Showing posts with label Can/Did. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Can/Did. Show all posts

Sunday, January 21, 2024


Nu starts a new day of term tomorrow.

At is in D.C. giving a talk to an organizing group who sprang for air tickets, hotel, and honorarium. So cool. 

Big A has been on the volunteer list for Gaza for weeks, but there has been no movement, because the organization cannot guarantee safety for its volunteers. This is the first time I've been okay with him going to a conflict zone. Twenty years ago, when he wanted to volunteer for Iraq (partly because it would forgive his med school debt), I vetoed it. I was even wary when he volunteered for COVID relief in NYC in early 2020 when things were baaaaad. But I feel like this is no longer even a choice. It's not going to get better until everyone who can help, helps.  

In the meantime, I'm so grateful a colleague is willing to travel with the honorary students to their presentation in St. Louis. Because Scout fell sick while I was at the event last year, convention hotel rooms now give me anticipatory anxiety and dread. 

Pic: The holly bush outside has been frozen for weeks now, and is now pretty in a different way.

Saturday, January 20, 2024

winter afternoon

the book forgotten in my hands
this blood rush in my wrists 
leaves of light and insight 
quickly extinguished 

by my impatience for happiness
the dear, vulgar excitements--
where I embrace your 
suspended grace 

expecting your face will soften
when I say my wild gladness 
doesn't know where to end--
has only learned to bloom 
Pic: From this afternoon's walk with Big A. The Red Cedar is frozen upstream, but here by the rapids, there were crowds of mallards with their emerald plumage and ridiculous orange feet. 

Friday, January 19, 2024


falling  where I  stand
fireworks and splinters 
of every moment's joy 
waving back like seas.
Every time  I  wonder--
if  this  is the  last time

Every time I remember--
it could be the last time 
I keep  up  conversations
with my body, its  borders 
while stars fall into my lap,
songs dissolve into laughter.

Pic: One of Max's many cuddly contortions with Big A.

Wednesday, January 17, 2024

buried in an obituary

            with MMN
keep your grip tight, I'm afraid 
of slipping away from life
a spectator, a specter

            It's because the days followed 
            us everywhere we went
            Right? Is that why?

I reach into my breast pocket
for a snack and I pull out 
a rib, a nipple, a heart

          I'll decorate this door on both 
          sides--you won't even know 
          if we're coming or going

Pic: Blue skies and a slight improvement on my back today. I'm a bit giddy with relief. 

Tuesday, January 16, 2024

chapter by chapter

At came in to work with me today because they needed to see their old pediatrician, had the lunch I'd packed for them, and then took a nap in my office while I went to class and committee meetings. 

It felt like all the times when I'd bring the kids to work when their school was called off or when they were sick. My office is still filled with so many of the cards and posters they made back then. Their childhood--and my youth--went by so quickly... I miss the little At, the Baby Nu, the young me.

I am sad and worried about these chapter endings and the ones to come. I take faith in that Catherine Newman article I've read a zillion times and know things will be even better. But would I magic myself back to the old days? A hundred times yes. 

But also, is it okay to admit that there's a part of me that is excited for the next chapter? The simple pleasures of writing/walking/seeing friends whenever I want?

Pic: At curled up and fast asleep on my tiny office sofa. 

Monday, January 15, 2024

dreams and hopes

Another day of sunshine! 

At breakfast, I asked Nu what they were going to do for Dr. Martin Luther King Day. They didn't even hesitate: "I'm going to eat my breakfast, then I'm going back to sleep, and I'll probably have a dream."

It was so irreverent, but it came so pat, I had to laugh. When the kids were younger, I'd take them out to some service project or other on MLK Day--but I'm happy for them to make their own choices now. 

Of all people, my mom--universally known by every person who knows her as overprotective--was reminding me the other day that Nu might soon be at college, so I was going to have to let them make their own way. (Where was all this permissiveness when I was growing up?! She's absolutely right though.)

Pic: Max and Huck mistrust the robot vacuum. "Rambo" comes out so rarely. My back still hurts, so I've been outsourcing work (and reducing my standards).

Sunday, January 14, 2024

Happy Pongal!

Imagine my delight this morning when the sun rose magnificently for the first time in (many?) weeks as if to show up for the Pongal sun celebration. 

Close to twenty years ago, I was writing on ye olde blogge about the range of procrastination the various Hindu "fresh start" dates allow. Nu and I were laughing about that at pooja today because At and Nu loved to use the term "fresh start" after they encountered Will Ferrell (their childhood fave) saying it in The Other Guys.

In any case, I've always thought of Pongal as a day to reset any New Year resolutions that didn't take.

A younger and wiser cousin wrote on the cousins' chat:  

The sun symbolizes energy, positivity, equanimity, discipline, consistency... adopt one value that you feel you need in life and practice it for the six months that the sun moves to the north.
I probably need all of those traits in my life, but may pick equanimity--I could certainly benefit by being less emotional.

Pic: Max and I are out by Scout's memorial around sunrise. Scout always came out with me for pooja. 

Thursday, January 11, 2024

still standing/standing still

I usually sing the praises of the Irish  around St. Patrick's Day, but let me start early this year. South Africa is standing tall with their case against the genocide in Gaza at the International Court of Justice in the Hague and Ireland appears to be the only Western nation supporting them. It is not a coincidence that a nation with a memory of apartheid regimes and another with a history of brutal colonization should team up to speak up for a people suffering both. 

I took little, life-affirming sips of the video clips of the trial online between classes and reveled in the moments of human solidarity. It is shameful that none of the major news channels here are airing this trial although we make a lot of noise about free speech. There's a YouTube channel for the proceedings

In the meantime, we've started bombing Yemen, one of the poorest countries in the world. 

Pic: A very tall snow person appeared on campus; they're wearing a wreath garland on their head.

Wednesday, January 10, 2024

meandering into meaning

Just finished up a reread of E.M. Forster's A Room with a View--what a lovely novel! I loved it just as hard as I did decades ago. A Room with a View is particularly lovely in the way it describes the Honeychurch family--loving, rambunctious, quirky--it reminded me of the reason I loved Tom Lake recently.

It also brought up a lot of memories about how "a room with a view" was my personal shorthand for an office of my own with a window--because as a graduate student and then as an adjunct I always shared an office with colleagues. And my first solo office was a windowless cell. So when I got to my current office, its sliver of a window was a realization of a long-time dream/hope/yearning; the kind comments on yesterday's post reminded me how much I prize it. (Although the view is mostly of a parking lot, the window is street-facing on one of our main academic buildings, and I leverage it to put up signs about issues that matter to me.)

It also felt particularly cute that yesterday I met a student named Lucy--like the protagonist of A Room with a View--in one of my classes. And then yesterday, out of the blue, the only other student I've ever had named Lucy, wrote to say they now live in Lansing and would like to get together for coffee. I also met someone recently whose name is Adela (a very unusual name and a primary character in another Forster novel)... I'm beginning to feel a bit like I'm being given clues and signs I haven't figured out yet.

Pic: Saving this very British picture for when I need a snortle. It's a mock cover of a children's series I devoured when I was a kid. Here are some of the original covers showing the various adventurous things the "Five" would usually be up to (scroll down).

Tuesday, January 09, 2024

bright spots

First day of classes. I love the energy. Every term I decide I'm going to be cool about it, but like clockwork I end up loving these people (so much). 
I spent 12 hours on campus today, so it's a good thing I was able to decompress in my office (even if only for a handful of minutes at a time taking care of my now very twinge-y back and legs). 
Our search committee met a wonderful slate of candidates all of whom could be excellent directors of our writing center (choosing between them is going to be so tough though). 
We finally got enough snow for it to stick around and look wintry (I almost wiped out at the exit to work which hadn't been plowed; thank heavens for 4WD). 
Pic: I'm so thrilled by the resilience of my office plants who were ignored all winter break but appear to have thrived (one geranium even decided to bloom)!

Sunday, January 07, 2024

8 - 8 - 8? Not quite.

Since the new semester starts tomorrow, I've been thinking a lot about the old socialist motto of "8-8-8" or "eight hours' work, eight hours' rest, and eight hours of what you will." My own day divides up differently: work is easily ten hours or more +/- two hours of commute time; there's a lot of "what I will" in my life--family, walks, reading, friends, cooking, entertaining, exercise, "chit-chatting"... so it's not surprising that it's rest/sleep that suffers a deficit. Arguably, those family-time things are restful too, so if I can get four hours of sleep at a stretch, I'm generally good. 

At least it's preferable to any of the available alternatives.

Pic: Out with Max by Scout's memorial this morning. Snow is still scanty, but it's supposed to snow all week... perhaps we'll get there after all.

Saturday, January 06, 2024


the "V' of birds overhead
is a rippling wake

the sky uniform and infinite
steals the sun

the coastline's broken crags 
catch in my voice

we are a world into which 
many worlds fit 

but still tomorrow will not
come until

I have finished toying
with today 
Pic: snow flurries along the Red Cedar while out with Big A.

Friday, January 05, 2024

Five on the last Friday of break

1) Everyone should get a couple of weeks off at the end of the year to rest, reset, and restore themselves. I think I've done all three this time. Happy to report that I'm not clawing myself or pulling out hair--my literal scars are healing. 

2) I'm SO excited to meet my new (and old) students and get started on my new (and old) courses.

3) Committee work will make it tough this term--my standing committees meet late on my teaching days and because I'm on a couple of search committees, I will be on campus until late every day next week either wining and dining candidates or doing a chunk of video interviews. Big A and Nu are going to have to step up to dinner every day next week and at least twice a week after that.

4) So. Many. Meetings. And these are such a big responsibility. It might be just one of the many meetings in my day, but it could be the most important meeting of the other person's day, and that's something to take very seriously. (I do, which is why they're so depleting.)

5) Pic: Max and Huck say they're not mad; they're just disappointed break is over. 

Thursday, January 04, 2024

Slow Learner launch

Today was a long day at work, made a bit longer by checking in with people who are attending the MLA. But I got home at a reasonable hour, and after feeding my pack their dinner, I was so happy and honored to attend the book launch for Jan Shoemaker's new book of essays, Slow Learner. 

First, I picked up L--who had introduced me to Jan--and then we picked up the copies I'd preordered, and found a place to sit. The space was jam-packed and they ended up having to add more seating. Jan, who used to teach English at a local high school, read a pandemic piece titled "Caper." It was characteristically hilarious and suspenseful and I can't wait to read the rest.

The following is from an old essay I found on the internet called "Where the Water Is". It gives some idea of how Jan uses wit in ways that are sharp and searching.

"One of the uncomfortable things about living with a person who suffers from Alzheimer’s is that it makes you confront your own character flaws. Just when you thought it more or less clear from all the times you’ve sent money to public radio and boycotted Wal-Mart that you were the incarnation of Albert Schweitzer, or Gandhi, or both, you find out you’re really just a slightly bitchier version of Martha Stewart. Your well of compassion and patience, which was never very deep to begin with, is now just an empty cistern."

Pic: Jan at the lectern at the Slow Learner launch today.  

Wednesday, January 03, 2024

"enjoy what you have"

The exhortation to use, enjoy... use up stuff came from a friend when we were in grad school. It was prompted by her having to settle her dead aunt's effects and being saddened by the unused perfume, candles, clothes, etc. she kept finding. It's advice I've taken seriously. I mean we use "fancy" dishes all the time. It does mean that they get chipped (and that we try to make sure that one of us and not a guest gets the chipped plate), but it's still worth it.

If we can't or don't use something, I'd rather it goes to someone who might. But this part is more of an ongoing process. I find huge purges overwhelming, but this past year, I collected 5-10 items to give away (usually kitchen stuff, clothes, books, appliances) almost every day. I think we're almost at an optimal level of stuff now.  

And I guess "enjoy what you have" works for time and relationships too. Winter break has been lovely, but we're back to classes next week, and this week has been a lot of prep. (I'm actually on campus tomorrow for a four-hour workshop!) So in the spirit of enjoying what I have, I seized today, and made plans with LD for lunch and JL for tea.

Pic: Yesterday, I stopped to take this picture of a black squirrel in profile on the banks of the Red Cedar because of the almost archetypal "enjoy what you have" pose (inspiration for today's musings). Big A wasn't a fan of me breaking our sub-14 min/mile pace.

Tuesday, January 02, 2024

"I believe that children are the future"

My mother once told me that even when she was mad at me, something (sweet/funny/adorable) I did as a baby or toddler would flash in her memory and it would help her get over it. I can safely say this is how it works for me too. 

I mean there's no way my kids are going to meet every arbitrary milestone and make only perfect decisions. Things could get "bumpy" any minute/soon and the one thing that centers me is thinking about how much must be going on in their lives right now, because all they ever did was always only sweet/funny/adorable once. (And in the meantime, I bite my tongue until someone asks for my advice.)

Actually, I think it works for everyone i.e., people who aren't kids in my life too. I think it was in a Jennifer Weiner novel, where the protagonist finally finds a way to get along with her unhelpful MIL by thinking back to her being a neglected baby. I've frequently used that trick to find compassion and understanding for people when they're being jerks.

Pic: My loves--Max, Huck, Nu, and At--hanging out for a moment before we headed to the temple for New Year's Day blessings yesterday. I hope they'll always find warm, cozy places to rest... and that I can make those places for them if they need me to.

Monday, January 01, 2024


How tired the world
how long the way
how we have been 
survivors for over
365 days

may the new year 
be kind, enormous,
hold us in peace
may it gently--
24/7--teach us

to resist, to vary 
history's encore--
the hum of hope
its own language
in 2024
Other New Year's Day poems:

Pic: Our holiday card!

Sunday, December 31, 2023

1 2 3 1 2 3

As the internet has it, today is 123123 (12/31/23--only in the US with our weird month-before-date practice, but still); pretty cute.

I'm very dissatisfied that I haven't done my weekend chores (caretaking plants, vacuuming) going into the new year, but c'est la vie. Nu came over to gently hug me when I was worrying about this and said: "Don't worry, mama! You'll get it done, you always do." I had thought they were going to offer to help me, (LOL) but this is sweet too. 

Also, health is SUCH a privilege. My standards really dropped yesterday. Although Nu was having a sleepover, I didn't make food, check linens, etc. I couldn't. It helped that the guest was celiac and carries their own food, but still.

At 9:00 pm today, I'm headed off to the NYE write-in with the lovely Pooja Makhijani and crew. My plans are to finish the annual New Year's Day poem and work on a couple of projects. 

There's some lingering and irrational sadness today because of all the strange and unsettling dreams from yesterday. But all told, still a good day. I'm glad to have recovered. Grateful for people who light lamps for me when my light flickers. Grateful for family, friends, kindness, and decency in this hurting world. Oh, how I wish Scout were here with me every day. I'm grateful to Max for making me laugh every day.  I am absolutely stunned by the moments of beauty and grace life continues to bring. I hope all of it and justice too will come to all of us. "Ring out the thousand wars of old / Ring in the thousand years of peace."

Pic: I'm in love with this dead branch absolutely bejeweled with moss (from a soggy walk with Max and Huck).

Saturday, December 30, 2023


I'm back; it was bad. At least I don't have to do it for another year. I have little recollection of the past 36 hours. I woke up so weak, wobbly, and very sad from my fever dreams.

I would have liked to start the new year with all my household chores completed, but I think I'm going to be easy on myself.

Pic: MIL's sister posted this picture that was taken in 1922 (so over a hundred years old!) of their dad--he's the toddler bottom left. The young boy beside him looks so much like Big A! I think this is the most number of people I've seen in a single photo... I wonder what the occasion was.


Friday, December 29, 2023

Five on this Friday

1) I'm starting 2024 with most of my medical appointments made and met. The last thing on the med agenda was today--Covid boosters and flu shots for me and Nu. Based on my previous reactions, I fully expect to be completely out of commission tomorrow. (And the day after too.)

2) I'm so ridiculous sometimes. As I did a pull-up, I idly wondered if I should stop because what if my arm got so muscled that the tech couldn't get the needle in. As if!! I have really unrealistic and exaggerated notions about my arm strength!

3) An acquaintance (someone I know mostly from meeting at conferences) lost their spouse to cancer on the evening of Dec 25th. They were a beautiful young couple doing good in the world (teaching, organizing, community building) with very young kids and I'm so saddened and sorry about this loss. Also, how terrible for their kids to have Christmas permanently linked to this. 

4) I usually don't plan meals in advance, but I've made sure I could feed the fam until at least Tuesday, because I do not want to go to the store until the new year is well and truly here.

5) Pic: Max and Huck were over being sent to their room with wet paws and decided to make "snow" by killing a throw pillow. It was a cute one too with a Keith Haring dog on it. I hope the sun comes out tomorrow. We're all going a little stir-crazy in this soggy weather.

on a break (Winter Break)

It was so rude of Big A to cheerily text me "one more year" on New Year's day and then explain that in 2025 Nu would be off to...