A Poet in the Family

My husband’s great great aunt, Emma Safley, was a poet. She lived in small town Iowa and was a stay at home mom to 4 children. Quite honestly, this is probably why I like her work so much. Having been a stay at home mom myself for the first 10 or so years of motherhood and a work from home mom currently, the essence of her words have always touched me. I read her poems and I recall moments from my life. They make me smile, laugh, and sometimes sigh from a twinge of sadness.

I’m no expert, and in fact I don’t really like to read poetry all that much, but I find her work genuine and honest and at times quite a bit snarky which suits me perfectly. Take this one for example:

Just a Stone

I once showed a friend a small striped stone
That I had picked up on a wild beach
Along the North Sea in Scotland.
“What’s that?” she asked,
As if it were a common lump of dirt.
“Just a stone,” I answered.
“What will you do with it?” she wanted to know.
“I’ll lay it on a shelf with other treasures,
And sometimes I’ll pick it up and fondle it,” I said.
She snorted.
I never let her see any other stories.

Isn’t that funny? She cracks me up.

One of the things I love so much about her poetry is that she talks about ordinary things, common things, as she calls them in the title of her book. Just ordinary experiences, like washing and hanging clothes. But then she adds a bit of magic.

The Day of the Butterfly

It started like any ordinary summer day:
I was hanging a washing out in my usual way,
Thankful for sunshine and soap and a washing machine,
Four lively children to wash for, and washing come clean —
The commonplace things mothers find to be grateful for,
Not expecting, and seldom receiving anything more.

As I lifted my hand to brush something out of my hair,
I glanced at a window-reflection. Incredibly, there,
I saw a butterfly resting on top of my head.
(There were flowers enough in the garden, let it be said.)

It waved its beautiful wings a time or two,
And when it was ready, it weightlessly lifted and flew.
I’ll always remember the day. Ever after I wear
A butterfly memory perched in my everyday hair.

And then sometimes she was sad. I don’t know a lot about Emma, but I imagine this was about her husband. I remember the first time I read this one, I think I had just read a bit of her sarcasm and was reading along. The title didn’t warn me to the deep sadness here.

Practice Makes Perfect
He couldn’t bear to see me cry,
And not that he is dead and gone
I have no tears. The well is dry,
Yet aridly my life goes on.

And so as to not end on a sad note, here is one where she is at the same time poking fun at the women that ask her to read poetry to them and being vulnerable about how meaningful her writing is to her. Enjoy! And thanks for reading :)


Because I am sorry for Program Committees
I said yes I would read some of my poetry
At the November meeting of the Ladies Improvement Society.

I gave them my best: my ecstasy and my grief,
Serenity and turmoil, tragedy and beauty,
Hyacinths to feed their souls.

They clapped politely when I stopped,
And then hurried off to line up
For refreshments.

Of course you can’t really eat hyacinths.

Missed Opportunities: Correcting Past Mistakes

Years ago, shortly after my husband and I were married, Fleetwood Mac got back together. Minneapolis, MN was on their schedule and since were living there at the time and are both fans of the band, we looked into getting tickets. 

We were young, working to make ends meet, paying off school loans, and after much deliberation, we decided we couldn’t afford it. But no worries, we thought, we’ll catch them on their next tour. 

But it was not to be, Christine McVie left the group after the tour and that’s when we realized we’d made a big mistake. We didn’t want to see half the band. We wanted to see it all and we missed that opportunity. 

We promised each other not to let opportunities like that pass us by again. While concert tickets are pricey, what’s a few bucks to see an icon?

A few years later, Elton John came through Minneapolis on a tour. Another favorite of ours, and we found ourselves beginning to make the same mistake, considering not going, because we thought we couldn’t afford it. But wait, we said to ourselves, remember Fleetwood Mac? And so we went to see Elton and it was amazing. Lesson learned. 

Last night, after 18 years of waiting and saw Fleetwood Mac, complete with Christine McVie, in concert in Denver. We almost didn’t get tickets, they sold out so fast. It was touch and go there for a while, we even resorted to searching on Craigslist. 

Was it worth the wait? Totally. It was amazing. Amazing. So amazing. 

Here we are waiting and trying to entertain ourselves.

Hurry up and start already. #fleetwoodmac

A photo posted by Karen Arnold (@iamkarenalma) on

Impatiently watching the stands fill up.

2 minutes. There's more people here. #wecanstartnow

A photo posted by Karen Arnold (@iamkarenalma) on

My only regret is that they didn’t do Songbird. Maybe next time.

Hispanicize 2015

Here’s my presentation for those of you who missed it. Feel free to stop by the booth and ask any questions if you’re at Hispanicize. We’re here today and tomorrow.

Top 10 Secret WordPress.com Features: And why you won’t want to live without them.

#WPlovesHispz15 #hispz15


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1988: Never Say Goodbye

“Mom, how old were you in eighth grade?”


“Do you have pictures of you in eighth grade?”

Do I have pictures? Why, I never thought you’d ask.

I hauled out my yearbook from that year, I got my husband to do the same, and the kids spent the next few hours pouring over them.

They found me:

My daughter, who is currently in eighth grade, read all the comments in my book and giggled and giggled. As a homeschooler she finds a certain fascination in the shenanigans of non-homeschoolers and the whole yearbook thing is, of course, ultra fascinating for her. Of all the comments, she pointed this one out as particularly amazing:

I remember the first day of school you were so nice to me yet I didn’t know who you were. But through it all, we’ve become friends. which is good because you’re a nice person. Just keep smiling – keep your chin up and stay out of trouble. Most of all, make the most out of your life – because you only life once. Don’t dwell too much on guys, they’ll always be there – just be happy and when things get you down, remember the good times – they’ll always be there – no one can take away memories. Best of luck to you.

Love, name-redacted-for-their-own-good

And a classic:

I am very glad I met you. I hope we’re better friends next year. Have a great summer.

Love, name-redacted-for-their-own-good

If you went to a school where they did the whole yearbook thing you may recall the ritual signing of the yearbooks. I remember dying to have this or that boy sign my yearbook, then being disappointed by the obligatory “Stay cool” message. I remember pouring all sorts of sentiment into my message for this or that best friend and eagerly reading the equally sentimental message written back to me by this or that best friend. Those were the days. Oh, wait, they weren’t. Eighth grade, remember? Thank goodness there’s no do-overs. But if we’re looking for truth in the old yearbook, I think it’s safe to say, nobody can take away memories and it is great to pull those yearbooks out to remember the good times, they will always be there.

I Went to Hawaii for Work

I had the opportunity to travel to Hawaii for work. Really.

Aurora, the support team at Automattic that handles Jetpack and Guided Transfer, invited me to spend a few days with them talking about workflows, team goals, and more.

For workflows each person Chromecasted how they work through their daily tasks, including any helpful tools, snippets, todo list, and apps that make their job easier. It was really neat to watch the ways two people can attack the same work in distinct ways. I walked away with several ideas for better ways to do my own work.


We also worked on a Plus/Delta/Next gamestorming workshop which clarified a lot about what the team is doing well, thinks they should be working on and/or doing better. Besides being an enlightening team exercise it required sticky notes. Who doesn’t love sticky notes and sharpies? I mean, really.

Sticky note fun (+t+d fab pics courtesy of Jen Hooks):

While we were there, we took the opportunity to see a few sites and had a couple team-building activities. Here we are on a trip tubing down irrigation ditches. While that sounds a bit odd, it was really fun.


And well, of course we saw the ocean a bit too, visited a coffee plantation, took a hike to a waterfall, and I dyed my hair a little bit pink.