Thursday, December 16, 2010


"What's in a name?" Shakespeare had his Juliet ask. I recall the line because naming people and places is a struggle for me in writing fiction. One reason? News articles like this, which includes government officials accused and convicted of accepting bribes. A couple of the bribe-rs were affiliated with a company named Synagro.

Synagro. If I read that name in a novel, I might accuse the author of high cheeseballery. Add the details of Synagro's business, that they process sewage sludge, and I might set the book down with a tiny growl.  But this not an imagined tale, this is real life, and thus the name strikes me as a cosmic present.

A Synagro by any other name would not be nearly as sweet. Sometimes, a name just fits. It happens in real life, why can't I let it happen in stories?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Neil, baby

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Class of 2011 is official. The list includes Dr. John and Tom Waits, two artists that most people are not afraid to claim. Dr. John makes me happy, and our old dog, Jersey, was named after a Tom Waits song.

The list also includes Darlene Love and Alice Cooper. I've got no personal connection to Darlene Love, except my affection for this:

Alice terrified me when he was on the Muppet Show, but I was alright with him on the radio. My kids loved this, from the Cars and Guitars exhibit at The Henry Ford Museum:

Leon Russell will be in as a sideman, and the final artist inductee is Neil Diamond. Where do I even begin?

It is not an overstatement to say that I grew up on Neil Diamond. Hanging in our living room, we had my mom's needlework depicting Mary and the Christ Child, and a poster of Neil. I cannot find a copy of this poster online, but I recall that he was in a black vest, a flowing white shirt, mouth agape, one hand grasping the microphone, and the other iconically outstretched. He was a priest of something, I'm sure of it, and we were often in his church. "Holly, Holy" people! "Brother Love's Travelin' Salvation Show!""Crunchy Granola Suite!"

I know he's kitschy, I know he's over the top, I know his later music (certainly from "Heartlight" on, maybe even sooner than that) is riddled with badness. Even my mother, one of the faithful, recognizes that he no longer has what he once had. But what he once had, I loved.

C'mon. Admit it. You've rocked out to "I'm A Believer." You love it when they cut the music to "Sweet Caroline" and the whole crowd hollers, "Bahm bahm bah." You've swept through a high-end lighting store, singing along with his version of "If You Go Away", emoting at your beloved.

Alright, maybe that last one is just me.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Tis the season

A friend of mine posted a poem on risk from a soup kitchen in Detroit. I don't have a lot of time to polish anything this morning, but I just want to say to my friends, and anyone else who might stumble into this blog, that this holiday season can bring many needs and opportunities to the surface.

If you are experiencing a need, take a risk and share it. Everyone goes through something. Nine years ago, my husband was injured and unable to work. Two weeks before that, while vacationing with him and our toddler, we found out I was pregnant with our second child. He went back to work toward the end of the summer, but re-injured himself shortly before our baby was due. He was out of work again for the rest of the year.

During this, we needed all sorts of help. I was hormonal, I don't handle money stress well, and all along our journey, my friends and others gave what they had - one gave me some part-time work, another personal and financial and diaper support, another the ability to give our oldest a Christmas gift, several more coming when my husband couldn't drive and I couldn't drive and we had to make a trip to urgent care. We were humbled and blessed by their care for us. They loved us as Jesus loved, in deed and in truth, but we had to let them into our lives.

If you are not experiencing a need, help. In our area, need is increasing. Our small local pantry registered 60 new clients from July-December. According to our school district, the percentage of students who qualify for free and reduced lunches continues to rise, one school nearing fifty percent.

Maybe you don't have much, but, as our area director said, "Even a can of corn helps." A can of corn is on sale this week for fifty cents. Take the time to understand who serves your communities and see what you can do. Here's a place to start, but you may want to go a little further. My local pantry, started during the economic downturn in the late seventies or early eighties, is not listed here. Maybe it's the same for yours. Ask around. If you've got kids in school, ask teachers and administrators who they contact when there's a need and see how you can help.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Embracing my dark side

Here’s a modern-day bad word in some circles: competition. 
Maybe the word shines where you live, but around here it’s tainted. When my oldest was little, he was in two beginner sports. Both had scheduled games, but the adults emphasized “we don’t keep score”. My family figured we could suffer through that, but then came T-ball. 
Imagine the point of view of a competitive 5-year-old who’s been watching ballgames since he was a baby. Finally he is no longer a spectator. Finally he gets to play. He’s in the infield. The batter makes contact. He fields the ball (!) and throws to first (!!). Before the batter makes it down the line, the first baseman catches it (!!!) and touches the bag (hallelujah!). Imagine the joy, and then the heartache. In this league, even if by some miracle you managed to get a kid out, he or she was not out. Every child batted every inning, and ran the base paths, regardless of the play of the other team.
Somehow this was going to protect kids from getting their feelings hurt, but all it did for my son was leave him confused and upset. This was six years ago, and look at how I can still foam about it. Sad, really, but by now you’ve guessed that my son got his spirit from at least one of his parents. It’s true, I am competitive. I’m a girl and one of them artsy types, but I like sports. I like to battle and I like to win. 
NaNoWriMo pushes participants toward their goal with two competitive elements. I discussed the line and bar graph in an earlier post, and they stir a little of the competitive fire. You see yourself up against time, up against a goal. This is good for the inner conqueror, but for your inner competitor, the website offers the word count of your buddies. I loved being able to peek in on their reported numbers. Sure, I felt happy for them, but seeing them race toward their goal made me want to reach mine even more. 
So thanks to all my NaNoWriMo buddies. Especially the one that called me a grabastic puke. Your trash talk (and success) was an extra push.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

A Sense of Revival

December heralds a season of preparations and celebrations, bursting with family and friends and fun. For some. For me, it is a harbinger of doom, an implosion of dread. My husband works for a shipping company. 
We are thankful for my husband’s job, but our gratitude does not change the fact that it is tough work in December. The weather, the volume, the long hours, all this devours our Christmas. For him, the music comes too early; the decorations come too soon; instead of smelling cinnamon and vanilla, he breathes fumes of diesel and cardboard. People complain of late night soirées and near-gluttony, he’s getting home as the kids are going to bed and eating whatever can be rewarmed. His fingers crack and split. His body is still cold after a hot shower. He dreams of boxes and wakes exhausted. His sense of humor shrinks. He is infected by a holiday-induced Scrooginess.
Revival comes from unexpected places. Over the weekend, he attacked the house: scrubbing, cleaning, tearing through backpacks. Among the dirty clothes, uneaten snacks, and balls of paper, he unearthed a homework assignment for our kindergartener, requiring the attention of the whole family. 
We were to decorate a large construction-paper Christmas tree, keeping in mind the current “Five Senses” unit at school. The kindergartener wandered as the rest of us tried to think.
“What does that mean?” I said. “We need to decorate it with noses?”
“Or fingers?” said our oldest.
“Toes!” said my husband. “Big toes.”
The kindergartner returned and my husband asked her, “Which sense do you want to use?”
“Pennies,” she said. She held out her hand, and showed them to us. She had found exactly five.

Monday, December 6, 2010

NaNoWriMo and Rewards

The National Novel Writing Month encourages people to attempt to write a first draft of a novel, 50,000 words or more, in the month of November. I made it, and I’ve taken some things with me. I’ll be posting them over the next few days.
When it comes to first draft writing, I’ve been shackled by the need for ongoing rightness. 

From Wikimedia, Bill Woodrow's 'Sitting On History', John McCullough
Every word, as it comes to my mind and goes forth from my fingertips, ought to be quality. This is poppycock, batfaced fantasy, but I embraced it. What I’ve learned and relearned is that striving for quality in a first draft means you never finish, and never finishing is the opposite of true quality. 
So I can’t force first-draft quality. What I can force is output. I can write a certain amount of words every day. It is hard, but not that hard. It is achievable, and make-upable: if you fail today, you can make the time tomorrow. You can write a lot in 30 days by working piece by piece, or, as Anne LaMott suggested, bird by bird. Some of those words may have life in them, and that life, along with the craft of rewriting, is the source of quality.
The NaNoWriMo experience reminded me of an article I read (and took with me, sorry about that to my doctor’s office) in Time magazine. It covered research on incentives in school. One of the things the researchers learned was that small rewards for things that a student can control are more effective that rewarding a student for grades, which are viewed as out of his or her control. 
NaNoWriMo’s website gave registered users small rewards toward the bigger goal. They provided a line and bar graph to chart individual progress; my commitment to it surprised me. I entered my ongoing word count more than once a day: almost every time I stopped writing, I would check my numbers and self-report. Watching the blue bars tick upward toward the purple line pushed me to continue. 
This became especially important on November 30th. I had failed to hit my numbers over Thanksgiving, so I wrote for the entire day, entering my counts, driving toward the end. Just before dinnertime, it appeared that I had achieved my goal. It was time to upload my story for word count verification. I’d read that this could take some time; I’d read that sometimes the word bot didn’t agree with the software. My palms were sweating, and I was laughing at myself. What kind of a dork gets nervous uploading a story? My husband called in the middle of this, so he had the pleasure of laughing at me too. While we were agreeing on my lameness, it became official. The winner’s page came up on my screen. He congratulated me generously, much more so than I congratulate him when he has a successful hunt, and we said our good-byes. 
The NaNoWriMo organizers embedded a video on the winner’s page, and I clicked it. They were cheering, and I laughed some more, because what sort of person shakes her fists in the air as a bunch of strangers in Viking helmets celebrate? I do. 
One of my boys walked in during the hoopla, and he wanted to know what all the fuss was about. I explained the whole NaNoWriMo thing to him. He asked if 50k words in a month was good, and I told him that I thought so. He asked me what I’d won. I described the prize I was most interested in (50% off Scrivener, yay!), and explained that this was not the real value of the work. 
I shared that, in a way, the prize was like climbing a mountain. What’s waiting for you when you get to the top? I asked. He said, I don’t know, an ice cream sundae? 
After dinner, I emerged from my interior realm, breathed the last of the November night air, drove out to pavement and beyond. I went to the grocery store and bought ice cream, Coconut Macaroon for me, along with a carton of vanilla and Sander’s Bittersweet Chocolate Fudge sauce. A prize to be shared, the best sort of reward.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Goal Trouble

I've encountered two problems regarding my 50,000 word goal for NaNoWriMo:

1) I didn't feel like writing on Sunday. I think this will be a problem every Sunday. It's a packed day, always, happily revolving around church and family.
My solution: Screw my actual life priorities! Naww, that's not going to work. I'm going to up my daily word count target, and declare Sunday a day of the minimum. The goal will be 300 words, which I should be able to do in about 15 minutes.
2) I still poked around my files Sunday, and thought that reviewing what I've written so far would inspire me to write. At first, this held some promise. I read Saturday's block of writing and realized that I had not, in any way, fulfilled the title for the chapter. I retitled it, took the old title and created a blank page. But instead of writing, I decided to review a few other sections too. This was a mistake, a big mistake, but not in the way I expected. That inner editor is a tricky one.
I was ready for the "why are you wasting your time on such crap" argument. It didn't materialize. Instead, I was surprised to discover a couple of things I liked. Really liked. I started to think fondly of them, and then I knew I was in trouble.
The goal is a crappy first draft. Developing a crush on a scene between a Latvian mobster, his mother, an animal wrangler, and their Pomeranians can only lead to trouble. So my unsolicited advice to Wrimos? Limit your re-reading, and get writing.

November 5-9 report: Over 15,000 words so far. More importantly, my friends and family are still speaking to me.

Friday, November 5, 2010


Man is most nearly himself when he achieves the seriousness of a child at play. --Heraclitus, Greek philosopher

    November 3-4 report: Daily NaNoWriMo word count met both days, although it is challenging. Been thinking a lot about the value of this sort of effort. For me, it is a way to connect the act of writing to my more natural creative process.
    I come from a theatre background, and I love theatre. I feel at home there. I am able, in my small way, to craft a character and respond to the other people and things in the story with an unrestrained honesty. I feel light.
    This is not how I felt at the keyboard. Words have weight, words seem permanent, words do not advance on their own, and I freeze at the keyboard, desiring precision. In turn, precision, arriving so early to the process, buries creativity like a schoolyard bully. Writing in quantity pushes back at precision, and coaxes play out of the tunnels and onto the page.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Software Crush

Dear Scrivener 2.0,
    I have a total crush on you. 
    I know you are just flirting to get me to buy your software: you freely reveal your features and benefits, tease me with your easy NaNoWriMo templates, provide ways for me to collect my ideas, giving them the space they need to come together and grow. All this so that one day, maybe I'll put out the cash and you can have your way with me.

    I'm going to play hard to get this month, but whether I make my word count or not, whether I qualify for the 50% discount or not, I'm going to let you in on a secret. It's as if I've made a little cootie catcher, and I've penciled you into every spot. You're guaranteed, by the laws of future-predicting origami, to be my next software purchase. -LT

November 2 report: Daily NaNoWriMo word count met. Love filling out virtual index cards for each character and setting, and having a dedicated home for research.

The kids are alright

A winter or two ago, I decided to take a crack at a writing discipline of a thousand words a day. This is a rewritten excerpt from those days, appropriate, I thought, after the first day of NaNoWriMo. 

This is the goal, a goal of a thousand words. A day. So what do I really want to write about, what do I want to cover?
A thousand words. I need to hit a thousand words. 
What was that? It sounded like the dishwasher. Or an icicle piercing the skull of one of my kids. 

(I listen for screaming.)

Nothing. Not a sound. Probably the dishwasher. 

(I send the kids away from the house, and put on the headphones.)
What will I write about? It’s tough when I don’t have an assignment. Left to my own devices, I don’t really know what I want to say, or to whom. The words just kind of lay in my mind, flat and lifeless, like my tongue when it’s really really dry. Like it is now. Dry as a bone, dry as the Sahara, but wait, those are clichés and clichés=badness. So, if I riff on it, it’s dry like chalk, or dry like, like the tongue of a writer who has to ignore a possible fatality in order to hit a thousand words a day...
November 1 report: Daily NaNoWriMo word count goal met. No children, pets, or family members were harmed, or seriously yelled at, as a result of this effort.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

NaNoWriMo Preparation #5

Project Name: NaNoWriMo
Target Task List
A4       Buy small gifts to give to the children throughout the month, sort of like a NaNoWriMo Advent calendar. 
Include new underwear, paper plates and bowls, shelf-stable milk, 
and a family photo to remind them of how nice they look when properly groomed.

Friday, October 22, 2010

NanoWriMo Preparation #4

Project Name: NaNoWriMo
Target Task List
A3       Like Ricky, send a letter to yourself: only make yours more alpha and less numeric.

To outline, or not to outline, that is the question.

It would seem that fiction writers gravitate strongly toward one position or another. I've written a thing or two, and I tend to "write-talk" my way to the story. I free write, I get a concept, I write or talk the concept until I have some idea of a basic story arc, and then I get to the awkward, Frankenstein-ian process of giving the arc life.

This process has always been on such a small scale; it's hard to imagine applying it to the great lurching monster known as Novel. How much do I need to do right now in order to complete something as insane as a first draft of a 50,000 word novel in 30 days?

I snooped around and found this article at It's an interview with David Morrell and Ken Follett. Follett is an outliner, but Morrell does something a little different:

... when I write a book, I write a letter to myself. And I say, “It’s going to take you this amount of time, probably, to write the book—why is this project worth a year of your life?” And there has to be something about the material, the research, the excitement of the research, maybe the way the story is written, that would make me, when I was all done, hopefully fuller and better.
... it occurs to me that my letter to myself, which can go on as long as 24 single-spaced pages—this is a long document—and as I go in, why is this project so important that you would write about it for a year or more, why do you want to write it, where’d the idea come from, and what I begin doing is asking myself questions … and [in one instance in particular] it took me pages to work that out, and so in a way I was outlining, but I was just doing it a different way.
So I'm off to send a letter to myself. Why will this experience be worth lo these many hours?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

NanoWriMo Preparation #3

Project Name: NaNoWriMo
Target Task List
A2       Read a tremendous amount of fiction

I've decided to steep my brain in novels before tackling NaNoWriMo in November. I've just finished "The Manual of Detection" by Jedidiah Berry. A surrealist twist on the mystery genre, I enjoyed it. Up next, "The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet" by Reif Larsen. After that, if it's still October, what would you suggest?

Friday, October 15, 2010

NaNoWriMo Preparation #2

Project Name: NaNoWriMo
Target Task List
AA1          Renew vow to time management

On the day we came together over a cup of coffee and my first Franklin Planner, 
I pledged to spend the first moments of every day thinking of you.
I confess my failures:
the Sega Genesis Golf period, 
the AOL chat and forum phase, 
my wanton soft-tip dart throwing,
countless hours spent writing my own eulogy, 
my current facebookery and twittering. 
These trollops come and go, but you are a constant.
I will never again allow these tiny pleasures to eclipse your steady goodness.
 Dearest time management, to you I pledge my devotion. 
To keep me honest, I ask that you hold me accountable and  follow me on twitter.
What? No. It is not a rationalization. I can stop any time I want.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

NaNoWriMo Preparation #1

Project Name: NaNoWriMo
Target Task List
A1          Learn to use a calculator 

Yesterday, in a wild moment of overconfidence, I was doing math in my head. I said it would take 1,334 words a day in the month of November to achieve my goal for National Novel Writing Month. This would have left me almost 10,000 words short. The correct figure is 1667. 

If only all of life's problems were as easy as a recalculation!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Gearing up for NaNoWriMo

I am not a novelist. I am not a fiction writer. What on earth am I doing signing up for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month)?

I'd like to claim peer pressure made me do it, but that's not it. It would be fun to say that I've always dreamed of writing the Lesser American Novel, but that's not it either. The concrete goal draws me: 50,000 words in 30 days. The marathon nature intrigues and challenges me. It's not 1334 words a day, it's 1334 linked words, connected words, words disciplined and directed to tell a story that might engage or delight. Being forced to keep going with one idea appeals to me, because I flit about so easily.

Ultimately, I love a good story, and I like to explore ways of telling a story, so why not a novel? 

Come November (the Mo in question), I will be devoting this space to brief thoughts about writing. In these days prior to the race, I plan to get some things in order to prepare for what I predict will be a wild ride. Planning and preparing are not the same as doing, of course, so we shall see and we shall see.

Friday, August 27, 2010

A Morning Person

Normally, my husband's alarm clock processing is pretty smooth:
  1. Set alarm to play the same CD at 6:03 a.m.
  2. Hit snooze a cajillion times
  3. Get into the shower by 6:50 a.m.
Something went awry. The day before, the alarm didn’t go off, or he slept through it, or something, because he flew out of bed at 7:15. In his mind, he was running a whole hour behind. According to my math, it was a mere 20 minutes. Math is one of those differences between us, but I’ve grown to understand that he is a creature of routine. 
On this day, he was bashing and banging and flipping switches like he had never operated an electronic device. The clatter woke me up, and what happened next kept me up. He managed, in a bleary rage, to turn on the radio at the opening moment of “Jesse’s Girl”. He shut the thing down just as Rick was ramping up to the chorus.
Who’s going back to sleep with that stomping around in their brain? My honey, but not me. Now I’m in bed, pondering weird teenage boy expressions of angst. “She’s watching him with those eyes ... She’s lovin’ him with that body, I just know it.” Who talks like that? And what was her name? Did she have any hobbies besides Jesse?
I spared him these thoughts, but he eventually got up and into the shower. I might have drifted off to sleep, but alas, Baby Girl threw open my door. She waited for my acknowledgement like a Broadway star waits for applause. I unknowingly gave her the sign, probably by ever so slightly lifting my head. She ran in, pounced onto the bed, hugged me, and then asked me a question I have never been asked, a question that replaced the fiction of Jesse and his so-called friend and the unnamed girl:
“Mom, can I set a crocodile on fire?”

And that, friends, will wake you up faster than a cup of coffee or a song from the '80s.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


Unexplained phenomena. That's what it was to me, running around in our shaggy crabgrass at dusk. One minute, I'd be gooofing around with a Frisbee, and the next, a glowing orb throbbed ever closer. Through the treeline, over the corn, taking the occasional surprise turn before turning back toward its obvious goal: me.

What it was, exactly, was a matter of speculation. A neighbor had told us of a terrible experience with lightening, chasing her out of the shower. I had heard of ball lightening. Perhaps, I reasoned, this was it, coming to get me now. This theory did not explain why I only saw it in the summer, so I formed the fireworks hypothesis. My mother felt very strongly that all fireworks were dangerous. She never even let us use sparklers, she was that serious. These unnatural terrors of eventide appeared around Independence Day, and what could be more fear-worthy that a firework's ability to have a rogue ember?

Ball lightening or killer sparkler, whatever. Its origins were of little consequence when it came to get me. I would try to stand tough, I would try to be brave. I would watch the little sucker, and pretend like I didn't care what he was up to, like my apathy would stop it from its attack, but this failed. I always returned to what I considered the only guaranteed approach to this enemy. I went where it never followed and ran hard toward the house.

My relationship to being outside at night in July remained until into my late twenties and I somehow put the whole thing together. Now that I am forty, and live in a spot rich with fireflies, I wonder why I had never heard of them, and what my parents thought when I came inside, wild-eyed and out of breath.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

All Signs Points to Spring

Crocuses? Bah. Robins? Who needs 'em? In my little town, where the state highway meets the road into town, we have an old school, drive-in A&W. It closes in the late fall, and when it reopens, well, you can be sure it's spring. 

We stopped yesterday, and nearly everything about the first trip to A&W for 2010 was right. When I handed the kids their food, they treated it like a sommelier handles a fine bottle of cellared wine. There was the admiration of the packaging. The unwrapping, married to a deep inhale through the noise. A satisfied 'oohhh'. Praise poured forth from the lips of all: the perfect coating on the chicken strips, the crispiness of the hot fries. To all this, we added the glory of the Black Cow: creamy soft-serve ice cream blended with that signature A&W root beer.

Nearly everything was right. How did it fall short? Two things: we didn't have time to eat right there, so I was forced to drink my root beer out of a paper cup. If you stay, they bring your food on one of those trays that latch onto your window, and your root beer is served in a glass mug. Mmm. The second thing that was wrong? I'm still recovering from the stomach flu and wasn't up for the deep-fried mushrooms. 

Ahh, but there's time, now. Spring is here, at last.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Huntin' Math

I've been married for 18 1/2 years to an outdoorsman. Some of the implications of that have been enjoyable. I love to cook, so preparing venison and pheasant has been a satisfying challenge. It might be a little 1950's housewife, but I enjoy how much this makes him feel good about providing for his family.

Secretly, I like being married to a fella with his kind of passion. Time spent outdoors transforms him from tired working man to enthusiastic kid: jumping up and down after a successful hunt, imitating the squirrel that almost walked right into his treestand.

Ah, but the downsides. Consider the month of August. In my mind, it's still summer. I'm taking in the last bits of sun before the kids go back to school. I'm enjoying those cool evenings where you throw on a sweatshirt and hang around the fire. But while I'm thinking gourmet s'mores bar, the change in nighttime temperature does something to him. He raises his head and sniffs the air. If his ears could twitch and flit like a dog's, they would. He starts looking for the Cabela's catalog and I know I've lost him. It's 'pre-hunting season' season. 

March is the August of fishing season. He had to go to Bass Pro before all the good stuff was gone. He's working on a signature laugh, like Jimmy Houston (I'm trying to get him to go Rosco P. Coltrane.)

All this has reminded me of one other thing I've learned from him: hunting math. Here are three principles:

1) When discussing the harvest, round up. For example, a 25 1/4 inch fish is 'about 30 inches long'.
2) When discussing the cost of equipment, round down. A $299 gun is 'about 200 dollars'.
3) Since hunting and fishing provide food, the budget for these areas should be as great a priority as grocery money.

Of course, I've taught him a few things too, like this formula: 
Saying #3 out loud + Couponing wife = No new gear and an indian burn

Why didn't they teach that in school?

Friday, February 26, 2010

Real World Foodie

February. When I read the word, it sounds a lot like Jerry Seinfeld saying Newman. It is accompanied by back, neck and shoulder tension.

I start thinking about February in November. The leaves are off the trees and I think, "Ah yes. Bleakness. The return of bleakness. I remember being beat down by you, back in February."

Thanksgiving and Christmas and New Year's Eve come and go. I am mostly distracted from my annual nemesis.

On or about January 2nd, the full dread of February comes upon me. "Oh no! It's almost February. I hate February! How can I distract myself from this tortured month?"

I've done well this year, but I'm finding myself a little beat down with only a couple of days to go. It's snowing, still. I'm yearning for warmer weather, flowers, real strawberries, fresh greens. What's a girl to do?

Here's my plan:
1) Watch one of my all-time favorite comedies, The Jerk. 
2) Wish I had a cat to juggle.
3) Start a highly unprofitable second blog about being a foodie in the real world.

Stop by and see me. I'll be the one running amongst the piles of mail and homework assignments, wearing an apron, fanning the smoke away from the detector and shouting, "He hates these cans!"

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Pet Peeves

I love you, pet lovers. I love that you take joy in your animals. 

I confess concern that some of you must take your animals everywhere. I once had a run-in with a lady carrying her tiny pooch in Macy's, who said to a disapproving make-up counter lady, "Well, what do you want me to do? Leave him HOME?"

I recognize that this is an extreme case. Despite noting FortiFido on clearance back in December, I generally keep silent; I married an animal lover; I'm pals with other animal lovers. But Fancy Feast, the people who've spent years trying to convince us to feed our cats out of stemware, has pushed me over the edge. 

I am begging you: standing on my hind legs, looking at you with big eyes. Please. Do not buy your cats an appetizer. If you really want to spoil Mr. Whiskers, buy a feeder mouse and let it loose in your home.  If you're really well off, clear your shelves and get it a parakeet. Or install an indoor pool and stock it with koi. It might get a little messy, but he's worth it, right?

Maybe that's what I'll do come fall. I'll open a trophy ranch for cats. With a spa.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010


I realized, back in January, that I have nine months. Nine months until my littlest little one transforms from preschooler to ruler of the known world by way of kindergarten.

For many moms, including those who mostly stayed home, shipping the baby off to class is a sad day. I know. I've seen strangers and friends race ahead of their child's bus on the first day of school. They line the school sidewalks; they snap a gazillion pictures through their tears, forming a sea of mourning paparazzi.

I, being a delinquent slacker mom incapable of capturing life's moments on film, let alone scrapbooking them, am planning (God-willing) a different approach.

My pal over at I have a blog? coined a phrase for it: de-nesting. It's time. Time to let the kids gather some twigs of their own: do a few more chores, have a little more freedom, take a little more responsibility for themselves. Time for me to tackle something new, prepare for changes, discover new opportunities. It's like throwing myself an un-baby shower.

Do I sound excited? I'm only slightly embarrassed to say that I am. Eight months from now, you might find me momentarily weepy as the future dictatress waves goodbye and advances toward an unsuspecting teacher. But the moment will pass, and I will enjoy the fact that as she expands her territory, some manner of adventure also awaits me.

Monday, January 4, 2010

The Mohawk of Outrage

The goal of standardized gestures in elocution is clarity for both the sender and receiver. Few modern moves are more clear than The Mohawk of Outrage, which can be seen across the wide expanses of office cubes and public transportation.

The heel of the hand should be aligned with the temple 2-4” off of the head. Fingers should be spread apart, but with ease and without strain. The wrist should cock the hand slightly forward. Again, there should be no strain. Don’t try to make ‘angry hands’. The rage is articulated by position, not tension, and most people confuse ‘angry hands’ with ‘jazz hands’. If you are outraged, the last thing you need is your audience breathlessly awaiting a Bob Fosse routine.

It is also important that the hand never contact the head. This prevents confusion with the very passé Rooster Bang of Irritation or Eyepatch of Disdain.

If you find yourself deeply outraged, you may place your non-dominant hand in a mirror position, creating The Double Mohawk of Outrage.

Caution: this move is suitable for indoor use only. Attempts to execute this maneuver in the wild account for between zero and 27% of all hunting accidents in the U.S.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

The Cell Phone

Here we have “The Cell Phone”. Hand should hold the screen of the phone away from the body. Typically hand is raised at or above eye level to begin. Once eye contact is established with the audience, the device should be brought to a more easily viewed or heard position.

Particularly useful when things go south on a call, and you want other people in the room to share the moment. Do The Cell Phone, add The Shush

and switch to speaker phone. As with any combination maneuver, it is best to practice this a few times at home.

Also used to communicate important truths like, “Hey, I found that YouTube video I was telling you about” or “Here’s a tune especially for you.”

Note: if the tune is a Peter Gabriel ballad, congratulations! You have elevated your elocutionary tactics to include the “Say Anything 2k10”. 

Saturday, January 2, 2010

LOQtion 2k10: The Cheese

This begins a series of instructional helps for anyone interested in modern elocution techniques. Note the particular bent toward non-verbal communication. In today’s society, with earbuds and bluetooths, effective communication with the people you’re actually with looks more and more like a silent movie.

The Cheese

This gesture is used to display an item or items of visual interest. Items that are the same size as, or larger than, the hand may be placed directly on the fingertips. Smaller items can benefit from this presentation, but should first be placed on a tray or plate.

The hand must remain below the head, preferably waist to chest high; otherwise; it might be confused with an arcane move known as The Big Boy. Skilled practitioners of contemporary communication add a flourish of movement, ideally beginning on their non-dominant side and gracefully extending to their dominant side toward the audience. Typically reserved for items that are of special note, hence the name. What is more glorious than cheese?