Sitting In Traffic

Would this be an example of irony?

My Friend Allan

Allan Peterson, who is both a poet AND a visual artist (Grrr!!!), won the 2005 Juniper Prize for his poetry book, All the Lavish in Common--which is now available. (The art on the cover is his too.) Allan writes smart, beautiful, lyric poems. He's also a great guy. Below is an older poem of his, one of my favorites.

for Bob and Janice Kanyusik

Dandelion rings were the first jewelry
that glittered in the yard like bug lights.
On a given finger a yellow dwarf rested
-Star of Wisconsin- the stalk that slips into itself
like a wish, and the sap that sticks first to memory
then to everything like the earliest question:
who was graphite, who pearls.
I would say Bob gives Janice a float for her ankles.
I would say the lake is married to the shore
and a wetsuit blooms in the screen house because of October,
taking a last look before it freezes.
Someone drifting by might say look how the lake
of plique à jour fits the rocks perfectly. Say I do. I do.
How a figure backlit even in full sun faces forward
and backward at the same time like the spirits of doorways.
How the space of Euclid is the platter of the sun
and leaving the water each late droplet has its own.
Wisconsin opens its jeweled connection to the galaxy.
Bob says something circular to her. The planets dance.

Allan Peterson

A Boy and His Dog

Overheard last night from behind the bathroom door:

"Daisy, sniff this."

My Favorite New Malapropism, Courtesy of Phil

"I feel taken for granite."



I'm reading a book called YOU JUST DON'T UNDERSTAND, by Deborah Tannen--about the differences in the ways men and women communicate. It's fascinating, scary stuff, let me tell you. She says that men see everything in regard to power and hierarchy, while women see everything in terms of connecting and relationships. No news there, I guess, but when she starts showing examples, it gets scary-weird.

Anyway, I'm not even halfway through it, but I'm hoping it will explain the situation below. In the meantime, I'm asking you, my fellow bloggers, to weigh in. Let's see if the response lines up along genders.

Biggy is addicted to the SORBA site (it's a mountain biking thing), especially the forum. Imagine a bunch of grown men chatting it up about forks and hardtails--titillating! Anyway, I saw that he was bragging about how he NEVER falls, so I asked, "What about the spill you took last weekend, the one I just happened to photograph?" To which he responded, "That wasn't really a fall."

So I ask you: FALL OR NO FALL?

More Backseat Words of Wisdom

Taking JackMan and Bud to Zaxby's last night:

JackMan: Dude, I'm starving.

Bud: Me too. All I had today was a Hot Pocket. They're disgusting, but I eat them anyway. Whoever thought that was a good idea--let's take a pop tart and fill it will nasty meat.


What's In a Name?

I’m tired of the question, so:

For those of you who don’t care where the name of this blog came from, do yourselves a favor and skip this one. It's clunky, bland, and way too long. As for the rest of you suckers…

A while back—I can’t remember if it’s been a year, or longer (I haven’t been the same since "the accident"), I had a dream, which was brief and vague—me standing at the kitchen sink, the quintessential domestic scene, thinking about how I came to be there and what it meant, what kind of mother and wife I was. What kind of person. The only thing really clear was the phrase in Dream-me’s mind, ‘The Stone’s Colossal Dream.’ I woke up, startled and changed by that phrase.

I was aware of all the implications of this word, ‘Colossal,’ which means, literally: 1. unusually or impressively large, 2. very great or impressive, or 3. a sculpture that is twice life-size, as well as the related words—‘coliseum’ (also spelled colosseum) and colossus. All bigger than life, all made out of stone. I love words of course, love making connections with words (Look up the word ‘pomegranate’ and have some fun going from fruit to syrup to geography to weapons of war). I like all kinds of connections in life, really, which is why I’m fond of movies like Short Cuts, Magnolia, and Crash.

I was inspired to begin a poem, which I figured would be a long sectional piece like “A History of the Body” from Karaoke Funeral. It was obvious to me that this was indeed about my dreams and, this time, not my body, but the history of my self and, in particular, my self-ish pursuits.

At the heart, theme-wise, was this: When I was twenty-three, I made up my mind to have a baby. I told myself I’d be a good mother, warm and sweet, patient and kind, attentive and nurturing. I was educated, well read. I had a lot to offer a child, I reasoned. I had a lot of love to give.

I would be a better mother than my own. My husband would be better than my father. We’d have a REAL family, too, one that was nice, where the kids didn’t hide in the closet because they were scared. My husband and I wouldn’t dress in diapers and go to wild parties and fight afterward. I wouldn’t pack up the kids’ things in trash bags and drag everyone to the car in the middle of the night. My children wouldn’t be molested by relatives, family friends, and teachers. They wouldn’t be terrified to make B's on their report card. They wouldn’t count their peas or throw up their brownies. They wouldn't grow up to be drunks.

I was going to have the family I didn’t get as a child. I would create it. So I gave my boyfriend, barely old enough to shave, an ultimatum: Marry me or let me go find someone who would. I can feel sorry for that boy he was, too, thinking he was in love, not wanting to lose me. But I’ll never feel bad for the man he became. Twenty years later, he gets no sympathy from me. I chose him, however, and I have to live with that.

It ended in a black eye and an ugly divorce. I signed papers agreeing not to testify to any of his illegal activities, and he paid for my grad school. He was “free” to work, and I would eventually be able to support my family.

There’s nothing new about this story. It’s a classic, this cycle. Oh, I could give up some of my own particular details that might be mildly entertaining—chapters written from his POV, with titles like:

The Night I Brought the Stripper Home

“It’s Not Mine”: Story of a Sexual Aid

My Lips Are Moving, I Must be Lying

Road Trip To Rhode Island—A Romantic Reunion

The Secret World in the Basement

Barely Legal

(And maybe I will…)

By the demise of that marriage, I had already committed almost every sin my parents had. And where I came up short, I’d committed a new one my mother hadn’t thought of: I was ambitious. I wanted to be a poet. I’d leave my children, reeling from the split, for weeks at a time, while I earned my MFA. Even when I was home, I wasn’t all there. They ate Frosted Flakes for dinner. They learned “Leave Me Alone.”

I convinced myself that this would make them proud. It would be as important to them as it was to me. I know now that kids don’t care about such things. They want their parents. They want to be the center. They want what I had wanted as a child.

To make matters worse, I dated—lots. My mother moved in with me, so I had a great amount of freedom. After ten years of sitting on the couch, waiting for someone who was never coming home, I was ready to par-tee. They were well cared for, I told myself. They had Mamoo. Besides, I always crawled back in the mornings, in time to wake them for school. They never even knew I stayed out all night. Didn’t I deserve some happiness? I’d officially been miserable all my life.

Well into my imperfect second marriage, another kiddo in the mix, I am older, wiser, and, even more important, sober enough to know the truth. I can point my finger at my parents, and they can point at theirs. What a waste of time. I’ve made my choices, and those choices affected the people I love most.

If having an MFA in poetry or publishing a book or being an editor of a literary journal or teaching it makes you a poet, then I’m a poet. But I’m not famous, well-known, or bigger than life. Furthermore, my kids wouldn’t be impressed if I were.

I’m trying all the time to be better. I’m working at it. I’m improving. Still, I’m not a mother like warm bread. I don’t have a child-safe home. I’m self-centered, cool, and eerily detached. I carry the load of my history everywhere I go. In spite of my rich fantasies—I was going to be a COLOSSAL poet, a COLOSSAL teacher, and a COLOSSAL mother with a colossal family--I’m simply who I am, a pebble in my own shoe. I couldn’t even write that poem.

The point is, my oldest child, that baby I couldn’t wait to have, had to leave home at sixteen, and still, at eighteen, lives with her grandmother 200 miles away.

If I could give her back her childhood, I would; I’d repair the damage.

But I can’t fix it.

This blog, about my flawed life, is a testament to that.


More Witless Dialogue: Two-fer Tuesday

1) Upon getting home from work this afternoon:

Biggy: JackMan's grounded.
T: What'd he do?
Biggy: He was trying to get in the van, and I was doing that thing where I keep speeding up when he tries to open the door. Anyway, I kept doing it, and, finally, he yelled, "What the F---!" in the middle of the street, right in front of the redneck's house, which made US look like rednecks***...
T: Well, it IS annoying when you do that. You're right, though, he shouldn't say the F-word.

....and downstairs with Jackman:

T: So you're grounded?
JackMan: Yeah, he can be such a dick!
T: But you do have a foul-ass mouth. It needs to stop.

***(I come from a long line of trailer park dwellers. My Uncle Edgar and Aunt Ora had a chihuahua that smoked cigarettes. See my own pet above. Hello--I AM a redneck!)

2) Biggy and I, planning our exercise schedules for the evening:

T: I'd like to jog at some point.
Biggy: I want to go to the Y and run on the treadmill.
T: Why don't you just jog with me?
Biggy: I find the treadmill less boring.



Tithes, Tees, and Truckers


1) Yesterday, in the parking lot of Emerson UU Church--this time with both hubby and Lo: Biggy, who usually leaves his wallet in the car, was trying to decide if he should take it in.

Biggy: Will we have to tip?

2) This afternoon, buying JackMan's drumsticks at Ken Stanton Music store, conversation with young Clueless Cutie behind the register:

CC: What's your t-shirt about?
T: It's called Till Death Do Us Part.
CC: It's kinda disturbing.
T: Oh, it's disturbing, all right.

3) Six-year-old girls Lo and Tay, in the backseat today:

Lo: Look at that truck driver, he's not wearing a shirt.
Tay: Only guys can do that.
Lo: Sometimes I don't wear a shirt when I'm in the back yard.
Tay: You're showing your privates, you know.
Lo: Little girls don't have boobies.
Tay: Yeah, but they have nibbles.

Poetry Daily

Note the new link to Poetry Daily. Today's poem is by fellow Wally Meghan O'Rourke, a piece that makes me cry for its beauty and simplicity. I'm also jealous. Don't know whether to kiss her or pinch her.


On The Road To Enlightenment: Two More Conversations With Georgie

Before yoga:

G: See that girl over there--the one on the purple mat, with the pink pants? She tans where I work. Hhmmm?
T: Looks like she could use a few more trips to Solar Plus.
(Brief pause)
G&T: But we're not here to judge.

After Yoga:

G: What were you thinking about during shava-asana?
T: The cramp in my left calf. What about you?
G: Samoas

The Vampire LeTot

The game goes like this: If I need a story, or a sandwich, or to be rescued, I'm supposed to strum the ukelele, and she'll come running. She will burn my enemies with the light. And later, after she gets tired of playing, she wants me to take her to Target and buy her a tuxedo to wear to church tomorrow.

Hey, I don't make this shit up.


Worn Out

This morning, I turn on the shower and nothing but cold water. Because my son has fallen asleep for half an hour in the shower down the hall. No wonder he's tired, though--he's such a multi-tasker. History Channel AND Gameboy...

Ever tried to get conditioner out of your hair with cold water? I look like Tom Petty.



I’ve been doing a lot of reading and writing lately on the subject of ‘paying attention.’ This, because of some articles and speeches I’m helping The Master of the Universe (my boss) with. Inevitably, when I concentrate on a particular theme, whether for work or for personal reasons, I’ll start seeing its manifestations everywhere--yoga, for instance, where I’m being instructed to pay careful attention to my breath and body. And I’m also realizing how much I DON’T pay attention to—the ways I stay in my head, creating entire worlds that wouldn’t otherwise exist, rather than closely watching the world I live in. I should add that the worlds in my head are rarely beautiful or joyful.

So anyway, I want to share happened—or occurred--to me while mountain biking, that really brought home the fact that as observant as I need and claim to be, I’m...well...not-so-much. Of course, there’s some background and meandering, but eventually I’ll get to the point, I promise.

As I’ve said before, I was too scared to go mountain biking when I was in my twenties and thirties. I’m naturally clumsy, so the only sport I’ve ever done well was distance running, and that’s by my own definition of “well.” I mean I’ve never won any medals, but I used to could by-god run a marathon, because I’m stubborn. I stuck with running, since I could run a long way and there was only a small likelihood of breaking my neck.

But when I was pregnant with Lo at 36, and feeling like a run-down Efficiency on the bad side of town, I decided that once this baby moved out of my body, I was going to take up a new sport, use my body a different way. I’d show those doctors, too, who’d made me feel old and used up by referring to me as “advanced maternal age” for nine months. So after she was born, I learned to kayak. I loved paddling, being out on the river in the peace and quiet. You’ll never find me on class V rapids, but I can happily take on III and, not-quite-as-happily, the occasional IV.

Then, last year, with my marriage in crisis, I was hell-bent on finding ways to connect with my husband, things we could share. As it happens, he loves mountain biking. And honestly, I was at such a low point--a nothing-to-lose point--that I was willing to risk my neck. So with that notion, and the courage I’d gained from the kayaking, I gave it a try.

It was scary, no lie: treacherous gravel, knotty roots, whole fallen trees, saplings that seem to shoot up out of nowhere in the middle of the trail. But once I got my bearings and figured out what the bike could do, I felt like a kid again, like when my sister and I used to ride through the deep woods all day, stopping to explore abandoned farmhouses, or pick muscadines, or spy on the swimmers at Sun Valley Beach.

And when Biggy and I got to the top of the mountain and stopped to rest, I noticed maypops in the field, something I hadn’t seen in years, and remembered how, as a girl, I adored those purple flowers that made me think of Indian blankets, and how we used to stomp on the green, egg-like fruits to hear them pop.

I was suddenly flooded with memories from my childhood: the wild strawberry patches that grew behind our house, blackberry bushes, plum and persimmon trees. There was a massive oak tree up the dirt road, and under it, an old rusted-out Falcon where feral kittens were born every year, and we’d get our arms shredded trying to catch them. There were tall pines, and we’d climb to the top and nap, stretching across the branches and rocking in the breeze. I’d forgotten all of this.

For years and years, because I dwell in the darkness in my head, all I’d recalled of my childhood were the cruel adults who’d yelled and hit, or the sick ones who'd done worse. On the mountain, maypops blooming, I realized that the world itself, the natural, physical world, has been offering its consolation all along. And when the people in my life disappoint me, or downright hurt me, it still does. If only I pay attention.


A Room of My Own

Today, I discovered this--Biggy's stash of socks, hidden back on the shelf of his closet, behind the hanging shirts and sweaters. Sad, isn't it, that a man would resort to this hamster-like behavior. These are HIS nuts, so to speak. Living in a house where no one has any respect for ownership or autonomy is hard. Your stuff just trickles out of your drawers and cabinets. Some kid you've never met before comes into the kitchen wearing your favorite Club Lavela t-shirt that's been missing since 1999. I've had to hide my toothbrush, for chrissakes. Not to mention writing my initials in my panties with a sharpie. Nothing is sacred, I tell you. When BlueMagoo and George were going through puberty, their hormones trumped mine, trying to draw my body into sync. Seriously, I couldn't even have my own period.


Happy Birthday to Me

I had a great day because of all the people I love who love me back. Thanks to Fernando, the host with the most of everything, and the PC Peeps for the wonderful lunch. It was a day of surprises--friends dropping by with flowers, books, cards. And then, when I got home, the sweet ride I've been dreaming about since I saw it on Super Bowl Sunday. Paul Frank. Stella can sit in the basket.

My Cynical Ear

Last night at the Y, I overheard a six-year-old talking to his pal while playing air hockey:

"My mom drives a silver mini-van. My dad has a little gold car that we can't all four fit in."



Tomorrow is my birthday--43. I weigh the same as I did at 15. No, seriously. That's how sick I am. I can REMEMBER what I weighed every year since I was diagnosed as anorexic at 10 (I weighed 65, the same as my best friend Pam, who was three inches shorter). I'm tweny-one years into recovery from anorexia and bulimia, and maintain a normal weight, yet I still measure my peanut butter by the tablespoon and can tell you how many calories per oz. in any food, from bean sprouts to Tang. You should have seen my therapist taking notes when she brought up the subject of antidepressants of few weeks ago. I told her that everyone I knew on anti-d's has gained weight (or so they tell me), and I'd rather be depressed than fat. Scribble scribble.

Besides, I'm not really depressed. I'm mad. But getting less so.

Those close to me (within screaming distance) know I've had a difficult year, which came on the heels of a difficult year. No time to recover from one family crisis before the next. But conflict leads to change, right? In the past twelve months, I've taken up mountain biking with Biggy, overcoming the chronic pussiness that kept me from trying it when I was younger. I found a great therapist, who can sit in her Marietta office and smell bullshit from a farm in Jasper. I finished my second book, a difficult one to write because it tells the truth about how I failed my oldest child, Blue Magoo. And I've actually survived the loss of what remnants of innocence I had left. I'm a real grown-up now. Still alive. Still married. Oh yes, and sober. Maybe there was some redemption, then.

And in spite a few bad habits like weighing cheese, I've learned to love and accept my body--that aging vessel of my guts and passions, and to eat Publix fried chicken without remorse. More small steps.

So, tonight, if you're awake at 12:05, close your eyes and wish me a happy birthday; send good thoughts for the year ahead.


And They're Off

Promzilla and the Leprechaun. Gotta love 'em.

Stella Meets Cheddar

A picture is worth a thousand words.


Because I'm a masochist, I volunteered to dogsit for my friend and student Angie's baby, Cheddar, from Thursday through Monday. Doesn't matter that I had to time critiques last night until 11:30 with said canine toddler in tow. No matter it's George's prom tonight (Of course I forgot to order the boutonniere!) or that JackMan has a drum workshop today because he wants to try out for the Walton High drumline and has managed to fake reading music for the past three years of middle school band; no matter that Biggy is allergic and his whole head starts melting whenever he's in the same room with her; and no matter that I have two old crotchety bitches of my own--a chihuahua and a jack russell, who don't much cotton to new kids, especially those of questionable pedigree, preferring to snarl at only each other. Lo LOVES this puppy--this Lab/Corgi mix the PC students call a Labrigator. And I promised.


Night of the Living Dead

First things first: Shout out to Collin for helping with my links and photos. And for being my friend even thought I'm so high maintenance.

It's Critique Week at Portfolio Center. The students are out for flesh. They're starving and haven't slept for days; it gets uglier by the hour. The only way to kill them is to destroy their brains, which can't be done. I keep my office locked and yell out that Hank (PC's prez) is bigger than I am. This afternoon, desperate, I slipped them his spare key under the door.

Pray for Hank.


Baby Step #2: UU

Still sore from yesterday's yoga. I don't get it--I've been jogging for almost 30 years, and I can bike seven miles straight up a mountain, but let me "engage my fingers" and "expand my chest" for an hour, never even breaking a sweat, and now I can barely walk.

So my next step toward changing my life (I know, you think I did something about my hair!) was church. We tried this a few years ago, when Lo was two. That was back when she didn't know the difference between a dress and a duck, when I could still put her in a skirt. So I'd strap on her maryjanes, and she'd look really cute face down on the carpet in the nursery, arms wrapped around my ankles. Didn't she know I was doing it for her? Her three siblings had held it against me that I'd offered them nothing in the form of spiritual guidance or community as they were growing up. And it had been hard for me to find a church I could tolerate, especially given my Top Ten List of Church Requirements:

1. Must be big enough that no one notices I'm not really singing.
2. Must not practice 'shake hands with your neighbor.'
3. No old man stationed at the door to hug you on the way in.
4. Female minister.
5. Minister must never use the word Hell.
6. No scary reenactments of the crucifiction.
7. No clowns.
8. Must not expect me to make vats of coleslaw.
9. No perverted youth choir director.
10. No culottes.

I'd finally found a church that met all the guidelines except for number one. It was small and quaint. The cemetery out front dwarfed the building (If I'd thought about it, 'no cemetery in the front yard' would have also been on the list). Number two was iffy, in that the size of the congregation made it difficult to avoid greeting your pewmates. Nevertheless, Emerson Unitarian Universalist Church was scarcely two miles from my house, which meant I could squeeze in one more cup of coffee and make fun of the brides in the Sunday paper before I had to leave. But the toddler Lo didn't appreciate my efforts.

Today, a big six-year-old dressed in camo shorts, tank, and wheelies, she went with me voluntarily--the ONLY one in the family who would (Thanks for NOTHING, George!). The place hadn't changed in four years and struck me as remarkably similar to the yoga studio, so's I caught myself counting as I breathed in-two-three-four. Today's sermon was on the heart, a mixture of science and health with a dose of inspiration via Dr. Seuss and Emily Dickinson (Don't get me started on her!). I'm not knocking the service. I enjoyed it. But I kept in the back of my mind the pithy running commentary Biggy would have offered had he accompanied me rather than going into work, complete with the toking gestures he'd have made in the car on the way home. He thinks they're all bisexual pothead interpretive dancers. At the end of the service, the adult and children's choirs joined to sing a piece that included a Zulu chant written in honor of Nelson Mandela, really beautiful, and I left with my heart full of love.

Less than an hour later, Biggy and I were out on our deck, having the kind of fight where one of you ends up with your toothbrush and underwear in a paper bag, threatening to leave.

Two steps back.


Retarding the Aging Process

Call it a mid-life crisis. Or call it another day. I'm ready to make some major changes,Chickens. I watched "What the Bleep Do We Know?" at PC last week, and while Marlee Matlin deserves to have her SAG card revoked, it was an extremely thought-provoking movie, which was the whole point--that what we think, we create. Anyway, for me, big change requires small steps, so I signed my seventeen-year-old daughter George and myself up for a private yoga lesson (You didn't think I was going by myself, did you?). We met Cindy, the Yoga Bear, at her studio this afternoon, where I could learn the basics in safety and isolation before facing a roomful of graceful Kundalingus Barbies in a regular class. I knew George wouldn't laugh at me, because her prom is next week and she doesn't have her shoes yet. The studio, in a little cottage off the historic square in Marietta, was exactly as you'd expect: futon furniture, crystals, dreamcatchers, one of those paintings of a waterfall with no source, and Enya oozing from the walls. It was all very zencere, but I had a hard time "centering" and "breathing" as I was told to do, because I was surrounded by mirrors reflecting not only my ass, but also my bad haircut. In one mirror it looked like a mullet, and in the other more like a pelt. My hair, that is. The ass looked like your grandma's.

I stuck it out the full hour and a half, though. Small steps.

Busting the Blogging Hymen

This feels dangerous.

A little about me: I'm a writer, who teaches creative writing to designers, art directors, and copywriters at Portfolio Center in Atlanta. I also manage PC's awesome website, with a lot of help from Todd. My students are all freaks of nature; they never sleep, they survive on Krispy Kremes and Coke, and they can imagine anything into being. Dave Werner is a good example.

I'm the author of Karaoke Funeral, published in 2003, and I have another manuscript looking for a home.

Regular Cast of Characters: my four kids, to be known as Lo, JackMan, George, and BlueMagoo; my mother, Mamoo; my husband, Biggy; my best friend in town, Celliechat; and my two arch enemies, Pissing-On-Trees and Single Pieface.

I'm astounded by how dull this first entry is. Don't get too comfortable.

About Me

My photo
Writer, teacher, student, mom.

Fresh Flowers Delivered