Sunday, November 30, 2008

"My dear doctor, I’m surprised to hear you say that I am coughing very badly, because I have been practicing all night."*

So it's come to this.
I seem to be posting once a week.
I used to post once a DAY.

Is it that I am busier?
That I just don't care?
That Facebook has become, as another blogger put it, the lazy blogger's blog?

I guess I just don't have a lot to say, of any import or interest.
Here's what I got:

1. I started Meg Wolitzer's Ten Year Nap tonight. Tedious, self-absorbed, and didactic do not BEGIN to describe the book or its characters.

2. I also started Eva Ibbotsen's Island of the Aunts. I find Ibbotsen's books hit or miss, but this is a hit. Yes, it's a kid book but that may well be where my brain is these days.

3. I started knitting a poncho for my little niece - of course I picked different weight yarn than the pattern recommends, so I am winging the measurements. But it's a PONCHO. How specific could the measurements have to be? (I want to make one for myself but worry about the effects of a poncho on a full-grown woman.) And I don't know what I would do without Suse or Shirty for knitting advice. Thanks, you guys!

4. Huh. Were those gunshots?

5. I bought The Queen of Bedlam, The Amazing and True (or something) Adventures of the Hunt Sisters, another copy of Jen Lancaster's Bitter is the New Black, and Sophie Kinsella's Cocktails for Three (only it's her other pseudonym...alter ego...whatever...) at the thrift store last week. And a video of "The Mighty Ducks" which we watched Friday night and enjoyed very much. Also Primo's third winter jacket, Quarto's first winter jacket, very cute rainboots for him, for when he's a bit older and can, um, WALK, and an awesome knitted sampler-type afghan for the couch.
And - SCORE! - a Liz Claiborne black cotton zip-up cardigan that fits perfectly, with the tags still on, for three dollars.

6. I wonder if there's any hot water left? With the stomach flu rampaging through the house in the past 2 days and the laundry going 24/7 - not to mention hosing down pukey little boys regularly - geez, I'd love a hot shower but I am not sure there's any hot water left for me.

7. If there's a snow day tomorrow, I may die.

8. That's about it.


9. Just 'cause I am not posting more often does not mean I lurve you all any less.

*John Curran Philpott (and no, I have no idea if he's real...)

Sunday, November 23, 2008

"All the forces in the world are not so powerful as an idea whose time has come."*

When I was what is these days called a “tween,” I was enamored of orphan stories. Anne of Green Gables, Emily of New Moon, Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm. Sarah Crewe and Mary Lennox and Pollyanna and Rose Campbell and Elizabeth Ann Putney. But much as I adored each and every one of these poor, parentless girls, my all-time favorite was Judy Abbott, of Jean Webster’s Daddy-Long-Legs. Judy is plucked from an orphanage and sent to college where she wholeheartedly enjoys her studies and living life as a normal girl. Her education is paid for by a rich benefactor, one of the trustees of the orphanage, and in return she is obliged to write a duty letter occasionally, informing him of her progress in her studies. Instead, Judy enthusiastically adopts said trustee, pretending he is an elderly uncle, and writes him amusing, anecdotal letters (accompanied by adorable little sketches) about everything she is doing and learning and loving. These letters comprise the book Daddy Long Legs (the nickname is what she affectionately calls her “uncle.”)

Judy Abbott is exactly the sort of girl you'd want for your roommate, so she could involve you in all her adventures large and small. Her sunniness, openness, and enthusiasm make her a joy and a delight to be around. The novel is comfort reading of the first degree and I have no idea how many times I have reread it, and its sequel, Dear Enemy.

Until I opened The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society yesterday evening, I had not encountered such an enchanting heroine detailing her life in letters since my first encounter with Judy. And now Juliet Ashton has captured my heart and my imagination. Written in the form of letters, the book details the German occupation of Guernsey Island, and the ways in which its occupants, cut off from the world for five years, cope. Juliet, an author interested in writing the island’s story, is charming and funny and wry. The book is completely captivating; I could not stop reading. I was in love, with Juliet, with the island, with its inhabitants, with Sidney, Juliet’s editor, and with Sophie, Sidney’s sister and Juliet’s best friend. And indeed, there is a feisty and engaging orphan featured as well. I don’t want to tell you more – I want you to go read it. I want to buy my own copy to have and reread and look at on my shelf. It’s a wonderful little book. (And I have to say it would make a fabulous Christmas gift for anyone on your list for whom you have absolutely no idea what to buy.)

And now, just as Juliet points out how wonderful it is that a book captures you with a tiny detail which leads you to another book and a detail in that book leads you to a third, I must go read up on the history and inhabitants of Guernsey, embarking on yet another tangential treasure hunt.


*Victor Hugo

Monday, November 17, 2008

"I don't want to go to PTA meetings." *

I generally like to craft my posts.

I disdain those rambling, stream-of-consciousness, badly spelled posts that most people, including my husband, think of when they think of your typical everyday blogger.
I view my blog as a venue for my writing; it affords me practice and polishing and often valuable feedback.

However, my life is caroming out of control right now, nothing major, just, you know, life with four children and a workaholic husband and the holidays looming (and we all know how I loooove the holidays), and as I hang gamely onto the reins and wildly mix my metaphors, I offer you a random, streaming post straight from my consciousness. Although I am pretty sure everything is correctly spelled.

I am reading:
Volumes seven and eight of the Fables graphic novels. Unfortunately, I got my husband hooked on them, so I am now waiting for Mr Slowpoke (who is plodding through Grapes of Wrath at the same time) to finish volume eight so I CAN READ MY OWN LIBRARY BOOKS.
The Monk Downstairs. I am enjoying the fine writing, and the steady character development.
Laura Lippmann’s No Good Deeds. I continue to heart Tess and find Crow annoying and smug and self-righteous and immature.
The Light Years by Elizabeth Jane Howard. If you liked Rosamunde Pilcher’s big books (Shell Seekers, Coming Home), or Penny Vicenzi’s Spoils of Time trilogy, you would enjoy this, too, the first in Howard’s Cazalet series.

Books I have sitting on my nightstand: Vikram Seth’s An Equal Music, Allan Moore’s Watchmen, Georgette Heyer’s Venetia.

Books I must pickup from the library: that book about the potato peels, Fun Home, and Telex from Cuba, recommended by Lauren Groff, whom I emailed recently about something on her blog, and she emailed me back, a lovely, funny response. I love her even more now. And I loved her quite a bit already, if you recall. (Monsters of Templeton - have you read it? No? What the heck are you waiting for??)

Things going on this week: a movie the boys want to see showing at their school one evening, courtesy of the PTA; a members-only preview of the model railroad Christmas set up at the science center; the usual piano, drumming, etc. lessons.
A meeting regarding the gifted ed pilot program at the boys’ school, same night as the trains.
H’s band practice, the same night as the movie.

I MUST go grocery shopping.
And I have a ham I bought totally spur-of-the-moment last week that I must bake.
I need to have my new glasses readjusted AGAIN.
I have envelopes to deliver to the PTA mailbox for my husband, and envelopes to pick up.

And I am dreading school pickup this week. Because – have I told you about my run-in with smoking parents at school pickup? No? Stay tuned for tomorrow’s post, but suffice it to say that I am dreading picking up the boys after school. Because I can only be bold and brave for so long, and then I just want to curl into a ball and cry.

I want this bumper sticker:

But now I must gird my loins, bundle the snotty baby and my three-year-old Dalmatian-costume-wearing boy, and go buy eggs and bread and milk and butter and applesauce and diapers. Mostly diapers.

Here, have some baby butt:

*Stevie Nicks

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

"We don't understand life any better at forty than at twenty, but we know it and admit it."*

Lots of people I know have grand plans for their lives. I have political activist friends who put their money (and time and effort) where their mouths are. I have deeply, devoutly religious friends who try, every day, to touch lives and make the world a better place. Heck, I am married to a serial altruist who works like a fiend at his job not just because he loves it but because it makes a difference, a real, definable difference, in the lives of disabled children and stricken adults.

I, on the other hand, am a slacker. Left to my own devices and barring the need for income or effort on the children’s behalf, I could be very content lying around on my couch all day, reading multiple novels concurrently, noodling on Facebook, racking up ginormous scores on WordTwist, eating takeout, napping regularly, and exerting myself pretty much only to go run or do some desultory yoga.

I have come to terms with this aspect of my personality. Fairly early, as it turns out, as most people face up to their basic ordinariness round about that crisis-inducing 40th birthday (or, if you’re really an overachiever, 35th).

In my early 20s, however, I decided that I was never going to take Broadway or the design world by storm – nor did I especially want to, considering the level of effort and concentration it would have required, and I settled, more happily than not, into a regular and relatively lucrative career of painting scenery. Which it turns out I did very well, with little effort on my part. Yay for undiscovered natural talents.

When I got bored with that, I somehow managed to stumble - through the efforts of an old friend I ran into at a funeral, of all places – into technical writing, and more specifically, medical software manual writing. Stultifying as that sounds to most normal people, I found it fascinating. I loved it. But a few years and two babies later, our lovely little documentation company was bought out by a trucking firm (I know. WTF?) and I quit, to go to grad school.

I finished grad school by (sensibly, yes, but also) placidly accepting that any woman with a husband, a house, and two children under the age of three cannot possibly devote all her energy to her schoolwork. In fact, she is lucky she gets to do it at all, let alone agonize over it and redo it and tweak it till it's perfect. Somehow, I managed to graduate with honors anyway, and it was time to get a real job. Quel horror (and no, I don’t speak French. Or Italian, or Spanish. Too much work involved...)

Yet I once again somehow landed a plum job working fifteen hours a week, ostensibly doing research for a professor and organizing his research and papers, but in reality, working about five hours a week and spending the rest of my time with my co-workers, meandering over to the park to buy Thai food off the trucks or running down to Starbucks for a “quick coffee.”

I got my first “real” job at a local university library, but I worked only part-time. When a full-time position opened up, I was not even tempted to apply. The full-time librarians spend a lot of time and energy playing politics and attending meetings; I liked working the desk. It entertained me to track down obscure German medical journals for the ILL department or to set up foreign students’ laptops for wireless access in Japanese. I didn’t HAVE to do any of these things but the fact that I COULD amused me. They would have amused me far less if I had been required to do them. Because that’s just how I roll, dudes.

And then, you know, I had another baby because if you have four children at home to care for, no one expects you to get a REAL job. And you can go get coffee any time you want; hell, you are practically expected to.

I dealt with my feelings of insecurity and inadequacy about my inherent laziness early on, which is about the only time I was ahead of the curve. I spent many of my teenage years striving to be extraordinary and all it did, in hindsight, was stress me out. (Well, yes, there's the handy degree from a venerable educational institution, but even that, really? Dumb luck.) I'm a fairly ordinary kind of girl - reasonably intelligent, cute enough when I put forth a little effort, sometimes - but only sometimes - very funny...I have taught myself to be more easygoing, more relaxed, to chill and try to enjoy and appreciate my life more. And I am truly okay with my ordinariness.

I approach my forties (two birthdays from now) – the birthday of crisis and sturm und drang – fairly contented with my lot in life.

Which is fortunate, as I really don’t have the wherewithal to do much about changing it.

*Jules Renard

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

“Joy lies in the fight, in the attempt, in the suffering involved, not in the victory itself.”

Mr Gandhi, I must respectfully disagree.

This morning I am proud and awed and a little giddy. I feel ridiculously optimistic and hopeful. I love my country more than ever. I am so proud to be an American, more than ever before.

And because I am nearly speechless with joy, I offer a meme. It's all my euphoria can handle.


Where is your mobile phone?
Plugged in to the charger on the hall table exactly where it belongs.

Where is your significant other?
Work. Where he is the majority of his waking hours. Sigh.

Your hair colour?
Brown with lots of grey.

Your mother?

Your father?
Him too.

Your favorite thing?
Kisses from my babies. Books. Rum. Salty, crunchy things. My new jeans.

Your dream last night?

Your dream goal?
Survival into their teen years…

The room you’re in?
Coffee shop.

Your hobby?
Reading. Quilting. Running.

Your fear?

Where do you want to be in six years?
In the middle of President Obama’s second term.

Where were you last night?
In Gina’s living room, watching history being made.

What you’re not?
Graceful. Poised. Chic.

One of your wish-list items?
A flatscreen big-ass TV so my husband will stop rearranging the furniture every time he watches TV. Or maybe glasses for my husband.

Where you grew up?
New Jersey.

The last thing you did?
Ordered a tea and a pastry

What are you wearing?
Obama '08 t-shirt, my new sweetheart-cut Old Navy jeans, my Keen Mary Janes

Your TV?
A small, old TV that would be just fine except for the above…

Your pets?
2 cats. I miss my fish.

Your computer?
Dell Inspiron laptop.

Your mood?

Missing someone?
Yeah – some of my ex-pat friends whom I would love to have here with me to celebrate

Your car?
A minivan

Something you’re not wearing?
A jacket

Favourite shop?
Book. Thrift.

Your summer?
Hot, long, but fun.

Love someone?
Lots of people, especially today, but mostly my boys. All of them. All five.

Your favourite colour?

When is the last time you laughed?
Just now,, joshing the mailman

Last time you cried?
Last night. Tears of joy and awe and admiration.