Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Molly Ivins is dead, damn it.

I happen to believe she would approve of the salty language as my way of saying her death from breast cancer is a damnable waste. And while some of my best friends are men, I think if we had pumped half as much money into curing breast cancer as we do into finding cures for male impotence, she'd be alive and writing today.

Ms. Ivins, the Times would call her. They kicked her to the curb because she walked around the office barefoot and swore too much. Ms. Ivins was a graduate of my alma mater, Smith College, intellectual training ground for Gloria Steinem and Betty Friedan, sure, but Ms. Ivins was my hero. She must have been quite a figure there too, tall and outspoken and not there to get her Mrs. degree, as the saying went. She was a independent woman with a strong, clear, funny voice that poked the fatcats and let no one off the hook.

I had the pleasure of seeing her speak in person once, at the Humane Society Expo in Dallas. My mother and I went there because I was conducting a workshop on drafting legal documents for animal shelters and rescues. I got a free plane ticket and a room, and my mom wanted to see Molly Ivins, who was the keynote speaker. As my mom and I sat practically in the first row, beaming at her as she towered behind the podium, she took an actual clipping from her jacket pocket, identified it as from the front page of that morning's Times, and quoted some ridiculous Bushism. She then made several very good jokes about it, before a huge national audience, just like she might be joking with us around her kitchen table.

Then she said, "Oh, he sounds stupid, alright, but do not under estimate him. He is not a moderate. He is dangerous. He is not an honest man." After the speech Ms. Ivins talked with my mom briefly, and made the whole trip worthwhile for her.

This was before Al Gore won the election and we got George W. Bush as our president. This was before September 11. Before the unending war in Afghanistan. (Remember? We're still there, looking for Osama Been Forgotten.) Before the war in Iraq, this quaqmire which is sending home over 30,000 wounded young men and women so far, a very large portion of them with missing limbs and devastating closed head injuries.

And we are still in both places because George W. Bush is not an honest man. He is dangerous.

Molly Ivins, it gives me no pleasure to say you were right, prescient even. But your words never failed to give me pleasure in a world where so much harm is done. You were a beacon, a voice in the wilderness, and you made me laugh. You were nice to my momma.

Thank you, Ms. Ivins, for your barefooted, swear-word peppered truths. You were an original. I love you. Rest in peace.

And fer chrissake, don't let St. Peter off the hook, either.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Acrostic Lunch

Late lunch

Last I saw you, you stood so still,
Under a dripping umbrella. “I will always,” you began
“Never,” I interrupted and turned away into the dark.
College, grad school, marriages, divorces, children since.
How many years and you never, never left?
I’m back, a lifetime later, unfettered
Now, eating alone, across that street.
After one, I linger over pinot
Noir and watch for you who were
Never far away. Muted memories swim
And then, there you are, in winter light,
Rooted at curbside, fishing change,
Burberry trenched, cashmere noosed. A lump
Of middle-aged sentimentality rises in my throat.
Reaching to pay the bill, I realize the price.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

How life changed three years ago

So, today has been wonderful so far. Ben and I awakened at the reasonable hour of 7 (truthfully I'd been awake since 4, but dozing off and on in my middle-aged insomnia sort of way.) We had a leisurely breakfast of oatmeal and leftover cupcakes from yesterday. Ben had taken the cupcakes to school to celebrate his upcoming 3rd birthday with his pals. I did some writing and he did some TV watching; I did some laundry and he played in the water. Then we dressed to head downtown to the Hands On Museum, where we were slated to meet Blake and her mommy Deborah.

And like magic, we met just outside the museum, Ben running fake slow motion to Blake, saying "Blakey!" Blake is 17 months old and the queen bee of Peachtree School. There she was in her lavender pants, red shoes and bright pink velour top, jacket unzipped (very casual) and beaming smile.

We had just gotten settled in the toddler play area when we were joined by angelic Alexander and his heavenly daddy, Neil. Now, I like Alex's mom, Christie, but swear if she were to die, I would be all over Neil. He's British, with a wonderful accent, slight over bite and glasses: handsome in that sort of geeky way I adore. He's a chemistry prof at the U. So we three parents watched and played with our kids, as they played with each other. Alex is two and a half. The threesome had a great time running us all over for an hour. We three got to know each other a bit more, then adjourned to Argierro's for pizza. There we were joined by Emanique and her two sons, Edrick and Jordan. Emanique informed me that Ben's cupcakes are now famous, having been discussed at their house for most of last night's dinner. She knew all about the colors--yellow and pink-- and the sprinkles--stars and green sugar. I thanked her and said that Duncan Hines would so love to hear that. Neil said "Oh that's what the cupcakes were all about, Alexander (and he said it like this: al-ex-ahhhhnder") was talking about them too." Sigh.

Ben was in heaven, especially when Emanique suggested singing happy birthday to Ben. It was a great morning. As Ben and I made our way home about 1:30, we stopped at Whole Foods and picked up party supplies. There, the baker advised us on how to make a light raspberry drizzle to add to our flourless chocolate birthday cake for tomorrow. Organic cheeses, wines and turkey, along with bread and sandwich delights. All for our little party tomorrow.

Ben's napping now, and I am recounting my blessings: how life has changed in just three short years. Ben came, and then a new job, new friends. Along with all those changes, the deep gratitude for old friends who have stayed in touch through this blog and email. We love you all. So many of you were there for me three years ago when I hadn't a clue how to put a baby in a car seat. Now, I am the grande dame of the parents at Peachtree (when I said I was 50, Deborah, who must be all of 26, said, "that is AWESOME") and truly amazed at the wonder of life and how much things can change when you open yourself to it. Or when you are pried open by a toddler with a spoon.

Ben and I send birthday greetings to all of you. Our birthday gathering this year will be smaller, but we will have you all in our hearts. Hippo Birdie to Ewe.

Peace! Shalom! Salaam!

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

What keeps you from crossing the threshold from not writing to writing

A doorway, no door.
On the other side, light
and green, even flowers.

If I step through
what do I leave behind?
Where do I go
if I step through?
What if it is so pleasant
on the other side
I can't walk back through?

Why would I go back
to Not Writing?
Because I know it.
Dark, its corners,
small warmth.
A roof, walls, no windows.
The warm comfort
of a small space.

The threshold calls:
the sun, the green,
the other side invites.

I hold my breath.
My own fear keeps me here.
I look around
the edge of the threshold.
Sun bathes my calf.
My arm now into the light.
Inertia is heavy.
The light moves up
to my shoulder.

A dappled gray mare
grazes. Turning to look at me,
green grass hangs from her lips.
She shakes her head at me.

I move toward her to ride.

The general comes from the specifics

Red! Red! Stickers
orange and yellow.
Speed with wheels,
numbers and Lightening flashing.
"Let's race."
Eyes wide and whitewalls.
Small enough to fit in his small hand:
when he finally lets it fall
from his grasp, the metal
is warm to the touch.

Hard and bruising
in the dark
on my arch,
beloved of my beloved.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

One more Ben story

I used to hate parents who told cute stories about things their kids said. Now I know that I hated that because their kids were stupid and those silly parents thought they were smart. Ben IS smart, so it's OK that I continually tell Ben stories.

I guess that should be the self-delusion disclaimer required by international blogger code and should be in 14 pt. type.

Anyway, a couple of nights ago we were driving home from work and school. Ben's current musical passion is a Billy Jonas song Coup D'etat. It's smart white boy rap with great drums and lots of French words. Ben calls it "Coup D'etat-ta" because the refrain is something like "coup d'etat, coup d'etat, coup d'etat-ta-ta." It's about life's little and not so little victories, like when you think you lost your wallet then you find it in your pocket. Or you think they're hanging you for treason and you realize you are dreaming. Coup d'etat!

So, we were driving along listening to Coup D'etat, and Ben says,

"Momma! Benjamin's car is singing!"

Coup d'etat!

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Sisyphus on Sanibel

Ben and I just spent five days on Sanibel Island with my mom. I’ve been going there since I was 7. The island has changed with the passing 42 years, just about everything is slick and rich now, where before it wasn’t much more than a general store and some motels full of fisherman and shellers.

On thing that hasn’t changed is the white sand beach—fine sand almost like powder. Watching Ben in the hot sun, I wrote this:

My son is trying to put the beach back into the ocean. His blue plastic shovel drips with the fine powdered sand of Sanibel. In just two days he has learned not to step on someone else’s sand castles, not to fear the waves, and to almost like the feel of the sand in his toes.

He purposefully clumps up from the water line, his beach shoes caked with the fine glop the wet sand makes. Bending down, he fills his shovel, then walks back to the gentle waves breaking on the sand. There, he raises his right arm above his head, puts his left leg out behind him raising his foot above the water. Balancing in that way, he tips the shovel and lowers his gaze to watch the dripping sand fall into the surf.

A friendly couple with a northern New England accent stops in their morning beach walk. “Good morning young man! Are you putting the beach back into the ocean?” the brassy woman asks, hands on her ample hips and her smile twinkling.

“Yes!” Ben says, beaming up at her, sand still dripping into the foam.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Irony in the Blogoshpere

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OK, this is not so funny. I post a sonnet--one I sweated and slaved over, worked for hours on, trying to grapple with an abstract idea within the confines of classical form, and the google ad that tops it is this (see above).

And to make matters worse, I logged on to edit.

On the other hand, doesn't every aspiring writer need a wife? Hmm. No cost, live in help, does meals, laundry, child care.

See y'all over at ebay.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

First of the Jubilee Year Sonnets

On Thought

The weight of our most cherished secret thought might be
As light as mist, or cuckoo's song draped round a tree.
Thought has no form, heft, no breadth, no light or dark;
We cannot hold a thought within our fingers' grasp
Or see it, though it may shake us with truth so stark.
No matter how an idea holds our heart in its clasp
Thought lives without proof, in faith, unbound in our hearts
And cannot be proved without a mortician's arts:
Thought spoken, written, is embalmed as word. Consumed,
Dead ink on paper, or binary byte: exhumed,
And read, dead to change, static words from start to send.
Listener or reader must on fair thought depend:
What you write, I read, then even love you I might,
Yet my love not be proved until I speak or write.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Why having kids is a great idea

OK, I confess, it’s been a rough couple of weeks. And I am by nature an optimist. But being called a racist by a co-worker really took it out of me. There’s been so much going on at work, I haven’t even had the energy to write.

But tonight I said I just have to get back at it.

So I thought I’d tell about Ben in the car last Wednesday. We had a gorgeous full moon here, and a crisp, clear night, which was pretty dark already by 5:30, as we were driving home.

“Look, Ben, look at that moon,” I said from the front seat to him in the back.

“Oh, yes, Momma. It’s bootiful.” There’s a pause, and he claps his hands once. What he did next was priceless but it requires a bit of explanation.

Over Christmas, Ben and I stayed in a hotel. There were a bunch of lives in being at my mom’s: my mom, my two sisters, their three sons, and my brother in law, along with three dogs and more presents than you can imagine. I thought it would give the plumbing a break if we stayed away, plus we could swim, which Ben loves.

He’s been intrigued with the idea of the “ho-towel” since we stayed there. Each night, as we head home, he says, “Go ho-towel, Momma?” He prefers it to our house, mostly I think because Santa also found us at the ho-towel and left Diesel-10 for him there. He’s forgotten that when we arrived home from his stay at my mom’s, Santa had also found him here, and left presents, too. The kid is nothing if not indulged.

So, cut back to us on the way home Wednesday, he has just said the moon was beautiful and clapped his hands like he was commanding a genie to appear. Then he says:

“Hi, Moon, wanna go to a ho-towel?”

Then, like any red-blooded American male, answering for the moon, Ben says in a higher voice, “OK, Ben, let’s go!”