Monday, November 1, 2010

A (moderately) proud moderate American

I wasn't able to go to "The Rally to Restore Sanity" in DC this weekend, but just seeing the coverage of it cheered me up about the way things are going in this country. I mean, hey, a rally of people who don't take themselves too seriously! Now that's my demographic!
Here's a selection of amusing signs snagged from The Huffington Post. There are hundreds more on the sight.


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A little epigram-poem-thingy I wrote


Regret I
know is just a bone gnawed
clean of its marrow, best buried
and forgotten.  And yet
I regret.

Monday, October 25, 2010

And in the midst of it all....

It's just one of those days.  The weather is gray, drizzly, and sodden - glum in a way that only the rust belt can do.   I'm supposed to be working on my novel revision (which is finally going well) but I'm jumpy and can't concentrate because my sister in law (who has brain cancer) is in crisis.  So I feel guilty about not getting my work done (you know the drill) and heartbroken for my sister in law, her husband, her kids, and her big brother - my dear husband who has already lost one sister.

Yet....  when I went to let the dog out, waiting irritably in the rain while he did his doggy thing, I saw  the cups of the nasturtium leaves, a raindrop gem in each one, like transitory white star sapphires.  And in that moment I went from miserable to enchanted, running to get my camera, standing delightedly in the rain (while, in a nice turnabout, my dog waited impatiently for me to finish up my foolishness) trying to capture even a tiny bit of the casual perfect beauty nature made.

These are the things that save me every day.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Hate mail

(Advance apologies for the length and seriousness of this post! I won't make a habit of it.)

So I just got my first hate mail. And it was for writing a poem about the bible. Go figure. I was trying to explore the character of Job's wife whose only recorded words are "Bless God and die" (mistranslated later as "curse God and die"). Those are the words of a devastated broken-hearted woman. And what woman wouldn't be who had lost all ten of her children at once?

I was also writing the poem from my own experience as a woman who had lost two babies through miscarriage, both due to toxins in the water supply. After the first baby died, I had a D & C in the hospital under anesthesia. When they woke me I began weeping uncontrollably. They sent a nun in to me who held my hand and told me not to cry because Jesus had wanted my baby. I said angrily (only because I was still woozy from the drugs. Normally I would have just thought it.) "He didn't want it as much as I did!" So let's talk about God and Jesus and all those things I normally avoid because belief is such a deeply personal thing.

I believe in God. I believe that God is, first and foremost, love - my love for my family and friends, their love for me, and also my love of the stunning beauty of the world around me. These things are God's grace in my life, helping me get through the things that would seem otherwise unbearable.  What I don't believe is that God put toxins in the Williamsburg, VA water supply to kill my babies as a test or because Jesus wanted them. God made the water and the air, but man poisoned it.

Now lets talk about Jesus. I was raised going to church in that habitual not-deeply-felt Presbyterian way. I was baptised, I wore a gold cross through my teens, my mother read me the bible sometimes (and I cried my head off when Joseph's very mean brothers threw him in the pit). It was simply a part of my life. But then people started to tell me that unless I believed that I was born in sin and that Jesus Christ died on the cross for that sin (of being normally procreated and born to a woman) and if I didn't accept Him as my personal savior, I was going to burn in Hell.  Scary stuff, so I tried. I went to church and prayed hard to God and Jesus to show me the way. They never did.  So I remain what the right-wing Christians would call a "Universalist."  And I've stopped going to church because it no longer seems that church wants me.

But here's what I do know and believe about Jesus. He was a beautiful man who preached love and the loving particularly of one's enemies. In the parables, he taught us about the Good Samaritan (Samaritans and Jews despised each other) who took in the beaten Jew when the priest and the Levite left him to die on the side of the road. If Jesus were walking down a road today and saw, let's say, a beaten gay man (Matthew Shepherd or any of the other poor boys who died recently), he would have stopped and taken him tenderly into his care, put balm on his wounds, and tended him back to health with love.

If there is a Devil, it is hatred. Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me." I will try to follow his example; to not hate, even those who are hateful, and to walk this Earth in the grace of kindness and love, which I believe is the hand of God in our lives.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

National Coming Out Day: The thing that makes you extraordinary

Here is a really touching video made by the pop star Darren Hayes for The Trevor Project (a suicide prevention hotline for LGBT youth). He says here, "The thing that made me extraordinary made me a target" and it made me think about all the extraordinary gay men and lesbians I know - people who are extraordinarily kind, extraordinarily funny, extraordinarily gifted in so many ways. And I wanted to say thank you to them, all of them, for being survivors even though they were targets. Because we're all "different" aren't we? And as I wrote here some time ago, when I met my first openly gay man, it was like a brisk and sweet-scented wind blowing away all those layers covering my own difference. If they could "say it loud, say it proud" then so could I. I see now that I gravitated to people who had felt within them some deep difference growing up and had learned to embrace it, so that I could learn to embrace mine. I still do.

My two beautiful teens who also happen to be gay, went through a phase of dressing in girly clothes, wearing make up, dating boys, twisting themselves into some idea of "normal." And they were completely miserable. I'm so proud of them for letting go of that, for having the strength to accept and embracing who they really are. Because they are perfect and extraordinary.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The firefly tree

The firefly tree

This is a sketch I did tonight of one beautiful moment in my life. It was many years ago when Kirk and I lived in Wiliamsburg, VA. It was also a terrible time for us.  We were trying to start a family and, unbeknownst to us, the water supply in that part of Virginia was tainted with a chemical that caused stillbirths and miscarriages. I had two miscarriages while we lived there and was just heartbroken.

Heartbreak has been on my mind because my husband has just come back from visiting his baby sister who has an incurable malignant tumor in her brain. He was there to visit her of course, but mostly he was there to help with her eight children. So I was remembering this night in Williamsburg when Kirk and I went on a disconsolate evening walk. We only lived a block away from Colonial Williamsburg so we wandered over there because there was no traffic. As we headed up the dark road through the old town we saw one of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen in my life; a massive tree completely aglow with the twinkling lights of tens of thousands of fireflies. We stood still and gaped for I don't know how long and for that time the pure beauty of it erased all our grief and pain and helped me to go on. 

In times like this, it does me good to remember those rare perfect respites - like coming upon the firefly tree - because it helps remind me that there will be other moments like it ahead. Sometimes I think this is the only way to get through these devastating things life serves up again and again; by leaping from moment of beauty to moment of beauty like someone leaping from stone to stone across a dark fast dangerous river.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Scandalous me!

Someone just tried to register to leave comments here and she reported that she got this message: "Sorry but your website is listed as unsafe for children or dangerous by one of our website rating services."

First let me say how honored I am to receive this recognition from the Academy. Also I want to thank the big guy upstairs (by which I mean Bill Gates, who has made it so easy for me to offend complete strangers). But most of all I want to thank the gay boys who ensorcelled me into promoting their scary Big, Gay, anti-family (by which I mean pro-family) Agenda by being so kind, lovely, and funny. Without you I never would have scandalized anyone!

Monday, September 20, 2010

"About suffering..."

My husband had a good, hard, exhausting, heartbreaking visit with his sister and her husband and children. She will have surgery on Thursday to try and reduce the size of the tumor and extend her life. But short of a miracle, it seems, there is not much hope, so we hope and pray for a miracle.

Kirk said that, because of the tumor, her personality had changed and that he felt she was slipping away. I keep thinking of a story he once told me of being a little boy - three-years old - and looking out his bedroom window to see the EMTs carrying the sheet-covered body of his older sister Laurie, who was five, down the front walk of his house and away forever. And now another sister is slipping away from him.

At times like this, I always think of W.H. Auden's "Musee des Beaux Arts," which is, to me, one of the most perfect explorations of human suffering ever written.

Musee des Beaux Arts

About suffering they were never wrong,
The Old Masters: how well they understood
Its human position; how it takes place
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along;
How, when the aged are reverently, passionately waiting
For the miraculous birth, there always must be
Children who did not specially want it to happen, skating
On a pond at the edge of the wood:
They never forgot
That even the dreadful martyrdom must run its course
Anyhow in a corner, some untidy spot
Where the dogs go on with their doggy life and the torturer's horse
Scratches its innocent behind on a tree.

In Brueghel's Icarus for instance: how everything turns away
Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may
Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,
But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone
As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green
Water; and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen
Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky,
Had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

A sad time

We've just found out this week that my husband's sister has a large brain tumor. Worse, it's situated in a part of the brain that makes it very hard to remove and has spread into her brain tissue. She has eight children. The youngest is only eight months old. It's a very sad and frightening time.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Yes my dears, this is a real book.

And it was written in 1885 by - I kid you not - Palmer Cox!
I think that shows some real prescience on his part!

(Image from lolaleeloo's flickr file.)

Sunday, August 29, 2010

And a little child shall lead them

My husband was chatting with one of our seventeen-year-old twins yesterday about a former babysitter of theirs who used to date women but is now marrying a man. The husband asked, "Why do you think she's doing that - marrying a man?" And our wonderful daughter answered, "Dad, it doesn't matter who you date or marry. What matters is that you love them and they love you." And he felt very proud and very humble.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

80s dating video

80s Video eCard
Uploaded by plentyofbaggage1. - Classic TV and last night's shows, online.

I was trying to decide - if I had to choose one of these guys on point of death - which one I would date. So far I'm leaning toward the guy who says "One of my favorite foods is pizza" simply because, well, I do like pizza....

Which one would you choose, I mean if you had to?

Thursday, August 19, 2010


Yesterday the husband surprised me with a date night at an expensive gourmet farm-to-table restaurant. Which is a pretty big deal for us for a number of reasons:
1. We have those four pesky kids
2. One of them is special needs
3. And mostly because the husband hates spending money. His idea of a decadently extravagant dinner is buying it all in the frozen-foods aisle at Trader Joe's. So, for him, going to a restaurant where you'll pay $100 for dinner for two is a BIG STINKIN DEAL and it damn well better be transcendent. And since it had been rated as one of the top 100 farm-to-table restaurants in the U.S. by Gourmet Magazine, he was primed for Heaven on a plate.

So, of course, it wasn't. I knew things were not going to go well when the husband, who can't drink, asked if they had anything like lemonade. All they had was booze and soda pop. When the food came it was in those stupid skinny stacks (seriously, who stacks their food?) on huge, mostly empty, white plates decorated with nouvelle cuisine dots and squiggles of sauce. Excuse me, but I do not like my food skinnier or prettier than me, and I like enough sauce so that I can mop it up with bread from the generous bread basket. Which there also wasn't. The final insult (for the husband, who is a crazed foodie) was that the meyer-lemon tart had a soggy (shudder) crust! It was a major case of hoping for lemonade and getting a big fat sour bunch of lemons. Seriously, the poor boy was devastated. He's sensitive that way.

So after our nouvelle d├ęsastre I suggested we go for a walk around beautiful (by which I mean impoverished and decaying) downtown Sharpsburg, PA, where said restaurant was situated. Now kids, small-town Western Pennsylvania is not a scenic wonderland but we had the babysitter so....

For a few blocks things went from bad to worse. We saw a mother pull over her speeding minivan, smack her screaming kid hard, then screech off with the poor kid wailing like a siren. And as we strolled along, the natives stared at us because, I assume, we didn't have tattoos and bleached-blond mullets (not a good look for me).

Then, just as we were about to trudge dejectedly home, I saw a glimmer of water. From a river. That you could walk to. Which is unusual here even though we are literally surrounded by rivers. Because of Pittsburgh's industrial past, the waterfront is mostly blocked off by (abandoned and decaying) industrial sites. It is almost impossible to actually walk to a river anywhere in town. But there was the river, and there was the path to it, and so we walked.

We went through a long dark tunnel and emerged into a magical place.

We strolled over and dabbled our fingers in the miraculously touchable river. Amazing. Then we sat by it and just breathed it all in. People were fishing, feeding the ducks, or just sitting, talking, being there, like us. It was a perfect mild evening. The sun was setting, and everyone around us exuded that special peace that you get near a body of water. There were all classes and races of people, all just so happy to be exactly where they were.

After a while I started chatting with people, as I do. The guy next to us, with the tattoos, the blond mullet and the Lynard Skynard bandana said he was catching small fish, mainly crappies (or maybe he meant that he was just catching small crappy fish!), but added that "I really just came here for the peace." The black woman next to us with the akita and the toy poodle offered me bread to feed the ducks with. As we watched the ducks squabble, a friend of hers told me about taking his granddaughter ice fishing in Minnesota. It was the nicest evening I've had in a long long time.

On the drive home, I thought about lemons and lemonade and how happy I was that my husband and I are generally able to take the lemons we have been given in our life together, some of them pretty seriously sour and, one way or another, made some pretty nice lemonade out of it all. And next time we go to Sharpsburg, we'll skip the fancy exclusive restaurant altogether and take our lemonade - literal and metaphorical - and some sandwiches right to the river and share it all, which, for me, makes everything so much sweeter.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Another poem (what's gotten into me?)

It's been a tough couple of weeks here. An old friend's daughter (a victim of spousal abuse) died, and a member of my extended family is struggling through, and I hope out of, a nervous breakdown. Thinking about all this brought me back to a poem I've been wrestling with for some time. It's about my grandfather, who had a nervous breakdown and committed suicide. It's very much a work in progress, but I thought I'd share it with you anyway. Feedback welcome but I also know it's, well, heavy to say the least (!), so no worries if it's too sad to read or comment on.

What I would say to my grandfather before he jumped

I know:

the unbearable weight of skin,

heavy as a suit of stone, pins you

under your smothering despair;

how your bones feel already broken

by your steep fall

from joy and your lacerated heart's

bled dry of all its hope. Madness

brought you to this high and burning room

but not alone.

I have stood at the same clear pane

you stand at now and seen,

on both sides of it, a broken life;

the only difference that on this side

skin covers the keening pain,

but on the other side your jailing skin

breaks open and the pain leaks out leaving you

in peace, at last. Your thoughts whisper

it’s logical, that step

up onto the narrow ledge between life

and its end. But I know

that, if you jump, the window never closes

over the unanswerable riddles

of Why? and then Why not?

So each of us you left in grief

must hold tight all our lives against the airless

vacuum of your fall. The open window calls

till some of us just tire, let go. Without you

your wife will drown herself

in a river of drink, a grandchild swallows

too many bitter pills, I always know

where the exits are in case

I need to get out. Still I stay

here. Here,

take my hand, stay

your feet. This living death will die

away at last. Stop

your ears against the poisonous Iago

of our traitorous chemistry, close

the window, reclaim the still-breathing body

of moments that make up the rest

of your life; the one you made from

countless things like love

of a girl with brown eyes and a red dress,

three children born with her Indian eyes. Wife,

daughter, son. These words that tell us who we are,

they grew from you. Remember

how you drove across three states, no stops,

windows rolled up just to protect them all

from polio which had no cure. But If you step out

onto that yearning air, what remains of you

will be just the hollow shattering shell

of your fall to death on a sidewalk

among strangers. Stop, stay, remember

us. Protect us now, again,

from the crippling incurable wound,

the aching phantom limb that you

become after,

if you fall.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Really peculiar record covers

That I have found over the years. I did nothing to them but photograph them and giggle.
Loveless Missionary Adventures
Loveless Missionary Adventures For Kids
"And in the end, my little ones, the lion ate the missionary. Sweet dreams!"

Roe v. Hair
Roe v. Hair
(I think the hair is winning.)

Aunt Carmine Carmela....
"Aunt" Carmela
has an adam's apple and wears size 12 shoes.

Prince Larry Valiant
Prince Larry Valiant
Knight of Orlon, Dacron, and Polyester.

99 Luftwaffe balloons?
Rockin'  soldaten!
Those Germans know how to party!

And Adam awoke on the first day
And the plants of the garden
and found he had some morning shrubbery, and it was good.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Overheard on sports-talk radio

(Referring to a famous football player)
"And if he can't make it with an ugly, pregnant, felon, then who can?"

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The book of Job's wife

So I was avoiding revising my novel the other day by thinking of anything other than my novel ... like my miscarriages (I had two because of toxins in our water supply). And I remembered that in The Book of Job, God kills their ten children. So I wrote this poem from the point of view of Job's nameless wife.

Job’s wife

He gave it all back twofold,
so the story goes. Money, oxen, sheep.
“The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away,”
said he whose name is
righteous in the books of men,
those books that do not tell the names
of the ten children the Lord took
in vain. I escaped
alone to tell you:
Eli, the oldest,
had dark grieving eyes,
as if he saw his future falling
down upon him;
Rachel, my good girl, freckled
and plain, a bustling little mother
to the young ones;
Rona, little bird,
sang in perfect tune and pitch.
Dvora, the queen bee,
had eyes the color of honey
and a wit that could sting.
Baruch was slow and hid
behind my legs when strangers came;
Aaron and Lev,
the rascal twins, spoke conspiracies
with their eyes and smirked.
Micah, wild and fleet,
ran away from home three times. Now
I wish he had run faster.
And Zev - my last I thought;
his hair was red and curled
around his face like wisps of holy fire.
My children

did not curse the Lord. That day they gathered
together and, for the bread they were to eat,
they blessed the very Lord who felled the roof
that killed them.

I dug their graves and planted
my children in the ground
to grow like bitter herbs.
Job sat in the ashes
and called me foolish. Men came, scolded:
“This is the way of his joy and out of the earth
others shall grow.” As if that were enough.
“Great men are not always wise,” I snapped.

Now Job’s lips speak the names
of his rejoicing; Jemima, Keziah, Keren. Three
other daughters burnish him
like golden rings. Seven more sons raise
roofs they think are safe. But in the shadow
of my deaths I live blind
to his faith; an eye
does not replace an eye.
Only ten plus ten, and every single one
alive, would be enough for me. So I keep
my place. I am two verses
and a watchword in the good book
of God’s deeds. Nameless
as the dead, I stay and to his face I curse
the god who took my children. He
bet them like ten worthless coins,
in a game of dare with the devil
just to prove
His mighty

Saturday, July 10, 2010


Browsing in the library, I came across a book called Six-Word Memoirs. So here are two I thought of for myself.

1. Grandfather jumped. SSRIs invented. I won't.

2. Two miscarried. Two adopted. Two more.

And here's one more for comic relief:
Skinny. Chubby. Slim. Pregnant. Chubby again.

I'd love to hear your six-word memoirs!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

It's that time of year again....

Time for the end-of-the-year school talent show. Though perhaps talent isn't exactly the word for it. But they certainly make up in enthusiasm what they lack in skill. Have fun! I did.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Shamed into full disclosure

From Dill Pixels wonderful flickr stream.

I've been shamed by I need more cowbell and her prodigal-daughter blog update, to write a more complete update myself. Yeah, it really was an awful winter, but .... there was, of course, more going on below the shitty frozen surface of this long and shitty winter.

1. My husband
It's almost two years since my husband's last surgery and (better late than never!) I think I am finally getting "over" it. What that means is that I've finally incorporating into my life the reality that my husband has an incurable, life-threatening, condition instead of (as I had thought before) a one-time weird clotting condition that would be taken care of by surgery and blood thinners.

It's not an easy thing to accept. I worry whenever he's gone, whether it's out of town on a business trip, or out of the house for work. The only time I don't worry is when he's right next to me, where I can keep an eye on him, save him if he needs saving. Because my brilliant prize-winning husband is utterly incapable of taking care of himself. Seriously. This is the guy whose response to massive debilitating chest pain (from his swollen-to-the-point-of-bursting veins) is to decide to wait it out, hope it goes away, and not tell anyone. Good plan Einstein.

2. My novel
I love writing. It's easy for me and I'm good at it, and because of that, I write really good first drafts. I've even been lucky enough to have a couple of those first drafts (of short stories) published. So when I wrote my novel, part of me really truly thought that I could write it, send it in, and get it published too. But novels are big messy things and, unfortunately, I have to revise it. And revise it. And revise it. Revising isn't easy work and I don't like it because I'm not (yet) good at it. I would rather pull my toenails out one by one than revise my own work. I would rather clean house than revise my own work. And let's just say that my house is getting cleaned in places that have never been cleaned in the entire eight years that we've lived here.

But, with the help and advice of some very good readers and friends, I am slowly, painfully, dragging myself (kicking, screaming, whining, and hating every minute of it) through a real and deep revision. So you can see why sitting down to the computer to write even a blog entry might send me running for the mop, or the TV remote.

Anyway, those are my excuses for neglecting you. Oh, and did I mention that the weather was really really crappy?

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Hello my darlings!

Well, the Guinness Book of World Records, the National Weather Service, as well as every other expert in the world has finally determined that this was the Shittiest Winter Ever. I personally went through all of Elizabeth Kubler Ross's five stages of grief about it and added a couple of my own.

1. Swine flu whining - All the kids got it, one by one. Just when I thought any given child was getting better and I might have a quiet day to myself, the next one would get it. Oddly, all my whining did not help them recover.
When that was over, it snowed and snowed and snowed and I responded with:

1a. Denial - "No that is NOT two-and-a-half feet of snow!"
Fat lot of good that did me. So I moved on to...

2. Anger - "God I hate this F**KING snow!" and "I grew up in the tropics! I shouldn't have to deal with this shit!" Again, not the most efficacious method of making snow go away. So I moved on to...

3. Bargaining - "If you shovel the sidewalks I promise I'll make all the dinners forever and ever." Again, fat lot of good.... guess who shoveled (and shoveled, and shoveled). God it's annoying to have a husband with a "serious medical condition" and a surgeon on call to prove same...

4. Depression - "Oh my god, it's snowing again? I am so depressed" ad nauseum. This went on for a loooooooong time.

I might eventually have moved on to acceptance (or not) had I not, instead, moved on to The Deadly Virus That Almost Killed Me. So what I moved onto was accepting antibiotics. All I can say about that is - God I'm glad I live in the age of modern medicine especially antibiotics and I truly accept them as my personal savior. Amen.

5. True acceptance - Spring is here, the snow has melted, and despite the many recent late-spring frost warnings, I accept that winter is finally OVER! Halle(f***king)lujah!

I believe I will survive! (And maybe even start blogging regularly again.)

Saturday, April 10, 2010

The way to world peace.

Since I am indisposed with (self-diagnosed) TB, I will share with you this charming military ritual. I think if all armies were required to do this all the time it might bring about world peace (through everyone laughing too hard to shoot).

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Where I've been

NEW YORK was visited.

Gritty urban things

like subway acapella singers

and buildings with populations larger than our entire borough

were looked at with awe.

Family was bonded with

including a
new cousin

and a new kitten.

Outstandingly authentic
Chinese food
was eaten and ecstatically appreciated.

A child was completely
worn out.
And her mother too.
Mission accomplished.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Putting the ME in Camille!

For the last ten days, I've been in a desperate struggle with some kind of vampiric virus that sucked the life force out of me, gave me a tubercular cough, and made me utterly unable to do anything but sleep and look pitiful. I was starting to see reruns of "Camille" in my head and was preparing myself for the inevitable - the doctor looking at me sadly and saying "...chronic fatigue... lifelong condition... so tragic." (When I was eight, the doctor told me that if I hadn't had my tonsils out I would have been an "invalid." I thought it sounded desperately romantic and would remind my brothers that "I could have been an INVALID" whenever they were mean to me.)

Miraculously, on the eleventh day I have risen! And gone to the grocery store. And bought all the junk good food my husband never buys and that we were getting perilously low on. My kids don't know what a close call they had and how lucky they are that I'm back on the job. Must remember to remind them I could have been an INVALID!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Fairy Child

Things are going better for the little one at school. She's getting some of the sparkle back in her eyes and the spring back in her step.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Bullying update

We are in an ongoing conversation with the school administration and the classroom teacher. They understand, at least partly, the seriousness of the situation. The bully's mother has been spoken with and the bully herself has been put on probation. It's a start.

We have also discovered that another girl (who had formerly been a friend of our daughter's) was participating in the bullying. Very sad. For everyone. She has apologized, as has her mother.

We are asking the school to adopt a true anti-bullying curriculum, which would require that all the teachers complete a free, online course about how to identify, deal with, and prevent bullying. We'll see how they respond to that. We're also trying to take some proactive steps with our kid - who is small, bespectacled, and a bit fearful - that might help her have more body confidence. To that end, we're looking at a number of options - maybe one-on-one lessons with a female tennis pro, the idea being that more physical strength and confidence might help prevent this in the future.

So day by day, step by step, we're facing the problem and trying to solve it as best we can.

One really touching thing that has come out of all this is how many people have reached out to us, some to offer help and guidance, others who have shared their own painful stories of having been bullied. One friend wrote "I can still remember the dislocation and lack of confidence it produced." That's the crux of it right there. To be bullied is to be made to feel that you are worthless and helpless. The current research shows that bullying, far from making a person stronger, makes them more likely to suffer long-term from anxiety and depression. (And the bullies themselves are far more likely than their non-bullying peers to end up in jail!) So it's a very serious problem and we are doing everything we can to make our daughter's world is safer and give her the tools she needs to prevent this from ever happening again.

Here, for anyone who is interested, is an excellent website/course on bullying prevention (it's free!). It presents the most up-to-date research and techniques in a lucid and digestible way. I highly recommend it!
Pathways Bullying Prevention

Monday, March 1, 2010

My good girl

I offered to max out the credit card and take the youngest on a vacation until this whole bullying mess is (somewhat) resolved. She thought about it for a minute and said, "No Mommy. It's OK. I'll go to school." Such a brave diligent little thing. If it had been me, I would have definitely made a break for it.

Well, we'll see what the week holds. Wish us luck.

Friday, February 26, 2010

My fairy child in the hard cold world

Someone once described my youngest daughter as "like a fairy child." And there is something other-worldly and dreamy about her. Stories, pictures, voices fill her head. She writes them down on countless slips of paper that she leaves all over the house, forgets about. A day, a month, six months later, they resurface - these odd little fortunes from the quirky cookie-world of her imagination. I found one the other day that said:

"You will meet a tall, dark, handsome man and become
a hobo. Do not doubt us!"

I had no idea what it meant, but it made me laugh.

And since her head is so completely swimming with whimsies, she can be forgetful about things, things that - to other people - might seem more "real." Say, for example, anything in the physical world. She routinely puts her clothes on backwards (yes, sometimes even her pants!). And her hair would certainly go unbrushed till it became a nest for wild birds if I didn't wrangle her and it into submission occasionally.

But she doesn't have a mean bone in her body, and is so tender-hearted that she asked me, could she please give all her baby-sitting money to Haitian relief. Some might, in fact, say she's tender-hearted and sensitive to a fault; she was almost in tears when we got rid of our old living-room rug because it held "so many memories" for her. (Yeah, remember that time the dog peed on it here? and the time I spilled my coffee...) But whichever way you see it, she's a sweet, kind kid.

Somehow this strange mix that makes her so dreamy and dear, also makes her a magnet for bullies. In public school, she was verbally and eventually physically bullied. We pulled her out and put her in a tiny funky hippy school. There are less than 100 kids in the whole school, including a number of kids with ADD, Dyslexia, Aspergers, and other kinds of bully catnip. Those kids are doing fine. Nobody bugs them. But my daughter - bright, articulate, and yes, more than a little spacey - is getting bullied. Again.

Well crap.

I know that when she's older it will all be fine. She's going to go to college and blow people away (as she already does) with her perceptive, articulate, witty mind and her dreamy fey ways (that is as long as she doesn't wear her pants backwards). But that's all so far away and she has to go back to school Monday and deal. And it breaks my heart.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

This conversation would not have happened when I was young and lovely

Yesterday, leaving yoga, I was explaining to a friend why full lunges are so hard for me to do. I said, "I have a really long torso, but very short arms."
"So," she said. "You're like a T-rex, doing yoga."
"Exactly," I said.

Monday, February 15, 2010

All work and no play make mom a bad girl

OK, this has officially veered off into horror. I really truly believed that worst was behind us. The husband was home, the furnace was new and waranteed, we were more or less dug out. What else could go possibly go wrong? And that just shows a complete lack of imagination on my part. Because this morning, with two kids still home from school the power went out. Which meant the the brand new furnace was off, as was the stove (electric starter!), and the phones (wireless). And my husband had taken the car and MY cell phone to a meeting which could not be interrupted.

So I'm officially done saying "It can't get any worse." What do you figure is next? Boils? Locusts? Or just flooding from the snow melting. Maybe I should start building me an ark.

I'm starting to feel like I'm trapped in the Overlook Hotel

As you may recall, when last we saw our plucky heroine, she was battling the elements with only a snow shovel and what was left of her wits after two feet of snow fell, then a tree, fell, and then the furnace died. Virtuous Miss Elizabeth thought all would be well once the furnace was replaced. Her patience was sorely tested when her husband left town for a conference. But did she kill any of her children? NO she did not! Good, brave Miss Elizabeth!

She truly thought all would be well at last - the heat was on, the children not murdered or even throttled, and the husband home from his travels. But Miss Elizabeth faces yet another trial: six more @#$%ing inches of SNOW!!!!!!!

Let's just hope our heroine doesn't REDRUM anyone.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

OK, I'm better now

The elusive teenager (above) pokes her head out of her hole and predicts six more weeks of winter.

The furnace man came at 8AM this morning. A couple of hours and a couple of thousand dollars later, the heat was on and the icy gulag of our house was thawing out. To celebrate the warm inside, the kids went out and built an igloo (so that they could remember that good old icy feeling of a house without heat?). Then they came in, shedding clothes and clumps of snow all over the place (while I yelled ineffectually "Don't get snow all over the floor.......") and ran to sit on the heating vents and warm up. And, yes, I even made them hot cocoa.

Ahhhh. A functioning furnace is a very very good thing.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Hell has frozen over (emphasis on the frozen!)

1. The New Orleans Saints won the Super Bowl. (The good part of the list is officially over now.)
2. Two feet of snow in twelve hours.
3. A tree in our back yard split in half under the weight of the snow.
(Thank God no one was hurt, and the clever tree managed to fall right in the five feet between our house and our neighbor's house, so neither house was damaged.)
4. Our furnace started groaning and moaning and then conked out completely this morning.
5. It's 12 degrees out right now.
6. I'm cold.
7. I don't like being cold.

There. I'm done now.

I hope to write more soon when my fingers aren't frozen!!!!!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Friday, January 15, 2010


Hospital Albert Schweitzer, 40 miles outside of Port au Prince, is one of the few functioning hospitals in the area. If you want to help them, please visit
Hospital Albert Schweitzer
The money will go directly to the hospital to pay for medical supplies and pay for the doctors and staff who are working around the clock.

Here's a link to their blog:
Heal, Grow, Celebrate

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

No man is an island?

I was snooping around, as one does, in the profile of a new internet contact. I discovered that he is a successful artist and graphic designer. No jealousy there. 'Yay him!' I thought to myself and 'How interesting. Must find out more.' Which was when I discovered that he lives in Palma, Spain. Which I had never heard of, so I went, as one does when casually stalking someone, to google maps. And that is when jealousy bit me hard. You see, Palma is on the island of Mallorca, and Mallorca is smack in the middle of the Mediterranean. I always imagined that when I grew up I'd live overseas - somewhere sunny and warm and with access to an ocean. Not much to ask since I'd spent most of my childhood in precisely that kind of situation.

And then fate, with her wry sense of the absurd, intervened. I met and fell in love with a man who, despite being part French and speaking near-fluent French, wanted more than anything else to stay in America. I chose to ignore this, assuming that like a strange virus, it would pass with time and love. Then, when he was deciding what to be when he grew up, he asked me "Should I go to law school or grad school in art history?" To which I said, "Who needs the money and security that a career in law would give you? Go to grad school in art history young man. Follow your bliss, etc." And I thought to myself, 'He's part French. Mais biensure he'll choose French art. We can go to France, live in Paris for a while. Go to Aix where his family has a house which is not far from the coast....' Mais non, mes petits ! Oh la tristesse ! He said he wanted to go into American art "because I wouldn't have to travel or live overseas." This I was less able to ignore, but we were married by then so I was screwed.

Now, twenty-five years later, here I sit in the middle of America, a long long way from any coast, it's 21 degrees outside, and I haven't seen blue sky in God knows how long. So looking at the map of Palma, Spain, then looking out at the frozen tundra of my backyard, I had a weak moment of feeling this was not my plan! THAT was my plan!

Now, I do know that where you live physically is not really that pertinent to how you live emotionally. (And if I didn't know that, Willym would be sure to remind and or bitch slap me!) So I took a last longing look at the Mallorca - dotted with palm trees, surrounded by the shimmering Mediterranean - and closed the computer. Because, truly I know that when I stepped into the stream that was the beginning of my love for K, he became my island, and the life we've built together my coasts and oceans and sunny plazas. I really do know that.

I wonder if he'd be willing to wear a palm tree on his head once in a while?

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Oh Momma...

Here, for your delectation, is my mother's #1 corker of the visit (and possibly one of her top corkers of all time):

Elizabeth (explaining why she is interested in writing a book about her great great grandfather, a white man who was chief of the Eastern Cherokee): "I'm not so interested in him as a 'Great Man.' I'm much more interested in his contradictions. For instance, he championed one minority - the Cherokee - while buying and selling another minority - blacks - like they were sacks of corn."

Elizabeth's mother: Looks at Elizabeth questioningly as if to say 'And your point is?'

Elizabeth: "I mean, I think it's fascinating that the Cherokee who were themselves oppressed, owned slaves!"

Elizabeth's mother (in a very genteel Southern accent): "Oh yes, they were much more sophisticated than all the other Indian tribes...."