Friday, December 31, 2010

What Have You Read 2010? What Do You Hope To Read 2011?

We did this at the end of the year last year, and so I suppose it shall become the very first regular feature of my very irregular blog.

The Challenge: What have you read this past year? What was your favorite? What was your least favorite? What book would you most recommend to others to read? Also list one or two reading goals for next year. What do you hope to read? Do you hope to read more? Do you hope to read more of a particular type of material?

Even if you haven't read any books- what blogs, news sources, message boards, or magazines have you read?

Either leave your list in the comments or on your own blog with a link in the comments!!

What I Have Read 2010

My Detachment Tracy Kidder
Dog Soldiers Robert Stone
A Soldier's Heart Elizabet Samet
Generation Kill Evan Wright
Lolita Nabokov
The Quiet American Graham Greene
Girl With The ( fucking) Dragon Tattoo Steig Larson
Count Of Monte Cristo Alexandre Dumas
Mountains Beyond Mountains Tracy Kidder
The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao Junot Dias
Gifts Of Imperfection Brene Brown
One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest Ken Kesey
Paco's Story Larry Heinemann

Favorite: Read some very life changing and really great books this year it's hard to narrow it down. Least Favorite: Duh...Girl With The Dragon Tattoo . What Everyone Should Read: Cuckoo's Nest, Gifts of Imperfection, Generation Kill.

I did complete the War Through the Generations Challenge! Woot! (But only since they counted movies!) Next year is the American Civil War, and there is not much from there which calls to me to read right now, so I might skip it.

Goals for 2011
Really to just try to read steadily. I got waaay bogged down in several books this year, and that always spells disaster. I even quit in the middle of a couple books, and that is very unlike me. I'd like to read some Dicken's this year--it's been a couple years since I've read him and I miss him. Would like to read Henry Miller, too--I feel like he is a big gap in my American reading.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Family Jornal Project

We started our Family Journaling Project this past week. My husband and I, and our three oldest kiddos (ages 13, 10 and 7 3/4) started journaling together on nights when my husband is home from work. The kids have really seemed to love it. My husband seems to be passing a constipated bowel movement during the whole thing.

So far this is how it's worked. I have scoured the internet for some sort of writing prompt. When we settle in together, I share the prompt. Everyone writes or draws their response. Then I ask if anyone wants to share what they've written or drawn, but remind them that sharing is completely optional. No one has to share anything.

Any ideas for future prompts are very, very welcome! Any input or ideas of any kind is also very welcome. I am totally making this up as I go along, so appreciate all input and guidance.

The first night we went over the Journal Rules: You are allowed to write or draw anything you want in your journal. Anything. You never have to share anything you don't want to from your journal, but you may share anything you'd like. Journals are PRIVATE. No one has permission UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES to read or look in another person's journal, without their express permission. By express permission I mean: that they are right there with you in the same room while you are reading and they said that it was okay that same hour. Someone sharing something with you once does NOT give you permission to look in their journal whenever you want.

So far these have been our prompts:
What is your superpower?

What is your kryptonite?

Draw or describe your supersuit, super lair, or super mobile.

(all of those were taken from here )

Describe a time when you were courageous.

What is your biggest fear?
Draw the depths of your heart.
Tonight these will be our prompts:
Write about the worst day of your life. What made it so bad? What, if anything, did you learn from that day?

Write about the best day, or a great day of your life. What made it so good? What, if anything, did you learn from that day?

Write and acrostic poem using your name, using only positive adjectives or attributes to describe yourself.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Teaching Introspection & The Importance of Simply Being Together

The other day, I had an idea. I developed an interview, and asked each of my children a handful of questions about our family life. The oldest ones, in turn, are working on an interview for my husband and I. I had a two-fold purpose for this project.

First, I wanted to gain a sense of how the kids view our family, so that I could focus my parenting efforts playing to our strengths and emphasizing our assets. At the same time, starkly looking at our failings as a family, understanding how they affect all of us, and trying to figure out the root causes of those challenges which seem to plague us.

I think I am probably not alone as a parent getting stuck in focusing on the things going badly. We struggle with the same few things it seems over and over again. Picking up toys and projects and belongings left out is a monumental struggle Everyone seems to be vying for the attention of a parent or a sibling or a spouse almost non-stop, which can manifest itself in a plethora of negativity- ranging from hyper-competitiveness to down right cruelty. My perception (though it turns out to be a flawed one) was that we lacked a cohesive group identity, which is essential in fostering team work. I thought interviewing the kids about their perceptions of our family might give me some clues about what steps I might take to end this repetitive struggle with the same handful of issues. I was really unprepared for what I found out, but at the same time very pleased with what I found out. It will require some more self-searching and honesty on my part about the why of some of my own behaviour patterns, but what excited me was that moving forward is something that is definitely doable.

The second purpose was to encourage introspection amongst the children. Giving them a starting place and some practice thinking about their lives and communicating what they uncover. I also wanted them to have the experience of sharing their thoughts and hearts out loud with me in an environment of safety non-judgment. I began each interview telling them that there are no right or wrong answers, no better or worse answers. I just wanted the most honest answers they could give. I would not be angry or hurt by anything they had to say.

Here are the interview questions:
1.) What do you like best about being in our family?

2.) What would you change about our family if you could?

3.)What do you think you will struggle with the most as a grown up? What do you think Mommy struggles with most? Daddy?

4.) Imagine yourself as a 25 year old and someone asks you, "What was it like growing upin your family?" What is your answer to them?

5.) What do you hope our family life is like when you are all grown ups?

6.) Which one of your siblings do you feel you have the closest relationship to? Why? Which one do you wish you were closer to? Why?

7.) What do you feel is our greatest strength as a family?

8.) What do you feel is our greatest weakness?

9.) Any other thoughts or comments about growing up in our family that you think are important?

The underlying theme in all of the information I gathered was that more than anything our greatest asset as a family is just simply being together. Our greatest detriment is when we are not working together, or when any one of us is not open to togetherness. Having fun together and playing together is really important, but interestingly not something we do very well at overall. Honestly, what I found out is that the simple act of being physically together so much goes a long way, and the best way to improve what is lacking is by spending more time together having fun-both with our parent child relationships, as well as sibling to sibling relationships.

This is great news to me, and gives words to the feelings and sense of things I have been forming for several years. I have been telling people who ask why we homeschool for quite awhile now that it comes down to really just being a close knit family, with an emphasis an learning how to create and live in healthy relationships. We are all a part of one another's lives in a very intimate way. I know what my kids are doing. They know what I am doing. I know all of their friends and all of their friends' parents. They know all of my friends. I know the other adults in their lives. They watch me struggling and fighting to be the best person I can be. They witness my many, many mistakes and watch me apologize, try to make amends, and then try to gain the skills to do things differently in the future, even if that change is a long time coming. I know the things with which they are really struggling, so even if I can't help them I can be a witness to their struggle and cheer them on when they have a victory.

However, I think this information is also going to really require some more fine honed work on my part. I think I really need to understand where my disengagement comes from. I need to really seek out what the underlying shame there is, which makes me feel at times unworthy of connection with the kiddos. I need to work really diligently on balance in my life, so that I can be fully present more of the time. I need to try harder to incorporate the realities of a 1 year old into the fabric of the day of the rest of the children, instead of just sort of expecting them to wait another six months to have their mommy "back".

This has all also yielded to another project which I will share as it develops. We are going to start journaling together as a family. I will borrow a lot of other people's questions from the internet as well as create my own and encourage the kids to create questions. My husband has agreed to join us. I think it might be a great experience. I have never been much of a journal keeper, so I look forward to what will come.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

For Veteran's Day- A Poem by Brain Turner


It is a condition of wisdom in the archer to be patient
because when the arrow leaves the bow, it returns no more.

It should make you shake and sweat,
nightmare you, strand you in a desert
of irrevocable desolation, the consequences
seared into the vein, no matter what adrenaline
feeds the muscle its courage, no matter
what god shines down on you, no matter
what crackling pain and anger
you carry in your fists, my friend,
it should break your heart to kill.

Brian Turner's debut collection, Here, Bullet, won the 2005 Beatrice Hawley Award from Alice James Books. He earned an MFA from the University of Oregon before serving for seven years in the US Army. He was an infantry team leader for a year in Iraq with the 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, and prior to that was deployed to Bosnia-Herzegovina with the 10th Mountain Division. His poetry has been published in Poetry Daily, The Georgia Review, American War Poems: An Anthology, and in the Voices in Wartime Anthology published in conjunction with the feature-length documentary film of the same name. He currently lives in California.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Struggling to Make Sense of Love

I read something a few weeks ago that really, really challenged me. There was a list (oh, how my quantitative soul LOVES a list!) of dysfunctional behaviours and thoughts. Most of my life since becoming a mother has involved admitting how flawed I am in how I relate with myself and others and trying to gain skills and tools to heal and learn new patterns. These sorts of lists have served me well over time, since I came to adulthood pretty much completely unaware of what healthy relationships with others and myself actually look like. A huge part of moving toward wholeness for me has involved understanding what wholeness is not. I have gotten my ass kicked pretty routinely by truths I have encountered, but this time I feel like I was given a body blow. It reached a very deep place , where I believe the last vestiges of shrugging off personal responsibility lie. I am still processing through it all.

What did it say? This list? Well, essentially that a feeling of “If X, Y, or Z would just love me as he/she ought, things would be better,” is inherently dysfunctional.

Except this is exactly how I have felt for most of my married life. And even as I write this to release it and move on, I am crying. I really, really just want to be scooped up and loved and have my love accepted in return. (And here I will remind you once again--if you don’t think any of this is appropriate to hash out in a public sphere, no one is forcing you to read this. Click that little x in the right hand corner of your screen.)

In the beginning, this feeling was a position to hide behind, offering protection when I didn’t feel like enacting change in myself. It was a fortress where I could relinquish blame for the way things were. The suck was obviously NOT my fault. You, whoever you were, just weren’t loving me “right”.

I grew up always feeling like the black sheep, always feeling misunderstood. At one point as a teenager we went to family counseling to help me with “my” problems, where the counselor tried to implicate our entire family and well, let’s just say that we never went back to that quack who couldn’t see that my struggles and rebellion weren’t just my own damn fault. And so there is a very real sense in which the core of me really needed the people in my life to just love me as they ought. And when the didn’t, my response was quite simply. “Fuck them!”

But I carried this wounded part with me into adulthood. I carry it still, though it has morphed and manifested itself in other ways which I keep confronting and try to work through. I have long since accepted the messiness of raising children, and know that my parents did and gave the best they knew to do out of the best of intentions. While that acceptance has brought peace and forgiveness, I think I haven’t totally and honestly just looked that wounded little girl in the face, given her a hug and said “Good bye!”.

As I thought about this whole dynamic when confronted by this list, I think my difficulty lies in the fact that no longer is the feeling of believing “ if I was just loved as I ought to be “something which I hide behind. It is no longer a deflection of blame. I think it has transformed into an assertion that dammit , I am WORTH loving. And I am a phenomenal person to be loved by in return. But it is also a truth that being loved by me is not for the faint of heart. I have an immense capacity for loving people as they are, where they are at, but it is equally true that I want that love to change those who encounter it and experience it. Not by any pre-set criteria that I have, but that my love, my presence is fuel for them to seek out and find that change which they need to enact in order to be the best them they can be. Once again through big tears, I can definitely say that in our 14 years together my spouse has remained essentially unchanged in response to this heart, this love, this soul. And I am struggling to make sense of that, to make peace with it, to look it in it's brutal eyes , breathe it in and accept it. Without blame. For me or for him.

Which brings me back to make sense of the whole idea of “if I was just loved as I ought to be”. I think now, in the present it would better be expressed “if I was just allowed to love as I desire to love”, my life would be better. I want a healthy, mutually interdependent love where love feeds on itself and manifests into greatness. And I don’t believe that to just be the love of fairy tales and chick flicks. I know love is messy and scary and sometimes looks like and smells like shit. I do want to experience love as it “ought” to be, but this is no longer born out of dysfunction but from a place of certainty that not only am I enough, but that I really kind of rule. And so does the rest of humanity. We have a capacity for greatness if we can just get over being so afraid.

Writing this all out, I see a sort of triumph here. I see myself moving past lists and other outside determinants for what health and wholeness is. I find a woman who is able to wrestle through and determine what truth is. I find someone who is willing to accept that all that she’s come to conclude here, might in fact be wrong, and willing to amend it all if there is more or greater insight through her experience or interactions with others. I see a parting embrace to that wounded young girl who felt so let down by her world, and a wide warm welcome for the strong and amazing woman who has grown up in her place. I am here and I know that I must love myself with radical acceptance, and the humility to understand that before any external change can take place, I must first have the courage to be willing to change myself.

And if you have read this far, let me just leave you with this: Be open to the love in your life. Allowing other people to love you is not only a gift to yourself, but a gift to them. If you have a spouse or significant other in your life who is willing to be vulnerable before you, thank them for honoring you with that gift. And if you have work you need to do within yourself, know, without a doubt that I am here with you, to at least walk next to you so you are not alone as you do it.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Joyful Life

I made this as a present for my kiddos. I am hoping to make a slide show of the incredible pictures I have from Michael's birth (Thank you Jennifer!), and wanted some practice with the movie making software. It's imperfect, but has lots of great pictures. I couldn't figure out how to permanently delete the camera name which keeps appearing briefly at the bottom of the page.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

To Michael On His First Birthday

To Michael On His First Birthday

There is that you in a far off dreamtime
Where you were so new and wrinkled
Smelling not yet of this world.
So many faces surround you with
Wonder and awe, marveling in
Humility before you.

We built a fortress
And the wise women gathered
Who fed us and came to you
Each kissing you leaving a mark
On your soul with her gifts.

You discovered the allure of the night
Resisting sleep so that all secrets
Could be yours to hold
Because life and death merge
In the shadow lands.
All wisdom is held there.

Those days are whispers,
Sounds almost heard but dampened
By the fog rolling in after midnight
As backyard dogs howl guttural and wild,
Lonely for the pack.

You became a great teacher, who
Trusting in depths within my soul ,
Compelled me to return again to the abyss
But the wise women were there
Reminding me to learn from you
And to not be afraid.

Now closer to the mouth of the cavern,
Daylight dances haphazardly on the walls.
We linger in the darkness so we
Are not blinded as we emerge
And lose our way.

Your little hand rests in mine,
Our hearts and breathing fused.
My great spirit guide,
I know you will not leave me
For we are one now and
Our shared strength is unconquerable.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Suckitude Which Has Been My Blog

I really, truly, honestly thought I'd rock blogging after Michael was born, even if I simply defaulted to shameless kid pictures and poetry of other people. But this last six months has challenged me so, so much.

After showing signs of starting to sleep pretty well for a baby, something hit Michael with a vengeance at 5 months old and the kid became the worst sleeper I have ever encountered. I mean there's tired....and then there's up every 45 minutes all night long and sleeping no more than 20 minutes during the day tired. Couple that with one of the most intense periods yet of emotional withdrawal from my husband and you have one hell of a pretty crappy half a year. (And yeah, yeah, yeah---I know I'm not supposed to talk about him in public places like that. But if you don't like it, then you better just quit reading my blog now. Because, quite frankly I don't care any more. I am an imperfect woman, living an imperfect with it or move on)

It's truly hard to imagine how much that little sleep can stretch you as a human being, especially when you spend vast stretches of days at a time giving and giving touch to people, and almost never speaking to another adult. I have had a hard time maintaining even the most fundamental basics of my life, let alone something which requires much thought or creativity-like blogging or reading or scribbling a few lines of poetry. All things considered, I feel like I've held my own. We've all been fed moderately well, I have gotten everyone everywhere they've needed to be--only once forgetting to pick someone up (I know, I know--but you try to keep track of 7 people besides yourself and their ever changing schedules. Trust me it's a good ratio) , the kids have been learning stuff which even looks like real actual school work, I even spend time hanging out with each of the kiddos from time to time, I've been managing to exercise regularly, I've maintained friendships. But oh holy crap, do I feel empty and completely tapped out as a human being!

However, underneath this stretching, pulling, and crumbling I feel like there is some new creation starting to spring up. Like vegetation pushing up through volcanic waste. I don't know quite for sure who this she even is. Perhaps she's a weed. Perhaps she's the beginning of a giant cedar tree. But she is growing little roots and starting to break through the soil. I think she is going to turn out to be one hell of a woman. But as with all seedlings, right now needs lots of sunlight, shelter from heavy storms, a bit of nurturing and loving and just enough luck to make it tall enough to stand past the snowline.

So if you're reading this, can I ask you if you see me to just offer me a hug and say "I love you, Shannon." Unless you don't love me, then just a hug will do, even if you're not a hugger--will you just give me one anyway? I need it more than you can possibly imagine, especially if this newest Shannon, who I really think is going to be the best version yet is going to flourish.

Hope to blog more regularly now, but no promises whatsoever as to the content. Probably, like me, a little bit of everything.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Poetry Fridays

Alrighty---to break my bloglence here (we have been plagued by illness after illness and then moved into a period of great Michael fussiness which we seem to be slowly moving through)--let's go with a Poetry Friday.

It's Poetry Friday. Let's go into our weekend prepared "to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life". Every Friday post a poem- yours or someone else's.

Here's a little one I wrote today...which isn't really the poem swirling around in my brain, but maybe a sort of warm up exercise for what is coming....hopefully.

Reading Year

Dickens for the winter,
wrapped in thickness and safety and warmth.

Spring for things never read,
full of discovery and newness and expansion.

Hemingway for the first hot days,
clear and quick and a drink in hand.

Summer for Tennessee Williams and Southern writers,
ambling and languid and brutal.

Scholarly works and realism fill Fall,
cold and inside and impersonal.

Monday, March 8, 2010

What Have We Done

Someone asked for advice about parenting as they added a new baby to their family and how larger, non-punitive families function. We're pretty dysfunctional, always kind of swirling along like Taz but this was my advice:

My advice is kinda worthless because it's kind of non-advice.
  • Keep listening to yourself and trust your instincts.
  • Forgive. A lot. Yourself and others.
  • Begin again and again and again---as many times as it takes--and it's going to take a lifetime.
  • Focus on endurance rather than patience.
  • Laugh. A lot. At yourself and others. Seriously as moms we say and do and witness some of the most hysterical things if we can just learn to not take it all so seriously.
  • Let go of expectations--they're just pride and are ruinous. Rather have an idea of the goal, but remain detached from results and allow the journey to take whatever course it will take.
  • Be in the present--lingering in the past or the future will always make the present a mess and diminish your joy as well as your effectiveness.
  • Don't forget that you are a person with needs, too. Include yourself in the plan for meeting everyone's needs. You don't honor yourself, your children, or God by neglecting your own personhood.
  • Enlist help. Ask for help. Beg for help. Not asking for help is just pride and is ruinous.

And going from 2-3 means you now have more kids than hands and that is a huge leap. Give yourself time to develop the skills you need to deal with that reality. Every new kid means a new shift in balancing everyone's needs and the immediacy with which we can meet needs---and that always involves grieving through to the resolution stage. And it's hard to grieve with a gaggle of children always needing you.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Poetry Friday....with a twist.

Poetry Fridays where we say:

It's Poetry Friday. Let's go into our weekend prepared "to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life". Every Friday post a poem- yours or someone else's.

This Friday I'll post a poem I just wrote. I haven't written a poem in an awfully long time--but part of my Lent is to try to write something everyday and this is what I ended up with.

The blackness of the

Their tortured grasp of

That reach moonward through



Creak whispers into

As stillness groans just

out of


Wednesday, February 17, 2010

My Lenten Beginning

There are things which I know I believe.
  1. All people after the age of reason have hurts and wounds, vices and flaws with which they struggle.
  2. All people have love as a basic need. All people are inherently lovable.
  3. We have a responsibility to love.
  4. Faith essentially comes down to relationship. Because of that our whole lives revolve around learning how to give love and be loved in healthy interdependence-learning how to enter into and cultivate healthy relationships.
  5. Suffering, while not to be sought and always to seek to be alleviated, teaches us compassion and if done well brings us wisdom through humility.
  6. We are all connected. Those who live now, those who came before, those who will come.
  7. Regrets come from what we leave undone or have done poorly in far greater measure than what we have done.
  8. Beginning and beginning again is desperately important. Reinventing ourselves and allowing ourselves to be renewed in ongoing response to our world, our circumstances, and our failures is what allows us to grow.
  9. There is no merit in self-deception. Without being open to seeing ourselves as we truly are, we can never become what we hope to be.
  10. The road to sanctity is one which is long and arduous. It is the work of a lifetime.
  11. Love never ends. The love we share ripples out into the world endlessly.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

So that I don't Abandon My Blog--Birthday Pictures!

It's been crazy around here. We seem to have so much going on and Michael has decided recently that he wants to be held pretty much all of the time. I can type one handed--rather proficiently, I might add, but I still find it difficult to blog one handed. It's hard to focus, as well as to navigate added pictures and such.

Last Sunday Jane turned 7!!! We went to the mall to shop and get her ears pierced, the next day she and her daddy went out on a date.




On Wednesday Andrew turned 3! We went to Burger King for milkshakes and to play on the play place. Then he went to the John Deere Store and to Sears with daddy.



One of Andrew's coolest presents was made for him by my dad. It's a box which contains different screws and screw drivers and wrenches. On the other side of the box are the wholes for screwing in the different screws. Andrew LOVES it!




Saturday, January 23, 2010

Poetry Fridays

It's Poetry Friday. Let's go into our weekend prepared "to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life". Every Friday post a poem- yours or someone else's.

(Okay I know technically it's Saturday, but they say it takes 28 times to make something habitual--so sometime in the summer this ought to be an actual regular feature on actual Fridays.)

Let's visit a couple poems of Frank O'Hara's.

A True Account of Talking to the Sun at Fire Island

by Frank O'Hara

The Sun woke me this morning loud
and clear, saying “Hey! I've been
trying to wake you up for fifteen
minutes. Don’t be so rude, you are
only the second poet I’ve ever chosen
to speak to personally
so why
aren’t you more attentive? If I could
burn you through the window I would
to wake you up. I can't hang around
here all day.”
“Sorry, Sun, I stayed
up late last night talking to Hal.”

“When I woke up Mayakovsky he was
a lot more prompt” the Sun said
petulantly. “Most people are up
already waiting to see if I’m going
to put in an appearance.”
I tried
to apologize “I missed you yesterday.”
“That’s better” he said. “I didn’t
know you’d come out.” “You may be
wondering why I’ve come so close?”
“Yes” I said beginning to feel hot
wondering if maybe he wasn’t burning me
“Frankly I wanted to tell you
I like your poetry. I see a lot
on my rounds and you’re okay. You may
not be the greatest thing on earth, but
you’re different. Now, I’ve heard some
say you’re crazy, they being excessively
calm themselves to my mind, and other
crazy poets think that you’re a boring
reactionary. Not me.
Just keep on
like I do and pay no attention. You’ll
find that people always will complain
about the atmosphere, either too hot
or too cold too bright or too dark, days
too short or too long.
If you don’t appear
at all one day they think you’re lazy
or dead. Just keep right on, I like it.

And don’t worry about your lineage
poetic or natural. The Sun shines on
the jungle, you know, on the tundra
the sea, the ghetto. Wherever you were
I knew it and saw you moving. I was waiting
for you to get to work.

And now that you
are making your own days, so to speak,
even if no one reads you but me
you won’t be depressed. Not
everyone can look up, even at me. It
hurts their eyes.”
“Oh Sun, I’m so grateful to you!”

“Thanks and remember I’m watching. It’s
easier for me to speak to you out
here. I don’t have to slide down
between buildings to get your ear.
I know you love Manhattan, but
you ought to look up more often.
always embrace things, people earth
sky stars, as I do, freely and with
the appropriate sense of space. That
is your inclination, known in the heavens
and you should follow it to hell, if
necessary, which I doubt.
Maybe we’ll
speak again in Africa, of which I too
am specially fond. Go back to sleep now
Frank, and I may leave a tiny poem
in that brain of yours as my farewell.”

“Sun, don’t go!” I was awake
at last. “No, go I must, they’re calling
“Who are they?”
Rising he said “Some
day you’ll know. They’re calling to you
too.” Darkly he rose, and then I slept.

The Day Lady Died

by Frank O'Hara

It is 12:20 in New York a Friday
three days after Bastille day, yes
it is 1959 and I go get a shoeshine
because I will get off the 4:19 in Easthampton
at 7:15 and then go straight to dinner
and I don’t know the people who will feed me

I walk up the muggy street beginning to sun
and have a hamburger and a malted and buy
an ugly NEW WORLD WRITING to see what the poets
in Ghana are doing these days
I go on to the bank
and Miss Stillwagon (first name Linda I once heard)
doesn’t even look up my balance for once in her life
and in the GOLDEN GRIFFIN I get a little Verlaine
for Patsy with drawings by Bonnard although I do
think of Hesiod, trans. Richmond Lattimore or
Brendan Behan’s new play or Le Balcon or Les Nègres
of Genet, but I don’t, I stick with Verlaine
after practically going to sleep with quandariness

and for Mike I just stroll into the PARK LANE
Liquor Store and ask for a bottle of Strega and
then I go back where I came from to 6th Avenue
and the tobacconist in the Ziegfeld Theatre and
casually ask for a carton of Gauloises and a carton
of Picayunes, and a NEW YORK POST with her face on it

and I am sweating a lot by now and thinking of
leaning on the john door in the 5 SPOT
while she whispered a song along the keyboard
to Mal Waldron and everyone and I stopped breathing

Thursday, January 21, 2010

A Bright, Bright Sunshiney Day

Yesterday was just a beautiful, fantastic, warm day. It was one of those times where I was just so glad that we homeschool so that we can take advantage when there is a freak 70 degree day in the middle of January after there's been bitter cold and tons of rain for weeks upon weeks. Especially as today it is raining buckets once again!
Yesterday afternoon, I made dinner (we eat our main meal around 3:00), and set it up downstairs for the kids to serve themselves.
I set the mussels outside with a bag for the shells. I never would have thought that kids would like mussels, but there must be an allure to a food with its own shell.
We hauled the baby swing outside for Michael, and all sat around in the warm gorgeousness.
One other, most excellent advantage of homeschooling is that your school work can move with you, so that if you are still working while there is a sort of party-picnic going on, you don't need to be left out!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Simple Woman's Daybook

FOR TODAY January 18, 2010

Outside my window... it is still dark, but holds the promise and smell of being Springlike today.

I am thinking... how much I love the room I am sitting in, and how pleased I am every morning when I walk downstairs and see my beloved room awaiting me.

I am thankful for... my Cleaning Club peeps and our new blog adventure together.

From the learning rooms... oldest two have been loving their Teaching Textbooks.

From the kitchen... right now--coffee!!!

I am wearing... my jammies, fuzzy socks and old man sweater.

I am creating... a scarf out of bamboo yarn and a meal plan for the week.

I am going... kind of stir crazy not being able to go out anywhere at night.

I am reading... Dog Soldiers by Robert Stone

I am hoping... to get to read today. It's been days since I've read, and that always spells trouble and yuck in the rest of my life.

I am hearing... nothing. Seriously- it's 7:04 am and all I hear is the clicking of the keyboard as I type. I *love* mornings.

Around the house... I gotta bust some laundry moves and hang the world map I've been trying to hang for three days.

One of my favorite things...
my fleece sheets, which I was sure were going to be waaaaay too hot, but are so soft and cozy and just right if I give up my extra blanket.

A few plans for the rest of the week: I got nothing. Momming, wifing....I guess I am trying to start to commit to exercising everyday. Holy string of infinitives, Batman!

Here is picture thought I am sharing...

Join in the Simple Woman's Daybook here:

Friday, January 15, 2010

Poetry Fridays

Okay, in a hope to get my act together and blog regularly this year, I am going to try to provide some structure. In this vein, I am creating Poetry Fridays!

It's Poetry Friday. Let's go into our weekend prepared "to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life". Every Friday post a poem- yours or someone else's.

Today we'll have some ditties written by one of my favorite poets Charles Reznikoff. These are all from the collection Jerusalem The Golden.

Meeting often, we find that we cannot meet enough,
and words are counterfeit, silence only golden,
and streets at night are beautiful.
I find the valentines are true, the hearts and arrows-
sighs and misty eyes; and the old poems-
I find them true.

You think yourself a woman,
because you have children and lovers;
but in a street
with only Orion and the Pleiades to see us,
you begin to sing, you begin to skip.

If you ask me about the plans that I made last night
of steel and granite-
I think the sun must have melted them,
or this gentle wind blown them away.

Out of the in exhaustible sea
the waves curve under the weight of their foam,
and the water rushes up to us;,
the wind blowing out of the night,
out of the endless darkness,
blowing star after atar upon the sky
out of the inexhaustible night;
wave after wave
rising out of the sea.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

As Promised- Christmas Games!

We are serious lovers of board games and card games. My challenge is always trying to find games which will be entertaining and engaging for a broad age range. I mean, there's only so much Candyland a grownup can take!! On the other hand, it's not very much fun to play a game with a non-reader or an early reader when the entire game hinges upon reading. So every year I scour the world wide web in search of new games.

Christmas Board Games

I think my favorite of this year's haul has got to be Snorta. You can tell just by the name that it's going to be funny. Each player picks an animal , makes a correlating sound, then hides the animal in a little barn in front of them. Players then play cards on the table; when two cards in a row match the players race to be the first one to make their opponent's animal sound. The concept is so simple--but it is ridiculous and fascinating how such a small piece of information can have trouble processing and coming forth from your brain.

We also belatedly jumped on the Apples to Apples bandwagon this year, but I must admit to being rather disappointed. It seems like a player can just randomly pick a winner to each round. I bought a children's edition and a small edition of the grown up version to cover a multitude of age ranges, but still something about this game leaves me flat. Maybe this was really just a game meant to be played beer (or two or three) in hand.

Target and Five Crowns are both first cousins to regular card games. They are both pretty long games, which has been nice during this much colder than average winter. Neither is difficult to learn how to play-but both are for established readers.

Rat-a-tat-Cat and Slamwich are also closely related to regular card games (Golf and Slapjack respectively), but do not require reading or more complex math skills. That said, my older kids have also really enjoyed playing these games.

Enchanted Forest is a board game which can be played by our 5 year old on up. It requires no reading, but does require the ability to remember and understand some more complex rules and instructions. Players travel through a forest collecting fairy tale treasures, such as Cinderella's glass slipper or Puss In Boots' boots, to take to the king. Treasures are hidden, requiring players to remember their locations. This game is really just a nicely repackaged variation of Memory, but is still fun. It also takes awhile to play, although it would work to just set a timer. Whoever had the most treasure cards when time is up is the winner.

The most interesting find this year is Sleeping Queens. This game was developed by a six year old girl. It requires no reading and is playable from ages 4-4.5 and up I'd say, if older players will help the younger players or if all are willing to give up the equation aspect of the game. Once players can do basic addition then they can play without any variations or help necessary.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Lest We Forget That This Is Not Simply a Book Blog--Happy New Year!!

Here are some pictures from our New Year's Eve. We stayed at home and had snacks, watched movies and played games. Until about 10:00pm my parents hung out with us, before leaving to go back home to Virginia the next day. Unfortunately Andrew and Bernadette went to bed before the camera came out, so there are no pictures of those two crazies. This pictures were all taken by my daughter, Lucy.

Me and Michael

Tim looking rather leprechauny.

Lucy 9 going on 19

Tell me Miss Jane doesn't belong in New York City!

Me & Michael the day!

Wishing All Of You Happy New Year!!!!

My Detachment

Let me begin by saying that Tracy Kidder is hands-down one of my very favorite living writers. He has refined the tradition of Truman Capote's nonfiction novel, creating books which are truly remarkable in their storytelling. Kidder combines an engaging and engrossing narrative style with an uncanny ability to reveal the stories behind the story. My Detachment is no exception.

Unique among Vietnam War memoirs, My Detachment features no grunts humping long distances, no coming to terms with one's mortality in the midst of a firefight, no teetering on the brink while battling a drug habit in the midst of war. Rather the story centers around Kidder's year in Vietnam as a rear echelon lieutenant who ended up in Army Intelligence after graduating from Harvard. Fearful of being drafted into the infantry after matriculating and hoping to avoid the war, Kidder joins ROTC while still in school, yet lands in Vietnam as part of radio operations pinpointing the locations of North Vietnamese and Viet Cong radios.

The main similarity of My Detachment to other books about Vietnam is Kidder's struggle to balance the juxtaposition of events real and imagined. Because of his non-combat position, however, this struggle is in many ways more poignant for it's transparency than in other depictions. The entire memoir is interlaced with passages from Mr. Kidder's unpublished novel written upon returning home entitled Ivory Fields, which features a sort of alter ego, bad ass infantry lieutenant Larry Dempsey who dies standing up for what he believes is right even though he knows that defense will cost him dearly. My Detachment is also set among the back drop of a love affair with the archetypal girl-next-door-back-at-home named Mary Ann, but in this case the relationship is lackluster and decidedly one sided on the part of young Mr. Kidder. We read along as Kidder writes awkward letters back home of lied about bravado and hinted at tragedy which doesn't exist.

This exposed blatant untruth, in my opinion, makes this a great memoir of Vietnam, since the creation of the proverbial war story is in itself, according to Tim O'Brien a sort of untruth, or half truth, or at least a manipulation of the truth. We rarely get glimpses into the emotions which serve as primary mover for the crafting of war stories, yet young Mr. Kidder's piteousness leaves the reader feeling awkward and uncomfortable as we experience the feelings of inadequacy, of wanting to make sense of things we don't understand, of hiding our cowardice, of packaging our experiences in a way to make them more palatable to those in the world.

Serving as a balance to these poignancies, are the Catch-22esque retellings of the operations of the military hierarchy: stories of classified letters being blown away by helicopter, the subsequent results and new "triple wrap" protocols stemming from losing that letter, the colonel who shouts his own name while yelling at troops on the ground from the chopper above, the ridiculousness of Mr. Kidder's Radio Research job itself, which amounts to basically getting outdated information and passing it on to his higher ups.

Filling out My Detachment is an absorbing set of characters. The most compelling of whom is Pancho, both a thorn in the side of Kidder ,as well as someone who he admires on some level. It is Pancho's approval Kidder seems most to seek. It is the loss of Pancho's approval Kidder seems to feel most keenly when Kidder has his own moment of truth. Unlike his fictional Lt. Larry Dempsey, Mr. Kidder does not meet his trial with courage and character; rather, he crumbles and is left wondering if his men heard him crying over the stress of inspection preparation. Pancho goes onto work for the CIA and turns up to see Kidder years after the war. Summing up Kidder writes, "He had wanted to have an interesting life, I wanted to be interesting”

This book was reviewed- over two days while nursing, having toddlers climb on me, and competing for computer time with a couple tweeners- as Book 1 of