Thursday, February 28, 2008

Sinatra In The Background and What's In A Name?

Apropos of nothing, Lea is listening to Frank Sinatra. "Summer Wind," to be specific.


I'm following with interest this preoccupation with Barack Obama's middle name. Certain hatemongers (Ann Coulter, cough cough, Tennessee Republican Party, cough cough, Bill Cunningham, cough-ity cough cough cough cough) love to point out over and over again that said middle name is "Hussein." Author Juan Cole has a terrific blog post on the subject. An excerpt:

I want to say something about Barack Hussein Obama's name. It is a name to be proud of. It is an American name. It is a blessed name. It is a heroic name, as heroic and American in its own way as the name of General Omar Nelson Bradley or the name of Benjamin Franklin. And denigrating that name is a form of racial and religious bigotry of the most vile and debased sort. It is a prejudice against names deriving from Semitic languages...

You can read the whole thing here.

I've mentioned before that security guards at Serramonte Mall used to demand to know the last names of Filipino kids, and then would proceed to mock the ones they felt were particularly ridiculous. And years ago while visiting with some friends of my in-laws, our host (how we arrived at the topic, I cannot recall) mentioned that when thumbing through resumés for administrative positions at his law firm, he dismissed—as a rule—any applicant with a foreign-sounding name. "My name is Maria Veronica Montes,'" I said. "Would you throw out my resumé?" And, quite matter-of-factly, he answered "Yes." And, quite matter-of-factly I thought, "Hmmm. Your loss." And also, "Hmmm, Mr. Lawyer. That's illegal."

So...what's in a name? Much more—and much less—than willfully ignorant people believe.


Now it's "My Way," which I will admit to singing with gusto in the privacy of my bedroom at approximately age 9.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Achiote Seeds, Winter 2008

I'm very pleased to be featured—along with Javier Huerta, Gerardo Diego (translated by Francisco Aragón), and Mónica de la Torre—in the sold-out Winter 2008 issue of Achiote Seeds:

Here's one of my pieces:

Ritual, Observed
with a first line from "At the Hundredth Mile from Mong-Tahn"
by Janet M. Choi

When the night fell like dark hair over the sun, we began. The mother approached, spectral and bright-eyed, with her fingers fanned out before her. I caught her hands in my own, and washed them with water from the battered pot warming on the fire. Standing nearly hidden by the fringe of trees to the west, her lover watched. We knew nothing of him except that he had come from somewhere else, that blue rivers were visible beneath his skin, that he smelled of meat.

Their child is dead now.

I dried the mother's hands with the hem of my skirt. She picked up the boy's body then, and placed it on the woven cloth at the bottom of the vessel. From the west, we heard her lover weep. The woman to my left spit into the sand, yelled into the darkness, and the lover went quiet. He was watching, still, when we pushed the vessel off the shore, still watching as it drifted away on the current. What did he wait for? For lamentations, the thrashing of arms? Instead, the mother stood with her back straight, mouthing the words we were taught by the women who came before. Her oiled hair was piled high atop her head; a necklace of many shells lay like a blanket over her swollen breasts. She smelled of mother's milk gone sour.

Many thanks to editors Craig S. Perez and Jennifer Reimer for including me in this issue.

The Achiote Press website is here.
The Achiote Press blog is here.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

My Kingdom for a Cookie

It's difficult to enjoy one's Sunday when there are 255 boxes of Girl Scout cookies sitting on my dining room table. Vida sold 127; Risa sold 128. But who do you think is paying the price at the moment? Uh-huh.

'Scuse me. Time for another Trefoil...

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Brief Author's Day Report

Author's Day—featuring the wonderful, ponytailed Jorge Argueta—required (on my part) the frenzied bundling of pencils and bookmarks and the tedious organizing of the large book order (I attached a post-it note with the name of each child and teacher, so as to facilitate the book signing), but was well worth it when 1) Sr. Argueta began his talk to the Kindergarten-2nd grade in SPANISH and was greeted with a sort of gasp and then much excited twittering and 2) he held up his book, Trees Are Hanging From the Sky / Los Arboles Estan Colgando del Cielo, a series of poems that showcase his love for his homeland of El Salvador and said, "In this book words, words, nothing but words took me home..."

And I just thought that was lovely. Here are some of Lea's classmates closing their eyes and imagining something hanging from the sky. Best answer of the morning? "Pickles!"

His books for children—some are stories, some are collections of poems—are not only beautifully written, they are beautifully illustrated, bilingual and just good, solid additions to any kid's library. I was happy to find that our school librarian had ordered five or six for the school shelves, which means that they'll be readily available for the students who weren't able to purchase them. Click here for the full line-up.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Para Ganar Obama

Seeing as I love both Mo Rocca AND Barack Obama, there could be nothing more amusing than this. Especially fun as the campaign gears up for Texas:

Monday, February 18, 2008

You Can Ring My Bell

On Saturday morning I headed south to Palo Alto, where I joined about 30 people who were making calls to Wisconsin voters on behalf of Senator Obama. Um, talk about regional differences. With the exception of one oddly intense young Republican male, everyone—regardless of who they plan to vote for tomorrow—was spooky-nice.

My first call of the day set the tone for the next sixty or so. After introducing myself as a volunteer and asking the gentleman if he was planning to support Senator Obama on Tuesday he said, "Well, I'll tell you. I'm a Republican. Been a Republican all my life. And I've voted Republican all my life."

"Is that right?" said your Nesting Ground Mistress. In following our directive to always keep things positive, I added, "Well, you have a fine candidate this time around."

"But I'll tell you," said the man. "If I were a Democrat, I'd vote for that Barack Obama over Clinton any day."

Hmmm. This was an opportunity for...something. But I didn't quite know how to capitalize. I small-talked for a minute about how the reputation of Midwestern friendliness was well-earned and then...EUREKA! "...and I love the fact that Wisconsin has an open primary!" I said, "I'm calling you from California, and I wish we had the same system in place."

"Oh, it's not open out there?"

"No, Sir. And, you know, Senator McCain has the Republican nomination all tied up. You might want to consider lending Senator Obama your support on Tuesday."

"I was just talking about that with my wife last night!"

"Great minds and all that," said your Nesting Ground Mistress.

"I think that's what we'll do."

"It is?"

"Yes, I believe so."

"IT IS?!!!"

"Yes, Ma'am!"

"Well, I'm going to ring my bell twice for you, and you're gonna hear a bunch of cheering. That's all of us saying thank you very, very much."

And I rang the bell twice to indicate two votes and the whole office did, indeed, cheer.

I know our conversation could have easily gone the other way. He could have said he was going to vote for Obama's opponent in an effort to make McCain's fight a little easier at general election time. But he didn't.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Needed: Hidden Camera


I am in the kitchen.

Lea is in the dining room.

I'm pretending to do my own thing.

She is singing "Row, Row Your Boat" to the tune of "Let There Be Peace on Earth." And sometimes she does a mash-up. For example, just now: "I just forgot my brothers/Oh what a terrible thing/I must row, row, to my brothers/In perfect harmony...."

She's singing her own back-up vocals.

There's a lot of vibrato.

And it's really, really loud.

Revelation: THIS, believe it or not, is one of the very best things about being a parent.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

In Which I (Almost) Purchase Real Estate in Cuckooville

The border between motherhood and Cuckooville is easy to traverse. Too easy. Witness:

1) I either invented or at some point read about a little to-do for school in which the kids purchase paper hearts in honor of their teachers. The teacher who receives the most paper hearts must then don a Cupid costume on Valentine's Day. So simple, thought I! So much bang for so little buck!

2) Crossing the bridge to Cuckooville, I drafted a partner and together we set about making "Cupid-For-a-Day" a reality.

3) Announcements were made! Flyers were sent home! Posters were created! Room parents were enlisted to festoon classroom doors with hearts and flowery prose!


1) When I went to purchase the paper hearts, I realized it would cost approximately 43 bazillion dollars. Not to be deterred, I simply bought construction paper and used the die-cut machine at school to cut out about 400 hearts. This hopelessly boring task required 90 minutes of my time and exhausted both my left and right biceps. I also stamped each heart with a distinguishing mark so as to dissuade the type of forgery so prevalent in today's elementary school environment. I'm kidding! About the forgery part, I mean.

2) Yesterday, on the first day of what will be four days of sales, we were mobbed. MOBBED. Even now I cringe to think of all those little grubby, grabby, gropey, goopy hands. It was not unlike the penultimate scene in a bad horror movie.

3) There are no hearts left. This is good for obvious reasons and bad because...

4) ...the Principal wouldn't let me take the die-cut machine home. It turns out that teachers often come in on the weekend to use it.

5) To prepare for Monday's onslaught, most of my tomorrow—as well as the tomorrow of my trusty Cupid partner—will be spent cutting hearts by hand. *SCREAM*

Other issues of miscellaneous interest:

1) Between our morning and lunch shift, I ran home to make 100 pancakes for Lea's class. Why? Because, you silly, Friday was also the schoolwide "100th Day" celebration, and Lea's teacher asked me to. By the time I returned to school I was sweating and, in my haste, had burned myself by grabbing the plate of pancakes straight out of the oven, where I was keeping them warm.

2) When I went searching for a Cupid costume online, all I could find were outfits that can only be described as "Porno Cupid," "Bad, Bad Cupid," "Oh-No-You-Didn't Cupid," and "Cupid What Big, Um, EYES You Have."

3) The fruitless Internet search necessitated a trip to the unpleasant House of Humor in Redwood City. Clearly, the reason it's called "The House of Humor" is because it's just HILARIOUS that it would take a customer such as myself an entire HOUR to navigate the disorganization and locate feather wings and a bow and arrow.

4) BUT, since Redwood City is only a stone's hurl from Menlo Park, I went ahead and rewarded myself with a long browse through Kepler's where I found an anthology of single scene short stories titled, rather obviously, Single Scene Short Stories. Later, I met the SU for dinner and a movie: "No Country For Old Men." This, my friends, is how I escaped Cuckooville and found my way home.


Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Regularly Scheduled Programming

Phew. Now that Super Tuesday is super-over, I can super-calm-my-ass-down. Now...where was I before the madness set in? Ah, yes...

Am very excited to have secured the literary services of poet and children's author Jorge Argueta for this year's Author Day at R, V, and L's school. I think I might have done a bad thing, though. I ended up placing the book order through a large chain because 1) they carried all the titles I needed; 2) my large-chain rewards card saved a total of $54.00, a savings which I can now pass on to those who purchased books; 3) shipping was free. Was this wrong? Sr. Argueta had no interest in ordering the books himself, so I'm not worried that he somehow lost money in this process. But I still have a nagging feeling that someone came out on the short end here.

*awkward transition*

Tonight I'm giddy about hosting writer's group because I missed our last session and haven't seen anyone in the group for nearly two months. However, I am regretting the fact that I don't know how to start a fire in the fireplace and that I said, "Um, no thanks" to the spousal unit when he asked if I wanted him to show me how. I'd try it on my own, but I'm exactly the kind of lame-o who would end up filling the house with smoke, which would necessitate the need to open all doors and windows or, more likely, force everyone to exit the building. In which case all my giddiness about writer's group would go up in, um, flames.


Saturday, February 02, 2008

Makes Me Forget...

...about that other song. The song that shall not be named.

Yes we can.