Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Thankful Tuesday

I love Micha's blog, and I've loved her and her thankful Tuesdays for many years now. Today's Thankful Tuesday post made me write my own, however uninspired. But here I am, on vacation in LA, so here goes:
  • I am thankful for this time with old friends, low-key and full of scrabble and excellent food and museums.
  • I am thankful for dinner with an even older friend--Sarah Burress was my bestie in fifth and sixth grade, and as best we could figure out, we haven't seen each other since her eighteenth birthday party.
  • Yay, sun! And warmth! It's LA! Which for all its weirdnesses, is sunny and warm.
  • I am thankful for spring break--I'll go home tomorrow, and I'll still have most of a week. Granted, I have a lot of lesson planning to do in that time, but--yeah.
I am thankful for lots more stuff too--but I'm not as good at it as Micha--I'll have to keep practicing.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Books I've Read Lately

I've been reading a ton, but not blogging about it--or starting posts and not finishing them and posting them, which is the same as not blogging about it, really--but lately I've read:

Salvage the Bones, by Jesmyn Ward, for book club--which I really liked, though my blog post only got as far as me typing in this passage from p.255:

"I will tie the glass and stone with string, hang the shards above my bed, so that they will flash in the dark and tell the story of Katrina, the mother that swept into the Gulf and slaughtered. Her chariot was a storm so great and black the Greeks would say it was harnessed to dragons. She was the murderous mother who cut us to the bone but left us alive, left us naked and bewildered as wrinkled newborn babies, as blind puppies, as sun-starved newly hatched baby snakes. She left us a dark Gulf and salt-burned land. She left us to learn to crawl. She left us to salvage. Katrina is the mother we will remember until the next mother with large, merciless hands, committed to blood, comes."

Holding Fire, by Elissa Wald--and my unfinished blog post got a little farther along:

I don't read enough adult fiction--I read so much YA--but that's partly because YA often pulls me in faster and harder. But this was a novel for adults that I loved--and not just because of the author's awesome first name. Though her name is why we're now Facebook friends (I think she friended me--we have--wait, let me check--five mutual friends).

If I hadn't liked it, I just wouldn't've posted about it. Instead I had to go to Powell's and buy her first book, because the public library doesn't have it! Ooh, and she has Mariette in Ecstasy listed as one of her favorite books on Facebook. I love that book so much. (It's on my "Fifty Favorite Books List".) Anyway.

Holding Fire has a lot of people in it, and a shifting POV, but it works.

See? I didn't really get far enough for this to be a helpful blog post about the book. But it's about firefighters in Brooklyn, and she handles place beautifully. It's also not only about firefighters in Brooklyn, though she does a great job with the characters and, like I said, with the place. Places.

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, by Ransom Riggs, had already caught my eye, but when a student I like a lot said, "Ms. Nelson, you have to read it"--well, that moves a book way up my list. So I read it, and I did really like it, but I remember thinking, "I hope there isn't a sequel, I hope they just let this weird book and weird world stand on its own." But of course there's going to be a sequel. And in the press release, the "president and publisher" of the publishing house, Quirk Books, refers to the new book as "the second installment." Oh well. You know I'll read it.

I just finished Walter Mosley's All I Did Was Shoot My Man, which was a fabulous spring break book. I like Mosley a lot. I first read and loved Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned and Walking the Dog--two collections of short stories about the same characters, focusing on Socrates Fortlow, an ex-con trying to build a life now that he's served his time and he's out. I love how important place--LA, actually, though a very different LA than the one I'm visiting--is in these books, and really in all of Mosley's. All I Did Was Shoot My Man is a very recent novel, a mystery, which is what he's known for--though I've read almost all his other books, and only a few of the mysteries. I'm not so into mysteries. But it was fun. I had a hard time keeping track of all the characters, but I think that's me and not Mosley.

So there's some of the stuff I've read lately. Now I have two more choices for the rest of spring break: The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton, or I Am J by Cris Beam. That's what I brought with me.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Scintilla Project

Hmmm. They're calling this Day 5, but anyway... here's the next day. Prompt #2: Show a part of your nature that you feel you've lost. Can you get it back? Would it be worth it?

There used to be something in me that was... I don't know. Sillier? Less grown-up? To some degree, it went when my dad died. That did shift my personality, the person I was/am. Losing him. I don't know if the silliness is something I could get back--I don't want to be that person, though. I've evolved in a lot of ways, lost a lot of things, gained others. I'm myself now. I was myself then, but now I'm 2012 me. Post-dad loss, and so many other things have changed too. This is who I am now, I miss my dad, I have my regrets, but this is who I am. I don't want to be anyone else.


I'm at the Ace Hotel, waiting for Claudia! Hanging out in the lobby, on the big couch. There's an adorable little girl on the corner of the sectional, waiting for her mom, who's quieting the baby just outside the front door. So little girl is playing with mom's cell phone, very excited about whatever it is she's doing on the phone.

She's maybe five. Her little... brother? Is an infant, maybe six months, swaddled in an awesome tan one piece plush thing.

Monday, March 19, 2012

More of the Scintilla Project

Day 6: Monday, March 19, 2012

Prompt A: Talk about your childhood bedroom. Did you share? Slam the door? Let someone in you shouldn't have? Where did you hide things?

My room that I think of as my childhood bedroom was my only bedroom for many years, but my parents split up and got back together then split up again and divorced, so that first time they split up, my dad lived in two different places so I had two different bedrooms, both of which I shared with my sister--then when they split up the second and final time, my dad bought an awesome little house (I say little, but it was so much bigger than the house I own now! which isn't to say it wasn't little) and I got the whole second floor, which was one room. I ended up moving in with my dad, and that was my room, for sure--but it wasn't my childhood room in the way the one at my mom's house was. I grew up in that room at 201 Valleyview Place. I sat way in the back of the closet and ate those little sample tubes of toothpaste. I had a pink canopy bed. I was five when we moved into that house, and I chose the pink carpet, pink bedspread, then I had to live with it. Granted, I didn't really start outgrowing it until middle school--but I did outgrow it. I became a girl who would wear pants, unlike my elementary school self, who only wore dresses--to school, on the weekends, 24/7. Pink satiny nightgowns with capped sleeves and lace trim. I think there was a period of time when the nightgowns and the pants overlapped, but nevertheless...

Where did I hide things? Honestly, I can't seem to remember. I kept a journal--a diary--but I think I trusted my family enough that I didn't hide it. Plus for many years it was the kind of diary that locked. I was sure that kept me safe.

Plus I don't think I had many secrets as a kid. Not much to hide.

What else? I was scared of what was under my bed. The monster. I was scared of that monster for a long time. I tended to enter my room and my bed at night by running down the hall and jumping into the bed, so the monster couldn't grab me. It seems to have kept me safe; I'm here to tell the tale! Of course, I also still have the piece of pencil lead in my knee from the time that I ran and leapt and there was a pencil in my bed. But the monster never got me, and the graphite hasn't killed me, and it's been--maybe 30 years? So, lesser evil, I'd say.

My bed now is raised up on bricks, because, as I mentioned, my house is tiny--so tiny that under my bed is my main storage. There isn't room for a monster under there. Maybe a tiny monster, or a really stretchy manipulative one--but let's not think about that. Just now, I'm safe. I like thinking of it that way better.

My childhood bedroom was full of books. My bedroom now is too. My whole house is full of books. My childhood house was too, but I think my own home, my grownup home, might have more. Certainly, per square foot, there are more books--but my childhood home had triple the square footage, at least. More than triple, I'm pretty sure. My house that I bought in Portland is 704 square feet. Yeah, you read that right--704 square feet. Whereas my childhood home was 2,630 square feet--God love the internets.

Enough of this.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

The Scintilla Project

I guess I'm caught up, unless I decide to do the weekend bonus prompts.

The Scintilla Project, Day 3

I will catch up!

Day 3: Prompt A: Talk about a memory triggered by a particular song.

Here I am at the coffee shop by my house, and when I came in, the baristas were playing "Spanish Eyes," old-school Madonna. I asked if it was the whole album, or just the song--one of the baristas said it was the whole album, but it was "The Immaculate Collection." I said, "But 'Spanish Eyes' isn't on 'The Immaculate Collection.'" Barista girl (who was probably in elementary school--or younger--when "The Immaculate Collection" came out) said, "Yes it is." I didn't argue it with her. The other barista turned off Madonna in the middle of the next song--I don't remember what the next song was--and maybe the first song was "La Isla Bonita," not "Spanish Eyes," and "La Isla Bonita" is on "The Immaculate Collection." Anyway the other barista switched it to "Nashville Skyline," which at this point in my life I have listened to many more times than I've listened to "Like a Prayer" (the album that "Spanish Eyes" was originally on) or "La Isla Bonita" (originally on "True Blue"--I never owned "The Immaculate Collection")--as a kid with my dad, and later when I'd outgrown Madonna (or something) but kept my love of Bob.

The first song played was "Nashville Skyline Rag," which is instrumental, but I said, "Ooh, I know all the words to this album too." Which is true of the other songs. I guess I know all the words to "Nashville Skyline Rag," too.

I'm not really completing the prompt here. Okay, here's my story: July 29, 1987, about a week after my eleventh birthday, my mom took me to the St. Paul Civic Center to see Madonna on her "Who's That Girl" tour. I'd been to a few concerts: Raffi, HARP (Holly Near, Arlo Guthrie, Ronnie Gilbert, and Pete Seeger), Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers--but maybe this was my first concert reflecting my own grown-up musical taste. Raffi was kids' music, my hippie aunt Marti had worked for Redwood Records back in the day and had HARP connections, and Dolly is amazing, always, but me and my mom and sister went to that one in 1984 or 1985 (I couldn't find the exact date online for the Real Love Tour in Minneapolis/St. Paul--and I looked!). But I decided on my own (well, without input from my family, anyway) that I liked Madonna. Loved Madonna, even. So my mom got us tickets, and she was so disappointed when I was exhausted during the encore and wanted to leave in the middle of "Holiday," but we went. It was an incredible show.

I guess "Spanish Eyes" or "La Isla Bonita" triggered the story, even though she didn't play anything off of "Like a Prayer" at that show because the album didn't come out until 1989. In fact, here's the set list for the show, according to Wikipedia, according "to the booklet available with the show" which I owned once, but no longer. I don't have my t-shirt from the Janet Jackson "Rhythm Nation" tour either, which I'm occasionally very sad about. Not too often, but--yeah.

"Open Your Heart"
"Lucky Star"
"True Blue"
"Papa Don't Preach"
"White Heat"
"Causing a Commotion"
"The Look of Love"
"Dress You Up," "Material Girl," "Like a Virgin" (contains excerpts from "I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch)")
"Where's the Party"
"Live to Tell"
"Into the Groove"
"La Isla Bonita"
"Who's That Girl"

Saturday, March 17, 2012

The Scintilla Project, Day 2

Prompt: When did you realise you were a grown up? What did this mean for you? Shock to the system? Mourning of halcyon younger days? Or the embracing of the knowledge that you can do all the cool stuff adults do: drink wine, go on parent-free vacations, eat chocolate without reprimand?

I think being a teacher is what has made me a grown-up. I was before, in some ways--living on my own, paying my own bills, the correct age--but teaching maybe made me want to be an adult, made me realize how good it is.

In my youth, the father replied to his son, I feared it might injure the brain--no, start that over.

In my youth, I was of the Puberty Strike school of thought on growing up: it seemed like a generally bad idea, being a kid seemed like the way to go. More rebellious, for one thing, and we didn't want to forget all the stuff that matters.

But also, being a kid is rough. This is what I realized fully when I started teaching. I like the control-over-my-own-life aspect of adulthood. Of course, that's a myth, too, in some ways--you have all those responsibilities. You don't really get to go wherever you want whenever you want, and do whatever you want. No, you have to pay bills and rent and such, which require a job, which often you don't enjoy. I am so glad to have gotten to a point where I like my job, where I get to do work that I feel is meaningful, that is also so interesting and fun for me.

But I do like sometimes having a bowl of ice cream for dinner, or a banana. I like staying up late reading--though honestly, I think I did that more before I was a grown-up.

Friday, March 16, 2012

The Scintilla Project

I just decided today to do "The Scintilla Project," starting late, but here goes nothing. You can read more about it here. My friend Carrie is doing it, and she inspired me--to, um, copy her. Here's her blog.

Okay. Here's the prompt archive. I need to catch up. Starting NOW!

Day 1:

Prompt A: Who are you? Come out from behind that curtain and show yourself.

I'm Elissa Marie Mogensen Nelson, 35 years old, a writer and teacher living in Portland, Oregon. That's who I am, really. And I was never behind any curtain.

I think that's it for now.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Hearing Writers Read

This week, I went to two readings, back to back: Thursday night was Nikky Finney at Reed, and Friday night was Cindy Crabb at Reading Frenzy. I never go to readings anymore, hardly ever, much less two nights in a row! And I've been teaching Nikki Finney's poems as part of the poetry unit we're in right now--I told my students about the reading, told them they'd get extra credit if they came, but no one showed up. Not such a surprise--the reading was on a Thursday at 6. Also I teach in the suburbs, and the reading was at Reed, in Portland. Besides, most of my students who have cars use them to work, all the time. Wendy's, Little Caesar's, Subway, Fred Meyer's--you name it, if it can be found in a mall or strip mall, if the people who work there make minimum wage or thereabouts, my students work there. They work there after school and on the weekends, they pick up shifts all the time--and if they can't pick up shifts, they won't get put on the schedule--argh. Anyway. None of my students came, sadly. But I was so so glad I went. With Megan and Virginia, too!

Nikky Finney won the National Book Award for Poetry this year. You can listen to her amazing acceptance speech here. She has a bunch of links to watch her reading her work on her website too. Also, I showed my students a piece of this. She reads what I think of as the New Orleans poem, "Left," at 20:36. I just watched her read it with my students, but next year we'll read it too. She read it Wednesday! She also read "Cattails," which my students read (and which I can't find her reading online, so no link, sorry--but here's the text of it. The text to "Left" and a couple others are also available at poets.org).

Then, Friday, I went by myself to see Cindy Crabb read. No one could go with me, so I just went. I had to. She's been an important writer in my life since I was in high school, and she's on my One Hundred Most Influential Writers list! (This post has the list that was in the first issue--I changed the list just slightly for Issue #2, I'll have to post that one. Anyway, Cindy's on both of them, and I imagine will be staying on the list--since it's influential writers, there isn't much movement.) Another writer on the list also read in Portland on Friday: Maxine Hong Kingston was reading around the corner at Powell's. But while The Woman Warrior is a very important book to me, Cindy is such a bigger influence in so many ways. She's the only zine writer on my list. I consciously chose not to include zinesters, though I still go back and forth about it. Mimi Nguyen is on the "Other Important Writers" list, and she's one I keep going back and forth about bumping up onto the most influential list (one of Mimi's current projects). But Cindy is a writer whose zine I loved in high school, and kept loving. She's still writing, and keeps growing and evolving and writing interesting stuff. It was really cool to meet her, though I didn't say any of this. I did give her the two issues of My Hundred Most Influential Writers... but didn't say anything about them, really. Like, "Hi, you're on the list."