Nov 23

Everything Works


It’s Thanksgiving, so I want to write you a praise poem, but my mind is on baking our tiny ham before we leave for my sister-in-law’s house. This is my favorite long weekend of the year, all this thanks and open space for being with my family. Yesterday I went to see “Justice League” with Liz, took a walk with Chris (and stopped off at the Alehouse, too), and listened to KK and her friends as I fell asleep a floor above their sleepover gathering.

That’s a thanks poem — almost, OK, not really. I already posted a Praise Poem here recently. So I dug through some old documents, hoping to post an old poem. But old poems, oy, they make me want to edit. How can I edit when I need to collect up the cranberry ingredients? And bake the ham?

So I found a two-line poem that screams satisfaction. (OK, not really, I still want to edit it. But I’m leaving it as I found it anyway.) I’m posting that alongside a few quotes that are taped to my desk. I don’t often really see these words, but maybe some random reader needs to see them today. Happy Thanksgiving. Thanks for reading my words. My connection to you really matters to me.


See—everything works!

Why not go lay in the grass?



“Just because someone isn’t willing or able to love us, it doesn’t mean we are unlovable.” –Brene Brown


“This path, this road that is one perfect straight line even if it goes around the world though heat and fog and rain and snow and it’s my life I keep thinking. It’s my life.” –Deborah Keenan, from “Small History”


Nov 22

Love Is in the Room


Blue Garland Round Plate from John Derian, first seen on A Cup of Jo

It’s the season of the gift guide. I spy a lovely plate etched with blue flowers, read that’s it’s a perfect spot for my mother’s jewelry.

Ah, I love receiving gifts, ones that are perfect and not so perfect. I love giving gifts. I love that I admitted it’s easier to receive them. Because when I give them, I’m thinking about the budget.

And then there’s the fact that the perfect gift is being together with someone you love. Love can spring from like, as in I love people I really only know well enough to like, because love is like a waterfall: once you open to it, it gives and gives and gives.

Last night I visited someone I know, someone I love but who I know enough to say I like her. But really I love her, because love feels easy when you let it in the door. But I bring her up because while I was there, her adult son, wife and grandchild arrived. And oh, the love expanded in that home. The grandson felt loved and easily talked with his grandma. Grandpa had made us all homemade pizza, and it was delicious from the care the maker took with it. Later, the grandpa told the grandma that her son needed coffee, and it made me laugh. Like grandpa couldn’t get up and get the son his coffee?

It so reminded me of my own mother and father. The love that spills out of them and onto us when we visit them. The homemade food. Or not homemade but bought from our favorite pizza place. How my mom or dad might want me to make them dinner now, or how my mom asks my dad to scoop her ice cream around 8pm each night, to bring her desert after the long day, no matter what kind of day it was.

I only visit my parents once a year now, but visiting my friend last night, I remembered the love that I feel from my parents when I am with them, and it was a gift. I’m not going to buy my mom a $50 plate, but I still can picture her jewelry on it. I’m still offering her a delicate, blue garland, china plate with these words. Even though I can’t be there in real time, part of me is there. Dad, can you scoop mom up some ice cream? Put some chocolate sauce on it for me.

Nov 21



I think this is when blog writing gets hard. The days are growing short. The wet seals us in with a new level of coldness when the thermometer hovers around 40 degrees all day long. My youngest has been waking me up in the middle of the night and my own allergies mean I’m not sleeping great anyway.

I’ve been thankful here, but have I been crabby here? I didn’t bike this morning or meditate. The coffee is cold and later today I am working on a resume and a cover letter, which is not fun. The air that seeps through the window feels tinged by the sound of the rain that slides down our gutters: chilly.

But in ten minutes I’m interviewing an expert that I’ve interviewed multiple times for my story on failure. I like her. I know if I show up in conversation with her, my brain will react in a positive way. I think the cold coffee will taste better after that.

The kids don’t have school for the rest of the week starting at roughly 3pm today. They’ll fill the house with their joy at having empty time for themselves. I have a good book to read. I have space away from work that I’ll spend with family and friends. A puzzle awaits, which is such a great way to get out of my thinking brain and into shape and color and short-term success: I found the right piece! Amen, amen, amen.

Until tomorrow, my friends! See you then.

Nov 20

November Rain


A Chinook storm has blown in. The rain is coming down hard and steady and its rivers are flowing down the street into the drains.

Last night the atmosphere was gathering its strength and warmth into turbulent masses above our house. The planes flew low, their engines loud and their sound all encompassing. My kids could not fall asleep. Then they fell asleep and woke up. And woke me up. I’d hiked for 7 miles yesterday, but deep sleep didn’t come until early in the morning.

I woke up to warm air and heavy rain. It’s so November, so Thanksgiving week, so wet. The darkness descends and skiers rejoice because it’s dumping snow in the mountains. At sea level, the birds are still taking flight, moving across the grey that encircles my city. I love the warmth of a Chinook storm. I love the pattern of knowing what the seasons bring, even if it’s dark and heavy and grey.

Nov 19

Sunday Night Thoughts


Track pants and high heels. Long flowing sweater like the long flowing hair. The Nordstrom associate maybe was a model. She clearly had her finger on the pulse of what’s hot right now.

I’m not a style maven. I’m not even sure my phrasing is correct: what’s hot right now.

But I love clothes. I love seeing people sport outfits I could never pull off. God, I’d love to know how to rock high heels and Adidas track pants, the bottoms rolled up just once. To walk in an outfit like I owned it.

It: Like I owned my spirit, I guess is what I’m trying to say.

I do walk in outfits like I own my spirit. I have my own sense of style and it’s ruled by color and hats and stripes and more color. When I’m stepping into a classroom, I’m wearing all of my colors together and it works. I own it.

I also own polar fleece and comfy worn-in jeans, rolled twice at the bottom. I rock it. I walk in it through the city with my husband, talking about houses and buying apples at the farmers market.

I’m in love with the way that clothes capture the spirit of the wearer. I’m in love with the world around me and part of me loves a mall as much as I love hiking both the city and the wild.

I’ve been to the mall and on two long city walks this weekend. What sticks from all that strolling is the woman in the heels and the track pants and my husband unable to say no to the apple Danish at the market. What sticks from your weekend?



Nov 18

The Moment Before

Nancy Alton_72dpi_square

I’m in that sweet spot, where everything is pretty good and I sense change around the corner but it isn’t here yet. I mean, I’m actively working toward something new, with no clue what that new might be. But I’m mostly past the fear of what’s ahead. I mean it’s there, but instead of sinking into the fear I’m relishing what’s right.

So much is right.

Yes, I said that in a time when so much feels wrong.

Because so much is right.

My almost 16 year old is finding her footing, learning how to drive, how to be an advocate for herself when things don’t go her way, how to play a song on the piano for fun.

My almost 13 year old told me she likes school so much she almost wishes that today was a school day instead of a Saturday. When I told my husband she said that, he replied, “She said that? You’re lying right?”

Because it’s been 7 years of hard work to get her to a place where she wants to go to school.

If I can’t appreciate her happiness, I might as well be dead.

See, I can get from the light to the dark so fast.

But right now, as dusk arrives and the late-fall light hits the upper windows of the houses, all is well. I’ve prepared for whatever is next. I’ve given thanks for what is right and for how hard we’ve worked to get right here. One might say, “I bet next week is Thanksgiving.”

They’d be right. Happy Thanksgiving!

Nov 17

November 17th

November 17th

It is my father’s birthday. I call him but he doesn’t answer the phone.

I call again, again, until my mother answers.

He’s not one who likes answering the phone

Especially when he’s perusing a box of chocolates.


I call again, again, until my father’s face pops up on my screen.

He’s in his 70s, these years a fragile grace tethering us together

It’s why I sent him a box of chocolates.

The number 17 is always about how well he loves me.


He’s in his 70s, every year he calls me on my birthday to sing

Happy Birthday in his beautiful voice, my heart aching within his melody.

November 17 is his birth date, a joyful number because he loves me well.

Do you have love like that? Someone who lights up when you walk into a room?


He sings Happy Birthday to family members, our hearts leaping with joy.

Our soft selves are safe with him, this puzzle-maker who likes to sharpen pencils.

Do you have someone who loves you well, who lights up when you walk in a room?

Find them, their flaws will fade next to a face opening to welcome you.


Your soft heart will be safe with him, a puzzle-maker who likes to sharpen pencils.

His sweet tooth seeking satisfaction in a box of chocolates.

See him: his flaws not visible on my iPhone screen, his face lit up in welcome

It is my father’s birthday. I call him until my mom answers the phone.

-Nancy Schatz Alton

Nov 16

Here Comes Winter


The woman who just walked into the coffee shop looks familiar. Why is that, I think. Do I know her?

I don’t, but her army green raincoat is almost exactly like mine. Her hair is short, bob-like style, fine hair, like mine.

She’s not me. She’s like me.

It reminds me of the mindfulness story I wrote, how one of the mindfulness teachers says that using the phrase “just like me” helps us navigate the world in a less stressful way. Instead of putting up walls, we see how someone else is a bit like us. That girl acting slightly crazy because her backpack broke? She’s just like me. I react with emotion to annoying circumstances.

Right now I’m reacting pretty well. Because I biked for almost 30 minutes on the bike trainer this morning and 9 of those minutes were spent listening to a guided mediation. I pictured a tree growing out of my spine. Of course I pictured the Japanese maple tree that used to grace our front yard. Well, it kind of still does because it’s growing back even though we had to chop it down. That sturdy tree will not die. Its sturdy trunk lives insides of me. The roots go down into this great green-brown-blue earth. Do you see the red leaves sprouting out of me? How they fall to the wet ground right now, whipped by the late fall winds. When winter comes, my leaves will be gone. I’ll seek substance where no one lives. Pull sweet strength from these dark days. What other choice do I have?

That’s blogging for you. I start with a woman who looks “just like me.” Then suddenly winter is fast approaching and I’m a tree, preparing for something that mimics hibernation in my mind. How will you wait for the sun to be closer to your branches once again? What feeds your strong center?

Nov 15



Whoosh! This time of year is crazy. All of a sudden I have too many deadlines and all of the festivity stuff is beginning. I haven’t had any space to be quiet and reach down into that mucky center and really write. So I’m going to share two poems today.

One of my writing students wrote the first one during our last class yesterday. Goodness, it’s good in a goofy, perfect way. I challenged my students to write about the ugly black plastic folding chairs in our classroom and this was his answer.

One of my brother’s sent me the second poem. It perfectly sums up where I’m at when it comes to America right now.


A Concentrating Chair

It is under your legs!

It’s behind your back!

It’s from China.



The Voice of God by Mary Karr

Ninety percent of what’s wrong with you
could be cured with a hot bath,
says God from the bowels of the subway.
but we want magic, to win
the lottery we never bought a ticket for.
(Tenderly, the monks chant, embrace
the suffering.) The voice of God does not pander,
offers no five year plan, no long-term
solution, nary an edict. It is small & fond & local.
Don’t look for your initials in the geese
honking overhead or to see thru the glass even
darkly. It says the most obvious crap—
put down that gun, you need a sandwich.







Nov 14


Blue hills

I wake up and I’m remembering my dream. How I was late. Going to a water park with someone I don’t see much of anymore. It was stressful, being with someone I don’t know how to be with anymore. And now it’s hours later and I’m thinking about how reading the news lately maims me. How my heart isn’t doing a good job of withstanding with all of the arrows dished out and delivered to my screen.

Yet I go back again and again. I fall into the hole that I know is there already. Don’t read the news! Don’t let the turkey bastards win!

Why — when I know I’m too tender right now — do I read the news?

Ack, I don’t know. But my dream reminds me of why I think before I place myself into situations. Why I know I’m best served by really thinking what’s good for me before I decide to attend an event. The media right now is an event. An event made further complicated by me myself being a journalist. A disgruntled one, if I’m to be perfectly honest. It’s something to put your sweat into a craft that doesn’t give back what you put in. It’s something to know that words matter so much, so much that I have to turn away from the news to make a safe space around my heart.

My safe heart space is served by what I do during many Tuesdays of the school year: I teach writing at a homeschool community. It’s a divine job, this passing on my love of language. It’s a refuge, the small classroom where we play with words and joke with each other. I’m thrilled to get to teach tankas and pantoums and to play exquisite corpse with my students. To ask them to think about what colors, sounds, textures, smells, tastes and feelings the poems we read evoke in us.

I wear so much color when I teach because it makes me happy and I know my poetry speaks in colors. It whooshes out of my battered heart, encircles it and makes a safe space for all of me. I’m wearing shades of blue today. I’m bringing this blue 6-part Haiku to my students, too. And here it is for you. I hope your Tuesday is good.




Navy blue answers

this teal cardigan who

asks for words that heal.


She wraps one soft scarf

on this color pile, to

spite heartless fools.


Can color win?

It can’t lose, not when five blue

shades cloak tender skin.


Sing a love song in

words, everyone who can’t

carry a tune: hum.


The whoosh of love wears

an ocean, these waves rap a

soothing sound, listen.

-NSA, 11/14/2017

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