Thursday, February 25, 2016

Working on getting ready to get ready to work on my manuscript.

That's what spring break is for.

Thus far:

all the words in my manuscript, minus acknowledgements, Table of Contents, epigraph, title. 

As it turns out, I use a lot of similes. Apparently.

In other news, I wore this yesterday:

Outfit of the Day, Monochrome Division.

This was a successful outfit, in my opinion, in that the hem of the jacket and the hem of the dress rhymed, structurally, in their flippiness, and also the polka dots of the scarf added whimsy.

Today, I wore a bright yellow sweater that I had to go look for in my Auxiliary Sweater Box (TM) because I have too many sweaters to actually keep track of, apparently. I also pulled out one of my favorite spring scarves. That's because today was light filled and glorious. It was peerless. It felt like spring.

It is not yet spring (I keep telling myself before I start going barelegged out into the still-winter). But it felt like it today. It feels like it.

In other other news: yesterday I had a quick afternoon respite with two granddaughters while their mom went to the dentist. It also was glorious and peerless:

A photo posted by Lisa Bickmore (@megastore) on

A photo posted by Lisa Bickmore (@megastore) on

And tomorrow is Publication Studies, where we'll talk to our chapbook contest winner and start to develop the ideas for the plan that will turn that manuscript into a book. Just twenty two minutes until it's Friday. Things are looking up.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Cake is in the house.

The felicity conditions for cake:
  • butter in the refrigerator
  • fresh Meyer lemons
  • a recipe that has crossed one's path
  • eggs
  • a new Kitchenmaid stand mixer, preferably apple green in color.

A photo posted by Lisa Bickmore (@megastore) on


  • one's writing group is coming over for lunch.
P.S. having a poem ready for one's writing group is evidently not a felicity condition, or even a necessary condition. Having a poem ready for one's writing group is extra. I.e., not required. 

Let us pause to reflect on the glory of the stand mixer in comparison to the hand held mixer:
  1. The hand held mixer is powered by little mice running around in existential despair.
  2. The hand held mixer is nigh unto powerless before the unwrapped egg white or unwrapped heavy cream. Too viscous! say the existential mice. Too heavy!
  3. The stand mixer, however, is stalwart. 
  4. The stand mixer is jaunty, also, because of the apple green aspect.
  5. The stand mixer takes your eggs and sugar and whips them until they are light. 
  6. Whereas the hand mixer, and by extension, literally, one's arm, says, complainingly, is it light yet? NOW is it light? when it is not light, not at all. 
  7. But the weary mice and existential arm, despite all the whipping and timing and carrying on, just don't have the stuff. In the end, they give up. They are not prepared to go the distance.
  8. Whereas the stand mixer is. The stand mixer will go the distance, and how.
Whilst the stand mixer kept beating air into the eggs and sugar until they truly were light and pale yellow and a phenomenon that I had never truly witnessed except in dreams, I was able to walk around in the kitchen, gathering whatnot and what have you, spooning in flour from a little bowl, adding splashes of cream, grating the meyer lemon zest, and so on, until I had a batter the likes of which had never been beheld in my kitchen. Praise the Lord!

Then I poured it into my fancy bundt pan and baked it. In my new oven. It was basically baking ecstasy around here.

I served the cake with whipped cream and raspberries and it was grand. Everyone had some, we all loved it, and now--and now! there is leftover cake at my house. I can have a little sliver. I can have a fat piece. I have wrapped it lovingly so that it won't dry out. I figure we have a few more days of the peace of mind that comes from having cake in the house. 

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Festive period extended practically indefinitely.

Some people take their Christmas trees down by, say, the minute Christmas is over. December 26.

Other people take their Christmas trees down the day after New Year. Or by the end of Epiphany.

Other people might have their trees up through January, to help fend off the January blues. January is adjacent to December. It's not unheard of.

However, some people find themselves past President's Day and they might still turn on the Christmas lights, still on the tree, because, well, the ornament box is downstairs, plus those lights are still pretty, and after you've taken the dog for a walk, they look even prettier through the window as you come back to the house.

America, I will leave it to you to guess which of these people I am.

Thing is, I never intend to be this person. I intend to be the person who has a tree in a timely fashion in early December, and who keeps the tree up for a seemly period and no more. But every year. Every year, it is like this. It's kind of a thing now, my thing. I keep a tree that is little more than tinder strung with lights and be-baubled while the equinox is basically within shouting distance.

Today, my daughter, who was at my house while I was at work, texted me:

My heart leapt in gratitude. By the time I got home, there was nothing left but the needles. Lots of 'em. I made Gwen some chocolate milk and fed Naomi Cheerios one at a time while their mother finished the sweeping and the vacuuming.

My daughter: I hurried to get it done by the time you got home, so there wouldn't be any pictures or anything. Also, at first I was being all careful, unwinding the lights, but then I was all [makes frenzied  ripping-the-lights-from-the-branches gestures].

As any sensible person would. Thank goodness my daughter is an enterprising, organized person who likes to help.

Even though, while I was working in the Writing Center today, sitting beside those tall, tall windows, I watched the weather turn from windy to stormy to torrential to hail to snowing--as in, winter's not over yet--it's near enough to spring that it's time to put winter holidays away. Fine, past time. No more twinkle lights, not till next December. I guess I can live with that.

Monday, February 15, 2016


In a former life, I sewed a lot. I grew up, of course, in the late sixties and seventies, and loads of people made their own clothes, or adapted clothes, or remade things, etc. I took Home Ec. I sewed dresses for myself and also I learned to make food items from other food items, like Balloon Buns from a butter and cinnamon-sugar dipped marshmallow rolled into a crescent roll dough triangle and baked till the marshmallow melted, leaving behind an ineffable caramelized redolence of sugar. That, my friends, was a culinary art unto itself.

However, sewing: I learned how to lay out a pattern and how to rip out a seam that I sewed badly because--as with everything else--I was and am impatient and hasty and a hurrier. I learned sewing situations that were ideal for my skill level--making the same pattern for the third time, for instance--and sewing situations that were always going to be a disaster--high fashion-pretender patterns that ended up just being weird. Also, over the years, I find that filling a bobbin with thread is, like, quantum physics, and thus my sewing machine sits idle.

However: I can hem a clothing item. And I can sew on a button. I can mend a torn pocket.

Last night I sewed loose buttons on one two three coats while we watched an especially speedy and plot-stirring episode of The Good Wife. Tonight, whilst the historian did tedious and swear-inducing work at his desk, I hemmed a skirt that was just a little bit too long. I cut off the too long part in a three-inch wide swath. Then I folded the cut edge into a narrow hem and stitched away while watching Master of None. Very satisfying.

Over the past few weeks, I did some of my most delicate work yet by hand, mending the pockets of a pair of jeans that my youngest son would be taking with him when he moved to Massachusetts. The fabric of the pockets was quite thin, so thin that I surmised the makers of this garment had chosen a cheap and unsuitable fabric for the pockets of a young man's jeans, what with car keys and coins and whatnot. Even so, I fitted the torn edges together while we chatted away about this or that. At least I think we chatted while I sewed. I like that image, me fixing the pockets for my son, because I had learnt to sew in olden times, and him talking to me while I sewed my very sturdy stitches. The pocket, if flattened into a single layer, would look like a crazed scar. But it was mended, and it's possible--I like to think so--that he may even have worn the jeans when he got in his new car and drove away, across America.

Monday, February 08, 2016

Dearest Monday,

Although I have designated you, dearest Monday, as a set aside, a work from home cloister, a jewel in the shell, just like last Monday, I found myself at work.

I could have busted in like a ninja for my 11 a.m. meeting and disappeared like a wisp of cloud. But I talked to people. I sent emails. I graded two assignments. I let my battery dwindle to fourteen, then eleven, then ten percent before I finally came home.

Monday, you were an inversion.

Monday, you were breakfast with a longtime friend.

Monday, you were recovery from insomnia.

Monday, you were no workouts at all

Monday, you were cherry red boots worn for the first time this season.

Monday, you were a problem solving wizard.

When I held up the candy bowl in the vestibule, with but three blue Jolly Ranchers in it, plus pathos-ridden shards of other hard candies, a friend rushed to the cupboard and pulled out mini chocolate bars. That's what you were, Monday: emergency chocolate, borne by the hands of a friend.

Monday, I think of you as the solitude after the weekend. The day on which I collect my wits and energy and focus for the rest of the week, in silence. The day when the only direct request to me comes from the dog. When I make my midday meal and eat it alone.

But I will say that several conversations with my office next-door neighbor were to be cherished. My load for fall semester sorted? Priceless. Word on when we might expect to order our new laptops? Inestimable. A chat with my movie-going friend about The Revenant? Ineffable.

In short, dearest Monday, I spent you the way I spent you, all right? Maybe your set aside and solitude and shell and jewel and silence will seem all the more lovely next week, on account of my friend breakfast movie-talking problem-sorting cherry red boots with a mini chocolate bar on top today.

Let's try to bear that in mind, shall we?


Sunday, February 07, 2016


as in

so many meanings.

Anyway. This week has been overwhelming in both wonderful and disconcerting ways. Over the last several days, I have tried on several narrative strategies which have all failed me and my subject matter, which is that flailing and floundering that is my list, my ongoing list, and also the moments of soaring and brief glory.

that's right. I turn my finished items into ghosts,
and then I strike them through, to show them who
is boss of the list. I am. I am boss of the list.

I am finding that my long list, even with the graying out and the striking through and the yellow highlights and so on, both helps me stay on top of things and makes me feel a little tilt-y. Here are the tilt-y things, bulleted for your listing pleasure:

  • making phone calls for this and that purpose. UGH phone calls are the worst. Why can't there just be data ports and messaging? 
  • specifically, phone calling Boxcar Press. What if they laughed at me and my belief that I could lay out a photopolymer plate in an appropriate way. What if they sniffed out what a rank amateur I am. What is they said no effing way, amateur, you are never gonna get this photopolymer plate done in time, what were you THINKING? &c. That's how phone calls go sometimes, is how I was imagining things.
  • constantly questioning myself, even at moments when things are going really really well. That talk I gave in December? Probably sounded like a self-important, making-it-up-as-she-goes-along kind of a person. That poem featured on Verse Daily? Maybe it's the last good poem I'll ever write. Who was I kidding when I thought of doing a reading series? No one should entrust me with shit like this. Self-doubt of this kind might be even worse than making phone calls, which are the worst. Self-doubt is more awful than the worst! Think of it!
  • the feeling that, despite the fact that I'm making my list and checking it, like, thirty times, I have this constant nagging feeling that I am forgetting things, forgetting them right and left, letting things slide, important things, the things that will undo me in the end. 
  • maybe I forgot the fact that I am an amateur printer. Do I even know how to print a large, exacting photopolymer plate? WHAT WAS I THINKING.
However. The things that righted the listing ship, as it were, were good:
  • interview turned out okay!
  • poem featured in Verse Daily!
  • student-designed broadsides coming along, with literally NO heinously ugly fonts! 
  • Boxcar people were super nice and very helpful!
  • photopolymer plate is on its way, with only a minor hiccup. or two. two minor hiccups! but on its way!
  • Hail, Caesar! was a riot. 
  • The Revenant was amazing. I was prepared to have it be partially amazing, but I felt it was straight up, unabashedly, unadulteratedly wonderful. 
  • shrimp enchilada!
  • two not-so-busy days in a row on the weekend.  
And so on. So on we go to the next week, which will be full of whipsaw excitement:
  • the poet!
  • will people show up for these events?
  • what was I thinking?
  • the printing!
  • plus everything else that has to be done! 
Whose idea was this semester, anyway? 

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

*IS* it almost the weekend? I think it's almost the weekend.

'You had a good day, didn't you?' the historian posited.

It was a fairly safe bet. Today, we printed some test prints of the broadside we're making for our visiting poet on our Xante printer, just to see how the design looked on the gorgeous Rives paper we are using. Oh my glory, the people. So lovely. I gave hugs to people who, I'm guessing, are not exactly huggers. But we all felt it was warranted.

see? so pretty!

Also, the interview I did earlier this week with WMSU for their program called The Weekly Reader was posted today. It will be aired tomorrow, February 4, at 9:30 a.m., but it's already on their website and will be part of the archives. When I did the interview, I felt it went quite well. And then, of course, I imagined that perhaps I sounded like an idiot, a pompous idiot. I listened to it today and thought, nope. Which was good.

Earlier this week, I also found out that my little talk about creativity--in four metaphors, hashtag fancy--has been posted on YouTube for a month and a half! Well! So it was good to check that out to discover that no, I didn't sound like a pompous idiot there, either. (The evidence is pointing toward a favorable outcome for the ongoing research project entitled 'Am I A Pompous Idiot, Yes or No?')

I got my two workouts in, one first thing in the morning, the second on my way home. Then I rushed home, ate some leftover Mexican food, and hightailed it downtown with the historian for a literary reading, poems by Joel Long and the estimable Lynn Kilpatrick, who arose from her bed of affliction to read a brilliant piece, a crown of prose sonnets related to her ongoing girl who went missing project. Altogether worth it, even though going downtown for a literary reading on a school night means you have to drive home from downtown, and deal with your wrecked, tired self thereafter.

Still:  'The week's nearly over, wouldn't you say?' said the historian.

Well, no, not really. Today when I was driving to work, I had a brief panic over the fact that it was Thursday and tomorrow is Friday, which is Publication Studies day, which is a freaking high wire act every freaking time. But it wasn't Thursday. No, it was Wednesday, all day long, which means that tomorrow--which will be Thursday in fact--is a day on which I can give the Xante print press another whirl, and hopefully hear back from Boxcar Press about the pdf I sent them for their expert eyeballs, and work out twice and get the job done, &c &c and then we all collapse.

THEN it will be Friday, which is the Publication Studies class (high wire act) plus one two three meetings, and THEN it will be the weekend. America! The work week!


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