Wednesday, March 31, 2010

spring break

It's officially spring break this week, and the kids are in Chicago with Bob until next Tuesday. They took the train--I dropped them off at Penn Station and drove Bob's standard shift late 90s Saturn back to Astoria in crazy crosstown traffic. The trip was 19 hours and they had a little room to themselves with seats that convert to beds. The kids loved it, and apparently they got some sleep, too.

Meanwhile, I'm taking it easy but trying not to turn into a complete blob. I have tons of grading to catch up on, and church activities for Holy Week, time with friends, literary events (the Red Hen gang is in town), and of course the all-important "me time." My goal is going to yoga classes at least five out of the next seven days.

Oh, and did I mention gathering receipts and getting the paperwork ready for my accountant so he can do my taxes? And laundry? And tackling the crazy amount of clutter, starting spring cleaning, and, (wait for it) putting away the Christmas tree? (Shhh! Don't tell anybody!) As for home entertainment: Mad Men--Season 3 is finally out on DVD--a new Nurse Jackie, and checking out, at long last, Liz Lemon's world on 30 Rock.

Anyway, I'm also taking time for the spirit, contemplating the Passion and Resurrection, the stories and the truths behind them (to borrow a phrase from my vicar).

It is spring, a time for clearing out the cobwebs and welcoming new growth. And time for flowers--like this lovely dozen roses I bought for myself. Bienvenue Printemps!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

paul james vasquez, 1954-2010

Bob's Uncle Paul was a creative inspiration to his family--musician, actor, writer, director. He passed away yesterday after being seriously ill with cancer for about the past year. This photo is a still from Jail City,an independent film by his former student Dan Eberle. Bob's brother Paulie was a co-star, and Bob had a cameo as some hoodlum who gets offed in a mob hit. (He was really good at falling on the floor :)

This week Paul was in the hospital with hospice care--the whole family came to see him--Bob took Bobby on Tuesday--and Bob and his brother Mike played music for him all day Thursday. Bob said he made sure Paul's hand was on his guitar. Pax, Paul.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

the chef is in...

Another pic for all you Stella fans...our girl loves to cook--for real or for pretend. Here she is in the chef's outfit Santa brought this year. And the groovy glasses she doesn't seem to want to wear much anymore. Time for pancakes--which she calls "ca-cakes"!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

world down syndrome day

It's World Down Syndrome Day again, 3/21 (get it? Trisomy 21). The National Down Syndrome Society has released a national policy update for the occasion. I particularly applaud the point, "Provide a first-class education for children with Down syndrome." We're not exactly thrilled with the education Stella has been getting in the NYC public school's District 75 program. I'll write more about this later--Bob went to the IEP meeting a couple weeks ago and we have some updates--but for now let's just say there could be more pro-activity going on.

Here's a fairly recent pic of Stella Bella, with her new glasses (which have already been lost and found several times and which she is not currently wearing a whole lot). Today is so warm there is no need for the coat and the stylish beret--we're going to head out into the sunshine soon!

Saturday, March 13, 2010


NOTE: It is perhaps unsurprising that I originally drafted the following post LAST weekend and am just finishing and posting it now.

I haven't posted here in awhile (again). Mostly it's because I've been doing other things, but there is always the shadow of blogger's block. I still don't know what it's about, exactly. Partly it's the same as regular writer's block, but the other part of it is the public nature of blogging. I have a link to my blog on my email signature, it's on my facebook page, it's the first thing that comes up if someone googles my name. So there's no way I can really hide here, unless I have some "restricted" posts, and I don't really see the sense of that. If I have something to say that's private, for a small group, I either just write in my notebook or send an email to a couple of friends.

Anyway, lately I've been remembering the words of Dave Smith, who with Claudia Emerson led the workshop in which I was a fellow at Sewanee last summer. Dave really held my feet to the fire, but it was something I needed. I'd submitted a manuscript of work-in-progress (something that most of the fellows don't do, for some reason, but I thought I'd take advantage of having a thorough reading by some experts, free of charge). After my hour-long conference, I read the three-page single-spaced letter Dave had written--it was more like an essay directed to me individually, engaged, elegantly-written, and incisive. At the end, I broke down and cried because he had hit the nail on the head--not so much about the poems themselves (although his comments were useful and on-target) as about my commitment to poetry.

I think the "serious" poet is not competing against stand-up comics but against the great poems in our language. To bear that burden of competition is a killer weight, but if a poet is not trying to do the best possible work, how is he/she different from the literary week-ender?

That, dear reader, is the question, and underlying that is another series of questions: am I destined to be a "week-ender"? what would I have to do to be "serious" about poetry? something's gotta give, but what?

At the end of the letter, Dave wrote:

I think you can be a very entertaining poet, especially reading to small crowds who have every reason to like not being challenged; or you can be both entertaining and much better, the kind of poet whose language has resonance and durability.

He went on to name some poets (all women, of course) he considered "non-week-enders" and the list included some of my personal heroes and one of my close personal friends. That was when I cried. Yes, I want to do what these writers have done. What has been stopping me? Why, if I consider my writing so central to my life, do I always give other work, the work that is for pay, more legitimacy and thus more of my energy? How can I change this?

If I don't get a handle on this I'll never have a second book. I'll never finish the memoir. I'll always be a might-have-been, an also-ran, a "but she had so much potential." I'm working on finding another way.