hesitation and partly a plea. The note dangled from her fingers like a small dead frog.

"Would you like for me to write it over?" I asked.

She wavered, then as I picked up my notepad and pen again, said sincerely, "Thanks, Mom."

This is it. She's growing up. Becoming a little more her own person, and that means my giving her more room to do that, by making my communications with others in her everyday world a little more bland, a little more ordinary, a little more blend-in-ish. I wrote the note over. It was a small thing. Perhaps it was even for the best. I'm afraid my own reputation at the school is that of being somewhat eccentric, and my original note probably wouldn't have helped dispell the impression.

[Older Daughter's Name] was sick at home yesterday, as I explained when I called. Please allow her to collect and complete her missed assignments.

Thank you very much,
Cindy Lawson

Monday, September 11, 2006

The Stinger

Tonight the dinner conversation whirled around a wasp I had just sprayed in the window. It lay kicking convulsively, and the younger daughter kept turning around in her seat to mourn its torment.

"The poor thing," she moaned, "it's in pain!"

"Nonsense," retorted Great Scott. "Your mother does not torture insects!" After a meaningful moment of silence he added, "She's a Republican." Another moment passed. "And she'll never do it again."

Friday, September 08, 2006

Creating Your Own System Error Message

Technically, I suppose this could go under the "Procrastination Aids" heading, but as you'll see, what I'm about to share with you is in a class of its own. This week Grumpy Teacher posted a link to a site with a customizable highway sign picture . After a little poking around, I discovered that this site also had an area for creating your own computer error messages.

Like this one.


Visit the Gallery of Errors at your own risk. Some are a little bleh, but most are more along the lines of the one above and great fun. Now if one of you computer geniuses can only figure out a way for us to actually USE these! (Jeremy, I'm looking meaningfully in your direction.)

Friday Quote: On Fools

A fellow who is always declaring he's no fool usually has his suspicions.

--Wilson Mizner (1876 - 1933)

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Procrastination Aids: If You Were a Major Romantic Poet


You are William Blake! Wow. I'm impressed. Not only are you a self-made artist and poet, but you've suddenly become a very trendy guy to like. It's not that we doubt that you have all your marbles, it's just that we're not quite sure what you did with them to come up with those terrifying theological visions. The people of your time were nowhere near as forgiving as that, and all your neighbors thought you were a grade-A nut job. But we love you, so rest happy.
Take this quiz!


Friday, September 01, 2006

Friday Quote: Stringing Beads

I learned that you should feel when writing, not like Lord Byron on a mountaintop, but like a child stringing beads in kindergarten: happy, absorbed and quietly putting one bead on after another.

--Brenda Ueland

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Perspectives in Stone and Lead

Journaling: from the Lake Pond, August 29, 2006

I know now why I am so drawn to picture jasper. It is the color of pondbank stones, of the gravelbars in Ozark creekbeds. If I could string this pond, I would use picture jasper and nephrite jade, would add onyx and bloodstone and a little peridot. Perhaps some brecciated jasper, too, for the red clay earth, iolite and blue lace agate for the heavens mixed today with dark clouds and bright patches of clear sky. The waters themselves ripple-pleated by the wind? Something greenish grey or greyish green with pyrite flecking across its surface. The woods were all moss agate and silver moonstone.

I was full of thoughts to write on the walk here. Now I arrive and find the thinking was enough. Sometimes lining one's interior rooms with precious things means not bringing them out and spreading them over the lawn.

The air is cool today, breezy. I wrapped in a throw, puttering around the house this morning. The first hickory nuts have fallen in the woods. One small tree flamed scarlet against the deeper greens and forest greys to the side of the path. Small golden leaves scattered from another as I stepped into the hidden meadow. Not until the sun blazed from behind a cloud did I realize my arms had goosebumps, so subltly had they risen. Daddy-long-legs spiders are daily brushed down from the ceilings in the house and transported outside.

I want to leave something beautiful behind. Perhaps not great or amazing, but something small and lovely, something that glows softly like light caught in fog.

Alchemy. Lead to gold. Science or art? Art, I believe. One well worth pursuing. It does strike me that to turn lead to gold, though, one has to begin with lead.

Yesterday I had a long conversation with B. She's got some topics she wants to pursue in writing but finds herself putting them off because of the heavy emotional price she knows she'll have to pay in order to write well about them. It takes a great deal of emotional and spiritual energy to write well about some things, to write what you know needs to be said in the manner in which you need to say it. Lead is heavy. When one works with it, one becomes fatigued.

Indignity

The girls spent the weekend with their grandmother not long ago. She took them to the Build-A-Bear Workshop and bought them stuffed animals for which they were able to select clothes and accessories. Both girls chose stuffed cats. Imagine their delight this morning when they discovered that the stuffed cat clothes fit The Great Golden Sun Cat.



He should have been grateful. The other option was a pink cheerleading outfit.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Friday Quote: a Mishmash

Actually, this is a sort of meme, unabashedly stolen from Seeker, who consistently posts quotes and snippets that make me suspect someone's been "reading my mail." The rules: "Go here and look through random quotes until you find 5 that you think reflect who you are or what you believe."

Mine:

Aristotle was famous for knowing everything. He taught that the brain exists merely to cool the blood and is not involved in the process of thinking. This is true only of certain persons.
---Will Cuppy

Sometimes it is harder to deprive oneself of a pain than of a pleasure.
---F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896 - 1940), Tender is the Night

What I give form to in daylight is only one per cent of what I have seen in darkness.
---M. C. Escher (1898 - 1972), Quoted in Comic Sections, D. MacHale (Dublin 1993)

To live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong.
---Joseph Chilton Pearce

When I'm working on a problem, I never think about beauty. I think only how to solve the problem. But when I have finished, if the solution is not beautiful, I know it is wrong.
---R. Buckminster Fuller (1895 - 1983)

Nerds don't just happen to dress informally. They do it too consistently. Consciously or not, they dress informally as a prophylactic measure against stupidity.
---Paul Graham, September 2004


Yes, I know I used six. That last one was entirely too good to pass up.

One Book: A Meme

1. One book that changed my life: Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home by Richard Foster
2. One book I've read more than once: Od Magic by Patricia McKillip
3. One book I'd want on a desert island: Lord of the Rings trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien
4. One book that made me laugh: The Sacred Diary of Adrian Plass aged 37 3/4 by Adrian Plass
5. One book that made me cry: An Unquiet Mind by Kay Redfield Jamison
6. One book I wish had been written: I wish Jane Kenyon had written a book of essays on her experiences with mood difficulties and on living well with them, something I believe she did.
7. One book I wish had never been written: I feel unqualified to comment. Possibly Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath, for which I have a somewhat unreasonable antipathy..
8. One book I'm currently reading: Introductory Psychology through Science Fiction—a used bookstore find. Fun.
9. One book I've been meaning to read: De Profundis by Oscar Wilde
10. One book I'd like to write: Something beautiful and strange, like mist when the sun rises through it, something at once simple and hidden, something bright in the midst of great darkness.

Tapped by Kristin
Tapping Great Scott and Julie Carter.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Pragmatic Romanticism

We are romantics at our house. We watch "Lord of the Rings" together over Christmas break every year, sniffling throughout. Scott even tears up during "Serenity" and "Lady Jane", and the girls...the girls are all about daring rescues and hope and love and drama. Ah, the drama! Still, we live in a very real world here at Possum Box Lane. The house is old with all sorts of quirks and problems, and we have to adjust: when the wind blows just right during a storm, the windows in the downstairs bedroom are going to leak; spiders (wolf and brown recluse) are a seasonal issue; and the plumbing is temperamental. It makes for a funny mix sometimes, living in any number of ideal worlds and in the real one at the same time.

This morning "Return of the Jedi" was playing in the living room, specifically the climactic scene complete with intense music and flaring blue lights as Darth Vader makes his redeeming choice, lifts his evil master, the Emperor, and hurls him over the guard rails and down the Death's Star's shaft where a final explosion of electric blue billows deep in the core, signifying the end of the evil empire.

After a moment of silence, the older daughter speaks. "That's bad. That's gonna plug something up."

Friday, August 11, 2006

Jr. High

Yesterday the girls and I went to the schoolhouse to register the older daughter for Jr. High. She saw some of her friends and said hi. She was measured and weighed. Her vision was tested. Her lunch account was brought up to date, and she was given her lunch card. Then came the biggie--her very own locker. Number in hand, she walked the hall, her younger sister running excitedly ahead of her to locate it first: her very own space within this institution of higher learning, her home away from home. She found it. She fingered the latch and opened it at last. Inside the door, scrawled in dark marker was the word, "WHORE".

Welcome to Jr. High, my dear.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Friday Quote: On Freedom and Camels

"Do not free the camel of the burden of his hump; you may be freeing him from being a camel."

--G.K. Chesterton

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Suggested Church Dinner Contributions for the Chronically Kitchen Challenged



I have found that preparing a brain mold, served on a lovely floral, china platter with a small card bearing the inspirational inscription, "We have been given the mind of Christ," is a very effective way of ensuring that you are forevermore allowed to bring the chips and soda. ONLY the chips and soda.

And, yes, I did.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Written Letters: an Experiment and Offer to QL Readers

Last week I sent a friend a four page, handwritten letter and was surprised to see it was an unusual enough event for her to blog about it. I had to agree with many of Beth's thoughts on the increasing rarity of letter writing and receiving and on the ways in which emails, immediate and handy as they are, usually fall short of the sensual and emotional satisfaction of a pen and ink and paper letter for their readers.

Oddly enough, as I was writing the letter she received, I found myself thinking in ways I'd not thought in a long time, slowing down, allowing myself to wander, to amble, to write langourously, in love with the feel of the paper scratching gently beneath the fountain pen's nib and my own words. (One of my favorite quotes states that an essayist is a person who has simply found a way to talk about themselves without being uninterrupted. I have to laughingly agree.) I used to write letters more than frequently, but the immediate gratification of cyberspace communication has eaten away at that activity, and it has been only recently that I've begun penning short notes once more. Beth's four page letter was a return to the days during which I would very often write lengthy epistles tossed to the mercy of the Post Awful at least three or four times a week to various folk.

Handwritten letters. Good for the receiver. Good for the sender. Why not, then, make an offer to my readers? My email is listed in my Blogger profile (link above under picture). Send me an email with the subject line "Quotidian Light Letter Request," include your snail mail address in the email, and I'll scribble out a real, live, handwritten letter and send back to you through the mail. I make no guarantees about its content or length. It may be one page or six, full of family ridiculosities or theological ponderments or rambling description of the Ozarks countryside. If you're a regular reader, there may be personal comments. If you've never commented, I'll do my best with whatever information you give me about yourself in the email or will fake it blindly.

A letter. A personal, handwritten letter in your mailbox to confirm and affirm your existence in the coporeal world. A real, live, inky, fibrous, living, breathing letter with your very own name on the envelope, written just for you. Tempted?

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Staring at the Ceiling Fan

Actually, we don't have a ceiling fan, but if we did, this is where I would be right now. I'm posting mostly out of obligation. I have a blog. It is lonely. It lurks in my internet browser, waiting patiently, not even wimpering, but looking sad and forlorn. After a certain amount of neglect, it wouldn't even show its heartbroken face, but would instead hide behind a blank page, stifling its tears in the far corners of cyberspace, unable to hold up its poor little head among the other blogs whose more attentive authors stop by to feed them tidbits daily.

Yes, I also think the food on my plate is disappointed if I don't eat it all and that the books on my shelves are bereft of comfort if I don't read or at least touch or talk to them every now and then. Don't even ask about the anthropomorphic properties of my houseplants. Some night, I am convinced, my patient african violets will arise and do me in. Something right out of Bradbury, only with a Better Homes & Gardens touch. There's a blog entry in that, somewhere.

The girls are supposed to be in VBS this week in the next town where we go to church, the same town in which the Little House play is currently running, 25 minutes away. I tried. I really did. I got them in the car Sunday evening and drove them into town. Got as far as the city limits before I could go no farther. The thought of making that drive every single night, getting home late and tired with the girls hungry after having been rushed through a mere semblance of dinner too early in the evening...it was too much to bear even contemplating. Turned around and drove back. Am taking them to VBS at a little country church we used to attend, about 3 minutes down the road. They're going with friends from school; they're being fed dinner there; and I can drop them off and come back home for 2 1/2 blessed hours of solitude and silence before picking them back up. (At the other church, I would've been staying and working.)

Last night I walked into the quiet house (I've not been entirely alone this summer save 2wce, for 2 hours each time, and then I was sick.) and soaked in the silence. I turned on the computer and wrote (something I've not done for ages), did some yoga and wrote some more. There is a part of me that motherhood and doing the whole evangelical family-raising things has buried, and I am not sure that it need do so.

I am the world's worst for inadvertently (even when I'm unwilling and watching for it) buying into whatever "plan" is currently being offered/pushed by people I love or respect. I did it in college, touched that my professors had an interest, even in some cases, enthusiasm, about my future. I have done it in the churches we've been involved with since our marriage. It is much "safer" to lie quietly down in whatever coffin is being offered one, hoping to make a quiet escape later when the graveyard crew is distracted than it is to look them in the eye and let them know they're the ones that are crazy if they think for one moment you're going to buy into what they're offering, to allow them to keep shoveling cheery shovelfuls of dark earth over you any longer. I've allowed it too often and too long. I will allow it no more. Now I'm clawing at the dirt, determinedly digging my way to the surface, bruised fingers, torn nails and all. God help me if I ever lie down in a box again.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Thoughts on the False Self and Original Sin

Beth, writing on Inscapes, posts from a Christian perspective about "finding oneself," the effort to figure out or discover who and what one really is so that one can live in accordance with that truest nature--surely the key to true happiness.

I've used the term "false self" for some time now, even mentioning it here on Quotidian Light. It isn't an official term I'd found anywhere, but a simply a term I use in my own mind to describe the internal turmoil and tussle with habits and faulty/damaging thinking that I know are sheer nonsense but that have their sharp little talons sunken deep into my life nonetheless. Growing up, I was taught that all human beings are inherently bad, evil, from birth, a concept my teachers called "original sin." I may offend or horrify my more Calvinistic friends by saying so, but I don't swallow it. I didn't when I was a child (although eventually I learned to quit arguing with my teachers, since it only seemed to upset them), and I don't now. Traditional definition of "original sin" or no, however, it's fairly self-evident that human beings aren't all sunshine and sweetness by a long shot, either. We're pretty messed up, I'll be the first to admit.

Last week I was reading Thomas Keating's Open Mind Open Heart, a book on centering prayer and the contemplative dimension of the gospel, and I had to restrain myself from leaping to my feet and running around the room singing, "Yes!Yes!Yes!Yes!Yes!" Here are some excerpts of what struck me so forcibly:

"The term 'original sin' is a way of describing the human condition, which is the universal experience of coming to full reflective self-consciousness without the certitude of personal union with God. ..

"Original sin is not the result of personal wrongdoing on our part. Still, it causes a pervasive feeling of alienation from God, from other people and from the true Self...The urgent need to escape from the profound insecurity of this situation gives rise, when unchecked, to insatiable desires for pleasure, possession, and power...

"The particular consequences of original sin include all the self-serving habits that have been woven into our personality from the time we were conceived; all the emotional damage that has come from our early environment and upbringing; all the harm that other people have done to us knowingly or unknowlingly at an age when we could not defend ourselves; and the methods we acquired--many of them now unconscious--to ward off the pain of unbearable situations.

"This constellation of prerational reactions is the foundation of the false self..."

This seems to me a very clear and compassionate explanation, an explanation that grew out of no little understanding of human nature. I find very little of that in the Church in this area, to be honest--compassion or understanding either one. Churches around here seem to me to be very concerned with conveying "Truth"--with a hammer, if need be. But compassion IS part of Truth. Truth is incomplete without it. Anyone with understanding (real discernment) knows that.

I need a break from attending church, to be honest. I have very little trouble seeing hurting people AS hurting people except when they're in positions of self-satisfied authority in the church. (And self-satisfaction is, in a big way, one of those human coping mechanisms mentioned above--no one gets to be exempt from deserving compassion.)

It is very hard to love everyone. It hurts, because the people you love are hurting other people you love. No wonder so few of us manage to live consistently from our True Selves.



Newscast of Interest

Last night KOLR 10, a news crew out of Springfield, came and taped parts of the "Laura's Memories" rehearsal. The result should air at 10:00 p.m. this evening, we were told. Of course, all of us will be in rehearsal, but if any of you in the area are interested, you can check it out. If any of it goes on their website, I'll add a link later.

Slacking Off and The Teeming Brain

I've not been blogging. I've not been doing much of anything lately, it seems some days. Other days I think I've done far too much. We went to the Renaissance faire. It was lovely. My mother, older daughter and I hit a couple of fabric stores having sales and I bought roughly $350 worth of costume patterns for about $30 the same week. My sister had The Nephew, and since they've been back home, I've visited them to help with laundry (a matter of grave consideration and befuddlement for Great Scott and my sister's husband, evidently). I've made a costume for the Little House play and altered and/or repaired several more. I've been running the music, also, for rehearsals of the same. I've made earrings, a necklace and embossed stationery. A friend and I ate ice cream and haunted an antique store one afternoon, where I found a calligraphy pen with 3 tips in reasonably good shape for a good deal. I have slept late. I've bled in a shoe. I've been reading David Eddings' Elenium and Tamuli series and finding them to be very light reading, indeed--exactly what's been needed when the temperature is pushing into the high nineties and the brain is operating through a fog of heat and humidity only slightly eased by ice water and fans.

In short, I've really been doing a whole lot of not much.

Other people I know have not been slacking off, however. In fact, at least one of our friends has been keeping quite disgustingly busy, and being the blog material moocher I am, I'll write about him.

Matt Cardin is a high school English teacher, an increasingly successful horror writer, a pianist of considerable skill, and along with his lovely wife, Teresa, one of our favorite dinner guests. Dinner with Matt and Teresa is never boring, although I will admit I've occasionally felt a little lost when Great Scott and Mr. Cardin delve deeply into philosphical, cultural and even some literary areas. I am no dummy, but Scott and Matt can outdiscuss and outquote me any day. I listen as long as I can, and then I start taking notes--usually titles and author names to look up later. I hardly ever do, but it makes me feel smarter to be sitting there taking notes instead of letting my eyes glaze over.

Matt began his blogging excursions with Confessions of a Conflicted Cultural Skeptic , but more recently has started a new blog, The Teeming Brain, which I heartily recommend for any readers who have an interest in philosophy, horror writing, and topics with a mystical/spiritual slant. A couple of interesting posts up right now tackle the subject of angels and Lovecraftian bumperstickers. Drop by and tell Matt hello.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Friday Quote: 10 Kinds of People

"When you get right down to it, there are 10 kinds of people in this world: those who know binary and those who don't."

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Arrival

The Nephew arrived today at 1:45 p.m!! The younger niece (22 months today) is staying with us for a couple of days until her mama (my sister) gets back home. We will take her to meet her new baby brother tomorrow.

There is much rejoicing.

Monday, June 26, 2006

White Hart Renaissance Faire

We live in the middle of a field. Literally. When our landlord runs cattle here, we have to open and shut a heavy metal gate where our lane meets the highway to leave or enter the field, as well as opening and shutting the single-wire electrified gate at the entrance to our yard. If we forget to shut the gate at the highway, the cattle can wander out and cause problems with traffic. If we forget to fasten the electric strand at the yard, we can end up with cattle walking through the lawn and eating the flowers. Like the 150 heifers that came visiting up close and personal a couple of years ago. The 150 heifers whose hoofprints still make it hard to push a mower over the grass.

Because we live in the middle of a field in the middle of nowhere, we hardly expected to find ourselves right next door to a Renaissance festival. Yes. White Hart Renaissance Faire occupies the field just catty-cornered across the highway from us. Yesterday morning I went out to check the live trap for groundhogs (cute, but destructive little critters) and was regaled with bagpipe music floating over the fescue. We could hear great rounds of cheers sporadically throughout the weekend, and from our front lawn, we could see, albeit at some distance, jousting. Yes. I said jousting. With real horses. In fancy horse dresses. We can even hear resounding WHACKs from lances and swords.

I have a weakness for Ren fests. For years I dated a fellow who worked the one near Kansas City, and I used to spend weekends there wandering around in the ankle length green wool cloak and black suede, fringed boots that I wore for everyday back home. If I got tired, I just found a quiet corner backstage somewhere and settled in for a nap or to eat an apple and read the ever-present book. The boyfriend was busy treading the boards and chasing Ren wenches, and I loved every moment of those dusty, sunlight dappled, autumn days wandering alone amid the shops and street actors, bright ribbons and jingling bells and coins all around me. (Great Scott, reading the draft of this post, requests that I make certain to mention that HE was not the Ren fest boyfriend, and I shall add, "Indeed, not!")

The girls are dying to go, of course. Great Scott is making Noises of Interest in acquiring a kilt for future years of attendance, should the White Hart Ren Faire succeed, as we hope it does. If we go this year, I'll try to post some pictures. If anyone reading this decides to go, let us know, and we'll meet you on the porch with a glass of cold peppermint tea, should you care to drop by.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Today There Is Much Rejoicing: New Poet Laureate

Last night I received a note from an acquaintance on a message board I sometimes visit, a note that made me want to be so undignified as to get up and dance around the room. I couldn't wait until Great Scott got home to share the news with him.

"Guess what?!" I chirped as he came trudging down the walk at 9:30 after a long day.

"Donald Hall is our next poet laureate," he replied with a grin. (He knows me so well.)

You can read more about Don Hall on NPR's website. I've a great deal of respect for Hall for a number of reasons, perhaps the chief of which is that the man seems to know how to live a life and has done his best to live a good one. In a world of academic posing and posturing, that means a lot.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

A Promised Post—for Dale

I do not often post prayer requests here, but I’m about to make what I feel is a worthwhile exception.

Last Sunday my dad picked up and brought to church a young man named Dale who was traveling on foot (and by accepting any offers of rides he could get) from Canada to Florida to see his mother who is dying of lung cancer. He asked for prayers that she would still be alive when he got there and that she would be open to hearing what he was traveling so far to tell her.

This is all I know about Dale, but I know I have readers from Canada all the way to Florida, most or all of whom are praying people. Would you do this for Dale and for his mom?

Limited Internet Access Coming Up

My sister was told today that her baby (The Nephew), who is due July 6th, is unlikely to wait until then to make his debut. The doctor’s request to her was to do as little as possible to see if she might make it into next week, as a matter of fact.

Since I am the official Niece-Sitter for the event, I need to be off the phone and available. Which, since we’re on dial-up connection, means staying off the internet as well. So email-checking and blogging may be at a premium for the next week or so, although for the very best of reasons.

Monday, June 12, 2006

"Laura's Memories"--Show Times

For those of you who have asked or are curious, here are the showtimes for the Ozark Mountain Players 2006 production of "Laura's Memories", a musical based on the life and Little House books of Laura Ingalls Wilder.

Fridays and Saturdays
July 21 & 22
July 28 & 29
August 4 & 5
August 11 & 12
September 15 & 16

That last weekend coincides with Mansfield's yearly Wilder Day festivities--parade, craft booths, beard and baking contests, games on the town square, all that fun stuff and more.

Location is Mansfield, Missouri. The show begins at 8:00 p.m. at the outdoor theater in the park by the schoolhouse. Usually there is some kind of local musical entertainment before the show and during intermission. A few years someone has even played Pa's fiddle (yes, the Fiddle), although I don't know if they're doing that this year. If you come, be sure to stop by the stage and say hello.

All summer during the daytime, Laura and Almanzo's farm, Rocky Ridge, is open and well worth visiting. The museum there is full of the Ingalls and Wilder families' belongings, and guided tours are available for both the house Almanzo built for Laura and the home Rose Wilder Lane (their daughter) built for them. You can learn lots of fascinating little tidbits about Laura and Almanzo's life together that were never recorded in her books on these tours, and admission for both of them are included in the price of the museum tickets. This year a new walking path through the woods between the houses is open, as well.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Friday Quote: On Artists

"When artists discover as children that they have inappropriate responses to events around them, they also find, as they learn to trust those responses, that these oddities are what constitute their value to others."

--Kathleen Norris
The Cloister Walk

(Speaking here of the objective observer part of the artistic self that often sits back and cooly watches, evaluating the artistic potential in even the most horrible moments despite the artist's intent or desire.)

Procrastination Aids: Death Predictions

Yes, this is hokey, and yes, it's morbid, and yes, I stole it (from Teri). But it's also entertaining, as I'll explain in a minute. Here's mine:

"Lucinda: At age 93, a tiger will maul you. Don't ask why, but you will be in a Burmese jungle."

Now, it's highly intriguing, wouldn't you say, the thought of being mauled by a ninety-three year-old tiger?

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

The Play's the Thing

Last year about this time I wrote about the girls and their involvement in the Laura Ingalls Wilder play. Lo, the time has come again.

This year our older daughter is playing Mary in three scenes instead of one, and the younger daughter is Carrie in one of these with her sister. The girls were tired after staying up past midnight playing with their cousin last night, and I was braced for an emotional overload at rehearsal if they didn't catch on as quickly as they sometimes expect themselves to, but all went smoothly. Neither seemed phased at all by the new scenes, and both were cheerful on the way home. A rare and wondrous occasion to be sure.

I've mentioned before that my mother has done the costuming for Ozark Mountain Players for the last thirteen years. She is a veritable creative genius with fabrics, laces, patterns and thread, and she can match colors and costume cut with actors' bodily ecccentricities in such a way as to hide or bring out just about any physical characteristic you'd care to name. I do not exaggerate. However organizational skills aren't her forte. For thirteen years I've given an ear to her complaints and anxieties about keeping track of OMP's costumes, and last year was probably the worst year yet, resulting in the OMP officers requesting a complete cataloging of the entire costume inventory. That would be, yes, thirteen years worth. From a young age I have been, by her own admission, my mother's organizer. Now I have become OMP's as well and am currently photographing and recording costumes and putting the information on sign in/sign out sheets that require signatures and phone numbers. Mom is relieved. OMP is happy, and, honestly, I'm having quite a bit of fun.

The costume work was the only work I'd anticipated this year for OMP, besides sound effects and taking notes for Pat (the musical director) in the pit during dress rehearsals and performances. It's gotten a lot more complicated than that, however, and I found myself tonight being introduced to the cast as the new assistant director. This is what happens if you don't put on a costume and hit the boards volontarily. Pat, who plays all the music for the show herself, will be out of state on opening night, and she's asked me to run it via a pre-recorded CD. I'm also supposed to keep track of who will need understudies for which nights and let our good co-directors know ahead of time. And, of course, I get my favorite job from last year back as well: beckoning misbehaving underage cast members to join me in the pit. The eschatological implications are entirely too good to overlook.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Friday Quote: On Serving the Work

"Your goal is to make the book as good a book as you can possibly write at this stage in your life. And you don't stop until you have done that, and when you have done that, it's a mistake to play around with it because then you'll just succeed in ruining it.

"You begin to sense the point at which you have done as much revising as you can do. It's not exactly right, you haven't served it as well as it should be served, but that's as far as you can go."

--Madeleine L'Engle
from {Herself}

It's hard to let go, to turn your back on something--a poem, a painting, a performance, a position, a relationship--when you know you've not served it as well as it should have been served, when you know that you could (an abstract and non-specific could) have done better. Unfortunately we operate in a very concrete and specific world in which our efforts are wildly variant in their effectiveness. Time of day, the effects of our social contacts, our physical health, broken shoestrings, lost keys and an endless plethora of other physical and emotional factors all put our coulds in a state of wild flux. Our best today was not our best yesterday and will likely not be our best tomorrow. Accepting that is hard. It requires admitting one is human and fallable, and for some of us this is much harder an admission to make to ourselves than to anyone else. Vulnerability usually is.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Gifts

May and June are happenin’ months for our family. Lots of birthdays and anniversaries and celebrations. Sometimes they sneak up on me so fast that I find myself empty-handed on gift-giving occasions. This month Great Scott’s birthday falls on the day before Father’s Day, so loot is imperative. Good loot. Lots of loot. He’s worth it, I’ve found it, and what’s more, I actually got it ordered early enough that it’s already arriving! I’ll even have time to wrap it!

While this may not sound exciting enough to you to warrant the use of exclamation points, trust me; in this household it is. If the gift gets given within two weeks of the occasion, it’s on time.

Great Scott and I have a long history of gift giving...experiences. From our first Christmas when he gave me lingerie and upon seeing me in it immediately said, “Oh, Hon, I’m so sorry. I won’t do that again,” to the Valentine’s Day when I gave him a cross-stitched sampler instead of massive amounts of chocolate (Oh, Hon, I’m so sorry. I won’t do that again), our gifting has never been boring. Nor has it been particular about appearance. For a few years Great Scott’s chosen method of wrapping a gift consisted of a Stuff-Mart bag. When I noted that this was not the most inspiring way to give a gift, he wrapped the next one completely in duct tape, and was terribly proud of it. For my own part, I’ve been guilty of making him close his eyes and simply laying his present on his lap, Philistine that I am.

We’ve progressed to gift bags, now, like civilized people, and for the most part find this satisfactory. (At least I find it satisfactory--much more so than duct tape--although Great Scott may feel creatively hampered.) As for gift selection, we’re getting better. No more bustier nightwear or cutesy cross-stitch. We’ve learned to go for the eclectic, the slightly off-kilter, the quirky, even the downright bizarre, from the Jane Austin action figure to The Pop-Up Book of Phobias.

Marriage is work, some of it excruciatingly painful, some of it as bland and flavorless as a chalk shake. We’ve been through too much to come anywhere near denying this. But here is one of the small, intense pleasures resulting from years of stubborn commitment: knowing each other--knowing each other well enough to navigate even the treacherous passage of Choosing a Gift. No small gift in itself.

Now, if you will excuse me, I am going to go make a lemon meringue pie for Great Scott in appreciation for the belated Mother’s Day gift that arrived in the mail yesterday:

Friday, May 26, 2006

Procrastination Aids: Poetic Form



I am the tanka.
The attention of others
Is unnerving, and
Since I try not to draw it,
I'm left alone. Which is good.
What Poetry Form Are You?


Compliments of Jennifer.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Friday Quote: On Meaning Inherent in Things

Things are saturated with significance. Meaning does not have to be injected into a story like juice injected into a cooked turkey. Things themselves are translucent with meaning, like paper translucent from grease. In poor houses on the frontier where people couldn't afford glass, the windows were paper rubbed with fat. The light streamed in, as did the winter cold and the summer heat, and everything was seen in that light, the light of the paper window, just the way that now, when we think of people living with great poverty and endurance, all we need to do is imagine a paper window: meaning glows in the thing.

...Meaning is trapped in the
what of things. Meaning is held in the web of things like honey held in a comb, or a soap film held in a hoop, or a bundle of the sun's radiant energy held in the very green of chlorophyll. There is a physics of significance.

---Bonnie Friedman
in Writing Past Dark

The Vacuum Saga

Last year to celebrate our tax refund, I bought a new vacuum. Actually, I took our old, non-working vaccum into a shop to have it fixed and was accosted by Sid the Vacuum Salesman, who also owns the shop. Sid's Method of Operation is to look at one's old vacuum while tsking and then to tell one regretfully what a piece of worthless junk it is and why one should buy a Riccar vacuum. I have seen him in action with several customers, pushing 30 pound vacuums on little old ladies who came in to get a lightweight floor sweeper to accomodate their arthritis. Sid likes to interrupt; he doesn't like eye contact; and he tries to speak very fast, which is difficult because he stutters. Now, I don't begrudge Sid his stutter at all. What I DO object to is interruption and condescension, both of which Sid does in abundance. (Sometime I shall tell The Tale of the Sewing Machine Repair, too. But I digress and will begin to snarl.) After hearing Sid's snide comments about our old vacuum and his sung praises of the Riccar vacuum he was so determined to sell me, I shook him off and went home to do a little Web research. Lo and behold, the Riccar had excellent, excellent consumer reviews. Somewhat grudgingly, I went back and purchased one.

This year I took the still perfectly performing Riccar in for its free yearly maintenance, as prescribed by the service policy in the owner's manual. Sid wasn't in, but the young lady in the shop said she'd have it ready for me in 30 minutes. I was relieved. Marshfield is an hour's worth of driving (round trip) from our house, and with gas prices, I really wasn't wanting to have to leave it and come back another day. I poked around in the scrapbooking shop next door for 30 minutes, went back to Sid's, picked up the vacuum and returned home. The next time I attempted to use it, I discovered the beater bar no longer worked at all, and the floor/carpeting switch was not only jammed but had a huge gouge. I was not a happy camper.

I returned to the shop asking to talk to Sid and was told he wasn't in. I went home muttering under my breath. I waited a couple of days and called. I was told when he would be in. I returned. He was absent. I returned home again, breathing out fiery and intricate plots for using the beater bar in ways that would most certainly void the warranty. When the inner conflagration died down enough that my nostrils were merely wisping bits of smoke, I called once more and was assured that Sid was always in on Saturdays. I laid my plans accordingly.

You must understand that I am not a person who likes conflict. I don't like being angry with people. I don't want to hurt people. I don't want to damage relationships. I wanted to strangle Sid and his shopgirl with the powercord, yes, but I wanted to do it in a NICE way, mind you, a way that would assure their thinking well of me while they rubbed the scars on their throats, and above all, a way that would insure my being able to continue thinking well of myself. (I am not always a very nice person. Yes, I know this. What I do not understand is why that can be so satisfying.) Knowing I was torn between wanting to be kind and wanting to flay Sid alive with onboard attachments, I prayed on the half hour trip to the shop, prayed that the confrontation would be calm, that I would not lose my temper (because I am unable to speak at ALL when I become extremely angry--I cry, which considerably diminishes one's ability to be intimidating), and that I would come home with a fixed vacuum cleaner and not have to make another trip.

That evening when I returned home, I was able to write the following in my journal.

Today the vacuum saga came to a most satisfactory close. I took the Riccar in and found the shop crowded, Sid "helping" another woman, telling her what was wrong with her vacuum and doing his darnedest to sell her a Riccar. She looked up at me and my vacuum (which had "Riccar" emblazoned across its front), smiled and asked, "Is that a Riccar that you have?"

"Yes it is," I replied quietly.

She walked over to me to look at both my vacuum and the other Riccars on display, over which Sid was still making enthusiastic and encouraging salesman noises.

"And do you like it?"

"I do," I answered, and seeing the heavens open and the perfect opportunity descending from the skies, I took it. "I love this vacuum very much," I said earnestly. "It does a very good job, an excellent job." I let woe cloud my face, dropped my eyes and shook my head regretfully, "The problem I've had is with the service."

There was a beat of dead silence, during which the lady's eyes widened first with concern and then with a glint of amusement as she turned to Sid, her eyebrows raised. "Oh, really?" she asked, still smiling.

Sid was at my side in a moment and had my Riccar upside down against the counter with a screwdriver opening it up before I could finish answering his very courteous questions about what the problem had been. He had it fixed and ready to go in 3 minutes.

I feel a little guilty about the satisfaction and amusement I took (and am continuing to take) from Sid's tight spot there in the shop. Not nearly guilty enough, most likely, though, as it isn't enough to keep me from enjoying it in remembrance. Upon my arrival home and the hearing of the tale, Great Scott said, his grin reminiscent of Alice's Chesire Cat, "You are a wickie, wickie woman!" The fact that this was uttered with obvious admiration did nothing to shame me, I have to admit.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

You Know You Live in the Ozarks When...

1. Your twelve year-old daughter comes home from Safety Day at school with a package of goodies that contain ear plugs (for using when shooting a gun or running heavy farm machinery), scads of fliers on West Nile Virus, brochures from a farmers' life insurance company and a Buck knife catalogue.

2. Regardless of how hard you work to correct her, your nine year-old pronounces "hundred" as "hunnerd."

3. The 'possums walk back and forth under the porch swing late at night while you're sitting out enjoying the quiet. If you put out cat food, you can pet them.

4. Your elderly neighbor shows up asking if you'd like a turkey if he gets one this season, and then tells you if he sees one out of season, he'll bring that by, too.

5. He does this because you stopped last month to see if you could help him get his wayward cow back in the field (and off the road), and he's appreciative.

6. Rain falls steadily in your front yard, but the sky in your back yard is perfectly clear.

7. You begin finding ticks in February and March.

8. You are captured in conversation with an intense kindergartener who tells you more about running a hog operation than most adults could ever begin to imagine. And much more than you really wanted to know.

9. Your grandmother and your father both kept skunks as pets when they were kids.

10. Every morning when you open your eyes and look out the window, you are certain there is no more beautiful place on earth.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Mother's Day Gift

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Yes. It is indeed a Jane Austin action figure. I am blessed with the best family ever.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Mothering

Everybody knows that a good mother gives her children a feeling of trust and stability. She is their earth. She is the one they can count on for the things that matter most of all. She is their food and their bed and the extra blanket when it grows cold in the night; she is their warmth and their health and their shelter; she is the one they want to be near when they cry. She is the only person in the whole world in a whole lifetime who can be these things to her children. There is no substitute for her. Somehow even her clothes feel different to her children's hands from anybody else's clothes. Only to touch her skirt or her sleeve makes a troubled child feel better.

---Katharine Butler Hathaway

I do not remember ever feeling this way about my mother. Her personality and mine were so distinctly different that I rarely, if ever, felt the blissful connection between mother and child that is so highly lauded in our society. She loved ruffles and ribbons and layers of lace; I abhorred scratchy, itchy, dresses. She was highly emotional and very expressive; I was highly reflective and extremely reserved. She dressed me in bright red as often as possible; I loved blues and greens. She seemed to live for church activities and get-togethers; I despised Vacation Bible School. She went to nearly every school activity in which I was ever involved; I craved my own space. In short, she was (and is) an extravert's extravert, and I am a dyed in the wool introvert. The things that to her were the epitome of comfort and joy were nothing short of trial and torment to me, and our relationship was considerably rocky for a long time because of it. There were other rather pronounced difficulties, oh yes. Still, even those were exacerbated by her natural affinity for living in the outer world and my rather plain-spoken distain for it, by my bone-deep need to dwell first in the depths of a quiet inner world and (what seemed to me) her oblivion and utter disregard for that at all. For years she kept battering away at the walls I'd purposely built to keep her at a "safe" distance, never really seeming to understand that her efforts only necessitated thicker walls. For years I battled anger, bitterness and, yes, hatred--of her and myself both--as well as guilt that she would never be the mother I was sure I'd needed, and I could never be the daughter she wanted.

I forswore motherhood altogether by the time I was eleven or twelve and felt no small relief in doing so. Already by then I was investing much of my identity in my thought life and academic achievements and interests. No children would mean more time to read, more time to devote to writing. Also, already struggling with depression, I reasoned my decision would spare whatever children I might have had, from life itself, which I considered to be very little short of misery incarnate. My mind was made up. My life would be my own, and I would not use it to create and be part of the tearing apart of someone else's.

Then I met Great Scott, and somehow, I ended up with two daughters who think I am the be-all, end-all of motherhood, an unlikely and unlooked-for grace, for certain.

Our twelve year-old gave me a hand written card this morning thanking me for being there for her "in troubled times" (she's beginning to hit the high hormone stage, and we spent some time drying tears after bedtime last night), and our newly nine year-old's card expressed her hope to someday "be like" me (a thought that causes sheer terror to rise in my throat, I assure you). I know that adolescence may bring more troubled times. Already the mothers of my older daughter's friends compare notes about difficult attitudes and increasing relational struggles. I'm bracing myself, but so far I'm nothing but touched and humbled by our girl's (by both our girls') love and regard, a love and regard for and in a relationship with which I've had no former experience and which, in truth, I could never deserve.

And my relationship with my own mother now? Improved. No bitterness; no hatred. I learned to express and enforce some of the boundaries I need in ways that acknowledge her good intentions and affirm her for them while still holding my ground. She began to recognize that my need for space isn't an indication of rejection, and assured of this, she seems to have less need to push. That's been a good starting point. It's made all the difference. We laugh now about things that would have been cause for dissension in the past: "When I'm old," she told my sister a couple of years ago, "I'm coming to live with you. Cindy would make me behave!" It's one of my favorite stories.