Friday, June 22, 2012


She, who pushes

through the hurdles

of being her,

keeps fighting the tide

that never ceases.

A spider web,

delicate and fragile

She remains, yet capable

of bearing strengths

often unexpected.

I watch as you grow

from confused and anxious

to strong and sociable,

relentless to win

a swim event,

a new friend,

a boy's smile.

And I close my eyes

and wonder when life

won't always center

around your


She, who dodges

the hurdles

of being her sister,

keeps trying to construct

her own path.

A chrysanthemum,

resilient and perennial

she remains, yet sensitive

to the fact that her sister

is different.

She is younger yet

older, taking mother's

role through comfort

and persuasion,

Big shoes

she wears.

Tonight beneath the setting sun

you quietly ponder:

“When will I compete? When

is it my turn?”

It is your turn, Calliope,

little thinker,

it is time

for you to learn

that you don’t have to live in her


A Bibliophile's Confession

I’m wearing mom jeans, an oversized sweatshirt, and a pair of clunky white Reeboks that have seen better days. Bangs curl perfectly over my forehead and tortie horn rims conceal my eyes.

I don’t want anyone to recognize me, for the guilt feels tremendously weighty.

It’s my turn, and I stand.

“Hi, everyone,” I softly voice and throw in a trifling wave. “My name is Denise, and I—(focus intently here so your stutter doesn’t return)—I—I am addicted to b—b—b—buying b—b—books.”

“Hi, Denise,” they nod; a few smile.

"I just blew a hundred and fifty-one bucks and I could've easily doubled that."

These bibliophiles—the same ones who sit in Barnes and Noble for hours with a cup of tea and four sugars (or, more likely, a bottle of tap water from home) and pore through a stack of books they’ll never buy—get me. A bookstore is a brothel for our brains, our being.

However, I cannot live with the knowledge that someone else could potentially buy a book that I’ve already read, so I can never join the free-loading clique. I wouldn't want to ruin the sanctity of a book for someone else. Please understand, I like my books pure, untainted, with virginal pages waiting to be deflowered by my hungry mind alone.

No, I don’t want to go the library. You never know where someone read that novel. No, I won’t buy them for the Kindle. I’m tactile, thankyouverymuch. I like to touch things. No, I don’t want to borrow them from my friends because I might, indeed, drop a morsel of dark chocolate between two pages and then leave a future reader to wonder what the hell I was thinking, eating while borrowing someone else’s book.

Is there something wrong with this? Maybe.

But this is not my worst transgression, so I can live with it.

And so when I finished the first two books on my summer reading list—The Tiger’s Wife by Tea Obreht and Committed: A Love Story by Elizabeth Gilbert—by the first day of summer, I knew I had to get my fix.

Neither of those two satisfied the jonesing that I get when I find a book full of what my former writing coach dubbed “gold coins.” Those moments of cerebral satisfaction that feed your creative soul.

Admittedly, Tiger’s Wife provided a rather interesting narrative, and her writing included moments that were simply grand. Still, as much as I enjoy folklore, the prose just meandered on and on, and of course the main character offered me little personal connection. Committed is not EPL, which I simply treasured. But with her follow-up novel, Gilbert seems rather dogmatic in her sobering look at what makes marriage work and not work. I never got to a higher ground on this journey of hers. And so with those two, I found there to be more gold in Gatsby’s tie.

So off to B&N I went with a tattered piece of lined paper as I searched for eight books to complete my summer reading goal of ten.

Unfortunately, not everything was in its place, and if you know me the slightest bit, I have trouble finding objects in a store. I almost walked out after only finding one on my own. Fortunately, a really hip chick who had the same one-side-shaved ‘do that I sported in college was working the help desk. She looked at my list of titles and led me around in sweet joy in a sing-song chirp.

“You’re going to love this! Oh, and you're going to looooove this one, too! Ha! And this!”

In the end, I came away with seven. One still has to be ordered.

And so in this order, I shall read:

1: The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes. I have very high hopes for this book.

2: The Buddha Walks into a Bar—A Guide to Life for a New Generation by Lodro Rinzler. This was recommended by my Buddhist friend who keeps trying to get me to go to yoga class. Perhaps once I can figure out how to ashtanga without bottom wind propulsion.

3: When the Emperor was Divine by Juliet Otsuka. This comes from my boss, who steered me from Buddha in the Attic.

4: Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith Disclosure: this is a risky bet. I avoid all books relating to wizards, werewolves, and vampires, but who can resist a tall man with a beard?

5: Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier. I loved Pearl Earring, and Diane assured me that this is a keeper.

6: Home by Toni Morrison. Um, it's Toni Morrison. Need I say more?

7: Canada by Richard Ford. I have yet to know a Pulitzer Prize winner whose writing didn't earn my utmost respect. And Ford's won high praises.

Yes, my fix was a tad pricey. And yes, I could’ve borrowed several titles and saved a few ducats and bought those white Oakleys. But in the end, I have no regrets, for literature is a component that completes me.


“There are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading them.” Joseph Brodsky

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Jesus drives.

Who knew that Jesus drove an SUV? Honestly, I always viewed him as a bicyclist----wearing sandals, of course, like your goofy Uncle Mike who meanders on the rusted coastie at the beach, cup of coffee in one hand and swerving in carefree style. No helmet, but definitely a basket for his newspaper. Jesus definitely gets the paper.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012


I am a knife juggler in a circus of madness. At least four daggers spin wildly before my face, and I agilely grab the handles, trying to avoid sharp pain. Sometimes, however, my hand slips, and I am cut.

It’s become difficult as I try to balance them all, for they encircle everything else that otherwise remains stable in my life. No, my existence isn’t a total morass, but the waters have been muddied. I cannot control any of these spinning blades, yet they continue to slice me emotionally.

My life, it seems, continuously welcomes upheaval, as if I almost wear a bumper sticker on my forehead: “I heart turmoil.” Truly, I don’t. After all, as a kid, I wanted to be either an architect or a librarian. You can’t get any more vanilla than that, except perhaps engineer or IT nerd.

But the largest knife has been sharpening itself for years, and I’ve learned to dodge and weave its path through a cocktail of meditation and avoidance. Nietzsche said that one must still have chaos in oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing star. Well, I’ve given birth to a galaxy beneath a row of strobe lights.

This is why I need to rely on my resilience lately—to remember that I need to love life, not because I am used to living but because I am used to loving. I will own my dancing stars, continue with little regret, accept what I cannot change, pray that those who do can find comfort in their new existence.

And I shall follow Kendall’s latest mantra: "Keep calm and eat a cupcake."

Sunday, June 17, 2012

A Father of Girls

A father of girls sleeps in the afternoon while his progeny traipse elsewhere. I see other fathers tossing balls in the backyard. Others ride bikes. Some simply walk the trail the encircles the community, sons and daughters by their pot-bellied side.

But this father, he sleeps. He deserves to.

This father awoke early today and left for the quiet solitude of the parkway, away from a house full of women. There he ran 10 very hilly miles in 1:06, which is pretty damn quick for most. Still, he said he cruised it, trying to hold back, while some fathers sat in front of plates of bacon or continued to sleep.

This father really never knew his own father, a man I will probably meet once -- as he lies in a casket amongst flowers we ordered.

So he had no mentor, no role model. Yet he has chosen to be the best father that he can be to these girls, and for that I have the utmost respect.

He doesn't view his children as dependents. He doesn't view them as baggage. He doesn't waste his life trying to please them or me or anyone else except himself. He faced challenges for much of his life was a challenge.

And that's why this father has never settled, has never looked for the easy path, has worked harder than any man I have known. And there have been quite a few...

So sleep, father of girls. You deserve to.

Saturday, June 16, 2012


today I saw you through the face of another


who did cannonballs

and ate cake,

who wore battle scars

from his fort in the woods,

with poison ivy dotting his arms,

and I felt the vacancy sign

silently sway

in the breezy front porch

of my own bare arms

that will never hold you.

as my autumn approaches

i wonder who you would have been,

and i picture the curious eyes


and smell the murky odor of nature

lingering in your tussled hair.

it is in other


that i can see you

and feel the deep pit of remorse

for days

not celebrated

with pop-up Hallmark cards

of Woody and Buzz

and watch you


toward the girls

and laugh as you make them shriek

with wanton


Margaret Thatcher is a Libra

One of the perks of my job is that I work down the hall from Andrew, a wonderful, intelligent, personable man whose expertise (besides meteorology) is astronomy. I turn to him for quick consultations on the stars and planets, of which I have long been fascinated in since I was a child. My alma mater had a tremendous planetarium that become a victim of budget cuts and needed classroom space.

However, my current district remains invested in the study of space, and so I have the honor of stopping in to Andrew's domed room a few times a week to look up at Ursa Major, should I so choose. I call him Mr. Astronomy. He calls me Ms. Journalism.

The funny thing, however, is that I sometimes confuse the word "astronomy" with "astrology," a science to which I don't necessarily subscribe. And on more than one occasion, I have referred to him as Mr. Astrology.

He doesn't like it.

And I can easily see why.

But like my mother, I have often talked about how people born on the same birthdate (or under the same sign) bear similar qualities that we may not necessarily see in someone else.

And so the fact is that my mother, born October 26, sees parallels between herself and Hilary Clinton, also a Oct. 26 birthday. Both are strong willed, independent, fighters who never have feared going toe-to-toe with someone for standing up for social justice and equality. The fact that my mother has met Clinton twice probably solidifies her admiration for the Democrat leader even more.

Well, this week I watched Iron Lady, the Meryl Streep film that documents that rise of Margaret Thatcher, Britain's only prime minister who faced critics not only from her opposing parties, but from those within her ranks. I am hardly saying that I can draw any legitimate comparison to a woman who went to Oxford and rose through the ranks of the Conservative party, often to champion public schools, but I can truly relate to the conflicts and criticisms brought on by others.

I've dealt with too many condescending folks who questioned my ability to go to college, to be a successful writer, to push myself to limits that not many have taken.

Margaret Thatcher is a Libran.

According to one website, "a Libran female is total woman, complete with the charming manners and delightful elegance. She can also argue with the convincing male logic and beat you at any argument. However, the male side may come in front of you after sometime. Debate attracts her and she weighs both sides of the situation with total fairness. A Libra girl may start an argument alone and finish it alone, with your contribution being only some occasional comments. While she is arguing with you, she may smile every now and then.

Before you know it, you will feel captivated by her smile and charm. By this time, she would have won the argument as well as your heart. Of course, you won't mind that, since she convinces with such carefully balanced and logical arguments. A typical Libran female characteristics profile includes a constant need to be fair and balanced. The best part is that she presents her case in such a tactful way that you don't feel offended at all. At the same time, she is not stubborn and easily changes her mind if she finds your arguments more logical and convincing."

Yes, Thatcher is a Libran. And so am I. And so the Iron Lady and the Ironman share one more thread: Oct. 13.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Muscling Through

So here we are, waiting for the doctor at Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Hospital. Again.

Coming here is always an unsettling adventure since Grace had a long-standing habit of vomiting in the car on the way here.

The culprit? Anxiety.

And thanks to anxiety, that's why we're here.

After years of discussion and inner turmoil, I caved in to the medical suggestion of medication. No parent wants to willingly submit to medicating their child. You spend hours trying to find way to prevent meltdowns, to encourage success, to breed confidence.

You opt for therapy, you opt for waiting, you opt for changes in diet. And for some children, that works.

But I don't live in that majority. (In fact, only a minority of my four seem to fall in the majority. That may seem illogical, but it is truly rather logical, if you knew my brood.) And to be honest, living with her has often proved to be difficult at times, and I'm sure it will continue to test my limits for the next several years.

Thus, I acquiesced and subscribed to Team Meds in April. Surprisingly, things seem better, as one can tell from the photo. No crying fits on the way to the hospital or in the hospital, fewer bouts of spontaneous crying, decreased protests of self-doubt.

I know there is a large contingency of parents who would greatly chastise my choice to join Team Meds, including some in the medical profession. But right now, this seems to work, even if it means taking it day by day.

It's all part of muscling through difficult times as we continue the journey of saving Grace.