Lovely Things

This week winter arrived in earnest. The temperatures dropped down to the single digits and the wind blew right down to the bones. It is gray. It is cold. It is January. I’ve always found this time of year challenging no matter where I happened to live. News from Pennsylvania tells of a foot of snow over night. Texas, while somewhat milder, turns a depressing shade of grayish brown and doesn’t have benefit/charm of snow. Kentucky is cold and wet. Indiana? A combination of all three states mixed together with no clear result.

It is tempting in during these January days to crawl under a blanket with a box of cookies and hibernate until spring. Too specific? I can’t say I haven’t entertained the idea… Thin mints? However, there are still students to teach, poems to write, books to read, and beauty to find even in these relentless days of mid winter. With that in mind, I give you a list of things that allowed me to push through one of many gray days:

Photo courtesy of Random House.

Jhumpa Lahiri’s newest novel is to be released September 2013. I have read everything Lahiri is written and I love her. My friend, Natalie, gave me her first novel The Namesake when I was in graduate school and from then on, I was hooked. I use stories from her collection Interpreter of Maladies in my creative writing classes and I recommended her second collection, Unaccustomed Earth, to my mother (she loved it). Her prose is beautiful and lyrical and when I had the opportunity to her her speak at AWP several years ago, I hung on her every word. If you have not read her books, you are missing out on a gem.

This video comes to courtesy of my sister, Ashley of Apathetic Herbivore and HiFi Hilarity fame. If this doesn’t make you smile, you may not have a heart. Sorry.

 

Namaste.

I was feeling kind of “blah” today when I left work but I went to hot yoga anyway. I did the routine. I sweated profusely. I also spent a fair amount of time in child’s pose (see picture to the right). And you know what? I left feeling lighter. I didn’t even mind the freezing air hitting my sweaty skin as I walked out to my car.

Thanks, Mom!

This is my Aphrodite Amaryllis that my mother gave me for Christmas. Gorgeous, right? It opened this week and it makes my day to walk in and see beautiful flowers when there is nothing but bare ground outside.

Fleece blanket courtesy of Janeane Pike.

 Warm blankets and tea? Could there be any better way to battle the cold? I think not.

Happy Mother’s Day

Today is day to celebrate all the women in the world who have dedicated the larger part of their lives to raising their children, their grand-children and sometimes other people’s children. On a smaller, more personal scale, my mother spent many of her mother’s days doing one of the following:

1. Attending Allegheny College graduation x2 (my sister and I both went there as undergrads)
2. Attending the Mother’s Day Show at the Erie Hunt & Saddle Club. I’m not sure how many times she did this, but I’m going to guess it was at least five. She also gets extra points for this one because it rained at least three out of those five times.
3. Eating “breakfast” in bed at 7 AM on a Sunday because we (my sister and I) were so excited to make it for her that we couldn’t let her sleep. It also important to note that her “breakfast” consisted of toast and tea. Ash and I were not yet the culinary connoisseurs that we are today.
4. Driving around Erie County on one of my father’s epic “Sunday” drives. Hey, Ash. Need a bathroom?
5. Enjoying a Mother’s Day dinner at one of the finer dining establishments in Erie. These restaurants included Outback, Olive Garden and Chi-Chi’s (spelling?). Yeah, Erie is the the capital of chain restaurants. Luckily, as we got older, we smartened up and started to look for fine dining establishments outside of Peach Street.

The point of this list? My mother is a good sport. She’s a very good sport, so I hope she spends today doing something she wants to do and gets a good meal out of it too. I sent her a small package that included this (I liked it so much I made one for myself):

It was a fun little project. Special thanks to Tisha for posting the link on my wall. If you’d like to make one, click on this link.

Happy Mother’s Day, mom. Love you.

On My 31st Birthday My Family Gave to Me…

My mom painted these for me. I LOVE them.

RJ and I are going to the symphony tomorrow.

My grandparents sent me this neat assortment of silver. My favorite is the little teapot.

Pear earrings from my parents. I borrowed my mom’s when I got married and she decided I needed some of my own.

Napkin rings from my grandparents. I love the designs.

These are from my mother-in-law. Royale Bouquet smells divine.

My card from RJ. I don’t like hearts.

His cards are the best.

Random

Fun manicure for AWP. Thanks Janet!

I like graffiti.

Kwe is ready for St. Patty’s Day.

Went for a run at Fort Harrison State Park today.
Always the first sign of spring.

The weather is warming and there are some buds on the bushes…

I Feel Loved…

My friend Sam is awesome for many reasons. He has an excellent attitude about life, he’s a wonderful writer and he has a cool blog. Check it out here. He recently nominated my blog for The Versatile Blogger Award, so that also makes him kind.

The guidelines for this award are as follows. First, I must thank the person who nominated me. Check. Second, I must list seven things about me. Here goes:

1. I’m a poet, or at least I try to be. I love to read, listen to and write poetry. I’m a working poet, so sometimes finding time to write is a challenge but I do the best I can.

2. I’m a teacher. My technical title is Assistant Professor but I’m not much for titles. I teach at a community college and I really enjoy it. This semester I’m teaching mostly creative writing and it is awesome. My students are talented and hilarious, which is a good combination in the classroom.

3. I love animals of all kinds. I currently have a dog, Kweli; a kitty, Nimbus; and two Zebra Finches, Humphrey and Calliope. I rode horses growing up and we had a barn on our property. I cry during the ASPCA commercials (damn you, Sarah McLaughlin!) and I donate to the World Wildlife Fund.

4. I love to cook and bake. I’m on a vegetarian kick at the moment but I love to make bread, pasta, soup, casseroles, dip, whatever. Cooking is good.

5. I like to write letters and make cards and stationary. This past Friday I spent three hours making cards for friends and family and I was a happy camper.

6. Friends and family are very important to me. I have a sister who is five years younger (check out her blog) and we are very close. I value keeping up with friends from all over the country, even though I don’t keep up as much as I should.

7. I think the 30’s are awesome. I liked my 20’s but I just turned 30 last year and I’m really liking it. I have a house, I have a career, I have pets, I got married and overall, it’s been a banner year so far. Let’s keep it going.

Now I am supposed to name ten blogs I admire and want you all to read. Here goes:

1. Emperor of Ice Cream Cakes: Poems Are Jokes
2. Mark Doty
3.The Iris Chronicles
4.16 Sparrows
5. Letter Writers Alliance
6.HiFi Hilarity
7. the INtangible Blog
8.Quilty Therapy
9.Sincerely Me
10. The Sassy Curmudgeon

Sam, I think we’re well on our way to that party…

The Poet & Technology

There are many ways that technology makes the life of a poet better and more interesting. Such as:

  • Writing blogs & reading blogs about poetry
  • Poetry websites
  • Instant access to inspiration whether it is art, music or other writers
  • Instant sharing of positive poetry news (a friend gets published, a new book comes out or someone wins a prize)
  • Drafting poems is often helped by word processing
  • Loosing work is less likely as long long as you remember to back up said work on a variety of devices
  • Electronic submission managers cut down on the cost of postage and the response time is faster
  • It is easier to read a sampling of journals online because of the archive system
  • More new journals are coming onboard using the internet as their platform
  • More poetry gets out to a broader audience via the internet
  • It’s easier to collaborate with other writers
  • Procuring an MFA is easier than it used to be in terms of scheduling because of low residency programs with an online component

I’m sure there are other benefits that I have not listed, but I think these hit on most of the main points. So three cheers for technology, right?

Well…

I think the downfall of all this great technology for the poet is that I constantly feel like I’m not doing enough. I’m a slow writer to start with and I also teach five classes a semester. This is not a dig at people who do not work, or who have a 3/4 load, or whatever your situation might be but this is my reality and I find my reality frustrating in terms of the writing life. This is especially the case when it comes to bullet point #4.

I revel in other poet’s success because it’s not only good for them, it’s good for poetry in general. Whenever someone wins a prize or a grant or gets a poem published or finishes a book, that means that there is an audience out there reading, thinking and supporting poetry. I find this very encouraging. On the flip side, sometimes it can be discouraging when you are sending out work constantly and not getting a response. This probably sounds whiny, and it isn’t meant to be but I think it is probably how the majority of writers feel most of the time. I won’t lie and say that this rant wasn’t prompted by a recent round of submissions I sent out. I received some of the fastest rejections I’ve ever gotten and that always kind of sucks. This is another downfall of technology, the submission process it much more streamlined than it used to be so sometimes you can send a few poems out and three days later there is an email in your inbox wishing you better luck next time.

None of this information is anything new. Submitting is frustrating and that’s just how it is. Why keep doing it? Well, I believe I’ve written some good poems and I’d like people to read them because I think they could get something out of them. How does that make me different than every other poet on the planet? It doesn’t but I’m going to keep trying.

Observations from the Gym

As part of my goals for 2012, I’ve been hitting the gym five days a week. It has taken some effort but I am feeling better and it’s gotten me to be more creative with my workouts, which is always a good thing. Working out more means that I’ve started to pay more attention to the general “goings on” around the gym. It may also be important to note, that when I say gym, I’m talking about the Y. Here are some observations in no particular order:

1. People should not stare at other people while they are working out. Personally, I’m not very self conscious at the gym. This doesn’t have anything to do with my physical condition. I just don’t really care. We are all sweaty and red faced and if you’re not, well that’s cool but you’re probably not there to work out anyway, so whatever. However, you should not stare at people who are busting their butts on the treadmill. It’s rude.

2. If you are a dude, you should not creep around the glass door to the aerobics room during the women’s step class. Seriously? I mean there are a few guys who glance through the door on their way to the weight room, but today while I was getting ready to run I observed three grown man gawking at the women’s cardio blast class through the glass door. Creepers, go work out.

3. There is no need to throw the free weights. Some people may think I’m picking on the dudes, but I’m not. Women do this too. The long and short of it is, you don’t need to throw your weights down so hard that the floor shakes. You’re strong. We get it.

4. I don’t get the concept of “reading and highlighting a textbook” while on the treadmill or elliptical machine. If you are one of these people, I mean no disrespect but I honestly don’t get it. I mean, when I’m on either of these machines I’m sweating like there is no tomorrow. I am certainly in no fit condition to read anything, let alone highlight something.

5. If you can talk on your cell phone while doing cardio, you’re not going fast enough. I don’t mind people taking a quick call, but if I can hear you telling your best friend about the guy that you hooked up with and how you are pissed he didn’t call you back through Nikki Minaj, well, there’s a problem.

6. Proper workout attire is important. Enough said.

A Few Of My Favorite Things

Delicious & hearty.

I love these crackers with cheese, meat, peanut butter, apples and the list goes on. They are so delicious and reasonably healthy and filling. You should go out and buy some right now.

Vena

Babette

Shoes. I love shoes. These are two pairs I recently purchased on sale. I think the Vena is arriving today. Good times.

Letters!

Receiving and sending letters is wonderful. I love arriving home to find a letter waiting for me and I love being able to sit down at the end of a long day and write to someone.

Good books.

 Right now I am reading this collection of short stories by Joyce Carol Oates and I’m really enjoying it. Look for a future blog post once I’ve finished the book.

Best show ever.

If you have not seen this show, you need to watch it. It is on PBS Masterpiece Classic Sundays @ 9:00 PM. It is amazing and as my husband says after every episode, “this is the best show on T.V.!”

Warrior Pose.

I started yoga last week and I love it. I take my yoga class once a week at the Y and I always feel 100% better after I complete the class. Try yoga. You’ll like it.

Poetry is good for the brain.

I’ve gotten back to writing after the winter break and I love it. I’ve been waking up with ideas for poems lately and I hope it is a trend that continues.

Five Reasons I Love My Finches

We’ve had our finches, Calliope & Humphrey for several weeks now and they are fun, busy little birds.

Reasons why Calliope & Humphrey are awesome:

1. They like to nest together. We have these two thatched houses that we bought at Pet Smart because the “pet specialist” informed us that finches like to nest. For awhile, our finches didn’t seem too interested in the nests, but then we moved them for better access, and the other night they were both peeking out of the nest. They were adorable.

2. They like to groom each other. Our finches definitely have a morning routine.  I come down and uncover their cage and they begin to chirp and bounce around the cage. After a few minutes of flying about, they settle on a perch and begin to clean each others feathers.

3. They love to play with hay. We have a hay ball, another suggestion from the “pet specialist” and the birds love to pull all the hay out of the ball and they carefully pick specific stalks and use it to pad their nests.

4. They eat together.

5. When they get tired, they sit very close to one another on a perch and snuggle. Love.