13 February, 2017  |   Comment

On Valentine’s Eve

Little kids make the best Valentines

Romance is such a new construction. It was just a few hundred years ago that women were just purchased and traded out on the open market. This makes the history of Valentine’s day both fresh and confusing.

Valentine's arrow to the heartHistorians still aren’t quite sure why Valentine’s day is related to St. Valentine.
Was it that he fell in love with his jailer’s daughter?
Was it that he married lovers?
We don’t quite know.

What we do know is that some etymologists think Valentine’s day is just a confusion of consonants. Back when the letters v and g were considered interchangeable, the Norman word “galantin” which meant “a lover of women,” was at one time written and pronounced valantan AND valentin.

We love our romance, we can’t be bothered to keep our consonants straight.
Sounds pretty human.

All of that said, my favorite part of Valentine’s day are all the superstitions.

You can't be too sure what a kid's Valentine will include

Graveyard Visions
Back in the 1600s, a girl, could conjure up a vision of her future spouse. All she had to do was go to the graveyard on St. Valentine’s Eve at midnight.

There, she would sing a song and run around the church twelve times.
Boom. Vision of her future husband bestowed.

Stay at Home Version
If she didn’t want to leave her house, she could do what this lady did back in 1754:

“Last Friday was St. Valentine’s Day, and the night before I got five bay leaves and pinned four on the corners of my pillow and the fifth to the middle; and then if I dreamt of my sweetheart, Betty said we should be married before the year was out.

But to make it more sure I boiled an egg hard and took out the yolk and filled it with salt; and when I went to bed ate it shell and all, without speaking or drinking after it.

We also wrote our lovers; names on bits of paper, and rolled them up in clay and put them into water; and the first that rose up was to be our Valentine.

Would you think it? Mr. Blossom was my man. I lay abed and shut my eyes all the morning, till he came to our house, for I would not have seen another man before him for all the world.”

Got that?

All you have to do is pin a few bay leaves to your pillow corners, boil an egg, take out the yolk without breaking the shell too much, fill the hole with salt and eat the whole thing without water.

Vision granted.
Humans, we are weird.

Tomorrow, we’ll probably make some heart shaped bacon, cut up some heart shaped strawberries and deliver Valentines to the people we love the most.

Hope your Valentine’s day is chock-full of love.

7 February, 2017  |   Comment

How to write a love poem, a template

It is Valentine’s Day soon.
I have an idea for you.
Write a special person a love poem.

This is my favorite guy smoking a cigar

Question for you: Why would you write a love poem?

I mean, really, the cons:
Love poems have a risk of being cheesy,
love poems demonstrate your creativity
love poems require vulnerability

Those cons look pretty scary, don’t they?
(Thankfully, the pros outweigh the cons.)

Way out-weighing, from the pros:
Love poems don’t cost a lot of money,
love poems demonstrate your creativity,
love poems make people feel really special.

My method for writing a love poem uses a template.
This template is based on remembering how the person makes you feel in three parts of your body.

You know how therapists often say that trauma can be held in the body? Like in Sherlock, how Watson has that limp? Or how different injuries can be healed by working through the feelings instead of just treating the body?

I believe that our bodies don’t only hold trauma, they also hold warmth, gratitude and loving feelings. This body memory is key to writing a great love poem.

For this exercise, we’re going into
our Brain,
our Heart and
our Loins
(ahem).

Get a piece of paper you don’t mind messing up, and a favorite pen. We need to get into idea-generating mode. Are you there? Do you have your paper and your pen?

Let’s get started!

Thinking with your brain is the easiest first place to start. We’re starting by generating nouns, verbs and adjectives that describe all the logical things that you love about your special person.

It might be something kind they do for you, it might be physical actions, it might be the look on their face when they’re enjoying something you do for them. For caretakers, it might have to do with how they tuck someone in for the night or the tenderness they show.

Write 5 nouns, 5 adjectives and 5 verbs related to the very logical, matter-of-fact, funny or reasonable reasons you love your person.

  

Thinking with your heart requires a bit more focus.

Close your eyes and take a deep breath, pulling that air deep into your heart. Thinking with your heart requires closed eyes and several minutes of quiet.

When you think with your heart, you remember the warm feeling in your chest you felt when you decided that this person was the person for you. Heart feelings tend to focus on gratitude, on warmth, on the choice to do the kind thing.

When you’ve been partnered for a long time, it can take a few more breaths to bubble up the heart feelings. This isn’t because you don’t love them, but because I think that thanks to all the moving parts in this modern life, loving with our hearts is often replaced by loving with our heads.

Now it’s time to write down 5 nouns, 5 adjectives and 5 verbs that burst forth from your heart when you feel your person, right there in your chest.

  

Yeah, I said it. Your loins.

Now, of course if you’re writing a love poem to a platonic friend or someone you don’t have those kind of feelings for, you can skip this one. But if you’re writing a love poem to your Big Heavy, rustle up some loin feelings.

The trouble with loin feelings is that they’ve been sneakily co-opted by media that don’t have our true loin feelings at heart (see: romance novels and nudie movie dialogue).

That’s okay! We’re in idea-generating mode here, so we can write down all the throbbing, pulsating, glistening adjectives, nouns and verbs that come up from down there and refine in a minute.

Ready? Write down 5 nouns, 5 adjectives and 5 verbs related to the private, sneaky, sexy times that make the corners of your mouth twist up.

  

Now, take your paper and circle your top 3 nouns, adjectives and verbs from your Brain, Heart and Loins. Now write them down fresh on another piece of paper.

Cut that paper into pieces so you can move those pieces around.

This is what mine looked like:

Take these words,
move them around,
group them together and
remove the ones that don’t feel relevant.

Start to think through a narrative.

Now that you have your few – it could include all 12 or just a few – take out a fresh piece of paper again and make these words make sense.

Here’s what mine turned into:

We mean to watch Netflix
until whispers lead us to
a heated tangle.
The dishes can wait.

I think he’ll love it.

If you’re stuck trying to figure out how to write a love poem, let this quick little template help you out. It won’t be cheesy as long as you stick to the truth. You know, the truth about the real reason, you’re celebrating this love we’re lucky to have.

Happy love poem making!

9 December, 2016  |   2 Comments

Advent Practices Beget a Fresh Poetry Friday

Advent Practices, hung on the doorFor Advent, my very religious mom used to write good deeds on tiny scraps of paper. She would put them in a fish bowl.

Then, every night during Advent, all 5 kids lined up to pick our deed out of a fishbowl. The next day we actually did the practice, and then we would talk about our action at dinner.

So this year, instead of Elf on a Shelf or Advent gifts, we continue our family tradition of Advent Practices.

We put our advent practices in envelopes up on the playroom door. Every day, one of these two kids take an envelope off the door and read it out loud. Every day, we do one of these actions that, in a very broad way, “make the world a better place.”

Some examples:
Find a country on the globe and learn an interesting fact about it
Choose 1 toy to give away
Talk to someone new today
Eat a new fruit today

All of this is to say that this week, one of our good deeds was to write a poem about something beautiful. And that’s what I’m sharing with you today.

A Poem About Somethings Beautiful
Inside her sleeping palm
Between her thinking brows
His broad shoulders as he
straightens
the
porch
the
day
after
Your arm thrown around my shaking shoulders
from laughter,
tears or
fear

Happy poetry Friday!
Happy Advent Practices to everyone!

 

8 December, 2016  |   3 Comments

Telescopes and art supplies for everyone

So much seems worse these days. You know that. I know that.

But for now, we have this one thing that makes us happy.
Our kids don’t ask for a bunch of crap for Christmas.

And we have technology to thank for it.I received this Barbie Bubbling Spa when I was 9 and didn't have the patience to read the instructions for how to put the stickers on properly, so I was vaguely disappointed in myself every time we played with it. Let that be a lesson to you, always RTFM.

One of the most upsetting memories I have about being a child at Christmas was the WANT.

My Christmas list went on for 5 pages, with page numbers and references.

I wanted a new Barbie whirlpool, I wanted every third listed item in the JCPenney Christmas catalog, I wanted everything I saw on the cartoons and everything I saw on the commercials. (Except Gobots, no one wanted Gobots).

For me, one of those unexpected parenthood fears was knowing that my children were going to feel that intense WANT. They would be tortured with all the things they couldn’t have.

Thanks modern technology (and the internet) they’re largely exempt.

We recycle catalogs before they come in the house and most importantly, we stream the vast majority of entertainment that comes to us without commercial interruption. Without cable, they simply aren’t exposed to the relentless commercial manipulation of the 80s and 90s.

At this specific moment in their brief lives, they have less of a hard time of it than I did.

It’s an utter delight, that the kids aren’t yet consumed by the WANT.

Thanks technology, I’ll take this one as a win.

Anything you want from the JC Penney Wishbook can certainly NOT be yours.

22 November, 2016  |   1 Comment

Thanksgiving thanks for Tisquantum

This year, we’re going to a pal’s house for Thanksgiving. That’s great because I don’t feel much like cooking this year (even though Thanksgiving is in my top 3 holidays). I had a humdinger of a fall last week and my turkey basting arms are all bruised and sore. This is the first time since we were married that I haven’t made the feast, so I’m really excited to see how someone else does it!

I posted a version of this this back in 2011 – but he seems even more important this year. And Tisquantum’s generousity makes the shame at Standing Rock even more grim.

Tisquantum is the real name of the Pauxet Indian history refers to as Squanto.

Thanks Squanto!

In 1615, Tisquantum had lived happily near Plymouth. As is the white person’s way, they kidnapped him and sold him into slavery in Spain (with 26 other locals). Eventually Tisuqantum escaped to England and went to return home, only to find that smallpox had taken most everyone he knew.

Three years of smallpox had utterly decimated Plymouth’s Indian population.
Tisquantum returns (after being kidnapped and sold into slavery) to devastation.

Six months later, the Pilgrims arrived.
And. Tisquantum. Helps. Them.

Tisquantum was the whole reason the Pilgrims survived their first winter.
Tisquantum was the whole reason the Pilgrims weren’t at war with the local tribes.

For the Pilgrims’ first harvest the 20 acres of corn grew well (the plants they brought from England failed). Thanks to this bounty, they decided to celebrate with a holiday. They even doubled their weekly individual food ration to get a bonus peck of corn along with the previous peck of meal.

This first Thanksgiving lasted three days. Captain Myles Standish paraded his group of soldiers and they tooted their bugles. They played stool ball, a sort of croquet. And best of all, they invited Native Americans to join in the fun. Massasoit, chief of the Wampanoags, came with ninety guests. They played sports – and competed in races and athletic competitions.

Eventually things would go sour between the Wampanoags and the Pilgrims, but for now, there were races to run. Deer to eat.

For once in their hardscrabble lives, there was an abundance of food. On the menu was venison, duck, goose, eels, corn bread, leeks, watercress, and greens. Like all good guests should, the Indian braves added five deer to the feast. They rounded out the meal with wild grape wine.

Dessert was wild plums and dried berries, as one would expect.
Grin.

So thanks, Tisquantum, for that help. Without you becoming an advisor to the Pilgrims, without your translating and negotiating, without you there wouldn’t be us. There wouldn’t be this uniquely American holiday rooted in gratitude.

Gratitude that we weren’t sold into slavery,
Gratitude for grocery stores.
Gratitude for decoratively atmospheric fireplaces.
Gratitude for that extra peck of cornmeal.

And especially gratitude for perspective.