Friday, January 31, 2014

Style notes at the end of January.

1. first of all,


2. navy blue nail polish

3. By all means, if a blue sweater arrives in the mail in the afternoon, put it on directly. You will be all the cozier.

4.  All the colors of blue look good worn together, in my opinion.

5. And now it is clear: this is the reason you bought navy blue suede driving moccasins when they were on sale at Target, even though you didn't technically need navy blue suede driving moccasins.

6. little silver earrings.

7. (curly hair is either a trial or total liberation, but sometimes you might want to put it up into a ponytail when it's damp, just to remind it who is boss.)

8. turquoise parachute-silk scarf (in case you need to jump out of a plane on a moment's notice).

9. your gray coat, because sometimes, gray is a species of blue.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The return of the repressed, or: No Exit.

Shh, don't say anything, but I may be in a hell of recursion, wherein I get sick, sleep a lot, get better (or "better"), sleep but not quite enough, wake up feeling like contagion is lurking in every corner, then start to sneeze and sniffle and my back starts twinging. I'm just saying: can't a girl get up after almost seven hours of sleep, put on a leopard print skirt and boots, go off to work, do the full day, and not come home with the devil to pay?  
Well can't she?

Wednesday, January 22, 2014


Don't you wish, sometimes, that there was a greater elasticity in the day? A capacity, a commensurability of the available hours with the things we want to do, beyond the things we must do?

I thought this as I trudged--there's no other word for it--from my car to the basement of the library. I was on the west of the building, but in the shadow of the walk way between two tallish buildings. The sun was still low in the east. It was cold.

I thought, I will be in that basement for six hours. Because it was the truth, and also because I was feeling the tiniest bit whiny about it, at the outset.

Although I enjoyed much about them, and although I accomplished a lot during those hours, I wished nonetheless that those six hours had had a little break in them. (a lunch-sized, or even a snack-sized break.)

I wished that, in the consultations which pushed up against each other, cheek, as they say, by jowl, there had been a small sane breath, one that allowed for thought.

I thought about slowing down, to see something, to open my eyes, to find a picture, an image. To capture it, or even just to see it.

On my way out to the car at the end of the day, I saw a boy who must have cut through campus on his way home from school. He had a big branch, probably broken from a tree. He was driving it into an icy snowbank created, no doubt, weeks ago from the plows clearing the lots after the last snowfall. He was standing on the snow, dislodging divots of snow and flicking them into the air. I wasn't close enough to see them hit the pavement, but I imagine they shattered, or broke, anyway.

As I neared my car, he looked up. He smiled at me. I smiled back. He turned back to his work/play. Like a farmer, cultivating the ground? Like someone digging to unearth something? Or just like a kid, inventing a game out of a stick and snow.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Cherry preserves.

Everyone has at least one, a plan for a humble dinner, the thing you know you can make when you just need something to eat and it doesn't need to be fancy: you know you can throw it together (or in dire circumstances, you can open a can and heat it). (Don't tell me you don't do this. It will depress me beyond measure if you don't.)

For me, there are several potential humble dinners. (I'll set the can opener dinners to the side. Those are the desperate dinners, and they're worth predicting and planning for. Like, laying in a case or so of those cans. But I digress.)

The humble dinner! It often involves eggs and often cheese. There is the savory version--in my house, the green chile quiche, for which you want to have a can of green chiles on hand. My mother made this dish, and when I became a woman, I put aside childish things and embraced it for what it so excellently was: a savory cheese pudding with chiles in it that would warm the heart of humankind and nourish the starving. Many's the day when I've made this, weary in well-doing and what not, and like charity, it never faileth. (You can sort of approximate the recipe from this post.)

[parenthentical note: if Google tries to correct my Biblical spellings one. more. time. I will freak out. that is all.]

these are actually David Lebovitz's cherry preserves
--it's pretty close to how I made them, except I just
used a sharp knife and not a cherry pitter. I had a
cherry pitter once, but then it broke. 
On the less savory side of the humble dinner,  there is the cottage cheese pancake. Also involving eggs and also involving cheese, it takes to all sorts of sweet garnishes, such as jam and cut up fruit. (Here is the recipe.) But tonight in the very vortex of our hunger, I remembered that I had a little pint of cherry preserves that I had laid by like a pioneer or a Boy Scout, so that in the depths, yea! the very depths of winter, I would be able to pull it out of my freezer, kiss it on the lips  (totally figurative) and eat it with pancakes.

The people, that is what we did: we made cottage cheese pancakes, we opened a half pint of apricot jam and thawed a pint of cherry preserves, and we ate it up.

And lo, it was very good. Very good indeed.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Productivity Report.

--because every so often, we all need one.

Right now, I am eating several Christmas cookies, some of the last of the very last. They are still good. A picture, you say? Sure: 

But eating cookies is not all I have done today, not by a long shot. I have also eaten oatmeal, and an apple.

I am also charging and updating my iPod. And I am doing curriculum work which, if you want to know, is tedious. Also, in a momentous and decisive moment, I threw away some candy.

Also, I saw 47 Ronin, which was every bit as much of a mess as it possibly looked like it might be from the trailers, which trailers made me say  I am seeing that movie. And today I did, with my aunt Sally, and we had a good time, and popcorn. Very satisfying. Checked it off my list.

Also, I did laundry and hung up my clothes and washed the sheets. And graded a discussion, and did half of the Sunday crossword puzzle and took a minor nap. And made dinner. And then did some more curriculum work.

Does this sound desultory? Does it sound mundane? Did you perhaps do something better and more worthy, such as see films at Sundance or take a hike or come back from a small and splendid trip? 

My friends, I know that some of you did each of these things, and good for you, truly. I am about to go binge watch from Season 4 of Justified, without irony, because as my friend Pancho once said to me (I paraphrase), "You don't got to explain your viewing decisions to no one." Truer words, Pancho. Truer words.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

The Megastore recommends: Recovery Edition.

Who likes it when the winter cold comes back a second, and then a third time? I know I do! Well, not really, of course, but I do feel something of an expert on the topic of recovery...or least on the topic of wanting to recover.  If you, like me, want to recover from a winter cold, I recommend the following:

lions sleep, like, 22 hrs. a day.
Lions might be my sleep idols.
1. Sleep. Good Lord, can we please do away with the 3:30 a.m. wake up call, wherein we worry about our children, or what we have to do tomorrow, or the fact that we really could die any minute, and where is the dog sleeping, anyway? PLEASE. I recommend that you sleep, whenever possible, until you wake up, and then take a nap the instant you feel fatigued. Put away your caffeine, you fiends! You need your sleep!

YES I can attend 70 different meetings
this week! because I am a robot like that!

2. Do not add the extra things.  To your agenda, of course. Let me just say that my week included many meetings, all of which I needed to be (a) prepared for, and (b) aware of, as in, sentient enough to check my calendar, assuming that all the meetings were even on the calendar. The people, when you are sick, ten meetings in a week, plus your job, plus an extra run up into another county for a convention and sleepover: the people, this is too much! How does one expect to get better while carrying on in this way?

--to meetings. But say YES to soup.
3. Resolve. You must resolve to take care of yourself, whatever this means. Among the things it might mean: stretchy clothes. A crossword puzzle, solved while lying in a fetal position. Warm beverages. A snuggle with a granddaughter and grandson. The easiest possible dinners. Soup, which I did not have this week (note to self: SOUP.). Just say no to meetings (which I did not do). You will need to be staunch, fierce, even, in the face of the assault on your recovery. Think of it this way: those meetings aren't hostile to you, precisely. But they are oblivious. And if you don't shut your door, metaphorically, to them, and hide under some covers so they can't see you, they will keep on pressing. They are relentless like that. You have to be firm with them. You have to know your limits! The people--and by the people, I mean hightouchmegastore--you must know your limits!

4. Okay, no more raving at yourself. You are only human, the people. You make mistakes, we all do, and you're just trying to do your best. But week nine billion of the winter cold is time to take a stand. Forgive yourself: you couldn't help saying yes to all those meetings. But now you know better: you need to take care of yourself, so button up your sweater and get in bed.


william warby, sleeping lion
pleuntje, #ohpleaseno
donnamarijne, just say no
mouton.rebelle, be kind to yourself

Thursday, January 16, 2014

To read:

This is the list I composed from looking at other people's lists. So, you know, 
a collage. Of books I would like to read. I am going to read one book a week, 
on average, or at least that is whatI'm hoping to do. So far I have read 
The Golem & the Jinni, The Testament of Mary, parts of The Best American 
Food Writing 2013, and I'm into the Mary Szybist and Frank Bidart 
books of poetry.

I hope to find many of these books in the library. Or else spend a fortune at 
bookstores (and on Amazon, let's be truthful).

What, pray tell, are you reading right now? And what do you hope to read?

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Writing? I guess.

I have never, and I mean NEVER, done the thing where you say to the kids you're teaching, "I'm going to do the writing with you this semester."

But lo and behold! yesterday, I heard myself say these very words to the students in the room. 

That's thirteen poems, maybe I can write thirteen poems in fifteen or so weeks? 

I did say on my "GOALS 2014" page that I created with my very own hands, digitally, so, you know, digital hands, where were we? right: I did say on my GOALS 2014 page that I would

so, you know. I guess I'm writing a poem, after I leave you here--you, ghostly reader, whom I sense only from your comments and your Facebook "likes" and your, you know, page hits--after I leave you here, a poem with 
Guy holding two cigarettes in his hand in the elevator, one for him, one for his girlfriend
Every story a ghost story
Cannot use EVER
2 of my less brooding poems
Did my faith exile me or did I exile myself from my faith? What does exile mean? Who are the exiles?
in it, maybe, but definitely
a piece of fruit or vegetable; a window, door, portal; a machine or mechanical device; a famous person, real or fictional (not the 20th c.); an exotic place; something from science—theory, principle, name, or idea; a means of transportation; a part of the body; an item, saying, event, etc. from another culture; an idea from philosophy or religion or belief system.

because that is the assignment. So I guess I am going to go write a poem.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The first day.

Yesterday was the first first day, but today was the first day I met students. It was everything such days are meant to be (I feel bullets. I feel bullets real hard.):

  • early rise-y
  • extra complicate-y
  • not enough nutrition-y
  • super tired feet-y
I know you feel me.

However, I did not see this coming: a student told me that he could not read--could not!--the contemporary poetry anthology I had selected as one of the texts for a course I am teaching. It's because he is only interested in the great poets, and these (picture a derisive, dismissive gesture) contemporary poets would contradict, nay, pollute his poetic progress! 

I will pause, so that you may reflect.

(He was nice when he said it, but still.) 

I know, I know. I don't need to worry about this. Moving on: one of the complicate-y things about this day was that I had to hightail it out of my last class lickety split to drive to Wasatch County for a little conference of art house film exhibitors. As I mentioned to my eldest daughter in an international text message, 

Obviously, when the opportunity to go to this conference arose, and I recognized that it was happening on the first day of classes, I should have sent my regrets. However, I did not. Instead, I figured out how I would (a) pack my overnight goods, and (b) get up far too early, and (c) make sure I had every needful thing in my school bag, and (d) hightail it lickety &c., all to make two sessions and a keynote. 

However, in my own and in my over-committed schedule's defense, the keynote was Leonard Maltin, who was in fine raconteur form and earned a standing ovation from the grateful crowd. I learned that art house cinemas are all facing the same issues, but they're a hardworking and courageous bunch, and I'm kind of proud to be playing my tiny little part in helping them along.

And now I will watch a little television until I am unconscious. That is all.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Open letter to the new semester.

My dear the new semester,

I already feel exhausted from your links and uploads, your too-soon e-mails, your flurry of meetings. And the prospects of an easing of this seem dim. Is it Monday? of the first week? It feels later, and more frantic. Or maybe that's what Monday of the first week is. All canceled lunch dates and extra appointments, all seizing up because of the forgotten assignments to be posted. All unmade calendars.

Well, I could whine some more, the new semester, I could. But it's probably best to just get on with it.

I'm going to see how much loveliness I can find my way to in the midst of you. And who knows? You might like that too.

Let's write some tanka,


Thursday, January 09, 2014

It was evening all afternoon.

It was snowing
and it was going to snow.

snow day, work on the side. lisab, on stripgenerator

I was of three minds, 
Like a tree 
In which there are three blackbirds.

Wednesday, January 08, 2014


Today, a friend shared this from Verlyn Klinkenborg, from his A Few Short Sentences About Writing:

"Is it possible to practice noticing?

I think so.
But I also think it requires a suspension of yearning
And a pause in the desire to be pouring something out of yourself.
Noticing is about letting yourself out into the world,
Rather than siphoning the world into you
In order to transmute it into words."

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

The Hightouchmegastore Guides for Living #189: Sleeping With Dogs.

1. First, acquire a very, very very very large bed. The breadth of the bed should be akin to a broad savannah, such as where the lions roam.

2. Divide the bed into as many people and/or animals as will be sleeping in it. Preferably, divide these sections with something that a dog cannot knock over, when the dog inevitably turns over in the night with a giant sleepy sigh.

3. Get into your section of the bed. Let the dog get into his section. Drape a drapery across the dog, if that's how you roll. Adjust the covers. Turn out the lights and drift into a blissful, blissful slumber.

4. If you have a smaller bed, you are screwed.

5. Wait: if you have a smaller bed, you must not allow your tender and sentimental heart to be stirred by the sweet sight of a sleeping dog.

6. If, when you gently call the dog's name to rouse him from his evening rest, to entice him to another all-night sleep location, if at that time he opens one eye in bewilderment, as if to say, what's that now? but I was sound asleep! do not be turned from your rightful path.

7. You may give the dog another five minutes. Ten minutes tops. In fact, as you plan this whole sequence of events, take the "first a warning, then a five-to-ten minute wait" factor into account, so your own slumber will not be delayed.

8. After five minutes, ten minutes tops, speak to the dog in a firm but gentle voice. Tell him whatever lets you feel okay about yourself, but say it and get the dog off the bed, out of the room, and moving on to his new sleep situation.

9. Don't give up, now. Sure, he looks cute there all nestled into the bed, like he belongs there with the pack, you, the alpha, and him, the doggy beta. Just think of the middle of the night when he will be immovable and you will be awake, plotting how to get just six inches more of the covers and scheming about how to turn over without losing all the covers. Keep that thought uppermost in your mind as you make that dog get off the bed and leave the room.

10. No, he can't stay for just a little while longer. Just a little while longer? No, he cannot.

11. Is he out? Good for you. It shows strength of character and resolve. You are the boss of that bed and of the sleeping you do there. Now settle in, finish the crossword, turn out the light, and take a deep, calming breath of the cooling air in the room and the almost-disappeared redolence of a dog who is now sleeping in his proper place, i.e. and to wit: not with you.

Monday, January 06, 2014

The rubble and the glory.

Today I took on the ruin. But before that I took on my bureau. But before that, I started on the ruin. The true story is, there is a lot of ruin in my house, and it isn't confined to one room.

My study, though, is the big ruin. Let's analyze:

First there was stuff that just needed to be put away. But before it could be put away, the things that were extra and not necessary and perhaps even egregious needed to be sorted. Old magazines? Boxes with artifacts from my youth? Expired discount cards purchased from long-gone high school athletes? All these things and more needed to be sorted and culled and, in my current ruthless mood, thrown ruthlessly away. Then the putting away could commence. Rinse, lather, repeat, if you see what I mean. This has gone on all day.

"Did Bruiser do this?"
The room, however, has sectors, and all the sectors cannot be dealt with at once. For instance, one of my first goals was to make sure that there were no more books on the floor. We are just about, just about there. Maybe we're even actually there. Now, though, there are papers. Not on the floor, per se, but on the level above that: on the footstools and ottomans. These must also be sorted and gone through. Some things must be shredded. Others must be placed into some sort of conceptual domain, or moved into another room, but preferably into a space where they belong and not into some new vortex of randomness.

Pause: is my house my enemy or my friend?

Tonight, I took everything off my desk and threw away a good cubic foot or maybe more of random nonsense. I will say that my desire for an entirely clean surface is not fulfilled. But there's a much larger area of tidy, not cluttered space, so it's an improvement. For the entirely clean surface to result, I would need to have a better filing system.

Question: what is actually in my files?

Also, I would need to have a place to store the ribbon and glitter, true story.

Well, I continue the sorting and organizing. I hope not to lose momentum before I take the books off the shelves and imagine a more logical and evident order, one that will help me lay hold of the book I want when I want it. But this may necessitate reordering books all through the house. This, as you may imagine, seems daunting.

Also, I need to recycle approximately the contents of one file drawer. I even know which drawer it is. There is also a heap of cameras that need a place to live. But where? where?

For the past two days, my back has been a little twinge-y. This happens, sometimes, when I've been sick, because of the dramatic increase in laying around. It's a thrill to see which sector of the back will twinge next. At the moment, it's the area between my shoulder blades.

Cheers to a cleaner desk, and to books off the floor, and to a plan for greater order and more file space and a place for everything and everything in its place. And to the next stop for back twinges to be elsewhere, wherever twinges go to sort themselves out.

photo credit: whistlesinthewind, "moorland ruin 2"

Sunday, January 05, 2014

this & that.

I think I would like seeing this.

Someone should figure out how to make all of these clothes for me, stat.

I have reached the point in this particular cold where I would rather blow my nose than take this or this anymore.

This guy will be back from Mumbai in January (for two months)--can't wait to see him!

Sure, I'll be watching this, but with a jaundiced eye.

On the other hand, we'll be watching this (streaming) and DVRing this (so we can binge-watch later).

Hoping to visit the modern-day version of this town over spring break.

When we visit Chengdu this spring, I hope I get to see this.

Having an after school snack with this guy on Monday, and sneaking kisses from this tiny girl.

I'll be sorry to see these two go home tomorrow afternoon.

Loved watching this again with my son and his friend.

I hope I hope I hope that these people will be in Utah this summer.

Looking forward to being well again, so I can finally see this (after reading this and this and this).

This is compulsively readable!

Friday, January 03, 2014

An essay about my cowboy boots.

Many years ago, possessed by I don't know what, I found and bought a pair of red cowboy boots. I wore them as many ways as I could think to wear them, although in retrospect, I believe they were aspirational and symbolic, in that they represented something about myself that I wanted to express. I loved them and they were beautiful, but there were days when they seemed better than I was, braver and brasher and less afraid, and that's not a good situation, in terms of footwear. Gradually I wore them less and less, and then I gave them away.

Recently, I became possessed of the idea that, again, I needed a pair of cowboy boots. So I began to look for them, with patience but with purpose. I found them: the right price and beautiful. They are one of my favorite colors for shoes, navy blue, but dark enough that they can seem almost black. They are comfortable, even, which is a great quality, especially when coupled with beauty. I'm sure they are also aspirational and symbolic, but their meaning is elusive to me at this point. I wear them--not exactly often, but regularly, and each time I do I am more pleased with them.

I wore them today, for instance, the day my son and his wife and family went back home to their life in Arizona. They'd been staying with us for the last week. It has been so lovely each morning, to have a little boy, then another, appear up the stairs, ready for breakfast and a chat. This morning, for instance, the older boy told me he wanted corn flakes and raisins for his breakfast. "Craisins," he amended, meaning dried cranberries. I happened to have some dried cranberries, leftover from my fruitcake baking. But I also offered him the option of some raisins I had bought, the Jumbo Raisin Medley of Trader Joe's provenance. I showed him a rather large golden raisin.

He shook his head emphatically. "No, I don't want those."

"Do you want to try one just to see?" I asked, but gently.

He took one and ate it with the expression of a scientist performing an exacting experiment. He finished, having eaten it very thoroughly--it was quite a large raisin--and repeated, "No, I don't want those."

So craisins it was. He ate and hummed little melodies, asked questions and made comments about the pictures and drawings we had posted on our kitchen wall. This kind of heaven is what I am talking about. One of the nights this week, his cousin spent the night, and the following morning we made waffles. I poured syrup carefully into all the squares and cut the waffles into pieces so we could have a lovely, fleeting breakfast.

Sure, there were tears and late nights, little meltdowns, but mostly, it was just a joy to have them. So this morning when I dressed to accompany them on the first part of their journey, down to Orem to visit my parents, whence my son and family would depart to the south and we would return to the north, I wanted to be comfortable but also fitting for the occasion, so I put on my boots. It's worth noting these departures, I feel.

When we got home, I was so tired. I've been ill, am still recovering. Today's outing was just about what I could handle, maybe a little more than I could handle. I started some laundry, and lay down on the sheetless bed to rest. I didn't take my boots off, I'm not sure why. Maybe I didn't think I'd be sleeping so long. Maybe I was tired enough to do no more than sink into bed.

When I woke up three hours later, I thought, there's no good reason to take a nap in cowboy boots. But maybe when you're ill, a little bit exhausted and a little bit melancholy, there's not a compelling reason to take them off, either. I lay there a little longer, checked my phone. They'd arrived in St. George, the first leg of their trip. I took my boots off and the historian and I prepared for a quiet night in.

Thursday, January 02, 2014

Top five things about today, and other items.

1. Waffles for the five thousand this morning.
2. Painting while watching Phineas & Ferb with grandsons.
3. A small recovery nap in the afternoon when the house was quiet.
If I am a force field, metaphorically, all my energies will be focused and concentrated 
and I will be awesome. I think that's what I'm after. Or something.
4. Leftover Indian food for dinner.
5. A package from Scotland, with pictures and chocolate, shortbread and messages.

I am planning 2014. I am considering metaphors like

  • force field
for what 2014 will be like, as practiced by me.


There are a lot of drafts that I planned to  get accomplished over the break. At the moment, I am pondering these drafts. Will they get written/rewritten/re-mediated? Will the hazy agent in the previous sentence get her motivation together, and apply her will to do this writing? Or will she continue on, acting as if writing does itself?


Syllabi. There, I said it.


I am about to throw all the cookies away. That's the first warning.

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

The new year.

How did you spend your New Year's Eve? I thought I might spend it first eating Vietnamese food and then watching Leonardo DiCaprio debauch himself in shocking ways in The Wolf of Wall Street. Instead, we stayed in--me, the historian, Bruiser, and a big box of Kleenex. And a small box of DayQuil. We got take-out Indian food and watched a Modern Family marathon. Ta da! Happy New Year!

I've never thought it was so bad to spend New Year's Eve in (although I would prefer, if anyone's listening in the "What Will Occur Next Year" Department, not to be ill over the holiday break, or ever, really). There was a period of life when I wished there would be a New Year's party where people would go and be fabulous, and where I would be fabulous. Perhaps there are such parties and I am not invited to them? Or whatever. I remember one year, the historian and I happened to be watching television during the holidays, and one of the cable channels advertised that on New Year's Eve, they would be showing a twenty-four hour marathon of Law and Order: Criminal Intent episodes, the ones with Vincent D'Onofrio, which (and whom) I adored. The historian turned to me and said, "Don't you think we should do that for New Year's?" The people, this is just one of the thousand reasons that I love him. So we did. And it was one of the best New Year's Eves in history.

Well, the Eve is over and now it's the Day. Ordinarily, I would be busy cooking a feast for a big family party. Because of the sick, we have had to cancel and postpone the party. So now I am deep in contemplation, which may or may not be influenced by cold medications and cold symptoms. Be that as may be, I have goals and I have resolutions. One goal is to organize and sort my study. My grandson came in the other morning while I was reading on my laptop.

He looked around the room in concern. "Why is everything ruined?" he said. "Did Bruiser do this?"

I am laughing, but he is right--it is, if not a ruins, then an archaeological dig in process. I need to rethink pretty much everything about it. Perhaps when there are no more visitors at my house, that will be the first project: to restore the ruins into order. That would be a fitting beginning to a new year.

I hope you're waking up to a day that feels to you fuller of light and promise than yesterday. Cheers to that.


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