Long Story

I wish I could illustrate. I’d draw a droopy mom for this poem. She’d be elastic and springy. She’d be hanging over the edge of her chair, and the child in her lap would fully upright doing something tiring. Or she’d be standing up, arms laden, with one leg held out straight to keep her balance, and the child would be talking, words floating up to her ears, past the obstacles in her hands.

This poem has nothing to do with my own parenting. Well, actually it’s more like where myself as a child and a parent intersect. “Is this going to be a long story?” is something my father always, annoyingly asked. As much as I hated it, as much as he truly didn’t want me to keep talking, I know now he was also kidding. I know that from the times I have found myself in a moment listening to my son when I could maybe use some quiet (just a little bit!), and I want to joke, “Is this going to be a long story?” I never do, I listen. That’s because I’ve been burned. Once or twice, when I didn’t want to listen, it was really good, and I wouldn’t have wanted to miss it.

Long Story

Is this going to be a long story?
Can you summarize?
Don’t you see the tired look in my eyes?
Oh dear, just the main points, please.

Is this going to be a long story?
You know, I’ve heard it all before.
Hold on, someone’s knocking at the door.
I’m quite busy, I only have a minute.

Is this going to be a long story?
Just a little more? Alright, I’m sorry.
But what is it? It’s late and I’m getting snorey.
Oh! I love you too, and I have lots of time to listen to you!

Evolution by Langdon Smith

National Geographic

National Geographic

 Evolution (excerpts)

By Langdon Smith (1858-1908)

When you were a tadpole and I was a fish
In the Paleozoic time,
And side by side on the ebbing tide
We sprawled through the ooze and slime,
Or skittered with many a caudal flip
Through the depths of the Cambrian fen,
My heart was rife with the joy of life,
For I loved you even then…

…Mindless we lived and mindless we loved
And mindless at last we died;
And deep in the rift of the Caradoc drift
We slumbered side by side.
The world turned on in the lathe of time,
The hot lands heaved amain,
Till we caught our breath from the womb of death
And crept into life again…

…Thus life by life and love by love
We passed through the cycles strange,
And breath by breath and death by death
We followed the chain of change.
Till there came a time in the law of life
When over the nursing sod
The shadows broke and the soul awoke
In a strange, dim dream of God…

…Then as we linger at luncheon here
O’er many a dainty dish,
Let us drink anew to the time when you
Were a tadpole and I was a fish.

These excerpts are from the intoxicating poem “Evolution” by Langdon Smith, in which we are along for the ride with two beings inhabiting simple-celled organisms. They are connected to each other endlessly through the ebb and flow of life. This poem invokes the same feeling for me which I have on the few occasions I have wandered into a cemetery, for the sole reason of visiting the cemetery. Standing there, you feel the quiet of so much life that came before you, you understand you will be quiet, and life will continue. It’s very peaceful and comforting, a much better way to see things than with fear and worry.  Enjoy the full version of the poem.

8 Books I Would Not Save

Since I’ve been ruminating over which 8 books I’d save (the favorites come to mind quickly), I’ve remembered some I would throw over the deck first, if it were either the books or someone’s life. This is just my personal preference, they’re all quality stories, well-written,  (except for #4) with huge followings. Each book listed here is so popular, I really had to wonder at the time why I didn’t “get it.” Older and wiser, I think we all are entitled to preference.

Book 1. The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan. Not a page-turner for me, I was unable to make it to the all-important halfway mark! A GUY I liked in college loved this book and I couldn’t connect with it. Could have helped the small talk.

Book 2. The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver. I just couldn’t slug through to the end (but I LOVE Animal, Vegetable, Miracle). I felt so confused at the time. How could I defy Oprah this way? I’m over that.

Book 3. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson. Gratuitous violence amid otherwise decent plot development. I was not compelled to finish the series, which is annoying.

Book 4. Twilight by someone, I’m not going to take the time to look it up. I read enough to say I can’t believe the world needed this when it has the magnificent Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice.

Book 5. The DaVinci Code by Dan Brown. I understood it, I just didn’t like it. It strikes me now that people aren’t still talking about it. Wouldn’t that be the mark of a really excellent book, to be popular years later, after its initial hoopla?

Book 6. Eragon by Christopher Paolini. I turned all 528 pages, just so I could talk dragon with kids who might need that. No one has ever needed that. I love that a kid wrote it, however.

Book 7. Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates. It just fell flat for me, like they were wax people, which was probably the mood he was attempting to strike. I even tried the movie (gasp!) and couldn’t get through that. I feel numb. I could watch Leonardo DiCaprio, himself watching tv, and think he was brilliant portraying that role.

Book 8. The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski. This one pains me the most. Stephen King loves it, and I understand why. The writing is so beautiful and it pulls you in, but so much so that you forget what he was talking about in the first place. I couldn’t get through it, and I’ve heard it has a disappointing ending.

You know, I really love books. Thank goodness for variety. What would this world be if we all liked the same things? Is there any one book everyone would agree is excellent? It’s doubtful. I respect that all of these books were a labor of love and their publication is a feat for the author, to be applauded. Not everyone likes my writing, but some do. I understand that, but I sure feel like a hypocrite putting down any accomplished writer’s work!

I wish I were in a book club. Does anyone know of a good one on WordPress, or elsewhere online?

8 More Books I’d Save

I’ve thought of a loophole to allow me to save 8 more books, if that’s all I could save (in a hypothetical situation which would require that). I’m going to count my first list as my son’s choices. (This is invoking carry-on guidelines, in which each person, regardless of their size, gets one, and since we are two people and I have to carry everything, I get two) Here is my 2nd list:

8 (More) Books I’d Save (My More Grown-Up List)

1. Time and Again by Jack Finney. I have a thing for time travel and old buildings, set off, I believe, by Jack Finney. He also wrote Invasion of the Body Snatchers but this is nothing like that.

2. The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton. I am mesmerized by the descriptions of old New York buildings and lifestyle. Reading it you feel transported.

3. Paradise by Toni Morrison. I love what critics of this book did not, the way Morrison goes in and out of time and scenes, past and present.

4. 100 Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. In and out of time and space, ethereal, every word is necessary and beautiful. Absolutely the best book I’ve ever read. Therapy for verbal thinkers.

5. Insomnia by Stephen King. A good read!

6. A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving. His writing is creepy-fantastic, and he lives near me, so…

7.Singin’ and Swingin’ and Gettin’ Merry Like Christmas by Maya Angelou. I was enthralled when I read her autobiographical series.

8. A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini. This book will open your eyes, incredible writing.

What book would you save?

The 8 Books I Would Save (Maya Angelou Please Forgive Me)

This really is an intriguing idea…if you could save only 8 books, which 8 would you choose? I’m picking up the idea from this blog, please check it out. When you’re done, maybe you’ll chime in with your choices. With all due respect to the millions of books that would not make it, here are my eight:

The 8 Books I’d Save

Book 1: The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck. It’s the only fiction book I’ve ever read 3 times.

Book 2: Where The Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein. It’s the most fun book, ever.

Book 3: Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl. I haven’t read it, and I think that’s overdue.

Book 4: Hatchet by Gary Paulsen. Kids need it.

Book 5: Odyssey by Homer.

Book 6: Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. Girls need it. It would somehow carry the spirit of American writer Edith Wharton who would, in turn, carry the spirits of English writers Jane Austen and Emily Bronte through as well.

Book 7: The Pursuit of Happiness by the Dalai Lama. Maybe not, he could write it again.

Book 8: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain. History and adventure. It would carry the spirit of American Authors Poe, Faulkner and Frost.

My apologies to Shakespeare and Stephen King. You were both “bumped” by Odyssey. My deepest, most extravagant apologies to one of my favorite authors, Toni Morrison. I had to think of the kids. The world needs all of you. Please share your choices, even if it’s only one or two. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

 

I’m not very hungry

I’m not very hungry, but everyone knows
if you want to be thin
you really must get your breakfast in

I’m not very hungry, I had a McMuffin
but it’s important to have a healthy snack
like a sweet apple…prevents heart attacks

I’m not very hungry, we had an office party
I didn’t want to be rude so I had cake before my entree,
skipped my veggies and ate in a hurry

I’m not very hungry, ‘cuz on the way homeIMG_1017
My belly was grumbling (for pizza with the works)
picked up a slice, now my stomach’s berserk

I’m not very hungry, was too full for salad
That’s a good sign, this really is working!
(until I sat up snacking and watching videos of people twerking)

I’m not very hungry, woke up with a full belly
Hmmm…I don’t think it’s true after all about breakfast
Without it I would have eaten less, and been MORE hungry!

Passport to Living

Daily Prompt: A classic question, revisited: what are the five items you must have on a deserted island?

Foolish me, to think anything I possess would be of value to me on a desert island. Tarzan had no need for his father’s suit or photos of his parents holding him in a loving embrace. Would I want to bring photos, or would the images of loved ones be more vivid without a flat, static, image of them? My mind would conjure the scents and feel of them, but the paper would wither and fade. Perhaps I would be called to use it in the fire, desperate I would be at the mirage one evening of a passing ship. I would burn whatever was handy, and realize once the darkness closed in again that I was more utterly alone.

Would I bring a favorite book, to escape my own mind’s delusions? Would I read and remember the comfort of my childhood bedroom and laugh at the irony of man’s imagination, being sucked up into the belly of a whale. Surely, surrounded by marine life, I would come to see them as friends, perhaps nourishment in the web of all that is connected in the energy of life. Would I have a need for such imaginings? Without these fantastical trappings of civilization, wouldn’t I come into a more complete fullness of being, noticing the life all around me, rather than trampling and ignoring it? Surrounded by the cosmos of the ocean, air and beings and feeling the energy of the moon pulling on the tides, uninterrupted by the sights of cars and buildings, the threat of unnatural violence would fade. I would become a part of the Earth. I would be a field of unlimited energy.

Would I wish I had brought some medicine, some fishing line, a few vials of fresh water so I would not lose my mind, as happened to Pi when he was lost at sea? Did these items help him survive any more than he would have on his own? If I brought a gun would I hunt for food and sustain myself, or turn on that being I call myself, and end my misery?

The castaway learns to survive and eventually perishes, just like the rest of us will do who are surrounded by objects of need and longing. They bring us past or forward, but not in the here and now.  So, nah, I wouldn’t bring anything. It’s already there.

Daily Prompt: Five Items

Ask Me, I know

Every year we do something strange.
We cut down a tree, and our living room we rearrange.

It will not grow, it leaves a mess,
so why do we look forward to this?

‘Why DO we do this?’ you wonder out loud.
“For the presents!” says the child unbowed.

‘Why are there presents?’ you wonder some more.
“It’s a birthday party!” shouts he, coming into a roar.

‘Then why don’t we sing Happy Birthday?’ Ha! You’ve got him this time.
“Because it’s Christmas!” he says with the most determined look in his eye.

You’re right, so true.
I just needed a little reminder, called you.

Over the River – Thanksgiving Parody

In honor of the upcoming Thanksgiving Holiday, I think we ought to have ourselves a good laugh. Enjoy this heartwarming, cautionary tale of a classic family meal.

Over the Top and Through the Food

Over the top and and through the food
to Grandma’s table we go
We know it’s too much
we glut and stuff
our diets completely blown

Over the top and through the food
Oh, how family annoys us so!
They sting our pride
We stuff some pie,
I wonder who’s gonna blow?

Over the top and through the food
Can you make it just one day?
Another jab from Aunt Madeline,
Zing-a-zing-zing!
Hurrah for Thanksgiving Day!

Over the top and through the food,
Twitters are all the same!
Comfort in knowing
We’re all line-towing,
For this is Thanksgiving Day.

Over the top and through the food,
What a time to announce you’re gay.
Dad is working
on his scotch~
Dinner will have to wait!

Over the top and through the food~
Now for the dishes I sigh!
Hurrah for work!
To get away from that jerk.
Hurrah you survived this time!

The Original:

Over the River and Through the Woods

Over the river and through the wood
To Grandmother’s house we go.
The horse knows the way
To carry the sleigh
Through white and drifted snow.

Over the river and through the wood
Oh, how the wind does blow!
It stings the toes
And bites the nose,
As over the ground we go.

Over the river and through the wood
To have a first-rate play.
Hear the bells ring,
Ting-a-ling-ling!
Hurrah for Thanksgiving Day!

Over the river and through the wood,
Trot fast, my dapple gray!
Spring over the ground
Like a hunting hound,
For this is Thanksgiving Day.

Over the river and through the wood,
And straight through the barnyard gate.
We seem to go
Extremely slow~
It is so hard to wait!

Over the river and through the wood~
Now Grandmother’s cap I spy!
Hurrah for fun!
Is the pudding done?
Hurrah for the pumpkin pie!

Hacking is OK in VT

This weekend we drove up to Shelburne Farms to get in a little maker action at the first annual Champlain Mini Maker Faire. I don’t believe there is a camera lens in the world which could capture the majesty of driving into this vast, rolling farm, on a beautiful Vermont foliage day, with the sun shining off Lake Champlain. I’ll just share this stock photo of the Carriage Barn, where the event was held (add flying model rockets and junk salvage musical instruments to the scene.)

It was a fantastic collection of inventors, kids, and engineers (showcasing “makers”) and some new things we learned about include how to make your own rockets, design code and control robots (Thanks University of Vermont grad students for getting into it!) My son loves electronics, and just like Solar Fest, it was as if the spaceship had landed and his people came out. This maker faire was the same weekend as a similar event in NYC, so once again we are very lucky have access to something so cool in Vermont, and not have to drive all the way to NYC.  The weather was perfect, sunny and comfortable, the view of Lake Champlain from Shelburne Farm’s vast waterfront was breathtaking.

We were so busy, I didn’t get any pictures, so here’s a pic of Burlington hackerspace Laboratory B guys back in July at Solarfest instructing my boy wonder on soldering with circuits donated from SparkFun in Boulder, Colorado. They helped him work out a few bugs from his latest project yesterday. Thanks Laboratory B, what great enthusiasm and teaching! Check out SparkFun’s education blog.

I completely love the maker mission to revolutionize education. My son is learning about circuitry and writing code, seven years before the usual lesson on parallel and series circuits in public school. This WHOLE fair was dedicated to teaching kids and getting them thinking about finding solutions for their world. We learned about Scratch, the MIT-provided FREE online stacking code program. Just download, go through the easy tutorial and your young child will love creating a program to tell a story with characters, movement, sounds, and share it online if they have a site!

We also learned about toy hacking from the Vermont Maker volunteers, great people who are obviously enthusiastic about kids and new learning.  Yeah, I think it’s going to be a while before we catch up with all the fun we were exposed to at the maker fair. I mean, our new mission in life is to find old Furbies at garage sales or Goodwill and take them apart to rewire their motions with the free wires and buttons Vermont Makers showered us with. Actually, my son’s mission is to wire a toy to a mini computer which will allow visitors to his site to remotely control the toy and watch via webcam. I don’t think show-and-tell will ever be the same!