Thursday, April 30, 2009

To This May

by W.S. Merwin
They know so much more now about
the heart we are told but the world
still seems to come one at a time
one day one year one season and here
it is spring once more with its birds
nesting in the holes in the walls
its morning finding the first time
its light pretending not to move
always beginning as it goes

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Shack

I recently read "The Shack" by William Paul Young. It's the latest big-selling Christian novel. I will admit I am repelled by any maudlin, pie-in-the-sky sort of Christian stories and I began the book skeptically. I was suprised when the first half was quite realistic and did not paint all the characters as unflawed goody-two-shoes. The narrator is Mack, a father of four. He tells of his family being torn apart by the abduction and murder of his 4 year-old daughter. He descends into what he calls "the great sadness".
Then Mack gets a written invitation in the mailbox from God to meet him in a shack in the Oregon wilderness. God signs the note "Papa". The shack is where his daughter was murdered and her blood still stains the floor. There he also meets Jesus and the Holy Spirit who, of course, appear to him as a diverse group of human beings - probably to break down any silly stereotypes we may have about what the Trinity actually looks like. (Can you sense my deteriorating interest in the book?)
The rest of "The Shack" gives Young's interpretations of God and all His mysterious ways. Here's where I have a problem. A mere human who has decided that he has it all figured out or to, in effect, speak for God, not to mention Jesus and the Holy Spirit. The words of the Big Three are very straight forward in their explanations. I think we would all like to have a complete understanding of God, but I do not believe that is possible here on Earth and I am wary of a person who thinks they do.
You may be surprised when I say that I wouldn't necessarily discourage anyone from reading this book. There may be some nuggets of wisdom or inspiration that hit home with you. But when I started looking up articles on the Internet about this book I found the words "dangerous" and "subversive" time and again.
Without a doubt the author's primary message is that God loves us unconditionally and He does not interfere in the free will that creates evil in this world. I do have a problem though with all the answers to life wrapped up in a neat 250 pages, because if we knew it all we wouldn't need any faith, would we?
Those who oppose the book have found many biblical misinterpretations and disturbing explanations. Have you read it? I'd like to know what you think.

Monday, April 27, 2009


Two weird things:

On Easter we had 22 people to stuff with food. The oven was filled with turkey, ham and potatoes and was almost finished cooking when the six year-old oven just stopped. The digital read-out went blank and we all went, "what the. . .?" Then the fan in the microwave went on voluntarily and could not be turned off. Obviously they were overheated and were trying to tell us such in their own technological way. Later the oven came back on and it seemed okay. Then one day last week I went out to get the mail and when I came back in I heard an unfamiliar beeping. I looked around and found that it was the oven and there were some words running across the digital window. I went in and tapped my sleeping husband on the shoulder and said , "Honey, the oven is sending us a message."
This is even weirder!

Last night my daughter and I went to a concert venue to see Ani DiFranco (amazing :) ) We were stopped at the door for wristbands for the imbibing of alcohol. The young man looked me straight in the face and said, "Can I see your ID?" I looked incredulously towards my twenty-something daughter standing next to me and almost yelled, "But I'm her mother!" Didn't matter. He still insisted on seeing my ID. I proudly handed him my ID. Alas, I know in my heart he was just doing his job. He didn't really think. . . .

Saturday, April 25, 2009


Please Bury Me in the Library
Please bury me in the library
In the clean, well-lighted stacks
Of Novels, History, Poetry,
Right next to the Paperbacks.

Where the Kids' Books dance
With True Romance
And the Dictionary dozes.
Please bury me in the library
With a dozen long-stemmed proses.

Way back by a rack of Magazines,
I won't be sad too often
If they bury me in the library
With Book worms in my coffin.

J. Patrick Lewis

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Lake Effect

One of the wondrous things about living in Cleveland is that there are two distinct sides - east and west. Everything is different about these two sides including the weather. The eastern suburbs, where I have lived all my life, are blessed with something we like to call "lake effect weather". Here is what happens: some sort of weather comes waltzing down from a northern state or country and dances its way across Lake Erie. While it is over the lake it gets thrown around like a chicken breast in a bag of Shake and Bake. Then the bag unceremoniously dumps its contents on the eastern suburbs, usually in what we like to call the Snow Belt. Here is a poem I wrote a few years back about such an event. If it's a warm sunny day where you are just get down on your knees and thank Someone.
It snowed all day on April 24, 2005
in spite of the fact that I was wearing
my flip-flops and would be doing so
straight through October, no matter what.
My feet literally free of
winter's ponderous burdens.
Easter was long gone and we
were wearing white again.
That day and the next
remains of daffodils did not peek
out of the snowdrifts with happy faces
reaching towards the sun
but were splattered and flattened into
soggy piles of mud and ice.
Hardwood boughs broke, pines and willows
were amputated of every appendage.
I saw the pink of magnolias in full bloom
fill the bed of a truck. The yellow forsythia
swooped to a ground view they had
never seen before.
Baby leaves were murdered and ripped
from their nourishing twigs.
Yards littered in wooden crisscrosses, like
giant toothpicks or as in a game of pick-up-sticks.
There was no electricity or school
as we waited for power lines
to be disentangled from leaning towers
and aberrant formations.
The next day is was 50 degrees and the melting music
of thumps and thuds and power saws played all day.
In a battle on the Northcoast
of Ohio, the trees lost.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


If you like movies that you think about for days afterward - you will love Synecdoche, New York. Written and directed by Charlie Kaufman (Adaptation, Being John Malkovich) and starring Philip Seymour Hoffman. It is filled with so much symbolism it makes your head spin. First of all, the word synecdoche is a figure of speech in which a part is used for the whole. For example using the word law for police officers. The main character is named Caden Cotard. Cotard's syndrome is one in which a person believes he is dead or does not exist. I will not pretend to be able to analyze the complexity of this film, but here is the bare bones plot: A theater director who's life is in shambles wins a huge grant, builds a life-size replica of Manhattan and spends 17 years staging his life story.
When the perplexing movie was over I simply thought it was a movie about LIFE, specifically about the futility of life and all of the seasons and trials that we move through - failed relationships and creative efforts, fear, loss, death, confusion, illness etc.
There are dopplegangers galore. Caden appears to be completely narcissistic as he imagines someone is always watching him and believes his life is worthy of a play that continues to be rehearsed year after year. He struggles with personality integration and possibly gender identification. One of the lines in the film is "there are 13 billion people in the world - none of those people is an extra; they're all leads in their own stories."
My favorite symbol is an eternally burning house. One of the characters, Hazel, says, "I like it, I do, but I'm concerned about dying in the fire." The realtor replies, "It's a big decision, how one chooses to die."
Some of our choices are fatal, some are harmful to ourselves or others. To me, the burning house is a reminder that everything is continually disintegrating and going away - everything material and our very lives. I don't see that as depressing, just reality.

I thought Synecdoche, New York was quite brilliant and I probably should have watched it more than once to get the complete idea, but if you are up for a kind of slow but challenging film - let me know what you think!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Dad Update

Lots of kind folks have asked about my dad. He just came home from a week at the hospital due to lung infections and pneumonia. He's doing great and I appreciate the thoughts and prayers.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Have we gone too far??

As I looked out at the view from my dad's hospital room I couldn't seem to find one natural creation beyond the one little tree on the right - I wondered - have we gone too far?
He who created the heavens, he is God; he who fashioned and made the earth, he founded it; he did not create it to be empty, but formed it to be inhabited. Isaiah 45:18

Saturday, April 18, 2009


I've invented a new term for those of us who blog regularly, but then begin to feel a bit overwhelmed at the task of staying interesting and viable - blogweary. I read a lot of blogs and I have seen this expressed time and time again. We LOVE our blogging experience. It's inspiring and motivating. We love our readers' kind and insightful comments. There is something magical about the ability to make friends with people all over the world. So, none of us want to give it up - but sometimes we're just a little blogweary.

I am always afraid if I don't post regularly my readers will get bored and desert me. But I do not want to slap up some superficial crap just to have something to post either. There is a certain obligation one feels when you know that people are out there reading. Sometimes life just gets in the way, such as this week, my father has been in the hospital and the time I would usually come home and blog after work has been taken up visiting him, as it should be!

At the end of the work day I certainly have the physical ability to sit and type, but not always the mental energy. My day, as most people's is filled with data collection, data analysis, documentation and paperwork.I am constantly evaluating student behavior and social-emotional needs as well as the curriculum and testing. My brain gets tired and fuzzy. When I am at work I am constantly making lists of things to do when I leave work - and blog ideas is always on my list.

I have shared a lot of myself in these past 19 months and 405 posts. I love sharing my poems, but I am saving a large group of my better ones in hopes of another book. I don't want them all on the Internet to be read ahead of time. (Hence, my recent silly ones)
All of this yadda, yadda, yadda is to say that I may cut back, just a little, on the number of posts per week. I'm thinking 2-3, but who knows? I'd rather do that than write things unworthy of the time it takes for all of you to click on COEXIST and read.
So readers - will you stick by me? At least until the leisurely summer? Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

If I Had to Live My Life Over

I don't usually post items that can be found elsewhere on the Internet - but I received this one and it's worth reading. It's by the late Erma Bombeck. If you've never read any of her essays or books give them a try. She is still as funny and relevant as she ever was. She wrote this after she found out she was dying from cancer:

If I Had My Life to Live Over -
I would have gone to bed when I was sick instead of pretending the earth would go into a holding pattern if I weren't there for a day.
I would have burned the pink candle sculpted like a rose before it melted in storage.
I would have talked less and listened more.
I would have invited friends over to dinner even it the carpet was stained or the sofa faded.
I would have eaten popcorn in the "good" living room and worried much less about the dirt when someone wanted to light a fire in the fireplace.
I would have taken the time to listen to my grandfather ramble about his youth.
I would have shared more of the responsibility carried by my husband.
I would never have insisted the car windows be rolled up on a summer day because my hair had just been teased and sprayed.
I would have sat on the lawn with my grass stains.
I would have cried and laughed less while watching television and more while watching life.
I would never have bought something just because it was practical, wouldn't show soil, or was guaranteed to last a lifetime.
Instead of wishing away nine months of pregnancy I'd have cherished every moment and realized that the wonderment growing inside me was the only chance in life to assist God in a miracle.
When my kids kissed me impetuously I would never have said,"Later, now get washed up for dinner." There would have been more "I love you's" more "I'm sorrys."
But mostly, given another shot at life I would seize every minute, look at it and really see it. Live it and never give it back. Stop sweating the small stuff!

Monday, April 13, 2009

The Evil Scale

There is a horrifying number
between my feet.
It is one I have not seen before.

I have lightened myself
as much as I could so why
did I step up and look at the floor?

Denial, sacrifice, martyrdom, oh my!
I am adipose, apoplexic
and mortified.

Now my day is ruined
as I obsess over why.
One blissful meal and now I want to cry.

Why is it a sin to enjoy
the fruits of God's good earth?
Why does the scale take away my mirth?

I am innocent!
I don't deserve this I say.
After all, I exercised just yesterday.

You pig, you slug
into the mirror I say,
but the scale doesn't lie about how much I weigh.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The Hand Song

This song is as powerful of an Easter song as I can imagine. I would sing it in church but I don't think I'd make it through. It is by the now defunct group Nickel Creek - Sara Watkins, Sean Watkins, Chris Thile)

The boy only wanted to give mother something
and all of her roses had bloomed.
Looking at him as he came rushing in
without knowing her roses were doomed.
All she could see were some thorns buried deep
and tears that he criedas she tended his wounds.
And she knew it was love, it was what she could understand.
He was showing his love and that 's how he hurt his hands.

He still remembers that night as a child on his mother's knee.
She held him close as she opened her bible
and quietly started to read.
Then seeing a picture of Jesus he cried out -
Mama! He's got scars just like me.
And he knew it was love. It was what he could understand.
He was showing his love and that's how he hurt his hands.

Now the boy is grown and moved out on his own
when Uncle Sam comes along.
A foreign affair but our young men are there
and luck had his number drawn.
It wasn't that long til our soldier was gone,
he gave to a friend what he learned from the cross.
But they knew it was love. It was what they could understand.
He was showing his love - and that's how he hurt his hands.

Sunday, April 5, 2009


(A poem by Billy Collins former United States Poet Laureate)

Each one is a gift, no doubt,
mysteriously placed in your waking hand
or set upon your forehead
moments before you open your eyes.

Today begins cold and bright,
the ground heavy with snow
and the thick masonry of ice,
the sun glinting off the turrets of clouds.

Through the calm eye of the window
everything is in its place
but so precariously
this day might be resting somehow

on the one before it,
all the days of the past stacked high
like the impossible tower of dishes
entertainers used to buid on stage.

No wonder you find yourself
perched on the top of a tall ladder
hoping to add one more.
Just another Wednesday,

you whisper,
then holding your breath,
place this cup on yesterday's saucer
without the slightest clink.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Thursday Night Will Never Be the Same

Last night I tearfully said goodbye to my favorite TV show after fifteen years. It is the only nighttime drama I have ever watched on a regular basis and the only one I've watched at all for as long as I can remember. When ER began it had a cutting-edge new camera style. I'd almost forgotten since so many have copied it since then. Instead of feeling like you were watching prewritten scenes - you felt like you were behind a camera racing down a hallway following a gurney in a frantic emergency every episode. It's funny that I loved this show so much because I am completely needle-phobic and I am not fond of blood either. I've spent a portion of every show with my hands over my eyes waiting for the gore to be over. If you're squeemish there's nothing like watching a stretcher emerge from an ambulance holding a person with some sort of sharp inanimate object sticking out of his torso.
But it was the characters I loved. Real, flawed human beings with past lives to discover. I never stopped missing the character of Mark Green (Anthony Edwards). I remember an episode in the first season called "Love's Labor's Lost" when his pain and agony over losing a mother after giving birth tore your heart right out of your chest. Last night they echoed that amazing episode with a similar story. The character of John Carter was, to me, the heart and soul of the show. He began as a wide-eyed intern under the heartfelt mentorship of Mark Green and the show came full circle last night as John Carter became a mentor to Mark's daughter when she showed up at County General as a medical student.
The cast of the show gave the late author, Michael Crichton credit for the credible and touching characters in the show. Crichton created the show based on his experience as a med student in an ER.
Last night 16.2 people watched the ER finale, which is the highest rated drama finale since 1996 (Murder She Wrote). ER earned 122 Emmy nominations and ran for fifteen years - pretty incredible. I was truly sorry to see it go and for me - Thursday nights will never be the same.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Why Poetry?

Earlier this week I wrote about the generosity of writers. That notion has extended into my week with invitations to read my poetry at a couple local book stores. I love reading aloud. I'm a teacher after all! But I'm not an actress. I wonder how effective I will be in reading my own poems and whether they will make an impression out loud. (I'll let you know) However, I am once again grateful for the independent book store owners who are so supportive and encouraging of local writers and I thank God there are still independent book stores around!
Whenever I am faced with a new writing challenge there is always that little voice fluttering around in my head asking Why are you doing this? Where did these poems come from? I don't know and I don't know. But it's a part of my life now, a part of me.
The purpose of poetry is to remind us how difficult it is to remain just one person, for our house is open, there are no keys in the doors, and invisible guests come in and out at will. Czeslaw Milosz
Because poems are meanings, and even the saddest poem I write is proof I want to survive. And therefore it represents an affirmation of life in all its complexities and contradictions.
Gregory Orr
A poem begins in delight and ends in wisdom. Robert Frost