Sunday, July 19, 2009

Blog and website moved!

Please visit my new blog and website at wordpress.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

And while I'm coming out...more on Buffy

I think that Buffy the Vampire Slayer was/is one of the best and most worthy fictions ever created. For a million reasons, not the least of which, from the final episode:

"From now on, every girl in the world who might be a Slayer, will be a Slayer. Every girl who could have the power, will have the power. Who can stand up, will stand up. Every one of you, and girls we've never known, and generations to come...they will have strength they never dreamed of, and more than that, they will have each other. Slayers. Every one of us. Make your choice. Are you ready to be strong?"

This kind of thing has long been my mission statement as a writer. I realized that back in the late 80s, after college, when I was figuring out what my life was all about. What I "figured out" then has evolved dramatically since, but even back in my clueless early 20s, I knew that my mission had, among other things, something to do with helping women and children stand up.

I have a cardboard cutout of Buffy in my new faculty office. I stared in her eyes while taking thirty quick breaths to pump me up before I went in to meet with a really cool small press, literary warrior-editor to pitch my novel yesterday. It helped, I think.

The Painting and The City (a great review for a great book)

Disclaimer: This book was written by my husband.

Behold a great review. Some day when I grow up, I hope someone writes a review like this about my novel.

Read this book. It's really good.

Coming out

So until now, this blog has been about a very tightly defined (by me) literary exercise: writing brief essays based on getting inside a photo or image that inspires me or opens up my thinking in some way.

Doing this exercise has meant that I have posted only when I have some semi-polished Thing to Say or other. (My definition and determination of "semi-polished" varies by the day, as you can see by reading my pretty sparse archives.) I wanted no blabby blog, full of overshares, because those types of blogs annoy the expletives out of me. I wanted instead a venue for practicing writing nonfiction. A showcase for the handful of people who might be reading.

But the self-imposed form has become too precious (which went against the whole point of having a blog, and the THEME or IDEA of this blog) and so I'm breaking it open. OBJECTS IN MIRROR ARE STILL CLOSER THAN THEY APPEAR but they are blurrier and maybe you will see more of them. Coming atcha. You betcha. Coming out, maybe, in a way...

This week I have been attending the Antioch Writers Workshop, and my ideas about writing (creative) nonfiction have been cracked open. I'm heady with all the various shapes that creative nonfiction writing does and might take. Joyce Dyer's morning class has been great for that, as well as a memoir workshop with Nahid Rachlin.

I usually write fiction. I have written several novels, and some short stories. I've written a couple essays, and some of my short work has been published. But overall I would not consider myself a writer of nonfiction, except... I write nonfiction. I wrote what is essentially a personal essay (about something very personal, not for the blog) for the memoir workshop. It's not memoir-y enough, I guess, but it is a start. And it turns out to be fun, and doesn't have to be narcissistic. (I knew that from reading some great creative nonfiction, but it's great to see and experience it firsthand.) For me, this kind of personal writing is excavation that I didn't really think I would want to do, as:If I have the time, why don't I work on my novel, except that as I grow older and (I hope) wiser, I realize again and again, in a deeper and deeper way, how connected all these things are. Words are words, they tell the truth, or they don't, in various ways. There is truth in fiction and fiction in truth. Life informs fiction, fiction informs life, life informs life, etc. that is if a person (a writer or reader) is really awake.

So I'm putting my last name on the blog. I am owning this space. THIS IS MY SPACE. The little liberal, post-hippie town where I live used to have a "WE LIVE HERE!" parade, to tell the world that it wasn't just a quaint little town to visit, or something... the freaks letting their freak flags fly, mummers, unicyclists, war protestors, etc. united to parade through town, so now, in the same spirit, this is my I WRITE HERE parade.

Having a little coming out party, for the five of you who are out there reading this.

p.s. The image at the top of this post is from an auction of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" props on eBay after the series was over. I assume it was needlepoint that Buffy was supposed to have created as a kid. Moments like these make me glad I'm a (virtual and concrete) packrat. I wish I'd been able to win the item, but I stole the image, which is almost like being there.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Bastille Day, Remembering Houdini

Bastille Day was when we would celebrate Houdini's birthday. She's gone almost two years now, and I still miss her sweet soul. Here she is in fatter, happier days.

Raising a smoked fish toast to Houdini Bambini Babyini Gatallini today and always.

Monday, June 15, 2009

nothing is original

Public is the new private.

(I just thought that up, unless anyone else beat me to it.)

A quick google search revealed that NPR and I'm sure a slew of others already thought of my brilliant quip:

Wednesday, January 02, 2008


Where do babies get such little old lady hands?

How can babies be born with fingernails long and sharp enough to scratch themselves? Shouldn’t their bodies automatically be safer than that?

The hospital nurse said it’s best to file these tiny nails, rather than use baby clippers. So to protect my daughter, one of the first things I did to her body was to file her nails. She was relaxed, the nails were very soft, it was not difficult, just very very strange. It seemed out of place at the hospital: she and I should instead be 15 years into the future, at some day spa, but here she was just one day old, and the filing of the nails had more to do with her not marring her tiny, fragile face (because she doesn’t yet know how to use her hands, and they flail around, hurting herself without really knowing it) than an attractive manicure.

I saw something in this photo of my daughter’s hand. She needs me; she is almost one hundred percent need. And here we are, and we have to take care of her, keep her safe. Maybe the little old lady hands will help teach me.

(Happy one month, Merida!)

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Our Monkey

I made a sock monkey for our baby, who is due today.

For the past months, November 24 has blazed across the sky of my mind, some strange icon, glowing, symbol of a question...who will this baby be?

Months ago, when I penciled a heart around the baby’s due date in my calendar, I noticed that November 24 was also a full moon. Will the full moon increase the likelihood that the baby will be born on November 24? I wondered. How many babies are born on their actual due dates, anyway? (Some quick googling--which, by the way, I recommend you avoid if you’re pregnant--reveals that the answer is around five percent, or fewer.)

Of course I had to make a monkey for our baby. It took me a long time to find the right socks, but I finally found a nice silky blend, thick enough to hold the stuffing in without showing through, but soft enough as well. I love making sock monkeys. But sock monkey faces are the hardest part. For me, the eyes are the feature most difficult to get right. I’ve often embroidered a face, only to tear out whichever feature didn’t look just right, or didn’t harmonize with its friends...too wide a mouth, or too small and stiff, eyes not friendly enough, the features combine to make an impression, and what if it isn’t just right?

In preparation to make the face on this monkey, I perused baby pictures of me, of my husband. But those photos hold faces impossible for me to objectify, to analyze. Even with the experience of redoing monkey faces, the entire unmarred surface of this monkey’s face has me completely still. Our doula suggested that maybe I need to wait to see our baby before I can do the face. Perhaps she’s right.

I saw something in this monkey’s face today. The world. More than the world, all possibilities, all that can hoped for but can’t be known, all dreams and wishes and love and fear and whispers, and night-tremblings, and skinned-knee realities to come, sullied ideals, in all their brazen realness.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Houdini the cat: 7/14/90-8/8/07

My husband and I had our dear seventeen-year-old cat, Houdini, put to sleep on the evening of August 8, 2007.

For several years, she struggled valiantly with chronic renal failure. When she was fifteen, she came through a pretty scary crisis, when she was getting sick everywhere and ended up very dehydrated, flat on the floor. She wouldn’t purr when I petted her. (This became a litmus test for me--when she seemed under the weather, as long as she was purring, it wasn’t a true crisis.) I was in denial back then about losing her, but it made me realize that all the extra time we had with her was bonus. I believe her strong personality and crankiness were key to her long survival.

She deigned to let me take care of her since 1990. I met her at the Seattle Animal Shelter where I went to choose a kitten. She was three months old, and when I picked her up, she clung to my shoulder, needling her baby claws into my vintage suede jacket. I fell in love with her. Because it was mid-October, and she was three months old, I decided to celebrate her birthday on Bastille Day, a day I could remember. (Later I noticed she always got dreamy when she heard Edith Piaf songs.)

While I said goodbye to her, scenes from her life flooded my memory...when she was spayed, because she was still so tiny, the plastic collar the vet had given her was too big, and protected her stitches but turned her into an unwitting physical comedy act. Instead I made a "sweater" by cutting arm and leg holes from a sock so that she’d leave her stitches alone. Every night she’d wriggle out of that sweater and in the morning I’d find her curled up, the sweater/sock a limp yin to Houdini’s yang. I recalled during her mid-years, trying to toilet train her--which sounded good in theory, but traumatized her pretty fully. All my apologizing paled next to how loudly she purred when I finally gave up and she saw I had set out a new litter box. (I could hear her purring from across my apartment.) I apologized again about the toilet training era before the vet put her to sleep.

We buried her body in the backyard, under the shelter of the young redbud that close friends gave us for our wedding. I read T.S. Eliot's poem "The Old Gumbie Cat" which has always seemed a perfect tribute to Houdini's cantankerous and judgmental yet immaculate nature:


The Old Gumbie Cat by T.S. Eliot

I have a Gumbie Cat in mind, her name is Jennyanydots;
Her coat is of the tabby kind, with tiger stripes and leopard spots.
All day she sits upon the stair or on the steps or on the mat:
She sits and sits and sits and sits - and that's what makes a Gumbie Cat!

But when the day's hustle and bustle is done,
Then the Gumbie Cat's work is but hardly begun.
And when all the family's in bed and asleep,
She slips down the stairs to the basement to creep.
She is deeply concerned with the ways of the mice -
Their behaviour's not good and their manners not nice;
So when she has got them lined up on the matting,
She teaches them music, crocheting and tatting.

I have a Gumbie Cat in mind, her name is Jennyanydots;
Her equal would be hard to find, she likes the warm and sunny spots.
All day she sits beside the hearth or in the sun or on my hat:
She sits and sits and sits and sits - and that's what makes a Gumbie Cat!

But when the day's hustle and bustle is done,
Then the Gumbie Cat's work is but hardly begun.
As she finds that the mice will not ever keep quiet,
She is sure it's is due to irregular diet
And believing that nothing is done without trying,
She sets straight to work with her baking and frying.
She makes them a mouse-cake of bread and dried peas,
And a beautiful fry of lean bacon and cheese.

I have a Gumbie Cat in mind, her name is Jennyanydots;
The curtain-cord she likes to wind, and tie it into sailor-knots.
She sits upon the window-sill, or anything that's smooth and flat:
She sits and sits and sits and sits - and that's what makes a Gumbie Cat!

But when the day's hustle and bustle is done,
Then the Gumbie Cat's work is but hardly begun.
She thinks that the cockroaches just need employment,
So she's formed, from that lot of disorderly louts,
A troop of well-disciplined helpful boy-scouts,
With a purpose in life and a good deed to do -
And she's even created a Beetles' Tattoo.

So for Old Gumbie Cats let us now give three cheers -
On whom well-ordered households depend, it appears.


She had an opinion on and a solution for everything, usually involving salmon. After the burial, our neighbor's dog Joe came down the hill, appropriately dressed in his black and white tuxedo-style fur coat, to pay his respects.

Houdini Gatallini Bambini Baby-ini (her full name) aka "Noodle", aka "Munchkin", is survived by her loving human parents and her supersized 10 year old adoptive brother, Dante, aka "Big Tiny". Dante's eyes have been wider than usual since we showed him the body. The night after she died, he slept in the spot where she had slept the night before.

I think he's still looking for her.

I saw something today in this photo of Houdini, taken several months before her death. The light and dark of loving and grieving, the complicated contrast between sadness and relief, the guilt I feel in letting her go. Her posture, defiant, beautiful, a true Gumbie cat with standards so high that I wonder if we ever met them. Sometimes, I think we came close.

So friends, if you visit our house and it's a bit more chaotic than usual, do not be shocked. It's just that scrawny, cat-shaped void.

We miss you, Houdini.