Saturday, January 29, 2011

have you hugged your transitive verb today?

gruntle: to put in a good humor

for years we've wanted to bring this cruelly neglected word out from the shadow cast by its famous stablemate, disgruntled.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

more books!

ever onward and upward in the biblioteque department, i say.
"as always, julia" is delightful (letters between julia child & avis devoto) they think nothing of the deepest of sentiments followed by political humor mashed right up next to how to buy just the right knife for filleting fish.

i'm really enjoying "the guernsey literary and potato peel pie society" by mary ann shaffer & annie barrows. for such a long title, it is a quick read, also of letters (fictionalized) between a book group and an author during the war.

and, clutching this most recent gift to my chest as if my life depended on it? "the swan thieves" by elizabeth kostova. i haven't read it yet, but it came with two high praises too timely to be mere coincidence. ms. kostova is the author of "the historian".

may all your pages be happy pages.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

remembering my mentor

she's been hanging out with the literary greats in heaven for four years now, earthtime. this photo is her office; one of the many places we would meet for tea and word-play. and also where i sat later when i taught her class. colleen richmond mentored me for 18 years in wit, words and wonder. today i drank only Good Earth tea in her honor.

Monday, January 17, 2011

friendship, your majesty

i went yesterday, along with the rest of portland i think, to the movie "the king's speech". same day as colin firth wins the golden globe for best actor (cheers and riotous applause inserted here!!!)
what i loved about this film? historic. dynamic characters. endearing friendship. royalty gets lonely, afterall and what better comedic relief to king george VI than his friend lionel (geoffrey rush). my favorite line? last one, "and lionel and bertie remained friends for the rest of their lives."

now that's finding one's voice.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

loving winter

the dark, cold, post-christmas part? not so much a fan. but the cozy-indoor forward momentum of a this time of winter? count me in! this is a great time of year, i've discovered, not only to read but to sign up for classes (art, cooking and otherwise...) and play lots of music. (currently trying to make sense of shostakovich's 5th symphony).
when i give after school lessons i find that, although it makes for more planning and longer school days, i am grateful for the color, creativity and (mostly) joyful noises that come with it all. outside the branches creak and moan with cold...but inside me at least, it's spring. what's your secret to a happy january?

Monday, January 10, 2011

word girl strikes again

i got to see my friend maya yesterday. she bounced up to me,

"want to know the word of the day today?"
"it's 'flabbergasted' "
"wow, that's a great word, can you use it in a sentence?"
"yes," she said, "i'm flabbergasted to see you!"

turns out, the word's been around since the 1700's:
flabber--shaking or to flap around
gasten--terror, shock or surprise

Saturday, January 8, 2011

readers, unite!

ok, really? grading papers or fixing the toilet? i'm sorry, dear readers, i don't know what came over me in that last entry. but for someone waging a war on mediocrity, something had to be done, and fast. (shake it off, smith!) so today i made up for it by going iceskating and then perusing used books. i realized, with chagrin, that i had slowly isolated reading to the summer and had let teaching completely crowd it out september-may. when people asked me what i was reading, "GradeQuick" was all i could reply. this cannot be! so i found some fun books that i plan to alternate with readings on aesthetics and the philosophy of beauty (still working on that honorary PhD). *i haven't read these yet, so take the list as you will...

-the girls' guide to hunting and fishing by melissa bank (suburban-looking thirtysomething single woman book, i don't usually do these, but this one looked different and somehow smarter plus i liked the cover)
-bread givers by anzia yezierska (yes, that would be jewish historical fiction)
-the last days of dogtown by anita diamant (i like her other books, so?)

-paris to the moon by adam gopnik (daily, less fabled life of raising a family on foreign turf)

-mirror, mirror by gregory maguire (author of wicked, boston herald says it's brilliant)

p.s. i finished "school of essential ingredients" and loved it. that was on the heels of "a severe mercy" which i loved, but in a very different way. the contrast was somewhat of a coming up for air.
p.p.s. i'm compiling a list by asking people, "what are you reading right now?" so, what are your books of choice?

Friday, January 7, 2011


i'm feeling restless today, a jack-of-all-trades-master-of-none dancing the fine line between discontent and dreaming forward. it's a friday night; by this point in the week teachers are usually too tired to do anything really interesting but alive enough not to want to do nothing at all. and the options! it's a toss-up between grading literature papers or fixing the toilet.

while playing rock, paper, scissors with myself over this wondrous choice, i decide instead to read the letter from my mother. i fix dinner (popcorn and milk, bachelorette style) and roll the leftover kernels around my teeth like i do when i'm really thinking.

so many interests make for an interesting life, to be sure. and, at 36, do i really have to pick just one thing to be when i grow up?

a photo falls from between the papers to the floor. it is of my mother, grandmother and great grandmother. i stare at them as if the answer might be found in their faces, photographed as noted on the back, "sometime in the 1950's". it helps to look there and see my mother as just a young girl with dreams of her own bobbing with her auburn curls. did they have options?

two things come to mind. we are all creative and we all liked to write. these four generations alone brought changes from pencil to manual typewriter; word processor to laptop. nettie's days would have been filled with family chores for survival. ruth's much the same and raising children. my mother was the first to work outside the home at all and i am the first to work full-time, with no children of my own. all of us, however, infinitely more than the sum of our roles.

i look around my small, tidy loft. a guitar leans against the piano. in the art corner is a catalog for the encaustics class i will take in the spring. grading waits in my teacher's bag (even there i teach more than one subject). and a stack of books and journals take up the space between my night stand and reading lamp. neither fully musician, nor artist nor writer but some blend of all three like one coffee comprised of beans from different countries.

i feel a product of these women, like they are looking forward into the shutter at the speed of expectation. what will i do with these hands, so much like theirs?

Monday, January 3, 2011

nothing ventured...

...nothing published. i have been getting rejection letters for my writing now since i could fold and post an envelope (age 6). which i suppose means i've been consistent? it started with "highlights for children" and stretches 31 years until today by the lastest poetry journal.

i appreciate the tone of this one, however, it starts, "as writers ourselves, we understand..." and even includes a handwritten note that says, "sorry to say no" which is more than one usually receives. so, jolly good. encouraged by the trying, i shall file this with my other "thanks so much for trying, no" letters and keep on writing...

Saturday, January 1, 2011

essential ingredients for 2011

it's 1/1/11 and i have a book to read. it's the school of essential ingredients by erica bauermeister. i already know from snippets that she has a fresh turn of phrase and insights into people and relationships beyond just the cooking school.

so i got to thinking about what makes up my life recipe? i'd have to say, in addition to loving people of all ages, my top three: 1) waging war on mediocrity 2) being a life-time learner and 3) embracing both sorrow and joy (currently on the latter, thank you very much!)

what would yours be?