Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Kid Poems So Far This Summer

The one in the middle says:

To Mrs. Janes

Have fun on swings
You are nice
You are smart
You are beautiful
You are the sweetest
teach ever.

(It was written by a kid who'd known me for maybe a half-hour. I'd love to be as generous as she is.)

20 Things I LOVELOVELOVED about June 2010

(In no particular order.)

1. You- thanks for reading me!
2. Running out of a Cape May downpour into a tchotchke shop that mainly sold glass flowers.
3. Visiting the City Paper office. (More about that later.)
4. Walking in the Wissahickon for a looong time with my friend Moseph who bought me the ideal ice cream cone.
5. Started a new chapbook (in my mind) and a couple of new paintings.
6. (Another downpour!) Sitting in the car in Newark, DE before my feature, belting out Monsters of Folk songs.
7. Said feature, which was filed with love, art and “Well written!” poets.
8. The awesome Star Lux hotel in Wildwood, which looks like someplace Don Draper would bring the secretaries.
9. The supreme weirdness of the Wildwood boardwalk.
10. The goings on at my home venue: New Poems/New Friends night! Nick Fox and Wil Gibson! Very refreshing!
11. Planning a DANCE PARTY with my friend Rosanna!
12. My gorgeous, wonderful classes at Big Blue Marble, and Maleka who likes to try and make my dreams come true.
13. Amy’s bonus came and CDs were purchased.
14. Found a 90% off sale at an Office Depot and stocked up on like a MILLION envelopes for submitting.
15. OMG the New Pornographers show!
16. My cousins’ luau graduation party. Good luck! Caroline, enjoy the Traveling Towel!
17. Courtney Bambrick’s reading at East Falls Library.
18. My wonderfully free city pool. I love it so much I might actually get in shape.
19. Kieran’s fifth (!) birthday party. I love the late-night chat with my sister and brother-in-law, waking up with Quinn in my face, sitting with Shae and notebooks.
20. Teaching poetry to middle schoolers (with MJ Harris) while my three favorite new releases (guess!) played over the loudspeakers.

What’s your list?

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Last Summer's Work Crush

I’ve been thinking and dreaming about Mr. Nick lately, thinking I see his smiley bald self everywhere. I guess that’s because it’s summer camp season. My soul wanted to be his friend immediately. Not only was he cute, tall, and chocolaty, he was positive and enthusiastic about education, at least at the beginning of the summer.

I was Program Facilitator, which means the lead teacher for a lot of the kids at Emlen Summer Camp. Nick was one of eight camp counselors, one of the few who weren’t openly hostile towards me. Seriously: They threw fits because I thought I deserved a desk in the office. They reported me to management for being out. One guy would tell the kids “Ms. Jane’s here this morning, get ready to be real bored.”(Fuck you, Mr. Dwayne, wherever you are.)

Mr. Nick, on the other hand, sat at the corner of the gym with me with Dixie cups and potting soil helping the kids plant their seeds for the science lesson. He chimed in on my rousing speeches about how we were there to fight the achievement gap. He protectively backed the kids off me when they crowded around for prizes. (Oh I miss working with kids so much.)

Mr. Nick was one of the few adults in the camp who actually looked me in the face. And he said the magic words: “I really like your teaching style.” I think I fall for people who say that because I really want to love my teacher self. I want to believe in it. I hope I’ll get there some day.

I lost touch with Mr. Nick but one of the last emails he sent said this: “Keep believing in yourself so that our future won't end up in chaos...for what it's worth I BELIEVE IN YOU ...HUG!”

Thanks, dude. <3

Monday, June 28, 2010

Is it Working?

A friend of mine asked me if my Happiness Project is working.

First of all, isn’t it crazy that anyone would have to RESOLVE to do the things that make her happy? Weird.

But yes, it is working. Even tough I’m still depressed and a bit underemployed; I do feel better and bounce back quicker. Having lists keeps a blue day from becoming a blue week. The bottom doesn’t seem quite as low.

Since my depression grew out of a sense of helplessness, it makes sense that I’d be happier feeling a little bit of control over my moods and brain chemistry. “Walk in the Morning” has been almost foolproof, as long as I actually do it. (I found a city pool I like, so soon the resolution will soon be accompanied by “Swim almost every day.” I feel giddy just typing that!)

Of all the resolutions, “Show love” is the most rewarding and easiest to follow. It’s pretty easy to write one more thank-you card, make one more housewarming gift, say one more nice thing. (Does the Resolutionyness make the love seem less sincere? I hope not.)

I think it saved an entire Saturday, actually. We woke up spatty, and instead of bickering, I got in the car, drove to the (helpfully air-conditioned) Acme and got the week’s groceries, loading up on Amy’s favorites that she never seems to want to buy for herself. It turned a potential 3-hour fight into a fifteen-minute one. The rest of the weekend was lazy fun.

Having spent the last couple of years in a work environment where enthusiasm was viewed as arrogance, it feels good to sometimes be unabashedly delighted about things. I have to practice more, though because sometimes when the delight really unclasps, I do feel a little guilty or obnoxious.

As the true-to-myself excitement starts to unleash itself, I feel a little nervous being around people who are less-than-enthusiastic. (Unless they’re in my classes, then I can have fun helping them.) As much as I understand and identify with blocked-ness, I know that influence is real; I know how much I took away from myself by being around negative people. It’s hard to know where to draw the line.

Grrrl Scout Badges

A friend who maybe likes lists even more than I do suggested this. I really do plan to embroider them some day.

I guess then I would get a "Re-Learn How to Embroider" badge as well!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Poetic License Horoscopes: Concerts I've Been to Edition

Poetic License Horoscopes: Concerts I've Been to Edition

Cancer: New Order, Oakenfold, Moby, The Orb (Area 51 Festival, San Bernadino, CA) We'd just worn ourselves out dancing to Oakenfold and were buying some lemonade when we heard the first note of Moby's “Porcelain.” We joined hands and ran up the hill toward the big stage under a full sky of stars. It was the must fun I ever had while running.

Leo: The New Pornographers (The Trocadero, Philadelphia, PA) I haven't been to a concert in like, 4 or 5 years because I had this weird idea that I was too old for rock shows. As the gorgeous lights went up and the harmonies hummed me up some new chakras, I kicked myself for every show I'd ever left myself out of. What have you left yourself out of?

Virgo: Aerosmith, Skid Row (The War Memorial, Syracuse, NY) I went to my first concert with my mom. For all that I go on about my cheesy first concert, seeing Steven Tyler sing Dream On was a very moving experience for my 15-year-old self. “Sing with me, but just for today, maybe tomorrow, the good lord'll take it away....” Maybe that's why I became an existentialist! Also, my mom said this: “Why do they have to swear so much?”

Libra: A Tribe Called Quest, Wyclef Jean (Cornell University) Remember how much fun it was to shake our asses to to “I left my wallet in El Segundo”? How many things have we left like that, then had to tell elaborate stories about retracing our steps?

Scorpio: Soundgarden, Ministry, Pearl Jam, etc. (Lollapalooza 2, Saratoga, NY) Dye your hair pink, watch it run down your back in the heavy rain, get drunk on a stranger's flask of sloe gin. Do inadvisable things in the bushes. Watch out for poison ivy.

Sagittarius: Ben Folds (Syracuse University) It was the day after my Uncle Tony died, but he was a music guy, so why not use the tickets? We got separated from our friends, so we watched from a distance as they danced in the collective effervescence. There are few things that can't be soothed by cathartic piano.

Capricorn: Morrissey (Central Park) There was a guy in front of me who had Morrissey's face tattooed on his arm. (Whose face would you tattoo on yours?) I didn't want to throw gladiolas on the stage like everyone else, so I threw pink roses. They got kicked off the stage anyway!

Aquarius: Rilo Kiley, Tilly and the Wall (Hamilton College) 1. If your car isn't that good, wear thick socks in the dead of winter! 2. Hipsters are weird. One minute they're watching 80s TV shows ironically and the next moment they're crying along to an Elliott Smith death ballad; they're raising their hands up and clapping, singing “It's sixteen miles/ to the promised land/and I promise you/I'm doing the best I can.”

Pisces: Flaming Lips, Ween, The Magic Numbers (New York State Fairgrounds) Carnival rides were the perfect backdrop. Wayne Coyne advised us to turn to our friends right then and tell them how much we love them. “Though they were sad,they rescued everyone. They lifted up the sun. A spoonful weighs a ton.”

Aries: Paul Simon (Born at The Right Time Tour) This was the time our family was picture perfect. We even stopped for a picnic by the river one the way there. That day was a perfect rest stop on the way to falling apart. 1. It eventually came back together. 2. It makes the nostalgia sweeter.

Taurus: Tori Amos (Syracuse, NY) 1. She can play two pianos at once! 2. My friend Randy waited backstage and gave her a necklace he made and an antique china teacup. Buy some lovely presents for someone of whom you are a huge fan.

Gemini: Ben Folds Five, Ween, Beck, Neal Young, and... (HOARDE Fest, Saratoga, NY) My brother and I used to go to a lot of concerts together. As we were driving to this one, we were listening to Soul Coughing and I said “Wouldn't it be awesome if Soul Coughing was there?” AND THEY WERE! Maybe a little more wishing aloud this week, Gemini.

Good Works for the Earth?

It seems pretty bonkers to be writing a happiness blog when apocalyptic amounts of oil are spilling into the ocean. The best thing I can come up with to do about it is make a list of good things to do for the earth. Please comment with your suggestions!

So far I've got:
1. Stop driving to church and other places I can walk to.
2. Drive slower on the highway. (This is hard for me because I like to drive fast and listen to songs.)
3. Throw some benefits for The Audubon Society or any other organizations doing cleanup.
4. Hang the clothes on the line.
5. Donate to:
What else?

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Love Letter to a Rock Show

“Two sips from the cup of human kindness and I'm shitfaced. Just laid to waste.” The New Pornographers

Have you ever not done something you really, really love for like four or five years? I can't believe it's been that long since I went to a concert. In my early thirties, I got this ludicrous idea (that's the word Amy keeps using, and she's totally right.) that I'm an old married lady who won't fit in at rock shows. Which really doesn't make sense because a lot of the bands I love could be genre-ed as Music for 35- Year-Olds (Also! Pleasant Rock) Amy says I should resolve to do more of the things I would've done at 25. She's right but I also think maybe she wouldn't have liked me at 25.


Dear The New Pornographers at the Trocadero, June 21, 2010,

I love you so much. I love claiming my spot in the middle of the crowd. I love your combination of lights, the thrill of recognition when the first notes hit, the whoop that goes up in the crowd. I love the early adopters of hand-clapping. I love doing the Awkward Indie Rock Dance and trying not to elbow the people around me. I love pretending that “My Shepherd” is really about Lost. I love Neko Case's messy red hair and microphone-fussing, Kathryn's pretty blouse. I love their faces when they sing and when they listen to each other. I love the way the harmonies hit my body's reset button, so I almost wake up with new cells. I love almost keeling over and I love the taste of four dollar Vitamin Water on my tongue. I love that Amy loves me enough to stand in line for water while I save our spot. I love an epiphany every other song. I love banter. I love how my feet hurt at the end. I love the swell of the crowd's voices during the “hey la-s” I love holding onto the strap of Amy's shoulder bag so I don't lose her on the way out. I love when a car passes us near the fountain with Together floating out of its speakers.

Thanks for the reunion with myself, rock show! Next month's #1 resolution will be Music, Music, Music, Music, Music!


Monday, June 21, 2010

Show Love

Yay Resolution #5

Since today is my seventh wedding anniversary (!), let's yammer about the "Show love" resolution.

This morning I made Amy a list of 100 things I'm grateful for about her. It included things like "You hate people who are mean to me." and " You always get up to turn out the light." and "You text me about herons." Awwww. It wasn't hard to think of 100 things at all. I just hope she's still the only person who can read my scraggly handwriting. (#101!)

This is the person I QUIT SMOKING with, and we still made it 7 years!

I made the "Show love " resolution because love is so mixed up with creativity for me that I feel artistically frustrated if I am not lavishing everyone with as much affection as possible/appropriate.

When we were first married, it felt kind of isolating because I felt like I couldn't love my friends the way that I had during my (long!) single life. I'm still working out how to love as much as I want to without everything falling apart. It helps that Amy is so loyal and creative and accepts me for the actual way that I am.

Here's a Hafiz poem that captures it:

With That Moon Language

Admit something:

Everyone you see, you say to them, "Love me."

Of course you do not do this out loud, otherwise
someone would call the cops.

Still though, think about this, this great pull in us to connect.

Why not become the one who lives with a
full moon in each eye that is
always saying,

with that sweet moon language,
What every other eye in
this world is
dying to


So yeah. Working on the full-moon eyes.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Wecome to The Serotonin Factory

Welcome! This blog is a place to share and collect ways to actively create more happiness and positivity for ourselves and others.

The fact is, people who happy are have more to give. I believe in generosity and service, but those things can be so draining and even unhelpful if we don't take care of ourselves.

After a particularly nasty bout with the blues last week, I decided that I was either going to have to go on anti-depressants or learn how to make myself happy. I started reading The Happiness Project by Gretchen Reuben and immediately started putting her advice into practice. Each month for a year, Rubin makes resolutions that will genuinely create more happiness in her life. I love making to- do lists, so I made my resolutions immediately:

1. Wake up before 7 on weekdays.

2. Don't get online until I've done everything else I want to do that day.

3. Walk in the morning.

4. Spend almost all of my free time writing, reading, or making art.

5. Express love.

Making that list made me realize how much I love making lists and following them.

I'm very happy to have a place to put my kind of freakish obsession with positivity. :)