Wednesday, December 29, 2004

too fast

It seems only fair that, for those of us who enjoy the months of preparation for and anticipation of the holiday, we should be allowed to celebrate it for more than a mere 24 hours. I propose a plan to extend Christmas to a full week! Seven days of joy and good tidings. Maybe those "12 days of Christmas" folks had the right idea.

Things went relatively smoothly for our Christmas. A few glitches cropped up. Despite my best efforts to get the newsletter mailed before the holiday, it didn't happen. I did manage to print and copy it, and print and stick address labels, and affix stamps to envelopes on the 23rd and 24th. But there just wasn't enough time to write a personal note on each and stuff them into the envelopes. They were mailed on the 28th.

I also encountered (and absorbed) a conglomeration of illnesses, but that is fairly typical when I'm hanging with about 25 relatives and friends in close quarters, in winter. The vast majority of those under 18 had some sort of bug, and I am a bug magnet. The price I pay for being with the people I love for Christmas! We ran into some light, blowing snow and a bit of traffic congestion on the drive home, but otherwise, the weekend went well.

The good things that occurred are too numerous to mention. Everyone had fun. And we even managed to get all 20 family members arranged for a formal portrait. All in all, a good holiday. Now, if I can just muster up the motivation to get through this quiet last week of the year, I'll be ready to get back into the non-holiday swing of things on January 3, 2005. Of course, then my birthday and a business trip to Hawaii both come within days. How lucky I am that I always have something to do. Life is good.

Friday, December 24, 2004

now they tell us!

Yesterday's New York Times has a brief history of Christmas gift giving that is enlightening. It doesn't change the fact that I love finding gifts I think the recipients will appreciate and enjoy. I love wrapping them in festive paper to heighten the appeal and the mystery. I love seeing reactions once the paper is gone -- in whatever fashion, dignified or other, it was removed.

Every year, there are grumblings that Christmas is too commercial. Although I agree that all the advertising is over the top, if it all went away, I'd still be buying gifts for my family and friends. Because what it all comes down to is bringing a little happiness to those I love.

Merry Christmas. Only 17 and 3/4 hours away!

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

forty-eight and three-quarters hours...

You know, for a day off, this has been the longest day of my life. I was up at 5:00am with Ted, and was already working when he left for work shortly thereafter. And I basically have been working ever since. The only TV I watched was little bits while I was folding any of the four loads of laundry I did. I did eat breakfast, but at my desk while working on the newsletter. I did eat lunch, but at my desk while I was burning Christmas CDs for my family. I did watch the whole video tape (no, not DVD -- VHS tape) of "It's a Wonderful Life," but I was wrapping presents while I watched. Heck, I even put away recent purchases and organized cabinets when I went to the bathroom! No rest for the weary!

There was very little wasted time today. Only when Ted came home from work did I stop long enough to eat dinner and relax with him for a bit. That was about two hours -- of my 18-hour day. Nice vacation! But I did listen to my beloved Christmas music most of the time. Despite the wide range of songs I heard (all day long), I have one song in my head now that I've finally turned it off. Dan Tyminski's cool, country-ish version of "Frosty the Snowman."

Off to bed for me. I finished the newsletter and must go to Kinko's very early tomorrow morning to see if they can print it by the end of the day.

To all, a good night.

fifty-four hours 'til christmas

My sister and I used to count down the days until Christmas, usually starting several months in advance ("...only 74 days until Christmas!"). We had additional incentive, as both of our birthdays fall quickly after the holiday (hers is five days later, mine ten). I just wanted Christmas to come. Sure, we were excited about the gifts. We weren't hermits! But I love the happiness and spirit that the holiday brings, and it has always been about that for me.

The news anchors count down to remind people how terribly little time there is left to shop. I know there are many people who don't like the holiday or are stressed out by it, for any of a number of reasons. I hope I don't annoy them too much. But I'm not going to curb my enthusiasm for the holiday just to be politically correct. I love Christmas. This affection for the holiday was probably exacerbated by the fact that my father is Santa Claus. But that's a story for another day.

advertising disguised as humor

While reading the New York Times this morning (my favorite newspaper), I discovered a couple websites that exemplify the new trend toward burying commercial sponsorship in humor. To wit, Burger King and Method Hand Wash.

I'm off to chip away at my To Do list. Lots to do. Only three days until Christmas!

Monday, December 20, 2004


Except for today, I'm taking this week off from work. I'm not going anywhere, I don't have any last minute shopping to do, and the house is clean. I'm just going to make dinner every night, work on our Christmas newsletter, reorganize our file cabinet, and attach a wreath to the grill of my car. Maybe, if I'm feeling ambitious, I'll bake some cookies. I need to decompress, and I have the vacation time to do it.

There was something else I was going to write here, but I've thought better of it. Curious? Hahaha!

Saturday, December 18, 2004

singing and writing a happy life

The New York Times has an interesting op-ed piece on Christmas music. I’m happy to say that my personal collection is much more varied than the ASCAP ranking. I do go through phases, and admittedly, the “chestnuts” Passy references comprise one of those phases.

Today, however, my proclivity is gospel (Mahalia Jackson, Take 6, The Boys Choir of Harlem, Mervyn Warren). Although I’m listening to a mix of genres thanks to iTunes, the volume goes up whenever a gospel song starts. Even Harry Connick, Jr. gets into the gospel spirit with I Pray on Christmas.

I pray on Christmas that the sick will soon be strong
I pray on Christmas, the Lord will hear my song
I pray on Christmas that God will lead the way
And I pray on Christmas, He’ll get me through another day

I can’t help but to clap my hands, stomp my feet, and sing along loudly. Well, I sing along loudly when I’m by myself. If I did that at the office, I’d probably be limiting my career options, and if I did it at home, I’d probably be divorced. My high school band teacher prided himself on regularly proclaiming that I could sing correctly (right notes, right phrasing, right rhythm), but the quality of my tone was just really bad. I was the accompanist for my high school chorus, and the choral teacher finally resigned to keeping me behind the piano after attempting to give me singing lessons. I can admit it: I wasn’t born to sing in public.

Writing in public, now that’s a different thing. Hence, sanguinary blue. I haven’t been able to dedicate as much time to blogging as I’d hoped, much in the same way I’ve struggled with dedicating the time to my journals or even the occasional stab at prose or poetry.

This can be attributed primarily to two reasons. The first is the volume of work and holiday projects I’m currently experiencing. So the test of that excuse -- um, I mean reason -- will be how well I re-enter the blogging practice after the holidays and my big January business trip. The second reason is the amount of time I spend writing. The first draft is easy: unhindered, I can type well over 100 words per minute. But I’m freakishly meticulous about editing to the final product. A simple newsletter article, for example, will take me 20 minutes to write and three weeks to edit.

My lottery fantasy is that I would be able to concentrate exclusively on writing (and taking as much time as I need for editing). The random windfall is doubtful, and so instead I must dedicate myself to reprioritizing it within the confines of my current job/income/lifestyle. Of course, that doesn’t mean I’m not buying a PowerBall ticket today.

I’m inspired by both good and bad writers. The good ones stir my soul and make me yearn to write something that might be equally stirring to someone else. The bad ones remind me that my writing can be (and often is) better than these people who have somehow managed to get themselves published (and paid to write). This sounds egotistical, but at the risk of exacerbating that impression, it’s true.

About eight years ago, I self-published a chapbook of my poetry. My inspiration was the then-recently-published chapbook by one of my college professors, which I purchased. It was dreadful (sorry, Dr. Reilly). I didn’t connect to it at any level: his style was unpleasant, his content was dry, and any passion he might have had for his subjects was not apparent. He only occasionally made good use of the splendid words the English language provides. I remember scouring every poem to find something – anything – that was provocative in any way. I found a single phrase that I liked, but it was surrounded by countless morose and stagnant phrases. I’ll stop short of saying that his writing is unilaterally bad because I’ve only read a portion of it (because he is frighteningly prolific). But what I’ve read, well, let’s just say I wasn’t impressed. So, I thought I could do better.

My chapbook was entitled She Gathers Voices. I love the image of that phrase. It was well suited to the variety of poems I included in the book, which ranged from a handful of haiku and other reasonably new poems to a sampling of older ones that went as far back as my high school days. It’s only slightly ironic that I didn’t write the title (a friend in my online poetry group wrote it as the first line of a haiku about me, and yes, he gave me official permission to use it in the book). I also made no attempt to work with a publisher. I formatted, printed, and trimmed each page myself, and I bound the books by hand (a technique I learned at church camp in 1975). I cannot attest to their durability, as I neither made a copy for myself (too work-intensive) nor made any attempt to followup on those purchased by my family and friends.

Another irony is that the only other notable English teacher in my life, Ian Veitenheimer, is an amazing writer. Stunning, really. He was a huge influence on me, not only because he was my teacher (twice, Freshman and Junior years) and my advisor (in my four years on the school literary magazine, two as Editor), but also because he’s a complete word wonk like me.

When I was in elementary school, any time I opened the dictionary to find a word, I’d end up spending half an hour flipping through the pages and reading more definitions. I would read the dictionary. I thought I was mildly insane for this little hobby of mine until I met Mr. Veitenheimer, who showered upon me and my classmates 10 new vocabulary words every day of the year in a publication he called the “SAT Lexicon.” So enamored with it was I, that I convinced Mr. V. to give me copies of the new ones even after I’d graduated. So, why wasn’t this good influence my inspiration for the chapbook? Timing, really. And I did dedicate the book to Mr. Veitenheimer.

I read yesterday’s The Rural Life piece by Verlyn Klinkenborg in the New York Times. I really enjoy his writing style and admire the content. In part, this article about winter on the farm reads thusly:

No matter how unprepared I am, I always imagine preparing for a winter you can't muddle through. It's a deep, wooded season. Time pauses and then pauses again. The sun winks over the horizon, glinting on a snow-swept lake - just enough light to wake the chickadees.

The eaves are low all around the house that this winter comes to, and I've surrounded the entire house with cordwood, leaving gaps for the windows and doors. Winter will go nowhere until I've burned through it all.

I have no plans except to rake the snow off the roof after the next big blizzard, and carry out the ashes from the woodstove, and read everything I've ever meant to read.

Of course, a daydream like this isn't really about winter or snow or firewood or even the feeling of having prepared every last thing that needs preparing. It's about something far more elemental, the time that moves through us day by day. It's an old human hope - to have a consciousness separate from the consciousness of time. But it's always a vain hope.

I'll never get that much cordwood stacked, and never need to. Winter comes and goes in the same breath, condensing right before your face on a day when the temperature never gets up to 20 degrees.

And with that, it’s time for me to go do some more Christmas preparation. Ted’s at work this morning, which makes it a perfect time for me to wrap his presents. And I have to get to Costco when the door opens, so as to avoid the thickest of the Saturday-before-Christmas rush.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

it's the most wonderful time of the year

I've imported most of my holiday CDs onto iTunes and synchronized them to my iPod. After removing the duplicates ('duplicate' being the same version of the same song by the same artist), there are 860 songs thus far. The remaining CDs will add another 100 or so.

I love Christmas music. And winter music. And New Year's music. Some Hanukkah music. I've even got a couple Kwanzaa songs. Some people are irked by the mere existence of such songs, but I can't get enough of them. I listen all day long, every day, for weeks and weeks. In my car. At work (as quietly as possible, so as not to disturb/offend my co-workers). At home. On the computer. Everywhere. My library of seasonal songs runs (alphabetically) from Adeste Fideles to 'Zat You, Santa Claus? It encompasses countless genres by hundreds of artists.

This is one of a listful of projects I have in the weeks leading up to Christmas. With only nine days to go, I'm glad it's mostly completed. It was one of the more important projects, as it serves as the foundation to all the others (i.e. I listen to all this music while working on the other projects).

But now it's late, and I should either be working on more of said projects or getting a reasonable night's sleep. Methinks the latter wins tonight. No guarantee as to whether or not I'll blog again before the holiday. Merry! Merry!

Thursday, December 09, 2004


Each picture on my blog has turned to a little red x. I'll do some investigation and see if I can fix that. Meanwhile, this will officially be my shortest entry thus far, as I have a lot more work to do on our Christmas newsletter, and Christmas is only a tiny bit more than two weeks away. So, off I go.

Monday, December 06, 2004

lips chapped by the wind

Half of a chicken salad sandwich on wheat bread with lettuce and tomato, a handful of mini pretzels, and a Fresca. It must be lunchtime.

I went to Chicago over the weekend. It was actually a business trip. I stayed at the hotel where we’ll be hosting our big meeting in 2006, met my contact there, and walked through the conference space. I also went to the Field Museum to observe a caterer as it prepared for a formal dinner for 1,300 people. A co-worker of mine who is on the planning committee for this conference volunteered to join me there, as she is not only a Chicago native, but also has actually catered events at the Field!

She was a tremendous tour guide and font of event knowledge. I got to see the Magnificent Mile, including the only buildings left standing after the Chicago fire, lots of great architecture, and more stores than should be legal on one road. We also wandered through lots of cool neighborhoods, including the little one that Wrigley Field is plopped right in the middle of. I had already seen Soldier Field because it’s directly across the street from the Field Museum. It looks like a space ship crashed into a Roman temple. But I digress. She also shared a couple small-but-fantastic eateries, one for Saturday dinner and one for Sunday breakfast (mmm, Smoked Salmon Benedict, yum).

Despite being a mere 24 hours long (I arrived at the Sheraton at noon on Saturday, and was back at the airport by noon on Sunday), it was a good trip. My feet are a bit sore, and I had a killer muscle cramp in my right calf, but it’s all good. And yes, Chicago being windy in the meteorological sense (as well as the political one), my nose was roughened from all the blowing and my lips chapped. I’m keeping Wyeth and Proctor and Gamble in business.

I am already booking another trip to Chicago in February (whose idea was that?) to see another caterer in action, and actually get to taste food from them and the one from this past weekend. If only the convention I’m attending in Hawaii was after my February visit to Chicago. I know... boo-hoo, poor Kelly has to go to Hawaii in January.

Lunch is over. Back to work! Didn't even get in a game of Bejeweled. Oh well.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

an observation on blogs

It's been a week since my last post. Thanksgiving preparations and some traveling (then subsequent catching up after the traveling) have sapped my time. I do occasionally make it online to wander around a bit, so maybe it's more a lack of energy than of time that I haven't written anything. Maybe it's a sign that my blog will suffer the same fate as my journals -- the gradual decrease in entries. Sigh.

Anyway, as I mentioned, I sometimes wander online. One of the things I've taken to doing is clicking the NEXT BLOG link at the top of the site. After admiring as artlike those blogs written in foreign languages, I stop and read those in English (I am woefully monolingual). Most times, I'll read four or five posts and maybe the blogger's profile. I've actually replied with a comment on one blog whose author I didn't know, just because I felt she and I had a lot in common.

But the overriding impression I have of the selection of blogs I've encountered is that many of their authors are using this medium as a means to express opinions they might otherwise not express. Topics considered taboo in "polite company," such as politics and religion, are all over the place in the blogosphere. To some degree, it seems that anonymity is the fuel that powers this engine. While I understand that urge, it's difficult for me to take seriously any topic opined by an unidentified source. I've been tempted to use my blog for a bit of quiet activism myself, but I am not anonymous.

That leads me directly to something my father taught me: if you're going to espouse an opinion, have the courage of your convictions to identify yourself. Anyone who may be affected by your tirade will be able to put the information into context by understanding the author. It's impossible to trust an invisible source. Without knowing the source, it's all fiction.

My lunchtime two cents.

Kelly Cox Semple

Thursday, November 25, 2004


Ted left for work at 5:30am. I'm sorting through gifts (two nieces and one goddaughter with birthdays before we can start wrapping Christmas gifts), listening to Christmas music, doing laundry, and reorganizing my home office. I've already done my 12 clicks for the day. Later, I'll work on our annual newsletter, put the new holiday tablecloth on the dining room table, and start pulling together dinner ingredients.

Schmoo is watching the little creatures on the hill outside the office window. Milo is sitting on his desktop afghan, closely watching the printer that annoys him so. And Sadie just chirped from her deskside hammock nap to get some pets.

I must get back to my chores. It will be a busy day. I'm thankful that I have so many things to do for myself, my family and my friends. That in mind, here's some food for thought.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

it's not about the feast

I just wrote a grocery list for Thanksgiving dinner. All my life, I have been a participant in someone else's dinner. My Mom made a marvelous feast every year I was growing up and for several more once I was on my own. At some point, the duties shifted to my sister-in-law, with the occasional visit to my sister who has hosted it for the last couple years. I only ever had to bring a side dish or appetizer.

When I lived in Seattle, I never traveled home for this holiday and so I was a guest of my friends' and roommates' families. In 1994, my roommates and I rented a cabin on Orcas Island. It had only cold running water and no bathroom (we had to hike to a central facility), and we packed in all our trimmings to prepare there. We made Cornish game hens instead of a big turkey. I spent my time in the cabin doting on one of the stray cats who wandered the grounds (a giant, solid gray cat we called "Smokestack") and crafting hand-made Christmas cards from hundreds of old cards. Oh, and I did test out the outdoor hot tubs. Definitely an alternative Thanksgiving.

In 1996, I made Thanksgiving dinner for myself and a friend. There were some modifications, the biggest of which was preparing a turkey breast instead of a whole turkey. Despite the theoretically scaled-down nature of the meal, it was still a lot of time and work to put together. And even though it was fabulous, the two most vivid memories of that day were the kitchen sink backing up (and my friend running around town looking for an open store to buy Drano) and me being sick (and therefore not hungry).

For Ted's and my first Thanksgiving together in 1997, I flew to Phoenix and we partook of an enormous holiday dinner in Sedona where a friend of his owns a cliffside inn. We toured the holiday lights and marveled at the snow (even though I knew we were going to be in the mountains, I just don't associate Arizona with snow). The next year, we ate at restaurant in one of Seattle's downtown hotels. The year after that, I had already moved to New England for my new job, and Ted was still in Seattle finishing up his old one. I crashed the dinner of my college roommate, Pam, and her husband, Craig. Ted visited a different Seattle restaurant. Since we settled down in Connecticut, we have had a combination of alternative and traditional Thanksgivings.

In 2000, we spent the holiday with Ted's stepmom, Shirley, and her daughter's family. Although I had obviously met Shirley, Lisa, Bob, Geno and Timmy by then, it was the first time I got to meet Bob's brothers and sisters. So, it was a nice family holiday, while feeling a bit like a get-to-know-you mixer.

The next year, we stayed in Norwalk and dined at the Silvermine Tavern. Although it was a neat setting, the food -- while good -- was a bit restaurant-y. Given that we weren't with family that day, the lack of a familiar feast-type dinner made the day seem like just another day. The next year, we drove to Northern Vermont to stay at a wonderful bed and breakfast that was so remote, it didn't have locks on the doors. Now, that was a spectacular feast. But talking to the family on the phone just seemed weird. And there was the added challenge of notable snowfall almost every day we were there. Last year, we returned to New Hampshire and the Cox family dinner. At the risk of sounding corny, it felt like home. Well, it was my sister's home, so I guess it was! :-)

But this year, I will once again be making that modified Thanksgiving dinner that I first attempted in 1996, this time for Ted and me. Ted's new job requires him to work Friday and Saturday, and it's too far to make the 5-hour drive each way to join my family at my sister's house for one day. So, I made a list. And save a few items that we otherwise never eat (green olives, cranberry jelly, peas with pearl onions), it looks like any other grocery list. And although I had this meal without my family for all those years I was in Seattle, I will miss being with them tomorrow.

Sure, I see them all the time. I saw all of them (except eldest brother, Gerry, who lives in California) a couple weeks ago, and I will see all of them (including Gerry) a couple weeks from now at Christmas. For me, Thanksgiving has always been about sharing those things for which I'm grateful. My family is always at the top of that list.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

middle schmiddle

The last entry was titled thusly as, in my bleary-eyed thinking, I was going to extrapolate on the concept of “the middle of the night.” My only explanation for even contemplating such a hackneyed and useless topic was that it was, in fact, the middle of the night. I guess I was just wondering what constitutes the ‘middle’ of the night. Isn’t that 12:00am (a.k.a. “midnight”)? Wouldn’t it change all the time, as night is dictated by darkness, which is a cyclical phenomenon? Oh, here I go… actually extrapolating on this folly. It must be once again nearing the middle of the night.

So, the last time I wrote at this insane hour, it was because I had fallen so soundly asleep at a ridiculous time (like 9:30pm), thanks to my very schmoasty cat, Sadie, snuggling up with me on the couch. We were so warm together, we just drifted away to dreamland until my subconscious realized it was the middle of the night and I was still on the couch! Instead of coming upstairs to bed, I blogged. I put in the picture of Sadie as she was the primary reason for the 3:19am entry.

Now, Milo has just descended from my left shoulder, where he climbed for a little attention. Purring loudly in my ear and insisting I neither type on nor even look at my computer. Here is Milo.

Milo and Larry the lobster

The only cat who hasn’t vociferously demanded attention tonight is Flannery. She’s an easygoing cat, still remarkably grateful that we saved her from homelessness more than three years ago. When we first noticed her (an abandoned cat living on the wooded hill next to our house), we started feeding her and even built a fort on our low balcony for her to sleep in a protected place. We thought she was a he, and named her “Henry” once we decided we would probably end up bringing her inside to join Milo and Sadie in our cat crew. But once we realized she was a girl, we couldn’t bring ourselves to keep calling her Henry. And Henrietta was not even an option. Flannery sounded cool, but she quickly earned a whole series of nicknames. Ted calls her Pooh, and I call her Schmoo (in “Monsters, Inc.,” Mike Wazowski’s nickname for his girlfriend, Celia, was Schmoopsy Pooh, so there you go). Here is Schmoo.

Schmoo on the desk

OK, so now that I've posted my cats, it's time to post my kids. Ok, so technically, they're not mine. They're my siblings' kids. "I'm your Auntie Mame!"

The kids, October 2004

October 2004. I coerced all of them to wear blue on a day when they volunteered to help me with a project at Grandma and Grandpa's house.

Bed time. Ack!

Saturday, November 20, 2004

what is middle?

Once again, I find myself in the frustrating and moderatly embarassing position of having entered text and lost it when attempting some fancy maneuver. Last time, it was spell check. This time, it was trying to include a picture. I'm still figuring this Blogger stuff out, so be patient. I'm just going to post this here with what I think may include a photo. Then, if it works, I'll come back and finish the post. If it doesn't work, I'll probably delete the whole thing and start over some other middle of the night.

Sadie on her hammock

Friday, November 19, 2004

defenestrating time and its pieces

It's lunch time again, and I just can't help myself but to blog. The topic top of mind today is how very little time there is left before Christmas. Christmas, whoa. Wasn't it just Christmas, like, a couple weeks ago? Uh-oh. It's another sign of impending old-cranky-ladyhood. Anyway, we are amazingly prepared for Christmas. Despite the fact that we shop for approximately 40 people (14 of whom are 18 or under), our shopping is 99% done. I've even finished putting together the kids' stockings!

We Christmas shop all year long -- as we see things, when an item inspires us to think about a particular person, or when something cool is at Costco (ask me some day about the 'treasure hunt'). My trip to Australia in October also netted a vast collection of items for the gift list. We have large, plastic storage bins stacked in our living room with the spoils of more than ten months' worth of shopping.

Where the time crunch is feeling particularly crunchy is that we must now wrap said spoils. That in and of itself might not be so bad if we didn't have activities booked nearly every weekend between now and Christmas. A weekend in the city to see a show, Thanksgiving, a business trip to Chicago, etc. I won't even go into how we were supposed to arrange a time to visit my Aunt Kaye sometime between last Christmas and this one to pick up our gift from her. She's one state away, and we haven't managed to do that yet. :-(

So, the phrase "time flies" is lodged in my gray matter. And I'd prefer to think that I have some control over it (which I know isn't true, but the control freak in me wants it to be), so I want to instead be the one making time fly. And simply making it fly isn't colorful enough, so I want to make it fly out a window. Hence, the title of this entry. That made me think about my stupid alarm clock which, for absolutely no good reason at all, went off at 6:37pm last night while I was in the downstairs living room. That's not even reasonably close to the time at which it's set. I wanted to throw it out the window, too.

Back to work.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

noise, part 2

At some point in my life, I determined that I frequently encounter noise levels that I don't like. Now, this is ironic, considering the volume of my youth. And don't get me wrong: when the right song comes onto my iPod, computer, desk radio, or car or home stereo, the sky's the limit on decibel count. I don't think I've ever listened to "How Soon Is Now" by The Smiths at a volume where things didn't fall off shelves. There are others. "Closer" by Nine Inch Nails, "Housequake" by Prince and the New Power Generation, "Peel Me a Grape" by Diana Krall (although even loud it doesn't rattle windows), all of Quincy Jones's "Back on the Block," "I'm Every Woman," by Whitney Houston (props to Chaka Kahn, but I like Whitney's version better). Any number of Christmas songs, not the least of which is "Sleigh Ride," in particular, performed by the Boston Pops as conducted by Arthur Fiedler. Anything written, arranged, or performed by Mervyn Warren and his friends. But I regress.

I can't pinpoint when the noise factor started to bother me. I've never liked motorcycles or leaf blowers (although the latter has been around a relatively short time compared to the former). The presence of dot-matrix printers became a source of distress for me when I first went to work in an office. One place actually had a specially designed case with soundproofing insulation and a Plexiglass lid to muffle the noise. So, apparently, I'm not the only noise-averse person on the planet.

When my young neighbor decided to show off his motorcycle's revving power to a drunken friend at 1:52am, I threw up the sash and hollered "Guys! Two o'clock in the morning!" Then, it seemed official: I'm the cranky old lady whose house every little kid hated to walk past.

So, when I started writing last night about learning to listen again, it was because I had decided to have a radio/CD-free drive home from work so I could just tune in to my surroundings. That entry was to detail not only the juxtaposition of noises -- good and bad -- that I encountered, but also my difficulty with not trying to escape from it all by putting up the car windows and turning on the stereo. The lack of self-imposed distraction causes me to think more carefully about things going on in life because I can actually hear (or more accurately, concentrate on) the thoughts in my head. I usually look forward to that opportunity, but last night's drive was complicated by an emotionally difficult couple of weeks and the preponderance of really annoying noises.

My lunchtime rant for today.

learning to listen, a prologue

Is it ironic that I spent half an hour here writing about my evening exercise in listening, and it was all swept away when I attempted to run a spell check? Not particularly ironic, I guess. Just frustrating.

Damn, I put some effort into that too. And now I'm too drowsy to recreate it. So, until I have the wherewithal to return and try again, I'll simply paste a very old poem of mine about quiet (well, the lack of it). I wrote it in response to an e.e. cummings poem. Do note that the title does not contain a misspelling or typo.

the Mystery Of stilness

vociferous space.
the relentless vestige
of battle.

tableTop chaos
wringing guts
(like fresh, wet boxers to be h
and crashes the thing
through the wall up the floor.

at the stop
a too-long cord -- wrapping dizzily among shags curling here Crinkling, twisting --
pretends be
the blackless shadow

too quiet.
now what? is beseeched.
no time for peace

© 1995 Corene Ellis Young

Also note that all poems written by me or my alterego, Corene, are open to interpretation. It's been a long time since I've taken up the pencil. Maybe it's time to make new sense out of new circumstances. The old sense seems senseless now.

What the hell am I saying? Man, I need sleep.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004


The sign of a new addiction is when I spend my lunchtime on it. And, gosh, guess what time it is? Although there was one addiction that I never could do at lunch, and that was The Sims. But like many of the addictions before it, eventually my interest in it waned. I haven't played The Sims in probably a year. Long ago, it was Nintendo. Not Game Cube or 64 or even Super Nintendo. Just Nintendo.

Alas, because I usually eat lunch at my desk, my attention is often divided. Today is no different. Between bites and a blogged word here and there, I have been repeatedly interrupted by -- horrors -- work. Perhaps this is an addiction best left to the middle of the night. Josh, I get it!

the logical next step

In my youth, I kept the occasional diary in a bound book of some sort with a cover of manufactured or handmade origin. The impetus to actually create entries in said diaries was usually of a traumatic nature. That is to say, something happened in my little life that was so big, it overflowed all traditional means of release (like crying to my mother or complaining to my friends).

The diaries became letters to myself sometime in my early teens. I believe the inspiration for this phase was Mr. Dion's 7th grade English class assignment to write a letter to my future self, seal it in an envelope, put a stamp on it, and wait until the appointed time to open it. I suppose he hoped this exercise would shed some light on the issues that were genuinely important in life (at least those as seen through the eyes of a pimple-faced, hormone-injected, 13-year old lunatic).

For most of high school, my calm and premeditated diary-keeping was done in just such an epistolary fashion. More frantic entries occurred in a Garfield blank book. Oh heavens. Off I went to college and I scribbled the important details which required cranial escape into the back pages of spiralbound notebooks. Once, as I recall, I burned some of them with much ceremony and solemnity. 19. Ha.

Graduation. The real world. Many things to vent about then, but still my entries were less than sporadic. The real revelation came when I decided to move from Gray, Maine to Seattle, Washington in 1991. On my 5,000+ mile wending across America, I was resolute in my decision to keep a record of the trip. I wasn't so concerned with my emotions as with empirical details. Time spent driving, money spent on gas, monuments visited. The trip only lasted a couple weeks, and really, I spent most of it driving, fighting with a Triple A triptik, and locating out-of-the-way double diamond rated motels.

It was in Seattle that I started my new life as a journaller. No longer could I call these accounts of my life "diaries:" the term was too juvenile. I was 25 years old and had just left everything I knew behind to create some sort of new life for myself on the other side of the country. There was a lot to write about.

I started in the leftover spiralbound notebooks of my college days, but upon discovering that I could use the Lake City Library for one hour per day (and with a little inspiration from the insipid television show 'Doogie Howser, M.D.'), I began keeping my journals in Word documents. I've done this with remarkable consistency ever since. More than 13 years, hard to believe. Some months, the journals are tiny -- two sentences, and usually about how I haven't written anything lately. Sometimes, they are titanic. In the month I contracted EBV, I typed 129 single-spaced pages.

In the past couple years, they have become much less detailed. I attribute this to Ted. He is my sounding board; so all the things I once thought out by entering them into journals, are now discussed with an actual human being. :-) He has done wonders for my soul, and the decrease in journal entries was a small price to pay.

I do come back to the journals once in a while. But it's amazing how many big events in my life I have not entered, in the past year in particular. I've a hankering to get back into it. Maybe a new blog will be just the impetus this time around. Welcome to the 21st century. Are there really people out there who want to read my ramblings online? I guess I'll find out.

Creating this blog was accidental. I signed up for an account so that I could create a signed entry on someone else's blog (my friend, Josh Katinger, who recently wrote about the death of our friend, Mark Tarsi). I think Josh has inspired me, at least momentarily, to give the blog world a try.

The name I'd hoped to give my blog was already taken (which lays to rest any notion I had that I might still have an iota of originality in me). So instead, I've tapped deep into the well for sanguinary blue.

About 10 years ago, I created and ran a poetry group on AOL. It was actually designed for tandem haiku (if you really want to know more about this silly concept of mine, I'll be happy to tell you). The haiku were sometimes marvelous and often, well, silly. But I did make a great many online friends through this forum. One such friend was Wally Page.

He and I wrote a tandem poem about the difficulty we were having actually catching up with each other. Hopefully, Wally won't mind that I reprint the interesting -- if somewhat obtuse and pretentiously arty -- work here (we lost track of each other years ago). Wally contributed the first paragraph: the remainder is my response. If you aren't already aware, Corene Ellis Young is my nom de plume. Another long story.

Azure by D. Walter Page and Corene Ellis Young

tried to write
insanity full of ink
fountain pen broke shit
now the ink runs on
blurred vision I

sanguinary blue
oozes mercilessly;
blots out light,
blots out reality.

oily tears
neither here
nor there,
piercing ink
like stars
that stab skies.

random destiny:
artist's means and emotions
collide into


I like the image of a pen bleeding, hence "sanguinary blue." As if there's so much to be said that the ink can't flow fast enough, so it bleeds instead. I liked the concept of "unintentional masterpieces," too, but again, it's a bit pretentious (even if it is tempered by a lack of calculation and/or ambition).

And thus begins my new blog. I haven't the vaguest idea where it goes from here. But at least now I can add a post to Josh's site.