Wednesday, August 30, 2006

I did not learn everything I needed to know in kindergarten. - Nancy Cartwright

Wow. Guess I am...normal? Who knew? Thanks to all for your kind words. You will (probably) be pleased to know that I did NOT get in my car and drive away forever, but probably only due to the fact that gas prices have climbed to over three dollars a gallon again.

Tonight is the schoolwide welcoming picnic for Primo's school/kindergarten. I am not quite sure what exactly to expect. The first PTA meeting was an eye-opener, in a very positive way; I anticipate that this evening will be as well. God help me, I have a kindergartener. Why do I still feel as unsure of myself and awkward as I did when I was sixteen?

It is a potluck picnic kind of deal, and I made apple-carrot muffins to share.

It has finally cooled off a bit here. And the humidity seems to have dropped this morning. What a relief. Seems we might catch the tail end of Ernesto - meaning lots and lots of rain. Joke, how did you fare down there in Florida with Ernie?

I picked up the last of Hilary McKay's Casson family series, Caddy Ever After, at the library yesterday on my lunch break, and finished it last night. Saffy's Angel, the first in the group, was probably the most magical, but perhaps because it was the first one I read and I was simply giddy with delight. I think Permanent Rose was my favorite, because I adore Rose - as everyone should. The book last night wrapped up in true Casson fashion - never a dull or predictable moment, but not necessarily the most satisfying solution. Just like real life, only more charming. And I *still* want to smack Bill, the father, upside the head.

I have to read The Brief History of the Dead next as it is due back at the library very soon. I was sort of waiting till the mood struck, but who knows how long it might be before I stop feeling like immersing myself in young adult fiction? I started The Children's Blizzard and quite frankly was shocked at how readable and compelling it was. If I can find it cheap on, I will probably just buy it.

WHAT was I thinking, wearing this shirt? It was on for about, oh, fifteen seconds before I got gunk on it. Either from the baby's nose or taking out the garbage, not sure which. Either way, ew.

See, when I am not stressed out, how boring I am?

Monday, August 28, 2006

Nam ego illum periisse duco, cui quidem periit pudor. - Plautus, Bacchides

The demonic, helllish postcard I posted previously was in my Italy scrapbook, from my honeymoon. I went looking for a photo I wanted to send to a friend, and came across the postcard. I'd really like to say it's unusual for me to notice stuff like that - because I don't want you all to think I am more freakish than you already suspect - but the truth is I am more than a little intrigued by demons, hell, and all manner of weird, torturous, and grotesque things. (One of my favorite artists is Hieronymus Bosch - also, I dig Brueghel (Pieter the Younger). I often feel that in some bizarre way I can relate to all those weird creepy creatures cavorting their way around the infernoes.) I personally think that depictions of hell and purgatory were a way for artists of the time to work out their doubts and fears about religion, in a sanctioned manner. Or perhaps they were crafted by the stay-at-home moms of the 13th century, whose names have been obscured in the mists of time.

Today was just, in the words of the inestimable Alexander, a "horrible, terrible, no good, very bad day."

If I weren't so ashamed of myself, I could probably laugh about most of it at this point. Most of it, not all. It's never the big things, is it?

It's the banana smashed into the carpet, followed by the gazillionth temper tantrum over nothing and two brothers bickering nonstop all day, inside and out, upstairs and down. It's the toddler peeing all over the bathroom floor even though you'd just said, "Please go pee," and he'd sworn he did not have to - screamed it at you, in fact. It's trying to clean up the mess before the baby circumvents the gate - which you have to re-set up because your husband likes it configured differently even though you are the one home the most - and plays in the pool of pee. Then having to head the baby off again while you bathe the toddler. It's trying to be a nice mom and offering mac-and-cheese for lunch, and being greeted with screams for PB&J sandwiches. It's realizing that YOU. CANNOT. WIN.

It's taking the kids to the grocery store where you anticipate dropping them at the daycare and having a peaceful shop with a cup of coffee in hand, and the daycare is closed for refurb. It's having the rain come pouring down just as you pull up to the house to unload all the groceries, and then the baby refuses to nap, and the house is ten degrees hotter than outside but still the entire city is so hot it feels like a disgusting fishbowl, and kinda smells like one, too. It's having your husband's company's new spam filters filter out EVERY email you send him. It's screaming at the kids so loudly that you KNOW the neighbors have heard and then you are embarassed when you see them outside. It's feeling guilty for buying ice cream, but not guilty enough not to eat the entire pint. It's buying a huge piece of fresh fish only to get halfway home and remember it's the kind of fish your husband does not care for. But of course, then it's also not really giving a good goddamn what your husband cares for at this point, since you KNOW he doesn't care for you and you certainly don't care for him right now.

It's having not one single fucking sippy cup stopper fit any of the goddamn sippy cup lids which then leak all over the place and make everything and everyone smell like sour milk. Also, it's having the hall carpet feel perpetually damp underfoot, so that you are sure one of the stupid cats is peeing on it ... Of course, you could put shoes on, that would solve part of the problem, and also the part where it's stepping on every stray Cheerio in the entire house and what the hell are Cheerios doing in the upstairs bathroom ANYWAY? It's having the baby drop his new favorite metal race car squarely on the bone on the top of your foot - and don't mention that the race car happens to be your toddler's and is one of his favorites too so you spend all day trying to get him to let the baby have it for "just a little bit" so the baby will stop squalling, please, just for five minutes.

It's closing the bathroom door so the baby doesn't crawl in (WHY are babies so fascinated by dirty, wet bathrooms?) and then putting the baby to bed but then your five-year-old needs to pee and you've forgotten to open the bathroom door - which sticks. So he kicks it and kicks it and bangs it and then is scared when you come storming out of the baby's room screaming NOT TO WAKE THE GODDAMN BABY, FOR CHRIST'S SAKE, and throwing some stuffed animals and board books around, and then it's realizing you have just scared the absolute piss - figuratively speaking, thank God! - out of your poor children including the baby whom you of course have woken up because YOU ARE SCREAMING.

And it's crying and feeling like an absolutely, abysmally, terrible mother whom your children would be so much better off without, and perhaps you'll just get in the car AND DRIVE AWAY. But you love them so much, it's not THEIR fault they make you nutso. But then your five-year-old apologizes, and you really feel like shit.

Perhaps ole Demonface up there was a *TAD* melodramatic, but I was totally feeling like the dude who is sticking halfway out of the demon's mouth. You can practically see his thought bubble, possibly coming out of his ass: "Shitfuckdammnitall. What now?"

And that is PRECISELY how I felt today.

A very good friend of mine once told me that there's a good reason that children don't really remember anything before the age of four or five. I can't remember what her really good reason was, but today is mine.

I think I will go to Australia.

The heart of man is the place the devil dwells in; I feel sometimes a hell dwells within myself. - Sir Thomas Browne, Religio Medici


Mosaic on the Cupola of Baptistry of St John, 13th c.
Florence, Italy

Friday, August 25, 2006

I left my heart in San Francisco...

One in an occasional series. [2/23]

The loveliness of Paris
Seems somehow sadly gay
The glory that was Rome
Is of another day
I've been terribly alone and forgotten in Manhattan
And I'm coming home to my city by the bay

I left my heart in San Francisco
High on a hill, it calls to me
To be where little cable cars
Climb halfway to the stars!
And the morning fog will chill the air

My love waits there in San Francisco
Above the blue and windy sea
When I come home to you, San Francisco,
Your golden sun will shine for me!

(Cory George C. Jr./Cross Douglass)


H went on a business trip to San Fran right after Seg was born - or maybe just before, either way, I couldn't go because I was either hugely pregnant or had just given birth and while many hearty souls venture onto airplanes and into hotel rooms with brand new infants in tow, I am not of such hardy stock.

He brought me home his author copy of the magazine in which his first article was published, concerning the fascinating subject of DRAM. We were very proud, almost as proud of that as we were of the new baby.

To whom he brought one of my favorite pieces of baby clothing EVER - a grey t-shirt with "Property of Alcatraz" stamped on it, and over that, in bold red, "Rejected: Too Cute!" It just now fits Seg.

He also brought me this box - perhaps not the most classic piece, but I likeit. There is, however, nothing in it. I think there's enough going on OUTSIDE the box to warrant emptiness INSIDE the box, don't you?

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

...the concept of death itself has been made more complex.

My friend L defended her dissertation last night. She (of course!) passed with flying colors. When your defense starts off with your advisor making a comment about how spectacular your dissertation is? You can probably relax a wee little bit. Her presentation was comprehensive, clear, and beautifully expressed - and L's ability to think clearly and coherently on her feet, considering and defending her position to the advisors' rather difficult and complex questions was simply amazing. My only real concern was that L was not going to understand what one of the committee's questions were - I certainly didn't see what Prof M was getting at, but then I was focusing on the fact that the man looks like he should be riding the bus to his job bagging groceries at the local supermarket.

Oh, I thought I was going to burst with pride; I can't even imagine how her parents felt.

And not only is she brilliant - she looked fabulous. She was so put-together, the consummate professional. If I didn't adore her so much, I'd have to hate her.

The only thing keeping the whole affair from perfection was that her dear little dog had to stay at home, but we were all fairly sure Ingrid would never make it the two hours without having to wee. (I am kidding - about the dog, not the weeing.)

So then we all went out to celebrate, and we drank a lot, and our friend J brought a lovely bottle of delicious champagne, and I am just thriled for L. Except now, I bet, she's going to MOVE - because all my friends graduate, or finish their residencies, or their husbands finish their residencies, and they LEAVE. Is it me?


Thank you, Bentley and everyone else who recommended The Glass Castle. What a compelling book. (In a tiny voice): Do we think it's real? Yes, James Frey has tainted us all. It has a feeling of veracity to it. You just can never be sure - anymore.

I will start Joanne Harris' Gentlemen and Players today and wrap it up ASAP so Gina will have someone with whom to discuss it. Because sometimes, I am a good friend.

I walked down to the downtown branch of the Carnegie on my lunch hour yestersday - those little black Skechers are cute but gave me blisters on the backs of my heels - and picked up the next two Hilary McKay books, and the new Anna Quindlen. I had requested The Children's Blizzard - because if anyone is all about death and disaster, it's me. Primo and I have a lot in common that way. Also Edward St Aubyn's first book, Some Hope, as his newest has been longlisted for the Booker and I had never heard of him. Plus, I borrowed Water for Elephants and Snow Flower and the Secret Fan from work as well. I thought I was going to relax a bit and get back into the Penny Vicenzi I was enjoying so much, but you can't look a gift library book in the mouth? That's not right, but you know what I mean. Honestly, I thought it was going to be months before I got Water for Elephants from the public library - but since the acquisitions person at work solicits suggestions from the staff - I pretty much submit my personal wish list and more often than not, I am obliged. It's a horrible and shameful abuse of my position, I know.


And now, the book meme. Because everyone's doing it.

1. A book that changed your life.
Satanic Verses - it opened up to me a whole new world of possibiity in reading material. Books that I thought I wasn't smart enough to read. I LOVED SV, and went on to read all sorts of "hard" books that I mostly thoroughly enjoyed - other Rushdie, Middlemarch, Portrait of a Lady, the tiresome Thomas Hardy, and I discovered that I was indeed smart enough to pretty much read whatever I wanted, and I would more than likely enjoy it, too.

2. A book you've read more than once.
Understood Betsy. Mandy. Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm. The Anne books, the Emily books. Little Men, Little Women, Eight Cousins - especially Eight Cousins. Elizabeth Enright's books. The first several Harry Potters. Everything Laurie Colwin has ever written. All Josephine Tey. Possession. Stones from the River. All of Robertson Davies. All of Rosamunde Pilcher's "big" books. Roller Skates. Below the Salt. Michael Lee West's Consuming Passions, and all of John Thorne's food books, also MFK Fisher's food books. Madeleine L'Engle, especially A Severed Wasp and The Small Rain. You might start asking if I ever read anything NEW? Hmmm.

3. A book you'd want on a desert island.
The OED. Or a complete set of Shakespeare's works - that is an excellent idea, Suse.

4. A book that made you giddy.
Saffy's Angel, by Hilary McKay

5. A book that you wish had been written.
The book from Gina's and my blog. Yeah, right. I have actually had dreams about books and then woken up and realized they weren't real and been so disappointed. Ooooh - Emily's Book of Dreams, that she burns when Dean tells her it's no good. I'd have loved to have read it.

6. A book that wracked you with sobs.
The Amber Spyglass. Bridge to Terabithia. Virgins - Caryl Rivers, which also is the FUNNIEST book I have ever read.

7. A book you wish had never been written.
In Watermelon Sugar - Richard Brautigan

8. A book you are currently reading.
The Glass Castle / Gentlemen and Players

9. A book you've been meaning to read.
Sweet Jesus. I have an entire bookshelf (five feet tall, three feet wide, double stacked) of to-be-read books. Um, let's say, The Road to Serfdom, which H got for a birthday gift from my little brother. Yes, Joke dear, I know, it changed your life. I will get to it, I promise.


I do have a flea market post to put up - little plates, Suse! - and next week Primo starts kindergarten and Seg starts preschool and this week is packed with meetings and teacher conferences and PTA and all manner of school prep. I swear I will get to all this fun stuff. Plus - I don't normally write about work, safer that way, but yesterday we found out that Princeton Review's student assessments put us at the second worst library in the COUNTRY. I have much to say about this - surprised? Hmm, I thought not. But for now, I have to go see why the boys are being so darn quiet. The houseguests brought with them large plastic Rescue Heroes toys which have been keeping the boys occupied whenever they are awake....but I worry. It's a lovely day, I should wrangle them all outside, but I am enjoying my tea and toasted bagel out on the back porch, and it's so peaceful...ahhhhh. Slurp.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Letterboxing 2: Eletric Boogaloo

We just got back from our second letterboxing expedition, this time in a different part of the same park. And with an extra kid, the boy's friend J. (Remember the kid I took to the ER when we saw King Kong? This is him.) Last time we went in the rain, this time we went at twillight. The boy is the one on the right.

This was an easier find than the first, I think. Here are the spoils: A little notebook, an ink pad, and a rubber stamp, all closed in a plastic container and sealed in myriad plastic bags.

We had a good time (they did all of the navigating; I was merely the photographer), but I think the boys' favorite part was getting to be the only kids at the playground, and in near darkness. What a cool mom I am.

I love this vacation, and so far I haven't spent any money I wouldn't normally spend. Hooray for sunny weather, the pool, and the wonderful, wonderful park.


A Meme Borrowed from Suse at Pea Soup.

1. A book that changed your life.
Harriet the Spy. I still can’t write anything—“private” journal or not—without the thought/fear that someone, someday, will read it.

2. A book you've read more than once.
Possession. The Harry Potters and Anne of Green Gables. Jane Eyre. Little Women. Pride and Prejudice. Naked, Barrel Fever, Me Talk Pretty One Day. Most of Madeleine L’Engle. I read for comfort a lot.

3. A book you'd want on a desert island.
I’d have to go for something like the Encyclopedia Britannica—that would provide lots of book bang for the buck. If that wouldn’t qualify as one book, I’d go for something long and Russian, I think.

4. A book that made you giddy.
Possession. How can someone be THAT SMART and THAT TALENTED? Byatt is brilliant.

5. A book that you wish had been written.
I’m swiping Suse’s answer and saying MY book.

6. A book that wracked you with sobs.
The Amber Spyglass. I had to keep taking off my glasses to wipe my eyes so I could see to keep reading.

7. A book you wish had never been written.
I honestly can’t think of one.

8. A book you are currently reading.
Starship Troopers by Robert Heinlein.

9. A book you've been meaning to read.
The bible.


Also, I started reading CS Lewis's Mere Christianity, thanks to this Salon article. Has anyone else read it? Any thoughts?

Mama Lama Ding Dong!

Gina, in a moment of prescience this past June, 2006:
I’m reading Ayun Halliday’s The Big Rumpus, which at times make me laugh out loud in recognition and appreciation, and at times makes me feel like a total square who is missing out on Real Life. I don’t like being made to feel that thinking Baby Gap clothes are cute makes me less of a person, but . . . I do get the sense sometimes that Halliday feels that way. Is it me? Am I too sensitive? Is she really trying to draw lines? Can’t I like her without wanting to be just like her? Anyone?

To which a commenter promptly posted:
I happen to know for a fact that Ayun Halliday's kids wear clothes from Baby Gap, because ... I am Ayun Halliday! WHOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!! Of course they're all stained second handers from the Salvation Army, but i say we mothers gots to sticks together!!!
I would probably write that book differently now, but then again, I wouldn't write that book at all, because I find it difficult to remember what that period of motherhood was like, other than hard hard hard (and exhilarating and frustrating and back breaking and gratifying)
Anyhoo, I've got to feed these young uns some non-cyber food, so I will say goodbye for now.xo Courtney Love

Ohmigod! A famous commenter! A published author, whom we have read!
On! Our! Blog!
And the rest, as they say, is history.

Welcome to the 22nd stop on Ayun's virtual book tour for Mama Lama Ding Dong, the UK release of The Big Rumpus.

I found Rumpus when I was gorging on mama lit right after Primo was born. I read Marion Winik's Lunchbox Chronicles, Ariel Gore's Mother Trip, Faulkner Fox's Dispatches from a Not-So-Perfect Life, Anne Lamott's Operating Instructions, and then, Ayun Halliday's The Big Rumpus.

I felt that I had found friends, sympathetic, funny, sarcastic, weirdo friends, who, just like me were struggling with every aspect of motherhood - the emotional turmoil, the anxiety to do right by your precious child, the physical rigors of childbirth and recovery, the battle of the bulge, but mostly the sleep deprivation and slow, sure demise of brain cells and sanity.

I wanted to pull up a chair (and a Sharpie) to Ayun's kitchen table and hang with her and Inky. I cried reading her mash note to Milo, how did she know just how I felt about my darling baby boy, who was busy screaming his head off 24-7 but whom I loved madly anyway? I wanted to sit on a bench at the playground with her, protecting our offspring from sand-hill-kicking bullies. I'd like to go on, but the baby is busy trying to climb the stairs.

So I am pleased as punch that a whole new audience will get to experience Ayun's terrific book.

So, what do you do when you meet a new potential friend? You find out what she likes to read, of course! Several months ago a meme rounded the blogs - a Required Reading list for YOU. The blogger. So I sent that idea to Ayun, and she dug it - and here it is:

Ayun Halliday 101 (or "Required Reading for a Mama Lama Ding Dong")

* * * * * *
Early Influences (Or “How I Became A City Dude in the Heart of the Heartland”)

All of A Kind Family
The Outsiders
The Saturdays
From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler
The Pushcart Wars
Oliver Twist
The New Yorker Cartoon Anthology

My Sexual Self Education (Or “I Wish Someone Had Given Me A Pamphlet”)

The New Yorker Cartoon Anthology
The Other Side of Midnight
MAD Magazine

My Counter-Cultural Education (Or “This Probably Could Have Been Avoided If I’d Gotten That Pamphlet”)

Living On the Earth
A Child’s Garden of Grass
Head Comix
The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test
The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers
R. Crumb’s Head Comix
Flashing On the Sixties

Travels Abroad (Or Misty Water Colored Memories”)

Europe Through The Back Door
Lonely Planet’s South East Asia On A Shoestring
International Bob
Impossible Vacation
A Cook’s Tour
Hot Sour Salty Sweet

Humorous Discourse (Or “If I Could Ever Bring Myself to Abbreviate the Phrase Laugh Out Loud, I Might Be Tempted to Do So Here”),

The Underminer
What’s Not To Love?
I Love You More Than You’ll Know
Barrel Fever
Uncle Shelby’s A B Z’s
Sex and Death To The Age 14

Literary Studies (Or “Dang, Wish I Could Write Like That”)

The Grapes of Wrath
Ship of Fools
In Cold Blood
The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter

Perennial Favorites (Or “Reading Material to Bring on A Three-Hour Tour, Just In Case We Wind Up Marooned on an Island and Have to Read the Same Things Over and Over Until Help Arrives, Assuming Help Arrives”)

Sex and Death To The Age 14
Shock Value
One Hundred Demons
Essays of E. B. White
The Complete Essays of Mark Twain
Love and Rockets

Perennial Favorites, Juvenile Division (Or “Why We Won’t Be Bringing That Damn Finding Nemo Book with Us When We Wind Up Marooned on an Island and Have to Read the Same Things Out Loud to the Children Until Help Arrives, If It Ever Does”)

Little Vampire Goes To School
Charlotte’s Web
Stuart Little
The Little Mole Who Knew It Was None of His Business
The Day I Swapped My Dad For Two Goldfish
The Very Persistent Gappers of Frip
Grampa and Julie: Shark Hunters

Care and Feeding of The Young (Or “Fuck That Reductive ‘Momoir’Shit!”

The Blue Jay’s Dance
The Mother Trip
Spiritual Midwifery
Morning, Noon, and Night
The Lunchbox Chronicles
The Kid
Twenty Days With Julian and Little Bunny by Papa

Quiet Reading Time (Or “Strangely, I Am Better Able To Appreciate Poetry Whilst Moving My Bowels”

The Tunnel: Selected Poems of Russell Edson

* * * * * * * *

And in case you still need more Ayun, all the time, check out these excellent and insightful interviews with Ms Halliday:

And, of course, the lovely Ms Halliday's personal website, Dare to Be Heinie!

And no, I don't know what that means anymore than I did egg-in-my-beer.

Monday, August 21, 2006

"Cranium blowout!" - the Undertaker, from the movie "Braindead"

As I recover from five days of houseguests (read: lie on the living room floor, letting the children rot their impressionable young brains with Diego and the Wonderpets, slurping down cup after cup of caffeinated beverages, pretending I am NOT brain-dead...), I rouse myself from my stupor to point out that tomorrow, August 22, is the day when the Mama Lama Ding Dong Virtual Book Tour makes its stop here at Behind the Stove. Gina and I are excited and honored to host Ayun Halliday, for the UK release of her classic (well, if it's not, it SHOULD be!) The Big Rumpus, fetchingly renamed Mama Lama Ding Dong for those clever Brits.

Oh, and August 22 is also my little brother's birthday. Just, you know, so you know...

So - my adorable little brother AND Ayun, both here at Behind the Stove tomorrow, August 22! As my mother used to ask, what more do you want, egg in your beer?

And, no, I haven't got the foggiest goddamn idea what the hell she was talking about, so don't ask.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Stupid and Contagious

I can't remember who recommended this to me, but someone wrote a post encouraging everyone to run out and pick up a copy and then maybe start a big fan club for the author, Caprice Crane. I don't know that I'd go so far as to start a fan club, but I *will* say that reading this book was for me a lot like the pleasure of watching a Friends maration. There aren't as many characters--there really are only two characters--but the . . . vibe is the same. Sometimes the characters are annoying, but you root for them anyway, because, well . . . you do. Or I did. If you're looking for a good, quick, girly read, this is fun.

Also, has anyone read Joanne Harris's Gentlemen & Players? I'm looking for someone to discuss it with, but I don't want to spoil anything for anyone who *might* read it.

I was offered a chance to go to the pre-season Steeler game tonight, but passed. Maybe I was foolish, but I hear rain outside, and it was thundering a bit ago. I am safe and dry on my couch, with two sleeping kitties, a bowl of ice cream, and my computer. I have a few books I can start. I have some DVDs I could watch. Life is good.

Oh, and I just had a phone call from Samuel L. Jackson, urging me to go see Snakes on a Plane. The boy sent it to me from his dad's house, using this. He was delighted, and I have to admit it made me laugh. And then send one to my sister. :-)

Ladies, this is just for tomorrow's scrimmage. This isn't the last chopper out of Saigon. Can we please just crank down the drama a notch?

The above quote is a gem from "Freaks and Geeks." Not even one of the best, if you must know. I gotta save SOMETHING for later. Go - rent the first season - then I DARE you to come back here and tell me you didn't like it. That it didn't make you laugh, and think, and wince in recognition. Go. Now. Blockbuster awaits.


OK, all y'all (that's how you can tell I am not from the South, the plural y'alls) - in my Flickr sidebar I have all these random photos? Six of them happen to be Christopher Radko Christmas ornaments. My mother, for God knows what reason, started - collecting isn't a strong enough word - obsessively acquiring would be more like it, anyway, obsessively acquiring these dang things what turned out to be the last few years of her life. I have more than I know what to do with, and honestly, just between you and me, my sweet little Internet ones, it makes me sad to look at them. Soooo...take a look. If you want one, or can use it as a gift, or whatever, email me, and it is yours. Please. (You should be aware, in the interest of full disclosure and whatnot, that they have been on eBay and priced VERY reasonably, and I had no buyers. Not even a nibble. So you won't be able to sell them. Although you are welcome to try, if it makes you happy.) But if you think one is pretty, or someone you know might think it is pretty, or appreciate it for whatever reason, let me know, it is yours. Shipping is on me. Help me out here, people. Or I will resort to giving them to Goodwill.


H's big gig is tonight. Guitar strings have been changed, houseguests pumped and primed, cool rockstar outfits picked out. Now if only I had a babysitter. Although - again, just between you and me - and my cats who are sitting here staring at me like they can read what I am typing, freakish animals - I wouldn't be heartbroken if I had to stay home and read a book and eat leftover pineapple walnut birthday cake. I have seen H gig in just about every imaginable circumstance, and although I think I like this permutation of musical expression much better than any of the previous ones, I have seen them perform several times. I could go on to live a full and meaningful existence even if I missed them tonight. Just between you, me - and the freak cats.


Pineapple walnut cake
(baked for one of our guest's birthday - she just turned 38, for the 5th time...)
Happy birthday, G!

1 20-oz can crushed pineapple with juice
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking soda
2 cups sugar
1 cup chopped walnuts (I like them not chopped TOO fine)
2 eggs

Cream cheese frosting

1 8-oz package cream cheese
1 stick butter, melted and cooled, but still warm
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups confectioners sugar, sifted

Combine all the cakeingredients in a bowl. Mix well. Pour into a greased 9x13 pan and bake at 350 for 35-45 minutes.

While cake is baking, beat cream cheese till soft. Slowly add sugar, beating well after each addition. Add vanilla and butter and beat slowly till combined, then up the speed and beat until well-combined and smooth. Pour over warm cake. Spread to cover. Cool, or refrigerate till set.

Just a word to the wise - hide a piece the night before...this makes a lovely breakfast, cold, the next day.

Peace out, dudes.

Friday, August 18, 2006

The Bluebird of Happiness long absent from his life, Ned is visited by the Chicken of Depression.

The Man Booker prize longlist has been announced.
I have not read a single book on it.

  • Carey, Peter Theft: A Love Story - I just heard from - who? I can't remember, but someone whose taste I trust - that this was excellent. However, Oscar and Lucinda made me yaaawwwwwnnnnnn.
  • Desai, Kiran The Inheritance of Loss
  • Edric, Robert Gathering the Water
  • Gordimer, Nadine Get a Life - I have never read any Nadine Gordimer, and believe I am remiss.
  • Grenville, Kate The Secret River - Now on the other hand, I have read some Kate Grenville, which I did not care for at all. It was so forgettable, I can't even recall the title, but the thing that first attracted me was that the protagonist was a fiber artist/quilter. And I remember nothing else about it.
  • Hyland, M.J. Carry Me Down - to St James' Infirmary...
  • Jacobson, Howard Kalooki Nights This makes me want to sing “Melli Kaliki Maka.”
  • Lasdun, James Seven Lies
  • Lawson, Mary The Other Side of the Bridge
  • McGregor, Jon So Many Ways to Begin
  • Matar, Hisham In the Country of Men
  • Messud, Claire The Emperor’s Children
  • Mitchell, David Black Swan Green - oh, how I adore David Mitchell. (Here’s today’s Guardian Online interview with him. Swoon.) His Cloud Atlas is one of the very few books that has blown me away the way AS Byatt's Possession did. Which means I MUST read this, even though Gina says it's verrrrryyyy different from Cloud Atlas.
  • Murr, Naeem The Perfect Man . No such thing. Next!
  • O’Hagan, Andrew Be Near Me
  • Robertson, James The Testament of Gideon Mack
  • St Aubyn, Edward Mother’s Milk - This looks fascinating - enough so that I requested St Aubyn's first book, Some Hope from the library to read first.
  • Unsworth, Barry The Ruby in her Navel - his Sacred Hunger tied for the Booker in 1992, with Michael Ondaatje's The English Patient. I've read English Patient but never got to the Unsworth, although it is sitting on my shelf and has been for at least two years.
  • Waters, Sarah The Night Watch - I TRIED to read Fingersmith; I did. I swear. I could not get into it. I didn't care. I really actively disliked it. However, I must admit, this one looks interesting. Maybe. Maybe I will give it a shot. Or not. I'll see.

Currently Mitchell is the favorite, but I can’t speak to the deserved-ness of this as I, have I mentioned, NOT READ a single one of these books? And I call myself a reader…


I started reading Saffy's Angel by Hilary McKay on Tuesday at lunch, just for something to read before I painted the back porch. Twenty-five pages in I emailed Gina to go request it from the library for herself, and I proceeded to lie on the couch and read it pretty much straight through in two hours. It is wonderful. It's what I wanted The Penderwicks to be; heck, it's what The Penderwicks wanted The Penderwicks to be! You've read Elizabeth Enright's Four Story Mistake? If the Casson children were to meet Rush and Randy, Oliver and Mona, they'd probably be fast friends. Caddy, Indigo, Rose, and Saffy are quirky, funny, real children. I laughed out loud often; McKay has a remarkable gift for spot-on, exquisitely-timed dialogue. I will be curious to see how the adult characters develop through out the rest of the books, which I just requested from the library - the Casson parents, especially Bill the father, seem a little thin to me. I'd like to learn more about the parents that produced such odd yet fiercely loveable little children.


Still reading Wendy Wasserstein’s Elements of Style> It has grown a *leetle* less tiresome, and I like the way Wasserstein explores the effects/aftereffects of September 11, using her neurotic socialite characters. I’ll keep going. For now.

But, I gotta tell ya - Geek Love? NOT loving it. I wanted to – Badger, I so wanted to! But it’s so…cold. There’s not a single character I like (or relate to, but THAT is a relief!) Not one. They’re not UNlikeable, they are all just…boring. Except for their anatomical oddities, they’re DULL. They leave me cold. Please, someone, convince me to keep reading. I so wanted to love this book.

Picked up Jeannette Walls’ The Glass Castle. Two people have recommended it in the past week. It was sitting on the shelf here at work. And now it is going home with me. So, there you have it. And I still have Brief History of the Dead and Broken for You waiting at home.

Someday I will finish all these library books and return to immerse myself in Penny Vicenzi’s No Angel, which I LOVE so far. But there are no overdue fines on books I own. Thank God. Although I do have to admit, I have been tempted to CHARGE them. Mostly, I would just be happy to get my books BACK – especially my much-loved copy of Julian Thompson’s now-out-of-print The Grounding of Group Six, the seminal novel of my teen years. And if THAT doesn't explain a lot about me, I am not sure what will.


And now, just a little something that made its way into my email inbox and made me howl with laughter and filled me with admiring horror.

The Curtain Rods

She spent the first day packing her belongings into boxes, crates and suitcases.
On the second day, she had the movers come and collect her things.
On the third day, she sat down for the last time at their beautiful dining room table by candlelight, put on some soft background music and feasted on a pound of shrimp, a jar of caviar and a bottle of Chardonnay.
When she had finished, she went into each and every room and deposited a few half-eaten shrimp dipped in caviar, into the hollow of the curtain rods.

She then cleaned up the kitchen and left.

When the husband returned with his new girlfriend, all was bliss for the first few days. Then slowly, the house began to smell. They tried everything; cleaning, mopping and airing the place out.

Vents were checked for dead rodents and carpets were steam cleaned.
Air fresheners were hung everywhere. Exterminators were brought in to set off gas canisters, during which they had to move out for a few days, and in the end they even paid to replace the expensive wool carpeting.

Nothing worked. People stopped coming over to visit. Repairmen refused to work in the house. The maid quit.

Finally, they could not take the stench any longer and decided to move.

A month later, even though they had cut their price in half, they could not find a buyer for their stinky house. Word got out and eventually even the local Realtors refused to return their calls.

Finally, they had to borrow a huge sum of money from the bank to purchase a new place.

The ex-wife called the man and asked how things were going! . He told her the saga of the rotting house. She listened politely and said that she missed her old home terribly, and would be willing to reduce her divorce settlement in exchange for getting the house back.

Knowing his ex-wife had no idea how bad the smell was, he agreed on a price that was about 1/10th of what the house had been worth, but only if she were to sign the papers that very day.

She agreed and within the hour his lawyers delivered the paperwork. A week later the man and his girlfriend stood smiling as they watched the moving company pack everything to take to their new home........including the curtain rods.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Cool Art at CMU

I've been wanting to take a picture of this for weeks, and I finally remembered to grab my camera this morning. This is called "Walking to the Sky", and it's one hundred feet tall--those people are life-sized! I swear I could look at it all day.

For the Curious: Roseanne & Me

I don’t know or care much about Roseanne the person, but the television show was the first one to really click with me. Instead of spending thirty minutes with people I admired and/or wanted to hang out with or trade or trade places with, I spent thirty minutes each week with people I already knew. My mother wasn’t heavy, but she was bitter, hard-working, loving, and funny. The furniture was always ratty. Our house was often a mess. My grandmother (maternal—my mom’s own mother) gave one of those spoon-shaped trays for holding used stirring spoons on the stove top that said, “Come in, sit down, relax, converse. Our house doesn’t always look like this—sometimes it’s even worse.”

My parents drove old cars that my dad fixed. My dad wore trucker hats and flannel. There was always an afghan thrown over the couch, and the TV was almost always on. My sister and I fought like cats and dogs. There was yelling. There was beer drunk from cans. There was pizza straight from the box. There was never enough money. The extended family was as crazy as the immediate. All in al, though, we were happy and we loved each other.

The Connors were people I knew, and the storylines and dialog rang so true for me that I was often left in tears. The good kind of tears, that is.

And that’s why I love Roseanne.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

It isn’t Just for Boba Fett Anymore

It may not come as a surprise to you that, where popular culture is concerned, I have spent the last several years under a rock. I watch almost zero television; The Simpsons on Sunday nights and the occasional episode of What Not to Wear are pretty much it for me. I don’t have anything against television, and used to be quite the devotee.

As a kid, I loved getting the weekly TV listings in the Sunday paper and circling everything I planned to watch through the week, including things like The Brady Bunch at 4:35 Eastern on TBS, and the triumvirate: Happy Days, Laverne & Shirley, and Three’s Company. I faded out of TVwatching for a while during the high school years, but watched a lot in college. 90210, anyone? Melrose? Simpsons? I used to set my alarm on Saturday mornings so I could get up and not miss the X-Men cartoon at 11am. I cried during the series finales of Roseanne and The Wonder Years.

Anyway, I don’t think I’ve been devoted to catching anything on TV since the end of Party of Five, and (I admit it) the end of Friends was the end of any interest in being on the couch at a certain time.

Knowing all this, imagine my surprise when my boss came in this morning and described a program he came across last night, about a bounty hunter named Dog. On A&E, no less, which I thought was supposed to be fairly middle-brow. My boss and I checked out Dog’s website, and found out a little more about the whole thing.

First of all, I must be an idiot. I didn’t realize there were actual bounty hunters running around in 2006. In my world, Jabba the Hut hires bounty hunters like Boba Fett and Greedo, and that’s pretty much that. And I suppose I thought there were bounty hunters in the Old West. I did some poking around, though, and discovered that you can receive training—the work appears to be a freelance-type gig that operates with the bail bonds trade and what-not. Bounty hunters seem to be able to operate outside of the law (certainly with more freedom that cops—they can enter a fugitive’s dwelling without a warrant, for example). Amazing.

The whole thing makes me feel like we’re living in a world where a spell has been cast, and Jerry Springer’s dreams are starting to become reality.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

"Trust yourself. You know more than you think you do." - Benjamin Spock

I declined a lunch time trip to the library yesterday with one of my favorite people in the world to finish Judy Goldstein's and Sebastian Stewart’s 24-Karat Kids. And two nights running I stayed up well beyond what I knew I should have – I KNEW the baby was going to wake up around midnight - to keep reading

Granted, the cover art is deceptively floufy, and the title not very catchy, and I was misled regarding the subject matter by having begun Wendy Wasserstein's tiresomely and excruciatingly detailed book, Elements of Style, on somewhat the same subject - Pediatricians of the Rich and Famous - but *this* book is simple, clean, and a breath of fresh, fun air.

Shelley Green, our heroine - and this book does have that Austen-esque feel to it, that feel-good, light but clever touch and social satire present in a book like, say, Emma - Shelley Green is a fresh-out-of-residency pediatrician hired by the exclusive Upper East Side Madison Pediatrics.

My biggest grievance with many other so-called “chick lit” (or “mommy-lit”) books – Lauren Weisberger’s insanely annoying Devil Wears Prada immediately leaps to mind - is the heroine’ s absolute lack of spine. 24-Karat Kids’ Shelley Green has spine, and then some. She may be from a lower-middle class family she herself refers to as "the Green behemoth" but she has integrity, passion, and the courage of her convictions. She's worked hard to get where she is, and she deserves everything good that happens to her. But it's not just luck - Shelley makes a lot of her own good luck. She stands up to pushy parents, snotty kids, dismissive society mavens, and two-timing boyfriends with grace, style, considerable intellect, and a charmingly self-deprecating sense of humor.

Even the minor characters are intriguing and interesting; my favorites include Candace, the practice’s opera-loving receptionist; Christina Allen, the plastic surgeon who barters Botox for pediatric checkups; and Shelley's dad, a mail carrier who isn't quite sure what to do with or say to his wildly successful daughter. Of course not all the characters are likeable, and not all are more than two-dimensional – just like real life. And some of the most entertaining parts of the book are Shelley's interactions with the rich and/or famous and definitely crazy-making parents and their entitled offspring, Shelley’s actual patients. Although the air here on the Upper East Side is rareified, Shelley seems to make everyone feel at home, including the reader.

This is a book I’ll return to for comfort reading, like Bridget Jones' Diary or the first Shopaholic book. You could assert that the ending is a bit predictable, but while the basic plot may be, the way in which Shelley handles herself and the bullying and snobbery of the rich New Yorkers she has begun to mingle with socially, is not. Shelley Green is someone with whom I would love to be friends, and someone to whom I would not hesitate to entrust my children’s healthcare. Not that I could afford to. And besides, my Gap overalls would never make it past the Dolce&Gabbana-wearing mamas in the waiting room.

24-Karat Kids - Judy Goldstein and Sebastian Stewart


In other news, our houseguests arrive tomorrow. There is still much to be done. But I wanted to go thrift shopping - I need some more little plates, to fuel my addiction; I need some vintage pillowcases, so Gina and I can try our hands at replicating those adorable Libby Dibby skirts; and I need to BUY. MORE. BOOKS.

But two years of having toddlers hanging off the doorknob in an effort to escape have taken their toll, and our front doorknob - a vintage (read: original) mortise-type lock - is kaput. So H took it all apart to take to the locksmith, and I must remain at home and guard the manor. Thank God we just restocked the moat with crocodiles...or is that just me, before I've had enough coffee?

Monday, August 14, 2006

Give Me Some Men. Stout-hearted Men.

It has come to the attention of my sub-conscious that I am not married. It’s taken a while to sink in, despite the fact that I’m only weeks away from the third anniversary of The Worst Day of My Life, the day—after a family reunion with his dad’s side of the family—my then-husband came out of the closet.

I’ve been over the end of the marriage for a while. I just mentioned to a friend who’s having marriage troubles of his own that I can finally think of that coming-out-day without feeling an actual, physical pain in my chest. I no longer feel like a failure because I got divorced (while I never thought of other divorced people as failures, I found myself feeling like a huge loser when it became apparent that we would divorce. Maybe it was because I’d been so smug in what I thought was a good marriage. Alas.).

Anyway, while I adapted handily to living without another adult in the house, and have been working the single mom gig with aplomb, have held down the full-time job and nearly finished the master’s degree, lost and re-gained a lot of weight, quit smoking (aside from the occasional social smoke), tried some new things and made some new friends, and adopted two pets, there has been one area of my life that has been completely ignored: I am a single woman. Single. Woman. WHOA-man, as Mike Meyers says in So I Married an Axe-Murderer.

We don’t need to talk about how long it’s been since I’ve been with a man, but when you take into account the fact that I was married to a man who wanted to have sex with other men instead of with me, and that I haven’t been on a date since I moved in with said man in 1994, it’s not a huge leap to the conclusion that it’s been a while. A Born Again Virgin while.

I’m going to guess that the reason for this abstinence has had a lot to do with the fact that I have zero self-esteem, and can’t imagine any man wanting to sleep with me. Another reason is that I don’t really want an officially boyfriend, or Man in My Life, so I avoid anything that might facilitate my finding one. I have enough on my plate, you know? Plus, it’s hard to get used to the idea that you aren’t married. The part of your brain that stops assessing men as dates/partners/MEN and starts thinking of them women with penises and ugly feet that develops when you marry or enter a long-term relationship is really hard to shut off. Or it is for me, at least.

But suddenly, the hills are alive with the sound of music. I still don’t want a boyfriend or whatever, but I’m noticing men everywhere. And you know what? I LIKE THEM! I like everything about them! Hello there, jogging guy with no shirt! Mind if I sample your six pack? Hubba, hubba, Mr. Construction guy! Why don’t you bring those shoulders over here and set MY forms?

I don’t think I’ll do anything about it right away (I think that at my present weight my only option would be to—ahem—hire someone, anyway), but it’s nice to know that the pilot light has been relit, and the boiler is now aflame. It’s rainin’ men, hallelujah!

Sunday, August 13, 2006

"Spring passes and one remembers one's innocence." - Yoko Ono

First in an occasional series. [1/23]

The summer after my freshman year in college, I landed a job with a theatre group at a community college in Jersey.

I was hired as a general dogsbody, as a jack-of-all-trades - I can paint and weld and hammer and wield a circular saw and even sew...but mostly, I was cheap labor.

I had to be at work at ten a.m. and although I got a lunch break and dinner break, I also was on the crew to run the shows at night, so I was not home before 11 p.m. most nights, later if we all went out drinking which we all did ALOT. Now the very thought exhausts me - but at the time I was an enthusiastic and energetic 19-year-old, doing what I loved, doing it well, being paid peanuts for doing it, but learning alot.

There was a whole crew of theatrical misfits, just like at every theatre job I have ever held.
Bob, a big, goofy guy, was the technical director, and his girlfriend Christine was the other general factotum.
Bridget and Corey, two punk types who might have been out of high school or maybe not, were costume people so not around much.
Chris was this older stagehand with a drawl and a long, dark ponytail - he might have been late thirties, early forties TOPS, but at the time -- that WAS older . Now, older and wiser, I wonder, why a bona fide stagehand was slaving as a carp at some podunk community theatre - I mean, other than to give your random young scenics someone to stare at and develop hopeless and inappropriate crushes on...

Then there was Mike. I LOVED Mike. Gosh, how I loved Mike. He was the lead carpenter, and he was smart and incredibly well-read and sarcastic and funny. He was tall and thin and had a head of wooly dark hair and little metal-rimmed glasses, and he smoked which I thought was very sexy. Unlike Chris, who wasn't nearly as smart, and who rendered me mute with desire, or alternately, spouting idiocies with my eagerness to please and engage, Mike was very easy to be around, and he even seemed to ENJOY being around me. He was incredibly patient with my immaturity and naivete - I recall, vividly and cringingly, that the first time we all went out drinking, he politely waited like two hours for me to slurp down my rum-and-Coke (oh, how times have changed!) before packing up and heading home because that is what you do when you are out with people. I was raised by wolves, actually Baptists, pretty much the same, and w hat the hell did I know from drinking etiquette?

I had a brief and ill-considered affair of sorts with one of the actors, who was playing the part of Nicky Holroyd in "Bell, Book and Candle." Richard was dark and thin and romantic-looking, and, it turns out, had a live-in girlfriend in NYC. One of the most important things I have learned in life, I learned from Richard, cad though he may have been: he taught me the importance of living life to the fullest, of dancing even if no one else was, of having a good time whenever you could, regardless of whether or not people think you are a giant dork. Impressed permanently upon my memory is the sight of him dancing on an empty dance floor, to a stupid song he happened to love, just having a good time. I think of him fondly even lo these many years later.

The director of "Bell, Book and Candle" - I couldn't tell you what the other two plays that summer were - gave the cast and crew gifts on opening night. Mine was this little Chinese box, with a crystal in it for good luck and as a sort of joke alluding to the magic and witchcraft in the play.

And that little box was the foundation of my Little Boxes collection. (And that, my friends, is a very poor pun, especially for my friend L, the mistress of bad puns - because the name of the theatre was Foundation Theatre.)


I saw Richard in a guest appearance on "Law and Order" within the past few years, and he hadn't aged especially gracefully; he was stoutish and balding, his exuberant black curls gone grey. I have an old headshot of him in his prime, tucked into the pages of an old journal. Also? he was a very excellent kisser. Sigh. Youth.

As for Chris - one of the high points of that summer was him giving me a backrub one night after the show and telling me that he was waaaayyyy too old for me. Of course he was right, but ohmigod! If he thought he was too old for me? Then at least he'd THOUGHT of me! And, and, oh yay!

And Mike, on whom I harbored a not-so-secret crush for YEARS? Whom I visited several times in NJ over the course of my college years, each time hoping this was going to be the time he kissed me and we got together? And each time we got stoned and drank wine and talked about books and I slept on the couch and he never, not once, touched me? H and I stayed with him and his partner in their beach house in Connecticut right after we were first married. Mike and I sat up discussing books and drinking wine, hours and hours after H and Bill, Mike's quiet playwright boyfriend, had gone to bed.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Best. Saturday. Ever.

My friend P came over last night, and we stayed up late sitting on the porch, enjoying the lovely weather, and talking to the boy about Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, and Pirates of the Caribbean--and then having the boy give us fencing lessons in the front yard. (He spent the past week at a fencing day camp, so actually knows about things like parry and riposte. And now I do too! Sort of.)

Then P left, the boy past out, and I stayed up even later, reading. And then slept in until 9:30, when I heard the boy turn on the television (TV room is right next to my bedroom). 9:30! I can't remember the last time I slept so late. We ate breakfast, watched an episode of Buffy (we're into the second season now--how much do I love Xander? Where was he when I was in high school?) and then shipped the boy off to a pool party at one kid's house and then a "dinner party" at another's. He's still not back, and it's after 8pm.

What did I do all day? I read the new Jasper Fforde, The Fourth Bear, which is the second in the Nursery Crime series, and much better than The Big Over Easy, which was the first. Fforde has found his voice in this one, and has managed to control the cast of characters. The writing is smart and funny, the mystery is good, and I'm looking forward to the next, which is to be called The Last Great Tortoise Race. I also learned that there will be a new Thursday Next book next summer, The War if the Words. I'm looking forward to that almost as much as I am the next Harry Potter!

Aside from reading, I did a minimum of housework, shopped for groceries, and took a lovely, lovely nap. I'd been planning to take my book to the pool and laze in the sun up there, but I settled down upstairs, with the fan humming and a light breeze making the shears swell up . . . and I dozed off. For three hours.

I poked around on the internet, trying to figure out how to make my own Libby Dibby skirt, a la Susie Sunshine.

I only took two phone calls, one from my scandalized sister, who'd only just heard of Glad Rags, and one from BB, whom I hadn't talked to in a few days. She, of course, was busy doing stuff, as you can see from her posts below. I decided I would balance the universe by countering that with my special brand of laziness. Delightful.

And now the boy is home, so I'm off to give him a bowl of ice cream and hear all about his day. I bet it won't have been better than mine.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Pay no attention to what the critics say. A statue has never been erected in honor of a critic. ~Jean Sibelius

Why Did I Ever - Mary Robison

This? Was one strange little book. It's meant to be a diary, but it felt more like a, well, a BLOG. And I for the life of me cannot remember when or where I heard about it, what compelled me to request it from the library. No clue. And reading it didn't give me one iota of help in that direction either.

The main character is a woman named Money, who has ADD and job problems and two kids, both of whom are completely messed up in their own ways. She's not especially likeable, and she's a bit of a bitch, but there is some fabulous writing.
For example, Money forges famous works of art for her apartment walls. Her boyfriend - is he her boyfriend? - says,
"What's missing here is a focal point...Something for our eyes to fix on, finally, and rest upon. Something we end up gazing at."
"It's! A! Copy!" I shriek at him

Another perfect line:
Something else that makes me angry is that I got too old to prostitute myself. I wasn't going to anyway but it was there, it was my Z plan.

And lastly, I have to share this, because it rang so true with me, the epitome of the M---- (my maiden name) family luck, that I laughed until I cried.
Here now is Mev [her daughter]. She's standing lopsided, with her arms raised unevenly in question. She asks, "How is it that with red Rit dye, the stuff always comes out that Krishna color?"
"I'm to blame for that, " I say. "It's because you're your mother's daughter."
"Wow." she says and sits down with me on the concrete bench.
I say, "Everybody else gets red."

And that best sums up Money, and this book - wry, funny, honest. Maybe not always comfortable or likeable, but, as a t-shirt worn by a fellow bus passenger yesterday said, "Never a dull moment."

The Girls - Lori Lansens

I liked The Girls. I loved the way Ruby's and Rose's separate, distinct voices were developed, their separate ways of seeing life, explored. I loved how matter-of-fact they are about their conjoinedness, how they deal with being freaks. I loved the background stories, about their aunt and uncle, about their neighbors, about the other people they love. I really, really liked this book alot. The only even remotely negative thing I can say about it, is the ending is rather abrupt and unsatisfying, but ...maybe not. Maybe I just didn't want it to end the way it did. And it did suffer for being read right after Rebecca Johns' excellent Icebergs; I found myself confusing some of the characters and plotlines, mostly because they both have a quiet intelligence that draws you into the people's lives and lets you live and breathe with them; and because Canada figures pretty heavily in both books. I liked them both; definitely read both. Just maybe with another book in between.

Savannah Breeze - Mary Kay Andrews
This was my brain candy for the week, in the beginning of the week when I was having an awful day. I laid on the couch like a lump, devoured a York Peppermint Klondike bar (the best!) and devoured this as well. Fun, light, but relatively smart fluff. I really enjoy reading about stuff I enjoy doing, so when the character of Weezie (who recurs from Andrews' Savannah Blues) goes junk-shopping, I was right there with her, glorying in every bargain. The first Andrews I ever read was Hissy Fit which made me laugh out loud. This wasn't as funny, but it was amusing and as always, there's a satisfying and non-cliched romance simmering throughout.

I have to read How Elizabeth Barrett Browning Saved My Life next, as it's due back at the library next, and then Geek Love which I actually started but put down to finish The Girls. I also have a handful of Ruth Sawyer's children's books to plow thru - Year of Jubilo, the sequel to my best beloved Roller Skates, which I didn't even know EXISTED until the lovely Lazy Cow clued me in; My Spain: A Storyteller's Year of Collecting; and The Way of the Storyteller. I already bought The Year of Jubilo from last week, and I will probably have to track down the others as well in the next week or so, to satiate my yearning to own.



We have houseguests coming next week, hence the frenzied porch work and painting and cleaning. It's always helpful to have anticipated guests as otherwise we both find it way too easy to just sit on our butts and eat ice cream. Not that I EVER find that difficult.

We cut the boys' hair last week. They both look about a year older. So sad. So cute, but so sad. Sniff. The baby, though, I refuse to cut his hair until he is at least a year old, so he still has his lovely golden curls. My own little Lord Fauntleroy. Yeah, that'd be it.
Or maybe Kate Hudson's little gir -- er, boy, Ryder.

We have these enormous flying insects called cicada killer wasps roaming our sideyard. The things are at least two inches long and bold as brass, but apparently harmless.

I am sitting on my porch typing this. HOW did I ever survive without wireless?

So due to the foiled terorr plot (or as MSN put it yesterday, "Terror plot spoiled!"), passengers can carry on to airplanes nothing but a Ziploc holding wallets, medications, and baby needs. If you are carrying on baby formula or milk, you may be asked to taste it, to ascertain that it is not an explosive. I feel that someone should tell the security guys that breastmilk acts as a laxative in adults, so it still might be explosive, even if it isn't AN explosive.

I am working on a project at work - on my own, not assigned - writing a proposal to develop a blog for the library. Any of my librarian readers, does your library have any sort of blog? Can we discuss, if you do? Just email me. Blogging may be more hip than we can handle, but I am going to give it a whirl. Muchas gracias.

I am now a redhead.

I would like to live in Restoration Hardware. Like when Corduroy the bear lives in the department store? Like that, just at Restoration Hardware instead.

Little boxes on the hillside, little boxes made of ticky-tacky. Little boxes, little boxes, little boxes....


Thursday Show-and-Tell: Collections, courtesy of Blackbird

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

"Please don't eat me! I have a wife and kids! Eat them!" - Homer Simpson

So it turns out that I might actually be onto something with this blog thing. Says H. Now that it has come to his attention that we have received several different books to review and are a stop on a real-life author's upcoming virtual book tour. (Hi, Ayun! See you August 22!)

BUT he doesn't enjoy that you only get MY side of the story.
(Because we all know, it is all about HIM.)

So, in the interest of fairness, I offer a list of things H HAS eaten:

tail of cow
head of cow
skin of cow
belly of cow

So, now you know. Perhaps if I just threatened to fall on my sword if he didn't eat pork chops or shrimp, he'd ingest them happily.


I finished Rebecca Johns' Icebergs yesterday. It is an elegantly written, quiet, but strong book. I felt as if I really got to know the characters, their lives, their emotions, their thoughts. Even the unlikeable characters are nicely drawn, so while you may not like them, you at least kind of get them. Dottie is amazing and reminds me of a cross between My Antonia and a little book I read a few years ago called Rachel Calof's Story.

While you're checking out this book, check out Rebecca's website, too. I have gotten some excellent reading suggestions from her.


I am off to paint the back porch. I may even rip up the old green astroturf and see - tada! - what's UNDER THERE. If you don't hear from me in a few hours, someone alert the authorities.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

“Let no one weep for me, or celebrate my funeral with mourning; for I still live, as I pass to and fro through the mouths of men” - Quintus Ennius

Burying my mother

At the funeral Thursday morning, standing beside the open grave, avoiding carefully the fresh graves beside us, I realized that to me, she was just my father-in-law’s cousin. To the women and man standing there next to the casket – D wearing a lace mantilla, her hands on her young daughter’s shoulders in front of her; N, sobbing, supported physically by her husband; T, who’d whispered a moving tribute to Susie’s courage – she was their mother. They were burying their mother today. They were putting that lovely bronze-colored casket into the ground, and leaving her in the cemetery, alone, while they went home and tried to carry on with their lives and sort out her stuff and go on living. With a big mother-shaped hole in their daily lives.

Not just a father-in-law’s cousin-shaped hole, on the one or two occasions our paths might have crossed in a year.

I am well acquainted with the mother-shaped hole.

To this day I still sometimes want my mom.
Not just miss her, or think of her, or even pick up the phone to call her, absent-mindedly dialing the number that is still embedded in my muscle memory and that hasn’t been HER number for at least six years now.
Never mind the strife and stress she could cause, or the hurtful things she sometimes said; remember the hugs, the cool soft hands, her tears when I left from a visit home, the phone calls all hours of the day or night because I knew she’d always listen, the carefully-packed boxes I received full of goodies and books she thought I’d like.
Sometimes, I still want her.
I mean actively crying, “I want my mother, I just want my mom.”
It eases a bit but it hasn’t gone away.
I’m 36 years old and I still want my mother.

And my tears Thursday fell not really for Susie, who is finally at peace, but for her children.
Her motherless children.
Who are old enough to have children of their own.
But that doesn’t make it easier.
In fact, in some ways, that makes it worse.

Things I remember from the day I buried my mother:

We’d had to go buy my older brother a suit for the funeral. And I wore a plum-colored suede-ish suit, with black t-strap shoes that did NOTHING for my hunky – as in Eastern European hunky - calves. What did I know? I was just thankful H had brought me something presentable to wear.

H and I were teetering on the brink of divorce. I was surprised, frankly, that he drove to NJ to be with me.

My friend Bentley wore a white dress shirt with Mickey Mouse on the pocket.
He and Michelle drove from Pittsburgh, 6 hours, to be with me. So did my now-ex-friend Susan.
To my in-laws’ everlasting credit, they did too, as did my brother-in-law, his wife, and their baby daughter. My mother-in-law may drive me up a freaking wall and I may despise her at times, but I will never, ever forget that she and my father-in-law came.

My little brother got in trouble at his job at a prestigious NY hedge fund, for taking off more than a day for the funeral. In the weeks when my mother was sickest, he cared for her physical needs – toileting, bathing, shampooing - gently, respectfully, and without complaint. She was most comfortable with him, and he was simply amazing. Don’t ever try to convince me that the people who work in the NY financial world have hearts. I have proof that they don’t. They should have been down on their knees thanking the powers that be that they had my brother working for them.

My big brother’s girlfriend, who NEVER came to any family function, had taken off work to be there. Must’ve been a big event. I mean, I guess she figured that if you don’t go to your boyfriend’s mom’s funeral, you can’t really ever expect a ring. (She did turn out to be a grasping bitch, but that's a story for another day.)

The funeral director was an old family friend. If you were a member of my family, and you died anywhere near or in South Jersey, you were being buried out of DuBois funeral home. You didn’t even THINK of going anywhere else.
He helped us write the obituary – he was the one who knew we’d accidentally left out a brother (my mom was one of 11- wait, 13 – no, 11 children.) And he fixed it.

In addition to her brothers and sisters, and children, we put in a phrase about “Also survived by her dear friend, R.” R was so touched, and so grateful – she was my mom’s best friend; how could we not have included her?

I think some people were scandalized that my brothers and I sent flowers from my mom’s six cats. But I know she would have liked it. Crazy as it was. And we didn't do it seriously, but we did it anyway. Wally told us stories of people he’d buried who’d had their pets euthanized and buried with them. We briefly and half-seriously considered it for George, the one cat no one liked - because that’s the kind of wretched, ungrateful children we were, making light of death - but we decided against it. (Which I personally regretted later, but we’ll get to that.)

Picking out a casket is one of the most surreal activities I have ever taken part in. You wouldn’t believe some of the selling points on those babies! Thank God we didn’t have to deal with a tombstone, as she is buried in the vets’ cemetery next to my father and they have very strict rules about markers.

We had a closed casket, so we might just as well have buried her in her favorite sweatpants and a flannel shirt. She would not have cared, for herself. (Even though she insisted in burying my dad in his light blue jacket because she thought he looked so nice in it. *We* all lobbied hard for the horrible green suit he loved so much, that we used to actually threaten to bury him because it was so hideous.)

She wore the dress she’d worn to my wedding – I hated it. First of all, it was a ghastly turquoise. And beaded. The perfect example of the frumpy mother-of-the-bride dress. (WHICH, the mother of the GROOM wore as well, only in ivory.) But I know she felt she looked nice in it, and I guess she did, even if it was not my taste, so we picked that.

Her neck and clavicle were all banged up from the shunts and IVs and stuff, so we also buried her wearing a beautiful Liz Claiborne scarf I had given her for Christmas the year before. One of the very few gifts I had given her that she actually liked, and used.

And pantyhose. Can I tell you how many sleepless nights I have when one of the things in my litany of guilt-inducing actions running through my warped brain is that I condemned my mother to an eternity in PANTYHOSE?

I have my mother’s nose. As she had her mother’s. I had always thought I looked just like my dad, but seeing that strong, sharp ridge and pointy, ski-jump end, in her thin, sickly face, made me realize, I had my mother’s nose. That is what I will look like when I am old and sick. And dead.

My uncle – her brother – spoke at the (very short) service. We didn’t have a minister. He told the story of my mother visiting my father’s grave in February, when she was attacked by a bee, and she swore it was my dad. We all laughed, hard. (My family has always been really goods at remembering the good times; often, our family funerals were great fun, in a twisted kind of way.) Uncle Johnny spoke, we prayed, H played his guitar, I read a psalm she’d had marked in her Bible, that had been read at HER mother’s funeral. And we sang, “How Great Thou Art.” It was my mom’s favorite hymn.

I didn’t cry.

The cemetery was way the fuck up in central Jersey. (It pains me that I can’t visit, to put wreaths on her and my dad’s graves at Christmas, and flowers for Mother’s and Father’s Day. I could ask one of my brothers to do it, and they would, for me, but I wouldn’t ask.) But sweet holy Jesus, it took FOREVER to get there that day.

They don’t let you go to the gravesite at this particular cemetery. In fact, you don’t even get the casket wheeled into the chapel; it sort of works like a McDonald’s drive-thru, honestly. It was bad enough that we had to leave my mom all alone in the funeral home overnight; but to not get to see her into the ground – no closure, let me tell you. The Catholics are slowly coming round, but I think the Jews have it right. Put the body in the ground, throw the dirt in after – it’s final, it’s clean, it feels right. Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust; dust thou wert and to dust thou shalt return. (At the funeral Thursday we went to the gravesite, but they didn’t lower the casket into the ground. Small steps, small steps. If you ever need some interesting non-fiction to read, try Jessica Mitford’s The American Way of Death; fascinating stuff.)

My little brother’s friends brought beer – good beer, several cases – to the gathering at my Aunt J’s house afterwards. My family are all Baptist, so no alcohol, but everyone else was happy to have something to drink, to take the edge off. And to accompany the trays of cold cuts, the rolls from Del Buono’s, the potato salad from Heimie’s, the Jewish apple cake my Aunt M baked – all traditional funeral meats for my family. (The only thing missing were my mom’s little cheesecake-y cupcakes topped with canned blueberry pie filling, which might not actually have been such a bad thing.) (She’ll come back and haunt me for that.)

When we went to feed the cats at my mom’s house later that night, we found pools of bloody cat piss all over the loving room. I thought George the cat had died, too, and that is when I cried. Not that I LIKED George. I was just quickly reaching th epoint where I could not cope with ONE. MORE. THING. H tracked down the stupid cat, made certain he was ok, and cleaned up the piss. (The idiotic cat had a kidney infection that cost my brother hundreds in vet bills, but that, too, is a story for another time.)

I got SMASHED the night of the funeral. Have not been drunker before or ever since. I feel asleep on the floor of my cousin P’s guest room, where I’d been staying for the weeks preceding the funeral when I wasn’t sleeping at the hospital. More technically, I should say I passed out. I was exhausted, emotionally and physically drained, and very VERY DRUNK.

I think that no matter how old you are when your parent(s) die, the realization that you are an orphan is one that takes you completely by surprise.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

The Unnamed Kitties

Black Kitty will not stay still long enough for a decent photo, but here is the Behind the Stove debut of Kit 1 and Kit 2.

I'm covered in scratches from sharp little claws, but I think they really like me. I'm growing fond.

Sometimes it's like you're a big pie settin' on the table, and everybody runs up and gets their piece of you. When it's over, the plate's empty.

Library books awaiting my reading eye: Geek Love - Katherine Dunn; Icebergs - Rebecca Johns; TinTin in Tibet; Why Did I Ever - Mary Robison; Elements of Style - Wendy Wasserstein; Broken for You - Stephanie Kallos; Havoc, in Its Third Year - Ronan Bennett; How Elizabeth Barrett Browning Saved my Life - Mameve Medwed; The Brief History of the Dead - Kevin Brockmeier; Saffy's Angel - Hilary McKay; Suite Francaise - Irene Nemirovsky; Veronica - Mary Gaitskill; Gentlemen and pLayers - Joanne Harris.

Also, my review copy of Twenty-Four-Karat Kids came in the mail yesterday. Add it to the pile.


You know you’re old when:

Sleeping in means 9 a.m.

You are sucking down Excedrin and coffee to go to work with an incipient migraine rather than a hangover.

Said headache is caused by TWO beers ingested over the space of four hours, rather than a dozen beers over the same time period.

You dig thru your purse because “I have the change.”

You see two guys in Starbucks, can tell they are father and (college-age) son, and are attracted to the older one. (And the younger one, in his droopy shorts and flip-flops, looks impossibly gauche and, good god, he’s a BABY!)


Things I have learned the hard way:

Eat your broccoli FIRST, the cake is going nowhere.
And if it does, you weren’t meant to have cake today.

There is no Prince Charming, no “The One.” But you can take the one you’ve got and make it a pretty damn good thing, too.

NEVER buy shoes a half size too small. It doesn’t matter how cute they are. They will not stretch.

Pay now or pay later; you will still have to pay.

If you have to TELL someone you are an adult, you are probably not acting like one.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Gina Works the Diner All Day . . .

Who’d have thought I’d ever quote Bon Jovi? Certainly not me, but there you go. Anyway, I don’t work in a diner, but this week—this awful, awful heat wave week—our building was without air conditioning. Can you say TORTURE? I spent the week sitting at my desk, eyes glazed over as sweat dripped from my forehead, down the back of my neck, and anywhere else it could drip from. My bra and underwear were soaked through. My life was miserable. So I wasn’t working in a diner, but I felt like I was being grilled.

Happily, the problem is fixed, and I’m dry and no longer feel like a stinky, bitter piece of steamed broccoli and can concentrate on working. Or at least on blogging.

I have to stop on the way home to buy two birthday gifts, as the boy has a sleep over birthday party tomorrow night, and a pool party for another kid Sunday afternoon. I can’t believe my son’s friends are turning ten. TEN! Double digits, people! There’s an Asian imports store in Squirrel Hill that always has cool dragon-y stuff, so I think I’ll see what I can scrounge from there.

Oh! I almost forgot—the boy and I adopted two kittens from the Animal Rescue League last night! Brothers, about three months old. One’s black, and one’s tabby-like. I don’t know much about cats, but these are awfully cute and spunky. And cuddly, when they’re tired. They don’t have names yet. I was hoping to call them Fred and George, but the boy thinks that’s no good because they aren’t orange. I don’t think that matters so much, but he’s adamant. So we’ve been calling them Blackie and Stripey, which I hope doesn’t stick.

I’ll post a picture soon, but I have to wait until tonight, as the batteries for the camera are charging. I’m sure it won’t be long before they become THOSE DAMN CATS, but for now, I’m happy, and so is the boy.

We watched Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and then Beetle Juice last night while kittens climbed all over us, and a good time was had by all.

She can bring home the bacon, fry it up in the pan, and compose a blog entry that never ever lets you forget....whatever....

I am in love!

With my wireless router.

On the spur of the moment last Wednesday, I drove to CompUSA, buttonholed a salesperson who knew all about wireless, and purchased a router/hub. Which I then took home, hooked up in fifteen mimnutes, and voila! I am typing to you today from my kitchen. Where I am frying bacon, drinking tea, and listening to the boys watch "The Backyardigans" or maybe it's "Wonder Pets" now. Who can keep them straight?

I got H to bring home an external CD drive the other night and I loaded up my camera and photo software and Photoshop, so I am good to go. Once I find the XP OS disks to load Word. But otherwise, the tablet is working fine and life is good.

I should be dusting and vacuuming while The Baby is asleep. Or scrubbing out our outside garbage barrels which I discovered this morning,when I took the trash out, are CRAWLING with maggots. It's been 95-plus degreees all week, with humidity in the 90% range, and I continue to do CRAZY things like cook chickens and throw the trimmings in the trash.

But, eh. It's Friday. The dust and the laundry and the maggots can wait.
At least for ten mminutes or so.
Besides, I ran out of bleach. Need to go buy more before I can do anything about the revolting garbage can situation.

And as Blackbird pointed out to me this morning, "It's noon SOMEWHERE."

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Poultry in motion, it's a beautiful thing...

Philadelphia Chickens, swing, slide, and roll...

Lancaster County's in a state of alarm...

How you gonna keep 'em down on the farm?

You're never gonna keep 'em down on the farm...

Talkin' 'bout those Philadelphia Chickens...


And, last but certainly not least, a virtual chicken


Thursday Show-and-Tell: Chickens, courtesy of Blackbird

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

This is Me

This is a quote from Adam Langer's Crossing California, which I was just reading over lunch:

"Jill would really have preferred reading a book, but then that would mean everyone coming into her room and asking waht was wrong, why was she reading, this party was for her, this was her day, maybe she should have something to eat . . . none of them realized that maybe reading was what she enjoyed doing, maybe she she felt uncomfortable chattering with relatives with whom she had nothing in common."

That's Jill Wasserstrom, on the night of her Bat Mitzvah, but . . . it's also me. Still. At the age of 35.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Toys N@

See the title up there? The "N@"? Many people from western PA--many of the same people who say "yinz" when they mean "you (plural)"--tack the words "and that" on to the end of a sentence, when they mean, "and other things along those lines". Many of the consonants get dropped off, and the phrase is pronounced, "'n' 'at". Some genius created the symbol and printed up some of those ovualar bumper stickers that people put on thier cars when they go to the Outer Banks, or wherever.

Aren't you glad I explained all that to you?

So! Toys!

See that? It's mine! All mine! It's a MacBook! It's beautiful and I love it, and I'm posting with it right now. On my couch. Downstairs, in the living room. Where there is no TV or desktop computer. And I got a wireless router, so there are no cables. I'm so happy!

Also, I learned this weekend, doing my reference project, that Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer was created by a guy in the marketing department at Montgomery Wards in the late 1930s. They gave out coloring books to kids each year, and wanted something new, so the guy used the story of The Ugly Ducking to come up with Rudolph. His brother-in-law wrote the sonf, and Gene Autry recorded it later, and there you go. The same guy wrote "Have a Holly Jolly Christmas" for the Rankin/Bass Rudolph TV special in the 60s.

Don't you feel smarter now? And possibly cooler, thinking about Christmas?

I think that's all for me. I'm off to play with my new toy . . . n@! :-)

We hang the petty thieves and appoint the great ones to public office. - Aesop

OK, I am DYING here. This bloggy friend and THIS bloggy friend met up yesterday and I WANT AN UPDATE! Because I am green with envy! I did see a photo of one of them – well, her hands and the contents of her purse, anyway...but I want details! I am anxiously awaiting details!


As usual on a Tuesday, I come to work, plop myself down at the desk, and proceed to talk off the ear of my co-worker, whom I only get to see once a week.

S is wonderful – smart, funny, witty and wry, and cute, and a great reference librarian. As far as I can tell – unless she’s hiding her “no-more-wire-hangers” rants, which somehow I seriously doubt – especially as, like me, she seems to be completely uninterested in sartorial fussiness – she is a really good mom. In fact, sometimes I have to laugh because S will be getting all snarky on someone’s ass and then she’ll call home, “Hi, sweetie! It’s Mommy. What are you up to? Are you having a nice day?” It’s endearing, in the nicest kind of way. And she is a patient, loving wife who also appears to brook no bullshit; and, hell, she makes her husband a pie every week, what more can you ask for in a marriage? She works out on her lunch hours, too. Did I mention she’s getting a Ph.D.? And teaches? Several classes? She is an excellent example of the kind of person I would like to get my shit together and be. And she’s my friend! Will wonders never cease? as usual, I sit down and start talking. Because the details of my life are oh-so fascinating, yo. (Ha! I sound just like Badger!) And she listens. And talks. And offers sound advice. And is a friend. And I really dig her. And if she didn’t have an insane life with three kids and two jobs and a husband and whatnot, and if I didn’t have an insane life with three kids and a job and a falling-down house and whatever – I like to think we would socialize. Go out for a beer, or a quick dinner, or get the families together for a cookout. And someday, when the kids are older and life is possibly a little less crazy, we might, and that would be cool. But for now, I am pleased she is a friend, and that I get to hang out with her at the desk at work a couple hours a week. Although she? Probably wants to stick pencils in her eardrums when she sees me coming.


My father-in-law’s cousin died Sunday. She was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer two months ago, and it all happened – well, quickly for those of us who weren’t in the thick of it. For those who were, I remember from caring for my mother, it probably seemed like an eternity, which at this point you feel - guiltily - is blessedly over.

I only saw her two or three times a year. But she was full of life and fun, and always, always, made me feel very welcome in the family, like she was pleased that H had found me and added me to the mix. Apparently she was very good at her job; she was a high-flyer in the world of university fund-raising. She had a couple kids and a gazillion grandchildren – one of her daughters is now pregnant with her NINTH – oh, the horror! – and a wonderful, kind boyfriend/fiancee who is our handyman (he fixes and plumbs and patches and glazes). He is known to my boys as “Tall Tony” and he drives a fire-engine red Camaro and brings me his homegrown tomatoes. He is just a great guy (whose first wife died of cancer also, sadly, in way of the world being completely unfair).

So we go to the viewing tonight, and the funeral on Thursday, and I wish – how I wish – that I’d told her – even though it probably would not have mattered to her in the least, that it was just the way she was – that her friendliness and kindness meant a lot to me. So, I’ve said it before and I am sure I’ll say it again – if you have something nice to say to someone – SAY IT. Let people you love know that. Let people you admire know that. Be kind, be accepting, be the best person you can be. And don’t wait until someone’s died before you think about how a little kindness on their part touched your life.

Peace and love to you, Susie.
The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; The Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace, both now and forever. Amen.