Thursday, February 4, 2016

Good-bye Google Friend Connect

If you've been using Google Friend Connect to follow my blog, please note that it is currently being phased out by Google, in particular the ability to use it with non-Google accounts. Read up on it here. This is also why it didn't display an accurate number of followers anymore, and the number of followers was going down rather than up as they removed non-Google accounts.

I have therefore removed the Google Friend Connect gadget from my blog as it's no longer useful. If you've been using Google Friend Connect, please create a Google account if you haven't already done so, and refollow my blog. Or sign up via email, or follow however else works for you. Thanks much!

Monday, February 1, 2016

The Gift of a Poetry Reading

Yesterday I treated myself: I went to a poetry reading. Normally, I am loath to schlep up to the north side of the city on a Sunday afternoon, but it turned out that my former student Marcia Pradzinski's book release party happened during my son's basketball game time, when I was schlepping anyway. It was meant to be! So I went and was rewarded with an enchanted afternoon interlude. I realized, once again, how uplifting art can be, and how much joy I get out of supporting a fellow writer, out of simply showing up.

Photo courtesy of Gail Goepfert (yours truly is sitting there enthralled
in the lower right corner in the black and gray plaid skirt)

The party was held at the storefront studio of artists Beth Adler and Alice George, in a red brick building with twinkling lights strung in the tall windows and white-washed walls hung with canvases and all kinds of fun artist supplies sitting about. (No red wine on the printing press, please!) It reminded me how much I love hanging out in artist's studios. They are a most inspiring place to be, perfect for a book release party. Turns out gracious hostess Alice George also runs the Serious Play Poetry Workshop, where a lot of Marcia's work came to fruition.

Photo courtesy of Gail Goepfert

The studio was crammed with about fifty people, a nice crowd for a poetry reading, which was heartening in and of itself. It was good to be there to support Marcia, and I felt welcomed even though I didn't know anybody else and there wasn't that much time to socialize before the reading began, and afterwards I had to rush off to pick up my son. But in the interim, sitting among strangers in a light- and art-filled space, it was grand to sink into Marcia's words, to meet again, in her poems, her son Adam, whom I knew from the memoir pieces she used to workshop in my class.

If you're into parenthood and family, love words, and appreciate how a few words can capture a lifetime, you will love Marcia's poetry in Left Behind. Do yourself the favor and buy her chapbook, available at Finishing Line Press. You'll support a wonderful poet while you're at it, but really, you're treating yourself. Marcia's work is most accessible, exquisite and makes you wish you could muster that much attention to word choice, rhythm, structure, etc.

My favorite poem of her reading, incidentally, happens to be not about Marcia's quirky son. Rather it is about the power of scent in keeping generations connected and present:

The Scent of Chicken

I watch my father bone perch at the dinner table:
     He edges a table knife between the flesh and spine

lifts the body away from the skeleton
     and pulls up the frail ladder of bones

that gave shape and structure to the fish.
     A ladder of years separates me from my parents,

but they stream back to me in the scent of alewives
     on the lake shore sands

where my father holds my hand
     on long Sunday afternoon strolls

or in the heady fragrance of duck blood soup simmering
     and baked bread waiting

for a slathering of butter spread by my mother's knife
     and a chat at the kitchen table.

Even in childbirth, my belly splayed open
     to deliver my son

the ghost of a memory rises:
     I imagine the scent of chicken

but a told no cafeteria near here by the nurse
     as he continues to stitch and clean me.

Only weeks later when I visit a live poultry shop
     where I went with my mother does the smell convince me

that my mother was there
     at the birth of her grandson.

from: Left Behind, by Marcia Pradzinski

My favorite line: "a ladder of years"

Monday, January 25, 2016

Happy Tu Bishvat!

Today is the Jewish festival of Tu Bishvat, the New Year of the Trees, and in honor of this celebration that seems out of place here, my article How My Kids and I Celebrate Tu Bishevat in Wintry Chicago appeared in Kveller.

The above photo is from one of my trips to the Garfield Conservatory, and I'm going to try to keep its happy greenery in mind while I continue to battle the tech jungle....

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Life without my Laptop

My laptop died a week ago. It was six years old, and I can't really blame the thing. It held up pretty well being logged around the world. Nevertheless, I have been discombobulated ever since. Thankfully it wasn't the hard drive that crashed, so I didn't have to fret about my files being lost (I'm also pretty good about backing up the most important stuff).

It simply wouldn't turn on anymore, and all computer experts I consulted advised that it wasn't worth the money to fix whatever electrical part had given out. Of course, the way things go, I discovered its death right before my Skype session with my Hebrew teacher in Jerusalem was about to start, which discombobulated me even further.

I realize this is a first-world problem. Thankfully my family has more than one laptop, and I could immediately use my son's, as he is in school all day and when he's home he mostly uses his tablet. I was able to do most of my work, but with hurdles. His laptop isn't set up like mine, doesn't have my files, doesn't have my programs. And then, sure enough, a day into me using his laptop, which is as old as mine was, its sound system went nuts, howling incessantly like a submarine horn. I could only work on it if I muted the speakers, and that precluded me from watching my Hebrew videos. As I said, hurdles!

I've spent the last week toggling between various computers at work and at home, none of which is mine, and none of which is set up the way I need it. No settling down on the couch with my laptop to sink into work! In the meantime, we've bought a new laptop for me, but it hasn't arrived yet, and even when it does, it will take some time to set it up the way I need it, to turn into another reliable companion.

All this is to say I've been amazed at how much not having my laptop has disoriented me, how much it runs my life, how much I depend on this piece of technology. Oh, sweet and reliable companion that it was! Not having my particular email setup in Outlook, for example, really bothers me. I feel cut off, dead in the water! So, bear with me while I get back in the saddle, while I make friends with a new machine.