Monday, March 29, 2010

Pictures and more pictures...

Parking chairs, circa WINTER 2010.

Valentimes flowers from Dad, circa WINTER 2010.

Sunset, circa, WINTER 2010
Crocuses, circa the lawn is melted, can it be spring? 2010
More crocuses, circa, YES, SPRING HAS SPRUNG, 2010.

I have actually done some weeding on the lawn. The crocuses are long gone, but now we have weeds intermixed with the grass and tulips.

More later, I promise.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Birds in the sky, you know how I feel...


(and by Standard, I mean everyone, from Michael Buble to Stevie Wonder have covered it...)

My mom gave me a CD a while back. It was free from Ann Taylor and it's pink, so I'm sure it has something to do with curing breast cancer.

I always skip over the first song, some depressing Dido song. The third song is "You can't take that away from me."

Which I always thought was a horrible song. Why would I want to remember things about someone I was no longer with? It's taken me at least ten years and many listens to finally figure it out. "We may never meet again on this bumpy road of love." We may not. But I will always remember seeing you come to work in your suit on Saturdays, crossing Grant St. as I sat eating my lunch at Bruegger's Bagels. I will always remember the fun we had just flicking a rubber band at each other at my kitchen table. I will always remember that first kiss.

My mother and my father are such different people--my father will occasionally tell me about girls he dated. My mother has told me three such stories in the 38 years I've known her, and they've all been negative. My parents didn't exactly "date," they were friends over the course of nine years, with patches of "going out." My mother "broke up" with my father at least five times. My father remembers washing dishes over Christmas break and thinking that he missed my mom more than he missed the girl he was dating at the time. Now that's an image you can't take away from me.

But from my mother, I learned that dating was horrible, and I had to make sure I married a Christian man. Since my father was often at work, when I was young and impressionable (17), I haven't learned until the past 12 years of my life that my dad enjoyed dating. That he was in a lot of weddings, so had a lot of garter belts on his rear view mirror. My dad? My mom knows how to have fun, she does. But in the realm of dating, my mother is the killjoy and my father is out there, having fun.

The title of this post? Sometimes you have to listen to a CD many times before you hear all the songs. And I mean that in the sense that some songs go out into the air until your heart and ears are ready for them. That is how it has been with this CD. At first, I needed the message of the first song "Rome wasn't built in a day." And then I really really got the message of "You can't take that away from me." And yesterday, as if for the first time, I heard the words to "Birds in the sky, you know how I feel."

Fish in the sea you know how I feel
River running free you know how I feel
Blossom in the trees you know how I feel

It's a new dawn
It's a new day
It's a new life
For me
And I'm feeling good

(I just realized I'm doing a song lyrics Saturday. Hi, Badger!!)

So of course, I have to embed it... (and hey, it's Nina Simone, which is the version I have on my CD)

And the freedom...I am getting there. My staycation starts today after 2pm. Not a lot got done yesterday what with getting pansies from our favorite volunteer, talking for a long time with E about books about Germany...

But I am getting up and writing. And I am coming back here. (GRIN.)

I don't know why I stopped, I love this bully pulpit/soap box. Doing my "morning pages" is different, but this too, this writing for you, writing for an audience, I love it. I eat it up. And I need more things to love in this life.

Pictures this week, I promise.

Friday, March 26, 2010

A blocked artist isn't lazy.

(Julia Cameron, The Artist's Way.)

So all this time, I've been motivated by two things: the fear of dying, and"is it fun?"

And my married with children friends (some of them) have looked at my single life and its somewhat aimless path and said, you are lazy. What are you doing with your life? Because no, I'm not raising children so they can go off to school and eat paste. I'm not doing loads of laundry for four or six hundred people. I'm not cooking dinner every night for people that want to feed the floor or the family pet.

So it looks, pretty much, like I'm lazy. I watch a lot of TV, I procrastinate, I go to work, I come home, and watch more TV. I live in an apartment of unfinished projects, piles of laundry, piles of dishes.

But if I had remembered what I learned in Black Women Writers, my senior year of college, I would have remembered Remita Weems, who said, "Madness is never just madness. It is a way of coping when sanity will no longer do." (Home Girls, 103)

Madness. Yes. A 38 year old woman in Pittsburgh that is single? That is madness. This city? Where everyone has nieces and nephews out the wazoo? Where early marriage is the norm? It wants to make you run into the woods. (Or put your heads under the cover and watch those four ladies in New York walk around in their Manolo Blahniks and talk about how hard it is to find a good man.)

And then, well, it looks like she's lazy. But maybe she's just SCARED.

I remember sitting on the steps of the porch, waiting for the airport shuttle, talking with a man I thought I was going to marry, and saying, "Are we nuts? Is this going to work?" And me saying, as I had said time and time before, "scared is just sacred with the words in the wrong order." But somewhere between THAT heartbreak and the rest, I forgot. This is the year of remembering. And it is the year of healing.

to be continued...

Thursday, March 25, 2010

What I'm learning these days about health...

This is from a book I've been devouring, All I did was ask, by the host of NPR's Fresh Air, Terry Gross. It's from Sonny Rollins.

Terry Gross: You're a virtuoso performer, but you're known for practicing nearly every day.

Sonny Rollins: Monk said to me one time that if it wasn't for music, life wouldn't be worth living. You know, if I don't play my horn for a while, I actually get sick. I wonder, "Well, gee, what's the matter with me?" And I realize that I haven't played my horn for a few days.

I haven't been blogging so much, so you don't know that I have been catching every kind of infection known to man (or woman.) I will not bore (or gross you out) with the details, but I spend a lot of time on the internet looking for home remedies, or talking to friends, or actually at the doctor or pharmacy. Right now I have a nasty cold. It's Day-Quil resistant. I mean I'm taking Day-Quil, but whereas that usually takes care of the symptoms, I still have them. They're just WORSE when the four hours is up. Yesterday I was supposed to doctor up at 4:30 and at 5:30 I had the worse sneeze attack.

But here's the thing: in the past year (or two) I have not been walking daily, or taking pictures daily, or blogging daily. And my health has suffered.

I've never read Dr. Zviago, because those Russian novels, I cannot keep track of all the characters with all the nicknames...I wonder if it's on audio!! But somewhere along the road, I found a quote that was attributed to that book (or the movie). If you wake up every morning and go to a job you hate, you will get sick.

Well, I don't hate my job. But there are difficult people that I have to deal with (yes, bullies) on a fairly daily basis, and for a lot of reasons it is time to move on.

More later. I'm hitting publish even though this isn't nearly done because blogging is a time-driven medium. We'll come back to it.

So get used to it--your RSS feeds are going to be getting more from Sarah Louise on a more daily basis.


Wednesday, March 24, 2010

"Do you think you look like Colin Farrell?"

(Charlotte, to Anthony Marentino, in the last episode of Sex and the City)

In this moment, Charlotte has gone into Chanel to find something to wear to meet the biological parents of the baby she and Harry are intending to adopt. And Anthony says, it's so "TV movie," because the parents are from, guess where? Charlotte! And in the movie, he would be played by Colin Farrell. Charlotte pauses, and says kindly, "Do you think you look like Colin Farrell?"

I had one of those moments today. (Or I think it was today.) (Sorry, the cold is making me all fuzzy.) I was g-chatting with someone and shared that I have a crush. And I shared the age of that crush. And there was a HUGE pause. And finally she said, "Do you think he's interested in you in that way?" And, um, NO. There is no indication that he sees me as anything but this older woman that he is friends with in a class that will be ending in five weeks. Which is why it is a crush. (The thing is, there are no available men in my life that are my age.) (Currently.) (Hoping that will change.) But what I said to g-chat friend was this: the fact that I have a crush (and baby lust? moi?) is letting me know that I am still alive, there is still some kick left.


I realized something today. I used to use blogging as conversation. Instead of talking to people in my life, I blogged for people "living in" computers. Today, instead of blogging about the crazy weekend that included a family wedding, I emailed my sister and told her what really upset me. And she responded with what really upset her. And you know what? Instead of us both stewing, we shared our equally valid strong opinions with each other. We're communicating!! And life is good. She said she liked that I had opinions, it was very Elizabeth Bennett of me. Which, coming from my sister, is a high compliment.'s an adventure, discovering what this blog is going to become, now that I'm back occasionally. I want to go back and read what I wrote, but I want to move forward too.

Time to go to bed.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

these are the days of miracle and wonder, don't cry, baby don't cry....


You know how spring happens? You've trudged through every gray day of this solid snowy winter, a winter that tied you down to parking chairs, to boots every day, to hot tea, to wet woolen socks and double comforters and flannel sheets. Bad driving, near accidents as you slide down (or up) One Wild Way, the street the Zoo is on. Ice on your gutters. Ice on your steps. Too much rock salt, and your landlord will have to fix steps again this spring, as he has to every spring.

And then one day, one day. You happen to look over at the lawn and see out of the corner of your eye something...color? Yes, it is the first crocuses of spring, and you take pictures and your friends at work, who live in the suburbs where there are trees and colder temperatures and snow still covering their lawns and they are jealous. You take pictures every day, marking the new ones that appear, the tulip leaves that are coming up, defiantly, saying, "na na na na, na na na na, hey hey, winter, goodbye!"

And all at once it is like that in your life. Boom boom boom, the changes in your life are like a box of March Madness basketballs let loose in an empty gym. Ph.d in Children's library work? That makes SO much more sense than the MFA in fiction or non-fiction. It is relief. Your friends say, you are more animated when you talk about it, that's good. And the funny thing is that it took from last spring's crocuses through summer, fall, winter, for the ideas to come back to the first idea you had, last February, last March, when North Hills Sally's husband was thinking to take a job far away.

Some changes are like that--you plant the tulips in late October, or at the latest, early November, and you forget about them. You go on with your life, go to work, get your coffee, start up the computer, shut off the computer, drive to work, drive home. And then, one day, the flowers come up. You go to a new church and you realize it is time to switch churches...which means leaving one. And the changes roll and roll and roll, like the runaway basketballs, blooming, like the early crocuses and the defiant tulips.

And all at once, you want your feet in the sand, you want to see the sun rise and set on the sea, you want to kayak in the marsh. And you are determined, you think, I'm gonna do this, if it costs me my entire income tax refund. (Which it won't, by the way.)

But all of a sudden, you are extravagant, and you want to buy the world a Coke, and you want to hug everyone and in an instant, you want to cry, for the five years, the people you are leaving behind when you get that letter of transfer from the Presbytery. And all of a sudden, it's not scary, it's matter of fact. I'm doing this. You can't stop me, you wouldn't want to. Let's sit and have some tea, and mourn the time we had. I won't forget the way you wear your hat. I won't forget the way you hold your knife. And if I forget your birthday, you'll forgive me, because it is still too painful to embrace you.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

of audiobooks and read-alouds...

So...I'm sitting at work reading the first in color edition of Horn Book magazine. WOW! And at once, I'm entranced, drawn in to read a magazine I've loved since I discovered it, who knows when. Any children's librarian worth her mettle knows about Horn Book, but just in case you haven't, it's like the New Yorker. For children's books. It is all about children's books. A lot of its real estate is taken up by reviews, but there are also scholar-level essays about (in this issue) why color is important. Or comparing Anita Curtis Klause's vampire novel, The Silver Kiss, to the Stephenie Meyer Twilight series.

And then I'm sucked into an article called, "What makes a good read-aloud for middle graders?" in the "What makes a good...?" series. And all at once, I'm taken back to fourth grade, when Mrs. Medina read us Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing. Which was the real accelerator to my reading career. I had to read everything Judy Blume had written. It was 1980, and I was living overseas, in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. I had one bookstore that had English language books, and a library with a not so current collection. Judy Blume hadn't even written Tiger Eyes yet. Or Super Fudge. But she had written Starring Sally J. Freedman as herself,* and Deenie, and Then Again, Maybe I won't, and of course, Are you there God, it's me, Margaret. My friends and I gobbled each one, whole. We didn't get all the stuff that parents balk at, because generally, if we didn't understand a bit, we skipped over it. I actually did a research paper on Judy Blume in high school, had to get special permission, because she was a children's author, everyone else was writing about Hemingway, or Dickens. I never got to most of adult reading. I've been stuck in the children's section ever since. (My love for chick lit aside.)

But I've gotten ahead of myself.

I adore audio books. Adore. Sometimes I prefer the audio to the printed copy of the book.

And what is an audio book, but a book read aloud, sometimes by the author?

I must think about this more. But for now, I'll leave you with that. I am dumbfounded that I never made the connection before.

A quote from the Horn Book article:

"Reading picture books aloud to younger children is common practice--teachers during the school day, parents at bedtime. But reading aloud in the middle grades is less widespread. Once children start reading on their own, the demands of curriculum, testing, and the ever more splintered schedule cause teachers to abandon the practice. What a loss! At every age, listening to someone reading aloud is a gift." (66)

*I remember having an argument with a friend about the pronunciation of that title. It's pronounced "staring," I insisted. My friend was from the South, and I said only stuck up people would pronounce it with a long a sound. (This is what comes from NOT reading aloud to your children, people.)

McDonnell, Christine, "What makes a good read-aloud for middle grades," Horn Book Magazine, Jan/Feb 2010: 66-72. Print.

Note (a day later, after this was initially posted): when I shared my epiphany with my boss, a children's librarian of many decades, and a bonified storyteller, she almost but not quite said, well, doy! Which made me realize that it's been FOREVER since someone besides Jim Collins or Malcolm Gladwell or any number of amazing audio book readers have read aloud to me. My favorite audio book as a child was "Mouse Soup" by Arnold Lobel. My dad read many fairy tales to me (my favorite being, no surprise here, Cinderella.) But as I do not have a husband/boyfriend in my life to read to me, and no children to read to (aside from the Mother Goose crowd), for me, it was an epiphany. I said to her, "it's been a long time since someone has read aloud to me." And she said, "That makes me sad." (or similar words.) (Memoir writing--where we don't always remember the words, but the sense of them.)

Le sigh. But we move on.

Monday, March 01, 2010

A man cannot serve two masters...or root for two teams.

Yesterday was a day of mixed allegiances. I went to morning church so I could watch the Gold Medal Hockey team. I cheered for both teams, secretly hoping for Canada to win.

I am a realist, and a traitor. Realistic in that I knew the game would go past the 5 o'clock start of my church. Realistic in that I knew in my heart of hearts that I wanted the other team, the one not called Team USA, to win.

How do we sort out this life? I went to morning church, at a quiet Presbyterian church that I have "a crush" on. Since I'm often tired of my own church, with the people ten to twenty years younger than me, all the babies, all the new was nice to go to a place where people sat in pews, not chairs, and not everyone sat together, and the music was nice and predictable and I was able to worship because it was familiar. (I often think that our pastors experiment too much.) They had a honest to goodness coffee hour, instead of a "take down the chairs" half hour. People stood around and talked, and some people figured out I was a stranger and talked to me. Does loving W church mean I love the Open Door less? I am invested at the OD, I do visuals once every 5th or 6th Sunday. There are people there that I have relationships with, some going back more than the five years we've been a church. But I tire of it. I guess we all tire of home at some time, that's why we have to go on vacation? So was going to W church a vacation? And like the beaches, the warm air that we know we can't take home, I was tapping into some parts of the service that I miss?

And, by liking W church, was I cheating on the Open Door? Which leads right into why I went to morning church--USA vs. Canada in Olympic hockey. Now, as sports go, I am a Penguins fan first. I did not grow up thinking that the US was a hockey powerhouse, and while I want the American skaters to win, I also want the best skaters to win. So I cheered for Kim Yu-Na, who was amazing and graceful in both the short and free programs in figure skating.

So...if I don't expect USA to be a hockey powerhouse, and it was the miracle of the goalie, Ryan Miller, that got the US team to the Gold medal game, and I am a Penguins fan first, well...I have to say, those things said, I felt a little bit like Benedict Arnold. Traitor. How could I root for the Canadians? But I didn't know the Americans. The Canadian team was full of names I recognized, and two that I loved. Eric Staal, Marc Andre Fleury, and yes, Sidney "Sid the Kid" Crosby. So, faced with rooting for players I didn't know and love vs. rooting for players I did know and love? I was rooting for Canada. But, not outwardly. So it was the most boring hockey game I'd ever watched, because I didn't care who won. When we went to overtime, I flipped a coin and determined that for the OT I would root for the US team. And I did. But when Crosby got that goal, I was dancing in my seat. I could not have been prouder of the 22-year-old Canadian who has skated his way into my heart.

Does that make me a bad person? To some, it does. On FaceBook, a college classmate came out and said that she was rooting for the Canadians. And she was reprimanded again and again, in the comments. I said, hey, you're still fine in my boat, and I'm secretly hoping for O Canada to be sung at the end of the game. Then I sunk my boat. I said, "It's not as if we're playing Russia." To which another friend of my friend (but a stranger to me) wrote, SL, move north, and if we were playing Russia, I'd root for them because of Ovechkin, (the Russian player for the Washington Capitols who has captured so many hearts in and outside of the Beltway.) Which to me pointed out the irony--it was not okay for T to root for Canada, outright, but this person would root for Russia because of Ovechkin, which is essentially why I was rooting for Canada.

Confused yet?

It's easy for me to say, "buck up, it's just a game." I am not a Japanese skater who lives and breathes the rivalry between the countries of Korea and Japan. I am not an American skater who against all odds got to the medal game and lost to the captain of the reigning Stanley Cup team, lost again to Canada, as we have in games before. There are roots that go deeper than one game, or even as many games as it takes to get to the Gold Medal game.

I like a church with a coffee hour. I like a church with a small vocal ensemble. I like sermons that tell a story, so beautifully written that I can't take notes, but the images stay in my head for days after. We are a collection of our experiences, of our childhood memories. And my childhood memory is of coffee hour. My childhood memory is not of hockey--I only became a fan in 1997, and it was automatically the Penguin nation that I adhered to, not the American city where it's played, the American country where it resides.

I grew up all over. I rooted for Honduras in the World Cup in 1982. My personality is not one of severe traditional jealousy for the home team. What is the home team? If you were to take it literally, my home team would be the Washington Capitols. But I wasn't a hockey fan when I lived in the DC area as a teen. And there is a strange phenomenon in geographic allegiance: once a Pittsburgher, always a Pittsburgher. If you've lived here long enough to pass the Pittsburghese quiz, use a parking chair in a major snowstorm, see the Pens go for the Stanley Cup and win, see the Steelers go for the Heisman trophy and win, you may move, but Pittsburgh will always be a part of you. I bleed black and gold.

I don't know. This is convoluted thinking that I'm not going to try to fully sort out here.