Thursday, March 21, 2013

Peep Peep

     There was one thing I could always count on when I was a child, and that was finding yellow, sugar-crusted marshmallow peeps in my Easter basket. Those little confections were as much a harbinger of spring as seeing the first robin or daffodil. Of course, they looked differently fifty years ago; back then they looked like newly hatched chicks.

     Not anymore.

     Peeps have mutated since then. First they changed color, then shape and flavor. Now you can find them on the red carpet featured in contests and the national news. It’s the American Way. I bought some last week for the egg hunt I give to my grandchildren on Easter. They were shaped like Hello Kitty rather than chickies or bunnies, and I think they were knock-offs—not the real Peeps. I don’t buy the originals anymore because they remind me of zombies: half-made baby chickens conjoined at birth, lined up row after row, staring out at me with crooked eyes and vacant expressions. I have a vivid imagination.

     I will, however, buy a box of heart-shaped peeps after Valentine’s Day or pumpkins at Halloween, slice the cellophane open and let them sit on my kitchen counter for a couple of months until they are thoroughly stale. Then I mail them to my sister. That’s how she likes to eat them, aged like a glass of fine wine with subtle notes of nostalgia.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Eat Your Grammar

Eating umble pie

     When I was a little girl I did not like liver. I could never get over the way it looked or tasted. In those days liver was the best source of iron my parents knew of. They said it was good for us. It was also cheap, so it showed up on our dinner plates once a month.

     Mom fried it with lots of onions to make it taste better, but it didn’t.  I remember cutting my child-sized portion into microscopic pieces and trying to disguise the taste by shoving one piece into a mouthful of boiled potato. It never worked; I could still taste the liver. So I waited until everyone had left the table, and then I would slip a few pieces into my apron pocket and scatter the rest on the floor hoping the cat would eat them.

     The cat didn’t like liver either.

     By the time I was in college I had discovered iron supplements. I bought a bottle of vitamins plus iron and when the school cafeteria served liver, I ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with a clear conscience.

     I have often wished that someone had invented a supplement I could take for grammar. You see, I did not like grammar either. I could never get over the way a sentence looked when it was all cut up and laying on the plate. What was I supposed to do with all of those pieces?

     I should have seen it coming, after all, it was called grammar school, wasn’t it? But it didn’t end with grammar school, and by the time I took Advanced Grammar and Composition my senior year of college there was no place to hide my deficiency; no apron pocket or hungry cat under the table to conceal my serious lack of affinity. I studied long and hard for the final exam--it felt worse than eating raw liver with no onions or boiled potatoes--and yet I barely passed.

     Still, all these years later I continue the struggle to understand those predicates, commas and dangling modifiers, the livery of grammar, because even though it is one of those things I will never acquire a taste for, I know it is necessary to the health of my writing. So don’t be surprised if you hear me say to my grandchildren: “Eat your grammar—it’s good for you!”

 But don’t eat your grandma.

artist Kate Greenway

Thursday, March 7, 2013


     I was editing last week’s Wordless post when this little child of a poem skipped up and tagged me. I chased it till I ran out of breath.


Oh, the moments
How they fleet
Up and down the windy street

Chasing rainbows
In the rain,
Weaving daisies in a chain

Gentle nights to
Count the stars,
Catching fairies in a jar

Sweeping leaves
Into a heap
Close your eyes and take a leap

Hold a snowflake
Breathe a cloud
Singing carols for a crowd

Rock a baby
Wipe the tears
Fingerprints and chocolate smears

Chase the hours
Catch the day
Hold the years before they fade

Oh, the moments
How they fleet
Wrapped inside a winding sheet

                                                                           ~ Nib of Nib's End ~

Sunday, March 3, 2013


     After days and days of gray, winter relented a little. Even with four inches of snow on the ground, the sun smiled down on us this morning from a sky the color of a blue jay’s wing. On my way to church I passed a house with a family of snowmen in the front yard, their arms held wide as though to embrace the glory of the day. 

     You know it is time for spring when even the snowpeople are looking forward to it. 

Photo by Bob Winsett

Friday, March 1, 2013


     I am hardwired for words; they are integral to my hardware, an inextricable part of my DNA. Finding the exact word to express what I am thinking or feeling is not a preference or performance--it is a need; maybe not as great a need as food, or water, or shelter, but somewhere in the proximity.

     Sometimes this natural bent toward exact expression can manifest itself in unacceptable ways. I try not to correct people in conversation when they use the wrong word, or even an imprecise one; it tends to inhibit the free exchange of thought, let alone cordiality. No one appreciates a know-it-all. I am less adept, however, at keeping the words stuffed inside my head while rummaging around for the ones I want. They spill out, helter-skelter, and scatter into the winds. It smacks of waste, but I label it verbal processing and feel justified. I have a patient husband.

     Words are my passion. I can sit for hours and hours happily shaking them out of the trees, spend hours and hours more sweeping them into tidy heaps, and still feel content that the day has been well lived when more than half of them blow away. And when I step outside my door for a walk in the sun and encounter an adventure; an intriguing character; a brush with life, death or the lovely, raw verges of nature; I am compelled to anchor myself to those moments with words before they fleet.

     It’s like breathing.

     But some moments elude my grasp; some events produce a phenomenon in me that is deeply unnatural. So it is that the inexpressible kindness and compassion my husband and children have continued to show me as I grieve the recent loss of my parents have rendered me: