Saturday, February 27, 2010

Review: Marrying George Clooney: Confessions of a Midlife Crisis by Amy Ferris

This is on my book harvest blog, but wanted to share it here as well because this was my favorite memoir of the year--

Marrying George Clooney: Confessions from a Midlife Crisis by Amy Ferris (Seal Press, 2009) $16.95

Not all authors can combine humor, heartbreak, candidness, and the ability to tell a great story, but Amy Ferris does this. In her new memoir, Marrying George Clooney: Confessions from a Midlife Crisis, she shares the details of her own mid-life menopause, quitting smoking after 32 years, married life, as well as the having to care for her mother who is suffering from severe dementia.

The book begins with an insomnia-filled Amy up at 3 a.m. googling old boyfriends. How could I not love a book that offers that gem in the first chapter? Written in short vignettes, I could not put the book down once I began reading it. Each section offered a new surprise, laugh-out-loud humor, and definitely some guffaw-moments, such as the section "Ragtime," which may have you asking the males in your life some intimate questions to the poignant section "Kathy," about the death of her best friend.

Ferris’ book does what many other memoirs don’t do, it tells the truth. Not just the good stuff, but the complex emotions we feel and the ridiculousness of daily life happening around us. Ferris is not afraid to be candid. She shares her private thoughts as well as her nighttime fears from believing she has some incurable disease to answering an email at night to a friend’s concerns about death in saying she’s “more afraid of being forgotten. Her honesty offers a calmness to the reader in that we are not alone in our thoughts and feelings.

The book is unique in its format—different fonts, font sizes, italics or boldness throughout its pages. At first, I thought this layout would be distracting while I read the book, but what I realized was how the quirkiness of the book’s appearance only adds to the anecdotes Ferris tells and mirrors the distinctiveness of her writing and voice.

Ferris is wise, hilarious, and has successfully created a book that draws the reader into her world of junk drawers, insomnia, and the intricacy of relationships. Marrying George Clooney was a highly satisfying read from beginning to end and I would add that it was definitely the best and funniest memoir I read all year. Highly recommend.

Best Recession Survival Tip

Saw this on JOEY VELTKAMP's Best of blog and had to share...

Friday, February 26, 2010

Poem of the Day: A Practical Reader by Carl Dennis

I've been reading New and Selected Poems 1974-2004 (Poets, Penguin)
by Carl Dennis and read this poem then found it on the Smartish Pace website. I've cut & pasted it here for you. Enjoy!

A Practical Reader

I’m willing to buy your book of poems
If you can promise that whenever you liken a day
To a coin that can’t be hoarded,
You spell out exactly what I should buy with it
In the few hours left me before the sun
Sinks behind the garage outside my window,
What items more valuable than those in the shops,
And mention where they’re available locally.

I’m a plain person, I admit, with little patience
For vague suggestions, so if you believe
Poems need to be vague to be suggestive,
I’d better save my money for something else
(Money I don’t have endless supplies of,
Not with what they pay at the hospital),
A work of history, say, or biography
Or a book of encouragement from the self-help section.

I could use a poem showing that those who seem
To be having a better time at work than I am,
Or a better time at the beach or hiking a trail,
Have simply learned to do more with moods
No better than my good moods,
While making less of the lesser ones.

I won’t complain if your book has many poems
Praising the joys of giving so long as it has a few
On the joys of taking. How to choose friends,
For example, who won’t forget me after I’m gone,
Who’ll tell my story now and then to themselves
If not to others. Friends glad to remember,
Who believe their gladness would be close to perfect
If I were sitting beside them sharing it.

As for departed friends, do you have some advice
For the times I’m standing in line after the funeral
With feelings that don’t seem strong enough?
Don’t tell me to level my words down
To the flatland of fact in the name of integrity
When the task before me is rising to the occasion.
If my feelings can’t make the climb, inspire me
To send up some phrases that would be honest
If I were more like the person I want to be.

By Carl Dennis

Carl Dennis is the author of ten books of poems including Practical Gods (Penguin, 2001), winner of the Pulitzer Prize; New and Selected Poems, 1974-2004 (Penguin, 2004); and Unknown Friends (Penguin, 2007). He received a Guggenheim Fellowship, an NEA Fellowship and the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize. His work appears in Smartish Pace, Issues 7, 10 and 15. (2008)

Confession Tuesday

Dear Reader,

It was an interesting week for me.

I was convinced that the entire world was cranky and annoying, when I realized it was me. I was cranky and annoyed (and probably annoying too) and those feelings created its shadow on the view on the world. It wasn't necessary a week worse than normal, but in my mind, it felt heavy and sad and conflicted with conflict, and and and...

But it's over.

A friend Ann always says the best thing when I have a bad day-- Well, at least you don't have to live that day over again.

And that's how I feel about last week. Though Friend, I wish you could have been with me when I whipped up my giant pink prom dress and made a dramatic exit from my favorite store. You would have smiled.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. It's been a sinful week of emotionally rollercoastering. I was not my own best self. I was the 16 year old girl falling across her bed and saying, "The world hates me."

So let me confess about my bad mood, my low tolerance, my entitled behavior, and maybe a few funny things as well.

To the confessional--

I confess I made a small scene when my entitled self couldn't get store credit for something I purchased and never wore. It was at a consignment shop, my favorite one (well, *was* my favorite one), and while it was definitely my fault, I was annoyed the owner wouldn't help me out. (I had always thought they did exchanges, but no, they do not and there are no exceptions.)

It could have been the opening to a joke-- 41 year old woman walks in with a giant pink prom dress.
Or a scene from a movie.

It was not my best self. I even said, "You don't understand, I have a big mouth, I will tell everyone about this." This was not my proudest moment.

Looking back now, while I still think she could have helped me out a bit and given me store credit (I even suggested she could give me not the full 100% of store credit, but that I'd be happy to have 80%), I realize I could have handled it differently. In which I mean better. Kinder. Still, the whole event made me cranky.

You are probably wondering why I am buying a prom dress.

I promise (um, maybe promise) to post a photo in a couple weeks, we're off to a prom party at a good friend's house in March.


I confess I went to traffic court Thursday and the judge thought I was hilarious because I had photos (I had taken while getting the ticket) and had drawn a picture with a big X and the word "Police!" She allowed me to defer my ticket, so if I can go 1 year without getting another ticket, it will be off my record.

Note: This was my second ticket in 6 months, so this is my personal challenge to slow down.

Note 2: Until this year, I had no tickets on my record. The last being one I received (a HUGE one) when I went to have lunch with Jeannine Gailey. I was rushing. I was late. Do not rush when you are late, no good can come of it.

* *

I confess I took my daughter to a class on puberty & development and the doctor sharing the info could have been a stand-up comic, she was so funny.

I was laughing hysterically at many parts, though most seem a little "too much information" in this context-- just know though that one had to do with how to use tampons (sorry if you are reading this early in the morning and/or are male...) and fears girls may have if they choose to use them. Let's just say the image of being in math class and having it come out your ear still stays with me.

It was so refreshing to go to a discussion on development that used humor as a way to share the information with girls who are wondering what the heck is going on to their bodies. There was also a boy's class in a separate hall.

I was very impressed with these two doctors for not making this somewhat-awkward time in a child's life scary or making them feel it is something they should be ashamed about or not talk about. She was also very good at reminding the girls that there is a community of women who care about them and want to make this time as easy as possible for them.

I confess I'm looking forward to Thursday night's class even more. We'll be talking about making good choices, feelings, how babies are made (apparently, there is no stork involved...weird), and how a boy goes through puberty. I cannot imagine the discussions in the car by my daughter and her 3 friends as we drive home.

I wish a class like this had been around when I was developing. It would have been better than to learn what was going on from a doctor than from:

1) Judy Blume books

2) The Free-to-Be-You-and-Me album

3) the scary illustrated book of a changing body my mum bought me that I hid in our guest room because it horrified me

4) Happy Days and Laverne & Shirley (along with the movie Grease and Rizzo's possibly pregnancy)

5) overheard conversations of adults and who in my neighborhood was having an affair with who

6) soap operas (specifically As the World Turns referred to as "Quiet, my story is on...")

7) friends who knew even less than I did

8) Our health teacher who was really a PE teacher and was embarrassed to refer to parts of the body so would just call them "these bits."

Though seriously, thank God for Judy Blume. At least someone was sharing information.

* * *


Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Love it... New England Road Sign--

This made me smile today...

epic fail pictures

Wishing you snowbirds some spring weather soon!

Confession Tuesday

Dear Reader,

It's confession time and I'm up early because my posse of pets were throwing a party at 4:30 am this morning. It involved a golden retriever dance off, a 20 lb. cat passing out on my nightstand and knocking everything off, as well as lonely drunk grey cat circling the bed until finally deciding to sleep on my head (think Russian hat).

So now I am awake--somewhat--and ready to confess. But I've been pretty good this week, haven't I been? You decide.

To the confessional--

I confess our family had a brief debate whether a chocolate shake counted as chocolate (which I gave up for Lent). I realized I entered myself into the mass of idiots when I googled, "Does a chocolate shake count as chocolate for Lent?: Strangely, not many other people asked this question, though a few were looking for chocolate alternatives.

In the past when I have given up dessert completely for Lent, I would have skipped the chocolate shake, but this time, because it's okay for me to eat ice cream (though note, I don't really like ice cream- though I do love Dick's Drive-in chocolate shakes), I could have a chocolate shake because it's not my downfall. Chocolate is. (And technically, that's what I gave up, the good stuff--if the shake had chocolate chunks in it, I wouldn't have had it).


Oh and here's a funny thing about having a sweet tooth and always keeping candy, sweets, chocolate around-- because they are always available, my daughter couldn't care less about them. However, when her friends come to my house, they all know where my candy drawer is (yes, I confess I have a candy drawer.)

When I was 9, if someone asked me if I wanted a Hershey's kiss or cookie, I'd say yes (whether I was hungry or not), she will no to chocolate. For you non-chocolate lovers this may not be any big deal, but to us chocoholics, it's pretty amazing to me to see a kid pass on candy.


I confess that last night I thought of a really good confession and thought it was so good that I wouldn't write it down (I was in bed and knew I'd remember it...) Um, it's tomorrow and I have no idea what this confession was.


I confess I applied for an NEA fellowship in creative writing.

I confess I applied for an NEA fellowship in creative writing.

I confess I applied for an NEA fellowship in creative writing.

I confess I applied for an NEA fellowship in creative writing.

I confess I applied for an NEA fellowship in creative writing.

*****You may be asking yourself why I have that 5 times. Because it seems, that is how many times I applied. Good one, Kells.

My computer kept giving me an error that the "network timed out," so as a good Capricorn, I resubmitted. And again. And again. Finally, I received the confirmation email that my application has been received. Then again. Then again.

I hope the NEA people are used to things like this happening and I don't come off as a complete dunce.

When I applied online 3 years ago, I remember how easy it was. This grant took me all day of submitting. I had everything I needed uploading it and submitting it was a bear, a great big grizzly bear that liked to keep ransacking the same cabin 5 times over.

But I guess the good news is I got my app in! (Apply early and apply often, I guess.) Sheesh.


I confess I have a large To-Do list, but am working on catching up as much as possible this week with my own stuff as well as the new issue of Crab Creek Review, which will be coming out shortly.

I am also working on not over-scheduling myself, which I did very well in January and February.

But it seems I'm leaving the confessional. If I haven't called or emailed you and I should have called or email you, my apologies. I will definitely call or email you soon...


One World, One HeArt Treasure...

A couple weeks ago the One World, One Heart event was going on where bloggers offered giveaways of their artwork on their blog. It was really incredible as I was able to learn about a lot of visual artists and just crafty people out there, which inspired me.

I entered a lot of the drawings, but only for things I would *love* to own myself. While I wasn't able to make it all the blogs, I did make it to a lot and won a few things.

I know this is going to sound odd, but I tend to be lucky when it comes to drawings and contests. Of course, I was also the 1 out of 100,000 who got idiopathic optic neuritis, so perhaps, it's not always so great to be the chosen one... Though mostly it's good things I win and less the rare vision-loss disease.

So here's the first wonderful treasure I won in the OWOH event. It's by an artist named Tina Curtis and what I love about it (besides the birds, I am such a birdgirl, you know) is that on the back she wrote some great quotes for me:

Create something daily.
Find beauty in your art.
Live each day.
You are amazing.

I love the little detail of these quotes on the back because when I hang this up in my writing studio (aka Shed of Kells - hah! I finally named it!) I will know that on the back they are there.

Anyway, it's really an inspiring little piece. And because I part of a family of three (husband, daughter & me), it's even more meaningful.

Tina also has a blog where you posts things she is working on and ideas for crafts and small ways to make your world a more beautiful place.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Poetry in muffin?

I saw this billboard in Seattle yesterday for McDonald's.

(Note, this is not my photo, I used ms. tina k's flickr photo because it was one of those turning billboards- 3 adds per billboard- and my family was walking on unimpressed and I didn't want lose them)

It reminded me of a t-shirt they sold at the UW when I was undergrad there: English, it's more than a muffin, it's a major!

Of course, we were treated like muffins (our special graduation meal was a pancake breakfast in the HUB, while my pre-med friend rented a tux and was taken --with the rest of his dept.--to the Columbia Tower Club, one of the most exclusive private business & social club in Seattle).

I told him then that the university was making sure we'd know our place in society after we graduated-- he'd be dining at country clubs and I'd be spending my mornings at IHop.

But back to the billboard--while I love to see the word "Poetry" around town, I was kind of annoyed to see McDonald's using it.


Saturday, February 20, 2010

Where I Live: Population > 3000. Plus herons

Self-portrait with Golden Retriever

My 9 yr old, size 5 shoe daughter has the same sized foot as the Great Blue Heron

Creative Living: The Art of a Rich Frugality...

Today on the way to my daughter's basketball game, I looked at my entire outfit and had to laugh because I realized if I added up everything I was wearing, the entire outfit including purse and shoes was less that $65 (not including tax).

12 or 13 years ago, a friend told me when I was nervous because I was quitting my full-time job with 401K benefits to be a poet in the world that dealing with money can be a creative act. She told me my creativity could be used to find my way as a writer and not give up the things I didn't want to. She did say there would be sacrifice, and there is, but she told me I could earn less and still live a rich life. It was exactly what I needed to hear,

As I looked at my $65 outfit this morning, I thought about the changes I have made in my spending. As a 20-something, I'd drop $75 on a Ralph Lauren sweatshirt without thinking 1) um, it's a sweatshirt and I'm paying for the pony 2) I could probably get the same sweatshirt for less somewhere.

To show how my spending has changed, I had my husband take a photo of me (and my 20 lb. cat Ace) so I could share...

My outfit:

Green Sweater by Boden: $10 consignment shop (sweaters, no more than $16)
Jeans by Tommy Hilfiger: $19.99 T.J. Maxx (I have a personal rule that I never spend more than $20 on jeans)
GAP t-shirt: $6 Gap on sale
Anne Klein shoes: $9 consignment shop
Relic purse: TJ Maxx a splurge (for me) at $20

Total: $64.99 for everything.

(Cat: another splurge at $25 adoption fee).

Now, don't get me wrong, I like a good deal (if I need that item), but I don't believe frugality or simple living = the self-deprivation movement. We are not rich, but I like and want to live a rich life.

I can and will splurge on myself when it comes to things that are important to me.

For example, my new MacBook Pro. Macs aren't cheap--I understood immediately why people bought PCs under $1000 because they were affordable. I was really afraid to buy my Mac, what if it's not really as good as other said, or worse, what if I can't figure it out!

However, now with the amazing things I can do with my Mac, plus the lack of frustration it offers me compared to my life with Vista (Vaio meaning: a laptop to roll your eyes for), I will never go back. (Though I tend to think I'm going to have this MacBook longer than any of my other laptops).

But I guess the question is: how did I have this extra money?

And I think the answer is: 1) Because the rest of my life, I live pretty cheaply. 2) I'm a saver )both in finding good deals and as in putting money into my savings account.

Whenever I can save $, I try to, if the thing I'm going to save it on isn't too important to me--

Some places I save money--

I prefer eating at home or potlucks with friends to going out to dinner.

I use coupons. This is a favorite website.

I have strict rules when it comes to buying clothes, I won't spend more than $20 on jeans or $17 on a sweater (I know there some people who are thinking: and you're bragging about this... um, yes. I am totally bragging about this.)-- I buy from our local consignment shop whenever possible, but also leave my own no-longer-worn clothes there so I get either cash or store credit as well.

We are on the cheapest cable plan (and if I had my way, we'd have no cable, but I was outvoted).

We bought a Roku from Netflix for $99 and now have all sorts of instant watch movies available for our monthly $8.95 Netflix bill. (We don't rent movies and only occasionally go to movies.)

Other ways I save?

I'm not really a shopper. I don't go to the mall. I don't require expensive make-up or special perfumes.

We have very low electric and water bills because we are good at conserving energy and we haven't used our dishwasher in 3 years (we handwash all our dishes). I line dry clothes in the summer and we eat from the garden as much as possible (plus I have gardener friends, so we eat from their garden too!)

We have very low gas bills because we carpool when possible or I ride my bike. We also run all errands in batches/groups to save gas.

We moved to a smaller rural community to save money on house prices. Seattle house prices went sky-high and while we knew moving out of the city would save us money on mortgage, we didn't realize, that we can live for less out here. So much of our free time is really *free* as we spend it at the beach, hiking, and biking.

So where do I spend my money go?

Family events-- we splurged to get incredible seats at the Harlem Globetrotters, but we will eat at Dick's Drive-In before. I will happily pay for experiences whether poetry, music, museums, or plays before I buy my daughter a new toy or buy myself something for the house.

Books-- Our family buys a lot of books from our local secondhand bookstore, but I also buy a lot of poetry books myself. I try to buy directly from either the author or the publisher so the poet or press gets the majority of the $$. Amazon takes a good share and I'd rather pay a couple bucks more and know the small press or poet is getting the profits.

Poetry events-- Poetry festivals, readings, workshops, writer's conferences. I never feel guilty for any of these.

Art/handmade goods - I love supporting artists and creative people who have started their own Etsy business or at our local co-op art gallery.

iPhone-- My big monthly splurge that has more benefits than not. I have a few apps I use for mountain biking (though as I said, one did get us lost last time, though I tend to think user error on that). For me, it helps with the "business" of writing and allows me to stay connected even when I'm out (which can be much of the time during the summer months as I love to hike, camp, kayak, and mountain bike), especially when I'm working with other poets, students, or editors.

Passions - my violin & my mountain bike. Two big splurges for me and while they were not the top of the line, they weren't cheap by my standards, but they are two things I use all the time. But the good news, now that they are purchased, I won't need to buy another for a long long time if ever.

My daughter's passion is horseriding, so we pay for her lessons.
My husband's passion is biking and now a triathlon, so we spend money to help him out there.


I think a lot of living a rich frugal life is asking yourself-- what do you not want to give up? For some, it may be a great cable plan because their family enjoys TV. For others, it might be expensive purses or all organic meals. For some, it may be the arts, or art supplies. For others, private school for their kids is their big expense. Others it may be travel. Or a daily coffee from a favorite espresso stand.

When you find what you want to spend your money on, do so! And without guilt.

Now make a list of what you spend money on that you don't really need. Do you buy a latte every day and really, could buy an $8 coffee holder and make your own at home? Dinners out? Could movie dates become Chinese takeout and a DVD (this is one of my favorite kind of dates.) What are you spending money on that you really don't love? Or need to?

Start slowly by downgrading your cable plan or call your phone company to see if they have any special features. I just called mine saying I was going to cancel and they gave me free long distance.

Look through your bills and see where you can cut back. Can you lower the heat at night? (I set ours at 59 degrees at night and use a lot of blankets!) Spend some time with your expenses, you might be amazed where you can save money.

If you really want to see how your money is spent, right down every single one of your purchases for a week. Honestly, this can be painful, but it is probably the best way to see exactly where your money goes. This was how I learned how much I was spending on soda a month, ouch. I dropped that habit (1/2 in thanks to optic neuritis, but that's another story) as well as individual packs of gum. Sheesh. I would much rather have a new poetry book, than 16 packs of gum.

And if you have any more ideas you'd like to share how you save money, do tell!

I promise to post soon about how I left my corporate job to live a simpler lifestyle here, but I wanted to share different ways it can be done- living a rich frugal life without depriving yourself from what you love.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Happy Chinese New Year Giveaway

I love charm bracelets and there's a giveaway for this cool bracelet on Lemondrop Vintage blog! If you're interested in being in the drawing, go to her blog here and leave a comment.

I'm not sure what the drawing date is, but it was posted Wednesday, Feb. 17th...

UPDATE: A winner will be drawn on Friday the 26th!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Winners for the GodBox & Poetry Postcards -OWOH Giveaways!

This was my first time participating in the OWOH event where artists and creative types offer a giveaway on their blog. As a writer first, I find other artists very inspiring to me and going from blog to blog to see what's others are doing creatively in their life.

I had 227 entries (my most comments ever) and the winner was chosen through a random generator (see below). I chose for the GodBox first then the postcards.

Here are the winners below--

For the GodBox--

Congratulations to Kathy V (KV) of New Mexico & the blog the Artful Muse ~ the winner of my GodBox (or Dream Box or Hope Box, or _____________ fill-in-the-blank box). I'll be mailing this off to you as soon as I hear back from you with your address!

Winner #2 for the Postcard Poems--

And the winner for the Postcard Poems is Jona P. from the Philippines (a country close to my heart!)

* * * * *

I will definitely participate in this again next year as it was truly a lot of fun.

And if you didn't win, thank you for entering and also for all the great notes you left me either about my blog or the GodBox. I appreciated hearing from so many of you.

~ Kelli

Sunday, February 14, 2010

From Post Secret Today...

This was on Post Secret today and I was completely drawn to it, or the honesty of it...

I think there is a poem or story to be inspired from this.

The woman who sent the postcard is 72 years old or older. I'm glad she's happy...

Because I haven't said it yet...

Happy Valentine's Day!

Confession Tuesday - Fat Tuesday Edition

Well Friends, it is that time of the week to confess what I've been up to. I so wish I had some juicy confessions, but I am quite the square, the non-edgy poet in her sensible shoes.

But maybe something will come up. We'll see. Off to the confessional--

I confess today is my last dose (did I say "dose?" I mean, day) of chocolate for 40 days. Yes, I'm giving up chocolate for Lent.

If you remember last year, I gave up Lent for Lent, which was really a great thing to do. Many years I have given up dessert fully. Now that I'm 41, I don't give up the full monty, but enough to remind to cut down on my sweets.

I confess I participate in Lent more for the health aspects than the religious ones. But honestly, I do eat chocolate every day (seriously, every day) and while I could say, Good for me, I've gotten to the point where *all* chocolate tastes good.

* * *

Speaking of chocolate, I should probably confess that I have a summer and winter body. I just learned this a few years ago.

The summer body had no idea the winter body exists, but found out one year when I went to California in late fall and when I went to try on my summer clothes, realized my capris were, um, just a little snug. "Just a little snug" as in "My God, that woman is wearing pants 2 sizes too small!"

My winter body is 5-10 lbs more than my summer body. My winter body loves mashed potatoes and meatloaf, and loves red wine. My winter body always asks for another glasses of wine, while my summer body is happy with Perrier.

My summer body enjoys stir-fry veggies, fruit, and drinks lots of water. My summer body camps, hikes, and mountain bikes. My winter body thinks that my summer body is a busybody.

My winter body types, naps, and types some more. Sometimes my winter body takes a bike ride or goes for a long walk and realizes how awkward she is. My winter body doesn't like to be cold and needs the extra padding. My summer body is probably less likely to die of a heart-attack or too much chocolate, but more likely to break a bone. My winter body happily tucked safe inside with a stretch corduroys and a long baggy sweater, but more likely to feel sad because she hasn't seen the sun in weeks.

* * *

I confess that lately people have made a lot of interesting comments to me this week--

From a friend to me last week-- You Catholic girls run a little fast and loose with the truth... when I made reservations for her and her husband saying it was their anniversary a month and 1/2 early...

From a 10 year old friend of my daughter's: I like your house because it smells like crackers and animals.
(and this is a *good* thing how?)

From a friend, Will your biceps be ready for the party?

* * *

Until next Tuesday... Happy Mardi Gras and

Dream Blogging & New Book Out - The Artistic Mother

Last night I had dream that I did a long post, in fact it was a series of the challenges of being a parent and an artist (writer/poet/painter/etc.)

I know I had some good points, but all I remember was writing: it gets easier-- not very helpful.

I think the reason I've been thinking about this is that I constantly try to make sure I balance my life with my writing and creativity while also making sure my family doesn't see me as some stranger that moves around the house complaining about clutter when not attached to her laptop.

But I know I feel resentful if I don't have time for myself and my writing. Writing in the morning has helped because I don't feel that anxiousness as night comes worrying that I haven't written anything because the writing part of myself has already been fed, or at least had a snack.

As I've gone around to different blogs this week looking that what different artists have done and realizing that they are each balancing something, whether it's a full-time job, children, or both, it is the rare occasion I find the financial independent artist single, without any responsibilities making his/her art...and when I say "the rare occasion," I think I mean "never." We all balance something.

So I've been thinking about my own writing and creative life, I was impressed to find this book by a blogger: The Artistic Mother: A Practical Guide to Fitting Creativity into Your Busy Life by Shana Cole...oh and she has 5 kids. I have one daughter and find it can be challenging, so I'm amazed how people do it with 2 or more kids.

I haven't read the book yet, but one of the first post I read by her was how this book came to be. Here's the link.

Also, as someone who will be having my second book come out in fall, I know the excitement that comes when your book is available and hers came available a month early on Amazon, so I wanted to help share her excitement. I'll be reading the book soon and will let you know what I think.

Anyway, her blog is An Artful Life if you want to check it out.

Maybe next time I have a dream I'm blogging, I'll sleepwalk to my computer and actually get something done. You know, that might be fantastic to be productive in sleep and actually sleep typing-- waking up as if little elves have written my poems, written a blog post, maybe even cleaned the kitchen.

Hmmm, I may have to explore this a little more.

Valentine's Day morning with cards & new orchid

Saturday, February 13, 2010

lucille Clifton, honored poet from Buffalo, dies

Clifton, honored poet from Buffalo, dies : Home: The Buffalo News

Just heard the sad news that poet Lucille Clifton died today. She was 73.

Here's one of my favorite poems by her:

Homage to My Hips
these hips are big hips.
they need space to
move around in.
they don't fit into little
petty places. these hips
are free hips.
they don't like to be held back.
these hips have never been enslaved,
they go where they want to go
they do what they want to do.
these hips are mighty hips.
these hips are magic hips.
i have known them
to put a spell on a man and
spin him like a top

Lucille Clifton

What I did in Watercolor today plus Cat

Giveaway Necklace at In the Light of the Moon blog

So there's been a lot of giveaways in the blog world lately by artists. Here's a necklace that's up for grabs at In the Light of the Moon blog. If you're interested, just follow this link to her blog and leave a comment by Feb 17th.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Artist as Boss

So I had this great talk with Tatyana Mishel today about how there are two parts of me that sometimes battle-- the artist vs. the strict schoolteacher.

Tatyana & I talked about how many of have these two sides in us and with each person, it's different for which one is in control. We have one part of us that is wild with passion and creativity and another part that is more orderly and controlling.

I am a Capricorn with a Scorpio rising, which could be visualized as the woman CEO who is secretly wearing red lingerie under her gray suit.

The artist in me wants to create, to play, to say whatever she wants, to explore any interests and to live life in a way that offers creation, connection, and passion.

My strict schoolteacher side likes things a bit more orderly and structured and reminds me not to lose my head about things. She is the one who holds back, who makes lists, who wants focus focus focus, and who is not too forgiving. I know she wants the best for me, but she's pretty tough with the structure, control and micromanaging of things.

In most cases, I believe she's always a little more in control than my artist self. She is the workaholic father to my dreamer mother. She is the dog that watches the flock of sheep instead of the cat asleep in sun.

Tatyana asked me, "What would happen if you let the artist be boss? How would things be different?'

I thought that was such an insightful questions. What would happen if I let my artist be boss?

So, I'm going to try it out for a while and see what happens (I promise to report any wild, crazy episodes, but knowing myself I'm guessing this will be few and far between, but maybe?)

My question to you is? Who rules in your own self-- your artist or your more structured self? Have you ever tried to turn it around and let the other one lead?

I'm really intrigued by this idea.

I'm giving the artist the lead for a while, we'll see if the dance changes or if I'm just falling into the audience because of my stiletto heels. Either way, it will keep things interesting. I'll let you know how it goes...

My Favorite Valentine Poem

This was the poem that my husband found in one of Pablo Neruda books and typed out for me one Valentine's day. It continues to be my favorite poem because of that. I also love how the poem says there are people taller, purer, and lovelier, but still, you're the queen- it both insults and compliments the "you" at once.

And actually to be fair, my husband only typed out the last two stanzas for me with the title "The Queen." Smart guy.

The Queen

I have named you queen.
There are taller than you, taller.
There are purer than you, purer.
There are lovelier than you, lovelier.
But you are the queen.

When you go through the streets
No one recognizes you.
No one sees your crystal crown, no one looks
At the carpet of red gold
That you tread as you pass,
The nonexistent carpet.

And when you appear
All the rivers sound
In my body, bells
Shake the sky,
And a hymn fills the world.

Only you and I,
Only you and I, my love,
Listen to me.

- - - - - - - -

Yo te he nombrado reina.
Hay más altas que tú, más altas.
Hay más puras que tú, más puras.
Hay más bellas que tú, hay más bellas.
Pero tú eres la reina.

Cuando vas por las calles
nadie te reconoce.
Nadie ve tu corona de cristal, nadie mira
la alfombra de oro rojo
que pisas donde pasas,
la alfombra que no existe.

Y cuando asomas
suenan todos los ríos
en mi cuerpo, sacuden
el cielo las campanas,
y un himno llena el mundo.

Sólo tú y yo,
sólo tú y yo, amor mío,
lo escuchamos.

- Pablo Neruda


If you haven't entered the giveaway for the "God Box" (or AnythingBox or Artist Box or ______________ Fill-in-the-blank box) you can do that here. You have until Valentine's Day at midnight PST.

I added a little detail to the top of the GodBox so it looks a little more finished.

I'm also giving away 2 of my postcard poems I made for a project with Dancing Girl Press.

* * *

In a few weeks, I'll start organizing the Poetry Month giveaway that you can all take part in if you like. It just needs a name-- Poetry Month GAB (Give away books)... We'll work on it. . .

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Book Cover Art Reveal - Letters from the Emily Dickinson Room

"Her Garden" by Catrin Welz-Stein

Here's the image that will be on my next book, due out in October 2010.

It was created by a woman artist living in Switzerland named Catrin Welz-Stein. You can read an interview with her here.

It was synchronicity I found this image. I had randomly googled "House Bird Artwork" (which were two things I was thinking about in regards to my manuscript) and ended up on a blog that happened to have another image of her work, which I was taken by.

When I saw this piece, entitled, "Her Garden," I knew it was the image for me. It represented everything I felt my manuscript was about-- what we keep hidden and what we reveal.

And to make it even more perfect, she is holding a bird, an image I have felt very close too these past years while I have been working on this manuscript, "Hope is a thing with feathers..." And also, she is an artist who is also a mother, something I understand and respect.

So there you are. My cover art.

I'll reveal later what the whole shebang looks like (title, cover, etc.), but I just wanted to focus on the image right now. Baby steps into the elevator...


The Reveal... (coming soon!)

So I have found the cover image for my next book, Letters from the Emily Dickinson Room. It's by a woman artist (who is also a mother) living in Switzerland.

My publisher, White Pine Press, just gave me the okay on using it and I'm thrilled.

I'll post the image here very soon. I never have much to tease about, so yes, this is a little tease. Or maybe I am.

Either way, I'll post the image and you can see what you think. I fell in love with it when I first saw it and thought it was absolutely perfect.

(BTW, if you are *really* interested in seeing it (and you are also clever...) it is currently available to see somewhere on the internet...) Ya, that's not too big of a room to search through.

Actually, no worries, I'll post the image later today. Promise!


Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Tell Us About the Editors, Marty!

Martha Silano had a great post about editors and I'll share the beginning. You can click on the link to read more... It's good. You should.

Here it goes--

Editors are our friends," William Stafford said.

What did he mean by that?

Editors keep us from having work out there that sucks.

We should thank them, he said.

I couldn't agree with him more.

In fact, I'll up him one or two.

Editors tend to contact us on weekends. Do you know what this means? Editors work day jobs, and don't put on their editor hats till they've already put in a full work week. What editors do is a labor of love, dudes, not a paying gig.

A Day At the Office

I had posted this many moons ago, but it was taken off of YouTube for some reason. I'm happy to say to it's back. This video makes me happy.

Watch it once, then watch it again looking at what's happening in the background. Too funny.

Video Description: Five brave workers decide to record themselves simultaneously at their office doing something...unthinkable...

Confession Tuesday -

Well, it's Tuesday, so it's time to confess. What have I been up to? Any sins?

To the confessional--

I confess I ate way too much chicken gumbo, shrimp cocktail, and jalapeno cornbread muffins (made by my husband) at a Superbowl Party on Sunday.

I brought my Our Lady of Guadalupe candle, which we lit for the Saints, of course. I voted for the Saints to win because of Hurricane Katrina, French relatives, Mardi Gras beads, Catholicism, & that I had always wanted to visit New Orleans (btw, I know, you don't actually "vote" for a team, but this is my personal terminology when it comes to football or sports). Also, the host of the party was born in Louisiana and people cheering for the Colts had to sit out on the deck and have the score texted to them... (oh, he was *only* kidding about that).

I also confess I did not watch much of the game, but mostly talked and ate. (I occasionally looked over to see what commercials were on... I confess if I never see another GoDaddy commercial my entire life, I will be pleased.) But I confess, I was glad the Saints won. They were the "Ain'ts" for so long, it was nice to see them win.


I confess I tend to be for the underdog, football or otherwise.


I confess yesterday I was lost in the woods for 3 hours. This is not a metaphor.

My friend and I were mountain-biking and we took a new (and way too muddy) trail which brought us to a dry larger trail we had never been on. This larger trail took us up new logging roads to even more new trails. I knew things were not good when we found ourselves off-trail looking at each other through beautiful forest of alders with bits of moss all around us and all around were alders and no trail in sight.

Normally, she has a bear-bell on her bike to "warn" bears we're coming so we don't accidentally wander upon them (and worse-- them and their cubs), but she was using my husband's bike, so we were bell-less and lost. So, we backtracked. We biked down extra steep hills then up extra steep hills until she had an idea where we were.

I had my GPS on my iPhone, but it said we were standing in a pond when we were definitely not standing in a pond. My friend who normally navigates intuitively (and is absolutely incredible in this skill) got turned around by the map, which didn't show any trails, just us as a dot in the middle of a forest or in some cases, us standing in a pond.

Me? I had no idea where we were and never do. I trust her completely to lead us in and out of the forest.

I have no sense of direction and in fact, thought we were ten miles north of where we actually were. I also swore I could smell someone cooking hamburgers (did I mention I had eaten all my snacks) and was convinced that there was a secret restaurant in the forest.

My friend found our way back and just about 1/4 mile down the road from where we had parked the van. I confess I was incredibly impressed as I thought we were nearing Canada.

By the way, we weren't afraid, so no worries. We have mountain-biked this area many times. We knew we'd find our way out, it was just becoming a long question of when.

And in a certain way, this is life's lessons with extra mud and blackberry scratches-- When you are lost, backtrack until you find your way, don't rely on technology too much, but your instincts and always bring a friend along.


Sunday, February 07, 2010

My Early Valentine's Day Gift

I have terrible posture and worse, last August I tweaked my lower back while mountain biking. And honestly, it was much more than tweaked, I was hurt enough that I needed 3 months of chiropractic work, ice packs, and yoga.

I have been wanting (needing) to get a new office chair for a long time. My desk chair was $15 and Staples, on sale, their demo, and honestly, probably the most uncomfortable chair after 30 minutes. Of course, when you buy a chair in an office store you do not know this because you don't normally sit in their chair and pretend to work/write for 30 minutes.

So after trying out Lana Ayer's ergonomic chair a few weeks ago, I knew I had to make some changes.

In December, I had tried Ronda Broatch's office chair, which is a big yoga ball (YogaAccessories (TM) 65 cm Yoga Balance Ball with Pump
). I really liked this, but I noticed my daughter (age 9) also really liked this and I was afraid that I would spend much of my time searching the house/yard for my chair (aka giant fun ball).

I also had images of me late at night slipping off this chair and knocking myself out on my desk. Another concern was how many lamps, pieces of artwork this ball would break in my house when it wasn't being used as a chair but as a weapon/toy.

I do think in the future I will purchase one of these to have on hand (they are wonderful if you have lower back pain just draping yourself over them like a ragdoll), but I decided I wanted something a little more stable (and less fun for my family members), as a main chair.

So this is what I ended up buying from Amazon, which was very similar to Lana's chair:

The good news is the color is more of a navy than that royal blue in the photo. I have been using this chair for a couple days now and am loving it. I think I will order another for my writing shed.

The back moves to different angles and it can be raised up and down. On the Amazon reviews it said this may be the best chair for tall people. I'm 5'7" (okay, 5'7 1/2" to be exact) and it's perfect for me. I've been playing around with height to find the perfect position and I think I have it.

I'll let you know how it goes.

So far it has taken the pressure off my back as my knees get most of the weight of my body. I'm guessing that's how it works. I'll see if my knees/legs ache later on or if I have any other issues, but I tend to think I won't. I notice that it's impossible for me to slouch in this position and that my shoulders have to be back which is good for me and I tend to be the humpback typist.


Friday, February 05, 2010

Beth Ann Fennelly Reading...

Michael Wells went to Beth Ann Fennelly reading (lucky!) And you can read the summary here.

Beth Ann is not just smart, but beautiful and not just beautiful, but talented.

If you haven't read her books, I highly suggest you check them out. Open House: Poems was the first book I read by her and it's still one of my favorite poetry books of all time.

But she also has Unmentionables: Poems and Great with Child: Letters to a Young Mother.

She's a definitely favorite writer of mine. And if you like smart writing, you might like her.

Stephanie Rubiano from So I Gathered...

I won this gorgeous pendant on Stephanie Rubiano's blog, So I Gathered last month, and I told Stephanie I'd take a photo of me wearing it.
Here I am and here's my new beautiful pendant.

If you go to her blog, you can be in the drawing for another gorgeous pendant she is giving away. No strings attached, it's through the One World. One HeArt event.

Here's what my pendant looks like. I *heart* it!

Visual Gratitude Journal

1) Laughter
2) Friendship

Writing Day with Marty

I took the ferry over to see my friend Marty (aka Martha Silano). We wrote and talk in Starbucks for 4 1/2 hours. They could have charged us rent. People bought coffee, came and went and we sat at our table while the landscape around us changed.

We did a few writing exercises.

One fun one that generates a lot of interesting lines is this. I originally learned it from Naomi Shihab Nye at a writing class on Bainbridge Island, I believe.

What you do--

1) Write down as many questions as you can in 5 minutes. These can be anything from "Does God exist?" To "What should I have for dinner?" Just write as many different questions as you can.

2) Now write as many things that did or saw in the last 36 hours. It can be as basic as "Carried groceries in from the van" to "my dog limping in the garden."

Once you have two lists, begin to combine your questions and answers in interesting ways.

For example, if you wrote "What does God look like?" You could combine that with "A small child holding a balloon." Or "A lone tulip in a flood field." See what interesting combos these questions and answers bring up and write a poem from that.

It's a fun way to get interesting lines, and even more fun to do with a friend.


Thursday, February 04, 2010

Inspired - A National Poetry Month Idea...

So, I'm feeling pretty inspired by this One World, One Heart Artist Giveaway event and it's made me think we should do something like this for poetry.

Basically, what the One World, One Art Giveaway is that each artist gives away one item (sometimes more)on their blog. Readers leave their comments for X number of days until the contest/event ends and there are is a drawing.

It is such a great idea! It's not about promotion or selling your work, it's about giving. (If you haven't read Lewis Hyde's The Gift: Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World (Vintage). The idea behind the event is about connecting with others.

So I've thinking about this idea for poets as well.

If you're interested, I'll organize it for National Poetry Month this year.

I was thinking, instead of offering visual arts, we could each offer 2 books of poems where people could be entered into a drawing to win them. The first book (or chapbook) can be your poems and the second can be a book by one of your favorite poets.

If you don't have a book or chapbook published yet, you could offer two books by two of your favorite poets.

Also, I think the books should be new or relatively new. And they have to be books you LOVE. Not the poetry books that you just didn't connect with or the ones you're trying to get rid of (so sorry, no giveaway Jewel books that your relative bought you because s/he heard you were into poetry).

We could highlight our favorite books we are going to giveaway on our blogs in April 2010 for National Poetry Month, then we could each have the drawing the first few days of May.

What do you think?

I think that would be a great way to win some free poetry books and learn about new poets and new books. Also, it would be a great way to get your books into other hands, meet new poets, and learn about new blogs.

I'm going to think about the details more, but watch for more on this.

I think it's an incredible way to share books with each other. Whimsical Bohemian, who started the One World, One HeArt event, has definitely inspired me.

More to come on this. Any ideas appreciated.

Any questions about the giveaway...

Feel free to leave them here in the comment section and I'll answer them.

Oh and if you don't know about the giveaway, go here!


One World, One HeArt Giveaway...

Thank you for participating this year!

The giveaway has now ended... The 2 winners are posted on blog post 2/15/10 (Kathy V & Jona P).

Congrats! And thanks to all who entered!


Some of you may know I do art on the side.

That sounds so odd to write, my first question is, "On the side of what?" And I guess the answer is, "On the side of my writing life..."

In past posts, I have shared some photos of these boxes I make, I call them "God Boxes." Actually, my friend Nancy coined that term and it stuck. These are small boxes individually created and not one of them same, where the owner of the box can put his/her fears, worries, prayers, dreams, and or/wishes.

But depending on your faith, you can call them Universe Boxes. Or Spirit Boxes. Or Faith Boxes. Or Hope Boxes. Or Box of Dreams. Or Trust Boxes. Or Buddha Boxes. Or Synchronicity Boxes. OneWorld Box. Or ArtBox. Or WishBox. Or _______________ Boxes, fill in the blank for what works best for you.

Here's my original God Box I made 5 years ago--

As you can see, it's bursting with notes, prayers, wishes, worries... Many of the names in my God Box are for people how have asked for prayers or good thoughts. A friend may email me with a relative in the hospital and I put their name in my God Box.

Some of the notes in there are just worries I had. Those are always fun to go back and look over, all those fears and worries I had that never happened. It was nice to have a place to place them so I didn't have to carry them with me.

So you might ask, why is this writer talking so much about God Boxes and not about poetry? Not about the writing life?

Well, the reason is A Whimsical Bohemian started a giveaway idea in 2007. And it's grown. Big. This year it looks to top 1000 blogger/artists/people, worldwide.

Here's what she wrote about the event:

The original idea behind this giveaway event was to bring bloggers together from around the world who may never ordinarily meet. It closes the gap of the blog community and enables us to interact, discover new and wonderful people, and in the process possibly win a prize or many prizes along the way. 2007 had roughly 85-90 participants and many connections were made because of it......friendships that are still going strong.

You can learn about all the details here at her blog.

* * *

What I like about this, is it's just about giving something away to another person.
That's it.

There's nothing to buy, you don't have to jump through 1000 hoops by posting this info anywhere to telling me anything wonderful about yourself. You just have to leave me one comment in this post to be part of my drawing. That's all. No strings attached.

I will pay shipping costs to get my items to you if you win. All you would need to do is send me your mailing address so I could get it to you.

So here's what I'm giving away...

1) A GodBox

2) 2 handmade postcards with an original poem (by me).
One is sealed, ready to give to a friend, and one is open for you to do whatever you want with it. (The poem is on the reverse side of the woman with typewriter postcard.)

The Gifts in Detail--

Here's a photo of the GodBox I'm giving away.

I may add some ribbon or detail to the top of the box before I mail it, we shall see... or I guess I should shall see.

The inside of it looks like this--

There's a sentence that reads: Creating the Life you Want along with an old saint medallion I glued in for you.

Also, what I love best about this box are the beads I added. They are old vintage glass Czech beads that were from a Mardi Gras parade many many years back when they used to throw glass beads from the floats instead of plastic. I even kept it on the original string the Mardi Gras necklace came on. On the top of the box is an image of prayer flags. There is a pressed flower inside as well.

Here's another inside image:


The second gift I'm giving away is this Poetry Postcard I made these a couple years or so ago for Dancing Girl Press. I realized I have two left over.

Here's the image of the poem I wrote that's on the back of woman with typewriter postcard:

You have until Valentine's Day to leave me a comment under this post to be entered for the drawings.

My only rules for you to be entered are:

1) Leave only ONE comment below to be entered in the drawings.

2) If you don't have a blog, you are still welcome to be in the drawing. Just post anonymously or with your blogger sign-in, but make sure include your EMAIL ADDRESS in your post so I can contact you.

3) You must have left me a comment by Sunday, Feb 14th, 2010 by midnight (Pacific Standard Time) as I'll do the drawing on Monday, Feb 15th.

****To choose a winner, I will use a random number to generate a number then count down the number of entries (aka comments) to that person.

If for some reason, I can't get ahold of that person in 14 days, I'll choose another winner.

I'll have two drawings. One for the God Box and one for the Postcard Poem set. Your one entry/comment below will enter you into both drawings.

I think that's it!

Oh and for those of you who do not know me (I know some of you will have found me through Whimsical Bohemian's links), I am a Northwest poet/writer/editor who loves mountain biking, art, my family, friends, pets, and dessert. I think that pretty much sums up my life.

If this is fun for everyone, maybe we can do it again sometime.

Thanks for stopping by! Oh and if you any questions, leave them here.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

I have to be honest...

I *heart* my MacBook Pro.

This is seriously the best computer I have ever owned. Today I found the F3 button that magically showed me all my open windows. Then I found spotlight button (command spacebar) that showed me the highlights of where I've been and what I've done today.

I swear, I wasn't expecting to adore my computer, but I do.

I had not idea a computer could be this easy and this useful. I find new features every day!

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