Saturday, December 7, 2013

Deadly Bites and Weapons Before 7am

Phoenix: If a king snakes bites you, you will be dead forEVER. Like, EVER. If it bites you. A king snake will bite you, you know. It will. It bites.

Me: King snakes are harmless to us. They do not have venomous bites. They eat pests like rats and mice and help us.

Phoenix (with a totally disgusted look and a sarcastic tone): What, like you might just scream loudly if it bites you? That's IT? Sheesh.

Phoenix: Maybe I can ask Santa for something like small gun. Just a small one, not real. I mean, not a real gun - not that. Just like, a play gun. But still a gun, I mean. A gun for Christmas.

Me: silence... and the distinct feeling that I do not know where this child came from, with his snakes and gun talk.

Do you ever look at your kids that way? As though they dropped out of the sky?

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Sunday Note: Substance

substance (noun): the quality of being meaningful, useful, or important

Come to me with your substance
Let me hear your words
Let your worth be a banner
Let all manner of tomfoolery
be underlaid with meaning
Let us laugh and then share one of those moments
Where silence can indeed say it all
Silence and a falling teardrop
caressing your cheek
and singing the song of love
Carrying in its path the tale of war wounds
and broken hearts
and hearts that keep on living.
The substance of tears
may just be the substance of soul
Set free for the short journey
You could catch it with your tongue
and carry that soul within
Or just let it soak back into the ground
substance matter mass
You are always with us.
Changing form
Carrying on.

All will be well, and all will be well, and all manner of things will be well.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Pete the Cat talks

She holds Pete up like a chubby fur-puppet, and her Pete-voice reminds me of Burt (of Sesame Street fame, Burt & Ernie).
"Bethany, take me to work with you today. Do you think of me when you're gone? Do you miss me all day? Because I'd catch a grenade for you... jump in front of a train for you... I'd do anything for you. But you don't feel the same."

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Warthog in the House

"I feel like sitting with you. I want to be with you.
But the warthog is always there.
Phoenix has a wart on his foot, and he always hogs you, so he is the warthog."

Monday, November 11, 2013

Monsters in the Night

"There might be monsters over there.
There really might be.
But don't you worry, I'll go first, and I will kill them.
I will see them, like, when I walk right up to them.
And I will shine my flashlight, and I will get them.
Don't you worry."

And he walked ahead of me, in the darkness, stomping and peering ahead for creatures. Shining his light. Talking a blue streak. Monsters might be deaf, you know.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Sunday Note: What Lies Beneath

Some nights I sleep
on the edge of sleep
and I miss someone I once was
I sleep and wake
drift and rise
A tear glistens and I am confused
Then stolen away again
I think I am traveling and my spirit goes
and goes
But my mind can't fathom
and so it befuddles and soothes
and accepts the twilight journey
But in the morning light I feel shadows
I feel I have drifted
I long for a place that is
And I long for the sleep to cradle
and mistrust
But mostly I long to know
Where I have come from.


I decided in the morning that if I miss who I was, then I will be her again. Here comes The Sunday Note again. I'm back. 

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Adventures in Middle School thought processes

Cole: Mom, you know how you always say that you learn something better by making a mistake first?

Me: (jaw dropped, squinting suspiciously at him) No, I've never said that - do you mean how I've said "Learn from your mistakes?"

Cole: Yeah, that! Well, I did bad on a test, but don't worry! She let me retake it and I got a B. So, I did better by making a mistake first, like you said!

Me: First of all, I never said to make mistakes first! And secondly, the best option would have been to STUDY, if you knew a test was coming...

Cole: It doesn't matter, I got a B.

Oy vey.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Knowing where you've come from

Shine that light
Shine it out proud
I chime daily and daily
checking my own bushel for a light hidden
underneath it
Hear my words
lodge them in your heart
Carry them along, decades from here
I know they'll sink in
like soft weights, anchors, oh soul
or pointed barbs if I've not gone careful
but sink they will
And on the day
you say them in the heat of a moment
The hooks are in good
I'll know my job was done
It's only when we spout out to our own
that we know something for sure
That we know who we are
where we've come from
"You've come a long way, Bethy Lee."


This one's for my Nanny - great-grandmother Annie Mae Harrell - who loved me a long time, lodged some simple words in my heart, and fed me up with soul food of the original kind. I know where I came from Nanny, and you're right - it was a long way. :)

Thursday, July 25, 2013


I am wanting to say endless summer backwards, like Madam I'm Adam, because now the days are just r-e-m-m-u-s s-s-e-l-d-n-e to me.
I woke up with wanderlust and immediately began browsing on TripAdvisor. Yeah, that kind of wanderlust. The gotta get out of this r-e-m-m-u-s s-s-e-l-d-n-e kind of wanderlust. The kids kept wandering by, looking at the screen and whispering to each other "I think Mom is planning a trip... c'mere c'mere! Look! Sssshhh, I know!"
When the wandering need hits on the same day as a mood, there's trouble in paradise, people. I got all knotted up with What I Thought Would Be.
It's best to fast forward those days and move on, Check, please. New Day.

We were riding along in the van, and I was thinking 10,000 thoughts but couldn't hear myself over the noise of large voices from small people. I turned the music down and shrilled at them: "I can't hear myself think! You have to be quiet, this car is too small for all this noise."

Isabella apologized for the noise.
Cole looked over his shoulder and said: "Isabella. Don't be sorry. It was Mom's decision to have all these kids."

Yes, well.
Enough said.
Natural consequences anyone?

Monday, June 10, 2013

Endless Summer

I was thinking of the words endless summer, with a dreamy smile.
The first weeks of summer are so endless; a running play of pool time, bath time, drink time, movie time - we all veg out and laze out and it is well with my soul.
And then because I begin to feel so rested, and de-stressed, I can stay up when all is quiet and kids are snoring and maybe even Rick is too.
I can begin to have thoughts and write words and hear poems in my head again, because maybe the clutter of the school year has been stifling me, and maybe the constant laundry was crushing me (yeah, I said "was," you heard me. Swimsuits make fine clothing options.) and definitely the start of endless summer has remedied those 2 buzz-kills.
Again I have slips of paper blooming from my handbag and car console, with lines that rustle in me and beg to be written, at a stoplight or parking spot. Again I am lost in time, decades ago, or yesterday, reliving whatever feels worthy and jotting it down.
My gardenia bushes exploded this weekend. Like the sudden rains that drenched, the blooms just opened wide to drink it in - and I didn't even see it coming. I walked by, I smelled that gardenia fragrance, and my eyes drifted to close in delight.
Gardenia is the scent of endless summer.
Gardenia brings new life, new thoughts, and fresh, fresh summer.


Getting to know you
is like hearing a ping underwater
a homing device
and I draw closer.
Marco... Polo they holler
And I do the same in the turmoil of my head
ping ping ping
I follow
You walk forward
Some things are simple.

Endless summer, you complete me.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Summertime... Will the livin' be easy?

Mother's Day 2013
This is not what I've been doing lately. It's what I long for, my comfy chair in my Serenity Zone, but no - not nearly the time for it. Or blogging. Or other hobbies. The hamster wheel keeps spinning me around. And everything except the bare necessities have gone flying off the wheel. Groceries. Bathtime. Homework. Baseball. Laundry. Packing lunches. Packing lunches. Packing lunches. Out the door to work. In the door from work. Did you know I am working now? A story for another day!

And... In three days - here comes summer! - and either the wheel will slow down, or it will not. Right? Summer changes every year with the ages of the kids. With the modes and moods they are in, and the shifting sibling factions. With the swimming abilities and propensity to play nicely in the water with others.
Come on, I'm ready.

Monday, April 15, 2013


Our familiar trek to Apple Hill, and the welcome respite of friends and the silence of the countryside.
 My sweet forever friend Louise & I, at Easter dinner.
Rick & Harry - I have an identical photo from 10 years ago - clearly it's a favorite spot, by all the yummy food prep...
Quiet days here on borderland, as I have a new job Outside The Home. Yay, me! Whew, me. It's *still* transition time... which means we still don't have clean clothes or food in the fridge some days. If you need more perspective, this bookworm did not go to the library for a month! The horror! But it's going so well, and I'm enjoying something fresh to do and think on. 
Happy spring... may your week be full of lots of sunshine and only a little pollen. Ah-chew!

Friday, March 22, 2013

To Be Me - Birthday Edition

What a day for a poem on being me! Today I am 37. I keep hearing Alice Cooper in my head "I'm 18, and I don't know what I want..." then the Beatles, then Cracker - the birthday songs of my life. My parents would play them, my friends would crank them up, and now it's me: singing them in my head, musing on those years, happy to be right here. Right now. This is the good stuff. You are the good stuff, you friends. 
Here's one from a few weeks ago:

To Be Me
To be me is to be hearing snippets
to be hearing lines pass through
words forever unfolding
like ribbons rumpling
like kites with no tether
balloons with no hand clenched tightly

It is background
it is white noise
It is a parallel life
invisible by my side

I can turn and be silent
or I can grasp that kite
sprawl those words across paper
from my hand
to your heart

I can keep walking
watch that balloon 
into the distance
lose that kite to the wind

Those words might have been
The Words
That line might have made
It All Clear

This circular universe
this unicycle of life
might never bring the same exact words
but there is nothing new


Mom comes to visit today, so, there will be tales to tell. You know it.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Cultures in a Jar

So, a month ago, the bilingual specialist (my co-coordinator) Mayte and I sent out volunteer forms for the elementary school's International Night. This event is the most-loved, best-attended event at school - usually over 500 people come to International Night. Our school has over 250 families from outside the US, and we try to have a table for each of those countries - but it all depends on volunteer parents. There are 7 choices on the form, from "Coordinate a table" to "Bring food" to "Wear traditional clothing from my country" to "I know a dance group from my country."
The volunteer table coordinator has to make a tri-fold poster about the country, come up with a stamp or sticker to mark the kids passports that night, make or purchase small samples of food, wear traditional clothing - and most importantly, contact and organize all the other volunteers for that country.
My job has been to process all the forms, input the names & contact info and create a spreadsheet and binder  of separate countries and volunteers. Then, pass this organized info on to all the country table coordinators, and stay in touch to be sure everyone is on target and on time. We have 29 countries represented this year, and a response trend emerged early on. Alpharetta is a big tech-job area, resulting in a size-able east Indian population. But, as in most school events, finding volunteers to coordinate or head up anything can be a challenge. We all have busy lives and varying abilities to Show Up and Lead. Here are my favorite responses, and some of the cultures in a jar:

  • East Indian responses: total: 31 - (our best response) 30% want to bring food, 60% want to wear traditional clothing and 90% know a dance group from their country. No one wants to run the table.
  • Mexican responses: total: 22 - (second best response) 10% want to wear traditional clothing, 90% want to bring food. No one wants to run the table.
  • Iranian responses: total: 4 - All 4 want to bring food, all 4 want to run the table.

I would call these generalizations, but they are Actual Responses and Rough Estimates - and they crack me up. Over the past month it's become a game with Rick & I. Mayte sends home an envelope of whatever forms were returned that day - I divide them into countries and hold them up for Rick to guess the responses. I am continually fascinated by cultural differences, and love this opportunity to see them in play, at our own school event!
In other updates - thank you for the well-wishes - and 10 points to Gryffindor! No wait, 10 points to Root Doctor-indor! Mom's tea tree oil steam treatments have won the day!
I did 7 treatments in 2 days, and cleared those sinuses right out. Now, it was not without issue, let me assure you. Isabella walked in after school, took a deep sniff and said "What smells like Gigee's house?" HA! Sorry Mom, you smell like ointment and oils! And, I discovered later, much to my chagrin (since I couldn't smell a thing!) that I smelled like a potent mix of antiseptic tea tree oil, peppermint (for the headache), and Vick's VapoRub (for whatever it would fix) - and wow! You wish you could get near me. :) Here's to warmer weather (though it's currently 32 in GA) and healthier households.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

In Which I Consult The Root Doctor

Now, I know it has been awhile since I wrote about my Mom, but that's because she has fallen in love and fallen off the planet. Oh, I jest! (Not really.)
But, after 14 days of a sinus ache that I could not beat, I called The Root Doctor aka, My One and Only Mother (this is how she refers to herself in every voicemail). Oh, I jest! (Not at all.)
You may remember my loving recollection of Mom's root-ish remedies from this post a couple of years ago. Oh I jest, how I jest! (This one bit me on the butt.) Because I truly did need a remedy, and I needed it fast.
Mom did not disappoint. In less than an hour I was set up at home with steaming water, dropping in essential oils and dripping potions into my ears. I did have a brief panic attack and visual of a Bill Nye the Science Guy experiment gone wrong at one point - when I had cleaned my ears with tea tree oil and then later dropped in hydrogen peroxide. Ooooh, the excitement! The thought flashed through as I dripped peroxide "Ummm, maybe I shouldn't mix things IN MY EARS..." flash bang boom fizz! Well, mostly fizz. Okay, it was all fizz, and it was all fine.
I breathed steamy tea tree oil and water, I dripped and dropped and I felt mildly better.
I forgot where I was going with this, because that's what happens when you have a sinus headache. Thoughts leave your head because all you can think is in a cave-womanish mumble: "Ugh. Head hurt. Head hurt. Face hurt. MUST STOP HURT." And then you make a call to your mother and wind up at the natural food store wondering what a eucalyptus oil enema is. The jesting, I can't stop! (Seriously, don't try any kind of oil enema, I totally made that up.)
The moral of the story, kids, is that *sometimes* root doctoring can help you out.
Other times, you just get a good story in which you can make fun of your Mom.

In other Borderland news, I am the PTA's International Liaison this year for our school's International Night!
That is going to be a separate post, entitled In Which I Generalize Cultures Based On Volunteer Form Responses. I know. Sounds boring, but really isn't. I jest not!
Last year's post can be seen here, in case you want to reminisce with me about how often I used to post, and how sometimes I wrote cute stories. Ah, the good old days.
Now back to my regularly scheduled Sinus Steam Cleaning.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Valentine's Lines

For my Small Ones

Do you know how wide love is?
How tall or deep or heavy?
Do you know the shape of love?
The weave or thread or softness?

These things I may not tell you
We may wonder and muse and smile
But the secret of love is this
my small one
Our hearts become the universe
and inside them turns the love we feel
Our hearts become as endless as the sky
full of the flight of birds
and breath of wind
Our hearts become as deep as the ocean
pulsing with current
and twisting with life
These hearts they fill
fill and feel
Feel and grow
until everything and everyone we have ever loved
can fit inside
Like you and you and you and you
And that’s when you know
How wide and tall and deep and heavy
How soft and weighty
That’s when you know that the shape of love
is you.

Happy Love Day... kiss the ones you love! {Mmm-wah} 

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

To Live By

"I'm a novelist. My work is human nature. Real life is all I know. Don't ever confuse the two, your life and your work. The second is only part of the first...
You walk out of here this afternoon with only one thing that no one else has. There will be hundreds of people out there with your same degree; there will be thousands of people doing what you want to do for a living. But you will be the only person alive who has sole custody of your life. Your particular life. Your entire life. Not just your life at a desk, or your life on a bus, or in a car, or at the computer. Not just the life of your minds, but the life of your heart. Not just your bank account, but your soul.
People don't talk about the soul very much anymore. It's so much easier to write a resume than to craft a spirit. But a resume is a cold comfort on a winter night, or when you're sad, or broke, or lonely, or when you've gotten back the test results and they're not so good.
All of you want to do well. But if you do not do good, too, then doing well will never be enough."

- excerpts from novelist Anna Quindlen’s Villanova Commencement Address, June 2000

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

What Life is Made of

"I'm a novelist. My work is human nature. Real life is all I know. Don't ever confuse the two, your life and your work. The second is only part of the first...
You walk out of here this afternoon with only one thing that no one else has. There will be hundreds of people out there with your same degree; there will be thousands of people doing what you want to do for a living. But you will be the only person alive who has sole custody of your life. Your particular life. Your entire life. Not just your life at a desk, or your life on a bus, or in a car, or at the computer. Not just the life of your minds, but the life of your heart. Not just your bank account, but your soul.
People don't talk about the soul very much anymore. It's so much easier to write a resume than to craft a spirit. But a resume is a cold comfort on a winter night, or when you're sad, or broke, or lonely, or when you've gotten back the test results and they're not so good.
All of you want to do well. But if you do not do good, too, then doing well will never be enough."

- excerpts from novelist Anna Quindlen’s Villanova Commencement Address, June 2000

Sunday, February 10, 2013

In February

February is a thin-skinned month
pebbles bruise and
slide under my skin
The month in which I lost
my father
and almost lost myself
The month I realized
I was a borderland girl
as I wandered this world
and the next
seeking the lost one.
In February the pebbles tear my skin
never bouncing off harmlessly
In February I learned to grieve.
These years later emotional memory,
muscle memory rises, has imprinted,
still blindsiding me
still forming
the daddy-shaped piece of my puzzle
I’m still wandering the borderland
still searching for that piece.
Whether I realize it
or not.


Thursday, January 31, 2013

Tuesday, January 29, 2013


Sometimes I speak like an elderly soul
who does not know conventional slang. Jive talk. Or hipster lingo.
She tells of things that have heart, this inner elder.
Or he. For sometimes, the inner elder me is a he.
He and she speak of what this life has wrought
and they say it in such a way
an unmistakable way
that heads cock to the side
eyes go bewildered
and silence follows, as though we have all
stepped into a play not set in this place.

Sometimes we are not
who we think we are.
And sometimes, only sometimes
it is tiresome to hide it.
Wearying to roll an immense eternal self into
everyday skin.
More satisfying to be alone, in every inch of self
Talking to walls and smiling at ghosts.
Where glass faces don’t matter

For you.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

A Moment in Time

Last Sunday, while driving home form errands, I got caught up in On Being, on NPR. The guest was Elizabeth Alexander, the inaugural poet and Yale professor. Remember her amazing inaugural poem from January 2009 "Praise Song for the Day?" Well, if you have a few quiet moments, you will so love this interview with her: Elizabeth Alexander on Words that Shimmer. She shares her thoughts on poetry today, and it's continued relevance, and also reads some favorite poems of her own, and of other poets. Separate links are included for each individual poem, so that if you only have a moment, you can get in a quick read. It's not a dry sort of poetry exhibition; she brings such intensity and warmth to it, you will be drawn right in.
Or, if poetic humor is your ticket, scroll down to her appearance on The Colbert Show from 2009. He makes me laugh every time, he is such a nut.
When I clicked over to NPR, Ms. Alexander was reading "Kitchenette Building" by Gwendolyn Brooks, and explaining the poet's use of her life experience in NYC, in a typical tenement building where you know every detail of your neighbors' lives.

So, I arrived home, sat in the car listening for a while, and then came inside to sit at the counter and finish listening to the show. The house was quiet, the kids were scattered around playing, and I fixed myself a little treat. There I sat, all cozy and entranced at the counter, listening to a masterful poet talk about the craft! Rick came in from the back yard, ribbing and giving me flak about my show.
I bristled and said for him to go away. He laughed and shook his head. "I'm just looking at the difference of you, sitting here eating Brie and listening to poetry, while I'm out back drinking beer, smoking a cigar and watching football." He grinned. "How did we end up together?" I grinned back, "Good thing you're not a total redneck." He laughed and replied "I've been thinking about taking up guns as a hobby." "Aha!" I crowed. "You never will, and that's why I can love you! You're as much a pacifist as I am!"

And that's our moment in time.

(All rights reserved and artistic license may, and probably was taken in the retelling of this conversation!)

Monday, January 14, 2013

On a Monday

Tony Chestnut knows I love him...
I hear them humming their little songs, hear their voices whispering through the house when they are gone. Imagination is quieter than reality. In concert with the gentle rain today, go the gentle voices. The bird calls from the dripping maple, the cat squeaks in her sleep. You've got a squeak-box in your chest, now don't you kitty, don't you...
The other cat sits in the window, coveting the calling bird, chattering his teeth. Petey-Pete, what are you looking at Sweetie-Pete...
Houses live with the echoes of inhabitants. Oh lord, my echoes must reverberate like a drill sergeant. Or maybe the children hear me quietly too, when I am out. I hope so.
Some days are meant for gathering thoughts, completing tasks, organizing minutiae. My thoughts drift lazily over quotes I've heard, and want in my home. Visual reminders of who we are, where we are headed, and how to get there with grace and good cheer.
"Life is very short & there's no time for fussing & fighting my friend..."
Was there ever a better line to apply to siblings? Round & round they go, unifying and re-organizing allegiances along lines of...whatever they think is important that day. You're out of the best friends club, you're not a best friend...
They love and hurt in equal measure some days, offering sublime inclusion and dreadful recompense in the same game. Hopefully developing a thick skin, as the development of kindness in speech seems to lag behind. Ever the referee, blowing my whistle, I head off the worst offenses. Is it the best we can do? To make productive citizens from hoodlums? Nature vs nurture in my own little incubator. Oh, I hope nature and nurture are working in conjunction, because I need to believe that. I listened to Sonia Sotomayor on 60 Minutes last night, and exhaled with small relief at how she attributed her success to stubbornness in no small measure. Rick and I shared a glance and a snort, whew, if that's a significant piece of life's puzzle, then check it off the list of "Worry" and move it to "Attribute."
On a Monday, this is what's happening in the borderland.
Welcome to a new week, friends! May it be a good one...

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

And the Release

And on the 20th day she was set free from her bondage. Cinderella slipped her chains and was presented a glass slipper, in the modern-day guise of a quiet, empty home. Free of all beings small and large, even the husband (who had set off for the Georgia border on work duties), she stepped back inside the door after delivering her 4th and final child to the bus. The Allelujah chorus burst from her lips, much to the startled arrest of her kitties. They calmly went back to their grooming, certain that whatever had occasioned this outburst would not long affect them. Anti-Cinderella however, spun around wondrously, like Liesl von Trapp or Orphan Annie (friends, it has been a long break, full of musicals, and the songs... The songs, I hear them in my sleep...) cradled her thrice-warmed mug of coffee and took a breath. Then another. Well, that's done, now what? she thought. For after the holiday pressure cooker comes the projects and plans of a New Year.
First up - A Birthday on The Horizon.
Frick and Frack Turn Eight, it is titled. I can hardly take it in. Gotta get crackin' though, for the big day comes in less than 2 weeks. Yeah, Anti-Cindy doesn't get to spin and breathe for long.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

For the New Year

I'm for Paris, I thought today
Let's go, shall we?
For seekers and lookers
and those in the mood for a change
For inspiration of art, writing, life
Off they bundle and trundle and fly and sail
all the world over
so I'm for Paris, let's go
I imagine the cavemen
tiring of their meat
the monotony of hunt, gather.
"Argh. Need Paris."
And the aboriginals around a fire
weary of snake meat and lizard
"Eh. Need Paris."
The hausfrau of Alpharetta
sweeping the yard-thatch out the door
and scrubbing the applesauce from the table
"Sigh. How 'bout Paris."
A little bit of us needs a little bit of Paris
to refresh and recharge
and maybe just to remember exactly
who we are
right where we are.

On the Occasion of this New Year
and Perhaps Thinking on the Return of the Schoolchildren in the Morn.