It’s oh so quiet. (Shhh, shhh.)

One of my teen idols has turned fifty recently, so I figured it was a good time to share some of her advice about poets:

Also, my older children are visiting their father’s family, my husband has been called in for yet another graveyard shift, and the baby is snoring peacefully on my side of the bed, so it feels wrong to waste all this quiet sleeping!

But I have already turned in the assignment I had due tonight and have at least an hour or two to procrastinate the rest of the work I want to do this weekend (like a true English major), so I figured I would share the song that always gets stuck in my head when the house sounds like this:

You can tell she had kids when she wrote this.  Silence is never so terrifying as in a house full of children.

I hope you have the good kind of quiet this week and all the blessings you can imagine.

(I am about to take a terrible mystery novel into my only quiet room with a ton of bath bombs and a cup of tea and I’m not coming out until my toes look like raisins, which will make me more thankful than any turkey ever did!)


thankful anyway

This year we can’t afford to cook and I’ve been sick too much anyway and need the time to catch up as much as possible, so the big kids are going to other relatives and I am going to be hanging with the baby, hopefully writing like a maniac (a very, very eloquent maniac), which is a little weird and frightening since I have made Thanksgiving dinner every year as long as I can remember and certainly since leaving the big kids’ dad.  That year, we had turkey in our pajamas and watched Les Miserables on the couch.  It was a hit and movies in pjs became the way we spent every Thanksgiving.  I have never felt comfortable celebrating a holiday that commemorated a lie told to hide genocide with gluttony and my kids can tell you many ways that the day and its “traditions” are wrong, but giving it up has been harder than I would have expected.

This year, my husband will be working 12 hour overnight shifts before and after the day and there will only be three of our usual five and really, we can’t afford the gluttony, so I have no plan, which is such a rarity in my life.

There are so many things I might do:

I could take the baby to the park,

blow off homework (unlikely but still possible) to work on editing the poetry that has been accumulating in my top drawer,

read poetry and be thankful for Li-Young Lee and Mary Oliver, Anna Akhmatova and audre lorde,

write thank you letters to forget to send, like the other thank you letters I have forgotten to send

paint pictures with the baby,

watch squirrels outside my bedroom window.

I am thankful for so many possibilities, for my second/third/fourth/endless attempts at finishing a degree, for the quiet before everyone wakes up and the noise after, the chance every morning to try harder to live by my principles, and people who encourage me when I do and don’t judge me too harshly when I don’t.  I am thankful for the food we do have and my husband’s willingness to go to a crappy job to make sure we keep having it.  I am thankful for the kids I miss when they are gone and thankful that they will have more than I can give them in a house full of people who love them.

I am thankful for you.

One essay everyone should read, regardless of gender.

I absolutely love this article, and not only because it has the tag “the canon is shaped like a dick” at the bottom.  It is hard to narrow the discussion of what is wrong with Esquire‘s list of 80 books men should read down to one quote, but to lure you in to reading the essay, here’s a great example of what is right about this rebuttal of Esquire‘s list:

There are good and great books on the Esquire list, though even Moby-Dick, which I love, reminds me that a book without women is often said to be about humanity but a book with women in the foreground is a woman’s book. And that list would have you learn about women from James M. Cain and Philip Roth, who just aren’t the experts you should go to, not when the great oeuvres of Doris Lessing and Louise Erdrich and Elena Ferrante exist. I look over at my hero shelf and see Philip Levine, Rainer Maria Rilke, Virginia Woolf, Shunryu Suzuki, Adrienne Rich, Pablo Neruda, Subcomandante Marcos, Eduardo Galeano, Li Young Lee, Gary Snyder, James Baldwin, Annie Dillard, Barry Lopez. These books are, if they are instructions at all, instructions in extending our identities out into the world, human and nonhuman, in imagination as a great act of empathy that lifts you out of yourself, not locks you down into your gender.

I literally laughed out loud several times while reading it, which is nice, because a lot of the truth Rebecca Solnit tells would make me want to cry or scream otherwise.

(And while I fangirl over Rebecca Solnit, let me recommend another essay every person should read, just in case you haven’t. . .)

What a terrible world, what a beautiful world. . .

I love the Decemberists, but that’s kind of non-sequitur.

The past week has been so full of terror and pain and rage for so many people on so many levels.

My cousin’s son died.  He was a beautiful boy and I never really got to know him because he’s sort of a distant relative and I generally let kids have some distance because their world is private and beautiful and, in most cases, none of the business of boring adult relatives, but I was always happy to see him running past with the other kids at family gatherings and he was so alive and friendly and everything kids are supposed to be until he wasn’t and then he went so fast.  I feel like I know him better from the eulogies than from life, but I know his father in that same distant but warm-feeling way.  We played together as children.  He was older and preferred to play with older children but I sometimes got lucky and was included in the big kid imaginary world, and he was very much the same kind of bright, strong, charismatic leader, and I have just been struck by how he never could have known then what he would endure now, and seeing someone you have loved, even in that cousin at holidays way, experiencing that loss of hope and promise, and that destruction of a whole world and way of being in the world, as a parent with years left to be a parent, is unimaginable.  There is nothing I can do but I know a sinkhole just opened up in his whole existence and there is no telling how much will fall into it or how deep it is until it is too late.  It exposes the tininess of any pain I have ever experienced.  I can only pray, but I hope to get his address and write too, because nothing I say will matter, but being remembered and loved is important when a loss is too huge to communicate or bear.


And this kind of reminds me of the fact that so many people are experiencing similar or even greater losses right now.  Last week, I was chugging along, following the updates about the terroristic threats against students in Missouri after apathetic leaders stepped down and I was full of indignation and anger at stupid American politics and the fact that so few people I know seemed concerned or even aware of what was going on, and then out of nowhere, more terror, but in another country, and then politicians saying they won’t allow refugees fleeing the same terrorists come to various states and people fighting and fighting and fighting about that.  It is so much.  It is more than one planet seems able to hold, and every death is as profound as the one that my kids and I cried over all weekend, and so many of the refugees have lost children, parents, siblings, as well as home, but are now blamed for someone else’s loss, and what about the terror in the U.S. that never makes the news because the perpetrator looks too much like the newscasters and politicians who are busy pointing fingers somewhere else?

I have been taking two classes this semester that deal with privilege and oppression and it is hard to say whether I am seeing it everywhere because I am becoming more able to see it now or whether this is an increase.

In the middle of it all, Deuteronomy 10:19 keeps popping up on my social media feeds, and I am usually skeptical about people quoting scripture in the midst of a crisis because I saw it misused a lot growing up, but every time the reminder to love the stranger is another person’s response to all this fear and hate, I feel a little less hopeless.

It is easy to mourn the loss of someone I identify with and to care about the suffering of a childhood playmate, but every person I will ever meet or know about is someone’s childhood playmate and someone’s daughter or son.  Even the people who shoot or threaten students just trying to go to school.  Even the politicians who want to turn away shell-shocked preschoolers.  I am lucky to have people in my world who remind me of this.

I am blessed every moment by the words and actions of so many people I know and so many people I don’t know.  I hope I can do a better job of remembering this and being one of the people whose intentions and actions create more hope, and less anger.

The calendar on my wall has the Grace Paley quote “Let us go forth with fear and courage and rage to save the world,”  on the page for this month.  It’s a good quote, but let us go forth with love, and food, and an offer of a place to sleep, too.

sick lit!

I’m having a hard time keeping writing right now, in part because I get weak a lot when I am upright, so I mostly do my schoolwork lying down with my computer on my chest, and I don’t type as well that way.  Also, I fall asleep a lot more that way.  Sometimes I just have to accept that I am not going to do the kind of work I could do if I was in better health.  It may not seem like it would matter that much, since reading and writing are easy to do while lying down, but I also spend a lot more energy on things like walking to a classroom from a parking lot (that can wear me out for the entire rest of the day), and sometimes really strenuous things, like having a conversation while driving, or buying groceries – huge feats of strength there – can make me so tired that I need to sleep a few hours to recuperate.

Last night I fell asleep while trying to finish an online assignment, which led to my computer dying and a whole lot of words disappearing from Blackboard.  It sucked, but there’s only a month or so left before the end of the semester, so I get to do fun reading so soon!

A friend sent me Don’t Suck, Don’t Die when I was in the hospital in September and I have been aching to read it but know I can’t handle extra reading until the winter break.  I also get to reread some Bronte novels to get ready for the spring semester and that is going to be great.  During dinner tonight, my youngest spilled water on her clothes and decided to strip (problem solved!) which reminded my teens of a story from Hyperbole and a Half, which got me thinking: sick people write a lot of great books!

So instead of getting discouraged about falling asleep while writing in bed or the difficulties of balancing a reading list with strenuous tasks like taking a shower and driving across town, I am going to be grateful this month for the fact that not doing other things really does open up a lot of time in my schedule for reading in bed, and the fact that every week I get through is one week closer to a wild bed reading marathon with my partners in (true) crime (and mystery novels), aka, my kids.

And now that I am awake again, I better try to rewrite what I was trying to write last night.

Open caskets

If you live in a state that has so far refused to expand Medicaid, your insurance rates could double — or more — this year. Don’t blame Obama; blame the anti-lifers you elected to your state legislatures and governors’ mansions. They have the care they need and always will, but they deny it to others.

You have the vote. You can send them home and replace them with people who do care. 

Meanwhile, consider this photo and how unnecessary his suffering — and that of those who loved and miss him — was and is.

I have been hesitant to post anything that could be political on here because it is going to be graded, but health care access is political, so being sick is political.  My lack of access to the care I have needed over the years has been the result of politics and if I die because I could not afford the care I need, that will be a political act, although not by choice.  I am waiting now for my application for benefits to be processed since I am unable to work enough to afford healthcare even with exchange coverage, but we don’t live in a state that expanded Medicaid to cover families like mine, which make too little for subsidies but too much for the old limits on income for Medicaid.

This protest has needed to happen and I hope that, if my liver fails before we have found a solution to this mess, my family will make sure my service is open casket.  It is important for people to be aware of what lack of medical care looks like.  I want people to know, when they consider how to vote, that people like me will die with jaundice, ascites, raw patches from pruritis, wasting, hair loss, and every other visible symptom of untreated or undertreated chronic illness.  The reality of our national and state politics is that those most affected by these policies are too weakened by them to protest effectively, but death has eloquence.

I am grateful to people who share stories like this one, so that their tragedy can help inform communities about the effects of politics on the lives and bodies of the chronically ill.