Saturday, October 30, 2010

Sometimes in life, you get a chance at a do-over

I had a friend (I'm calling her Robin) in elementary school. Our families knew each other so we used to play together when we young. We stayed friends in high school, but after graduation we lost touch. 
Things happened faster for Robin than they did for me. When I was still in college, she sent me a letter. She had that kind of handwriting you could identify immediately. Big curvy letters.  I knew it was from her before I even looked at the return address.
The letter was filled with good news. She moved away, found someone special and had a little baby. A boy. I remember how she gushed about her newborn son. It was one of those really happy letters, and you just don't get those often enough. 
Babies are big events. I thought it would nice to send a little gift so I didn't write back immediately. I meant to go the mall and buy a present. I meant to send a card.  But I had finals and papers. And a busy college life. And somehow it slipped by.
Days passed. Then weeks. I started to feel embarrassed. I remember putting the letter at the back of my desk so I couldn't see her handwriting, thinking I'll get to it soon. Months went by. And then it felt like it was too late. I put the letter in a box and went on with my life. I graduated from college, went to grad school, got married, moved many times, became a librarian, got a book published (coincidentally, getting letters and writing people back play a really big part in my book, too). 
Robin went on with her life, too.
A decade or two flew by and the world changed. We have different ways of getting in touch. Yeah. I'm sure by now you figured out that Robin contacted me. Thanks to Facebook, she found me through a mutual friend. 
Of course, now we're Facebook friends.  I saw Robin's photos. There were a few of her standing next to a young man. Was that the little baby she wrote about?  
All those missed years...All because of that unsent letter.
She emailed me. So I got another chance to write her back.  I didn't begin my email this way, but I wanted to start it with.. "I really meant to write..." This time, I didn't hesitate. I wrote her back immediately.
Sometimes life (and Facebook) gives you a second chance.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Backing Out of a Hasty Facebook Post

So after months of not posting on Facebook, I posted this last Sunday:

Nan Marino has a feeling something important is going to happen today. It's not like I'm expecting news or anything. I don't know if the event will be a good one or bad one. But I could tell from the way the sun came up this morning, today feels like it's anything but ordinary.

I don't know why I said it. It was probably because (thanks to my dog, Chi) I was up way before dawn. So I saw the morning stars, watched the sun come up over the bay and drank the perfect cup of coffee. Caffeine-laced sunrises always make me giddy.

Now, I'm feeling foolish, like I should be making some big announcment: I won the lottery. Discovered a rare and extremely valuable historical relic hidden in the back of an old picture frame. Achieved enlightenment. But my Sunday was very ordinary.

Here are some of the exciting highlights:

*I was so busy writing that I forgot I was toasting some bread in the oven. Ate the edible parts. Gave the burnt parts to the dog.

*Decided I loved what I wrote. I loved my characters. Loved being inside their heads.

*Found a good song on Youtube.

*Wrote more. And reread. Hated every word. My characters were not living up to their potential. I told them it's over. There were other ideas..other stories..other was time. Then I decided it wasn't them, it was me. They were fine. My writing was swill.

*Caught up with an old friend. Drank way too much coffee.

*Spent some time outside with the dog and began to miss my w.i.p.. I went back in and reread. Found some good parts. Even found some parts that made me laugh. And the swill could be fixed. Made up with my characters. We're friends again.

*Reminded myself that my relationships with my w.i.p.s are always complicated.

*Got a gift from my husband for no reason, a beaded bracelet he found at the bookstore.

*Cooked some dinner. Didn't burn it much and went back to writing.

It was pretty dull, right?  And plain and ordinary.  And I hope next Sunday is exactly like it.

Note: We seem to be getting a lot of rainbows lately. This one was taken about a week ago.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

How to use poetry to solve tricky domestic disputes



I enjoy poems. When I was a teen, my friends and I memorized ones by  Frost, Whitman, and Browning  (wish I still knew them now). Recently I can't stop reading the works of Hafiz and Rumi. And thanks to a poet/library customer, who gently pointed out to me that many great poems have been written by people who are not dead, I've discovered some wonderful contemporary ones written by actual living people.

I've always known that the rhythm and beauty of poetry can heal you and bring peace to your soul. But what I didn't know is that it can also be used to solve domestic disputes.

Here's a hypothetical situation:  Let's say you've been married for many years and your normally considerate spouse has a habit of leaving empty milk cartons in the refrigerator. And imagine for a moment that this bothers you because before you shop, you look in the refrig and see one (and sometimes two) milk cartons and think you're good for the entire week. So when you go to the supermarket (which you hate to do) you don't buy milk. And you never notice that you're out of it until very early in the morning when you need it for your cup of coffee. Imagine also that over the years, you've had many many conversations about empty milk cartons and offending spouse promises to do better but usually within the week, he slips back to his old habits.

How to solve this problem: Forget meaningful conversations. Save them for other issues. And of course, nagging doesn't work (however, in this current hypothetical situation, the spouse who does the shopping would be completely unaware of that fact because she never nags). 

A heartfelt and well-placed poem could solve the domestic crisis. 

Here's how to do it:

Go for high drama and purple prose: You're in a crisis. This is not the time for restraint.  Begin poem with lines like: "My heart is like the milk container in the refrigerator. Empty."

Forget rhyme, meter, rhythm: Ha!  All that stuff is not necessary for effective dispute resolution. If your spouse cringes when he reads it, it will be more memorable. This poem should be intentionally horrendous. "Help build a marriage bridge by making sure milk is in the refrig". Yes. That line shows you exactly how far you have to go for the poem to work.  

Have it stand out: Remember, it's all about presentation. Try not to type the poem in a conventional font on regular paper. Poems should be handwritten, scribbled, and barely legible.  Neon-colored sticky paper works well for the marital-dispute poetry genre. If you happen to have a crayon or magic marker in a color so bright it is not known in nature, use it.

Put the poem in the center of the dispute: Get that poem right in the middle of the action. In the example above, the poem would be placed in the refrigerator and taped on the milk carton.

So next time you find yourself in a crisis, try mediation through poetry. Who knows, you might even get a scribbled and barely-legible poem written back to you *speaking hypothetically, of course*

Milk container clip art licensed from the Clip Art Gallery on and created by artist Mark A Hicks.