Saturday, February 28, 2009


My hair is at war with itself. Tiny white wires are appearing all over my head, pushing aside the soft red hairs and grabbing all the attention for themselves. Right now, the soft reds outnumber the wiry whites, but it’s only a matter of time before the white ones win. And then, my head will be full of white antennae, some curling at their beginnings and stubbornly straightening out at their ends—others bending at sharp angles, refusing to be tamed by mousse, spray, gel, or cream. Each one acts as a neon sign flashing embarrassing announcements like, WOW SHE’S OLD! LOOK AT THE LINES AROUND HER EYES! or YIKES—SUN DAMAGED SKIN!

I’m hoping that the battle will last a while longer. I found my first white hair on my 29th birthday, and promptly plucked it out. As the years progressed, I began to realize that this was not a practical or attractive solution. Luckily, I have enough blonde streaks in my hair to mask the white strands for now, but their rebellious refusal to bend to the will of my brush leaves me realizing that in spite of technological advances in make-up and skin care, there is no stopping the march of time.

The hair on my head is not nearly as perplexing to me as the hair next to my mouth. This year, to celebrate my 40th birthday, my face decided to start growing hair next to the sides of my mouth. Luckily, it is an invisible blonde color, and it is baby-soft, so it’s easily concealed. But why is it here? What brought on its arrival? White hairs in my head, I understand. Stretch marks on my skin after having 3 babies, I understand. But this sudden, startling appearance of mouth fuzz perplexes me. What’s next? Chin hair at age 50? Ear hair at age 60?

I went to the salon this morning, and listened with rapt attention as the stylist praised my hair for its color and thickness. She said the white hair was completely unnoticeable. “It will be a long time before you have to worry about that,” she reassured me. OK, so maybe she was trying for a big tip, but I chose to believe her. I didn’t push my luck and ask her about my facial hair. Maybe the key to enjoying 40 is to see only what I want to see and deny what I don’t. A little bit of self-delusion and denial never hurt anyone, did it? Of course not. How could it?

Monday, February 23, 2009

Violent Dreams of Spring

Late winter is a
desperate time when warm and
dry is but a dream

I want to feel pine
needles beneath my feet not
dirty months old ice

enough with the dark
and quiet contemplation
I want brainless bright

I want sleeping seeds
to wake the hell up and tear
the cold ground apart

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Indulge Me

This has been kicking around in my brain ever since I first read about it online a few weeks ago. The Catholic Church is bringing back indulgences. Seriously. Pope Benedict and his men fear that we have gotten away from an awareness of sin in the world. And they want to bring back traditions that are uniquely Catholic, things that set Catholics apart from other Christians.

Apparently, the best way to do this is to reintroduce God as a jailer with a stop watch in one hand and a calendar in the other, keeping track of who has to spend how long in purgatory. Yes, that’s right—purgatory. That’s making a comeback, too: that dark cave of suffering where we are denied the company of God until he decides we are sufficiently chastened and sorry enough to join Him in heaven.

When I was growing up in the post-Vatican II seventies and eighties, purgatory was not something we focused on in CCD classes. I knew that it was technically still on the books, but didn’t worry about it. I have always thought that there might be something to the idea that all souls go through some kind of transformation as they pass from this life to the next, and that’s how I thought of purgatory, if I thought of it at all.

My grandpa talked about praying for the souls in purgatory, and coming from him it sounded like an old-fashioned, romantic notion.

My favorite history class in college was called Reformation Europe. I loved the Erasmus-Luther debates. Although I found Erasmus to be more persuasive, I found Luther to be an absolutely necessary voice. He pointed out excesses and hypocrisy, and cried out for a more direct relationship with God. And he liked beer, which I found endearing.

OK, so the pope is not advocating the selling of indulgences, but when we start parceling out salvation bit by bit to those who perform certain tasks a certain number of times, are we really that far from it? Do we need to cling to such a custom to feel more Catholic, to set ourselves apart from and above the rest? If our Pope and bishops have the power to take off days, weeks, months, even years from our purgatorial sentence, well gosh, then, we must be the One True Church, right? We can ignore the Reformation and Vatican II and just go back to the way we were, when everything was so much holier and simpler. What a perfect way for an increasingly archaic, reactionary, chauvinistic hierarchy to appear more relevant!

I know the Vatican is not going to consider my input on this. After all, I haven’t gone to confession in years, I don’t make it to mass every Sunday, I voted for Barack Obama, and I am a woman, for God’s sake! But the thing is, in spite of nonsense like this, I still feel like this is my Church, but not because we hold the only key to salvation, and not because I agree with the Church on birth control, the role of women, or the church’s attitude towards the divorced.

It’s my Church because I love the language of the mass. It is full of imagery and mystery, and at its heart is a God of sacrifice and unstoppable love.

It’s my Church because it holds up as holy the bond between mother and child.
It’s my Church because the Exultet of the Easter Vigil liturgy is one of the most beautiful poems I have ever heard: O happy fault! O necessary sin of Adam, which gained for us so great a Redeemer! I love the paradox that lives in those words.

It's my Church because on Holy Thursday, we remember by reenactment the Jesus who washed the feet of his disciples before laying down his life. I can’t believe that that Jesus would act like a warden or the head of the parole board and tally up our time in purgatory.
It's my Church because On Good Friday, it shows me the Jesus who said Father, forgive them. They know not what they do. Not Father, they’re going to have to suffer for a fixed amount of time before we let them in.

I will try to keep focused on my Church, my Catholicism, and try and separate it from the Church of Pope Benedict. It’s not easy, but I’ll be damned, or at least sentenced to a long time in purgatory, if I let them chase me away.

More Madder has some interesting indulgence-related thoughts on her blog:

Friday, February 20, 2009

Snow Berms

Up there the evergreens
Stand fresh and fragrant
Down here is sediment
From our grinding and going

Down here is everything
We belch from our cars
And kick up from our tires
Embedded in a late winter scab

Down here if we pick at it
It only spreads more
And encrusts our excesses
In crunchy crystals

Down here are barriers
Between street and sidewalk
Neighbor and neighbor
Asphalt and shrub

Up there the sky
Is clueless with clouds
Down here I hunch
And shuffle and slide

Monday, February 16, 2009

Little Spokane Haiku

Little Spokane winds
its way through February
like March matters not
Water meanders
past banks of insistent ice
to live is to move

Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Unbearable Heaviness of Being

My butt controls my life
It is the most powerful force in my universe
Stronger than gravity
Seriously, the magnetic attraction
Between my butt
And my office chair
My living room chair
My couch
My bed
Should be explored by scientists
Maybe I could write a grant

At times I use this force for good
I grade papers
I write
I read
I keep up with current events
I talk to my children
I meditate
But other times
My butt sucks me into a life
Of General Hospital
And Internet wanderlust
And bad carbs
And TLC and HGTV
And more bad carbs
And reruns of Project Runway

Sometimes I show my butt who is boss
We do yoga
And though my butt is tired
It’s a good kind of tired
And deep down my butt is glad
We go for walks
There are beautiful hiking trails
All around my house
But this time of year
My butt is more than happy
To use snow as an excuse

My butt pulls me down past
My good intentions
My resolutions
My expectations
To numb inertia

It thinks it is my higher power
And I'm afraid it might be right

I may have red hair
And more freckles than I can count
And a decent brain

But my butt
Is what
Is really in charge

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Hearts and Flowers

I know you don’t like Valentine’s Day
but let me tell you why I do.
By the time I was 17,
(cue the Janis Ian song here)
I was convinced that I was not
The kind of girl that inspired flowers
or gift-giving of any kind.
I was not noticeable enough,
pretty enough,
special enough,
to spur any romantic thoughts
in anyone.
I just wasn’t that kind of girl.
And even though we were dating,
I didn’t really expect it to last.
I was so sure
that you would move on
to something better
soon enough.

So there I was,
working the evening shift at McDonalds.
And in you walked,
tall and handsome in your leather jacket.
In one hand was
a big bouquet of flowers.
Tucked under your arm
was a big wrapped package.
Just for me.
You were the most beautiful sight
I have ever seen.
And you still are.

And that is why I like Valentine’s Day.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Dubya Ice Cream

This has been showing up on several websites. In case you haven't seen it, I thought I would share!

Ben & Jerry created "Yes Pecan!" ice cream flavor for Obama. They then asked people to fill in the blank to the following: For George W. Bush, we should create "_________."

Here are some of their favorite responses:

1. Grape Depression

2. Abu Grape

3. Cluster Fudge

4. Nut’n Accomplished

5. Iraqi Road

6. Chock ‘n Awe

7. WireTapioca

8. Impeach Cobbler

9. Guantanmallow

10. imPeachmint

11. Good Riddance You Lousy Motherf*&%er… Swirl

12. Heck of a Job, Brownie!

13. Neocon Politan

14. RockyRoad to Fascism

15. The Reese’s-cession

16. Cookie D’oh!

17.The Housing Crunch

18. Nougalar Proliferation

19. Death by Chocolate… and Torture

20. Credit Crunch

21. Country Pumpkin

22. Chunky Monkey in Chief

23. George Bush Doesn’t Care About Dark Chocolate

24. WM Delicious

25. Chocolate Chimp

26. Bloody Sundae

27. Caramel Preemptive Stripe

28. I broke the law and am responsible for the deaths of thousands… with nuts

Can you think of any others? Leave a comment! I would love to see your ideas...

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Will and Won't

I will do anything
I will stuff it
Feed it sweet and sticky
I will sleep it
Snore it deep and throaty
I will soak it
Scrub it wet and steamy
I will jam it
Shove it dark and dusty
I will swallow it
Gulp it fast and bubbly
I will shun it
Slight it rude and sneaky
I will hold it
Clutch it tight and sweaty
I will stroke it
Pet it long and lovely
I will pack it
Haul it long and heavy
I will nurse it
Grow it strong and scary
But look at it
Or name it
I just won’t

Monday, February 9, 2009

A President who can speak!

I just finished watching President Obama's first prime time press conference. I was pleased to hear him speak at length about his plans for the economy and for foreign policy. And while the issues of the day are pressing and compelling, the English teacher in me is rejoicing over the reality that we now have a president who does not mangle the English language. Not only that, but he speaks clearly and logically! He can formulate complex sentences! He has a broad vocabulary! He doesn't try to mask his incompetence or dishonesty in good-old-boy, folksy slang! He doesn't demonize people who disagree with him! Oh, how I have yearned for a leader whose very attempts at spoken English do not cause me to cringe and moan! Oh, happy, happy day...

Anyway, I thought this would be a good time to share with you a link to a music video my dad sent me a few days ago. It is by a group called Hardy Drew and the Nancy Boys (great name!) and the song extols the Irishness of Barack Obama. This song confirms my suspicion that anyone who has such an affinity for language must surely be Irish...

Sunday, February 8, 2009

The Question

I've been working on this poem since January 31st, which was Thomas Merton's birthday...

Francis faced the gilded
Holiness of Rome
Clare turned from riches
To the dust of San Damiano
Dorothy took up pen
To write the dignity of work
Thomas rattled chains
From the silence of his cell
Oscar spilled his blood
With host in hand.
Walking in unfastened sandals,
Shearing off luxury,
Calling out injustice in activist ink,
Dying on the altar,
Insisting on the question—
If the gospel
Is impossible
What good, then, is the church?

Friday, February 6, 2009

Welfare Kings

So certain Republican senators are disturbed that President Obama will require any future corporations who receive government bail out money to limit the pay of their top 5 executives to $500,000 a year. Oh, no! cry the conservatives. That’s government telling business what to do! All of the talented executives will leave American business! Government has no business dictating salaries to the private sector!

Really? It’s funny, but conservatives often have no problem tying strings to government assistance for those who have never seen a corporate boardroom. The poor, it seems, are not entitled to make their own choices. Rudy Giuliani, America’s mayor, advocated drug testing welfare recipients. No conservative concern for government interference there. I wonder what we would discover if we started drug testing the movers and shakers on Wall Street?

It is women who are always, in good times and in bad, among the most economically vulnerable. But conservative talking heads have referred to them as “welfare brood mares” (Glenn Beck) or proclaimed that welfare recipients should not have the right to vote (Michael Savage). Apparently, if you are a single mom on welfare, then the government has every right to dictate your sexual mores and revoke your voting rights.

I say that corporate welfare kings deserve no more respect than the conservative talking heads have shown single moms. Let’s cap their salaries, test their urine, and limit their reproductive capacity! Then maybe, just maybe, we could take a look at the working poor in America, like my student who goes to school full time to make a better life for her two preschool-aged daughters. Her husband works nights at Walmart and takes care of the kids during the day so she can go to school. Because the government doesn't consider full time motherhood and studenthood work, her family is ineligible to receive childcare subsidies and other benefits that would help them achieve their American dream. Such shortsightedness! I hope this new administration starts making things more possible for families like hers, and less comfortable for corporate executives who expect big bonuses for leading failed companies to the public assistance lines.

Let Republicans champion the spoiled and the obscenely compensated! In the end, we are all known for the company we keep. And the asses we kiss.

Sorry, I just couldn’t fit all of this into a Haiku.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

February In Spokane

It is February and everything
Is blurred and bleeding at the edges,
Slurred and slushy spilling over,
Muddled and muddy—
Nothing holds, nothing stays.

January was self-contained,
Framing everything
With its crisp, white corners.
Authoritative and icy—
I knew who was boss.

December held me close,
Wrapping everything so tight,
In long darkness and short light—
Soothing my fall
Into winter slumber.

Even November had conviction,
Disposing of its last leaves
With such purpose,
Thrusting its bare branches
Into a severe and pitiless sky—
Its confidence was contagious.

But now it is February and all
Oozes into itself, melting
Into every crevasse
On the bottom of my boot.
I cannot help but track it in,
And wonder if anything
Will ever be solid again.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Stimulus, what stimulus?

I have been reading about the GOP opposition to the stimulus package and about President Obama's call for compromise. I appreciate bipartisanship, but I am worried about the watering down of this bill. The Republicans are acting like they are now the guardians of fiscal responsibility so they can have an excuse to not spend money to help low income and middle class Americans. I have enough stress in my life right now without people like Mitch McConnell and John Boehner making me nuts. So, to channel my frustration, I have come up with a few GOP haikus. Not great poetry, but good therapy. The last two break the 5-7-5 rule, so my apologies to haiku purists...

Permanent tax cuts
To fix our ailing wallets
Worked well so far right?

Privatize problem
Socialize the solution
Screw all the workers

Ignore rejection
Act like we won election
GOP to the rescue

All of a sudden
They don’t like big deficits
Are you f---ing kidding me?

CEO Bailout Blues (a haiku)

so misunderstood
obama doesn't get it
how much you suffer

I was moved to haiku after reading the complaints of the JP Morgan Chase CEO.

Check out the Huffington Post's "Obama Being Unfair" headline and see if it doesn't put a lump in your throat, too. Warning: have a handkerchief ready!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Frozen Fog

I trudge along
Chin tucked to chest
From one place of shelter to the next

I’ve done this for weeks
Willing late winter away
Into the cracks of the pavement

But the trees hold
Yesterday’s air frozen
Pretty on their branches

Look, look, they say
You can’t escape
These passing days

We spread them out
From limb to limb
For your contemplation

The warmth won’t let you
When summer days
Are gone they’re gone

Only the cold
Gives you a glimpse
Of what you missed

Only the cold can
Give you back a day
And let forgotten have its say

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Did I just see Bob Dylan in a Pepsi commercial?

I've got the superbowl on while I'm grading papers. I stop and watch the commercials and grade during the game.

The pepsi commercial was clever and entertaining, but
How does it feel, to see Bob Dylan selling Pepsi? Hmmmmm.....