Trying To Learn How To Decorate Your Home For Fall

As I type this, I am also listening to Robert Pinsky reading a sonnet written by Michaelangelo about the pleasure of complaining, while he was painting the Sistine Chapel.  It is so lovely, I could listen to this all day.

I’m prepping for Pinsky’s edX class that starts today.

In conjunction with Boston University and edX, Robert Pinsky is teaching a free, eight-week online poetry course which begins on September 30th (you can register here).

I am geeking out on wild levels.  Robert Pinsky.  ROBERT. PINKSY. Holy cow…

Robert Pinsky is one of America’s foremost poet-critics. Often called the last of the “civic” or public poets, Pinsky’s criticism and verse reflect his concern for a contemporary poetic diction that nonetheless speaks of a wider experience. Elected Poet Laureate of the United States in 1997, his tenure was marked by ambitious efforts to prove the power of poetry—not just as an intellectual pursuit in the ivory tower, but as a meaningful and integral part of American life. “I think poetry is a vital part of our intelligence, our ability to learn, our ability to remember, the relationship between our bodies and minds,” he told the Christian Science Monitor. “Poetry’s highest purpose is to provide a unique sensation of coordination between the intelligence, emotions and the body. It’s one of the most fundamental pleasures a person can experience.” (poetry foundation)

I graduated high school in 1996, and I started reading Pinsky’s work right about then.  The only bookstore we had back then was a Crown Bookstore next to a ROSS.  It had pretty typical books with a huge mystery section and a fantasy section with 3 books.  The poetry section had a shelf of sonnets, which just goes to show how educated people allowed themselves to be about poetry movements: what is there besides Shakespeare?  But I knew there was more to poetry than the sonnets we had to read in English class, so I searched and searched, and finally found some modern poetry.

I just want to point out, also, that when I graduated high school I had fully intended to become a marine biologist.  I spent all my time scouring the shelves of SanFrancisco for poetry books, and yet I thought I was a scientist.  My goodness….

I remember finding Robert Pinsky’s poems, and being mesmerized by his words.  He is a man among poets.  I enjoy his words in the same way that I fell in love with Robert Frost’s words: they take you somewhere very real. Somewhere you swear you have been before.  When we visited Frost’s farm last year, I knew the entire place like the back of my hand.  I recognized the path next to the little stone wall that he would walk up and down.  I recognized the window on the second floor, out of which he would watch his wife walk across the little hill on their land while she was grieving the death of their son.  His poems took me to where he lived, and when I visited the farm, it was like visiting a very good friend whom you never want to leave.

Pinsky has a grasp of language that is unparalleled.


Dire one and desired one,
Savior, sentencer–

In an old allegory you would carry
A chained alphabet of tokens:

Ankh Badge Cross.
Engraved figure guarding a hallowed intaglio,
Jasper kinema of legendary Mind,
Naked omphalos pierced
By quills of rhyme or sense, torah-like: unborn
Vein of will, xenophile
Yearning out of Zero.

Untrusting I court you. Wavering
I seek your face, I read
That Crusoe’s knife
Reeked of you, that to defile you
The soldier makes the rabbi spit on the torah.
“I’ll drown my book” says Shakespeare.

Drowned walker, revenant.
After my mother fell on her head, she became
More than ever your sworn enemy. She spoke
Sometimes like a poet or critic of forty years later.
Or she spoke of the world as Thersites spoke of the heroes,
“I think they have swallowed one another. I
Would laugh at that miracle.”

You also in the laughter, warrior angel:
Your helmet the zodiac, rocket-plumed
Your spear the beggar’s finger pointing to the mouth
Your heel planted on the serpent Formulation
Your face a vapor, the wreath of cigarette smoke crowning
Bogart as he winces through it.

You not in the words, not even
Between the words, but a torsion,
A cleavage, a stirring.

You stirring even in the arctic ice,
Even at the dark ocean floor, even
In the cellular flesh of a stone.
Gas. Gossamer. My poker friends
Question your presence
In a poem by me, passing the magazine
One to another.

Not the stone and not the words, you
Like a veil over Arthur’s headstone,
The passage from Proverbs he chose
While he was too ill to teach
And still well enough to read, I was
Beside the master craftsman
Delighting him day after day, ever
At play in his presence–you

A soothing veil of distraction playing over
Dying Arthur playing in the hospital,
Thumbing the Bible, fuzzy from medication,
Ever courting your presence,
And you the prognosis,
You in the cough.

Gesturer, when is your spur, your cloud?
You in the airport rituals of greeting and parting.
Indicter, who is your claimant?
Bell at the gate. Spiderweb iron bridge.
Cloak, video, aroma, rue, what is your
Elected silence, where was your seed?

What is Imagination
But your lost child born to give birth to you?

Dire one. Desired one.
Savior, sentencer–

Or presence ever at play:
Let those scorn you who never
Starved in your dearth. If I
Dare to disparage
Your harp of shadows I taste
Wormwood and motor oil, I pour
Ashes on my head. You are the wound. You
Be the medicine.

…and my very core shudders at the thought of being able to audit one of his classes.  I am ridiculously excited.

But it is also Fall, and I would like to decorate my house for the kids.  Yesterday I bought a tea towel for the stove that had apples on it.  That was pretty major for me, and Nova mentioned how pretty the towel was.  Here are some Pinterest ideas I also found…because I have no idea what I am doing in regards to decorating a house.  No idea.


Screenshot 2014-09-30 08.50.26







Screenshot 2014-09-30 08.52.45Screenshot 2014-09-30 08.54.13

















Eh, you get the idea.  The rest of the ideas are here.Screenshot 2014-09-30 08.57.07












Get On Your Spicy Funk

Photo on 9-29-14 at 4.20 PM #2
It Is Time. 

Ben got me a pack of Starbucks’ Instant Pumpkin Spice Latte, so I can have this bad boy at home. And I’m good.


If you have ever met a poet, you will either notice that they are stupidly euphoric, or a bit on the tormented soul side.  Either the sun is beautifully shiny, or the sun burns their skin. They are writing about the idyllic nature of nature, or they are writing about the hell that is the very air that they breathe.  I tend to swing both ways (on a milder scale than, say bipolar scales), and I try to balance myself on either side.

best-funny-pictures-16_1_f_improf_525x320This seems unbalanced to me. 

It is hard to push the swing when you are feeling distraught, and I do think it is important to feel it when you are over there.  Get that feeling of lead in your chest that is keeping you from moving.  Feel the hurricane in your mind that is keeping you from relaxing.  If you are a poet, or a creative of any kind, you want to see what colors these feelings bring, what emotions it is bringing up, and how you are responding to it.  These things are raw and not only are you getting these experiences first hand…but you can use them later.  So you wrap your fingers around the threads of despair…

…so you can firmly yank that sucker out.  Because you don’t want it, you don’t need it, and you have things to do.  I don’t have time to be depressed…Let’s get this show going.

One very easy way to get out of the hurricane of funk is to make a list.  Lists are awesome.

In an article on Psychology TodayAlex Lickerman, M.D. in Happiness in this World says this about getting out of the funk:

At various times in my life, I’ve found myself in a state I can only describe as a funk—not depressed, but listless, purposeless, unable to motivate myself and caring about very little. Words like “flat,” “empty,” and “disconnected” also come to mind. It’s not a particularly pleasant state, but it is often surprising: it usually occurs immediately after I’ve accomplished a goal.”

And this is very true!  When you are busy and focused on a goal, you have things to accomplish and the drive to finish them.  It doesn’t even have to be a big goal, like completing a marathon or a project.  It can be a little goal, like getting homeschooling agendas going, or finishing the laundry.  Maybe you finally got caught up on all of your reading.

But once that goal is over, you can find yourself listless.  Drifting.  Unfocused.  Depressed and in a funk.

 Alex Lickerman, M.D sums up what I’ve been doing to get out of my funk much better than I could put it:

  1. Connect with people. As I wrote in a previous post, How To Pull Good Things Out Of Others, who we are and how we experience ourselves often has more to do with who surrounds us than anything else. When feeling low, one of the fastest ways to pick yourself up is to connect with specific people you know bring energy out of you.
  2. Commit to a new goal. Sometimes my listlessness is purposelessness in disguise. Human beings are not only intrinsically driven by a sense of purpose but also seem to require a sense of purpose to lead a satisfying life. It needn’t be a grand purpose, but it must be a purpose that feels important to you.
  3. Read an engrossing book or see an emotionally powerful movie. Both have the power to transport us, to provide a perspective far removed from our own, and in doing so, unlock emotions we want to feel: joy, hope, warmth—even sadness. When in a funk, what we feel doesn’t seem to be as important as finding a way to feel something.
  4. Travel. Though travel has never been one of my favorite things to do, it does accomplish something important when I’m in a funk: it takes away familiar environmental cues and replaces them with unfamiliar ones. And as most of our behavior and emotions are cued by our environment (from turning off lights when we leave a room to the sinking feeling we may get as we approach our place of work), if we want to act and feel differently, changing our environmental cues is a good place start. Not that you can escape yourself by relocating geographically. But you can be helped to access different parts of yourself.
  5. Wait patiently. No mood lasts forever. And life won’t leave you alone but will eventually present you with new challenges that activate you. And even if such challenges are difficult, they will often bring out your best self.

1. I am connecting with Ben and the kids more deliberately today.  I just finished working with Nova on her math one on one, and it was lovely.  I spent time with Conrad working with reading and math today.  I talked to Glenn about all of his world domination projects.  I watched Sheriff Callie with Alice this afternoon.  I have helped Eve find all of her pretty socks and put them in her backpack with her.  After work I am splitting a Stone IPA with Ben and we are having spaghetti for dinner.  That is today.  Tomorrow I will find ways to connect with them in new ways.

2. I made a list of things I want to accomplish in October.  I am going to sew myself an autumn apron, and I got the fabric and ribbon today.  I got new containers for the pantry so the rice and beans won’t get moths breeding in them (ugh). I have 20 lbs of peaches to can, and I got Clear Jel for it.  And I am still working on my poetry manuscript.

3. I am reading “A Tale of Two Cities” with the kids, and I am actually really getting into it!  I love history, so we are getting into the details of the French Revolution, and it’s fun.  No, really…we are really enjoying it!  Listen, it’s fun for us.

4. This weekend we went up to our favorite (favorite) place, Fallen Leaf Lake.  It was peaceful, dynamic, powerful, awe-inspiring, quiet and breathtaking.  And it was 3 hours away, so it was long enough to be a trip, but not far enough away to have to stay the night.  It was a perfect day for us.

5. Finding peace doesn’t happen immediately.  It never does.  It will take minutes, hours and days.  But this is a goal. So be patient, and make it happen…slowly.

 IMG_8998You’ll get back to your awesome self again 🙂

This Is Tuu Interesting Not To Share

I would never have imagined there was more than one word with two u’s.  There are a few!  Who knew??

Screenshot 2014-09-29 12.51.06

What words in the English language contain two u’s in a row?

There are several English words containing two consecutive u’s. Most of them came into English from Latin:

vacuum = a space
continuum = a continuous sequence
residuum = a chemical residue
menstruum = the matter discharged during menstruation
triduum= a three-day period of religious observance in the Catholic Church
duumvir = each of a pair of magistrates holding joint office in ancient Rome
duumvirate = a coalition of two people having joint authority
All but the first two words on this list are quite rare, though, or are only likely to be encountered in specialist contexts. There are also a couple of other words containing two u’s in a row that have come into English from other languages:

muumuu = a loose dress of a kind traditionally worn in Hawaii (from Hawaiian)
Weltanschauung = the world view of a particular individual or group (from German)

NaBloPoMo: It Is Time



It was only last November that I put aside all of my failied novels that I could never finish, and instead began my blogging journey…and it has certainly been an amazing year of writing!

I was able to figure out how to carve out time for writing every week, and still get homeschooling, meals and events (and sometimes a shower!) finished during the day.

I went to the BlogHer14 convention and walked away with amazing tips for writing, and a better appreciation for my own writing.  I am no longer feeling like I am catching up to other writers with imposter-syndrome, but I feel genuinely comfortable writing…and reading other people’s writing without feeling competitive!  That is always a tough hurdle to crawl over.

So this season we are beginning with the NaBloPoMo




link to blogroll

Monday, November 3

Write about an amazing imaginary brand or organization you’d love to work with. What would their pitch to you look like? What would your post say?

Tuesday, November 4

What is your favorite holiday memory? (And yes, you can pick any holiday, including your birthday.)

Wednesday, November 5

Do you feel you have found your voice on your blog? What techniques have you tried to develop your voice in your writing? What are some characteristics of your personality in your writing?

Thursday, November 6

Do you consider yourself a “professional” blogger? Why or why not? What does that mean to you?

Friday, November 7

Where is the one place you would never want to go on vacation that other people seem to love?

Monday, November 10

What knowledge do you have that others don’t? Write a “how to” post about anything you’ve got skills for, small or large.

Tuesday, November 11

If you could permanently get rid of one worry, what would it be?

Wednesday, November 12

Have you ever had extended writer’s block? How long did it last? What did you do to break out of it, and do you have tips for other bloggers?

Thursday, November 13

What is the one skill you see in other bloggers that you wish you had?

Friday, November 14

Do you enjoy growing old or do you fight against it?

Monday, November 17

Take a post or scene you’ve written and find a new way in by rewriting with another angle.

Tuesday, November 18

Tell us about one time that you benefitted from the kindness of strangers.

Wednesday, November 19

Are you the funny one in most groups? What kinds of things do you find funniest?

Thursday, November 20

Do you have a book in you? Fact or fiction? Related to your blog or totally different?

Friday, November 21

What is the one appliance you can’t live without?

Monday, November 24

What’s your favorite headline/blog post title you’ve ever written? What was the hardest post to title?

Tuesday, November 25

You are given unlimited funds and a fabulous team of programmers and told to create your own social networking platform.Tell us all about your ideal, fictional social media site.

Wednesday, November 26

What is the most controversial thing you’ve ever written on your blog? What compelled you to write it?

Thursday, November 27

Where do you see your blog in one year? Five years?

Friday, November 28

If you could be a cast member on any television show, which one would it be? Tell us about your character.

Melissa writes Stirrup Queens and Lost and Found. Her novel about blogging is Life from Scratch.

Found Interview with Tracy K. Smith

Tracy K. Smith is completely shaking the foundations of my hubris.

I thought I was a good poet.  I think most poets are of this notion of themselves, or we wouldn’t write.  But her book, “Life On Mars” is driving me crazy, it is so great. Not good.  Great.

The words. They scansion. The images. The flow. Everything. It is almost painfully amazing.


I found an interview with Mrs. Smith, and I have loved reading it many times…I had to share.  It was too good to keep this to myself.



Interview with Tracy K. Smith – “Poets are Lucky”

Posted byMichael Klein

“I met Tracy K. Smith a couple of weeks before she won the Pulitzer Prize for her terrific and completely ravishing new book, Life on Mars.  We were at a book party for Stephen Motika and his lovely new book, Western Practice – a loft somewhere downtown, in the rain, owned by people I didn’t know.  Tracy came over to tell me what a great speaking voice I had (aside from being raspy and constantly compared to Harvey Fierstein and Wolfman Jack, it is also pretty loud) which is not always the best opening line – except that in Tracy’s case, the speaking voice at large was a subject quickly abandoned for the more important subjects of writing, teaching and other poets we both know and love.

Life on Mars is a book about a world real and a world imagined and, at times, a kind of world ecstatically hoped for.  And so, my questions for Tracy really had to do with how she managed to take on those worlds in such a simple and intimate way and how, in the end, such a balancing act is a vocation the poet is – when the wind is right – uniquely qualified for.

Michael Klein:  Firstly, Mazel Tov! on your fantastic Pulitzer news.  I e-mailed you the other day about this panel that Jan Clausen is proposing for the AWP Conference next year, which I think is terrific and immediately made me think of you and your wonderful Life on Mars – the book, that is.  Jan’s panel is called “Late Word: Imagination on the Brink” which is about how the collective consciousness has been trying to define itself since the 1950’s – the nuclear imagination, let’s call it – as something that either lets the world go, or holds the world, i.e., prevents it from blowing up.  You wrote me back to say that you were thinking a lot about these kinds of things and wondering how your poems might begin to address them.  And I think Life on Mars is actually the start of that thinking.  Can you tell me more about you approach the subject of – let’s call it,life here – on the brink, on earth?

Tracy K. Smith:  Well, I think that believing in language – in the ability of words to bring even an imagined reality into being – is a big part of what it means to write poetry.  If something like an idea or a belief is capable of being imagined or even described, then the possibility that it will be acted upon becomes much more likely.  I think that many of my poems are attempts to take myself up on that premise, to step into conversation with voices and events that require me to decide something:  what do I believe is right?   What is the more subtle or subjective view of this situation?  What must I challenge myself to understand?  And what, if spoken, will require me to hold myself to a better standard of being or believing?  In terms of wanting to hold the world or letting it go, I personally am earnest enough to want to hold it. And I think most people who aren’t radical fundamentalists of one variety or another feel the same way.  I’d even wager that the radicals believe they are trying to save the world for something.

MK:  Of course, what I love about Life On Mars is how otherworldly it is and yet how direct it is, too, about life on earth.  You make the universe as intimate as love for a father.  Everyday life, common knowledge, aside for a moment, where do you think your attraction come from to those things we can’t see, something like God, and the imaginary life?

TKS:  I wrote the bulk of the book in the wake of my father’s death, and while I was pregnant with my daughter.  So those unknowns felt very present and very urgent for me.  I needed to figure out where I believed my father had gone and what he had become a part of, and so approaching the page really became a matter of attempting to describe or create a version of that world that would allow me to move through my private grief to something else.  But even beyond my own private experience, I think it’s quite natural to use versions of what we know or have experienced as the framework for imagining what we cannot know, and what we have not yet experienced.  That’s why metaphor exists.

MK:  The book also is full of sweeping gestures but it’s also smaller, meditative.  And it feels metaphysical as well.  You can write a poem like “Life on Mars” and then something pared down like “The Good Life”.  Is there such a thing as something too big to write about?  Too small?

TKS:  Well, I obviously don’t think so!  I hope that in both cases, concrete particulars save the poem from feeling too abstract and too inconsequential.  My belief is that they create the sense of a real space or a real encounter to be entered into and felt.  And I think that the desire for feeling is a large part of what attracts many of us to poems.

MK:  The tone of the book is so sweet – and I don’t mean that in a syrupy or condescending way at all – but I was struck by how instead of dread about thecontemporary human condition, you seem to have a shining hopefulness about it all.  It made me think that writing – even if the going is dark – is actually a joyful act for you.  Is it?

TKS:  I don’t know how hopeful I feel in real life.  And I think that some of the poems linger in a dark or unresolved place.  “Ransom” is an example of a brief poem that doesn’t try to fix anything, and that registers dissatisfaction with the kind of pat solution that has been posited for a complex problem like that of piracy.  And “Life on Mars” doesn’t really emerge into the light, though perhaps it implies that there is agency at the root of conflict, and therefore the possibility for something better to characterize the ways we as humans relate to one another.  But I will agree that there is also a sense of compassion that the book is trying to envision.  It was very important for me to step outside of my own sense of right and wrong in the poem “They May Love All that He Has Chosen and Hate All that He Has Rejected” and test out a perspective that felt more distant and comprehending, characterized by the kind of understanding I imagine the dead come into.  It was a very uncomfortable thing to do, but I felt that the poem required it, and I think it taught me something about how I as a citizen might attempt to look at the world.  Joy is a part of my process.  In fact, I’d go so far as to say that poetry, as a practice, necessitates a sense of joy.  It’s exhilarating to come into contact with the things we write into being.  And a real sense of play and abandon – even when we are relying on hard-won technique, and even when the aim is deadly serious.  How often do we get the excuse to stop, think, and then stop thinking altogether and try to listen to what sits behind our outside of our thoughts?  Poets are lucky.

Image from here.”