Tuesday, December 27, 2011

What To Do

I texted Blood Sister A.

"Do you ever wish some wise being would just drop into your life and tell you what to do?", I texted.

"All the time," she texted back.

I can't claim to be a wise being.

And I can't weigh in on life's mysteries.

But in the mean time, it's the week between Christmas and New Year's.

I plan to write about our trip once I am recovered from it, but I thought that maybe

just maybe

until then

you would let me tell you

what to do.

1) Rent Hanna.


It was fantastic. So unexpectedly delightful. So fully entertaining. This movie had it all--script, cinematography, set design. Hanna is a young girl who has been trained as an assassin by her father. If that doesn't hook you, I don't know if we can be friends. I don't want to give away too much, I'll just say the movie was more than I thought. It had both more depth and more levity than I anticipated. Saorsie Ronan is one hell of an actress. Just watch it. It's one of my favorite movies I've seen in a long time. This is the kind of thing you wish you had written. Or at least, I do.

2) Rent Midnight in Paris.


What? It's cold outside. You're tired. You're recovering from too much food, too much drink, too much socializing and elbowing with the relatives. You deserve to sit in front of the tv for five evenings straight, might as well have fun while you're at it. While you're having fun, you might as well escape to the City of Light. Mr. V and I just finished this one moments ago. It had me at hello--opening with a long montage of shot after shot of Paris, City of my Heart. I could watch this all night, I thought to myself. Pleasant music, pleasant Seine's (get it?) So clever. So delightful. Ten minutes in, I'm thinking to meself, "I am in love with this movie". The glow didn't fade. (Don't worry, I didn't get all the literary/artistic/cinematic references. Just gives you something to google later).

3) Rent Far North.


Ok, seriously? Yes. It's unlike anything you've ever seen. The story felt different, off somehow, until I realized it wasn't modern cinema. It's a fairy tale. A grim fairy tale (pun intended). Not for the faint of heart. Not for the squeamish. It takes its time, don't go in expecting 27 Dresses or whatever the hell the masses are watching these days. Oh boy. Just rent it.

4) If you haven't seen any of these, see them: The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus (watch Heath Ledger act the pants off Johnny Depp, Jude Law, and Colin Farrell), Let The Right One In (do not, under any circumstances, watch the American version), and the Swedish version of Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (Swedish Title? Men Who Hate Women. Awesome. Let us always call a spade a spade, dear Swedish ancestors).

5) Read The Hunger Games.


It's possible you haven't already, and you know what? It's time.

It. Is. Time.

What the world needs now, is Katniss, sweet Katniss.

I'm for real, guys. You won't regret.

When you're done, go watch the trailer for the movie and see if it makes you cry like I did.

6) Read Mindy Kaling and Tina Fey's books.


Again, if you haven't?

It's time.

Bossypants made me laugh so hard I nearly peed my pants. I only read a few pages of Kaling's before I had to return it back to the library, but I'd bet on it being every bit as good. I read an article of her's in the New Yorker that still makes me chuckle, sitting here in my cold, cold house, dark and all alone. (Strep vs Yeast Infection. Ha!)


7) Prepare yourself to watch Supernatural on Netflix instant queue.

It hits instant watch in January. You're going to need these few days to prepare. Act like you're having a baby, and don't pinch me, I ain't jokin'. Clean your house. Make and freeze plenty of casseroles, cookies, and soups. You might even consider asking friends to drop off meals and neighbors to pick up your mail and shovel your sidewalks. We are talking 126 hours here of pure silver screen bliss. I am telling you to prepare for this 126 hour marathon (once you start, you will not stop) like it's one of the biggest events in your life because IT'S GOING TO BE. Stock up on cozy socks and hot cocoa, and get ready to have your world rocked.

You know why Dean fell out of bed? He just watched the first episode of his own show.




Someone served this at a dinner party we went to. She was off gluten for her nursing baby and boy am I glad that sweet baby was having gastro-intestinal upset! Otherwise I might never have had this cake. Incredibly moist and flavorful, it was served to us with big spoonfuls of vanilla yogurt on top. Yum. Yum.

Now things are gonna get weird. Numbers 9 and 10 are going to be items that I haven't actually read or seen myself but I'm hearing really good things about. So procede, but procede with caution, you feel me?

9) Introduce yourself to something new and read Habibi.


It's a graphic novel. I checked it out from the library before Christmas, sat down with it for about ten minutes today, and my gosh, is it beautiful. The art work and the story are so splendidly suited for one another. I'ma borrow amazon's review here: "Sprawling across an epic landscape of deserts, harems, and modern industrial clutter, Habibi tells the tale of Dodola and Zam, refugee child slaves bound to each other by chance, by circumstance, and by the love that grows between them". There you have it.

10) Watch Shameless.


I stole this recommend from Mindy Kaling's blog, which is fabulous. She loved it and I can't wait to check it out. What I'm saying is if you don't like it, blame Kaling. Apparently the show is about a widowed father and lots of siblings? And the oldest sister, at only 19, has become the family matriarch? I don't know. The Brits did it first. Don't get all a flutter, it's happened before.


Got something for me to do? Post your recommends in the comments.

That is all, and

I love you.


Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas Eve Eve


A warm, windy day, we walked to the beach.

The girls run toward the waves and splash in the sand like life is a brand new joy.

To them it is, every day.

I hear in Denver there was a snowstorm.

I'm glad I missed it.

Snow or sun, life is beautiful.

I hope wherever you are, life is merry and bright.

Merry Christmas, baby.

Monday, December 19, 2011

On The Road Part I: Holy Something





"What if all the girls on the whole earth said 'CHUM-chum. CHUM-chum. CHUM-chum,'" Indy intoned like a chant as we zipped through the endless Mojave desert, brown mile after brown flat mile. "And all the boys said 'Rocka-rocka. Rocka-rocka. Rocka-rocka'."

That's pretty much how the day went.

Mr. V woke me at at 2:30 am and we hit the road. I wished for a valium because few terrors match that of barrelling down out of the Eisehhower Tunnel in the pitch black, in the dead of night.

I woke up in the middle of nowhere, Utah. Black Horse or Black Rock or Black Devil. So beautiful it breaks my heart, I'll say it twice. The rocks are draped like velvet curtains, lit up the colors of sunset. All through Utah, across the stretch of salt flats there was light, powdered sugar snow.

We stopped in Vegas, where the Goblins were finally baptized. By that I mean they had their first In 'n Out. I tend to think of everyone that lives in Vegas as a compulsive gambler. My only evidence this isn't true is that godawful movie, Pay It Forward. I'm pretty sure Haley Joel and Helen Hunt weren't compulsive gamblers, although now I wonder how a single mother got the money for all those lanterns? But look, I've been in the car for seventeen hours, you shouldn't listen to a thing I say.

"I'm smaller than God," says Indy. "But not smaller than baby God."

I think she's a genius.

In San Diego, this: billboards advertising "EZ-Baccarat: Tableside Dim Sum." From this I gather that Burt Baccarat wants to attend at my table and serve me steamed buns, and that he will be sexually promiscuous. We've been driving for fifteen hours and I can't tell if this is a good thing.

I think it might be.

I am disappointed with the number of light-strung palm trees in Southern California. I think my idea of California Christmas was irrevocably formed by my first Sunshine State Christmas in Palm Desert. In that land of milk and money, there is a silver dollar for every retired crevice and a light for every palm tree. Not true in Riverside or San Bernadino. God help me, listen to what I'm saying. I shouldn't be here. I shouldn't be writing this. I have been in a car for seventeen hours and I think I encountered the real Jesus--you know, not the flaxen haired, but the Middle Eastern one. He told me he is as indifferent to Tim Tebow as he is to sexual orientation. Then he shared our plan for taking Tebow down, but I can't tell you about that now.

Indy calls them Pom-Pom trees and you know:

She's right.

xoxo
No More Driving Ever
-V

Friday, December 16, 2011

L.A. Lady

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(Please forgive the image issues in this post. The HTC EVO phone I had on the trip makes everything--everything--impossible. This was the best I could do, let's just leave it at that.)

You know last time I flew some where it was kind of an ordeal.

But not this time. I Mele Kalikimake'd myself into a state of aviation bliss. By that I mean that I played the Bing Crosby song on repeat for almost the duration of the flight, easing myself into a Paradise State of Mind. I also ordered a glass of wine on the plane.

Best five bucks I've ever spent in my life.

I arrived at LAX and spent the next four hours there. I didn't mind, honestly. I had a new smart phone that hadn't yet proven itself to be an epic and grotesque technological failure. Southwest had lost my bag, my girlfriend's flight arrived an hour late. Whatever. I had things to tweet. If the tweeting didn't get done, who knows what might occur?

Long story short: we rode a shuttle bus to pick up a car, and while we were on the bus my girlfriend showed me Facebook's "check-in" feature. But why would I want to check-in where I actually was? That's boring, and it's not like LAX is giving you free drinks for it. So we checked in at Nudes, Nudes!! and later, at the Grilled Cheese invitational. I don't know. It seemed the thing to do. We drove the rental car twice around the LAX terminal before finding Southwest and my bag.

We drove to downtown Los Angeles.

It was lit up like El Dorado. The high rises and searchlights glittering in the night. Lights on palm trees, lights on Christmas trees.

I was in love.

There were homeless people sleeping in tents on the streets.

There were parking lots advertising cheaper rates for film crews.

There were stretch limos and doormen wearing long jackets and hats.

There were posters at the hotel displaying the movies filmed there.

We stayed at the Westin Bonaventure. Like "good adventure", I guess. All I know is that it decidedly was not named the "Westin Bonavart"--like, Bone of Art--as I told everyone ahead of time.

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The lobby was a zen paradise. The beds were a dream, heavy white comforters, everything clean as a whistle. The views were stunning. The guts of the hotel were bare concrete and full of sad little "Japanese Steakhouses" and "Korean BBQ". The guts felt like someone had set up ethnic fast food in a parking garage and abandoned it.


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We ordered mimosas in bed. We watched L.A working twenty stories below us, people draped in hats and scarves and thick coats for the 55 degree weather.

We ventured out late for lunch. It was L.A, it seemed the thing to do. People strutted past us in only the finest business wear, perfectly cut jackets and pressed, tailored pants. The homeless circled among them in strange harmony. It looked like a movie set. It felt like a movie set. The streets were clean. Everything was black and bare and glinting in the sun.

Our waitress was getting in to fashion design.

Two fish tacos were fourteen dollars. The burgers were sixteen. We drank Bloody Marys. We ordered off the "600 calories or less" menu.

A set bus drove by our window. Town cars in front of it. Lights and cameras mounted to the outside, facing in. Police cars behind.

"There went Nathan Fillion", I said.

Mark my words.

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Hotel. Change clothes. Cocktail hour. Change again.

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The doorman hails a cab. Asks us if we want to share with two gentlemen.

My Blood Sister A flirts smoothly the entire six minute trip to the Staples Center.

The gentlemen pick up the tab.

In through the VIP entrance (Thanks Blood Sister A).

How to fit this all in?

We sit at the bar, where we're told Jay-Z and Kanye won't be going on for at least two more hours. We open a tab. Eventually the crowd begins to surge behind us, elbowing for room at the bar, for the bartender's attention. My Blood Sister A chats everyone up. A girl in a fuzzy red vest who looks like a model turns out to actually be one. She was there to shoot the video for "You Know Who In Paris" that afternoon. She lets me snap her picture. We meet a man--"Are you gay?" says my Blood Sister. "Are you Latino?" Wrong on both counts.

He's Greek,I say.

He is. Persian-Greek. Scoffs when asked if he too is a model. He is an entrepreneur. We meet an aspiring web designer, see fashion disasters, stress out the barkeep.

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I love L.A.

Everyone here has a dream.

I feel like I fit in. No need to apologize for trying to be something.

Everyone here is trying to be.

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In Colorado, they are aspiring to have lovely homes and happy families and good recipes. So often, I feel foolish. Aspiring to be other.

I don't feel foolish in the City of Dreams.

The bar tab is outrageous. We can only laugh.

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Jay-Z and Kanye take the stage. It is a spiritual experience. I believe there are many facets of the divine. I believe that a performer can become a vessel. Challenge a divine energy, make an entire venue--the massive Staples Center--thrum and pulse with it. With an energy that goes beyond the day-to-day range of human experience. This is why some rock stars burn out, overdose, fall to pieces. Die. They don't know what they're channeling. They think it's them. This is what I'm talking about when I say that a Tori Amos concert was the most spiritual experience of my life.

Tori knows what she's channeling.

So, it appears, do Jay-Z and Kanye.

They do the encore ten times. The audience is sweating, exhausted. The energy shifts, becomes bacchanal. Orgiastic without the sex. It is an out of body experience.

I love the City of Dreams.

After the show, I am completely wrung out. Empty. I collapse in bed.



The next day there is only time for coffee and curried chicken salad at Cafe Primo, which is bustling and full of sleek business people on lunch hour. A young woman--blonde, exquisite dress suit, beautiful--whom I fully expect to be a complete bitch, offers to share her table with us. She hates L.A, she says. She says, nobody talks to you.

But all we've done is talk to people, everywhere we go.

Even the girl running the counter casually chats me up.

She's saving up for film school.

The taciturn brown-skinned barista makes art in my coffee.

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The dreams are hanging heavily in the air.

I can feel them. If I had a butterfly net, one swoop would capture hundreds. Thousands.

The city is alive with wish.

In Denver, people ask me what I do, and I stammer. The baristas at Starbucks want to know if I'm studying or working, and I, nervous and uncomfortable, quietly confess I am writing a book.

In L.A, I feel I could say it.

I'm trying to be a writer.

I'm trying to get into writing.

Like everyone in this cafe, I have a manuscript.

Like the doorman at my hotel, I have a screenplay.

Like everyone in this city, I have a dream.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Mele Kaliki-whatever



I procrastinated (read: walked around in my undies dyeing my hair) all morning and have spent the last hour rushing around throwing clothes at random into a bag and then pulling them out again to fit in the red cowboy boots.

Because you don't go see Jay-Z in your Tom's. I know you feel me.

Tonight I am flying off to the land where the palm trees sway. No, not that land. To L.A., where apparently it is raining.

I don't care because I just know I'm going to see Jensen Ackles. Or Nathan Fillion. Or both, probably both. And they're gonna be all like, "Here, lady Vesuvius, let us purchase you that massive corned beef sandwich and mocha with whip on our fancy black credit cards. Perchance would you like to consume it in our limousine?"

Speaking of Mr.'s Ackles and Fillion, I'm working on a post of Seven for Thursday.

Thanks to The M Half for tagging me for said post.

I think there is a highly domestic ghost in my house who keeps opening the dishwasher and changing the thermostat, but that is a matter for another time.

Au revoir, mon cheries. See you Thursday. Until then--

Keep it real.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

99 Problems But A Burger Ain't One

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Today I needed a cheeseburger and a coke.

Not to worry, sometimes I just do.

I've been busy this week. I have mourned the lack of a flocked or white tree in my home anew, and I have kicked myself in the pants and told myself to get over it. I have bought and returned Christmas gifts (already). I have cleaned the house spiffy while listening to Ira Glass only to watch it be decidedly un-spiffed within scant minutes of my daughters arriving home.

I have downgraded to basic cable. Life without a DVR is hairy.

You heard it from me.

I have written no less than four blog posts this week and not posted any of them.

Because my spirit was restive and my heart

wasn't in the right place.

You know what my mom taught me: if you don't have anything nice to say, get on the internet.

(One of those blogs was about my mother-flocking unflocked tree. I wrote about how I sent Mr. V out alone and he came home with something that looked less like a tree and more like a well-intentioned but ultimately disastrous craft of mine. I wrote about how I decided to ignore the tree's patchy crooked visage and be grateful for my Mr. V.

Then I wrote how I call him Mr.V because it unsettles him to read his own name on the blog. I want you to know that so you don't go thinking I'm some hairy-legged feminist, even though right now THAT IS EXACTLY WHAT I AM).


On Monday I instant messaged my sister.

"Do you want to meet me at Ikea?" I said.

"I am actually at Ikea now," she replied. "But yes."

She drove home, put her kids down for naps, and drove me back to Socialist Paradise.

(I call it that because I don't want you to think I'm a socialist even thought right now THAT IS EXACTLY WHAT I AM.)


At Ikea I fulfilled Indy's wish for a box of puppies and our own wish for a topper of tree.

(Red. Felt. Star. 99 cents, thanks for asking)

Over free coffee and Swedish meatballs we discussed the important things like religious leanings and should I buy white frames and leave them white or paint them color.

It should come as no surprise to you that my sister is a Lutheran and I remain unaffiliated.

We like it that way. And that's ok.

She took the above picture of me and I like it so much I'm going to frame it and put it on my wall next to my bed. So every day I can arise and see myself being a nihilist. Don't ask me to explain why, I can't say why.


In a move calculated by my publicist to exponentially increase my street cred, I get to fly solo to the City of Angels on Monday night to attend the Jay-Z/Kanye West concert. (Solo flight. Concert with friend. She got the tickets free. She has connections. I can't say who.)

(She used to work for the Governator. That's all I'm saying)

What, you didn't know I was hard core?

Before that, I have to face a potluck.

Potluck, flight, concert, flight, drive, Disneyland, beach, Christmas.

Home.

That is all--wait.

I love you.

Over and out.

P.S: NO WAIT.

The blog address has changed. You can find me now at www.vesuviusathome.com .

This makes me inordinately pleased.

Please change your bookmarks and your links, but: not to worry.

tuttlebrewd.blogspot.com should still direct you back here.

P.P.S but seriously, change your bookmarks and your links. Wouldn't you rather see vesuviusathome.com up there in your address bar?

I sure would.




Thursday, December 1, 2011

Winter Fruit




December first. I wake to snow. I crave hot drink and solitude by a window where I can see the falling white and listen to my soul. Like a Christmas miracle, I am granted exactly that. I sit inside a warm, bright place and watch the barren earth drape itself in purity. Ridiculous, I think of Queen Elizabeth. Barren. White and bare.

I have pregnancy on the brain.

A misplaced desire, I tell my husband. Tell myself. Like the timing of everything in my life, the arrival of this strange want confounds me. I don't think I actually crave a baby. I think I crave the things it represents: joyful anticipation. A cherished arrival. A soft and holy hush. The earth appears unfruitful, but in this time it is waiting. In the cold, life is being knit together underneath. Too deep to see, too subtle yet to feel. Like an artist not deep in the work, but deep in the waiting. Gathering inspiration. Anticipating joy.

Everything appears dormant. One day it finally blooms.

All creation works like this.

What I crave is not a baby, but fruition. A fruit of my efforts, and peace. A soft and settled place. Not the frightful winds of autumn, not the rushed daze of spring. Like a child given a paper bird on a string, I twirl these two things between cold fingers. On one side, waiting. On the other side, harvest. I wait and know together, they can fly.

The miracle is, I feel it all. I can hold all this, and it is all right.

It is good.

A confused desire, I tell my husband, because my spirit likens my creative work to fertility. A book, like a baby, waits to be born. On the first of December, my creativity feels barren.

But all is not as it appears.

What I know is there is value in both these things: the quiet and the coming. One the comfort, the other joy.

Here is the promise in the depths of the dirt, beneath the earth frozen, beneath the solid snow: in the blackest, twisted forest, still things grow.

The barren world slow turns to blooming.

Out of darkness, light.


Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Fever Dreams and Other Things

(That is not a flesh-eating plant trying to devour my husband THAT IS ME)

This morning I did something I have never done before. I dropped my daughters off at school without first showering and combing my hair. (I should add that I'm required to sign my daughters in, which means entering the building and interacting with at least 300 well-groomed adults).

It's not that I'm a prissy-face, it's just that I don't want anyone to see what I actually look like.

Trust me, it startles people. They pretend it doesn't; they're not fooling anyone. "It's ok," said one guy in college. "Your skin just isn't used to not having makeup on it. It's just. . . freaking out. Once it gets used to it, it'll be fine."

You see?

Even the husband, who pretends to think I am lovely at all moments, once saw me fresh out of the shower and gingerly asked, "Um, so what is the process here? Why do you look so different now than when you go to bed?"

(Don't worry about my ego. It's enormous. Nothing can take this baby down. Seriously, my ego is like a balloon at Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade. Sky-scraper sized and full of hot air, propped up by lesser people dressed like elven slaves.)

I will forever remember the terrible movie Elizabethtown for one reason only: the scene where Kirsten Dunst stays up all night talking on the phone and come dawn, her fair skin doesn't show a thing. Here's a sorry truth for you: fair skin shows EVERYTHING. My fair skin betrays me if I have a drink. It betrays me if I consume dairy. The few times I smoked a cigarette, it was written all over my face. And you bet your bippy that if a fair maiden stays up into the wee hours of the night, her skin screams her distress. We get all blotchy around the nose and the eyes. Often the lips. We do not go to prom and after-prom and finish the night milk-skinned. We got to prom and get left there because our date mistook us for the Swamp Thing during a flare up of psoriasis. I don't blame the husband for delicately asking "what is the process?" because if you went to bed with Anne of Green Gables, albeit on a bloaty day, and woke up next to Feed Me Seymour from Little Shop of Horrors, you'd be wondering what the hell, too.

I went to school drop-off without a shower because I overslept. I overslept because of a dream. I am going to sum up the dream now. Please, I promise to do it fast.

In the dream, Indy was a shape-shifter. She had been stolen away from me and, when I found her, had shifted-shape into a little Asian girl. Now no one was going to believe that freckles and the cutest little thing in black pigtails actually belonged together. I was growing quite panicked in the dream, not unlike people who wake up next to me, until dream-me remembered: I had seen every episode in six and a half seasons of Supernatural.

I knew how to handle this.

DREAM SEQUENCE OVER.

This is what I keep coming back to. I've been feeling unequipped. I've been telling myself I don't know what to do. When I calm down and listen, I remember: it isn't true.

I have seen six and a half seasons of Supernatural. Obviously there is a wisdom in me that surpasses all understanding.

And anyway, I know how to handle this.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Day After

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Thanksgiving was almost ruined by:
-Everyone called my side dish "a dessert" and I pouted
-the talent. The talent was being difficult for a moment there (but who can blame her little turkey-stuffed heart?)

Thanksgiving was saved by:
-my sister's homemade pecan pie (Who knew I liked pecan pie?)
-my brother-in-law's prime rib or whatever. (He kept calling it that)
-my mom's corn casserole (Please don't tell anyone I enjoyed a casserole)
-my dad's Ikea song
-my husband's delicious roasty pumpkin beer
-everyone loving my side dish too much to care if it was a dessert (IT WASN'T)
-my daughters and my niece Eisley running a wild rumpus through. . .
-my sister's gorgeous and catalog-ready home (thrift stores and Ikea are her secrets)
-A Very Gaga Thanksgiving tv special

Happy Day after Thanksgiving. I'm not out shopping, but I kind of wish I was.

xoxo
-V

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Hunted

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A lot of stuff went down today.

I guess that should be expected when you get up to have a pee in the dead of night and in mid-act hear your husband's alarm going off. Because it's 2:30 a.m. and time for him to head to work.

Some days, I don't know. Life hunts you down. "Oprah says you can't solve emotional problems geographically," I tell the husband, but sometimes the urge to flee is so strong. Sometimes you want to feel safe in your world, even though you know that doesn't exist. We rushed over to Oskar Blues Homemade Liquid and Solids because that's what the male V and I do when we're feeling hunted. We eat and drink, the girls blow up Death Stars and, as I would come to find out hours later while in emergency room triage, stuff sand down their pants.

Don't judge their sandy-bottomed joy.

After that we had no strength to venture out in the cold. We headed for Barnes and Noble in Boulder. Within five minutes I realized our mistake and we left. Ayla asks for everything. Her requests the white rabbit, I leap down my black hole. I'm getting better at what my Blood Sister A calls "thought-stopping". When my brain starts to launch me into my old "universe is out to get me" or "good things don't come my way" soliloquies, I can usually tell her just to knock it off. Depression is a wolf howling at the door, who says you have to open it? But when she knocks in the form of my children having desires, I spiral downhill fast. "I want to ask Santa to bring me Legos for Christmas," says Daughter A and seconds later I'm shivering in the corner, mind whirling with every sparkly gift I can't afford to buy them. Christmas is coming. Get the hell out of the retail stores.

Fortified now with hot beverage, we drove to the park. My husband tossed my daughters around in the leaves to their everlasting delight. The dog stalked squirrels.

Somewhere in all this I canceled our cable, found a rejection letter in my email, and decided to dye my hair brown. The day grows dark. We buy produce for a vegetarian dinner, healthy. Just what we need.

Everything happens when mom goes to the bathroom. From my moment's peace, I hear a yelp. A yowl. I open the door and my Indy is crying. I rush to her and grab her little face, which is smeared in blood. She had been resting her head on the dog. The dog has nipped her. One cut on her lip is very small but deep enough that I bundle her back into boots and drive her to the emergency room. Ayla is sobbing, she stays home with dad.

In the Emergency Room a couple checks in. She's twelve weeks pregnant. I assume she's had bleeding but later I hear whispered 'throwing up'. I don't know. I count my blessings. My baby is shaken, but she's here on my lap.

In the emergency room, we discover the sand in her britches.

No stitches required. They say she won't have a scar.

I email Blood Sister A. I tell her I wish a wise person would swoop into my life and tell me what to do.

Then I figure, maybe that wisdom's just waiting here.

Within me.


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(This picture is of Indy feeling better and playing with the syringe they gave her. I love the fierce concentration on her face. She was plotting about how she was going to come home and squirt Ayla. Like that.)

Monday, November 21, 2011

Hey Pumpkin

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Right now it's quiet in all my house, which you won't be surprised to hear is how I like it. I just put a loaf of pumpkin bread in the oven and it smells so good already. Sometimes I do domestic things without feeling the need to apologize for them.

I never did bake that apple pie. Pumpkin bread was far more achievable.

Today I gave up on my plans to make this delicious recipe for Thanksgiving. I really wanted to bring it to my sister's house, present it with an apron-at-the-waist flourish and impress everybody. It probably wouldn't have worked anyway. In general, I find people are far less impressed with me than I'd hoped. Turns out you can't buy pie pumpkins after Halloween, and I know from experience you can't but Emmentaler cheese in Longmont. Which isn't exactly true, you can probably find it at the imported cheese emporium in that office park under the bridge, but I never remember to go there.

Instead we're bringing cheesy apple bake. It's this god-awful unhealthy dish that my mother-in-law made every Thanksgiving. This is difficult to admit: you pour canned apple pie filling into your casserole dish and then you blend Velveeta with white sugar (I died a little, just typing that) and you pour it over the apples and bake. The top gets slightly burnt and crusty and then beneath it is cheesy apple goodness. You have to eat it early if you're dining with my husband's family because the kids eat all the cheese topping off and then you're just left with sad canned apples. To sell this dish to my sister, I called it "Apple Cheese Southern Souffle". If I told her I was bringing sugared-up Velveeta over canned apples she probably would have hung up the phone in order to drive straight to Longmont and slap me. Crisis averred. You gotta know how to work these things.

Today I met up with an old friend from high school. There is nothing like an old friend from high school or a drinking buddy from college. Some bonds are forever, this is why whenever I met a new person I try to get sloppily drunk as quickly as possible.Instant friend for life. (Contrary to what my husband says, crippling social anxiety has nothing to do with it. Who has the psychology degree, Mr. V? NEITHER OF US.) For instance, I hadn't talked to this particular friend in a few months when I sent her this email: "I'm moving to Taos to keep bees. Wanna come?"

"That sounds awesome," she replied. "I'm there."

This is a comfort to me. I can't tell most people when I want to move to Taos, or Paris, or the other day, oddly, Nashville. They start to do calculations and ask me about my life goals and say things like "You don't speak French" or "Do you know how hard it is to get a Visa in a socialist country?" or "It snows in Taos".

Our other plans include moving to Vietnam, wearing the funny hats, and planting flowers/ holding babies in orphanages, as well as spending our golden years traveling the world until we finally go down together in a plane crash.

Maybe because it's Monday, or maybe I'm drunk on the scents of warming nutmeg and cinnamon, or maybe because I'm bringing glucosey plastic cheese to Thanksgiving, but right now, those seem like worthy goals.

But no, I'm not actually moving to Taos.

Not yet.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Deck Me

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Ayla and Mr. V, November 2006

It's true: I used to swear off Christmas music until December 1st.

My ghosts of Christmas past cringed at red Starbucks cups in November. I worked in retail and bemoaned the arrival of Christmas merchandise in August and September. The one year I sent out Christmas cards, I think I mailed them on December 21st. And felt good about that.

But come on: I also used to wear Old Navy logo tees and get Brazilian waxes. I used to listen to Nelly and buy thongs.

You see why I'm not given to nostalgia.

As I got older, time got shorter. Each day a smaller portion of the whole than it once was. This year I watched the Fourth of July fireworks and told myself Christmas was just around the corner. "Stop worrying about Christmas money," the husband said. "It's a long time a way."

But now you see: it wasn't.

It was easy for me to decry the Early Onset of Christmas when I wasn't actually responsible for making Christmas. Back in college, December 1st hit and I had four languorous weeks to sit around the house and wait for my mom to deliver Christmas to my doorstop. Gradually the house would plump, with cookies and sleigh bells, fat pine limbs and twinkling lights, and I, with my unadulterated hours and hours to sit by the tree reading The Mists of Avalon, wondered what the heck my mom's problem was and what everyone was so stressed about.

Our first Christmas, Mr. V and I didn't even get a tree. (We couldn't afford one). We hopped a plane and arrived in Palm Desert, where Christmas was waiting for us, balmy and palm-decked. Mele Kalikimaka. No stress in that.

Now, however, it's up to me to do Christmas. It is up to me to gather lights and food coloring, presents and sugar plums. It is up to my husband to hunt down the money, the recipes, the ligonberries and horseradish. I have a dream of Christmas, one that includes a feathery flocked tree and fat cermanic bulbs strung up on my rooftop, click click click. Now, I think: of course I am listening to Christmas music the day after Halloween. Of course my children have written their Christmas lists, and you bet your bottom stocking I'm sipping Gingerbread Lattes and delighting in my red cups. I have a magic show to produce. I have two children who still believe in Santa Claus. Great things take time, you know?

Let no one judge you. Especially none of my ghosts, 22 and self-assured, rolling my eyes and silently judging all merry making in the month of November. Listen to your music. Do your Black Friday strategizing. Drink your Peppermint Mocha's and string up your lights, because there is ancient wisdom in these traditions.

This time of year, we all need the light.

Welcome, Yule.

(And if you see any live Christmas trees, let me know. I AM READY.)

Because I would like to aid in your merriment, here are my favorite Christmas albums.

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Noels Celtiques: Celtic Christmas Music From Brittany. (Not that I'm partial). Gorgeous music. "Christmas at Sea" is so evocative. I can feel the old ship beneath me. The sea and the snow. The smell of pipe smoke. People dancing on the deck. Perhaps I've shared too much.

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The Christmas Revels: In Celebration of the Winter Solstice. The sound of this album is one of my earliest memories. It wouldn't be Christmas without it.

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Medieval Baebes: Mistletoe and Wine. Look, you're not going to find "Deck The Halls" or "Jingle Bells" here. It's old world solstice music, some of which was eventually changed into old world Christmas music. I love it deeply.

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The Victorian Christmas Revels. This is one of the Mister's favorites. Long into February, I catch him singing "Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat" in a British accent. It's awesome. Every time I put this cd on, I feel like I'm standing on the streets of Victorian London. There's snow on the ground, nutmeg and cinnamon in the air. The street is bustling with fellows selling roasted almonds and hot honeyed buns. Across the way a group of pink-cheeked children are warming their hands over a fire and now, for some reason, everyone has begun to sing together. It's wonderful.




A Very She & Him Christmas. This is a new favorite. It's vintagey and, just around the edges, a little melancholy. I dig it.

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Wassail! Wassail! Early American Christmas Music. Another by the Revels. A woman reads a story recounting a long ago prairie Christmas, a Laura Ingalls type family, a hunt in the snow. It makes me cry. Every time. In a warm and grateful way.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Comfort Me With Apples

image from here

You get to a point where you find yourself thinking, "Maybe I should make a roast". It's not that you care about the roast, it's just that you'd like to do something, any one thing, that you can see through from start to finish and plus, making roasts comes with a shiny foil sticker on it, the sticker of a good homemaker, the dinner offerings of a Good Mom.

But then you begin to think, not a roast, perhaps. Maybe an apple pie. You're pretty sure no one born after 1981 actually knows what a roast is. Your husband might take a bite, say "Mmm, good steak, honey," and then where would you be? You'd be a stupid woman with curled hair in an overly cheery vintage apron, something with cherries on it or fawns, still on your feet pulling potatoes and onions out of the oven and there, at the table, sits your husband in his work socks, distracted by sports blogs and calling your roast a steak. You don't know what this means, exactly, or signifies--a suburban complacency, a homey resignation that you never even wished for--you just know it isn't good. Plus, chefs make good roasts, and you're not going for "good chef". What you're looking for is something homier, something coated in tinsel and more difficult to describe.

So an apple pie, you think. That. Surely if something can be accomplished, it is a symphony of cinnamon and apples. A love letter wrapped in dough and painted in egg wash. Because there was so much that should have been done, and wasn't. The house that should have been decorated by now. The furniture you should have been able to buy. The dance and piano lessons, all the meals you should have cooked over the stove, working for hours and finished by five, instead of darting back and forth between boiling pasta and your computer, between bits of dialogue and gummy canned sauce. The stories were never the thing to trust. They can be finished, but not achieved.

How do you measure the success of a story? You sell it. It is read and admired, or misunderstood and ignored. Either way, it sits on a shelf, tangible evidence that you have done something, that all these hours haven't been for naught, that something that once did not exist now does and you are responsible for that. But none of that is up to you. None of that a thing you can control. You measure the success of a story by waiting for others to nod, to sneeze, to bless their agreement: here is a thing, and it is done.

How do you measure the success an apple pie? You finish it. You might burn the top. You might over sweeten the apples. It doesn't matter because in the end, a timer goes off--a buzzer, alas, and not a decision in your head, murky and intangible. Something that is up to minutes, clocks, to the ticking of the sun and not, for once, up to your own instinct and intuition. You cannot trust yourself, but a kitchen timer is a thing you can live by. The end of the path is clear, it is fragrant with the fruits of the earth and the bounties of your labor. Unlike stories, unlike wishes, the end here is succulent, toothsome, complete. The timer buzzes, it declares for you: you have formed a thing with your own hands. Your work is good.

Your work is done.

*The title of this post was taken from the book by Ruth Reichel.

Monday, November 14, 2011

I Blame Fort Collins


On Friday the husband and I decided to go out and celebrate the anniversary of our first date, ten years ago that very day. Driving into town, I got the familair Ft. Collin's willies.

"Ugh," I told Mr. V. "I'm so glad we don't live here anymore. Ugh, I hate it here so much. Don't you hate it here?"

"That's enough with your theatrics," said Mr. V. Not really, but what he did say was "Yeeeaaaah," so you know I've interpreted right.

We wanted to go to Johnny Carino's (my college mecca, y'all) since that was the site of our first date but alas, the Carino's in Ft. Collins had not survived what some call "the economic downturn", but what I optimistically refer to as "life since moving out of my parent's". It was fine, I was in the mood for sushi anyway. I was raised not to love sushi, and what better way to celebrate your dating anniversary than with some latent rebellion?

I was in a mediocre mood. The food struck me as exactly that. The lighting was harsh and the place in general lacked ambiance. We made the mistake of telling the waiter we'd sample any four sakes. We forgot we were in a college town. We forgot anyone in their right mind would drink fruity sakes. (We forgot just to ask for the four most expensive sakes, without putting it that way). What we got was one decent pearl sake and three cups of fruit punch.

I was whelmed.

My husband does this thing where he eats lunch. So then at dinner, he's all like, "No, I'm full now". Unlike me. I always skip lunch and do annoying things like want to order a second Spider roll at dinner. But, remember? The sushi was mediocre so we passed. Mr. V suggested gelato. Then we walked out into the cold windy night and remembered gelato was a stupid idea. I started to get antsy. This is the problem with having date night only twice a year. It puts things on you, like expectations and pressure. If we went out to eat every night, would it matter if we didn't have a good time, I ask you? It would not. Because there would be tomorrow.

Knowing there was no tomorrow, we turned to Coopersmith's. They had a red ale and a cherry ale new on tap. They tasted overly sour and acidic, like Warhead juice. I don't know, maybe the problem was with my mouth. I ordered a Scrumpy Cider, expecting--what else?--scrumpy. What I got was a sour apple Jolly Rancher, which everyone knows is the worst friggin kind.

Remember when we used to come here all the time, and they gave us Pubside Regular free beers, said I?

You shouldn't have brought that up, said husband. Now I am morose.

Again, he did not actually say that, but that was the subtext. I know you feel me.

We did this thing on our first date where Mr. V had a cookie and I said I did not want a cookie and then I ate his. (Classic). Ten years in, Mr. V asks a billion times if I want the damn cookie and even if I say no twenty times he buys a second one anyway. This time around, we did this thing where I wanted a hot soft pretzel.

"Maybe we should get a pretzel," I said.

"Do you want a pretzel?" he said.

I shrugged. Any woman knows of course I wanted the damn pretzel, why would I say "Maybe we should get a pretzel" if I didn't want a pretzel? Have you ever heard me say "maybe we should get a sister wife" or "maybe we should get a Mariah Carey Christmas cd"? No, and you know why? Because I do not. Want one.

You know how this went. Later, much later, he asked why I didn't just tell him I wanted a pretzel.

I thought that's what I was doing.

Ten years in, some things never change.

Pretzel or no, I'd do it all again.


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**my ego needs you to know I was eight months pregnant in that photo**

Friday, November 11, 2011

Monday, November 7, 2011

The Whole Truth

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I am not immune to certain superstitions.

Today I have fortified myself for work like going to battle. This battle requires not weapons and war paint, but spiritual armor. I wear Frida Kahlo at my neck and the Virgin of Guadalupe on my finger. For reasons that aren't entirely clear even to me, these are my girls. These are my women. Fierce little Frida, painting her odd paintings of macabre femininity. As for the Virgin of Stars, what can I say: the lady abides. No, I'm not Catholic (or Mormon or Lutheran), it's difficult to qualify what I am, but I do believe in symbols and these women represent to me the things I need: fierceness. Soulfulness. Honesty.

I have also armed myself with some AC/DC. That is where my spiritual frequency is found, today. American thighs shook me all night long, best damn woman that I've ever seen, and all that.

I believe in doses of bravery, whatever the source.

*****

I have a story in my head. A story about myself. In this story I have written, I am the best. I am the specialist little snowflake. I know it's not pretty, but it's true.

Think of it like the mirror of Erised. My dreams aren't innocent, like Dumbledore's or Potter's. My dreams are like Ron Weasley's. They involve glory, preferably public glory. They involve my version of winning. Not sports trophies or Best Mom in the World mugs. My dreams are of publishing. I've been working toward them for seven long years.

Years full of setbacks. Challenges.

Rejection.

I didn't imagine it would go this way. I imagined it all would come easily, that I would accomplish publishing the way I accomplished good grades in school. Naturally. Doing, after all, the only thing I'm really good at. And my ego needed it to come easily. I don't know why, it sounds so ridiculous looking at it now, but I wanted to appear to the world as if I had succeeded without ever really trying.

I wanted to be good. Worthy. A little bit impressive.

I didn't want to be honest about my journey. I think because I didn't want to appear to fail.

I had imagined myself so isolated. Like if I were to fail, I would be the only one.

As time goes on, my life feels less and less honest. I wanted to show the world the glory without the struggle. The sweetness without the sorrow. The accomplishment without all the accompanying pain and bleeding and sweating uphill in the mud with my armor tied around my waist.

Now I need to say it: this is not coming easily.

This is a tremendous struggle.

*****

Being a writer depends to a great degree on outside approval. You can write all you want, you can even call yourself a writer, but the world will not consider you one until you have bewitched the correct combinations of people: first an agent, then an editor. I write in a bubble, pretending no one is ever going to see it (because that is the only way I can write honestly), and then I take it to a world of people, in New York and LA, people who don't know me, who are busily wrapped in their own lives, who have heard it all before. I have to offer up my flawed creation, this thing that I have sweated and bled over, that is a reflection of my very soul, of my most private and deep beliefs, and wait for them to approve it.

It's hard.

But what's harder is not being honest about it. What's harder is hiding away in the dark, hoping not to show my many imperfections. Hoping that one day I can bound out shining a light so bright, you too will be bewitched. You too will miss all my weaknesses. And then I rob us both of the truth. I rob us both of the thing it is most important to name: the honesty of the story.

How happy is an ending, after all, if you haven't witnessed all the long trials that led up to it?

I have a sneaking suspicion it was already clear I'm not the best. No so impressive, maybe. But last night, I sat in a hot bath talking myself down off another ledge of another rejection. Revelation came, as it so often does, with a combination of hot water and tears: I wasn't going to do this publishing thing effortlessly. And in my ego's need to appear to achieve without effort, I was hurting the people around me.

And I was hurting my soul.

*****

So here I am. Fresh off the press of another confounding rejection letter. These agents, they are mystifying. They are the modern world's version of the Oracle of Delphi, only they make even less sense. This publishing thing, it might take years. Seven or seventy. Publishing is a long game. Once a day I want to give it up.

I'm not giving it up.

Forgive me for the indulgence, but I need to say this:

I'm back in black.

***

Either blogger isbuggy as heck today, or the universe conspires to illumine all my flaws. Forgive my text size discrepancies. I've spent ten minutes trying to fix them and frankly, I've got other stories to write.

xoxo

-V





Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Soft Things

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image via Pinterest

Today I'm thinking about the Nutcracker. My parents took me when I was little, too little to remember any of the performance. The hush of the theater, my itchy black tights. All the adults in their woolen coats, the bright lights inside, the cold white outside. My dad carrying me to the car when it was over. I'm thinking about his winter coat, the velvety elbow patches. I always had to touch those elbow patches, brushing the grain of the suede back and forth, back and forth. Gramma had a mink coat, soft as silence, soft as heaven, and in its folds were sweet things. Butterscotches and Lifesavers. I spent a lot of my childhood sitting in church in itchy tights, being slipped hard candies to keep me silent.

I would tilt back my head and count the lights.

Today I'm thinking about the Christmas pageants. The brown paper bag that held an orange, a red apple, chewy peppermints.

Today I'm thinking about soft things, things that settle quietly on the soul. Things you might need to learn to live with, that melt away imperceptibility or maybe never. That take time to resolve. Today I want to know how to do it.

I want to know the way to be.


Last night another branch fell on our roof, and today we wake to more snow. When it snows you need to get up early, but you want to sleep late. You stumble around the house and envy hibernating, furry beasts. You think maybe your soul needs what you can't give your body. This quiet. This dark. This stillness.

The thing about snow is that your bed is always calling, but you can't go to it any more than usual.

I'm so grateful to the pagans for their festivals of lights.

I remember that it's always been the same. Our spirits, needing the stillness, but fearing the dark. Millions of souls, millions of years. Waking in darkness.

Searching for light.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Buttery Babies And Blogs about Bourbon

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One day my sister aim'ed me (remember before google chat?) and said "you should start a blog". Probably because I was bored, and mostly because I had been drinking whisky in the depth of a dark November, I said ok.

I didn't know what a blog was supposed to be and so I went into that safe place for parents and posted pictures of my kids along with descriptions of things we'd done that day.

It was fine, but after awhile I realized that nobody wanted to read it besides my mom. (Hi mom).

Somewhere around this time, my sister (again) introduced me to C.Jane's blog.

I found C.Jane and I said: oh. This is what a blog is meant to be.

C.Jane blogged about the kids sometimes, yes. But more importantly, what she was doing was documenting her experience. With raw honesty and a wicked sense of humor, she was putting her (emotionally) naked self out there. An act of bravery for anyone, but especially for a woman. Especially for a mother. Especially for a person from a religious culture. And I thought ok, I want to write a blog that's as true as C.Jane's.

So that's what I try to do.

It's just the truth.

Today C.Jane has a column in the Deseret News about the term "mommy blogger" and why she doesn't like it. I was thrilled to see this column, because I too strongly dislike the term mommy blogger. C.Jane's post about how she views the term as "buzz words for bloggers trying to drive traffic"is definitely worth a read for anyone interested in blogging, social media, mothering or, dare I say it, feminism.

Which brings me to why I dislike the term.

Here in 2011, we still live in a world in which men are afforded some things women aren't. One of those privileges men have is the privilege not to be identified by whether or not they have children.

There are men who blog, right? Many of those men have children and I bet sometimes they write about them. And yet, have you ever heard the term "daddy blogger"?

Tina Fey was offered the award of "Funniest Mom in America" and she turned it down. Love that woman. I haven't had the chance yet to ask Tina directly, but I'd be willing to bet it's because of this: Nobody is offering to name Will Ferrell, or John Stewart, or Steve Carell the "funniest dad in America". These men are all fathers, but nobody asks them to attach fatherhood to their public identities. It would limit them and define them in ways they probably haven't asked for. They are allowed simply to be comedians.

Men are allowed to be their profession. They are allowed to create their own identities separate from home and family roles. Women are still asked to be their profession PLUS mother. The term "mommy" is sort of like the new suffix "ess". Actress, authoress, poetess, postmistress? Now they are mommy bloggers, funny moms, powerful moms, political moms, CEO moms, doctor moms, etc.

The problem with that is that it limits women. It ties us to certain false identities, namely the stereotypical "mother" and all that identity entails.

Mothering is something that came to me unexpectedly. I've written about the months after having Ayla, the postpartum depression, how overwhelmed I was in that role. One of the things that was most difficult for me was the loss of identity. I wasn't me anymore. I was me plus baby. The buttery baby I wanted, the label I didn't. Before I'd had a chance to become any other thing I'd dreamed of--writer, world traveler, wearer of butterscotch boots--I'd had a label thrust on me. And "mother", it's a heavy label, full of societal expectations and perhaps the world's harshest judgments. Are we harder on anyone else than we are on a "bad mother"?

Mother is a weighty label and under it, I began to drown.

The thing that saved me, of course, was writing. I needed space for myself. Space where I wasn't mommy, or wife, or daughter. Space that was label and expectation free.

I couldn't have survived without that space. Which is perhaps why I balk at the term "mommy blogger". This blogging space, this writing space, is my own open range. C.Jane once quoted an author who told her children, "I will love you with all my heart but not with all my time". That resonated with my soul. We are allowed to save something just for us: a portion of the Halloween candy. An afternoon at the bookstore. The territory of our souls. More than allowed. By refusing to give our children our emptied-out everything, becoming over time dry, dusty soil unable to bear fruit, we nourish our inner landscapes enough that they may flourish. Enough that when we do give of ourselves, our offerings are nourishing and abundant.

This is what saves me. From drowning beneath the label, beneath the world's judgments, beneath my own.

To my children, I'm a mom. (Not even mommy anymore).

Here, I'm just me.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Wink and A Prayer

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To prove how absolutely asinine I can be, I have challenged myself to write a sonnet a day for the next thirty days.


Here is today's.

Sonnet Two: Wink Wink

Last night the falling branches struck my dreams.
I woke with noisy ocean in my bones.
I'd seen great tidals fingering my seams,
And sailed back to sleep, and heard you groan.
The children woke and donned their little boots,
I trampled out in mine and cursed the snow.
I fear I said a lot worse words than shoot,
Cold makes me mean and cranky, as you know.
Today my dumb dog thinks I'll take her walking.
I tell her look, the snow's still coming down.
She suffers to comprehend when I am talking,
I suffer from a lack of Pho in town.
The tree that once skimmed heaven lies in grass
Please bring me tea, and tell me this won't last.

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