Sunday, October 31, 2010


We are family.

A skinny baby in a diaper and knee socks,

and Mike the Situation

from Jersey Shore.

Hall, of Hall and Oates,

and a Jetsons-era space girl

(that's me.)

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Substitute Teacher

It's a dry, crackly, Santa Ana-winds kind of day,
the day before Halloween.
Even though I throw down my yoga mat
in its customary spot
and see the usual people,
it feels like anything could happen.

Enter the substitute.
This instructor isn't tiny and sinewy
like the others. She's tall and full-hipped;
broad-shouldered and smooth-bodied,
like a swimmer.
She's got braids on top of her head
and mushroom tattoos snaking around her ankles
and, smiling like a mild-mannered Viking milkmaid,
tells us that we will be doing one hundred pushups.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Bad Dream

I wake from a bad dream

half-mumbling, half-shouting

"Get away."

The intruder dissipates in the morning light

but the heaviness and dread

last all day.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Middle School Blues II

The title of a book by Ana Homayoun on helping boys succeed in school, which encapsulates my life at the moment, and which I am claiming as a found poem:

That crumpled paper was due last week

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

David Sedaris, Live at Chapman University

David Sedaris,
you are funny, profane, deep. And
you tell a good joke.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Day

I knew the day would come
that I have to write a poem
about not being able to write a poem.
And here it is.
I'm stuck, wrung out,
plumb out of ideas.

Monday, October 25, 2010


I took this picture of Willem a few days ago when I was picking him up from surfing at Salt Creek. I love this skinny-yet-buff, growing-before-my-very-eyes phase he's in. It was the same with Schuyler, before he got all tall and manly-looking, which I'm still trying to get used to. At about this age, they look stretched and hungry all the time. Willem is so darn cute, and growing up so fast, I just want to hug him and feed him. (I hope he doesn't read this. He'll be so annoyed.)

Surf, shower, breakfast
school. Snacks, homework and more snacks.
Dinner, dessert, snacks.

Sunday, October 24, 2010


Thank God for Sundays,
my day of rest. Also church,
the Times, and tennis.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Baptism at Brooks Street

water and Spirit
bestow grace and belonging:
communion of saints

My godson Vasco was baptized today in the ocean at Brooks Street. I was honored to be a part of the service, and, along with his other godparents, shared some thoughts on what I hoped Vasco's baptism would mean to him. This is what I read:

When Cathi and Maury asked us, Vasco’s godparents, to say a few words about our hopes, wishes and prayers for Vasco, I thought about a poem by Mary Oliver I had just read in a book they gave me for my birthday. It made me think of Vasco, and the long journey that brought him from Malawi to Chicago to our little tribe here in Laguna Beach, and the sense of wonder and also grace that I have seen Vasco bring to each new experience.

I also found in this poem echoes of a prayer that comes from the service of baptism in the Book of Common Prayer. So I’m going to read both for you—the prayer and the poem, and Vasco, today as we receive you into the household of God, these are my hopes, wishes and prayers for you:

Heavenly Father, we thank you that by water and the Holy 
Spirit you have bestowed upon this your servant Vasco the 
forgiveness of sin, and have raised him to the new life of
 grace. Sustain him, O Lord, in your Holy Spirit. Give him
 an inquiring and discerning heart, the courage to will and to 
persevere, a spirit to know and to love you, and the gift of joy
 and wonder in all your works. Amen.

Mysteries, Yes

Truly, we live with mysteries too marvelous

to be understood.

How grass can be nourishing in the

mouths of the lambs.

How rivers and stones are forever

in allegiance with gravity

while we ourselves dream of rising.

How two hands touch and the bonds will

never be broken.

How people come, from delight or the

scars of damage,

to the comfort of a poem.

Let me keep my distance, always, from those

who think they have the answers.

Let me keep company always with those who say

“Look!” and laugh in astonishment,

and bow their heads.

--Mary Oliver

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Book Club Dropout

for someone who loves
books I sure am a lousy
book club attendee

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Becoming Mother

Interesting things, both nature and nurture. Sometimes I see traits in my own children that I have to attribute to DNA, plain and simple. For example, when Schuyler gestures when he talks, I see my brother Geoffrey, and it's absolutely uncanny, because they haven't spent a lot of time together. Then there are things I do, and affinities I have, that I have to chalk up to nurture, and the way I was raised. I often hear people use the expression, "I'm becoming my mother," or "I sound just like my dad!" It struck me as funny and kind of wonderful when I had that realization today. I love you, Mom!

I'm making granola
while listening to chamber music
and it occurs to me
that I've become my mother
(which is a good thing)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


One would think
that watching the sun setting over the ocean
would get old
but one would be wrong.

Monday, October 18, 2010


I almost feel embarrassed to admit this because it seems so decadent, but the birthday bliss continues.... My friends are such a gift to me. Even though they are busy people and not "ladies who lunch," I got a call today that went something like this:

Want to meet for lunch?
The fun doesn't have to stop
just 'cause it's Monday...

Sunday, October 17, 2010


As you may have gathered from my earlier posts, I spent this weekend at La Quinta with David, the boys, and several of our close friends who were nice enough to make the trip and help celebrate my birthday. (And yes, our crew of squirrelly teenagers mended their ways and were on their very best behavior after we read them the riot act about the Golf Cart Incident and the Patio Furniture in the Pool Event. Ahem.) Last night David hosted a beautiful dinner for us all at a long, candlelit table outside. And he said something that completely reshaped the way I looked at turning 40: something to the effect that, when you get to have another year with the person you love, it's an upgrade. And then my friends toasted me with such kind and loving words that I felt blessed beyond measure. I will never forget it. This photo was taken by my friend Cathleen (who always takes amazing pictures); it perfectly captures the light and love and effervescence of the evening.

candlelight, wine, stars
and the people I love most
I've been upgraded

Saturday, October 16, 2010

The Golf Cart Incident

As the expression goes, you can't write this stuff. Unbelievable.

Mom--Mom--Mom. Just listen.
You don't understand.
Okay. We didn't steal the golf cart.
What actually happened was that
the maintenance guy in one cart
challenged us to a race
in the other cart
and we went so fast
and got so far ahead of him
that he thought we had stolen it.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Desert Road Trip

pack up, pick up kids
leave the foggy coast behind
sun and desert bound

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Middle School Blues, or The Mother as Sisyphus

Science, Spanish and Social Studies,
which were in a precarious state last week,
are now on the up and up: Glory be.
P.E. is an easy A, of course.
And that one, shining "Outstanding"
citizenship grade is a counterbalance
to the "Distracts others"
and "Not working up to potential".
But now we've got to deal with Algebra,
which is a crisis.
This kid is smart, so what gives?
Summon the tutors;
bring on the Kumon math center.
Let's push the stone up the hill again.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Crane

Pardon me while I indulge in some martial arts nerdiness. I have been a student of Kempo karate for many years, albeit with a lot of time taken off for injuries and "life"--a catchall excuse that includes family trips, sick kids, and sometimes just my own lack of discipline. It's humbling. As with raising kids or trying to understand the instruction manual to my Cuisinart, I often feel like the further in I get, the less I know--so I just keep going. In a few weeks I'm going to test for my brown belt, and have been frantically cramming and reviewing all my techniques so I'll be ready.

In Shaolin Kempo, a lot of these movements fall into groupings based on five animals (some of which strike me as cooler than others) with particular attributes--for example, the tiger, notable for its circular strikes and straight-up power, or the leopard, with its explosive speed. I have to learn them all, but some are easier for me than others. Several of the nice folks I train with are big sweaty teenagers who are much faster than I am, and big sweaty adult guys who outweigh me by a lot; I don't have the advantage of lightning quickness or massive strength, so I'm not all that great at the cool-animal stuff. As much as I wish could be a leopard, I'm more of a crane. And I guess I'm okay with that. We've all got to play to our strengths. Crane-style techniques are not about out-muscling an opponent; they involve deflection and precise strikes to soft targets like the eyes and throat. I like that the crane is also a symbol of longevity...not that I want to take any longer than I have to to get my black belt. My haiku in honor of the crane:

the crane spreads its wings
swoops hops deflects then counters
and takes flight again

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Cheesecake for Vasco

My favorite Malawian and godson, Vasco, turned 11 today. We went to a little birthday gathering for him chez Cathi and Maury, and I was in charge of bringing cheesecake--Vasco's request. I don't mean to brag, but it was a damn good cheesecake. It made me so happy that everyone liked it. The recipe is a long-time family favorite, courtesy of Dr. Bob O'Connor who is a long-time family friend, an anesthesiologist and an amazing cook--long may he live.

The poem:

Dr. Bob's cheesecake:
for the chocolate ninja who
doesn't like chocolate.

The recipe:

¾ c. graham cracker crumbs
2 T. melted butter
1 T. sugar
¼ tsp. cinnamon

Mix together and pat on bottom and sides of a springform pan.

2 8oz. packages cream cheese
½ c. sugar
3 eggs
½ - ¾ tsp. almond extract
2 T. fresh lemon juice

Beat together. Pour into crust. Bake at 325 for 35 minutes.

1 c. sour cream
1 1/2 Tbs. sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla

Mix together. Pour over cake. Bake 10 minutes more.

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Big Four-Oh

When I woke up this morning, I realized that being bummed out about turning 40 is pretty lame, considering that I have my health, the love of family and friends, and a beautiful, inspiring place to live. I briefly thought about trying to craft some kind of major, serious poem to mark the occasion, but when I looked back on the notes I had scribbled throughout the day, I just thought, nah--this is exactly how I want to remember it, homemade cards, Viking-themed foods and all.

Birthday cards, silly and sweet, from my boys.
A run on the beach.
Hibiscus blooming in Heisler Park.
Hermes and herring à la mode with my husband
(who thoughtfully left his Blackberry in the car
while we shopped and lunched).
Little-people hugs on my knees from my nieces and nephew.
Valhalla Table: Brats and beer galore.
The feeling of being stuffed and sleepy and well-loved.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Over the Hill

Faced with the prospect
of going over the hill
I'm a bit depressed.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Morning Mist

The mist suits my mood.
Groggy. Slow to greet the day.
Give me a minute.

Friday, October 8, 2010


Why, again, did I
agree to take my
thirteen-year-old and his friends
to a rap concert?
No offense, Tech N9ne,
but your fan base
is frightening.
Surely I am
the worst mother
in the entire world.

Hell exists
and I am in it.

No, seriously.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Realization

I went alone to a book party
at a vintage shop that I adore--
a place chock full of
kooky charm bracelets,
garage-sale oil paintings
and battered monogrammed luggage
that speaks of a time
when travel
was glamorous.

But when I got there
everyone sipping the wine in plastic cups
and listening to the vampy jazz singer
was twenty-four years old--
the women, leggy and resplendent
perspiring lightly under their makeup
in feathered-this and sequined-that
and the men,
scruffy and carefully messy
in stovepipe pants and leather jackets.

I realized that I didn't know anyone there
and suddenly felt old
and out of place,
like one of the less-interesting
garage-sale paintings
in the corner.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Fast Forward

can it be possible
that I'm walking through
something called a college roundup
in the gym of my son's high school?

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Dude of Laguna

I promise I'll get a picture of this guy. He's an absolute classic. David and I have taken to calling him the Dude, and whenever one of us spots him, we'll say, "Oh--there's the Dude!" It's a statement that equates to something like, God is in his heaven and all is right with the world. Not, of course, that the Dude is any kind of deity. But I like to think of him as my lucky charm--it's usually a good day when you see the Dude out and about.

Laguna's own Dude
holds court on the corner of
Cress and Glenneyre.
Shirtless, in Carreras and
corduroy short shorts--
he sits on a low stucco
wall, face to the sun.

Monday, October 4, 2010

My Man Francis

Some were told,
Announce the kingdom.
Heal the sick.
Take nothing for the journey--
no staff, no bag, no bread,
no money, no extra clothes.
And, to the astonishment and disgust
of some of his friends--
"that religious nut...going through a phase"--

he actually did.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Don't Do It, Don

Oh no, Don Draper
Not the new secretary
Oh no he didn't

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Hot Soccer

Soccer game under
the Indian summer sun.
Flushed kids gulp water.

Friday, October 1, 2010

In the Beginning Was the Word

How does he do it? St. Fred always manages to illuminate and enervate concepts that others have beaten to death. (I'm sorry to say that I know this because I have sat through many, many church services in my life, some of which leave a person wanting less, not more, of the god being discussed. When you're thirsty, you want water: pure, clear water. Not something fizzy and sweet, and definitely not vinegar, either. But I digress.) Take, for example, Buechner's words on, well, words--and John's gospel. I just read this today in Listening to Your Life:

John was a poet, and he knew about words. He knew that all men and all women are mysteries known only to themselves until they speak a word that opens up the mystery. He knew that the words people speak have their life in them just as surely as they have their breath in them. He knew that the words people speak have dynamite in them and that a word may be all it takes to set somebody's heart on fire or break it in two. He knew that words break silence and that the word that is spoken is the word that is heard and may even be answered. And at the beginning of his gospel he wrote a poem about the Word that God spoke.

I love the way Buechner explains the volatile power of words, and identifies John the Evangelist as a poet paying homage to the true Source of all poetry, who in turn lends us some of that very same power. I read his paragraph again, and felt dumbstruck and amazed, kind of like the way I did when I held my oldest son just minutes after his birth, or the first time I held a loaded gun--very carefully, and thinking, I can't believe they're letting me hold this thing! Then I reread John 1, and I really have no words. I've turned a verse into a found poem/haiku because I feel ridiculous and unworthy trying to write something new in response to something so sublime.

the light shines in the
darkness but the darkness has
not understood it