Friday, June 27, 2008


What I want to do is blog about what a fab time I had at Granny Camp and visit with the Ohio Writing Project at Miami U (very cool), but first a bit of Grumpy business. I have been on hold with my email server for a total of 80 minutes today -- after the first 25, no you need to talk to the business server, no your email box is too small, we'll make it bigger, no you'll have to call back, no you need to talk to us when you are in front of your home computer, no, you need to talk to . . . oh, you get the picture.

Bottom line, all email I received or Kelly received at, between Sunday June 22 and Thursday, June 26 has been lost in cyberspace and I am not happy about it. The server changed servers, or some such thing, and poof. All my email that was hung up out there has gone away.

Please, if you sent me an email and you read this, please resend.

What a pain!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Live: from Granny Camp

So far we have visited the Desert Museum and the Colossal Cave. We've gone horseback riding and written in our journals. We've sung camp songs and given ourselves desert names (Ben's is coyote, mine is fish hook). Why fish hook? That's a kind of cactus and it seemed appropriate since we all got stuck trying to fish a hook out of one. Granny Debbie had all the supplies put up and man have we been eating them. We must eat 8-15 times a day. We take turns with chores and do crafts. We've decorated T shirts and plates and Granny Sophie helped us decorate gourds today. We made gourd name tags and each decorated our own little gourds (grown my Granny Sophie). I've been having computer troubles -- and still am since I am now learning how to use a Mac. Big leap.

Tonight we sleep under the stars after an astrologist comes to explain the sky to us with her big telescope. More pix to come.

Way too much stuff to do to sit in front of the computer. Oh, and for those who are wondering, it hit 106 today!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

The Sparrow has Landed

Ben arrives for Granny Camp. Next stop, Tucson.
We'd like to thank our sponsors: Kid provided by Kelly & Brian Weist
Transportation provided by Continental airlines.
Good weather provided by Mother Nature.
Headline and photos provided by Salinger.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Batter Up!

Back in the day, when Scottie was two, he knew how to grip the bat, address the T, smack the ball, drop the bat and run in a circle. He had the game down. Granted, there were some nuances to learn, a batter's glove, cleats and hat to acquire, but he evidenced a deep understanding of hit, drop, run in a circle almost before any of us grownups who were too entranced by his curly hair to realize what the boy was doing. For oh, these past two years Scott has prepared for today. Practiced with whiffles, padded aluminum bats and woodies. He has a mitt with his name in permanent marker, an unarguable step toward lifetime committment. For two years he's watched his dad play baseball. And Scottie's talked it up. (and anyone who knows Scottie knows that phrase "talked it up" also means talked it down, sideways, up and across because our Scottie does love to talk).

Two years would be a long time for anyone to wait for a first real game, but when those two years also mean half your life -- that's an investment.
Heavy investment.
And then when the field is so much bigger than the backyard
and there are so many extra players you never met before
and when the coach is someone you don't know from a bad guy who passes out candy,
even the Babe might cave on his first game.
Might have missed his first at bat thinking it more prudent to study the underside of his mom's arm. A kid could just walk away from the game, even.
The pressure.
The pressure.
But not Scott Lufkin, Rookie of the Gray Socks team. When he finally took his last chance first time at bat, Coach said it was the best hit of the day. Hurray!

I wasn't there as I was at the airport collecting his cousin Ben (subsequent story to follow), but fortunately I WAS able to get a detailed play by play, complete with behind the scenes negotiations from the sideline coach, AKA mom (Katie).

One small step for his baseball career, one gigundwonda step for Scott.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Dreams take the day's events, twist and bend, turn and tumble with hopes, dreads, obsessions and skinny-eyed suspicions. Presto! Out comes a distortion, not really real, but a temporary living space, sometimes more memorable than the day itself.

Almost anything seems possible at 3AM, almost any dread seems probable. And if floundering around in possible probabilities causes you to stir in your sleep, the dog will sense that you are awake and insist on being let outside. Reality has a way of nudging its way back into even the most fantastical dream.

Like the dream I was having two nights ago about turning the back of the garage into a work of art. Erected in 1955, it has only a coat of red stain and one layer of a sprayed on latex cosmetic of grey paint. We've been waiting for the wicked witch of the west to drop a house on it for years, but like the crows that are supposed to come down and pluck out the eyes of your enemies, she didn't arrive on cue. Frankly, we were prepared to wait her out, but we like our neighbors too much to let the decay go any longer. And they're republicans.

The west side of this garage is a true testament to the damage lack of sun screen can effect. Up until this year, the back side of the garage was the site of our compost of decaying grass clippings. We just didn't go there except to off load yard waste. But this year, the area has been transformed into a lettuce, spinach, pepper and tomato patch. How cool would it be to have a wall of art assembled on a clean canvas of redwood siding overlooking the garden? Perhaps a poem lettered there, found objects attached to the wall. Dream. Dream.

Fourteen hours into scraping the paint off the wall, that dream began to wane and I suggested to Michael that maybe we really should have the reality encased in environmentally unhealthy vinyl siding. He is all primed for painting.

I hate to call out a hackneyed phrase like "lipstick on a pig" when the garage has really never done anything swinish or hoggish or even let out a snort of protest over obvious (oblivious?) neglect. All it has ever done is stoically house our bikes, lawnmower and snowblower. It is too small for a car, too squeezed between the house and the limits of the lot line to be expanded, and too stubborn to fall down.

Last night I was back to dreaming about a weather report predicting heavy storms and high winds.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

A Kiss is Just a Kiss . . . (cue orchestra)

When the suitcases come down from the attic, when the bike comes out of the garage, when one of us goes searching for car keys or a water bottle, we meet for an exchange of lips. Just in case the plane goes down, the kid texting on his cell doesn't see the cyclist, the car goes off the road. Just in case I don't come back, or Michael doesn't come back, or the world blows up and there's no place to come back to. It's a joke and that we seal with a kiss. (You MUST remember this!) Not a kiss that expects to be followed by another, it doesn't even require eye contact, sometimes exchanged mid-sentence. A kiss totally without expectations -- except that unlike in Casablanca, the other will in fact return.

Today was a two kiss day. One before Michael went off on a run into the soggy sweatbox of late morning. It was a day worthy of building a bridge over the river Kwai. Lawrence of Arabia wouldn't have gone for a run on a day like today if they had Lake Erie humidity in the desert. A day that was giving me palpitations. These are the palpitations I am prone to in heavy heat + pollution, accompanied by shortness of breath, which means I should use my inhaler. Unfortunately I always forget that the inhaler is what I need until I have half convinced myself that I've developed a heart condition between the bedroom and the kitchen.

"If you drop dead in the heat, don't call me because I will kill you for even attempting this," I rasped.


He returned.

"Are these the suitcases that go in the car?"

"Yep." And I was off for the airport. Kiss number two. I bumped to a landing in jaw clacking jumps through powerful clouds over Kansas City, MO. Heavy shouldered clouds that looked perfectly capable of transporting me to Oz in a flying house. But instead, I was safely transported to the Marriott in a black cab.
Millions of these kisses are exchanged between loved ones everyday. Thoughtlessly. Almost a reflex. Do we do it because (morbidly) it might be our very last chance? If so, we ought to make it more of a Hollywood moment. Or is it more of a superstition, that this little lip buzz will keep a body safe?

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Death of a Loved One: Day 29

There are no words.

So many notes, books, poems all offered with genuine, hopeless chagrin: There are no words . . . Still we seek to find them. In many ways we are recrafted by each death – how we place our feet on the floor the morning after on foreign carpet fibers and confront in the mirror an alien face with swollen eyes, unable at first to lay hands on the distant toothbrush hanging as usual and so strangely in its holder. An exile in our own life, we wander through clouds of chaos trying to find our way back to our formerly functional selves.

Death. Sometimes it comes creeping in through the pores of our knowing like the sun steadily warming, nothing to take particular note of until afterwards when tender shoulders let you know that you’ve been burned. My mother’s death was like this. Lung cancer. The diagnosis wrote the program and we could read “The End” at the bottom of the chart. Still, in the dusky hours of that grey February morning I was surprised that the sun had the strength to rise. So much goes on in this world without the aid of a human hand. I soothed the burn with friendship, folding sheets and filing forms.

Twenty years earlier, when my first husband died 3 months after the wedding of Hodgkin’s Disease I got the news from Marcus Welby (old time TV doctor). A young man with all the symptoms that Bob had received a diagnosis of Hodgkin’s and everyone acknowledged it was a death sentence. But at the end of the show, the diagnosis was incorrect – happy ending. People in general weren’t so upfront then, and I asked at the hospital the next day if Hodgkin’s was what we were dealing with in Bob. Everyone danced around the word. The waltz ended on a blowy December night. I learned afterwards that depression was just not caring if the sun came up at all. But even then, in my self-centered early years, I knew that my pain did not compare to his mother’s. She taught me that grace is a buttress and true strength has no sharp edges.

This death was followed by my maternal grandmother’s. Gigi. Her love for me was so pure, I didn’t want to let go, even as I negotiated for days with the hospital to turn off the machines. I still needed her. I was nearly forty and not nearly grown.

My father’s death dropped like a stone. A car accident. A phone call from my uncle that my dad was headed over to his dad’s when he didn’t make it. Aw, I replied. My grandfather was 100 years old, his passing was sad, but such a long life. . .
No. (Words interrupted) It was Dad.
Scottie was dead.
His Escort had been run over by a Cadillac blasting through a red light. I flew to Florida, picked up his gasoline soaked wallet in a zip lock bag from the hospital and drove with my uncle to tell my Grandfather the tragic news. Dreading this conversation, weeping in the elevator, my uncle told me it would be all right. “Dad is a good soldier.” And he was. A few tears that didn’t even last long enough to reach his tight jaw and determined chin. The driver of the Cadillac received a $68 traffic ticket. I settled the estate in self-concious grief.

Don't ask me why (no words) but I've been revisiting these deaths as I try and find my footing after losing our Stephie. Part of me feels myself coming out of the fog, but I’m not sure I want to come out where the sun shines so clearly on reality. Still having trouble talking to friends on the street. I like being around people, I just don’t want to explain how I am feeling – can’t find the words, don’t want to pick at the wound.

The following poems have been sent to me by friends who went looking for words. In one of the best movies of all time, II Postino , an Italian postman steals the poems of a famous poet (Naruda) to woo his beloved. The poet confronts the theft and the postman replies, “a poem does not belong to the poet, but to the person who needs it the most.” So, forsaking all copyright laws, I share these poems for the next time you find yourself without words.

From my daughter Kelly:
I carry Your Heart With Me

by E.E.Cummings

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear; and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling) i fear
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it's you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)

From Jane Yolen:
Dirge Without Music
by Edna St. Vincent Millay

I am not resigned to the shutting away of loving hearts in the hard ground.
So it is, and so it will be, for so it has been, time out of mind:
Into the darkness they go, the wise and the lovely. Crowned
With lilies and with laurel they go; but I am not resigned.
Lovers and thinkers, into the earth with you.
Be one with the dull, the indiscriminate dust.
A fragment of what you felt, of what you knew,
A formula, a phrase remains,--but the best is lost.
The answers quick and keen, the honest look, the laughter, the love, --
They are gone. They are gone to feed the roses. Elegant and curled
Is the blossom. Fragrant is the blossom. I know. But I do not approve.
More precious was the light in your eyes than all the roses in the world.
Down, down, down into the darkness of the grave,
Gently they go, the beautiful, the tender, the kind;
Quietly they go, the intelligent, the witty, the brave.
I know. But I do not approve. And I am not resigned.

From Georgia Heard:
Song by Faiz Ahmed Faiz

Pain will cease, do not grieve, do not grieve--
Friends will return, the heart will rest, do not grieve, do not grieve--
The wound will be made whole, do not grieve, do not grieve--
Day will come forth, do not grieve, do not grieve--
The cloud will open, night will decline, do not grieve, do not grieve--
The seasons will change, do not grieve, do not grieve

From my friends at Fremd High School in Palatine, IL
Excerpt from A Grief Observed, by C.S.Lewis

“There are moments, most unexpectedly, when something inside me tries to assure me that I don’t really mind so much, not so very much, after all. Love is not the whole of a man’s life. I was happy before I ever met H. I’ve plenty of what are called ‘resources.’ People get over these things. Come, I shan’t do so badly. One is ashamed to listen to this voice but it seems for a little to be making out a good case. Then comes a sudden jab of red-hot memory and all this ‘commonsense’ vanishes like an ant in the mouth of a furnace.”

From Pam Munoz Ryan
Sonnet XCIV by Pablo Neruda

If I die, survive me with such sheer force
that you waken the furies of the pallid and the cold,
from south to south lift your indelible eyes,
from sun to sun dream through your singing mouth.
I don't want your laughter or your steps to waver,
I don't want my heritage of joy to die.
Do not call up my person. I am absent.
Live in my absence as if in a house.
Absence is a house so vast
that inside you will pass through its walls
and hang pictures on the air.
Absence is a house so transparent
that I, lifeless, will see you, living,
and if you suffer, my love, I will die again.

And from several people, attributed to different authors. My best attempt at research is that was written by Ohio poet, Mary Frye (but of disputed origin).

Do not stand at my grave and weep,
I am not there, I do not sleep.
I am in a thousand winds that blow,
I am the softly falling snow.
I am the gentle showers of rain,
I am the fields of ripening grain.
I am in the morning hush,
I am in the graceful rush
Of beautiful birds in circling flight,
I am the starshine of the night.
I am in the flowers that bloom,
I am in a quiet room.
I am in the birds that sing,
I am in each lovely thing.
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there. I do not die.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Screen Staring

Screen staring is not writing. It is not research. It is reading every news report you do and mostly do not need to know (cute animal videos, a cure for graduation blues, the size of Angelina's bump) and then re-reading them. It occasionally involves scrabble or other time sucking games, definitely involves graphics, shopping for free photoshop brushes and costly everything else. Deep into screen staring you start to page through old emails and actually read the lame jokes, read blogs of people you don't know, and check out Google Earth to see which car is in your driveway.

I have a large computer screen. It is the size of a flat screen TV, but I have managed to convince myself that staring at this flat screen is more productive, more intellectual, more educated than staring at the flat screen in the living room. This self-duping falls into the same column with tried and never true adages such as "the calories don't count if I'm standing at the counter" and "look how much I'll save if I spend."

Screen staring is like being kidnapped while being overcome with Stockholm syndrome -- everyone on the screen becomes more like your true friend, much more important than the real people orbiting the house or the real dog holding a leash in her mouth. It is an antidote to exercise, smart eating and other activities that will lengthen your life (I know this because set my computer to stumble on healthy lifestyles).

Screen staring can turn otherwise thoughtful people into statues. It is what I resort to when I am too tired, too uninspired (too sad?) to deal with the real world. Addictive and harmful to my mental health. Time to go.