Saturday, January 31, 2015

How Saturday feels.

Waking up once, when it's still gray. Lightening, but still gray. Sorting out the first-thing calculus, what day it is, what there is to be awake for. Realizing: nothing but the day itself. And sleeping again for another hour, hour and a half. Whatever strange dream has happened in the interim, stepping out of bed to know that it's nothing, that the most pressing concern is breakfast.


Writing an imitation of a Tomaž Šalamun poem, then adding notes to the thing, the words, that might eventually become a poem, nominally titled "Riding the Metro in Beijing." Adding a couple of lines to a poem, maybe a poem, about cosmology. Talking to the daughter in Scotland who has just purchased a yellow jacket, that miraculously has appeared in the very same Zara where she and I once considered a different yellow jacket, but decided against it and have regretted it ever since. Considering this fine shopping miracle.

Walking very fast for almost two miles, then doing chest presses and pull downs and rows. Listening to Jonsi and Jack White and Brandon Flowers and Ben Folds, and watching Chelsea and Man City play out the final 30 minutes of a match, while doing so.

Showering, then racing across town to watch a grandson play the last basketball game of the season. Chasing a granddaughter around, giving her fruit snacks and drawing her a frog and a dancing girl.

Coming home, taking a little nap.

Going to a party, chatting and laughing and celebrating and eating with friends.

Walking the dog under a cold, clear sky.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Things of which I do not approve (and a few things of which I do approve).

1. Scorpions.
2. Episodes of television shows in which scorpions prominently appear, especially when said scorpions are on the loose, and are not contained by episode's end. In other words,
3. Narrative chaos, but mostly only if it is scorpion-related.
4. The current cookie-less state of my household, and all that this implies.
5. the fact that, to get the Christmas tree which is currently occupying a corner of my living room taken down, I will need to make taking the Christmas tree down a priority over other things, such as potentially making cookies, or writing, or laying around daydreaming, or taking a nap.

That is all.

I do, however, approve of:

1. A Most Violent Year.
2. Enchiladas.
3. Friday night.
4. The prospect of Saturday and Sunday.
5. The new issue of a literary magazine that arrived in the mail.
6. the bowl of oranges in my kitchen.
7. the fact that I am going to make and eat pancakes tomorrow morning, as God is my witness.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Very short thank you notes.

Dear little cough,

Remember last night when I vowed to get more sleep, like farmers and country folk? I like how you skewered my hubris at approximately 12:42 a.m., reminding me that I don't actually decide anything, really, about my own life.

Thank you for helping me live in reality,



Dear yesterday's second orange,

When I unpacked my lunch yesterday, there you were, second orange, along with the first orange and the Icelandic yogurt (peach) and the carrots. A redundant orange, packed in the first place because I forgot I already had an orange. Except for the fact that you stuck around for today's lunch, when you were precisely what I needed to go with today's Icelandic yogurt (spiced pear) and carrots.

Thank you for completing my lunch today, and thus being not redundant at all, but rather comme il faut,



Dear new sweater,

When I wore you today, you made me feel like a character in a French movie. Understated, perfectly fitted, very warm. That's you I'm talking about, sweater, although actually: me too. So thank you.

The matching scarf didn't hurt, either. Not one bit.



Dear bed,

Thank you for waiting so quietly all day for my return. I sensed, when I lay down between the softest, coolest sheets in all of bedlinendom, that you knew I would need you, especially after all that after-midnight coughing.

And so, when my husband said, "Go to sleep," and I replied, "Maybe," you knew: you knew I would close my eyes in the gloaming for a half an hour, and I would be the better for it.

And I did, and I was,


Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The Megastore recommends: the Take Your Own Advice Edition.

1. More sleep.  You know it, I know it: I don't get enough sleep. Maybe you don't, either. I need more of it. Preferably in this configuration:
a. Go to bed whenever I want to. You know, 1 a.m. or whatnot.
b. Get up when I wake up. Like, you know, 8 a.m. Or 8:30. Or let's splurge on 9 a.m., shall we?
c. Do this and that until 11. Try to speak to no one.
d. Get to work in my super productive style.
e. At an appropriate juncture--after lunch? sure!--take a little nap. Just 30 minutes. Okay,  45 minutes. I've earned it.
f. Work some more. Then:

The working world was not made for people like me. Last night the historian pointed out that science has proven, via its science-y ways, that exercising in the morning before you've eaten is actually better than all the other timetables for exercising, like when people who follow the schedule above exercise, which is on their way home from work.

Well no thank you, science, for this awful insight into how even biology is apparently in on the conspiracy against me and my kind.

Even so: from this moment forward, I am going to try always to go to bed by midnight, instead of 1 a.m. And then maybe I will roll it back to the bedtime of farmers and country folk, 11:30 p.m. That's probably about as much as I can do. Take that, biology.

In conclusion:

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Outfit of the day manqué.

My outfit was good today, if I do say so myself, and I'm going to have to say so myself, since I would show you my outfit selfie, except for the following reasons:

  • in the photo--both photos, since I took two--I appear to be standing in a dank, darkened place. Such as my gym, in the entrance to the ladies' locker room. Though it's bright in the room, I'm standing in the entrance, which is dark, as if I had had to come through an uncertain and dim passage before bursting into health and fitness. In other words, you really can't even see my shoes. Which, trust me, were cute. I wore man-shoes, brogue-ish, in a cordovan leather. In the picture, you could maybe see a glint of light off the toe of the leather.
  • All the textures are elided in the bad light and, it must be said, the bad photography. There is velvet (skirt). There is a voluminous, romantic cardigan, dusty rose, with different knit stitches. There is a lilac pink sweater with zips at the shoulders (gold). Navy blue tights. All these textures are as nothing, because the photograph (photographer?) did not deliver, not remotely.
  • I felt rushed. There were ladies coming in and out around me. I thought I could take the picture quickly and it would be all dashing and devil-may-care. No, instead I looked fretful and concerned and sheepish, all at once, as if I were standing in a doorway, while ladies were streaming in and out and they were all, why is she standing there, taking her own picture? Does she not know this is a gym? She should get on her yoga pants already and get busy. Which: I totally was, I totally should have, and, in the end, totally did.
You're just going to have to trust me when I say: the outfit was good.

Thankfully, I did not bungle a photo of the sky, which was also beautifully dressed:

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Office snapshots.

This is how a perfectly lovely weekend comes to a close:

with rubrics...
and Excel spreadsheets...

...and assessment samples.

I should, of course, have finished this last week. But oh well.


I am assuming that next week, which will represent the end of this project as well as the end of many other such obligatories, will be less rubricated. Not to mention less Excel spreadsheeted. 'Spreadsheeted' sounds like a prank somebody might play on you at camp, right? A mean, mean prank. At Assessment Camp, which is--you know I'm right--the worst camp EVER.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

What am I doing at midnight?

--still digesting the Panang curry I ate for dinner (with a half a doughnut chaser)(don't judge), and  just having finished watching 13 Going on 30 and am therefore reminded that ugh, movie industry, don't signify magic by glittery swirly dust! and maybe just stop making time traveling/timewarp movies? (and also Mark Ruffalo was SO CUTE in that part). 

And remembering that last night I watched the first 25 minutes of How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days which might be the stupidest movie ever made. Although maybe it gets better after the 25 minutes? Somehow I don't think so.

Thinking of a blog post. 

Listening to the historian making paper-rustling noises while sitting at his desk. 

Looking for a cover image for my upcoming book (!!!)(anyone? a cover image for a book called flicker?). 

Lying next to the dog. 

Thinking about the day and a half worth of work stuff I need to do tomorrow, i.e., in one day. 

However, thinking also that I will make pancakes in the morning, so: some things are more important than others, yo.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Not sleeping: a field guide.

Here's the bed. Perhaps tonight, I'll get in it,
with the lights off, and fall asleep.
Like normal people.

Or maybe I'll feel sleep taking me, and I'll
close my eyes, lay there for a few minutes 
or a half an hour, then open my eyes 
and think: nope. And I will have missed 
my sleeportunity.

Maybe the unfinished crossword puzzle will 
be calling my name. And maybe I will answer 

Maybe I will need to keep reading something,
such as a literary journal. Or that Japanese book 
about tidying. Maybe I will need to write
a list of things, such as the things I need 
to tidy. Maybe I will need to fret about a few things. 
Like how tired I am certainly going to be, because 
I'm not sleeping.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

A few things have come to my attention.

1. Two times of late, I've had advice from editors that I should cut a sizable chunk out of a longish poem. And after consideration, I've decided that they're right, the poems are better without the sizable chunk in them.

2. There are about a billion television shows on cable that I know not whereof. What are these shows? What is Chrisley Knows Best? Is it kind of like Charles in Charge? or Who's the Boss? Could you make up a little chant of three word television show titles, all of which are (maybe) subpar? (Except I really did love Who's the Boss. Shh.)

3. In terms of online shopping, shoes.

4. I have a ton of books I have never read, or only barely read. Shelves and shelves of them. They sit amongst the books I have read like strangers, like friends of friends. Will I read them? Who can say?

5. Too much to know, not enough time. Too much to do, not enough time. Not enough time, basically.

6. I have got to make a shopping plan and actually buy groceries that can be turned into something besides pasta and/or a soft taco. MUST.

7. Comfortable shoes make parking far away from one's building on a sunny but cold day seem like an opportunity to get some steps in, and not like a foot-abusing ordeal. In this regard, comfortable shoes are practically life-altering. Maybe literally life-altering.

8. Other people--students, for instance--may have a different perspective than I do on the giant and expensive community project that is higher education. And in some respects, they may be correct.

9. The last of the already cut-up raw vegetables, an apple and (again) a small piece of cheese are not exactly a satisfying lunch. But they are a postponement of ravenous hunger and as such may play a satisfying lunch in today's masque, entitled "A long long very long day without sandwiches."

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

In honor of my daughter, who is going to Rome

Tonight, as I departed the building at work in darkness--well, dusk, or gloaming, or actually darkness is good, it's accurate--I found myself singing this immortal song:

what the hell are we going to eat for supper?

It's a song, and thus requires no answer, but the question upon which the song is founded does--it does require an answer and the answer is PIZZA.

The answer might have been Thai food, if I hadn't kind of worn myself out of Thai food, or Indian food if Indian food weren't a little expensive for Wednesday and also a little much, just in terms of the digestive load. The answer could have been all sorts of home cooked comestibles, if (a) I had gone to the grocery store and procured vegetables as I had told myself I would do on my list: to wit:

(N.B.: I'm not sure exactly what good my list is doing me if I am leaving work in darkness and I don't actually get vegetables out of the deal.)

and (b) if I weren't so g.d. tired and also if (c) I didn't also have to do some online teaching at seven p.m. in the g.d. night.


Well, anyway. My son texted me and said

which leads me to the purpose of this post--oh, it has a purpose, you bet your ass it has a purpose!--what is the best pizza in all the land? For your edification, I have prepared an exhaustive evaluation.


Obviously, we had Papa Murphy's, the veggie extravaganza for us, the pepperoni for my son. Thin thin thin thin crust. I wolfed it down, then did my online teaching and lo! I was fortified.

My daughter and her husband are going to Rome today. I hope they eat alllll the pizza and alllll the pasta, and also alllll the gelato, and finally that they see alllllllllllllllllll the ruins.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Upon examining my apparent weekly schedule.

At the beginning of every semester, there's a period when it's not exactly clear what the week to week is going to look like. Things have to settle in and shake out before I know if my Mondays will typically have an open afternoon, and if Thursdays will usually be [expletive-ing] long ass days, or if this is just beginning of the semester schedule shenanigans.

Moreover--and this is most true in the second semester--there's usually a long long list of things that need to be finished. Letters written, assessments finished, travel proposals made. Projects that got started the previous semester and continue on in a most enervating way. So: on my long long long list of stuff I have to do, most of which like bad debt is coming home to roost in such a way that I feel that I must search my character and possibly the stability of my mental state for what exactly in the hell is or was--and probably will be, if things keep going like this--wrong with me, there is this item:

And the rub is: there are too damn many commitments, and most of them intractable. I can step away from a lot of things, but only once I have finished them. Or when I'm dead, I guess. And then, and only then, will I have the leisure to say: shall I stay on this committee or that? Shall I arrange to have tea with my friend in a half a year or so? And so forth. 

I have come to think of my schedule as a wall made of loose stones, but stones so exactly fitted together that there is no room, no leverage, no play, as it were, so much so that this diagram 

seems to be precisely it. Now: what is the equivalent in life of my metaphorical wedge?

Unreliable internet: an essay.

Be it resolved that reliable internet is a basic human right, like oxygen, water, and an accessible Target. Be it doubly resolved that, when one must spend the night in an unfamiliar place, without one's own pillow and dog, reliable internet is even more critical and necessary and without-which-one-simply-cannot. Footnote to the double resolution: it is right out of bounds that the internet should work before one goes to one's four hour board retreat, but then should be coy and wishy washy and oh-I-don't-know after the four hour board retreat.

People have promises to keep that require reliable internet. Emails to answer and Facebook to check and, you know, a thing on eBay that they're watching. And promises to keep!

In conclusion, quaint hotels-stroke-resorts without reliable internet are like wolves in sheep's clothing. Or, really, more like malaise-in-fresh-air's-clothing. Your quaint is nothing to me, hotel-stroke-resort, unless you have razor sharp blazing fast internet.

That is all.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Weekend productivity update.

1. Despite being dislodged from my own bed by sneaky dog in the early hours, woke on Saturday morning to summon energy and will to go to the gym.
2. On the way home from the gym, came up with brilliant idea to make breakfast burritos!
3. At home, called son, who lives downstairs, on cell phone to ask if he wants a breakfast burrito.
4. He does.
5. Hand grated potatoes (I could call them "house-grated," but that would be going too far.) into house-made (oh, why not.) hash browns.
6. Etc. My breakfast burrito was beyond, partly because I had salsa verde to go on it.
7. Went to grandson's basketball game.
8. Wandering and wild granddaughter prevented normal fan behavior on my part. Even so, grandson's team won--the historian witnessed it.
9. Speaking of which, we watched Into the Woods, but not until we (a) ate a croissant at Tulie's and (b) checked on a skirt in a retailery. (p.s. I have been checking on this skirt for MONTHS.)
10. Into the Woods verdict: a lot of singing, but pretty good. Not enough dancing.
11. Our regular Vietnamese place was too crowded. We ate at an inferior, once-great Vietnamese place. It is as one would expect, given its fall from a once great height: okay. All right.
12. Slept not enough. Woke to accomplish several of the items exhibiting the strike through on this list:

13. Made oatmeal. Slightly scorched the raisins therein, and discovered that slightly scorched raisins are not bad at all, oatmeal-wise.
14. Spoke to Scotland daughter and children. Made a first draft of a poem for my writing group.
15. Discovered, at writing group, that poem is still a first draft.
16. Bought the watched-over skirt for a price that was acceptable, if not up to my highest standards of bargain hunting.
16. Spoke to son and family in Tempe. Van fell on a mountain in Papago Park, fyi. He is a little bit banged up on the forehead, but he is okay.
17. Laundry.
18. Snack dinner, if you can even call it that. Forage dinner.
19. The television up in this joint is subpar.
20. Finished the Sunday crossword like a champ.

And did I accomplish all there was to do? And did I have have many high minded and worthy thoughts? And am I feeling a little bit something in the sad quadrant, for which there are explanations, not least of which is that I am a little bit tired? And will I sleep the sleep of the blest?

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Wait a minute...who elected you leader of this outfit?

6:59 a.m. Saturday morning.

Awakened from a sound sleep, I hear the scritch-scratching of dog toenails on the floor, then on the bedroom door.

I wait. The scritch-scratching moves away from the door and down the hall. I settle in, turn over, pull the duvet up to my chin.

Scritch-scratching back to the door again. I wait. Toenails on the door. I get up, put on my robe, go to the door. It's Bruiser.

He looks up at me. He's poised to come in and take his rightful place upon the bed, between us, where as a result, if history proves to be consistent, I will not be able to go back to sleep because of (a) not enough covers, and (b) he will be sleeping on my half.

Me: Hi Bruiser. C'mon.

Bruiser: I'm voting for yours truly.
Even in my half-awake--quarter-awake, if we're being honest--state, I have a plan. He will take his time outside, and I will make sure, when he comes back in and wants to get on the bed between us, that I adjust the covers and am in bed before he hops up. If I'm in my spot, he can't take it. It's only 7:03. I want to go back to sleep for just a little while. This will be impossible if Bruiser (a) gets on the bed while the covers are still askew, and (b) takes my spot. I will not have it, as God is my witness, I will not!

I let him out. He takes his little tour around the yard and before long is back at the door. I let him in. We walk back down the hall and go into the bedroom.

Me: Wait, Bruiser. Wait.

Before I have even rounded the bed, he is up. Of course he is. The covers: askew. My side of the bed: dog-occupied.

Alas. To rectify this situation would require a stern, commanding voice from me, which would disturb the historian, who has slept soundly through all of this--all of the scritch-scratching, the ins and outs, all that noisy scheming on my part.

Me: Dammit.

Thus it is now me, on the couch.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Notes on teaching: the first week.

The first week--exhausting. Also? a little bit of a thrill ride.

I can get away with an incomplete schedule--the day to day--because this is a face to face class. I said this to myself on Sunday, when one class, my online class, was mostly finished, but the other, the face to face, was not quite mostly finished.

If I have three weeks ready to go? I can start with that.

(Online, though? No. An incomplete schedule is just courting disaster.)

If, however, you are teaching face to face, you have the luxury of advancing your partially-made weekly schedule as if it were a  not-quite-hypothesis--a teaching hunch, one that requires more information to fully flesh out before it can become itself: a fully articulated question, the answer to which can only be obtained by the procedure of the whole class being taught.

And thus it was that I found myself today in my office, engaged in the slow, patient work of imagining how the projects I'm asking them to do might connect with the readings I've found (and the ones I have still to find), how the readings might connect with the poems they write, how their sensibilities might intersect with the sensibilities of the writers I'm assembling, one by one, for them to meet and converse with.

I've been thinking about how writing--composing--can, for me, edge into a flow state in which I lose track of time and get entirely absorbed in the problems and the pleasures of the task. Is it possible to teach that? Do my students in any writing course find themselves in it? In a required composition course, for instance? Can I teach them to recognize it and to let themselves go with it, if they verge on it? Can this be coached or taught?

Today, I found myself in my office, the door almost closed, the light coming in from the east. It was late morning, and I was entirely absorbed in the problems and pleasures of the task: assembling a teaching schedule, losing track of time, creating what I hope will be apt sequences and intelligible leaps, the premises of which will unfold over time and be achieved both in the process and in the arrival.

And then, I went to class.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Style notes.

I felt I was dressed like a night sky filled with stars.

(also carrying my gym bag, but never mind.)

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

What I found:

when I was cleaning out a repository of unknown papers and magazines and notebooks and other detritus whence I know not. In addition to birthday cards, letters, a torn-out profile of Alec Baldwin, photographs, tarot cards, little notebooks, I found these:

a notebook with the menu of what we ate at the Mermaid Cafe
 on Dame Street in Dublin.

a letter sent to me from The Dominican Republic

a graduation announcement from my daughter-in-law

the flyer I made for my son's farewell open house--
right before he went to Singapore

a sweet letter that made me cry, written
by my daughter when she was organizing and cleaning
my kitchen as a Mother's Day present

Happy Thanksgiving! Love, William

Ticket stub from when Dr. Write and I
were in New York at AWP, and we went to see
Stoppard, and we both cried

'the Atlantic is a Lethean stream, in our passage
over which we have had an opportunity to forget
the old world and its institutions.' from 'Walking,'
H.D. Thoreau. I saw this manuscript, written
in Thoreau's hand, in the Concord Public Library.

a merit badge that never found its way to a sash.

Monday, January 12, 2015

That was the first day.

First day of the semester: done.

Second day of the semester: coming right up.

Here's what went right: I was able to finish the syllabus for my second day of the semester class during the periods of time when no students showed up for my first day orientations to their online classes.

On the other hand: practically no students showed up for those orientations.

However: I am not worrying about it. Not yet, or not much.

To compensate: I opened the shade in my office a little higher to capture the little afternoon light diffusing through the rain, and worked and worked away, doing a little online orienting here and there, eating beautiful carrots and fennel and a pink orange.

And then: I went and worked out and drove home, starving like a savage.

And then: I fell asleep while I was reading Go Fug Yourself. #tragic

And then: I watched two hours of television, more or less. Okay, more.

While: working on the calendar for my second day class.

And also: sorting out this and that about other work I need to do. Adding to my lists of things that need to be finished.

Thus: making myself feel a little panicky.

In conclusion: After a day of steady rain, it's now snowing. We took our late night constitutional and left both human and dog tracks coming and going. I'm about to sleep the sleep of the new semester, of the stood-up teacher, of the still-planning, of the not-yet-panicked. Or at least the sleep of the not-much-panicked.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Writing at midnight.

The Frost performs its secret ministry, 
Unhelped by any wind.

We've just come in from a dog walk in mist qua rain.

"Weird weather," I said.

Today has been weird weather--something about the sky and the imperceptibly greatening light, which, despite its infinitesimal increase, today felt dim and wet. I went out to get the paper with Bruiser. The walk and driveway looked wet but were in fact icy, which I discovered by slipping. Not falling, but clearly the whole situation was precarious from the get go. I went in and made myself some tea and read the Times.

Last night very late, my son came home from Sweden. I didn't hear him come in, but I did hear the dog hear him come in. He slept till noon. Yesterday, while he was laid over in some airport or another because of a missed connection, he said: "So what's for breakfast?"

I said, "I was thinking waffles."

"Waffles it is, then," he said. And I was true to my word.

My best friend made me these waffles when I visited her last summer, and they are in fact the best waffles I have ever eaten or made. At noon, or shortly thereafter, my son ate them while he was still emerging from his sleep. You know, that period where you're still assembling all the moving parts in your brain, not to mention your body? and you would really rather that no one is talking to you just now? even if you just came home from Sweden, and all that that implies?

After two or three attempts, we had a conversation or so. He brought me a marshmallow-y candy in the shape of a Santa. "Classic Swedish candy," he said. It was sweet and stretchy.

"How many hours of light were there?" the historian asked.

"Four or five?" my son said. "It was dark."

I think we're working on about eight around here, but the mist makes the light harder to interpret as light. I'm hoping the mist qua rain turns into rain qua rain, and the light becomes less ambiguous. Not to mention the air.

...whether the eave-drops fall 
Heard only in the trances of the blast, 
Or if the secret ministry of frost 
Shall hang them up in silent icicles, 
Quietly shining to the quiet Moon.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

My study is again a ruin.

Today I washed the holiday tablecloth. I lit the Christmas tree for what I hope will be the last time, although I really can't say for sure. I still have a little gift bag that has three bottles of glitter and a glue pen, which I used again today to inscribe a birthday card for a one year old boy.

However, the truest measure of whether the holidays are over is my study, which is a disaster. Just as it is every January.

That's because when it was December, time to get the rest of the house all gussied up and sparkly, it happened also to be Old Semester Season, when all sorts of mad Old Semester work needs to be accomplished. Uncoincidentally, that means that there's a massive and ever-increasing accumulation of life-stuff, like bills and magazines and papers and books, occupying surfaces such as the kitchen table and the living room, which have to be moved somewhere to make space for the sparkly. Do these things have actual places? Where they, you know, belong? Probably, sure. But to put them in those places requires thinking, and--at least as I remember it--we were in a big hurry to get that damn sparkle on.

I've been reading--well, at least it's on my bedside table--The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. I have in mind a life-changing bout of getting rid of things, and then after that, a life-changing bout of organizing. Life-changing, you see, not just figuring out where three bottles of glitter and a glue pen go. In the matter of resolving the ruin that is my study, I will settle for nothing less than total transformation!

Which is why I will be working on my syllabus and an educational comic and a re-narration of a screencast and another syllabus in squalor tomorrow. Because total transformation takes time, and January is New Semesterville. New Semesterville will be here in a red hot minute, so total transformation will just have to wait.

Friday, January 09, 2015

My own personal algorithm.

It's January 9, the people. You know what that means--time to do the ninth blog post of the year.

There comes a time in any "Blogging Every Day in the Year 2015" project--say on the 9th day--when a person, a blogger, finds herself saying, well, what now? Because while the mind is a fertile and inventive place, maybe the mind might not feel up to a witty discussion of why the person, the blogger, has watched Pitch Perfect innumerable times, or a thoughtful expose of why she, the blogger, is not reading very much at all.

It's at times like these--say, the 9th day of January--when a writer might have recourse to the riches of Google on any topic. Perhaps the writer might Google "good topics for blog posts," just to see what turns up. Well:
from HubSpot's Blog Topic Generator

You can refresh the generator and get slightly different topics, using the same nouns (shoulder, fatigue, party). Questions like "What will fatigue be like in 100 years?" and "The Ultimate Cheat Sheet on Party."


10 Quick Tips About Fatigue: 
1. how about a quick nap with the dog? 
2. maybe lay around a read a book. 
3. but first pick a book to read. 
4. will someone please bring me a snack, because I am too tired to get it myself. 
5. weeks before semesters are extra long and fatiguing. 
6. fatigue, the word, comes from the French fatigue, weariness. Also specifically: the labor of military persons (1776). 
7. I'm still wearing earrings, but I am lying down. Could someone take out my earrings? I'm kind of tired. 
8. how about a quick nap with your dog? 
9. we have about 90 premiere movie channels this weekend, excellent for this reclining position I'm currently occupying. 
10.  [too tired to think of a tenth quick tip]

I would imagine that in 100 years, fatigue will look pretty much like this: prone, accompanied by a remote, bookless, with a canine companion. Maybe in 100 years I will be able to change the channel with my mind.

Thursday, January 08, 2015

Dear breakfast,

How often you redeem a day! --if an event that occurs at the beginning of a day can be said to redeem that day? This is a philosophical conundrum that can best be resolved by watching a two year old dismantle a very large pancake in the shape of a kitten, with a face made of kiwi and strawberries and grapes. (A breakfast burrito also does not go amiss.) Meanwhile, the little two year old asks her mother: do you Coke? do you like...drinks? do you like....pancakes? do you like...Grandma?

See, breakfast? That's what you are so good at. Redeeming days before they even happen. Before they get too long, before they end with long meetings concluding in dark rooms. Literally, breakfast: dark rooms! Why didn't we just turn on a light, already.

Well, although we will never know the answer to that philosophical conundrum, I'll always have you, breakfast, redeeming days before they have even started.

You are literally the best,


Short letter to a long day.

Dear long day,

I'm not sure why you seemed so long, when you started with a lovely, light-filled breakfast with daughter and granddaughter.

Maybe it was the not quite enough sleep I got last night.

Maybe it's that all the tasks yet to be done loom.

Maybe it's that by the time I left work it was dark, and it was cold.

Maybe it's that it's now 11:22 p.m., and I am still working. Maybe that's why.

Maybe it's because tomorrow promises to be a long day, too.

Long day, I am not done with you yet.

Or maybe, maybe it's that you're not done with me.

Are there enough minutes left in you, long day, to allow me to write 300 more words, so I can feel my work as a book reviewer is complete.

I guess we'll see, and I guess you win, but no one says I have to like it, long day.

Because I don't,


Wednesday, January 07, 2015

The hours.

1. Crushed cardamom seed and star anise, a cube of raw sugar, a drop, two drops, of vanilla. Hot milk.

2. Dress, or half dress, for the first half of the day. Draw the duvet up to the very chin of the pillows. Hang up yesterday's skirt. Assemble the tasks, and turn away from them.

3. Rinse the cup. Estimate how long it will be before the Christmas roses are beyond beauty.

4. The hour of the first task and the hour of the second task.

5. Hunger means it's time to go to the gym.

6. The flat screens are filled with judges and shamans and rednecks and Friends, all of whom seem to be wearing too much bronzer. Joey and Rachel are having their fling, the briefest of all the Friends' flings. It is a tender pathos, for their love will not last. It drifts from that screen hoisted up on high to me, on the back row of the treadmills.

7. The window open for the two o'clock drive home.

8. The speech therapist and the historian, discussing his voice.

9. At the store, I remembered to buy fennel fronds, peppers red yellow orange, Triscuit, a baguette, and I found, serendipitously, ground red chocolate. Even so, I forgot the honey.

10. Task three.

11. The trimming and peeling of the vegetables.

12. Olive oil, mushrooms, peppers, onions, basil, parsley. The leftover sauce from last week. Linguine. Grated parmesan.

13. Tasks four and five. In another room, the Jazz blitz the Bulls.

14. Grinding away at the last, a delicate instructional task. I snap screen grabs and drag them into a frame, fuss and fiddle with them till they are right, or right-ish. Is this what I meant when I said "game-ify this learning activity"? My wrists hurt and my confidence in this particular performance is thin.

15. Dog dithering and dalliance around whatever odors present themselves in the guise of crusted snow and frosty grass.

16. And this, these sentences, the last of the day.

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

The Megastore Recommends: the too much food edition.

1. Leftover roasted vegetables. The people, we had a party on New Year's Day. It was wonderful. This historian's daughter, out of kind concern that I may possibly, sometimes, overreach in my menu planning, which makes the dinner potentially glorious but also exhausting, suggested that we have what Tom Haverford calls "apps and zerts"--appetizers and desserts. It was great.

"What are you making?" my daughter asked me, meaning for the party.

I said, breezily, "Oh, I'm keeping it really simple. I'm mostly laying things on trays. I'm putting out grapes, apples, some really good cheese and fancy crackers. I'm making this bean dip with really good chips. Creminelli salami and some olives and dolmathes and artichoke hearts. Also this thing my mom makes called Josefinas? that you spread on slices of baguette and toast? And roasted potatoes and roasted green beans. And for dessert lemon squares and these pecan squares and this ricotta tart I found on Martha Stewart? And ice cream cones for the kids."

She laughed. "Doesn't sound so simple to me."

I literally canNOT resist overdoing it. But it's true that the party was in fact a little simpler because I didn't have to cook so many things, as in: I had to turn on the oven fewer times.

these are the beautiful potatoes I
roasted. Or like unto them.
But because I made too much food, there were leftover roasted potatoes and roasted green beans. Roasted vegetables, leftover, are a boon when it's dark outside and you're hungry. So last night we had straight up leftover potatoes and green beans and olives, and it was delicious and perfect. I mashed a little gorgonzola and--let's be honest--butter into the potatoes. I roasted them in the first place with garlic and rosemary and olive oil and plenty of coarse salt. Delicious. And tonight, I turned those potatoes and some broccolini into a frittata with some raw baby Swiss. Perfection.

see? so pretty! and crunchy!
2. Leftover raw vegetables. I forgot to add to my overkill list of apps and zerts that I also cut up the prettiest array of raw vegetables that you ever did see and put them in a pretty dish surrounding a bowl of peanut pesto, which is very, very good. (Peanut pesto: either peanuts or crunchy peanut butter, some minced garlic, soy sauce, a drizzle of sesame oil, some honey, a little hot water to thin it down, and some black pepper.)

Orange, yellow, red, and purple carrots. Raw turnips. Fennel. Celery. Sweet peppers. There were, of course, plenty of these left over. Which I have been eating for lunch every day. At work, in the movies, at home. They are lovely, crunchy, delicious and virtuous. I defy you to find many foods that fit all of those criteria.

I may have a small categorical issue here.
3. Leftover bacon. In the category of "things I overestimated," you can add "the number of breakfasts I might cook for all the people during the holidays." This overestimation meant that I had a leftover package of very good bacon, just sitting there in my refrigerator, saying in all but words, what're you going to do with me? Aren't you people vegetarians? Well, that package of bacon had clearly not heard of my Bacon Exception. I'm not proud of it, but there it is. When you like bacon enough that you have a bacon policy, it's kind of nice to occasionally have a little at home, so you can make...

an excellent Rico's tortilla will
up the awesome in your already
princely breakfast. true fact.
4. A breakfast burrito. What with your small handful of leftover roasted fingerling potatoes and your stash of eggs, some grated Monterey Jack Cheese, and that bacon burning a hole in your pocket, you can make yourself the king of breakfasts, the breakfast burrito. Quick and easy, too. Just fry that bacon, drain the fat, slice up a couple of teeny potatoes, give them a good toss in the hot pan, then beat your egg with a little cheese and scramble it to the side of the potatoes. When it's all cooked, slide a spatula under the eggs and potatoes, and put your tortilla in the pan. I happened to have really good tortillas on hand (see "things I overestimated" and "the number of breakfasts," #3 above). Heat the tortilla. You can press it down with your hand and hear the fat in the tortilla sizzle as it heats. Flip it and heat the other side. Lay the eggs and potatoes on the facing-up side, and crumble the bacon. Slide the whole shebang onto your plate and add a little salsa. This is a breakfast that will stand you in good stead for the day of syllabus-consideration and instructional-activity-devising.

Monday, January 05, 2015

What January means to me.

Everyone--the children, the grandchildren--has gone home. The house is unbelievably quiet. Even though sports have been going continuously throughout the holidays, our teams seem to have re-emerged. It's still, pretty much, always dark. I wear coats and giant cardigans. Sometimes many cardigans. Even though the Christmas tree is so, so dead, I hate to take it down. Always, I hate to take it down. I kind of need the light.

It's time to wash all the holiday tablecloths and placemats, but I haven't, not yet. There are things like pomegranate seeds and leftover Josefinas spread in the refrigerator, but there's also a loaf of entirely dried out baguette, just daring me to actually make good on my promise to turn it into bread crumbs.

via Things Organized Neatly

My to-do list is daunting. It is paralysis in the form of a list. My intentions are enormous and outsize.

The patio lights rhyme with the Christmas lights, so we turn them on every night, even with icicles hanging from the wires.

I have acquired a tiny Virgin of Guadalupe, actually a Christmas ornament that I found at Target. I bought a sacred heart carved out of wood and painted a bold red and gold at the French Market. I think longingly of beignets.

The machinery of the new year is still warming up. I can hear its engine.

I am still listening to Lazaretto which is one of my favorite 2014 albums. But only sporadically, on my Shuffle, at the gym. It is so good that it survives this mode of listening.

I can read three whole chapters at a time in my book before I fall into slumber. At this pace, I should have the review I'm supposed to write of it finished in early March, although technically it is due in a few days.

Tomorrow, tomorrow and tomorrow I will make hay out of my list. Tomorrow, I will decide the criteria by which I will know whether to keep something or give it away. I could start on for instances, but we'd be at that all night, and I might need to fall into slumber.

It's cold. It's dark. But it is, it is getting lighter, minutes more light every day. That is the true meaning of January, in my pocket like hidden prayer beads, while we ride the slow, cold, dark half of the earth as it comes back around.

Sunday, January 04, 2015

This week in prognosticated data.

Things that I hope will arrive at my office: one long-ago ordered bookshelf.

Amount of books that will fit on my hoped-for shelves: ten boxes' worth, please oh please.

Hours I will spend in my office: between three and twenty-five? 

Syllabi that will be completed: two. I hope.

Books that I will finish reading: two.

Reviews of books that I will commence writing: two. (I hope.)

Number of meals I will cook and/or otherwise prepare at home: five breakfasts, three lunches, four dinners. 

Proportion of clothing I will cull from my closets to give away, because items to be given no longer give me, personally, a spark of joy: 25%, I hope.

Christmas trees that will come down down down: one.

Remaining holiday food that will be either eaten or discarded, such as naked sugar cookies and stale baked goods:  all of it, ALL! come hell or high water.

Poems to be written: I am planning on three.

Number of birthdays this week in my family: one!

Amount of birthday cake I will eat, even so: not one piece, because the birthday boy lives in Arizona for the love.

Movies I will see: three, or I will know the reason why.

Blog posts to be written: As God is my witness there shall be SEVEN. 

Saturday, January 03, 2015

Open letter to the countdown.

Dear countdown,

For weeks, I have been avoiding you. I'm sure you're aware of this fact, because you've been hiding around every corner.

There, by the Christmas tree, in its last stages of drying, the lowest ornaments drooping almost to the ground. You're there among the branches. And in the refrigerator--you're the atmosphere of leftover things that need to be cleaned out, and in the kitchen too--all those baked goods that are past their giftable dates, not to mention the closets I wanted to tidy, to get rid of things that no longer have a spark of joy in them.

You don't say anything, but you don't have to: I look at the tree, the refrigerator, the counter, the closet, and note to myself,  that's another thing I need to do before I... and I try to stop myself, because I'm not ready to name it, not yet, not ready to count the days forward until...

Fine, I'll say it: until the new semester. It starts in nine days. Nine days. And there we are: just by giving it a number, I've initiated it, the countdown, with your every second ticking like a bastard, adding the frisson of panic and the pulsing soundtrack of shit to do.

It's more than a week, which is really a lot, as in: a lot of days. But the tolling of the countdown means more lists and items, more ways to regiment each day, each hour, each half hour.

Well, countdown, it's been a really nice break. I hope you'll agree to be a useful companion and not a bully. I know what I have to accomplish. I've got a list.

Seriously, that self-righteous, meaningful glancing at your wristwatch? Knock it off,


Friday, January 02, 2015

What it's possible to say.

Today, we went to the funeral of a friend. He died a week ago. Since then, I have been remembering this friend in little fragments: the time he and I danced at the wedding of our mutual friend. His vast collection of black shirts. The music he loved and played while he worked. His beloved dogs. A translation of a poem, a set of photographs, a recording. The roomful of birds he kept.

I've been thinking for awhile about whose right it is to voice shared experiences. This is the kind of thinking that can put one right off writing: what if my own reckoning of the experience bleeds into yours? if my imagining of your experience is a kind of appropriation? There's, maybe, some kind of non-negotiable overlap between what I remember and what you remember and which we know our words, yours, mine, shall never approach. It's not truth, perhaps, but it's something like truth. It's a stillness. It's ineffable.

I have long kept this passage from 2 Corinthians (ch. 12) near to hand, in which Paul says
I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven. 
And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) 
How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.
This idea, that there is experience that cannot be voiced, of which words are disallowed, haunts me. It is a kind of radical silence and silencing. Or another way to say it is: words cannot approach it, the experience.

Our friend is gone. Whatever I might have said to him must be said by me to a silence. Whatever I thought might still be possible to say, to do, to be, is not possible any longer. But here I am, still thinking of words I might say to him, and of him.

Today, at the funeral, four women spoke: two friends, two sisters. I felt a gratitude overwhelm me, for the ways the two friends used words to summon him up for us. To remind us of the wholeness of a person, the ways that person we might know, day to day--the way he laughed, the greetings and farewells, the gifts, the chat--was not the sum of that person--that a good friend might, over a lifetime, become almost entirely visible to us, but that it would take that, a lifetime, to know the whole of a person.

Our friend is gone. That loss is speakable and unspeakable: nothing we can say or think or feel will bring him back to us. But our words and thoughts and sorrow summon him up for us, summon him so that we can remember, at least in part, whom we have lost.

for Jonathan

Thursday, January 01, 2015

It is the new year.

Dear New Year,

Instead of saying New Year, it is ON, as if we were challengers and this were a fight or a game or something similarly contentious, I am saying to you hello New Year, glad you're here.

This year as much as any year has made me think about how little control any of us has over matters large and small. Miss a phone call, and two hours later, upon receiving the message and returning the call, it's too late to talk to the caller, for she has slipped into a coma. Go to the doctor to see about shortness of breath, a few hours later find out that there's a serious aneurysm. Everything is so inexact, so unmatched up, so prone to slippage and accident. Yet here we are, another year, three desserts and countless snacks ready to be assembled, garnished and served at a party celebrating love and connection.

I still like to declare the new year, to make promises to it. So, to you, New Year, I promise that I will write more. I promise to take better care of my body and, with it, my soul and heart. I promise to enjoy my life and to pay attention to the people I love and care for.

That's all, really. I could say that I will play the piano every day, and maybe I will. Or that I will cook dinners four nights a week, which I am going to try to do. But I'm not going to promise. I am going to do those things as a way of enjoying my life--but maybe there will be some inexactitude, some slippage, and if I make too many promises it's too hard to keep any of them.

Write more, take care of my body, enjoy my life. I promise these.

The New Year, hello. I'm so glad you're here.



p.s. Special New Year Postscript to The People. One more specific promise: I'm going to blog every day in the year 2015. Somehow, I just feel it. I want to. So you can come here every day, and there will be something new for you. That's a hightouchmegastore promise, the people.


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