Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Blow, blow, thou winter wind

Time again for a bit of the Bard. This morning my windchimes were tinkling merrily in the increasingly strong February breeze. At this moment, it doesn't actually feel like winter, since it's quite warm outside, but the weather people assure me that's about to change. Again. a

On a blustery February day, what could be more fitting than one of Shakespeare's songs? This one is from As You Like It, Act II, scene 7, and is given to Lord Amiens, one of Duke Senior's company who sings to the exiled Duke and his friends just after Orlando brings his servant, Adam, to join the company. Orlando and Adam have just expressed their gratitude for the kind reception by Duke Senior (despite Orlando's rather rude intrusion in the first place) and for sharing what food he has with them. The song (by negative implication) praises their gratitude, and also indirectly reminds the audience that the group are in exile in the wilds because of the ingratitude and malice of Duke Senior's brother. As You Like It is one of the plays I covered during Brush Up Your Shakespeare Month, and you can read a shortish summary of the play here.

In the following song, Shakespeare compares the harsh, "rude" winter wind to man's ingratitude and to turning one's back on a friend, both of which are seen as far worse than the biting wind.

Blow, blow, thou winter wind
by William Shakespeare

Blow, blow, thou winter wind,
Thou art not so unkind
As man's ingratitude;
Thy tooth is not so keen,
Because thou art not seen,
Although thy breath be rude.
Heigh-ho! sing, heigh-ho! unto the green holly:
Most friendship is feigning, most loving mere folly:
Then, heigh-ho, the holly!
This life is most jolly.

Freeze, freeze, thou bitter sky,
That does not bite so nigh
As benefits forgot:
Though thou the waters warp,
Thy sting is not so sharp
As friend remembered not.
Heigh-ho! sing, heigh-ho! unto the green holly:
Most friendship is feigning, most loving mere folly:
Then, heigh-ho, the holly!
This life is most jolly.


A word about the form: The verses are written in iambic trimeter (taDUM taDUM taDUM), using the rhyme scheme AABCCB. The chorus is written in dactyls - a poetic foot consisting of three syllables, one stressed and two unstressed (DUMtata DUMtata). There are four feet per line, making the chorus dactylic tetrameter, if you care to know such things. (Probably you don't.)

Here is a truly lovely version I found while skimming through YouTube. It's done by a woman named Molly Bauckham, who has a CD out called "Maid on the Shore". You can find further information on her YouTube posts and channel.



Of course, I could as easily have gone with a different song, For the Rain, it Raineth Every Day, but I just put that one up two weeks ago.


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Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Silly me!

I totally forgot to mention here that yesterday was the bicentennial of the first publication of Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.

In a letter to her sister, Cassandra, Austen wrote, "I want to tell you I have got my own darling child from London." You can see the letter yesterday's article in The Independent.

Have you read Pride and Prejudice? Or do you have a favorite movie version? Favorite line?

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Monday, January 28, 2013

The weekend

Well, will you look at that! Somehow it's got to be Monday evening, and I haven't posted here since Friday, despite good intentions to post daily when possible.

It's not like I couldn't have put a post up. I was around, and with computer access, if'n I'd have wanted it. It's just that I took the opportunity to "do more of what makes me happy," and then I didn't feel up to forcing myself to stay up extra late or whatever in order to put up a post.

On Saturday, my sweetheart and I went to see LINCOLN, which was an absolutely wonderful way to spend several hours. It's a steadily paced sort of film - it's never fast-moving, really, but neither does it drag. Daniel Day Lewis does such a tremendous job in the title role that it's very hard to see that he's in there; it feels as if you're watching Abraham Lincoln. Not that any of us have a clue how he moved or what he sounded like, exactly, but it's hard not to be 100% convinced that Lewis nailed it. Sally Field was good as Mary "Molly" Todd Lincoln, though I don't see her taking Anne Hathaway down at the Oscars, and many of the other supporting actors were quite good too, including Gulliver McGrath (who played Tad Lincoln), David Strathairn as Secretary of State Seward, James Spader as a hired gun to find Democrats to vote for the 13th Amendment, Michael Stuhlbarg as the conflicted George Yeaman, David Oyelowo as an African American soldier who discusses pay equity with Lincoln at the start of the film, and, of course, Tommy Lee Jones, who plays the noted abolitionist, Thaddeus Stevens. Heck, I could keep trolling the cast list on IMDB to tell you more of my favorite performances. There were that many, and they were that good.

On Sunday, my sweetheart and I headed to New York City for the day, where we met his son and daughter-in-law for a really delicious lunch at Westville East, then headed to the 92 St. Y for a qigong seminar with Dr. Yang Yang, noted researcher and author of a marvelous book on tai chi, Taijiquan: The Art of Nurturing, The Science of Power. (It was billed as a qigong class, but given the small class size - there were only 5 of us in attendance - it morphed into something much more intimate and in-depth.) (Qigong, pronounced chee-gung, is energy-gathering exercise, designed to improve the flow of qi (chi) in the body. Qigong exercises include meditation as well as movement, and tai chi, when done properly, is a qigong exercise. *The More You Know*)

Needless to say, both days were rather long, and as I do not yet have an abundance of energy, there was a need for naps and early bedtimes and such. But it was a wonderful weekend, and it was definitely spent in a way that makes me happy.

What about you? What did your weekend hold?

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Friday, January 25, 2013

Let's talk about point of view

Or, better yet, let's listen to Linda Urban talk about point of view, over at her blog, Crooked Perfect.

What I especially love about Linda's post from yesterday is not that she discusses what the different narrative points of view are - first person, third person and omniscient. She pretty much assumes that you know what they are.

No, what Linda is addressing is WHY a particular point of view is best for a particular sort of story, using her three books as examples. It just so happens that her first book, A Crooked Kind of Perfect, was in first, her second book, Hound Dog True, was in third and and her third book, The Center of Everything, which comes out March 5th, is omniscient. (It is also spectacularly good, and I have long held the belief that it ought to win the Newbery. No sh*t.) I know she didn't set out to write in those points of view just so she could write one of the best posts I've ever read about WHY an author might want to use a particular point of view, but it sure was good of her to have such great examples.

Speaking of examples, here's a sampling from her post:

I wanted [A Crooked Kind of Perfect] to feel as if Zoe was telling a friend a series of these stories and I wanted the reader to piece them together into something bigger — a process that is replicated by Zoe herself as begins to see that the world is a bit larger and more complicated than she initially imagines. So, first person helped me demonstrate character development, too, as Zoe’s stories reveal more detailed and sympathetic descriptions of the people around her as the book progresses.

* * *

Hound Dog True is told in very close third person throughout the novel. It feels like first person, really. It uses language and sentence structure that replicate Mattie’s voice and thought patterns. We are given no information that Mattie does not possess, but the sliver of distance between narrator and Mattie, and reader and Mattie, allows for a bit of perspective checking.

* * *

[The Center of Everything] could easily be told in first person or third, but one of the major themes of the book — the connections we make in a life– led me to consider an omniscient narrator, one that could go backward and forward in time, could explain town traditions and legends, could jump into the heads of characters other than the main character, Ruby. An omniscient narrator could make those connections — big and little, known and unnoticed — clear, in the way that a twelve-year-old girl puzzling out the intricacies of wish-making could not.
She sure is smart. And the full post is even better than these cherry-picked bits.

Go. Read it.

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Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Making a plan

You may recall that more than a year went by with me barely blogging, thanks in part to massive upheaval in my personal life. (Pretty much all for the good too - I mean, I'm really in the best relationship I've ever had now, and I'm happy most of the time, which is pretty darned great. But I digress.) And then, on December 20, 2012, I decided to start blogging regularly again, in hopes that it might help me start writing regularly again, too.

And it seems like it's starting to work. I have not put up a blog post every single day since December 20th, but I've come rather close. And the decision to find my way back to writing daily - by which I mean writing poems and/or stories - by writing blog posts daily seems to be working.

I've started thinking about some new projects, and have written a poem that I happen to like a lot. Plus I've been working on two new picture book projects.

And I've started thinking about finding my way back into that young adult romance novel I sort of abandoned when life got hectic. The one that is 5 chapters from being done, and involves me writing original songs, too.

Turns out that sometimes, it's as simple as making a plan. Making a plan to blog every day, or to sit down for at least half an hour to write. Or both. And yeah, the planning sounds simple, even if the execution isn't always easy, or even possible. But it's worth trying.

How's your writing going?

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Sunday, January 20, 2013

A quiet Sunday afternoon

At least, it's been quiet for the past hour or so, while my sweetheart is off at a meeting. Just the thump of a basketball across the street in the last day of almost-warm winter weather. (It's near 50 here today and sunny - the Arctic air arrives tonight, though, so we will only see about half that for the next several days.) And, for a brief while, the snick of a measuring tape as our friend took measurements on the back deck, which needs a new one. Badly.

Over on Facebook, a friend posted that "January Sundays are best for poetry and muffins and sunny windows and spirituality and movies and pajamas and candles and planning and reflecting and coffee and sofa-sitting. (And laundry.)" I believe that she's correct. It is a good day for taking stock, making lists, and for sifting through piles of papers that needed sorting. Some have been filed and some have been shredded and some have been put in the recycling, all of which makes me very happy. I've also been sorting through some books. There are quite a LOT of books in my house, and I've been going through them lately, trying to pare things down. The give-aways will all find good homes, and it will free up space here, which is a good thing. It's also a good day for crafts, or for baking or cooking.

And now, I believe I'll have some more tea, and perhaps another piece of the shortbread I made yesterday. I made "Jimmy's Pink Cookies" from Molly Wizenberg's A HOMEMADE LIFE. Turns out they are the best-ever homemade shortbread, which one tops with a tinted cream cheese icing with a bit of kirsch mixed in. I only frosted a third of the cookies, and left 2/3 as plain shortbread. Soooo good.

Soon, my sweetheart will be home again, and at 3 o'clock, we will watch football together, and later, have a nice dinner at home. But for right now, I'm enjoying the quiet.

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Friday, January 18, 2013

Good news

DARE TO DREAM . . . CHANGE THE WORLD, edited by Jill Corcoran, has been named poetry book of the month by our national children's poet laureate, J. Patrick Lewis, over at The Poetry Foundation.

As many of you already know, my poem, "A Place to Share", is in the book, paired with Laura Purdie Salas's wonderful "Just Like That". (In fact, it's the penultimate poem in the book, just before Bruce Coville's marvelous "Ripples".)

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Thursday, January 17, 2013

Small triumphs

Many of you already know this, but I've got rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia, two conditions that cause chronic pain. They also make it far more likely that I'll get things like bursitis, which is an inflammatory condition of the bursa.

Lately, they've been ganging up on me, including bringing along a case of bursitis in both hips. As a result, I spend much of my time with aches and pains and stiffness pretty much all over - kind of like an accident victim who's got the flu.

Not fun. I know. That is not, however, the point of this post.

The thing about having chronic conditions like this (and others, like chronic fatigue syndrome, Lyme disease, MS, and more) is that they require you to make adjustments. Lots of them. What used to be a do-able list before I got sick has been completely out of the question for more than a decade now.

The thing is, what used to be a do-able list before things started to flare (already a smaller list than a "normal" person might undertake) has been completely out of the question for a couple months now. And truly, it's frustrating as hell. I can reach the end of a day and wonder if I got anything done at all. And if that frustration piles up enough, it can make for a pretty down day (or week - you get the idea).

Lately, though, I've been focusing more on the small triumphs. I think it's for two reasons, and I figured I'd talk about it here, in hopes that those of you with your own struggles (whether based in a chronic condition or some other wrench that life has thrown at you) might find a way to feel a little better, too.

As I posted ten days ago, I've started practicing mindfulness meditation. I'm still working on it, and I'm by no means an expert, but one of the articles I found about it at Prevention Magazine.com has been a big help. Entitled "Three Weird New Ways to Meditate", it's right up my alley. In particular, I've been practicing the third one, the sleeping meditation. The first step involves playing back the events of the day in order - sort of like watching a short film of your day go by. Doing this allows me to see how many things I got done even on a slow day, like folding laundry, maybe, or cleaning the powder room or cooking dinner for my sweetheart and/or M. Those are the sorts of things that I don't necessarily take note of, especially if they don't take a long time or a lot of energy.

The other day, I'd have told you that all I did was go to the doctor's office and nap, but my playback allowed me to realize that I'd done two loads of laundry, emptied the dishwasher, stopped at the grocery store for a handful of items, stopped at the pharmacy for a prescription, cooked a good dinner for my beloved and my kid, and written a blog post. There was probably more, really, but you get the picture.

The mindfulness meditation allows me to see my days more clearly, which is a huge benefit. Even if that list isn't as long as it might otherwise have been, and I didn't get nearly as much done as I might have liked, I can see that I accomplished things, and that is a good feeling. It's one I'm working on honoring throughout the day, as each little thing gets crossed off my to-do list, especially after reading a fabulous article by Lillian Cunningham in the Washington Post, entitled "Exhaustion is Not a Status Symbol". Well, ain't that the truth?

Cunningham interviewed Brené Brown, author of Daring Greatly and other books, for the article. In it, one of the things Brown discusses is "the burden of not getting enough done".

The expectations of what we can get done, and how well we can do it, are beyond human scale.

And because there's always this readily available technology and you can get your emails all night long, there's no stopping and celebrating or acknowledging the accomplishment of anything. Instead of feeling pride or recognition, what everyone is instead made to feel is, "Thank God, I can get to the next thing on my list."
While Brown is discussing how changes can be made by managers and other leaders to acknowledge the completion of tasks and make an employee feel valued, this resonated HARD with me. Too often I cross something off the list and immediately see what other item needs work, rather than giving myself a moment to savor the fact that something is now crossed off my list.

Brown also discusses "the perils of being a perfectionist," something I'm unfortunately a bit too familiar with. (You too? I'd say I'm surprised, but . . . )

When I interviewed really successful leaders, what I expected to hear was a lot of perfectionism. But what I heard consistently was, “I do not attribute my success to perfectionism. In fact, it’s the thing that I have to watch the most, because it will stop me from getting work done.”

Healthy striving is about striving for internal goals, and wanting to be our best selves. Perfectionism is not motivated internally. Perfectionism is about what people will think. And you do not see effective leaders in corporations sitting on an email for three hours to make sure it’s worded just perfectly. You don’t. They have work to get done.

You don’t see elite athletes letting themselves be discouraged by a bad workout or a single bad performance. It happens all the time. They’re accustomed to winning, they’re accustomed to losing. Once perfectionism becomes the goal, they’re out of the sport. I couldn’t find a single example, when we talk about what perfectionism really is, where it serves us in leadership or in getting work done.
I have combined my new mindfulness practice and the tidbits of advice I picked up from Cunningham's article in the past few days, and it has made for a happier me. One who takes a minute to celebrate getting items off my list as I go, whether it's with a happy dance, a quick check of email and/or Facebook, another cup of tea, or a quiet, calm moment to simply do nothing. One who takes time to replay her day and observe the successes, whether large or tiny. One who takes time to acknowledge all the small triumphs.

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Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The rain, it raineth every day

Welcome back to Wednesday with the Bard. I'd have to be a ninny not to have noticed the cold rain that's been favoring my little corner of New Jersey this week, so I started singing "The Rain, It Raineth Every Day" to myself - a song from Act V, scene 1 of Twelfth Night. I especially love the version sung by Sir Ben Kingsley at the end of the excellent movie version starring Imogen Stubbs as Viola/Cesario and Helena Bonham Carter as Olivia, which you can find later in this post.

But first, the song itself:

When that I was and a little tiny boy
With hey, ho, the wind and the rain,
A foolish thing was but a toy,
For the rain it raineth every day.

But when I came to man's estate,
With hey, ho, the wind and the rain,
'Gainst knaves and thieves men shut their gate,
For the rain it raineth every day.

But when I came, alas, to wive,
With hey, ho, the wind and the rain,
By swaggering could I never thrive,
For the rain it raineth every day.

But when I came unto my beds,
With hey, ho, the wind and the rain,
With toss-pots still 'had drunken heads,
For the rain it raineth every day.

A great while ago the world began,
With hey, ho, the wind and the rain,
But that's all one, our play is done,
And we'll strive to please you every day.


Discussion: The song is written using rhymed couplets in iambic tetrameter (four iambs per line: taDUM taDUM taDUM taDUM) interspersed with "With hey, ho, the wind and the rain" and "For the rain it raineth every day", which is changed at the end to be a more finite conclusion.

Like other poems or soliloquies from the plays, this song tracks the "ages of man" from little boy through adulthood to old age. It is performed by Feste, the "fool" in Twelfth Night. I will remind you that during Twelfth Night festivities, it's a topsy-turvy world (reference to Disney's The Hunchback of Notre Dame would not be entirely amiss here) where the lowest man might be king - and the fool might in fact be the wise man.




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Thursday, January 10, 2013

The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perelman

Very shortly after it came out, I went out and purchased a copy of The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook for myself. I had tried a couple of recipes from the popular blog of the same name (notably, her oatmeal raisin cookies), and found them to be delicious. And I really enjoyed Deb Perelman's blogging style. Plus, as you may already know if you've been reading my blog for a while, I really and truly loved an earlier blogger cookbook, A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg, so I figured maybe this one would be good, too.

And boy, howdy, was I right. Probably it's because Perelman is an extremely detail-oriented home cook, who works hard to make sure that if you're going to take the time to make something, you'll be happy with the end result. (Her philosophy, as articulated in the introduction, is that "nobody hates cooking as much as they hate the roulette of not knowing if their time, money, and efforts are going to be rewarded by a recipe that exceeds expectations.") The first thing I did was take a week or so of evenings to read through it, cover to cover. No, I would not do that with a regular cookbook. But when you intersperse personal stories and such between the recipes, well, I get sucked right in.

The first recipes I tried from the book were Cinnamon Toast French Toast (a make-ahead casserole sort of thing that I tested as a possibility for a holiday brunch, though my sweetheart and I opted to go with a strata instead), Buttered Popcorn Cookies (yum!) and Alex's Chocolate Raspberry Rugelach (good, although I wasn't particularly good at forming them). And for M's 18th birthday, I made her Golden Sheet Cake recipe, only I baked it in 2 9" round pans, and instead of using Perelman's Berry Buttercream recipe for frosting, I went with my grandmother's recipe for Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting. (The cake was a complete and total winner, by the way.) We have been happy with all the results, so the cookbook has already earned its keep (three or more good recipes can be enough to earn a permanent place on my cookbook shelf).

And tonight for dinner, I'm making Maya's Sweet and Sour Holiday Brisket. Well, technically, I made it overnight last night in the slow cooker (one of two variations given with the recipe), and am currently re-heating it. I have tasted a wee bit of it (during the "cut it before you reheat it" phase of the program), and it is delicious. I sincerely doubt there will be leftovers, even though it's just my sweetheart and I having dinner tonight. (Hey - don't look at me like that! It wasn't the 4-5 lb. beef brisket called for by the recipe, but a much smaller, just under 2 lb. piece of meat when I started cooking. And it shrank, just as it's supposed to do!)

The one shortcoming this book has is the complete absence of SOUP. Oh, sure, there's Gnocchi in Tomato Broth and a Slow-Cooker Black Bean Ragout, but there's no actual soup. I see this as a serious gap in things, but perhaps she eschews soup. Or is planning an all-soup follow-up.

One can only hope.

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Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Sonnet 2 by William Shakespeare

Casting about for a blog topic today, I thought to resurrect "Wednesdays with the Bard". Today, I give you a reprise of a post about William Shakespeare's sonnet, "When forty winters shall besiege thy brow", a "hold onto your knickers" reading of the same by David Tennant, and a few brief remarks.

Sonnet 2
by William Shakespeare

When forty winters shall besiege thy brow,
And dig deep trenches in thy beauty's field,
Thy youth's proud livery, so gazed on now,
Will be a tatter'd weed, of small worth held:
Then being ask'd where all thy beauty lies,
Where all the treasure of thy lusty days,
To say, within thine own deep-sunken eyes,
Were an all-eating shame and thriftless praise.
How much more praise deserved thy beauty's use,
If thou couldst answer 'This fair child of mine
Shall sum my count and make my old excuse,'
Proving his beauty by succession thine!
  This were to be new made when thou art old,
  And see thy blood warm when thou feel'st it cold.


Form: A Shakespearean sonnet, iambic pentameter, ABABCDCDEFEFGG.

Analysis: Being one of the earliest sonnets, this is of the "go beget a son already, don't die childless" bent. As someone who is now on the other side of 40 (how did that happen anyway?), I don't like his characterization of tattered weeds and sunken eyes and used-up beauty. But recall - forty was quite a sum of years for most people in Elizabethan times.

And now, ladies and gents, hang on to your knickers:



You can't say I didn't warn you. What a voice! *swoons*

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Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Over at Guys Lit Wire

Today, my review of I Could Pee on This by Francesco Marciuliani. The review includes four of my favorite poems from the book (of which there are many).

I hope you'll check it out.

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Monday, January 07, 2013

On mindfulness

One of the things I'm working on this year is daily meditation.

I suck at it.

But I'm working on it.

One of the types of meditation that I find appealing is mindfulness meditation. My beloved seems to have developed an interest in it as well, in part because one of his tai chi students keeps sending him intriguing links.

If meditation - any form of meditation - is something you know about and/or can recommend resources on, please do so in the comments. Meanwhile, I'll be trying to be more like the dog in this comic that my sweetheart sent me:



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Sunday, January 06, 2013

Thomas Quinlan on poetry

There was a remarkable column in today's Philadelphia Inquirer about a man named Thomas Quinlan, who has spent most of his 87 years in love with poetry. Not a poet himself, he nevertheless adores the work of poets. Said his son, Joe, "His big thing is to read a poem and think about it a little bit, then think about it a little bit more. He's been this way throughout his life."

In the article, which is not only a profile of Mr. Quinlan but also mentions that an endowed lecture at New York University is now named for him, Mr. Quinlan says some really great things about poetry. About the kids he taught after he got his degree in English on the GI Bill after World War II, he said this:

"The kids I taught probably had more poetry than they should have. Because poetry doesn't come easily, you have to develop a taste for it. Poetry takes a little bit of energy and time." (Emphasis added.)
Quinlan later says:

There's something way down deep in human beings, something intrinsic inside us, that needs these stories. We read poetry or any kind of great literature, or listen to great music, because it's the nature of human beings to hunger for this kind of spiritual satisfaction.

You can live a long, happy life without reading a poem or listening to Beethoven, but your life is diminished. Such works are a door to a higher level of response to the world."
The article closes with Mr. Quinlan's observation on why there are so many great Irish poets:

"The Irish have traditionally had a hard life. They didn't have any money, so they had to come up with something that doesn't cost anything. To write a poem, all you need is a pencil and a piece of paper."
Seriously, how great is that?

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Saturday, January 05, 2013

One of those days

I'm sure you've had them, too.

The sort of day where you don't feel like you got anything accomplished, even though you spent much of the day doing stuff. My day included a lot of errands, mostly. A LOT of errands, really, and they were all things that need to be done (checking into computer repair stuff for two computers - one laptop, one desktop), getting a bid on a new deck, grocery shopping, car wash, Home Depot trip, etc.)

But it just feels like nothing much got done. At least until dinner, when I totally rocked a rack of lamb, some couscous, and carrots with an onion-and-cracker-crumb topping.

How was your day?

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Friday, January 04, 2013

An original sonnet for Poetry Friday

I wrote this poem a few years ago, when S was still in high school and M was in middle school. These days, S is a sophomore in college and M is a high school senior. My how time flies!

The poem is a Petrarchan sonnet, which adheres to the rhyme scheme ABBAABBACDCDCD. It first appeared in the excellent online journal, Chantarelle's Notebook.

Lessons I Wish I Could Share With My Teenage Daughter
by Kelly Ramsdell Fineman

Pay close attention to the words boys say:
It's not their tone or attitude that matter.
They frequently speak truth, whether they flatter,
Cajole, berate or seem like they're at play.
Don't be so quick to give yourself away –
You are more Alice than you are Mad Hatter.
Don't worry so much over hallway chatter:
Most drama lasts no longer than a day.
Sometimes you grow up faster than your friends,
While other times, you'll struggle to keep pace –
It's not a race. Remember no one spends
Eternity in high school. It's a place
To learn life's ropes, but everyone transcends
Their adolescence: suffering into grace.


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Wednesday, January 02, 2013

A cup of comfort

Tea is high on my list of things that are comforting. It is good whether one is celebrating something or seeking consolation, whether one is well or ill, whether it's a good day or a bad one. In fact, although I am not usually good at picking favorites in any category, next to a hug from my sweetheart, tea is the most comforting thing I can think of in this world.

It's small wonder that it has its own rituals in various countries of the world. And there's something very calming about the process of making tea, really. You have to put the kettle on to boil, then pour the water over the tea leaves (whether they are loose or in a bag, this part of the process is the same), and then you must exert a bit of patience and wait for the tea to steep the appropriate amount of time.

I know people who are extraordinarily anal and precise about the water temperature and the amount of time a particular type of tea must steep. (No lie - I know someone who sets timers for the tea, and the amount of time depends on the particular brand or type of tea in the cup. Assam tea is brewed for a different amount of time than, say, Earl Grey at her house.)

I am nowhere near as fussy as all that. I pour the water over the tea (usually a bag) and let it steep until it's what I consider about the right color, really. These days I've been drinking lots of Tetley, with honey and lemon added. But I have an entire cabinet shelf full of teas and tisanes, and sometimes I drink the other sorts. Some of them I like with sugar and milk, others with nothing at all. The one thing they have in common, besides being hot, is that they are all a source of comfort.

Here. Have a seat. Join me for a cup of tea.

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