Archive for the ‘relationships’ Category

You might have noticed that this blog is no longer a “Personalized Wedding Poet’s Blog.” I’m expanding my personalized poetry business to include occasions beyond weddings.

Here is a love poem I wrote recently for a couple whose togetherness is inspirational.



Earth’s Elements

Hold my hand; remember our song.

Before Tennessee, we live together

in the palm of Michigan.

Our love, wide as the Atlantic,

spans farther than the tiny part

sweeping the shores of Myrtle Beach.

The air warms and cools these waters at once.

No, that’s wrong. It’s larger than that.

Our love rounds the earth, an equator.

Uncomplicated, we taste childhood’s milk and cookies.

In the beginning,

you sat across the table,

wrote on the receipt,

will you be my girlfriend? Check yes or no.

A fair test, the answer sure.

We settled in, home building in the small space between us:

everyday Black Love Day.

Now, spooning on this couch, thigh to thigh,

I tell you,

Honey, I love you always.


As Maya Angelou wrote,

Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

I add,

That’s us.

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One of the new traditions that my husband and I would like to start is to truly remember the things that we are thankful for on Thanksgiving.

Here is a start… 

I am thankful for my husband and our love.

I am thankful for my parents.

I am thankful for my family, especially my 101 ½ year old aunt.

I am thankful for my friends, especially those Wonderful Women.

I am thankful for poetry, especially the words of Mark Strand who helped me to get started writing in high school.

I am thankful for art, especially Georgia O’Keefe, who I carry with me everywhere.

I am thankful that I am safe.

I am thankful that I am healthy.

I am thankful that I am warm enough in the winter and cool enough in the summer.

I am thankful that I have enough food.

I am thankful that I have a home.

I am thankful that I have jobs that stimulate my mind.

I am thankful for time to think.

I am thankful for Smith and Sarah Lawrence.

I am thankful that I have had the opportunity to travel to beautiful places.

I am thankful that I am challenged everyday by things I read, hear and discuss.

I am thankful for the future.

What are you thankful for?

(I am also thankful for the possibility to rest… see you next week!)

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Isn’t there a saying that laughter is the best medicine? In a very unscientific way, I declare it the truth.

Sometimes we take ourselves entirely too seriously. My husband and I laugh often. We can already laugh about the wedding. Like how long it took us to plan the drinks list. We carefully named some drinks after friends in the wedding party. We discovered – after the wedding – that we’d misspelled the last name of the Chief Wonderful Woman (laughing, but still sorry!) We can laugh at the venue’s bad jokes about putting the “boys” in the bank vault before the wedding. We can laugh that the venue put a waitress in charge of me when the ceremony started. She actually said to me, “I’m in charge of making sure you actually walk down the aisle and don’t run away.” Earlier, we laughed about how our first date was on April Fool’s Day three and a half years ago.

We are even allowed to giggle at the seriousness of this union. Why not? Why not laugh at what is expected of us and what we decide to actually do?  Someone recently told me that when she first moved in with her husband, she couldn’t stand how messy he was. He left his dirty socks all over the apartment. After endless conversations and some fights, she decided to laugh about it. She took out her camera and photographed all the funny places the socks ended up – from the bathroom to the kitchen counter. She and her husband had a hearty laugh about it and then compromised about how to keep their home. 

Gregory Corso’s poem Marriage, which I briefly discuss in yesterday’s post  makes me laugh. You can read the poem here. His second stanza made me giggle in the library chair:

When she introduces me to her parents 
back straightened, hair finally combed, strangled by a tie, 
should I sit knees together on their 3rd degree sofa 
and not ask Where’s the bathroom? 
How else to feel other than I am, 
often thinking Flash Gordon soap– 
O how terrible it must be for a young man 
seated before a family and the family thinking 
We never saw him before! He wants our Mary Lou! 
After tea and homemade cookies they ask What do you do for a living? 
Should I tell them? Would they like me then? 
Say All right get married, we’re losing a daughter 
but we’re gaining a son– 
And should I then ask Where’s the bathroom?

We take ourselves so damn seriously, from the courtship to the wedding vows. I think we all know, deep down, that we are in love when we find someone who can make us laugh.

In our vows, my husband and I named things that the other represents for us. It turns out I am his scotch and he is my zucchini flower. We smiled when we said it and some of the guests laughed with surprise. 

In all humor there is some seriousness. Scotch is my husband’s favorite drink and he takes it seriously. I have never turned down a fried zucchini flower, either made by distant relatives in Italy or my mother in New Jersey. We meant what we said.

A writer friend asked me recently why I haven’t written a blog post about what it means to be married. What it feels like on the other side. I think I don’t entirely know yet. We are happy to be married, relieved to no longer be wedding planning and generally just enjoying ourselves. 

This is the life!

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Tony Richard's photograph of us just as we were pronounced married

My husband and I married one week ago this weekend. We probably won’t know for years what the ceremony and union ultimately signify for us. Immediately, however, we were joined legally. I have the pink, temporary marriage certificate to prove it. 

Since noon last Saturday, I have felt both completely different and exactly the same.

We have been slowly committing to each other throughout the last three and half years. Moving in together in a state neither of us had ever lived in before was a big step. We learned more about each other’s habits and lifestyles. Since we’d been long distance for two years and spent chunks of time essentially living together in each other’s apartment, nothing was shocking. 

For this reason, as I looked into his eyes and we said our vows before our closest friends and family, I knew I was marrying my best friend. Someone I trust, love and know.

When we walked out of the center of the circle as a married couple, I was jubilant. Simply jubilant. I knew that we were not only bound by our emotions, but also by a legal and public commitment. We had made a public vow to care for each other and our union throughout our lives. This vow would be recognized by our government.

I like calling him “my husband.” I like being a part of an institution that allows others to know and understand our relationship without question (of course, if I had taken his surname, this would have been more obvious.) I like that I could be on his health insurance. I like that we can hold hands in public.  

“Society” wanted us to marry. The word “society” is a vague one that often serves as a crutch. However, I think you understand, without labels, who I mean when I write that “society” did not always approve or recognize our relationship when we were living together as an unmarried couple. When we stayed in hotel rooms with one bed. When we accompanied each other to the doctor. We are lucky that our “society” only took it that far, considering what happens in other, less forgiving “societies.” 

We did not marry in order to please this or any other “society.”

We got married because it was important to us to share our vows of love publically and be bound legally.

I recently wrote an essay on this subject and a friend reading it noted that I sounded defensive. Perhaps. I feel compelled to explain myself to those who vote against gay marriage or see marriage as only a religious sacrament instead of a civil right with legal implications. 

For these and related reasons, we asked my husband’s friend Dr. Jonathan Ladd to read this during our ceremony:

Goodridge v. Massachusetts Dept. of Public Health

By Chief Justice Margaret H. Marshall

Civil marriage is at once a deeply personal commitment to another human being and a highly public celebration of the ideals of mutuality, companionship, intimacy, fidelity, and family. It is an association that promotes a way of life, not causes; a harmony in living, not political faiths; a bilateral loyalty, not commercial or social projects.

 Because it fulfills yearnings for security, safe haven, and connection that express our common humanity, civil marriage is an esteemed institution and the decision whether and whom to marry is among life’s momentous acts of self-definition.


We are not the first couple to include part of Chief Justice Marshall’s statement in their ceremony. We will certainly not be the last.

May all consenting adults be allowed to marry and experience our jubilance, publicly and under law.

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Less than a week after our wedding, I am brimming with images and impressions of the wedding and our new married state. I’m not sure that those ideas are ready for organized sentences just yet. Soon. I promise.

Today, I’d like to share an essay my friend Hila Ratzabi wrote about her interfaith relationship. The essay, “Invisible Revisions: One Jewish Perspective on Interfaith Relationships” is a beautiful piece. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

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Love in IndianapolisI liked Hans so much after our first date that I was sure he’d never want to see me again.

We met at Union Square, under the statue of Washington. Well, officially we “met” online. We emailed back and forth and never even spoke on the phone. Hans, who was at Princeton at the time, suggested the statue of Washington as a good meeting spot. I emailed back and asked which statue that was without realizing how obvious it must be.  

Surprisingly, Hans didn’t give up on me. He carefully emailed back exactly where we were to meet (he still helps me with directions.) That evening, we walked to a restaurant off the square and I tried to breathe through my nose so I didn’t appear to be out of breath. This was a tall man who took long strides! Always ignoring numbers, I hadn’t noticed from his profile just how tall he was.

After a lovely dinner, coffee at French Roast and then drinks at a bar with live music, Hans and I sat in a park. We’d talked about everything and I was smitten. Hans leaned over and put his arm around me. Another night in NYC, we’d kiss with me standing on a stoop and Hans on the sidewalk. Despite our differences in height, we saw eye to eye. 

Since then, we’ve been busy. 

We’ve been to 17 states and territories together: California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, DC, and two countries: Italy, Canada. 

We’ve cooked, seen movies, taken salsa and foxtrot lessons, gone to museums, flown on a hot air balloon, driven down the coast of California, went to a Smith reunion, went to Hans’ UCLA graduation, celebrated birthdays and holidays, gone shopping, celebrated friends and family member’s weddings together, cried when loved ones have passed, kissed on New Year’s Eve, attended poetry readings and political science conferences, text messaged, emailed, called, talked, whispered and snuggled. 

My favorite memory of Hans when we first started dating was spending the weekend with him in Princeton. I had grading to complete and he had work to do on his book. We’d go to Small World Coffee and set up at a back booth. He’d work on his laptop and I’d start grading papers. We’d drink cappuccino and periodically joke about our work or the folks sitting around us. It was peaceful and I knew I found a man who I not only trusted, but with whom I could simply live with. 

And now we do live together. Our apartment in Michigan is our first shared home. We’d lived together in spurts when we were first dating, Hans patiently visiting me at my parents’ house, my driving down to Princeton for a few days and then my apartment in Roselle Park, NJ and his apartment in Washington, DC. Really living together takes the cake, as they say. 

I put his Northwestern University license plate frame on my car and he drinks coffee out of my Smith College mug. We divide the chores and sit in front of the fire on cold weekends playing Scrabble or watching a movie. We make pizza together and read the Sunday New York Times.

Hans is the love of my life. I look forward to seeing the world with him and revisiting our favorite places. I used to think that marrying someone would just be signing a piece of paper and continuing with our lives. Meeting the right person changed that.

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Paramount Theater in Newark, NJ

I’ve been thinking a lot about why we are getting married. I do not doubt my desire to be with my fiancé for the rest of our lives or our love for each other. I know that I want to marry him. I know that he wants to marry me.

But why, exactly? What is propelling us in this direction? I know it isn’t simply because we are “supposed to.” It is bigger than that. 

Marrying for love is a modern concept. There is no doubt that love is the primary reason behind our union. The public and legal reasons are also important.  

I am happy to be able to share our vows in a circle of our friends and family. In the beginning of a relationship, we want to “shout the person’s names from the rooftops.” As the relationship progresses, it deepens and we still want to share it.

I talked to some married friends to ask them what helped to shape their own decisions to marry.

Shasta, one of the Wonderful Women and author of the new sewing blog The Lovely Nest, notes the importance of commitment and accountability. She writes, “I think it comes down to commitment and sometimes just knowing between the two of you that you’ll spend your lives together isn’t enough.  You want to get up in front of all your family and friends and publicly declare your love and say “this is the person I will love until I die.”  There’s some accountability in that.” Yes, Shasta, that feels exactly right.

I am touched by how Wonderful Woman Alethea uses the word “hope” as she explores this topic. Perhaps there is nothing more hopeful or optimistic than making a decision like this one. Alethea writes, “Whether people decide to get married or not, love is a big chance that we all take, whether you go in with big doubts or big dreams of a perfect union. I think getting married is an expression of hope that the way you make each other feel is so unique and valuable, that it must mean you should couple for life.  And there is an urge to say it out loud in front of everyone you know!” 

Wonderful Woman Amy writes about the “pledge” she and her husband made: “To me, marriage is telling the world that you’re in it for the long haul. If Peter and I had just continued to live together without getting married, I guess it would have felt more open-ended. I would have wondered how long we would be together. Now, whatever may happen in the future, I know that we at least went in with the expectation of forever. I am a very shy and private person, but I really wanted to make that public declaration. We wrote our own vows and they included the words “Before God and these witnesses, I vow…” as an acknowledgment that we weren’t just saying nice words; we were truly committed to what we were pledging.”

A certain proof and commitment to a relationship can’t be denied in a true marriage. Shasta adds, “I think security probably plays some role.  Sometimes I joke and ask Chris if he promises to love me forever and he always answers “I already did.”  I think there really is something powerful about publicly promising to love someone forever.” 

My fiancé and I are already a committed, nuclear family in so many ways. We are committed to each other and will make this pledge public in 10 days.

I really can’t wait.

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Towers as they were being built, © melabee m miller

Eight years ago in Florence, Italy, it was 3 pm when it was 9 am in New York City. I was running a fire drill in a dormitory and the students trailed out slowly. I told them they could have died if there had been a real fire. They were unfazed.

One of the staff members ran into the office to tell us that a plane had hit one of the Twin Towers. What could that mean? I let someone else answer her. 

The professor living upstairs from the office, who had joked earlier on the phone, called and told me to listen. He told me the story of the first plane. He was stern and I thought it was another joke. I might have hung up on him.

Nothing made sense.

My boyfriend texted me, “Piccola, are you listening to the radio or watching the television?” I probably didn’t answer until later.

The New York school where I worked had been recently hit by lightning and had lost not only its alarm system, but also the cable television. After the Towers fell, we lost our connection to American internet, like Gmail and Yahoo. We became more and more isolated. 

A kind Italian, who was dating one of the staff members, stood in the television room and translated for the students. I worked with my colleagues to help find and alert the students. My mouth didn’t want to repeat the story.

When no one was looking, I ran out of the office and into the olive grove to call my family. My mother didn’t answer. I called my father. He didn’t answer; I left a message. I yelled and cursed at him. I wanted him to call me back and explain what the f*ck was going in the United States. In New York. Across the river from my home. Surely, he would be the one who could explain it. 

Someone had to be in charge. My legs started to fail me as I walked back to the office.

The students gathered by the dormitories, crying and trying to make phone calls. We let them use the office phones to call family members in New York, DC and in consulates throughout the world. We all needed to connect. 

That evening, my boyfriend brought me copies of the special editions of the local papers. We watched the BBC. The professor upstairs from the office came over. We sat close and tried to make sense of it through the repeating images. We mostly repeated ourselves. My boyfriend, who was Albanian, assured me that he had lived through war and this was not war. At least not in Florence.

I was able to get in touch with everyone I could think of. They were safe. My family called my great aunt and left messages for each other, knowing that she would be home. I was relieved, but remained shocked. It took a few days for me to agree to leave campus and the many phones we had there. 

I had to fly to the United States a few weeks later for consular reasons. My employer, in a meeting with a lawyer, made me sign a contract that I was choosing to fly to New York. If anything happened to me, they couldn’t be held responsible. To avoid agreeing to working illegally, I signed it.

In the plane, I fell asleep and dreamed of a crash. I woke with a stewardess throwing herself on me, begging me to stop screaming. 

Approaching land, I looked down at the gap in the skyline. The enormous space left behind.

As soon as I could, I went to Ground Zero. I walked by the memorials that began in Journal Square, Jersey City and ended downtown. I looked through the fence and watched what had been a recovery effort. 

This was where my mother had taken me and my childhood friend to see Santa Claus. Where the enormous puppet show took place. Where one of my best friends had her sweet sixteen. Where so many people died. I couldn’t focus my eyes.

On either continent, I felt both far away and close to what had happened.




Grief can be public, private and physical. The following is a poem I wrote a few years ago as I continue to try to comprehend not only what happened, but my own shock and fear. 

We have to remember and continue to connect with our loved ones.


The first


Her husband was not her first

love. Her first slept like a starfish,

limbs pointing off the twin bed.

She sketched his profile,

tried to contain him on one sheet

with black charcoal.

She was no one’s first love.


Freehand, she drew the parallel

lines. Steel, glass, concrete –

she couldn’t identify their joints,

only the boxes deleting air. Her skyline

shifted buildings, rearranged height.

She interpreted space, distance.


Some things are never

only ours. When they fell,

one after another, that grief

wasn’t hers to claim,

even if it was her first.



I invite you to use the Comments section to share your own story, poem, etc.

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My childhood friend passed when she was twelve. To comfort me, my father often pointed to his heart, or mine, and said that my friend continues through us, the living. Young and grieving, I didn’t always agree. 

Now that I am getting married in about a month, I think of her more often. I start to focus on her absences: she won’t be at the wedding ceremony or the reception. She wasn’t at my makeup trial when I wore foundation and bought my first tube of it at thirty-three. She missed the romantic proposal story in Italy, a country she never traveled to. She isn’t here. 

If she were, she would have giggled about a few of my wedding plans and kept things light. I bet she would have thought using dried fruit and vegetables in the centerpieces as absurd. When I panicked about various choices – is the musician for the ceremony the right kind? – She would have turned hear head a little, squinted with mischievousness and told a joke to make me laugh.

In seventh grade, I sat on the classroom counter, next to the art sink, when she told me that she was dying. She paced a little and looked down at the floor. Her extremities were swollen from her disease or medication; I didn’t understand. It was as if she had a speech prepared and she managed to get through every word. I wanted to jump off the counter and throw myself at her feet. Instead, I sat still on the counter, maybe swinging my feet a little, trying to understand her words. I couldn’t comprehend life without her. How could someone who was standing in front of me during recess, die and leave me? I felt selfish, even then. 

My memories are vivid. I went to sleep with a wet face, thinking that if I was really good, I’d get to see her again. I told the boys at my birthday party a few months later that I couldn’t answer their questions and reveal which one she’d liked. I’d promised her and I kept my promise. I liked a boy who listened to heavy metal and I pretended I liked it. I told my friend how much I liked it and later felt embarrassed when she laughed at the lyrics. After all, we were still middle school girls.

She remains present. I still have part of her phone number memorized. I wear a bracelet like the one she used to wear; her mother had it made for me and another friend after the funeral. I toast her birthday and think about her on the January anniversary of her death. It seems to always snow that day, like it did in 1989. 

Looking through my pink fabric scrapbook with pictures, letters she wrote and decorated with silver stamps, I am shocked by how young we were. In one letter, she describes how nice the nurses are at the Mayo Clinic. I probably wrote back about my summer at camp sleeping in a bunk bed under a girl from N.Y. As a girl, worried about when I’d get to shave my legs for the first time, I never could have imagined my future living in Michigan with my fiancé, let alone what hers would have been.

I want to honor her at the wedding. I’ve thought about various options: wearing her picture in a locket, putting something on my bouquet, displaying a picture of us, including her in a toast, or mentioning her in a reading. 

I will honor her by focusing on living the life she influenced. I will love my fiancé, bridesmaids, family members and friends who will celebrate us, including her mother. I will love her.

She will be at the wedding, in our hearts and actions. How could she not be?

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Modern LoveSunday’s Modern Love article, Once Political, Now Just Practical, by Sara Sarasohn, went beyond the gay marriage debate and dove into the role of a wife (in the context of feminism and gay marriage.) I enjoyed reading her contemporary and personal response to the 1971, Ms. Magazine essay by Judy Syfers, “Why I Want a Wife.”

If you are married or considering getting married, how do you define your roles?

I sometimes lament the fact my actions and interests are more “feminine” than I expect. (I cook, write poetry and teach. I tend to do many of the chores around the house.) I do not consider myself to be a “traditional” woman, yet, I might be more traditional that I would label myself.  

This morning over breakfast, my fiance’ and I discussed what untraditional things I do or could do if I wanted to. I couldn’t think of something that would fit in that category that I would aspire to doing.

Are we lucky enough to live in an era when everything is open to women? Perhaps everything is an option for women who are lucky enough to have certain educational opportunities, but there are many fields that remain difficult for a woman. I have experienced sexism throughout my career and outside of the home (that’s for another post.) At home, however, I don’t feel pressured into doing anything in particular. I truly enjoy many of the “traditional” things that I do (ok, maybe not dusting.)

Maybe the question is: how does the world see me? I would hate to have my actions suggest to a younger woman that she is required to do the things that I choose to do.

I hope that our post-feminist world, as it is called at times, allows us to make the choices we want to, including those within the more traditional realm.

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