From Squirt Guns to SPF 50

June 17, 2015

Photo courtesy Tori Campbell

Introduction by Ted Kooser: How’s this poem for its ability to collapse all the years from childhood to middle age in a matter of fifteen short lines? George Bilgere is one of this column’s favorite poets. He lives and teaches in Ohio.

The Wading Pool

The toddlers in their tadpole bodies,
with their squirt guns and snorkels,
their beautiful mommies and inflatable whales,
are still too young to understand that this is as good as it gets.

Soon they must leave the wading pool
and stand all day at the concession stand
with their hormones and snow cones,
their soul patches and tribal tattoos,
pretending not to notice how beautiful they are,

until they simply can’t stand it
and before you know it
they’re lined up on lawn chairs,
dozing in the noonday sun
with their stretch marks and beer bellies,
their Wall Street Journals and SPF 50.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2014 by George Bilgere from his most recent book of poems, Imperial, Univ. of Pittsburgh Press, 2014. Poem reprinted by permission of George Bilgere and the publisher. Introduction copyright ©2015 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.


When Unhappiness Leads to Happiness

June 10, 2015

Photo courtesy Milada Vigerova

“The truth is that our finest moments are most likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy, or unfulfilled. For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort, that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers.”
—M. Scott Peck

Bucket list

The Summer Bucket List--How to Survive the Hot and Sweaty Months

June 08, 2015

“June is the Friday night of summer, and all is full of possibility.”
—Laura Vanderkam

Each new season brings its own delights. Though summer is not my favorite season here in Florida, each year I grit my teeth and make the best of it. I was inspired by Laura Vanderkam’s words (see above, and read the full post here) to start thinking about things I can accomplish and enjoy during these hot and sweaty months. Maybe working on the list will distract me from the heat and humidity?

In keeping with my word of the year (delight), this summer will be long on delights/adventures/pleasures, but that doesn’t mean I’m only going to play. I want to experiment with different writing venues (#2) and try some new exercise classes (#7). I always take a little more time for reading (a future post about my summer reading list is in the works), but this year, my summer bucket list includes:

  1. Take Tank to the beach. Yes, really.
  2. Go to the library to write (the only downside is I can’t take my coffee with me).
  3. Take a week’s “staycation” (or maybe several long weekends?).
  4. Go to a Tampa Bay Rays game with my mom when she visits in August.
  5. Sketch in my sketchbook. Maybe even finish—i.e., fill all the pages of—a sketchbook!
  6. Make homemade frozen pops. I never got around to doing it last summer.
  7. Try a month of unlimited classes at Karma
  8. Spend a day by the pool.
  9. Go to the beach at sunset with my husband.
  10. Rewatch The Princess Bride and Support Your Local Sheriff (my cat is named after the female lead in this movie).
  11. Try the new gelato place in town.
  12. Make pesto with the basil from my garden. (Done!)

What’s on your summer bucket list?

David Mason

Grief Abated

June 03, 2015

Introduction by Ted Kooser: Of taking long walks it has been said that a person can walk off anything. Here David Mason hikes a mountain in his home state, Colorado, and steps away from an undisclosed personal loss into another state, one of healing.

In the Mushroom Summer

Colorado turns Kyoto in a shower,
mist in the pines so thick the crows delight
(or seem to), winging in obscurity.
The ineffectual panic of a squirrel
who chattered at my passing gave me pause
to watch his Ponderosa come and go—
long needles scratching cloud. I’d summated
but knew it only by the wildflower meadow,
the muted harebells, paintbrush, gentian,
scattered among the locoweed and sage.
Today my grief abated like water soaking
underground, its scar a little path
of twigs and needles winding ahead of me
downhill to the next bend. Today I let
the rain soak through my shirt and was unharmed.

Reprinted by permission from “The Hudson Review,” Vol. LIX, No. 2 (Summer 2006). Copyright © 2006 by David Mason. This weekly column is supported by The Poetry Foundation, The Library of Congress, and the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.


Happiness 101--and a Giveaway!

June 01, 2015

Sometimes when we search for happiness, we forget to start with the basics. We don’t feel happy because our lifestyles are not conducive to happiness. That’s the premise of Happy Guide, by Michael Kinnaird. This short book outlines a plan for addressing the basics that affect our health, and ultimately our happiness.

Kinnaird believes that the causes of happiness are health and peace of mind. It’s hard to be happy when you don’t feel strong and vital. It’s hard to be happy when you feel out of control, disorganized and stressed out. As Kinnaird writes, “Everything affects everything else.”

Happy Guide addresses a number of lifestyle elements, including what we eat and drink, exercise, drugs, sleep, getting organized and living in the moment. Kinnaird writes simply about what has worked for him, and while there is nothing earth-shatteringly new, Happy Guide is a great reminder that sometimes the simplest things can make the biggest difference.

Happy Guide is a quick and easy read—in fact, I read it while sitting in a coffee shop waiting for my husband’s truck to be repaired. You can read the first chapter of the book by visiting the Happy Guide home page.

And, even better—the author of Happy Guide has kindly offered to give away five downloadable eBooks to the first five people who comment on this post. (Please include your email address so they can send you your copy.)

What simple things have you found contribute to your happiness?