Thursday, December 17, 2009

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

a penny for your thoughts

I poured 18,953 pennies out of six different containers into the counting machine at Air Academy Federal Credit Union today. Ok, so there were a few nickels and dimes, but for the most part, people did as my students asked and only put in pennies.

Back in September, my students and I began reading Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Journey to Change the World...One Child at a Time, the Young Readers edition of Greg Mortenson's bestseller. It has everything a Pre-GED diverse adult education class could ever want: perfect reading level (6/7th grade), the power of persistence, a hero, family, the value of education, religion, current events, foreign lands, guns, war, hope. We have had some amazing class discussions this semester. There were many times when I just let them go and listened....

After watching some videos, my students became ever more interested and inspired to do something. So I let them.

Pennies for Peace is deceptively simple: collect pennies and donate them to help build more schools in Afghanistan and Pakistan. But the lessons learned by those who plan and carry out and participate in the penny collecting go deep. My students range in age from 17-54, and they are either immigrants for whom English is their second language, or native speakers for whom the system simply never worked. For most of them, philanthropic giving is the absolute last thing on their minds. Some of the other teachers were even leery of the idea of a penny drive at first, because they didn't want to impose upon the already economically fragile lives of many of our students.

What I found, however, is that having the opportunity to be the GIVER is so very empowering! Remembering that someone is struggling even more than you can be a great motivator to not give up yourself. Alone, we can't do much, but together, we can. I know it sounds cheesy, and it is, but it's REAL. Just like the Velveteen Rabbit.

And organizing a campaign is a way to learn all kinds of real-life, valuable skills (NONE of which I wrote an objective on the board for, mind you).

Tomorrow, the "Pennies for Peace Committee" will make an on-line donation to the Central Asia Institute for $189.53. A drop in the ocean. Their drop. Who knows how far the ripples will travel.

Saturday, December 12, 2009


it was only a
lymph node, but it was enough
to ruin my day

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Monday, December 7, 2009

the future and the past

I taught my 10-year-old son how to text last week. I figured it was "time". It took him about 2.3 seconds to learn, of course. By the time he had played with the new phone (it's not his, it's the home phone) for about 10 minutes, he had installed a photo of BB as wallpaper, and entered three contacts (Kaiden, Mom, Dad).

Yesterday evening, John and I were in the kitchen, grinding spices and julienning onions respectively. Red Lentil Dhal was on the menu. I knew Grant wouldn't eat it, so I offered him the choice of grilled cheese sandwiches or cheese and crackers (which we would all have with our soup).

Suddenly, my phone chimed. I read the message, and sat down to reply. For the next 10 minutes or so, Grant and I had a conversation via text messaging, even though we were in the same house! I'd see him sitting on the couch, cross-legged, the phone in his hands and a look of concentration on his face. A few minutes later, I'd wash my hands, sit in the kitchen chair, and start tapping the keyboard. It was like having our own private conversation in our little house!

What follows is a transcription of the text conversation between Grant and me. It may not seem as hilarious to you as it does to me, but here it is anyway for your entertainment:

hellom mom may i have grild chease for dinner?
p.s. cani also have cereal with them

GriLled cheese aok!
dubliner or cheddar?

1 whole cheder, 1/2 dubliner.what about cereal? can i have cereal to?

Ok but only if u try 3bites of soup. please??? and if also if u use the correct version of the word *to*
check your last msg to me.

Which version of the word*to*? I will try 1 bite of soup. If I like it, I will have 2 more. then I will have cereal.

No deal. sorry. :) at the end u should have the word *too* as in *also*.
love u!

OK! Love you too! 'Bye.


After dinner, I found him on the floor, writing a pencil-and-paper message to his brother. In runes.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

coloring mandalas with my boys on a snowy sunday morning

"Only gradually did I discover what the mandala really is: 'Formation, Transformation, Eternal Mind’s eternal recreation'. And that is the self, the wholeness of the personality, which if all goes well is harmonious, but which cannot tolerate self-deceptions” (MDR 195-196).
-Carl G. Jung

The Master of the Mandala quotes Mephistopheles!

Faust [inspired]. Good! Gripping it, I feel new strength arise,
My breast expands. On, to the great emprise!
Mephistopheles. When you at last a glowing tripod see,
Then in the deepest of all realms you'll be.
You'll see the Mothers in the tripod's glow,
Some of them sitting, others stand and go,
As it may chance. Formation, transformation,
Eternal Mind's eternal re-creation.
Images of all creatures hover free,
They will not see you, only wraiths they see.
So, then, take courage, for the danger's great.
Go to that tripod, do not hesitate,
And touch it with the key!


In the Preface of the book that Ursen gave to Bennett for his 9th birthday, the author/artist says: "When coloring these mandalas children intuitively know what to do: they easily choose a design they like and the colors they want to use. By the time we are adults, most of us have lost this spontaneity and often ask: what should I do? My answer is to forget your 'shoulds'."


While forgetting my shoulds, I also shunned my duties and ignored my lists. I had hot coffee, a kitchen table littered with colored pencils, and my two boys. 'Twas lovely.


I was amazed not only by the meditative state-of-mind I found myself in, but also by the lines of communication that were suddenly opened up between myself, Grant, and Bennett. We talked about life, the universe, and everything in a way we never had before. Maybe it's because they're getting older, (and therefore, let's face it, more interesting to talk to!), but I have no doubt that some of it was due to the magic of the mandala.

After our mandalas were cut out and taped to the walls, G and B walked to the Farm Crest by themselves for the first time (in the snow!), and bought a dozen eggs.

There's a correlation there, I swear.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

i do like visiting graves...

You're The Canterbury Tales!

by Geoffrey Chaucer

You are extremely old. Somewhat lyrical in your approach to life,
you prefer that most things are said in rhythm. At the same time, you are known for
using words that the common people would know, rather than speaking in a more
elaborate tongue. This gives you credibility with the working class, who you would
give an equal voice alongside the wealthy or powerful. You like contests, long walks
on the road, and visiting graves.

Take the Book Quiz II
at the Blue Pyramid.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

You know, sometimes it's good to question statistics. To closely examine the method behind the numbers. To be a critical thinker. But when somebody I love (Hi, Nancy!) sent me these percentages recently, I just took them on faith. Sadly enough, they just felt correct.

During my father's years on this earth, our nation was at war 13.5% of the time.

During my years on this earth, our nation has been at war 17.5% of the time.

During my son's years on this earth, our nation has been at war 37% of the time.

During my grandchild's years on this earth, our nation has been at war 63% of the time.

To think that our nation has been at war for almost two-thirds of my children's lives is just so..... so..... so..... fucking crazy! And now Obama is committing more troops to Afghanistan. Thirty billion dollars and a year and a half later, where will we be?

As many of you know, my husband spent much of his childhood in Afghanistan and Pakistan as the son of a diplomat. I love to sit at his mother's table and listen to her and John remember. I marvel at the adventures of a young family in a foreign land. Unpronounceable (to me!) names of people and places roll off their smiling tongues and then, somewhere between the first and second martini, it all turns into one gigantic sigh.

I experienced this same phenomenon last month, when my family and I went out for dinner at Rumi's Kabab to celebrate our 14th wedding anniversary. By the end of the night, Shams (the owner) had pulled up a chair, and the boys and I listened to more stories of the glory days of Afghanistan. Again that happiness, as John and Shams shared stories of markets and travels and mountains. And then, eventually, that same heaviness, the profound melancholy of something lost.

I know we can never get the Bamiyan Buddhas back, but I just hope, one day, that the people in that region will know some sort of relative peace. And when they do, I am fairly certain that it will have nothing at all to do with us.

Monday, November 30, 2009

it was my big art show opening
the one with my published painted poems
multi-fonted gargantuan words filled the space
mine, yes
but not poems
just blog bits picked by a stranger
fraudly hung on four walls
faces i have loved
sketched by one i love
you were there
in black and white
with no words
and in the gift shop
a calendar of photos
mine, yes
but not the ones i would have chosen

Sunday, November 29, 2009

this i believe

It is not enough to teach a man a specialty. Through it he may become a kind of useful machine but not a harmoniously developed personality. It is essential that the student acquire an understanding of and a lively feeling for values. He must acquire a vivid sense of the beautiful and of the morally good. Otherwise he - with his specialized knowledge - more closely resembles a well-trained dog than a harmoniously developed person. He must learn to understand the motives of human beings, their illusions and their sufferings, in order to acquire a proper relationship to individual fellow men and to the community.

These precious things are conveyed to the younger generation through personal contact with those who teach, not - or at least not in the main - through textbooks. It is this that primarily constitutes and preserves culture. This is what I have in mind when I recommend the 'humanities' as important, not just dry specialized knowledge in the fields of history and philosophy.

Overemphasis on the competitive system and premature specialization on the ground of immediate usefulness kill the spirit on which all cultural life depends, specialized knowledge included.

It is also vital to a valuable education that independent critical thinking be developed in the young human being, a development that is greatly jeopardized by overburdening him with too much and with too varied subjects (point system). Overburdening necessarily leads to superficiality. Teaching should be such that what is offered is perceived as a valuable gift and not as a hard duty.

—Albert Einstein, "Education for Independent Thought"
New York Times, Oct. 5, 1952

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

meet the new boss....

worse than the old boss
the unlistening powerful
think they can change everything at once
anger has to go somewhere
neighbors will wonder
who smashed the squashes
bruised head
from brick wall
tired, so tired

Monday, November 23, 2009

love haiku

love in the same place
not unexpected but still
surprised to find it

Sunday, November 22, 2009

fake fist fight

These were taken awhile back. A long while back. When Grant still had braces.
All punches and photos courtesy of Bennett A. Spengler.

Friday, November 20, 2009

growing up is hard to do

I left my 10-year old son home alone (his brother was spending the night with a friend) for about half an hour today while my friend Elise drove me to my car. For the second Friday in a row, I had managed to lock my keys in the car. For the second Friday in a row, a friend bailed me out. Never mind the hows and the whys.

Before leaving the house, I hugged him quickly, told him to practice piano while I was gone, and of course, as always, no computer. He's a good kid. I trust him. I know it is impossible for him to lie to me. He wears guilt on his face like a caricature.

But today, I heard it in his voice. After successfully retrieving my car, and feeling a newfound sense of optimism, I called to check in with Grant.

- Hey, kiddo, I just called to tell you I'm on my way home.
- Ok. Did you get the car?
- Yep. I think I'll stop by Boriello's on the way home and get us a pizza to have during the movie.
- I'd rather have Blackjack.
- Well, I'd like Boriellos's.
- Oh, well.... I guess that's ok with me. Hey, will you call me when you get there?
- Sure, Bug. Talk to you in a little bit.
- Ok, Mom. Bye!
- Bye.

Suddenly, I just knew. The way a witch knows it's Samhain. The way my grandmother knew my father. The way you know without my insulting insertion of italicized adjectives or adverbs.

I've done this before: known things. Mostly with rather exhausting consequences. But this time, it's my own child, and it feels vastly different. I am in control. I know exactly what to do.

Dial up Blackjack. Drive straight home. Don't call.

And then there's that moment when you realize that you're no longer Sally in The Cat in the Hat. You're the mother. And you want the ending to be very, very different.

He intercepted me in the only-area-in-our-westside-bungalow-that-could-vaguely-be-called-a hallway with a hug. The kind of hug that says, "Hi Mom! I'm so glad you're home," while muttering, "Oh, please, please, stop right here... please don't go any further..."

I peered over his head, into the dusk-tinted living room, to the top of the bookcase where my MacBook should be. It wasn't. In the sternest, yet calmest voice I think I have ever managed, I asked, "So, where's my computer?" He hung his head, and stepped aside. I walked straight through the living room towards the faint bluish glow of radiation, reflected on the beige carpet, the orange walls and the back of the recliner. I picked up my computer, returned it to the bookshelf, and said, "Get your shoes on and get in the car."
"Where are we going?"
"Don't ask. Just do it."

I've never seen him move so quickly to comply with an order. On the short drive to pick up our pizza, I asked him why. His pure and heartfelt confession came spilling over to me in the dark from the back seat.

Through sobs and sniffles, he related to me how his desire to play Battle for Wesnoth had led him to "disobey" me. After his story, I really wanted to say something about him not taking responsibility for his own actions! But I couldn't.

I understood.

We talked about addiction, about feeling out of control, about how awful it feels, about solutions. It's so much less threatening for a boy to talk to his mama from the back seat of a car, I think. I let him know the consequences would come later. I actually think I heard him say something like, "Yes, Mom."

He understood.

I made him give the man behind the counter our name. I made him carry the pizza. I didn't open the car door for him when he asked for my help. Once we were home and safely inside the kitchen, I looked him square in the face and said, "Here's the deal. No staying home alone for awhile; everywhere I go, you are going with me. No computer all weekend. On Monday, you can use the computer, but no Battle for Wesnoth until a date that you decide on, and I agree to. Got that?"
"Good, now repeat it to me."

Which he did, accurately, to the very last word, while successfully interchanging the i's and you's. Without prompting, he went straight to his own calendar (we hung it up just a week ago), came back, and said, "January 15th. Is that ok?" I said I thought it was perfect.

- One last question, Bug.
- What?
- Do you want to tell Dad?
- Not right now.
- Ok. He'll be home in a few minutes. Let's make it like a party in here!

After that, I didn't need to tell him a thing. He put the pizza in the oven, and set the oven to 250. He put his shoes and coat away. He cleaned off the coffee table (no small feat) and laid out 3 plates. With napkins! John arrived home. Grant gave him a big hug, and asked him what he wanted to drink. After he had poured the juice and set the pizza on the coffee table, he asked us each what kind we wanted, and served it up.

The Two Towers began, the three of us snuggled up on the couch together.

It was, perhaps, an over-eager and childish attempt at atonement. Yet it was also natural and beautiful and mature. We crossed into new territory today. I can't believe I get the privilege of watching my son grow into a man.

can i write about love yet?

Yes. Yes, you can.

in the end
we shall turn back and see:

an integral dna strand
a loving double helix
a nonentity
for such a short,

the art of her and her husband, Jeanne-Claude said, expressed “ the quality of love and tenderness that we human beings have for what does not last.”

Sunday, November 15, 2009

back to the blog

I've been away for awhile.
It's good to be back.
I'll write more later.

Monday, September 14, 2009

a free grocery store without any meat

School has begun in earnest. For all of us. The mornings are chilly, the afternoons warm. Camping requires every piece of clothing. I have had a hard time in 2009 accepting the onset of autumn. Most years, it is a welcome change; this year, not so much.

I am no longer free to get on my pink Cruiser at any time of the day, and pedal to the garden. Now, the garden has become an errand, a location that we "stop by" on our way to someplace else.

Nevertheless, yesterday, on our way home from Up (an absolute DELIGHT!), we dropped in on the Old Colorado City Community Garden to inspect our plot. The first thing to catch my eye were the pumpkins! In July, they were nearly invisible, green-striped globes hidden by monster-sized leaves; now, they were bursts of orange through withering brown. Next - the Brussels sprouts! Petite little adorable things.... they make such a satisfying *snap* when removed from the stalk. Finally - the tomatoes. Now... that whole idea about pulling a ripe tomato off the vine and simply biting into it has no appeal to me whatsoever. But leaning over our six tomato bushes, inhaling, and reaching in for the prize, is like some kinda magic.

As my sons and I were harvesting (yellow beans, purple beans, onions, beets, broccoli, carrots, several varieties of peppers, Brussels sprouts, tomatoes, basil, thyme):

Me: This is better than the grocery store.
Bennett: Yeah, it's like a free grocery store without any meat.

Tonight, I turned this....

into this.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Thursday, August 27, 2009

i'm playing the trombone!

So there I am, standing in the kitchen trying to clear off some counter space so I will have room to prepare the lasagne that I've been planning on making now for about a week. It's that after school time, when I make sure the boys have had a snack, and then Grant buries his nose in a book and Bennett wanders outside with a pocketknife and a stick.

I knew Grant was having his first band practice that day, and I also knew that he was all set on playing the flute. Or so he told me. But on this particular afternoon, Grant wandered into the kitchen, and the conversation went something like this:

Me: Hey kiddo. Did you have band today? How'd the flute playing go?
Grant: Oh no Mom, I'm not playing the flute; I'm playing the trombone!

I just started laughing... poor kid, he thought I was laughing at him. It was just so unexpected, and the instant visual of my firstborn in the living room with a slide trombone in his hand just cracked me up! Parenting is an adventure, and you just never really know where it is going to take you.

After I calmed down, he explained to me that the band teacher had pulled out the instruments and let the kids try them all. (Thank god the piggy flu hasn't hit quite yet, I suppose, but still... eewww). Grant said he couldn't make a single sound come out of the flute, but "I can do this really well!" and he puckered his lips and made that raspberry sound we use on babies' bellies. I'm sure there's a more technical term for it.

Yeah, upon hearing him, I laughed again, realizing that the trombone really is the perfect instrument for him. I just wonder how he's going to get it to and from school on his bicycle.

Friday, July 31, 2009

happy frickin' anniversary

June 23, 2009
Last day of a 30-day course of radiation. No Problem! Piece o' cake compared to chemo! Feel great! Garden sprouts! Hair and a Tan! New pink bicycle! Summer! Dancing!

REWIND (cue scratchy backwards record sound)

July 24, 2008
Husband informs me (as soon as I am all happy-dreamy-post-orgasmic) that he felt an abnormal lump in my breast while we were having sex. He shows concern. I choose to go into instant denial, and don't even dare look at or touch myself until the next day.

July 25, 2008
Leave for a two-night camping trip near Princeton Hot Springs for the weekend. Spend the time soaking and hiking and trying not to touch it or to worry. It's the weekend, and figure can't get in to see the doc 'til Monday anyway. Still in denial.

July 27, 2008 - late Sunday night in my own bed after two nights of camping
Cry. Because I know.

July 28th - early Monday morn
Call to make an appointment with Dr. Zirkle, my young and handsome PCP. He's not there, so I see a woman NP who fondles my right breast with a questioning look on her face. Don't remember her name, but she makes an appointment straight away for a diagnostic ultrasound the next day. Call Sara on the way home. Cry. Pick up boys at the Burkles for what they thought was a playdate.

July 29, 2008
Diagnostic ultrasound. Suzanne shows up. I thought I wouldn't need anyone. It's just a little test, after all. Glad she's there, after all.

"Right breast diagnostic ultrasound dated July 29, 2008, shows a dense breast parenchymal pattern with an abnormality corresponding to a 2.1 cm cm in greatest dimension, hypoechoic lesion with irregular margins." Oh crap, a whole new vocabulary to learn; the exact one I never ever wanted to learn. They want to schedule a needle biopsy next week... the only way to know for sure if it is cancerous or not.

Hysterically, tearfully, tell whoever will listen that I DON'T HAVE TIME! BY THE TIME MY MOTHER WAS DIAGNOSED, SHE WAS AT STAGE 4! DON'T YOU GET IT PEOPLE?! I DON'T. HAVE. TIME! Get biopsy scheduled for 31st.

Dammit, I think to myself, here we go...

July 30, 2008

I decide to tell no one else until I get the biopsy sense worrying others about something that may turn out to be nothing. There's a pretty good chance, I keep telling myself, that it might be, you know, like a cyst or something.

Get mad at husband for telling his mother, because I don't want her to worry about me. Then quickly realize that he needs someone to tell as well.

July 31, 2008
I return for an "uncomplicated" ultrasound-guided needle biopsy. John comes with me this time. I learn another new vocabulary word: Axilla. Think it would make a great name for a Sci-Fi badass female character or a Derby Dame. Learn it's really just a complicated word for "armpit". Still think it would make a great name.

July 31-August 5th

Try to do the laundry and talk with friends and read to the boys before bed. Every day is an eternity. I remember a band called 'Til Tuesday. I just have to make it 'til Tuesday. Because that's the day I'll get the results.

Spend my waiting days with a 2 cm secret, a stoic smile, a welcoming kitchen table and an even-keeled telephone voice. I am not one for holding in anything, so this is a particularly difficult time for me. For once, I ask more questions of others, instead of talking about myself. Lying in bed at night, I barely hold on to my sanity. Give me chemotherapy any day over this hell of not-knowing!

Saturday, August 2nd, 2008
The second anniversary of my mother's death from breast cancer. I'm invited to what sounds like a lovely garden party, but I just can't make myself go. I can't believe that the world keeps spinning, that people keep going to work and making love and having parties. It just doesn't seem right.

Morning of August 5th, 2008. Tuesday.
I know the moment the nurse opens that door into the waiting room and calls my name. I can see it in her face, hear it in her voice. John and I stumble through the door, take a thousand steps down the hall, and are ushered into a tiny conference room on the right. The wonderful, motherly, optimistic ("this doesn't really look like cancer") radiologist who performed the biopsy all those years (6 days!?) ago isn't in the office today, so a man who knows absolutely nothing about me presents me with a huge white binder and these words: "You have invasive ductal carcinoma." Just like that. They don't even say cancer. Bastards.

Afternoon of August 5th, 2008
In order to occupy my mind, I try and accomplish some menial household tasks. I empty the dishwasher, slowly, dish by dish, taking note of each one, how it feels in the hand, how it shines in the light. After that, I simply end up pacing the house or lying on my bed. Doing "normal" things takes on a surreal edge. A hyper awareness permeates my every move, every step, every breath, every word. I am restless, and in shock, and don't know what to do with myself.

Evening of August 5th, 2008
I call Mike Carsten to see if he is working. He is. I ask him to make me a Cosmo and tell him I will be there soon. John stays home with the boys. I predict this will be the first time I ever sit at a bar alone and tell the bartender my problems. When I walk in to 15C, I am somewhat relieved to see Bettina and Aaron sitting at the bar. I sit down in front of my drink, and ask Bettina for a cigarette. After a slow sip and a deep inhale, I look at Mike across the bar and utter, matter-of-factly, "I have breast cancer." That singular moment will be etched in my brain forever.

Sara shows up. I drink another pink Cosmo. Bettina tells me I have a "pass", so I smoke one more, or maybe several more, of her pink Camels.

August 6, 2008
My first day of school. I am hungover and miserable and sitting in a meeting at 8 am. At least my boss knows, as Sara had the forethought to call her from the bar last night and tell her.

I want to drink and throw beer bottles out into the street and hear them crash.

July 31, 2009
So you see, here we are now, exactly a year later. From the end of radiation until about a week ago, I felt like a million bucks. Reborn. Then last week, emotions (but not necessarily memories) began surfacing, unbidden, and at inopportune and unexpected times.

Perhaps I felt them more because we were on vacation, relaxed, and I was more in tune with myself and not engaged in the daily duties of home.

In the "tummy of the Earth" (as Grant called it-otherwise known as Wind Cave), my body went into shock, and I cried for the stillness and the darkness of it all, yet happy in the knowledge that our complex planet has no concern for our trivial human problems.

My anger resurfaced for no apparent reason one morning at the Coach House (John's childhood vacation home in Wisconsin). In the process of making scrambled eggs, I went out onto the porch and threw an egg at a tree with every bit of strength I had. To hear it splat gave me great satisfaction!

While riding on country roads, I felt again that hyper awareness, that surreal edge. I felt as if I could ride forever among the cornfields and silos and old cemeteries.

Now I'm home. The summer is coming to a close, and another school year is about to begin. My mind and body are sorting out the events of the past year.

Welcome to Year 2.

Friday, July 3, 2009

the perfect yellow

My best friend in high school had this poster on her wall, right where we could lie on her water bed and stare at it, dreamy-eyed, for hours. It was 1983. I wonder if she still has it, stored away in some dark place with all the other relics of youth. Seeing it now, I can almost feel the adolescent idolatrous idealist inside of me.

Last night, I danced with two friends to a whole set of nothing but Michael Jackson tunes, at a Denver club where most of the patrons were half our age. They ate sushi; I ate edamame. We were overdressed and didn't give a shit, because we were all wearing something that made us happy. The young men could tell we were dancing in our own little worlds, and they mostly seemed to respect that somehow, even as they joined in. Smiles and just plain fun all around.

Tonight, my sons and I stayed up way past our bedtimes, watching videos of "Beat It" (followed, of course, by "Eat It", at which they laughed hysterically), "Billie Jean", "ABC", and others. A cultural history lesson via youtube. Tomorrow morning, when night has turned to day once again, and the world feels just a little bit safer, we will watch "Thriller". Zombies. Dancing. How could that NOT be good?! Revolutionary, even.

It's all pretty messed up, I know, what with the whole Michael Jackson corpse extravaganza thing and all. Believe me, I KNOW people die every single goddamn day from all sorts of causes: some naturally tragic, some insanely stupid, others completely preventable.

But I really can't get all worked up about either the fanaticism of it all, or the criticism of it all.

All that matters to me, at this moment, is that he be remembered for his music. And the memories he has gifted, at great expense to himself, to an entire generation. That was some kinda magic. Let us all be judged on what we did well. On whatever bit of magic we managed to bring into the world.

I have been contemplating my beige-walled kitchen for awhile. Someday soon, I will go out and search for the perfect yellow: the yellow of Michael Jackson's sweater vest.

Friday, June 26, 2009

bennettism #101

In an honestly frustrated, nearly angry voice: "But I just don't get it, why is it named after a magazine?!"

Bennett - while discussing whether or not we should go see Battle of the Smithsonian this afternoon.

Grandma's influence on my children will be everlasting. At our house, they read Horrible Harry and Harry Potter; at Grandma's house, they read The New Yorker, Tintin, National Geographic, and, yes, Smithsonian..

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Color Pink

I have reconciled myself to the color pink. This pink. My new bike pink. The color my hair might be in a few weeks, if I can find the right shade of pink. The color of Olwyn's pink tiara I wore at my Done With Chemo Party. The Pink Brick Box my boys bought me for Mothers Day.

The bike is a new cruiser, fashioned to look like an old one. I drove past it every day on my way from school to radiation at the end of May. Finally, one day, I stopped. Test rode (this pic). Bought. No deliberation necessary.

It makes me happy to ride it. Happy to go at the speed of one speed. Happy to be a Rose Parade, with myself as the only entry. Happy to throw everything into the front basket (purchased later) and just go.

Today, I filled my basket and headed out to do some errands at about 4:00 pm. First stop, the post office, where I mailed my husband's 12-inch braid to Locks of Love. Two nights ago he let me cut it, and shave his head with the 1/2 inch attachment. Wow. He's had that hair for 20 years. Now he has hair that looks like mine.

While at the post office, I left the bike unlocked, but it was out of sight. A real lesson in trust. I only got out of line once to check on it. But I refuse to lock it up everywhere I stop, because it's impractical! Especially if I've got four or five places to get to before dinner.

Next stop: The Medicine Shoppe on Colorado Ave. I parked my bike out front (it has a kickstand!), and carried in my wallet and new scrip for Tamoxifen I had gotten from my oncologist earlier that day. While waiting, I decided to browse The Bookman. The pharmacist said the bike would be safer in front of his store, and he could watch it for me. When I came out of the bookstore and looked towards the pharmacy, my bike was nowhere to be seen! For a brief nano-second, I feared the worst. But when I looked in, there it was, parked in the middle of the pharmacy. The pharmacist had brought it in! I love my neighborhood.

I placed the bottle of pills in my basket, as well as the book I had picked up for Bennett for two bucks, and rode off towards the garden. We have a small but useful plot in the new Old Colorado City Community Garden, which is about six blocks from our house.

At the garden, I discovered new locks on the gates, and it just didn't feel quite right. They were definitely not Locks of Love. They felt like locks of exclusion. Even though we've got a deranged crazy lady roaming through, picking onions, and calling people names, that still didn't seem like reason enough to put locks on all three of the gates. Anyway, after calling Elise and getting the combo, I went in and picked some spinach and some greens, which I placed in a plastic container I had brought with me. Again, in the front basket of my unlocked bicycle. Needless to say, the salad I made for dinner, with some boiled eggs on top for protein, was second to none.

Baskets on bikes are not "cute"; they are PRACTICAL! It's so easy to just throw in what I need, and pedal out the driveway. No special shoes or dorky neon shirts with pockets in the back. I prefer skirts.

At some point in our recent history, "biking" became a sport, and not a way of life. I hate exercising, but going to the post office, the pharmacy, and the garden (I was also going to return a book to the library, but my neighbor I stopped to talk to was on her way there and said she would drop it off for me) on my new pink cruiser is just fun. I look for a reason to ride it every day.

I have a lock for it, but I lost the directions on how to set the combo. At some point, I will call the bike shop and have them help me figure it out. I will most likely use it if I park downtown and have to leave the bike for a few hours (yoga, for example). Until then, I will continue to roam the Westside lockless. With love. Like my husband.

Friday, June 12, 2009

overwhelmed by goodness

The past week or two has been jam-packed with amazing experiences. I marvel sometimes at how so many good things can happen in such a short time! Life has found me smiling more often than not these days....

A simple yet thrilling four-hour rafting trip down the Arkansas River returned my lost sense of strength and bravery. The next day, I wandered alone around Valley View Hot Springs until I found the pool where John and I sat nearly 14 years ago on the day before he proposed.

A week ago Friday, I had an amazing "love from strangers" day.... I held drawings of me and my mom in my hand, sketched by a woman who had seen our pictures on the blog. I received a bracelet with the word "HOPE" on it from another radiation patient. Later that afternoon, I met a woman in King Soopers who said, "I made your skirt."

Last Sunday night I hiked half-way up the Sand Dunes with two friends under the light of the full moon.

Yesterday, I took the time to teach my boys how to make scrambled eggs and french toast, instead of just doing it for them. Cooking is so much more than just food.

This evening, I danced barefoot on green grass in the pouring rain to the sound of Quetzal.... some cuban-latin-funk-fun.

Each one of these events would be worthy of its own blog post. Filled with details and photos and lessons learned. The problem is, I never seem to have enough time to reflect and write about them, because each and every day is filled with something special and magical. And I can't seem to choose which event is most worthy of a story. And I don't have time to write them all! I really shouldn't complain about this abundance, of course, but it's getting frustrating that I never seem to sit down long enough to actually record and reflect.

What to blame it on?

Facebook? That's an easy scapegoat.

The end-of-school-year/beginning-of-summer/middle-of-radiation madness? Perhaps.

Mostly, though, it's this strange feeling that if I can't share it all, then I shouldn't share any.
This needs to stop.....

....... Oh yeah, did I tell you about the purple penstemon and prolific peas? Or about how I swam 12 laps and did a back dive at the pool today? Or about the pleasantly slow speed of life on my new pink cruiser? Or about the fact that I have completed 23 out of 30 days of radiation?

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

poem in facebook status update format

Sue Spengler
wants a job which would require her to drive a Chevy pickup on dirt roads, wear gloves, and look through some sort of lens
has amazing experiences, because she expects to
likes going to places that feel like foreign countries but that are only a half-day's drive away
is writing while driving on roads she's never been on before
slipped, fell down, brushed herself off, and remembered to slow down
thinks wars should be forgotten
picked things up and put them in her pockets
communed quietly with two winter coat-shedding deer
pulled over to take some photos; didn't pull over to take some others
is following a silvery sleek Airstream dream
worries that she missed the turnoff
has a thing for boxcars and junkyards
should not have doubted her instinct
has proved her intersecting point

Sunday, May 10, 2009

mom and me

My mother occasionally took it upon herself to sew or crochet us matching outfits. I remember how I felt while my brother was taking each of these photos. In the first one (1972) we were on our way to my kindergarten graduation. My bangs were straight (which wasn't always the case), my mother had pulled my hair up into a pony, I was wearing my favorite scuffed shoes, and I loved how the crocheted poncho enveloped me. I can still feel the comfort of the red-green-yellow fringes in my fingers. I thought my mother was the most beautiful woman in the world.

Fast forward to 1975. I'm in a quilted skirt with a scratchy liner and a matching too-tight neckerchief. My white blouse felt too big and bulky and made me feel ugly. My teeth were crooked. It was near Christmas, which was never an easy time for our three-person family. Mostly, I remember that I didn't feel like smiling or holding my mother's hand. But I was aware that doing so would make her happy, so I tried. Sort of.

In 2000, my mother was diagnosed with stage IV metastatic breast cancer. She would live another five and a half years before finally succumbing on August 2, 2006. This photo is from a New York Times article about Oregon's Death with Dignity Law. I remember how excited she was when she told me that the NYT was coming out to Oregon to do a story about HER. She just couldn't believe it.

Fast forward to 2009. Yes, today I donned my mother's orange sweater and Mayan earrings, and had my children take a picture of me "just like Granny". It's never too late to have matching outfits.

Friday, May 1, 2009

fline swu

One other note on this whole exaggerated flu thing: One of my Hispanic student's young sons was out playing yesterday. A little Black boy insulted him, and told him to go back to Mexico. I hate what fear does to people.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

the end

So chemo is over. Twelve infusions and 28 weeks later, I can safely say I have arrived. Still intact. A bit more fragile. A bit stronger.

I had my first experience of running into someone I hadn't seen for awhile, and giving the abridged version when she asked me how chemo went. Yeah, I was hospitalized with a neutropenic fever over Christmas break, had severe neuropathy, shingles, and lymph cording... it was hell, but I made it.

It was strange, looking back on it like that. The day was sunny, I was strolling rather happily around the neighborhood taking in the tulips, and the fuzz on my head was as downy as a newborn chick. All of the sudden, it seemed as if I had awoken from a really bad dream, the details a bit hazy.

And now to the most Frequently Asked Question That I Am Getting Tired Of Answering. It comes in various forms.

Is it all gone now?
Did they get it all?
So, there's no more cancer?

I know what they mean. They want to know if I'm going to live. And for how long. Cancer is all about "how to talk around death". I appreciate most the people who have understood that to be diagnosed with cancer is to look mortality in the face and have a serious come-to-Jesus talk.

Anyway, here's the answer, as well as I can explain it:
First, the data, from a handy computer program that takes into account your age, general health, size and grade of tumor, and number of lymph nodes affected: With no treatment except surgery, I would have had a 62% chance of being alive with no recurrence in ten years. With chemo, it brought it up to 82%. If I choose to take Tamoxifen, it will bring that up to an 88% chance of seeing the year 2019. Chemotherapy doesn't "get it all". It gets about 99.9% of any cancer cells that might have leaked out of the tumor into my lymph system. It only takes one rogue cell, traveling around and deciding to lodge itself in my bones or lungs or liver X number of years in the future, for the cancer to return. There are no guarantees. It will never be "all gone".

I am an idealist at heart, yes. I see the bright side of just about every godddamn problem there is. I believe the best about everyone. Pollyanna should have been my middle name. If I had to, I could find something positive to say about cat poop!

But that doesn't take away the fact that there's a 12% chance that I won't see my youngest son off to college. You see, this is where cancer takes your mind in the darkness. It's not to be dwelt upon, but it is also not to be ignored.

When one is in the middle of treatment, there is focus, purpose, a singular task. Now that I have been released from chemo and have more decisions to make (more on that later), I find myself in a strange tormented limbo once again.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

barb spencer

difficult problems
in full bloom
through seasons of sweat and chill
a breakthrough may only be a small step away
all in good time
you can count
the power
ease the
day be day,
you win.

1997-1998.....In my second year of teaching sixth grade at Carmel Middle School, I was working with an amazing team of teachers. There were three of us. We all taught a Reading/Language Arts Block, and then the kids rotated through for Social Studies (me), Math (Lisa), and Science (Barb). In February of that year, Barb informed us that her breast cancer had returned, and she would be undergoing intense treatment for the rest of the school year. She would be taking the rest of the year off. For two young teachers, the news was hard; for our kids, it was devastating. Somehow, we made it through to the end of the school year, having lost a teacher the kids loved, and having to make due with a substitute they could barely tolerate.

Over Spring Break that year, I made Barb a journal. For the cover, I cut out various pictures and phrases from magazines, and arranged them together with some homemade paper I had left over from the days when I made homemade paper. She told me that it would be her gratitude journal.

In September of this year, after my breast cancer diagnosis, Barb returned that journal cover to me. She had somehow cut if off of hers, and glued it onto the cover of another. I take it with me to every doctor appointment, jotting down notes, unfamiliar words, statistics, observations of waiting rooms, phone numbers, and occasionally, things for which I am grateful.

Today, I am grateful for a found poem.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

moving day

it was the
shrink-wrapped tubs
of tiny treasures
that finally did me in
that, and the multi-colored
metallic dragon
unnecessary as a hundred
and eleven friends
but still
you wouldn't want to unfriend
a dragon
sometimes there's no need for
small boxes to
pack, check, x, stack
volume is fascinating
with its emptiness and
and imsorryifilostitness
patience I mean
with those too young to understand
friendship is never easy
and full of ums

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

WWYS - What Would Yoda Say?

Cancer makes impossible-to-ignore demands-
rearrange your priorities
be content to be who you are
let go of the illusion of control

Cancer shines a light on what really matters

I try not to think trite thoughts
(Do or do not; there is no try)
but I can't get
Pachelbel's Canon in D or
Klimt's Kiss or
That which doesn't kill us....
out of my head

I could even
a party now
with the
theme of "pink"
throwing up

Neitzsche was wrong-
I don't feel any stronger
At least not yet

Even the cliched could sound sagacious
if conveyed from the mouth of Yoda:

"Your priorities, rearrange you must."

"Be who you are, if content you wish to be."

"Illusion of control, let go of you must."

"On what really matters, a light cancer shines."

Beings are wise, not because they can
comprehend the complicated, but
because they can
simplify it
for the rest of us

"Makes us stronger, hmm?, that which kills us not."

Monday, April 20, 2009

number 12

Today, 4/20/09, at 4:20 PM, the IV machine beep-beeped for the last time. I thought I would cry, but I didn't. The boys were all there, I had had a good two-hour nap in the chair, and I just wanted the hell out at that point. I told the nurses no offense, but I never wanted to see them again. (I'm sure they've never heard THAT one before!)

When John and I arrived this morning at 9:15 AM, I was weepy without end. Brownie, 92-year-old Brownie, who volunteers in oncology, who brings me warm blankets and hot lunch and cold applesauce, and, when asked the secret to a long life doesn't hesitate when she answers: "I guess I just don't worry very much"....... anyway, Brownie was the first to say good morning, and unfortunately she got the brunt of my didn't-get-enough-sleep-last-night tears.

Gunda took my weight and blood pressure, and Susan drew my blood. That hour and a half wait for the lab reports was one of the longest of my life. Luckily, all was well, and my twelfth chemo infusion was under way. After some IV Pepcid, steroid, and Benadryl, the last bag of Taxol was hung. At that point, I knew that freedom from having my port poked was a mere three hours away. I slept through most of it, thanks to the Benadryl.

I became particularly close to one nurse, Anne. She was the witness to several of my breakdowns, as well as the one who broke the news to me that Matt, a 20-something young man I sat next to on occasion, had died. When she hugged me on the way out today, I did shed a few tears, and told her that I couldn't have done it without her.

That evening, Grant, Bennett, John, and I ate sopapillas from La Casita and drank Ibarra Mexican Hot Chocolate around the fire pit, each making a little celebratory, ceremonial toast. Then Grant and Bennett light sabered around the backyard. How I love watching them become Jedi in their minds and bodies and souls. It was after 9 PM before we finally came in; if you know me, letting my kids stay up that late on a school night is virtually unheard of! But I've learned a lot, and one of the things I've learned is that special events allow us all to break the rules. I've also learned how easy it is to take a sick day (thanks Klayton and Suzanne!), and that I should do it more often.

So I've come to end of this chapter, and am going to close the book for awhile. There will be more..... radiation, hormone therapy, lab tests for ever and ever, but I'm letting all that go for now. At least for the couple three weeks until radiation begins.

For now, here's a toast to 82%! According the stats, I have an 82% chance of living 10 years with no relapse. I'm going to make sure and take Brownie's advice, and not worry about the other 18%!

At about 9:15 PM, 12 hours after arriving in oncology this morning, we popped the final balloon:

Sunday, April 19, 2009

arundhati roy

Author of one of my favorite novels, The God of Small Things, and now there's this:

and this:


When she is upstairs, she is petrified
That if she goes down, she will get
Distracted by the too-many-things
When she is downstairs, she worries
That if she goes up, she will miss
Hearing the doorbell's opportunities

Where the hell is the Mezzanine, she
wonders, when you really need it?

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Cancer Snuck In

In her black overcoat
nudging open the door
like a stealth robber
and she has been here ever since.

she changes everything
crowds the bookshelves with unwanted binders
her hand hovers over the jewelry box;
she will steal now, she says;
just like she stole your mother’s

Tonight, she climbs
into the shower and taunts, “Truth or Dare?”
before daring me to
look down at the truth
later, she crawls under the covers
between us
stripping sexy from the lexicon
and whispering whatifs
in my ear

Even as I sit here,
she lurks behind me
threatening to
invade every conversation
and bends over my naked dome
and quietly demands,
From now on,
you write about me.

[using the poem “Death Barges In” by Kathleen Sheeder Bonanno as a template]

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

number 5

Mothers' Day
in Mexico
is always on May 10th
like mothers should be
but frequently are not

Monday, April 13, 2009

light of day

through sleep-shifted eyes, the room appears
picassoesque, water color effects-
highways and high seas wandering beyond...

into spaces perhaps they oughtn't

words (too thin) fly through air (too thick) and
like dust on the dresser
of duties left undone

[suggestions for titles welcome]

Sunday, April 12, 2009

eurich's steampunk dragon

ferrus interruptus 10

he remembers the winter
when patches appeared on his too-short trousers
and his mother often found
food on their porch-
origin known or unknown, they ate

the dinner table talk was harder to
hold onto that year, but still he listened,
for he discovered he could hear
even behind tone
and gesture

that year, he became Harry Potter for the third time,
Anakin for the fourth,
and a Dragonborn Paladin for the first.

that year, his mother left for mysterious places;
he missed her more than he was able to show,
and sometimes more than she was able to see

that year, he put metal in the microwave,
never returned the lid to the litter box,
and mismatched the socks.

that year, magic was real,
and there was still-
real maple syrup
clean clothes
the symphony
a wedding
solo flight

Saturday, April 11, 2009

the morning

it began with
a peeling open of the eyelids
to see a clementine on fire


it was a suffusion of
gray and unwinding dreams

either way
it was

Friday, April 10, 2009

for deposit only

just for today, i will
grow skin as thick as
century-old cedars, guard
my heart from
cupid's arrow and
my breast from
cancer's lust. i will not
cry for unknown loss nor
weep for the unblossomed

[written on the back of a deposit slip in the car while waiting for the boys to get out of school]

Thursday, April 9, 2009


Being that it's poetry month and all, I have decided to challenge myself to write a poem a day. I will post it here. Even if it's bad. Which it probably will be. But I need some sort of external motivation, you know? Something to make me get up off the couch and grab a pen when the first (or usually, the last) line pops into my head. I have missed so many. We'll see.....

So for today, just to get me started, I'll post an old one:

hwy 101 with dad

It takes time, yes, for
liquid lies to solidify into stories
of Alaskan icebergs-
impervious to the truth of our
emotions, hidden somewhere in
the mist of Oregon’s
simplified seventies psychobabble
poured out as
rationalization for falling
in love and out of love and in love

"you’ve changed", she said
it takes time, yes, but
we all change-
the world changes
not even global warming can melt these
lies turned into truths by the telling
over and over and over

tell me something about the nature of
the human heart
that doesn’t fit into a box-
but rather
an endless curving road
miles stretching ahead and behind
we drive forwards, you know, to get
to where we’re going
and rarely ever look back

Sunday, April 5, 2009

stephen colbert on motherhood

Being a mom is no picnic. Raising the kids is the mother's responsibility. It's a thankless, solitary job, like sheriff or Pope.

On the plus side, they do get to wear cool hats.

just when you think it can't get any more absurd....

it does!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

too much

The day started out rough enough.... an argument with my oldest over his science project (whoever invented "Science Fair" anyway?!) Truce drawn, we managed to get out the door with all four potted radishes, grown under different light conditions, only to find out there was a two-hour delay. Part of the reason for the argument was that my son has had two miserable nights of sleep in a row. Seems that they were telling scary stories in class day before yesterday, in preparation for a "Fourth Grade Camp-in" while the fifth graders are away at Outdoor School. Being the sweet sensitive soul that he is, with a thin fantasy/reality line, he has had a hard time getting to sleep the past two nights. Last night, he woke up screaming at 3 AM, and I had to camp out in his room for about two hours until he finally managed to relax and drift off to dreamland. The worst part is that he felt sorry for ME, and his brother, for keeping us up.

Later that day, while my students were working in the computer lab on their blogs, I took some time to read some blogs of friends I hadn't visited for awhile. Turns out another one of my blog friends was recently diagnosed with DCIS, and had surgery. That's number three! Three blog friends who have had cancer after me! I feel fucking contagious or something! If you don't want breast cancer, don't read my blog!

After class, one of my students, one of my favorite students, stayed after class to tell me that her 14-year-old daughter, who she had been struggling with, is pregnant. (Don't think all teachers do is teach!) The girl has no choice but to have the baby. My student is a single mother of FOUR teenagers, who has always tried her best to keep them involved in school, give them a good life, etc.., and now she feels as if she has failed. Having no tissues in my room, I had to watch her wipe her eyes repeatedly with the sleeve of her red sweater. The cuff of my sleeve holds evidence of my tears as well.

To top off the morning, on the drive home, I kept thinking about Timber, who I didn't know but many of my friends did. Suicide. Having to read others' outpourings of love and regret and loss is incredibly difficult.

I just wish there were something to take away the pain. Not my own.
Everybody else's.

Monday, March 30, 2009

The only thing that Bennett wanted for Christmas this year was a sled. A real one. Made from wood and metal, with a steering mechanism. He didn't beg for Pirates or Pokemon or Playmobile.

Santa was kind, and brought him exactly what he wanted. For two weeks after Christmas, the sled lived in our living room. Bennett pretended to ride it: face first, on his knees, on his bum, all the while making swooshing noises and fake screams. Sad thing is, it hasn't snowed enough here this winter to do much of anything........
Until now.

On Friday of Spring Break, after the infamous "Blizzard of '09!", we met up with several friends for a spontaneous sled-fest. In the words of John's immortal grandfather, "You can't beat fun!"

Sunday, March 29, 2009

grammar rules!

For Halloween of 2007, I was a "Grammar Nazi". Part AP English Teacher (grey wool suit, glasses, hair in a bun) and part SS Officer (swastika arm band, SS lapel pin), complete with red pens and white out in my pockets. I don't think I will ever top that costume. Even the punk rock fairy godmother from 2008 pales in comparison. So here's this:

Friday, March 20, 2009

vernal equinox

For some reason, it just doesn't seem right that the first day of spring should coincide with the 6th anniversary of the Iraq War. But that's how it is. Perhaps that's why, after so many days of sunshine, today finally feels like rain.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

seven random shingly things

1. I always thought shingles was an old-lady disease, on account of the fact that the only person I ever knew who had it was my grandmother. Turns out LOTS of people I know have had it! And they're not old.

2. Because I have shingles, chemo has been postponed AGAIN!

3. Tomorrow should have been my last round, number 12, if all had gone as planned. But because of all the delays (neuropathy, liver functions, low WBC, and now shingles) I still have three left. That's six more weeks.

4. They hurt. Kind of like having a knife jabbed into your back.

5. I'm banned from hot springs and swimming pools, two of my most favorite places.

6. I don't really even care anymore about chemo being postponed, or not being able to soak at Mt. Princeton. I'm not sure if that means I'm less depressed, or more depressed.

7. I am learning to live beyond "should have" and "as planned".

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

my first rejection email

Hi, Sue.

Thank you for sending your work, which I really did enjoy reading.

Because the volume of work received (over 1,000 poems) far exceeds the
space available in the Poetry While You Wait book, I have had to make
difficult decisions regarding which poems among so many fine ones to

I am sorry to say that we will not be able to include your work.

Please do, though, keep writing and supporting poetry in our community.


Aaron Anstett

Sunday, March 8, 2009

On the suburban street where I grew up in the 70's, there were many kids. We played together in the park that was situated in the middle of our neighborhood. For some reason, it had 100 foot Douglas Fir trees, and I realize now that the whole area must have been covered with a forest, before they cut the trees down to build our houses and streets.

But this was not meant to be a post about my park, amazing though it was. It was supposed to be about friendship.

Picture me, age 10. Scrawny body, long blond hair, hand-me-downs. 1977. Purple bike with banana seat and big handlebars. Quiet suburban neighborhood, born into existence the same year as me.

At the far end of 39th Avenue was my friend Holly's house. Around the corner and down a few houses was my friend Lynn's house. My house was pretty much equidistant from both of them.

I was friends with Lynn. I was friends with Holly. Lynn and Holly were not friends.

Or they tried to be, sometimes, if we all happened to be together for some reason. But those moments I remember as awkward, and filled with meanness. I could not figure out how, when they were both my friends, they couldn't manage to be friends themselves. So for the most part, I kept these two friendships separate. It was as if there were two circles, and I was the point where they intersected. My house was the literal and figurative center.

Fast forward to high school, with its cliques and cliches. I was lucky enough to have a "best friend" at this time, but beyond that, I never had a group of friends that I hung out with exclusively. I had "volleyball friends", but didn't do much with them outside of practice, bus rides, and games. We might hang out together during the season, but after it was over, not so much. I had "waver friends", but didn't do much with them outside of dancing in clubs and smoking clove cigarettes and discussing music. There were the popular kids, of course, and though I was certainly never ostracized, and was sometimes even included in party invitations, I was never truly a part of them (as evidenced by the fact that I was never voted onto Prom Court!)

I had friends who were jocks, preps, punks, waver, and outcasts. (I loved the outcasts best.)

I seemed to exist on the edge of many circles.

I was the place where several circles intersected.

This is what I have been thinking about lately. Especially tonight, after hosting my son's 10th birthday party earlier today, and seeing children and adults from several different "circles" in my present life, all together in one place.

For several years, when I first moved to Colorado, and during the first few years of my sons' lives, I didn't really have any friends at all. I had an infant, a toddler, a husband, and a mother-in-law, and that was about it. I look back on those days and wonder how I ever managed. Then I met Sara at my new teaching job (Hi Sara!), and knew instantly that I wanted to be her friend. Now, eight years later, I think I would call her my "best friend".

But just like with my best friend in high school, Sara and I don't necessarily have the same friends.

In my present life, I have managed to surround myself with several circles of friends. I value them all. Each circle. Each individual. Each one brings something unique and special into my life. Some are for dancing. Some are for crying. Some are for sharing soup. Some are for spiritual kinship. Some are for creative inspiration. Some are for fun. Some are for shared interests. Some are for the neighborhood. Some are for art. Some are for the intellect. Some just are. And of course, these are not exclusive categories!

And I never tire of meeting new people, and getting to know them, and expanding the circle, or creating a new one. Most of all, I enjoy bringing the circles together. They overlap in all kinds of places, not just me.

But sometimes I wonder if it isn't all too much. Sometimes I see myself on the edge of circles, and not really a part of any of them. At these times, I long for the relationships you read about in books, you know, the four women that have been friends forever and ever........

But then I look back on my past, and I realize: I am not that person, the one who has the same friends forever and ever. I live within and among many. It's just who I am.

Today, I observed this same phenomenon with my son. At the party this afternoon, there were his old friends, his school friends, his Dungeons and Dragons friends, his neighborhood friends. Like mine, some of these overlap in several places, but others are completely separate, joined only together by HIM.

I hope he can see himself, not on the edge of many circles, but as the center of them all.

Monday, March 2, 2009

bye-bye nine!

I'm ashamed to admit that my first thought upon opening my eyes this morning and reentering the world of light and life was not, "Hey, it's my son's tenth birthday!!!" but rather it was, "Oh, chemo."

I lay there for a short while. After I had slowly crawled out of my own ego, John and I walked downstairs and sang Grant awake.

Later, after taking the boys to school, Brandy drove me to chemo. It was, thankfully, uneventful. Grandma came over for Chinese food and cake. At the end of the night, Grant popped balloon number nine. He's no longer nine. I'm no longer stuck at nine. These two events, his birthday and my chemo, will be inextricably linked in my memory for as long as I live.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

it's all about the process

Too often, I don't think I give myself enough credit for my creativity. I see it so readily in others, perhaps because I tend to surround myself with so many talented and creative people.

Here, though, is an example of what I can do (with a little help from my friends and family) when I put my mind to it. It's taken roughly two years, but the tile mosaic in my bathroom is FINISHED!

The shell angel(above) is a tribute to my mother, who, I believe, really did see angels once.

The sun was the first design to go in (of course!). Followed shortly by the volcano that Bennett helped to create.

Thanks to Sara, who assisted me with this lupine. But mostly she helped me get over my self-doubt and sluggish mentality. To the right of the lupine, you will see pieces from my mother's broken hotplate from Alaska, with Mt. McKinley in the center.

Into this blue-green montage went the pieces of a small bowl I broke. It was one of my husband's favorites, a piece of Russian Gardner porcelain passed down from his parents. I still feel horrible about it. (Advice: never, ever, get a stone kitchen floor! Everything breaks instantly when it hits.) Also some cool polished glass found in the creek bed behind our park.

"Mad-Eye Moody", named by Grant who assisted with this design, is made from some pieces I bought last summer from a local guy. I wish I knew his name so I could give him credit. He makes tiles and magnets and jewelry and barrettes from plastic he finds in the streets and paints with fingernail polish. Is that cool or what? If you look closely, he has a wand in his hand.
And the moon, of course.

Finally, in the corner, a trilobite and fish fossil, surrounded by some leftover tiles given to me by Chris Alvarez. They gave me the inspiration I needed to finally finish it off.

So now it's finished!

Well... almost. I still need to decide whether to use white or gray grout. Then I need to grout it. Then I need to clean up after myself. Then we need to get a shower curtain (clear, of course). Then perhaps, we'll actually be able to shower in it! Could take another year or so. Don't hold your breath.