Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Archeological dig

All this time at home has freed us to see what needs fixing, what needs changing, and what we can cull. Being retired is an added bonus - because we have the time to follow through. 

The past day or so, we've been tinkering with a small, narrow closet - adding and painting new shelving, adjusting some coat hooks. One set of coat hooks was set up for when our children were about three feet tall - and they have never been changed since that time, rendering them basically useless (unless you are partial to the look of floor debris clinging to the bottom of your adult coat). The shelves in the closet are (were!) - sadly - simply a series of stackable plastic bins, hastily set in place as a temporary solution right after we remodeled 30 years ago. These bins were immediately filled and overflowing with the stuff of daily living, and the original idea of adding 'real' shelves long forgotten - until now, that is. 

This closet is located right next to our side entrance, our main door to the house from the driveway; thus, these bins were the depository of all those things one takes off and gets rid off as soon as they enter the house. Coupled with a door that closes, hiding the ugly truth from regular eyes, this location became a treasure trove of forgotten artifacts. 

I set about emptying the bins themselves - what's in there? what can I toss? what belongs elsewhere? - while Tony began sawing boards for the shelving. There was so much forgotten junk in these shelves! Ugh! Suffice to say, I threw more things away than I saved; I had a small pile of donations. Lots of paper trash. (There is always so much stray paper in this house.) I was surprised by the "singles" - three separate gloves, each from a different pair, no match anywhere around; one single flip flop from a teenager (in other words, at least ten years old); one slipper...where are their matches? where did they go? why is it here and not the bedroom? I also found a pair of children's gloves. Itty bitty hands. No, they are not my grandchildren's. 

Here's a fun new chapter to this storytelling: I decided to wash this small find for future use by said grandchildren, when - I kid you not - only one small glove made it OUT of the dryer. What? Two gloves are washed and dried but only one comes out? Where did the match go? Do gloves have feelings? It's as if they cried out - 'what, you ignore me for 20 years and expect me to hang around now!?'

Sifting through the debris of this one little closet has sent me on a rampage through the house, culling, tossing, weeding, and organizing. I even spent some time in that truly forgotten space - our attic, opening up bins and clearing out clutter. It is amazing what time can do for these stored memories - yes, there are many things that I still love and want to keep, but there is a whole subset of extraneous, much less meaningful stuff with which I am easily able to part. I am excited for our trash pickup this week! 

Isn't it wild, though, how you can hold a piece of paper - say, a handwritten note, or an old ticket to a concert, or a child's drawing, and instantaneously be transported back in time - seeing where you were, hearing certain songs, remembering how you felt? 

We often joke that it's been thirty-plus years of deferred maintenance on our home...truth is, these years have flown by. Now, in this quiet 'stuck at home' interlude of the pandemic, we can finally focus. It's almost like being on an archeological dig, right? (Yay! I am traveling!) 


I wrote this post for Slice of Life.  All participants are writing about one moment, one part of their day, on Tuesdays. Thank you, Two Writing Teachers!

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Poetry day 4 & 5

Today, I am posting my last two poems of the January 5-day Open Write with Dr. Sarah J. Donovan's Ethical ELA. 

I'll share today's poem first, Day 5. We were inspired to take a Martin Luther King, Jr. quote and create a poem. I was truly challenged by this (and not at all content with the outcome!), because I have been so caught up in today's Inauguration of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris. What an extraordinarily hopeful and healing day this has been! 

Truly dark

Martin told us
it has to get
truly dark
to see the stars 

truly dark

our precious ideals
liberty and justice
for all
has never been so
for everyone

truly dark

deep in our history
white and pervasive silence
years of looking the other way
not paying attention
inaudible allies

truly dark

these past four years
instigation of fear
spewing of hate
primacy of self

truly dark

this year of acute pain
systemic racism
disease and death
economic collapse
sending us deep into

truly dark

January 6, 2021

truly dark
truly dark
truly dark

here I sit
trying to write a poem
while overcome by tears
blessed relief
today's inaugural words
of healing unity

Martin told us
it has to get
truly dark
to see the stars 

This is a starry night

Day 4's Poem

For this poem, Stacey L. Joy challenges us to take a "mindful walk," and focus on one thing that you see; write a poem about this. She suggested using the "Zappai" form (which is new to me!), which has a syllable pattern like haiku - 5, 7, 5 - but has many stanzas. I chose to write about something I see whenever I visit a local park - this tree that seems to have grown into a boulder, with its roots wrapped about the rock.


some time long ago
a tree began to grow next
to a large boulder

or perhaps the truth
is the boulder rolled up next
to the tree and stopped

some time long ago
they grew together, truly
tree and boulder one

forever as one
imagine this, wonder, and ask
did they choose this life?

this life of such fixed
perspective, never knowing
anything else but here

so different, yet
so inseparable now
who listens to whom?

what do they speak of
when the sun goes down and they
are truly alone

do they share gossip 
of the day, the laughs and tears
of walkers and more?

maybe they grieve and
heal together, and become
wiser over time

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

All at once

We babysat both granddaughters for a couple of hours the other day. We routinely watch our older granddaughter ("Frog"), but the two month old ("Bird") is nursing and needs to stay pretty close to her Mama. This was only the second time when we have watched both children. Two of us, two of them, for two hours maybe? This will be a breeze! Sure, we'd be delighted!

It is one of the greatest blessings that we are able to spend time with these children during this pandemic.

Mama nursed Bird just before they left our house, making our task all the easier - we wouldn't even have to feed her, we'd have a morning of holding and cuddling. 

We had so much fun! Frog and I got out the playdough, making pretend meals together while Poppa held Bird...and then we switched off, I with Bird, Poppa with Frog. (Thus, the photo!) Time flew by, reading books, playing with dolls, watching Bird stretch and squirm, chuckling at her absorption with the ceiling fan, cuddling with both children. We had a good rhythm together, my husband and I, both of us well aware that neither of us had a moment "off duty." After all these years of working with young children, I still find it strange how small beings can be so demanding of one's time and focus - and this is also their gift, right? There's no room for the noise of the outside world, if you are present with the young.

The parents had been gone about two hours when Tony realized that Bird's clothing was soaked. He starts to change her, and is amused to find that she somehow managed to keep the inside of her diaper dry, while wetting the outfit and the exterior of the diaper - kids these days! Ha! Perhaps less amusing, he realizes this is the first time he has changed this grandchild's diaper. (I, too, have only changed her once. Her parents are the professionals with this task.) The diaper-changing is slow and inefficient - not a critique of my dear husband, just the facts: this is a skill we no longer need and we have lost.

Truly, the movie version of this small tale would have suspenseful music right now, foreshadowing. We didn't even realize we were about to be in over our heads, until we were!

Bird is not impressed. 

As Tony changes her, she moves through many stages of emotions - calm and smiley, furrowed brow and frown, fretful mews, exasperated cry, and finally to a very real and loud wail. 

I leave Frog and try to assist - handing him wipes, a new outfit . . . it's "all hands on deck."

Frog is not impressed.

Frog had been playing so peacefully, so engaged, so focused, but now there are some very specific demands that must be met, and I find myself enmeshed with her, too, negotiating. She wants to play with the breakable doll, wants to climb up on this much-too-high bench, wants, wants, wants . . . . Much to her surprise, I say "No, you can't do that right now, wait just a bit and I will help you. We are trying to help your sister." 

Finally, Bird is changed, though she continues to wail, and Tony is holding her, comforting. I go back to playing with Frog, but her little sister's crying has affected her and she is no longer focused, somewhat scattered, as am I, and Tony. 

Bird is full on screaming wail cry. 

"Wait - I think Bird usually gets fed after a diaper change, I wonder if she's crying because we aren't following that pattern. What if we make her a bottle?" 

This next frenetic chapter ensues - it was such a wild scene. Tony and I, trying to get two year old Frog to stay in one place, don't move, wait, and also racing to help with comforting the baby, figuring out how to prep the nursing milk, wait, how do we warm this up? A pouch of milk? The bottle is where? What's the routine? How did we forget this in two short years? I glance at the time - goodness, shouldn't they be home by now?!!! How are we supposed to concentrate when 

Bird is FULL ON TERRIFIED ANGER, as if screaming

the door flies open, the beloved parents burst in, home from their adventure, 
absolutely astounded to hear their baby in such distress, and
Mama scoops up Bird and nurses her back into sweet blissful harmony.


(Intellectually, in reflection, Bird could not have been that hungry or desperate, because she had eaten just a couple hours previous, but try telling her that! Babies win every argument.) 

"When do you need us to babysit again? Oh, three days from now? We should be recovered by then."


I wrote this post for Slice of Life.  All participants are writing about one moment, one part of their day, on Tuesdays. Thank you, Two Writing Teachers!

Monday, January 18, 2021

Softly - a poem


On this third day of January's 5-day poetry Open Write with Dr. Sarah Donovan's Ethical ELA, the inspiration is offered by Stacey L. Joy and is entitled "One Word." Channeling Nikki Giovanni's poem "Quiet (for Marvelene)," write a poem to someone or something that needs special attention today. I attempted to use the same form as in Nikki Giovanni's poem, and wrote about my newest granddaughter. 


you wriggle
stretch and stir
just two months old

is all of you
head to toe

your eyes turn to me
all will be well

are those cheeks
billowing with love

you breathe
hope and peace 

and precious
you are

we hold you
you hold us
our hearts overflowing


the world waits
time tiptoes

all because of you

Sunday, January 17, 2021

The Pond in January - a poem

It is Day 2 of January's 5-day poetry Open Write with Dr. Sarah Donovan's Ethical ELA! Susie Morice provided a second day of inspiration, inviting us to channel our inner "Mary Oliver"  - to step outside and observe nature, using all our senses, and to write a poem about what we discover. It just so happens that I love to be outside and I love Mary Oliver's poetry...so this was a very satisfying exploration for me!

The Pond in January

I step from the woods
into the clearing and find you
frozen over
waiting for me

A surprisingly cold breeze
scurries across my face
sending momentary movement all around
everything aflutter, swirling
branches bend and sway
a leaf skitters across your ice

I wonder, does the dry brown edge grass
prickle and tickle you
as my hair does, against my cheeks?

I need your welcoming silence
your resounding silence.

Listen. It is so quiet, do you hear
the slight squelch of the mud as I shift 
the titter pitter patter chatter of small
birds, invisible to my eye, where are they?
the drip drip gurgle of water
flowing into the culvert

ah, see, you are warming up

I playfully toss a pebble and I hear
the tiniest tink tink as it rolls to a stop
I feel lighter 
I like being here 
with you

Saturday, January 16, 2021

Watching - a poem

Today is the first day of January's 5-day poetry Open Write with Dr. Sarah Donovan's Ethical ELA! Today's inspiration is offered by Susie Morice and is entitled "Conversations" She invites us to listen to nature and imagine a conversation. I was immediately reminded of an amazing scene that Tony and I witnessed just above our house, as we returned from a walk the other day - and this is the poem that I wrote:


a bold, dark, sudden
flash of movement
above our heads
as we walked home
drawing our eyes upward
here we were
that treacherous hawk again

every day for days on end
here is the hawk
separate, soaring, and stealth
right here where we live
intent on capturing
the most vulnerable

today though, a twist to the plot
a crowd of crows
common, ordinary, ubiquitous crows
encircle and confront the hawk
defending our home

such a wild scene ensued
high above the bare winter trees
a fierce fight, out in the open

these courageous crows
screeching and cawing
darting every which way
nipping at the hawk
pecking at its wings

all the while, insisting
get away from our home!
what have you done to our young?!
move along! we do not want you here!
we've put up with you long enough!

far below
the two of us stood in suspense
useless bystanders
this angry confrontation
in the vast grey cold sky
the crows
raucously yet triumphantly 
chase the hawk

Tuesday, January 12, 2021


How are you doing?

I have had a tough week, reading and listening to far too much news about the violence at the Capitol, trying to learn the 'whole' story, trying to understand, trying to find some sliver of hope in the debris. I know I am at a heightened state of anxiety, because I've written very little this past week  - hardly opening my journal and finding it impossible to work on another project I have. I am too unsettled to read deeply, to enjoy a good book. 

My mind is like corn popping, bing, bing, bing, with a series of seemingly disparate images and memories - is there any connection with these images? 
now...I see him, I taught both his sons, I know him to be a kind, calm, caring man, a Capitol Police officer, there he is being rushed by the mob, thrown back, crushed in this sea of anger, his eyes expressing so much fear and terror
I know I must turn this television off
I know I must get away from these screens, this unending stream of ugly
years ago...my elderly mother, listening to the television, hearing about the beautiful blond woman who was murdered on a resort island, this sensational news story being shared over and over again, and every time she hears it, she exclaims in horror and fear because her dementia makes this story brand new
I know I must turn this television off
I know I must get away from these screens, this unending stream of ugly
now...he incites the anger, over and over with baseless claims of election fraud - this election was stolen from us! show some fight! take back our country! He actually told us months ago, "I will totally accept the results of this great and historic presidential election if I win"
I know I must turn this television off
I know I must get away from these screens, this unending stream of ugly
years ago...we are visiting relatives in Atlanta and head out for a walk, to the new bike path that has opened, and my brother-in-law says - "Here, take this with you, for protection," and he tries to give us a handgun 
I know I must turn this television off
I know I must get away from these screens, this unending stream of ugly
now...members of Congress scared for their lives, ushered to a secure location, every single one not knowing what is going on, in this heightened place of fear, much like on September 11, 2001, wondering, what is happening? My own congressman, Rep. Jamie Raskin, buried his son the day before this horror...what other painful stories were leaders holding on this day?
I know I must turn this television off
I know I must get away from these screens, this unending stream of ugly 
years ago - I am visiting her, looking at her collections, seeing the racist books, knick knacks. I'm a guest in her home. I go quiet. I ignore. I don't question. I retreat. I feel shame to know her, to be connected. I am speechless. 
over time, so many relatives and friends that I'm less connected to...I can't understand their points of view. I stopped trying. I cancelled Facebook. I talk to them less frequently, or not at all. I avoid the discussions. 
I know I must turn this television off
I know I must get away from these screens, this unending stream of ugly
now...this pandemic...so much isolation...so much less connection...losing ourselves in the internet, our little echo chambers, hearing the same things over and over and over, letting it be our 'real knowing,' rather than loving others, sharing and believing in each other. 

now...my heart hurts.  

I know I must turn this television off 
I know I must get away from these screens, this unending stream of ugly

We have to find a way to make bridges to others. 

How to trust in the goodness of us?

There must be a way.


"We are indebted to one another and the debt is a kind of faith - 
a beautiful, difficult, strange faith. We believe each other into being." 
                                                 - Jennifer Michael Hecht


I wrote this post for Slice of Life.  All participants are writing about one moment, one part of their day, on Tuesdays. Thank you, Two Writing Teachers!

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

What the new year brings

I began the new year 
suffocating a bug.
This does not bode well for 
my year ahead.

On New Year's Day,
a stink bug crawled across my kitchen counter and
I covered it with my drinking glass.
Yes, I just set my drinking glass on top of it.

This is my INSTINCT, to kill.
The rawness of this
is frightening.

The base of the glass had a slight stem,
allowing a pocket of air
for the stink bug,
meaning it wasn't immediately killed,
but slowly tortured,
with its air limited,
its freedom taken.
This is worse, isn't it?

I have long left bugs for others.
It's who I am.
Growing up, in Navy housing,
I was notorious for 
capturing not killing
someone else to find and handle.
I still giggle at the memory
Dad's early morning find
a discarded bowl on the floor
followed by his jumping
as a cockroach raced away.

Maybe I'm not a killer.
Maybe I wasn't trying to kill the stink bug.
Maybe it was a reprise of my cockroach dance,
me not wanting to deal with this
punting the task
hoping someone else would take care of it.
After 34 years, my husband's on to me, I suppose.
He didn't move the drinking glass.
I told him the bug was there.
He told me he thought I should deal with it.
This is a supportive spouse, right?
Not an enabler.
Fostering growth and all that, right?
He wants me to learn new things, right?
Spirit of the new year and all?

I cannot imagine killing bugs.
This isn't goodness within but
pure selfishness
I cannot witness this
sensory overload
the grisly demise
the damp and squishy paper towel
the green color of tiny guts
even the slight hiss of 
that final moment.
Unbearable, it is.
I can't.

The drinking glass sat 
on the stink bug 
for three days.

I knew it was high time to wash the drinking glass
dispose of the body
to be brave
glass is weird
you can see in it
I saw
the stink bug was still moving
for real
I saw my reflection, too
eyes wide, at this knowledge

My lack of immediate action
led me someplace worse
I didn't kill the bug outright
but slowly tortured it over a couple of days,
eliminating most of its air.
Shouldn't I have just killed it?
swatted it?
smashed it?
been done with it?
I had not killed the bug
I had tortured the bug
For. Three. Days.
This is much worse, right?
Who am I?

what to do?
what to do?
what to do?

I found an envelope from
a dear friend's thank you card
(where she had glowingly noted
how kind and loving I was,
irony not lost on me)
I slipped the envelope under
the drinking glass
carefully carried all
out of the kitchen
a slow walk
a funeral march 
to the backyard
where I
set the stink bug free
into the safe surrounds
of the spiny mahonia

I watched it
all the while
for its forgiveness.

Footnote: After this 'interlude,' I read up on the brown marmorated stink bug . . . only to further my confusion about what I 'should' have done, how I 'should' have reacted to this find in my house. Wait, I 'should' be killing these? They are considered serious agricultural pests, introduced to the Mid-Atlantic from Asia in 1998. They devour plants, particularly fruits and vegetables. They 'winter' inside homes - and there are sometimes hundreds inside houses (oh, please, please, no). 

If I see any more, I may construct this trap, taking my malevolent tendencies to a whole new level.

To the year ahead!


I wrote this post for Slice of Life.  All participants are writing about one moment, one part of their day, on Tuesdays. Thank you, Two Writing Teachers!