Saturday, October 31, 2009

Windows on My World

We tackle the big guys (3 twelve-foot sliders) tomorrow. Thank goodness we'll have an extra hour of daylight :)

Keeping Her Options Open

Just in case there's not a big demand for cheerleaders, Isabelle is getting some early experience in construction!

Friday, October 30, 2009

The Box

She’s boxed in by sense of duty

responsibility to others

She’s boxed out by sense of duty

responsibility to herself

Her days are spent working out the former

her nights trying to resolve the latter

She dreams of pushing against the sides

but is confused

not sure if she is pushing in or out

She wakes in the middle of the night

in a warm sweat

wonders how long it will take to grow up

Up up up

Until she can step over the walls

Free, able to think outside the box

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Wanda Part 6

Jake lies on his side, watching fat guys shove each other around. “Bring me a beer,” he growls. His guy’s not doing so well. Wanda wonders if he bets money on the wrestlers. Otherwise she can’t see why he gets so excited. She’d like to watch something different sometimes, maybe Dr. Kildare or I Love Lucy, but it doesn’t matter enough to get into an argument.

There’s time enough for that. She has to tell him soon that she’s pregnant, that they’re going to have a baby. She’s not completely sure, but she’s pretty sure. She hasn’t had morning sickness but she also hasn’t had a period since before Christmas. He’s never been that interested in using anything so, maybe he’ll be happy about it, especially if it’s a boy. Maybe he’ll think about getting a house or at least a real apartment.

And when she starts showing, they probably won’t let her waitress anymore. They might let her work in the kitchen for a while but Marvin doesn’t really need any help and neither does the dishwasher. She wonders if the other waitress will give her a baby shower. She wonders what her mother would think, Wanda being only seventeen and all, and not married. She smiles at the thought of what those old church biddies would say if they knew.

Just by Chance

Staring into faded bricks,

glare of cheap hotels,

I ache for the smell of my own pillow.

Pack quickly, leave an hour early.

Waiting in a coffee shop

for the airport bus,

the rain begins.

Edging toward an empty table

a frail grey-haired woman

shrinks from the scowl of the waitress,

starts to leave.

“Sit with me,” I offer,

feeling lonely for both of us.

We talk of weather, of cities.

I give her my well-worn map.

She hands me a card,

a man’s name crossed out

hers penciled in.

“If you ever come to Miami

you can stay with me.

If I still have the house,” she adds.

Suddenly she pulls away,

pays her check, hurries out.

“Be careful of the wet streets,” I call.

Finishing my coffee, I leave for home.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Randy Newman--Happy 66th

Randy Newman & Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra, conductor Roelof van Driesten. Rotterdam, Netherlands, 1979

Wanda Part 5

Winter comes. Ice bends the trees almost to the ground and cars skitter like bugs on a still pond. Power flickers on and off with the wind. Jake drops Wanda off each morning at the Mainline truck stop out on Jacksboro Highway. She was nervous at first but soon learned how to increase her tips by forgetting to charge the truck drivers for extras and making sure to keep their coffee refilled.

Most days she takes the bus back to the apartment but sometimes Marvin, the Negro day cook, offers to drop her off on his way home. He’s older, a quiet man who lives with his sister and brother-in-law in a trailer house out near Carswell AFB. She worries sometimes that Jake might not like it, her riding alone with a black man, but he’s never home before six or seven. She likes Marvin and his quiet ways. He never asks her questions like some of the others. Sometimes she fantasizes about asking him to drop her off at a phone booth but then she remembers that she doesn't know anyone who has a phone.

It seems like a long time since she was a daughter even though it’s only six months since she and Jake drove non-stop through the Texas night. He hadn’t talked much, stopping only for gas and cigarettes. She always went to the bathroom so she wouldn’t have to squat along the highway. He didn’t tell her his name until they were looking for a place to stay.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Idle Hands & Devil's Workshops

Having recently gotten my "retired life" organized with helping out in Isabelle's classroom and a regular schedule for visits to Watsonville and Pacific Grove, it's all out the window with an email from my old After School boss.

Starting in mid November, I'll be back at school, filling in for the site coordinator on maternity leave at Ohlone Elementary. I have to admit I'm excited and the money will come in handy as we inch toward completion on my house. It's a great life if you don't weaken. . .

Friday, October 23, 2009

Happy Mole Day

OOOOPS! Not that mole!

Mole Day is an unofficial holiday celebrated among chemists in North America on October 23, between 6:02 AM and 6:02 PM. The time and date are derived from the Avogadro constant, which is approximately 6.02×1023, defining the number of particles (atoms or molecules) in a mole, one of the seven base SI units.

Mole Day originated in an article in The Science Teacher in early 1980s. Inspired by this article, Maurice Oehler, now a retired high school chemistry teacher from Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin, founded the National Mole Day Foundation.

Wanda Part 4

Yard cats gather at the backdoor to wait for a handout. Ruby puts on the coffeepot and stirs up a batch of buttermilk biscuits. Marvin brings in the milk and strains it into a gallon jar. Just a normal day, except it isn’t. They can’t remember a time when it was or imagine that it will ever be again.

In the beginning making the missing person report and calling all of her friends and talking to the neighbors gave them hope. Time passed and that hope faded, replaced by numbness and the necessity of getting on with life. Friends quit asking if there was any news. Daisy started first grade and they went back to church twice on Sunday.

It happened so quickly, this disintegration of their life. One minute they’re laughing and playing cards and the next they are frantically searching the house, the barn, the small pond at the back of the cornfield. The Sheriff’s men make plaster molds of the tire tracks that cross the shallow ditch adjacent to the pasture next door. No one says out loud what is on their minds.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Wanda Part 3

The application is long and some of the questions don’t make sense. She’s never worked except hoeing cotton and helping move irrigation pipe for her daddy and occasionally babysitting for the family that lived down the road. Jake tells her to make up some jobs but she knows she’s not that good at lying. It makes her voice get shaky. She forgets how to spell the name of the town she’s supposed to be from and she doesn’t know how to describe work she’s never done. She doesn’t really want to get a job and be around strangers all day but he says they’ve got to have more money or they’ll never be able to rent a house.

Some nights she knows Jake’s stopping at the bar on the way home cause his breath smells tired and salty. He says it’s his boss that makes him but he’s getting home later and later. “Why can’t you come home and get me,” she asks one night. The look on his face makes her turn away and wish she’d just have forgot about it.

“No fuckin’ chance I’m gonna take you in there with me and have those assholes think you’re my daughter. What the hell are you thinkin’?” Jake takes off his belt and throws it across the room. The heavy buckle clunks on heater. He sits on the bed and looks up, shaking his head, then motions Wanda to come lay down. For just a second, she thinks about saying no, but of course she doesn’t.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Approaching Storm

Caught between a desire to get my new roof tar-papered and the need for rain, my son nails away into the night.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

World Mental Health Day

The World Health Organization predicts that in 20 years, more people may be affected by depression than any other health problem. World Mental Health Day, started by the World Federation for Mental Health in 1992, is a unified effort to promote greater public awareness and understanding of mental health and mental illness.

An excellent resource for family and caregivers of those with mental health issues is Advocating for Someone with a Mental Illness by Sonya Nesch. Based on many years of experience navigating the mental health system for a family member, Sonya has compiled an excellent reference for family members, mental health consumers, caregivers, counselors, and others.

This book provides specific information for what to do when a crisis begins. Being prepared and having a plan can make the crucial difference when dealing with someone who is psychotic and/or suicidal. Use this straightforward guide to create a medical history and symptom letter, or to develop a Crisis Intervention Plan. From dealing with the confusion at the beginning of mental illness to information about how to handle symptom breakthrough and relapse, this meticulously researched book provides practical and supportive help with all aspects of being an advocate for someone with mental illness.

The book is available from

Wanda Part 2

Wanda wakes in a cold sweat each morning as the 3:00 a.m. train screams by. Raising on one elbow, she lifts the edge of the faded curtain to look down on boxcars slithering past. She watches the man asleep beside her, a stranger with large brown arms who smells of Old Spice.

Each morning Jake leaves the twin bed they share in the garage apartment to shower and dress for work. He refuses her offer to fry eggs, preferring to stop at the diner next to the dry cleaning shop where he got a job the day they drove into town. Sometimes he stops by at noon on his way to deliver the drapes and sofas to the big houses on the East Side. The smell of cleaning fluid makes her dizzy. Sometimes he brings sandwiches but mostly they eat cornflakes with canned milk.

At night they curl into each other on the twin bed to watch Johnny Carson or a movie on the small flickering TV. There’s no phone and no one to call them even if there was one. Sometimes she thinks about the phone booth on the corner by the liquor store and how it might be different if her parent’s had a telephone, how she might call them to let them know she’s ok.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Wanda Part 1

Wanda stands at the kitchen window, leans on the counter to stare at the car lights as they slip past on the highway, praying for a set of headlights to turn down the gravel road that leads to the farm. This wouldn’t be the first time she’d been stood up.

An hour later she gives up and walks out to the front porch to sit on the concrete steps. The western sky melts from blue-pink to blue-black. No moon, the night gives up the heat quickly and a light breeze stirs the grass where the cow lays with her two-week-old calf. If she holds her breath she can hear the soft roar of tires on the highway, just under the drone of cicadas. Looking east again, she sees lights approaching, easing around the bend in the road that keeps the oil tanker trucks from plowing into the front yard.

A two-tone Mercury slides by on the other side of the elm trees that line the front yard. She hears the soft crunch of tires on gravel, watches red triangle-shaped taillights grow smaller, then flash of brake lights, then darkness. A car door opens and closes softly and in the moment of light she sees a man emerge. Without seeing she knows he’s crossed the barbwire fence into the pasture. She looks through the front door into the dining room where her parents sit under a veil of cigarette smoke and laughter, playing canasta with Dave and Jimmie, then walks toward the darkness.

My Heart Is Full

A fabulous way to start the day!
I haven't felt this proud since JFK!


Robert dreams of finding a new wife, an attentive mother who will cook oatmeal with raisins, do laundry, read bedtime stories. He can’t remember where he got this image. His own mother worked ten-hour shifts at the textile mill and slept all weekend to fight the anemia that drained the color from her face.

This dream, this recurring dream, always starts with the two of them, he and his new wife, in a car, driving away from a church, straight to a small white-shingled house in a neighborhood of similar houses where Marcie and Bobbie are waiting, dressed in clean clothes, dancing on the lawn with a golden retriever puppy while a yellow tabby watches from the porch.

The dream always ends the same way. Robert awakes just as a large crack is opening, slashing across the yard, gulping down the boy, the girl, the dog, the house, while he and his new wife watch, unable to make a sound, not even a simple “No.”

Blue light edges into the room and six-year-old Bobbie reaches under the bed for the shoebox with holes punched in the lid. Careful not to wake his sister, he slips out of the room and heads outdoors where lizards and toads and other creatures wait their fate.


Marcie forms the ground beef into perfect round patties, places them in the skillet to wait for her father to light the burner. She pulls ketchup and mustard and lettuce from the fridge, sets three places with paper plates and plastic cups, pours Coke into one, dreams of living next door to a Burger King.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Like It Or Not

Allen Ginsberg's work permanently changed the landscape for poetry in the US. October 7th is the 54th anniversary of his reading of "Howl" at the Six Gallery in San Francisco.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

September Song

I'm a bit late in singing this tune, but I never tire of the sunsets out on Southside Road.

What Did I Miss

A job with no pay; a choir with no song
A life with no love; a right with no wrong

A collar with no dog; a chain with no key
A girl with no boy; a shell with no sea

A stamp with no letter; a feather with no bird
A buckle with no belt; a look with no word

Where the Blue Is Bluer

I catch myself looking past the beauty in front of me, searching for something more beautiful, more precious, more rare. Then wonder why I'm disappointed.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Up Close and Personal

Outside our kitchen window sits an old iron forge. My youngest son hitch-hiked from Wisconsin with it. Given a choice he would have lived a 100 years ago. Some souls are just too fragile for this world.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Happy B-day Gordon Matthew Thomas Sumner

Photo by Annie Leibovitz

AKA Sting, former member of The Police, environmental activist, and a real hunk with or without clothes, turns 58 today.

Love at First Sight

Enrique stopped by last weekend with his daughter, Jenna. At 14 months, she is still a little shy but warmed up enough to sit in my lap for a while. I'm in love!