Monday, March 30, 2009


After nine years with the same yoga instructor, I recently jumped ship. Not because of dissatisfaction—I love my longtime teacher—but because of reanalyzed cost-benefit ratio (popular in this economy, yes?).

Her class is offered once a week for $12/session and I found a place where I could go any of seven days a week for free. Even those of us in search of eternal serenity have a budget to consider.

After so long in one yoga-land, what’s another like?

It’s kicking my ass (perfectly compassionately, of course).

I leave new-yoga feeling physically and mentally pummeled. I have itty-bitty muscles in my back and ankles talking to me that have kept quiet for 38 years. As far as my mind goes—ka-boom! It needed this challenge something fierce.

This is one of those lessons that I must learn again and again—it is always valuable to try new things. Warrior III? There is a Warrior III? Half-moon pose extends to the floor? Why has this been kept from me? I might have gone my whole life without knowing that I can do balancing chair.

It’s been great to test my strength, find it completely adequate, and yet see oceans of growth potential. I am falling in love with yoga all over again.

Hear this, universe! By the end of summer, yoga will not kick my ass. I will kick its ass (perfectly compassionately, of course).

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Endless Race

One of my Anonymous Commenters likes to reply to my posts with poems (See “Guts”). I am not much of a poetry person, but I like her approach. Often her chosen poets speak better than I to whatever theme I aimed for.

Every now and then something really hits home. This one by Lucille Clifton, which I’ve excerpted here, matches my mood this week exactly.

we are running

running and time is clocking us.

oh pray that what we want is worth this running,

pray that what we’re running toward is what we want.

Is it just me, or does this poem feel uniquely female?

Thanks for sharing it, Mom. Err, I mean, Anonymous Commenter. ;-)

Monday, March 23, 2009

In It, Under It, Over It

Strange things happen once I start to edit my manuscript.

1. Excuses slip away. Not enough time? I steal time. From chores, from writing assignments, from my chickens. Even from cocktail hour.

Not enough motivation? There’s too much. I can’t focus on anything else. I work on my book all of the time. When I am not working on it, I think about it.

Too many interruptions? Well, yeah. That’s life.

2. All other writing work starts to look like a cake walk. I whip out 1000-word articles in an hour. I edit in my sleep.

3. I become consumed. A tiny bit addicted. And it feels sooo good.

Here is why I hovered outside of my manuscript for so long. Diving in means submerging. Clarity is exchanged for passion. But the passion is ephemeral. I have to plow through before I burn out.

Would it be too bold to wish aloud that this be the last major overhaul? It would be nice to not have to set fire to my baby a second time.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Suzanne Burns' "Vacancy"

A friendly Sunday-morning plug for my friend Suzanne Burns’ poetry chapbook “Vacancy”, now available from Pudding House Press.

She’s brilliant, has an uncanny ability to nail the absurd, and does her best writing from midnight to 3 a.m. That’s pretty much all you need to know.

The prose-poems in this chapbook are fabulous. Even better is how she described the cover: “This is a writer waiting for his agent to call.”

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Chicken Noodle Speaketh the (Unwelcome) Truth

“Jiggle jiggle! Mommy, know why your bee-hind jiggles? Because you’re old!”

Chicken Noodle made this declaration two days ago after sneaking up on me in my closet, getting dressed. I couldn’t help it, I laughed like Homer Simpson.

Ha HA!

Perhaps the sensible reaction would be to tear at my hair in lament. But I have 18 months 22 days until I hit 40, and until then all accusations of agedness will be met with hysterical laughter (even if the emphasis is on hysterical).

Just for the record, no comments on the gelatinousness of my behind will be allowed by those over the age of 5, now or 18 months from now. In case any of you were so inclined (Captain Daddy).

Monday, March 16, 2009


Simply mentioning my book for the first time in months set off an internal maelstrom capped by complete panic in the grips of which I considered quitting writing and getting a job at the mall.

This reaction would be amusing if it weren’t so predictable. Since the first, seamless, innocent draft, the thought of editing my manuscript has sent me into spinning anxiety.

I can never decide no matter how much I prod my mind and my soul if this anxiety is a normal reaction to a monumental task like writing a book or a sign that I shouldn’t be writing this particular book.

I recently read in the New Yorker that David Foster Wallace said, “the big distinction between good art and so-so art lies in being willing to sort of die in order to move the reader.” I don’t purport to be on his level (nor end like him), and he wrote fiction, but I will be brave enough to suggest that this statement might be even truer when one is writing memoir.

When I think about what I will have to scrutinize, parse out and reveal about myself to make this book truly good, it kind of makes me want to throw up. It’s exciting to think that this could be possible and moving to an audience, and terrifying to think about how difficult it will be and how, should I fail, I will have simply laid my guts out on the table to be picked apart by vultures.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Sad Glad Mad Rad

We recently adopted from my sister’s family the dinner-hour pastime “Sad Mad Glad Rad”. The idea is that each person relates an occasion during their day that elicited each of these four emotions (“Rad” referring to “radical”, which is only sort of an emotion, but adds a wild-card element).

SGMR started as a structured way to pass the usually chaotic mealtime. I also hoped it would put us closer in touch with one another.

Little did I know.

SGMR turns out to be no parlor game. It’s a wickedly strong interpersonal-communication catalyst that can foster affection, incite a riot, or make half the table cry. Doing it for real requires that you not only give undivided attention to your loved ones but also wholeheartedly accept what they offer.

One must be open, for instance, to Chicken Little’s nonsensical and achingly unhurried responses. Sad? “Ummmmm, nope.” Mad? (long pause) “My green beans.” Glad? “Daddy.” Rad? (30 seconds of silence) “I naked.”

Or to a tedious dissertation on the plot of “Thumbelina” by Chicken Noodle, followed abruptly by the resurrection of what we’d hoped was a forgotten tragedy. Sad? “Remember that fish we had? It DIED DIED DIED DIED DIED.”

Or to a ten-minute rant complete with bad words and arm waving by Captain Daddy about drivers on Century Drive instigated by “Mad?”

Finally, one must muster a pitch-perfect combination of bravery, courtesy and honesty to communicate one’s own “Sad” when it happens to implicate another person at the table (Ahem, Captain Daddy).

Completing SGMR often takes an entire meal and leaves me feeling that we have partaken of some intense family psychoanalysis, complete with the desire-to-retire-to-the-bedroom-alone-with-a-cocktail aftermath.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Someday My Prince Will Come (and he will be a literary agent)

I haven’t actually worked on my book in months. I rewrote the proposal last September for a consult with an editor. That’s the closest I’ve come to delving in since those knee-jerk edits right after the bonfire.

I’ve needed that time; to digest, to recover. After all, the whole point of setting fire to the thing was to reclaim my life.

But there is also a problem: I haven’t figured out what the story is, exactly. That’s the tricky thing about writing about real life; there are always many stories within a story, and separating compelling drama from extraneous details is difficult (at least for me).

The ending is a particular problem. It’s got to be uplifting, because that’s what sells, but since the whole book is about tragedy and death and whatnot, it’s got to be real, too.
Traditional happy endings—the kind with lots of taffeta and a soaring score—are for the plastic princesses scattered all over Chicken Noodle’s bedroom floor. The rest of us have to claim the meaningful bits from every day and fashion them into our own fiercely-guarded raison d'ĂȘtre.

That’s the ending I want. And I have to figure it out. I feel I should know this before I begin again (she says sarcastically).

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Birds of Prey

I wish I could say that my local creative community was always a bastion of support and collaboration.

Instead it often seems like the cattiest of cocktail parties, at which everyone is full of compliments until you walk away.

I suppose nastiness is everywhere. If we writers were moles, the predators would be hawks and the wounds would be bleeding.

So, you know, there’s the bright side.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Free the French Fries!

During the last of three layovers that Chicken Noodle and I endured on our journey home from Hawaii, I ordered us dinner in an airport brewpub. When the meals arrived, I reached over and snatched a French fry off of Noodle’s plate and stuck it in my mouth.

Little did I know this simple act would send my overtired child directly to crazy-land.

“I want my French fry!” she wailed. “I want my French fry back!”

Never mind that she had roughly 35 similar French fries on her plate. She wanted that one: the one that got away, the one lost for eternity, the one elevated to idolatry and lament from today into forever just because it had disappeared.

It took twenty minutes of cajoling and a bit of fakery to convince her to get over it.

What is it that makes some of us hold on to things long past their service to us? Why do we obsess about unfinished business? Observing this nuclear meltdown in my child, I wondered: what is my French fry?

Perhaps it is my unpublished book, which I cling to like a deflating life raft, though if only I turned to look I might spot a perfectly superior boat approaching.

I'd love to hear all y'all's french fries, too. Call today Free the French Fries Monday.