Note on the Fridge to That Man

No Telling

Yes, I’m aware that there is a deadly hurricane blowing up New Orleans’ skirts right now. And I’d have to be in a coma not to know about the Republican National Convention bellowing even as I write this. I’ll attend to these things later.

Right now The Perfect Grandson is covered stem to stern in seed tick bites. That is the immediate situation here behind the suburban brick wall, and it’s got me worried sick.

Bear with me here. It took an hour and a half  for his mama to remove seed ticks with a pair of steady tweezers. Hundreds of them, tiny, and most on Very Delicate Places. A five year-old boy (or any boy, really) should NEVER have to endure such pain or close inspection.

I don’t have to explain the whole Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever/Lyme Disease/Tularemia paranoia to most of you, because I’m fairly certain you thought about it two paragraphs up. So far, no big fever, no scary joint pain – nothing to make me go into full blown Mimi-panic. He’s got two pairs of worried woman-eyes staring him down, so there’s not much we’ll miss.

How did he get into all these ticks? Ask his grandfather. Same guy who visited his son at Children’s hospital some 25 years ago because that little five year-old boy had Tick Fever.

I’ve written on this blog for five years without bringing up anything about the man, good or bad, and it was on purpose. I’m breaking that vow of silence right now.

When you’re given insect repellant, use it. This is Arkansas in August and you are a grown man who should know better. Take care of the boy when you’re given the gift of his company, or I will fly at you like a witch unhinged.

Just like I used to.

Sorry about that, folks. I’ll let you get back to your hurricane watch and that Republican soiree.   

The Perfect Grandson goes to Kindergarten

No Telling

School supplies are bought, labeled, and stowed neatly in a backpack by the door. The Lightning McQueen lunchbox is packed and chilling in the fridge. New shorts and a shirt are folded in a pile with clean socks and a handkerchief on the ready.

Tomorrow morning, The Perfect Grandson goes to kindergarten.

He’s a little nervous, but more excited. His classroom looks like jungle with monkeys on the walls, counting bugs in jars, books everywhere. The alpha and omega of his day will rest in Mrs. Lovelady’s hands. He calls her “Miss Lovely” and I think that is a very, very good sign.

I have no doubt The Perfect Grandson will have a sterling day. He’ll come home, eat everything that’s not nailed down, and talk nonstop until he goes to bed. He’s a born-curious extrovert who makes friends on the fly and who craves the how and why of everything. School will be his other food.

Em, on the other hand, is a wreck. I suspect this milestone sneaked up on her like the dirty thief time can be and now here it is, tomorrow. In truth, she’s been weeping off and on for a week. Not because she’s worried or scared that her son will be worried or scared, but because his going to Big School marks the end of something. The beginning too, and that’s a long hall to look down for any mama. When I think about Em’s first day of kindergarten, I’m fairly sure it was yesterday that she went. Maybe the day before, but no longer ago than that.

It’s been 21 years since I walked my baby to her first real classroom. So I understand when Em says tomorrow is the beginning and the end. She’s right. It is.

As a teacher and his Mimi, though, I can’t help but be excited for him. Fresh crayons and sharp pencils and the whole big world to learn. I won’t spend a second worrying about him tomorrow – that’s his mama’s specialty. Besides, The Perfect Grandson doesn’t need hand-wringing. He’ll be having entirely too much fun.

UPDATE:  The day was a smashing success and the young scholar ate all his lunch. How could a boy with shoes as cool as those have a bad day?

How to be a One Percenter, or 14 Minutes in Heaven

No Telling

It occurs to me that something’s awry. I’ve gotten out of my daily writing routine, which is particularly tragic on two different levels. First, because writing makes me happy and failure to scribble is a silly kind of self-flagellation. Second, because I have another site with almost 1,000 writing prompts that I’ve accumulated for students and strangers, but have failed to use a single one myself. Crazy.

Where did I go? How do we manage to slip ourselves in last place? I know it’s not just me. I’m confident there are a few of you out there who, right now, are fist-bumping the screen or talking to yourselves out loud. Nod with me and give me an amen. Too many of us.

Enough, I say. Time to fix this mess. I used to be in love with Morning Pages. For those of you unfamiliar with Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way, here’s the gist of it…

“Morning Pages are three pages of longhand, stream of consciousness writing, done first thing in the morning. There is no wrong way to do Morning Pages– they are not high art. They are about anything and everything that crosses your mind– and they are for your eyes only. Occasionally colorful, more often than not Morning Pages are negative, fragmented, repetitive or bland. Good!  Worrying about your job, the laundry, the weird look your friend gave you – all that stuff distracts you from your creativity. It eddies through your subconsciousness and muddies your day. Get it on the page first thing in the morning and move on with your day with a freer spirit.”

I’ve done this. I have teacher friends who’ve done this. I have more students than I can count who have managed to do this morning page business. All of this despite the fact that they were too busy feeding children, falling in love, studying for chemistry, finding cheap shampoo, kissing boo-boos, folding underwear, or scraping out a living. After a few days, the morning page routine kicks in and the writing becomes easier, lovelier, automatic.

Not everyone can do the morning thing. I get that. Not everyone wants to write about themselves, and I get that too. The beauty of the thing is that there are no rules other than the three pages. I’ve found that even that is negotiable.

What I do have is 1,440 minutes in a day. Most is devoted to a mountain of duties for Other People, but I’m going to steal back 14 minutes. That’s less than ONE PERCENT of my day, your day, our day. To be an exact One Percenter, you’d have to write some portion of a minute longer, but don’t you dare.

Steal your 14 minutes when you want. Give yourself permission to take it. Write something dreadful and don’t worry about it. Scribble in a notebook, type like banshee, start it on a roll of paper towels. Doesn’t matter. Throw it away if you hate it. Share it, don’t share it – it’s your call.

I’m starting right now. Are you in?

(Image via, a very cool site indeed)

Anything for Science

No Telling

So I’m having it pulled in a few hours. Sometime after that, an implant, which will nearly make me The Bionic Mimi.

Because The Perfect Grandson is a five year-old boy, he wants to see the tooth. He’s heard a thing or two about losing teeth and that tooth fairy woman, but he’s a man who likes hard evidence. A scientist.

My fear, of course, is that my old tooth will rattle around in a plastic pill bottle alongside his beetles and dead paper-wasps. Wish me luck.

Not a Poet After All

No Telling
via Little Yellow Birds

I don’t think I’ll write poems anymore. Making poems used to be easy as breathing and just as involuntary, but for the past few years it doesn’t seem to be so urgent. In fact, after spending almost a whole life making poems, deciding to stop doesn’t make me sad at all.

It’s a little like looking at your own baby pictures. Who’s that child? I remember her and I remember being her, but it’s easy to shut the family album and go on about my business. Same thing with the poems.

Maybe I’m just too tired to feel so lovely and terrible and gut-wrenched. Maybe some menopausal mechanism has clicked over to make me scribble stories with voices rather than take word snapshots. Maybe I burst a poetic blood vessel writing 50,000 words in a month and my circulatory system has rerouted around the wound.

It’s possible all that metaphor wafting in the world doesn’t have to be announced by me. I’m fine with that.

I don’t hate poetry. In fact, I’m one of its biggest fans. And those young ones who still understand poetry as the subversive underground and foreground to their life landscapes? I love them even more. Shout the f-bomb into the crowd, I say, raise your articulated fists into the air! The emperor isn’t wearing any clothes! Love hurts!

Nothing wrong with being a spectator. Everyone needs an audience. It’s even better when the audience isn’t (even in secret) competing with the poet on some level. Ask any writing major or MFA candidate, they’ll know exactly what I mean. Teaching public school again has reminded me just how valuable an open audience can be.

While cheerleading those poems, I think I might finally fall in love with The Sentence. If I’m still enough, I can feel Story tattooing itself on my DNA. Double helix typewriter ribbons of text.

Much better.

A Room of One\’s Own


Read about 229 Spring Street

Since Strikethru threw down the gauntlet and asked us to dream up our own writing shacks,I thought I\’d play along. This was easy, because I picked out this Dream Shack a few weeks ago while visiting Eureka Springs, AR and very nearly not returning.

So it\’s not a shack, actually, but it is for sale and it called to me distinctly every time I rode down the mountain to go into  or out of town. This little house tugged at me, I tell you.

I know the conversation about writing shacks began with the whole back-to-basics, typewriter-on-a-table philosophy, and I wholly agree – we need to disconnect and find a room of our own. I get it. I\’m not having some kind of Pinterest-induced Southern Living magazine fantasy.

But LOOK at it. 

Bear with me here. Let\’s say you\’re out in your backyard writing shack, in the gawdalmighty zone and typing like a best-selling fiend on the finest typewriter Remington ever made. You\’re an articulate machine gun, and you\’re thirsty for a tall glass of iced tea which should be within arm\’s reach, but is now empty. Or, you have to powder your nose. It happens.

Just then, your wife/husband/child/grandkid shouts out across the lawn and into your zone. \”Do you need anything from the store?\” they say. Or \”Hey, where are my…?\”

And it\’s gone.

The answer is to leave town, really. Move to, say, Eureka Springs and buy a sweet little house so you can live on two levels that step out upon two different streets. Better yet, win the lottery, buy the Eureka house, and tell absolutely no one what you have done. That way they can\’t follow you.

(Do click on the link and read about the house. There are more pictures, but I knew I\’d lose complete typewriter shack cred if I put them up here.)


Dear President Eisenhower


Acknowledgement of service obligation signed by Elvis Presley on March 24, 1958, to indicate that he understands that his total service obligation (both active and reserve) is 6 years., 03/24/1958 - 03/24/1958

U.S. National Archives

Elvis got that haircut at Fort Chaffee, Arkansas. There\’s a nifty tourist shrine to the whole event at the Fort Chaffee Barbershop Museum. But that\’s not the point, really. The important thing is that, in a fit of tween desperation, Linda, Sherry, and Mickie felt impelled to write the only man who could stop this G.I. haircut madness:  The President.

Letter from Linda Kelly, Sherry Bane, and Mickie Mattson to President Dwight D. Eisenhower Regarding Elvis Presley
U.S. National Archives

I don\’t know whether the best part of this is imagining the three of those girls working this out at some slumber party, or whether the best part is that through a series of offhand decisions, their letter became a U.S. National Archives document. In perpetuity, no less.

The Sky is Falling and That’s Just Fine

No Telling

“A poet is someone who stands outside in the rain hoping to be struck by lightning.”  ~James Dickey

Rain. I don’t know where you live, but here in bellybutton of Arkansas it’s been the broken promise of rain for two months now.

Two dry months in the middle of an Arkansas summer. The only thing worse is finally getting rain and living in a 115-degree steam bath the next day. I’ll care about that tomorrow, but for now it’s pit-patting on the roof. An old friend.

I could go on and on about this drought’s  devastating toll on farm and field around here, but I’m sure some of you are just as dust-covered as I am. Leaves crackled off the trees weeks ago here and everyone house is sporting patchy-dead grass. Watering doesn’t really help and they’ll stop that soon enough. I imagine a few boil-orders here and there as well.

My only comfort is that I never planted those early tomatoes.The grief would have been too much to bear.

A couple of weeks ago a friend and I vacationed Up North. Eureka Springs is in the Ozarks Proper, which means it has it own climate. A self-important mist comes rolling off those mountains every single morning and the whole world is so green it hurts your eyes. It even rained one afternoon, hard. Great sheets of rain blowing sideways, ancient trees flailing branches, thunder, lightning, like that. We sheltered in a local establishment and knit in front of a big leaky window and did not care how long the wait.

It felt almost pagan watching that much rain, which might explain most of the fine people we met in Eureka Springs. Later, I watched quite a few more file oddly through the bell tower of  St. Elizabeth’s Church to, I assume, pray for more of the same.

Only a refined sense of familial and educational duty made me come down out of those mountains and back home. One time I’m going to make the trip to Eureka and never come back. Watch me.

Ah, a lull. More on the way soon, though. The rain’s a small gift from Texas for which I’d like to say a big Thank You Very Much. In the morning, the whole world will smell inexplicably like a catfish, but that’s not their fault. 

Note on the Fridge: Mea Culpa

No Telling

Dear Friends,

Now that I think about it, it might have been a better idea to leave a note on the fridge a couple of years ago when I stopped posting Just Like That.

But the thing is I always meant to get back here for a scribble. Here I am teaching writing all day long and somehow managing not to write one single word myself. I tell my students to be fearless on the page, to write every single day, to spit in the Muse’s eye, to make a voice and let others hear it.

And then I put down my own pen.

I don’t have to tell you that sometimes life gets in the way. You already know that. It gets in your way, too. That’s not a reason for much of anything because I understand full well that writing is the gift of sanity in such times. It is, in fact, the antidote to most every ailment real or imagined.

The writing stopped, then couldn’t get restarted, so I berated myself for waving my hands in the air like some midnight televangelist faking miracles for cash. Since hypocrisy is exhausting, I self-medicated by knitting really large shawls. This was either an act of penance or procrastination. Maybe both, since I gave every last one of them away.

Enough. It’s time to get back to the page and re-acquainted with you.