Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year

I worked hard at endorphin production to make the transition from '08 to '09.  Came up a tad bit short at the stroke of midnight, but danced a little more, made
last call and got into a big conversation with a scientist about sub-atomic particles and the the big bang and that made me feel like there might almost be something like a God. Maybe it was the wine.

I'm Working On It

The new me will have an MFA. I don't care that I'm too old with too short of a resume to find a "real" teaching job. Whenever that conversation starts and someone asks me why I've gone back to school, I tell them I'm going to teach creative writing in the prisons.  I tell them I have connections.  
The new me will keep in touch with friends. Drop an email, write on a Facebook wall, buy a plane ticket or take a road trip. I'll be the one to suggest lunch or dinner instead of waiting for the phone to ring.
The new me will work harder, review what I've learned more often and try to remember it. I'll read sitting up instead of lying down in bed so the words have a chance to settle into my brain instead of sinking into my pillow and mingling with down and fluff.
The new me will tell my children I love them every time I see them and  in every phone conversation. Every time. Grand children, too. 
The new me will call my mother more often. Even if I have to over enunciate and speak more loudly than I'd like. The new me will visit her at least 4 times a year.
The new me might settle down and stay in L.A.--eventually. Or somewhere else.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

This is Snow?

I was hoping for the pristine. A white blanket. The covering of flaws and bleakness and something to coat the branches of the trees that stand naked in the winter wind. Last December, during my first grad school residency, I walked in the woods every night. But this semester after 75 hours inside, I ventured outside for the first time this evening. You could say I'm cocooning, but that's not really how it is. I'm inside. Interior. Thinking of how terrible I felt last year to be starting grad school without a support system, mourning the death of my marriage full out. (How did I manage that?) and somehow taking lecture notes and workshopping and getting to know people. I feel better this year. But I still want snow. Something to blot out the grayness. Something for the moon to reflect off of.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Sweeter than Pineapple

My original intention as I began this blog at the end of September was to put into words the gratitude I feel toward my friends.  The list of kind acts, kind words, dinners, lunches, coffee dates, conversations, gifts tangible and intangible that I've received from my friends and family since my marriage ended would make this blog longer than a litany of the saints. But I've gone off on about a million tangents since then, and while I think of my friends every day and spend more time with them than ever, I don't always write about it.
My friend Ellen called me this morning while I was eating pineapple in the restaurant at the New Otani Hotel in Honolulu. My daughters were still asleep and beach-goers on this quiet side of Waikiki were just beginning to don their snorkels and venture into the blue water.  I've felt a bit underwater these last couple of days--sad that our family is broken apart and mad that Mr. Ex fell in love with someone else--but I have my friends and family and we've drawn closer since the divorce.  Ellen's phone call reminded me of that. And that, my friends, is sweeter than pineapple. 

This is my second divorced Christmas and I’m asking myself when, if ever, a new family tradition will emerge.  Right now, the holiday season feels as mysterious as a shiny wrapped gift lodged at the bottom of Santa’s bag.  I can’t even see the shape of the box, give it a shake or puzzle over its heft.  Or maybe it’s worse than that.  Maybe my life is one of those office parties where you don’t even bother to draw names and instead have a “white elephant” gift exchange and for all I know from now on each Christmas and New Years will unfold without enough planning, without enough meaning for me or my children to want to keep what we have invented for the next year's celebrations.

It’s these occasions that draw families together that make me wonder what was so  wrong with my family that my husband left us for someone else.  I know he hasn’t actually divorced our daughters, but that’s the way it feels to me because we weren’t just a couple with children, we were “us.”  The four of us.  An entity that looked out from the homemade photo on our family Christmas card with hearts conjoined.  Something greater than the sum of its parts.  That us is as gone as if we’ve been photo-shopped out of existence and now there’s no one there posed in front of the mantle or the tree or the poinsettias or the wreathed front door.  The four of us are gone. And I am, one year and five months later, still grieving the loss.

What was wrong with going to Mass and singing Christmas Carols on Christmas Eve with the night just cold enough to make us remember the Midwestern childhoods my husband and I spent growing up with our own families?  What was wrong with our dinner out at our favorite restaurant watching the glow of one another’s faces in the candlelight and then going home to light the fire and open presents? 

Okay, I admit it--there  were things that were wrong and we knew it, but still we were us.  Our family struggling through some of that togetherness--together.  And I miss it.  Imperfections and all.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Bachelor #2

I went to dinner with another date tonight. He's a writer and we have a lot in common. Our meal together was very, very pleasant. High energy and vivacious. I liked him well enough to see him again, but maybe he's not that into me. I have no idea, really. We were on our best smiling behavior and it's just hard to read  a total stranger. Dinner or coffee is such a common first date, but there's a certain amount of pressure in that endeavor--staring into someone's eyes while stuffing things into your mouth or slurping something hot while trying not to dribble.  It's, well........a little too intimate, maybe. The hiking date was easier in a lot of ways. I didn't wonder what to wear and we  could walk and talk without being forced into eye contact while chewing.
I've made email contact with 3 other guys, too and will maybe date them when I get back from this set of travels. The way I see it, it's like when magazines or lit journals allow simultaneous submissions---it's good to get that piece of writing around to several editors at the same time. There's a better chance that it will find a home.  But I looking for a home?  I'm not.
So this is where it gets complicated.

Dancing in the Dark

I had the second date with the guy I met for the first time last weekend. After we decided to get together again, I suggested we attend the Christmas open house of my favorite L.A. modern dance company.  I guess the standard dating advice givers might throw up their hands at this. Modern dance isn't everyone's cup of tea, but why pull punches is my attitude.  Here's what I like.  Here's who I am. Why waste time?  And after all, I'm willing to try new stuff, too. Wanna take me to Vegas?  Hell, I'll go. Nascar? You bet. I've never enjoyed these things in the past. But having the person you love reject the past you concocted together is a great way to open your mind to new things. My date seemed to enjoy our evening, although he told me that a few years ago he would have scoffed.
Anyway, before the dance stuff we had dinner in an incredibly raucous bar with the Laker game on a screen almost as big as the stage the dancers performed on.  We had to sit close and talk into each other's ears and found out that we both love to watch basketball.   I wonder if there could be a Match couple more different than this guy and me.  I ask myself why I like him,  and the best thing I can come up with is that he seems like a really good person....and that I like his face (not typically handsome) and his eyes. He's studied Tai Chi for 30 years (and teaches it) and has all this eastern spiritual stuff going on and I can't imagine what he sees in me.........all I can figure is that he's as willing as I am to open heart and mind to something new.
Dating.  A leap of faith--like the dancers in a Diavolo performance.
Go see them at Santa Monica City College February 20th and 21st.

Saturday, December 13, 2008


I had a date today with a very nice guy.  We climbed one of the trails near the Griffith Park Observatory on a rare Southern California day when you could actually see into the distance.  The ocean was shimmering in the sunlight, storm clouds piled up like a stack of  pillows over the San Gabriel Mountains and from our particular angle the Hollywood sign appeared to read, "Hollywoo."  There wasn't really any serious wooing going on though. Both of us were cautious in our approach to the date. But conversation was easy, sweet and deep.  I told him I'd like to get together with him again, but that I wanted to move slowly, let things unfold very gradually instead of fantasizing that our relationship might turn into the next big thing and let that fantasy push us forward into something that might not be real.  
After two hours of talking and walking, we got into our separate cars and drove down the hill. At the bottom, as we sat side by side at a stop sign, he blew me a kiss before he went left and I went right.  
I drove west to a friend's art show and drove through the neighborhood where I used to live with Mr. Ex and then across Melrose where he and I saw dozens of plays over the three decades we regularly went out to the theatre in L. A. 
The shadow of all those years together is still like a rain cloud waiting to burst and wash away present pleasures.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Emotionally Unavailable

I've been on again (it's like crack--I say I'm quitting, but...)  His name was Gene and we've been emailing back and forth for the past few days. Tonight he emailed me and said he was sorry but he's realized he's "emotionally unavailable." It's the holidays. They're a bitch when your heart is broken, when your heart is half-way healed and probably when you think it's almost recovered. While I was visiting my friends in Portland, we took a scenic drive and then went downtown to walk through the streets under the lighted trees. When I stepped out of the car and heard the brass band on the corner finishing a Christmas carol, I felt my eyes fill with tears.  All those houses with their pretty lights, the city lit in some kind of happy conspiracy and then the music---it made me sad and if I hadn't had a lollipop in my purse, I would have been standing in a puddle of tears. This is my second divorced Christmas.  I had 29 married ones.  I wonder how many Gene had.   

Sunday, December 7, 2008

"Ladies and Gentlemen, I'm Sorry But

due to the turbulence, there won't be any beverage service."  These are words I hate to hear when I fly.  I'm a reformed nervous flier and the thought of not being able to have a drink when I think a drink might be just what I need inches me a tiny bit closer to the old self I'd like to stay rid of.  I found myself on edge today flying back from Portland as soon as I neared the end of the "A" gates. Outside the rain splattered windows were small airplanes with propellers and the sky was as thick and gray as a week's worth of dryer lint.  Noooooooo, the anxious me said to the me who was trying to be calm and I thought about rushing back to ticketing to see if I could get on a different flight which probably would have been a simple matter, but I'd checked my bag.  So instead, I sat and looked at the people around me.  High school athletes with trophies, business people, families with babies. They looked calm and happy so I got on the plane (which didn't have propellers) and felt passable until the announcement about the beverages.  I pulled out a lollipop and started sucking, stuck my ipod in my ears and listened to poetry podcasts, reminded myself to keep my eyes open and look out the window. I did ok. Not stellar, but fine.  
It's odd that I keep traveling. Since the divorce, I've flown more than I ever could have imagined.  Back when I was married, flying terrified me.  Maybe because I was trying so hard to keep that jumbo jet of a marriage up in the air and knew it was going down.  

Thursday, December 4, 2008

My New Boyfriend

I've given up.
Here's Sam the man.  Sammy belongs to my Portland friends whom I'm visiting at the moment.  He likes to nuzzle his face against my hair while I'm sitting on the couch.  When he wants a little attention, he comes up to me and paws my leg (without extending his claws.)  I like that direct communication.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Another reason to have a significant other...

Besides the ride to the emergency room, it's nice to have someone meet you curbside at the airport.
Why does a ride from the airport cost $12.00 more than a ride to the airport (in zero traffic)?
Why do taxi cabs have mushy back seats where you can't sit up straight and feel like a teddy bear who's lost her stuffing?
Who's responsible for maintaining the shock absorbers on cabs and why aren't they doing their job?  
Why is the Bob Hope airport known as the Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena airport when there's no reasonable way to get there from Pasadena?
What the hell, it was a fun trip anyhow!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

This is How it Looked

Thanksgiving was always a big party at our house.  For twenty years we gathered with friends--and sometimes friends of friends and complete strangers--at this table.  I cooked the turkey, the stuffing, the potatoes, the pumpkin pies and friends brought all measure of good things to the feast.  I miss them, but now, for the second year, I will be at my son's house.  My family is spread out all over the country.  I am thankful that I have each of them in my lives even though they aren't near enough to pass me the cranberries.  I am thankful for about a billion things.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Full Heart

I started learning to play poker last night. My friends, Carol and Dale, made room for me at the table and their friend David appointed himself  my coach. I had a little cheat sheet with the various configurations of cards listed in ascending order and with David's help I made it through a couple of hours of play and lost only $8.00. I even won one hand. I think the hardest part of the game is the "poker face." I gasped a lot when I saw my cards and that made people laugh.  I need to cultivate a demeanor of nonchalance.  That could be useful away from the poker table, too.


I ran into my old friend Barry and his fiance yesterday at a coffee shop.  Barry's had quite a few girlfriends since I met him ten years ago. Things just never worked out. One Thanksgiving he fled from a disastrous gathering before dinner was finished and rang my doorbell. "Can I come to your Thanksgiving dinner?" he asked. "I brought my own turkey." He extracted a ziplock bag of meat from his pocket and chuckled but there was a truly woeful look in his eyes.
Yesterday at the coffee shop, after the three of us sat down together, Lydia pulled a bundle of vitamins out of her pocket and set one of the piles of pills next to Barry. "You brought me my vitamins," he said, and the two of them looked into one another's eyes.  
That's what I want--someone who loves me enough to bring me my vitamins.
I don't think Barry will  ring my doorbell with a ziplock of turkey in his pocket ever again.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Year of the Hiker

Thanks to my friend Carol, I saw a really good play last weekend.  It's stuck with me all week. Set in a small town in Ireland, the play takes its title from the nickname given to Lacey, the husband and father who abandoned his family to fulfill his wanderlust. His cruel departure which left his wife with two young sons and a baby daughter was such a shocking event that the villagers have been known to mark time by it-- "Ah, that horse died the year the hiker left." When the play opens, the children are grown and twenty years have passed. Lacy returns in the second scene and he's an old man with liver cancer who's come home to die and of course his reappearance opens old wounds for all of the other characters.  The wife says that, at first, after he left she missed him like the beating of her own heart.  And then that feeling was replaced by ferocious anger.  It was years, she says, before she could think of him the way she thinks of a hundred other people. There's some pretty amazing reconciliation at the end.
It's at Theatre Banshee in Burbank.

Why I'm not too keen on living here......

We Southern Californians are living in a disaster zone again. Last week we had the drill for the "Big One," and then the place went up in flames. Monday twilight was at 3:30 in the afternoon and the moon that night was more brown than yellow. Like a broken Vanilla Wafer.  You can't help but wonder at every siren when there are fires burning all around. And when your neighbor barbecues you have to go outside and be sure it's kabobs you're smelling and not the wood shake roof. 
I had to go out Monday night and I drove 7 miles an hour for a good portion of the trip because that's what we do when we go out in the evening in L. A.  Rush hour crushes your soul if you're not in the mood to have your foot hovering over the brake and even NPR can't save you.
These slow drives are the worst. The litany is longer and more detailed then because there's more time to look around.  He drives this freeway twice a day.  We went to a party somewhere on that hill. There's his building. There's the Staples Center--wow, I thought we were having fun at those Clipper games we saw last year.  If I exited here, I'd could find my way to that hideous duplex we rented in Culver City.   This is how my divorced brain works and I don't know how to stop it. At this point in time, I no longer feel the debilitating heartbreak, but the memories are there just the same.  Why, exactly, am I living here? 

Down with Agoraphobia

I hate to go out.  I'm okay in the mornings, but when it gets hot and smoggy, I like to be finished with errands and business and be back home. And once I'm "in," I hate the thought of going out. My books are here.  My laptop.  The dogs. The cats. I have really good o.j. and an espresso maker. I have yummy sesame seed cookies I brought back from Greece.  I can have cookies and a latte sit with the dogs and my laptop on my caramel colored leather sofa and not get up for hours.  Why would I want to go out?  I have writing to do and as long as I have eggs, goat cheese, apples and salad, I won't starve.
But I've been forcing myself to go to the movies.  I like movies.  I just don't like to go out to them. I'm doing it though because it's good for me.  A little nighttime drive with the windows open and cool air blowing in.  A person to talk to--"One, please."  Popcorn.  Other humans breathing in the dark.

Eye Q

My eye continues to heal.  For the first time in a week, I won't have to check in with the doctor tomorrow.  I can drive in the light of day without weeping and I haven't had an Advil in more than 24 hours.  I can even take off my sunglasses and work at my computer with both eyes open.  I have a nibble on another piece from a very nice online lit mag and I just finished editing it. 

Retail Therapy

I've been craving some new lingerie for weeks.  Mission accomplished. Macy's is having a fab "buy 2 bras, get 2 free" sale!  I hope my efforts find  an appreciative audience.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Under Cover of Darkness

I'm waiting for the sun to sink a little lower so I can go out and walk the dogs without traumatizing my injured eye.
Maybe I'll find a nice neck to sink my fangs into.


I eschew cliches--as all writers are taught to, but sometimes an experience really brings home the appropriateness of a couple of overused words.  I had to go back to the eye doctor today and figured that since my eye was feeling better it would be a piece of cake. My eye felt right as rain at 6:30 when I walked the dogs.  Just a little blurring.  No pain.  I could open it.  It was a whole new day until I drove east in the morning sunlight. Driving home later with the sun on the south side of the car shooting daggers into my left eye--also on the south side of the car--was a living hell and I cried buckets.
Now that I'm back inside, I can open it again.  But the contact lens must be left in.  The scratch is a bit better, but not healed yet and I have to go back again on Monday and drive into the blinding sun.

Ta Da!

I got word that a personal essay I've been trying to place has been accepted at Two Hawks Quarterly which is an on-line lit journal.  I like the piece a lot and it's cool that it's found a home. It's an excerpt from my second memoir (the one about the you-know-what) and it chronicles part of the road trip I took with my older daughter right after Mr. Ex delivered the news.  I miss C. a lot a the moment so it's especially nice to have her present via that story.
It will come out in November--so that means very soon.  

Friday, November 14, 2008

Oscar vs. Emmy

There are only so many things one can do with a painful and squinty pirate eye. Reading is out. Ditto watching a movie. Writing is a pain.  So I feel a blog binge coming on.  I've been surfing the net and found some information about the guy who had the potential, all those years ago, to derail my wedding plans.  He's the one in the tux holding the Emmy.  I wrote him a note and sent it off in care of his agent. Maybe it will make life more interesting.  Maybe not.

I've fallen and I can't get up......

I've figured out why people get married.  It's not the love or the sex--it's for the transportation to the emergency room.  I thought about calling friends last night.  I thought about calling a taxi. Instead, after Layla, my 55 lb. collie shepherd mix, helped me jam my finger straight into my left eyeball, I took 2 Advil, put some eye drops in my eye and went to bed.  I figured if I could sleep, it could wait 'til morning.  
So this morning I had my 3rd doctor's visit this week (3 different doctors for 3 different reasons.) I have a large scratch across my eyeball and am now wearing a contact lens coated with antibiotic ointment and am sitting on the couch with an ice pack on my lower back and a hot pack on my left hamstring.  After hiking countless rocky uneven hillsides in Greece during Mr. Ex's nuptials, I returned to The States and and sprained my right ankle while walking from my studio to the residence hall one night in Virginia.  Then 4 days after I got home with a still swollen and sore ankle, I got up off the couch a little too abruptly and strained my left hamstring (probably because I had been babying my right leg.) 
About a month after Mr. Ex left me, I looked into some assisted living condos in my hometown in Iowa on behalf of my mother.  The place was lovely.  You got to go on entertainment outings and get a free haircut in the in-house salon every month as part of the purchase price!!!  And the price contained one less zero than the townhouse I was in the process of buying in So Cal. Gee, I thought, maybe I should buy one for myself. That's right--for hundreds of thousands of dollars less, I could have had a ride across the street to the hospital at any hour of the day or night. 
But I believed my children when they told me I was too young for assisted living.  They're probably right, but I think I might need a very devoted boyfriend.
Well, gotta run.  Need a fresh ice pack.  Have to run the hot pack through the microwave.  Must limp upstairs to the bathroom and put in more eye drops.  
Oh, and I gotta arrange for my birthday present to myself.  Private salsa lessons.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

This Shit is Over

"You're going to use your married name as your middle name?" the clerk at window #1 asked me, somewhat incredulously. 
"Yes, I am," I said.  The old me would have gone on to explain exactly why I'd decided to do that, but the new me kept it short.  I'd already sat for two hours and fifteen minutes on one of those scooped out plastic chairs attached to its row of  clones that insures you are shoulder to shoulder with your neighbor.  The social security office was barely controlled mayhem today--maybe due to the fact that Southern California staged an earthquake drill earlier this morning or  it might have been the absurdity of the larger than life portraits of Bush and Cheney grinning at us from the wall.
"Somebody oughta take that shit down!" the woman behind me said and the woman next to her concurred.
"That shit is OVER," the second woman said.
 I didn't want to be there a minute longer than necessary.  
"Mmmmhmmm," the clerk said said, and I think I saw her squelch an urge to roll her eyes. I waited for her to ask me about my new last name, but she didn't.  She squinted hard at her computer screen and ran her fingers over my documents, but I wasn't required to explain myself.  Yup, this shit is over, I thought.
It took me all week to find my Decree of Divorce.  I had to sort through the box where I'd been tossing everything my attorneys have been  sending me since August of '07.  A couple of nights ago, I sat on the couch and put everything in chronological order and eventually came across it. I also was required to produce photo ID, my current social security card and a completed form that required my parents' social security numbers along with the usual particulars.  This is what it takes to become a new person.
Next week, I'll go to the DMV and get a new license and then set about changing the name on my bank account, etc.
When I finally possess my new identity, my new last name will be my maternal grandmother's maiden  name.  Back in the spring when I first began to toss this idea around, I ran it by a new friend I'd made at the VCCA.  He's a poet.  "Clemen," he said.  "That's wonderful--clement,'s a beautiful name."  My new moniker has been vetted by a poet.
So, my last name will be the same as my grandmother's when she was a girl.  My daughters have both taken that name as their unofficial middle name.  I still retain Mr. Ex's name as my middle name.  My son has no middle name--just an initial, and his last name is different from mine and  my daughters' since he has a different father.  But he doesn't carry that name either-- because he was adopted and has his adopted father's name.  
Well, you know what Shakespeare said.
But I'm thrilled to have a new name.  Because this shit is over.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Sunday Sunset

I saw a jumbo jet glinting in the sunlight tonight while I was walking my dogs and wished I was on it.  Sorry, dogs.  It seems ridiculous to me that more than 15 months after my marriage ended, I  still  have not adjusted.  I have a lovely townhouse.  I live with 2 dogs and 2 cats. When I turn out my reading light at night, the dogs come over to the side of the bed for a final pat on the head. The timid cat who spends her time licking the hair off her legs while living in my downstairs bathroom cabinet comes out of hiding and settles down on the foot of my bed.  The other cat moves closer and purrs. So what is my problem?  The problem is that it's Sunday night--the one night of the week when I used to eat dinner with my husband (I know--how pitiful is that?!) and as I was walking those sweet dogs and looking up at the jetliner, I actually thought, I should be walking to dinner with Mr. Ex right now.  Is there no hope?
My son once told me that being adopted is like being in the witness protection program. Divorce is like that too. Your past is wiped out. You're supposed to forget it and move on.  Be someone else.  Erase your history.  Good thing I'm not in the witness protection program because I'd be fucking failing and would have a bullet in my brain by now.
So here's the score: 30 yr. marriage--over.  4 month relationship--over.  Coffee date--lukewarm.  Dinner date--no indigestion; just bland.  Full moon Athens/internet/telephone romance and possible friendship--over because I felt like burning a bridge out of spite. Internet and telephone correspondence: over due to the fact that I'm not OVER the divorce.  Internet correspondence--over because I'm not OVER  the divorce.  Okay, I admit it, I'm not over the divorce.  So sue me.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Why This is Important to Me

This is an excerpt from an open letter to Barack Obama from the writer Alice Walker:

Dear Brother Obama,
.........................................I would further advise you not to take on other people's enemies. Most damage that others do to us is out of fear, humiliation and pain. Those feelings occur in all of us, not just in those of us who profess a certain religious or racial devotion. We must learn actually not to have enemies, but only confused adversaries who are ourselves in disguise. It is understood by all that you are commander in chief of the United States and are sworn to protect our beloved country; this we understand, completely. However, as my mother used to say, quoting a Bible with which I often fought, "hate the sin, but love the sinner." There must be no more crushing of whole communities, no more torture, no more dehumanizing as a means of ruling a people's spirit. This has already happened to people of color, poor people, women, children. We see where this leads, where it has led.
A good model of how to "work with the enemy" internally is presented by the Dalai Lama, in his endless caretaking of his soul as he confronts the Chinese government that invaded Tibet. Because, finally, it is the soul that must be preserved, if one is to remain a credible leader. All else might be lost; but when the soul dies, the connection to earth, to peoples, to animals, to rivers, to mountain ranges, purple and majestic, also dies. And your smile, with which we watch you do gracious battle with unjust characterizations, distortions and lies, is that expression of healthy self-worth, spirit and soul, that, kept happy and free and relaxed, can find an answering smile in all of us, lighting our way, and brightening the world.

We are the ones we have been waiting for.

In Peace and Joy,
Alice Walker

'Til the Cows Come Home

The election is behind us but I'm still struggling with reconciling my political passions with familial allegiances.  I love my family and where we come from.  I tolerate our political disagreements even though I don't always understand why they see things the way they do.  But what really gets me is when a piece of shit like this gets sent around.  It's enough to make me want to burn my cowboy boots.  Not only is the factual content crap, but an anthem like this promotes the idea that farmers and other country folks are simpletons and gunslinging crazies. I've been a lot of places since I left Iowa, but I still think of myself as a country girl in a lot of ways. Just count me out when it comes to this bullshit.

You stink, Hank!

The country music political anthem I would choose would be Mary Gauthier's Mercy Now.

The whole album is great. Buy it.  Let your American dollar support intelligence. Play it until the cows come home.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Blue Means Happy

Heading home to my blue state. Making new friends at BWI with my Obama sticker on my laptop.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Road Trip

Favorite road name:  Blind Preacher Road
Favorite Church name: Mount Zion Rock Solid Baptist Church
Favorite item for sale in a front yard:  a boat named The Dallas Cowboy

Sunday, November 2, 2008

The Real World

This is the sign we see as we leave through the main gate.   I had an impulse to stop my car and put it on the other side of the post--so you'd see it driving in.  It seems to me, that this haven of creativity or other places like it, is for many artists their real world.  The place they inhabit with the most passion and commitment. Sure, before I know it, I'll be back to thinking about property taxes, getting my oil changed, calling the dentist, and seeing if the vet can figure out why one of my cats is licking the hair off her legs, but in a way all of that seems like stuff I could do while sleepwalking.  When I sit down to write at home and look out my window at my towering grevelia  tree that seems like a haven too, but it's there that I feel awake and really, really real.

Saturday, November 1, 2008


Tonight is my last night at the VCCA. There'll be vodka and dancing. Nice that we get to fall back.
Thinking of a  Tony Hoagland  poem.

Thursday, October 30, 2008


I will most likely be having dinner out with my mom on election night.  There's a pretty good chance the parking lot of wherever we end up will have quite a few McCain bumper stickers--and some confederate flags, too.  I've already got indigestion thinking about it.  If I go to the links below every hour between now and then, maybe that will help.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Beneath the Water

I finished the revision on my memoir tonight.  I've worked on it about 3 hours a day all month and I actually started the revision process last spring when I was here.  I've dropped the ball completely several times since Mr. Ex left me in July of '07, but I kept picking it up whenever I could.  The book got several rejections when my agent sent it out at the beginning of '07 and I realize now, it was not ready.  I have to figure out how to get it out there again.  Here's the beginning. 
             I come from black dirt.
             I come from tee totaling Presbyterians, fallen Catholics, and a small town where nothing is taller than the church steeples. 
I come from the river and all the muck that lies at the bottom of it.  I come from snow-white cranes on water and the hidden places in the woods that shelter a mushroom so delectable it melts your taste buds like a hot skillet melts butter.  I come from red-winged blackbirds, and the shock of a flash of scarlet as they flutter up from a ditch beside the road.  I come from fields and bare feet watching out for thistles and cow shit.  I come from people who mind their own business and yours, from whispers, party lines and pointing fingers. 
I come from weather; hail of all sizes, lightning bolts big enough to rip the sky wide open, tornadoes that will turn your town into a pile of sticks, and summer heat that just might last forever.  I come from the relief of a sigh made visible by the cold on a morning when a blizzard blots out the road and school is cancelled. I come from rain that entire counties pray for day and night.  I come from corn, and more corn--fields you can hide in where the shiny leaves are sharp enough to slash your arms; corn on the cob on a butter-soaked paper plate at a barbeque; corn in the feed trough stuck to the shiny wet-black nose of a steer that’s next summer’s steak.
I come from pitchers of peonies on old oak tables, and a girlhood of hats and gloves.  I come from children should be seen and not heard, and don’t do as I do, do as I say.  I come from mind your manners, and you know that girl was asking for it.  I come from the deer at the side of the road that bolts when your headlights blind him, and the next thing you know his antlers are embedded in your grill, and the rosary hanging from your rearview mirror won’t stop swaying.
 I come from ice-slick bridges, backseats, and beer.  I come from gravel roads, and highways coal-colored even under the full moon.  I come from red barns and hay and sweat that equals money.  I come from mom and pop businesses on a narrow-minded main street where you can see the church steps from the door of every tavern.   I come from the specter of hell and the promise of eternal salvation.  I come from litanies of saints and hog prices.
 I come from the place where a mistake can follow you as close as your shadow and be forever spoken of in the same breath as your name.
The prose style in rest of the book is not quite this lyrical.  It tells, in a fairly linear fashion, the story of giving up my son for adoption (when he was a newborn and I was 17) and of our reconnection when he was 21. 

Two Left Feet Dancing to the Beat

When I was married, we hosted a big Thanksgiving party every year. China, crystal, champagne, the delicious things that my friends made and brought to the table. Our feast occurred for two decades and I never imagined that changing.
When I was a little kid we had a tradition, too. The day was spent at my grandparent's or at my Aunt Mary's and I never really expected that ritual to change either.
But I never made it to the adult's table before my grandparents and my aunt died, and the house in which I thought I'd be serving up turkey and dressing for at least another decade isn't mine anymore. I think I'm figuring this part of life out-- things change.  
This year as I make my Thanksgiving plans, I'm discovering, that already, they're going to be different from the "new tradition" that began last year. I like rhythm and ritual, but I'm starting to see that this new unpredictability is my rhythm.  I'm a little awkward, but I think I'm feeling it. I'm dancing to the beat.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Why Not A Chicken?

I won at Scrabble--went out with a 95 point play that included the 7-letter word "viaduct."
And speaking of ducks, the last two walks in the woods have yielded a nice view of Mallards and a large flock of Canadian Geese.

Almost Gone

After today, only four more days here.  I'm tired of hunting for moose.  Tired of deciding if the glass is half empty or half full.  Forget the glass.  Let's just drink out of the bottle and marvel at the wine slipping through its shiny narrow neck.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

The Herd

Most of the people I've gotten to know left today.  I still have a week to go and will need to find new dinner conversation.  Start from scratch. Maybe I'll ring the blade of my knife against my wine glass and ask if there are any men, amongst the new arrivals, with a moose tattoo.

Saturday, October 25, 2008


I learned last night from my friends Toni and Elizabeth that it's been very hot in L.A.  Toni emailed me that she was sitting on her patio (where I've sat quite a few times myself) "listening to classical music with an overlay of chirping crickets."  Bang. Homesickness.  Then I realized I was homesick for my old house, which my daughters and I refer to nowadays simply by its number--"270."  For a fraction of a second, I forgot about my new place and was sitting in the candlelight at 270--a place I haven't seen for almost a year and will most likely never see again. But then I started missing lunches with Toni, and the fabulous meals we've had in the dark on her deck and I wished I could be in Elizabeth's living room with my fellow memoir writers reading from our pages. I only have a week left here in Virginia where it's raining and by tomorrow most of the fall color will be a brown mush on the ground and I know now that whether it's balmy or baking when I get back to L.A.,  it's the climate of friendship that's pulling me home.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Some Gravity Is More Equal

While I could riff on the wild turkeys I saw in the woods, or the amazing political photojournalist who's been eating dinner with us, or another date (yeah, I know) who has probably run screaming into the blogosphere, what I really want is for anyone who has stumbled here to go to the link below. I am interested in the unpredictable life right now. Here is the literal embodiment of the metaphor at sea.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


I set my keys on the table next to my plate tonight at dinner. Two people said, "Hey, you have an Indian on your key chain." How did I not notice that?

Desperately Seeking Moose

Okay, I know this is weird, but bear with me.  I just woke up from a nap and I dreamt of a guy and well, I liked him a lot and he had this tattoo. That's it in the picture.  I can't draw, but maybe you get the idea. Pine forest. Big ole moon (that's the thumbtack.) And a moose. Does anyone know this guy?  He's really nice. Smart. Sweet. Fun.  And a good kisser. Oh--The tattoo was on his chest and abdomen. Big. From about below the nipple line all the way to the belt line.  Call me......


This is the pond in the woods and it's lovely. When I stand there I see possibilities. A deer may appear for a drink. Mallards could paddle by. That large long-legged bird I haven't yet identified might clatter up out of the cattails and fly right over my head. There's a sturdy bench under the trees and if I have the patience to sit there (which I almost never do) maybe more than one amazing sight will present itself.  I keep wondering about that bench. It's a ways in from the trailhead and it's made of metal and wood.  Who carried it in there?

Monday, October 20, 2008


I'm trying to get that stupid quote about death and taxes out of my mind because I really don't want to go there.
While most reasonable people had their tax angst back in April, I had mine yesterday because Mr. Ex a.k.a. The Procrastinator always files for an extension and October 15th was the deadline. Which we missed. WE, because he also procrastinated for months (and probably years) about dumping me. If he'd walked out 6 weeks earlier, I wouldn't have had to file jointly with him for '07. Ah well, as Lucinda Williams sings, If wishes were horses, I'd have a ranch. I realize that in the grand scheme of things, this is a dust mote, but still I couldn't sleep last night. Every time I put my head on my pillow, I heard the lyrics to that Beatles song (no, I wasn't wearing my IPod.) All I could think was, yeah I'd like to tax your seat. I'm just looking forward to the day when the only communication I have to have with Mr. Ex goes something like this: Wasn't that a lovely graduation? Wasn't that a lovely wedding? Wasn't that a lovely christening? (That would be for one of our not-yet-conceived grandchildren, NOT one of his conceived-any-day-now new kids.) I listened to Lucinda's new album a half-dozen times last night and now today I can't get those lyrics out of my head.
Don't know why I said those things
I didn't mean 'em
Wish you were bringin' your love back to me
instead of leavin'
But if wishes were horses, I'd have a ranch
Come on and give me one more chance


Sunday, October 19, 2008

Strategically Placed

A lot of post-it notes have come down off the wall above my desk. Little ideas have become paragraphs or pages, and in some cases, are in the wastebasket where they belong. I have a decent draft of a short story, I think, and it has nothing to do with divorce or marriage which proves something good is happening here. I'm getting closer to sending Beneath the Water back to my agent--pretty sure that'll happen Monday afternoon. I have a whole new beginning to the 2nd memoir which is about you-know-what, but it's going swell just the same.  I did a critical essay on a Tobias Wolf story I adored and tonight, I'm just going to jumble up my damn novel like my MFA mentor has asked me to. I'm two weeks into this residency and I haven't felt this good in ages (about writing, anyway--but yeah, about most other things, too.) I have concluded that my brain does not work in L.A.  Too much history, too many Freeway exits where I think, hmm that's how you get to... and we used to always... and I remember when we.... the whole place looks like him and the scent of jasmine or rosemary smells like the night air coming into every bedroom we ever slept in.  You know what it smells like here?  Leaves. Frost. Stars. And absolutely nothing.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Stacked Stones

When I walk in the woods, I pass by a rocky outcropping that looks like a low wall. Some of the stones are embedded in the earth and others are lying loose next to the trail.  I started stacking the stones into a cairn on the day I took my first walk--one per day. Then  a few days into my stay,  I discovered half of the tower had fallen over and I began rebuilding, once again at a stone per day. A couple of days ago, I noticed someone had started his or her own cairn.
This morning, I had a discussion with a fellow writer about structure and order.  She had a flashback in a piece that was so long it distracted from the present moment of the story. I had a story that I'd recently revised and in the course of the revision, I told her, I'd used almost every sentence as it had originally been written, but the order of the sentences was now so rearranged that it was as if I'd put them all in a bag and shook it. I didn't even know it was possible for that to happen, I told her.
That's how things seem for me right now--out of order, knocked down and stacked back up in some new precarious way and maybe someone else is doing a bit of the stacking.  I'm "boy crazy" at a time in my life when I should be savoring everything  I've built. A time when I imagined love would be indistinguishable from commitment. A time when  passion and comfort would have the same heft.
Instead, I'm estranged from a huge chunk of my own history, walking in the woods and wondering who the hell moved the trail.