Happy "Poem in Your Pocket" Day

In honor of the last day of National Poetry Month and in recognition of “Poem in Your Pocket Day,” poetry from me to you.

(Just in case it’s not obvious, all are original works by yours truly…but I think it will be obvious.)

Grub Revisited

I know a dog named Ms. Bay
Who ate all things left in her way
When she swallowed a grub
Her tummy we did rub
And it turned out at the end of the day.

Weak limerick; true story.

* * *

There once was a blogger named Jake
Who blogged just for bloggin’s sake
Then long came the Twitter
And he didn’t get bitter
140 letters gave him a break.

Okay, you try it. I dare you.

* * *

…a Haiku for you?
Bright red seedy skin
Silky flesh sweetness within
Summer strawberry.

Guess what I’m eating again.

* * *
…free verse?

Life Recipe


Bass, Ticks and Grandpa’s Ranch

Jordan wanted to go fishing again. My dad’s birthday was Saturday. These seemingly two separate events collided on Sunday when we decided to head to my dad’s ranch in Corning to fish on the lakes there.

Mind you, my dad had been fishing all week with his buddy Roy on Lake Shasta, not deterred a bit by the full sun despite his Stage 4 Melanoma, which, for those of you following that, has resurfaced on his adrenal gland and requires asap surgery. We’ll know more Thursday.

“Come fish here,” he said. “They’re biting like crazy.” That’s fisher-talk.

So off we go in the fully packed SUV with Bailey in tow, not really knowing what size line, hooks or bait we were supposed to use (because we just learned they differ) or, for that matter, even what we would be fishing for because it never seemed to matter.

“If we go to Grandpa’s lake, I want to keep them and eat them,” said Jordan.

Oh, good. So now we get to learn how to catch, clean, and eat yet a new (I think) fish. And, now, it definitely matters what kind they are.

After lining up the pole, which involved lots of commentary surrounding themes like, “I remember when I could tie that knot without my glasses before my arthritis” and “Are you going to use the blood knot?” The blood knot?

Slight breeze with bright sun shimmering off the lake, we set forth, fish whisperers all. I cast out first cast with my newly lined invisible line straight from the fly shop with swanky bobber and dry fly attached. I cast gracefully out by the reeds. A bite!

“I got one!” I yell.

I knew I could do it. I reeled it in, head held high. Clearly it was my malfunctioning line last time and not the user as the dancing fly fisherman had rudely pointed out. I’d just proved my fishing prowess. I was one step away from joining a professional fishing association. This was the joy those men on the fishing channel had that I never got before.

“Ah, that’s WAY too small to keep,” says my dad throwing it back. “Small bait, small fish.”

Come on! Where’s the big bait then?

Rethinking the whole thing I cut off my swanky bobber and little dry fly get up. I get the huge hook with no bait, just the little plastic fluorescent green grub thingy which I expect to find out back any day now because half way through the day, Bailey swallowed it when I wasn’t looking. I do a lot of reorganizing when I fish it seems. (Bailey did not, by the way, swallow the hook, but at one point it did get hooked on her nose when she was trying to “help” me reel in a big one which consequently got away.)

We fished from shore, we took the boat out (and Bailey swam out and around the boat several times which tends to scare the fish I think). We caught about ten bass and a blue gil on the first lake. For the afternoon trip we headed up riding in the back of the pick up old school style to the “really nice fish” lake.

“They’re hungry up there,” said my dad, which seemed kind of unfair. You know, unlevel playing field and all.

Sure enough, it was. There we were, reeling in fish after fish until we had about ten nice bass. Jordan landed his first fish all by himself, from cast to putting it in the bucket. This is what they’re talking about, I thought. Geese flying over head. Dove cooing in the distance. Sun sparkling on the water ripples. Feeling the cool lake water on your feet, happy lab on standby to help land the big one.

“Maybe we can make this a tradition every Sunday,” said Jordan with an enthusiastic I-caught-a-fish-all-by-myself smile.

Fast forward to last night. We’ve just finished our delicious fish fry, proving ourselves once and for all, Native American users of the land. I lean over to spend some time with Bailey and scratch behind her ears. What’s this? A big, FAT black tick! I call my dad, panicked.

“How do you get the ticks off?!” I ask.

“Ah, don’t worry. I saw one on myself this morning in the shower. You just put your fingernails down by the skin and pull it off,” he says calmly. Okay, so maybe he doesn’t have cancer. Maybe he has Lyme Disease.

“I have to touch it?” I ask.

“Don’t be a wimp,” he says all rancher style.

All things equal, I’d rather be a wimp without Lyme Disease then a wimp with Lyme Disease.

Well, the one tick turned into an Easter egg hunt. Under Bay’s thick coat, Mike and I found 20 ticks in the course of two hours, a midnight shower and blow dry and new dose of Frontline.

Bottom line: if you don’t hear from us, it’s possible we all caught Lyme Disease and died.

But wait the good news. When I got home from my writing session, Mike said, “You’ll be happy to know, I found the grub.”

I’m a little sad.

Do you ever have somebody sweep into your life that is filled with positive light energy and they just start your day off right? That’s Rebecca, my Boogie Boxing teacher. Mistress of Movement there to your right.

Except for she’s not anymore. Today, she announced, was her last day.

Now I’ve taken lots of classes: yoga, step, advanced step, major advanced step, ballet, salsa, ballroom, hula, line dancing, hip-hop, strip-hop, two-stepping, pole dancing, Tai Chi, Tae Kwon Do—you name it. If it’s a movement class, I’ve done it. But Rebecca’s class was different. It was one of the best classes I’ve ever taken. One minute you’re grooving to Fergie and the next your “calypsoing” to the Fathers of Latin and cooling down to “Lady in Red.” (I don’t think I’ll ever be able to listen to that again without standing in the first position.)

Rebecca’s hybrid class mixed boxing with salsa, rumba, hip-hop, ballet, yoga, weights, the ball—a potpourri of movement mania all packed into one hopping little hour on Friday mornings. It was just what I needed to launch the weekend, and when we were in town, I never missed it. I know I am not the only one who is sad to see her go.

But, alas, her little gymnasts await, and they need her light, too.

Farewell, Rebecca. My Fridays won’t be the same without you, and “Guts and Butts” will have nothing on your “Boogie Box”!

They call it that because come late spring God drops down buckets of cotton from the April skies that pass through the branches of the trees and cover the newly awakened grass with millions of Whoville cotton pluffs.
It’s a town where Front Street is the main street and Main Street is just a path to Front Street and where, come next Friday, there will be a Farmer’s Market on Main Street…or is it Front Street?
It’s a town where the sidewalks on Front Street are raised and accented by welded rings, horse-tying rings, and a proud wooden Chieftain salutes passersby in front of where the old courthouse used to be. And the Old Town Eatery.
It’s a town where my old next door neighbor owns the Holiday market, and the checker remembers who we are when we stop by for freshly baked sourdough flutes.
It’s a town with one area code—and a town where you don’t have to dial 1 and put it in when you call people around town.
It’s a town with cowboys, and ranchers and those who rebel against all that that stands for.
It’s a town that plays country music proudly in almost every store—guaranteed.
It’s a proud town.
It’s a town that loves its schools and holds a mean Education Foundation fundraiser with the auctioneer straight off the Friday Auction Yard sale who handles the live auction in fine style, auctioning off hay, gravel, fly fishing trips and a pig mount to earn over $100,000 for local schools.
It’s a town where my son’s first teacher is the best teacher he’s ever had, better than the private school teachers we paid thousands and thousands of dollars for.
It’s a town committed to seasons; in Fall leaves fall, in Spring wild Red Bud shows off big time, in Winter you dare not pour water on your frost-laden windshield and in summer the relentless sun reaches down and pushes you toward the local lakes.
It’s a town where Spring brings fresh stawberries, picked that morning that sit in local stands where you leave your money in the basket.
It’s a town where my mom drops by with fresh strawberries, fresh bread from Moore’s or fresh Lilacs from her garden.
It’s a town where the Little League Park fills full in the Spring and looks like a Ford Dealership.
It’s a town where neighbors bring you fruits and nuts when you move in, and welcome you to the neighborhood with a smile and a nod.
It’s a town where neighbors look out for each other.
It’s a town where you can go for a walk and be back in the woods with wildflowers galore and ponds that spring up from winter’s rain.
It’s a town I’ve missed.
I’m happy to be home.

On Rewriting

The thing about rewriting is nobody really shows you how to do it.

All through school, you write a paper, you turn it in, you get a grade. If it’s a good grade, no rewrite.

Then you get to be a big kid and you go to classes, and conferences and you read and you read and you read and you learn “All good writing is really rewriting” or something really close to that.

Then your aunt says, “I love rewriting. It’s my favorite part.” And you feel really annoyed at your aunt.

Then you hear an editor say at a conference, “The only manuscript ever in the history of all rewrites that didn’t need to be rewritten in the history of all manuscripts was E.B. White,” and you think…

“Right. So first I write which can take anywhere from 1 year to 15, then I rewrite on my own, reading theories from the handful of authors out there who talk about rewriting, taking out my “is”, adverbs, cutting most if not all, then I agent it, and rewrite again, and get to an editor and rewrite again.”

So I’m wondering—why not just skip ahead to the last step and just rewrite once with the person who is going to profit on it and go from there?

Oh, no. Then you are not a real writer.

Guess one thing is clear. One editor I worked with recently said, “Writers aren’t usually flush” (as in with cash.)

Go figure. But boy are they good rewriters.

And by the way, does James Patterson rewrite (or even write anymore for that matter)? What about Castle? Oh, wait. He’s not real.

Enough procrastination. Back to rewriting First Break.

But I’m not rewriting this. We pick our kingdoms.

The One that Got Away—but Ate my Worm First:
A Fishing Tale

When Jordan said he wanted to go fishing when we moved to the country, I enthusiastically embraced the idea. After all, thirty years had passed and I had time to forget. Forget about the tangled lines. Forget about the frustrated adults who spent much of their time fixing snags and twisted line and swearing to never take us again. Forget about the worms.

Well, maybe not the worms.

So for Valentine’s Day, everybody got fishing licenses. Not the most romantic gift, I know, but practical. When I went to get the licenses I was determined to not appear like a major rookie. I was forced to come clean when the nice man asked me if I’d be fishing for steelhead or trout and I had no idea.

So I took another approach. I told him I’d never been fishing, and asked him if he could educate me a bit. This worked better. I learned how to “dispatch” a fish and—yuck—clean it. Now it seemed I was that adult who would be fixing lines, baiting hooks and getting those poor little, doe-eyed fish off the hook and putting them on another hook called the stringer. It all seems so barbaric.

Grandma gave us all a lesson at her kitchen table. We learned how to tie that 5 loop knot to the swivel, and the hook. We found out we needed creels to carry and probably had to get our poles “lined” and we needed to know how much that line was in pounds. The leader (the part of the line past the swivel) was yet another wait and who knew hooks came in so many different sizes depending on the fish you were going to catch. But wait! How do you know if you haven’t caught them yet? I was so far behind.

Geared up, with Grandma as our guide, Jordan and I headed up to Grace Lake out of Shingletown for our big debut, a perfect event for the last day of spring break. Now, we haven’t seen 7:00 a.m. for about two weeks so we rolled out of bed into our fishing clothes (“It’s cool in the mountains,” said Grandma) and off we go with our poles and tackle.

Half way there Grandma admitted she didn’t know exactly where the lake was because she hadn’t been there for about twenty years. It was one of those country directions I love so much that goes like this: “Turn left down by the store, then right at the curve in the road and at the pine tree make another right.” So we got a little lost.

The first dirt road we thought might be the right road was really rocky and we almost got stuck. So we decided to park and walk. We walked about a mile through evergreen forest toward what we hoped was a lake. No lake. Back to the car with Jordan saying, “Are we going home?”

The next road we found was actually graded and had a tiny sign. Eureka! We headed down and there, like a vision, the lake. But something even better. The stocking man (you know, the one that puts the fish in the lake so you can catch them) was there and dropping fish in by the tank load. What luck!

We stepped out of the car and it was not cool. It was extremely hot. Felt like 200 degrees. And it was only 8 a.m. (Can’t tell we lived by the beach for the past 3 decades.)

Dragging all our stuff up a hill, we staked our claim. We gave the other fisher people friendly fishing nods and set up our chairs—which, by the way, we would never use while there. We got out our poles, ready to catch those trout jumping all over with our live bait. After taking about 30 minutes to line the poles, tie the knots and—gross—bait the hooks with squirmy little night crawlers which DO have feelings despite what they say, we were ready to go. We cast out and waited.

Then I hear a guy say, “There’s a water snake.”

Crap! I hate snakes.

Then another guy says, “What’s that thing?” followed by a muskrat-beaver-looking lake thing who swam back and forth in front of me the whole time we were there, almost smiling…I swear it.

Then I notice the man to my right snagging one fish after another with what looks like a green piece of twine and something he calls a “bugger” on the end. I hoped that wasn’t what it sounded like. Fish were jumping around his line by the dozen and he had his limit in about five minutes. Then, he just caught and released them.

I cast out. If he could do it, by God I could do it. My bobber went out really, really far, right to where I’d seen a fish jump. I gave a smug smile. This could come around yet. As I reeled in, I realized my bobber wasn’t moving. My leader had torn in half, not at the knot—mind you—but in half. Nobody could figure that one out.

After relining my pole and getting that dang worm back on, fixing Jordan’s snags about five times and applying some 55 sunscreen to my already-sunburned shoulders, I recast. This time I heard a LOUD splash. A FISH! No. Wait. My reel (you know that thing you turn) went flying into the lake. Seriously. How was I going to get that?

Only one way. I’d have to wade in to the snake-infested, muskrat-swimming lake to get it. This was my mom’s good pole she’d donated to our phase. I had to rescue it. In I went, hoping not to step on any reptilian lake creatures.

Phew. Reel retrieved, my mom mentioned how we didn’t have time to cover reel loss in our lesson, and tried to comfort me by telling me, “It happens to everybody.” Smirks from nearby fishermen indicated otherwise.

Pole re-tooled, we edged closer to Mr. Fancy Fly Fisherman and with humility my mom asked, “Do you think you could help my grandson with a fish?”

“Would he like to land one?” asked the fish whisperer.

“OH, YEAH!” So FW and Jordan landed one, then two and my mom landed one and guess who just kept losing worms? You got it. Worm after worm went on and promptly off my hook, feeding all the fish in the lake.

“Maybe my role in life is not to bring the fish in, but just to feed them,” I thought. And with that, we packed up our sun-burned bodies, our three “dispatched” and cleaned fish and headed out.

“We can tell Dad we each caught one,” said Jordan smiling.

“That’s okay. We’ll just tell him I had the one that got away.”

Hot Rod Palooza

Allow your life to unfold naturally. Know that it is a vessel of perfection. (From my Dr. Wayne Dyer calendar.)

I stumbled upon a story while working on another story. Me and Russell Crow. We live dangerous lives.

I was talking to this wonderful man, Max. I wanted Max to be my grandpa. Max was the head of Custodial Services in the 80s and I was working on my high school in the 80s for a future edition of the local paper. I learned somewhere along the way that if you want someone to be comfortable, get them talking about what they love. So when Max walked into the local Starbucks for our interview in his hot rod jacket, we started talking about his jacket which lead to a discussion about his newly built hot rod.

Turns out Max’s wife had died a few years earlier leaving a gaping hole in his world. She was a strong matriarch, the center of a large family. To heal his grief, Max toyed with a long time passion: building a hot rod. He enlisted his son-in-law and his grandson. His son-in-law loved old cars. His grandson needed a senior project. Game on.

Now I’m not a big car lover or anything and really don’t get this whole social scene, but this story touched my heart. I get misty just thinking about it. It’s more than a story about building cars. It’s a story about three generations of men, all dealing with their part of the journey, sharing time and a bonding that is often missed in our nuclear family era.

They started building this car from nothing but a frame. Getting the frame involved grandpa and grandson going on a 14 day road trip. I remember fondly traveling with my grandmother before she passed, and I knew this young man would grow to treasure that trip in a part of his heart nobody will ever reach; it’ll be his and gramps alone.

After getting the frame, they started building spending full weekends under the hood for a good year and a half. They finished up just three weeks ago, just in time for the local Kool April Nites. This is a celebration of old cars with hometown flare. For miles and miles all you can see are restored cars. Wandering around down the rows of cars, you notice “teams” with matching shirts that worked on a car together, people peering into cars admiring details with “oohs” and “ahs”, strangers who become friends over a common interest–a safe place to talk about non-emotional things that they enjoy.

But, wait. It IS emotional. There is love for the cars. There is admiration for the skill in building and the final product. There is admiration, and camraderie. And there is the bonding that comes from hours together of reaching toward a common goal as a team.

Working on this story reminded me what I already knew, but need to remember moment to moment: it’s about the journey, not the destination. When you let the journey be what it is, the destination can’t help but embody perfection.

Here’s the link for the story: http://www.andersonvalleypost.com/news/2009/apr/21/hotrod-project-becomes-more-than-a-journey/

Club Penguin Politics

If you don’t have a ten year old roaming around your house, you may not be aware of the cold, cruel politics of the must-do social media scene of the fourth grade: Club Penguin.

Under the lordship of Disney, Club Penguin is a program which allows little penguinators to run-wait, waddle- around in various venues and meet up with each other penguins for various reasons.

Once you sign up for Club Penguin, which you are really only supposed to do with your parent’s assistance, you get to give your penguin a name and a color and a few other things. You then go to a room with some catchy snow title (like “The Avalanche” let’s say) and you ask other penguins to be your buddies. My 21 year old daughter (who used to use MySpace and now prefers Facebook) calls Club Penguin “a playground for pedophiles.” The irony. Anyway, once you have made buddies you can do various activities in penguin land, like go the coffee shop, the gift shop, the dance club and so forth. Really?

So the kids call each other on the phone and they say, “Hey, I’ll meet you at the coffee shop.” They put each other on the speaker phone and start moving from place to place as they play Club Penguin. Mind you, now you can’t use the phone or the computer so if you share one, too bad for you.

But wait. It gets better.

All of this for free…UNLESS you want to have the bigger igloo, the better clothes and the finer accessories. For that, you’re going to need to pay a monthly fee. If you don’t pay that monthly fee, your poor penguin will only be dressed and sheltered in the bare minimum–oh, and not able to go to the “special places” other penguins go.

Is it just me or is this a really bad idea??

After heated discussions with our son, my husband and I refused to contribute money (or let our son contribute his own money which he was more than ready to do) for this concept we are philosophically against. We’ve had parents tell us, “But this is real life.” We question whether a ten year old needs to be buying into this allusion, and whether or not that is spiritually healthy. We argue no.

But these are old battles. Here’s the newest, most up-to-date penguin debacle.

Two days ago our son walked in with his head hung low and said, “Somehow Max hacked into my Club Penguin account, turned my penguin pink and deleted all my buddies. He did it to my other friend, too. He went into his account and put in a cuss word and got him banned for 24 hours.”

In the world of a fourth grader, this is not the little stuff. This is the big stuff.

Turns out there is lots of conversation about bribes and passwords that happens at school. It goes something like this: “If you don’t give me your password, I’m going to tell the teacher you’re cheating on blah blah blah…” Fourth grade blackmail. Or like this: “You’re such a good friend. I feel bad for you that your parents are too cheap to pay for the membership and I want you to be able to go to the stage so you won’t be humiliated so I’ll give you my password.”

Don’t even get me started on penguin support who insists–in really nice language–they are more secure than Folsom and politely chastise you for ever letting your child know their password and assure you that any penguin acting inappropriately will be delt with most severely but that only that penguin’s parents (as if they are watching in the first place-hello?) can deal with issue if the penguin is misbehaving.

My son, in all his wisdom, said, “I think I’ll just close my account and hang up Club Penguin for awhile.” We can dream. Of course, today is a new day and when the call comes in, “Hey, do you wanna play Club Penguin?,” I’m not sure the resolve will remain.

Small Town High in the 80s

Do you say, “Dear Diary” when you blog? Dear Bloggery?

I’m working on a newspaper article that involves revisiting my last two years in highschool. The 80s. Think “Flashdance,” Reganomics, the Me Generation, birth of the yuppies, hippies in recovery, the corporate suit, 501 jeans and Van slip ons. So in the last two days I interviewed the then Superintendent and the Supervisor of Custodial services and I realized their reality of what was happening and my reality were wholly different things.

I was focused on such important matters like whether or not I should cheer another year or just drop out of organized activities all together, whether or not I would go to college, and if I didn’t go to college, how the hell I would get out of the small town that was smothering me. If I did go to college, where would it be? We certainly couldn’t afford the application fees to more than a few schools and I wouldn’t be making visits to the campuses. Another main concern: my love life. How would that pan out if I moved?

After talking to my two sources, I felt some feelings coming back I had lost. This seemed to be a time when the staff really did put the students first. One controversial comment made by the principal to a staff member went like this.

Staff member: “You treat us like second class citizens.”
Principal: “You are second class citizens. The students are the first class citizens.”

Hoo rah! Who knew? Would have loved to be in that staff meeting. And having sat in plenty of staff meetings of my own as a teacher, I respect this attitude so much. It’s a hard one to have when you’re up against unions and could potentially be slammed up the head for that comment.

Sure, there were high expectations, but there was a strong awareness to go the extra mile for students who came from lower income backgrounds. If a student wanted to play sports, but didn’t have the shoes, the shoes would appear from the staff. I remembered how having a counselor who believed in me, constantly nudged me in the direction of Southern California and gave me the confidence to continue on with my education was such a vital factor in my choosing to apply to UCLA and Stanford.

I move through this life, open to dropping in to that just-right moment, when a child is searching for direction and meaning, and being able to offer that same power that I apparently learned at my high school in the 80s without ever knowing it like I do today.


I’m not really sure why I’m here except that my friend Ronnie told me a few years ago, “Blog! You must blog! You have a blogging voice.”

I didn’t quite know how to take that. After all, I’d never read a blog…and still haven’t. And this thing called “voice.” What is that anyway? It’s that esoteric thing editors at conferences always refer to in the seminar entitled, “What I’m looking for in a manuscript.” So I figured, “What the heck! I’ll blog. Maybe then I can put my finger on that voice thing.” Besides, who am I to argue with Ronnie.

I mean really it’s not like I can’t fit it in between setting up my website, writing for my local paper, putting out eHow articles in rapid succession, figuring out how to most efficiently use Twitter, responding to my Facebook friends and wondering if I should just nix my MySpace page since that seems to have died along with the rock bands that made it what it is today. Oh, yeah. And doling out feeding after feeding for my ten year old and his friend who seem to have dedicated spring break solely to storing up on their food intake.

Somewhere in there, there’s the rewrite. Pretty much have to work on that after the world goes to sleep if I’d like to do it without constant interruption, which as a beginner, seems to be what I require. Mostly, I just make myself sick with procrastination looking for the perfect time and space to work on my novel. Anne Lamott speaks to this in Bird to Bird. Should probably go back and read that part again.

I titled this blog “Writing Matters” because that’s what I like to write about–things that matter and this takes my concentration, solitude and a hairband to keep my hair completely off my face. Not sure why that helps, but I swear it does. Obviously there’s the word play (matters about writing) which is what I obsess on the rest of the time, intellectually feeding on each writing magazine that comes my way and book after book on writing.

So here we are. I feel as if I started my diary, written in it without self-editing and thrown it on the dinner table for the family to read. Only, who reads this? Does anybody read it? Is that why I write it? Probably not.