Saturday, January 31, 2009

She arrived on Friday.

She arrived on Friday, elegant and polite, but needing assistance and some clothing.  You see, she's fallen on hard times, and her arms and legs were loose and not fully attached.  She couldn't manage to sew them herself, and she'd heard it said in the forest that I was kind to mice...

And so I let her in.

I am under deadline for another project, and so while I offered her a cozy place to sleep, I have to beg off stitching her arms and legs until Monday. She agreed, and nestled into her nest in our dining room clock.

She hasn't yet shared her name with me, as she is quite shy and a bit embarrassed.  But she and Mr. Mouse found lots to talk about, squeaking into the wee hours last night.  I think they may be fond of each other, truth be told.  Love at first sight?  Time will tell.

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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Open Heart Letter 2: To Judy

As part of my open-heart project, here is another letter to someone I love.  I open my heart to her and to you.

Dear Aunt Judy,

My relationship with you begins in the void before I was born, through my mother.  The chemistry you found as roommates makes you more sisters than sisters.  And as my aunt, you prove once again that family is a choice, a construct.  

Your gentleness has been an ever-present influence in my life.  I may have taken for granted your presence when I was a trying teenager (and I admit it--I was!), but I see as a grown up how much your temperance and goodness affected me.   As you know, my household as a kid was one of extremes, without too much structure or boundaries.  That was a good and a bad thing.  What you and Tom brought to my life was a sense that normal things like meals and bedtimes are comforting.  That simple rituals of eating together and cleaning up the dishes together are pleasurable.   In my home now, we eat every breakfast and dinner together, we cook together, we clean together.  There is order and balance here, and I recognize the patterns from your home in mine.

Despite all the things we've shared together, there are countless things I haven't told you yet. Of course, I could never list them all, but here are a few:

Do you know what it meant to me that you, a young mother, busy with work and little kids, would make the long drive out for each and every show I was in?  I felt so very loved to know that when I stepped onto the stage, you would be in the audience, warm as the spotlight, clapping for the performance, regardless of how good or bad it was.   So many plays, so many events.  And you shared them all with me.  I don't know that I ever told you how much I appreciated it then, but I did. It was a real gift for me to know you and Tom were out there when the curtain went up.

Do you know that I think of you every time I make a bed?  That's funny, huh?  I remember making up a bed with you somewhere (maybe you were helping Mom out?), and you showed me how the top sheet faces right side down, so when you fold the cuff, it's neat and tidy, and the edging faces the right way.   I cannot lay a flat sheet on a bed without remembering that.

I know we don't chat on the phone all the time, but I do think of you almost every day.  So many things make me think of you--here are just a few things that bring you into my mind immediately: seeing fat little squirrels, like the ones you feed in your yard; the feel of a warm sunporch; any Celtic music, of any persuasion; any Schnauzer (how I miss Fritz and Ernie--what good dogs!); seven-layer salad with cheese and olives; any kind of object with an owl on it--I know you don't collect them anymore, but they remain stuck to you in my mind.

If I close my eyes, I'm right there at your table, eating a meal off the cool, thick Pfaltzcraft dinnerware and laughing at Tom's wry comments.   I'm back in the kitchen on Camp St, or I can feel the soft carpet of the staircase (with its landing that I loved!). And there, clear as day, is the backyard and its burgeoning garden, the sunporch, the bookcases and cabinets of photos and treasures. And what treasures abounded there.

The "new" house is as warm as the old. That weekend Ada and I spent with you was so fun--we are eager to do that again. Ada still talks about what happened with the whipped cream on the blueberry cake. I had chastised her when she went to wipe a dollop of whipped cream off the cake with her finger. And Tom joined in, saying, "No Ada! Don't do that! Do THIS!" and he proceeded to take a handful of it himself. Oh, how we laughed. Her eyes were glowing with love, seeing that a grownup could play like that.

This from Tom, who taught me that smart is funny and disagreement can be safe.  That love can share the same space with two very different political views.   Tom, you opened my mind to listening to differing opinions, to respecting dissent.   Without that, I would have missed out on so many wonderful relationships with people who share a good heart, though not my politics.

I have so many memories of birthdays and Christmases with you.   The longer visits, the weekends at your lovely homes linger in my mind.   All the big events in our lives, the weddings, the giant birthday celebrations (and birthday/anniversary celebrations), assembling wedding invitations and preparing showers and graduation parties and holidays. Washing dishes together after all of these, and lazy breakfasts after late nights, where Sara and Debbie and I had listened to you girls "cackling like hens" until the wee hours.

These are simple memories of family events, and everyone has them. I am glad that my memories of family events are of you.

As I said, while we are born into one family, I think we can also choose the people who make up our real family, our family of the heart.   You helped teach me that. And that ultimately freed my perceptions enough that I was open to the idea of adopting a child. In no small part, your commitment to me led me to understand how fully I could be a parent to a child who was not physically born to me. I can never thank you enough for that.

We choose our real family. I know that if I were given the choice, I would choose you, again and again.  Thank you so much for being all you are to me.  I love you.


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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

A Conversation in the Car

Ada: Mom, what's that smell?  

Husband: Hmmm.  I think that's Mom's perfume.  

Kirie:  What's wrong, don't you guys like it?  It's one of my favorites, and I've been waiting to wear it, and today just felt like the day.

Ada:  It's too strong.

Husband.  Yes, too strong.  I don't like it.

Kirie:  But doesn't it smell warm and, you know, exotic?

Ada:  Mommies don't smell exotic!  Mommies need to smell like mommies, Mom!  

So much for exotic.  And warm and spicy.  The perfume in question is Yves St. Laurent's classic, Opium.  I have loved this scent since I was 12 years old.  It's one of those great scents that changes moods all day long--powdery, sandalwood, sexy, cinnamon, cumin, green-sap and sugar-musk, then powdery again, where it lingers like a sweet memory for a few days on your clothing. 

I fell for Opium when I was in junior high.  My music and voice teacher wore it as a signature perfume, and because of that, it signified all that was special and dramatic to me.  Stevie was vivacious and beautiful, with a huge, bell-like voice and the presence to match it.   Though I've worn the perfume long enough to establish new associations to it, the first note always sings "Stevie."  

So, phooey to my clan--I'm still going to wear it.  Just not for long roadtrips in the car.   

Later I prodded Ada a bit on what exactly Mommies smell like.  Her answer: soap and milk.  And that is definitely not exotic.

The photo is a rare shot of me, taken by Ada.  She points out that "You do not look exotic in that picture, either."  No kidding.  

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Monday, January 26, 2009

A poem for Monday

An old favorite of mine, all the better when read aloud:

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, and have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man's smudge and shares man's smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can food fell, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights of the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs--
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent 
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright

Gerard Manley Hopkins

This is a good poem, I think, for midwinter, for a time of difficult economy, for a conflicted heart.

Hopkins himself was a complicated man--manic, simultaneously anguished and joyful, isolated and longing for connection. Some of his poems virtually sing, as this one does, with the internal sounds shimmering through it like water. Others capture the deep melancholy he felt so often toward his later years. I think the flux in his life translated into something almost tangible in his writing. I love this poem for its alchemy of juxtaposition. What do you think?

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Sunday, January 25, 2009

My first negative comment arrives

I have long been wishing for comments on this blog.  In the past few months, I've finally received some, and along with them, I've made treasured connections with other bloggers whom I respect and admire.  Yea for the comment feature!

But until this weekend, I hadn't personally experienced the bad side of putting oneself out there--the negative comments.   On Sunday morning, I found my first bad comment, posted on my post "Thoughts on the Inauguration, part 3."   Boo for the comment feature!

Clearly, this is not the kind of comment I've been wishing for.  I figured so few people see my blog that I wasn't really at risk for such a thing.  And, truth be told, it's not the most evil of comments. It's just self-serving and insulting, which I suppose are two qualities that make for a "negative comment."  

I read it with surprise and a bit of dismay--why target me?  Especially when this person found my blog on a quest to find out how to make a chipmunk costume, of all things! My second reaction, which followed quickly (and I admit to my childishness here) was "Bring it!"   I love a good debate.  Ask any of my former students about how I love to play with argument.    But, after a minute's thought, I abandoned the idea that a "debate" with anonymous would be a good or productive thing.  

I have, in my life, experienced more than my fair share of angry, judgmental, abusive language.  I know how hurtful words can be.   It took a great deal of work for me to distance myself from people who practice this kind of verbal abuse, and I guard this distance carefully.   Seeing that nasty comment brought back some icky memories for me, reminding me that "Yes, Kirie, there are still mean people in the world, despite the little bubble you've created for yourself.  And yes, mean people still suck."

I can't have it both ways, I know.  If I write about my thoughts, and I enable the comments (and wish for them!), then I am bound to get friendly ones and rude ones.  Thank goodness I've not experienced rude comments until now.   I think that if I receive comments like this in the future (and I'm bound to, right?), I'll be taking my actions on a case-by-case basis.  In this case, I did respond, if only to say my piece. You can see what I said here.  For the next nasty remark--perhaps just a delete.  Silence is a forceful weapon.

Now, my dear readers, how do you deal with the negative commenters on your blogs?  Or if you don't have a blog, how do you deal with the negative commenters in your life?  

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Friday, January 23, 2009

Six Little Things About Kirie

Two games in two days!  Fun!  

I was tagged by my friend Paula at American Koukla for this one.   It's simple--list six random facts about myself.

1.  Like most people from my fifth grade class, I can recite the entire list of US Presidents in chronological order.  We learned it by singing a song of all the names.   We would stay in at recess and sing and sing and sing until we knew the whole thing by heart.  I think the song was called Presidents' Rock or something.  I've tried to find it, but had no luck.  

The song was catchy, and I don't think I'll ever forget it (at least the Presidents part--the little intro ditty and bridge have escaped me).  Being able to recite the Presidents is a great little party trick.  (At which party, I'm not sure.  Probably one where the other guest would have an appreciation for a someone able to recite the first 100 digits of pi.)

The sad thing is that I really didn't know much about any of them until I got a lot older and started reading biographies.... Still.  It impresses Ada to no end that I can do that.   Now if I could just start memorizing pi.

2.  I can change the oil on a commercial diesel truck.  

Me, in the junior high years.  

3. When I was in junior high, I lied about having a two-story house to a few kids at school because I was embarrassed that my family was relatively poor.  By my faulty logic, I had put associated two-storied homes with wealth.  And I had associated wealth with happiness.  In junior high, I felt like I was on the wrong side of both of those, so I lied.   After I  told that lie, I worried that someone would find out and call me on it, but none of the kids I tried to impress ever came to my neighborhood.  I now live in a two story home, which we built ourselves.  Sometimes I think I've tried to overcompensate...

4.  I am drawn to read the backs of shampoo bottles and cosmetics when I am showering or getting ready for my day.  I know what each says, as I've read it a million times, but I read it again anyway, almost every time.  I am a little touched in the head with OCD, I think.

5.  In high school, we moved to a new house, and I got a new room.  During this time, I went through a phase in which my entire room had to match--the wallpaper was white stripes with pink and blue squares, my lamps were matching shades of pink and blue, and the striped Marimekko bedspread reflected exactly the stripes of the wallpaper. I hung empty, white acrylic frames on the wall, around an all-white, non numbered clock from Crate and Barrel. As often as I could, I would wear pink or blue pajamas that matched the color of the lamps and squares. Did I mention I might be a bit touched by OCD?  I'm actually a lot better since those years.  More nights than not, even my pj tops and bottoms don't match.

6. I have small feet. While I can wear a small women's shoe (a 5 or 6), I can also fit into a larger kid's shoe. Each summer Ada and I get a few pairs of matching sandals or clogs from a store like Payless. It's very fun to go out and about with our matching shoes. Ada's now looking forward to the fast-approaching day when she can share my shoes--she's got her eye on a lovely pair of hand beaded kitten heels in blue (also my favorite shoes!).  

Now the tag part:  Honestly, I don't know enough bloggers well enough to tag them for this--the ones to whom I would passed this along have already done it.  So I will tag any of you who chooses to answer in your blog or in your comments below.  I hope you take me up on it.  I wish someone had tagged me sooner--this was fun!

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Thursday, January 22, 2009

Photo Tag--Yea! I'm It!

Lovely and wise Julianne at Potpourripromenade has tagged me with a game. Here's how you play: Show the fourth photo in the fourth folder in your photo files. Then tag four more.

Here is mine:

In this photo, Esme is celebrating her first birthday, and she's busy choosing a toothbrush from the Tol table. The Tol ceremony is a Korean tradition for babies on their first birthday. In Korea, babies are dressed in the hanbok, and there are tables groaning with amazing ceremonial foods for celebrating. The Tol table is laid out with items that symbolize different professions or blessings for a person's life. A few items on the traditional table are:
  • bow and arrow: the child will become a warrior
  • needle and thread: the child will live long
  • jujube: the child will have many descendants
  • book, pencil, or related items: the child will become a successful scholar
  • rice or rice cake: the child will become rich (some resources say choosing a rice cake means the child is not smart)
  • ruler, needle, scissors: the child will be talented with his/her hands
  • knife: the child will be a good cook
The child is seated on a cushion in front of all of these items, and the first two things he or she chooses are supposed to predict the direction of his or her career or life. 

We are not Korean by culture or birth, but when we adopted Ada from Korea, we decided to incorporate many Korean traditions into our family celebrations.    Not being raised with these traditions makes it difficult to to it entirely authentically, obviously.  But it also affords us some flexibility.  For instance, at Ada's tol party, we added a few extras to the tol table, including a thermometer (for a doctor).   Ada, being herself, first chose the thermometer and then the needle and thread.   On the video of this event, you can hear me lapse into a throaty cheer, not unlike a good Yiddish mama, "She's a doctor!  And she has long life!  Yea baby!"  I guess I channeled Barbra Streisand for a minute or something.

For Esme's tol table, we added yet another few choices:  a small plane (pilot) and a toothbrush (dentist).  She chose the toothbrush first, and then a measuring cup (a chef, perhaps?).   Ada likes to remind Esme that she's "going to be a dentist who likes to cook."   Time will tell.   She does like to brush her teeth and floss an awful lot, come to think of it....

Now to tag four more:

and I know she's been tagged already, but I second it:

Tag, you're all it!

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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Thoughts on the Inauguration: Part 1

As I joined the millions of people watching the inauguration of Barack Obama yesterday, my mind was flooded with so many thoughts--flashbacks, lamenting, celebrating, looking ahead.  I made an attempt at articulating them in one cohesive post, but they work well as stand alone thoughts here.  So three thoughts for Wednesday: 

I watched the inauguration in our family room, surrounded by Esme's menagerie of plastic farm animals.   Esme followed the first part of it, but needed to go down for a nap, so I missed part of Obama's speech.  As I was carrying Esme upstairs, I thought about how amazingly fortunate I am--I am living that American dream, completely pursuing my happiness, unfettered.   

Sure, my carpet isn't vacuumed, and I don't have a paying job now.  But I personally have so many, many blessings. So why do I feel so excited about a change?  

Because it's a change for everyone--everyone should have the chance to pursue a dream as I have been able to.  My dream is fairly modest--to have space to think and love and create.   I know that other people dream of things as basic as having days off, or healthcare, a car to drive, or the privilege of legally calling someone their spouse.  It is my wish, my fervent hope that everyone be able to achieve these, and much, much more.  May we all be able to pursue our dream of ourselves to the fullest.   I believe President Obama when he says he will help us toward that goal.  

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Thoughts on the Inauguration, Part 2

I was fortunate to be at one other inauguration--George W. Bush's first swearing-in in 2001. It was a snowy, slushy day, and a trek to get there by car, and changing Metro lines.
But it was moving and worth weathering the chill. I did not vote for him, nor have I been a fan of Mr. Bush's policies, and yet, I was so pleased to witness a cherished tradition of turning over the helm. How fantastic is it that we can make such a full and peaceful transition between administrations, without fear of some kind of mutiny or martial takeover? We take these peaceful transitions for granted. And they are a real sign of our healthy democratic system. Yesterday we saw the joy that can come with a transition, and the grace with which Mr. Bush left his post. The beauty of such a process is not lost.

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Thoughts on the Inauguration, Part 3: On Mr. Bush

As much as I did not agree with many of the policies of Mr. Bush, I feel that I have to say that I did not feel great antipathy for the guy. He is, as so many of his supporters pointed out, a "good man," described often down-to-earth, or folksy. For lots of people, Mr. Bush passed the litmus test of "Would he be fun to have a beer with?"

The problem was that for such an office as the President of the US, we need to elect someone who was not "one of us," not a drinking buddy who knows about as much geography and world affairs as the average guy. Bush has the average mentality; I believe he's as self-serving as most people we run across each day, his smugness is common among the middle class. Had you been contemporaries, he would have been the class clown or the jock in your high school. I'm certain you can easily name at least 15 people you've met in your lifetime who have exactly the same personal qualities as Mr. Bush. But what we need, for every President, for every election to higher office, is a Great Man.

Mr. Bush supported poor policies and failed so badly a lot of the time because he was too average. He was too easily swayed by the people around him, the agendas he followed weren't motivated entirely by the greatest good, but were self-serving. This is not to say he was evil or mean. Unlike many people, I do think he has a good heart, and he really did want to do the right thing. But he literally just couldn't see the whole picture. Bush isn't, and never pretended to be, a thinking man. He was an average guy, and he wasn't up to the job. I wouldn't be, either. Can you honestly say you personally know anyone who would come close to having all the qualities needed to be a good President?

The point of this is not to be harsh to Mr. Bush. Holding down arguably the most difficult job in the world, he was faced with a perfect storm of difficulties. I do think he struggled mightily at times to do his best. It just wasn't enough. He was in over his head.

I started to sing a gentler tune about Bush just before the election of 2004. Ada heard me say that I would definitely not be voting for Bush. She said, "You sound angry. Is he a bad guy?" I realized then that I was angry. But I was angry at his some of his policies, and his seeming nonchalance. He was the same as countless guys I've met over the years--smirky and knee-jerk, but underneath probably well-meaning. I didn't hate him, any more than I hated any of those other smirky guys.

Once I admitted that my problem with Bush was more about what he lacked than who he was, it was clear to me that he wasn't really a "bad guy." Certainly, I didn't want Ada to grow up making snap judgements like that. So I decided then and there that I had to let go of my anger at him. I told her what became my line for every time I was dismayed about the decisions of his administration: "President Bush is not a bad guy, honey. He had his turn at being President, and he did his best. But now it should be time for him to be at home in Texas with his family. He's a good daddy, and a good husband, and now he's going to let someone else take a turn at being President." Yesterday, that's exactly what happened. I wish him well.

President Obama is having his turn now. Unlike Bush, he does have all of those elusive qualities that make a "Great Man," and I believe he will wear the mantle of the Presidency well. I confess to having some misgivings about putting so much pressure on him--he is human, and we may discover that like us, he, too, has feet of clay. The problems our country faces are huge, and (as he has pointed out) there are no quick fixes. Will expectations of Obama exceed his capabilities? Perhaps. Regardless, I am hopeful that Obama's mettle will carry the day. His character shows in his bearing, in his rhetoric, and I think he will also do his best. And that will be more than good enough.

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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Praise Song for the Day

Because I could not wait for the official transcript, with proper breaks, etc. as written by Elizabeth Alexander, I am posting this lovely inaugural poem as it was transcribed to Congressional Quarterly this morning. I'll update with the newer version once Ms. Alexander makes it available. The next version will be even better--the breaks say so much... but this is great for now.

I, for one, think this hit all the right notes. What do you think? Here it is:

Praise Song for the Day

Each day we go about our business, walking past each other, 
catching each others’ eyes or not, 
about to speak or speaking. 
All about us is noise. 
All about us is noise and bramble, thorn and din, 
each one of our ancestors on our tongues. 

Someone is stitching up a hem, 
darning a hole in a uniform, 
patching a tire, 
repairing the things in need of repair.

Someone is trying to make music somewhere 
with a pair of wooden spoons on an oil drum
with cello, boom box, harmonica, voice.

A woman and her son wait for the bus.

A farmer consider the changing sky; 
A teacher says, “Take out your pencils. Begin.”

We encounter each other in words, 
Words spiny or smooth, 
whispered or declaimed; 
Words to consider, reconsider.

We cross dirt roads and highways that mark the will of someone
and then others who said, 
“I need to see what’s on the other side; I know there’s something better down the road.”

We need to find a place where we are safe; We walk into that which we cannot yet see.

Say it plain, 
that many have died for this day. 
Sing the names of the dead who brought us here, 
who laid the train tracks, raised the bridges, 
picked the cotton and the lettuce, 
built brick by brick 
the glittering edifices they would then keep clean and work inside of.

Praise song for struggle; praise song for the day. 
Praise song for every hand-lettered sign; The figuring it out at kitchen tables.

Some live by “Love thy neighbor as thy self.”

Others by first do no harm, or take no more than you need.

What if the mightiest word is love, 
love beyond marital, filial, national. 
Love that casts a widening pool of light. 
Love with no need to preempt grievance.

In today’s sharp sparkle, this winter air, anything can be made, any sentence begun.

On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp -- praise song for walking forward in that light.

Elizabeth Alexander, delivered on January 20, 2009
at the inauguration of President Barack Obama 

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Monday, January 19, 2009

Inauguration poetry

Inauguration day is almost upon us, and what an exciting ceremony it is bound to be, all of it. In particular, I've been reading with interest about Elizabeth Alexander, the poet chosen to write the inaugural poem for President Obama. 

She is an exciting choice for an inaugural poet. She's an embodiment of connections between multiple disciplines. Not only is she a poet, but also a playwright. She's a professor of African American Studies at Yale. She's written on education, poetry, identity, art. She's taught in many venues, from both high school and college. She knows how to connect the dots. That Mr. Obama chose her shows that he values poetry, that he knows how to connect the dots, too. He "does nuance."

Politics aside, I am thrilled that Obama is including a poet at his inauguration. Ms. Alexander will be only the fourth poet to participate in an inaugural ceremony, a fact that leaves me disappointed, but not surprised.

I'm going to stop here and say that this is the third draft of this post, the others all ending up in a vitriolic snit lamenting that that Americans don't generally read or enjoy poetry. That we have had only four inaugurations with a poet to mark the occasion is a sad thing. But someplace in the second version of this post, I decided that I'm not going to dwell on that (at least not today).

Today I'm going to celebrate that poetry is going to be present tomorrow at the ceremony. Of course, the day is about so very much more; but the presence of a poet says a great deal about the changes that are bound to come.

As way leads to way so often, I recently stumbled across a poem that speaks to the excitement ushered in with the inauguration of another President, in another time not so long ago.

I give you Linda Pastan's "Remembering Frost at Kennedy's Inauguration," from her book, Queen of a Rainy Country

Remembering Frost at Kennedy's Inauguration

Even the flags seemed frozen
to their poles, and the men
stamping their well-shod feet
resembled an army of overcoats.

But we were young and fueled 
by hope, our ardor burned away
the cold. We were the president's,
and briefly the president would be ours.

The old poet stumbled
over his own indelible words,
his breath a wreath around his face:
a kind of prophecy.

--Linda Pastan

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Friday, January 16, 2009

I've been up in the night this past month--insomnia, mine and Esme's, alternately.

Esme sometimes whispers to me in the dark, "Mommy, I'm scared. Protect me."  I rock her and tell her in reassuring tones that the day and the night are exactly the same, and the morning light will reveal that.

But I will tell you the whole truth, one I can't express to her yet--I do think the night is a different from the daytime.  I'd go so far as to say it's like different country sometimes.  Not scary, but mysterious, secret.    Being awake when the rest of your world sleeps around you is to feel like a fugitive from your regular life.    After a long night like that, the next day surprises me with its normal rhythms.  Doesn't it know my secret, nighttime life?   Doesn't it see how different *I* am for having been awake so long?
Sleep-deprived, I wade through the day's routines, stopping from time to time to marvel at the difference the daylight makes.   Sometimes I even feel as though the lack of sleep sharpens my feeling for the day, for its ordinariness. 

A wonderful poem that evokes some of this is Debra Spencer's "Day Bath," from her collection Pomegranate.  The last line in particular captures the feeling that resonates with me after a long night....

Day Bath 
for my son

Last night I walked him back and forth,
his small head heavy against my chest,
round eyes watching me in the dark,
his body a sandbag in my arms.
I longed for sleep but couldn't bear his crying
so bore him back and forth until the sun rose
and he slept.  Now the doors are open,
noon sunlight coming in,
and I can see fuchias opening.
Now we bathe.  I hold him, the soap 
makes our skins glide past each otehr.
I lay him wet on my thighs, his head on my knees,
his feet dancing against my chest,
and I rinse him, pouring water 
from my cupped hand.
No matter how I feel, he's the same,
eyes expectant, mouth ready,
with his fat legs and arms,
his belly, his small solid back.
Last night I wanted nothing more 
than to get him out of my arms.
Today he fits neatly
along the hollow my thighs make,
and with his fragrant skin against mine
I feel brash, like a sunflower.

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Thursday, January 15, 2009

Hearts in the snow

On my way downstairs yesterday morning, I caught a glimpse of something unusual in the driveway.

I have love and hearts on my mind lately, and not just because of the upcoming Valentine's Day. I love how our minds manifest things--perception is everything. Yesterday the world offered me hearts entwined, and I accepted them!

On this day, I give you a poem of connection--like these hearts, like my love and I, like the world and all of us...

You Are Me

You are me and I am you. 
It is obvious that we are inter-are. 
You cultivate the flower in 
yourself so that I will be beautiful. 
I transform the garbage in myself so 
that you do not have to suffer. 
I support you you support me. 
I am here to bring you peace 
you are here to bring me joy.

- Thich Naht Hahn

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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

When will Blogger include a smello-blogger application? A review of Magical Moon

I have always had a thing for fragrances, which isn't surprising given my sentimental tendencies and the connection between scent and memory.  For years, my mom and I have nurtured this obsession for scent, and I've amassed a burgeoning collection of bottles.   

As much as I love perfume, there's no denying the thrifty, hypochondriac in me, who makes her own laundry soap and examines labels of cosmetics for parabens.   It's a contradiction I readily admit, and the scent-loving Kirie sometimes wages war with the Kirie who fears the nasties that are inevitable ingredients of perfume.  

So--moderation.  For the past 10 years or so, I wear fragrance only a few times a month.   I was surprised to find that in this moderation I have found deeper enjoyment of the scents I wear and love.  The layers of top, middle, and base notes sing to me in a way they never did when I would wear the same scent for months at a time.   Now, putting on a perfume is like putting on a special piece of jewelry.  I admire it on myself all day, though each stage of its metamorphosis.   I especially enjoy noticing how the scent affects my mood, how it can start as one distinct thing in the morning, and by evening be a completely different scent.   

I have many favorites, which I keep on glass shelves in our guest room.   When my mom comes to visit, we enjoy opening the various bottles and trying the perfumes, sometimes attempting to name the components.  It's a silly pastime, but fun.  It's sort of like wine tasting, and occasionally equally numbing.  

Last year, through a great interview on NPR's On Point, I found a great book on perfume reviews.  Perfumes: The Guide, by Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez, is a fantastic compendium of scents, historical and new.   The reviews are perfect combinations of science, poetry, snark, and adulation.   Even if you don't like perfume, this book is great fun to read.    

After discovering it, I went on a little quest to create a birthday collection for my mom, the way you might assemble an assortment of chocolates or wine.  I got her the book, and made notes on the reviews of scents we like.  I also sought out new scents that sounded appealing based on the reviews of Turin and Sanchez.   It was a great project, and in the process, I found a lot of new perfumes that I just love.  Oh, collection, how you grow.  Fortunately, some of these are still just sample sizes.

One of the excellent new fragrances I found is called Magical Moon, and I wanted to share it with you.  Now, of course, I'm no Luca Turin when it comes to decoding the alchemy of a scent, but I'm like any pedestrian aficionado--I know what I like when I smell it.

Magical Moon is made by Japanese fashion designer Hanae Mori, who had a great hit in perfume in the mid 90s with her eponymous fragrance Hanae Mori.   That first fragrance was sweetness before perfume was sweet--think vanilla-flowers-and-fruit together in a breath, and that's it.  I wore it for a long time, though as I wear it though a day, now I sometimes find the sweetness mutate to something slightly disturbing, like the breath of a sick person.   Obviously, I'm not crazy for it anymore.  But at the right moment and on the right person--it's lovely.

Back to Magical Moon.  For a full description of the workings of the scent, you can read the review posted here by Mimi at the Scented Salamander. Here is my take on it, though.

I tried the scent in the store in the form of eau de parfum, which is what I usually buy (parfum itself being out of my range most of the time).   From the second I smelled the mist of it, I had to have it.   Unlike its sweeter cousin, it doesn't inspire thoughts of caramel. Rather, it's spicy, with sandalwood and other woody scents--maybe cypress? Midway through my day, as it dries out on my wrist, it smells like a much lighter version of Poison, but with an added "greenness" to it. By the end of the day, the smell remains at once clean and musky, which is something I don't find many perfumes do.

One thing that intrigued me especially about this perfume was the hype that surrounded it. I bought my bottle from Nordstrom's, from a woman called Darlene.  She was at the fragrance counter only for a few days, and only representing Magical Moon.  As such, she had an entire history to share with me about the fragrance, from its origin to its packaging.   She gave me the hard sell, and I bought.  But only because of the scent itself, I swear!

Some of the more bizarre selling points: 
  • The fragrance was blended in a vat lined with blue moonstones.
  • It was bottled under a full moon.
  • The paint on the bottle is made from chipped blue moonstones.
She also pointed out that the blue bottle itself is getting a lot of hype and rave reviews.  Bottles themselves don't do a lot for me, and while the blue glass is nice, and the globe-like stopper is pretty, I'm not "over the moon" for it (sorry, bad pun).   The hype is obvious, though.   If you like the scent, the additional marketing will simply seal the deal.   quod erat demonstrandum

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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Open Heart Letter 1: To Kim

Yesterday I wrote about my new project, the Open Heart Letters. I have been inspired to do this project, in large part, by the loss of my dear friend Kim, a woman with whom I had this in common--she wore her heart on her sleeve, too. She died in December--young, ravaged by disease, and leaving an amazing family.

Any wise person would insist that our society needs to learn how to accept death as a part of life. I think of Kim, and her grace and honesty as her own death approached, and I understand this now in a way that I did not before. While I am in great health now, I know also that I am here on loan, and by the same grace she was. What Kim taught me, in the way she lived before she was sick, and the way she remained herself afterwards, was to embrace and to be and to love. To cherish those many, many connections that make us feel life all the more deeply.  And writing these letters is a way for me to express that in some way.

I think it's only appropriate that my first open heart letter is to Kim. I was fortunate that I could actually send her a similar letter before she died--selfishly, I needed her to know how much I cared. I share this letter with you now, with love and gratitude for having known her:

It seems to me that it’s the little things that make a friendship. Let me tell you about some of my memories of you and us. From the smallest to the most prominent, I have lots of important memories about our friendship:

From the moment I met you, I knew you were a kindred spirit. One of the first times we spent together was just after D. started teaching. It a late spring evening and you and your family came to see us. You were still living over an hour away, and I remember that by the end of the night I was wishing very much that you lived closer—(I eventually got my wish!!)
That night was especially beautiful—the dusk was mid-summer long, and the trees were throwing plum-colored shadows all over the yard and the pool. We lit some lanterns with candles and hung them around our back porch, and we all sat out on our deck—you had your feet in our pool.
Later, after dinner, we were in the screen porch, and I vividly remember little B. listening to us tell stories about ourselves as we got to know each other better. Her eyes drooped, and soon she was asleep on your lap. And you were so lovely—the candlelight lit up your face, and you glowed. I remember many times we spent at our pool as the years went on, but that first night is strongest in my memory.

A few years later, we were thrilled to learn you were moving to our town, and we were so happy! After that, we spent more time together, including one visit on Thanksgiving. Our screen porch was a closed-in room by then, and you were our first Thanksgiving guests to eat with us there. I felt so pleased that you had been able to join us. The kids were so excited that night they had a hard time eating!

Speaking of eating—I must tell you again how I much I love your cooking!! You have a real talent in the kitchen, and I will admit that at least one of my favorite things to cook is a down-right ripoff of something you served us at your home: Moroccan-style chicken with figs, olives, cumin, etc. Oh my. That was one of the best meals. Thank you for sharing that recipe!

I have another ridiculous confession: I think of you every time I fold clothes. Really. Do you remember all of those lovely clothes of B’s you gave me for Ada? We have been loving those clothes for years now. Ada has been “on the small side” forever, and so she was able to wear some of those outfits for two years (or three! Amazing!). Now Esme is starting to wear them, too. It was so generous of you to give those to us. But here is the funny thing: When you packed them so carefully, you folded them in a way that was new to me: arms across each other, then fold, and fold again. Each shirt looked like a neat little hug. Inspired! Here I had been folding wrong for years--lumping my clothes into folds that wouldn’t stay, and they would sort of slump and shrug themselves out of the closet shelves into heaps. So I copied your way, and now the clothes stay put. So silly. But every single time I fold my clothes I think of you. I’ve been wanting to tell you that ridiculous thing for years, and now there it is.

I would be remiss if I didn’t tell you how much we have loved the many gifts you’ve given us over the years. Almost every afternoon, Ada and Esme still wear the fairy wings you gave Ada many years ago. For Ada’s Christening, you gave her a beautiful book about the twelve gifts of birth—it’s one of my favorites. And all of the cards and notes you’ve sent me—it has meant so much to me. I don’t know if it’s always the case that one’s handwriting corresponds with the sound of one’s voice, but with you, it is undeniable. Your voice is sweet and distinctive, and your handwriting matches it perfectly. I swear I hear you talking when I read it!

When we had to move away, I was sad to leave all of our friends behind, and you were such a source of comfort to me. First, D helped us move a U-Haul truck of stuff up north. (Do you remember that crazy time? Our guys spent 8 hours driving to our rental house, 2 hours trying to get a key from the rental agent, and then 1 hour unloading the entire contents of the truck into the house itself. It was a wonder they made the plane to come home!) What a blessing his help was. And yours—A. was so little at the time, and B., and I was so grateful that you and D. could sacrifice that time to help us. Then when we moved, I was really lonely. Sometimes when you move, people fall out of your life—you probably know how this can happen. It’s hard to keep relationships going, and it’s a testament to you, Kim, that so many people stay in touch with you—you have lived so many places, and collected wonderful friendships everywhere along the way!
Anyway, when I moved, only a few people still called or wrote, and you were one of them. The conversations I’ve had with you over the years have been so honest and understanding—I’ve always been able to open my heart to you without fear of judgment, and it’s a true treasure. After I moved, I was so cheered by our phone conversations or your notes; they would stay in my mind for days. Thank you so much for being there for me.

I know I’ve said it so many times, but I wish I were there for you now. I would love to cook for you and D and the kids. I would take the kids to the park. I would hug you, and listen to you, and make you silly little things. I would try to pretend that this would all go away, and I would cry with you when it was clear it would not.

You are so strong, as is D. You are walking a path now that we will all walk one day, and you have taught me so very much about Grace and strength. I know you’ve had the gamut of emotions over the past year and a half, and I’m guessing that riding that emotional rollercoaster might sometimes rival the physical pain.
Your honesty and wry humor are a potent and uncommon combination, and I know you attract wonderful people to your circle—D. being the primary example, of course!—but also all of your friends who I’ve learned about since your illness.
I hope you can feel the strength and love and well-wishes we all try to send to you every day. The waves of love from here are strong and constant, and will continue to be no matter what. You really do always have my heart, my dear friend. I love you.

Kim left us on December 9, 2008. I think of her every day, with love and admiration.

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Monday, January 12, 2009

Wearing my heart on my sleeve: An ongoing project

If you have read more than one or two posts here, you know as well as anyone in my face-to-face life this important fact about me: I wear my heart on my sleeve.

I fight it sometimes, I do. But I just can't help it. I put my whole self out there, into the world, just because I feel I have to. You'll not be surprised to learn that I do not have a poker face among my repertoire of facial expressions.

Being this way brings its complications. I'm overwhelming to some people with my puppy-like eagerness. Because I'm not good at pretending ennui, I probably lack a certain mystery; I don't do aloof. 

I love meeting new people and getting to know them. I think most people are interesting, and I love learning about new friends, getting to know the details of their life.   And equally so, I love connecting with people whom I've cared about in my past.   

For years I have been a little ashamed of this kind of enthusiasm.  But now, instead of working against it, I have decided to embrace opening my heart to people. I am wearing my heart on my sleeve, proudly.

Tomorrow I will post the first in a long series of posts I'm calling "Open Heart Letters." These are open notes to people in my life--both currently or from my past--who have made some sort of impression on me. For the people in my life now--well, I am writing these because it's so good to know that someone cares for you and thinks of you, isn't it?

And for those people I knew long ago-- I realize that many of them won't even see these "love letters" I feel compelled to write.  Regardless, I think it's a worthwhile exercise to reflect on the people I have known at formative times in my life, even those I knew for just a short while. They stay in my memory. From time to time my thoughts will land on such a person, and I am reminded how amazing the wide world is, filled with good people who make positive impressions on you just by crossing your path.

This is an ambitious project, and potentially endless--there are so many people I've admired and cared for over the years.  Some notes will be long letters, others distilled into a few lines or a poem.   I invite you to come along on the journey, and consider your own connections as we go...

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Sunday, January 11, 2009

Poetry for a Winter Sunday

The outside is a-swirling with snow today, and the girls and I are cuddled up on the couch. While they play with their new puppet toys and watch tv, I'm thick into Linda Pastan's new collection of poems, Queen of a Rainy Country. My praise for her is nothing less than effusive, and if you read a few of these poems for yourself, you'll see why.

Here is one that is perfect for my mood this afternoon:

Parting the Waters

Nothing is lost.
The past surfaces
from the salted tide pool
of oblivion over
and over again,
and here it is now--
with ironed sheets, old sins,
and pewter candlesticks.
My mother and aunt approach,
shaking the water from 
their freshly washed hair
like aging mermaids.
They have been here
all along, sewing
or reading a book, waiting
for the wand of memory
to touch them.

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Thursday, January 8, 2009

Stew days

On a day like yesterday, when the morning trees are glazed lacy with ice, I think stew. Esme and I set about putting this together yesterday morning before her nap. While we were gathering ingredients, I couldn't decide between Irish, Italian, or or Moroccan style--so I chanced it and used elements of all--ginger, cumin, cinnamon, fennel, carrots. It worked. Now I'm going to share it with you.

The directions are pretty detailed. If you cook a lot, ignore the instructive tone and just do your thing. If you don't cook a lot, this might help you make it more easily.

Slow meat stew for a cold day

2-3 pounds meat, cubed into large chunks. I used two kinds: veal, and some lean lamb
1 sweet onion
1.5 cups of potatoes, cubed. (About 6 medium-sized)
1 bulb of fennel, chopped into 1-inch chunks
1.5 cups roughly chopped carrots
1 cup of kale, chopped (I used 8 or 9 leaves)
1 cup of peas
1 can of chopped tomatoes, or 1 cup of fresh tomatoes, diced
4 cloves of garlic, chopped finely
1 inch square of fresh ginger, chopped finely

28 oz of chicken broth (2 cans)

3 tablespoons olive oil
2-3 tablesppons salt
3-4 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon pepper
2 teaspoons cumin
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon oregano
3/4 cup white wine
2 tablespoons lemon juice

Cooking utensils: A covered dutch oven (or any big, oven-proof pot with a lid), a frying pan (not nonstick!)

The how-to:
1. Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F. Get all your stuff "mise en place" or put in it place, waiting for you to use it. It will go together much faster this way, even (or especially) with a toddler helping!

2. Cut up all vegetables, starting with the potatoes. Set the potatoes aside in a bowl and cover them with lemon juice. This keeps them from turning brown, and gives your stew the acid that it will need to deepen the flavor.

3. Cut the meat, and let it sit out for 15 minutes, salted and peppered lightly.

4. Heat the olive oil, then saute the onions until they are translucent and slightly browned. Take off the heat, and dump the onions and oil into the dutch oven.

5. Sear the meat in the same hot frying pan, without adding more oil. A nonstick pan doesn't work so well for browning, so stick with a regular old stainless pan. Keeping the heat on high, brown all sides of the meat by turning the pieces as they cook. You only want to cook the outside of the meat, so stay with the pan and do this fast. It will only take about 3 minutes for each batch.

6. When the meat is browned,dump it out into the dutch oven, on top of the onions. Set the hot pan back onto the burner--don't wash it yet!

7. Deglaze the frying pan. This is basically just pouring the wine into the hot frying pan, and using the wine to scrape the bits of lamb and veal off the pan. Your stew will have much better flavor because of this little detail. When your pan is deglazed, pour it into the dutch oven.

8. Pour the chicken broth into the dutch oven.

9. Add the rest of the vegetables to the dutch oven. Stir it up.

10. Add the seasonings and stir again. By the way, I don't really use a measuring spoon when I do these; I eyeball it. My eyes are pretty accurate, but regardless, you should adjust the amounts as you see fit. Make sure you taste it halfway through to see if it's on track. Don't taste immediately--that meat isn't cooked yet!

11. Put it into the oven for at least 1.5 hours. I cooked mine for 3 hours, and it was exactly right.

I wish this were a smello-blog, so you could experience the amazing scent of this stew, steaming hot from the oven. I guess you'll have to make it for yourself to find out!

Now if you have read this far, and are wondering why a person who is on a "reduction plan" would make such a lovely, rich stew....well, the word for the year is ENJOY, right? And to my delight, an 8 oz portion is just enough to fill one medium bowl, and my happy tummy.

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Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Lines in my head, part 2 of a series

More lines to inspire, to haunt. These glow like embers in my mind.

"You touched
your belly to my hands
in the dry air and said
I am the cinnamon
peeler's wife. Smell me."
from "The Cinnamon Peeler," Michael Ondaatje, from The Cinnamon Peeler: Selected Poems

"The word spills from my tongue, not scientific: Genes,
folksy and proud, like they’re crops grown on family land."
from The Storialist
"Monday, October 6th, On the Street, Mr. Pinguet, Paris."

"The people I love the best
jump into work head first
without dallying in the shallows
and swim off with sure strokes almost out of sight.
They seem to become natives of that element,
the black sleek heads of seals
bouncing like half submerged balls."
from "To Be of Use," by Marge Piercy, from Circles on the Water

"Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
Old time is still a-flying :
And this same flower that smiles to-day
To-morrow will be dying."
from "To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time," Robert Herrick

"The sea is so beautiful,
she is so young and old.
I look at her and
I see the beauty
of the light of music."
from "You are Everything," REM, from the album Green

And, to serve a different sort of gluttony:

"Ink runs from the corners of my mouth.
There is no happiness like mine.
I have been eating poetry."
from "Eating Poetry," Mark Strand in Selected Poems

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Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Too Many Cookies, Corduroy

The cuteness of the overweight bears belies the reality: I could lose a few. Like, a lot. It's not just because I'm modest that you don't see my photo on this blog. Now, don't go picturing some Simpson-esque character saying "I wash myself with a rag on a stick..." I'm not headed for an episode on the Discovery Health Channel just yet. But two (or three) dress sizes smaller, and I would look more like myself--or the self I think I am.

I look at photos of myself from a few years ago, and that Kirie calls to me, her head tilted in a way that shows some concern and a bit of embarrassment, "How you've changed." A combination of years, a baby, laziness, and a general attraction to good food--et voila! I am no longer la petite Americanne.

So why blog about this? It's not news, not interesting, certainly not unique (as seemingly half the population starts on diets this time of year). I'm writing about it because thinking about my weight is taking increasing time. I've noticed that it's influencing me in more ways--in how I dress, how I stand, in how I experience the world. I know that I do see a look of surprise on my face when I see myself in the mirror--is that me? "Too many cookies, Corduroy," I'll think.   

I brush those thoughts off, most of the time. Being overweight isn't disgusting or sinful, and it's not from shame that I want to lose weight. And I'm also not putting off happiness, saying "I'll be really be happy when I'm a size 4." All that said, I do want to make my body match the image of myself I carry in my head. My problem: I just haven't been motivated enough.

To keep with the one little word, I want to enjoy all of it, you know.  I want to be fully engaged in life, and that means enjoying limits, and more time for myself (read: exercise).   As I pointed out yesterday, "enjoy" is going to be an active term for me, and the onus is on me to make the efforts of  (ahem) reduction (not diet, I stress) something joyful.  This active joyfulness is not as simple as it looks, I'm beginning to think. I need some help in getting there.

So I'm writing this to give myself the kind of kick only a little public humiliation can give. Make no mistake: this humiliation isn't about my weight, but about not fulfilling my promise. How humiliated I would be to go back on my word once I've stated it publicly? By saying "it's time," I'm making a public commitment. I promise myself that my lifestyle is going to accommodate more workouts, fewer calories, and less stress-eating. I promise you I won't bore the snore out of you with the details of my progress. 

Hold me to it.

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Monday, January 5, 2009

One little word: to name 2009 for myself

I've heard about the one little word idea from a few bloggers, now (my friend Irene among them) and I'm on the bandwagon.

What could be more poetic than focusing on one little word for the new year?

Strange as it seems, finding the right word for the year is feeling sort of like finding a name for a baby or pet.
I've always loved naming things--nicknames, character names, and etymology--what the "names" of words mean themselves. In college, I found a baby name book, and I spent long hours wondering how the meaning of a person's name might influence his or her character. In writing short stories, I found that I was indeed influenced by the meaning of my characters' names; though sometimes, given the wily nature of fictional characters, their personalities veered in the opposite direction of what I had intended.

When the time came for my husband and I to choose names for our pets and our children, we undertook the responsibility as we might a research project. The old "How can you ruin on the playground?" And "Will it make any nasty words in another language?" (which we didn't want, by the way--a la Nicholas Cage in Saturday Night Live) Of all the things we did, my favorite means of testing was to try yelling each name out the back door, as though summoning the kid to dinner. "Fernando!" "Wesley!" "Ainsley!" These didn't have the right ring, clearly. All fine names, but didn't suit for the sound we were seeking.

When we found the name Ada, and later the name Esme, we knew right away. Even before they passed all the tests, they just felt right. That's how it is, I guess.  

Now to naming the year 2009 for myself. Since I heard about the "one little word" last week, I've been absolutely taken with the idea. I want to honor it. So just as I would with finding any other name, I've been letting ideas come to me from what I'm reading, and what I'm saying, and just seeing how they feel. I've been researching and percolating.

Last night, as I was feeding the cats, it came to me: "Enjoy!" I said, and set down their plates of Fancy Feast. And I stood there, cats winding about my ankles, and felt that little Eureka-moment. Exactly.

Enjoy. What a lovely intention. En- as in "to put into," "to go into," "to cover or provide with," "to cause to be," "thoroughly," And Joy--which you know.

While I will admit to the appreciating the hedonistic element of this word, it's really something else that draws me to it. What I like best about the word enjoy is that it's about being actively present, and forcing, ever so gently, a mood. It puts the power on me to make things joyful, to provide joy, to find joy, or put joy thoroughly into things. It gives me responsibility for my own happiness, which is where it should be, right?

And so, my dear 2009, this is what I will do with you as a year, what I will name you. Enjoy. I will find the joy in the littlest spaces, the least expected spots, my lowest moments. I will cover my world with joy. And cause to be...(in).joy

May you enjoy, too, all of your 2009--all of it.

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Friday, January 2, 2009

How do you do it?

Over the holidays, in conversations with friends and family, I've wandered into the topic of blogging several times.   It's not something I always confess to doing.  I say confess, because talking about it does feel like a confession of sorts--to see my blog is to see a side of me that's not immediately apparent in my day-to-day life.   

Slowly, though, I am revealing it to people in my real life. See the pretty cards MOO cards I made for calling cards? I've now included the URL to 3littlechickies, which is a big step.

My blog takes up a decent amount of my thinking time, and writing it is something I really love to do. After keeping my blog for almost two years, I'm more ready to talk about it in real life. Maybe I'm getting more comfortable with the merge between the me I present in writing and the me in person. That's not to say that I'm so very different; it's just that to look at me, you really wouldn't think that I had much to say.   That assumes that I do have something to say, and that's assuming that the way a person looks is always representative of what they think about--oh boy, this is getting complicated, and this is why I don't usually talk about it.    That is fodder for an entirely different post, isn't it?

What I'm talking about here is much simpler.  How do I go about blogging?   Here are a few of the questions I get.  I'll give a few answers here, answers that are attempts to be more articulate than my off-the-cuff responses I've given to family or friends in the past.

Question 1:
"No, really," I'm asked by a family member, "how do you find the time?  I don't know where you find the time to write anything, let alone take photos."

It's not surprising I get asked this. I make no secret about not having time to do the basic things, like finish folding the laundry, or vacuuming the carpets more than once or (if I'm really good!) twice a week.  So to do the blog, I don't find time to write. I sneak it or steal it.  For instance, this entry that you're now reading has taken me 9 visits to the computer, each fewer than 4 minutes long. Some of my visits are less than a minute long, actually. Before I'm ready to hit the publish button, I imagine I will have written for a total of 35 minutes or more, and then edited for 10. And all of this writing is literally done in bits and pieces, a sentence or two at a time, in the bits of time I can manage to carve out of the day.  The time deficit from all these stolen moments shows itself in piles of socks that need to be folded, and sometimes by the circles under my eyes from waking up too early.

Question 2:
"Where do you get ideas? I would have no idea what to write."

I have always loved writing, and in my head, I'm "writing" all the time. So coming up with ideas and developing them has never been a problem. These writing-thoughts are the basic starting ideas for the posts, and they come to me all the time. I put some of them into a little notebook, and some of them get axed by my "inner editor" to be fodder for something else, like an essay or a poem. My family is sweetly supportive of my blogging, too, so sometimes my topics come from them. For instance, Ada will give me a suggestion, like "Hey mom, this soup is so good, it should go on your blog! Go get your camera!" A cute endorsement like that will sometimes make me write a post immediately.

Question 3:
"Who are you writing this for?"
This is the biggest and most loaded question of all, and it's one I grapple with all the time. In fact, getting asked this question is probably why I haven't talked about the blog as much as I might have. It merits a few posts for a fully-developed answer, but I'll give the brief version here.

Coming from some relatives, asking "Who are you writing for?" is akin to asking "Is a blog like email?" Needless to say, this relative isn't going to be looking at my blog anytime soon. Neither is the person who is asking it with an inflection that says, "Who do you think you are? Why are you wasting your time with this?" These people aren't my audience.

But you are reading this, aren't you? I am writing for you. I am writing for myself, too. I'm writing for people who know me well in person and live far away, and I'm writing for people who haven't met me, but know me through my words. I'm writing it because I feel compelled to get some of my thought-writing into a space other than the one between my ears. I send this little snippet of myself into the ethers and hope to make a connection with someone else, even if it's only connecting with the me I'll be at some later date...

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