Little Known Factoids

Wham – I’ve been tagged. Funny lady and writer gal pal Jennifer Ziegler ( got me. She says everyone is doing it.
The rules: Each participant shares five little-known facts about themselves and selects five new folks to be tagged, listing their names and letting them know they’ve been tagged.
So here’re mine:
  1. As a teen, I got a perm. You have to know me to fully appreciate the absurdity of this. Hello, Medusa. There was no need, I assure you. But it was the ‘80s and I was trying to follow that old “When in Rome…” adage to the letter. Fortunately there’s scanty photographic evidence that this took place. (I also tried a Dorothy Hammill haircut once. Ditto everything above except it was the 70’s rather than 80’s. Trends should have gatekeepers, don’t you think?)
  2. In 5th grade, I wanted to play the drums but the band teacher told me, “Girls don’t play drums; you can choose the flute or clarinet.” I choose flute, polished it a bunch and got the only solid F of my academic career. These days I mostly clap and hum. 
  3. I read Love Story every summer from age 11 ‘til age 16 and each time I thought Jennifer might not die this time. Oliver thought so, too.
  4. My lucky number is 4. To note: my birthday (4/4); number of people in my family (4); number of people in the family I grew up in (4); the terminal number of many of my addresses over the years (674, 124, 324, 604 and two Apt. #4s); not to mention elements on earth, arrows on a compass, quarters to a dollar and seasons in a year. OK, maybe not in Texas. But technically, right?
  5. Once, I pulled away from the gas pump without taking the nozzle out of my tank and I pulled the hose off with me. Did you know that those hoses are designed to disconnect? Still, I’ve been trying to pay better attention since then…
Now, how about some of my peeps? What’s up with youse guys?
Fabric artiste Kathie Sever ( )
Hilarious writer pal Robin Chotzinoff ( )
Drawing dad Don Tate ( )

Half the distance, twice the fun

That’s what they say about half marathons, even though it really doesn’t feel like half of anything. 

Quibbles aside, 13.1 miles is the perfect middle distance — far surpassing your average 5- or 10K, in training regimen and sense of accomplishment, but without a marathon’s joint torture or Saturday suck. 

I cannot imagine the wife mother writer teacher sleeper getter-upper driver neighbor citizen I’d be without the fresh air, exercise and endorphines of a good run. I mean, really. Duck and cover. It’s a bad day without exercise.

Yesterday was Austin’s 3M Half Marathon, my hands-down favorite run of the year. (Okay, mine’s more like a jog than a run, but who’s timing?) 

Here are highlights:

The good folks at Embassy Suites taking pity as we waited at the start in the cold, cold dark. They seemed not-at-all frazzled by the thousand-some runners stretching hamstrings in their lobby and lining up to use a bathroom that wasn’t a bright blue tippable box. 

Turning the corner at mile 2 so that headwinds became tailwinds.

Friends and family at mile 8 with a big ole’ sign, hugs, whoops and hollers. Even my running partner (who’s benched with a hip injury) braved the morning chill to cheer me on. Talk about a second wind. Some folks suck on a little tube of goo to recharge, but who needs it when you get a dose of love this palpable?

The perfect playlist my husband built for my iPod (aptly titled Run Liz, Run). Warmed up to Elaine Elias, Zap Mama and Culture; moved onto a podcast of This American Life; and finished out with Fountains of Wayne, ABBA, Jane’s Addiction and other delicious stuff. One particular strong spot had me singing I Am Woman (out loud) with Helen Reddy — while running downhill, no less. Crossing the finish line to Passionate Kisses wadn’t bad either. 

Meditating (or hallunicating — I’m not sure which) from mile 9 to mile 11. “I love this. This feels good. I’m so happy. I’m so lucky.” Repeat. “I love this. This feels good. I’m so happy. I’m so lucky.” To those who weren’t in my altered state it may have looked as if speedier folk were passing me by but I know better. I was flying…

The bagpipe player, jugglers, cowbell ringers, brass band and steel drum afficianado scattered along the course. On a cold morning, for no good reason but the joy of it.

Finishing up — a few minutes quicker than I’d hoped for, with a few songs left on my playlist. (Actually, just finishing, period, felt dang good. Like putting the final touches on a final draft.) 

Nothing could dampen the spirits, not even the sinewy soul who said to me, right after the race, “That was so short and easy compared to the ultra marathons I’ve been doing!” 

Short and easy? Mmm hmmm. Kind of like writing literature for kids. Who’s hallucinating now?

Poetry Friday

For those of you still suffering the chills of winter, a little ditty from our old pal A.A. Milne:

If I were a bear
And a big bear too,
I shouldn’t much care
If it froze or snew;
I shouldn’t much mind
If it snowed or friz —
I’d be all fur-lined
With a coat like his!


See — it’s fun!

Notes from student poets

Today I received a really smashing little packet of thank you notes from some of the students I worked with recently at an Austin elementary school. 

Here are some excerpts from their letters, which lay to rest the ridiculous notion that children hate — or are afraid of — writing (especially poetry):

You’re always talking about how to use your senses.

I now write good and I am INTO poetry!

Thankyou for teeching me how to do poutree.

You have opened up another job possibility for me when I get older. Thank you.

I learned so much. Like what vivid meant.

I am as brown as bark. Good one huh?

Now I know how to be a great writer. So keep writing your books and I’ll keep writing my best.

Can’t you just feel them buzzing? The kids I engage with consistently love working with words, find endless possibility in the world of metaphor, and proudly read their writing aloud. 

I truly believe that creative work is a necessary counter-balance (or even an antidote) to the more circumscribed academic challenges these kids face everyday. 

My manifesto: Art belongs in the schools. Vivid enough for ya?

Empty Baskets

This weekend we received a letter from our friends at Tecolote Farm. (For years now, we’ve been grateful recipients of their organic and imaginative vegetable baskets, delivered all spring and summer to our front stoop.) I imagined it would be their annual call-to-action, with details on this year’s pricing and delivery schedule, but instead I read that Katie and David and their team are taking a sabbatical, for the sake of themselves and their land.
Needless to say, I’m bereft. It’s because of Tecolote that we understand the beauty of eating locally and within season; that I learned to cook mustard greens; that our daughters love arugula and beets. When it’s basket season, we step out of our rut and appreciate the surprises on our table each week. We spend less time at the grocery store. We make gazpacho. I like to think we glow a bit. This spring, we’re going to have to go it alone – hit the farmers’ markets and try to recreate the bounty for ourselves. We’ll make do, of course, but Tecolote will be sorely missed.
It got me to thinking, though, about letting ground lie fallow, about recovery, about that little pause in between inhale and exhale when things go completely still.
I think about how my family delights in those occasional Sunday mornings or Wednesday afternoons when things stop spinning – no birthday parties, no home repairs, no take-home work. We come together restfully, reflect on the day or the week, play cards, curl up on the couch and hum. 

And teaching – those semester breaks that always seem to arrive the day before I’ve been completely wrung out of energy and inspiration. 

And writing – I am not a steady-as-a-clock artist, writing for four-hours-every-morning-of-my-life-so-help-me-god. There are months when I’m awash with ideas, and driven – absolutely driven – to get them down in ink. Other times, I chastise myself for being less than attentive to my work.

But in my own defense (and yours, if you can relate), I think there are periods of our lives as people or parents, writers or wives, when we are depleted and stuck in cycles of less-than-optimal productivity. My own inclination is to try to pick up the pace when I feel like that, kick it in gear, snap out of it. I wonder what would happen if I did the opposite.
Katie and David say that their soil needs nourishment and their irrigation lines need repair. That just sings to me as I move through this first month of the new year. Today I am healthy and energized with a new project in hand. Tomorrow or next week or someday in March, things will be different. To sustain myself now and then, I need good sleep, long runs and vitamins. But I also need to sometimes lay fallow, quiet, still. 

We all do.