I ♥ Poetry: National Poetry Month

April is National Poetry Month, and seeing how we’ve only three days left, posting about poetry is either now or never! Although I was an English major and always bookish, poetry was quite another thing. In short, I just didn’t like it. A fantastic poetry prof in college helped open my mind a bit, but I just couldn’t get excited over the stuff.

I was always intrigued by Emily Dickinson’s poems, but truthfully, I think the bleak romance of her life story is what drew me initially, not her language. But after faithfully reading the three volume Letter s of Emily Dickinson edited by Thomas Johnson (Harvard Press), I bought her complete works and was hooked. Dickinson’s poems are some of the few I’ve memorized and if I was a few years younger, I’d probably get a tattoo based on this (yes, really):

Hope is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –

Fast forward to teaching the Odyssey to high school freshmen—I know, to some a fate worse than death—and I found myself (finally, English teacher that I was) truly appreciative of the imagery, the word play, the cadence, probably because I read so much of it aloud to the kids.

And that’s, I think, the hook to falling for poetry. You must listen to it read by expert readers. Like poets …  My husband and I had the serendipitous opportunity to hear poet laureate Billy Collins and poet Naomi Shihab Nye read at a local college nearly. The notice was in the Sunday paper, it was small, but we thought, “Wow! Poet laureate—let’s go” not even knowing Collins’ work at the time.

Oh. My. Goodness. We were smitten. Reading Collins—and especially listening to him—I discovered poetry could be not only insightful and musical, but witty and droll. The poet laureate was down-to-earth, humble, and oh-so-fun.  Here’s the first poem Collins read that evening:

See what I mean?!

You may be one of the lucky ones who has always had a love for poetry, but I came to my appreciation late. If you’re still reluctant, try a little Dickinson or Collins. Go to Youtube and listen to Sara Kay and Taylor Mali’s spoken word.

Don’t worry about being serious; don’t think you’re not sophisticated enough. Just let yourself be delighted.

Erin Condren Planner ♥

Several years ago, my husband converted me to Google calendar (which I still love, by the way, for our shared family planner), and when that happened, I gave up my circa 1998 black leather Day Runner  without looking back. All that time spent transferring phone numbers and birthdays every January—who needed it? Not me! I was a citizen of the Digital Age.

Erin Condren planner
Isn’t she pretty?

But this January I got a hankering again for one of those little bundles of organization. You know, the tabs for notes, the address book, the nifty little slots for business cards, and the cute zip lock pouch. I couldn’t put my finger on why, exactly, I wanted to go retro, but there it was. Unfortunately, the pickins’ were slim Office Max in that beloved 5X7” size I loved so well. In fact, I don’t even think they had a Day Runner. I contemplated a Filofax from Amazon. I even looked at printables on Etsy. Bah.

About the same time, a couple of the vloggers I follow unboxed their Erin Condren planners and I think I can safely “blame” Michele1218’s video for pushing me over the edge. (I knew a teacher who used one of EC’s teacher planners, but I didn’t know about her Life Planners.) So I stalked the site online for a few days and joined a couple Facebook groups just to see what the fuss was about.

What I liked about this new wave of paper planner addicts was their penchant for embellishing their weeks, very much like the scrapbooking I do. Now, some of it is a little overboard for my taste, but it looked fun, all the same. I also liked their DIY spirit–all these women laminating scrapbook paper to make something called a dashboard; cutting the Life Planner apart and re-punching it to fit a Filofax; making their own customized stickers, for goshsakes (and buying $150 Silhouettes to do so!); runs to Target to see if the Dollar Spot had added Easter post-it flags; back and forth flurries of RAKs (Random Acts of Kindness) in which planner junkies send a small package of planner goodies to surprise another junkie.

I was in.

Ten days later I had my very own Ready to Ship Life Planner, complete with a some extra doo-dads: a few cards and stickers, a couple of paper clips. And that much talked about coupon code I needed to customize a cover of my very own.

I love it. Like I said, my tastes run to the understated. I had a couple early mis-buys:  shiny vinyl stickers in bright primary colors, some pastel Sharpies that just aren’t me. But a couple hours of browse time later (and a quick run to Hobby Lobby) and I found my look in the sticker line Sn@p by Simple Stories—they’re  happy, but not cutesy, in muted colors that are a perfect complement to the Erin Condren palette.

What’s this craze all about? Let’s face it, life is hectic. I’ve got appointments and shopping lists and work outs and school deadlines and birthday parties and church … you get the idea. All that hectivity can sometimes whorl around me, kind of like the cloud that surrounds Charley Brown’s Pig-Pen character. Putting it down on paper gets it out of my head–it’s a physical way I can control the, well, uncontrollable.

So that’s the fancy pants reason for you–but it’s also plain old fun!

I Love Lucy ♥

I love Lucy.

No, I mean I really love Lucy. I’m not your run of the mill Vitameatavegamin-candy-factory-grape-stomping kind of fan. My fan creds?  Well, I’ve been to Lucy’s hometown in Jamestown, I love lucy triviaNew York where I toured the Lucy Desi Center for Comedy. My husband and I drove  to nearby Celoron to get a peek (and a pic!) of her childhood home, which, by the way, is cute as a bug’s ear as Lucy might say. My small library of Lucy books runs from reference to coffee table. Of her early Metro Goldwyn Meyer girl films, Stage Door is my favorite and of course I have my very own copy of The Long Long Trailer. (Even my favicon on this blog is even a nod to her in the initial we share.) And on my Bucket List? The annual Lucille Ball Comedy Festival held in Jamestown, really as much to see all the Lucy impersonators as anything else.Lucille Ball

When our TV situation allowed, I’d watch Lucy episodes with my reference books at the ready, waiting to pick out the gaffs and highlights. The Lucy Book by Geoffrey Fidelman is especially handy because the show’s directors, writers, and editors (as well as some of the actors) comment on each episode of her fifty years in television. It’s a trivia Lucy lover’s dream come true.  But nothing can beat Lucy At the Movies for chronicling her fifty years in film and being just plain gorgeous, like Lucy herself.

Of course if you love Lucy and Desi, you also know the story of their personal lives—how they rose to great power in Hollywood, how Desi chaffed at being “Mr. Ball” then occupied himself with a series of dalliances, how they struggled to continue their legacy with the Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour even as their marriage crumbled. We wanted to believe, didn’t we? But love Lucy, Desi did, despite it all. Lucy called Desi on what would have been their 46th wedding anniversary, just days before he died. Their conversation, apparently, included I love yous.

Lucy was loud, she was pushy. She was naive and open-hearted. She loved her man and boy could she work those fifties fashions with cinched waists and crinolined skirts, or trousers with legs up to here.  My own sweetheart knows just how to woo me—my Valentines gift this year were tickets to see the I Love Lucy Live On Stage show touring the U.S. It’s silly, but oh so fun. (Here is a montage of some of the scenes).  The premise is that the theater audience is the studio audience for the filming of two I Love Lucy episodes, complete with commercials for Halo Shampoo, Chevrolet, and Brylcreem. Nothing too deep here. But I clapped. I laughed.I loved Lucy.

Weathering winter

Here in the Great Lakes, our winter seems to drag on for half the year. This is a place where TV weather forecasters talk about Snowmageddon and Snowpocalypes, By February we are so over it, and by March, using the words “March” and “madness” together doesn’t always refer to your basketball bracket. Our winter began in November this year with a storm that dumped two feet of snow on the area. By Thanksgiving, schools had already used two of their six snow days.

So how do we deal with being stuck inside, endless gray days, and no fresh fruits and veggies? I’ve got friends who trail ride on fat tire bikes, friends who ice fish, friends who ski, and (always, right?) friends who run. Every day, blizzard or no.

Me? Not so much. I’m pretty averse to anything that might be called ‘exercise’. If I had to choose, I’d say walking was my go-to exercise. Summers will find me walking our riverside park for a nice 5k stroll—geese, ducks, squirrels, a canopy of trees, bikers, dog walkers. You can’t get much better than that. And I used to trudge out, no matter the winter conditions. (Yak tracks are an absolute requirement.) But wading through unshoveled walks and slip sliding away one too many times has dimmed even that pleasure for me. (It might very well be time for a treadmill, who knows?)

So what are my top choices for weathering winter?

Books, books, and more books: No surprise there, right?! I know I read more in the summer when I’m not in school, but there’s nothing like a blizzardy Sunday to make me stay curled on the sofa. This year I’ve kept up a pretty brisweathering winterk pace, which is probably a good indication of just how much snow we’ve had.

Coffee: My drug of choice; it’s warm, smooth, and creamily delicious.

Putzing: Winter is a great time to rearrange furniture, weed out crowded closets, and organize cupboards. For some reason, I am drawn to make my cave neat and tidy and efficient when I’m stuck inside. Then, when the sun shines brighter and the breezes blow warmer, I’m ready for spring cleaning.

Turn inward: It’s this time of year that I set goals and plan for not the distant, but the near future. Like spring and summer. In order to get a good site, we need to make camping reservations six months out, so my thoughts turn to campfires, hobo pies, and walks in the woods. I think about additions to our garden and yard, and otherwise transport my mind past the snow and into greener days.

In a word—hibernate. And even though that sleepy groundhog saw his shadow this year, I know that in a few short weeks (probably about four, by my count) the robins will be back. And when the robins arrive, I breathe a deep sigh of relief.

It won’t be long now.

True Story …

True story #1

[End of the hour, kids are packing up–the next day is Reading for Enjoyment in my high school junior English class.]

Me: If you guys want to look at my book cart and check out a book for tomorrow, now’s a good time.

50-Shades-of-GreyGirl: Do you have 50 Shades of Gray?

Me: (calmly) Noooooo, but even if I did have it, you know you couldn’t check it out, right?

Girl: Because of the content? (her nose scrunched up and head tilted)

Me: Yeppers.

OF COURSE BECAUSE OF THE CONTENT, silly girl. What in heaven’s name was she even thinking?! Now. Did I read racy books in high school?  Absolutely. But would I ever have even  considered asking a teacher to borrow one? Nah-uh. Part of the thrill is that (we think!) the adults don’t know that we’ve pulled one over on ’em.

True story #2

[I am dog-tired. It’s Friday, the dead of winter, I haven’t slept well in ages, and it was the first week of the new semester. I greet my students at the door each hour, so I’m standing in the hall right outside my room. It’s 10 AM.]

Me: Good morning, Katy!

Katy: Hi, Ms. L.

[She continues on into the room, I greet another couple students, and Katy walks back out to the hall with a frown on her face.]

Manuel Martin@Flickr

Katy: Are you okay? You look sad.

Me: I do?! No, honey, I’m fine. Thanks for asking.

I fret a bit during the hour, thinking I’d better take a couple naps this weekend.  At lunch, I stop at the rest room first thing and check out the mirror. Man, I do look tired! And … well, rather plain come to think of it … I bend closer to the mirror. Unbelievable. I somehow neglected mascara and eye liner this morning. How did  that even happen?! Even on a day I go makeupless, nine times out of ten I still use mascara. At 5:45 AM I must have started my makeup, went to let a dog back in, and just la-di-dahed back to my coffee and lunch packing. Maybe I do need those naps, after all.

Or Spring would be nice, too.