Monday, December 31, 2012

2012: A Wrap.

I wanted to send a note to everyone I knew detailing what we did this past year. I thought, that will be pretty quick. 2012 was a pretty good year but a pretty mellow one. No new kids were born. Nobody changed jobs. We took no huge trips to Italy or Costa Rica. We didn't move. But that vision of 2012 was the vision from the mind of someone with a hazy memory because when I sat down to think about what happened this year, I remembered some things did happen. Some good ones and some bad ones and, for someone who claims not to love to travel, a lot of travel. 

Also. Max turned 2. Which was kind of the defining point of the year. 

In January, our friends Misty and John and their five-year old Louisa rented a house in the desert. It was plenty cold in Flagstaff and we hadn't seen these friends in  four years so we headed down to see them. Zoe and Louisa ate 36 Cuties (those possibly Genetically Modified Oranges that are so easy to peel. Zoe repeats the TV commercial 's tagline daily, Cuties are for kids. Although sometimes she lets me eat them too). The kids built a castle with a moat from water diverted from the Grand Canyon. We ate delicious salad and this is where Zoe learned she loved toast but really only if Misty makes it. 

Also in January, Erik and I went to see Social Distortion 
and I had a super long essay about microorganisms published in The Normal School.  That was cool because it was very long. For me. 

February, there was still travel but this was by myself and so less fun. AWP was in Chicago this year, in February, if I didn't mention it was February in Chicago already. The highlights were seeing grad school friends. Like almost all of them. In the lobby of the Hilton where they always hold AWP in what always seems like February. The lowlights were February in Chicago but it wasn't that bad. Lunch at the Art Institute with Jenn Gibbs, Dave Hawkins and Cole Swensen made up for the cold. You can tell February was its normal February self for the lack of photos taken by either my phone, Erik's phone, or Erik's fancy camera. Poor February. However, it was brightened by the visiting of my sisters and my niece and nephews. This is a picture of the nephews. The nieces, once together, become wind-like and as equally hard to photograph.

March was hard. My friends' Rebecca and Todd's twin daughters were born too early in January. We wanted to see them. We didn't want to be in the way. We wanted to help. There was nothing we could do. Still, we went. First we stopped by Julie and Steve's house near Big Bear on the way to Los Angeles. Staying in the mountains of California makes you realize why people move to California. Also, my best friends live in California which is another reason to want to move to California. Also. The beach.

Erik and Todd took Bek and Todd's kids and Max and Zoe to the beach while I went with Rebecca to meet Andi, the new baby on a ventilator. That day, the doctors talked to Rebecca about taking Andi off the ventilator. It was a miracle and I feel so lucky to have been there. And, it made me feel like I wasn't entirely in the way. Bek and I went out to lunch at a French Bistro to celebrate while the kids were at the beach. Steak tartare and wine at noon. Another reason to like California. 

The real good news is though that Andi is doing so well. She's meeting her milestones and gaining weight and is almost one year old. One year! Progress!

Later that March, ,we met Julie and Steve and her kids to camp in the Muddy Mountains outside of Las Vegas. To see those folks already now three times, if you count AWP, in one year is a record. And it's only March!

In April, I thought I was dying from some heart condition but the ER doctors said it was just stress. I blame my job and the attempt to turn our MA into an MFA Indeed, once the MFA was approved, the heart pains disappeared. Also it snowed in April. But then, it was regular April and Zoe started Microsoccer  which made me write more microessays which you can find here and here. 

May was bad because my grandmother died. She had been doing totally well but complications due to diabetes became too complicated. She was 85. I miss her. We did get to go to Salt Lake for the funeral, for which I am grateful.

May was good though because my mom retired. She could visit more! I hosted the High Altitude Writing Institute, and since Max's day care had imploded, my mom came to the rescue. We also, that same week, ordered seven tons of landscaping rock, kind of a yellowish, pinkish, whiteish, brown rock, for the front yard. We only made my mom shovel 1 of the tons of rocks. 

May was also good because here, if you drive a bit, you can already be outdoor swimming. Our good friend Sam invited us and our good friend Beya and her kids to swim in Sedona. Thanks Sam!

Also in May, Ander and Megan came to visit. That was much fun as usual. They got us hooked on Words with Friends. We'll get some work done later. 

Sadly, I also got in a car accident in May. It was minor but a car accident is never a good thing, making May a difficult, if sometimes also great, month. 

In June,because we'd had so much fun with Misty and John and Louisa, we went to Portland for the longest, biggest trip we'd taken since Max was born. We went to the coast. 

We went to Pok Pok. We went to OMSI. We drove in the rain. I hadn't been to Portland for 5 years. I drove by my old house on Brooklyn Street. It looked the same. People's Food Co-op looked entirely different. We also visited our friend Van's new brewery, Gigantic Brewing. A microbrewery. If you're getting the theme here. There's Erik, standing next to one of Van's not so micro barrels.

I spent the most of July teaching an online class and working on long essays about Micropreemies and Microclimates and Microwine and freaking out about Max's preschool situation. The one preschool that I liked the best, required him to be potty-trained. The other one that I didn't like so much, didn't require him to be potty trained but they did require him to go five days a week. That seemed a bit much for a Max. It also seemed a bit much for a two year old to get potty trained, these days. But I bought a Cars themed potty and began to apply myself. Max, at first, applied himself not at all. But he did like to go walking in the woods with me and would sometimes there pee. Progress!

We also went camping with our friends Mara and Martin and Lis and Alex and their kids. We did not take pictures of that. For a glimpse of our camping spot, look at the picture of us swimming at Sam's. We camped up there on that ridge called Sycamore canyon. 

Zoe traveled more than the rest of us. She went to Montana for Erik's cousin's daughter's wedding. She danced until midnight. She went on a rafting trip. She got almost as many mosquito bites as she did three years before in Italy. Even so, it was hard to convince her to return. But, we were fortunate in that we could bribe her with a birthday party. Z turned seven. I turned 100.

We did get to go down to Phoenix in the middle of July and if you can't call that traveling, I don't know what you'd call it. Erik got us tickets to the Diamondbacks and his parents found an awesome hotel. We watched the Diamondbacks play baseball. Max learned to like coffee and Zoe learned how to be 17. 

Throughout the summer, Zoe went to Camp Invention, and two Discovery Camps--one Spanish and one Poderosa Explorers. She was signed up for another but we canceled because summer was already almost over. Zoe and Max took many swimming lessons. Zoe can swim across the pool. Max can get his face wet. Progress!

My friend Karen and I started a writing group where I finished (again!) Salmon of the Apocalypse AND made progress on the Micro project. Summer appears to be full of small bit of progress.

While Erik worked and worked at his job, making short films like What's Cooking which feature restaurants around town: Tinderbox, Brix, and Elote, to name a few and started remodeling Zoe's bedroom (scraping the popcorn off the ceilings, painting it green and purple, tearing out the carpet) the kids and I went up to Salt Lake where my sister Paige took them to bouncy town in practically Provo (so far from Salt Lake! And hadn't I just driven through?) and we swam every day and I ran up by the zoo and for the piece de la resistance? Lagoon. I love Lagoon but, unlike the kids, I need never go there again. 

We spent the rest of the trip being hosted by my sister who knows how to cook for 17 competing appetites. Paige and Val and I had another Iron Chef, this time, Iron Chef ocean. I made crab sandwiches and hamachi salad and cauliflower panna cotta with smoked trout. Val made whole roasted snapper, ikura three ways, paella and fun of an octopus. Paige made clam dip, mussels and shrimp bisque. We did leave a micro amount of fish in the ocean.

Zoe and Max got to hang out with their newest cousin, Blake, and who, is now one of their I-wish-we-lived-in-Salt-Lake cousins like Lily and Cam. 

Fortunately, in October, my mom will bring two of the three cousins to visit us, but we're not quite there yet. First, the kids must help their dad finish Zoe's bedroom 
while I spend the latter part of August figuring out the new data system for how-to-apply for tenure.
This is the first year you had to upload all your materials into Faculty 180, a software program designed to make you regret getting your PhD. Of course, I go up the year of the electronic upheaval. But between Angie, my friend and the department's associate chair and me, we figured it out. So far so good from the various and sundry thumb's-up-for-tenure-givers. 

September? What else happened? We went to pizza at Fratelli's and took this picture outside in the dry Rio de Flag riverbed.

This year, the river should have been running. It rained every day in the summer. From Zoe's birthday (see July) until the end up September. And not just the 1-3 in the afternoon monsoons but sometimes from 11 to 5. It was wet and good. A lot like our trip to Portland.

Although I told Zoe that she could do only one activity per week, she does four. Mondays are gymnastics, Tuesdays Spanish tutoring, Wednesday homework club and Thursday Ballet Folkoricio. Max made it to the potty-trained preschool! Good job Max. September is the month of figuring out the tenure schedule, the activity schedule and the remodeling schedule. 

People visited like crazy in late August and September. Emily, Erik's cousin and my good friend down for a too-short weekend (come back Em!) My father-in-law's mom and his sister Tippy and her kids Lynzi and Taylor came on Labor Day.  Then, Erik's aunt Joyce, his uncle Frank, and his uncle and aunt Harold and Becky came so they could go to the University of Utah game in Phoenix. It was hotter in September than in July. 

But the visiting that occurred in September paled in comparison to the visiting that occurred in October, mostly because the September visiting happened at my mother-in-law's house (did I mention they live 0.6 miles away?) and the October visiting happened at my house. Early in the month, Robin Hemley, my nonfiction mentor from the University of Utah came to visit. He did two things--inaugurate the new MFA and  to work on the film he and Erik had shot the summer of 2011 in Poland. Roast Beef in the Jews will be at a theater near you soon. Ish. Robin has to come back and visit some more (come back Robin!). 

Then, my mom brought my niece and nephew down for 5 days of I-wished-we-all-lived-in-Flagstaff. Then, my good friend Peter Covino, whose book The Right Place to Jump had just been released, came to visit my class and to give a reading at La Posada in Winslow, AZ. La Posada is the train station designed by Mary Colter and once had been a Harvey Hotel but then had collapsed into disrepair. Allen Affeldt, his wife, and Dan Lutzick restored. Julie Paegle brought her family to stay with us and read with me and Peter making this the 4th time I'd seen Julie this year. Erik's sister came to visit too. She stayed for Halloween. October visits made this year one of the best ever. 

Then, November,  I tried a modified NaNoWriMo writing 500 words a day. Tiny progress. For my birthday, Erik hung my wall of copper and

who, with his parents, took me to Napa
 where I stalked Geoffrey Zakarian 

and drank wine. 

And then we came home from Napa. I wrote letters of recommendation and apparently, mostly, ran out of words for the year. 

December seems like it's full of Christmas but really it's full of letters of recommendation writing. We did go to the light parade in downtown Flagstaff which is just like the Fourth of July parade, but with lights. 

We decorated a tree and sang some songs

and spent the day with Erik's family where we made this prime rib. 

W met my family in an undisclosed desert location, making the year a circle of time, where indeed just last January we were with Misty in a different undisclosed desert location and yet also, forward we went, making some progress. Max turns three in a week. He has moved on from Thomas the Train to Spiderman. He likes to say "bootie." We like him not to.  He's reading his letters and likes us to read the book "Go to Bed" which somehow makes him stay up later. Erik is polyurethaning new doors in the kids' rooms and sneaking in to work today to work on the Roast Beef movie. I am stressing about books forthcoming (Zone 3 Press! Continuum Press!) and books forthwaiting and books I wrote and books I want to write.  I will try to unstress this stress by actually writing something this week. Zoe is drawing a tiger for her cousin Lily with the art supplies she got for Christmas. She is mad that we're probably not going to go skiing today because we just realized that half of Arizona will probably be trying to make it up the mountain today and it costs $65 for an adult day pass. Snowshoeing does not sound to her like an acceptable substitute.  Perhaps she will instead read a book. She is pretty forgiving still, even for a seven (teen) year old. (update. Erik's colleague's husband is firefighter. He has offered to let them slide down the firepole. The day is saved. Progress!)

Tonight, our friends Brian and Beya and Liam and Ian are coming over. Erik's parents, if they're over this cold that we've all had for 10 days, will come too. I'll make spanikopita (because the spinach leaves promise it will be a good year)  chicken souvlaki, greek salad, potatoes. We'll stay up at least until ten. And then, we will go to the Pinecone drop downtown where it is zero degrees and full of Flagstaffians who will do anything for a well-lit pinecone. 

Happy New Year! I hope for all of us, next year is full of tiny steps forward. 

Monday, December 17, 2012

Shutting Down

It is hard to move. The end of the semester. The beginning of snow. I sit here at the kitchen table on my normal Monday morning mode without any urgency to move. After the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting is there any point in moving?
Oh, there is. Max is here. He can't find his hammer. He would like some juice. A smoothie. Some pistachios. I will get up and get him those things, look for his hammer, find another Curious George. Trey to stop crying although it doesn't concern him too much. The computer always makes his mama cry.
I should leave the computer. I should go sit and watch Curious George and drink a smoothie and stop looking at news that only makes me feel like no matter what I do, it will end in collapse. The mother. It's always the mother's fault. She's the one who kept the guns. She's the one who coddled him. Should I make Max find his own hammer? She's the one who didn't coddle him enough? Should I run out to the store to get a new hammer now that we can't find the yellow and orange one. And then there's the Huff Post article going around called "I am Adam Lanza's mother" written by a mother who feels threatened by the violence of her child. And then the internet finds her blog and tells her to read this particular book. They find her blog and say she's always threatening her kids with jail time. Either way, it doesn't diminish her call for better mental health care. Even if she's a terrible mother, there is still so little help for terrible mothers with sometimes terrible children. Who knows how terrible a child can be? Only a terrible mother would ask that question. Just love them. As if. Is love finding their hammer or making them find their own? Max is almost three. Maybe he should make his own smoothie. Maybe I should not let him watch George except George is the one who makes him want a smoothie, which is better for him than the Skittles I shouldn't have let him eat but did or the Spiderman I shouldn't have let him watch but did.
I told Zoe straight up about the shooting. Not to scare her. She should be scared but not to scare her. I let her listen to the voicemail from the superindendent of the school district so she knows how serious this is. And how common. It happens every day. Today, three new, separate shootings. The Sandy Hook massacre eclipsed the mall shooting at Clackamas Town Center last week. Zoe is now clued into the news the way we are clued into the news. It washes over like a Facebook scroll until you stop crying. Who looks at the pictures of those Kindergartners? People who cry in front of computers and do nothing to find the hammers of their children who may well need them to build something. Maybe they'll figure out to build something new. Because this is getting old. Older than the news. Older than guns. Older than mothers. Older than not knowing what to do.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Goodbye Forest

It's supposed to snow tonight at midnight. 6-12 inches above 6500 feet. Our house sits somewhere about 6900. The forest behind the house dips up and down but doesn't go below 6500. It's supposed to snow all week. The trails will be covered. Today was probably my last run out there.

Last year, it snowed so rarely that I could run every day. Not that I did run every day. But I could have. This year, when I have been running every day and found out I'm running farther than my bad Run Keeper let on, so I'm loving the running all the more, I don't know what I'm going to do. I hate running in the road. I hate the cars that come up behind me, threatening to splash me with the mud and the drivers thinking, she's still got a pretty big ass for a runner, and the people in their houses drinking coffee saying to themselves, didn't she run by yesterday? Or is it just that she's so slow, she's just heading home now? And, I have to pee when I run. The forest has a tree for me to hide behind. The neighbors do not like it when I pee on their lawn. And Cleo! She can't run on the asphalt or the sidewalk. She hates the leash. She will just drag behind. I'll go even more slowly. The run will become a battle of wills between me and the dog who feels the need to check out every pile of leaves, or, as it shall be come next week, every ounce of yellowed snow. (It wasn't me. I did not pee on the snow in the neighborhood.)

I don't mind cold. I love it cold. I'd rather be cold than hot. But I like snow less than I used to. It requires shoveling and not going anywhere and what feels like today, the severing of the link between me and my  best friend, the forest. Snow also makes me prone to melodrama.

I know we need the snow. Last year. Drought! Emergency! Apocalypse drought. But sometimes I think, a little climate change, won't kill me. In fact, it will make me stronger. Watch me run that 12 minute mile! My heart. My blood pressure. My running shoes. The neighbors with the yellow snow. They don't mind global warming.

Goodbye forest. See you in April. Maybe, if I'm ambitious, I'll dig my snowshoes out and come visit.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

The Blog Insecurity

It's like the Bourne Identity but darker. There are so many things you can't blog about: specific students, specific friends, specific colleagues, specific husbands. You can't blog about money because you'll seem too rich or too pretend poor or about running because you'll seem still too fat or too obviously thin. You can't blog about how your blog will appear because you'll be a) too self-conscious and b) too boring.

And it is with this, self-consciousness and boringness that I will recap the semester while simultaneously wrapping it all up with the blog insecurity and its attendant dilemmas.

As often happens around the 8th week of the semester, I'm about ready for the semester to be over. That is a feeling that comes about 8 weeks too soon. It makes me feel like a crappy teacher to have these feelings. My job is awesome and teaching writing is awesome and my students are generally awesome but by week 8, the workshop model and the harping on the physical, idiosyncratic (saying it wrong nearly every time), the concrete, the specific, the scene, the image, the example, the argument makes me feel like I sound like a puppet. A puppetmaster mastering a very repetitive puppet. Who can't say the word idiosyncratic.

You can feel, as my students feel my reluctance, the whole class losing cohesion. If we were a boat, we'd be taking on water. If we were a class, we'd start self-consciously still asking for more scene by saying things like, I know I always ask for more scene but I really think more scene would be good here. Here's an example of scene you do well. Do it again. Here.

Even with the concrete example of an imagistic, idiosyncratic scene, some students just don't get it. And then, as I did once in a class with Karen Brennan, they start using horrible words like "reverie." One student used the word "intimated" as a dialogue-tag.

I do this too when I get nervous. Use weird, formal language, usually inappropriately when I get self-conscious and insecure. When people say be more specific, have a point, draw us a picture, be more present, I shellac a wall of bad writing around me to protect me from my worst fear: that someone doesn't like me (my writing, but really, since I like to write and I like people to like my writing, it feels like not liking my writing is not liking me. Which it is, except when I'm writing badly because that is "not me" writing, that's some weird impostor that uses phrases like, "she sank into reverie." I don't like that person either but it's hard to get her out of my head when people are yelling about me about idiosyncranicity which I'm pretty sure is not a word.)

So goes the teaching where at once I feel their frustration, and, especially the first semester students, I feel their nervousness but I also feel like 8 more weeks of reverie might kill me.

Sometimes there are breakthroughs.
Sometimes the 8 weeks continue forth and I bite my tongue and let someone else say, "scene."

Of course, week 15 or so, I am panicking that they didn't learn enough and that they are losing all confidence and all they will do is intimate in my general direction so then I start with the platitudes in conferences about we love you and we just want you to succeed and we just want you to know what we mean by scene. Here, let me show you again. And I feel like I was too mean and I feel like I was too nice and I feel like I don't know if any of us need to put any more words into the world anyway.

And then I get notes like this: "Also, I would like to thank you for a wonderful class. I enjoyed it very much, and I wish I could have attended this last one. You were an awesome teacher (I shouldn't use the past tense here) and other poets were all amazingly talented. So in short, thanks."

So. OK. Not so bad. Maybe harping on the word 'scene' and 'image' didn't destroy my students' ears and all their confidence (confidence?) in the pedagogy of creative writing. And, you thought the other students were getting pretty good at their writing? You are a nicer person than I. It's OK to be nice.

And another student said, didn't intimate, actually said,, "this class has been so awesome. My other classes. They just don't put in the effort you do." Effort? I accidentally wrote "reverie" all over your paper but thank you for taking it with the full force of kindness behind it.

And so, there it is. the students are more self-conscious than I. And I should learn as they should learn and maybe we both have learned that if you get all worried about your writing that worry will come out in your writing in the form of reverie and in your teaching in the form of intimation and instead of writing anything interesting about the world or the words or the people or the pine needles on the ground that are itching to get inside your shoe and ruin your day, you will write a bunch of crappy, defensive bullshit that uses words like insecurity and self-conscious and "blog" and "publish."

So on days when I'm feeling all crappy with rejection and wonder about the way my students keep writing about how they are sad instead of giving me a scene about pine needles, instead of writing about the crappiness, I shall write about pine needles on the ground trying to get into my shoe or food because food is always present and immediate and useful and sometimes people will say,  yes! you can put hollandaise on lettuce and call it a salad. And there is a scene, right there. With egg yolk and butter all over the computer keyboard. A sticky "e" indeed.

Monday, November 26, 2012

The Failings of November

"I want juuuuuuiiiiiiccccce," says (says?) Max.
"Max. Just ask for juice. Juice only has one syllable. I will get you some juice."
Juice procured. Apple. Purple sippy.
"I want orrrrannnnge juuiiicce."
New juice procured. Orange. Orange sippy."
"I want orange juiccce in purple sippppppppppy." Tear. Big ones. Very loud tears. Very loud request. Very loud picking up of Max and putting him on the bed in his room. Very big cry for daddy. Who will wonder at him why he needs orange juice in his purple sippy.
We don't often understand the ways of the Max. He is loud. We are confused. Many tears shed by many people.

In the forest, running with Zoe.
"But my leg itches."
"Do we have to stop every five feet?"
"But it REALLY itches."
"Isn't that what running is for. To ignore the itching? I thought you said you wanted to go running. You used to go running with me when you were 6. Now that you're 7, you don't even like to run."
Zoe just stares at me, like my head popped off, came back and nestled somewhere on my shoulders but she couldn't be convinced it wouldn't just pop off again.
"Fine. I'll run."
She ran all the way home. Tears? Many. Shed by whom? Shed by all.

Dear Glossy Magazine,
I have no idea how to submit to glossy magazines. I believe I need an agent. Since I am currently without an agent, I am emailing you randomly. I imagine I will have great success with this plan. This is similar to people posting privacy notices on Facebook. Facebook is not going to care about your privacy notice. You don't get the system. You don't get the system at all.

In the car with Erik after picking the kids up from their 1 hour playdate.
"Now what are we going to do?" Erik asked.
"I thought you wanted to go downtown,"
"I just don't know what we'll do there."
"We can look at stores. Preshop."
"All the stores will be closed."
"I want sushi," Zoe says from the backseat. Max says he wants juice.
"Why don't you and Zoe go downtown. We'll go home."
Zoe and I head downtown, buy my friend some socks for her birthday, a bike bell for Zoe. Erik calls, "Max wants to talk to you."
"Tell him I will bring him some juice."

Dear Magazine that has had my essays for a year,
Happy Thanksgiving!
I don't know how to respond? I'm sorry to keep you waiting.
My response:
It's fine! I'm just glad to have you for a reader! Thank you so much!

To have you for a reader? There's no reading going on anywhere around here.

Movies watched: Spiderman, Horse Whisperer, Collateral (half), Brave, Spiderman. All night long, Max talks out his dreams, "Spiderman has no mouth. He has to eat his cereal before he puts his costume. I want a costume. I'll keep it in my backpack for when the lizard comes. I don't like big lizards." Parenting fail #3!

Gravy: Mediocre. Pumpkin pie: best ever. Why? Used puree from a can instead of made my own. Bites of dinner eaten on Thanksgiving? 5. Stomach flus: 3. Runny noses: 2. Hours of sleep: 2, 6, 8, 11, 11, 7. Leftovers consumed: most of them. Desire to make dinner tonight? 0. Weekends where expectations were too high? All of them.

Ever since the hard freeze that turned the most beautiful yellow fall I'd ever seen in Flagstaff brown, I've been in a funk. Part of it is the university where do-more-with-less has become the motto and today we are all to be asked to join in the Pearson buy out of our name. One of my colleagues at work suffered a stroke; another one's husband was hit by a car while riding his bike and was killed. The drought is back in force after the wettest monsoon. Flagstaff is seeming pretty trappy. The four day weekend was spent mostly at home. Also trappy. 

Highlight of the weekend: The drive to lakes that we didn't know existed. Would like to go back to that Friday where everyone was mostly healthy, no one wanted that much juice and I didn't have to make dinner and Max had not yet known the dangers and attractions of the man dressed in a unitard with a mask with no mouth.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Not sleeping

Last night, around 11:30, Zoe started throwing up. I would like to question the universe, why cannot the children throw up in the day time? Is there something more enterprising about a stomach virus that requires the peaceful sleep of the whole household to truly activate? Does the virus prefer to be expelled upon the bed, onto the floor, into a drawer?
But there is no such thing as a one-time throwing up that begins at 11:30. So, I tried to go back to sleep but I knew I wouldn't which is the key to not going back to sleep. It was easier to get up at 12:30 and 1:30 and 3:00 then. But I was mad at myself that I couldn't make myself go to sleep. I tried to think of movies, like Contagion, but that just made me nervous of all flu. I tried to think of songs to sing but I could only think of "the secret to a long life is knowing when it's time to go." I got up to spray Lysol around the house a few times.
No matter why I have insomnia, I always start itching around 2:00 a.m. Why itch? What does skin have to do with sleep? Perhaps I want out of my body but what I really want is out of my head and there are no fingernails sharp enough for that.

Monday, November 19, 2012


If I were to go into all the details then this post would be as long as the last one and the longest blog post in the world is not the best blog post in the world.

For my birthday, Erik and his parents took me on a trip to Napa. Other people came too--El's sister Joyce and her two daughters (and my friends) Emily and Kathy, and Rick's sister Tippy and her daughter Lynzi, who area also my friends. We stayed in a great house in Napa. It was in a subdivision but you wouldn't know that from the backyard. Vines as far as you could go. We started the trip Friday night at the Robert Biale Vineyard with 6 delicious tastes of wine (we were only supposed to get 5, but we're charming. And people bought some bottles!) Then, we went to Dean & Deluca where more wine was bought. We also put dinner together from an array of cheeses and salads and roasted beets and the meats I bought: mortadella, sausicon de vic, pate champage, mousse pate, some salami similar to sopresseta, and prosciutto. We had grapes, bread, cheese at the dining room table and had one more glass of wine while lounging around the living room. Rick picked the house and it was perfect. A park across the street made it easy to run even if it was so pouring down rain Saturday morning my shoes still aren't dry today. Then we were off to Cakebread were Nancy (at 10:00 a.m.) gave us a tour and some more wine and told us how the Cakebreads bought the first 18 acres there for $2500. The barrels they house the wine in, once, cost $800-$1200 each. $2500 went further in 1969. Then, off again! This time to Inglenook/Coppola/Rubicon (it keeps changing hands). We had 4 delicious sips here and Erik bought about bottle of Inglenook 4 lot to go with the bottle of 1985 Inglenook Larry Chatacombe gave me when we worked at the Oregon Winegrowers Association together in the 1990's. It is sometimes only in retrospect that people have been so generous to you for so long. Speaking of generosity, Tippy bought the tasting at Rubicon/Inglenook/Coppola for my birthday. It is so great to be loved by Californians who love great wine.

In the parking lot, before the tasting, we ate the rest of the chaucuterie and cheese. Picnicking appears to be illegal in Napa wineries. We called it tailgating and ate from the back of the car. We were not arrested.
We had hours! (an hour) to kill before our next tasting at Opus. We went to Turnbull Cellars whose wine wasn't that great but their showing of original Ansel Adams photographs was. Then to Opus which was annoying because for $35 you got half a glass of wine but you did get to see what it looks like (and imagine what it costs) to grow grass up the slopes of your building.

Then, to dinner at the Presse! I do not get many oysters in Flagstaff. Here, I got oysters, lobster and shrimp on the cold seafood platter I shared with Erik. We also shared a Wagyu Flat Iron steak which was delicious but maybe not quite as good as the one from our local ranch where we get most of our meat--Flying M. So, it's a trade-off. Oysters for steak.

But then we were all exhausted, as if somehow drinking tiny sips of wine all day was hard work. We sat and stared at a football game for 10 minutes and then went to bed.
Sadly, the other folks had more tastings on Sunday but Erik and I thought we shouldn't make the kids or the babysitter stay together for three nights so we packed up in the morning, drove through the town of Napa, and made our 8 hour trip home.

But this is also what I'm grateful for. Ali, the world's best babysitter/housesitter/dog sitter. We got home. The house was clean. The kids had eaten and she had put them in their pajamas, teeth brushed. The dishwasher was empty. The dog was fed. The sheets Ali had slept on she had washed. Zoe's lunch was made. It was like coming home not from a vacation but to another vacation, one where the kids were peaceful and happy and bathed. It was a dream to come home to and reminded me how rare it is to truly get a full-on break and she made it so the vacation was the truest vacation. I am so grateful to her and to Tippy and Rick who put the whole trip together and Erik who bought the plane tickets and the rental car and drove through crazy Oakland traffice on Friday  and El who gave me for my birthday the outfits for me to wear on the winetasting.

It's so impossible to say how grateful you are over and over to people, filling their cups with these words of gratitude because the cup gets full and they get it and one thank you is enough but they have no idea how deep in the marrow of my bones where I mix my metaphors and make my tea of gratitude how grateful I am to everyone who seems to give me so much for no good reason.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Sometimes Saturdays

Can a day that begins with Play-doh ever end up not a total waste? Max is a creature of routine which means that he wakes up, pees in his Cars TM potty, eats breakfast and either goes to school or watches Curious George first thing in the morning. Yesterday there was no George. Knight and Day, I think was the show Zoe chose. Zoe, who also loves Curious George, has seen them all and now has moved on to Tom Cruise. Same idea, better hair cut (George). Breakfast came after movie. Then Zoe and Max had some run-around the house plan that seemed good at the time until I looked at the house and saw that all the stretchy bands from Zoe's oven-holder-making kit had been strewn all over the house. I think the name of this version of run around the house was called see-if-we-can-get-mom-to-freak-out-before 8:15. By 8:15, I was just staring at them like they had been recently released from the zoo. Curious creatures. Should have watched George.

The Play-Doh was the cheap kind. It's too soft. Zoe covered a whole kitchen knife with it and said, "I don't think we should eat with this knife for awhile." It is still soaking in the sink, 24 hours later. Max wanted the yellow Play-doh so I got Zoe the orange Play-Doh which then Max wanted orange. Zoe the diplomat gave him some orange but then she took some yellow in exchange which led to actually tears and accusations that Zoe "is so mean."

Max found some old pink and green mixed up Play-doh and made cookies for everyone in the kid's kitchen which were delicious but are still in the kids' oven, probably burned now, because Zoe moved on to copying facts about endangered animals out of the World Wildlife Fun catalog. "Zoe not play with me." Maybe you shouldn't have thrown a fit about the yellow, kid.

Erik didn't sleep well because of some pinched-nerve thing. He slept in so I'd been single-teaming. By 9:15, I was ready for it to be Monday but then I realized Monday is Veterans Day and the kids will be out of school which is why had no patience/they knew I'd be acclimated to their Play-doh ways by then.

At 10:30, I called to see if the woman who were were planning to donate one of our beds to would be there. She said she would be there until about 11:30. I said we'd be there by 11:00. Now we were on speed track but kids love a race. We all do! I think if we hustle, we can get it over to her in time. Erik is thrilled to get one mattress out of the garage!. Max, who routinely would be dressed by now, was not, which to his mind meant he got to stay in his jammies all day and therefore, there would be no changing of the clothes. Fortunately, I found a t-shirt with a tractor on it that had once been his best friend Ian's so it only took 45 minutes to get him dressed. Erik took the kids to his moms and exchanged them for some straps to hold the mattress down on top of Erik's car.

On the drive over, the straps made a chain-saw like noise against the plastic-wrapped mattresses. Erik pulled over to check the straps as he does every time we have anything strapped to the car. I argued that straps can only sound like saws, not actually effect any sawing, but we drive 20 miles an hour anyway. Somehow, we made it there by 10:59 on the dot which made me feel entirely productive but then we go back to get the kids who were eating potatoes with their grandparents and then collected all the blankets and pillows in her house in an effort to make grandma's house match mine in terms of cloth-products on the floor, which made it feel entirely unproductive. We had to bribe them to come with us. Thankfully, we still have Halloween Candy.

As we drove to our house, I reminded Erik we needed dog food. And, if we were going to to the pet food store, we may as well go to Home Depot to look for some hooks to hang the copper pots I spent last year collecting from thrift stores. Erik just looked at me and said, that project is never going to happen. But I convinced him we might as well look at hooks.

Max did not like this plan. We said we were going home. If a man likes a routine, then he definitely likes to know where he's going and to in fact go there instead of on some wild-hook chase.
And then we reminded him about the tiny carts at the pet food store. He agreed to go. For the tiny cars.
At the pet food store, Zoe and Max played airplanes with their carts, running into very few dogs or humans. We got the dog food. Looked at the turtles and the ferrets and then tried to go. Max cried. "Dog food store. Dog food store."
Erik said, do you think we should try this with Max at the Home Depot.
Fortunately, Home Depot has gigantic cars (not TM) carts that he can pretend to drive. Zoe likes these too and so into the cold cart they went.

We looked for hooks in the coat hook aisle. We looked in the shelving aisle. We looked in the plumbing aisle because it's not a trip to Home Depot if you don't go to Home Depot looking down every aisle for a one-inch thingy mabobber you'd rather not describe to one of the orange-apron wearing Home Depot workers. Zoe and Max got out of the cold Car cart and ran around the store, continuing to play airplanes without the tiny carts, making do with the wide aisles full of humans and boxes to steer around.

We picked three different hooks to try out and bought $20 worth of batteries.

At home, I made lunch for me and Erik since Zoe and Max had already eaten potatoes. El and Rick said they would come and pick me and Zoe up for the Navajo rug auction at 2:00. I said I couldn't go. The house was a mess. I hadn't written my NaNoWriMo words. It was snowing out. But El said  that I should come which made me think I might as well. Erik would stay home with Max and make dinner. We could consider hooks at a later date. Zoe was in the middle of washing all the copper with Bar-Keepers-Friend because although she doesn't mind cloth-products strewn about the floor, she cannot abide green-going copper. She wanted to finish this and go to the auction. OK.

Going with Erik's mom to a Navajo Rug auction is awesome because you get to see 100's of Navajo rugs, the auctioneer knows most of the weavers and tells stories about them, and Erik's mom actually bids on rugs. There was one Chief's Blanket from 1890 that one of the Navajo women helping run the show put around her shoulders. If I had $6200 right then, I would have bought it. But I did not have $6200. Erik texted me in the middle of the auction. Could I stop and transfer money from savings? We were overdrafting in our checking account. I made Zoe sit on her hands so she wouldn't accidentally bid until she got bored/her hands fell asleep and she laid down on her grandpa's lap. I gave her my phone so she could play MindSnacks Spanish game.

One of the weavers had come to the auction. She was in nursing school. She brought her toddler-head who cried too and tried to bite his mom which made me miss Max a little, who was, thank god, asleep. She tried to sell three rugs and no one bid on any of them. The auctioneer said, this one rug will pay a semester of her tuition but the buyers of rugs aren't there for altruism. In fact, it seems to make them shy when the weaver is actually there. No one was bidding on anything over $1000, anyway. Some of these rugs go for ten times that outside of Flagstaff but Flagstaff is the first stop since it is the biggest town near the reservation. I love the idea that these women weave rugs, sheer the sheep, card the wool themselves, and sell these for enough money to pay tuition. Well, sometimes.

When we got home Erik was making a chuck roast for shredded beef. Someone had to go to the bank to transfer money. The online transfer system was down and three transactions were pending. I volunteered  He was cooking. I needed butter (we had only a tablespoon of butter in the house. I don't think I've ever let it get so low). I said I'd get 12 of the one hook he'd chosen at Home Depot.

A second trip to Home Depot is the marker of many a wasted Saturday.

It was 5:00 before I got home. I hadn't written my 500 words. I went into the Living Room to write them. Zoe and Max followed. Max wanted to watch Curious George on the old, nearly broken computer, having gone cold-turkey that morning. Zoe wanted to play the iPad like a piano. The typing wasn't going so well but eventually I made it to 500 words. I also sent out a poem a student had turned in late to the whole class. Sadly, I sent it to the wrong class. I sent it to next semester's students. My creative nonfiction course. Twice. With the word "vagina" in it. Anti progress. I gave up computing went to help Erik finish tacos. They were delicious. Usually, the day is mostly over, but not this Saturday. Erik wanted me to come with him to watch football at his parents house which Zoe and I didn't want to but Max did and Zoe and I couldn't find a movie to watch, so we all went.

We found out the game wasn't going to be on until 8:30 so instead we watched Cinderella which I really can't like because it is very full of small mice-voice. A precursor to Alvin and the Chipmunks. But Max thinks it's hilarious when the cat scoots the necklace of beads around with his butt, singing "Butt butt cat butt" as the mice try to keep it together.

We read 5 books to Max when we get home to compensate for the screen time. Zoe is almost finished with Little House on the Prairie. I would like to do some Little House on the Prairie research. For instance, on just a rumor, Pa picks up to move, leaving behind the cabin he'd just built with home-made nails and the newly planted sweet potatoes, that the soldiers were going to kick him out of Indian Territory. He should have stuck around to hear how that all turned out. Indian Territory in Missouri didn't last long. A whole year gone to waste. The chapter ends, "What's a year Caroline? We have all the time in the world." And the rest of the west, eventually. A good lesson though, for white people. Pa doesn't complain about time seemingly wasted.

After I sang songs to the kids, I had only a movie called Tower Heist to keep me out of bed so I went upstairs to finish the book "State of Wonder" which made me cry because the kid in the book suffers and because this is exactly like my novel about the malaria cure and the fertility question and the jungle. Two thoughts: 1) I do not think Ann Patchett stole my idea. 2) If she did, she did it better and faster. I think I write too much. Which might be the point of this post.

Sometimes Erik and I sleep upstairs. Sometimes I sleep upstairs and Erik sleeps downstairs. Sometimes we both sleep downstairs. Last night, I went to sleep upstairs but it was so cold I came downstairs. Except then, in the middle of the night, it was so hot. The heat kept going on every five minutes. It was supposed to be 12 degrees last night but that was a lot of furnace. I woke up every time it went on. My legs itched from the dry air. I got up to put lotion on my legs and vaseline on my lips. Finally, I turned the heat down. Usually, when I go to bed, I turn it to 62 degrees. When I woke up this morning, the temperature was set at 67, which means I'd turned it down from 69! 69 degrees. The waste of the planet on top of a mostly unproductive day.
A wasted day is not a horrible thing. It is,  I think, what you're supposed to do with Saturdays. But today, I'm finishing laundry and mopping the floors and writing the world's longest blog post as well as my 500 words before I go anywhere because even if the house is a mess later and the clothes are strewn all over the floor and the words are written into the void, at least it will feel like a Sunday because the wildness of Saturday is sometimes too much for me.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012


To go with the Microessays published today:

They were both orange—the pumpkin and the habanero—so that seemed an obvious choice to put together for a delicious snack. Although seeds, once denuded of their sticky entrails were not as orange as the flesh and the habanero, now dried, had turned more green and brown than orange, somewhat like November. Still, both seed and powder, signaled all the orange that is fall, all the orange that is harvest. Fall is hidden potential, sewing its future in the promise of spring. It takes half a year for April’s green sprout to earn their October colors. A tiny seed weighing half a gram can, in a year from now, gather twelve pounds of body, converting fruiting air into replicating matter, like a pregnancy gathering a new person. All these tiny things get so big. A single habanero registers 200,000 to 300,000 Scoville units. Scoville units are designed to give you a sense of how hot a pepper will taste. For example, bell peppers register zero on the Scoville scale. Poblanos, 1,000-2,500. Capsaicin is the active component in peppers. Police use pure capsaicin, in the 16 million Scoville unit range. Capsaicin, contrary to popular belief, cannot actually harm you. It doesn’t cause ulcers although if you’re at the wrong-end of a can of pepper say, I imagine “harm” is in the eye of the beholder. Capsaicin actually provides several health benefits. Endorphins are released, which would explain why I kept eating the pumpkin seeds, salted with habanero peppers, roasted at 450, even though they kept burning my mouth. Also, capsaicin blocks neurons transmitting pain, forcing the nerves to act like they’re getting burned, overwhelming them, stopping them from sending painful data. Thus, capsaicin is used for all kinds of neurologic diseases and also for people who keep eating the habanero-covered seeds to stop thinking about their sinus infection and the fact they only slept 4 hours the night before and instead to keep eating the seeds even though the burning. Capsaicin is renowned for its help with arthritis which is why, after I took my contacts out with the same fingers that had spread the habaneros on the seeds and had scraped the seeds from the cookie sheet into the bow and lifted the seeds to the mouth, I rubbed my hands with lotion and my legs with lotion and my back and my cheeks with more and more lotion to try to rub the habanero into my body instead of into my eyes even though I don’t now have arthritis, I can hope for the promise of its preventative. As my eyes were streaming vast oceans of habanero-spiced tears, I washed my hands and lotioned my hands and rubbed and scrubbed my hands to put the habanero someplace else because the tiny difference between harm and hurt is possibly, to the eye, a semantic one, similar, say, to the semantic difference between 70 degrees on an October day and 70 degrees on an April one. 70 degrees, as you fall into winter, is something you want to hold on to, but you know you shouldn’t. You should put your gloves on and keep your eyes closed and try to forget all about orange. 

Monday, October 29, 2012

Bliss, plus payback

In the last week, I've seen some of my favorite people. My mom, her boyfriend, my niece and nephew, my good friend Peter, his boyfriend, Tim (whom I just met is already on my favorite list) and my great friend Julie, her great husband and kids. My sister-in-law too! My mom and co. left on Monday morning. I cleaned like a crazy woman on Monday. Tuesday, Peter and I went to lunch while Tim hiked Mt. Humphreys. Then, Peter came to my intro to poetry workshop and thrilled the students with his stories attending his poems and his gravelly voice. Tim and Peter came for an acceptable steelhead trout, quinoa, swiss chard dinner. Wednesday pizza and Zoe's Puente de Hozho celebration. Thursday, enchiladas at Rick and El's. Friday, Julie and family arrived in time for chile rellenos and chicken tacos. The feeding of the 12,000. Or. 12. That night, Julie picked up a draft of Salmon, the food/baby memoir type thing I've been writing for 100 years,  In the morning, she told me she'd stayed up late reading the whole thing. Who reads a whole thing? Who says such nice and supportive things? Does she even need to? Staying up to read a book is the sweetest gift of all.
Julie and Peter came for a reading we put together at La Posada. La Posada is on old train station, designed by Mary Colter, that was completely abandoned. Allan Alfeldt restored it and wants to make it an artist destination. Peter, Julie and I did a good job at making it happen. The seats were full--mostly with  my amazing students from NAUwho now also number among my favorite people, and our families, who are still my favorite people, but still, we filled the seats. Julie and Peter read beautifully and Julie read a poem dedicated to me and even about me which I think might be, nacrcissitically, the height of all poetry. I loved that poem. I cried. And then I had to stand up to read with tears in my eyes. My face was red but I didn't care. I read OK anyway. I think everyone reads well  in a perfectly restored ballroom with a fire burning in the fireplace and the lighting looking like Tiffany himself designed it.  Next to the ballroom is the hotel restaurant, The Turquoise Room. I think it's a bit overrated but there's adventurous things on the menu like elk and bison and corn creme brulee. 12 of us (again!) sat together and talked about poetry (I think Julie's son and Zoe even wrote some poetry to each other) and Frankenstorms and dreams of getting together again and again. On Sunday, Julie and co. and Erik and co. and I went for a walk in the forest. The whole forest was yellow and I felt as much at peace as I've felt in a very, very long time. So many people I love in such a short amount of time.

But I knew I would pay for it today. I wrote a list last night before I went to bed so I wouldn't wake up in an anxious panic in the middle of the night.
Email Jeff, Lis, Deveroux,
Thank yous for La Posada.
Kelli's recommendation
Defunct needs bio
751 nees proofs
Start proofing Bending Genre
Grocery store
Alissa Thesis
I'm making progress but I have to take my computer to Zoe's gymnastics class to get even toward the dream of finishing. Thankfully, my favorite people are taking some of my other favorite people out to dinner at my favorite restaurant to celebrate my favorite daughter's awesome report card. It's worth finishing the list so I can get back to my forest-walking, yellow churning, people-loving peace state.