Archives for January 2013

on Mary

Since word has gone out that I’ve gone Catholic, my friends are sending me Mary things.

One friend wrote, “Often I’ve wanted to remind you that being a wife is always hard and often being a mother…. well, just ask Mary. I’ve been there I have the tee-shirt with stains still hidden away in a drawer to prove it.”

Don’t you love the idea of Mary with a stained T-shirt in a drawer? It should say, “Mother of Jesus. Pray for me.”

Another friend was on vacation and visited a historic church. She texted me a photo, along with the message, “She understands a sorrowful heart.”

Then I followed a link and learned that this particular image is Our Lady of Perpetual Help, the patron saint of Haiti. Since October, I’ve had three friends travel there, each with a different group.

It makes me think I know nothing of sorrow.


The Triangle

I do drink coffee — first thing in the morning. It’s basically an excuse to bitter up my dark chocolate almond milk. If I’m at my dad’s, I’ll have one of his lattes (which are better than anyone else’s anywhere). But after I consume one rather large cup, no more coffee for the rest of the day.

I’m over at Tweetspeak today. Won’t you join us for the rest of the story?

Why This Isn’t Good Poetry

Every Friday is Haiku Friday at Mark Osler’s blog. This past Friday, he asked us to write our own bad high school poetry (real or imagined). Here is the real-life sample he posted:

There’s no need to cry
The clouds do it for me
Expressing my depression better
Than I ever could.

So, why is this bad poetry? Oh, let me count the ways.

1) It’s too short for such a big subject. This kind of massive depression deserves a little explanation.

2) The author violated the credo: Show, Don’t Tell. Don’t use the word “depressed.” Show us. Tell us you spent 10 straight hours in your room watching “The Office,” hoping your family would realize that you weren’t actually laughing—you were crying.

3) It employs cliche: clouds/rain = sadness/crying. Cliche has uses. You can use it to work against type, as in “Sunny days make me saddest of all.” Or you can employ it in terms of defining a character because some people really do talk that way, and it can take decades to decode what they really mean. (Many Texas women fall into this category).

4) There’s no attention to poetic form. Even if a poem doesn’t rhyme, there should be reasons for the line breaks. There should be alliteration or internal rhyme or a rhythmic quality.

5) Other than those poor, sad clouds, there’s no imagery. A good poem will often bring a picture to your mind.

6) Not all poems are sad. If in doubt, read Billy Collins.

7) What is the reader supposed to do with this poem? All it does is make me feel sorry for the author. A good poem will make you think about yourself or that time you met your dad at a cafe on the anniversary of your mother’s death or about the particular blue of a bluebonnet.

Thanks, Osler. As I said in your comment section, I’m just glad I put all my high school poems in a dumpster long ago. They would’ve sounded just like this one.

Michael Scott and Magpies

“Too much change is not a good thing—ask Climate.”
–Michael Scott, “The Office”

Sunday morning, 9 a.m.-ish. All four of us are watching “The Office.” Isn’t this what your family does on Sunday mornings?

Oh, you’re at church? Good for you.

Normally, my husband and I go to the early service, the 7:30. But I had slept in till 7, which is super late for me. I decided to do something I hadn’t done in ages—make breakfast for my family. I had just bought some sausage, and I had the makings for pumpkin muffins.

Or so I thought. There are times it’s nice to have a teen who drives when you forget things.

First I sent him to Mini-Mart for flour. Then I realized I had used all my canned pumpkin in a soup, so I sent him to H-E-B.

I started the sausage. It’s easy. It cooks slowly and makes the house smell good, even though I’m not a big sausage fan. I started making the muffins while I waited for all the goods to come in. When my son returned with the flour, I mixed up the dry ingredients. While he was getting the pumpkin, I mixed up the wet ingredients. I turned the sausage over so both sides would brown.

Meanwhile, my daughter woke up and turned on “The Office,” the ones back when Michael Scott (played by Steve Carell) was there. I still think it’s a crime that Steve Carell didn’t win the Emmy for his final season on the show. It just goes to show there’s no justice in the world.

My husband hadn’t seen these particular episodes from season 6. All four of us were laughing at the same time. That’s called progress.

The sausage finished first. I went ahead and put it out. I smelled the muffins before the dinger went off, which is never good. It meant I’d burnt the bottoms.

I never burn the bottoms (almost never). For years when my kids were young, I made a batch of homemade muffins once a week. I knew all my recipes by heart. They always turned out perfectly.

“Are the muffins done?” my daughter called from the living room.

“Yep. Just give me a few minutes to let them cool,” I said. Cool enough to cut off the burned stumps.

My husband saw my mistake, smiled and whispered, “I’ll take the toasty ones.” He grabbed a few before I could stop him.

I heard Michael Scott say, “Too much change is not a good thing—ask Climate.” There have been so many natural disasters these last couple of years. Some experts think climate change is involved; some don’t. I don’t know. All I know is that it’s been one tragedy after another, some climate-related, some not. It takes a lot to endure.

While I put out the muffins, I thought about our recent trip to Colorado over the Christmas break. Last year when we went to Estes Park, it wasn’t very cold and I saw a lot of birds. This year, near Winter Park, I only saw one type of bird—a magpie.

One was on our cabin’s railing. I saw another one at a neighboring cabin. I saw them when it was -2 degrees. They were shiny and fat. They know where the garbage cans were, the dumpsters. They can adapt to an enormous amount of change. Come blizzard, come pine beetle, come drought, the magpies will be fine.

Like Michael Scott, they can adapt to even too much change. He hung in there through corporate takeovers, multiple breakups, office politics. He hung in there until Holly, his fiancee, needed to move across the country to be closer to her ailing parents.

I had enough leftover muffin batter to make six more after my first batch didn’t turn out so well. These were perfect. I made it to church in time for the 11:15 service, the last one.

Fairy tale poem


Snow White lives up the street

with those seven little dwarves. She’s got it good.

They eat a lot when they come home, but they’re gone

most of the day.

Back home, they stay up late, tell stories. Snow

White likes the noise.

It comforts her to know they’re safe.

The washing and mending isn’t too overwhelming. They aren’t

picky. But sometimes Snow White gets lonely,

goes into town in disguise.

Once she dressed as a handsome prince. People bowed.

Once she was an old lady, selling apples.

She has a new huntsman outfit she’s dying to try.

The dwarves came home late last night.

They’d finished their big project — something handmade

of glass.

Snow White asked to see it.

They said no.

Sorry, Shelly

I told Shelly that I wasn’t choosing a word for the year. That I never had. That I never would.

Part of it is simple rebellion. I get sort of sick to my stomach when I see people choosing words like “love” and “hope.” It makes me want to choose some other word with four letters to mark the year.

Another part is what I wrote to Shelly, that each year usually starts with one simple cry, albeit in different circumstances: How long, O Lord?

But during the last week of 2012, we went to Colorado, meaning I went hiking in the snow, meaning I had a revelation, as always happens when I hike in the snow.

Here’s what happened. I got on the wrong trail with the wrong equipment. I was wearing hiking boots and microspikes and was supposed to stay on the snowshoe trails. I’d never done those trails in that particular area, so I got turned around and walked on the cross-country ski trails instead. Well, I got busted.

Mr. Nordic Man was very polite, but he firmly redirected me to the proper trail. I knew sort-of-kind-of how to get back to my cabin, but it was longer and uphill. I was mad.

That’s when it hit me: You are no longer in charge.

I could have chosen to ignore this bit of revelation, since it’s a phrase and not a nice, neat word. But, oh, it fits. It fits like that damn slipper on Cinderella’s foot.

The worst part is that I didn’t realize I was in charge at all. Apparently I had great power and great responsibility and let it slip away, like the snow that’s now 1,000 miles away.

So Shelly, that’s my word (my six words) for the year. It’s not all bad news. Whatever happens in 2013, it’s not my fault. I’m no longer in charge.

Found Poetry

In chapter 2 of L.L. Barkat’s “Inspired: 8 ways to write poems you can love,” one of the suggestions was, “Open any book and copy a few sentences, breaking them into lines as you copy.”

I’d already copied a couple of quotes from Hilary Mantel’s “Bring Up the Bodies,” which is great fun.

After you read mine, it’s your turn. Redo my line breaks, or do your own from a quote you like.

First quote: “Sometimes peace looks like war, you cannot tell them apart; sometimes these islands look very small.”

First poem:

Sometimes peace

looks like war

you cannot tell


apart; sometimes

these islands look very small.

Second quote: “There are no endings. If you think so you are deceived as to their nature. They are all beginnings. Here is one.”

Second poem:

There are no

endings. If you think

so you are deceived

as to their nature. They are all beginnings.

Here is