#sol17 My happy place

When I was pregnant, I decided to take Hypnobirthing classes. I wanted to have a drug-free, natural, calm delivery, but I was terribly, deathly afraid of pain. (Still am.)

During the guided meditation, J would read the script instructing me to go to my happy place. (The language was a lot more effective, I must admit.)  Every time, in both birthing practice and my labor and delivery, this was my happy place:IMG_6452

Floating in the large blue drink of the lake in New Hampshire where J and I grew up. And, like happiness, it’s temporary, impermanent, perfect and cyclical.

On days like today, a horrid March afternoon that was blustery and cold, I cannot wait until the height of summer, until we are back in the fresh liquid silk of the lake. We take off our sandals on the beach, the hot sand grainy beneath our feet, and wade into the water, tenderly stepping over the rocky floor, the water rising higher and higher up our legs.

Then the moment of choice: the water laps at our knees, our hips, our bellies. To dive in, or not?

The cold water shocks our hot skin, almost burns for a moment, but this feeling quickly gives way to refreshment. Our bodies buoyed in the water, suspended in time like the center of a marble. Blue above, blue below. This is summer at the lake. This is my happy place.

slice of life


#sol17 These are a few of my favorite things…

slice of lifeIt’s been a helluva week, y’all, and it’s not even over yet. This was state testing week for our 10th graders, taking the English MCAS which is a graduation test, and it was brutal. Also, spring tryouts started this week for our student athletes, and my husband is assistant varsity coach for the baseball team, which means I’m a baseball widow for the next 10 weeks or so. I’m ahead in my planning but way behind in all my grading, and I’m late on a deadline for work for a conference I’m presenting at in May PLUS parent-teacher conferences are next week… The struggle is real.

So tonight I’m keeping it light and airy. Top 5 favorite lists, in no particular order:

Top 5 favorite shows right now:

  1. The Mindy Project
  2. Girls (which is a hate-watch)
  3. Game of Thrones
  4. tied between Black-ish and Fresh off the Boat
  5. The Handmaid’s Tale (technically not out until April 26 but that trailer is brutal and DAMN I’m q-q-quivering with anticipation…)

Top 5 favorite books to teach:

  1. The Great Gatsby (I should post a whole separate post on how I teach it, which is completely different from how I was taught and treats the book like a post-WWI PTSD moral allegory…)
  2. The Things They Carried
  3. A Raisin in the Sun
  4. The Crucible (sadly I don’t teach this anymore)
  5. Their Eyes Were Watching God
*Note: I’m currently teaching The Handmaid’s Tale so I don’t know if it’s a favorite yet. 😉

Top 5 favorite foods:

  1. Chocolate (currently in the form of Cadbury creme eggs)
  2. Wine (what, it’s a food!)
  3. Broccoli (my fave veggie)
  4. Sweet potato (2nd favorite)
  5. Really really fresh sushi/sashimi

Top 5 favorite movies from the 1980s:

  1. Sixteen Candles
  2. Legend/Labyrinth/The Neverending Story/The Dark Crystal (this is my childhood distilled into a few films)
  3. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
  4. The Breakfast Club
  5. Raiders of the Lost Ark

Top 5 best books I’ve read recently:

  1. Girls and Sex
  2. The Queen of the Tearling (series)
  3. The Underground Railroad
  4. Everything, Everything
  5. Ready Player One (currently reading, can’t put it down)

Top 5 most-visited websites:

  1. Go Fug Yourself
  2. Jezebel
  3. Facebook
  4. Twitter
  5. Slate

That’s it. I’m probably totally forgetting some of my favorites, but I’ve blogged tonight and considering how awful this week has been, I’m counting that as a win.

#sol17 Place Poem

In 2009 I traveled to Israel on a free trip called “Birthright Israel” for young Jewish Americans. A few years later, I turned my experience into a narrative nonfiction essay about travel, identity, and what it means to have a homeland, which was published in this travel anthology

Today, I turned that essay into a poem. My homework prompt for my Creative Writing students is to write a place poem – a poem about the narrative or emotional or sensory experience of a place. Right now, most of them are simply free-writing their poems. With this poem, I modeled for them how to use free-writing and prose writing to brainstorm ideas, phrases, and imagery that they can then shape and manipulate into a poem. 

The Kotel*

As if in a dream
between sun and stone
I move forward to the Wall
suffocating upon prayers
clutching my own inadequate offering
to nest between crevices in the rock
more solid and solemn than history
a motionless wave of hope and mourning
in the fervent buzz of a language I have forgotten

Then begin to shuffle backward
in reverent silent supplication
a pattern unfamiliar that moves my bones
and suddenly I remember why I am here
halfway around the world, crying tears
that fall upon the sand beneath my feet– no
beneath the feet of my ancestors
in this homeland that has never been my home
my heart begins to beat in tune with the stone

* The Kotel is the Hebrew name for the Western Wall, also known as the Wailing Wall, arguably the single most important Jewish site in all of Israel. Once part of the main synagogue in Jerusalem, it was all but destroyed by the Romans and shortly thereafter the Jews were expelled from the city. Thousands of years later, it is the holiest place for Jews from all over the world to visit, to pray, to mourn, and to leave small slips of prayer between its stones.

slice of life

#sol17 First


First beckons
with the suggestion of shore,
a wave of potential.
A long road ahead. A beginning. An entrance.
First is springtime, bloom and bud and blossom.
First is blessing from fresh unbreath.
First is full, not hollow, not scraped and worn raw,
not down the the quick.
First is first, it is not last.

First does not last. First is promises
between barbed wire,
crossed lines and boundaries,
slippery like electric eels
through your lips,
off your tongue without
the buzz of foresight.

First is a mistook step off an unseen cliff,
blood and burn, thinking
that the thing you wanted was wanted,
that the thing you got was deserved,
that there was a reason for the new moon
turning its face away from you tonight.
You cannot undo first.

slice of life

#sol17 Poetry Day!

Today I started my poetry unit with my Creative Writing class! It’s always one of my favorite days, because although I write nonfiction, poetry is my first love.

I also love this day because I get to spend most of a period breaking down students’ conceptions of what poetry is and isn’t.

“The Road Not Taken”? Yes, universally agreed. (Although we do talk about what the poem actually means, not what everyone thinks it means.)

Then I move into the land of free verse, acrostic poetry, and some really out-there experimental poems, like this one:


Or “Night Practice” by May Swenson, “The Murder of Two Men by a Kid Wearing Yellow-colored Gloves” by Kenneth Patchen, any of Mary Ellen Solt‘s concrete poetry, Alan Riddell’s “The Affair“:

My students, who have been carefully led to believe that all poetry looks and sounds the same and has Important Meaning, have never seen poems like these.

Poetry is as much about form and play and creativity and emotion as it is meaning; I tell them. As a poet myself, I’m rather horrified to think that a reader must only respond to my work with detached intellectual curiosity. (So was this poet.) That isn’t the point of art. And that shouldn’t be the point of our teaching of it, from the readers’ or the writers’ perspective.

Unfortunately, due to state testing, we don’t have class tomorrow, World Poetry Day.  But as they left class today, I reminded them as they went home and wrote their first poems tomorrow, they should remember: poetry isn’t something to fear or stress about or feel like you’re going to “get wrong.” It lives in us. It’s our heartbeat. It just takes a little coaxing to get it to emerge.

#sol17 Stress on Wheels

slice of lifeMy husband J and I have lived with one car for the last nine years. When we lived in Somerville and then Cambridge, it was no problem; we were on easily-accessible bus routes, short 10-15 minute walks from the Red Line. For six years I walked to work and J biked, and our car was mostly for running errands and traveling out of state to visit family. When we had K and moved, we started commuting together in the car: J would drive us in to my school, where K’s daycare is, and then continue to his school. The commute home was the reverse.

In September, however, we bought a house and moved about 10 miles north of the city. Even in the ‘burbs, the one-car-life has been okay for us; our commute is basically the same as it was before, except five times as far (and three times as long). We make do with conflicting schedules. We’ve managed these last six months.

However, baseball season starts on Monday, and J is one of the coaches.

For the last six years, this wasn’t a problem; J would take the car to practice and away games, often lugging equipment, and I would walk/take public transit home, even with K. This year, that’s not really an option. I *could* take the Red Line to South Station to the commuter rail and then walk a mile home with K… but we both agreed that’s a less than ideal commute five days/week for the next ten weeks, especially in inclement weather. (I was willing to do it, but not eager.) So we decided it was time to give in to our still-new identities as suburbanites and buy another vehicle.

Car shopping? Hell on wheels. J has been doing endless amounts of research online for weeks, trying to decide what kind of vehicle to get. Commuter car? Not for my husband – he wanted a truck. “I’m going to be doing so much work on the house, I need to haul stuff!” (Insert eye roll here.)

If you don’t know what movie this is from, I’m so sorry for you.

But of course we need a full backseat and four doors because toddler… And not a huge truck (“But I need enough room to haul stuff!”) and within our budget and not too many miles and it needs to get decent gas mileage (f0r a truck) and be a good deal for a used vehicle and…

Anyway, we finally identified a handful of vehicles that we agreed upon. We piled into our small SUV and headed down 93 to a dealership south of the city. We test drove. We liked. We got back in the car to drive to another dealership. We looked. We disliked. We started driving to yet another dealership. We discussed. We questioned. We perseverated. We remembered other cars we’ve owned that turned out to be moneypits. We stressed. We turned around and went back to the first dealership. We haggled. We put down a deposit. On Monday, we’ll be the proud owners of a 2007 Ford Explorer Sport Trac.

Navy blue with a tan leather interior!

It wasn’t the vehicle J expected he’d purchase, but he likes it and I like it, and as with every other choice in marriage, compromise is key. And, as with most of the decision-making processes in a marriage, it was damn stressful: you never question if you’re making the right decision as much as you do during large acquisitions like a house, or a car, or a kid.

Still, there’s no one I’d rather rattle around in a high-speed tin can of death with.