Thursday, April 29, 2010

Goodbye, #22

Last night my old friend Larry from high school left me a message to call him. Larry's wife is sick and due to have a kidney transplant, so I was worried he might have bad news.

He had bad news, but it wasn't about Tammy. It was about Brian Drugge (pronounced "druggy").

Turns out, Brian Drugge died of colon cancer this week. He was 39.

Brian was this really quiet, really amazing athlete who went to our high school. He was short, like 5'5", and was thick and swift-footed and easy-going. He started on varsity teams for baseball and football - and he always wore the number 22.

He had this noticeable sweet adoration from his teammates, and I don't think I ever heard a bad word about him. From anyone.

It was so hard to hear that Larry, perhaps like a lot of Brian's old buddies, was so sad that he didn't even know Brian was suffering. "Why didn't I know?" Larry asks during our phone call. "Why didn't he tell any of us, so we could..." Larry couldn't finish.

"So you could show him you cared?" I venture.

Larry's quiet. "Yeah..."

The other thing that makes me sad is knowing how colon cancer ravages the body. Brian's death reminds me of my dad's 52-year-old bird frame, all elbows and knuckles and teeth, after colon cancer ravaged his 6'3" body.

Brian was so compact and broad and muscular. I picture him reduced to that smallness and stillness and think it's just so contrary to what most of us ever knew him to be. I can't shake that image from my head.

He's survived by parents, siblings, a wife, 3 daughters. That's heartbreaking, too.

Rest in Peace, Brian Drugge. Even those of us far away still think of you fondly.

Friends, if you have anything to add, please share. (Karen?)

Wednesday, April 28, 2010


My poem, "Romancing the Poem," was just accepted at Chronogram Magazine for their May 2010 issue, page 63.

Chronogram editor Phillip Levine wrote me my love letter and told me my poem is a "good, charming piece."

Yes, I'm quite happy. This makes me 5 for 5 in terms of my goal - one for every month of this year so far.

Smooches to Phil Levine!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

THE WAR ON VACCINE: On PBS's Frontline tonight

Ashland is noted for having one of the highest populations of parents who choose not to vaccinate their children. I believe the number is at about 1/3.

Personally, I've had my kids vaccinated, but I think the debate is a really good one to follow. The more we research and learn, the better informed we can be in the long run.

My friend Jennifer Margulis, who's an award-winning journalist here in Ashland, has opted not to vaccinate her children. And I'm incredibly impressed that she agreed to this Frontline interview in order to further the conversation about vaccination.

Watch PBS tonight on your TV or online to learn more about the vaccination debate.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Got another Love Letter

Yes, I collected another love letter this week but I say Yi-yi-yi-yi-yi-oh-oh-oh-oh.

I walked through my house in exactly this way when I got the news.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Of Cherry Blossoms, Horse Pastures and Fish Eggs: A Modern Mama's Earth Day Mini-festo

It was an unusual housing situation. Not because I lived with my mom after my dad left -- lots of kids experienced that, especially in the 70s -- but because I lived in one of six four-plexes built off a pothole-ridden dirt road on a ranch in Tacoma, Washington. The landlords were rancher-jewelers who wanted to provide affordable housing for people in need, so a number of the units were filled with single moms raising their kids in what became a loosely dependent little community. What seems most unusual is that they gave us free rein of the ranch.

Most of the kids were boys, and for five years my best friends were these boys. I had best little girlfriends at school I could call to coordinate dresses and Leia buns for Star Wars on the playground, but at home I was all about ripped jeans, ratty tennies, a hooded sweatshirt, and pitch in my hair. Afternoons and weekends were spent climbing the fir trees that lined Pipeline Road, racing up higher than the power lines, tree sap gumming my braids and my fingers. At dark, when I’d finally go in, I’d smell of bark and needles and dirt. I also smell of dust and hay and machinery oil.

The big red barn housed machinery and crates that had been stored in there for decades. There, we hid, climbed, creaked around on the ground floor or in the loft, cobwebs stretching sticky across our foreheads, stamping horses snorting warm breath up our way when we lowered straw into their troughs.

Out in the fields, we'd run breathless and dusty, tripping on mounds and holes in the uneven earth, rolling in the weeds -- dandelions, daisies, thistles -- alternately tumbling out of our falls like expert gymnasts, or flying and landing flat as pancakes, stunned by the hardness of the ground. Once, early on, I ran through a patch of the most lovely green and fuzzy looking bushes I'd ever seen. It was a hot summer day and I was sure they'd refresh me, like cherry blossoms on thick branches in the spring or deep puddles in the fall. But they were nettles that lit my bare skin on fire. I ran down the hillside ablaze, only to find no real cure at home, except maybe a skin-washing – and a greater understanding of my surroundings.

Earth Day is all that exploration and more. It's community and discovery and time and curiosity and dreaming and play. It's what I hope my kids have when I open the storage shed and let them grab rakes and shovels and trowels, and set them to digging along the side of the house -- between the grape vines and our neighbors' flowering pear tree. I want them to dig in their half-inch increments, discovering clay-rich soil, perfect for carving out army trenches, moon craters, and a route to China. I love hearing them out there at 7 AM on a Saturday, their first thought not having gone to cartoons and TV but to what in the world were they going to discover that day. Their voices are husky, rushed, companionable: "You dig there and I'll dig here! Let's see if we can make our tunnels meet!" And the scraping, scratching, toiling begins.

Earth Day is the reminder that we should be outdoors, getting into mischief with our friends. Feeling the sun, the sap, even the nettles on our skin. Viewing the world from treetops, hilltops and barns. It's why I want my son to come limping in after he's discovered a certain kind of branch is too weak after he's fallen from up in the cherry blossoms, onto the wood fence and into the neighbor's yard. Of course I don't want injury. And I don't want unnecessary risk. But I do want exploration and discovery, and a kinetic understanding of nature. The more you figure out, the more you've been in it, the more you feel at home in it.

Which leads, of course, to taking care of the earth. It means understanding our best contributions mean walking or biking to school and all other nearby destinations; it means not polluting the air with exhaust, not digging up mountainsides for coal, or drilling coastal reefs never before touched by human hands. It means turning off lights and machines when not using them -- and using them less by being outdoors -- so we can dam fewer rivers, allowing ancient species of salmon to make their ancient treks from ocean to river source as their ancestors have done before them.

When I think of those salmon, I think of my children, who started as little fish babies in my womb. I want them to take the treks I've taken, and our ancestors before us have taken: the swims in clean rivers, the romps in the fields, the falls from tall trees. I want them to come into shelter at night, smelling of earth and air and bark, layered in grime and sweat and cherry blossoms, and live like they care about everything that exists on this planet. Because they actually do.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Yo Gabba Gabba! Aquabats!

Why, yes, kids. I can see why you'd think the lead singer is your father. He's certainly got the same moves...

Book Sense: A Conversation with Dane

Dane: Mom, how's your book coming along?

Me: Uh, super slow. I think I want to give up on it. It's going nowhere.

Dane: I know a book you could write that would be easy!

Me: Really? [raise eyebrow] What?

Dane: Just write a Dictionary!


Tuesday, April 20, 2010


Nine submissions -- for four essays and two poems -- are floating around cyberspace or drifting through snail mail as I write this. Nine!

It's April, and so far I've achieved my writing goal of one publication or acceptance per month for the year, and now I'm coming up on May.

May could be the month of love letters... or love letters. Who knows which will be which? I'll keep you posted.

In other news, Drunken Boat emailed me that the galleys will soon be ready for their issue that will include"Bar After Bar." Needless to say, I look forward to that!

*P.S. I'm home with Dane today. He's got symptoms similar to what Aubrey had last week. He's reading The Lightning Thief and will later watch a Discovery Channel video on dragons; I'm reading segmented/collage essays so I can try to give form to an essay topic I've been thinking about for years...

Monday, April 19, 2010

Major Triumphs In The Minor League

With the sun shining down on Field 5, Dane and his Yankees faced the Phillies on Saturday. They ultimately lost the game 7-9, but let me tell you what my kid did:

He bunted a run in, he stole third base, he scored, and he caught an amazing high fly ball to center field that surprised everyone in the dugout and in the grandstands, and possibly even Dane himself. ("I had my eyes closed, Mom!")

That fly ball was pretty much Dane's best play ever, and his dad had tears in his eyes to prove it.

Dane would still really like a shot at playing catcher - or anywhere on the infield - but he's got a great attitude and just keeps asking his coach what he needs to learn to be given that chance.

Coach's answer? Keep practicing.

Dane's answer? You got it, coach.

When Aubrey and her Mariners warm up for her game on Wednesday night, Dane and I already have plans to hit the lower field where he'll see what it's like to pitch from the mound to my mitt behind home plate.

Because he'd love to be a pitcher, too - and ya gotta love a kid with dreams.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Out of the Archives - Bad Word

I found this old post and this photo from 2006.


My son, Dane, came home from kindergarten and told me his classmate Nadia got in trouble at school. She’d said the "S-H-" word.

Nadia's from Romania and she’s a little older than her classmates. She’s also a bit rough-and-tumble, but harmless enough. I asked him what kind of trouble she got in and he said she had to run a lap.

Aubrey, my younger child, yelled from the other room, "What's the S-H- word?"

I sighed and leaned forward on my chair, trying to come up with some quick teaching points as Aubrey made her way to the room.

I knew full well they’d heard me say it before, but when Aubrey showed up, I started out carefully: "Well… it's a word people say that shows their frustration -- only it's just adults who use it, and they try not to use it very often. And,” I said, looking at each of them deliberately, “kids aren’t supposed to use it at all."

Pause. Calm response. "It's SHIT."

"Shit?" Dane asked. "She said SHUT UP. . ."

Thursday, April 15, 2010

To Cop A Feel - as published in Underwired Magazine

In the checkout line, Aubrey creeps under my skirt and stands up to run her fingers across my bare buns. She’s three and I’m used to her innocent caresses; however, I’m not prepared for her cold fingers goosing me as I pay for groceries, or the echoes of her voice bouncing off linoleum floors, glass doors and an open cash register with the holler of “Hey Mommy! Why aren’t you wearing any panties?”

I wince and blush at the checker suppressing her laugh and the guy in line behind me with bearded stubble and a 12-pack. I guide Aubrey down – and out – of there, and then ask her to please stand beside me and hold off on further observations. Please.

I’m not about to explain the subtle nuances of underwear at Safeway to a three-year-old: I’m not about to tell her and our neighbors in line that I am indeed wearing underwear, but I’m wearing what we call a thong, which would give her more to figure out and a more elaborate image for our neighbor than makes me comfortable.

I save that conversation for the van ride home, where I explain differences in underwear choices and panty lines to a little girl who will later that week hike her panties up to her armpits, creating a sort of toddler thong, and run through the house yelling, “I’m Mommy! I’m Mommy!”

Recently, her attention has turned to my breasts, and has advanced to petting. Heavy petting if I don’t stop her.

She cops a feel when we read books, when I finish a shower, when I wear a pretty blouse. She starts with the outer curves, working circles around them, and moves her way inward, skimming the nipples. She pokes, she strokes, she kisses.

I feel like a teenager in the back seat after Sadie Hawkins. I try to fend her off with a smile and the option to, say, just hold hands. “But, hey!” she seems to plea. “You invited me! And, after all, I love you!”

As unnerving, and even annoying, as these experiences can be, I know it’s healthy that my daughter is curious about the female body – mine, in particular – and that she is expressing herself this way. In fact, I’m grateful she admires what she sees and feels. It’s taken me years to get to that point. It’s taken me years of unassuming one-piece swimsuits, control top pantyhose, and bad posture to make my breasts seem smaller, all because I didn’t think the fullness, the billows, and the curviness of my body deserved much more.

My own mother had full breasts, thick thighs and a stomach that wasn’t flat. She was active – skiing, hiking, wearing short shorts and two-pieces without worrying about looking perfect – and she otherwise dressed in a classic style she thought served her figure well. I didn’t necessarily admire her body, and I never caressed it with Aubrey’s zeal, but I intently watched how she handled it, which seemed confident if somewhat careful.

A child of the ‘70s, my strongest notions of body size and proportion probably came from television. Wonder Woman, with her large breasts, small waist and cottage-cheese-free thighs set an early standard for me. As did posters of Farrah Fawcett at my dad’s house and any commercial with an attractive woman in it. I watched wholesome shows like Little House on the Prairie and Diff’rent Strokes, too, but my mind clung to images of women filling out their jeans and skirts, and even their prairie dresses, just so.

So when my daughter, who doesn’t watch commercial television, feels me up, telling me she loves me, that I’m beautiful, and that she wants to be just like me when she grows up, I start to understand that this size 12 body of mine is getting exactly the attention and admiration it deserves. Aubrey’s perspective is pure.

Some of that pure perspective rubbed off on me this summer, when I saw my mother and my aunt together. Both in their sixties now, their knees are dimpled, their waists are thickening, their arms are firm, and their breasts are still large, if slightly lower. They played croquet, they sat and talked, they ate from the snack tray. They laughed at the dog sniffing where nobody wanted him to sniff. They weren’t self-conscious. They were happy. They were comfortable.

I thought, Look at them. Look how they move with agility and strength, how they smile and laugh with confidence. Look how they accept themselves and enjoy others. And then I thought, That’s me. That’s me in 30 years. Look how lovely they are – and look who I’m going to be.

Perhaps Aubrey’s having that revelation now. Perhaps when she runs her fingers across my backside, gropes my chest, and asks when she’ll get her own set of breasts or if I’ll save my pink panties for her, she’s literally embracing who she is and who she’s going to be someday.

Who knows? Maybe I should have tested the limits of the cue I’d taken from Aubrey this summer. Maybe when I admired my mother and my aunt, I should have grabbed handfuls of their butts and their boobs like Aubrey would – if only to fully embrace my destiny, too.

Monday, April 12, 2010


I'm home from SCBWI, which was inspiring, but I'm home with a sick girl who projectiled onto the nurse today, which was not so inspiring. (Well, maybe it was a little inspiring.)

This could be all I post for SCBWI then, given the circumstances, but I'll at least make it juicy. Here's me with Matt Holm, illustrator for the adorable Babymouse graphic novel series:

I knew Aubrey would love this, so I had him sign her copy -- but when I figured out his sister writes the books and he illustrates them, I had him add Dane's name to the inscription, as a source of inspiration for my own little writing/drawing brother/sister team.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Stepping into the Story Garden -- and the Mouth and Some Friends' Houses and the Kennel...

Doesn't that all sound magical???

I'm headed to Redmond, Washington, this weekend for a whirlwind conference. My writer-pal Jennie and I drive the 9 hours north tomorrow, hob-nob with other writers that evening, and then take all-day classes Saturday and Sunday - all in hopes of getting a better grip on the Young Reader's (and Writers) world. In case you're concerned, of course I'm going to sneak a quick dinner in with my one and only Karen on Friday night, but other than that, it's work, work, work. Learn, learn, learn.

Mick is away at the Oregon Dental Association Conference in Portland, Oregon, this weekend, frequenting coffee shops and skate parks in between classes with his pal Justin. Needless to say, because we're doubling up on the adult learning, we're, boo hoo, farming our kids out to family and friends.

Alas, the kids are beside themselves with excitement: Dane gets to spend the weekend with Logan, and Aubrey gets to spend the weekend with her cousins. (Hopefully, she won't bring and attract any sickness -- she's missed three days of school this week with the Flu. Fingers crossed.)

And Sharkles? Sharkles the dog? She's doing some doggie daycare and overnights at the R&R Pet Resort. She should be having herself some fun (even though she'll miss us!) as she plays with other dogs and tuckers herself out for each night of sleep.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010


Here's Aubrey standing next to the world's tallest living man, Sultan Kosen, and the (formerly, recently, RIP) world's shortest man, He Pingping. For the project, the kids all sat in a circle, measured out the tall height and the short height onto separate pieces of butcher paper, and took turns drawing the body parts. They couldn't believe the contrast in heights between these two people -- and how they (the students) stood in comparison.

They also measured their waists in comparison to the world's smallest waist, a mere 15", a record held by Cathy Jung, who's been wearing corsets for 20 years and can't stand up now without one because her organs are all squished above and below her waist and her muscles there are shot! Find a coffee can -- we're talking smaller around than that. The kids' waists all measured in at around 22-30", if I remember correctly.

Here's all the butterfly art. The Queen Alexandra butterfly has an 11" wingspan, so it was easy to tell the kids to make their wing spans reach to the edges of standard paper laid out in landscape. They had the option to design their own colorful wings; I think Aubrey's the only one who chose to try to imitate it exactly. See if you can find it! (Click for larger image, of course.)

And here's one of the creepy clay creations. Dane opted to measure and replicate the world's longest tongue, which is nearly 4"!

Other clay projects were bulging eyeballs stuck up against their own eye sockets, long ropes of fingernails attached to the hand, and 7 inches of clay stretched from the ear to demonstrate the world's longest ear hair. (Grody!)

I would teach this camp topic again in a heartbeat. The subject is SO ripe for curiosity, wonder, and the opportunity for students to situate themselves in a larger context.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

A Return to Wildlife Safari
(Excuse the underlining - I can't find how to escape it up here!)

Mick had never EVER been to Wildlife Safari before, and we were coming off a super hard week of Spring Break -- ScienceWorks (exhilarating but hard), Strep throat (Dane was almost over it and I'd been on antibiotics for 24 hours on this day), and lovely houseguests the week before that -- so we decided to reconnect with each other.

We drove a hundred miles north to renew our membership at Wildlife Safari, in hopes of finding some Spring babies AND seeing what sort of Good Deals we could find again this year.

For renewing our membership, we got a FREE ELEPHANT CAR WASH (look at that elephant loving on our van!) - valued at $20.

We rode in the Safari Bus out to Feed The Bears (knocked down to $10 per person instead of $40 as a Spring Break Special):

We threw the bears apples, and we had to be careful not to tag them in the head (we weren't always the best shots, though, sorry to say -- thankfully the bears never held it against us):

And lastly, we went on the Lion Training excursion (again, FREE with our membership renewal) -- where horse meat and a dummy stick got the lions to stand up on their awesome hind legs...

The lions were magnificent, and probably Mick's favorite, but I think we'd all agree the cutest little cutie patooties were the baby goats.

And Dane loved the camels -- he took these pictures:

And to top it all off, we had to participate in this special Reynolds tradition:


Monday, April 05, 2010

Saddle Up
Well, that's a pretty cute cover for the "backside" issue!

FYI: Still waiting on my own copy...

Friday, April 02, 2010


While surfing the web to find an online copy of Underwired Magazine (haven't found one yet - might have to just wait until they mail me my hard copy from Kentucky and then scan it) I ran across this tweet on Underwired's Twitter account:

  1. Essay submissions for next UW were hilarious. Our favorite? Hands down... To Cop A Feel. There was a lot to say about the "Backside" theme.

Now isn't that a sweet tweet?


Meet Tai Song, Soccer Stud

Here's an article in the Tacoma News Tribune about Stadium High School's #1 ranked soccer team. My cousin Dani's son, Tai Song, is mentioned in it. Tai's been playing soccer his whole life and, apparently, he's stellar.

Dani, feel free to leave a comment with as many details as possible!

I wish I could see Tai play...

Thursday, April 01, 2010

After-School Activity

Dane's going over to a pal's house after school today so he can see his friend's chicks. I'm laughing to myself right now because in a few years "picking up chicks" is going to mean something entirely different to them.