Friday, February 29, 2008


I saw a bird flying in place,
madly winging,
but held captive by a strong-willed wind.

Flap a little harder, little bird.
You’ll make it through.
Just try a little harder.

But she didn’t flap harder.
She stilled herself instead.
With wide wings she embraced the wind,
and the current carried her far, far away.

Monday, February 25, 2008

The Great Interview Experiment

Neil, at Citizen of the Month, has this little experiment going on. His idea is that all people are worthy of an interview. We don't have to be somebody to be somebody. So he has invited bloggers around the world to participate in "The Great Interview Experiment." After reading several fellow bloggers' interviews, I decided to jump on board.

I interviewed Marge, of Marge in Real Life. Her blog is all about self-expression, self-discovery, and self-disclosure. I enjoyed getting to know her through her blog. Here is the interview:

The Great Interview Experiment
Getting To Know Marge of Marge in Real Life
- by Shannon of Letters Falling

I love The Simpsons, both for its entertainment value and as a social critique. Are you a fan? Do you consider yourself a Marge in real life? Is Homer really Homeresque? Or are the pseudonyms just a fun approach to an anonymous blog?

Sometimes the satire of the Simpsons hits entirely too close to our home. I don’t have blue hair and Homer doesn’t spend all his free time in the local bar, Bart’s not nearly so mischievous but we all say “d’oh!” a lot and fight over who has to take out the trash (remember the sanitation commissioner episode?). As the woman of the house, I feel Marge’s pain in being the mostly-ignored voice of reason, constantly picking up after everyone, and trying desperately to project a “normal” family in the face of absurd abnormality. Homer’s ADD and absentmindedness is as close as he comes to being Homeresque although like Marge, I wish sometimes he would be a little more refined in social settings. Every day in our life feels like an episode of satirical proportions.

You mentioned that Homer has read a few posts on your blog. You are very frank about Homer’s weaknesses in many of your posts. Has he seen those posts? If so, how did he react? If not, are you worried he might see them at some point, and how do you think he would react?

One of the wisdoms I’ve come to understand well is that any healthy and worthwhile relationship is based on trust, the basis of which is honesty. He has seen my posts and I have no fear of his reading my blog. At first I was nervous when he showed interest and I warned that if he chose to read my blog, he should do so with a thick skin and a large grain of salt because I hadn’t written about him in a spirit of sparing his feelings. I’ve always said that I don’t read minds, if you have a problem, say so. And to be fair, I’ve encouraged Homer to express (in a blog even) his own experiences in our relationship. Even though he hasn’t chosen to do that, we do talk through all our squabbles eventually. What we have together is a treasure to us both and the growing pains along the way make us stronger.

I love your hamster-in-the-wheel/song-stuck-in-your-head metaphor. If you could only listen to one song for the rest of your life, what would it be? Why?

Just one?! For the rest of my life?! That would be the early death of me. My worst pet peeve (a very furry green one with googly eyes) is redundantly repetitive repetition – especially in music (ex: Eric Clapton’s Laila – pardon me a moment while I go change the station). A catchy chorus is one thing, singing it over and over is enough to send one to the nuthouse. Um, how about this happy little playlist on random mode?

  • I Am The One And Only, Chesney Hawks (incidentally the theme song from the movie Doc Hollywood with Michael J Fox)
  • You’re An Ocean – Old 97’s – I just really like the piano arpeggios
  • Losing My Religion – REM
  • Don’t Stop – Fleetwood Mac
  • Only Happy When It Rains - Garbage
  • Closer To Free – Bodeans
  • Closer To Fine – Indigo Girls
  • Angels Of The Silences – Counting Crows
  • Crazy – Seal

When you take the messages of these songs together they sum up my personality and outlook quite well.

I also share custody of my children with my ex. It sounds like you have a pretty good working relationship with Bart’s dad. How do you do that? I’ve been trying to find peace, but haven’t had much luck. You must have some sort of secret to your success.

Oof, we’ve come a very long way. We’ve always known that no matter how we feel about each other, no pain or unhappiness in our past is more important than our son and like it or not, the natural consequence of having a child together is parenting him, together or not. After we split but before our divorce, we found an amazing counselor. She gave us a funny look when we told her we weren’t there to mend our marriage. We already knew that was over. We were there to mend our relationship so that we could raise an emotionally healthy child together. The real therapy took place in long healing discussions in the therapist’s parking lot after our sessions. I think the biggest key to our success has been to put our romantic past and pain completely and totally behind us. Both of us have taken sincere steps to move on in our lives and truly forgive.

I agree that God and religion are two different things. I also believe that religion can be helpful for some, but damaging for others. It sounds like you had a real awakening about your beliefs in your 20’s. Do you resent being brought up in a religious home? How do you reconcile your religious upbringing with your adult beliefs? Are they connected at all?

Resent is a strong word because I feel no bitterness about my upbringing. My parents truly believed in what they were doing. They sheltered us kids out of love, not because of their religious beliefs. They raised us to fear God and I know that much of my true understanding of the spiritual realm I learned from their actions and personal faith, not from church or Biblical teachings. I do however recognize that my parent’s heavy control had some very undesirable impacts on my ability to develop a sensible world-view. Now when establishing and questioning my beliefs I have learned to take guilt out of the process and add common sense in. Breaking free was a rebellion at its height but became a necessary freedom that I hope to one day see my siblings understand as well.

You really picked up the blogging in January (from 3 posts in December to 59 in January). What was it that caused such an increase in your posting?

My introduction to blogging was on MySpace and I made my first post in August of 2007. It was mainly a way of keeping my friends and family up on the happenings in my life. My posts were usually cheery or funny and pretty much the kind of thing I might put in a newsletter about me. In October the stress in my life reached a peak; I was working very long hours doing my job and a coworkers too, I was trying to cope with my depression since going off meds the previous May, and Homer was sinking deeper and deeper into a depression I couldn’t understand. As my emotional world caved in, the holidays came on and then I was called on to go help my ailing grandmother in Florida. I stopped posting on MySpace mostly because I didn’t have time but also because it wasn’t the kind of thing I knew how to share. I knew that any kind of patronizing advice or sympathy from my friends would make me angry. At the very end of 2007 I had an emotional meltdown that prompted me to step back and assess my forms of release and ask what exactly was I doing to help myself out of my troubles.

Marge In Real Life was sort of my gift to me. It started as a totally anonymous place to vent. Quickly I saw the benefits of uncensored writing and began to post multiple times a day. Soon I realized that I wanted to share my feelings with some that knew me. When I read back through my posts I was startled to realize that I was leading a dual life in some ways and I didn’t like that the honest, open me was the online me. I resolved to bring the two together by opening my private blog to those in my MS friend list. If they were true friends, they would accept me with my shortcomings, frustrations, and depression.

Is your blog cathartic (the emotionally purging definition, not the bowel-purging one) for you? You’ve said writing is like free therapy. In what ways?

So much of the self-torture that takes place in my head is a result of not giving myself permission to do what I need to do. I’ve now given myself permission to release my emotions in my blog – good bad and ugly. I authorized myself to take full creative license without the least concern for what others might think. Don’t ask me why I’d never been able to do that before – fear of self-invented retribution or scorn maybe? Thankfully, it’s been a very cathartic experience for me and as you’ve read, it’s more positive and cheerful than not.

You made a quick reference to being a former runner. What do you miss about running? Is there any chance that you might take it up again?

Many nights I have running dreams. Sometimes when no one is looking I watch Parkour videos on YouTube and fantasize about being so light and free. I’m a very long way from being in good enough shape to run again. Last time I tried it, I had shooting pains through my ankles. I know though that losing weight and embracing athletic endeavors again is a matter of strengthening my resolve and rearranging my priorities. I will run again.

You and Homer love jeeps. The only thing I know about jeeps is that I got stuck behind a highway full of them in Moab one April. I realized then that there are plenty of fanatical jeepers (?) out there. Do you consider yourself a fanatic? What is your favorite jeeping activity? Have you ever turned over one of your jeeps?

One would probably categorize me as a fanatic, though I like to think it’s mostly by reason of association to Homer who is unquestionably a fanatic! My motivation in buying a jeep was to have a vehicle capable of taking me to remote places for unique photographic opportunities. My jeeps have certainly served that purpose and then some. I have many breath-taking photos from the tops of mountains and ancient mining camps.

A little part of me is a tough little tomboy and I like to take on a rough trail with the guys and see their surprise. Yes, I’ve turned jeeps over several times, mostly in my Betty P while tackling stubborn obstacles in Moab, UT. In the most recent incident my cat was sitting in the seat next to me and I thought she’d bolt but she just hooked her claws in and looked at me as if to say, “now what.” Not all of my rollovers have been so fun. A year ago last September I accidentally rolled my Grand Cherokee several times on a dirt road near my home and I feel very grateful to be alive.

I love your taste in Pyrex. I can tell you love color (I recall an orange or red wall behind a fish tank in one of your photos). Describe the most colorful area in your house.

Bright colors have tantalized me since I childhood. In high school I started the Colorful Liberation Front (CLF), a cult group of kids that made colorful little stickers and posted them clandestinely in the blandest places. I really have to write the post about that already.

Visitors to my home are sometimes taken aback by the d├ęcor of my living room. Two of the walls are “Moab” orange, the furniture is modern puzzle-style birch with black upholstery, the curtains (partially finished I’m sad to say) are a matching orange, a wood-burning stove with a vintage Wagoneer grill hanging over it dominates one wall, and antique camera paraphernalia adorn the walls. My home is an eternal work in progress. Soon I also hope to complete a very bright yellow utility room, a blue accent wall behind our big commercial stove in the kitchen, red walls in my son’s room, and retro green curtains to compliment the green and black motif in the master bedroom.

Friday, February 22, 2008

The Flame

By the time anyone noticed it,
the fire was too large to contain.
Ashes pulled free from the flames
like so many bats,
black and beastly,
their angled, tangled wings
dipping, ducking, diving
in a swirling spire.
The last remnants of a life which
so recently was.

You looked at me
through squinted eyes,
“Do you remember . . . ?”
“Yes.” I nodded
and took your hand.
And because it wasn’t us,
we went home to make love,
all the while wondering what
marks the difference
between ecstasy and agony,
hoping for a difference,
but knowing they both start with a spark.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Silent Night

Snow settles slowly
as the streetlight-orange glow
finds a space
between the conventional curtains --
to edge through
and share its dim tinted light
with me
and my new love --
whom I have loved for months
without seeing.

I see her now,
her perfect profile at my breast
for the first time.
And in spite of my
or perhaps because of it,
I am more awake than ever --
keenly cognizant
of my enhanced heart.

Some things in life
are beyond description.
Even the best of poets
are unqualified
to humanize some feelings
by naming them with words.

These are my kept
deep-down emotions --
cherished for a few mid-night hours
after the agony,
the ecstasy
of the emerging,
when our once cord-connected bodies

She is
no longer me,
but forever mine.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The Cutest Shakespeare Ever!

My 9th graders have to complete one Shakespeare learning activity every week for the duration of our study of Romeo and Juliet. I've given them a list of possible activities (delivering a soliloquy, making a model of a Shakespearean theatre, writing a character analysis of one of the main characters, etc.), but I also gave them the option of coming up with their own ideas (which I must pre-approve). Today I got this lovely bust, sculpted from clay. So fun!

I LOVE the hair!

It may be a decent likeness, but I must confess, I would prefer a Shakespeare who looks like this:


Thursday, February 14, 2008

Sometimes I'm just like the rest of them

My youngsters needed Valentine boxes for school. It used to be that a couple of pieces of pink and white construction paper stapled around three sides did the trick. But these days we're not talking about 24 paper-thin cards and one box of conversation hearts from the rich kid. These days kids expect (and get) the mother load. So we needed something a little more substantial.

Plus, other kids' moms spend all their stay-at-home daytime hours for the three weeks preceding Valentine's Day constructing papier mache frogs whose mouths open and tongues stick out with a ribbet or two for every candy-laden card deposited into their bellies. Or toilet bowls where children put their candy gifts into the bowl, press the lever, and their bounty "flushes" to a compartment below. And I'm not kidding.

So this year, I decided to join the frazzled-mom trend. We made papier mache igloos. I wanted to put "ice to see you" on the side, but then I remembered that I would likely post pictures of our creations, and I didn't want Tiffany to think I was stupid. So we just put their names on the sides instead.

Don't you just love the gaping hole ready to receive mounds and mounds of candy? Just think of all the snow that would fall through that hole! I'm certain it is not even close to being up to igloo code. I pity the Eskimo who calls this igloo home. The tiny papier mache eskimo. Who left his tiny fishing pole next to his ice hole. Yep, I truly pity the fool.

I think I might need some sleep . . .

My Valentine's sonnet for Brock

I was looking in my sock drawer and found this rolled up in a corner.

Two years ago in budding spring we hiked
the mountains, as sun-softened snow dashed o’er
a tow’ring cliff o’erhead. The mist, like ice,
sprayed faces red. I’d never loved you more.
High ridges bid us come as summer rolled.
We, happy guests, accepted the allure.
Our highest, hardest trek--the summit cold
and beautiful. I’d never loved you more.
One early morn, in autumn, in the rain
a muddy mound we climbed, our vows to store
from that day on in memory unstained.
You kissed your bride. I’d never loved you more.
We’ve ranges yet to tramp, heights to explore,
And with each peak, I’ll ever love you more.

A Valentine for Ernest Mann

by Naomi Shihab Nye

You can't order a poem like you order a taco.
Walk up to the counter, say, "I'll take two"
and expect it to be handed back to you
on a shiny plate.

Still, I like your spirit.
Anyone who says, "Here's my address,
write me a poem," deserves something in reply.
So I'll tell you a secret instead:
poems hide. In the bottoms of our shoes,
they are sleeping. They are the shadows
drifting across our ceilings the moment
before we wake up. What we have to do
is live in a way that lets us find them.

Once I knew a man who gave his wife
two skunks for a valentine.
He couldn't understand why she was crying.
"I thought they had such beautiful eyes."
And he was serious. He was a serious man
who lived in a serious way. Nothing was ugly
just because the world said so. He really
liked those skunks. So, he re-invented them
as valentines and they became beautiful.
At least, to him. And the poems that had been hiding
in the eyes of skunks for centuries
crawled out and curled up at his feet.

Maybe if we re-invent whatever our lives give us
we find poems. Check your garage, the odd sock
in your drawer, the person you almost like, but not quite.
And let me know.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Getting back to what I came here for . . .

My original intent with this blog was to post an original poem once or twice a week. The idea was that I would be motivated to write poetry more often because I'd have a place to share what I've written. I'd like to try it out for a couple of weeks and see how it goes.

I'll start with a poem I wrote three (or so) years ago. It's based on a very vivid dream I had. (I sometimes dream in allegory). It's probably a bit of a diversion from my usual approach to poetry, but I kind of like it. Hope it doesn't make you sick. Hope you still think I'm sane. Hope you thought I was sane to begin with. Here is goes:

The Offering

The kitchen drawer paring knife
with the bent tip
pierces the skin between
the long thin foot bones above the
second and third toes.
not a clean, smooth scalpel drawn line of blood
but a jagged, meat-torn window
to where the bones are.

That’s what I’m after:
The bones.

I remove them, one by one,
from the right foot
and pile them,
clean and white,
like kindling
on a clean white plate
with a chipped rim
carefully placed on a clean white cloth
with one frayed edge
at the head of the dining room table.

Thin, delicate, unbroken.

I harvest the bones to the ankle.
I pause.
Why am I doing this? I ask myself.
And I can’t recall.
I just know it must be done.

The newly emptied fleshy flap of skin
sags at an awkward angle
from my right ankle
as it rests on my left knee.

Enough, I say.
And it is enough.

Kate played in her piano recital on Saturday. She did a great job. Afterwards I asked her what she thought was the best part of her performance. "My look," she said. She's such a funny little stink. Brock and I were really proud of her very poised performance. I accidentally pushed the off button on my camera instead of the the start button at the beginning of her performance, so I missed her introduction of her pieces. She was very articulate.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Hear Me Roar

I became a feminist at BYU.

I know "BYU feminist" sounds like an oxymoron, but at that time there was quite a group in the English department. I attended BYU during a short-lived golden age for feminism. Many of my professors openly proclaimed themselves feminists, and those who didn't accepted feminism as a viable world view rather than a silly notion embraced only by lesbians and women too ugly to ever hope to find a man. I had never considered which side of the feminist fence I embraced--in truth, I had never really known what a feminist was before my BYU education. Many of my respectable and admirable professors helped awaken my world views on status and value of women in a still-very-patriarchal Utah society. Feminism wasn't just some quirky idea of a woman who no longer wished to wear a bra. Throughout history, mysogynist* attitudes in our society had created gender inequality. I wanted to help bridge the gender gap. I wanted to help make a change.

When I was approaching graduation, six well-known scholars were excommunicated from the church for publicly pronouncing their secular views on Mormonism. In addition to the six, several professors at BYU were disciplined for spouting their feminist rhetoric to the young and impressionable in their classes. At least three English professors were asked to leave BYU. After the massive house-cleaning, the atmosphere of the English department changed. Professors were extremely careful with their words. The passion, the excitement, the fire had dimmed.

After I graduated, my fire began to dim as well. I was no longer associating with fellow students who had similar opinions, hopes, dreams, desires. I was married to a man who scoffed at the thought that there could be such a thing as a feminist. I always felt like he considered my feminism a silly phase. Instead of fighting to keep my feminist views, I found it easier to comply with the role my society expected of me. And while I would never consider my decision to become a stay-at-home mom a mistake, I do consider my willingness to let go of my feminist views a weak reaction to a difficult situation.

For a long time I felt like I had been silenced. Like I didn't have a voice. I knew had a voice once--back in my BYU days. I longed to find that voice again.

After my marriage failed, I decided I should find out who I really was--deep down in the core of Shannon. I wanted to be true to myself. I knew the failure of my marriage had hinged on my failure to understand myself properly and my subsequent inability to go on living as someone I wasn't. I'm not going to delve into my road of self-discovery here, but I will say that little by little I have regained some of that spark I had back in the college days. And these days I can embrace that side of myself because I chose a husband who embraces it in me.

Which brings us to yesterday.

Yesterday I voted for Hillary Clinton. Most Utahns would consider my vote wasted (Clinton didn't have even a tiny sliver of hope to get Utah's democrat delegates). I endured jokes in the faculty room--"You're going to vote for Monica Lewinsky's ex-boyfriend's wife????" I overheard my daughter's friend tell her, "I heard that someone asked Hillary what one plus one is and she said, 'Ummmmmm'." I have felt the need to explain why I'm voting for Clinton, as if it is a huge mystery just begging to be solved. (Why is it that everyone calls her "Hillary" anyway? You never hear anyone calling Obama "Barack" or McCain "John". It irks me.)

And then today, I read this article by Robin Morgan. It really struck a chord with me. Why should I feel apologetic for supporting a highly qualified candidate? Why should others feel the need to casually dismiss Clinton because she's a woman? Worse, why do people make condescending remarks about her gender--our society would never stand for condescending remarks about Obama's skin color.

I have been reminded there is no shame in being a feminist. There is no shame in supporting the best candidate. There is no shame in standing up for the dignity of my gender. In fact, the opposite is true. It is shameful to use Clinton's gender as a reason to either reject or support her. I am proud to support Hillary Clinton in her quest to become a candidate for president based on her experience, her intelligence, and her stance on the issues. And I refuse to apologize for my support.

*A funny aside--I used the word "misogyny" in my 9th grade language arts class yesterday during our discussion of Romeo and Juliet, and there was a collective gasp. They thought I had said a bad word, apparently. Ha!