Friday, July 30, 2010

For the Love Poem Collection

Twenty Four Things I LOVE LOVE LOVED about July 2010

1-10. All the music stuff that happened.
11. Amy is back in the habit of being Turtle Ink Press again. I get so happy when she has creative stuff going on. Plus the books are amazing.
12.Finding out that one of my favorite friends if moving to Philly this Fall.
13. Trips to the beach, even when the traffic’s bad. (Must. Make friends. With. First. And second. Gear.)
14.Finishing a new painting.
15. Starting a new book.
16. Writing lots of letters.
17. Sitting in air-conditioned places reading stacks of poetry.
18. How reliable the creative process is—I love watching my students produce beautiful poem after brilliant poem, after astonishing poem…
19. Nothing creates more endorphins than swimming. Except maybe dancing.
20. The feeling I get when one of my students buys a book at Big Blue Marble Bookstore—I’m such a salesgirl at heart.
21. Having to up my phone’s text limit—things have been nicely chatty lately.
22. My horoscopes on the City Paper’s blog—I still can’t believe it!
23. Such a great show with Urbana and Loser Slam at Freedom Theatre. Being in that show made me feel like I have swagger. And like I have a lot to write about.
24. You

This Week's Horoscope/I Heart Turtle Ink Press

Writing Games Horoscope

(Note: This week’s horoscope will appear in The Fuze Anthology: The Phenomena of Temporary, which contains many local and national poetry favorites and benefits the upcoming Fuze season. Come out and celebrate with us at The Fuze tonight, July 30, at 7:30 pm, InFusion Coffee and Tea, 7133 Germantown Ave. For more info contact

Leo (July 24-Aug. 23): Listen to the Redwalls song “Thank You” and any other gratitude-themed songs you can think of. (Send me your list!) While you’re listening, draw a picture of someone you’re really, really grateful to. Make a detailed list of why, and give it to the person ASAP.

Virgo (Aug. 24-Sept. 23): Take out a copy of Blake’s “Songs of Innocence and Experience” Look up “The Tyger” and read it aloud. Draw a picture of your favorite animal. Paste it to a piece of construction paper. Beneath that, write all the things your animal could say, if it could speak.

Libra(Sept. 24-Oct. 21): Find yourself a shaman, or hope that one finds you. He or she will instruct you on how to visit the underworld and will probably drum while doing so. Find your power animal. Ask him or her what to write about.

Scorpio (Oct. 22-Nov. 22): (Props to Lynda Barry on this one!) Draw a diagram of the exact moment your heart was broken. Put yourself at the center of the page, draw/list what is above your, below you, etc. Sleep with this diagram under your pillow. Your dreams will digest it into a poem.

Sagittarius (Nov. 23-Dec. 22): Write down everything you overhear in the next 24 hours, paying special attention to the children on the bus. Their questions are your new gurus. Write religious texts on their behalf. Now print up tracts and stand on street corners circulating them.

Capricorn (Dec. 23-Jan. 20): Learn the names of 20 new butterflies. Write them little plays. Is the Blue Morpho hooked on the nectar again? What’s her relationship to the Tiger Mimic-Queen? Do they go out with Malachite for rotting fruit? What’s going on with Mexican Sister? (I could do this all day…)

Aquarius (Jan. 21-Feb. 19): Those love letters you keep getting? Print them out and cut them up lovingly, preferably with patterned craft shears. Rearrange them like refrigerator poetry. Glue up sheets of them so that passersby will feel adored but also confused. As always, bonus points for glitter.

Pisces (Feb. 20-March 20): Find an Office Max or similar store that’s going out of business. Buy up all the red pens at a steep discount. Use these to begin listing your gentlest memories, in order of their similarity to rose petals. Make these into origami roses to hand out to everyone you’d like to meet.

Aries: (March 21-April 18): Get a small notebook like comedians carry. Start collecting jokes, one-liners, funny status-updates, etc. After you’ve been collecting them for awhile, print them out on little slips. Sneak them into fortune cookies when nobody’s looking. Invite your true love out for Chinese food.

Taurus (April 19-May 18): Begin by making a list of all the friends you regret losing. Now make each one a mix tape whose songs explicitly express that regret. Mail out the mixes if you can stand to, wrapped in collages from back issues of Real Simple magazine. Translate your ex-friends’ responses into new poems.

Gemini (May 19-June 21): Set your timer for ten minutes. Make a list of all your lost loves. Doesn’t have to just be people. What about lost jobs, CDs, hats you lost in the mosh pits of your wayward youth. Go into detail about every facet and sting. You’ll feel better.

Cancer (June 22-July 23): What’s that thing that’s been pissing you off? Google “pantoum” and write about that pesky obsession- the rhythmic repetition gives you the go ahead to ruminate ruminate, ruminate! What a relief!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Of Hormones and Happiness

I’m writing this from the beautiful community garden at Greene and Penn Streets, watching a goldfinch pick seeds out of sunflowers, watching for new butterflies to learn. Bees are going berserk here, it’s heartening.

Something surprising happened to me yesterday that absolutely should not have been surprising. I’ve been on this cycle for more than 20 years, but it never, never ceases to amaze me when the PMS chemicals stop fucking me up and my mood shifts like tectonic plates. Every month I’m like, why does hormone misery seem so real, so urgent? Next month, I’ll remember, I keep telling myself. The PMS sadness does sometimes help me to rearrange things that need to be rearranged, but mostly it’s just a drain followed by a relief.

My new, very not awesome moony side effect is Crying Because I Do Not Currently Have Babies. I don’t really WANT to have babies. I’m happy to lavish affection on my nieces, nephews, and everyone I know. I happen to have space issues, so the idea of sharing my body with a whole other person kind of freaks my freak. I like my pretty, grown up apartment, my quiet marriage, my time to write. Plus, I’ve seen some instances of postpartum depression that seem like they might last 18 years—that shit’s no joke.

But my body doesn’t really care about these things. Last weekend we chose Inception over The Kids are All Right for our movie date, partly because Inception seemed more big-screeny, but also because I might grind my teeth to stubs watching a happily reproduced lesbian couple for two hours.

These bouts with baby-crazy made me realize how many commercials seem like they’re really just advertisements for reproduction: Buy this video-phone and you’ll have the joy of telling your partner you’re pregnant! Buy this minivan and you’ll have two perfect kids in the backseat, watching two separate DVDs! Buy this refrigerator and your perfect husband will instantly be as baby crazy as you are!

Talk about Inception! Is it really my body wanting these things or should I just cut down on TV? (Don’t answer that! I love the TV!)

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

10 New Walks

Yesterday I was feeling booooored and uninspired, so Amy suggested a nighttime walk. We went for a walk down Kelly Drive, so pretty and romantic at night, streetlights reflecting on the river, Strawberry Mansion Bridge all lit up blues and purples. So, being listy, I decided we should do 10 new walks by the end of summer. It’s given me such a nice jolt of energy.

For the past few weeks, I’ve been stuck in a narcissistic oubliette on and off, and I think I’m ready to get out:

I called the stay-at-home poet time that followed the last job my lacuna—a nice little gap to heal and get to knew myself in. Well, call the lacuna OVER—I am so ready to go back out into the world, to start looking at people’s faces more and re-meet my teacher self. There isn’t much school-year stuff to apply for yet, but what I have so far is promising.

I’m also working on a collection of love poems called something like “Adventures of a Lazy Polyamorist,” and I’m really excited about it. I’d like to get a little more comfortable with my affections and attractions, because fighting them is, frankly, exhausting.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

July Resolutions Checkup

I’m feeling a little lost today, but it’s time to see how The Happiness Project is going.

1.Music, Music, Music, Music, Music, Music!

Done, done, done! I bought concert tickets, learned to use the new computer’s music stuff, made a million mixes, went dancing, and helped throw a great dance party. And a band played at my house. Successful resolution.

I don’t want this part of myself to get forgotten. Don’t want to forget to go dancing for another bunch of years.

2. Recognize, accept, and believe love.

This resolution will take a lifetime.

I’ve seen and felt some overwhelming expressions of love this month and I have a lot of emotions swirling around right now. It’s hard not to go back to being guarded because right now I feel like the Massive Undersea Oil Spill of Love. It’s spewing out everywhere and I can’t always direct it—that’s scary. I wouldn’t say that my love is suffocating pelicans or destroying ecosystems…it isn’t toxic but it does feel huge and dangerous.

I know how to recognize love but I don’t know how to trust it to stick around. Guess that’s an upcoming resolution.

3. Practice writing about race.

The more I explore what happened over the last few years, the more I see my self-racism as a new expression of an old problem: I’ve always had this suspicion that I am not supposed to be here, that there’s no real place for me on this planet, that I should feel guilty for being here at all. There are a lot of other things to say about my AmeriCorps experiences, but I can see that it was in some ways an expression of my innate sense of unwelcomeness and unworthiness. An attempt to become worthy by doing something good.

This month I have made steps toward believing I can have a point of view, but I have a long way to go.

4. Sit in cafes with stacks of books as often as possible.


5. Be less aloof from the divine and more open about my religious side.

Being less aloof from the divine doesn’t mean it is necessarily going to be less aloof towards me. I’ve asked for help maybe too much, opened “Love Letters from God” to a random page most days, taken walks in the Wissahickon, cared for the garden, connected with people at church.

But sometimes I still feel cut off, like the love is never coming back. My friend Courtney says I should take up peek-a-boo, develop a sense of object permanence. Sometimes the overarching emotion is just “Don’t leave me.” and all I can do is hope to make it back to faith.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Friday, July 23, 2010

Poem by Colin Fanning

Here's wishing you a love-filled weekend. Enjoy this poem from one of my pen pals.

Fit by Colin Fanning

The simplest yearning:
to press my hand
into the hollow of your chest

where, I imagine, it will fit
against your sternum
with a just-so feeling, like

a freshly-laundered sheet
wrapping its mattress warm
and snug, like

that rare parallel parking job
where the car slides into its spot
with a single silvery movement, like

the small, tidy snap
when a tomato is plucked, ripe,
from the vine--

the sudden weight
in the palm, the shape
just right.

Poetic License Horoscope: Horoscope for July 23-29

A Little St. Teresa, Some Cross-Dressing, and a Lot of Sarah Silverman

Leo (July 24-Aug. 23): Well, it’s summer, which means that we are now a little bit sucked into Big Brother 12. I admire the set artists who set up elaborate games in the jerktestants’ backyard. Be the kind of evil genius who’d make people crawl through caramel and then dig through popcorn for the prize of running the house.

Virgo (Aug. 24-Sept. 23): In her wonderful memoir, The Bedwetter: Stories of Courage, Redemption, and Pee, Sarah Silverman described her childhood depression as “I felt homesick, but I was home.” Love the things that mean home to you. Kiss your vintage pitchers and cuddle the couch pillows. Don’t be in a hurry to clean up after parties.

(Sept. 24-Oct. 21): Yesterday I spent the better part of a day trying to track down a lost library book. Last night, when the house cooled down enough to think, I sat down for a nice long session of bill-paying, paper-shredding, and checkbook-balancing. Cross-dress as a Virgo this week. Have my kind of fun!

Scorpio (Oct. 22-Nov. 22): Write a love song to your résumé. Praise your font choice, your years of experience concisely listed, your leaving off the phone numbers of mean people. Holy crap, you’ve accomplished some stuff.

Sagittarius (Nov. 23-Dec. 22): St. Teresa of Avila wrote: “All concepts of God are like a jar we break, because only the infinite can contain our perfect love.” Prepare for everything you love to come streaming through the windows like sunlight, scattering prisms.

(Dec. 23-Jan. 20) Ride the busses for their air-conditioning. See the whole city grid, the theatre production of public transportation. Let your guard down and get chatty. Ride to the end of the line.

Aquarius (Jan. 21-Feb. 19): I had a dance party last weekend and my friend’s band played. I can’t even put into words how happy I was when he revealed a Lady Gaga costume and sang “Paparazzi.” Not only did I appreciate the work that went into learning one of my favorite songs, but he’d been hiding tights and gold Spanx underneath his jeans through half a set, in a sweltering apartment. Have that much commitment to your art—and your friends!

Pisces (Feb. 20-March 20): Start collecting envelopes of all sizes, stamps of every denomination. Be as mail-prolific as semi-outsider artist Ray Johnson. List off your garden. Send stickers and music. We’re all waiting like mail slots.

Aries (March 21-April 18): I read somewhere that if you leave your stuff with someone, you are trying to make sure you see that person again. Leave important belongings everywhere: your camera in strange living rooms, your car on little side streets, your shoes in mysterious doorways. Almost anything could happen.

Taurus (April 19-May 18): Be beautifully, snugglishly silly this week. Listen to the funny things that people say and say them louder. Tell your whole arsenal of jokes. Stage competitive dramatic readings of pop songs. Flip a coin to see who wins.

Gemini (May 19-June 21): Enjoy this quote from my memoir-crush of the week, Sarah Silverman: “A lot of comics think the real threat of mental blockage lies in being happy. They fear that happiness or just dealing with their shit might make them not funny anymore. To me, that’s a bunch of romanticized bullshit.” Let’s do it, Gemini. Let’s get what we want and take our art with us.

Cancer (June 22-July 23): (Again with the Sarah Silverman!) She says that her overarching philosophy of life is “Make it a treat.” She tries not to overindulge in things she loves, so she won’t get sick of them. She’s talking about marijuana and fart jokes, but I believe it could be applied to anything.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Sarah Silverman on Happiness

My memoir-crush of the week is Sarah Silverman. This quote from her book The Bedwetter: Stories of Courage, Redemption, and Pee kind of counters the Lady Gaga quote from last week.

“A lot of comics think the real threat of mental blockage lies in being happy. They fear that happiness or just dealing with their shit might make them not funny anymore. To me, that’s a bunch of romanticized bullshit. I don’t know, I guess if you write your best stuff when you’re miserable, maybe, but I don’t. I’m paralyzed when I’m miserable. I sleep. A lot. I will always try to be happy. I don’t think people understand the value of happiness until they know what it’s like to be in that very, very dark place. It’s not romantic. Not even a little.”

Misery isn’t inspiring to me, but I find that my ongoing sense of something important is missing is a great motivator to keep making more stuff. It’s lonely and frustrating sometimes, but I like a sense of quest-ishness. And that is romantic.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Doing Something About Things/Bye November 3rd Club

One of the best ways to produce Serotonin is to not give in to the helplessness that sometimes comes from the overwhemingness of world events.

The November 3rd Club has done a world of good by connecting political writers and giving us a voice. It has kept me company. Here's the Farewell Editorial from the Editor


Love, Two Ways

This morning I love these postcards made by my poetry classes. I am about to send them in to Drawing Love.

Also, this week I decided I am too extroverted to be a stay-at-home poet. I've started searching for a great part time school-year job. I can't wait to get back to working with kids on a regualr basis.

Maybe it's not the most riveting reading ever, but today I love my resume, so imma post it:


• Syracuse University, Bachelor of Arts in Art History
• Laguna College of Art and Design, Fine Arts Major
• EducationWorks Training Including: Project Based Learning,100 Book Challenge, Media Literacy,
Group Management/ De-escalation, Child Development, Teaching Tolerance
• Central New York Out of School Time Seminar Series

Performing Poet:
• Ten years as part of the National Poetry Slam community.
• Published in such journals as The November 3rd Club, The Comstock Review, and Valley of the Contemporary Poets.
• Performed at such venues as LouderArts in New York City, Valley Contemporary Poets in Los Angeles, and The Encyclopedia Show in Chicago.
• Visiting poet at high schools, middle schools, and the Philadelphia Free Library.
Teaching Artist:
• Three years teaching poetry, art, reading, and other subjects to students from preschool to adult.
• Two years AmericCorps service in Philadelphia Public Schools.
• One year as Teaching Artist in Syracuse Public Schools.
• Created a poetry curriculum based on peace and positivity.
• Eight years leading poetry readings and workshops for teens and adults.
• Summer camp teacher to 65 students, six curriculums.
• Eight years hosting community poetry events.
• Booking local and out-of-town features and maintaining a national poetry network.
• Publicity, mailing-list maintenance,fundraising.
• Three years experience with education-related paperwork.

Community Service:
Philadelphia Poetry Slam: Co-Host and Booking Contact: 2009-present
Syracuse Poetry Slam: Co-Host and Booking Contact: 2003-2008

Employment History:

Poetry Teacher, Adults:
• Big Blue Marble Bookstore: March 2010-Present
• Mt. Airy Learning Tree: February 2010-Present
Afterschool Programs and Summer Camp:
• EducationWorks/AmeriCorps, Philadelphia, PA :
Group Leader 2008-2010, Summer Program Facilitator: 2009
• STARS Program, Grant Middle School, Syracuse, NY: 2007-2008
• 21st Century Program, Levy Middle School, Syracuse, NY: 2007-2008

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Love from St. Teresa

"All concepts of God are like a jar
we break

because only the infinite can
contain our perfect
-St. Teresa of Avila

Monday, July 19, 2010

Dance Party

So I stored up some extra serotonin this weekend by having a perfect dance party with my friends.

Also I now have a video of a friend of mine dressed up as Lady Gaga and singing "Paparazzi". Saved on the desktop for pep talk purposes.

Partial list of songs I LOVE LOVE LOVED dancing to:

1. Le Disko (Shiny Toy Guns)
2. Bad Romance (Lady Gaga)
3. It Takes a Muscle (M.I.A)
4. Push It (Salt n'Pepa)
5.Do You Want To (Franz Ferdinand)
6.Paper Planes (M.I.A.)
7.Halo (Beyonce-Dave Aude CLub Remix)
8. We Trying to Stay Alive (Wyclef Jean)

Friday, July 16, 2010

A Great Lovey-Dovey Art Party Idea

This is a message originally from Sarah Dolan at Drawing Love.

"Hello Friends!

We are in desperate need of new art considering we have just run out. So, if you are looking for a fun event, give this a try:

1. Gather art supplies, old magazines, and card stock.
2. Invite all of your friends over for a pot luck.
3. Put on some great music.
4. Draw, paint, collage, and create.
5. Add in a bunch of laughter, talking, and stories.
6. Send the art you created to DrawingLove.
(You can save money by mailing in all the art at once!)

Our address is:

P.O. Box 511
Normal, IL 61761

Include any photos from the event or blurbs about how it went, and we could include that on the site!

Thanks for taking the time to read this message!

Sending you lots of love,

Sarah and the DL team.

P.S. Join our facebook group and get the latest updates! "

We did this (sort of) with my classes-- I'll post the beautiful results next week. :)

Poetic License Horoscope

Horoscope for July 16-22
With Advice from Lady Gaga, William Carlos Williams, and Band of Horses

Cancer (June 22-July 23): Once, during my Orange County days, my friend Jaimes was driving me home on the 405 when the dash lights started flickering. He got us safely to a gas station before the alternator died. He then proceeded to get out of the car and yell angrily skywards, asking God why this had happened. Rage against unfairness this week. Stamp your foot.

Leo (July 24-Aug. 23): Never get a couch that needs a slipcover. You will spend all of your time arranging the fabric to try and cover up the spots and stains. Get something that’s good and beautiful all the way through. Your ass deserves it!

Virgo (Aug. 24-Sept. 23): Since your deepest desire is to be confided in, practice keeping confidences. Sew whispers and secrets into your coat like satin patches. It’s a little warm for this.

Libra (Sept. 24-Oct. 21) You like parties with lots of costumes. Next year you’ll be my date for the Steampunk World’s Fair, “A Three Day Expedition into Yesterday’s Future!” Start buiding yourself a copper shell, lit with glowsticks. Meanwhile, Halloween is mere months away—start boning the corsets, building the scaffold.

Scorpio (Oct. 22-Nov. 22): I believe in haircuts. Lay back and let a stranger shampoo you. When the scissoring begins, let each strand represent a mistake you’d like to forget. Someone will sweep them away.

Sagittarius (Nov. 23-Dec. 22): Your viral video of the week is “Yosemitebear Mountain Giant Double Rainbow 1-8-10.”(sic) Go camping by yourself and show enough awe to rival early American wilderness painters. It’s almost a triple rainbow. It goes all the way across the sky. What it means is that you’ll have everything.

Capricorn (Dec. 23-Jan. 20): I bought a poetry collection called The Art of Losing: Poems of Grief and Healing. I’m surprisingly giddy to read it. Let’s open up to a random page, shall we? “If you can bring nothing to this place/but your carcass, keep out.” (William Carlos Williams)

Aquarius (Jan. 21-Feb. 19): In The Golden Compass, Lyra, the heroine, reads archetypal symbols said Golden Compass to plan out her next move. Here are your symbols, Aquarius: The Key, The Notebook, The Butterfly, The Giant Squid.

Pisces (Feb. 20-March 20): Please enjoy this quote from Lady Gaga’s latest Rolling Stone interview: “When you work as hard as I do or you resign yourself to something like music or art or something, you have to commit yourself to the struggle and commit yourself to the pain. And I commit myself wholeheartedly to my heartbreak…It’s a representation of my work. As artists, we are eternally heartbroken.” Discuss.

Aries (March 21-April 18): Interviewer Lynn Hirschberg apparently makes a habit of coaxing rock stars into ordering French fries fried in truffle oil, then using that as an example of how bougie they are. Don’t let anybody tell your story like that. Be like M.I.A. and release a retaliatory single. Or two.

Taurus (April 19-May 18): I think I need to use my weekly So You Think You Can Dance time for something else. Mia Michaels’ phlegmatic alterna-sniping is no match for Mary Murphy shrieking about the Hot Tamale Train. It’s just not so fun anymore!

Gemini (May 19-June 21): Here are some great lyrics from the Band of Horses song “Factory”: “Now then later, I was thinking it over by the snack machine/I thought about you and a candy bar/The Now and Laters, now that I've got, stuck between my teeth/
I fell asleep to the greatest movie of the year” Do just that kind of motel ruminating.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Poetry Saves the Week (Mostly)

I’ve had a real hard time keeping the ol’ chemicals up this week. Sadness and loneliness have just been real hard to fight. Even though I’ve been keeping my resolutions, I’m just not liking myself.

The thing that’s kept me mostly afloat, though, has been poetry, of course. Here’s some ways poetry loved me this week:

1. Sitting in the bookstore reading a wonderful collection called The Art of Losing: Poems of Grief and Healing. (Okay that’s kind of a sad activity.)
2. Listening to the overwhelming and diverse talent of my students.
3. My kid student wrote FOUR poems yesterday! Two poems asking questions to animals, (after The Tyger) two practicing rhyme.
4. I wrote my friend in CA a poem for his birthday and he wrote a BEAUTIFUL poem back.
5. Got to spend some time catching up with my co-host.
6. Got to sing the praises of Daniel Ladinsky, badass translator of
Love Letters from God—think I accidentally helped sell the book.
7. This poem by Tony Brown that really hit the spot:

Hummingbird Prayer

If there is
a right of return, I
would like to return
to a holy land
fitted to me. In a place
that allows hummingbirds
to be fierce warriors
in their universe
instead of precious gems
in ours, for example,
I may worship
on the scale I prefer,
where every moment
is its own, where the smallest details
are clear and crucial.
Examining their blurs
and hovers, I can say no
to the glorious and impenetrable wings
I have always been told were behind me,
and come back
to the source of flight
itself: the need to feed,
to thrive and pray, with those of my kind,
and to see those hummingbirds
as my kind, in spirit if not in body;
to stare into the cloud of their wings
at the spark of divine humor
that sits still and smiling
within each.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Maybe, Gaga...

This quote seems equally true and self-destructive. Whatever it is, I kind of love it.

“When you work as hard as I do or you resign yourself to something like music or art or something, you have to commit yourself to the struggle and commit yourself to the pain. And I commit myself wholeheartedly to my heartbreak…It’s a representation of my work. As artists, we are eternally heartbroken.”

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

July Resolution #2: Recognize, Accept, and Believe Love

This is the resolution that I feel the most blocked about, and I think it’s also the most urgent. The worst habit I have as a depressed person is that I tend to sometimes feel invisible, even sometimes nonexistent. This feeling makes me panic, because, like I said yesterday, I love life. I prefer existing. In the midst of the invisible-panic feeling, I do things like send regrettable emails or just cry.

One thing that contributes to this feeling is the fear of not being read. Not on The Serotonin Factory, just in general. I’ve been a poet for about 10 years now, but I’ve never had a stronger urge to be read than I have this year. (It occurs to me that this may be related to the biological clock tide I’ve also been getting pulled by…)

On days when I’m sitting peacefully in my writing chair or somewhere air-conditioned, I feel so foolish about the feeling-invisible times. I’m overwhelmed about how lucky I am to have a loving spouse, a close-knit family, and generous friends all over the place. I know the only thing I can do to get read is submit, and I’m happy when I do.

But the sadness, the feeling of unworthiness, is really hard to fight sometimes. I’m determined, though, so here’s a list:

Partial List of Things that Make me Feel Loved:

*Amy always takes such good care of us.

*The poems that have been accepted.

*My family, close-knit and mostly functional since 2001.

*Sally and Arlo, very loyal cats.

*The way students light up when the poems start coming.

*My Slam co-host Sherod who, at my last party, made everyone go around in a circle and say how they met me. Also he always says, “you’re not fat, you’re thick.” That is a good friend.

*My garden out back—since the weather broke, some of the flowering plants have started to bounce back.

*Whatever that warmth is that comes up in my belly when I’m meditating, doing yoga, or talking to someone I love.

*My best friends the books, notebooks, and pens.

*My body that generally does what I ask it to.
*Friends who won’t let me be a wallflower.

*When poets visit.

*Everyone who ever reads me. (That includes status updates.)

*The way the library just sits there having books.

*Anyone who sings anything.

*Podcasts that trick my brain into thinking someone’s talking to me.

*Everyone who’s nice enough to make some art.

Monday, July 12, 2010

July Resolution #5:Be Less Aloof from the Divine

“You should forget about knowing the Friend unless
you are willing to kiss the world with
great abandon.” –Rumi

(Apropos of nothing, is there any better typing music than LCD Soundsystem’s “This is Happening”?)

It feels like a coming out every time I say it: it turns out, I’m a pretty deeply religious person. I love being a member of the Unitarian Society of Germantown. (On top of being all welcoming and lovey-dovey, they are a great audience for poems…) I love singing hymns. When I make friends at church, I get so giddy that I end up telling them everything. I love that my church has a sign on the front that says “Standing on the side of LOVE.”

Here’s what Unitarians believe:

• The inherent worth and dignity of every person;
• Justice, equity and compassion in human relations;
• Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations;
• A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;
• The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large;
• The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all;
• Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.

But my relationship status with religion is still “It’s complicated.” Like many Unitarians, I grew up Catholic. When I was about 14 (Just confirmed, I guess.), Catholicism just stopped making sense to me. It wasn’t a political decision; it just didn’t seem to add up.

The thing that bothers me about most religions is the idea that life on earth is not the real life, that we need to be waiting for something better. I needed a religion that loves life, this life that I’m typing in. When I started visiting the Unitarian society in Syracuse and saw that they had readings from Emma Goldman and hymns that were Robert Frost poems, that made sense to me. I liked to sit in their Frank Lloyd Wright-esque sanctuary and think about how I’m not separate from nature.

Another thing that gives me the heebie-jeebies about religion is the idea that one person can know what another person should do with his or her soul. There’s a lady at USG who can’t hide her exasperation that my atheist wife stays home and watches Caprica on Sunday mornings. Lady, that isn’t “acceptance of one another.”!

Maybe I over-correct for individualism. Even thought I get elated when I have a chance to invite a friend to church with me, I don’t invite them, because I’d never want anyone to think for one second that I didn’t think he or she had a PERFECT relationship to his or her soul already. (That’s right, if you’re my friend, I secretly think you’re perfect and know what you’re doing.)

So I’m not sure how to be less aloof from God. Let’s try a list:

1. Be in nature.
2. Make time for the people with whom my soul is in love.
3. Chant om namah shivaya.
4. Sing
5. Make friends at church.

What else?

Friday, July 9, 2010

The Serotonin Factory is Celebrating!

Starting today, every Friday at 9am, these horoscopes will appear on the City Paper's Arts and Culture Blog, Critical Mass. The horoscopes' logo was designed by one Ms. Amy Lawson (with help from one of my doodles.)

Also, this week's cute cute picture is from Rosannr Speller.

Poetic License Horoscopes: Mix-Tape Obsessed Again!

Critical Mass welcomes poet/concert-goer/nerd-grrrl extraordinaire Jane Cassady to the fold; her weekly horoscopes will run in this space every Friday morning.

Cancer: A favorite couple of mine sent a care package not too long ago. It included a blue glitter framed hand mirror, a box of fancy chocolates, a ticket to a Cirque du Soleil “Love” performance that they went to on my birthday, and TWENTY EIGHT CDs.If you send someone 28 CDs, some of them are bound to be exactly what that person needed.

Leo: Here’s an inadvisable way to be happy: they say you get a serotonin boost every time you correct someone. Go ahead, my darling backseat driver, use the imaginary brake on the passenger side, look back with me when I change lanes. Just don’t be surprised when I ask you to parallel park for me.

Virgo: It’s weird dancing to eighties hip-hop songs at a respectful distance. I feel a little lonely if folks aren’t all up in my proverbial business. Surrender to whatever it is that makes you cross boundaries. It’s probably the bassline.

Libra: A friend of mine once asked for my address so he could send me a mix, then liked said mix so much that he kept it, listened to it in the car, had LeTigre sing alongs with his little daughter. I know this because he sent me a poem about the mix he didn’t send. I feel like a millionaire just typing this story.

Scorpio: Interrupt the conversation to point out the birds you see. “OOH look, a tufted titmouse!” is really fun to say. Shush your best friend so you can hear the first notes of a song: some things are just worth it.

Sagittarius: A Sag pal who works in a preschool complains about her students not needing her enough. “They’re all just privileged princes and princesses.” But everyone needs care, Sagittarius. Even you.

Capricorn: We’re both writing memoirs, but yours is braver. While mine is hidden on the desktop in a folder marked “My Issues,” yours is on display for all to see. So brave, Capricorn. You’re winning.

Aquarius: You told me not to worry about being too old for the club, because we’re all made mostly of water, and water's really old, and the atoms that make up the water are even older than that. So sensible. I love songs about how everything’s all really one thing.

Pisces: “Conscientiousness is no friend of serendipity.” Says Psychology Today. Kurt Vonnegut said “I tell you, we are here on Earth to fart around, and don't let anybody tell you different.” So do it: dawdle in doorways, pick up conversations with pretty strangers, click on unnecessary links: it’ll make you luckier!

Aries: This week, my dad moved back from Iowa to live closer to his kids and grandkids. Pack up your metaphorical car this week, Aries, move closer to what you love, even if it means braving the lake-effect winters of Upstate New York.

Taurus: Nobody really goes to their high-school reunion, so make a real one for yourself. Get together your nineties Club Kids and spare no glitter. There must still be a coffeehouse somewhere for Xers to slack in. Make a scrapbook of all your old mosh pits and vintage dresses. (Note: Your horoscopist knows she’s dating herself.)

Gemini: I’m making you SO MANY cupcakes this week, Gemini. Not from scratch, but still. The act of scooping a can of frosting into a bowl, beating it on high to froth it up, and adding just the right amount of food coloring: that’s the sprinkled alchemy we need this week. I keep forgetting and then remembering.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Toward a Cheerier Telephone

In the interest of being a better influence on myself, I changed my ringtone from "Bad Romance" (good song but inauspicious!) to "Halo." Very serotonin-y. (I know this picture's from a different video but it makes me REALLY happy.)

Halo by Beyonce

Remember those walls I built
Well, baby they're tumbling down
And they didn't even put up a fight
They didn't even make up a sound

I found a way to let you in
But I never really had a doubt
Standing in the light of your halo
I got my angel now

It's like I've been awakened
Every rule I had you breakin'
It's the risk that I'm takin'
I ain't never gonna shut you out

Everywhere I'm looking now
I'm surrounded by your embrace
Baby I can see your halo
You know you're my saving grace

You're everything I need and more
It's written all over your face
Baby I can feel your halo
Pray it won't fade away

I can feel your halo halo halo
I can see your halo halo halo
I can feel your halo halo halo
I can see your halo halo halo

Hit me like a ray of sun
Burning through my darkest night
You're the only one that I want
Think I'm addicted to your light

I swore I'd never fall again
But this don't even feel like falling
Gravity can't forget
To pull me back to the ground again

Feels like I've been awakened
Every rule I had you breakin'
The risk that I'm takin'
I'm never gonna shut you out

Everywhere I'm looking now
I'm surrounded by your embrace
Baby I can see your halo
You know you're my saving grace

You're everything I need and more
It's written all over your face
Baby I can feel your halo
Pray it won't fade away

I can feel your halo halo halo
I can see your halo halo halo
I can feel your halo halo halo
I can see your halo halo halo

I can feel your halo halo halo
I can see your halo halo halo
I can feel your halo halo halo
I can see your halo halo halo
Halo, halo

Everywhere I'm looking now
I'm surrounded by your embrace
Baby I can see your halo
You know you're my saving grace

You're everything I need and more
It's written all over your face
Baby I can feel your halo
Pray it won't fade away

I can feel your halo halo halo
I can see your halo halo halo
I can feel your halo halo halo
I can see your halo halo halo

I can feel your halo halo halo
I can see your halo halo halo
I can feel your halo halo halo
I can see your halo halo halo

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

July Resolution #3: Practice Writing About Race

“And why do haters separate us like we Siamese?” –The Roots

Being racist against myself might not seem like an ideal topic for a happiness blog, but if I can learn to write about it, it’ll lift a great big weight off my shoulders and help me feel more confident about my point of view.

I’m trusting you to understand that:

1. I understand that I am privileged.

2. I hate all kinds of prejudice so, so much. I am prejudiced against prejudice.

Before I came to Philadelphia and became an AmeriCorps member working in the Philadelphia public school system, I mainly thought of racism in the abstract. I was raised to believe it was wrong to discriminate, and I thought that was the norm in professional settings, at least in terms of race. I also thought of integration as something everyone agreed was good. This is a story about how I was naïve.

On the first day of AmeriCorps training, the director gave us a talk called “The Big Picture” but it might as well have been called “Poor People are Fucked.” She showed us the Philadelphia numbers that proved how much the school system is letting down African-American children. The numbers she gave us were from the school I’d be working in, and that solidified my determination and excitement about actually getting to work for change. (It was the Fall of 2008. Everyone was drunk on hopeandchange and I was no exception.)

It didn’t seem like a big deal to me that I was one of very few white people in the company until the second day of training, when one of the staff members (a charming Latina with whom I later became friends) stood up in Classroom Management training and said ”Caucasian people cannot do discipline. They can’t control a classroom.” I was absolutely shocked that no one thought to question that statement or offer a counter- opinion. Because I have this annoying tendency to believe what people say about me, that comment cast a shadow over my whole learning process. Unfortunately, those comments were the norm.

(So wait—before this, did I think only white people were racist? Maybe! That’s racist!)

As The White Lady, I caught a TINY glimpse of what it’s like to be a racial minority, to feel trapped in someone’s expectations of you, to be frustrated and held back by stereotypes. I was treated with fear and suspicion that was made worse by the fact that I’m an out bi person. (Are schools ever not homophobic?) For two years, I was talked down to, accused of being snooty, accused of “thinking I’m Gandhi” because I was enthusiastic. (BTW a Gandhi quote was the slogan of the camp, but I never quite made it to being the change I wished to see. Still working on it.)

The worst part was learning how far we are from actual integration. I felt so deeply unwelcome that I stopped being able to imagine a peaceful future.

On Inauguration Day, when the students I loved so much were celebrating the fact that Obama would “stop the white people” and a coworker told the kids I was “from a separate culture and “probably a Republican,” (!!!) something inside me just cracked. (I wanted to be all whiny, like “Hey, I phonebanked!” but that seemed kind of wrong.)

I was having a deep, awful epiphany and I felt like I had no right to write about it. I knew I would sound whiny and privileged, especially in a poetry slam situation. I wrote a lot less than usual, and after a while I couldn’t stand the sound of my voice, so I stopped performing. I lost my point of view.

Now that I’m in more loving situations, I’m grateful for my time as The White Lady—it gives me maybe more compassion and even more of a drive to work for integration and, yes! Hopeandchange.

So I’ve opened a memoir folder on the desktop marked “White Lady Issues.” Maybe I’ll share the happy parts here!

Monday, July 5, 2010

What Do You Prescribe?

What do you do to feel better on your broken-heartiest days?

Friday, July 2, 2010

Poetic License Horoscope

(With thanks to The Academy of Natural Sciences, the TV show Work of Art, and a couple of other things.)

Cancer: (Happy birthday to my poetry-dad, Daniel McGinn!) I’m writing Cancer in Love Park today. The fountain in front of me is emphatic. The music behind me is pleasant. The air is full of mist and the temperature is perfect. This year, may everything good gush forth and fill the air.

Leo: I feel guilty whenever I go to a museum without you, but I always bring you a souvenir. Please accept this squashed penny with a squid on it, this Learn About Tropical Butterflies sticker book, this four-color pen.

Virgo: My power animal lately is a blue butterfly, and today, a Blue Morpho flew right at my face and fluttered around me for a long while. This is your luck, too, Virgo. All your fluttering, nectar-sipping, lantana-loving hopes are coming for you.

Libra: It’s an all-you-can eat buffet this week, Libra. Try everything, even those weird little squares of cake. Remember to still give your server a full tip, he or she keeps taking all of your dishes.

Scorpio: I’m here as your bad influence, Scorpio. Make one call too many. Sit in front of your screens for hours. Miss deadlines and forget the bills. It’ll all wait.

Sagittarius: If you knew the number of times people think to themselves “I love (your name here),” you could spend all of your extra worry-energy on art instead. Make us paper snowflakes shaped like our hearts, sing lullabies to your houseplants, write an opera starring your beautiful children and/or friends.

Capricorn: As I was reminded by an adorable light-up ocean-model today, the sea floor isn’t flat, but mountainous. Undersea mountains have their own special creatures. Do some underwater mountain climbing this week, and look for the intricate basket starfish!

Aquarius: Your word of the week is “bioluminescence.” You don’t have anything to worry about deep under the sea- the lights on you are camouflage to match the color of the ocean’s surface.

Pisces: I’m throwing a dance party, Pisces, and I hope you’ll come. Let’s shake it while we agree that yes, indeed, that girl is poison, throw our hands up in the matter of the apathetic. Whoomp, Pisces, there it is.

Aries: Before the passenger pigeon went extinct, they used to star in these incredibly elaborate meals at Wanamaker’s restaurant, huge towers of pigeon, all decked out in flame, more and more absurd in scale. Be exactly ten percent as decadent as that.

Taurus: This week on Work of Art, the artist were assigned to make a shocking piece of art. As much as I love Work of Art and would watch 12 hours a day of it if they had a live feed like Big Brother and the oil spill have, “Make something shocking.” is kind of an empty idea to start with. Be surprised by the subtle this week, Taurus. Fall for the unassuming.

Gemini: This week I was being my mom by getting into chats with total strangers at cash registers, and it kind of paid off: the girl who works at the art store knows Abdi from Work of Art. She says he’s super nice, double majored in art and religion, and he went to Penn. All this makes me want to root for him, but I still think his stuff is a little too literal.

Before I mail The Happiness Project to Auni Patti

"If I want to be happier, I need to look at my life and think about feeling good, feeling bad, and feeling right, in an atmosphere of growth."
Thanks Gretchen Rubin!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Thanks, June! And Happy July

Since Thursdays have been the bluest lately, I decided to do something extra fun every Thursday. Today I went to visit my pal Rosanna at The Academy of Natural Sciences. You should go there. The butterfly garden is so wonderful, and I learned a lot about sea creatures too.

New Grrrl Scout Badge: Learn the names of 20 Butterflies.

Anyway, so The Happiness Project! Let’s start off the month with advice from Monsters of Folk:
“Do you like where you’re living?
Do you like what you do?
Do you like what you’re seeing . . .
When you’re lookin’ at you?
Do you like what you’re saying . . .
When you open your face?
Do you got the right feeling?
Are you in the right place?”

I’m so excited to get started on my July resolutions and continue with my (slightly modified) June ones.


1. Music, Music, Music, Music, Music!
2. Recognize, accept, and believe love.
3. Practice writing about race. (Weird for a happiness resolution, I know. I’ll explain soon.)
4. Sit in cafés (or poolside!) with stacks of books as often as possible.
5. Be less aloof from the divine and more open about my religious side.

1. Wake up before 7 on weekdays.
2. Take long and frequent breaks from things with screens.
3. Walk in the morning, swim in the afternoon, extra fun on Thursdays.
4. Spend almost all of my free time writing, reading, or making art.
5. Show love.