Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Good News!

I just got an email from the editor of The New Formalist, and they are going to publish one of my poems! Now, three people think I'm awesome! ;) I am very excited about this one, too, because it is a formal poem I first wrote as an undergraduate. I've done some revision to it, but not much. Happy happy happy. :)

Singing Birds

When pairs of chattering birds dart in and out
of trees as if distance will calm the fight,
I swear I hear the parting two prepare
a song, some lonesome twittered sighs.
So when they meet again, the voices rise –
ring true the time they lost by sudden flight.

Lost in bitter sentence fragments, we fall
so far from seeing eye to eye, our words
have silenced every sullen argument.
But wandering eyes and anxious hands may break
the wordless air, and hands composed to shake
entwine in held duet: like singing birds.

Friday, January 23, 2009

You, Me, and the Jellies

So, I keep revising this stupid poem (don't tell Lydia I said "stupid") in hopes that I'll actually like it someday, and I think maybe it's just doomed to end up in the burn pile. It has been called "Airlie Beach, Valentine's Day, 2001", and then it was "Resurfacing", and now it is "You, Me, and the Jellies." I don't know why I keep kicking this thing around, but it has always seemed like a poem with so much potential! So, here it is. Once more around we go.

You, Me, and the Jellies
Airlie Beach, Valentine’s Day 2001

The sun reflected off the stainless steel table,
the shadows swallowing water and wrack line debris,
tangled around a warning – Box Jellyfish: No Swimming
November – March
. I told you I didn’t think this would work.

Three days of diving and sailing awaited us
and six other backpackers. But I had never seen
the Southern Cross, so bright and obvious above the Pacific,
its clarity crisp against the pitch black.

Tangled palms embraced themselves by the beach
and I clung tight to my pack, waiting for your answer –
Well? Can we work? You sipped your beer.
Our conversation carried eternal decisions

with as much weight as ordering tacos or nachos –
“If I never believe, can you still be with me?”
Tacos or nachos? I don’t know, I hovered,
low, muffled, staring over the water, I don’t know.

The small, deadly box jellyfish floated
unnoticed, warm water glamorous
and alluring as it lapped the shore.
We went under in our scuba gear, stepping off

the back of a catamaran, tacos and nachos
simmering in our guts, oblivious
to jellyfish swishing around my ambiguity,
my wanting it both ways, my frailty.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Swale

Roving feet get suctioned in the swale.
Mud leaches between laces and leather
before you see the depression coming.

The valley looked drier, but spring rain
and winter melt had no time to evaporate
or seep deeper into the earth, harmless.

This land rises up in such a way that dips
are unpredictable. Perhaps shallow cavities
will always be damp, hollows I dare not tread,

not even during the hottest drought.
Some swales will never drain enough
to step unburdened. The hiker

is swallowed, boots sucking heavy in muck.
Anxious hands quiver for help, unable
to reach down and untie my own shoes.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Sleeping Beauty, Part II

We watched Sleeping Beauty again tonight. Lydia loves this movie - she actually sits on the couch and watches the whole thing, which doesn't even happen with Shrek, and they LOVE Shrek. So, Sleeping Beauty is a huge hit for Lydia. After Elvis went to bed, I let Lydia stay up and watch the rest of the movie, although when Flora, Fauna, and Merryweather put the kingdom to sleep, I thought for sure Lydia was going to fall asleep too.

As we watched, though, I started to think about how allegorical this movie is to the God story. So often, the church is called Christ's bride. At the beginning of the movie, the beautiful Princess Aurora (dawn...), is born, and she is precious. But because Maleficent wasn't invited to participate in the whole affair, she picks up an eternal grudge against Aurora and is determined to destroy her. It is the same with people - Adam and Eve are tempted away from God and spend the rest of history trying to dodge Maleficent/Satan.

So to protect the bride, she's hidden away in the woodcutter's cottage until the ripening of time. They rename her Briar Rose. Then, at just the right time in history, the Prince meets the Princess, Christ comes to marry his Bride, the church. His father doesn't think he's picked the right girl -- the prince fell for a peasant girl?? -- but indeed, this is the true Bride of the Prince, both peasant girl and princess.

While the prince is going to meet his bride, all hell breaks loose, and Maleficent has her way with the princess, and then has her way with the prince. For a few hours, it looks as if evil has conquered all - she has the Prince in her dungeon, the whole kingdom is asleep, even the bride, and she is laughing.

And as the Prince battles all the forces evil can throw at him, he has to fight through a field of thorns (crown of thorns, anyone?). And then, not to give in too easily, Maleficent spirals in and faces the Prince head-to-head. And what does the Prince do but stab evil with the sword of truth.

Christ conquers death. He conquers Maleficent and awakens the church/bride/princess. The rest of the kingdom springs back to life and color, delighted and surprised to see the prince and princess come riding in to the kingdom. There is much rejoicing ;) And then, my favorite part, the bride/church spends the remainder of the movie arguing over whether the bride should be pink or blue. We always get hung up on the unimportant details, don't we?

It's always a pleasant surprise to find these parallels in movies. We learn so much from the stories that are told to us - I don't think we even realize it sometimes, but it's there. Good triumphing over evil, the Prince - Christ - rescuing the Princess - the Church/Bride of Christ, at all costs.

It's no wonder the fairy tales speak to our hearts, right? It's the same romance that has been told every generation since the beginning of time. God creates man for relationship, the relationship is fractured and complicated by evil, God spends the rest of history trying to draw us back to him, fighting over and over again for good. I love a good story.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Cover of Book! Woo!

Here's the "mock up" of the cover for my chapbook. I like it, except for the title font, which is just a tad overly italicized, I think. I may ask for something a bit more... flowy?
"Advance orders" are being taken, and the thing about advance orders is that it determines their press run, and by extension the number of copies I receive as payment. SO, if I sell, say 300 copies, I will receive 30 complimentary copies to do with as I please. Also, preorders guarantee that you receive your copy... so what are you waiting for?? Order, order, order!
I'm not usually as inclined to self-promote. Really, I'm not. ;)
Just had to post this real quick, since I'm so gung-ho about it. This makes it just a tad bit more real. Still crazy unbelievable, but a bit more real.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Everything You Need to Know about the Enemy

You know those posters, "Everything I ever needed to know I learned in Kindergarten?" Well, tonight I bring you - everything I ever needed to know about the enemy I learned from watching Sleeping Beauty:

1.) The Enemy Shows Up Uninvited
2.) The Enemy Bestows Gifts, Which One Usually Expects to Be Good, but Certainly End in Death
3.) Getting Rid of All Possible Weapons of Evildoing Will Not Stop the Enemy
4.) You Can't Reason With the Enemy
5.) The Enemy Really Is "All Bad"

Fauna: Well, perhaps if we reason with her. Flora: Reason? Merryweather: With
Maleficent? Fauna: Well, she can't be all bad. Flora: Oh, yes, she can.

6.) The Enemy Ruins Everything - Especially One's Nicest Flowers
7.) The Enemy Anticipates Your Next Move
8.) The Enemy Knows a Lot, but Doesn't Know Anything about Love or Kindness
9.) The Enemy is Not Very Happy

Merryweather: But what won't she expect, she knows everything. Fauna: Oh
but she doesn't dear. Maleficent doesn't know anything about love, or
kindness, or the joy of helping earnest. You know, sometimes I don't think
she's really very happy.

10.) The Enemy has a Hoard of Servants to Help Find Our Weak Spots
11.) The Enemy Hunts Out All of Our Weak Spots, No Matter How Hard We Try to Hide
12.) The Enemy Tells Us the Worst-Case Scenario and Makes Us Believe It
13.) The Enemy Rejoices in Other People's Pain and Suffering

Maleficent: Come, my pet. Let us leave our noble prince with these happy
thoughts. A most gratifying day. For the first time in sixteen years I
shall sleep well.

14.) The Enemy Will Do Everything Possible to Keep the Story From Reaching its Happily Ever After
15.) The Enemy is a Huge, Fire-Breathing Dragon That Can Only Be Defeated by the Sword of Truth.


Brandon laughs because I love fairy tales. I love Disney movies - especially the older movies, but Disney has redeemed itself as of late, too, with such great movies as Meet the Robinsons (which I cry after, always), The Incredibles, Toy Story, and more. I love the princesses and their innocence, the way they wait to be rescued, the princes and their noble steed and their courage and the ways they romance the bride. I love the goofy supporting characters that bring along the lighter side and also have their own ways of trying to make it all better but inserting their own goofs in the process - unknowingly complicating the end results.

I love it all - even the villains, who give us such great lessons in the character of evil, the nature of evil, just like Maleficent in Sleeping Beauty. She's wicked. She's miserable. She's convinced that if she makes the rest of the world miserable, it'll make her happy. Ah, yes, so easy to recognize evil when it's tall, dark, and grotesque. I wish it could be like that all of the time, instead of being enticing, attractive, fun, and only a little bit guilt-inducing or conscience-pricking.

I must go now - Meet the Robinsons is on, and I just can't help myself. I mean, there's a black hat with claws and one red eye. It has "evil" written all over it.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Standing in the Snow Crying

We took the kids out to play in the snow this morning for about an hour. Elvis hated it and Lydia loved it. Elvis wouldn't move if I put him down - he seriously looked like that kid in the Christmas Story. He would look up at me and just start moaning. It was so sad. Lydia was all over the snow - stomping around, falling face-first on purpose, and throwing snow up in the air like leaves. I showed her how to make an angel in the snow but she wasn't interested in giving it a try herself - instead, she stomped all over it. A great morning, all in all. AND we got the driveway shoveled in the process.

Elvis has taken to sticking his head into the water when he takes a bath. He seems to love hearing the swishing and muted sounds of the water, but occasionally, he miscalculates the time he's under or the distance his mouth is from the water and ends of choking. He did this again tonight, and every time it happens, my heart jumps and I go back to those first few days of his life when his lungs just wouldn't cooperate with the need for air. I still wonder if he's going to be "ok," but really - what person is "ok"? There's always something wrong with us, one way or the other. And to worry about it is ridiculous - he has no signs or symptoms of unokayedness. He's a healthy, happy (as long as he isn't standing in the snow) little boy. Who likes to stick his head under the water. Maybe he'll be a really, really good swimmer. I see a gold medal record-breaker in our future! ;)

Tomorrow should be a pretty laid back day here too - church and then, ahhhhh, no plans. Heaven. Since we did nothing today, I probably ought to contribute toward the household chores by doing laundry and putting some things away. Not a bad idea, eh?

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Make Believe

We're back in Ashland and back to the same routine as if we never left, which is unfortunate. One would think that being removed from an environment for over two weeks would untrain toddler bad habits, kind of like detox and rehab. But, no. Elvis is still attracted to the fireplace, Lydia still insists she doesn't like "it" the instant she sits down and before she's put anything in her mouth at lunch and dinner, and both of them seem to have suffered a loss of hearing in the last 48 hours. It's amazing! Who would've thought our house possessed air incapable of carrying sound waves?

On the positive side (so often I slip into sarcasm here!), it really is good to be home. As comfortable as I am spending time at both of our parents' houses, there's nothing like being in your own home, lazing about. And though I really miss spending all morning and afternoon with the kids, it felt good to get back to work on a few projects, especially because there was this shadow of impending deadlines hovering over the last week of vacation. Part of the stress was not having a roadmap through January laid out yet, but now I have my faithful to-do list made, and I feel much better.

Right now, the sweethearts are playing so nicely. Lydia is making me dinner - plastic hot dogs, plastic Pringles, plastic lettuce ("salad"), and plastic french fries. She is a wonderful cook, I tell you what. Elvis is playing in the playhouse with Matchbox cars and tractors and repeating "Pop-Pop" and "tractor" over and over. They are good kids.

I think they just realized I'm not paying attention to them 100%, so I guess that's the end of blogging for tonight. :)

Saturday, January 3, 2009

2009 Writing Resolution

Elvis said his first two-syllable word today - tractor. He is possibly the cutest thing on the planet, even cuter than labrador puppies. My mom took a short video clip of him, Lydia, my dad, and me sitting on the couch looking through a tractor book. It will go on Facebook sometime soon... if Facebook decides to upload the video for me. Harrumph.

I am still at my parents' house, which has been a great time. Today, I had the pleasure of dining with some good friends from high school. It is always fun to get together with high school friends. You can fool your college friends, you can fool your colleagues at work, you can even fool your husband, but your high school friends really know the depth and breadth of your dorkiness. There's no need to disguise it. I can just let it all hang out there.

The last few days I've had a lot of ideas bumbling about in my head for essays and books and poems, but I'm trying to work through this ridiculously lengthy collection of essays for River Teeth. It is over 500 pages of excellent writing, which I've been nibbling on for the last two weeks trying to finish proofing before Monday. Now, my Monday plans have changed and it looks as if I am going to need to take the day off in order to pick up the husband from the airport and watch my children. Brandon's mom needs to get an emergency dentist appointment on Monday morning, which changes those plans. But anyway, the RT deadline is Monday... a small problem because I have at least four pages of corrections I wanted to have approved by the editors before sending in to be changed. I may have to ask UNP for a one day extension in light of the timing.

Only two more essays to go, though. That's a relief.

Back to the ideas for books and essays. I had this one today, about my Grandpa Fugman. Besides going to Japan after they dropped the bomb as a radio man, grandpa was a talented musician who had been invited to perform at the Grand Ole Opry. He was in Nashville at the time and called home to ask his dad if he could stick around a few more days for the performance, but his dad said no, the hay needs to be baled and you need to get home. So he came home. This has always been one of those great family stories. My grandpa wasn't a person I knew well; from a granddaughter's perspective, he was a strange, reserved, white-haired man who drove around in his car all day, slept on an army cot in the yard in the afternoons, and lived in the hay barn on the farm my grandparents own. He's a great character to write about and has a good deal of indirect influence in my life, but besides all of that, I was thinking today about how opportunities like the Grand Ole Opry and opportunities like the one I've had this past few months to publish a chapbook happen rarely, suddenly, and sometimes quietly. It occurred to me that many of us have opportunities to take a risk, to make the leap into something we have always dreamed of, but our duties to family or other sources keep us from following those dreams.

Grandpa obeyed his father and came home, never to perform on the Grand Ole Opry. He baled a lot of hay. The musical tradition in my family is a vein gradually filling with the cholesterol of busyness, but still they sing. Still they play. Some of us play our songs with different instruments, but we are still playing. Duty vs. dreams -- when is the risk worth taking, and when is it more honorable, wiser, or better to acknowledge responsibility and obligations for the good of more than me?

So that's one essay I'd like to persue. I'm also beginning to feel the urgency to write the book we've joked about for a while, whose veins run deeper than the original idea, but whose title would be - "Grandma and the son of a b**ch who... a Granddaughter looks at the last of the Greatest Generation." We have some great stories to stack in here, but I think what I want to explore in this book is the lives of my immediate grandparents and the lives of my husband's grandparents - the quirks that set them apart from my parents' and my generations, the oddities that make them unique, the resolve and strength that cause us to revere their ways, and the shortcomings that reveal their fallibility. How are we different from this great generation? How did the greatest generation live? How does the greatest generation die?

Another world of research I'd like to indulge in are my own personal roots. Much of the research has been done by my grandma Fugman on her side of the family. I have deep roots in American soil, reaching all the way back to the Revolutionary War, and this clawed grip to earth is something I'd like to pursue. On my mom's side of the family, my great-grandmother was born on the boat coming from Czechoslovakia. These two heritages - they are rich and diverse, something to be celebrated and something unusual.

In general, I'd like to write more. I was surprised at the amount of poems I was able to generate in 2008. My chapbook has mostly poems from 2008 in it. If I have any resolutions for 2009, one of them would be to write more essays, more memoir, and begin the work that is necessary to write these stories. Our lives are all rich with stories - we just have to find the time to write them down.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Happy New Year!

I just ventured into Google to find out where I'm popping up these days (as my maiden name - the married version pulls up too many hits), and was sorely disappointed not to see Sarebear's Sentral Spot appearing anymore. So, I dug up the old account and password, which, embarrassingly enough, is the same password I use today with some variation, and I updated the index page. So all you crazy stalkers out there who have been looking for me all these years via Googling, HERE I AM! You found me! I'm much less brilliant than I was a decade ago.

The proof of this brilliantlessness is the fact that I have two children who will be awake in seven hours and I am not sleeping, but instead blinking rapidly in order to find moisture for my dehydrated contact lenses while typing about my pathetic website created during high school. This is the best I can do on a Friday night with the husband in Florida. What can I say?

In other news, we went to the rainforest exhibit at the zoo this afternoon, which was great. I hesitate to add the following point because it almost negates the previous sentence and certainly adds a flair of sarcasm to it, but I think it is a valid comment. So, they pay a woman to sell me tickets to get into the rainforest/zoo approximately 200 feet from the rainforest entrance, AND they pay a nice young lady to sit at the door of the rainforest and collect said tickets into 80-degree rainforest building, but they do NOT pay a nice young lady to tell me that there are coat racks for my fourteen-layered children who will sweat and strip their layers to be handed to me to carry for the duration of the trip. No, they most certainly left out that item on the job description list.

So I lugged three large winter coats around an humid building which also broadcasts fake squawking noises apparently like what you'd hear in a crowded rainforest in December. It was hot. And loud. BUT we really did have a great time, especially at the orangutan exhibit. And Elvis said "fsh fsh fsh fsh fsh fsh" about ten thousand times at the two glass aquariums, which was So. Cute.

We (meaning me and the kids) are staying at my parents' house for the remainder of the weekend while Brandon drives his 85 year old grandmother to Florida, the poor soul. All that warm weather. God save him. And us up here bathing in the anemic rays of the January '09 sun. It's really a pity he isn't here.

Note: Yes, it is now past 11, and my kids will still wake up in less than seven hours, and I am indeed continuing to type ridiculous, unimportant yet mildly entertaining blather.

Christmas and New Years have been delightful, though - so much good times to be had and old friends to see and funny junk to trade in white elephant parties. We have spent every day since December 20 with family, and that is a good thing. I do miss being so close (though an hour and a half really isn't that far, in the grand scheme of global relocation), especially now that my brother is engaged to a very, very nice girl who I am thrilled to have as a soon-to-be sister-in-law. Family becomes increasingly important to me. I don't think I would be so opposed to a Great Depression-esque situation that would force extended families to move in under the same roof and start farming again. Yes, I am a sick, sick 21st century female. I'd even opt in for making many babies and canning tomatoes. Though I'd need to learn how. To can tomatoes.

Happy new year, 2009! I hope all of your recession dreams come true!