One time my mom took my brothers and I with her on an errand. None of us were teenagers yet. She had to stop by a woman’s house, and of course she couldn’t leave us in the car. To my young eyes, the house might as well have belonged to Thurston Howell the third. A curving staircase wound down into the foyer, and on its own special pedestal was a small bronze figure of a woman in a ballet pose. She was naked.

We had been raised in very strict Christian schools and churches, and had never seen anything like this. Mom introduced us to the lady, and was talking about whatever grownup business they had. None of this was interesting. I couldn’t keep my eyes off the statue.

The woman noticed my brothers acting strange. They were silently blushing furiously and looking very hard at the walls. “Oh, you are embarrassed by the nude. Here, let’s go into the living room.” I was disappointed to leave her.

When I moved to my own apartment, without the censorship of parents and church, I was able to buy my own nude wall hanging. For years this reproduction hung on my wall:


She is lovely! And it says right there at the bottom “Picasso.” A billboard telling anyone that sees it this is FINE ART. She is naked and yet modest. I loved looking at this picture on my living room wall.

Somehow, when we last moved, she was put in the garage and I hadn’t seen that painting in quite a while.

Here is the reproduction that hangs on my wall now, frameless:


I’ve written about her before. She is in the room where I get dressed in the morning. She is also getting dressed, my beautiful doppelganger. Degas is a less ostentatious name than Picasso, but I no longer give a damn.

La Toilette is womanhood in action, practical beauty. She is getting ready to get going on her day. And no apologies, right now her boob has to be hanging out for that to happen.

When we cleaned out the garage I rediscovered my Picasso woman. At first I greeted her as an old friend. Oh! Yes! I have loved this painting on my wall!

Then I stopped and looked again.

She is tight and huddled. Yes, for those years she was my doppelganger too. I was stepping away from family and church, naked to all the world. Ready to experience and be exposed; yet still huddling protectively.

Poor nude Picasso.

Things are changed. She does not belong on my wall. I’m ready to open my heart and expose more to the world.

because this time I told her that they laid me off

She was too young last year when i got laid off, so I didn’t tell her. But I thought I’d tell her this time.

At first she wanted to start thinking of what sort of new job I could get. I told her “You do not need to help me find a new job. I will take care of that. It’s not your problem.”

Still, she thought for a bit. Since we were walking the dog, she thought I could get a job as a dog walker. Then she suggested policeman.

I told her it hurt my feelings a little bit that they told me they didn’t want me to come back to my job. So she invented a new kind of people, the Meanies, and declared that they were the Meanies, and they got distracted with fleshing out the details of what the Meanies were like.

But the next day, without me bringing it up again, she had more thoughts. After we got to gymnastics lessons.

Veronica says,  ” Mommy, you don’t need a job to feel important. What you need is someone to take care of. You can take care of me.”

I said, “That’s what I will do for a while.”

She turned 6

And Chris said to me, “Congratulations. Six years of no dead baby.”

Yup, that is the basic measuring stick of parenting. Not a perfectly accurate one, but a decent rule of thumb.

We kept her alive.

For her party, she had 18 friends come to Jumping Jacks. Well, we invited everyone I could think of. If I hadn’t been so busy with the job, I might have made better efforts to reach out to more people. But we invited more than 30.

18 came. It was a great party.

In a coincidence, the job laid me off on friday. But that is not important.

Her friends were amazingly generous and adorable with their presents. Most of them made little cards for her, which makes me think we should work on her writing more.

She got two games:

Monopoly Junior and Catan Junior.

So we spent a LOT of time today playing Monopoly Junior and Catan Junior.

Veronica is INTO monopoly. and Catan is a beginning strategy game. Chris can begin to teach her how to defeat the world.

I prefer monopoly junior. There is a lot of Math that is perfect for a kindergardner.

But I could see the world-domination gleam fire up in Chris’s eyes when we broke out Catan Junior. Veronica would do well to learn that skill.

Because We Live

I stole the complete works of Shakespeare from my Jr. High library. It was huge sin, but I was resentfully certain I would not get caught. I might have checked it out but in all my years at the k-12 Christian school I’d never once been shown how to use the library and didn’t know how to borrow anything from it.

I was certain that they would never miss it. And I needed it.

My brother had come back home after his adventures in Jr. College and tossed some Shakespeare plays at me, little single play paperbacks.  I ripped through them and asked for more.

“Don’t you find them hard to read?” my big brother asked.

“Why? They sound just like the Bible.” The school did at least tutor me in King James’ English.

I re-read them and knew I needed more. It turned out that Shakespeare wrote a lot. My heart burned for all of it. That’s when I stole the Complete Works.
Six years later I was perusing the English language books at the Russian American School of Tomorrow where I taught. The first class—older kindergartners in this English immersion school—had a library of English books. I loved the English translations of the Russian fairy tales, which were certainly age-appropriate. Then my hand felt the cloth cover of a tall orange book:ALEKSANDR BLOK

The all-caps cover and foreign spelling of the name. I picked it up and opened it.

What was this? WHAT WAS THIS?

Poetry. I sat down right away and kept reading. The words, the images, the feeling.

This time I asked.  Nicholai Ivanovich happily loaned it to me. These lines required solitude, a precious and rare commodity. I carried it with me for weeks and read it over and over in empty staircases.

Back in my native Alaska, trying to finish college. I never doubted that I would major in Literature. Life places obstacles and requirements on the way to enlightenment, though. 22 years old and I am attending my first literature class: Intro to British Lit.I walked in the snow between my three jobs and the University, because my car was broken most of the time. I still had homework to do. If I walked slowly I could hold the Norton’s Anthology in front of me and read.
If I read out loud to the snow berms and sidewalks, I could comprehend it. That is when I learned that poetry is very very tasty when read out loud.

John Donne’s flea.

Tennyson’s Memoriam.

When I found Keats Ode to a Grecian Urn I disintegrated.
“Beauty is truth, truth beauty, –that is all
Ye know on earth and all ye need to know.”

I have fallen out of the habit of poetry. I read very little of it, and I write even less.
Poetry is a jealous goddess and demands my full attention. She does not endure multi-tasking. I may be addicted to multi-tasking.

So I hide. I am afraid to have my world rocked on a daily basis.


I know I love poetry. Poems can rip me out of this time space continuum and hang me  by my heart in eternity.

I don’t want to run from this immortality.

There are more lines to read and re-read.

Best of all, not all the poets are dead.

My Darling Me

I reached a milestone yesterday: I finally got 500 LinkedIn connections. If you have 499 connections, LinkedIn says you have 499 connections. If you have 500 it says you have 500+ connections. I now look like I could have infinity LinkedIn connections!

It was a goal for me to reach 500. I really wanted to get there this summer. This summer I was looking for a job, so I spend a good amount of time on LinkedIn. Looking for a job is very uncomfortable. It felt as if my goal–getting a new position–was entirely the product of happenstance.

Except everywhere I looked, there was someone giving advice on how to do it the “right” way. Which was a lot of pressure.

So every day I would get up and try to look for a job. I began to get more and more single-minded and narrow in my focus. A JOB. I WANT A JOB. I NEED A JOB.

And every day I would not get a job.

I knew I was starting to get crazy. I was super unhappy. I didn’t want to be.

I knew I had to set myself up with an achievable victory, or a goal that I had more control over.

So. I decided to try to get 500 LinkedIn connections. I had 400 something connections. Surely I could fill that out and push it into the 500+ realm.

And still I couldn’t quite get there. So I was doubly foiled. Even the thing that I thought should be easy and achievable I was failing at.

Some of the job search advice talks about this. Our jobs can easily become our identity. I know I had put on my job–the one I’d lost–on like a fancy uniform and told the world what it was I did.

It was as if that uniform came off and so did my skin. I had no buffer. No wonder I was unhappy!

I didn’t have a space in my own mind to inhabit. What it seemed like I had a big clear spot for a vicious fearful inner voice to talk to me. A perfect acoustic amphitheater for my fears and insecurities.

I knew it was getting out of control. Here’s a job for self help and support groups!

One of my groups is reading a book called Loveability, which talks about self-love. Self-love is not something I would have pursued on my own. And yet…

In the isolation chamber of applying for jobs, nobody loves me. They don’t hate me, usually; they just don’t care very much. In the face of overarching indifference, I was left with the voices in my mind that were very mean and afraid.

If I wasn’t on my own side, it’s hard to persuade someone else to be.

So that’s what this self-love thing is trying to tell me. I get to be on my own side and keep a good opinion of myself. That I can move closer to compassion for myself and further away from being critical.

I haven’t finished the book yet. When I found this sentence, I saw myself:

How I felt about me was determined by how they felt about me.

I don’t want that to be true about me! And yet, especially during my job search, that is exactly how I felt. I must be worth nothing because that is how these hiring managers and HR people are treating me.

I know I am of value. How on earth did I let myself fall to these depths?

I have a job now. For three months I’ve been going to my office and doing work. Nobody is mean to me. I could tell myself, “Whew! I’m glad that’s over!”

I am glad it’s over. But it will happen again. I will find myself looking for a job again. Or there will likely find myself in a situation where I am valuing others’ opinions of me more highly than my own opinions of me.

Those 500 LinkedIn connections–when I don’t need a job anymore–feel sort of anticlimactic. These new lessons in self-love could seem that way too. Yet I know, I am going to need to build up my positive connections for when they are all I have. Especially with myself.


Mommy, I need to grow up faster

Well, you are having a birthday soon.

Des having a birthday make you grow up?

Yes, every birthday makes you a year older.

It’s really important that I grow up faster. I was talking to God about it.

What would you do if you were grown up?

I would do everything you do.

Like me? What do I do that you want to do?

Well…I want to be a super hero.

You are getting bigger every day, don’t worry. Maybe you will get to be a superhero

I have superhero costumes!

Yes you do!

should old acquaintance be forgot?

Seth Godin declares that there is no more mass culture anymore, and I believe it. So why do I feel like I’m being trite by having so many mass-culture-reference blog posts in a row?

Maybe the New Year is one of the few remaining cultural touchstones. Yes. The world is still spinning.

It’s not new to have resolutions and examine one’s life in January.

We’ve been cleaning out our garage. Such masses of STUFF that I must sort through. I confess I am a notebook hoarder. I feel deeply uncomfortable if I don’t have a notebook with me at all times. And I can’t bear to throw them away. Some delicious poems or essays are in these pages.

And there are a lot of to do lists. These papers don’t need to be in my life anymore.

So I can tear out the to do lists and phone messages scribbled in my notebooks.

Digging deeper into my boxes of papers, I even found old college syllabuses and term papers.

Time machine.

Reading again, I see that professor was saying something encouraging. “If you can expand on this topic, you’ll really have something…”

I remember at the time interpreting that to mean ‘as it stands you have nothing…’

Silly me. I’m not going to write that paper on transcendentalism again, but maybe I’ll learn to be gentler on myself.

Oh crap, look at this. A performance review from several jobs ago. I remember this one. My first ‘needs improvement’ ever.



I was shocked at the unfairness of that manager. He was peeved over a serious of other things that weren’t going his way, and he took it out on me so hard. I could barely believe it. In fact, I carried the memory of that review around like a trophy of horror. I told friends and co-workers, repeating it and fully expecting gasps of “he didn’t!”

I got them. I got affirmation I prompted them for.

What I didn’t do? Fight the unfair review at the time. I didn’t refuse to sign it. I should have. That’s the real lesson of that unfair review.

So now…more than a decade later…I still have that review. Like a dark shadow, saved and treasured in my garage.

What a foolish thing!

I flipped through the pages, remembered how it had shocked me at the time. Then I walked out to the recycle bin and dumped it.

Some old memories and acquaintances can be forgot.

It’s okay to make room for the memories that have a better return on investment.

I still have friends from that old job. And from the jobs that followed. I don’t need to spend another minute nursing an old wound.

It would be better spending time with my college friends, the transcendentalists. Emerson provides better food for contemplation:

“Be not the slave of your own past – plunge into the sublime seas, dive deep, and swim far, so you shall come back with new self-respect, with new power, and with an advanced experience that shall explain and overlook the old.”

So if you want to make resolutions for this New Year, go for it. More than anything, dive in. Look at this delicious smooth-surfaced year we have to play in! There will be old friends and new, adventures and doubtless a few regrets.

And always our each and glorious individual self to carry through. I am so ready to toss the ballast and make more room for my best self.



Post haste

It would be good to post every day

IhVe to carve out a time to do it

I have to decide what is most important

After all, so many things are important

Is creation more important than consumption?

Creation takes more concentration

There is this other category: maintenance

Like, it’s not creative to do laundry or dishes

It’s not consuming though

It can feel more like productivity, because it is necessary

One of the wonders of the modern world is how many labor saving devices we have. Freezer, washing machine and dishwasher

My home is a testament to my belief that we should do as little maintenance as possible

What’s the right balance?