Monday, December 31, 2012

Poeming: Asking a favor of grief.

Dewy Miley.

all I ask of grief is this

that when I lose my fragile hold

on missing you

and sadness overtakes

I would look a bit more like

a Hollywood starlet, glowing,

tragic and dewy

and less like me, snotting,

wrinkly and red

and that it would not come

to visit at inopportune times,

like when I’m preparing for

jle 2012

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Poeming: Winter.

Poetry Prompt: For this week’s prompt, I was inspired by the recent HeatherBell interview: Take a true event (whether in your life or another’s) and fictionalize it. You can determine how far to take the fictionalization, but try to push the envelope a little and make people question how much is real and how is fake–and hopefully, have trouble leaving your poem even when they’re not reading it.
Because it seemed right that she should be sitting
on a shelf in Nebraska waiting for the Spring thaw
(ashes to ashes)
having been a hard woman from the beginning
having beaten me motionless with her words
(dust to dust)
I’ll admit to a smile stealing slowly across my face
because at the last, the frozen ground proved colder
(to ashes)
than her bitter words scrawled on the photo’s back,
my face X’ed out in red Sharpie, splitting my smiling lips
(to dust)
as a shard of her icy heart pierces mine.
(ashes, ashes, we all fall
jle 2012
Skimmer's recap: while "bitter" is a tempting place to go, it can take over your soul. Don't do it! "Grace" has better weather.

Friday, December 07, 2012

Good Grief observes the holidays.

I had read at one point in my grief research (yes, that is me, don't just HAVE it, read MORE about it!) where someone said that month 8 often saw a resurgence of grief for a loved one. So I kept a squiggy eye out for it around November, the beginning of the Season of Overeating.

Of course holidays carry their own special sting with the loss of a loved one, and Thanksgiving was no different. I charged cheerfully into the meal preparation, determined to enjoy the process and drag joy out of even the grocery shopping. Dammit, I'm gonna have me some JOY!

And I did. I talked to strangers in the grocery stores, one time offering a listening ear to a man with the "deer in the headlights" look mumbling to himself and whoever was nearby, "Can I defrost a turkey in a day? Should I just buy a fresh one?" I love these moments, because I am not a cook, but I can appear as a Martha Stewart Angel to a stranger. For a moment, (a moment I hold closely to my heart,) I can APPEAR to be an all-knowing goddess. After I told him how much more I had spent on a fresh, brined turkey at Trader Joe's the day before, he decided to buy the fresh instead of frozen one. (Though it may have been the less Martha Stewart part of me and more the *real* me saying, "I dunno, mine is always still partly frozen" that won him over....)

Anyway, shopping came and went, and the chopping and peeling commenced. I remained calm and somewhat joyful. But once the major things were prepped and I went off to shower and get out of my baggy sweatpants and into something more guest appropriate, it hit me.

Even if I didn't talk to my sister every Thanksgiving, even if it was more of a pre or post "What did you have? Who was there?" conversation from our separate states of California and Oregon, I COULDN'T.
Not even if I wanted to.
Fortunately, this disolving julie has awesome children who actually and weirdly LIKE to cook, and they took over and finished up dinner while I used cold water and makeup to cover up the sudden grief that had overtaken me. Did I mention they're awesome?
And now, going into Christmas, I've decorated a Patti Tree, clothing it in her colors of purple, green, and blue. And when I see it I smile. And I hear her saying, "I wish I could be with you guys for Christmas, you're so much fun!" And I think of Patti, and I miss Patti, but I have a sense of her with me, surrounding me.
My "Patti tree" complete with Penny the cat.
Just the way she would have liked it.
I'll try to hold onto that happy feeling when it's time to wash the Christmas dishes.
Skimmer's Recap: Grief is normal, grief is good. Pass the turkey.

Poeming: In the company of my sister.

the Elder's Christmas tree 2012, a kinder,
gentler tree than the usual julie-riot of reds.


I choose her favorites:
blue, green, purple,
for ornaments,
a blue star
for the top.
My tree is alive with
her colors
and I am in
the company of my sister
once again.
jle 2012
Written for Poetic Asides Wednesday Poetry Prompt of "In the company of _____"


Monday, December 03, 2012

Belle and Anne Lamott.

I was once terribly insulted when a co-worker called me "provincial." After all, even Belle in "Beauty and the Beast" uses that like a bad word. Remember? She's singing about her village, and "provincial" goes along with "every day like the day before" and "small." I had enough knowledge of the word to feel offended, but I had to look it up to be sure. The Free Dictionary says things like "not fashionable or sophisticated." Heyyyy, I resemble that remark! I am not a city girl. I've never been a city girl. But I don't HAVE to be a city girl--it's not the boss of me!

The co-worker, a single, better traveled, more independent and worldly soul than I, seemed to be saying "Your life is so much smaller than mine." Okay, so I live in the suburbs, I have a husband and children and dogs, and I don't go traveling by myself and am honestly a cowardly person who fears being irretrievably lost if I pass the border of my neighboring handful of towns, true.

And I do so admire those women who have the confidence to just get on planes and go to foreign places like France or Chicago, I really do. I'm just more of a tag-along kinda girl. Is that so bad?

Saturday night I went to hear Anne Lamott speak in Napa, California with a group of women. I can feel "less than" so easily when I hear of the adventures of Others. Because I'm measuring myself always against Others. And there are so many people who are Thinner/Prettier/Better Traveled/More Together/have Nicer Houses/are Braver than me. And I let myself feel small.

Anne speaks about what everyone is dealing with: aging, accepting yourself, parenting. She says she's pretty much settled with the fact that she has the body she's going to have. This makes me sigh. She's a year younger than me, and I had "hopes."

So who did God make me? I may not be like Anne Lamott with humor drier than a piece of English toast sitting in a rack, but my humor comes from my beginnings, and the things I've lived through and how I see them. And my love of people comes from the same. And there will always be someone thinner than me because I'm built for luxury and not for speed.

And so again I end up facing the question of who am I before my Creator, before Others? And the really cool thing is that even at 59 I am still learning the answers, and I'm still changing and becoming, even at this age where I had hopes for knowing more and being more already so I could maybe just sit down and have a coffee.

So, observing Anne, I'd say I need to embrace the who and where of me, and take good notes. "If you're a writer, always have a pen, or God will give me your ideas."--Anne Lamott. 

Skimmer's recap: It's true what God says, that He made me. So why do I spend so much time arguing with Him about it? OH--and, read Anne Lamott! I'm pretty sure she makes God laugh.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Poeming: Choosing.

Life. It's a crazy ride.

What i like about writing: when it takes you in a different direction than you thought you were going, and teaches you something that was in your brain all along.

that childhood spoke truth
of my life,
then leaving behind the
very craziness that defined it,
growing and learning
as I left it,
could I be reborn,
knowing new
living new?


that adulthood speaks truth
of my life,
then opening eyes to
realize the tumultuous
ride that defines it,
growing and learning
as I see it,
can I be reborn,
knowing new
living new?


Life remaking itself
as people/hopes/dreams die
and we move forward
riding the crazy ride,
growing and learning,
choosing to form it
into something new
with new hopes,

jle 2012

The prompt was to write about birth, or being reborn in some way.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Poeming: She.


She called me “the deep one.”

 She was the blonde one, the pretty one,

 the petite one,

 so I guess it was good that

 I had “deep,”

 a word purchased by my



going through the painful process of

being first frozen by the

fear I could do nothing

then moving through


whereby I would

never trust myself and so

must look at



from 57 angles

and would have gladly traded




Written for the poetry prompt to write a deep poem. Deep end of the pool. Six feet deep. Archaeology. Whatever you write, just dig deep.

This one is for my sister Patti. i miss you, sissypoo!!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Poeming: Foster(ing) love.

from wikimedia

Yesterday's prompt over at Poetic Asides was to write a gathering poem and a letting go poem. Mine is a twofer, all in one, and harkens back to the ten years we were emergency infant foster parents for Alameda County here in California.

It seems i had some leftover nurturing i wanted to use. We had two girls, but then i went through a pretty dark time of miscarriages. When that ended in emergency surgery and God slapped me (gently) upside the head to say "Done!" i had an amazing friend who was a foster parent. She always had a baby or two with her, and suggested to me (gently) that i might want to be a foster parent. It took me some time to get far enough past my own darkness to realize that my desire to give love was more related to my heart than my uterus, and perhaps i had been suffering from a simple case of organ confusion.

We dove into the foster care pool.

What a crazy, enriching experience! It opened my eyes to a bigger picture of my little part of the world--the struggles and heartaches and triumphs of a variety of neighborhoods removed from my middle class suburbia. i met people who thought as differently from me as you could get, people whose addictions ran their lives, the relatives who tried to "rescue" them, people who held no value for the child in their womb, and some who wrestled with the decision to give up a baby because they could not afford the two they already had at home so what were they supposed to do about this one?

There were the other foster parents i met too, some committed to caring only for HIV babies, some who seemed to adopt half the children they cared for, some who are still foster parenting well into thirty years worth! There were adoptive parents, both relatives and non-relatives, either fulfilling what they felt was an obligation or a deep desire for a child of their own. And the social workers, trying to find the best answer within the law for that child's welfare, and sometimes having to settle for far less than they would personally choose. It was fascinating and disturbing.

ANYway, the process of bringing a child into your home and your heart is the epitome of gathering, while the letting them go (often to places you personally feel pretty unsure of) is the definition of letting go, often with smiles but often with tears. So here's my poem.


I swaddled you in blankets

and my love

and soothed your cries away

in my arms

and nestled you close to

my heart

speaking hope and calm and

“you belong”

and walking circles circles.

I felt the need to fill 

 your soul

with mother love I missed

when young

so when I last would kiss

your face

I’d know hope and calm and 

“I belong”

your heart would carry always.

jle 2012

i dedicate this first to my friend Adele, lost to cancer in 1999 but living on in the hearts of many, who started this whole thing for me, and to all the foster families who helped me through those years, and who put themselves in sometimes unsafe circumstances so they could help a child. i am thankful for you all!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Poeming: Halfway House.

Halfway Down: Illustrated by Ernest H. Shepard

The Poetry Prompt for November 18th was to write something i'd never heard of before, a glosa. Here's how that's done: 

This involves an epigram of 4 consecutive lines from a favorite poet that the challenge participant believes they can write successfully to. Then, write a poem consisting of four 10-line stanzas where the final line of each stanza is a line from the epigram, in order. Within each stanza, lines 6, 9 and 10 must rhyme.

So i laughed a while and set that (insane) project aside, after all, the other people on the Poetic Asides site seem to actually read "real" poetry from which they may select favorites. i haven't read any of those since school some (terribly long) time ago. What to do what to do?
After trying (in vain) (i'm really diggin' the parentheses today) to find something by Plath or Poe or Whitman, i turned to my childhood favorite, A.A.Milne, and my favorite childhood poem, "Halfway Down." So, paste a Stepford Wife smile on my face and imagine me reading you the (mostly) entirely fabricated:

(or "the devolving of a mood.")

"I'm not at the bottom,
I'm not at the top;
So this is the stair
Where I always stop."

Moods are funny things
affected by so much
but health and wealth and diamond rings
don’t even always touch
your inner Pollyanna (as
I know I’m seen by some)
for even when my mood declines
I try to think of happy times,
so as most moods come,
I’m not at the bottom.

Moods are funny things
affected oft by little
"My tea is cold" "my socks don’t match,"
I couldn’t give a fiddle.
But when it comes to cleaning
I’m not the housework cop
but there’s dust on the railing
and I’m very nearly paling
As my good moods stop,
I’m not at the top.

Moods are funny things
affected by minute
beings doings happenings
of children being “cute”
and whether they’re intentional
or merely unaware
I’ve got to put a stop to it,
the time-out step, you little sh**!
now place your bottom there--
so THIS is the stair!

Moods are funny things
affected by vermouth
(it really helped the other day
when I lost my tooth.)
But the children, they were screaming
so before their heads I’d lop
I had to put a stop to it
or else I’d be a wasted git.
Before my mistakes plentiful
yield a bumper crop
 's where I (nearly) always stop.

(should i claim this?) jle 2012

My (literary snob) daughter made a snearace, or a snimace? anyway a snearing grimace when i read part of it to her. But aitch ee double toothpicks, i'm having (rediculously) too much FUN here to let a little thing like that stop me!


Poeming: Of pens and wheels.

This particular poem is one of those my husband would say is not a poem, and i guess i agree, it sounds more like just the traffic in my head.( Maybe i'll put together a whole book of my "poems" and call it just that, "The Traffic in My Head.") Anyway, i wrote this out and then spent hours trying to form the line length on the right to be shaped like wheels (that was the prompt today over at Poetic Asides, to write a wheel poem) showing the circular nature of life, but alas, it kept coming out looking more like boobs. i have abandoned that idea for its presentation here, because, as most men will tell you, boobs are too distracting.


My mother

used to say “where is the pen that

 is supPOSED to be by the phone?”

and I would think, gee,what is her

problem, she makes such a big deal

out of nothing, and I would answer

her, “I don’t know, why?” all inno-

cently and she would say “because

the pen is supPOSED to stay by the

phone!” and so in my adult life I

have solved this problem by buy-

ing copious amounts of pens and

placing them by the phone /by the

computer /by the kitchen, and

when I want one I think I should

be able to pick up at least ONE of

those many pens but all I can find

is a dead Sharpie and an emery

board and I say “where are all the

pens that are supPOSED to be by

the phone?” and my children shrug

their shoulders and look at me like,

gee, what is her problem, she makes

such a big deal out of nothing, and

they answer “I don’t know, why?”

and look at me all innocently and I

say “because there are supPOSED to

be pens by the phone!” and I sigh

and realize the wheel of life has

turned full circle and I have no

real answers and have turned into

my mother.

jle 2012



Sunday, November 18, 2012

Poeming: Never the same.

This is me, early '70s, in Vail, CO where i moved to
 be with my sister Patti. Dig them bell bottoms!

i decided to use a previous poetry prompt that was to use the last line of your previous poem to write your poem. (Did i say "previous" and "poem" enough?) So here it is.


the day I first felt Someone bigger than me

in the sunshine waterfalling from the window

I was never the same

the day I sang hymns in my Grandma’s basement

soothing away my parents’ breakup

I was never the same

the day I got off the bus and my nose-hairs froze,

to live and laugh and learn with my big sister

I was never the same

the day my Grandma died, me full wombed

hating the knowledge they’d never meet

I was never the same

the day I held each swaddled grandbaby

three on each side of the ocean

I’ve never been the same

So many days have passed, now my sister too,

and through changes of all descriptions

and through the changing and growing of me

some things are always the same

I still know that “Someone bigger,” and He

is leading me holding me loving me,

and through all of life’s changes

He’s always the same.

jle 2012

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Poeming: How to learn to love the rain (even if you're not a huge fan.)

i call this one "sidewalk in front of Target." ;-)


Don new raincoat, red

Hood up, open door

Walk outside, wet

feel chill on face, cold

Blink eyes against mist

hands in pockets deep

steps long to keep warm

(pray my toes to keep)

Taking breaths, rich

with autumnal loam

I lift my face to

the leaves in full poem

Extravagant hues

with names I don’t know

start pushing blood through

this heart no more cold.

Returning now home

with thanks in my chest

I smile at my God

“You say things the best.”

My fingers wrap ‘round

a steaming hot cup

I stare at my tree

watch as the rain drops

The poplar leaves dip

and shake like a bird

at each tiny drip

as rain showers through.

I see You now, God

even in rain

and hope that my soul

is never the same.


jle 2012

This poem was written for the Poetic Asides Poem A Day November Challenge, the prompt being to use "How to____(fill in the blank.)"

Now, i realize i am a simple poet, or rather i write simple poems. But humor me, read them anyway, then nod wisely.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Poeming: Myopica

(tongue in cheek in)


a hundred years ago in a high school language

class I had a teacher with one squiggy eye who

always caught me passing notes because I could-

n’t tell where she was looking and I don’t know if

it’s that I was passing notes and not paying atten-

tion but all I can really remember is the dialogue

we learned by rote, “Gooten tog, Louisa, vee gates”

and “ooh aye leh biblioteck” or wait that second one

might be French because I also took a French class

from a lady I don’t remember at all, guess she didn’t

have a squiggy eye and all I remember from that

class was the dialogue we learned by rote, so it all

runs together or I don’t know maybe I was passing

notes in that class too. At any rate, I try to avoid

speaking foreign languages because people tend

to laugh at the very American way I say things

though even across the country here in America I

can’t understand my Southern cousin on the phone

because her English is not my English and I get

all flustered when I try to sort out all the extra vowels

and syllables we don’t use here in California be-

cause she might as well be saying “Gooten tog,

Louisa, vee gates, ooh aye leh biblioteck?” for as

well as I can understand her, and then there’s the

Queen’s English my British son in-law speaks

and really when he was first dating my daughter

and I’d talk to him on the phone I’d just be all “uh

huh! and oh?” at hopefully appropriate times be-

cause honestly it didn’t sound like any “English”

I’d ever heard and then I have another son-in-law

from Mexico and he laughs when I say the names

of the Mexican foods I eat like ONchiladas or kaysa-

deeyas or the “con kaysah” cheese I put on my tortil-

la chips (and don’t even get me started on the word

‘tortilla’) and then I learned to say “shee shee” to the

Chinese man who gave me a massage because it

means Thank you but then I giggled and kind of ru-

ined the moment so mostly I stick to gesturing and

just try to avoid the whole thing because everybody

should just learn to speak American, shouldn’t they?

jle 2012

Written for the PAD over at Poetic Asides for the prompt to write a poem with a foreign word or phrase. :-)

Monday, November 05, 2012

Poeming: U've Been Texted.

Today's poetry prompt over at Poetic Asides was to write a text message poem. (But not while driving.) Here's my attempt.


wtr we hvg?
b rt there!
--it’s really meatloaf
nt hungry 8 b4.



Want to go to dinner?
sure y not
What sounds good?
gd with wtever
How about Chinese?
no nt rly
What about Mexican?
had 4 lunch
to much grease
then what DO you want???
told u gd with wtever



Send me a pic of your
homecoming dress!

(incoming photo)





Your dad’s okay with that?

dad sez I look pretty!

Um, pretty NAKED…..


Look how long those legs are....


i mean, you’re BEAUTiful, but SO grown UP. Where's 
my little GRANDgirl? And there will be boys’ eyes all
over your bare skin….H***Y young boys with raging
hormones and the self-control of a squirrel…..


OH. Well, I guess you were bound to grow
up sometime….be careful......

I will.

I love u too, grandma! :-)

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Poeming: Just Beneath These Leaves


The poplar tree that grew much faster than

we expected it to, also incredibly tall and wide

(though we DID ask the man at the nursery what

would quickly fill the empty space left when

our elegant walnut tree went roots up and

breathed its last crop of nuts for the squirrels

to steal) and that has lifted the paving stones

put in place over three summers at the

expense of my back and tediously laid flat,

and is now working to put the garden retaining

wall’s nose out of joint not to mention I trip

every time I walk outside (over the tilting stones)

and its large healthy branches are hanging

over the roof, spitting leaves into the gutters


just beneath these leaves

just beneath these branches,

separated from the constant

flow of reality I sit on the

upstairs balcony, and I am

young, listening to the leaves

rustle and sigh around

my treehouse.

jle 2012 Written for the Poetic Asides poetry prompt of "Just Beneath____"
i love my tree, really i do, but like most of us it has its good and its bad.....

Poeming: Ungrounded.

left: me, julie. right: big sister Patti.
               (for Patti)

and I’m trying to touch the ground but I can’t
touch the ground and there’s a space I cannot
breach it’s just air but I can’t quite seem to reach
and I’m afraid to go out of the house will I just
f   l   o   a   t     a   w   a   y  with only sky overhead?

you were my gravity

jle 2012  Written for Poetic Aside's poetry prompt to write a poem that scares me. Apparently i'm afraid of heights and depths. i do actually have dreams of floating a foot above the ground. Does it mean i don't feel grounded, or do i just wish i was taller?

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Poeming: Water Wings.


I’d like to think I’m merely practical and that
it’s wise to wear a Flotation Device when
in a boat that is sitting on a large body
of water that wants to pull me
down grab me with its
slimy fingers and
Y A N K me
to the







jle 2012  Written for Poetic Asides poetry prompt to write about something scary. Hey, scary is as scary does! 

Friday, November 02, 2012

Poeming: Process of Moments


We drove
around Wyoming and Nebraska
in a great big car hearing tales
of my uncle’s days on the range
as a real life cowboy
sounded like a novel to a city girl like me
and there was never another moment just like that

I sat
trembling on the hospital bed
after giving birth to a baby girl
I couldn’t believe I was holding her
I was a real life mom
seemed like I’d done an impossible thing
and there was never another moment just like that

We went
to Australia and sat by a lake
where turtles swam and lizards as big
as my arm sat on a log next to me
in a real life rainforest
felt like a dream to a suburban mom like me
and there was never another moment just like that

I watched
my first grandchild being born
waiting to say hello to
a brand new generation
I was a real life grandma
it seemed unreal to the girl in me
and there was never another moment just like that

I talked
to my brother-in-law on the phone
he said she was gone
suddenly in that morning
real life meeting real loss
how could I never hear my sister’s voice again?
and there was never another moment just like that

each moment
shaping me
each moment
who will i be
each moment
I have the choice
to grow, to learn, to see
each moment
making me.

jle 2012

This was written for the poetry prompt of "matches" at Poetic Asides.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Another chant poem (cuz i dig it!)


Morning hit harder than it should

so it took hours to get myself out of bed

It seems like no matter how well

I think I’ve slept, I’m still tired—

but it’s only fibromyalgia.

I took a shower, put on makeup

and then needed a short rest,

had a salad for lunch, though “fatigue”

doesn’t always equal “good choices”—

but it’s only fibromyalgia.

For three days last week

I thought my skeleton was on fire,

and today’s a much better day,

I only ache like the flu—

but it’s only fibromyalgia.

I was scared when I drove

‘round that familiar corner

and felt lost, hateful when

my brain’s all smogged up—

but it’s only fibromyalgia.

Good days I can go to the gym and

still run errands, but not usually,

sometimes people think me a lazy

maker of excuses ( even I call me useless—)

but it’s only fibromyalgia—

and that’s not like a REAL thing, is it?

I mean, you can’t SEE it….

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Another poetry prompt: a chant. For Patti.

missed all my appointments
right after you died
just couldn’t care
just couldn’t try
I still can’t believe you’re not here
waited all day for my birthday
phone call
for the sound of your laugh
but your voice is gone
I still can’t believe you’re not here
and I’m making dinner
the same as before
and I go to the bank
and I go to the store
and I still can’t believe you’re not here
 the tether is broken
from me to the ground
and I’m floating away
like a winter’s day cloud
and my heart’s just a sigh
in the midst of a crowd
and I still can’t believe you’re not here
with me.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Another Wednesday Poem Prompt, (yes, on Thursday...)



she’s been thinking about things that don’t need thinking

when what she should be is things that need doing

and her thoughts keep leaving when they should be staying

causing daydreams that leave her distracted and wandering

while biscuits are burning and sinks overflowing

and laundry needs washing and mending needs sewing

and yet she keeps pondering the hills that need roving

because trees hide

the better views.