Sunday, September 30, 2007



If you read my recent post, Cookies, you know that I was going to ask my wife to bake me a batch of snickerdoodles.


I must have asked nicely. You can see some of the results here, cooling on the rack, smelling of sugar and nutmeg. I believe she uses the recipe from Judy Rosenberg's "Rosie's Bakery" cookbook.

Thank you very much, sweetie!

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Looking Down


I wrote this poem when I was in high school. I think it is a good fit for the Weekend Wordsmith prompt "Yourself".

Looking Down

My size-ten feet
on my age-twelve body
granted me one thing:
So I started walking
with my eyes to the ground.

One time Mom noticed
that I walked with my head down.
"I see lots of things people miss,"
I said.
"I always see the dimes and pennies first."

It wasn't that.
Maybe it was fear,
a fear that someone would see
the defiance in my eyes.

[Please don't take a copy of this without asking me. Thank you.]

1-Oct-2007 - I also decided that this fit the Writer's Island prompt, "The Journey".

Five Powerful Things


[inspired by the Sunday Scribblings prompt "Powerful"]

When Sunday Scribblings asked us to think of "powerful" I ended up with a list:

1 - Teresa Trull's lungs
I want them -- well, I want a pair just like them. The first time I heard her in concert, I was blown away. She can hit a note and keep it spinning through the room forever. Awesome.

2 - Hurricane Bob in 1991, from a ring-side seat in Maine

We rode out the storm in a sea-side cabin. The storm's wind and rain and waves and surf were all huge. This was far from a Katrina, but it was the most powerful hurricane I've experienced directly.

3 - The urge to eat something soon after I wake up.
When I ignore this powerful urge it makes me very, very grouchy.
Just ask my wife.

4 - Libraries
The library helped me travel the world from my small corner - for free. Once I devoured large sections of our town's library, I learned about the inter-library loan system and the universe was mine.

5 - "Thank you."
Saying "thank you" to someone is more powerful than you know. Sadly, forgetting to say it is also powerful.

Friday, September 28, 2007



[memories evoked by the Weekend Wordsmith prompt "Oreo"]

When I was a kid, there were usually two kinds of cookies in the house: Vanilla Wafers, and Fig Newtons. Since I wasn't really fond of figs, even if they were sweet, I pretty much ignored the Fig Newtons unless there weren't any Vanilla wafers. I think my younger brother was perfectly fine with that arrangement.

My mom didn't do much baking that I recall. I think when we wanted cookies, Mom would pick up a roll of cookie dough from the refrigerator case at the grocery store. We would slice it up into thick rounds, which then were sliced into quarters and arranged on a cookie sheet.

My dad, on the other hand, was always game to try his hand at cooking pretty much everything. He was a good cook, too. But I don't remember many cookie experiments except for making Mandelbrot (think Jewish almond biscotti). But since I'm more fond of the chewy cookies (and yes, I know that Fig Newtons are chewy!) I didn't really grow fond of these twice-baked and crunchy cookies until I was an adult. The fact that I don't drink coffee and therefore didn't dunk them might have had something to do with that. And I hate crumbs in my tea.

I don't remember much in the way of cookie baking at grandma's house, either. They were more the cake or pie types. I do remember that Grandma used to buy a package of gingersnaps, really crunchy ones. But she liked soft cookies (wonder if it is genetic...) so she'd put them in a big cookie jar with a lid. And in with the cookies she would put half an apple, sliced side up. After about a day or so, the moisture from the apple would have worked its way into the "snaps" and they wouldn't have so much snap to them any more.

I do remember a particular birthday party when my friend "K" turned 10. A bunch of us has a sleepover party at her grandmother's house. K's grandmother had mixed double batch of chocolate chip cookie dough and left it in the refrigerator to be baked the next day. She told us that if we wanted a little of the dough to eat raw, it was OK with her.

We did typical 10-year-old girl things. We played games and combed each other's hair. We were loud. We played board games and did jigsaw puzzles. We danced to 45's (we were especially fond of "The Loco-Motion") and we tried very hard to hypnotize each other. One was either very suggestible, or she was a good sport and tried to pretend she was hypnotized. We tried to get her to each a children's multivitamin tablet, but she wouldn't do it.

Anyway, about the cookie dough. A couple of us at a time would go into the kitchen and pull out the large bowl and get a spoonful of the sweet dough. We really didn't keep track any more than we kept track of what time it was. At long last we were exhausted and we all went to sleep in our sleeping bags, spread all over the large family room on the east side of the house. That meant that we woke up relatively early since the sun streamed into that room first.

I don't recall much about the morning (too tired, I'm sure) except how amazed, or was that dismayed, K's grandmother was at the quantity of cookie dough missing from the large bowl. I am pretty sure she got one full cookie sheet of them baked that morning, and just a few more.

Now I am pretty happy to eat nearly any kind of cookies - there are few I don't like, and I often crave one kind or another. I can be fickle, but right now I'd say that Snickerdoodles sound best. If I ask nicely, maybe my wife will bake me some this weekend.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Choir Practice


[a poem inspired by the writers island prompt, "The Key"]

Choir Practice

Atonal din to

ethereal voices when

we find the same key

The Plan


[a poem inspired by the Monday Poetry Stretch at The Miss Rumphius Effect.]

The Plan

She waited until the noon hour

to climb to the top of the tower.

How silly! she thought,

that the others had fought,

for a space in the hot, stuffy bower.

Up here a cool breeze was at hand,

and the view of the country was grand.

But an unlooked for teem

of rain spoiled her nice dream

of the afternoon picnic she'd planned.

[The challenge was to produce a bouts-rimés poem where the rhyming words are provided by someone else. The words given were hour, tower, thought, fought, hand, grand, teem, dream. Since the poem form I selected (limericks) required additional rhymes, I tried to find out if adding additional end-words and rhyme-words was OK, but couldn't track down the answer. So I did it anyway and had fun - will someone fill me in on whether this is still in the spirit of the bouts-rimés?]

Sunday, September 23, 2007

The Excursion


[A poem inspired by the Weekend Wordsmith prompt "Zoo"]

The Excursion

I sail across the wide brick plaza,

flitting past the ticket counter,

squinting into the bright

glare off the silver scales

that cover the building's new arm.

In the lobby I wave my card,

hook a schedule,

size up the crowds,

plot my course

and pass into the darker interior.

I want to ebb

when everyone else flows.

I want to be first,

in front,


like the penguins in the center pool.

I steer clear of those noisy birds,

to peer through the glass wall

of the Medical Center,

where real people treat

real animals,

where encouraged voyeurism

lets me look at their charts.

I cruise up the outside ramps,

then slowly

float in front of one tank,

then the next:

freshwater and saltwater,

sea jellies and sea dragons,

octopus and anemones,

electric eels,


catfish and trout,

poison dart frogs.

And after floating to the top

I dive down again,

hugging the inner ramp,

a tight spiral wrapped

around the Giant Ocean Tank.

Bright fish and dull.

Sharks and giant turtles.

Big fish and little.

Swimming with the current,

or against,

the moray eel anchored

in a crevice of man-made coral.

I tack past the crowds

out a side door,

to delight in the sea otters,

splashing and playing with toys,

and rolling over to catch air in their fur.

Back inside, I flow

through the special exhibit,

two floors with a focus

and too many people darting around

like a massive school of fish,

impressive, but mindless.

Near the end of my voyage

I resupply at the Cafe

and reel in treasures

at the Gift Shop,

to add to my memories,

as I leave the water-world,

and walk away.

[I am a member of the New England Aquarium in Boston. I don't make time to visit often enough.]

Saturday, September 22, 2007

My Name Is...


[memories evoked by the Sunday Scribblings prompt "Hi, my name is..."]

When I was a kid I used to jump rope. I jumped by myself, and at school recess, I jumped with my friends. I think that third grade (8 years old) was the peak of our jump-rope years, when we spent a lot of time not only jumping, but seeking out new jump-rope rhymes to use.

There was one that used the formula:

__ my name is _____

and my husband's name is ______.
We come from _____
and we sell ______.

as in

"A" my name is "Angie"

and my husband's name is "Andy"
We come from "Argentina"
and we sell "Airplanes."

"B" my name is "Bernice"
and my husband's name is "Bobby

Then there was:

Cinderella, dressed in yella,

went upstairs to kiss a fella,
How many kisses did it take?
1, 2, 3, ...

counting each jump of the rope until you missed.

Teddy bear, teddy bear, turn around.

Teddy bear, teddy bear, touch the ground.
Teddy bear, teddy bear, read the news.
Teddy bear, teddy bear, shine your shoes.

where on cue we would "turn around," then briefly tag the ground between jumps, mime reading a newspaper, and brush the top of our feet with our hands.

The start of this one we swished the rope back and forth, but didn't swing it over the jumper's head until we said "Over":

Bluebells, cockle shells,

Eevie, ivy, OVER!

and it was followed by more rhyme that I can't remember.

There was another that started out regular speed, then at the word "pepper" it went to twice as fast.

There were more, but our jump-rope days were about to change. The world introduced us to what we called Chinese Jump Rope.

Instead of swinging a rope we had a long coated elastic band that went around the ankles of the people on the ends. It started out as low on the ankles as they could get it and we had a pattern we used to hop in and around it. I think it went something like:

Right (where the right leg was between the bands and the left leg out)
Left (where the left leg only was in)

On (where each foot held down one side of the rope)

In (both legs in)

Out (both legs outside, straddling both "ropes")

Twist (the jumper turned 180 degrees so the rope wrapped around her)

Jump (where the jumper hopped away from the twisted mess, hopefully untangling herself as she went)

The the band was moved up to the top of the ankles for another go. Then the mid-calf, then the knees, etc. The higher the band was placed, the harder it got to get your feet to clear it (or land on it in some cases). And it was MUCH harder to jump free at the end.

It was a good thing we were all pretty close to the ground back then! That and not weighing much meant we didn't get seriously hurt when we fell. Just some scraped knees. It certainly did keep us occupied for hours on end.

Friday, September 21, 2007



[memories evoked by the Weekend Wordsmith prompt "x-ray"]

During the time I was in third grade, the house was under renovation. They first built an addition and then they broke through the connecting walls, with the intention being to minimize the dust in the part of the house we were living in. When the walls came down, however, plaster dust went everywhere. My mom was (and still is) an excellent housekeeper and was quiet house-proud. She tried to keep things clean, but even she couldn't keep up with it.

Around then I came down with a cold and then developed a cough. I didn't feel too terrible, except at night when I couldn't stop coughing long enough to get much sleep. I drank extra fluids and my parents gave me cough medicine. Mom gave me one, then two extra pillows to elevate my head. Then she tried putting a dresser drawer under the mattress at the head end, trying to ease my cough a bit. I should mention that my mom was a nurse and my dad was a doctor, so to have me treated at home was not unexpected. But the regular treatments were not doing the trick.

Doctor Daddy decided I needed a chest film, so we went to the hospital (just two short blocks away) to a room I'd never been in there. I'd spent time in the hospital, waiting for my dad to finish his rounds, or pick up equipment that had been autoclaved (sterilized). I had helped my mom drop off candy for all the folks who worked there. I knew where the box of crayons were kept in the doctor's lounge and I knew where the pages were kept in the office area off the emergency room. But I'd never been there as a patient before.

I had on a dress with a leatherette jumper over it. I had to take off the jumper and stand very still in the cold room while the technicians left me alone. Then they came back and turned me in a different direction and then left me alone again for a minute. Then we were done. Mom helped me put the jumper back on and I got dropped off at school for the day with a note to excuse my tardiness.

When the chest films (x-rays) were developed, it turned out that I had a touch of pneumonia, a light case they called "walking pneumonia." It turns out I was reacting to all the plaster dust as an irritation. Once they knew what I had, it was easier to treat. I stayed home from school and took medicine. And, most memorable to me, I didn't sleep in my bed. My dad had a reclining chair in the living room. At night, I got into my pajamas and Mom tucked me into that chair with pillows and blankets. It was a little spooky, sleeping in the living room, especially since the furniture was not in its regular places due to the construction. It did, however, keep me upright enough to help keep my coughing to a minimum.

My teacher had a fit that "they sent that child to school with pneumonia" but I didn't feel scarred by the experience. I got better pretty quickly and had no further trips to the hospital (as a patient). The house renovation finished that spring and the extra space (and the pool out back) were welcomed by the whole family.

That was my first set of x-rays. I haven't had many -- just dental x-rays, and twice for sports injuries (no breaks).

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Happy Talk Like a Pirate Day


Today I be a seafarin' hearty an' I says: Yes, indeed, 'tis again that time o' voyage, when each an' ever' one o' us be invited, nay encouraged t' Talk Like a Pirate. If ye didna plan ahead, go on o'er t' the'r site an' check 't ou' - go ahead! ya bilge rat who ortin' t' be keel hauled!

Don`t forget t' try th' English-t'-Swashbuckler Translators, includin' this one 'ere ye can e'en type in yer webpage`s URL an' be seein' 't translated fer ye (th' smaller field at th' bottom). Have ye gone, ya horn swogglin' scurvy cur?

Here be how 'tis done:
I ran m own post "Tea and Me" through th' translator t' come up with:

Grog an' Me
I didna drink grog. Th' first grog I knew o' be iced grog, loaded t' th' gunwhales by nearly sea dogs an' land lubbers I knew in th' summer. I didna like 't. Wi' or without sugar didna matter, wi' or without lemon. 't jus' wasn't me thin'. When I be in Girl Scouts, we learned t' make Sun Grog by puttin' grog bags in a large glass container that would sit in th' hot summer sun fer a long time. Since this be jus' another way t' make iced grog, I wasn't really impressed.

Go be havin' fun before th' tide be over, ya scallywag!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The Unexpected Gift


[inspired by the writers island prompt "The Gift"]

The Unexpected Gift

I am quite a hard person to buy for.

There's not much I think is "to die for."

I'm stubborn and picky,

My wish list is tricky,

so my wife practices caveat emptor.

One year she went shopping on E-Bay
to find me a gift that was okay.

By hooks or by crooks

she found Danny Dunn books

and the full set just blew me away.

[I loved Danny Dunn books when I was a kid - full of science complete with an absent-minded professor, set in what could have been the midwest, with a girl who was as smart as the boys. Even a kid who was a poet! My wife rounded up copies of each book in the set and presented them to me all at once. I had NO IDEA and it was a wonderful surprise.]

Sunday, September 16, 2007

A Herd of Rabbits


[memories evoked by the Sunday Scribblings prompt "Collector Personality]

My younger brother had a collection of rabbits, but not live ones.

It all started with a small wooden rabbit made in Africa that my parents brought home from a trip to New York City and a visit to the United Nations Building. I think it was from Kenya. It was dark wood with sleek lines. It really looked fast and it felt good to the hand. The next time my parents took a trip and asked if there was anything we wanted them to bring home, my brother asked for another rabbit.

After that, they started multiplying, yes, like rabbits. Family and friends of the family loved adding to the collection. He had rabbits made of glass, ceramic, wood, and stone. Some were tiny; others were a bit bigger. They came from all over the country and all over the world. Most of the time the rabbits lived on the dresser in my brother's room.

One spring (around Easter time) the local newspaper came and took a picture of my brother with his collection. Mom had moved the rabbits to the living room. There was one problem with having them in the living room. The low display table they were on put them within easy reach of my nephew who was then three years old. All the little shiny rabbits were very attractive to the little guy. Alert adults kept him away from the table, sometimes by a narrow margin.

Finally my nephew got lucky. He launched himself at the tabletop full of rabbits and actually reached it, knocking over most of the bunnies.

Rabbits were everywhere. One little glass bunny that had been in a glass bottle lost that bottle but came out with both ears in place. Some, however, needed the most common rabbit surgery, one at which we had become proficient. That surgery is best described as ear re-attachment. Some rabbits had one ear snapped off, a few had lost both, but all were reattached with a bit of glue and patience.

The collection came through largely unscathed and stayed out at least until my brother went to college. I'll have to ask him if he still has it today.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Middle Name Meme


I am not planning to share my middle name, which would make this meme difficult. So I picked, instead, the middle name of my mother's mother.

Middle Name Meme

Obligatory Rules, Copy and put in your post.
First, post the meme rules before you start listing the facts of the meme. Then, for each letter of your middle name, list a fact/statement relevant to you and/or your life, in some way. If you don’t have a middle name, pick one. And then, of course, you tag others.

A - Alive - My mother's mother was my the only one of my grandparents still alive when I was born.

L - Little Sister - My grandma's older sister lived with her until my grandma went to the nursing home.

I - Illinois - Grandma lived her whole life in Illinois.

C - Cook - Grandma worked as a cook in a tavern when my mom was young, and my memories of her cooking for me are very vivid.

E - Embrace - Nothing felt as warm and nonjudgemental as grandma's hugs

I don't play tag anymore - use this if you like, or don't.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Cold As Ice


After the Game

You're as cold as ice

You're willing to sacrifice our love

We sat in the small-town burger barn

and the song played over the speakers.

Coach nodded and started singing along,

"You never take advice

Someday you'll pay the price

I know

It was commentary on the game,

and perhaps on the season,

"I've seen it before

It happens all the time

You're closing the door

Her sing-along trickled off then,

because it wasn't about love and the world,

just about the trials and tribulations

of coaching high-school girls, and

the all-too-human frustration

of trying to shape a successful team

from a mixed-bag of kids, talented and not,

all with more on our minds than volleyball.

Some lines were a cathartic release from

the sting of another loss,

"You're digging for gold

Yet throwing away,

the lyrics accused even as they were

wrapped in a smile

shared across the table of burgers and fries.

By the end,

"But someday you'll pay

Cold as ice, you know that you are,

the bitterness faded from Coach's voice.

She sipped the last of her soda,

shaking the red plastic glass of crushed ice

and smiled at us, at the team,

and started planning tomorrow's drills.

[Cold As Ice by Foreigner really did play in a small-town burger joint where I sat across from the volleyball coach, commiserating a loss. More than once.]

About My Great-Aunt


September 15 was my great-aunt's birthday. She was born in 1899 and she lived to be 90 years old. She raised my grandmother and another sister after her mother died. She never married and spent her whole life helping take care of people.

When I was small, she helped out my parents by watching my brother and me. She lived just across town (about a mile away) and she helped out by doing light housework and trying to keep us out of trouble.

One thing she did was to iron clothes in the den, which was next to our large basement playroom. Of course we were warned well away from the hot iron. That probably made it more entertaining to us. I remember one day in particular when I was watching her iron clothes, making them smooth. I probably also liked that they were warm.

I had a toy iron. It was small enough to fit my hand and had a black handle, a red body and a smooth silver bottom. I think I also had a kid-sized ironing board that I set up next to my great-aunt's.

At first, I ironed right along size her. I took my little toy iron and worked on my doll's clothes as she used the big iron on the big clothes. Then I asked her to do one of the doll dresses, and she did. I noticed how much easier it was for her to get the wrinkles out and she told me it was because the heat did that.

I don't remember who suggested what, but she let me press my little toy iron's bottom against the bottom of the big iron as it sat there. After a minute or so, it would be warm, and I was able to get more wrinkles out of the doll clothes. It would not stay warm long, so after a while I'd have to re-warm my iron against hers again.

I'm guessing I got tired of this pretty quickly, but the memories are so sharp that I think I must have done that more than once. How we managed to keep both of us from getting burned may have been a miracle!

My great-aunt out-lived her sisters and everyone else in that generation of our family. She was over 80 years old when she moved out of a house into an apartment, where she continued to cook her own meals three times a day.

So in honor of the anniversary of her birth, here are some of the other things I remember about her:

- Her favorite color was red.

- She loved the red cardigan sweater we bought her one year.

- She loved bird-watching.

- It should not surprise you she loved cardinals, which she called "red birds."

- At some time she had learned to play piano. When I started lessons, she sometimes pecked out some old hymns on the piano in my living room.
- Her favorite hymn was "The Old Rugged Cross."
- She had dark, almost black hair most of the time I knew her. Then my mom finally convinced her that she shouldn't be dying it black, but maybe a softer color. The light brown color was a much better look for her.
- When my grandma and she made donuts, my great-aunt and I took care of glazing them and stacking them on a platter.

- She kept a big pile of old photographs jumbled in a shoebox under her bed.

- She didn't drive. She said she trusted us kids, once we turned 16, to drive her around safely. If she was nervous, she didn't show it to me.

- Every time I left home to return to college (at least twice a year) she cried when I said goodbye saying, "I might be dead before you come back." She was still alive when I graduated.

- I think the last meal she cooked for me was when my now-wife and I visited. It was a lunch that included sausage, biscuits, and milk gravy.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Tea and Me


[memories evoked by the Weekend Wordsmith prompt "tea"]

I didn't drink tea. The first tea I knew of was iced tea, drunk by nearly everyone I knew in the summer. I didn't like it. With or without sugar didn't matter, with or without lemon. It just wasn't my thing.
When I was in Girl Scouts, we learned to make Sun Tea by putting tea bags in a large glass container that would sit in the hot summer sun for a long time. Since this was just another way to make iced tea, I wasn't really impressed.

Then I clued in to my dad making tea at home. He would put a kettle on the stove to boil, then he would select tea from tins and fill a teaspoon-infuser with his selection (or a mix of them). The gizmo fascinated me. It was like a spoon with holes in it, with a hinge on one side and a holey top that latched over the tea leaves. Then he poured boiling water into the empty teapot and let it sit for a minute to warm it up. Then he would empty it out and put in the tea, followed by more water to start steeping. Most of the time, I didn't like that tea much better.

I don't know who introduced me to flavored teas and then herb teas. Perhaps it was on that week-long vacation, when I just didn't feel up to skiing one day and I spent the day with my non-skiing mom instead. We had a late breakfast and I don't know if I looked poorly or what, but the waitress asked if I wanted Chamomile tea. I don't remember if I tried it then or later, but it was definitely not like the tea my dad had.

When I was about 12 years old, my family took a cruise in the Caribbean on a Greek ship with a lot of Americans. My brother and I were the only kids on the whole boat. We had a lot of adventures but I remember afternoon tea. Every day at 4pm they served tea in the lounge. Not only tea, but also cookies. I learned that I liked lemon and sugar in my black tea. My brother liked milk and LOTS of sugar. We both liked the cookies.

And thus began my love of tea. I don't like all teas - I am somewhat picky. And I don't need the caffeine, so I tend to pick the de-caf varieties (except for those rare mornings when my brain just doesn't seem to start at work and I make a cup of English Breakfast Tea). I somehow never learned to like Earl Grey, and green tea is wasted on me.

There are some teas that I love to smell, even though the taste is pretty pale. I found an almond-based one once. Another in this category is a jasmine tea - delightful to smell, but it really tasted like I was trying to drink a sweet flower!

But now one of my biggest delights on vacation is to wake up slowly, then make a cup of herb tea and sit on the porch watching the day begin. There are evenings when a cup of Sleepy Time tea (mostly chamomile and mint from Celestial Seasonings) is just what I want.

And in the last couple of years I have discovered chai. I have never made my own from scratch (I will some year) but I am particularly fond of Stash Decaf Chai Spice. It has lots of spices, but no black pepper (I don't like the dry end-bite that the pepper tends to give). With milk and sugar - yum!

Who would have thought that the girl who didn't like (and STILL doesn't like) ice tea, would grow to like so many tea beverages?

Sunday, September 09, 2007

A Living Patchwork Quilt


[inspired by a prompt from Weekend Wordsmith]

Just because you put it on your bed does not make it a quilt. It is just a coverlet unless the layers are sewn or tied together.

A Living Patchwork Quilt

Nature selected the various shades,

all tones of green and brown and tan.

A patchwork of pattern that glows and then fades

with seasonal shifts in the habits of man.

When fields were first plowed there was nary a plan

for the artwork result that we see overhead.

The quilting was done by the kin of each clan,

as they eked out a living from dawn until bed.

The years of the sons and the daughters were thread,

stitching together the heart of this place,

'til one day the call of the cities instead

left fewer on farms to continue to face

that with rain there is growth and with drought there is death.

Farm-folk stitch on with their every breath.

My Audiences


[inspired by the Sunday Scribblings prompt, "writing"]

I think it was one of my college professors who taught me that when I write I should always keep in mind my audience.

I write at work: memos, e-mail, announcements, instructions, personnel reviews, and policy statements. Since people at work come from all over the world, and from many walks of life, I try hard to keep my work writing clean and simple. I try to keep my vocabulary at a junior-high level to accommodate those for whom English is not their first language. I put the most important information at the top of the announcements because I know that some people's eyes glaze over quickly. When I am writing for work, my audience is very much in my mind.

The writing that you see on my blog is a different kind of beast. The poetry, in particular, is crafted with very careful word choices. I write to uncover a memory, or a truth, or a wish, and sometimes a rant. I can lay out my information in whatever order I wish. I can twist a story part way through. I can spring a surprise ending. I can use big words.

Yet when writing for my blog, I still keep a governor on my pieces. I limit my topics, avoiding ones that would divulge more than I am willing about work, co-workers, family, and myself. I am not obligated to write for my blog, so it is certainly about pleasing myself, but I do keep in mind my audience here and that audience includes family, friends, blog-friends, and strangers.

And I use one more mode of writing. I have an oft-neglected journal. In it I scrawl pages of stream-of-consciousness. I bitch, I whine, I pout, I rage. My journal sees the worst of me. It also sees the most introspective of me. My journal sees me without a filter, at least one episode at a time, with no editor, hand-written in pen so that it is permanent. Who is the audience for this mode of my writing? Most of the time, I write in my journal for an audience of just one - just me. And there are other times when I write in my journal for some unnamed future person who has discovered the book and is trying to piece together what kind of person I am.

It appears that I have more readers to please that I thought before I worked though this topic. Like any performer, I hope to keep them coming back for a long time. Also like any performer - I could no more stop writing than I could stop breathing. Even if the only audience I please is myself.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Clothesline Haiku


A calico dress
slowly dances itself dry
in the washday breeze.

I've been thinking about my grandparents a lot lately. This came out of memories of my grandma and my great-aunt hanging laundry to dry on clotheslines in their back yard. They were so careful to keep the undergarments hung on the inner lines so that they neighbors wouldn't see them. Everything had to be hung up just right, most things were hung by their lower hems. In the winter the clothes were hung all over the basement, with an electric fan to circulate the air. It made it hard to get around down there, but at the same time it felt sort of exotic with the damp fabric brushing up against our faces.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Father's Day Gift


My younger brother and I gave gifts to our parents on Mother's Day and Father's Day. We also gave gifts to our grandmother and our great-aunt on Mother's Day, and to our step-grandfather, R, on Father's Day.

I remember some of the gifts, particularly the Mother's Day items. Memories of what we gave my dad are a bit fuzzier, but I do know that with Mom's influence, there were a number of shirt-and-tie sets. But gifts to R, well, I know we gave him something or other every year.

R didn't have much in the way of hobbies, that I knew of. He was a working-class man who was very quiet. He worked the night shift, so mostly when we saw him, he had interrupted his daily sleep to get up for Sunday dinner. He smoked a pipe, but only outside or down in the workshop attached to the garage. He used a push mower to mow their large yard. I'm sure he did other yard work - trimming tress and the spirea bushes, and every year helping dig up the peony plants (which we called piney-bushes).

Most of the time I saw him dressed in a pair of blue denim overalls, complete with a pocket watch, and a pencil. He did have dress slacks and nice shirts and on special occasions he did wear them.

He was the only one in that household who drove a car. Neither my grandmother nor her sister could drive. He drove the world's plainest car - a brown boxy manual-transmission vehicle with tan plastic upholstery, no air conditioning, and only an AM radio.

Anytime the women of the house needed to go somewhere, he took them. I particularly remember their weekly grocery-shopping trips. R would take them to the smaller grocery store they preferred, then he would sit on one of the folding chairs lined up just inside the entrance with all the other older men.

I remember him as sweet and patient. I remember his delight at having taught me to "saw to a line" with the ancient handsaw on scrap wood down in the shop. I had a great amount of affection for the man, which is why it puzzles me that I can remember only one Father's Day gift to him. What was the precious gift I do remember? Why, it was a bar of soap-on-a-rope of course!

[memories evoked by the Weekend Wordsmith prompt, "rope."]

The End of the Meal


[my response to the Sunday Scribblings prompt, "the end"]

When I was growing up, the evening meal was served all at once. If there was salad, it was passed at the same time as the main dish and the sides. And usually things were passed. We didn't think of most our dinners as formal, though we did often have a tablecloth on the table, and we all sat down together. But whatever pot or pan we cooked in was what we served out of. A few hotpads or trivets kept the table from being scorched.

Once everyone finished eating, we usually cleared the pots and dishes from the table, putting the dishes into the dishwasher or stacking them to be washed by hand, putting leftovers in the refrigerator, putting the trivets away.

And then sometimes we had dessert. Sometimes it was fruit, now and then it was something sweeter: ice cream and cookies, or cake, or apple crisp, or a special pastry. We were often told "keep your forks" when we cleared the table, so that we didn't have more to wash after the meal. But by the time I was a young teen, I knew that dessert wasn't necessarily the end of dinner.

From the time we were little, my parents taught us good table manners. We were taught to be polite, to use utensils to eat with, to wipe our mouths with our napkins, and to sit at the table, even when we had finished unless we were asked to be excused. The figured if we behaved at home, we would also behave in the world, and she never had to be embarrassed by our behavior when we ate out in a restaurant or when we were guests in someone else's home.

My parents did not, however, hold to the "seen and not heard" philosophy of child-rearing. We were encouraged to take part in conversations. We were asked about our day and urged to ask questions. There was a certain amount of teasing. It was said of our dinner table that "the first liar didn't have a chance" meaning that one person started an exaggeration and then another person would build on that and so on. I remember a lot of laughter at the dinner table, and some bemused looks from visitors who hadn't experienced this kind of jesting before.

So with congenial conversation and joking, we talked and talked. And reaching the end of the food did not always happen at the end of a conversation. It was common for us to continue talking even after the last cake crumbs had disappeared from the plates. Sometimes a map would be brought out to help explain something, or maybe a dictionary or encyclopedia, or a photo album, or one of the many kinds of bibles in the house (we had more than one religion in the family).

My wife and I don't typically eat at the dinner table these days, but we certainly do when we have guests over. And those meals are likely to have the same endings as the ones I grew up with - with good conversation. I think of our closest friends and in each case, I remember conversations, many of which took place after dessert, often still sitting around one table or another, at our place or theirs.