Tag Archives | NaBloPoMo

finishing touches

Older Son sent in his early decision university application the other day; the application to the universities in the UK went in a few weeks ago. There are more applications in the offing, and Husband has racked up any number of marriage points by filling out the nightmare that is FAFSA, and so as they say, shit is getting real. (They also say that marriages shouldn’t be about keeping score, but anyone who has been married for any length of time knows that’s absurd. It’s all about keeping score. Filling out FAFSA puts Husband ahead for at least the next few weeks.)

I am aware that I’m touching Older Son more than I used to; I walk past him and touch his shoulder, his back, his head. It is, I realize, a literalization of how I’m feeling: I’m trying to put my finishing touches on him before he leaves.  He turns 18 later this month and while I know I should be proud of the young man he’s becoming, I am want so badly for him, and his younger brother, to still be the tiny dewy-cheeked, pudgy-footed toddlers for whom I was the entire universe. I watch both boys with eyes that are clouded with nostalgia and a sense of loss. Is that inevitable? When I’m doddering in my dotage and unable to cut my own food, will I still look at them and see the babies they were?  (Or Kit Fisto Princess Star Wars Jedi, as the case may be): Ghosts. I think that aging means learning to live with ghosts, even of those who are still very much with us in the world.

Continue Reading · 0 on November 4, 2018 in aging

In which i get my feet wet

The first time I did NaBloPoMo was the first time we visited Abu Dhabi, in November 2010. We’d told our kids—who at the time seemed so grown up but now, looking back, seem way too young for us to have hauled them around the world—that we were going “just for vacation” and to “see where Daddy had been working.” We didn’t tell them that plans were already afoot for a move the following year.

And now, eight years later, what had been our year-long Big Adventure is just our life; the ten year old is leaving for college next year, the jolly first-grader is now a taciturn 9th grade Marxist.

There seems not to be an official National Blog Posting Month any more, but I’m in need of the exercise, so I’m dipping my feet into the waters of this November challenge to see what happens. And as if to remind me of my first NaBloPoMo, you know what arrived in the mail the other day from my sister in New Jersey? Flat fucking Stanley. On that first trip to Abu Dhabi, we’d not only had the joy of bringing the stuffed crocodile that belonged to Younger Son’s first grade class but also his Flat Stanley. Every outing on that trip meant remembering the crocodile and the paper doll.

Here’s the deal with Flat Stanley: it started as a story, but now kids mail their own Stanley to friends or relatives so that Stan can have adventures that get written up in a little booklet and returned to the kid, who shares the story with her class.  I’m the farthest flung relative, so this Stanley is my second hosting gig. I always feel like this entire enterprise could be kind of a bummer for any kid who doesn’t have a way to get Stanley to somewhere far from home.

And so we’re taking Stanley out: he’s been to the grocery store, thus far, for some portraits near the honey from Yemen and the olive oil from Palestine; he’s going to the beach tomorrow. Not sure if I can arrange a camel sighting, but I will take Stanley to the Mary Mother of Jesus Mosque, which was renamed two years ago, and sits on the same street as St. George Episcopal church, the Evangelical Christian Church, and a few kilometers from the Mormon temple. I will not be bringing Stanley to Ladies Night at my favorite restaurant, where the pink wine is always 50% off.

Welcome to Abu Dhabi, Stan; and hello world of NaBloPoMo. It’s nice to see you all again.

Continue Reading · 0 on November 4, 2018 in Abu Dhab, Children

in defense of poetry, with apologies to Percy Shelley

I spent about six weeks this semester teaching and talking about poetry with my students.  Almost to a person, they started the term with “eh…I don’t much like poetry,” and “I don’t get poetry,” and “what the hell is poetry even about, anyway?”

All reasonable questions, I guess, for students who have grown up in a world where they almost never encounter poetry, other than in song lyrics or spoken-word events.  Poetry, they tell me, is intimidating; it doesn’t make sense; it’s too complicated; it’s weird.

Full disclosure: I spent most of high school and all of college writing poetry. Whenever I’d get too philosophical during those late-conversations about Life that seem only to happen between the ages of 18-22 and only between the hours of 12-4AM, my friends would say “oh go write a poem,” as a way to get me to be quiet.

I kept writing poetry even after college—-poetry workshops, sending things off to magazines, the whole deal—-and stopped only when I got to graduate school, which pretty much thrashed every creative bone out of my body. Took me decades to get the graduate school’s pinched-face editor in my head to stop saying things like “maudlin!” “derivative!” and “you call that writing?”

All of which is to say is that although I knew my students wouldn’t be excited about spending all this time reading poetry, I was looking forward to spending time with words, nothing but words.  Someone said once that poetry is language calling attention to itself, and while I think poetry can be much more than that, that idea isn’t a bad place to start.  Poetry gives us a chance to think about how words feel in our mouths and sound out loud; poetry’s language works by compressing, distilling, wringing an experience or idea to a kind of essence that works on us in ways that we might not ever really understand.

We roamed through Seamus Heaney’s “Digging,” in which a gun transforms to a spade transforms to a pen in the hand of the poet; we looked at John Donne’s “Batter my heart three person’d god,” in which faith becomes a kind of ravishment, a physical experience; we talked about the bleak beauty in some of Anna Akhmatova’s lines; and marveled at the incandescent anger of Sylvia Plath’s “Daddy.”  The students put aside “it’s weird,” or perhaps, actually, they began to embrace the weird; they let themselves roam around inside the poems and not insist on absolute meanings.  And I got, perhaps, a little carried away by the whole thing and put a sign on my office door that said “Today’s Poem,” and then every day, I would post a new poem — a famous poem, an obscure poem, prose poem, haiku, nabati lyric — all kinds of poems.

One of the poems I put on my door is Ezra Pound’s imagist poem about being in the French Metro, called, fittingly, “In a station of the metro.”  It reads like this:

The apparition       of these faces       in the crowd:
Petals      on a wet, black    bough.

And yes, that’s what it looks like on the page, and yes, that’s the entire poem.  And yes, it’s a little weird.

But you know? Think about being in a crowded subway station, on a rainy day. Think about the blur of faces. Now think about the blur of wet, say, cherry blossoms on a dark branch.

See?

In his essay “Defence of Poetry,” Percy Bysshe Shelley (every time I say his name in class someone giggles, and I totally get it), said “Reason is the enumeration of qualities already known; imagination is the perception of the value of those qualities, both separately and as a whole. Reason respects the differences, and imagination the similitudes of things. Reason is to imagination as the instrument to the agent, as the body to the spirit, as the shadow to the substance.”

I guess the student who scrawled this comment at the bottom of the Pound poem wanted to live in a world governed entirely by reason. That strikes me as incredibly limited, and not a little bit sad.

IMG_7485Doesn’t make sense. Quit wasting paper.

Continue Reading · on November 13, 2013 in Books, Education, language, NaBloPoMo, reading, teaching, writing

NaBloPoMo: Day 10

Erica, over at yeahwrite, asked me to write a guest post for Day 10 of this month o’blogging.  My post about wrushing into writing (see what I did there?) is up at yeahwrite today, so click over there  — and while you’re there, click around on the grid and read some of the other writers who have committed to posting every day (and may well end up being committed by month’s end).

Continue Reading · on November 10, 2013 in NaBloPoMo, writing

In A Word: March

I’m NaBloPoMo-ing again, in an effort to make good on a January intention, which was to write more and complain less.  I run the risk, of course, that creating a new post every day will make me complain even more (yes, I think it’s possible, but only barely). But hey, gotta break some eggs, right? Besides, isn’t complaining the meat-and-potatoes of all “mommy blogs?” That’s what a lot of the comments say in Lisa Belkin’s Motherlode article about the Queens of the Mom-Blog Kingdom–the mommy bloggers are just whiny, complaining, self-centered women nattering on about their middle-class lives and redecorating schemes.

Ouch!

I am definitively not writing about redecorating. Because I’d need a blowtorch to accomplish any major re-design, and arson is, I’m pretty sure, illegal in New York.  So I promise, no posts about couches or color schemes.

I had this “in a word” idea rolling around in my head all day and then I found the word I wanted right there in front of me:

March.

We’ve made through February, which although technically the shortest month is, as we all know, the longest month, psychically.  I always let out a huge sigh of relief once February is behind me.

March.  Marching implies forward momentum – not necessarily reflective, not necessarily thoughtful, but moving. And moving is what we’re doing, probably around the end of June. We have to be out of this apartment by the end of June or early July, at the latest, which means I’m going to be marching through our stuff, doing the pre-move purge of papers, books, clothes, toys, and god knows what else we’ve managed to accumulate in ten years of living here.

Come to think of it, I may have to re-think that arson thing. I could probably make it look accidental, right? I mean, I do have two boys–I could teach them how to play with matches, couldn’t I? Because on top of our current ten years of stuff, there is all the stuff we brought with us, when we moved in. That stuff has been biding its time–perhaps breeding–in the storage space in the basement of our building, just waiting for the right moment to pounce. I’m thinking perhaps a little strategic flooding in the basement, maybe a burst pipe? Pipes burst when they get too hot, right?

Hmm. Maybe a better word for today is saboteur.

[PS: I wrote a little review about Lauren Redniss’s book, Radioactive: A Tale of Love and Fallout. You can read the review on Blocritics, here. And then come back here and click through the amazon link to buy the book!

PPS: If you want a little “one word” writing jump, go to oneword.com.  You’ll get a one-word prompt and 60 seconds to write a response.  It’s a great way to start the day, like a little brain sprint. ]

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Continue Reading · on March 1, 2011 in moving

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