Tuesday, February 26, 2008

mammaries of mine

First of all, no, those are not mine. If I were not a public school teacher, I would easily post mine here for all the world to see. I have no qualms about being naked in hot springs or while strolling down Zipolite beach in Oaxaca, or at the Oregon Country Fair, but sorry, not here. I just thought a lovely picture might entice you to read this post, which isn't necessarily going to be lovely.

They are, after all, only boobs. Behind and beyond the painful adolescence, the sexual pleasure, and the miracle of mother's milk, lies the simple fact of biological life.

And death.

"The envelope" arrived for me today from Memorial Hospital. If you have ever had a mammogram, you will know this letter. It has pink paper showing through the cellophane address window, and your results are held within. I have always hated the color pink. Ever since I watched my mother survive with and die from breast cancer, I have despised it.

About two weeks ago I went for my annual mammogram. I arrived, I filled out the form, I read an AARP magazine. All was just dandy until I was walking down the hall toward the waiting room and read a sign that said "Mammography Seating". I'm not sure what happened next, but my chest tightened and the tears welled. I felt my breasts tingle and became painfully aware of them, almost like the "let down" feeling of milk coming in. Suddenly, everywhere I looked there were breasts. I noticed the old ones and the young ones. I watched the soap operas on TV, and couldn't follow the story because I was so busy staring at their breasts! Magazines, too. Boobs were everywhere! I felt like I was going insane.

Suddenly, I realized that this must be what it feels like to be a man. And I got it. I really, really got it.

The actual mammogram was uneventful, if you consider having your tender breasts squished to within an inch of their lives in between two pieces of plastic while holding your breath uneventful. And I never know where to look. At the wall? Down at my squished boob? At the other one hanging out in space? At the machine?

Anyway, it really was fine, even with all the manipulating and squishing and holding breath and making small talk with the tech.

It's just that while I'm there I want to rant and whine to somebody, anybody who will listen:
"You know what? My mom survived breast cancer for five years, and this is my first mammogram since she died, and I'm terrified about the results, and what do you think about genetic testing, and doesn't cancer just SUCK!?!"

But I don't say any of those things. I just stare down at my naked torso in the dressing room after it's all over, cup my breasts in my hands, and murmur gently to them, "Please don't betray me. Just don't. Not now. Not ever. Please."

Today at the Chinese Buffet, my fortune cookie read, "Don't be afraid of fear". But how can I not live in fear of my mother's fate? It is not death I fear, not even an early one. It is the long slow cancerous journey to get there that terrifies me, filled with smocks and needles and smiling nurses and greeting cards from my friends and worst of all, having to embrace the color pink. I mean, can you really be a breast cancer survivor and fucking HATE the color pink?!

While sitting at the registration desk, a pink-cheeked, pink-collared old lady smiled knowingly at me from across the registration area. I smiled back, but what I really wanted to do was scream at her, "I will never, ever be YOU!"

But I might.

Only time will tell.

Today, the pink letter from Memorial Hospital informed me that my mammogram showed no signs of cancer. And so today, I love my breasts. They nursed my first baby for 14 months and my second one for just over two years. For that, I am most grateful. They are the perfect size proportionally for my body. They still make my husband want me when he glances at them.

And yet they hold this deep, dark, terrifying secret. This potential poison. Knowing that I could lose them, knowing that they could betray my love at any moment, knowing that they could one day end up killing me......

Well, it's a love/hate relationship of the purest kind.

Monday, February 25, 2008

ancient secret

i cry
these two thousand suns of my bitter bed
from ache to mother
from shadow to lie
a sad garden goddess
her love symphony to all the ugly girls
drunk on music
each one
a staccato in her own space
spread out
like a concubine’s arms and legs
her head
keeping time


Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

derby dames

I have the utmost respect for these girls. They take their sport seriously, and are the hottest things on four wheels that I know of in this town.

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"In Segment 119, Springs Culture Cast reporter Sue Spengler talks with a few of the Pikes Peak Derby Dames All Stars after their win against the Houston Hard Knocks."

(If the video doesn't seem to load, you can watch it here: Derby Dames!

But perhaps most importantly, happy first birthday to Springs Culture Cast, which posted the very first segment today in 2007.

Amazing. I like anniversaries and birthdays because they naturally inspire your mind to wander to the place of, "Hmmmm... where was I at this exact time last year....?"

Look how far SCC has come in one revolution. Look how far we have all come.

And where were you, this time last year?

Sunday, February 17, 2008

number 71

Poetry was meant to be read aloud.

And so, at the end of it all, nearing one a.m., with eight girls piled onto my king-size bed, I read this:

stand with your lover on the ending earth-

and while a( huge which by which huger than
huge )whoing sea leaps to greenly hurl snow

suppose we could not love,dear; imagine

ourselves like living neither nor dead these
( or many thousand hearts which don't and dream
or many million minds which sleep and move )
blind sands,at pitiless the mercy of

time time time time time

-how fortunate are you and i,whose home
is timelessness;we who have wandered down
from fragrant mountains of eternal now

to frolic in such mysteries as birth
and death a day( or maybe even less )

e.e. cummings

Read it. Aloud. To someone. Now.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

how to train future english teachers

Bedtime conversation between my 8-year-old son and me:

"On papers that I corrected, you can write 'corrected by Grant' when they put them on the computer, ok?"

"Ok, bug."

"And on papers that you corrected, but I found even more mistakes, you can write 'recorrected by Grant'."

"You bet, kiddo."

"I only have three papers left. Can I keep them up here by my bed and correct them in the morning?"

"Of course."

"Ok. Good."

It all started earlier this evening when I was helping him with his report on the Ordovician. Yes, the Ordovician! If someone would have asked me, even a month ago, what Ordovician meant, I probably would have told them it was some kind of cream for bald men to make their dreams come true.

There he was, sitting at his desk, trying to finish his homework (writing questions about The Ordovician) as quickly as possible. When he was finished, he asked me to look it over. I pointed out to him (lovingly and kindly, of course) that he needed to put question marks at the ends of all of his questions. You would have thought I'd asked him to kiss a girl! He got all bent out of shape and almost lost his mind (the way one might, I suppose, after they've snarfed down way too much candy from Valentine's Day and you've already bugged them one too many times about "Allison").

Finally, after a battle of wills over a few question marks (I won), I noticed that he had written "contents" when it should have been "continents", and I asked him to correct that as well. More anger, more opposition, more defensiveness.


Then I glanced over and saw my manila folder filled with papers waiting to be edited on my desk, and decided to illustrate the issue rather than continue to harangue. About half of them had already been edited.

"Take a look at these. My students are all learning to write in English, and so I help them by correcting their stories. I put in punctuation marks and fix their spelling. They want to know how to do it right, so I show them. That's all I'm trying to do-help you become a better writer, too. That's my job."

Then something miraculous happened. He stared hard at all the red marks on those papers. (I usually use green or blue for editing, but being Valentine's Day, I had decided to use red for a change). His mind began to race. He wouldn't give them back to me. He sat down right there and started editing with my red colored pencil! And he wouldn't stop!

He changed "persons" to "people". He repaired comma splices. He placed periods appropriately in run-on sentences and began the next sentence with a capital letter (I showed him how to put three lines under the letter you want capitalized). He changed "agree" to "agreement" and "finded" to "found". But it wasn't the fact that he "finded" these errors that astounded me; it was the obvious LOVE and OBSESSION with which he did it.

Finally, after the lights were out and I was scratching his back:

"Maybe you'll be an English teacher someday, bug."

"Yeah, I think I'd like that."

P.S. My adult students are publishing their stories on their very own blogs. You can read the stories my son edited here:

Freedom of Voice

and here:

The Beginning Writers

and leave a comment or two over there for them if you will. All writers like to know that they are being read. It means a lot to them.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

mar adentro

The Sea Inside. Where was I in 2005?  How the hell did I miss this?

Just put it at the top of your queue.  Trust me. And don't forget the tissues.

Ramon Sampedro: "Only time and the evolution of conscience will decide one day if my request was reasonable or not."

Let us hope, someday soon, that the courts of law and the hearts of men decide that it was.

My mother also had some words to say about death with dignity.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

fire horse +

The Chinese New Year turned my mind 'round to a really simple and fascinating chart that I found in The Litterbox (don't ask, just go) a few weeks back.  I liked it because it had not only the animals, but also the elements and whether or not it was a yin year (-) or a yang year (+).

I am a FIRE HORSE +. Yikes! Look out world! I love this kind of shit!

My husband is an EARTH DOG +. I can't think of anything more true than this: "The Dog can be happy with the Horse who will let him get on with his causes in exchange for a little independence."

                           What are you? Does it fit?

(P.S. When I first typed that title, my fingers managed to leave out the "r" in horse, thus making me a fire hose. Hmmmm.....)

Friday, February 8, 2008


Somebody sent in my secret for me.
I always want to jump-
not because I want to
but because I want to
know what it feels like to

Maybe somebody sent in yours: Post Secret

in unchartered waters

in unchartered waters,

when the
pulses too orange,
the sky horribly
vast, and gravity both pushes and pulls......
when drowning becomes a
choice better than swimming, and
even treading water is too strenuous-

i seek anchorage.

a comfortable circumference security
in hemp
plenty of fish and a
small craft in which to catch my breath
salty tears of relief
like a newborn
seeking comfort in its mother’s breast;

when the
becomes a dutiful
cross too heavy to bear and
i, noose-clad choking in my
own martyred creation,
am struggling in circles-

i long for the horizon.

pounding heart in search of waves
paddling frantically waiting
for the crack
to open between sky
and sea
fierce and romantic
like an 8-year-old girl
with a brand new bike
and everywhere to


Tuesday, February 5, 2008

"hope" is the thing with feathers

I had never caucused before tonight. I had no idea what to expect. But here it was, Democracy in Action. DIA. It was fascinating! A small, diverse group of people, standing around in a semi-circle, speaking frankly about their candidates and their issues. It was insane in its provincialism, and beautiful in its simplicity.

I'm not sure what I liked most about my Precinct 50 caucus. Perhaps it was.....

The gray-haired man holding the little baby girl in the red velvet dress declaring that the only candidates saying anything reasonable about "his" issue: pot smoking, were Mike Gravel and Dennis Kucinich. Several of us hollered in communion.

Raising my hand for John Edwards in the straw poll.

Watching my husband raise his hand for Joseph Biden in the final poll. Integrity and pride he has in no small measure.

Listening to my neighbors' and friends' impassioned voices about health care and education. We put forth six resolutions! The cynics among you can say, "Yeah, like they'll ever get to Washington." But you see, that's not the point, really. The point is that people are thinking and caring and wanting and hoping and trying.

"Aren't there any other feminists in the room?!" (Most, if not all, of the Hillary supporters appeared to be women over 50)

Joking about where the Precint 50 after-party was going to be, and wishing we would have asked Guillermo at Cucuru to host it.

Finding a 15-year-old boy who wants to babysit who only lives three blocks away!

Taking dictation from our local friendly 24th street drunk who said, "The cost of living raise for people with disabilities should keep pace with the cost of living", and helping him sign his name to the resolution. It passed.

Meeting an 18-year-old young man voting in his first presidential election.

It was a strange thing that happened tonight. Magic. I knew half of the people in that room. Another quarter I met. It wasn't just a vote. It was a community-building exercise. I'm not waxing sentimental here, folks. At one point, in the middle of all of our discussion about resolutions, I simply said, "Why don't we just put down, 'Save the World'". Laughter. Because we know we can't. Because we know the forces we are up against. And yet...... I saw our small pathetic caucus, imagined thousands of others like it across America tonight, and felt power in words and hands.

And at the end of the night, I raised my hand for Obama, knowing simply this: his presence in the race is what had brought most of us out of our houses, children in-tow, curious about the process of the caucus for the first time in our lives, to stand around for one-and-a-half hours while our feet began to ache, to try and make the world a better place.
And that counts for something.

a nickel and dime

Expose Yourshelf now has 15 posts! What is most interesting to me, and what I never anticipated, is that it has become as much about the process as the product. Meeting new friends, friends of friends, and strangers.... all this has been incredibly rewarding in a personal, relational kind of way that I hadn't expected. I also know that the simple act of taking the photos has been meaningful to many of you in some way, and that makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

Thanks to everyone who has participated in my project so far. And if you haven't sent me your bookshelf pic, please do. Here are the rules.