A house full of boys

June 11th, 2013

I didn’t have friends over to my house when I was a kid. We lived on a block with a fair number of children in a pretty close age range – on any given evening we could muster up to a dozen kids for kick the can or bloody murder. Summer afternoons my brother might play running bases with the boys from up the street, and I would play on the swing set in the neighbor’s back yard – and for a few years kids would come to the slide in our back yard, until the Blizzard of ’79 when our garage collapsed sideways from the weight of the snow and crumpled the slide. (My brother and I were getting older by then, and our parents didn’t replace it.) In the winter we went to the sledding hill or the ice rink. I often think of myself as having been a solitary child, but the more I think about it, the more I see it’s not so much that I didn’t have people to play with, it’s that I never brought friends over to my house.

It might be the first thing a child of alcoholics learns: having people over is a risky proposition. Bringing people home spontaneously especially so. This was never articulated or discussed; my parents did not forbid house guests nor did my brother and I agree to some pact in which we didn’t have friends over. There were not outward signs of chaos that we might have been ashamed of – my parents didn’t argue or shout more than the average harried parent might, the house was always clean, the yard always well-kept, the kitchen well stocked, our parents appropriately dressed, my brother and I had bedrooms that were nicely decorated and perfectly normal kids’ rooms, it all seemed pretty standard. But we knew, the way kids know such things, that it probably was not such a good idea to have friends over to play. Adult children of alcoholics reading this might understand that internal alarm bell, the sixth sense that picks up the invisible wrongness underneath the seemingly regular suburban home. Whatever it was, I had it.

The boys have friends over a lot, especially Small Boy. He’s finishing up his second grade year and has the type of long-standing friendships with kids now that Boychen, as a first year Kindergartener, only just is beginning to forge. Small Boy and his friends are also more independent – they can get to each other’s houses on their own and only have to ask for permission but do not need to be accompanied back and forth the way the 5 year olds do. So they arrange their own plays among themselves and then, at the last minute, remember to ask a parent if it’s okay. (Usually. Small Boy has been known to come home from the playground with an unannounced friend in tow. Saying they’re really hot and need popsicles.)

SB had two friends over yesterday afternoon (Mondays SB has afternoons free from school but Boychen has Kindergarten in the afternoon), and as the rain kept coming and going they ended up playing inside most of the time. They were loud and crazy and running from SB’s room to Boychen’s room shooting Nerf darts at each other. When the boys left (after shaking my hand and saying goodbye to me, because they’re good Swiss boys), I told SB that I like his friends. I do, actually. And I like that they come over here to play, and I like that the boys feel comfortable having their friends over. I like the wild rumpus of boys everywhere. As my parents’ daughter, as the adult who grew out of that kid with the sixth sense, it means a lot to me to see that my kids know their friends are welcome here.

It means that I am my parents’ daughter, but I am not my parents.

It means that my boys aren’t me.

It means that I need to stock up on popsicles.


Writing goals: 2012 wrap up and 2013 goals

January 1st, 2013

I was almost afraid to look back at the writing goals I set for myself this year, so sure was I that I’d fallen short. Although, I don’t know, I’m starting to think that if you meet all your goals you’re probably setting the bar too low in at least one area; or maybe I’m just a striver – the American in me – ambitious, ehrgeitzig (not always a complement in Switzerland – more often than not, rather the opposite actually). Positive or negative, it’s what I do: set the goals, write the to-do lists, plot out numbers to reach and the timeframes in which to reach them. A goal, a destination, a fixed point on the horizon by which I might guide myself – it’s how I operate.

I set out some pretty specific goals last year, inspired by January Gill O’Neil’s “poetry action plans” she sets out on her own blog every year. My goals were to:

  • Produce 52 decent drafts – I wrote 45 poems last year, and I’m disappointed I fell short because for awhile there I was on a real tear, and then the wheels came off the poetry bus in November and December. I think I might just have exhausted myself. I noticed that in 2011 I wrote 42 poems, so it might be that with the shape of my life right now, 40 -45 decent drafts a year is how it’s going to be. We’ll see.
  • Continue to strive for a daily writing practice – I might never pull this one off. I’m not sure why this is so hard for me.
  • Post to my blog twice a week – I fell short here, too, but I’ve been rethinking the blog and starting to use it in different ways so I think I might just be in transition here.
  • Enter poems in one contest – I actually entered two, and didn’t place in either of them. Oh well.
  • Send out 20 packages – I submitted 15 times in 2012, and this is not enough.
  • Participate in two writing workshops, either live or on-line – I attended the Geneva Writers’ Conference in February and attended a workshop in Virginia with Ellen Bass, Marie Howe, and Dorianne Laux. Both were fantastic experiences. I also worked on-line with Kim Addonizio. I said it last year and I’ll say it again: her on-line workshops are fantastic.
  • Finish the in progress chapbook (if only in terms of sheer number of poems). I’ll eliminate the requirement that it be “contest ready” but dang it, I want to finish this project at this point if only for the sake of finishing the project. – Ah, the chapbook. Ever the wild card. This is a yes and a no, actually. I did finish what I’m calling a chapbook manuscript and I printed it out and read it through many times, taking notes along the way, trying hard to read it as if it were the work of a critique buddy and not my own. I asked the question, “what is my manuscript doing?” I moved poems around, grouped and re-grouped. The more I read the manuscript, the more I realized I had only begun to touch on what I really wanted to say. Many of the poems are simply “backstory” – necessary for me to write, I think, to get my head to the place where the real work begins, but they do not bring anything to the manuscript. They are, in fact, not the real story. So over the past six weeks of reading and note-taking I’ve decided to remove nearly half of the poems from the manuscript, leaving my chapbook… incomplete. But I only learned that it was incomplete upon completing it, if that makes any sense. So I’m calling this one a draw.
  • Build relationships with other writers – Ah, yes, I’ve found some wonderful writing companions.

I’ve been thinking a lot about my 2013 goals, and at the top of my list is to take greater risks in my writing. I noticed this when I reviewed my manuscript – a certain grouping of poems is much stronger than the almost all the other poems, and these stronger poems are the ones where I feel the most vulnerable. You know when you write something and you’re almost afraid that your friends and family will read it and think you’re telling the actual truth about your actual life? Those poems? The ones that scare you, make you feel like you’re climbing without a safety harness? Those are the best ones. They’re my risky ones and seeing those poems sitting side-by-side with much safer poems really drove home the need for me to take more risks, to go closer to the edge and to stay there a beat longer than is comfortable. So that’s my number one writing goal for 2013. Write the poems that scare me.

I do believe in the value of quantifiable goals, so I’m going to say again: 52 poems this year.

I should be submitting my work more often, so I’m going to say again: send out at least 20 packages this year.

I’m going to pull back from workshopping, but if some amazing opportunity presents itself I’d probably go for it. But I think if I’m trying to take risks and write the poems that scare me, if I’m trying new things, I might need to do that inside the safety of my own head for a while.

So there they are, my writing goals for the new year. What’s on your agenda – writing or otherwise – for 2013?

And ig wünsch üch en guete Rutsch is 2013! (Happy New Year!)

The seven year itch

April 30th, 2012

No, not that one. But the Small Boy isn’t so small anymore, he’s seven and a half, and at four and a half the Boychen could drop the diminutive -chen any day now, and I’ve been a stay at home mom for all that time. I’ll be honest, there are days when it itches. Not a little I’m-tired-of-having-to-tell-you-three-times-to-put-on-your-shoes itch – though there is that; the repeating myself, it gets old – but a big I’ve-got-this-really-exciting-thing-I-want-to-do-and-not-enough-time-to-do-it itch. The kind of itch that makes me impatient with my children and not always the best mother. The balance, after seven and a half years, has tilted pretty far off in one direction; there’s always a boy at home because remember the Swiss school hours? Oh, the Swiss school hours.

I’m hoping that it goes without saying that I love my boys. But at this point, I could use a little breathing room. In fairness, R has proposed getting a nanny or au pair – we would have the space – but my whole problem is that the way my personality is constructed I need time alone, oh just alone in my house, and the thought of having another person in the house – well, I suspect it would introduce as much stress as it would relieve. (I’m keeping the idea in my back pocket, though…) Mostly, I’m holding out on any decisions like that until the fall, after the Boychen has been in Kindergarten for a while and I can see how much having those four mornings all to myself help. My thinking is, they will help a lot. Four mornings a week, that’s an embarrassment of riches around here, people.

Here’s the other thing that’s made the past month or so seem hard, made the past month seem like the boys are always on top of me: there’s no hockey. In spite of my complaining about the schedule, in spite of having to set an alarm for 5:35 on a Sunday morning to make it to a tournament, turns out I really miss the hockey. I miss the way it gave me a few hours to be something other than Mama, I miss the way it forced me to make friends with the other parents, I miss the way watching the Small Boy perfect his imitation of David Jobin’s defensive moves makes me smile (the boy has a good head for defense, I tell you). Crazy and all-consuming as it can be in the peak of the winter, I miss it.

It all comes down to balance, doesn’t it? Feeding all the different parts of you. Constantly checking in on your own life to see what is there and what is missing and what is hungry and what is flabby. Assessing, calibrating. I’m out of balance right now, but August is just around the corner.

Losing is hard (oh, so hard sometimes) but it’s not unfair

April 20th, 2012

So. Our local professional hockey team’s season came to a heartbreaking end on Tuesday when the ZSC Lions (the team from Zürich) scored the winning goal with 2.5 seconds left to play in game seven of a seven game final series. I know, it’s an almost unbelievable scenario, yet there it was. SCB had gone up three games to one in the series and then lost three games in a row. Twice at home: once in overtime and then game seven with 2.5 seconds left in regulation play. The Small Boy was at both of those games and although the Small Boy was crushed on both occasions – he plays, after all, in the SCB youth program and knows a few of the players so his loyalty to the team runs deep – he didn’t cry.

A year ago, I’m pretty sure he would have cried. But Small Boy spent the winter on the ice, part of a team, sometimes winning and sometimes losing himself, and he’s learned how these things go. I don’t think he could quite articulate it yet, but I think he understands that you can play your best hockey, you can leave it all on the ice, and still lose. My mother-in-law calls it the “ungerechtigkeit” of sport – unfairness, or injustice (more translations and examples here) but I challenge her on that word. Maybe I’m missing a subtlety of translation, or maybe I’ve just been around sports a long time, but I don’t think of sports outcomes as unfair and I don’t want the Small Boy to either. There can be unfair situations – biased referees; missed calls (ahem, why yes, Andreas Ambühl was goal-line offsides); players who cheat, shave points, or take performance-enhancing drugs; spectators who interfere with play in a way that’s irreversible – but I don’t think that the cold hard logic of sports itself, which is that for one team to win another team must lose, is unfair. It’s hard. It can be heartbreaking – have you ever watched a 6 foot 2 inch tall, 218 pound professional hockey player cry? It’s heartbreaking. But it’s not unfair.

I am one of those people who believes, for the most part, that sports is a pretty good metaphor for life. There will always be days when you bring your best self to the game and the game crushes you anyway. At Small Boy’s final tournament of the season, his team was up against mostly more experienced teams. Strictly speaking, it was a tournament for the older half of the Bambinis, but our older boys were already at a different tournament that day so TrainerMan – who can be a bit gung-ho about these things sometimes – decided what the heck, we’ll send a team anyway, it’ll be good for them. Well it was. (He’s TrainerMan for a reason, I guess.) Those boys played their best hockey of the year, every last one of them found their best selves, and they never never never stopped trying. We – the parents – were going crazy in the stands, cheering our heads off, and our boys lost most of those games but they knew – you could tell, they just knew – they had played top drawer hockey and I’ll tell you what, a more glorious seventh place team in a field of eight never did exist. And I refuse to call that outcome unfair, or to let the idea of unfairness sneak into Small Boy’s head, because that would be robbing him of understanding this: you play your heart out. Every time. You play your heart out. Let the chips fall where they may, but you lay it all on the line every time, you risk heartbreak every time. And if you give it your best shot, your honest-to-god best shot, and land in seventh place out of eight anyway – or if you play your heart out only to fall in the last 2.5 seconds of game seven – well you let yourself cry a bit. But then you go give it all again tomorrow.

It’s not unfair. It’s sport, in the best sense of the game. It’s life, in the best sense of the word. I think, slowly, in the inarticulate way of a seven year old boy who plays a whole lot of hockey, Small Boy gets that a bit. He is learning – without, perhaps, realizing it – how to risk breaking his own heart for the thing that he loves. It’s the best outcome I could have hoped for that very first time I ever laced up his skates.

What are you willing to break your own heart for? And for any parents reading, how do you feel about putting your kids, or watching your kids put themselves, in a position to get their hearts broken?

My Swiss Life (Part I)

January 23rd, 2012

I’ve been trying to write about what I’m calling my New Swiss Life for at least a month now but I’m suffering from perfection syndrome, trying so hard to express myself so perfectly that I end up not expressing myself at all – so I’m just going to start. I expect this to be an ongoing story – I can’t possibly say everything in a single blog post and there is a lot to be said because for a blogger who’s an expat, I haven’t been writing much about Switzerland or culture clashes or integration lately. I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately, because I’m (yes, finally) applying for Swiss citizenship, so maybe it’s time to start thinking out loud.

I moved to Switzerland in December of 2000 and for a variety of reasons that in retrospect R and I both agree were not good enough reasons, we lived in a small village near Bern even though he was at the time working in Zürich. (The price and availability of housing in Zürich was certainly one of the reasons.) I was taking intensive German lessons four hours a day five days a week; if you throw in my commute and studying time, my German classes consumed a good six and a half hours a day, but R was, that whole first year, gone thirteen hours a day. We were in a small village, I didn’t know anybody, there was not another native English speaker in my German class (for which I am very grateful – it did wonders for my German to be forced to try to make friends and small talk in German – but it certainly limits the speed and ease with which you can form friendships when, for example, you can’t even speak in the past tense), R was gone a lot, and even in the best of circumstances I am shy and reserved and not terribly good at making friends. That whole first year was miserable. Sometimes, even now, R will say to me with a sort of amazement that he can’t believe I didn’t leave him and go back to the U.S. during that first year or eighteen months. Sometimes, even now, I will think with a sort of amazement the same thing. I was miserable that first year.

The thing about learning standard German in Switzerland is that the Swiss don’t speak standard German, they speak Swiss and the two are not the same. If I had it to do all again, if I could have peeked into a magic ball and seen the way my life here has played out, the things I’m involved in, the things that matter most to me now, I would not have enrolled in a standard German course, I would have gone straight into a Schweizerdeutsch course and managed the written German later. Because not being able to speak Swiss is a real stumbling block in trying to build a Swiss life. My standard German, thanks to all those intensive lessons, is very good but it marks me instantly as an outsider no matter how long I have been here. Oh the Swiss understand me and I, at last, understand the Swiss but my German is a constant reminder of my foreignness, a little division between us, a stumbling block to overcome. A small one, perhaps, but it is there, a little hitch, a little hiccup.

The Swiss have a reputation for being reserved, hard to get to know; I myself have called the Swiss “a tough nut to crack” (you can read the comments on this post, especially those from Gretchen, for some more insight into this) and I think there is some truth to this (though I also am in the middle of seeing how very untrue it is) but I also think that half of it is simply the language and I finally understand the Swiss – not just linguistically, but emotionally – on this point. German and Swiss are not interchangeable and speaking German is not an approximation of speaking Swiss. I wish R had insisted on this point (but R is funny, and to this day thinks I did it the right way by mastering standard written German). But I wish I had done it differently; I would, if I could, go back and do it differently but I can’t, of course, so I am trying to make up for lost time and working hard to pick up Swiss. I don’t want to speak German anymore. And I think those first few years would have been so much easier if I had learned Swiss from the start. I get it now, the Swiss love of their dialekt, I really do.

I didn’t have Swiss friends, other than the Swiss spouses or partners of my English-speaking friends, for years. R’s job situation when we first moved here – working in Zurich but living outside Bern – didn’t help, because it made socializing with his work colleagues difficult, although of course now with the benefit of hindsight I can see all the ways we might have made that easier. And because if you talk to expats living in Switzerland you’ll hear the “Swiss are so reserved” line a good ninety percent of the time, it’s easy to fall into believing this and giving up; to not explore if there aren’t just little cultural differences you have to pick up on and adapt to; to not wonder what about your own personality and behavior are contributing to the situation. Yes, the Swiss are reserved but I am shy and self-conscious in German. And if I am honest with myself, I am shy and self-conscious in English. I grew up in a house where my parents did not socialize and learning how to do this – how to invite people over to dinner just for the sake of inviting people over to dinner – has been hard for me. It was, when I remind myself, hard in English. It was hard back home. At some point, it became clear that I was using the old Swiss reserve schtick as an excuse and that I needed to do some heavy lifting.

And so I started lifting. And my life now, ten years on, is so different. “Bloom where you’re planted,” Australian Friend likes to say and yes, yes, yes to this. It has taken ten years, but I am blooming.

One thing, every day. (For ten years.)

January 20th, 2012

I’ve been letting a lot of the little things, and perhaps a few of the big things, rub me the wrong way lately. And I am aware, when things rub me the wrong way, that a good half of it is my reaction to whatever situation is annoying me as much as the annoyingness of the situation itself. For example, The Boychen isn’t much of an eater: the things he’ll eat are quite limited, he takes forever to eat just enough to sustain life, at the table he squirms and plays and gets up and wanders away. It’s exhausting, and annoying, and has seriously reduced my ability to take pleasure in food, and I eat less than I used to because at some point the food has been drained of all taste and enjoyment. It’s annoying, no doubt, but I also let it upset me more than it needs to, which of course is the completely wrong reaction with regards to the table dynamics, but that’s a whole different post. The point I’m trying to make is I know I’ve been letting things get under my skin.

A corollary to letting things rub me the wrong way, I think, is that it’s hard to savor the little moments when I’ve built up a steam of annoyance. And I don’t want to miss all the little moments which are, after all, the moments that make up life. So one of my personal – as opposed to writing – resolutions for the year is to learn how to let go of minor irritations and, at the same time, pay more attention to the small happinesses. To help me focus my mind on a good, small moment from each day, I bought myself a 10Jahresbuch (10 year book) for Christmas. It’s basically a diary: there is one page for each day of the year, starting with January 1, and each page has ten lines. At the end of each day, I write one short line about the best moment of the day. When I hit December 31, I go back to the beginning of the book and move on to the second line on the page for January 1 – the best thing about January first 2013 – and so on until the book is full. Ten years of best things. It is simultaneously spectacularly ambitious and ridiculously simple.

The boys feeding the swans on New Year’s Day has been a moment, and a full moon on the way home from a hockey game that the whole family had tickets to, and sitting alone at Starbuck’s with a caramel macchiato and the first draft of a poem. And it’s early in the year, but it’s a good thing to spend five minutes at the end of the day remembering something special.

Why I write

January 9th, 2012

I drove to a friend’s house last week and there is a point in the drive where I crest a wooded hill and at the top clear the woods and make a slight turn and BAM all across the horizon snow-covered peaks. In the foreground there are fields, and a few traditional Swiss farmhouses, and below the village. It was a pretty day when I drove, in the mid-afternoon, and I topped the hill and the Alps bore down on me and I actually said “Wow” out loud. More than once. It can still do that, after ten years, that sudden panorama. It can still nearly stop my heart.

What would happen if I opened my heart to every pink-blue sunrise, every red-streaked sunset, every first crocus of spring? Would it burn up from the rapture of it all? Explode? Get stronger? Sometimes I look up at the Eiger and wonder how we even manage to move through the day at all rather than stand rooted to the spot – any spot, the Alps or the sunrise or the blossoming plum tree – saying wow wow wow over and over. If we opened the valve, really opened the valve, we’d be ripped from shore and carried downstream by the sheer fact of the world. How to open the valve just enough to be alive and not so much we’re uprooted? Or is that the living, the moment of feeling your roots ripped from the soil of the ordinary?

And it is that, that BAM that ripping that rapture that is the first time every single time that I’m reaching for every time I pick up a pen. I want to crest the hill, to clear the woods, to be brought face to face with the extraordinary and to realize, finally, that it is extraordinary and I want to take you with me.

Leaving my desk

January 6th, 2012

I came across a comment on Twitter that I’m never going to find again and thus will never be able to quote accurately or properly attribute, but basically it said: The poetry world would be a lot more pleasant if all poets took up a non-poetry related hobby. (If any of you recognize that tweet, please by all means let me know the source in the comments.)

This is my dilemma again and again about how to use my limited child-free time. There are other things I should be doing (maybe actually moving my body sometimes) and want to be doing (more with the garden, photography, getting back on the bike, learning to knit), but every hour I spend doing something that’s not writing is one less hour I have for writing. And yet I know that I’m happier, more interesting, and a better writer when I actually do more than write.

The hockey school turned out to be a great decision and it’s hard to believe now that I had stomachache-inducing angst about it. I have, for the first time since I quit teaching before I even got pregnant with Small Boy, work friends. Sometimes, after the Thursday night training, we go upstairs to the stadium restaurant and have a drink. Parents recognize me and the kids, even the ones who I’ve never worked with because they already knew how to skate, say hi; this afternoon at Small Boy’s Bambini training The World’s Cutest Hockey Player sought me out three times to say hello (her older brother is on SB’s team). (And I’m not joking, this girl is THE WORLD’S CUTEST HOCKEY PLAYER EVER!) All the other trainers, and the vast majority of the parents, are Swiss and it feels like I have a Swiss life for the first time. It only took me ten years. And because it’s my job – seriously, they even put money in my bank account – I have to do it and I have to be there and it forces me to do something other than hole up and write.

Holing up and writing is great, and I excel at the holing up aspect of it, but when you sit in the same place all the time you always have the same view; I mean that literally and metaphorically. I think most writers can relate to the feeling that there is not enough time in the day – and there is never enough time in the day – and the temptation to chain ourselves to our desks is powerful. Certainly if there is a deadline looming we have to chain ourselves to our desks, especially if there is a paycheck involved, but most days I think I would be better off if I did the counter-intuitive and left my desk behind for a bit. Most days I don’t do that; I think “I should go for a walk” but never get up or I think “I should try to meet up with a friend one Monday” and then never schedule it. This is why the hockey school has been so good. Twice a week I go do something radically different, mildly physical (it’s not so strenuous down at my end of the rink), highly social, and all mine. And non-poetry related.

And that last aspect of it is turning out to be the most interesting of all. Hockey school ends the last day of February (the unpredictable playoff schedule of our professional team makes scheduling practices in the Arena nearly impossible, and the outdoor rink closes mid-March, so we use March 1 as an easy end date) and I’m going to need to find something else to do. Something physical and preferably outdoors. Writers, what are your non-writing passions? How important are your non-work related hobbies to you?

The things we let get away from us

November 23rd, 2011

I’ve been spending a lot of time in and around ice rinks lately: on the ice twice a week as a trainer, on the ice on weekends skating around with the boys, in the stands twice a week (or more) as a hockey-mom, and in the stands as a fan when the Big Boys play, and I’ve been thinking about the things we allow to get away from us. When we “grow up.” When we get busy. When we put other people’s needs – often our kids’ – first.

I grew up around hockey, we were a hockey family. My brother and I played (though I quit after a season and a half – back in the day being the only girl my age in the entire suburban league wasn’t so fun – my brother played on until he left for college); my dad was a coach and the president of the local hockey association; my mother was secretary or treasurer and sometimes both. When I was old enough, I worked as a time-keeper and kept statistics on goals for and against, minutes played, penalty minutes served. I grew up skating. Winter afternoons were spent at the local rink skating laps and giggling with my girlfriends under the lights. Hot chocolate in the warming house, watching the boys play pick-up hockey, skate-a-thons to raise money for the hockey club and threading a season pass through the laces of my skates. Always a season pass – growing up in the Chicago suburbs in the 70s, if you didn’t skate in the winters you didn’t see much of your friends, because for sure they all skated.

Slowly, in high school I guess, I started leaving it all behind. My brother went to college, so I didn’t tag along to his games anymore and I was busy trying to find my thing in high school – it couldn’t be hockey, high-school girls didn’t play hockey back then and anyway although I still skated I had given up on hockey. I went to college and found cycling and after I graduated – I don’t know, I just sort of forgot about hockey and skating. I forgot about it for a long time, until a few years ago when we put SB in the hockey school and slowly, slowly, I started skating again.

But it’s been this year, between SB practicing or playing matches three times a week and my getting on the ice as a trainer in the hockey school, that’s put me right back in the middle of Hockey World – I’m at rinks three or four times a week and I’m having a blast. Oh, I’ll grumble about the logistics of it all because really it’s quite something some weeks – I’ve already decided that we need to be one of those families with the family calendar with a column for each family member – and my carbon footprint is GINORMOUS, but I’m having a blast. I’m having a blast on the ice and I find I’m happier off it – I’ve got a Thing. A hobby (though technically it’s also a job), a place to be. A whole other life. It’s chaos sometimes, and I’m not a big fan of chaos and time-pressure, but I’m having a great time.

And I’m wondering why I let skating slip away from me for so many years, wondering why we allow ourselves to drop our little hobbies and interests along the way. All the years I was in Switzerland before the boys were born, I never went skating – why did it take the boys getting into hockey for me to get back on the ice? Every winter of my childhood was spent in and around ice-rinks and then, somehow, I stopped. Now I find myself in them again and I’m realizing how much I missed it.

Is there something you loved to do when you were younger that’s fallen by the wayside? I challenge you to remember it, and try it out again.

Most of the time

October 13th, 2011

Most of the time, I feel like giving up. Most of the time, the rejection email makes me want to stop submitting. Most of the time, the latest blindingly good book of poetry I’ve been reading makes me want to stop writing. Most of the time, I feel like it’s too late, that I missed my chance, made all the wrong decisions in my 20s, will never write the kind of poetry I want to write. Most of the time, I can’t see the way forward. I recognize good poetry when I see it, but I don’t know how to get there from here. I don’t know if I can get there from here, or if I’ve already reached the far limit of my modest ability. Most of the time, I am consumed by ifs: if I had followed through in college, when more than one teacher thought I had talent; if I had taken chances when I had them; if I hadn’t opted for the practical path; if I had been braver. Most of the time, I think about the classes I could take if we lived in the US. Most of the time, I know I need teachers if I’m to have a hope of getting any better and most of the time I think I could get better. Most of the time, it kills me that this is not really possible. Most of the time, I do not have enough time to work. Most of the time, I do not work well enough, the work is not good enough nor is there enough of it in terms of sheer output. Most of the time I am wracking my brains trying to figure out how to claw more minutes out of the day. Most of the time, I read some new poet’s first book and despair. Most of the time, I wonder why I bother. Most of the time, I feel like giving up.