Saturday, December 31, 2005

50 Book Challenge: This is the last one, I promise!

Now that I'm done reading for the year, I get to do something I've been looking forward to for a while now: summing up a year's worth of reading.

First, some general stats:
49 books read
7 books read for the second (or more) time
Literary Fiction: 15
True Crime: 8
Beatles: 2
Other Non-fiction: 4
Science Fiction/Fantasy: 5
Young Adult: 6
Humor: 2
Mystery: 3
Parenting: 2
Classics: 1
Children's Classics: 1
31 Fiction, 18 Non Fiction
Books I'd recommend: 28 out of 49

Most enjoyable reads of the year: The Sweet Potato Queens' Field Guide to Men, The Ladies of Missalonghi, The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency, We Thought You Would Be Prettier, The Curious Incident of the Dog in Night-Time

Least enjoyable read of the year: Atonement

Books I gave the thumbs-up even though I had mixed feelings about them because I kept thinking and thinking about them once I finished reading them: The Time Traveller's Wife, The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Books I'm proud to have made it all the way through: The Sparrow, Children of God, Atonement

Authors I definitely want to read more of in the future: Laurie Notaro, Stephen Goodwin, T.C. Boyle, Stephen Chbosky, Alexander McCall Smith

Authors to avoid under any circumstances: Aphrodite Jones, Ian McEwan (no doubt this is the only time those two will ever be mentioned at the same time)

Really good authors who kind of disappointed me this year: Anne Tyler, Jon Krakauer, Maeve Binchy

Just plain good reads: Breaking Her Fall, Drop City, The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency, Wonder When You'll Miss Me, Sleep Into Heaven, The Curious Incident of the Dog in Night-Time

General thoughts:
I'm reconsidering the idea of myself as a book snob. I mean, I consider myself a book snob the same way I consider myself a movie snob, but my favorite movie of the year was "The 40-Year-Old Virgin," so there you go. When I say I'm a book snob, what that really means is I don't read romance or mystery novels, I think John Grisham is a hack, and no, I've never read The Bridges of Madison County or Tuesdays With Morrie. Also, I hate the whole concept of ChickLit and most of it makes me want to barf. But I've also never read Dostoyevsky, Proust, Gide or Tolstoy. I have a degree in English and I've read the complete works of Jane Austen, but that's my biggest boast with regard to how much classic literature I've read. This year's lone Classics entry, East of Eden, marks only the second book by John Steinbeck I've ever read.

So those are my parameters. Basically, no, I don't read anything very deep. I dislike philosophy, and I found the much lauded writing of Ian McEwan so sluggishly ponderous (a whole page of a 13-year-old girl considering her own hand? No thanks) it was like hiking through Jell-o. Uphill.

As a reader of fiction, what I ask for is something real. I need a story that has heart, but it has to have a brain too. I want characters who seem like real people, and stories that resolve in an authentic and satisfying way. That's what I strive for in my writing as well.

This year was hit or miss for me in the area of non-fiction. After 20 years of considering myself a Beatles fan, this year I became what I like to think of as a Beatles scholar, so I read a couple of books about them, and that was fun. In trying to work on some of Enthusio's issues, I read a couple of parenting books, neither of which quite hit the mark. The best non-fiction book I read this year was The Mommy Myth -- that one left me thinking for weeks. But my main source of non-fiction, true crime, was kind of a bust this year. Of the 8 true crime titles I read this year, I would only recommend one of them, House of Lies -- two others, All She Wanted (the true story of Teena Brandon, on whom the movie "Boys Don't Cry" was based) and Unholy Sacrifice, told interesting cases but were written so badly that I would never recommend them to anyone else. I'm afraid this is the direction the genre going -- there are more true crime books to choose from than ever, but the market is becoming saturated with quickly and poorly written books that don't do the stories justice. It's a sad thing. This year I plan to choose more carefully, and possibly reread some of the classics of the genre.

So that's that -- my year in reading. I've already started my first selection of 2006, and my theme for coming year is "Quality, Not Quantity." I'll define "quality" for myself, of course -- I wouldn't expect to see any Doestoyevsky listed if I were you :-)

50 Book Challenge: Holding at 49

By midnight tonight, I will have posted my 49th and final book of the year. I could have hurried it up, I know, and picked another quick read to follow it, and made my total, but I decided not to. Why? Because, for one thing, I knew it would be cheating to pick short books to finish out the year just to reach 50 when what I'm really dying to sink my teeth into at the moment is the zillion-page Beatles biography I bought with my Christmas money the other day.

The other reason has to do with the epiphany I had earlier this year about the books I've read, and that is that, for all I read, I really don't actually remember very much. For instance, take the book The Liar's Club. This is a book I love, and I've read it at least three times, possibly four. And yet, when I reread it a month ago, guess what? I had completely forgotten that there was a huge secret about author's mother revealed in the last chapter of the book! Sure, it had been 10 years or so since I read the book, but still -- that was a pretty big thing to completely forget about. And what did I remember? Bits and pieces -- the scene where the mother drove the grandmother and two girls across a bridge in a hurricane and the car completely spun around and one of the girls (the author) threw up down the front of her tee shirt. The fact that her father would tell his tales to all his buddies and punctuate them with "I shit you not." And the awesome, awesome scene where the author, as a pissed-off eight-year-old girl, to take revenge on a family who had said unkind things about her mother, sat up in a tree and shot at them with a BB gun, and when the dad calls her out, she has quite the response: And I came back with a reply that the aging mothers in that town still click their tonges about. It was easily the worst thing anybody in Leechfield had ever heard a kid say. "Eat me raw, mister," I said. I had no idea what this meant.

This is what I remember about books -- vivid bits and pieces, maybe a major plot point or two. Sometimes there's a little more to it than that, especially if something in that book just doesn't make any damn sense to me, and I'm still pissed off about it. But anyway, when I was thinking about this again the other day, after rereading The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and realizing how very little of it I actually remembered, I thought, it's bad enough I devour books and then don't remember much of them later -- I'm sure as hell not going to stuff some extra ones in before the end of the year the way you might pop those last few bites of pie in even though you're already full to bursting from Thanksgiving dinner. I chose the sensible course by picking up a book of moderate length I've actually meant to read for several months, and I've read it at a reasonable speed for the amount of free time I've had in the last few days, and at some point today I will finish it and put it on my list, and that will be that. And you know what? I don't consider it a failure. I bet not too many other people out there can say they read 49 books in one year. Sadly, I bet most people out there can't claim to have read ten books in a year.

Just doing my part to bring the average up, I guess :-)

Thursday, December 29, 2005

50 Book Challenge: So Close!

Okay, folks -- I have three days left in this year, and I only need to read two books to hit my 50-book goal for the year. The day before yesterday, I wouldn't have thought it possible, but then yesterday, I read two entire books. Here's what happened:

We were still down in Clovis, where Reasonable Man's family lives, visiting for Christmas. The kids were staying at the house of my in-laws, but Reasonable Man and I were staying at a motel nearby. The night before, I finished The Subtle Knife (very good and I'm looking forward to reading the last book of the trilogy), and I woke up about 4 am, after a disturbing school dream, and couldn't go back to sleep. At 5, I decided to get up and put on some clothes and go downstairs to the lobby to find some coffee, and I took a couple of books and a magazine with me. I ended up reading close to half of Raising An Emotionally Intelligent Child while I was sitting there, before I went back upstairs and went back to sleep for a couple of hours. Then I read then end of it when we were driving home. I still find it amazing that I'm able to read in the car -- it always made me so carsick as a kid. So that was one book.

(As for the book itself -- as with the other book I read earlier this year to give me some insight into Enthusio's issues, The Highly Sensitive Child, I have mixed feelings about it. Some of it was very insightful, but as for what it suggests about what you need to do to promote emotional intelligence in your child, I feel like they're kind of splitting hairs. For instance, they tell you not to grill your child when he or she is upset, but all their sample conversations include a lot of parent-asked questions. Where do you draw the line between grilling and asking non-grilling questions? The book also assumes you're going to be able to get your kid to talk to you when he's upset, which is by no means a given, and is dismissive of the idea that you should put a lable on your child's basic temperament, which pretty much in direct opposition to what you read in the Highly Sensitive series. I guess no book is going to give you all the answers, huh?)

My mother-in-law gave us a box set of The Chronicles of Narnia, and once I finished book 47 yesterday and saw that I actually do have a chance to hit 50 before the end of December, I thought thinking about those books. They're pretty short, and I've only ever read the first one, so... Now, I know that's kind of a cheat -- I definitely always had it in the back of my mind that I wouldn't choose short books to boost my numbers. But I thought -- I'm so close, and if I read maybe the whole series, which would be seven books when I only needed three, that would kind of make up for the cheating kind of aspect of it, right?

Well, it doesn't matter, because I put away The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe last night, and there's no way I'm reading anymore of them. Not to trash a beloved children's classic, but... I didn't much like it when I read it as a kid, and I liked it even less this time around. The characters aren't well-developed for the most part (I liked Edmund, the kid who goes bad for a time, better than any of his three goody-goody siblings), and the plot is stupid. Aslan comes and goes, and the only reason the White Witch has taken over and made it miserable for everyone is that he hasn't been around for a while? And all he has to do is come back and the perpetual winter melts away? Well, what's so great about him, then? Where the hell has he been while all the creatures in Narnia have been suffering?

And the final battle is written very strangely. It begins off-stage, and it's over in about two long paragraphs -- at one point it says "The Lion and the Witch rolled over together but with the Witch underneath," and in the next chapter it mentions the Witch is dead, which makes me think, so what? All that, and she's gone? Don't get me wrong -- I'm no fan of long, drawn-out battle scenes, but one that makes up what I consider the climax of the story seems like it would deserve a couple of pages at least. Am I right?

Of course, you could argue that the real climax of the story is the scene where Aslan sacrifices his life and then rises again, and that certainly does get more page-time.

In any case, I didn't find the way it was written very satisfying at all, and I'm not planning to read any of the subsequent books in the series any time soon. The question now is this: what to read? Do I pick a couple of books I could probably put away in the next few days? Or do I just charge ahead, into the new year, and give up the goal that I do have a chance of reaching if I cheat a little and intentionally choose shorter books? Hm...

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Christmas and all the trimmings, Take 2

It's Christmas vacation here, so yay! Usually I like it better when they're in school, but I also like sleeping in every morning and not having to do homework with Mermaid, so I'm pretty happy they have two weeks + off. Tomorrow is Enthusio's musical he's been in rehearsals for for the past three months, which is a Christmas-themed show, and it should be very cute. And of course we'll go see Santa at some point this week, and maybe do some baking. Just fun, relaxing stuff for the most part. You know, I'm not clinging to the fact that my kids believe in Santa or anything, but I do enjoy the rituals of the season, and I'll probably be kind of bummed when taking them to see the big guy is no longer one of them. Last weekend at a Christmas party, someone told us a great story that was supposedly about a family they knew. It sounds like a joke to me, but anyway:
Child: Mom, tell me the truth. Is there really a Santa?
Mom: No, there isn't.
Child: I didn't think so! Does Dad know?

So Christmas is a week away, and I'm pretty much enjoying the season, as I usually do once I get my shit together and stop trying to make it perfect. I am expecting my family for dinner later this week, and we will spend next weekend at the home of Reasonable Man's family for the big shindig there. Both events should be lots of fun.

One thing that's gotten under my skin more than usual this year is the advertising. True, I haven't seen any commercials with the "Isn't it adorable how this child has this very exact and lengthy list of all the toys he/she wants for Christmas and reads it for you in this snotty little precocious voice?" theme that I detest so very emphatically. Instead, this year there seems to be a preponderance of the "All good husbands buy their wives diamonds for Christmas"-themed ads. I don't mean to say I don't like jewelry, because I do, but a) call me a sap, but I find the implication that diamonds = love to be offensive, and b) at least half the women I know, upon opening a velvet box to reveal diamonds on Christmas morning, would turn to their husbands and say "Are you out of your freaking mind? We can't afford this!"

I also loathe the Walmart commercials with celebrities in them. I don't know anything about Jesse McCartney or his music and I don't care, but the ad where his family is supposed to be enjoying their Christmas day by individually the consumer electronics they got as gifts all seperate from each other around the house while they ignore the crowd of screaming girls outside is asinine -- I don't doubt that the members of some families can't wait to all get away from each other on Christmas, but it seems awfully cynical to be putting that a commercial for Walmart, the store that asks you to believe that senior citizens work there passing out shopping carts because it's so damn fun and not because they need to supplement their Social Security checks. Also -- the members of Destiny's Child and their families all buy each other crap at Walmart and then celebrate Christmas together? Please spare me.

(I hate Walmart and don't shop there anyway, so it doesn't pain me to shred their advertising. I also hate it when Target does the celebrity thing at Christmas, and that does pain me, because I love Target.)

Basically I really hate incredibly cynical, capitalistic advertising that tries to disguise itself as sweet and sentimental. Don't we have enough credit card debt, personal bankruptcy, and families so busy busting their budgets to buy whatever the newest piece of technological garbage on the market is that they don't notice how dysfunctional they are? My son is seven, and other than a very large, expensive set of Harry Potter legos, every single item on his Christmas list involved playing video games. When I gently discouraged him from expecting to find a Gamecube under the tree on Christmas morning, he told me that if I wouldn't get it for him, he'd just ask Santa instead. Good thing I still get veto power over the Santa gifts too.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Today I did something was so amazing, for me.

A bit of background: Enthusio is in a play. Enthusio is one of the only boys in the play. Enthusio is squirmy and when he gets bored, he is constantly doing things like pulling his arms out of the sleeves of his shirt. There have been long rehearsals for the play Enthusio is in last week and this week, because the performance is next week. Yesterday was not a very good rehearsal. For some reason, a large majority of the kids in the cast were just not very attentive, and there was a lot of obnoxious behavior going on. Nevertheless, the director of the play seemed to consistently have Enthusio on her radar, and by the end of the rehearsal, a couple of the other moms had commented to me that she seemed to really be singling him out, so I knew that it wasn't just me being sensitive to what was going on with my own child.

Enthusio didn't really seem bothered by it when it was happening, but at dinner when I was telling Reasonable Man, I did ask Enthusio if it had hurt his feelings, and he said it did. I stewed about it, as I have hundreds and maybe even thousands of times before when someone's done something that's bothered me and I've let it eat at me instead of telling that person how I feel. I was dreading going to rehearsal today and facing a possible repeat of what happened yesterday.
And then, somehow, I just picked up my cell phone and called the director and told her how I felt.

When the phone was ringing, I was thinking "I can't believe I'm doing this. What am I going to do if she actually answers?" And then she answered, and I told her who it was and said I wanted to talk to her about rehearsal yesterday. I said I felt like Enthusio was being singled out, and I asked if she could try to be more tolerant of him from now on. I told her that how things had gone yesterday had upset me and made Enthusio feel bad.

Guess what? The sky didn't fall. Pigs didn't fly. The world didn't come to an end. The play director was lovely and apologetic about it. She said she hadn't meant to pick on Enthusio but she understood where I was coming from and knew that her eyes have a tendency to go right to him when she's looking at the stage, just because he's been pretty wiggly (or as she put it, "kinetic"), since the first day of rehearsals. She said she felt terrible that he and I felt bad about things and promised to apologize to him and make a general apology in front of the cast, and to be more patient with him for the last two rehearsals. And she said she was glad I'd called. It ended up being a nice chat, considering that I'd called to complain and that I was shaking and trying not to cry for the whole thing.

This afternoon's rehearsal was nicer for everyone. Enthusio came home much happier than yesterday. Plus, my earlier triumph of assertiveness gave me the confidence to approach one of his teachers, with whom I'd had an upsetting conversation about a week ago. She called me and we had a really good conversation about how he's doing at school. My impression after the last time we talked was that he is just a huge pain in the butt for her. Talking to her today made me realize she just really doesn't quite know what to do with him. She said she's sad that he's so upset in class so much of the time. It sounds like there are a number of kids with issues in the class this year, and it's been tough for her. So that was good, just opening the lines of communication. We will work to arrange for her and his other teacher to meet with his therapist and start working on finding a way to help him be happier and cope better in the classroom.

I just feel so good, for him and for me. If you are reading this thinking "So you made a phone call -- big whoop," I have this to say: Congratulation on being a naturally assertive person. I'm not. This kind of stuff has been hard for me my whole life. Standing up for myself has always been an issue. Today I stood up for my son, and it felt good just to know I could do it.

Sunday, December 11, 2005


This has been a pretty weird weekend because I've been out dancing two nights in a row. I would say I don't know when the last time I did that was, only I don't think I've ever done that. I like to go dancing but it's not an opportunity that seems to present itself in my life very often. Probably something to do with having kids when I was young and supposed to be doing stuff like going out and dancing.

Anyway -- Friday there was this jewelry party at my gym, and then some of us went out and had dinner, and then a few of us in that group ended up going over to a bar where they had a deejay. Okay, so it was five of us women over 35, in a big, not very full bar, and we were the only ones dancing, so for a while the deejay tried to keep us happy with lots of eighties and early nineties music. Then two college-age girls joined us, and he obviously started to feel like he needed to cater to the crowd in the bar, and this is a college town, so... Anyway, for a while it was like we were battling the college girls for control of the deejay -- he'd play an eighties song, and some of them would drift away, and then he'd pump up some rap and we'd go sit down. A couple times he managed to play something no one had any interest in, and then the floor would be empty for a few minutes. I didn't envy the deejay -- he was trying to keep everyone happy, and obviously there were wildly divergent tastes to deal with. But in the end, the battle was lost, as we figured it would be -- we were severely outnumbered, and around midnight it had been more than 20 minutes since we'd heard anything we wanted to dance to, so we took off. It was fun while it lasted though.

Last night, Reasonable Man and I went to this Christmas party for one of his clients that we've gone to for the last several years. In the past it's always been held somewhere where you can walk around socializing and having drinks for a while, and then you sit down at one of the tables and have dinner and then they have a big presentation where they have a raffle where all the employees win things like restaurant gift certificates and that sort of thing. It's not the most exciting thing in the world, especially since I don't know many of the people there, but it's kinda fun and I don't mind going. This year I was actually excited about it, because it was being held on a boat on the Sacramento River, and I love going on boats.

Well, as it turned out, the whole thing mostly blew. First, we all stood around freezing on the dock for twenty minutes while all the different parties boarded before ours did. Then, as soon as we got on, we all had to choose a seat and stay there for pretty much the whole evening. We ended up at a table with some cool people, so that was nice, but what exactly is the point of having a party with around 50 people in that kind of setting? You don't get to circulate at all, and I didn't really know anyone so I didn't care all that much, but if it had been my company, I don't think I would have been very happy about it. Also, it was cold -- I spent most of the evening bundled up in my jacket and my scarf. Also, we were on the bottom deck, and everyone from the top deck got to get food before we did. Actually, the people I felt sorriest for were the other party downstairs with us, because they were right next to the food, and they got to go and load up their plates dead last. Pretty bogus deal there!

The whole thing was kind of shabby -- we drank wine out of plastic cups and the guy next to me had a knife that was greasy and had some dried food on it when we first sat down. The food wasn't bad, but the way we all were herded around to get it seemed kind of silly. And the whole effect of being on a boat was kind of lost due to the fact that the windows got fogged up and you couldn't really see anything outside of them anyway, since it was dark. Overall -- not too impressive.

But -- after dinner, they had a deejay by the tiny dance floor upstairs, and Reasonable Man and I headed up there to boogie down, and that was fun. I couldn't help noticing the contrast between my two dance experiences -- Friday night, we were a tiny group on a huge empty dance floor, and Saturday, a ridiculous number of people were crammed onto this tiny one. But people were having fun, and since it was a crowd made up of people closer to our age than the night before, the music was pretty decent. No eighties new wave -- this wasn't really that crowd either -- but it was mostly older stuff that we knew, so we enjoyed it. Even when they played "You Shook Me All Night Long," which is probably Ryan's least favorite song of all time since he hates the AC/DC singer's voice, we had fun with it.

Anyway, who knows? We're going over to some friends' house for dinner tonight -- can I make it three nights in a row dancing? That would be fun, but I kind of worry that this old body can't take it that much excitement in one weekend :-)

50 Book Challenge: Not Gonna Make It

I concede defeat. November was a black-hole, reading-wise; I knew that might be the case because I was working on my Nano novel, but I didn't count on the added issue of both of my book clubs making selections for the month that we will call challenging. Atonement was difficult and ultimately unrewarding. I do not recommend it. The book for my other book club was Sophie's World, which was very interesting but you won't find it listed here on my blog because I only got through half of it. I'd like to finish it sometime, but I don't have the energy for it right now. So I've reread The Liar's Club, which is my selection for one of my book clubs this month, and now I'm on to a true crime book I picked up a while back -- I shouldn't have anymore "assigned" reading for book clubs until January.

I'm a little disappointed that I won't make my 50-book goal for the year, but not really. I've read some really good books this year, a lot of difficult stuff, a lot of books I never would have picked up if someone in one of my book clubs hadn't picked them for me. I also managed to read quite a few of my own selections. I think the list is a pretty good mix of quality, guilty pleasure, good reads and bad. When I realized I wasn't going to make it to 50 this year, I immediately thought "I'll just try again for next year." Now I'm not sure if I will, but one thing I will plan to do is keep listing what I've read here on my blog, just to keep track and to be able to see an overview of what I've taken in over the course of a year. That part of the exercise has been very interesting :-)

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Christmas and all the trimmings

It used to be that I just loved Christmas and pretty much everything associated with preparing for the season. Then came the first year I was in therapy, and I was talking to my therapist about feeling overwhelmed with shopping and decorating and everything, but I kept insisting that I actually loved it all, and she kept gently suggesting that what she was hearing was that it actually stressed me out, which I was finally forced to admit. So now I approach the season each year with cautious enthusiasm, mindful of the fact that I need to pace myself in the decorating, shopping, wrapping and holiday carding processes so as not to turn myself into a basket case.

This year I've done very well, due in large part to the face that Thanksgiving was pretty early, so things like putting up the outside lights were done before it was even December yet. Christmas shopping seemed to be a little easier this year as well -- Reasonable Man took an active role in selecting, purchasing, and arranging to go in on gifts with other people, and I had at least a few things tucked away early on, and it's all just generally come together very nicely. I did get my cards out a bit later than usual, and I had them printed at Target rather than printing them myself at home for the first time quite a few years, but I still had the same feeling of satisfaction when I was cramming them in the mailbox the other day, and I'm sure people will like them, so what's the difference?

And now a few words about holiday music:

It's been getting on my nerves this year. I have my own homemade CD of my favorite Christmas songs, and I usually look forward to putting it on while I'm decorating the house. This year, before I even got it out of the box, I was already tired of Christmas music from hearing it in stores while shopping. One day Sue and I were at Marshalls and they played three different renditions of "The Christmas Song" -- you know, "chestnuts roasting on an open fire" and all that crap -- in a row. The same song, three times in a row! WTF? I now support legislation making it illegal for anyone to ever record this song again. I mean it. I may take up arms the next time I hear it.

Part of the problem is, there are really only so many Christmas songs out there, but every year, a few pop singers, or more likely, whatever record companies are pimping them out, feel the need to record a whole album of holiday standards, and then, guess what? We are stuck with these things for all eternity. These singers may have faded from popularity many years before, but that doesn't mean radio stations will hesitate to keep playing their horrible Christmas songs every damn year. Just yesterday, I was in Home Depot and who did I hear singing over the sound system in there? Debbie Gibson, that's who. Now I don't mean to rip Debbie in particular -- it so happens that I kind of liked her during that twenty-minute period in 1987 when she was selling records -- but my point is, they are still playing her Christmas songs 18 years later. And you know we're going to be stuck with Jessica Simpson and Celine Dion (sorry, Mom) and Kenny freaking G. at Christmas for years to come too.

My Christmas music preferences run more to the less sentimental end of the spectrum. Sure, like any good child of the 80s, I love "Do They Know It's Christmas" by Band-Aid, and "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)" by John Lennon (yes, BLB, I know -- too much Yoko). My personal Christmas CD is also heavy on songs from TV specials, like "Christmas Time is Here" from the Peanuts specials, and the song the Whos all sing in the "Grinch" special. But my favorite Christmas song of all is "Merry Christmas from the Family" by Robert Earl Keen. I think the whole thing is hilarious, but I'll only subject you to the lyrics from the first chorus:

Carve the turkey, turn the ball game on
Mix margaritas when the egg nog's gone
Send somebody to the Quick Pack store
We need some ice and an extension cord
A can of bean dip and some Diet Rite
A box of tampons, some Marlboro lights
Hallelujah, everybody say cheese
Merry Christmas from the family

I can't say I've ever asked a relative to pick up a box of tampons or some smokes for me on Christmas before, but nevertheless, this song sounds a lot like the reality of the holidays to me than Jack Frost nipping at my nose and folks dressed up like Eskimos. I'm just saying.

I'd also like to talk about Christmas lights. The other day, Reasonable Man sent me this link to what is possibly the most over-the-top holiday lights display the history Christmas. It's very cool, and if it's real and not just something someone created on their computer, I have to say that I know I'd enjoy going to see it a time or two each year. If I lived anywhere in close proximity to this house, however, I think I might go and live somewhere else for the month of December every year, because that would get really old, really fast. I can just imagine sitting in my house, watching "CSI" or something and minding my own business, and suddenly having lights blasting into my house to the strains of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra or whatever that is at random points throughout the evening. I don't know -- maybe they only do it once a night or something like that. I hope so, for their neighbors' sake. I like the dancing fountains at the Bellagio in Vegas too, but I wouldn't want to live across the street from them.

Anyway, this provides me with a nice segue into the subject of Christmas lights. We have more Christmas lights up this year than we have in the past, and I'm quite proud of my display. Still, I cut some corners in a few places, and predictably, the lights are sagging a bit in a spot or two. I may remedy this, I may not. They're up, and because I'm not a man, I don't have to obsess about it.

I'm not saying all men obsess over things like Christmas lights, but it seems to me that it is more likely to be men than women who feel that there is a right way to put them up and that is how it has to be done. Me, I just kind of put them up however they'll go up. I've put hooks in a few places to make it easier to put them up the next year, but otherwise I'm pretty low-key about it. This is as opposed to, say, my father-in-law, who, when those icicle lights got popular a few years ago, found the sets you could buy at the store somehow lacking and created his own by purchasing about fifty regular strings of white lights and painstakingly looping them to his own satisfaction. The guy across the street was up on his roof -- like, way up on his roof -- putting his lights around the perimeters of his house on the same day I was putting lights up on our house, and let me tell you -- his lights are straight. I don't know what he did to get them that straight, but I've sure never figured out how to make mine look like that, and I have a feeling it involves serious tools and some kind of process developed over time that I would never have the patience for.

Here in town, there's a guy who writes movie reviews for the local paper, and every year he creates a holiday display in his tiny front yard that includes groupings of cartoon characters that he must have actually someone painted himself on sheets of wood and about a zillion lights. I saw him starting to put that stuff up a full week before Thanksgiving this year. It's an awesome display and I admire the effort, but let me tell you -- I will never go there. I really think the big fancy outdoor lights displays are the province of men with an eye for precision and a "Home Improvement"-style lust for more power. And that's fine. I'm happy to put my modest display up each year and leave the power-grid-killing crazy stuff to the guys. I have too many presents to wrap to worry about stuff like that.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Good things and bad

Good things:
I'm sitting near my fireplace, which now has a gas log set installed so I can just walk over and light it using my lighter thingie and the key coming out of the wall. No more of those overpriced firelogs from the store! No more ashes to clean up! No more "oh, I thought this would be burned out by now, but it's not and I have to leave the house and if I leave with the fire lit, it might somhow burn down the house even though it's never demonstrated the ability to do anything like that before but you just never know, do you?" No more, "I'm freezing and I'd really like a good fire to sit next to just about now but I'm only going to be here for x-amount of time and it's not worth wasting a firelog." I just turn it off when I'm leaving or going upstairs or something. It rules.

It's Saturday. I slept in past 8 and I don't have a headache even though I drank too many margaritas last night at Steve and Sue's house. The day is not packed with activities or anything like that. I should finish putting up the indoor Christmas decorations and pay the bills but nothing is pressing at the moment.

A lot of my Christmas shopping is already done. I'm not feeling that crushing feeling of "Oh my God, what am I gonna get for everyone?" The lights are up outside and the stuff inside... yeah, I'll get to it.

Mermaid's book report got done. I probably helped her with it a little more than I was supposed to, but geez -- it was a science fiction novel. And we had to read the whole thing. And it's hard enough to get her to understand a story in her reader or a chapter book aimed at younger kids than this one was about about something she's actually interested in. I'm pleased with how painless it was, and how well it turned out. And I'm glad it's done.

I found a shirt for Buster at Target yesterday that actually fits him. I should tell you at this point that this is exciting not because I have some compulsion to make him look silly by dressing him in stupid-looking clothes, but because a) he has no body fat, and thus walks around shivering all winter, even in the house, and forget about taking him out for a walk or something; and b) he's hard to fit, because of the whole long body/short legs things. Just on a whim, I recently researched dachshund clothing online and found the most perfect little fleece jacket -- for $50. I won't spend that much for a jacket for one of my kids, so forget spending that much on a jacket for the dog. But this little tee shirt fits him just right, and it cost five bucks, so everybody wins. I think he actually kind of likes it too.

Bad things:

I ate the last of the leftover Thanksgiving stuffing this morning, so all we have left is turkey, which probably won't be good much longer. I love Thanksgiving leftovers, and I know all good things must come to an end, but that always bums me out.

Having the gas line put in to hook up the gas log set in the fireplace set us back more than you might think. I'm not going to say exactly how much it was because I don't want my dad to get concerned when he reads this, but let's just say it was kind of a pricey deal and leave it there. It's not like those firelogs you buy at the grocery store are so cheap either.

Yesterday morning, I woke up to the sound of Reasonable Man slamming around the bedroom getting dressed. I finally sat up and asked him if he was in a hurry or something, to which he replied that there was no hot water and he just wanted to get to the office so he could take a shower (I guess I knew they had a shower at his office. I've never actually seen it before though.). So I had to have Larry the Earnest Plumber come to my house for the third day in a row to relight the pilot light in our hot water heater, which he'd forgotten to do the day before when he was finished putting in the new, expensive gas line for the fireplace. It screwed up my morning.

I've barely touched my novel since I passed 50K on Monday night. I sat down and wrote maybe 250 words on it the other day, but I didn't even make it out of the scene I'd been writing on when I passed the 50K mark. I need to get my act together on that because I do not need another source of guilt in my life.

I feel like going back to bed. I also kind of feel like the two boxes of Christmas decorations in the living room are mocking me and demanding to know why I haven't unpacked them over the past two days since they've been sitting there. I don't know how productive today's going to be...

Monday, November 28, 2005

If You Look to The Right...

... you will see what I did today. I passed the 50,000-word mark at about 6 pm this evening, and uploaded my novel for validation at the Nano site about ten minutes ago. I'm feeling pretty pleased with myself, especially considering that I had been feeling hopelessly blocked for the last day or so. As is often the case, once the blockage was removed (ew), the proverbial floodgates opened, I've written more than 6,000 words so far today. Pretty amazing.

Of course, the novel isn't actually finished -- I think there is probably about 5-10K words left in the story, and I'm going to keep working on it as though I'm still working against a deadline or else I might never finish it. That would be less than satisfying.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Today I Wrote 1300 Words...

... which is amazing considering all the things I did to avoid writing, including but not limited to:
1) Draining the spa, giving it a scrub, cleaning the filters, and refilling it
2) Raking up millions and millions of leaves in the front yard
3) Sweeping the front porch and all the walkways in the front yard
4) Taking Enthusio to his play rehearsal, which lasted almost two hours, and sitting there with my laptop on and sometimes even open and on my lap, but not being typed on a whole lot because I was watching the rehearsal and also talking to anyone sitting near me who would distract me from writing
5) Putting up Christmas lights
6) Running out to Rite Aid for more Christmas lights
7) Putting up more Christmas lights
8) Helping Mermaid work on her book report about My Teacher Is An Alien
9) Baking lemon bars (from a mix)
10) Watching two solid hours of crime dramas

The Christmas lights part was the really egregious part. It's not even December yet. It was a pretty day out, and I was out there doing the spa, which was really months overdue, so I didn't feel bad about that, and then it turned into lots of yard work, and then I convinced myself that if I put the Christmas lights off till next week, either it was going to rain or I was really not going to want to do it, since really, I'm only willing to do a lot of outside work maybe two or three days a year.

Then I got into the plastic bin marked "Outdoor Lights," and guess what? Not all that many outdoor lights in there. I found the mesh ones for the bushes in front of the house, and "swag" ones I bought last year that I'm not all that fond of, and I put those up, but as for the strings of multi-colored lights to go around the door and all -- nope. I looked in the other bins (the ones not marked "Outdoor Lights," but they weren't in there either. So I decided that last year when I took down the strings of lights, I must have gotten disgusted with them and decided to throw them all out and start fresh this year. As I told Reasonable Man, this sounds like exactly the sort of thing I would do and promptly forget about. Or maybe not so promptly -- it's been 11 months, after all. I should have known I would have no idea what the hell happened to the stupid lights after that long, and left myself a note in the box or something, but no.

It's not like this sort of thing is unprecedented in my family. My own father accidentally put the same crappy lights meant for outside on the Christmas tree two years in a row when I was growing up. I have a very distinct memory of him disgustedly ripping them off the tree as he told me that, in order to prevent this from happening a third year, this time he was going to put them in a bag and write "Idiot!" on the outside of it. No one ever laughs when I tell this story. I guess you had to be there.

Anyway, I went to Rite Aid and bought a couple of strings of lights to put around the front door and front window. That would be colored lights, because I just don't care for the white lights so much. It's nothing personal -- I just don't think they're as festive. I was very happy with what I brought home. They're the cluster lights, so there are three of each color kind of bunched together where there would only be one on a regular string of lights. You don't have to worry about pulling them tight to get them straight, and hey -- there's more lights! More lights has to be better than fewer lights, right? And then I felt very smug as I was able to quickly put them up, utilizing the hooks I've installed for this very purpose. It took me about 2 minutes -- honest to God.

Do you have your Christmas lights up yet? You don't, do you? Ha ha! In your face!

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Lazy Day

I am booking along in my novel. Sure, I'm not exactly sure what is going to happen in the next few scenes, but last night I hit 42,690 before I went to bed at 1 am (very late for me). If I were to sit down with my computer and just write my butt off today, I could easily hit 50,000 words by the end of the day. I'm not going to, because I have other stuff to do today, but I could.

I'm going to take the kids to the Harry Potter movie later this morning, and then we'll come home and I'll do some writing and help Rachel work on her book report for a while and maybe go running at some point. Yeah, that sounds good.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Two Reasons I Don't Think I Want To Be a Famous Writer

1) Saturday night, our neighbor who recently published a book about the first Olympic games in Greece had a book-signing and author event at Borders, and I went to it. The whole thing made me uncomfortable. Don't get me wrong -- they had a nice-sized crowd and they handled everything very nicely -- I was pleased for them that there was a good turn-out and I hope they sold some books. But that's the kind of thing I know I would have to do if I published a novel, and the idea of having that kind of event terrifies me. Seriously -- I'm too chicken to have a garage sale because I worry no one will come. I can't imagine sitting in a bookstore to do a reading and worrying that no one will show up. I find that kind of thing just mortifying.

2) There is a website I occasionally read where a group of writers provide detailed recaps of select TV shows. I don't read it as often as I used to just because the recaps are pretty long, and I never really participated in the forums there because for one thing, they seem to have a lot of rules about posting and I didn't want to get in trouble for making the wrong kind of comment about "Six Feet Under" or something, and second, I've gotten involved in online communities before, and you know, I waste too much time online as it is without that, you know? (Speaking of wasting time, I did my first Sudoku puzzle today. Like I need another time-sucking addiction in my life!) So yeah -- maybe the people who produce this particular website are a little overly pleased with themselves, and maybe they are kinda over the top about their moderating duties on the forums, but you know what? It's a big wide web out there, and if some website is harshing your mellow? Don't go there anymore. I mean give me a break.

So I was chagrined but unsurprised to discover today that there exists out there a (name of aforementioned website) that consists entirely of forums where you can shred the recappers at this TV-show-recapping website and the people who post on the forums. Two of the recapppers whom I've read most frequently seem to the most popular targets. The main descriptor I saw on the threads about each of them seemed to be "bitch."

Now, both of these women are probably pretty thick-skinned, and if you're going to put yourself out there, I guess you're leaving yourself open that kind of thing, but you know what? If I was to discover that there were entire threads of discussion out there online consisting of nothing but nasty, mean-spirited comments about what a bitch I was, written by people who only know me by what I wrote online, I would probably drown in an ocean of my own tears. Seriously. Who needs that? If that's the price of online fame, I'd just as soon stay relatively anonymous.

So anyway. Do I sound like a wimp? So be it. I am a highly sensitive person -- deal with it.

Adventures in Parenting #926

Today, I explained the birds and the bees to Enthusio. To be more precise, I read him a book called Where Did I Come From? that has been around for quite a while -- in fact, I remember my 5th grade teacher reading it to us when we did our Family Life unit, which is why I bought it for my kids. It's full of cartoon drawings, and it makes me happy that illustrated mom and dad in it are far less attractive than Reasonable Man and myself, naked or clothed. I don't need to see some woman with Barbie-doll proportions when I'm already tackling something stressful.

Anyway, the reason this came up today was that we dropped some stuff off at the SPCA Thrift Shop downtown, and I was explaining why I like to donate our extra stuff there and a little bit about how animal shelters work, and this led to a discussion of things responsible pet owners do, like spaying and neutering their pets. Enthusio didn't understand why the boy dogs and cats would need to have an operation to help prevent babies too, and since we've had a number of these kinds of questions over the past few months, I decided the time was right and we sat down and read the book.

I don't know what I was expecting, but Enthusio was completely undaunted by the facts of conception. He was interested enough, but none of it seemed to gross him out or embarrass him, so that was good. I was a little nervous when we got started, but managed to read the whole book in a pretty matter-of-fact way, and he sat there and looked at the pictures and asked the occasional question. After we were done, I asked him if he had anymore questions, and he said he didn't and then announced that he wanted to take the book to school. I explained why that probably wasn't a good idea but said that if he if wanted to talk about any of it again, he could talk to me or his dad, and then he went to play on the computer, and that was that.

So yeah. I've now explained the facts of puberty to one very bored daughter and how babies are made to one very earnest son, and no one has died of embarrassament or, if I'm reading things right, even realized there is anything to be embarrassed about. I guess I'm doing okay.


I don't know if I've detailed my patented Tracie Bezerra Film-Movie-Flick Scale of Excellence or Lack Thereof in Cinema in this space. It's pretty simple, really -- if it's great, it's a Film; if it's okay to pretty good, it's a movie, and if it's leaning toward utter suckitude, it's a Flick. Pluses or minuses can be applied as warranted. These ratings are based entirely on my personal enjoyment of the work in question, which usually takes the quality of the writing and freqently the acting as well into consideration, but not the amount of money spent to make it, the number of Oscar nominations it might have received, the awesomeness of the special effects, or how much the general public might have liked it. For instance, I don't give a rat's rear that "Titanic" is expensive, beautiful to look at, or adored by millions. That bloated piece of crap is a Flick in my book.

Yeah, I'm a total snob when it comes to the movies, and I have no problem admitting that.

Anyway, I've taken in a lot of cinema in the last few weeks, and I've been meaning to post about what I've watched, so it seems like a dust off the old system and give her a whirl...

"Garden State" - I watched this on DVD last weekend in a desperate attempt to not work on my novel, and I loved it. It was funny, and Zach Braff and Natalie Portman were both wonderful -- I'd seen him in "Scrubs" and her in several movies, but I would never have suspected that he was capable of such a strong dramatic performance, or that she could be so adorably goofy. I laughed the entire way through her first scene. I had heard that Zach Braff's performance was flat due to his character being on medication, but that it hurt the movie -- I disagree, and thought he portrayed someone who was slowly coming out of the fog of everything he'd been taking for years and years really well. The chemistry between the two characters was also very well done, and Peter Sarsgaard, as the stoner friend they hang out with, was great too. Rating: Film -

"Pride & Prejudice" - Well, I knew I'd go see this one, being kind of a Jane Austen junkie. The first time I saw the trailer, I had mixed feelings about it, since it appeared to be a very movie-fied version, in contrast with the 1995 six-hour A&E version with Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy that I absolutely loved. But this new one surprised me by being, in many ways, better than the 1995 one. I think that the older one was probably more what Jane Austen pictured when she wrote the novel -- very prim and proper and elegant, with all the grime of 18th century life edited out. In the new version, though the story is obviously condensed to fit in a shorter running time and some of the scenes are staged more dramatically (Mr. Darcy's first proposal to Elizabeth Bennet happens outside, where they are sheltered from a huge rainstorm by some sort of stone monument, rather than in a small, quiet drawing room), there is also a warts-and-all quality that lends it more authenticity. Hair is messy, skin is greasy, pigs and geese roam the Bennet estate, and their house is filled with the clutter that you would find in a real house where a family with five daughters lived. Keira Knightley plays a different kind of Elizabeth, who really seems like a 20-year-old girl who hasn't quite figured out what she wants, and the new Mr. Darcy, who doesn't seem like much to look at in the beginning, actually seems kind of hot by the end. Loved it. Rating: Film

"Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" - This was one of my favorite books of the series, and the previews for the movie looked awesome, but I didn't think it would probably be as good as the third HP movie, and I was right. I enjoyed it a lot -- everything in it was very well done, and the way the ginormously long story was whittled down to fit into the 2+-hour running time without cutting essential plot points from the book (which was my only quibble with HP3) was admirable to say the least. There is never a dull moment in "Goblet of Fire" -- it moves from event to event at a breathtaking pace just because it has to in order to fit all of the action in. As a fan of the books, I wasn't disappointed, but maintaining that breakneck pace does come at the expense of things like character development, and think I would have felt a lot was missing if I wasn't well-versed in the HP universe already. Then again, how many people will go see this movie without having read any of the books or seen any of the previous movies? "Goblet of Fire" has a more humor than the three previous HP movies, due largely to the increased presence of twins Fred and George Weasley, who are homely but awfully amusing, and the whole Yule Ball subplot. Rating: Movie +

"Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith" - Our copy of the DVD arrived from Netflix the other day. I realize I probably missed a lot by not seeing it in a theater with hundreds of SW fanatics -- in fact, I probably should have watched it when Reasonable Man was home -- a lot of my enjoyment of the series comes from his worship of it. Anyway, I didn't like this one. I could see how it was better than "Attack of the Clones" (never saw "Phantom Menace"), but the script was still awful, and the only good acting was done by Ewan McGregor. The special effects were good, but I couldn't care less about the storyline. The Jedis totally lost me with that whole "caring about someone enough to be afraid to lose them makes you weak" thing, and the Anakin-Padme relationship always made me want to barf, so it was pretty hard to root for any of the characters to win the battle for Anakin's soul or whatever that crap was about. I do like the CGI Yoda a lot, and did I mention Ewan McGregor? I didn't even mind his facial hair so much in this one. Still, overall it was a disappointment. They should have stopped making these movies after they finished the first twenty minutes of "Return of the Jedi." Rating: Flick +

"The Wiz" - I suspect this is one of those movies, not unlike "The Wizard of Oz," that it helps to have seen for the first time when you were a little kid. I can totally appreciate that a lot of people think it was just a big mess. It's too long by probably an hour, a lot of the acting, especially that of Diana Ross as Dorothy, is shrill and weirdly overwrought, and there is no excuse for the amount of Nipsey Russell in this movie. Still, having seen it the first time when I was around 10 years old, and having watched it often enough growing up to know learn the words to a lot of the songs and that kind of thing, I have to say, this one is a favorite. Here are the things I like about it:
1) Michael Jackson as the Scarecrow is fabulous. His singing, dancing and, surprisingly, acting are all first rate. I have the song he sings in his first scene, "You Can't Win," on my iPod. His performance in "The Wiz" is a huge part of the reason I was a big fan of his once upon a time.
2) Ted Ross as the Cowardly Lion and his song "I'm a Mean Old Lion."
3) The dancing
4) The songs (except the two Nipsey Russell sings)
5) The gritty urban sets
6) The scary scene in the subway where all kinds of weird stuff chases the main characters
I found this movie on DVD for $5.50 at Target last week. A bargain at twice the price! Rating: Film -

"Spanglish" - I'd heard mixed reviews of this movie when it came out , but was intrigued by the previews, and I'd heard good things about it from several people I knew. So I was excited to come across it on HBO last night. I really enjoyed it. I always appreciate it when a film has that quality where you're not sure where the story is going or what kind of resolution is going to be satisfying, and this one was so full of unique characters and situations that I felt that way throughout. Paz Vega, Tea Leoni and Adam Sandler all give their characters complexity, and I liked how none of them came off as purely saintly or villainous. I remember reading in reviews that Leoni's character, Deb was such a monster that she ruined the whole movie, but I disagree with that. Deb is a monster for sure, but I found her both believable and very, very human, and while I could certainly sympathize deeply with Adam Sandler's John for being married to her, I liked Deb enough to want John to stay with her. Sandler's performance as John has both the quick you expect from him as well as a sweetness and real likeability. He's is really transcending the whole goofball comedy guy thing and becoming an interesting actor. Both of the young actresses who played teen daughters Bernie and Christina were excellent. My only quibble about with movie is that Flor learns English much too quickly and easily. Rating: Movie +

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

The Halfway Point

Every day I sit down to write, think about where I am in my story, and go "I can't do this." Then I put my fingers on the keyboard and crank out a one or two thousand words. Sunday afternoon I knew I was behind and that I had a couple of hours and that I really needed to get to work, and I ended up writing almost 2,500 words.

Today is the 15th, which means I'm halfway through the month of November. Usually by now I'm cruising along, far ahead of the 25K point where I need to be. Usually my story is popping along by now. But there's not much that's usual about this year.

This year I feel like I'm doing well to hit my this-is-where-I-need-to-be-if-I'm-averaging-1700-words-a-day mark each day and playing catch-up on the days I don't make it. The story is still moving along, although I'm afraid to read through it for fear of discovering what a mess it is and not having the will to go on from there. In all likelihood, when I do sit down to read it from beginning to end, I'll discover it isn't as bad as I thought. But that's for December. For now, I'm just taking it one day at a time and trying not to worry about how quickly November 30 approaches.

I'm on target to hit 50,000 words by the end of the month.

I am following my usual pattern of charting out a summary of what will happen in the first half of the novel, writing that first half, and then needing to lay out the remainder of the story as I head into the second half.

And most important, every day I ignore that voice that say "I can't do this," put my fingers on the keyboard, and begin to type.

Monday, November 14, 2005

I am having the weirdest cold. Saturday afternoon I knew I was starting to come down with it -- I was snuffling and sneezing and I had a sinus headache, and I was blowing my nose till it felt kind of raw and I was just thinking, damn, this is going to be ugly. We went out to dinner with friends that evening (lucky them!) and by the time we left the restaurant, I had that whole brain-floating-above-your-head feeling that that one cold medicine commercial illustrated so well a few years ago, and I was talking with that by-dose-is-stuffed-ub voice and everything. It turned out we only had half a dose or so of Nyquil at home, but I slammed it, and went to bed expecting to have a miserable night.

At some point during the night, I woke up and realized I wasn't really miserable, and that in fact I'd been sleeping peacefully for several hours. In the morning I awoke feeling... just fine. Not 100% or anything, mind you -- I didn't feel like going for a jog, and my sinus cavities had that dried up-scooped out kind of feeling you get when you take a heavy antihistamine. But I was well rest and feeling healthy enough to go about my day, which included going to the movies, writing 2,400 words, and going out to dinner with some different friends from the night before.

Toward the end of last night, once again, I was feeling snuffly and sneezy and headachey and just generally crappy. We didn't have any Nyquil in the house and I hadn't bothered to buy anymore because I thought I was well, so I drank some lemonade with a shot of vodka and later I took some Sudafed and some Tylenol, and then I went to bed. And it was the same story as the night before. Soon as my head hit the pillow, I fell into a pleasant, restful sleep, and I woke up this morning feeling well rested and ready to start the day. I even went to the gym.

So, I don't know. It's 7:30 and maybe that snuffly feeling will be hitting me soon. I should probably go fix myself some lemonade and vodka just in case.

Friday, November 11, 2005

At Last: Photos!

Yeah, I know you were waiting with baited breath and all that...

The kids on Halloween:

I think this is one of my favorite costumes Mermaid has ever worn. The ruby slippers were too big and gave her some trouble, but that hasn't stopped her from wearing them out to play every day after school since then. I like Enthusio's costume too, of course, but I loved his Harry Potter costume last year so much that it was hard to top that. In any case, they both had a blast, and you should have seen how much candy they got!

Enthusio's school picture:

This will probably be one of his nicest school photos. I love it!

Mermaid's school picture:

Well, you can't win 'em all, right? She looks like she's being coerced to put on a happy face. I wanted her to do retakes -- she insisted her picture was beautiful and replaced last year's photo with the new one in the frame on the mantle when I wasn't looking. She obviously felt strongly about it, so I backed off. Please note the extremely cool tee shirt!

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Not Dead

Yep, I'm back. I was way busy last week, and this week I've actually had plenty of time to post, but I couldn't out of guilt, because I was supposed to be writing my novel but I wasn't doing that. All I can tell you is that this blogging thing is sick thing if it's both something I end up feeling guilty for doing and for not doing. Anyway, so much has gone on lately and I"m going to attempt to just condense and write short bits about lots of different things.

1) I'm having a hell of a time writing this novel, and I don't mean that in a good way. My main character is someone I can't really relate to in any way. She was a blast to write about as a supporting character -- she'd basically enter a room, say a few bitchy things, and then flounce off. I believe I actually used that word -- "flounce" -- to describe how she left the room a number of time. Now I have to get inside her head. Okay: think of the person you went to high school with with whom you had the least possible amount of life experience in common. Then imagine sitting down and trying to write 50,000 words from that person's perspective. I'm writing it all right -- I passed 18,000 words earlier this afternoon -- but I have no idea if I'm getting it right. But that's a problem for December. For now -- don't get it right, get it written!

2) Last week was my week from hell. I spent so much time thinking about how busy I was that I started to bore myself with it. Suffice it to say that I: co-chaired the book fair at our school with 4 other moms, did all the paperwork for the school pasta feed happening the same week, did the whole Halloween thing solo, as Reasonable Man was on a much deserved fun trip to Washington DC for 4 days, hosted my Bunko group at my house, started my novel, and flew back east for a 3-day writing weekend. It was a lot of stuff, and some of it was more fun than stress, but I'm still glad it's over.

3) Chairing the book fair was fun, and it made a buttload of money for the school library. I hadn't been a chair before, but I've taken a shift as a cashier almost every book fair since Montgomery opened, and one thing that always drives me crazy is how all the kids come in with their wadded up dollars and greasy change, and instead of buying books, many of which are, admittedly, outside their price range, they waste their precious pennies on all kinds of plastic crap disguised as "school supplies." There's always one hot item in particular --usually these little space-age looking highlighters that come in all different colors. All the girls come in and buy them in every possible color -- first, the pink and purple ones disappear, then the blue and the green, and eventually, there's only orange left. And I just think, what the hell do second graders have to highlight. Well, I'm happy to say that a) the other chairs and I were so disgusted with some of the crap we were supposed to put out for these kids to buy that we just took a bunch of it and hid it. I mean, terry cloth wrist bands and rock and roll necklaces? Give me a break -- it's a book fair!); and b) the hot items this year were fuzzy animal print pencils and eraser. In other words, things that elementary school kids actually use in school.

4) Reasonable Man did something that was awesome while I was gone over the weekend. He bought tickets for opening night of "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire," and he got a babysitter! In the past, he and I have usually ended up going to see the HP movies seperately. I guess they always used to come out near the end of the quarter when we'd used up most or all of our respite hours or something. Anyhoo, this year we're both going on opening night! And I'll take Enthusio sometime after that, once we've previewed it. We watched a little 15-minute "making of"-type preview for it the other night and it looks like it's going to be awesome :-)

5) Tonight I'm saying the hell with the last two weeks' worth of "Survivor" I have taped and just watching the one that's on. I pretty much hate everyone on it and can't remember who's allied with who anyway. I don't even know if they merged yet or not. Whatever.

6) One show I find time to watch every episode of, even though it's on five days a week, is "Starting Over," which is this reality show where six women going through difficult times come to live in a house and work with a psychologist and two life coaches to break their negative patterns, heal themselves, and basically fix themselves so they can go back out into the world happier and healthier. I know, it sounds kind of lame. Trust me, it's riveting. Right now, in addition to the girl who is former stripper and escort, there's a woman with ADHD, dyslexia, etc. who is learning how to connect with other people (as opposed to just being completely obnoxious), a 40-year-old who is still supported by her parents who is learning to grow up, a woman learning to live after breast cancer and a complete hysterectomy, a very large woman who is there to lose weight and also "eliminate chaos" who just learned that she has a fibroid tumor that weighs about 40 lbs and has to be removed very soon even though she has no health insurance, and finally, a girl who is there to finally grieve her mother, who died in the attacks on 9/11. Naturally, they don't all get along all the time; naturally, they screw up their assignments and their life coaches read them the riot act; naturally there's tears and drama and I can't stop watching. Check it out.

7) Last but not least -- my kids are AWESOME. There's been so much going on lately and they've really just rolled with all of it. The night I had Bunko at my house, Reasonable Man was still out of town, so I let them play on the computer till everyone arrived and then I sent them upstairs to watch a movie. We barely heard a peep out of them the rest of the evening, but my favorite part was when they trotted downstairs at 9 pm in their pajamas, got themselves their vitamins, gave me a kiss, and went on up to bed. I was so proud that I made them pancakes the next morning. I love those guys! (I have school and Halloween pictures that I will post as soon as I can figure out a way around the problems I'm having with my photo-editing software.)

Monday, October 24, 2005

Holland Schmolland

A friend of mind who has an autistic child sent me this essay several months ago. I love it.

Holland Schmolland
By Laura Krueger Crawford

If you have a child with autism, which I do, and if you troll the Internet for information, which I have done, you will come across a certain inspirational analogy. It goes like this: Imagine that you are planning a trip to Italy. You read all the latest travel books, you consult with friends about what to pack, and you develop an elaborate itinerary for your glorious trip. The day arrives. You board the plane and settle in with your in-flight magazine, dreaming of trattorias, gondola rides and gelato. However, when the plane lands you discover, much to your surprise, you are not in Italy -- you are in Holland. You are greatly dismayed at this abrupt and unexpected change in plans. You rant and rave to the travel agency, but it does no good. You are stuck. After a while, you tire of fighting and begin to look at what Holland has to offer. You notice the beautiful tulips, the kindly people in wooden shoes, the French fries and mayonnaise, and you think, “This isn’t exactly what I planned, but it’s not so bad. It’s just different.” Having a child with autism is supposed to be like this -- not any worse than having a typical child -- just different.

When I read that, my son was almost three, completely non-verbal and was hitting me over a hundred times a day. While I appreciated the intention of the story, I couldn’t help but think, “Are they kidding? We are not in some peaceful countryside dotted with windmills. We are in a country under siege -- dodging bombs, trying to board overloaded helicopters, bribing officials -- all the while thinking, “What happened to our beautiful life?”

That was 5 years ago. My son is now 8 and though we have come to accept that he will always have autism, we no longer feel like citizens of a battle torn nation. With the help of countless dedicated therapists and teachers, biological interventions, and an enormously supportive family, my son has become a fun-loving, affectionate boy with many endearing qualities and skills. In the process we’ve created… well… our own country, with its own unique traditions and customs.

It’s not a war zone, but it’s still not Holland. Let’s call it Schmolland.

In Schmolland, it is perfectly customary to lick walls, rub cold pieces of metal across your mouth and line up all your toys end to end. You can show affection by giving a “pointy chin.” A “pointy chin” is when you act like you are going to hug someone and just when you are really close, you jam your chin into the other person’s shoulder. For the person giving the “pointy chin” this feels really good, for the receiver not so much – but you get used to it. For citizens of Schmolland, it is quite normal to repeat lines from videos to express emotion. If you are sad, you can look downcast and say “Oh Pongo.” When mad or anxious, you might shout, “Snow can’t stop me!” or “Duchess, kittens, come on!” Sometimes, “And now our feature presentation” says it all. In Schmolland, there’s not a lot to do, so our citizens find amusement wherever they can. Bouncing on the couch for hours, methodically pulling feathers out of down pillows, and laughing hysterically in bed at 4:00am, are all traditional Schmutch pastimes.

The hard part about living in our country is dealing with people from other countries. We try to assimilate ourselves and mimic their customs, but we aren’t always successful. It’s perfectly understandable that an 8-year-old boy from Schmolland would steal a train from a toddler at the Thomas the Tank Engine Train Table at Barnes and Noble. But this is clearly not understandable or acceptable in other countries, and so we must drag our 8 year old out of the store kicking and screaming while all the customers look on with stark, pitying stares. But we ignore these looks and focus on the exit sign because we are a proud people. Where we live, it is not surprising when an 8-year-old boy reaches for the fleshy part of a woman’s upper torso and says, “Do we touch boodoo?” We simply say, “No we don’t touch boodoo” and go on about our business. It’s a bit more startling in other countries, however, and can cause all sorts of cross-cultural misunderstandings. And, though most foreigners can get a drop of water on their pants and still carry on, this is intolerable to certain citizens in Schmolland who insist that the pants must come off no matter where they are, and regardless of whether another pair of pants are present.

Other families who are affected by autism are familiar and comforting to us, yet are still separate entities. Together we make up a federation of countries, kind of like Scandinavia. Like a person from Denmark talking with a person from Norway, (or in our case someone from Schmenmark talking with someone from Schmorway), we share enough similarities in our language and customs to understand each other, but conversations inevitably highlight the diversity of our traditions. “Oh your child is a runner? Mine won’t go to the bathroom without asking permission.” “My child eats paper. Yesterday he ate a whole video box.” “My daughter only eats 4 foods, all of them white.” “My son wants to blow on everyone.” “My son can’t stand to hear the word no. We can’t use any negatives at all in our house.” “We finally had to lock up the VCR because my son was obsessed with the rewind button.”

There is one thing we all agree on: we are a growing population.

10 years ago, 1 in 10,000 children had autism.

Today the rate is approximately 1 in 250.

Something is dreadfully wrong. Though the causes of the increase are still being hotly debated, a number of parents and professionals believe genetic pre-disposition has collided with too many environment insults -- toxins, chemicals, anti-biotics, vaccines -- to create immunological chaos in the nervous systems of developing children. One medical journalist speculated that these children are like the proverbial “canary in the coal mine” here to alert us to the growing dangers in our environment. While this is certainly not a view shared by all in the autism community, it feels true to me.

I hope that researchers discover the magic bullet we all so desperately crave. And I will never stop investigating new treatments and therapies that might help my son. But more and more my priorities are shifting from what “could be” to “what is.” I look around at this country my family has created, with all its unique customs, and it feels like home. For us, any time spent “nation-building” is time well spent.

No Energy

Today is a day I should go running. There was some question about this at one point when I was thinking I needed to go to the gym because my gym-buddy Sue would be wanting to go and have the coffee and all. Sometimes I run to the gym and we go and have the coffee and then she drives me home. But then she called me and reminded me that on Saturday night, she couldn't bend her leg. I guess it's not any better today. That meant there was no good reason for me to go to the gym and I no longer had that excuse to get out of running. So running it is. I guess.

The thing is, I've been having some trouble getting going this morning. Here's what happened. Last night Reasonable Man was watching a Kings game downstairs, so I started watching my Sunday/9 pm selection of the week, which was "Law & Order: Criminal Intent," aka my favorite of the three "L&O" shows. For the past year and a little more I have forsaken this show in favor of a little show you may have heard of about these crazy chicks who live on Wisteria Lane (ever notice that "Wisteria" rhymes with "hysteria?" I don't think this is so much a coincidence.) Anyway, guess what, folks? My patience with these ladies has officially run out, and I am back with "L&O:CI," even though pscycho-cop Detective Goren got a little over-tired and now he's going to be sharing his show with Mr. Big.

What's that? You have no idea WTF I'm talking about? That's okay. Neither do I half the time.

The important thing is, I was upstairs watching TV, and when my show was over, I kept lying there on the bed reading my book, and then Reasonable Man came upstairs and got ready to for bed, and then I did the same, and then I read some more, and at some point during all this mundane crap I made a very conscious decision not to go downstairs and take my pills. I'm not going to try to argue that this makes any sense, because sometimes I end up going up and down the stair several times before I go to bed, but last night? The idea of one trip down to the kitchen and back was just too much. Don't ask me. I knew there might be consequences, but I didn't care. I wasn't going down there and that was that.

The result was that, although I slept quite well and I don't remember waking during the night at all, I had this dream. There was all kinds of alternately weird and boring stuff leading up to the denoument of this dream, as there always is, but the vivid part near the end that I remember clearly is that I was away some place but I was about to leave, and some older male who may or may not have been my Uncle Clark told me he was going to drive me to the airport in about 15 minutes, and I was trying to pack my suitcase and all my stuff was wildly strewn around a room with the stuff of about 5 other girls (don't ask me who they were), even though I had just spent a rather sizable amount of time lovingly gathering my things and folding them and organizing them to bring back to this hellhole where my suitcase was located. How my stuff got mixed in with all these other people's stuff is beyond me and it's a question I didn't even ask until I woke up, but here I was, trying to pack my stuff, with numerous people trying to help me (including one highly annoyed, possibly gay man who was demanding to know where my make-up was) and I was in a complete freaking panic. In my dream I could feel myself having a full-out anxiety rush and it was terrible and I was sure I was going to miss my plane. And then I did the thing I can do sometimes when I'm having a really unpleasant dream, which is go "maybe I'll try opening my eyes and waking up" and then I do. I woke myself up and it was dark in the room and I looked at my clock and DAMMMIT!!! it was 7:03, which meant my alarm was going off in, like, 12 minutes...

When I go from a dream to waking up like that, it feels all wrong and so when the alarm went off and I had to get up, I felt like I could barely stand up, and at the same time, I was still experiencing some residual anxiety from my dream, which immediately made me think "see? you should have taken your pills last night!" Because guess what one of them is for? That's right -- anxiety. So here I sit, two hours later, and I know I'm going to feel better once I get going with the running, but there's a part of me that's still trying to convince me that I'm just messed up for the day and I should go back to bed. It probably won't win but right now it's making some headway because seriously, right now I just feel like total crap.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

50 Book Challenge: True Crime

I just finished a pretty lengthy account of the Green River killer case in Seattle. I don't usually read about serial killers -- as with books about husbands killing wives, there are just so many of them. Also, I prefer to read the stories about things going wrong in one family or whatever. Anyway, I do make exceptions if the author is one I like, and that was the case this time -- Green River, Running Red was written by Ann Rule, my very favorite true crime author. That said, I didn't really care for this book -- there were too many victims to keep straight and the meat of the story became more about the investigators. It wasn't badly done or anything like that, but I could recommend a number of Ann Rule books that were pretty amazing (If You Really Loved Me, Dead Before Sunset, And Never Let Her Go, Every Breath You Take, and, not for the meek, Small Sacrifices) and this wasn't one of them. I also found it pretty bizarre when, in the afterword, Rule referred to Scott Peterson being on Death Row at Alcatraz. Death Row in California is at San Quentin, and Alcatraz hasn't been used as a prison in many, many years -- and this was in the paperback version. Surely someone should have noticed that kind of an error at some point between printings.

Incidentally, I learned a facinating true crime fact recently, compliments of The Vine column at Tomato Nation. There is a excellent true crime book that I've actually read more than once called Evidence of Love, detailing the case of one Texas housewife who, in the early 80s, killed another Texas housewife with an ax. The author of this scintillating account is a guy named John Bloom, whose alter-ego is none other than Joe Bob Briggs, drive-in movie critic extraordinaire. How cool is that? BTW, if you click on that link, you will see that, guess what? Joe Bob Briggs in HOT. Who knew?

But I digress. Something I've been thinking about a lot lately, compliments of the Green River Killer book and a couple of other sources, is prostitution. Most of the GRK's victims were prostitutes, and when I was about a third of the way throught that book, I had to set it aside for a few days to read a book club book, Sleep Into Heaven, in which one of the main characters is a prositute-turned-killer (clearly modelled after real-life killer Aileen Wuornos, portrayed by Charlize Theron in the movie "Monster"). There is also a real-live woman on the reality TV show "Starting Over" (my latest addiction) trying to rebuild her life after a failed teen marriage and a need to support her son caused her to turn to stripping, scamming and prostituting herself in Las Vegas. I know this isn't any kind of a newsflash, but it kills me to think about how we have demonized prostitutes throughout history, insisting that their plight is the result of their own loose morals. In Sleep Into Heaven, the many stories of the victims of the GRK, and the story of this girl on "Starting Over," it's clear these women and girls resorted to turning tricks because they had no other options -- in many cases they were the daughters of prostitutes or desperate to leave terrible home situations, and often they were just trying to support themselves, children, drug habits, or "boyfriends" who were willing to pimp them out. The tragedy lies in their having to do such degrading and dangerous work to get by, but our focus as a society has always been on putting them in jail and blaming them for their negative effect on society. How sad.

With that, on to book #40, my second reading of the excellent The Eyre Affair, a sci-fi yarn set in a world where characters can be kidnapped out of their books. Fun stuff, and with only two days before book club, I'm feeling quite lucky that this month's selection is one I've read -- and enjoyed -- before.

Monday, October 17, 2005


Of course I've been planning to participate in National Novel Writing Month all along, but today I get to officially declare myself a participant by way of the handy-dandy NaNoWriMo icon you see there on the right, underneath my profile and photo.

I love that it's a runner! As anyone who has read this blog at all knows, I hate the heat, which makes the crisp days of fall my very favorite time of the year, and two of the things I love the most about it that I start running again and that I get to write a novel in November. So this logo really sums it all up for me. I can't wait till my tee shirt arrives, but until then, having this up on my blog will just have to do, I guess :-)

Even though, as I mentioned before, I think the novel I'll be writing this year could be a tough one, I'm looking forward to writing it. And I'm looking forward to replacing this "Participant" icon with one that says "Winner" even more!

Conversation between my body and my mind while out on a run:

Taking off down Farragut Circle:
Body: Hey, it's hot out here! You said it would be nice and cool!
Mind: No, I didn't, I said it looked windy. Anyway, we're out here and all, so we're going.
Body: But it's hot!
Mind: It's fine. There's a breeze. You'll be fine.
Body: Waaah! I hate you!
Going through Walnut Park:
Body: I can't believe this. I'm sweating like a pig. This is miserable. How can you make me do this?
Mind: Oh please, you sweat like a pig packing lunches before school in the morning. And you definitely sweat like a pig when you're running even when it's cooler. Even when it's 40 degrees out and raining. So shut up.
Body: Make me.
Mind: Grrr....
Travelling down Montgomery Avenue:
Body: Oh my God, you're not serious! We're not really doing this, right? It's HOT! We are NOT going the long way in this heat!
Mind: God, you're a wuss.
Body: You're so mean!
Mind: Fine. I'll tell you what I'm going to do. I'm going to let you move us over to the other side of the street where there's more shade. Sure, that's not facing traffic, like you're supposed to do to be safe, but if it's going to reduce the amount of your whining baby bullshit I have to listen to, then fine. Get us run over by a truck.
Body: Thanks a heap.
Mind: You have to admit, it's cooler over here.
Body: I guess so.
Turning left on to Rosario:
Body: Where's that breeze you promised? You said when we turned north, there would be this cool wind blowing in my face. Where the hell is it? Where's my freaking breeze?
Mind: Oh, calm down, it'll be coming along any second.
Body: I'm out of breath. I need to stop.
Mind: Do not even start that crap. You are not out of breath. And before you even say it, your knees don't hurt either.
Body: I wasn't going to say that. But I AM out of breath.
Mind: No, you're not.
Body: Yes, I am.
Mind: Look, if you want to stop and walk, you have a much better shot at it if you do that thing where you stop complaining long enough for me to get distracted thinking about something else and then you just sort of casually slow to a run without consulting me. Because the more you complain at me, the more I'm just going to make you keep running. Just to be stubborn.
Body: You suck!
Mind: Geez, give me a break, will you? Last night I let you eat until you were beyond stuffed. Then this morning I let you sleep in till 9:38 am, and then we spent the last three hours sitting on the couch playing on the computer. Also, I let you eat cookies for breakfast. Seems to me like you've actually had a pretty sweet deal for the last day or two. So now we're going for a run.
Body: But you promised it wouldn't be hot!
Mind: I didn't promise anything. I don't control the weather. I only control YOU.
Body: I can't breathe! I can't breathe!
Mind: Give me a break.
Body: It's true! I think I'm going to start hyperventilating...
Mind: Listen up! You are not going to do this to me. You are not going to make me think about breathing. That just screws us both up, you know that. I won't do it. So just shut up.
Body: I'm suffocating!!!
Mind: *sigh*
Heading down the wooded, shady bike path:
Mind: See, we're like two-thirds of the way there, and you're fine.
Body: Yeah, except I can't breathe. And all the sweat running down my face is making my eyes sting. Also, I'm really tired. I'm just running out of gas, you know? I'm exhausted.
Mind: You're tired because you've been running for 40 minutes. That's normal. It doesn't mean you need to stop.
Body: Oh my God, I still can't believe we're doing this in the middle of the afternoon when it's so hot. I can't believe it.
Mind: For the last time, it's NOT that hot.
Body: My lips are drying up because I'm getting dehydrated.
Mind: Your lips are drying up because you keep rubbing them together. Stop it.
Body: Hey, I'm not in control here -- you are. YOU stop it.
Mind: That's right, I AM in control. And right now we're running. So shut up.
Passing along behind the school and into the home stretch:
Mind: See what you can do when you just do it? Was it really that bad?
Body: Yes! I've never been so miserable in my life. That's how bad it's been!
Mind: You're such a pain.
Body: I think what you mean is that I'm IN such pain. My lips and mouth and throat are so dry! My whole body aches! I can barely catch my breath. And also -- it's hot!
Mind: After we're done, you're going to be thanking me.
Body: For torturing me? Fat chance! Hey, look, there's a drinking fountain over there by the tennis courts! Let's just head over there and --
Mind: Absolutely not. We're not going by the tennis courts. We're going back through the tunnel the way we came.
Body: No, I won't! I won't do it! You can't make me!
Mind: Of course I can make you...
Body: Argh! I hate you! I hate you! I hate you!
Mind: Oh, shut up, we're running downhill. And you're going about twice as fast as you were when we left.
Body: I won't be when we're coming up out of the tunnel. Here it comes -- this hill takes forever -- okay, NOW I hate you. I hate you!!!
Mind: Yeah yeah yeah.
Body: *panting* .... bitch! I hate you!
Mind: Heh heh...
Body: Oh my God, you sadistic piece of crap! You're making me take longer strides up the hill? What is WRONG with you?
Mind: Oh shut up, I'm just making you get it over with faster.
Body: You are EVIL.
Mind: I'm a saint for putting up with YOU.
Body: Okay, there where we turn, there's some shade. I'm going to slow to a walk when I get there.
Mind: No, you're not. You're running all the way to the posts by the street. You know that's the deal. I don't know why you're even bothering to argue at this point. It's an extra, what? Fifty feet? You'll make it.
Body: I can't believe what a hardass you are.
Reaching the posts:
Body: There. Are you happy? I ran the whole way, even though I'm gushing with sweat and my lips dried up and fell off and my lungs are about to explode. Also, I'm probably sunburned. I hope you're happy.
Mind: Enough all ready. Once you cool off, you'll be fine.
In the shower, after drinking a bottle of cold water and sitting in front of a fan for 15 minutes:
Body: Hey, I rule! I ran that whole way. Boy, I'm really something, huh?
Mind: See? Aren't you glad I made you go?
Body: You? You didn't do anything! Don't try to take credit for it -- I'm the one who did all the work!
Mind: *sigh*

Sunday, October 16, 2005


We didn't go to the movies yesterday -- there wasn't anything we really wanted to see. That's part of the problem with almost never going to the movies -- when you do get the opportunity, you want to see something that's really worthwhile -- as in, I've only been to see a grown-up movie x times in the past year, but the movies we saw were a, b, and c, so it was worth it. Or something like that. I had been kind of interested in seeing "Elizabethtown," but it's gotten bad reviews, and while I've loved two of Cameron Crowe's movies ("Say Anything," "Singles"), I disliked and loathed two of his movies too ("Almost Famous" and "Jerry Maguire," respectively). So that one seemed like kind of a crapshoot, and one I didn't especially feel like paying $6.50 a person for.

What we did instead was something we've been meaning to do for the entire almost 6 years we've lived in this house, which is buy a tree for the front yard. Our tree faces due west. All the houses on our street have one nice tree each planted in the front yard, and for most of them, this tree provides some shade from the afternoon sun. We have a beautiful sycamore tree in our front yard, centered almost perfectly between our house and our garage so that it provides shade to neither in the heat of the afternoon. The solution -- to plant a tree in front of the house -- has been obvious the whole time we've lived here, but somehow we've managed to put it off again and again. Don't ask me why. I hate the summer heat, and the fact that the front half of our house is pretty much unliveable on summer afternoons, even with the air conditioner blasting, should have been enough to motivate me to do something about it. Of course, the time do this is fall once the heat has ended and you're just relieved to have endured another scorching summer, so that's probably been part of the problem.

In any case, after determining there were no cinemtatic works worthy of our hard-earned dollars yesterday, I called my friend Sharon, who gardens like there's no tomorrow, to ask her where to buy a tree, and then we headed out to the wilds of Dixon, where there is a large, muddy and pretty much amazing kind of wholesale nursery with every kind of flora and/or fauna you could ever want. After wandering a bit on our own and getting nowhere, we asked nice man at the counter for some advice and ended up purchasing an Autumn Fantasy, which is a kind of red maple that turns beautiful colors in the fall. It will be delivered here tomorrow, and Reasonable Man has already dug a big hole for it in the middle of our front lawn. I'm more excited about it than I thought I'd be, especially since this experience has taught me that not only do I know nothing about trees, but I've never even really looked much at trees before.

Last night I was walking down the greenbelt to have dinner with some friends. I've walked this same way hundreds of times, but this was the first time I'd ever bothered to really look at the different trees along the way and try to figure out if I knew what kind any of them were. Turns out there are a lot of sycamore trees out there, which I only know because as I mentioned, there is a sycamore tree in our front yard.

I guess it shouldn't surprise me to realize how little I pay attention to these things though. We moved into our house at the end of January 2000, when our front yard tree would have been completely bare. Sometime between then and when it began to grow leaves in the spring, we were out and about one day and Reasonable Man said something about what a nice tree we had in the front yard. My response was "we have a tree in the front yard?" I also occasionally forget the name of the kind of tree it is and have to rack my brain for it. I guess my brain just isn't made to hold on to information about the flora and fauna of the world. And I'd really rather think about celebrity gossip anyway, quite frankly.