Thursday, July 31, 2014


1. Last night was one of those perfect summer nights. It was warm out but the bats seem to keep the mosquitoes away. Max and I watched them fly in front of the streetlight from the upstairs deck. The sun was going down. A big cloud that looked like one of the New York Public Library lions sat on top of the San Francisco Peaks. It just sat there. As the sun set, you could see the storm happening in this localized cloud. The whole face of the lion lit up. Then the mane. The head turned into a train, Max said. The lightning struck from behind, outlining the engine. The bats zipped. The big dipper came out. But the storm just stayed in one place, turning on itself, lightning up the sky for two hours. In between, we looked up pictures of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles' namesakes. Paintings by Raphael in the foreground, an electrical battle in the back. Max kept reminding me to call Raphael, Raphy. Toward the end, after Max and I pulled pillows and a blanket to lie on the deck's floor, Zoe came out and said, the lightning's so bright, it looks like the sun is coming up. It was very big lightning.

2.   I'm pretty committed to my exercise 30 minutes-a-day plan, mostly to compensate for my butter and wine plan so I planned to ride my bike today instead of run because I really think I might hate running. Today, I heard the thunder, coming from the south. I thought, I can beat the storm. Or maybe, like last night, the storm will stay over there. I heard another clap of thunder. Couldn't find my socks. Another clap. Couldn't find my shoes. I thought, this is a bad idea, but then I found my shoes so I had to go. I got on my bike. The rain started. Just a few drops. Thought I should hurry. So I hurried. By the time I got to Butler, the rain was coming down like tropical rainstorm rain, the kind that where a tree can grow an inch an hour. By the time I got to the bottom of Butler's big hill, huge puddles were in the road. Cars drove past me making that car-splashing noise I associate with New Jersey and cop shows. I sensed the drivers looking at me. I laughed at how ridiculous this was. I was as wet as you can get. Shoes wet. Socks wet. Bra wet. I'm still sopping wet as I type but it was the most fun ride of the year.

3. I'm making sour pickles which are not like the pickles my mom used to make. When I was young, my mom, grandma and great-grandma put up cherries, peaches, apricots, pears, and pickles. The pickles were, I think, my dad's mom's recipe. Dill, garlic, a little vinegar, salt--but they were processed, like all the other fruits, in a boiling water bath. These pickles are different. No boiling. No vinegar (or, rather, the you are essentially making the vinegar inside the cucumber. Just as old grapes turns to vinegar after they pass through the wine stage, the fermentation of the fruit turns the sweet into vinegar-sour). Just 3 tablespoons of salt to each quart of water. The brine helps catalyze the natural lactic acid in the cucumbers, making them ferment.  Dill (which I cannot find the blooming heads of in this town, so dill weed), pickling spice (my addition to the recipe), pinch of whole peppercorn, a whole head of garlic, a crock, a plate and a heavy item to keep the cukes submerged is all you have to do. Also, add some oak leaves for tannins to keep the pickles from turning soggy. Taste as you go, says the Sandor Katz. 
Perfect last 17 hours.

May these last perfect days be as perfect as these cucumbers.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014


1. Topics of research today included phantom limb mirror therapy, marguerite daisies, recipes for sour pickles (add oak leaves or other tannins to insure firm pickles!), insure and ensure (still don't know which),  inviolate (spelling check, make sure it meant what I thought it meant), number of teeth has a bear, rain forecast (bad monsoon season. Or at least, not like last year), Paul Keim and anthrax, the North Rim (still not quite over the bad news of yesterday. Almost.), Richard Power's Orfeo, Maggie Nelson's Jane, A Public Space, fleece from Chile and fleece from Spain, the benefits of the second person point of view. Here are some nice words from Richard Power's book:
I am writing to say that I have dug in deeply to the new Richard Powers novel and although I know nothing about music and I find the book incredibly boring, I love it. Page 121-122. "Sounds filled the room, none of them real: Rain spattering a tenement roof. I girl on a wobbly swing set. The rustle of cotton dresses in a dance hall in wartime. The wind over a Nebraska wheat field. A stone dropped down a well with a forgotten wish tied to it. Crickets in a November cupboard." Oh lists. I love you.

2. Summer is a big emptying out. A cleansing. An opening and a tumbling through space. I don't see so many people. Or rather, I do, but never the same people more than once. I see different people every week, which is the opposite of school year where I see the same people every other day.  We've had great visitors. Bek and Todd and their three amazing kids came. Erik's sister will be here soon. We saw my sisters and mom on Memorial Day. I workshopped with friends from school. I had one big barbecue. We went to a barbecue at a friend's house last week, one a couple of weeks before that. But this year seems quieter than last. The neighborhood kids aren't over every day. We've seen them some but we've been gone and they've been gone. Erik's parents have been out of town much of the summer. Downtown seems far away. Campus seems far away. This is good. Like a writing retreat but also very quiet. So quiet that when the neighbor's company let the car idle in the driveway for a half an hour, I thought my head would explode, not only from the fact that oh-my-god people from Phoenix, do you really not believe in global warming, but also, Jesus, I'm trying to type out here. Thirty minutes. I almost died. But maybe I'm intolerant. Maybe I am not fit for human consumption. There is something to be said for being in human company daily. One gets very comfortable in one's own bubble. And self-conscious. And very numbery in their blog posts. I get to see my workshop group tomorrow!

3. Camps. Zoe has been to soccer camp, climbing camp, Lowell observatory camp, Arizona Adventure camp, Flagstaff Athletic Club Camp and All About Art camp. Max had climbing camp, Dig into the Past camp, Dino camp and bug camp. It's too many camps. Some of them were half day camps but by the time I got home, I had to turn around and pick them up. The best, I think, would be two-day-a-week camps but consistent all summer so we could develop a routine. It's kind of all or nothing with our current plan which means I feel all panicky about getting work done when they're gone and all Must-Make-Every-Moment-Count-Because-It's-Summer when they're home. I like the days they are home but I also like that now Max knows what a thorax is and Zoe can hula-hoop like a mad woman.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014


1. Today, I will just begin with the ouchingest complaint. Somehow, a nice arts organization invited me to be part of their next art exhibit. I didn't even have to apply. I just got the email in my inbox. Resident-writer-type thing. But there are workshops, some of which are all day and all night, where attendance is required and I have guests in town that week who will be staying at my house, possibly in tents. For the grant, I and the other grantees would have gone to the North Rim. I would have learned more about climate effects on fire. I would have hung out with artists and foresters. There was an honorarium attached. It's part of my sabbatical project. Oh oh oh. Ouch. I cried for five minutes and then I felt like hell for another two hour. Three hours later, I am patting my self on the back for being resigned and recognizing that being mature is making choices and handling disappointment with grace. And then I threw my shoe on the floor.

2. Max is super sick. He has a fever that spikes. I give him Tylenol. It goes down. The fever spikes. I give him Ibuprofen. Rinse. Repeat all day. He also got like 90 bug bites yesterday. Apparently mosquitoes like hot babies. This is also slightly sad because I had some plans and some plans to make but I would rather hold hot Max and give him juice, so the plans will have to wait maturely.

3. The bathroom project continues. The tile guy was here all day Thursday, all day Monday, and all day today. He's not done and the rest of the tile hasn't been delivered yet. The tile looks good but I'm a little concerned that the bathroom area requires more tile than the Taj Majal which might make this project as expensive as building the Taj Majal and now that I didn't get my surprise honorarium that I didn't even plan for, I will have to sell my house and live on the North Rim in my tent that requires no tile.

Monday, July 28, 2014


Back to work, summer style, doesn't actually feel like work when work-work looms. Did I mention I have to go back into the office tomorrow? Just for a minute of a meeting but it does make whatever work I did at home today feel more like summer-work than work-work which just reminds me 12 is a number that I should behold. 

1. Making sense is exhausting. Again, revising is so not pleasant. It's like work-work instead of summer work. Writing first drafts is summer work. Revising is like making sure your annual report gets turned in on time. I knew I had trouble waiting for me to fix. I had A Winter's Tale trouble. "Exit, pursued by a bear," literally. In the YA novel, there's a bear. He just shows up. Why? I don't remember. Does everything have to have meaning? I think it was for plot but I'm afraid I already have too much plot. What to do with the bear? I let him stay but I had to do a lot of surround story and back story and fore story to make it worth it. The bear himself was interesting. "She could almost make out his ears, which, in the zoo, seemed small and cute but here seemed as menacing as his snout. All his orifices were focused on Marie." But, really, are ears that interesting? 

2. Then I had to make sense of this essay inside the book that is a book pretending NOT to be a series of essays because every agent in the world says, "Essay collections are very difficult to sell." The essay is about cautionary tales and just IS a series of cautionary tales as told to Max and Zoe and perhaps it lacks the ears of the bear story. I mean, it's a bit long-winded. 5000 words? On cautionary tales? I should probably cut it.  And there were typos. And there were gun stories, sex stories and fire stories that really don't relate nearly as much as ears do to bears and bears were already acting very "exit, pursued by." So maybe I fixed nothing today. Or maybe it's all good. Who knows? It's revision! A crap shoot of system that by tomorrow will need to be shot fully with more crap.

3. Speaking of bears, the hummingbirds, of which there were 1000 the other day, have somehow moved on. I'm not sure if it's our food, although we just gave them part 2 of what they drank down in 4 hours the night before. Maybe our neighbor, who has returned from her travels, has refilled her many feeders and they have all flocked to her (What's a group of hummingbirds? A charm of hummingbirds. A troubling of hummingbirds. A hover of hummingbirds. Oh my. All the emotions of the day at once). Maybe the Rufous hummingbird scared all the other ones away and he drinks tiny sips surreptitiously at night. Maybe they got sick of me typing about them. Maybe the bear scared them off. 

Sunday, July 27, 2014


There was much driving. We might have made it to Los Angeles had we driven straight through all day but instead, there was slow driving, driving by children, driving on gravel roads, driving on dirt roads, roads called 260, on roads called 87, roads through places called Pine and Strawberry. There was driving to lakes and walks to the water and fishing poles cast into the water. There were no fish but there were Triscuits and aged gouda and smoked almonds.

1. Max is a good driver but not as good a driver as Zoe. When Max drives, Erik still holds the wheel. When Zoe drives, Erik has the pedals but Zoe steers us up and down dirt and gravel and relatively untraveled roads. The photo is blurry because the road is bumpy.

2. The Mogollon Rim  is the end of the Colorado Plateau. From the top of the rim, you can see down to the other side of Arizona. It's like a green version of the Grand Canyon and we drove along the rim road so all you could see is the rest of the world. 

3. At the lake, we could see the fish jump. The ospreys flew overhead. The aged gouda was just as delicious as the Triscuits. Zoe ate all the Rainier cherries as usual. 

It rained after we left Knolls Lake and Bear Canyon Lake,  but never when we were at the lake. There was big lightning. Now we are home.

Saturday, July 26, 2014


Today's blog post is brought to you by Zoe. 
Today my life was not fair. 
1. My Summer reading program ended before I got to put the rest of my input in. I would have gotten a new badge if they wouldn't have ended it so soon. 

2. The humming birds stopped drinking our food for no reason we can figure out. They drank the same food yesterday all day. We made them some new food so maybe they will come back. 

3. and we didn't get to go on our bike ride I wanted to go on. 

The only thing that was fair was that I got to wear my red shirt and we get to go to my friend's house for dinner.

By: Zoe

Friday, July 25, 2014


Perhaps I should start counting up again--16 tomorrow instead of 14? A countdown has its own grouchiness but he future is always open, full of arms. In the middle, you find balance. In the middle, you hang upon the fulcrum, ballerina. In the middle, you weigh neither more nor less. In the middle, you hesitate, bathroom half-finished, book half-finished, conference half-thought about, grant-half final reported, emails half sent. In the middle, there is still hope. In the middle, there is still despair. In the middle, it is Friday, which must mean that hope will outwin despair, the rains will come again, the August will be long and bright and the return of students will remind you that the summer part of the job is the tinny part. In September, heavier metals will ring more resonantly.

1. I slept no hours last night. I slept for a few in the morning, but in the darkness of night, nothing. I had the injustice equals itchiness. I couldn't see how the bed I was sleeping in could be so uncomfortable and so itchy when just the night before it had been totally not-itchy and comfortable. It was even cold last night. It rained hard, for an hour. In the not sleep, one bad thought leads to another bad thought that makes me think every decision I ever made was a bad one. Today, it is not going to rain. Maybe my decisions will prove good and let me sleep.

2. I am making churro lamb ragu. The recipe calls for Wild Boar but I have no Wild Boar or even Tame Boar but I have some locally grown Navajo lamb. I cut it up into 1/2 inch cubes. This is the key, I think, to ragu. Pancetta (aka, bacon, today), carrots, celery, onions, garlic, sage, thyme, chili powder and the last two jars of last year's tomatoes must mean that it's time to put up tomatoes again and pretend that it's cool enough to eat red sauce.

3. Did I complain about scheduling play-dates yet? I love Zoe's friends but her social calendar is far more complicated than mine. Not that mine is complicated at all. Nope. Not too complicated at all. Mostly, it's called, take Max and Z swimming. Which I did today. And to the store. We go to the grocery store a lot. It's kind of a leitmotif of its own.

Thursday, July 24, 2014


An abundance of riches. The grouchiness is, mostly, taken in perspective. For instance, it rained today. But now it is sunny and dry. Erik's building a fire. The kids are over at Bridget's, playing in her front yard. We swam today. We ate salad with pepitas for lunch. Summer is too short. Summer is too much. It is almost over. It has just started. I'm pickling cucumbers to remind me of how too much it is in winter when outside is a don't-sit-still kind of situation.

1. The hummingbirds are out of control. We have one feeder. Erik fills it up every other day. The whole back yard is buzzing with their dives and bombs. We have this guy. A broad-tailed hummingbird. Image source. 

And another broad-billed. 

They fight a lot. I feel bad for the little dudes. I just read that if you have one hummingbird feeder with a little more sugar in it and one with a little less, the dominant ones will flock to the overly-sweet one and the submissive birds will flock to the regular one. Such is the nature of privilege. 

2. After a marathon week of cooking: Brats (homemade sauerkraut. Not bad. A little salty. Nobody died), kabobs, tacos, smoked pork chops, we went out to eat tonight. Flagstaff has strangely excellent restaurants for the small town that it is. We narrowed it down to Coppa--super excellent, French-Italian offering moules frites, steak tartare, oysters, charcuterie, homemade Bolognese; Tinderbox with their own charcuterie,Dr. Pepper braised hog jowls, bacon wrapped meatloaf and fennel scallops; Fat Olives with their pizza oven and the 00 flour straight from Naples; and Lumberyard, with the Vietnamese Burger--a banh mi type hamburger and sometimes, a Utah burger, pastrami and fry sauce attached. We decided on Criollo which has 10 types of tacos, bacon nachos, vegetable rellenos, salmon tostado. We ordered the happy hour fish tacos, nachos and calamari for Z. We were home by 6:00. Now it is 7. The fire is almost going even though the wood is wet and so is the picnic table bench that is making my butt wet with its wetness. 

3. This. 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014


I feel like I'm posting every twenty-minutes. It's a bad sign. The end is nigh. I was asked to come to campus for a meeting. A budget meeting. Twice, I have tried to imagine where the books I plan to teach this fall might be hiding. With great proximity comes great speed, so says JFK or Batman and even greater pretend-fatigue. I'm so tired but so little has happened in the past day that it's nearly impossible to imagine three whole items to write about but I have pledged my undying, 30 day devotion here and since I'm not so devoted other ways (except in the following enumerated bit), I may as well follow through.

1. For the first time in I don't know how long, I read an entire book in a day (24 hours). Yesterday, the library, which I forget actually has, occasionally books I might enjoy, emailed to tell me to renew my, Zoe, and Max's recent check-outs. But one of the books had a hold on it, which means, it turns out, that I can't renew it. This gave me 48 hours to read the book. So I did. It was not a great book. It has been greatly hailed. I read it quickly. It does have a lot of plot. But the depth of character was zippo. It may as well have been a murder mystery, like the Nancy Drew kind, which Zoe was reading next to me as I read. I like murder mysteries but this book promised to be the best book ever. How could it be? There were no leitmotifs! No larger political sentiments! No insight into how to be a person, or, even, really insights into how to be a writer. But it was highly readable in that the sentences were transparent. No fancy language or big words. I remember running into this problem last summer. I wrote an essay about it. The essay was full of leitmotifs complaining about the transparency of sentences. No one has taken the essay. Perhaps, if I actually want to publish, I should lay off the leitmotifs. But why would you write without leitmotifs? Apparently, I am 100% off in my own insight into books. My failure is secure. I find some satisfaction in that. Nancy Drew might even be the better book. Zoe, comparing the movie to the book, said, "The movie was a straight line, but the book was a circle." Like a whole world.

2. As Zoe read Nancy Drew next to me, she wanted to keep pace but I have had lots of practice. It has been so long since I just read a book--in the way that you ignore your children (only Max. I'm training Zoe into joining me on the ark side). I left him to watch TV and play ninjas. I do get updates every five minutes about which ninja is the best (Kai, Cole, Jay, and Zane) but I just nod at him when he tells me the sword broke or the car had no top. NONE!), in the way that you go outside first thing in the morning with your book and your coffee, in the way you sit on the front porch in the rain and read and read and read. It's almost the same zone as writing all day but in writing all day, there are many, many more interruptions and a better ability to understand Ninjago Lego. At least, thanks to this book, I saw no Facebook which has become my only goal in life.

3. Erik drove to work for the first time all week. He's been riding almost everyday since May, but not today. Max said, "So dad didn't get exercise but his car did." On Sunday, we biked all day and hiked far. Yesterday, I swam and ran. Today, I ran. It doesn't matter though. I always look the same. It is similar to writing. I do it a lot. Nothing changes. I am practicing finding satisfaction in that.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014


1. Today was dedicated to not working. It worked pretty well. I went running. Max and Zoe and I cleaned the house for a couple of hours and watered the plants at Erik's mom's, then we were done. We went to Whole Foods which was, until a month ago, New Frontiers. They no longer have English peas or Diestel smoked turkey legs so I really see no reason to go back. I bought cilantro for $1.49. Zoe thought the blueberries looked old so we didn't buy those. Corn was regular price--2/$1.00 which must mean it wasn't organic. They have those big green olives I like. I bought some for a picnic in the park tomorrow. Castelventranos, I think. We did make our $8.49/lb salads which only cost about $3 each which is pretty cheap for lunch even if croutons as numerous as the vegetables.
a. Bonus note. Just went to look at the boxes of tile upstairs.  Castelventrano. What? Serendipity? An essay the waiting? No. Italy's just very talented and delicious/beautiful.

2. We went to see How to Train Your Dragon, Part 2, which was, in equal parts, boring and too intense for me. Maybe I went into some kind of overly-cute, overly-stressful shock that made the dramatic moments simultaneously distant and boring and unmanageable. I cried about Toothless's turn. Maybe it's the effect of a midday movie in a theater. Unknown movies. Unknown environment. An adventure!

3. Swimming at 2:00. I swam laps. Max practiced swimming to Z. Then they had lessons. Then Zoe's friend showed up to swim, which is great except then it's always, can we stay five more minutes? Can Zoe come to dinner? Can we move in together and never, ever leave each other's side? I put them off by inviting them to concert in the park tomorrow. It will rain and then I will have lied but even that doesn't even count as work.

Monday, July 21, 2014


Some days are like, no communiqu├ęs from the outer world. The biggest news before 12 p.m. was "Monsoon storms set to return on Thursday." That's not even news about today.
Today was like that all day until I got to the doctor's office for Max and Zoe's check-up. And then it was all, Nicole, can you send that manuscript? Nicole, can you remember to send your Final Report for the grant? Nicole, can you call me? Call me? On the phone? It is summer. (It is always summer to me on my mind for the phone. The phone invades. It makes me make decisions like scheduling appointments that I will need to reschedule because I made them on the phone.

1. It is Monday. It seems that it is always Monday, even in the summer. At noon, when everything changed and there were fifteen people in my house, trying to begin to finish the bathroom which will as of tomorrow been a two-week project and will end up being a three-one and will cost all the money I made this summer, I realized, there are only Mondays.

2. But that was a grumpy thought so I will say that I am making Shish Kabobs. And rice pilaf. In between every three words here I look at the recipe. I've already toasted the rice instead of the pasta, forgot to add the white wine and finish this sentence.

3. Erik really likes it when I talk about him on my blog. He says, "I will sue you if you keep writing about me." He knows fewer lawyers than I. (I know one. My best friend from college, Misty. Sadly, I think she'd take up his case. He makes a sad case. "She's always writing about me." Misty would be like, dude, that is illegal.) And yet, I persist.

Sunday, July 20, 2014


1. Last week's badness didn't take place in a vacuum of solipsistic blogginess. Plane shot down in Ukraine, Palestine and Israel, immigrating kids overwhelming detention centers. Take a stand, people say on Facebook. And then they yell at you on Facebook when you say anything. I guess thick-skin is a requirement for internet tanglings but I should quit the Facebook. If I think of one thing in my life that has made me grumpier in the past five years, it's Facebook. Or that five years have passed. One or the other but I suppose Facebook is about as easy to quit as time. As for Palestine/Israel, I would join up with the Jews for Peace but I don't think they will take me.
I'm thinking of those kids in detention centers. Some as young as ten. The comparison to the US turning around the ship carrying Jewish-child refugees in 1939 rings particularly true. Zoe and Max wondered why so many kids wanted to leave Mexico and other places in Latin America. I told them how some of the kids were being forced into working for the drug cartels and if they said no, the cartels sometimes killed them.  Max asked how old some of the kids were. I said I don't know, maybe 8. Maybe even 5. "Do they want to go home?" I said, "I'm sure they miss their mamas." "But then they'll die if they go home." And I said, "Maybe." What can I do to help? Take them Spanish-language books?

2. In a less depressing conversation that reminds me of how, even when the bad world continues all around you, one goes on, Max said, "I'm going to be a bad teenager when I'm a teenager. You don't have to be so afraid. I'll just be bad." It's nice that he doesn't want me to worry.

3. We rode our bikes to the Celtic festival, which was a festival less than awesome. What's with charging a million dollars to get into a festival so they can charge you more millions for a kidney pie and some a thimble full of mead. It was some cross between a Renaissance Festival and bagpipe convention. The steak and mushroom pie (which had no kidneys) was pretty good, but not $7 good. The mead should have come with a stick of insulin. But the hurling and the caber tossing and the other throwing thing was pretty awesome.
I stole this picture from the Arizona Highland Celtic Festival website. The best thing was, riding my bike, then walking Max and Z over to Okim's for a playdate meant I did not drive my car today. 

4. (A bonus to make up for hand-wringing number one.) I'm right now eating two kinds of cherries. The regular Bing which were 99 cents a pound and the expensive Rainier, which were 3 dollars and 98 cents a pound. The Rainier are better but they are not $3/lb better. 

Saturday, July 19, 2014


A good day involves no writing. Or only writing blog posts and occasionally annoying responses to Facebook posts that I didn't mean to be annoying. As is my daily wont.

1. In good writing news, someone I adore, not a student, not a colleague, but a person from NAU I know, shouted out across the street when we were downtown tonight, "I love everything you write." I can live on that for another month.

2. We took Zoe to Tat-fu to get her ears pierced today. My student recommended this tattoo parlor downtown, where he gets all his work done. The piercer guy was super awesome. He used a needle, which is, supposedly better than going to Claire's at the mall, where they can't sterilize the needle-gun fully. It was nerve-wracking. It reminded me of when she was in the hospital at 8 months and the nurses took her blood. But now her ears are pierced and we got to see a tattoo-in-progress next-door to the piercing station. (Cautionary tale, Max and Z? I bet not. The guy getting the tattoo was totally calm.)

3. Zoe's kids-birthday was this morning, which now feels like decades ago.

I said, very loudly, as I took the picture, "That guy's loud butt is in the picture." That guy did not care. Otherwise, it would have been the best picture of Zoe's birthday party. 

Friday, July 18, 2014


I do realize that grumpiness is a self-fulfilling prophecy. It's better, maybe, when I have to sneak in the writing, squeeze it in between emails and class prep. With this summer grant, anytime I'm not writing, I feel guilty and also entirely unsuccessful in all writing endeavors. I've seriously had some bad rejection this summer. The you-really-can't-write kind. The kind where they call you "creative" or "poetic." Poetry as an adjective is the worst sort of dismissal. Made me so mad I actually wrote some poetic poems which were so bad, they might have even been creative. But there's imperative behind this grant too--if I have some success with this writing, they'll give me another grant. If I don't, they won't. It's worse than tenure. Or as bad as. Carrot. Carrot. I am all yours. And then the stick. All I have are sticks. Not tasty at all.
When I'm not supposed to be writing though, during the semester when I barely have time to at all, all good news is just gravy and bad news is like filling out schedule J of the travel-form. Am I longing for schedule J's? I hope not.

But like I said, I recognize this kvetching is pure privilege and, on a major level, ridiculous. I did get some super nice rejections and some fine kind emails from good people so I have enough will to go on (it only takes like one drop of encouragement for me to extrapolate a lifetime of future hope).

So today, to fix the grouch I
1. got up early. Not really by choice. Erik had to be at work at 6:15. But I couldn't go back to sleep so I put on my shoes and went running. This week, I've been taking the kids to camp and then waiting for the clouds to come to run but the monsoons are taking a break. I knew there would be no cloud-cover. I also knew that all week, waiting to go running is like waiting to finish the paper (i.e. Facebook, which never ends) which means no real work gets done 'til the clouds come. And then it's nearly lunch time. So today, I ran. Then showered. It was hours until lunch (I ate lunch anyway). Then I worked.

2. saw a bald eagle. You can't really plan for this although I do know basically where he lives and, if I really, really needed him, I think I could find him. I saw him on Zoe's birthday in one of his normal spots by the lake but it was nice of him to fly over my house which is not his normal path from mesa to lake. This is what he would have looked like if I had a camera and skill using one:

3. sent out a short essay and contemplated sending another one. I'm sitting outside right now. The flies land on me. The biggest wasp I've ever seen thinks my computer is his buddy. I swat and move and walk away but I don't go inside. Glutton for punishment or not, I would rather write outside on the porch than do almost anything.

Thursday, July 17, 2014


1. Although I have been waiting my whole life to be able to turn the shower on without the faucet handle falling on my toe, having strangers in the house all day is kind of weird. The strangers are very nice but they don't really want to chat and they all wear headphones and then talk really loudly to each other so they can hear over the headphones.

2. It is July but the Juney bugs persist. They fling themselves agains the windows, the front doors, the head, if the head is sitting outside. I have to turn the lights off. Every year, they come back and every year, I forget you can't stand in the doorway, looking at the rain or the Juney bugs (these huge, green and white striped flying beetle things) will come flying at your even-indoor head. They are big, these bugs.
Here is a leap that is not quite a metaphor: When you hard boil eggs, how long do you let them boil? How long do you let them sit? How many eggs can you eat to determine when they're officially done? The other day, I cracked open an egg after a three-minute boil (perhaps this is a three minute egg, I thought to myself, having heard the idea but having not had one. Nor do I have the attendant egg holder for the three minute egg. So I tried to peel it but most of the white came off with some of the shell but then I thought I'd put some butter on it (because that will save it and that's what I think I saw my mom do once) and I ate the yolk and some of the shell and thought, this is not a hardboiled egg. End parentheses 921.))))
My point is, shut the door. Let the eggs sit. A point and a segue:

3. The other night, Erik said,  "I think I'll stop having ideas at work for awhile," which made me laugh so hard with many adverbs because it's such a good plan. Ideas lead to frustration and sorrow. No ideas lead to nothing, which is very zen.  I think I will follow suit and have no more ideas. Today, I found out that I went through the wrong office applying for a grant and spent a good number of hours fixing it and writing a budget for next year and emailing colleagues about guest writers while yelling at the computer that I was not on contract. Sadly, the computer does not care about my contract. (Also, apologies to my colleagues who I drew into my computer even though they too are not on contract.)

4. (Bonus item to make up for all those parentheses). I notice that when Max and Zoe and Erik come home, I'm not so grumpy anymore (even if Erik posts pictures of me as grumpy cat).
Maybe the problem with summer isn't so much writing and the rejection attendant but the fact that Erik goes to work and the kids go to camp at all. Perhaps if they all stayed home, we could chat with the drywall guys, figure out the best way to make hardboiled eggs, barricade ourselves from the gigantic Juney bugs, and ignore the Office of Grants and Sponsored Projects, just one more day.

Come home from camp, Zoe!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014


1. Today is Zoe's birthday! There was sushi. There was Max riding Zoe around on the back of his tricycle. Zoe got a lot of presents. Finally, the presents one gets her are lasting and useful. Like a suitcase! A rock polisher! A sleeping bag! A travel kit! (I wrapped the tiny shampoos and tiny soaps and tiny toothbrush individually. It reminded me of my mom who, for our Christmas stockings, would wrap even the chocolate wrapped coins because unwrapping is the funnest part).

Zoe's camp friends made her a Happy Birthday with Legos.

Zoe's grandma made a carrot cake.

2. Even on the birthday day, there was camp (which Max keeps asking, do I have to go to camp? Oh. Max. Camp. It's full of digging and dinosaurs and trips to the Elden Pueblos. Max. You like camp fine once you are there. I swear. I'm not as fun as I look!)

Zoe's camp friends:

3. Insights into camp and birthdays. There are chunks of time that are negligible (camp) and there are chunks of time that are not (birthday). We have lived in our house for six years, finally remodeling the upstairs bathroom. The yellow tile. The yellow bathtub. The handle that fell off the faucet in the tub for six years straight. Sometimes time is good. Sometimes time is bad.  Sometimes, after some time, you can turn the water on without dropping the faucet handle onto your foot.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014


Today, 25 seems like a lot of days left before I can complain about things foisted upon me rather than things I have foisted upon myself. Summer--it's too much pressure to make every moment count. Today, I didn't even stop read the paper (aka Facebook) until 11. That was after the hour-long camp drop-off. Which seems pointless to spend 3 hours taking the kids to camp so I can have 3 hours at home to find things to be grumpy about which is also pointless. As is Facebook. As is waiting for the electrician. Erik keeps saying I'm grumpy which makes me grumpy. I'm trying to get out of funk by drinking seltzer and watching TV. But I'm grumpy so here are 3 things I don't like.

1. We're watching Parenthood on Netflix. We are on season 4. They changed the theme song. I don't like it.

2. We watched all the Game of Thrones. Now how will I make melodramatic metaphors for my troubles?

3. Zoe's turning 9 which is just a countdown of its own. She put "construction paper" on her wish list. My sister Paige sent her the biggest packet of construction paper of all time. She opened it early. When I asked her what she was going to do with it all, she gave me teenager face.

Monday, July 14, 2014


1. Insight? Not really but here goes. When I'm riding my bike uphill, I'm like, what the fuck? I hate hills. Who would put a hill in my path? And then, when I'm going downhill, I'm like, I still have to pedal? That seems unjust. I thought this was supposed to be easy.
Extrapolate times a hundred and add Facebook. This is my summer writing/publishing complaint.

2. It has been a long time since I've had an in-person workshoppy-type setting with serious fellow writers. There were words. Insight. A paragraph insertion. The joyfulness of switching point of view. Through lines! Connective threads. It wouldn't be too much to say my readers were generous and genius. It is like a monsoon storm in a desert. I am grateful.

3. Today was supposed to be 100% monsoon which usually mean between one and two. Today, it meant six am and now (which is ten pm). In many ways, a bookended monsoon is better for:
a: shopping for Zoe's birthday presents (hint: travel supplies).
b: taking and picking up kids from Discovery Camp thrice.
i. Camp starts at 9. Max's camp ends at 1. Zoe's ends at 4.
c. Swim lessons.
i. Zoe is learning the butterfly.
ii. Max is trying to learn not to hold his breath all the way across the pool.
iii. Swimming in Flagstaff is tricky but they have prepared for monsoons with indoor pools.

Remember for tomorrow: buy books. give money. adopt cat. wrap presents. swim. make ragout that workshop friend made for dinner but you left because you wanted to see kids before bed (made it, but only 1 for 2).

Sunday, July 13, 2014


1. Revising is not so fun. Especially revising fiction. You have to not only fix all that stuff you didn't get right writing it the first time so you could fix it when you are revising, but you have to remember what you did right so you don't ruin it. It's a memory problem but also an ontological one--what did you get right? What is right? What is this thing you are writing? What is the point? In writing the first draft, the act of creation is its own impetus to go forward--putting "something" into the universe is all to the good. But when one goes back to "fix" or "rethink" or "remake," value becomes more important than thing. I love "thing." Not so sure I love the measurement of value. There is none of the frenetic joy of writing. There's labor, which is good but mainly in that protestant workman way more than the immanence that comes from making a new thing. Plus, fiction is rough. I like the way in nonfiction and poetry apprehension is the point. You see and startle. You puzzle and pull. Associations lead to comprehension. You find interiority, or Hopkin's inscape, in the things just by perceiving them. In fiction, you have to create the circumstances that allow for apprehension and if you don't create the fiction just right, you miss the opportunity to apprehend. Perhaps revision is against art--if you don't apprehend it the first time, just move on. But I am a typo-maker. I make the most flaws. My characters roll their eyes every five sentences. Perhaps we could have less irritable, less Nicole-like, characters?

2. We rode our bikes downtown to the Farmer's Market, Zoe on her bike, me on mine, Max behind Erik on the three-wheel. We went down Butler fast, through Fox Glenn, up Sparrow, down 4th Street and then onto the big bike path along Route 66. It's a pretty good ride--mostly safe, but on the corner of Beaver and 66, Max let go and fell. He fell toward the sidewalk and scraped his nose but if had fallen the other way....Anyway, we all lived again. Adventure town USA etc. Also, someone in a Hummer pulling a boat driving by yelled, "Your daughter is going to get run over." I yelled back, "Only by you!" Perhaps this isn't the best thing to yell at someone in a multi-ton vehicle when I've got my two kids riding alongside. Bike-riding, like eating vegetarian, makes me immediately self-righteous (and neglectful).

3. Speaking of vegetarianness and instances of not being neglectful: When we got home I made tostadas with pinto beans, eggs, onions and tomatoes from the farmer's market and just a little bit of cheese. And hot sauce. With a side of carrots. And peas. And cherries. Because it's summer and we were very hungry. The World Cup is over. Erik is done painting. I revised a whole five pages. Time to find a lounging place and make the Sunday last a little longer.

Saturday, July 12, 2014


While our friends were in town last week, it rained like last year's crazy non-stop monsoon. This weekend, not so much. Last weekend, we went fishing at Ashurst lake, riding horses by Lake Mary, 4th of July parade, fireworks, Viet Springs hike, Art in the Park all in the rain. This weekend. Not so much. Paint and vacuum and laundry. So today seems a little bit about lost opportunity but found opportunity. We could have gone downtown to the climbing gym, on a hike, to the Hope Cottage fundraising event, to the arboretum. Instead, I stayed home and realized:

1. The blue wall is disgusting. It's flat blue paint that children touch, dogs sleep against, I tried to wash, leaving broad sweeping strokes of it's-worse-now-that-you-tried-to-scrub-away-the-kids'-greasy-fingerprints. So Erik fixed it. You can't tell from these pictures but the plain wall now looks perfect. Erik made each of us raise our hands and say, "We vow never to touch the walls and if our friends touch the walls to ask them nicely to please not touch the walls."

The children proceeded to touch all of the walls.

2. The Lotus Eaters chapter from the Odyssey and the effects of some mushrooms may have more in common than I thought. So might the song Frog Went a Courtin'. Now I have to go all the way through the MG novel and add more lotus. Or more mushrooms. Or more frogs.

3. It was so hot today (almost 90!) that on a walk in the forest today, Max said "he was going to die." We were twelve minutes from our house but we had no water. We worried about the squirrels. What do they drink? They do not have Spiderman cups filled with ice waiting for them at home. We decided they drink the white stuff at the bottom of a blade of grass. And wait for monsoons which will only come if their friends visit from out of town.

Friday, July 11, 2014


1. This has been the week of no. Or nothing. No response. No to requests. No to work. No no no. I am now whiny with the nothing. Whiny is not good but neither is no. Sometimes, I think there is a black hole of no.
2. Fiction is either the hardest or easiest genre. I think I type too slowly and read too quickly. Or read too slowly and type too quickly. Other genres, I'm better at the mix. Must I go in and describe the shadows produced by certain angles of sunlight upon the trees? Triangles. They are triangular.
3. Downtown festivities. Zoe just got picked up by her friend. They are going swimming then to the friend's house then downtown. Max is very, very sad that his sister left him. Perhaps I will take him downtown and he can pretend I am his friend but he already said that grown-ups are boring. "I just wish I had a friend. If I go Lumberyard I'll sit down by the grown-ups and play all by myself. I don't want to be lonely." I tried to explain that when Zoe was his age, he wasn't born yet (or just barely) and she had to hang out with us by herself all the time. He feels very sorry for her. "Every time she had to hang out with just you. Wow." He's writing his sadness in his notebook. One of us is the saddest writer. "I just want a friend." We are all full of wants, Mr. Max. Might as well write about it.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

30 Days of Summer

Let's imagine there are more than 30 days of summer. There are actually more, for me, but only 30 left for Zoe. She starts school August 7th (which is, worse! 28 days from today). And I have a grant so I'm supposed to be writing but there's only so much suicide and global warming I can take!

But let's pretend we have 30 days. And let's pretend that I have a blog and a purpose for writing it. So a plan.
Three things a day for thirty days plus maybe a picture if I can figure out to login to my Instagram account.

1. I am making sauerkraut. Cut up sauerkraut. Add salt. Knead for ten minutes. Stuff into jars. Submerge with a cup filled with stones.  Cap with a towel. Kimchee is next.

2. Took the kids Library. I should not be allowed to go. Fourteen books, all due in 2 weeks. Which should I read? The Middlemarch one? (Rebecca Mead's) The new Richard Powers? Roxane Gay's Untamed State? I can't remember the other ones because I know I can't read them all.

3. I gave a character in my "middle grade" book some hair. Black hair and a goatee. And loafers! I am so obvious. I cannot believe I just typed the words "middle grade."