Monday, November 26, 2012

Turning Five in Nigeria

My grandson turned five this weekend. Unfortunately, I couldn't be part of the party, since it took place in Nigeria. But I'd love to share some photos and brag a bit. According to my daughter-in-law, they played
 hot potato, musical chairs, duck duck grey duck (in my day this was duck, duck, goose!), and ring around the rosy. After dinner they lit candles and sang Happy Birthday. 

Love that happy face.

Not sure who won, but could it be that little blonde kid?

Happy Birthday, sweet boy!

The joys of a tug of war!


Friday, November 16, 2012

Enthralled on Poetry Friday

I have been reading my copy of Thrall by poet laureate Natasha Trethaway. Here are a few favorite bits to whet your appetite. Poetry lovers, you need this book!

More Poetry Friday with Anastasia Suen at Booktalking.

from "Taxonomy"

The canvas is a leaden sky
   behind them, heavy
with words, gold letters inscribing
   an equation of blood--

from "Kitchen Maid with Supper at Emmaus; or, The Mulata"

She is the vessels on the table before her:
the copper pot tipped toward us, the withe pitcher
clutched in her hand, the black one edged in red
and upside-down. Bent over, she is the mortar,

from "Help, 1968"

when my mother took me for walks,
she was mistaken again and again
for my maid. Years later she told me
she'd say I was her daughter, and each time
strangers would stare in disbelief, then
empty the change from their pockets. Now

from "Geography"

my father and I walk the rails south
toward town. More than twenty years
gone, he's come back to see this place,
recollect what he's lost. What he recalls
of my childhood is here. We find it
in the brambles of blackberry, the coins
flattened on the tracks. We can't help it--

from "Rotation"

Once, he watched over me as I dreamed.
   How small I was. Back then,
he was already turning to go, waning
   like the moon that night--my father.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

2012 Georgia Literary Festival on Jekyll Island

It was a wonderful weekend in this gorgeous piece of paradise!

 It's a very long ways from Columbus to the coast. Fortunately, my good friend Karen Johnson went down with me and kept me awake on the long drive. We arrived on Thursday night and crashed at a hotel in Brunswick. On Friday, Dr. Jennifer Gray, who coordinates the writing center at the College of Coastal Georgia, along with three of her writing coaches picked me up to take me to my school visits for the day.

 Because I prefer to do actual writing workshops, a single classroom situation is the best scenario. My first visit of the day was with fourth graders at Satilla Marsh Elementary where we worked to create a plan for a personal narrative. I was thrilled with the teacher's report that although she had special ed students and autistic students in the classroom, every child successfully completed their plan.

Dr. Jennifer Gray, Hannah, me, Beth, and Ashley.
My second school visit was with second graders at Altama Elementary. Both sessions were combined classes. Forty students in the first session and fifty in the second. I was grateful and proud of my entourage of writing coaches who pitched in and helped the students. You go, girls! That's what writing coaches do! And thanks for the lovely lunch on St. Simon's Island.

Jennifer delivered me to the hotel on the island. What a wonderful place with such fascinating history. The first transcontinental telephone call was initiated here with Dr. Bell in New York and Mr. Watson in San Francisco.

The festival was held at the new conference center on Jekyll, a lovely setting with views of the Atlantic from nearly every window.

It seems to happen to me often when I would really love to have a photo. I couldn't get the camera button to work. Though it worked fine the rest of the weekend. So I'm grateful to have found a video by Buffy Hamilton from the Unquiet Librarian of Natasha Trethaway's reading of "The Elegy," the first poem in her collection, Thrall. Ms. Trethaway read numerous poems from the collection. I was moved to tears. Literally. I had to sit for a moment before I could leave the presentation. Perhaps because I'm dealing with my own father's final days, the tenderness and the struggles inherent in this collection (one that she called a public conversation with her father) hit a sweet spot in my heart.

Saturday was a wonderful time of hanging out with good friends, Gail Karwoski and Lola Schafer. And meeting new ones. The children's sessions were fairly small, but well attended. I always take my hat box with me to talk about the writing process, all the hats a writer wears. It's not literal, but I really do like literal hats, so what can I say?

Saturday night, we enjoyed a wine dinner with Chef Hugh Acheson, who owns the Five & Ten in Athens and the Empire State South in Atlanta. I have no idea how they decide who will sit with whom, but table nine was the place to be. Karen and I were joined by BA and Gabe, owners of a sustainable farm in Brunswick who provided vegetables for the night's meal, a couple from Florida (so sorry I've lost the card with their names) who also run a sustainable farm, and a book reviewer from Atlanta. The laughter flowed more volubly than the wine, I think. It was a wonderful close to a very full day.
The raucous crew of table nine.
Before we left on Sunday, Karen and I bicycled around the island. We started on the landward side, pedaling along the marshes of Glynn, then turned onto Driftwood Beach, an eerily beautiful scene. The tide was out and the sand was hard, so we biked the rest of the way around on the beach. So beautiful!

On the way out of town, we stopped at Sapelo Farms and BA gave us a tour, let us sample different varieties of greens, and introduced us to the baby lambs.

What satisfying weekend!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

An Early Poetry Friday

I will be on Jeckyl Island this weekend presenting at the Georgia Literary Festival. I am so excited to hear keynote speaker Natasha Tretheway, current Poet Laureate.

Other Southern Breezers on the docket for the children's part of the program include the effervescent Gail Karwoski and the always inspiring Lola Schaefer. I can't wait to see them. Also on the program are children's authors Danny Schnitzlein (The Monster Who Ate My Peas), Jane Wood, and Pamela Bauer Mueller. I have not met them, but I know they are awesome from their books.

I'll let you know more about the weekend when I return. In the meantime, Ed DeCaria will enthrall you with his rendition of Poetry Friday at Think Kid, Think!

by Natasha Tretheway

All day I've listened to the industry
of a single woodpecker, worrying the catalpa tree
just outside my window. Hard at his task,

his body is a hinge, a door knocker
to the cluttered house of memory in which
I can almost see my mother's face.

She is there, again, beyond the tree,
its slender pods and heart-shaped leaves,
hanging wet sheets on the line -- each one

a thin white screen between us. So insistent
is this woodpecker, I'm sure
he must be looking for something else -- not simply

the beetles and grubs inside,

Read the rest here (scroll to the bottom of the page).

Monday, November 5, 2012

Ironman Florida

I spent a packed three days in Panama City Beach this weekend with our daughter and boyfriend while they ran Ironman Florida 2012. Friday afternoon the temptation to take a nap was huge, but I resisted, choosing to get to bed early and sleep since rising time for race day was 4 a.m.  After dropping Jeanetta and John off to get ready, Cliff, Gail (or Gee, John's mom) and I parked the car and made our way to the beach. This was John's third Ironman. Jeanetta has done several half Ironman races, but this was her first full.

 They found us on the beach just before the start at 7 a.m. At the mass start, three thousand athletes rushed through the timing arch and into the water.

It was complete craziness! It looked like a massive school of human fish. Bodies packed together so tightly, you could have walked across them on the water. The water was rough, making it hard to see the course. We watched the rescue team bring several people ashore on stretchers attached to seadoos.

Once they transitioned out of the water, we were able to see both of them heading out on the bikes. Then it was time for a breakfast break and a few hours of rest at the condo. The bike ride took them right past our condo, so we stood on the sidewalk cheering riders on their way to the finish until we saw John go past. We jumped in the car and headed back to the race area hoping we would see John early on the run, but he was already past us.

We caught him (on the right) at about mile 12 of the run. 

Then we rushed back over to catch Jeanetta coming in on the bike. Here's where we got separated. Gee went back to the car because we forgot John's keys. He was planning to load the bikes after he finished. I was rushing forward so I wouldn't miss Jeanetta coming in. Cliff was searching for a trash can to dump our garbage. In a crowd of about 30,000, a blue shirt just doesn't stand out! We never found each other again until the end of the race. 

I watched her come in, then raced back to the other side of the transition area to see her leave on the run. She stopped coming out and gave me a hug. Jeanetta told us later that she saw all three of us and we probably weren't more than 10 yards apart.

At one point we had to cross the bike path. It was like playing a game of chicken. There were crossing volunteers. I would have had heart failure if that had been my job. Bikes coming down the road at 20 miles an hour, a short space in the oncoming traffic, a mad dash by handfuls of spectators going both directions across the road! Someone shouted, "Run like a bandit!"

Once Jeanetta was out on the run, it was time to watch for John to come in for his finish. I found a nice spot on the rail just before the stretch to the finish line. The bleachers at the grandstand were crowded, noisy, and hard. I was happy to be at a spot where I could see the runners coming in. He finished with a great time, but pushing himself in the heat of the day took a toll on his body. He crossed the finish line and headed straight to the medical tent with cramping and dehydration. Fortunately there were still hours left before Jeanetta came and and Gee was able to take him back to the condo where he could soak in the tub and recover a bit before coming back to the grandstands for Jeanetta's finish. 

After he finished, I waited around for a while thinking I might find Cliff or Gee, but no such luck. So I headed back to the car and to wait and see Jeanetta at the turn around midway through the run. Cliff had done the same thing and we finally stumbled on each other again. At the midpoint, Jeanetta was still looking happy. 

We went and found some dinner. Cliff watched some of the LSU/Alabama football game. He had a wager going with our son on the game. Loser buys dinner. We connected with Gee by phone and agreed to meet them at the grandstand to watch Jeanetta come in. During the last half of the run, she started slowing down. Cliff went to find her and was able to run the last bit with her before the finish.

I'm not too good with a camera when I'm trying to see what's going on, too! I pressed stop too soon, but I did catch a bit of her finish. 

 So proud of my sweet ironman woman!

Swim - 2.4 miles. Finish times. John - 1:19:45 Jeanetta - 1:24:26
Bike - 110 miles. Finish times. John - 5:05:12  Jeanetta - 7:45:12
Run - 26.2 miles.  Finish times. John - 3:51:00  Jeanetta - 6:38:01

Overall finish.
 John - 10:28:16
 Jeanetta - 15:59:50

We finally got to bed around 1 a.m. What a day!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Poetry Friday: If a Song Could Be President

I'm tired of all the political commercials and phone calls and speeches and debates. You probably are, too. Soon it will be decided and life can move on for another four years. In the meantime, I'm enjoying Over the Rhine. I hope this song brightens your Poetry Friday. Be sure you vote!

More poems brighten the day at Mainely Write.

If A Song Could Be President 

If a song could be president
We'd hum on Election Day
The gospel choir would start to sway
And we'd all have a part to play

The first lady would free her hips
Pull a microphone to her lips
Break our hearts with Rhythm and Blues
Steve Earle would anchor the news

We'd vote for a melody
Pass it around on an mp3
All our best foreign policy
Would be built on harmony

If a song could be president
We'd fly a jukebox to the moon
All our founding fathers' 45's
Lightnin' Hopkins and Patsy Cline
If a song could be president

If a song could be president
We could all add another verse
Life would teach us to rehearse
Till we found a key change

Break out of this minor key
Half-truths and hypocrisy
We wouldn't need an underachiever-in-chief
If a song could be president

We'd make Neil Young a Senator
Even though he came from Canada
Emmylou would be Ambassador
World leaders would listen to her

They would show us where our country went wrong
Strum their guitars on the White House lawn
John Prine would run the FBI
All the criminals would laugh and cry
If a song could be president.