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January 31, 2008

13 Thursday Drum Roll Please

13drum.jpg1. Haiku is the bonsai of poetry.

2. If coffee was music it would be salsa and tea would be a flute.

3. I have a friend name Phil who plays the harmonica. I want to take a picture of him playing so I can name it the “Philharmonic.”

4. I recently joked to my husband that he wakes up like a gymnast. He literally bounces out of bed. Me? Not so much.

5. Whenever I speak of “Doug my server” I feel like calling him Hal from the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey because he knows so much more about the outerspace of bloggness than I do, and I feel like I could get thrown over board at anytime.

6. Once when my brother-in-law was visiting us here in Virginia, we were at a restaurant and he asked for an order of chicken wings, but with his thick Boston accent, “order” sounded like “oughta,” and the waitress thought he was asking for “otter,” which of course was not on the menu.

7. Putting up a new post is like bait if you’re fishing for comments.

8. Check out THIS very entertaining trailer for the novel The Liar’s Diary, which my blog friend Patry (who I last blogged about HERE) wrote. She has been recovering from surgery related to cancer and has not been able to promote her book’s paperback release, so a group of bloggers got together and have been doing it for her. More about that HERE and HERE.

9. Some of my photos of downtown Floyd are posted on the Floyd Fest site HERE.

10. Taking pictures is fun partly because the ones you think will come out good often don’t and the ones you expect to be bad often aren’t.

11. I’ve never wanted to be on a game show, Survivor, Dr. Phil, or American Idol. But I DO want to be on THIS, my favorite new TV show, called Just for Laughs. It makes me laugh so hard I fall off the bed, unlike my husband who jumps.

12. I don’t want to be the lady buying fresh fish in the video. I want to be one of the butchers. But if I was the lady, I’d be taking photos and notes so that I could blog about it later.

13. I’m game for it all…except I probably couldn’t bring myself to do THIS.

Thursday headquarters is here. My other 13's are here. View more 13 Thursday’s here.

January 30, 2008

Four Today

1. Upscale
2. Just my type
3. Posers
4. Still for butts

Photos: 1. When the scale hits 120 I jump up and down, not because I’m happy but because I need to burn some calories.

2. The old typewriter donated by a retired Bank of Floyd worker for the Hotel Floyd Writer’s Room spent a few weeks at my house.

3. A Bizzaro Srabble game between Max, Mara, and me recently converged with the Floyd Home Companion play practice. The Young Actors Coop was using the Oddfellas’ logo sign for ad spoof in their radio drama play. The restaurant logo was conceived for Floyd’s oddfella mix of farmers, hippies, and businessmen.

4. A recycled toilet’s new incarnation as an ashtray. Seen in front of Wills Ridge Building Supply in Floyd.

January 29, 2008

Jesus Paints Graffiti

I’m pretty sure Jesus is a morning person
that he wakes up in a good mood
He denies he ever spoke personally to George Bush
Maybe he spoke to Bob Dylan

Jesus wears a bathrobe and reads the obituaries
He has a long braid like Willie Nelson’s
He drinks his tea black
leaves the cap off the toothpaste
and never uses an ATM machine

He’s never won a poetry slam
or been published in the New Yorker
He runs full page ads in the New York Times
and blushes when he’s on the cover
of People Magazine: Sexiest Man Alive

Jesus painted graffiti on a strip mall Kmart in 1989
Next to a blue planet in bold black letters
He left it unsigned

~ Colleen Redman

Post notes:
You can read about how this poem came about HERE.
The photo is from an old Roanoke Times newspaper clipping that I scanned from my scrapbook, taken during the building of the Christiansburg Virginia KMart. The caption that accompanied it described the graffiti as "eco-vandalism."

January 28, 2008

She Loves Meme, She Loves Meme Not

awsum.jpgThe following is by no means an exclusive list of my loves and hates, just the ones that came to me in the moment, after Deana passed on the following meme questions to me.

I love to eat: My farm fresh egg man Ed is number one on my speed dial, so that should tell you something. I also like to eat vegetables I’ve grown in my garden.

I hate to eat: Processed foods and potlucks with not enough protein served because too many carbs make me terribly tired. I hate to eat store bought, so called party food, salad dressings with sugar in them, and olives. yes%20no.jpg

I hate to go: To yet another yearly CPR class, the dentist, or the hospital. I hate to go anywhere near a city when I’m driving.

I love to go: Barefoot because it means it’s warmed up. I especially love to go barefoot on the sand at the ocean. I love to go for days on end without any commitments scheduled.

I love it when: I finish a story I’ve been working on; The story I was working on comes out in the paper and there are no typos in it; I wake up in the middle of the night and feel Joe’s presence and am grateful for all he does and who he is. I love it when I dream about my brothers and my dad (who have passed away), or dream about my sons as little boys and hear their sweet child voices again. bgood.jpg

I hate it when: My back goes out; My computer breaks down; I think I may have hurt someone’s feelings; I don’t have the energy to do what I want to do; and when the networks run reruns and it isn’t even summer.

I love to see: A thrift shop bargain in just the right fabric, color and size. I love a good PBS special that I didn’t know was on and I just happen upon. The last one I saw was “The Jewish American.” Before that it was “Pioneers in Television,” and Ken Burns’ “The War.” I love to see the numbers go down on the scale, the sunset, a starry night sky, the inside of a kaleidoscope, and Target Ads on TV. luv.jpg

I hate to see: My dog full of burdock burrs, squirrels at the bird feeder, ads selling drugs on TV like they were the latest fashion, corporations that put profit over people’s health, the rising rates of autism, and the Bush administration not being held accountable for misleading the country into the Iraq invasion.

I love to hear: The sound of the woodstove blower on a cold morning when I’m still in bed and I realize that Joe stoked the fire before going off to work. I love to hear birdsong, children playing, a warm breeze rustling the tree branches, a song that makes me get up and dance, and the letter V. not.jpg

I hate to hear: “It’s your turn to drive,” or my Asheville potter son Josh say, “Mom, my fingers are being held together by super glue. (He said that to me once when he was working too much.) I also hate to hear “That’s not a word,” when I’m playing Scrabble, the dog barking at the moon in the middle of the night, and people yelling at their kids.

Feel free to say what you love and don't in a comment, or tell me if you do this meme so I can come by and read. In the Meme-time, I’m tapping Bonnie, Country Dew, Sarah and Pearl to do this one if they feel so inclined.

January 26, 2008

I Heart Scrabble

scr.jpgYour thoughts and words are powerful … they think we're disposable … well both my thumbs opposable …are spelled out on a double word and triple letter score … ~ Kimya Dawson

Warming up for a game with my poet friend, Mara, I put the Scrabble box by the woodstove after it sat in the back seat of the car overnight. “I hope you’re dressed warm,” I said to her, holding the phone in one hand and pushing a log in the woodstove with the other. She assured me she had long johns on and that she would bring a paper from The Harvest Moon because my article on musician Bernie Coveney was in it and I hadn’t seen it yet.

Before we started the game, she downloaded Microsoft publisher on my computer so I could make my own chapbooks of poetry. I read her my poem about Jesus in answer to the one she read at the last Spoken Word night. My Jesus paints graffiti. Hers is an Aries. We drank tea with jasmine and listened to the music of Kimya Dawson, who features prominently on the movie soundtrack Juno. you%20win1503.jpg

Mara buys valentine conversation hearts like she was playing the lottery, looking for that winner that says, “Write Me.” One like it was given to her by another poet at the start of their friendship. They started writing each other after that, and Mara’s been trying to find another “Write Me” valentine heart ever since.

“At four boxes for $1, I can afford the habit,” she told me. We dumped them out in a bowl. Neither of us would eat them; we just like to read them. heartscrabble3.jpgLater I learned that the theme for this year’s hearts is weather, with messages like Could Nine, Chill Out, In a Fog, and Melt Me. “Write Me” came from the 2003 line.

I fed her homemade soup, crackers with melted Swiss cheese. She brought me my first valentine. I think it was Sponge Bob Square Pants, but he was shaped like a heart. The message on it said “You’re the Spongiest.” She put it on the table before heading home. I was upstairs on the computer at the time, playing with a conversation heart generator. “I can’t spell WRITE ME, “I called down to her. “Too many letters … will BITE ME do?

Our game? Considering that I got the Q, X, J, and a 50 point Bingo and only won by 16 points, I think she played the better game.

January 25, 2008



Steam rises like breath
from a talkative kettle
Water pours like conversation
into a quiet cup

Note: The photo is called "Self portrait in tea" and was taken at my sister Sherry's house in Massachusetts this past summer.

January 24, 2008

13 Thursday: A Hairy Situation

13hair.jpg1. Overnight my hair reaches critical mass and I can’t go another day without a haircut.

2. Sometimes I find myself in front of the computer and I don’t know how I got here.

3. People like me who regularly burn food need a whistle on ever pot and pan in the house like the one on my tea kettle.

4. For the whole thirty minute drive to Christiansburg for my haircut I composed little sips of poems about tea, like this one: Basic black … fills an ample white pot … Tea-ball chain dangles … like a necklace on a queen.

5. I regret that when I was in high school, I never wore my hair in a ponytail. I wanted to. I wanted to look bouncy and fun like the teenagers on American Bandstand. Cheerleaders wore ponytails. So did Gidget. Read the rest and see a photo of my high school class picture in which I’m not wearing a pony tail HERE.

6. It seems that the Red Sox aren’t the only ones who have been cursed in Boston, and when it comes to presidential campaigns JFK is like Babe Ruth.

7. I’m still convinced that the Red Sox finally won the World Series for the first time after 86 years because most of the players had long hair (think Sampson).

8. I just this minute realized that curse and cures is the same word.

9. You can test your vocabulary while also donating rice through The United Nations to help end world hunger HERE.

10. Leah, the girl behind A Girl Named Guy, recently posted a podcast about her April visit to Floyd that features some familiar Floyd faces. A Girl Named Guy is a multi-media company that offers tools for positive living to conscious consumers. On TV. On the web. In print, their website says. Check it out HERE.

11. How do you look up a word when you don’t know how to spell it? Or maybe you can spell it but don’t know how to pronounce it. Check out THIS talking dictionary I found at Shepherd’s Alley.

12. About that thing I said last week: “I’m not good at telling jokes or lies, which may be why I don’t write fiction.” The truth is I just don’t have a good enough imagination to write fiction. Last Thursday Amy the Black at Creekistan did “13 Things You May Find Yourself Saying in the Future” with lines like: "That was a really good steak. See if you can get the Chef to give us a DNA sample," or "I’m going to Walmart for the sex-change surgery, again" – to which I commented, “You have a really good imagination. Is there a pill for that yet?”

13. Please don’t try THIS at home. It makes my hair stand on end.

Thursday headquarters is here. My other 13's are here. View more 13 Thursday’s here.

January 23, 2008

Over the Edge

bridge.jpg "My edge is dull.” That’s it. It comes to me and I say it out loud. After an intense period of writing back-to-back and with nothing new now to sink my teeth into, I’m in between projects, avoiding unpleasant chores and any all-consuming activity. But shouldn’t I clean up the boxes of Christmas stuff still in the spare bedroom? Wouldn’t it be nice to see the uncluttered top of my desk again? Maybe I can sharpen my wit in a jitsu of word sparring with my poet friend Mara. I’d like a good game of Scrabble to focus or distract me, but I’m afraid it will all go over my head.

How do I stop and start again? What exists between on and off?

She doesn’t want to go out, Mara tells me over the phone. She’s having a rare day at home and her poetry is flowing like a turned on faucet. “It’s like having a lover in the house,” I say. Then I drift on her words as she describes a series of poems she’s writing about creeks. I see the tributaries of her thoughts and the watershed of her grief as she talks about Cory, her husband who died in 2001, and his favorite creek.

I don’t want to sign up for anything new. I want to be swept up in the current of Mara’s words and be delivered to a place of poetry where metaphor is more important than the substance it cuts through.

January 22, 2008

As Childhood Vaccine Requirements Rise So Does Autism

The following was published in the Roanoke Times on March 17, 2008, which can be viewed HERE.

One of Ellen DeGeneres’s recent talk show guests was a young girl who raised a large sum of money selling bracelets to benefit autism treatment. She was motivated by the fact that her brother is autistic. At one point the mother of the girl spoke, saying something I’ve heard other parents say over and over. She told the audience that her son had been happy and normal, meeting every developmental milestone, but a few days after receiving a round of vaccinations he regressed into autism.

In a poll at an online autism support site, 70% of those who participated said they believe that their child’s autism was caused by vaccines. The shocking rise of autism correlates with the rising number of compulsory immunizations that the majority of children are now getting. I was suspicious of the three that were recommended when my sons were young. I couldn’t fathom shooting formaldehyde, thimerosal laden with mercury; ethylene glycol, aka antifreeze; sodium hydroxide, aka known as lye; aluminum; and a list of other suspect ingredients into my baby’s bloodstream. Currently there are at least twelve compulsory childhood immunizations, and because many are given twice, most children have had twenty or more shots before the age of two, and new vaccines are being developed all the time.

With one in every one-hundred-and-fifty child being diagnosed with autism, why is so much of the public debate about treatment, rather than causes? Why are parents who are reporting that their previously healthy children descended into autism after a round of vaccines being taken less serious than the drug companies who sell vaccines for profit? Not only are the drug companies not required to prove that vaccines are safe, new rules made by Bush appointed FDA officials in 2006 protect pharmaceutical companies from private liability litigation.

Those who make the case for immunizations defend them by talking about the diseases they prevent, but that’s not what we should be debating now. Rather than arguing about whether immunizations save lives or not, we should be talking about the cumulative effect that so many vaccines are having on our children. We know antibiotics save lives, but their overuse has created resistant super bugs and the emergence of deadly infections like MRSA. Why is there no public debate about the overuse of immunizations?

The drug companies’ poor safety records are regularly revealed as drugs on the market have proven to be harmful and are pulled from distribution. Why were vaccines containing mercury ever given to babies when it is known that mercury is one of the most poisonous elements on the planet, second only to uranium? The public was being advised not to eat tuna because it contained small amounts of mercury while doctors were routinely administering rounds of immunizations to children with combined mercury levels exceeding the EPA’s recommended maximums. Only after public outcry was the mercury removed. (It is still in flu shots.)

Sometimes the side effects of a drug treatment are worse than the disease being treated. In the case of immunizations, they do not treat a disease but are a supposed preventative measure in case our children contract something. Considering the track record of vaccine makers and the number of known vaccine injuries, I echo what Dr. Mendelsohn said in his 1979 book Confessions of a Medial Heretic, “If this is prevention, I’ll take my chances with disease.”

Recent headlines have announced that vaccines do not cause autism, but these headlines are misleading because they reflect a conclusion based on the assumption that because autism has not declined since mercury was taken out of vaccines they must be safe. As toxic as mercury is, it may not be the primary culprit linking autism and vaccines. A 2002 study published in Pediatric Neurology revealed that elevated levels of measles antibodies exist in autistic children, suggesting that autism could be an autoimmune disease triggered by the measles virus in vaccines.

Evidence suggests a genetic predisposition to autism. It seems obvious that a round of vaccinations containing a number of viruses and neurotoxins could be enough of an assault on a child’s body to push the susceptible ones over into this illness. In the case of the MMR vaccine (measles, mumps, and rubella), children are exposed to a mixture three live viruses at one time, something that would never happen in nature. It’s understandable that some parents choose to protect their children against disease by strengthening their immune systems through health giving practices and that they would reject over-relying on the recommendations of government experts with alliances to the profit driven medical establishment.

The least I hope for is that doctors and parents begin to take a cautious approach to the practice of immunization, such as delaying shots until an infant is older, administering one shot at a time, and picking and choosing which ones are given. I hope they keep in mind that some of the diseases children are immunized against were considered normal childhood illnesses that strengthened children’s immune systems when I was growing up. I hope they remember that it took decades before big profit cigarette companies were forced to concede that their products were dangerous.

Smoking one cigarette won’t hurt anyone but regular use can kill. When it comes to man-made inventions and interventions, more is hardly ever better. ~ Colleen Redman

January 21, 2008

The Return of the Purple Beret

purpleberet2jpg.jpg~ Third Saturday Spoken Word at the Café Del Sol 7-9

I wore my purple poet’s beret. Mara’s was black. Everyone else was hatless, even though the night was frigid, and a few flurries earlier in the day threatened to cancel our open mic.

I’m so gullible. I tend to believe everything the poets say. But I’m pretty sure Janean (pictured below) did not hear a zombie climbing up the stairs where she works, going AAAARRRGG AARRRGG, as one of her poems described. janine.jpg She read another one about loving the NFL and later insisted that part was true. But she is not Greek as another line in another poem stated.

“I’m never going to get to know you better through listening to your poems,” I joked to her at the end of the night.

I sat up close, on the cafe couch as the poet's spoken words wove spellbinding plots. Six readers and some new attentive faces made up the crowd. Chelsea, who teaches writing at Radford University, is working on a new collection of poetry about insomnia. I guessed her new work might be directly related to her Java Poems, another collection espousing her love coffee. Sally, the Café owner, told jokes in between readings. She challenged us to write some coffee haiku for a future reading (although she gave me the poetic license to write mine about tea). roseopenmic.jpg

When it was Mara’s turn, she read a poem about Jesus in which her favorite line was “Jesus was totally an Aires.” I liked this part: “Jesus drove with the windows down and knew what he wanted for breakfast.”

After that poem I spent the rest of the night jotting down things that my Jesus would do. I’m pretty sure my Jesus is a morning person who has a braid like Willie Nelson’s and wakes up in a good mood.

Post Notes: The first photo is of me and Mara. Photo number two is of Janean reading and number three is of fellow writer’s circle member and Scrabble playing friend Rosemary. Read more about the purple beret HERE. Click and scroll down HERE to read about more spoken word nights at Floyd's Cafe Del Sol.

January 19, 2008

Snowy Day

1. Barring bad weather
2. Snowy white beard
3. The cold shoulder
4. Dog in need of a sled
5. Escape

Post notes: All of the photos above were taken on the morning of 1/17/08 after waking up to our first photo worthy winter snowfall. HERE is a previously posted poem to accompany them, which I may read tonight at the Spoken Word open mic if it's not canceled because of more snow.

January 18, 2008

All about Knitting

knitting2.jpgThe following was published in the January 17, 2008 issue of The Floyd Press and also appears online HERE.

About fifteen knitters showed up to have their knitting questions answered by Margaret Radcliffe at the Jessie Peterman Library this past Sunday afternoon. Radcliffe, a Blacksburg resident who has been knitting for forty-five years, is the author of The Knitting Answer Handbook. She travels the country teaching knitting techniques and answering knitting questions. Her business, Maggie’s Rags, is a wholesale outlet for her original handknitting patterns.

Eleven year old Jessica Spangler, one of the event’s attendees, has been teaching herself to knit using a book her mother gave her. She asked Radcliffe one of the first questions. Several women worked on their knitting as Radcliffe, donned in an eggplant colored hand knitted vest, answered Spangler’s question about fading yarn.

“Anything that is dyed can fade,” Radcliffe said. She advised not to keep knitted yarn sitting in the sun and to watch if knitted clothing runs the first time it is immersed in water for hand washing. jspanglerknits.jpg

Knitting has been regaining popularity, as evidenced by the number of new yarn shops and online knitting businesses, Radcliffe told the crowd.

“If you spend a lot of time knitting, people come to you, yarn comes to you,” she said, explaining how she came to teach knitting.

When asked how long she had been knitting, Eleva Smith, another attendee, laughed and answered, “Just since I got here.” She has been crocheting Afghans for years, so she picked up the knitting stitches pretty quickly. She also welcomed the help of the knitter sitting next to her.

A Floyd woman originally from Michigan spoke of a wool sweater that her mother had knitted for her sister in the 1950’s. Her sister still wears the sweater.

“As it should be,” Radcliffe said. “Knitted wool clothing lasts a long time,” she said as she moved around the room offering tips.

Towards the end of the hour long meet-up, knitters browsed through tubs of clothes that Radcliffe had brought, admiring the finished prototypes of Radcliffe’s design patterns that included sweaters, shawls, vests, socks, hats, and more.

Several women purchased Radcliffe’s book and she signed copies for them. The book has been reprinted in several languages and includes chapters titled Casting on, The Basics, Binding Off, Tools, Yarn, Reading Patterns, Stitches, Circular Knitting, Color, Shaping, Fitting, and Embellishments. It can be purchased for $14.95 through Amazon.com and in some knitting shops. csweenyknit.jpg

A list of stores that carry her original handmade patterns can be found on her website, maggiesrags.com, Radcliffe said. The webpage also features knitting tips, a schedule of her classes, and a color catalog of her knitting designs. She suggests interested knitters ask local stores to carry her products for easy access.

Artist and avid knitter, Cheryl Sweeney announced to the group that an informal knitting club has been meeting monthly on Wednesday nights at the Floyd Country Store. She suggested that anyone interested contact her for the next scheduled date. ~ Colleen Redman

January 17, 2008

13 Thursday: Take My Word For It

13dog.jpg1. We didn’t wear tie dye in the 60’s. Paisley, Nehru jackets, Mexican ponchos, bell bottoms, beads, big floppy hats, and batik prints, yes; but not tie dye.

2. Although no one I knew ever said “groovy,” we did say “Wow” a lot. We said bummed out, ripped off, screwed up, and wiped out. We said hairy, heavy, crash, drag, cool, have a ball or a blast, and blow your mind; most of which we still say today.

3. My husband was home from work sick one day last week. Concerned I would catch what he had when we woke up he asked me how I felt. “I never feel good when I wake up. I could be sick and not even know it,” I answered.

4. Recently Shepherd posted a “hassle me” generator meant for those who want to be reminded of their New Year’s resolutions. I thought we should give equal time to a “compliment me” generator, so I sent him THIS, which when I first clicked on it, it said to me: "You have lovely timing.”

5. Another one HERE, called the surrealist complimenter said: I love your eyes, but only with ketchup.

6. After seeing a post about The Bodies Exhibit on somebody’s blog, I recalled a few years back when a group of us from Floyd saw photographer’s Frank Cordelle’s impressive Century Project exhibit in Blacksburg. It’s a "chronological series of nude photographic portraits of more than one hundred women and girls from the moment of birth to nearly a hundred years of age. A diverse group of photographs comprising women of many ages, shapes, sizes, and life experiences is presented in this exquisitely disarming project. Most of the images are accompanied by moving statements written by the women themselves.”

7. I’m not good at telling jokes or lies, which may be why I don’t write fiction.

8. Although I think truth is stranger and more interesting than fiction, I don’t enjoy many biographical movies because I’d rather see the documentary.

9. Most people don’t realize that it takes energy to be able to fall asleep and that people who are exhausted rarely sleep well. The lowest point I have occasionally reached in my issues with fatigue is when I’m too tired to get a massage. It takes energy to receive one.

10. My favorite word carved in cement is on Draper St. in Blacksburg and is the word “Word.”

11. Said to my friend Mara during a recent phone conversation where I was complaining about not writing much poetry these days: Writing poetry is like knitting and writing prose is like using a sewing machine.

12. The drug pushers are at it again: Mara recently received a notice in the mail that she had an opportunity to win a free IPOD if she and her daughter got a flu shots (which still contain mercury, second only to uranium in toxicity). The deal also came with a guilt trip that said, “Others are counting on you. Take care of yourselves and your loved ones.”

13. Going out to hunt last night, after coming home empty handed the last time he did, Joe says, “I’m going to give it another shot.”

Thursday headquarters is here. My other 13's are here. View more 13 Thursday’s here. This is my 116th TT.

January 16, 2008

The Last Dancer

strobedance.jpgI don’t go to the graveyard to feel the spirits of my loved ones. I dance. Through sustained dance I can forget my self. And if I dance long enough I sometimes come up against the veil between worlds. Sometimes I dance myself scared.

I like to turn up the music and dance in the living room by myself. Not long after my brothers, Jim and Dan, died, I did this until I felt transparent and Jim and Dan’s presence loomed so large in the room that it startled me. I had to sleep with the light on that night.

Yesterday when I danced in my living room I thought about my father. Four months before he died, he was breaking a sweat, dancing the jitterbug at one of his grandchildren’s wedding. When he danced with my mom, he snapped his fingers, and his lips would purse like he was huffing and puffing, but he was really just whistling along. It was obvious watching him that he had all the hippest 1940’s moves.

The baby of eleven, my dad outlived all his siblings and most of his peers. He and my mother were the last of the jitterbuggers at family weddings. She, who has outlived him, all his siblings, and her two younger brothers, has lost her dance partner of 60 years.

As I’m dancing, I’m wondering, how long before my dance steps look antiquated? Will they translate to the next generations? Will my kids play a song for me and Joe to dance to at their children’s weddings? Will they stand around and watch the show?

I’m thinking about Jim dancing at the Surf Ballroom in his mohair sweater and the pressed pants he paid me a quarter to iron, and Danny who swayed to music with his eyes closed and a soulful look on his face. Thinking about my brother Joey dancing makes me smile. He needs such a big space to strut around. And like me, my three sisters all love to dance. When we get together, we get up on the first song and don’t sit down until the last. But I wonder how long our dancing tradition will survive? And who will be the last dancer?

“It’s wanting more that’s going to send me to my knees.” Gravity by John Meyer, the song I was dancing to when this post came to mind.

January 15, 2008

The Invasion

A milky way of dust
makes morning constellations
on a nebula of light
beaming through my bedroom window

Like thousands of parachutes
abandoning ship
they spin down in torrential orbits
landing on dressers
the bookcase and chair
setting up colonies
to plague me

~ Colleen Redman

January 14, 2008

Low Light Looms Long

1. Alignment
2. Angle
3. Cross reference
4. Behind bars
5. Checkered past
6. Split personality

These days, I’ve been drawn to the late afternoon shadows looming long in the low winter sun. The above photos were taken within an hour of each other late Sunday afternoon. # 2 was the first one I shot, taken at the Floyd library, where I was covering a story on a knitters meeting for the Floyd Press. I then met Joe for an early supper at El Charro’s restaurant. He took photo #4 after telling me that I looked like a zebra. It was at that point that I saw a theme developing. # 3 and 6 were taken on the back porch of El Charros as we were leaving. On our way to the car, we walked through the historic Old Jacksonville Cemetery, reading the old gravestones. From there I saw the grille on the back of the old Mama Lizardo’s building and noticed that if I peered into it I could see through to the front of the building where a truck was parked. The first photo was the last one I took, which I spotted on my way driving home.

January 12, 2008

The Dating Game

1. After my first marriage broke up, I rented a big house on Route 8 in Floyd and took in a few roommates. During this time, a very nice guy came knocking at the door one day to see me. But the attention made me feel awkward.

Guy: Do you want to go out to eat Friday night?
Me: Why? I don’t know if I’ll be hungry then.

2. A phone conversation with my Scrabble Poet friend Mara
sometime in 2007 went like this:

Mara: I have a date.
Colleen: Not like a fig but like a real date, a boy/girl date?
But wait a minute (knowing her last partner was a woman and the one before that was a man). Is it a boy or a girl?
Mara: Well … that depends.
Colleen: Oh no. This could be very complicated.

A blind date that didn’t work out HERE. A date that did and is ongoing is HERE

Post note: “Date” was a Sunday Scribblings prompt. Read other Sunday Scribblings posts using “date” as a prompt HERE.

January 11, 2008

My Famous Foot

foot.jpg AKA: Ahh…A Day at the Spa

The Following appeared in the regional newspaper insert “All About Her” in October. Although I sent the editor more than six photos to go with the piece, she chose only this one, assuring that my foot would be viewed by readers from all over South West Virginia.

Most young girls who play with dolls confine their hairdressing games to brushing and styling. Some are brave enough to give a haircut. As the daughter of a hairdresser, Elaine Braley (pictured in the photo) showed signs at an early age that she would follow in the family business. While other girls her age were perfecting the use of barrettes and making ponytails, she was dying her Barbie doll’s hair.

Eight years ago, Elaine made her interest in beauty and personal care official when she became a licensed cosmetologist, after graduating from the Virginia Hair Academy. In the spring of 2005, she opened “The Salon and Day Spa,” Floyd County’s first full service spa. Located at the Cross Creek Complex in a bright, plant filled suite, the spa offers manicures, pedicures, foot reflexology, body waxing, massage, and facials. Hairdressing services are also available and are provided by Elaine’s mother, Ellen Ambrose, whose business card reads, “Master Stylist.”

I tried hard to stay out of the garden in the days leading up to my scheduled manicure, but it was harvest time and there were potatoes to dig. “I guess I’m not they type who cleans the house before the maid comes,” I told Elaine, explaining the rough condition of my fingernails. She assured me that she had seen nails dirtier than mine and, as a gardener herself, she understood.

Although I’m hard on my fingernails, they are strong and grow easily. Some people have nails that peel and split, Elaine explained. For that problem she recommends taking Vitamin B, ingesting gelatin, which can be purchased at the supermarket, and following a regiment that includes the regular use of a nail hardener.

“Genes and diet determine whether you have good nails or not,” she said while rubbing exfoliating crystals into my hands and forearms. “If you’re having a problem it will show up first in your nails and hair.”

She hydrated my cuticles with almond oil. “Olive oil will do the same thing,” she said while applying a base coat to my nails, followed by two coats of polish and a top coat, which acts a sealant. The color I chose for my newly filed, buffed, and soaked in warm lotion nails was a neutral one with a shimmer of pink, called “Privacy Please.”

Nails are a big part of the spa business, especially at prom time and during the wedding season. Elaine applies artificial nails made of acrylic, but most often recommends gel nails because they are hypo-allergenic, odorless, and non-porous.

“How do you decide on what products you use?” I asked.

“Personal experience,” she answered. Her favorite products are from the Creative brand. She continues her cosmetology education and keeps up with the latest trends through study and by attending regular seminars.

“It keeps you excited,” she said.

We moved to a small alcove in the front of the salon where pedicures are done. There, I became convinced of the importance of using a pumice stone on my heels, which are prone to dry and crack. Following Elaine’s direction, I briefly soaked my feet water to which eucalyptus oil was added for its germicidal and anti-bacterial properties. She sat on a pedicure cart that looked like a hassock on wheels with pockets on either side to hold products. She clipped, shaved, buffed, and polished with the deftness of a skilled technician, but when she talked about the products she uses and why, she made the beauty business sound like a science.

My favorite part of the pedicure was when she rubbed an exfoliating cream made from lavender and sea salt on my feet and ankles. I learned that my heels will be less likely to harden, peel, and crack if I regularly remove a layer of dead skin with an exfoliant and a pumice stone. Although she isn’t a certified foot reflexologist, like the masseuse who works out of the spa, Elaine has studied it and uses reflexology massage techniques while doing pedicures.

“Oh! This is my new favorite part,” I said as she massaged reflexology points on my feet. Some people fall asleep during pedicures. Others are ticklish during a pedicure, she told me.

I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. I could have drifted off but found myself instead following the hubbub of spa activities; several women getting haircuts came and went, a few friends dropped by to say hello, a woman and her daughter came in to inquire about getting matching dyed purple streaks in their hair.

“We’re having a mother and daughter day,” she told Elaine, who explained the difference between permanent dye and a stain that washes out but can be reapplied when desired. Decided on the stain, but still deliberating on whether to go with purple or fuchsia, they agreed to come back in 20 minutes.

After Elaine had put the final touches on my toenails with a polish named St. Petersburg Burgundy, I was admiring the color and marveling at how soft my heels felt when the woman and her daughter returned.

They took their places in the salon swivel chairs that faced a row of mirrors. Elaine, Ellen, and Paige (Elaine’s apprentice) gathered around them enthusiastically making plans for the matching streaks, as I got ready to leave. I didn't stay long enough to find out whether the streaks would be purple or fuchsia, but I imagined I would run into them later in town and give a knowing nod.

“By the way, my feet haven’t felt this good since I was a baby!” I shouted out as I left.

~ Colleen Redman

January 9, 2008

13's a Charm

12%20charm.jpg 1. I just recently figured out – while dressing in front of the woodstove on a frigid morning – why the character in “Twas the Night before Christmas” slept with a cap on. He was cold.

2. I’m so glad I live in a place where you still see smoke coming out of chimneys.

3. Worlds most bizarre statues via lifecrusier Here.

4. World’s most unlikely friendship HERE. (Both this and #3 are really worth looking at.)

5. Do you ever get the feeling on a slow day that everyone has given up blogging as a new year’s resolution?

6. I just love this, by Ani Difranco: "So I walk like I'm on a mission, 'cuz that's the way I groove. I've got more and more to do, I've got less and less to prove. It took me too long to realize that I don't take good pictures 'cuz I have the kind of beauty that moves..." Read about Ani at Floyd Fest HERE.

7. Watching the presidential primary coverage recently I realized that there’s a part of me that doesn’t trust anyone running for President. Why would anyone want that much power and stress?

8. Watching the PBS show “Pioneers in Televison,” I noticed that the men being interviewed – Dick Van Dyke and Andy Griffin – looked much better than the woman being interviewed – Mary Tyler Moore and Marlo Thomas – because the men hadn’t had plastic surgery.

9. I have the kind of husband who doesn’t notice for weeks if I hang a new picture or change the curtains. But he notices what counts right away, like when I get a new bra.

10. Someone on the Diane Rehm show yesterday referred to Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton as poetry vs. prose.

11. I’m starting a favorite word list. So far I have: Baffled, lollygag, discombobulated, pesto, and muffin. What’s yours?

12. Wearing my new beet red shiny silk pajamas that my husband gave me for Christmas, I say, “I feel like present.” He answers, “And your smile is the bow."

13. The days are shorter and we sleep more in winter. So how does anything get done?

Thursday headquarters is here. My other 13's are here. View more 13 Thursday’s here.

Billy Collins Said This

When Asked HERE: What are some of the difficulties of having a seemingly accessible and clear style? Is that something you have to work on—revising the poem to its most lucid state?

Billy Collins: Well, I think it’s more difficult to be clear than to be obscure. If you write with a certain, respectful level of clarity (I mean in sentences!), the reader sees what’s going on and can buy in or check out. If you write incomprehensibly, no one knows what’s going on and why should anyone care? Being difficult can be high fun as with Ashbery, but there is only one Ashbery. The rest of them (he said broadly) use language as camouflage. I’m not saying my ten-year-old daughter could write like a “language poet,” but that’s only because I don’t have a ten-year-old daughter.

Post note: Do you understand most poetry? Do you have a favorite writer's quote to share?

January 8, 2008

Last Words

skyshelf.jpg I was putting on mascara in the bathroom mirror when Joe called out from the kitchen to ask me where something was. “Ah nunno,” I mumbled back to him, trying not to break my concentration.

The act of mumbling caused me to immediately remember my brother Danny’s last words, three hours before he died. With his consent, the nurse on duty had taken off his life support. “Ihm awright,” he was barely able to say.

But he wasn’t alright. He was dying. How could he say he alright?

He tried to say something else, but it came out in an undecipherable garble. It didn’t seem to matter too much at the time. He had told us he was alright. We were beyond needing language.

But now I find myself wondering. What else was he trying to say? Did we miss something? What did he want to tell us that he couldn’t?

It’s been six years since Dan died and I think I’m wondering what he was trying to say because Im craving to hear what he thinks and to hear his voice again. With Dan, the past is all I have to puzzle together because there is no present day conversation and no future to plan or imagine.

Post note:
Read an excerpt titled The White Feather from The Jim and Dan Stories about losing Dan HERE. Other samples from the book are HERE.

January 7, 2008

When Good Writing Breaks the Time Travel Barrier

fence.jpg DID YOU HEAR THAT SOUND? I JUST FELL OFF MY CHAIR!!! That’s what I said to my friend, Patry, after reading an email she sent to me with a subject line that announced: Strangest Coincidence Ever.

I had stumbled upon Patry’s blog nearly three years before, intrigued by that fact that she was a waitress who wrote poetry. Later, we began to correspond via blog comments, and I learned that she grew up in the same Massachusetts town my grandmother was from, that we both had family members who worked in the Brockton shoe factories, and that she lived on Cape Cod, very near to where I grew up.

But it turned out that our link was even closer than that.

The whole time we were clicking on each other’s blogs and reading about our mutual adventures, we couldn’t have guessed what Patry’s email revealed. She had discovered that her first cousin’s daughter had lived in Floyd for many years and that she was married to my first husband after he and I divorced! Patry hadn’t known when she read about my son Dylan’s marriage in summer of 2006, or when she read about Josh building a wood fired kiln that my sons, Dylan and Josh, are the older brothers of her second cousin’s son.

She jokingly called me “cuz” after that.

After the release of her debut novel, Liar’s Diary, and the book tour that followed, Patry’s blog posts became infrequent. In August she mentioned working on a new novel, so I assumed that she was busy with that. In September her posts stopped altogether. It wasn’t until late November, after a three month silence, that a new entry appeared. THIS TIME I SUNK IN MY CHAIR.

Reading that Patry had cancer, felt like I was reading a scene from one of her novels. It should have been a character she created that had cancer, but it was her. It was real.

The day after Christmas, writing from the hospital, she described the scene from her window as “a kind of moving picture--one I could see, but could not enter. I looked on it--and on my own recent active, happy life--with nostalgia and awe.”

A good painting has the ability to pull me in, to create a route for me to enter into it. Writing can to the same thing. If it’s good, I’m able to transport myself, to see the written scene and feel as if I’m there.

It probably helped that the Boston skyline is etched in my own memory and that I know what the Charles River looks like. But mostly it was Patry’s writing that transported me back to Boston. I could see the people she described on the street below her hospital window trudging with Christmas packages in snow, coming in out of the Starbucks for the love of hot coffee. I even walked the hospital corridors and imagined myself with a tin of Christmas cookies on my way to visit Patry. I had already been introduced to her roommate through Patry's writing and felt like I knew her. I might as well say hello, I thought.

She ended her post about the view from her hospital window like this: Outside, the snow continued to fall, and people continued to travel through the moving picture in the street, eager to get where they were going. My friend and I, temporarily stopped by pain and indignity and tedium, were them. And they, whether they knew it or not, were us.

And that’s what writing at its best does. It connects us to each other. I can see Patry’s world through the window she creates with her words. And as I read, her words move me, dissolving the separation of time and space between us, at least for a few seconds.

Please feel free to visit Patry’s blog, say hello, and wish her well. The last I heard her prognosis was good.

January 5, 2008

My Kind of Designer Bag

Name Spell by Colleen Redman

When it’s spring my name is Colleen Redrobin
In the Fall it’s Redelicious
On the road it’s Redroof Inn
On an vacation island it’s Redpassionflowerwoman
When I’m in love I’m Redmana
When I meditate I’m Redmantra
When I haven’t written in a long time I’m Redmanymoons
When it’s Christmas I’m Rednosereindeer
When I’m feeling prosperous I’m Redmany or Redcarpet treatment
When I’m healing I’m Redmend
When I’m mad I’m C. Red
When I’m bleeding I’m SacRed
Sometimes just for fun I’m Redmandala
Redmania, Redmama or Redmoon
My mailmana is very confused

~ Signed Redmanymorewherethatcamefrom

Post notes: The above is reprinted from a June 2005 post HERE and is estimated to have been written sometime around 1990. I’m reposting it today after being inspiRED by a late Christmas present that arrived in the mail yesterday. Remember the line in the movie Jerry Mcquire when Renee Zellweger's character says to Tom Cruise’s character, “you had me at hello?” When I opened the package I wanted to say to my sister Tricia who sent it, “You had me at the paper bag.” The bag would have been enough, but there was a present inside it, a translucence red heart with spirals that says InspiRED. The purchase went to helping fight AIDS in Africa.

January 4, 2008

Friday’s Byways

1. First Curve in the Road in the New Year
2. Some things aren’t easily explained (Better days are HERE).
3. Reading the Classics
4. Missing You

Post note: I'll take any questions about the nature of these photos off the air (which means in the comment section).

January 3, 2008

13 Thursday: 2008 Rhymes With Great

132008x.jpg1. We hadn’t recovered from our rowdy community Thanksgiving game of Celebrity, in which I spelled Carl Yastrzemski’s name wrong and didn’t know who Doris Lessing, was, so for Christmas we played Taboo. How Carl Yastrzemski fits into my life is HERE.

2. Why does food always taste better when eaten over the stove directly out of the pan?

3. I got invited to a New Years Eve party in part because the host knew I could be counted on to get some dancing started.

4. "Is it casual or glitter?" I asked him.

5. Ingredients for a good story, or things that make my job as storyteller easier: 1. have a webpage or a brochure where I can get some background. 2. Invite me to immerse myself in a related activity. 3. Give me a few fresh quotes. ... Mix well and pour.

6. How a poem is like cake: Don’t use a mix or stale ingredients … Don’t look in the oven too much when it’s cooking … or eat too much at one sitting … Don’t over-sweeten or over-stir … A baker and a poet are both concerned with flavor … It’s all about consistency and knowing when it’s done.

7. Norman Mailer who died this year said, “When you write a book you try to create a spell. You either succeed or you don’t.”

8. Bevery Sills, who also died this year, said, “When I look back over my life I would rather say ‘I shouldn’t have done that’ than ‘I should have done that.”’

9. The closest chance there is that I could vote Republican HERE.

10. I didn’t end up going to the party. I spend the better part of New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day avoiding starting a story I had signed up to write. By the afternoon of New Year’s Day, I finally got started. It’s about a thirteen year old homeschooled girl who composes her own electronica music and has produced two CDs. Coming soon ...

11. Dressing in front of the woodstove, which I had to do this morning because it was so cold, is like taking a shower where you have to keep turning to get the warm heat on you, section by section. I’d much rather take a bath, like I’d rather it was summer.

12. My crazy window smashing cardinal came back, waking me up too early with its futile attempts scaring away its own reflection. Right now I have a 20 inch plastic owl in one window and a 20 inch Folk Art Santa in the other. So far it’s working.

13. “A new year is like a birthday. It takes me awhile to get used to the number and to embrace it.” I said that.

Thursday headquarters is here. My other 13's are here. View more 13 Thursday’s here. This is my 114th TT.

January 2, 2008

Overheard at Juniper’s House on Game Night

Michael, Kyla's Grandfather (not pictured) says: My hippie friends think I’m a redneck. My redneck friends think I’m a hippie. My straight friends think I’m gay and my gay friends think I’m straight. But I finally have some nice curtains up.

Kyla says: I want to play Scrabble too. I’ve been learning words from the back of shampoo bottles.

Colleen: Haven’t you ever heard of cereal? We learned words from reading the back of cereal boxes when we were kids.

Kyla says a few names I can’t remember or pronounce from the back of shampoo bottles.

Colleen: Those words aren’t going to help much or come up in anyone’s conversation. They’re chemicals and additives. Shampoo is full of them.

Colleen adds: Oh, I guess most cereals are these days too.

January 1, 2008

The Rear View Review

widowdarrma.jpg A glance at 2007 in review can be done by taking the first line (or two) from the first blog post of every month in the year. Read the whole post by clicking on the link embedded in the months, or read the lines together like stanzas in a found poem.

It seems I go out these days just for an excuse to show off my new purple knit scarf, or to eat cookies.

Do you know any of THESE bloggers?

Sometimes the waxing moon looks like a high heeled glass slipper with a missing heel, as it did this past weekend when I peered out of my window at midnight and wondered if Cinderella made it home in time.

The menu consisted of basmati rice, steamed greens, and venison sautéed with onions. The conversation mostly revolved around garden plans.

The night stars the moon.

Building community, brick by brick: At our April ceremony honoring elder women in our community, one of the women was addressing the crowd of about seventy about the importance of community. At one point, she looked directly at me and said, “I have one of Josh’s bricks. I use it as a doorstop!”

Turns out my dad had the best room in the house. In the past when I visited him and my mom I slept in the small third floor attic bedroom that could double for a sauna on hot summer nights. Now that he’s gone, my mother has set me up in his room on the second floor. Not only is it cool and breezy because of the windows cross ventilation, but I recently discovered that I can pick up free wireless from the bed.

Floyd Fest, our town’s yearly world music festival, is a people watchers paradise. My favorite part of the weekend festival - just six miles from my driveway on The Blue Ridge Parkway - is the cross section of people who attend it. Once on the sprawling grounds of open fields and wooded pathways, roles and differences tend to fall away, as people of all walks of life and ages speak the same language of “fun.”

My husband went to a Red Sox baseball game and all I got was this T-shirt.

While in Virginia Beach, we visited the A.R.E. complex (Association of Research and Enlightenment), founded to carry on the work of Edgar Cayce. We picked up wireless in their library and had lunch in the meditation garden by a pond. The pink water lilies were in bloom and large gold fish swam between them.

When something exciting happens and Joe hears me say, “Now that’s something to write home about!” he knows it means I’m going to blog about it.

My hand is walking across the page. It gets more exercise than my legs these days. But I fantasize about long walks through deserts where my life depends on my ability to do it.

Post notes: I most recently saw this done HERE. Let me know if you try this on your blog so I can come over to read.