Fourteen years ago in winter, Snowball broke into our house. No – really. It had been bitter weather, and he had been hanging around our porch, probably because it afforded some shelter from the miserable cold, semi-enclosed as it was. I had started leaving some food out for him when it became obvious that he was sticking around more than part time. He had a red flea collar at first, and no tags, and no one on the block knew whose cat he was, if he was anyone’s at all – I didn’t feel bad about feeding him even a little bit. He was such a scrawny little bit of a thing.

My mom was up from FL to visit that week, and Our Man Cub was almost two years old. We had gone grocery shopping one evening and were sitting down in the living room after putting things away. Then I turned my head, and there he was, sitting on the back of the couch like he’d lived there all the time and we’d just never noticed. Well, hello you.

And it’s like this: the temps were sub-zero, and I couldn’t bring myself to send him back out. And Dearest Will was in New York that week, when we got the news that our friend Pat Storm had passed away in Thompkins Square Park. And Our Man Cub was really but a squirrely kit then, and my mother was in town, and really? The last thing on my mind was putting an animal back out into the cold.
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Good morning, and welcome to Pretty Pretty Princessland, winter edition.* I am currently blogging it up in my pjs and bathrobe, with a nice hot cup of coffee, IN BED. Yes, sister, I am blogging in bed.

And really, what’s that about? you may ask. I might spend some sweet space justifying purchases here, but, really, let’s cut to the chase: teenagers today (the delightfully nerdy ones, at least – you know, my favorite ones) don’t use the phone so much as talk for hours over Skype while playing together on the same Minecraft server, and recording it for YouTube, and I share a desk with Our Man Cub. Which is to say, it can become a touch noisy at my desk. And I payed down the Best Buy card from the winter holidays last week. So a Chrome Book? Yes, please. I joked that I would blog in bed, and so here I am test driving that business, in bed, cup of coffee, big orange cat purring up a storm beside me, and all up in some soft blankets. Also, I sat in my studio the other day and collaged like a badass while watching Netflix. SO MUCH WIN.

SO! I’m trying to indulge myself more. Does that sounds ridiculous so early into the year? I know everyone’s all about getting back on the stick and losing weight and being more disciplined about their exercise regime, and cutting out sugar and all that – it’s resolution time, still, after all. But I’m so totally into indulgence tight now.

Honestly, I’ve been working like a dog since about mid-November. With the museum where Will Dearest and I work(ed)** closing down and then the cleaning and moving and consolidating, I’ve been on my feet constantly, and not taking very good care of me terribly well. And I discovered something important: when I don’t pour enough sugar on the everyday, when I come home exhausted and eat junk food and zone out, just waiting for it to be late enough to go to bed, and then get up and do it all over again, I don’t like being me so much. When I operate like that, even my weekends go to the dogs – I spend a ton of time just sitting still and feeling sorry for myself over how much energy I’m expending for someone else (no mind that I’m being, you know, paid for it, and that I really like the people I work with, and that I actually like the work I’m doing there) and how I never get enough time to do my stuff and blah blah blah whine whine whine oh, my feet. Yeh, I don’t like living in that headspace. It’s like moving a 9′ metal horse through a 7′ door – you can do it, it’s just really hard and involves a lot of heavy lifting.

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Remember that time when you wanted to do a Big Something, but you were scared shitless, and so you didn’t do it? And then for a really long time after, you sat around and said things like, “Man, I wish there were more poetry videos that weren’t just performance selfies. You could do so much more with the medium,” or, “Someone really should run a poetry film festival in this town. I bet some really amazing work could come out of that.” And your friends hung out with you while you said stuff like that, and they nodded their heads, knowing that, in spite of your idea being a really cool Big Something, you’d never actually get off your ass and make it happen, because you were afraid. Remember that?

Oh, yeh – that was me.

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Hello, hello! I am arrived home from NPS 2013. Dearest Will and I spent two days (that’s what we could afford for hotel) out in Cambridge. This was a huge decision, not just because it was expensive monetarily, but because it’s expensive emotionally – I’m anxious in cities and always afraid of getting lost or left behind, bars freak me out (and both our bouts were in bars), and slam judges frequently disappoint me. But it turned out to be a good couple days, in spite of the judges and the traffic and the booze

Favorite frames from the last couple days:

Karen G hugs. Omg, Karen G hugs when she arrived at our hotel room.

The Tribute reading: Weeping silently through the whole thing. Matt Richards reading for Ken Hunt. Talking with Gerry Hardesty about Brenda Moossy. Bill realizing that he was wearing Jack’s socks.

The tiny tiny rabbit in the courtyard eating grass as three of us tried for photographs – and then Dearest Will  pointed at Liz’ tattoo for Gabrielle, and we all gasped.

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Ok, so can we talk about Mystery Gardening?

It happens almost every year: at some point in March, Man Cub & I take over the kitchen table with packets of seeds, dixie cups and any seedling trays we happen to have, and a big bag of potting soil. We fill the cups and trays and stick the seeds in the dirt. Invariably we wind up both planting the same seeds in different ends of the trays. We have full intention to label what we stick in the dirt – it’s just that that doesn’t really ever, well, happen.

What does happen is that we shrug and tell each other that once everything sprouts, we’ll be able to tell a tomato from a cucumber and a melon from a pepper, and then we cover it all with plastic and stick it in the window and wait.

And we can, in fact, tell a cucumber sprout from a tomato sprout and a pepper sprout from a melon sprout – that’s no problem. On the other hand, telling cucumbers from melons from zucchini is a little bit harder. Also, tomatoes and peppers require a few extra days to tell apart. But, fuck it, it all has to end up in the ground anyway, so as soon as the garden is ready, in it all goes. About three weeks later, the real fun begins, when we realize that there are at least two patches that are complete mysteries, surprise! there are jalapenos  among the bells, and we may or may not have planted watermelons, but we have no idea what seeds we planted, because we threw out the packets when they were empty, so it might be pumpkins? Lol, whoops.

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Oh, vacation. As of 3 o’clock yesterday, both Will Dearest and I are on vacation for a week! To celebrate, after work yesterday we grabbed some grocery store lobsters (they’ll cook them for you – joy!) and I steamed up the corn from the farmers market*, and we had a family picnic on the living room floor – which was truly lovely.

While I’m wrapping my head around the idea of a week without waking at six and going in to work, the smallest cat is laying on top of a handled bag from Old Sturbridge Village. He has killed it two tiemz, even tho’ he was frightened of it when it first arrived because it smelled strongly of fudge. I’m impressed with his fortitude and bravery. I am planning to channel his osm spirit in the coming days.

I have some plans for the week: I’m thinking about taking everything out of the sun room and reorganizing it. We are going to paint Man Cub’s room at some point. He and Dearest Will have already taken advantage of the weekend and the good weather to build a (gorgeous!) fire pit in the yard, and we are all eagerly awaiting the cement’s curing to test drive it. I would very much like to get back into my yoga practice, which has derailed over the last month because of Busy. I want to pick up some big pots and some soil, and replant the english ivy that’s looking droopy. I’m looking forward to sleeping in a few days this week.

But first, I got things to do. We have a 2 o’clock slam practice that we’re looking at ending around six tonight. We have a slam team send-off tonight, as they’re to Boston for Poetry Slam Nationals on Tuesday, another practice tomorrow night, and laundry and sundried other odds and ends to handle before we all depart.** Also, I have to order oil and pay the bills sometime today. So I think after Thursday, it will be about really digging into the move-stuff-around-in-the-house business. And going to the movies with Man Cub. I’m looking forward to it, just bringing the focus back home for a little bit.

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So! Our Man Cub is back from the wilds of Florida, at last! I was thinking that while he was away, visiting with the grands for a week, that, having the whole desk to myself (we share a desk, yanno), I would be able to get lots of things done,* right? I was going to take advantage of quiet space and lack of distraction,** and Do Work. But that didn’t happen. I mostly missed the Cub, worked a bunch of hours at the museum, and came home to watch a bunch of Warehouse 13 episodes on Netflix. In the dark, because it was too hot to have the lights on.*** While eating carryout.

Over the week I did, tho get to some stuff! For one thing, Dearest Will and I got to take in the Zentangle exhibit in Whitinsville  on Friday at the Spaulding R. Aldrich Heritage Gallery in the front offices of Alternatives Unlimited. Which was a wonderful after-work date. We came home with the book from the show (all proceeds from book sales go back to Alternatives Unlimited, to boot), and tons of inspiration.

Also, I finally got around to trying out gelatin prints! I’ve been fascinated with this form since running across Linda Germain’s site† a few months ago, and dearly wanting to try it out. And so I did. So here’s how it went in my kitchen -

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Guest blogger today! I am so very pleased, dear reader, to introduce you to one of my favorite people in the whole world, Suzi Banks Baum. Suzi is a fantastic collage artist and half of the Femail  duo, and blogs up a hella good storm over at Laundry Line Divine, She is also the driving force behind the great new book, An Anthology of Babes: 36 Women Give Motherhood a Voice – which just had its Amazon release. Read on here to find out the backstory to the anthology.

What Was I Thinking?

by Suzi Banks Baum

“Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy
and creativity. It is the source of hope, empathy, accountability, and authenticity.
To put our art, our writing, our photographs, our ideas out into the world with no assurance of acceptance or appreciation-that’s also vulnerability.”
—Brené Brown Daring Greatly

Vulnerable is exactly how I felt when I invited 35 women to jump into the freezing cold waters of public opinion and share themselves and their perspectives on living lives pumped full with creativity in Anthology of Babes: 36 Women Give Motherhood a Voice. At that point I knew wanted to put my words and images out in to the world, but publishing a book? Being that public terrified me. So, I figured I’d rather have some co-conspirators.

Years before, I had started writing my own stories about how I spent my days as a mother, what caught my attention internally, and how I righted the boat of my serenity over and over again with small creative acts. I wrote never thinking anyone but a few close friends would read these stories. I was just writing. But in April 2009, I dared to title the writing Laundry Line Divine: A Wild Soul Book for Mothers. At a writing conference, I spoke to a literary agent about the work, wondering if there was interest in the world beyond my sphere for a book about how I raised myself as I raised my children. (Please note elevator pitch in the last sentence. “Can I describe my book in 10 words or less?”)

Standing before a literary agent is much like any other moment in life when you are Dorothy at the feet of the Wizard. “Is there anything in your bag for me?” “Could there be another human aside from my best friends who might be interested in my writing?” Standing there, knees clattering (and go ahead, tell me I was supposed to own my brilliance, stand for all mothers, flirt with the agent, shine shine shine), palms slick with sweat, lips dry, eyes blurring, I learned I was to go home and build my author platform. “Come back when you’ve built that,” said the agent.

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(x-posted to the Poets Asylum)

And they’re beautiful! Check out these babies -

We’ll be selling them at the Sunday reading (you know about the Poets Asylum reading, right? ‘Cos it’s been around for, like, 14 years, and if you haven’t been, you should totally come check it out) starting this weekend. If you’re out of town and would like one (or two, or three, or five, or ten), you can order one from the Doublebunny Press store – we’ll mail it right to your mailbox.

4″ round, vinyl, $3 each (+shipping and handling for mailing, natch), with all profits going to defray hotel and registration costs  associated with getting the 2013 Worcester Slam team to NPS in August. And it almost goes without saying that one of these will totally fancy up whatever you put it on.

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Ok, so! Let me tell you what I was super secret squirrel about last week – I made a Thing!

Here’s the scoop – over the last year, Dearest Will & I have been doing yoga together, and both of us have been interested in learning to meditate. It’s been nice that the gentle yoga practice that we do together* has some guided meditation at the end, but we’ve both wanted something more. We tried a yoga nidra cd. We tried some chanting stuff with Deva Primal.** A little flirting with it, right?

And then enter the panic attacks.*** Poor Dearest Will started having them at the end of last year, and has been working with a therapist around that stuff, to some really great success.  A couple months ago, she suggested to him that he should try meditation. Osm, right? She sent him home with some YouTube links, and a mission.

After some browsing the YouTube clips, hilarity ensued, as well as some aggravation on my part – why, for the love of Pete, do meditations always take place on the freaking beach? I find the beach to be one of the most stressful places I can possibly imagine – the heat, the garbage strewn all over the place, the reek of suntan lotion and stale beer, crowds, sand that follows you home and gets into everything you own. Lawdamercy, why??

So I ranted, Will giggled at me ranting, we discussed at length guided meditation clips and what we would both actually want from one. Being a skittery animal  myself,  I held that any good guided meditation should start with, Shh – it’s alright now.

So, in secret, I set to work. I wrote a script. I edited it. I read it out loud to myself and scrapped it. I started again. And again. And a third time, until I got it close to where I wanted it.

Then I emailed my friend Steve. This guy changed my life in 1990, when he handed me a cassette tape with Surfer Rosa  on one side, and Goo on the other side – omogod, blissful noise! Seriously, I had No. Idea.† Anyway – Steve’s still making Good Noise these days, and with that in mind, I asked him if he could do 8 minutes of ambient music suitable for meditation.††

Steve sent me the track he came up with, pointed me in the direction of good (and free to evaluate) mixing software, complete with notes on how to cut and paste pieces and fix volume, and I got the hell on it.

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