Saturday, December 21, 2013

Keeping the Home Fires Burning

Fire by lizaleemiller
Fire, a photo by lizaleemiller on Flickr.

Kneeling before the fire, tending it. Urging the flames to catch the wood. Adding paper, kindling, a likely looking log. Using the bellows to push oxygen into the hot coals. I feel my hands doing motions that my ancestors have done since the beginning of time. Tending a fire, after all, is not a skill that has undergone radical change. Sure, I have a pair of bellows that I use instead of blowing on the coals. I have a fire starter so I can just click a button and apply flame to the paper with ease. But these are minor advances that don't greatly affect the ancient connection of starting a fire. Sometimes getting a fire to go in my huge wood stove can be challenging. Our chimney doesn't draw as well as it should so if the fire goes out overnight, it may take awhile to get it going again. Kneeling at the hearth, adding kindling, cardboard, newspaper and urging the coals to catch and heat the air so it rises up the chimney, I can almost feel in my bones the right way to do this. Watching the flames catch and dance on the wood is very gratifying.

The fact is that my success or failure at starting a fire won't make a huge difference to the warmth of my house. The furnace will kick on if our fire doesn't get going. My family won't freeze or go hungry if I can't get the fire going. I'll simply whine at my husband when he gets up that he didn't bank the fire enough the night before so HE has to get it going this morning and he'll chop some kindling (which is the real secret to getting a fire started -- lots and lots of small, chopped up pieces of wood which catch quickly) and the house will start to warm up again. In the meantime, the furnace will burn propane gas and send heat directly to the bedrooms where my family is sleeping peacefully. Still, knowing that I am successful and the fire is glowing and dancing in the wood stove is gratifying. Hearth and home. There's something wonderful there.

I try not to think about the "Spare the Air" days and global climate change. I know that heating our house by burning wood is not the best choice and actually illegal on some days. It's hard to feel that my fire has any impact, however, when I think back on the nightmarish air pollution problems that China has. The images on my TV made my lungs seize up just watching them. The image of a hidden sun and billowing, thick crud hiding an entire city from view, the grounded air planes that can't take off because the air was thick with God knows what -- I think that puts my wood fire into perspective. If all of China was heated with wood fires, it wouldn't produce the problem that unfettered industry has created. So, I'll take our solution of regulating industry and showing vast improvement in air quality over the years. And someday, when the time has truly come to stop burning wood the way we do today, we'll get a pellet stove (or whatever the equivalent is then) and burn a more efficient -- but less viscerally pleasing -- fire to heat our house.

A small act of global selfishness, I know. But, there is something about a fire in the heart of a home. I better add another log.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Bitter cold and dark
Pour hot water in the dogs' water bowl
so they can drink
and then they curl up before the fire
so close they almost touch

© 2013 Liza Lee Miller

Thursday, December 5, 2013


Fog is a blessing
(during hot days of travel through California's Central Valley after crossing the deserts of Nevada)
bringing cool relief to the dry, baking, life-sucking heat
Soothing the spirit and body
with airborne liquid cooling
Mother Nature's air conditioning, I think.
How many marriages are saved by fog?  (Maybe just mine)
Blissful fog
Beloved fog

Fog swirls up off the redwoods at night as the air cools
a gray mist rising into the darkening sky
They make their own weather
these forest giants
rising 300 feet above my head
Surviving for eons to be felled when Americans came to these mountains
clear cut scars across the mountains
The fog swirling through the stumps, confused
Give it a hundred years or so and they'll be back
Blissful fog
Beloved fog

©2013 Liza Lee Miller
All rights reserved

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Wednesday, November 27, 2013


Towering trees
woodsmoke hovers
twisting, winding, twirling roads
breathtaking vistas seen for moments
(and then hidden from view)
green everywhere
luscious, soothing green
Pops of yellow
Fall leaves or sunshine beams
It's nice to be a local

©2013 Liza Lee Miller
Writer's Digest November Poem-A-Day Challenge

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Break Free

The tedium and tension of the workweek
respite from routine
celebration and honoring
giving thanks
brief end to meetings and conferences and grades
and tests and lessons and lectures
a break from ringing bells and laughing voices on the playground
a break

(this one needs some serious editing -- or scrap-heaping -- but it's from the heart today!)

Monday, November 25, 2013

Always Redux

(Today's prompt was to remix a poem written earlier in the month.  Here is my re-mix of Always.)

Emotions run high. 
Tears flow for no good reason.
Sentimental me. 

Sunday, November 24, 2013


“Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.” 
― Albert Camus

Fall lures me outside
The garden wants putting to bed
Preparing for rain and winters delights
Cold in the mornings
Dazzling sun
Fall lures me outside myself

Chores call me outside
Raking.  Stacking.  Pruning
Labor that in summer's heat would bring forth complaints and irritation
Fall renders pleasant, urgent, compelling
The light slants just so
Chores call me outside myself

©2013 Liza Lee Miller
Writer's Digest November Poem-A-Day Challenge

Saturday, November 23, 2013

I shouldn't be here . . .

I should be there
with all the excitement and color
and noise
The cheering and green grass and
the crashing of pads and helmets
Touchdowns and fight songs
I should be there
at the Big Game.

©2013 Liza Lee Miller
Writer's Digest November Poem-A-Day Challenge

Friday, November 22, 2013


The spark escapes me. 
Hidden in a dark recess of my mind. 
Novel ideas vanish or 
slither away when called upon.
Necessity is the mother of invention, they say. 
Deadlines become necessity 
and force at least a semblance of inspiration. 

PS.  I really hated today's suggested topic for a poem so . . . I punted.  How inspired, eh? 

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Just a look

Communication without words
That significant look
Works best with family and close friends
Although it is a teacher's secret weapon as well
The encoded message
was received.

©2013 Liza Lee Miller
Writer's Digest November Poem-A-Day Challenge

Wednesday, November 20, 2013


Sentimental, sappy tears.
Flow down my cheeks
as I watch the video or read the book or watch the tv commercial
about facial tissues and how important they is the soldier who comes home 
from war and is greeted by his loving dog
They are always important to sappy, sentimental me.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

After thirty-one years

I feel as though I've always known
(and, yet, it still feels new and special)
and really, that's true.

I was eighteen when I held you up
and told the world that you were the one.
And, tenaciously, we stuck.

(Thank you, eighteen year old me, you chose well.)

©2013 Liza Lee Miller
Writer's Digest November Poem-A-Day Challenge

Monday, November 18, 2013

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Elements of Writing

Find the core, the heart
Figure out what makes them tick
And write it all down 

(that's all.  it's easy.)

Saturday, November 16, 2013




and stare
straight up
The moon glows
and lights the darkened world

©2013 Liza Lee Miller
Writer's Digest November Poem-A-Day Challenge

Friday, November 15, 2013

What About the Moon?


float high
above the trees
drift through my window
fill the room with glowing bright light

©2013 Liza Lee Miller
Writer's Digest November Poem-A-Day Challenge

Thursday, November 14, 2013


Into the thick mist
Driving rendered difficult
Turn on the foglights

©2013 Liza Lee Miller
Writer's Digest November Poem-A-Day Challenge

Wednesday, November 13, 2013


Is it subtle self-loathing
to reset one's alarm to 5pm
instead of 5am?

Oh, help me!

©2013 Liza Lee Miller
Writer's Digest November Poem-A-Day Challenge

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Joyful despair


Watching the whale,
come up, spray,
and dive again
Sleek black body lifting hugely,
skimming along the surface,
and disappearing with only a fog of spray left to mark it's presence.
Giant and peaceful.
Watching us watching her.

I wonder that the whales don't rise up against us
for all the harm we do the sea and them.

(Over-fishing, hunting, floating garbage islands,
global warming)

And yet, she rises up again, to spray and breath,
and leaves behind a fog of breath.

©2013 Liza Lee Miller
Writer's Digest November Poem-A-Day Challenge
Image Credit:  Liza Lee Miller ©2013 More photos can be found on Flickr.  

Monday, November 11, 2013

Ekphrasis: The Absolutely Naked Fragrance

[Poet's note:  First visit the MOMA site to view the image that inspired my poem.  Ekphrasis poetry is poetry about a work of art.  I chose The Absolutely Naked Fragrance by John McCracken.  I saw this piece at MOMA when I visited New York a couple of years ago.]

The Absolutely Naked Fragrance

Pink plank leaning against the wall.
Shiny pink
Challenging pink
Delicate pink
Soft pink
Strong pink
Wondering pink
Predictive pink
Estee Lauder's Beautiful pink
Ironic pink
Amusing pink.

©2013 Liza Lee Miller
Writer's Digest November Poem-A-Day Challenge

Sunday, November 10, 2013


I am aware
as I awake
that the day is alight.

I believe I will arise.

Or I could asnuggle back in and be asleep some more.

Sundays are sweet.

©2013 Liza Lee Miller
Writer's Digest November Poem-A-Day Challenge

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Being creative

Got together with some if my favorite women and made gorgeous bracelets. So wonderful! 

My bracelet ... 

My sister's work . . . 

My daughter's work . . . 

My mother-in-law's work 

Finished project . . . 

My reward . . . 

The Other Night

Sitting in the darkened hall
(standing room only audience who whispered clever bon mots under their breath)
watching a man, stand, and simply
and talk
about poems
Damn, I thought.  Damn.

©2013 Liza Lee Miller
Writer's Digest November Poem-A-Day Challenge

Friday, November 8, 2013


Placed in my hand
with care
"Look!  I found it for you!"
Sleek, black, soft
From whose wing did you fall?

©2013 Liza Lee Miller
Writer's Digest November Poem-A-Day Challenge

Thursday, November 7, 2013


There is always the urge to 
take a dictionary and define,
to set out the structure and meaning
in clear (or not) succinct words
and if one could use little symbols and squiggles to add meaning
so much the better.

And, yet, does that explain 
or clarify why we act as we do?
Can Webster tell why caring 
feels like a hardship
Why we feel burdened 
when we should feel blessed? 
Why we struggle to accept 
that which is or should be a joy?  

©2013 Liza Lee Miller
Writer's Digest November Poem-A-Day Challenge

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Starry, Starry Night

I stand in the corner of the room.
Invisible, you know, but not hidden.
I want people to know I'm there
but they don't come here to see me.

I stand where I can see the painting
(which I kinda get but kinda don't)

but, man,
I really want to see the faces.
The woman who silently starts crying,
the man who rushes in to get as close as he can,
some stay for hours and just stare
others come in, say wow, and move on quickly

The painting is sweet and I kinda get it.
The faces though, that's the stuff.
I could watch that all day.
(And, I do. )

©2013 Liza Lee Miller
Writer's Digest November Poem-A-Day Challenge

Tuesday, November 5, 2013


Maintaining a public persona
means hiding
your thoughts and feelings
unless they are

They must come out though
at times
in the shower
or while driving

or through a single

©2013 Liza Lee Miller
Writer's Digest November Poem-A-Day Challenge

Monday, November 4, 2013

Clean Sheet

Pull back the tidy covers
Exposing clean, crisp freshness
Pillows plumped and placed just so
Fresh scent emerges
There is nothing like
a fresh made bed

©2013 Liza Lee Miller
Writer's Digest November Poem-A-Day Challenge

Sunday, November 3, 2013

The last time I was here . . .

On this spot
(where I stand in my mind only)
I became someone new
I left behind who I was, who I had always been
I shed her like a dry, ripped skin.

Without regret, with just a vague itchy feeling between my shoulder blades.

On this spot
(with my bare feet mently planted where high satin heels last stood)
with the wind blowing gently
surrounded by family and friends
I looked into your eyes
and changed

my name
my identity
my path

On this spot.  Right here, I became who I am.

©2013 Liza Lee Miller
Writer's Digest November Poem-A-Day Challenge

Saturday, November 2, 2013

New Time

Time is a constant
We think as we measure it second by second
minutes and hours and days
There is meaning and measure in the clicking of the clock
The sweeping hand sweeps through our days
regulates our lives
And, then we change the clocks.

©2013 Liza Lee Miller
Writer's Digest November Poem-A-Day Challenge

Friday, November 1, 2013


The sky blossoms with color
around each bend in the road
I catch a glimpse
We don't slow down
red orange pink all on a background of bluer than blue
We drive on
turn after turn showing
the ever-changing sky
New colors, new sights
until we rise
Over the hill and
head down
into the night.

©2013 Liza Lee Miller
Writer's Digest November Poem-A-Day Challenge

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Good Morning Poem

My coffee cup wishes me a good morning.
The power of wishful thinking is real to me at 5:15 am.
Good morning, wonderful Sumatra beans.
Good morning, half-and-half.
Good morning, dogs both large and small
(who know to be quiet and calm at 5:15 am)
Sipping, my toes curl with the power of that good morning wish.
Mmmmm, possibilities swirl in my brain.
My coffee cup wishes me a good morning.

All content (words or images) by Liza Lee Miller unless otherwise noted.
© 2013, Liza Lee Miller. Creative Commons License
Poem form:  free verse 

Monday, August 5, 2013

Demolition - Clean Up - Remodel

My world is all about working on our bathroom remodel.  I can't even think about anything else.  But sometimes you need a mental break . . . so I'm playing with new poetic forms.


Destroying old to make room for new
Ripping, pulling, sledgehammers for two
Turning it around, the results will astound
When all finished, it will match our view

All content (words or images) by Liza Lee Miller unless otherwise noted.
© 2013, Liza Lee Miller. Creative Commons License
Poem form:  Gwadodyn (a welsh poetic form)

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Redoing an old bathroom

Our house wasn't always as well loved and cared for as it is now.  And, given my native housekeeping skills, calling it well-cared for now is a stretch.  However . . .

We know that it was empty for some time and that the roof leaked and there was significant water damage to the floors and . . . it was a mess.

Additionally, some of the workmen hired to do things to this house before we were owners didn't have a whole lot of pride in workmanship.  It's discouraging to be taking the time to do a good job on something and have to spend hours and hours undoing sloppiness from someone else. But that's where we are . . .

The kids' bathroom (and our guest bathroom) was awful when we moved in.  It was painted bright pink.  You can't imagine.  As we moved in furniture and boxes, Greg and my step-dad were building a fence in the backyard and my mother-in-law was painting the guest bathroom.  I needed to make a decision.  I had some blue towels and rugs so we went with white and blue.  Done.

Well, that was 12 years ago (September 2001).  The kids were 18 mos and 3 when we moved in here . . . they are now teenagers.  The paint needed to be updated anyway.  The flooring has always been hated (so ugly).  In addition, we have had indications that the subfloor under the ugly vinyl flooring was rotting away.  So, this summer was the perfect time to tackle this project.

Here are some before pictures:

Before shot
Such an ugly bathroom. But soon, it will be gorgeous!
Before shot


Hating on this shower enclosure. Cheap and non-functioning! Ugh! 

For the demo, we started with the flooring.  It was scary because we didn't know what we would find.  There were two layers of vinyl, both glued down to particle board.  For anyone not familiar with building practices, particle board would NOT be a good choice in a wet environment (or really anywhere).  Under the particle board was building paper on top of the heart redwood subfloor.

The good news.  That redwood subfloor is in good shape and very solid.  Yay!

The bad news.  The particle board . . . not so much.  So ugly.  Near the bathtub (where the vinyl wasn't even glued down properly or caulked correctly), it was mush.  Beyond the mush, there was just disintegrating particle board and most of the floor was just too old and falling apart.  Great choice of building products.

Working hard
I dressed for success in the clean up. We knew there was mold and I wasn't taking any chances. Stylish, huh?

Disgusting mess!
Down to the subfloor near the tub -- lots to do elsewhere.
So much destruction work
Pretty ugly, huh? 

Finally down to subfloor (halfway point)
More progress.
Cleaning it all up was ugly and hard work.  We found a few termite infested areas in the particle board. There was evidence of past termite damage in the redwood subfloor near the toilet (which had evidently leaked at some point in the past).  So, we treated the subfloor with borate powder before putting down new building paper.

Peeling back the ugly
Peeling back all this plastic crap was really ugly.

Pride in craftmanship
This one kills me. They took out a medicine cabinet at some point and just sloppily patched the hole and then slapped a cabinet over the hole -- it was sitting on top of the wall instead of inside the wall. So annoying. Love the pride in workmanship.
So much work!
I'm not going to lie -- sometimes this got really discouraging.
Evidence of previous damage
See what I mean?
subfloor done
There was old termite damage around the toilet. Joy.
New building paper
This is our current status.

Next step, we're going to caulk the edges of the room all the way around, with special emphasis near the tub.  Then we'll paint primer/sealer on to the plywood and caulk again.  Then, we'll be ready to put down the new vinyl flooring -- oh, and more caulk.  There will be no more water seeping down to the subfloor.  We are done with that.

Tearing out wallboard to replace with wonderboard
Here's the partially torn apart tub area.  We put some plywood down to protect the tub.  It's scaffolding for me while I work on these walls and handy storage when we need the floor cleared off!  

We are also tearing out the old wallboard around the tub.  It wasn't in as bad shape as we feared but it wasn't good, either.  We'll be replacing that with wonderboard which is better than the "green" board they used in the 50's.  The last prep work we need to do is sanding the remaining cabinet before painting it.

Then, we'll do flooring, paint all the walls, tile the shower/tub area, put up tile baseboards, install the new vanity and sinktop, and install the new medicine cabinet and mirror.   That's all.

I'll keep you posted.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Poetic Form: Cinquain

Writer's Digest describes a cinquain as follows:  "the cinquain is comprised of 2 syllables in the first line, 4 in the second line, 6 in the third, 8 in the fourth, and 2 in the fifth."  

Here's the funny thing though . . . that's not what I thought it was.  But, I love learning something new so off to Wikipedia I went . . . turns out the type of cinquain we teach kids in school is a variation and is called:  

Didactic cinquain[edit]

The didactic cinquain is closely related to the Crapsey cinquain. It is an informal cinquain widely taught in elementary schools and has been featured in, and popularized by, children's media resources, including Junie B. Jones and PBS Kids. This form is also embraced by young adults and older poets for its expressive simplicity. The prescriptions of this type of cinquain refer to word count, not syllables and stresses. Ordinarily, the first line is a one-word title, the subject of the poem; the second line is a pair of adjectives describing that title; the third line is a three word phrase that gives more information about the subject; the fourth line consists of four words describing feelings related to that subject; and the fifth line is a single word synonym or other reference for the subject from line one.

Well, didactic cinquain it is.  


continuous, persistent
keep on moving
strong, focused, sore, glad

But what if it were a classic cinquain . . . 

Moving forward
Consistently stepping
Sore but glad for the strong focused

All content (words or images) by Liza Lee Miller unless otherwise noted.
© 2013, Liza Lee Miller. Creative Commons License
Poem form:  Cinquain 

Wednesday, May 29, 2013



The siren song of technology
         sit, sit, just a few minutes
                       check in
                            share share share

"Sitting is the new smoking"

Yank it. Rip it.  Coil it up in a ball and put it away.
The tie that binds
and confines and defines.

Stand up open the door step outside and just listen

Do you hear it?
broken only by
the rhythmic chirping of birds
the creaking ribbet of a frog

I think I'll take a picture and post it.

Inspired by Wednesday Poetry Prompts.   
All content (words or images) by Liza Lee Miller unless otherwise noted.
© 2013, Liza Lee Miller. Creative Commons License

Friday, February 1, 2013


Go read the latest I and the Bird roundup on Ravens!!!  My favorite birds on my favorite bird blog.  It's all good.  (I'm a Raven fan today but on Sunday . . . it's all about my 9ers!)

Ravens over Bryce
Ravens flying over Bryce Canyon, 2011

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Ravens I have Known and Loved

When I think about Ravens (and I often do), there are certain aspects that I tend to dwell on.

First of all, Ravens are very social.  You rarely see one Raven.  They are usually in pairs or multiples of two.  They are loving with each other -- touching frequently, sharing food, and talking.  Always with the talking.
Raven Courtship
He's all puffed up and sexy looking and she's like, "Uh, yea, okay, honey."  
Raven Dance 12
There are 8 in the pic -- one is still in the tree.  Ravens are usually in pairs.
Next, they are amazing in flight.  Groups of them love to soar around the redwood trees and do dizzying aerial maneuvers   It's really something to watch.
In addition, they are smart . . . and naughty.  They use their intelligence to solve problems.  At my school, the ravens have figured out how to get down to the bottom of the garbage bags when there is only a little bit of trash in there.  They perch on the edge of the can and reach in to grab a bit of the bag.  Then they catch that part with their foot and grab lower for another bit of bag, pulling it up and holding it with their foot.  They repeat this until they can reach whatever tasty treat they so desperately wanted from the bottom of the garbage.  Our janitor, as you might imagine, *loves* ravens!  :)

Their appearance is something else as well.  They are a bird of extremes.  Their feathers are blacker than black.  Their beak is huge and intimidating.  Their feet are huge.  When you get close to them, they are fairly breathtakingly large.
Raven . . . toe tapping
Big beak, big feet.
Raven close-up
BIG feet.
Last of all, the noises that Ravens make are startling.  Enjoy these video clips.

Sorry the sound quality isn't better -- I took it with my camera.  There are more Raven videos on my YouTube channel.  Enjoy.

 I feel really lucky to live in an area where Ravens abound.

Why do Ravens Hop?
PS.  They jump, too. 

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Wednesday Poetry: Measured Poem

(Each week Writer's Digest magazine offers a poetry prompt.  This week, it's a measured poem with lots of wiggle room on the definition of what that means. I'm inspired by a convo I just had on Facebook.  Thanks, Dawn, for the inspiration.)

How will I measure this day?
In moments of frustration?                                                 (Those what the hell kind of days)
Or fear? The paralyzing fear of one misstep crashing it all down around my clay feet
Or smiles of beaming pride                     (I like these days)

Never tedium though.
Never dull, clock-watching agony
Never the slow death of boredom

How will I measure this day?

All content (words or images) by Liza Lee Miller unless otherwise noted.
© 2013, Liza Lee Miller. Creative Commons License
Poem form:  Free Verse 

Friday, January 11, 2013

Daily Photo(s) and Poem: Pterodactyl Attack

Incoming!  Brown Pelican

Heading right for me
Wings all askew and awkward
Then sweeping past me
You soar with sudden grace
You gawky pterodactyl

Brown Pelican
Graceful flight
Brown Pelican and Western Gull (juv)
All content (words or images) by Liza Lee Miller unless otherwise noted.
© 2013, Liza Lee Miller. Creative Commons License
Poem form:  Tanka 

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow . . .

It was "snowing" at California Academy of Sciences
Ruth enjoying faux snow at California Academy of Sciences
It was "snowing" at California Academy of Sciences
Gage and his hair enjoying faux snow at California Academy of Sciences

The Weather Service is telling us it's going to be cooooooooold tonight.  And, we're getting some rain so their is a 60% chance of snow tonight.  I'm not feeling it but wouldn't it be fun.  

When we were at the California Academy of Sciences last weekend, they were making fake snow indoors.  The kids enjoyed it.  I'm thinking we'd enjoy the real stuff more.  

It hasn't snowed here in Boulder Creek since the kids were little.  I wish I could believe it would happen but I don't.  Oh well. 

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Daily Poem: Trust me & Daily Photo: Let's play.

You just have to trust me on this one.
5:30 AM is no time
for wild-eyed, giant dogs
to rampage the house.
No, you can't bark.
You are huge,
great beast.

Great beast -- it's too early!
Let's play.
All content (words or images) by Liza Lee Miller unless otherwise noted.
© 2013, Liza Lee Miller. Creative Commons License
Poem form:  Nonet 

Monday, January 7, 2013

Daily Photo: Hello Monday

This fish looks about as happy as I feel on this Monday after Winter Break.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Daily Photo: Illumination

Jellies at Steinhart Aquarium
Jellies responding to color changes at Steinhart Aquarium, San Francisco
More jellies at Steinhart
Same jellies, taken with flash -- glowy goodness