Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Oh, right, I have a blog... What have I been doing with myself?

I've been trying to cram a whole mess of week into two days.  I suddenly have all of these appointments and meetings, and I'm leaving tomorrow, dark-n-early, so I had to schedule them all for yesterday and today, which meant preparing for them all weekend.  This is the opposite of poem-a-day.  It's more a little more like fight or flight mode.

C didn't have school last Friday, so a friend slept over on Thursday.  Although they're at an age that doesn't require a lot of parental oversight & entertainment, it's pretty tricky to get any real work done with two boys recording music or filming movies in the next room.  I tried to make the most of the distraction by cleaning the house thoroughly.  Of course, by the time the friend left, there was little evidence of my scrubbing remaining.

Somehow everyone I know was born in February, which makes for a lot of getting together, which I'm not complaining about, but it's easy to lose track of time when you're always getting together.  Friday, I drove up to Appleton for my lovely sister-in-law's bowling birthday party.  We got to the bowling alley at 7:45 and left at about 1:30.  And we only bowled 3 games, 3 people to a lane. I won't pretend we didn't turn it into a dancing alley... Out of the 6 of us, I came in 2nd each time, scoring 97,97,95. I don't think that's a high score, but it's consistent.  And I am nothing if I'm not consistent.  (Well, sometimes.)

Thursday, February 23, 2012

I'm heading to AWP on Wednesday

Before moving to Boston and visiting New York, I didn't understand why anyone would want to live in Chicago-- a big city with crime and traffic and every other terrible thing as-seen-on-tv.  When we moved back to Wisconsin, I thought, well, at least Chicago is nearby-- we can visit sometimes and it will be good.  But when I drove down last week for my great-grandma's funeral, the closer I got to the city, the more it felt like home, and I began to miss it as though I'd lived there. And at the wake, the more stories my family shared about growing up in neighborhoods of the city, the more I missed it.

So, I'm excited to be in Chicago next week with people I haven't seen in awhile. I have a list of books I've put off buying so I could get them at the bookfair from the people who made them, and maybe even meet the people who wrote them.  Even though I told myself I'd go to very few panels this year, I've filled out the little planner on the AWP website, and have a schedule of conversations I'd like to hear and parties I'd like to stop at... we'll see how that works out.

If you're there, I'm manning the Ploughshares table at the bookfair on Friday from 1:15-2:45 and on Saturday from 10:15-11:45.  Stop by and say hi!  Also, stop by the Cimarron Review table (I'm sure there'll be one?) and grab a copy of the Winter issue to read the great work in it, including my poem, "Itch!"

Oh-- And I'm super-proud of my round-trip Megabus ticket for $5.50. I mean, sure, I have to wake up by 3:30 am and I'll arrive at 7 in the morning, but that's fine.  I'll have plenty of bus-nap time and a whole extra day in the city ahead of me...

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

So, that's it then?

Matthew and Mary have finally gotten together.  If you're looking for something to watch to fill the Downton void, check out my friend, Emily's blog, "Postcards and Paperbacks", where she recommends things you might like, after which I comment on more things you might like.

I watched the last episode while baking the most-overrated-cake-ever-- red velvet-- for my own Matthew's birthday. What a lovely-colored, unsatisfyingly bland cake!  Oh well.  It's better that it's not too good, otherwise we'd end up eating all of it, right?

Mine wasn't this pretty.  I was too impatient to frost it, so when I tried to frost the sides, it crumbled. Meh.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Ha Long Bay, Madison

For Matthew's birthday, we finally made it to Ha Long Bay, a Vietnamese and Thai bistro on Willy Street.  If you've never been, it's best to get there before you're hungry or at an off-peak time, as the wait is generally about 30 minutes.  Groups of 3 or more can make a reservation, so that's nice. If you choose to wait, it's well worth your time.

We started with AP10-- "Spring Roll over Vietnamese Eggroll."  When the waitress set them on the table, our eyes widened to take in their size-- I could've eaten both of them for a meal.  Somehow, we were confused as to what exactly this would look like, so let me explain:  it's a spring roll with a thin, crispy egg roll wrapped inside.  This means the amazing crunch and delicately warm flavor of a fried wonton butts up against the fresh mint and cucumber and glass noodles... By far the most wonderful spring roll I've eaten.  Ever. (Though, I must admit, I'm a sucker for most things fried.)

I ordered Drunken Noodles with Tofu and Matthew had Pan-Fried Rice Noodles with Tofu.  Matthew's noodles were thick and dense and crispy, and he said the charred parts reminded him of funnel cake (he said this like it was a good thing).  His sauce seemed soy-based and primarily salty (not too salty, wonderfully salty-- just not very complex).  Though he enjoyed it, he said he'd probably order the Drunken Noodles next time, which were better than I'd had anywhere.  The sauce was complicated, the tofu was well-treated-- not too soft, not too dry-- and the veggies were well-cooked (ditto on the tofu and veggies in Matthew's dish).  We each got a 3 out of 4 star spice-factor, and found most of our spice was hanging out at the bottom of the plate-- so stir well before eating.  Our expectations of rice noodles are significantly higher now that we've eaten them at Ha Long Bay.

For dessert, we tried the blueberry wontons.  They'd been cooked a few seconds too long, so the wontons were a little burnt and dry around the edges, but the combination of flavors was brilliant, so we were forgiving.  The extra seconds in the fryer were also easy to forgive considering it was a Saturday night and our water glasses were never more than half-empty, our waitress was always smiling, and our meal had been so tasty.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Observe your enemies, for they first find out your faults (Antisthenes)

So, poem-a-day and I have proven, once again, to be enemies.  When I write everyday, I get so hung up on the fact that I have to say something that I'll say anything without stopping to listen. And when I  talk a lot without listening, I start to hate myself.  How dull to listen to me talk about things I haven't thought much about! A reader would surely begin to hate me, too, for babbling incessantly, as even I tend to be bothered  by people who talk without stopping to listen once in awhile. What a detriment to poetry and humanity! So.  Here I am, with my 13 poems (maybe a few more), trying to regain my balance, trying to control my exclamation points.

This is why I haven't been here in a while, and when I have been here, I've just been saying things without saying much. Of course, I've also not been here because of the funeral, and grief (and all of its ugly manifestations), but, quit frankly, I miss being the girl who sits in the front row and never raises her hand.  I'm going to shut up and listen for awhile.

In the meantime, I'll come here to supply the blog with happy little posts about happy things to keep the air clean. Like sunshine and trees and sky.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Sad News

My great-grandma died in her sleep on Friday.

How wonderful was she?  Very.  She was 94 and had 8 great-great grandkids! When we were younger, we'd celebrate Christmas in my grandparents' bar, and even into her 80's she'd stay up with us dancing to jukebox music. She didn't seem to believe in getting old. Anytime she visited anyone (or if you visited her), she had a fancy cake from a bakery or a box of Fannie Mae chocolates, and she'd physically force you to eat them if necessary (usually it wasn't necessary).  During the war, she became a forklift driver and worked well into her 70s. She was incredibly sweet and loved to shop and had opinions and shared them without hesitation.  When she was living with my grandparents, she loved to watch squirrels try to get into the bird feeders. I could go on, but here's her obit:

Estelle M. Gron, nee Brzezicki; age 94; formerly of Chicago and Berwyn; beloved wife of the late John E. Gron; loving mother of Joan (the late Donald) Wasielewski, Sylvia (Ronald) Chmelina, and Florence (Gerald) Voras; dear grandmother of 8; great grandmother of 9; great-great grandmother of 8; aunt of many nieces and nephews; predeceased in death by her brothers Steve and Theofil “Ted” Brzezicki; Retired employee of Binks Mfg. Co. formerly of Chicago and Franklin Park; life union membership of I.A.M.A.W. Dist 8. Shopping, crocheting, and knitting were her favorite pastimes. She always enjoyed being with family and friends especially at Christmas when she shared Polish traditions with family. In lieu of flowers, contributions for a Mass or Miraculous Medal Association, www.amm.org , appreciated.

On Saturday, Matthew and I had plans to celebrate Valentine's Day, so we kept them.  After dinner, I grabbed a giant slice of German Chocolate cake and brought it home and ate it-- it's what she would've wanted, I'm sure.  I have some great pictures of her forking chocolate cake into 4-year-old-Carter's mouth. When I find these pictures, I'll share them.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

so close to the edge of sleeping

Today,  I bought my domain name and got a free latte at Ground Zero because my punch card was full.  So, all-in-all, not a bad day?  I talked to my mother-in-law, who is going to share ingredients with me for homemade laundry detergent and dish soap, and I'm considering whipping my own Shea butter... so, I'm maintaining a positive attitude and am planning to keep things clean and well-moisturized.  For dinner, I made barley, beet, & feta salad, and it was tasty.  I wish I would've taken its photo, but I sometimes feel bad for myself when I consider taking pictures of food.  I think: Really?  Are things so bad that you need to take pictures of your food?

Carter's "Man-burger:" 2 veggie burgers,
fake bacon, tomatoes, lettuce, & mayo
on an everything bagel...
at least it's not a donut?
I've been reluctant to mention that C barfed all weekend, because I didn't know if I could talk about it without trying to describe how absurdly disgusting the situation was. Do you know how much pre-teenage boys eat?  Seriously: gross (see photo).  His appetite rivals Paula Deen's.  I'll leave it at that. Today, he finally went back to school, and I finally scribbled some things off of my to-do list.  Mostly, I'm sharing this information to brag that whilst washing sheets and clothes and scrubbing the vomit bugs away, I wrote a poem each day.  And, the cherry on top: I have this lovely cold in my face that makes me want to sleep always (I almost wrote: all ways, which is also accurate).  Hooray for poem a day!

Teaching Things

The UW Writers' Institute schedule has been finalized, and in April I'll be teaching a time-management workshop called "Secrets of Famous Prolific Writers" and a 15 minute crash course called "Poetry for Fiction Writers."  I'll also be conducting private manuscript consultations.  If you're a fiction or non-fiction writer, take a look at the schedule and come!

Also, last night, I went to prison for training, and I start teaching poetry next Monday.  I'm rather excited.  I'll be co-teaching with some lovely people who've created a syllabus that looks really interesting.  Our topic on Monday-- super heroes.  I'm not sure that I'll talk much here about prison teaching, because there are rules, and when there are rules, I tend to fear breaking them without knowing I'm breaking them, and in such an instance, when prison is involved, I'm a bit more intimidated by the rules than usual.  But, I'm hoping to teach biweekly, and I think it should be pretty wonderful.  Mostly, it is splendid already because there are deer running around the grounds.

Friday, February 3, 2012

in other news...

I've been writing a poem-a-day and sharing it with a group of people, which is a little crazy for me (I'll share my KR interview when it's up and you'll see why).  But, today, I went to find a writing prompt at the NaPoWrMo website and I decided to gather a few headlines and write a poem about one of them or maybe  mash'em up and make a new headline & write a poem based on it.

Anyway, I decided to peruse not-my-typical newspapers and in The Antigo Daily Journal (shout out to everyone in Antigo, as I'm likely related to most of them), I read this fantastic story about a bulldog & her puppies. Animal moms are pretty great.

A few things

My poems "Chateaubriand" & "Nothing to Undo that Can't be Done Again" are hanging out at Kenyon Review Online.  I must say, it feels nice-- these poems were rejected so many times, I can't even count.  Well, I could, I keep a spreadsheet, but its disheartening to count, so I won't. Patience. Persistence. Etc.

Also, my poems are featured alongside some amazing work.  Lucia Perillo's "Skin" was one of my first favorite poems, so I'm a little geeky about sharing space with her.  And as a new birdfeeder owner, "Wild Birds Unlimited"  is especially lovely.  I also really dig the essay "The Beautiful Line."