Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day

Beneath clear blue skies

people play in the ocean,

cook food over fire,


Sunday, May 30, 2010


the magenta vine
climbs trees, clambers up branches
and shouts, "look at me!"

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Rites of Passage

Today was the big day: Willem attended his friend Adrien's Bar Mitzvah service, followed by the much-anticipated party. The picture above is of Willem and his friends Kira (aka Kiki) and Leslie. I went to the evening festivities and got to observe the kids in all their finery. It was fun to sit back and watch them, all dressed up and looking like miniature adults. I promised Willem I wouldn't throw my weight around the dance floor and embarrass him, and I made good on that promise. I only got up and danced once--a safe distance away from him and his posse--when the DJ played some AC/DC, because, really, how could I not?

boys in coats and ties
girls in dresses and high heels
mingling, dancing and
practicing being grown-ups

Friday, May 28, 2010

That's How He Rolls

My son Willem, age 13, has always had a strong "point of view," as they say in the world of fashion, when it comes to dressing himself. He doesn't put much effort into the day-to-day stuff he wears to school, but when it's some kind of special occasion, he throws things together in an unexpected way and ends up looking really cool. I admire his confidence. (I asked him to be my personal stylist but he just rolled his eyes.) He's attending a friend's bar mitzvah tomorrow and I wanted to make sure his dress pants and blazer still fit, so I made him try everything on. Wouldn't you know it, he rocked those Cotillion clothes. I didn't take pictures of his "try-on" session, but should have some tomorrow night.

Navy Brooks Brothers
blazer, grey slacks. Dad's cufflinks.
Purple tie, Nikes.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Wild Thing

One of the things I like about living in a small(ish) town is that the police blotter in the local paper is usually pretty entertaining. This was true of St. Helena, the bucolic Napa Valley hamlet where David and I got married and started our family, and it's also true of Laguna Beach, a larger but equally quirky community. Incidents involving errant wildlife seem to be a common theme--skunks with their heads caught in peanut butter jars, that sort of thing. The blotter in today's Laguna Beach Independent included a raccoon incident which gave me some pause. Apparently a rabid raccoon got into some unlucky person's house through a dog door, and then proceeded to terrorize the resident dogs and cat. The homeowner managed to chase the wild thing into a bathroom and shut the door. But by the time the animal control officer arrived to cart away the raccoon, it had literally destroyed the bathroom, like bad-ass rock-band-on-tour, trash-the-hotel-room type destruction. Holy cow.

Who knew a raccoon
could tear down drywall, break glass
and smash a toilet?

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

A Moment of Silence

The way this world works, people are very apt to use the words they speak not so much as a way of revealing but, rather, as a way of concealing who they really are and what they really think, and that is why more than a few moments of silence with people we do not know well are apt to make us so tense and uneasy. Stripped of our verbal camouflage, we feel unarmed against the world and vulnerable, so we start babbling about anything just to keep the silence at bay.

—Frederick Buechner, Listening to Your Life

I looked to St. Fred today for something to wrap my mind around, and found these lines in today’s meditation. I was struck by how true this is, for me anyway. So many times I have found myself in conversations—usually with people I don’t know well—in which I felt compelled to fill a pause with babbling—“just to keep the silence at bay” —and then ended up not really listening or connecting with the other person in a meaningful way. Guilty as charged. I needed that reminder.

Also, one of the great blessings I have received through my daily poetry practice is the discovery that I really can’t reflect on or process in writing the meaningful events in my life without some period of silence every single day, even if it’s just a few minutes. Maybe I’m a slow learner, but I’ve only just recently realized that I can’t multi-task every waking moment, like those chipper moms in TV commercials, and expect to create anything. I have to stop talking to start writing—who knew?!

Lastly, I love Buechner’s notion of using words not to conceal but to reveal who we really are and what we really think. Here’s my St. Fred-inspired injunction to myself:

Don’t fear the silence.

Let unnecessary words

fall away. Be still.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Almost Summer

The kids are antsy,

the teachers tired of herding

ants. How soon summer?

Monday, May 24, 2010

Tennis Team

Schuyler's high school tennis season has just come to a close, and a friend just sent me the J.V. team picture (he's the tall guy in the front). I love seeing all the boys smiling and hamming it up, because it's been a big commitment and a lot of work for them. At times during the season, we had some fraught moments in which Schuyler was frustrated and fervent parental pep talks were delivered. He hung in there and is really glad that he did.

Long practices and

longer bus rides. Wins, losses,

Gatorade and smiles.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Vasco's Amazing Journey

Today I drove my friends Cathleen, Maury and Vasco to LAX. They're beginning an epic journey to Vasco's country of birth, Malawi, in order to finalize his adoption and application for U.S. citizenship. I'm so excited for them, and really wish I could tag along. But I've got to hold down the fort here at home--so I plan to follow their progress via email and Cathi's blog updates, and send up a few prayers every time I think of them.

One long round trip from

Laguna to Africa

and back. Then: you’re home!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Hail, David

At this time I’d like

to publicly thank my dear

sweet husband. It takes

a real man—actually

a great man—to fly

home from Tokyo one day and

then the next to take

six middle schoolers to Six

Flags Great Adventure.

Friday, May 21, 2010

For Willem, on his 13th Birthday

From the moment

you burst into the world

at a high rate of speed

one sunny May day

thirteen years ago

(you’ve heard the story

about how Dad and I barely

made it to the hospital

to have you properly delivered)

you've been my quicksilver baby,

my towhead in constant motion--

here one minute, then gone

and back again, with an imp’s grin.

Equal parts smart


and sweet

you could charm a snake

or a vice principal.

Whether holding a slingshot

or a bottle rocket

or a bass guitar

you are my mischief and music,

my reminder that

life is a gift

and can be




Thursday, May 20, 2010

Cross Purposes

I haven't been known to chain myself to old-growth trees or to pontificate about global warming at cocktail parties, but, look: I care about the environment and especially hate to see people trash our oceans. I do what I can, the least of which is to not throw garbage on the ground. Good grief--we've got signs on all the storm drains in town explaining that they drain directly into the ocean. So when I see something like this, especially from someone representing a company selling so-called eco-friendly energy solutions, it makes me crazy! I mean, dude, first take the log out of your own eye...

Seen this morning

on southbound Pacific Coast Highway

at Cress Street:

a louche, bleary-eyed young man

(behind the wheel

of a pristine company car

logo-ed up with

“Green Solutions”


“Solar Power Systems for You!”)

flicking a lit cigarette butt

onto the roadway

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Beaucoup de Sushi

Time was when David and I used to take Schuyler and Willem out for sushi and it was so cute. They'd sit at the bar with us, their little feet dangling, and drink miso soup straight from the bowl. They'd struggle with their chopsticks, and with great determination would manage to grab a few bites of yellowtail or octopus sashimi. No more. I think we've created monsters. Now 16 and almost 13 years old, they have mastered the chopsticks, and the yellowtail sushi and eel rolls disappear almost as soon as Taku or Hiro hands them over. I took the boys to San Shi Go tonight and the bill for the three of us was rather eye-popping. Next time we go, I may encourage them to snack a little beforehand!

hungry teenage boys
plus a sushi bar equals
a BIG dinner check

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Oak Street Gold

gold spilled from the low-
hanging sun making the sea
gleam like so many black pearls

Monday, May 17, 2010

Mea Culpa in the Age of Texting


while you were gone

I invited three friends over

just to kick back

but more people came

and um

I guess they invited people too

and well

the bad news is

there were two hundred people

in our house

for about an hour

the good news is

nothing was stolen or broken

and I’m sorry

and it won’t ever happen again


I promise

Sunday, May 16, 2010


Sigh. My girls' weekend in the desert was so much fun I didn't want it to end. We talked for hours. I laughed so much that my face hurt. My friend Cari's home is so lovely and understated, just like she is. And being in her pool made me feel like I was in a David Hockney painting. Thank you again, Cari!

A pale aqua pool.

The cooing of mourning doves.

Fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice.

Saturday, May 15, 2010


Fouquieria Splendens:
Also known as desert coral.
Coachwhip. Jacob’s staff.
As austere and beautiful
as its desert home.
Masquerades as a cactus,
dresses up like a cluster
of dead sticks, then bursts into
crimson bloom after the rain.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Desert Vista

Some girlfriends and I were fortunate enough to be invited to spend the weekend at our friend Cari's house in Palm Desert. What a gift. We arrived this afternoon and sat by the pool, talking and eating and drinking until dark. The late afternoon view of the mountains was so dramatic and lovely it was hard to look away.

endless blue above
snow on a distant mountain
and cacti in bloom

Thursday, May 13, 2010


David and I usually have our nieces, Ava and Leah, over on Thursday afternoons. They, and all their girly-girl paraphernalia, are adorable.

tiny socks and shoes
coloring books and crayons
fuzzy pink pjs

Wednesday, May 12, 2010


God save me from this
seventh-grade science project:
tenth circle of hell.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010


I have to thank

the pretty blond woman

waiting next to me

at the car wash,

her hair un-ironically



and sprayed into place,

for taking me back

to a hot summer day

of Marco Polo

in a shimmering aqua pool

in the suburbs.

Of swimming races

and underwater tea parties.

Of lying face down, shivering,

in a wet swimsuit on the warm cement

with the sun on my back.

Of the scent of chlorine

and bubble gum lip gloss.

Of roller skating and ding-dong ditching.

Of the hot pink curling iron

that never quite managed

to bring my long straight hair

to wavy, feathered perfection.

Monday, May 10, 2010


Running on the beach

at Thalia Street today I

see a surfer exiting

the water. Knee-deep

in the shallows, with the sun

reflecting off his

soaked seal-black wetsuit, he makes

the sign of the cross—

Father, Son, Holy Spirit

—three times, then tucks his

board under his arm and leaves.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Mother's Day

I think it was Anne Lamott who said there are really only two kinds of prayers: “Help me! Help me! Help me!” and “Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!” Thanks to my wonderful husband and sweet sons, I had a perfect Mother’s Day, and it’s definitely a triple-thank you-prayer kind of day.

Breakfast in bed with

flowers on the tray. Homemade

Mother’s Day cards and

strong coffee. The Sunday Times.

A win at tennis.

Someone strumming Led Zeppelin

on the back court in

between sets. Brunch at Sapphire.

Bellinis. Molten

chocolate something-or-other.

A nap.The peaceful hum of

home and family.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Heaven on Earth

Three friends with birthdays.
Food, wine, candles, singing and
passion fruit meringue!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Pride Goeth Before Destruction

Just done bragging up
my immunity, I'm felled
by the common cold

Thursday, May 6, 2010

The Wall

Runners refer to
"hitting the wall." Or: "to tank,"
as in, no more fuel.
Writers, less creatively,
call it "writer's block."

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Teen Spirit


The words just won’t come

and I’m stuck.

As if to plug an amp

into my bleak mood

and serenade my irritation

my son starts messing around

on his guitar

and the chords turn into

"Smells Like Teen Spirit"

and it sounds pretty good.

I have to smile.

This anthem makes me remember

the disaffected youth I sometimes felt like

but never really was

and as I sit staring at my computer,

mute and frustrated,

my kids’ clothes gently thumping

in the dryer behind me,

it somehow feels right

to borrow a few lines:

I feel stupid and contagious

Here we are now, entertain us

Tuesday, May 4, 2010


Words can create a
chasm or build a bridge. Please
let mine be the bridge.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Green Glass

David and I went stand-up paddling today and it was gorgeous. He showed me some caves you have to swim into to get inside—"Pirate's caves," he calls them, which I love. And the color and clarity of the water—"green glass," as David wrote in his blog about our expedition—made me think of a poem my dad read to me when I was young.

It’s called “Overheard on a Salt Marsh,” by Harold Monro, and it became a family favorite. Dad would read it in dramatic fashion, doing the voices of both the nymph and the goblin, and it was so thrilling and mournful (and just a tiny bit scary) that my siblings and I would beg him to do it again and again. I can’t do it justice by describing it, so here it is:

Overheard on a Salt Marsh

Nymph, nymph, what are your beads?

Green glass, goblin. Why do you stare at them?

Give them me.


Give them me. Give them me.


Then I will howl all night in the reeds,

Lie in the mud and howl for them.

Goblin, why do you love them so?

They are better than stars or water,

Better than voices of winds that sing,

Better than any man's fair daughter,

Your green glass beads on a silver ring.

Hush, I stole them out of the moon.

Give me your beads, I want them.


I will howl in the deep lagoon

For your green glass beads, I love them so.

Give them me. Give them.


Harold Monro

Sigh. That’s a hard act to follow. With thanks and apologies to Mr. Monro, a post-paddling haiku:

A sea of green glass.

Secret caves. Dolphins! Why not

a nymph and goblin?

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Sunday for Underachievers

What can I say? I'm off my A-game today. Feeling sub-par and a couple of steps behind the rest of the world. What a gift to have a day to be a layabout--I'm feeling better already.

Sleep in, then stagger downstairs
to make coffee.
What day is it?
Regret missing church, and move on
to the New York Times.
Tend to sick pre-teen son,
who suddenly likes you again
on account of the toast and tea
you bring.
Take non-sick older son to his soccer game
and watch the kids run
while moving as little as possible
Serve up an unremarkable dinner
and return to the horizontal position
and the newspaper.
Stagger back to bed.
Tomorrow is a new day.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Mariachi Reyna de Los Angeles

Brassy angels in

silver-studded, baby blue

charro outfits sing

of love and longing, the stars

in the night sky, Chihuahua

and Guadalajara—home.