Thursday, June 30, 2005

Chicken Soup

Isn't it amazing when one of those old-wives-tales/conventional wisdom-type thingies turns out to be true? Last night I went to a friend's house for a spa-products party, and had too much wine. Today I'm more or less functional but the stomach has been a little iffy. After I dropped Rachel off at swim practice, we headed home and the first thing on my agenda was to eat something, as it had been a while and I was feeling a little queasy. I happily located a can of chicken noodle soup from Trader Joe's that I didn't even know we had, so I heated it it right up. Fifteen minutes later, I can't tell you how much better I'm feeling. What is it about chicken noodle soup, anyway? The TJ's kind is awfully good, but I'm usually happy with the cheap old sodium-rich Campbell's variety as well. I used to have it for lunch each day during the urpy first trimester of my pregnancy of Will, and it was one thing I could always count on to go down without a fight. I know they've actually done studies of why it makes us feel better when we're sick but I'm too lazy to look it up right now.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Downloading Music

For Christmas 2003, my husband got me an mp3 player. At the time you still had the two choices: you could get a cheap one that would hold about 10 songs, or a considerably more expensive one that would hold 50 hours of music. Ryan picked the more expensive variety because he spoils me and also because, 10 songs? Useless. Anyway, the model he picked was the RCA Lyra. I quickly set to work filling the thing with songs. Unfortunately, RCA had apparently formed some kind of unholy alliance with MusicMatch, which is, in my opinion, the worst of the various music-organizing programs available. Not to mention the fact that I already had Windows Media Player, Real Player and iTunes on my computer, so obviously I wasn't terribly excited about putting another one on the computer.

People who have put their music into new programs before know what happens: you have to relabel a lot of stuff. If you got anything from a P2P network, it undoubtedly is mislabelled in some ridiculous way -- either the song is called by some random lyric or the artist's name is mispelled, or you've got an ABBA song with the genre listed as "jazz." People kill me, they really do. Now if you're you just going to put the song on a CD, it doesn't really matter how it's listed on your music software, but if you're putting in an mp3 player, it does matter. I mean, maybe one day you only want to listen to 80s music while you're running, which is the main activity I needed my mp3 player for. Each song needs to be labelled properly for the mp3 player to categorize it properly. I don't know, maybe I'm just a stickler for this kind of thing, but I don't want Madonna popping up when I've got it set to play R&B or something like that. I like my music organized.

So I tried to make it work with MusicMatch. I spent 7 hours one weekend relabelling over 1000 songs on the computer. I downloaded what seemed like constant MusicMatch updated versions. I even paid to download songs from Music Match. This was where I lost patience. I'd been downloading songs from iTunes, but in order to put them on my mp3 player, I then had to burn them to a CD and then use Music Match to rip them off the CD. Only Music Match didn't really like ripping music off CDs, so this usually took a lot longer than it should have. I thought, this is retarded, and in an attempt to eliminate the middle man, I looked into Music Match's download service. I didn't like it nearly as much as I liked iTunes -- like the Music Match program, it was stupid and confusing and slow -- but I found 4 songs I wanted and I opened an account and bought them. And then I tried to put them on my mp3 player, only to discover that while my mp3 player was compatible with Music Match only, the format that songs downloaded from from the Music Match download service came in was not supported by my mp3 player. Huh? Music Match is presumable aware that it has a captive audience with the RCA mp3 player owners, but puts the songs out in a format that said mp3 players won't recognize?

In order to put the four songs I'd downloaded from Music Match on my mp3 player, I had to burn them to a CD, use iTunes to rip them from the CD, make another CD with them on iTunes, and use Music Match to rip them back. How stupid is that?

Fortunately, soon after, I checked the RCA website and found that there was new software I could download to reformat my mp3 player so that we didn't have to use Music Match anymore. I happily uninstalled that asinine program, glad to be rid of it forever. Unfortunately, not long after that, my RCA Lyra mp3 player died for no apparent reason. Chock full of my carefully and lovingly labelled music and fully charged, it simply refuses to power on. I've thought about sending it in to be repaired, but since it's no longer under warranty, I'm guessing that like most appliances these days, it's probably more expensive to repair than it is to replace.

So last week I went and bought myself an iPod shuffle. It's tiny -- you stick it in a USB port in the back of the computer to charge it as well as to transfer music to it, which is as easy as dragging and dropping. And I've always loved the iTunes software, which I've been using for quite a while anyway. And all is well in the world of Tracie's digital music. It's a beautiful thing.

All the cool blog-writers do it...

I was thinking of giving pseudonyms to all the people I might write about in my blog. My husband would be Reasonable Man (a joke from when he was in law school) and my son would be Enthusio (the Matrix-style name we came up with for him during the 15 minutes between when we bought him a pair of sunglasses and when he lost the pair of sunglasses when we were on vacation a couple of months ago). I didn't come up with one for my daughter yet. Then I realized that the brilliant screenname I came up with for myself is "tracie" and I'm not even sure if Blogger will let me change it. I guess it doesn't make a whole lot of sense to be calling other people by nicknames if my own name is right there on every post.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Rock On, Flylady

Today I set my Flylady Yahoo Groups membership to "no mail." I'm not leaving the group, but I decided that I could cut three seconds of computer time out of my day if I didn't have to delete the message digest I receive once or twice a day, unread. I haven't hardly looked at them in months.

For those of you who don't know who/what Flylady is -- it's a website devoted to helping Sidetracked Home Executives (SHEs) get their houses and other areas of their lives under control through establishing routines. You start small -- by cleaning and shining your kitchen sink -- and move on to bigger and better things, always encouraged to take baby steps, work in increments of 15 minutes, and not to feel behind. There is lots of talk of taking care of yourself, getting rid of junk that is taking up space around the house, and banishing negative thinking. If you become an accomplished Flybaby, your house will stay neat due to your routines, your finances will be in order, your appointments will be kept, your meals will be planned, you will lose weight, and there will be less chaos in your life. I think it's probably a great system for a lot of people.

It doesn't really work for me.

Part of the problem is that they strongly advocate getting away from "emergency cleaning" by establishing habits that will spread the housework around so it never feels like you're doing much. I like this idea in theory, but in practice, not so much. Here's the thing: my energy and motivation come in fits and spurts. Some days I lie around like a slug all day, playing on the computer and neglecting the children. Other days I go to the gym, then come home and clean the whole house, install shelves, wash all the sheets, paint a couple of rooms, and weed both the front and backyards. Oftentimes, I do this in response to the fact that people are coming over. Generally, I hate doing housework, but I like to entertain, and I like my house to look nice when I do so, so it doesn't seem like a big deal. Ryan doesn't love it when I go into manic cleaning mode, and neither do my kids, but then again -- it doesn't happen very often. The rest of the time, I tidy a lot but don't actually clean all that much. My family doesn't mind, so neither do I.

The other reason the Flylady system didn't really work for me is that, well, I don't mean to brag or anything -- I am no champion housekeeper -- but I don't think I was ever quite far gone enough to be desperate enough to embrace it. For instance, the shiny sink thing. I've always liked a nice shiny sink, and while I don't keep it that way every single day, it's something I do regularly enough. There is much talk of getting laundry under control, and not that I don't sympathize, but I've never really had trouble staying on top of laundry, and I can't really relate when I hear about people living out of multiple laundry baskets and never being able to find anything to wear. We do the dishes regularly. My kids' rooms are usually a wreck, but we have gotten into a loose system of cleaning them pretty thoroughly every month or two. And while I have definitely taken to heart the Flylady theory of clutter -- that you can't organize it, you can only get rid of it -- and have been moved to get rid of a lot of junk that was taking up space in drawers and closets around the house, I do feel like I keep a pretty good rein on stuff lying around the house.

Anyway, again, I don't intend to quit the group altogether -- I like to go to the website and poke around some -- I guess I've decided I don't need to hear from Flylady anymore, in a way because I give up. I don't feel bad about it, though -- I do feel like I learned a few valuable things along the way.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Showing Off My Kids

I'm not good at keeping my webpage updated anyway, and since I've been writing this blog, it's gotten even worse, so I'm just going to share some photos here...

A few months ago I was with some friends and we had one of those photos taken where you dress up in old-fashioned clothes. I'd never done it before and I thought it was really fun, so I decided to have one taken of the kids instead of a regular portrait -- I knew they'd think it was fun, and it came out really cute!

Will played tee ball for the second time this spring and here's his picture from that:

The owner of our gym (who is also a friend of ours) took this picture of Rachel in gym pool recently. It may appear in ads for the gym in the local paper as well. I just thought it was really cute -- kind of a snapshot of Rachel's summer, since she loves swimming so much :-)

Friday, June 24, 2005

List Mania!

Favorite Current TV Shows:
Veronica Mars (duh)
The Amazing Race
Arrested Development
Desperate Housewives
Six Feet Under

Favorite Actors In Movies and TV Today:
Jeremy Piven
Topher Grace
Ewan McGregor
Jason Bateman
Tobey Maguire
John Cusack
Edward Norton

Favorite Actors in Movies and TV Today Whom I Don't Think Are Remotely Hot:
Paul Giamatti
Peter Dinklage
the guy who plays Hurley on Lost
Steve Buscemi

Favorite Deceased Actor:
River Phoenix

Favorite Actor I Wish Would Make More Movies Where He Doesn't Wear Costumes Designed to Disguise the Fact That He's Awfully Cute:
Mike Myers

Favorite Movies of All Time:
Strictly Ballroom
Moulin Rouge
Lord of the Rings Trilogy
Dazed and Confused
So I Married An Axe Murderer
Notting Hill
Empire Strikes Back
Sex, Lies & Videotape

Favorite 80s movies:
Say Anything
Sixteen Candles
The Lost Boys
The Karate Kid
Stand By Me

I Guess They're Pretty Good Actors But Give Me a Break:
Russell Crowe
Renee Zelwegger
Gwyneth Paltrow

Please Explain All the Fuss:
Mystic River
Jennifer Lopez
Ashton Kutcher
Hilary Duff
American Idol

Please Go Away And Never Come Back:
Paris Hilton
Jessica Simpson
Jennifer Love Hewitt
Ethan Hawke
Demi Moore
Cindy Crawford, Kelly Ripa, and all the other Celebrity Moms who make me sick

Celebrities with Whom I Generally Want Little to Do Except When They Are Making Spectacles of Their Personal Lives:
Tom Cruise & Katie Holmes
Britney Spears
Whitney Houston
Mariah Carey

Celebrities Whose Personal Lives I Couldn't Care Less About
Ben Affleck
Jennifer Aniston
Brad Pitt
Angelina Jolie since she stopped being freaky

Reasons Target Is My Favorite Store:
You can get almost anything you need there.
Their Cherokee cropped stretch jeans are cut just right for me and the first pair I bought, in my regular size, got too big even before I started losing weight so I had to buy a smaller size, but I still probably paid less for two pairs of them than I would for one good pair of cropped jeans someplace else.
A lot of their stuff looks really cool because they care about design
Really cheap boxes of cereal bars that Rachel likes
Good prices on juice boxes
On, if you're looking at clothing, you can click on "red"or "green" or whatever and they'll show you everything they have in that color

Bummers about Target:
We don't have one here in Davis
Their pants never fit Rachel
Last week when we went there to buy a Gameboy, they didn't have any so we had to go to Game Stop. Then when we went there again the other day, they had a whole bunch of Gameboys.

Most Embarrassing Songs on my mp3 player:
... Baby One More Time by Britney Spears
Love Will Keep Us Together by Captain & Tennille
Wannabe and Say You'll Be There by the Spice Girls
Glory of Love by Peter Cetera
Mmbop by Hanson
Xanadu by Olivia Newton-John
numerous selctions by Barry Manilow

Movie Performances That Totally Blew Me Away:
Ewan McGregor in Moulin Rouge
Lili Taylor in Dogfight
Tobey MaGuire in Cider House Rules
Matt Damon in The Talented Mr. Ripley
Holly Hunter in Broadcast News
Paul Giamatti in Sideways
Jeff Bridges in The Big Lebowski
Nicole Kidman in To Die For

Favorite Reason For Having a Blog:
I can go on and on about stuff I like (or like to complain about) and no one can stop me

Thursday, June 23, 2005

The duct tape isn't really holding things together very well anymore. And the lame-asses at the computer repair places haven't bothered to return my emails. I'm not impressed.

50 Book Challenge

If I can read 4 books by this coming Thursday, I will be on pace to read my 50 books by the end of the year. I'm just saying.

Actually, if I don't pick up the pace a whole lot over the summer and get pretty far ahead by the time November rolls around, I'm not going to make it anyway. Damn, this is harder than I thought.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Rachel's Latest Obsession

Lately Rachel is obsessed with the cat. Emma is nearly 13, so she obviously pre-dates Rachel in our family. We have lots of pictures of the two of them together when Rachel was a baby. That was before Emma got smart and demanded to become an indoor-outdoor cat. She made herself scarce most of the time after that. When we moved into our current house, she made her displeasure about being moved evident by peeing on the carpet, mostly in one corner of the living room. That was when she became an outdoor cat and took up residence mostly in the garage, where she perfected her hobby: vomitting on our cars. Since that time, she's become elderly, and sometimes when she's really lapping up the attention I deign to bestow on her when I'm coming and going, I wish we could move her back into the house. Alas, this is impossible because of Buster, who heads right for the garage to harrass her any time he manages to escpape from the backyard, in spite of the fact that she kicks his canine ass each and every time. One time she cut his eyelid, left one of her claws sticking out of his nose, and peed on him, which is, I believe, the literal definition of adding insult to injury. I cannot begin to understand why he keeps messing with her.

Anyway, for some reason, after ignoring her for about the last 6 years, suddenly Emma is on Rachel's radar again, and Rachel goes out to the garage several times a day to visit her. I'm sure Emma enjoys this a whole lot. Well, maybe she actually does. We have to ask Rachel to remove her person from Buster's little 11-pound frame several times a day, but I know Emma doesn't put up with that sort of thing and will use her claws when necessary. She does enjoy pretty much any human attention she gets anymore. Since Rachel is suddenly so attached to Emma, I thought I should probably explain to her than, even though Emma appears pretty healthy right now (despite not having been to the vet for several years :-/), it's possible she might not live too much longer. Normally, this sort of comment doesn't have much effect on Rachel, but this time she was actually paying attention, and it alarmed her. Since then, every time we go into the garage and Emma isn't there in her usual spot on the blanket on top of a computer box in the garage, Rachel becomes concerned and asks "where's Emma? Did she die? Is she dead?" and I have to assure her that Emma is probably fine. One of these days I'm going to be wrong, though, and that's not going to be a good day.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Duct Tape

The packing tape holding my laptop together didn't hold, so I had to upgrade to duct tape. The speaker that needs holding down with the tape is silver, so perfect, right? Only the last time I bought duct tape, for some reason instead of classic silver, I bought a roll in bright red. I don't know wtf I was thinking -- maybe I let Rachel pick? I will admit that it's always easy to find in the kitchen cupboard where I keep my hardware essentials. And you know, I'm stuck with it for a while, but while I love duct tape as much as the next gal, the last roll I owned was the first I had ever bought my own self, and it took years to go through. I suppose I could just, like, Freecycle the red roll and go buy myself some in silver, but that would feel like admitting defeat or something. Anyway, for now I have a bright red testament to my own stupidity in attempting to fix my own laptop yesterday. I didn't even cut the tape straight, so I'm sure you can imagine how classy it looks.

Starbucks is trying to kill me...

... or at least ruin my diet. Not only have they brought back the Mocha Malt Frappucino (not available in the lite version) but now they've put out a Chocolate Mint version of those bottled Frappucinos you can get at the grocery store or wherever. I grabbed one at the Quick Step (or whatever the hell it's called) mini-mart on the way to Rachel's swim practice today because I was afraid I was going to get all sleepy like I did the last time, and MMMMMMMM. Those suckers are 4 WW points a pop and there's no way I'm only going to drink half at a time -- plus I skipped the gym this morning due to my crazy schedule and Will sleeping in past 8:30 a.m. (rock on, Will!), so I guess we're having a light dinner tonight...

In honor of the good folks at (listen up, hens!):
This snack was discovered by Tracie at Safeway.
I'd post a review of it there but they don't appear to care about beverages. But Jeremy cares way too much about chips.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

My Laptop...

... is literally being held together by packing tape. It works just fine. There was some stuff with it seizing up this past week when I was using Windows Media Player, but I just started using iTunes instead and it's been just fine. The only problem with it is that the hinge has been broken for some time, so either it's completely wide open, or it's closed -- nothing in between. Quite the PITA! And this morning I made it worse by prying open the little speaker thing on one side to see if I could get the lay of the land and maybe fix it myself. Yeah, that's always a good idea, right? Anyway, I sent emails to a couple of places in town that do computer repair asking how long I would have to be without my computer if they were to fix it for me. That's my main concern, of course -- not how much it costs or whether it's done properly -- and I want to know down to the minute how long I'm going to be deprived. It's a sad thing, what an addict I am.

Saturday, June 18, 2005


This morning I got up and went to Weight Watchers. Didn't really know what to expect -- I was "good" (as in staying reasonably within my points and exercising consistently) for most of the week, but didn't journal the last two days, and last night, after snacking a lot during the afternoon, we went out for Mexican food (to the place where I'm usually not "good"). I limited my chip intake but still had a good amount, then ordered pretty well. But then we got home and I ate a good deal of dessert. Still, staying on plan for most of the week worked out, as I was down 2 lbs, making it a total of 6 lbs lost. I would like to lose 20-25 more -- 20 to get to my WW goal weight and then possibly the other 5 or so depending on how I'm feeling at that point. Regardless -- I will continue to attend the meetings each week once I reach my goal because I know that's the only way to maintain my weight loss. I will not fall into that trap of complacency again!

Came home and helped Ryan and Will load up the minivan for their Campfire camp-out, and they took off. I hope they have fun and don't get rained on! Now it's just Rachel and me. I think we'll go get our nails done and go out to lunch, maybe do some shopping. Tonight I'm going out with friends for a girls' night, although there is no particular plan as of yet. We'll work on it. I'm looking forward to having the day with Rachel. It wasn't till fairly recently that I realized how easy it is to have just her. Will interacts with me a lot more, but he interacts with everyone and everything a lot more too, meaning that he needs to be monitored a lot more. Rachel is just really laid back when we're out.

Tomorrow, I predict there will be a lot of lying around. Ryan and Will are bound to be tired after camping, I imagine we'll go out for dinner somewhere kid-friendly, as I am not cooking on my birthday. Not expecting a big celebration or anything though, and that's fine. Other than tonight, I'm just looking forward to a nice, low-key, relaxing weekend.

Friday, June 17, 2005

This and That

So Katie and Tom got engaged yesterday. At the Eiffel Tower. In Paris. Because, you know if you're on a publicity tour in Europe and you want to propose to the girlfriend everyone kind of suspects is actually your beard because you're acting so freaky about the whole thing, you definitely want to pick the most obvious landmark in the most obvious city to do the deed, right? I'm just saying.

Today marks full week of summer vacation, and thus far we are surviving. This week has mainly consisted of driving back and forth to the gym and driving Rachel back and forth to swim practice, with assorted errands thrown in. I have two more items to add to my "Things to Accept about Summer" list. One is that despite the fact that swim practice is great for Rachel, it is going to guarantee that her hair looks like crap for most of the summer, and it is also going wear her out and make her crabby in the late afternoons and evenings, at least for the first few weeks while she's getting used to it. Also, she already has a better tan than I'm going to get all summer long. One thing that remains to be seen is whether she actually learns to swim any faster. We went to watch her practice on Wednesday and it was kind of funny because, while it was obvious that she was enjoying it all immensely, she was also consistently a half a lap behind the rest of the girls in her group. Now don't get me wrong -- I don't really care if she ever starts winning races, and I'm not arguing that she could swim faster and beat everyone if she really wanted to. I bring it up because I find it amusing. They do this thing called "over and under" where they swim across the lane lines, and I couldn't help noticing that when Rachel was going over, she would slide quite gracefully over the line into the water. Gracefully and languidly, as a matter of fact, as though she was enjoying herself so much that she was actually taking her time with on purpose. On the way home, I asked her if she liked to swim fast or swim slow, and she said slow. I tried to get sense of whether she understood that what she was in training for was to race, and she didn't really seem to get it. So all I know at this point is that she lives for 2 pm every week day and that my worries that she wouldn't be able to do this were all for naught. She can certainly continue swimming as long as she wants as far as I'm concerned, whether she ever wants to try to swim faster or not.

Yesterday I finally finished online traffic school, and passed the final test with 96%. What I hadn't realized was that once I finished it, I then had to wait for them to mail me my certificate, which I am then supposed to mail to the Yolo Courts. And being that the due date for that is today, I think I'm going to be missing the deadline. To recap: after receiving kind of a bogus ticket for failure to yield, I paid the fine (somewhere around $150) plus the extra $39.00 to be allowed the privelege of attending traffic school, then paid the $20 to the online traffic school but procrastinated on finishing the course long enough to make it so that all my efforts and the $60 I paid were completely wasted. I'm going to play dumb and go ahead and send in the certificate in when it arrives, but I'm not really expecting any leniency. At least I'm done reading the damn vehicle code.

The great contact lens experiment continues to go well, in that I am actually able to get the things in and out of my eyes each day. It goes poorly, however, in that they are not actually helping me see particularly well. I went in for a little check-up the other day and my optometrist said he would order some other ones for me, which I hope will work better than the ones currenting adhered to my eyeballs (and I hope will actually arrive in their office soon, since I'm using a pair that I was supposed to throw away a few days ago and they're starting to fall apart). I like not wearing glasses but there is something about being able to see properly that I miss...

Looking ahead to this weekend: Ryan and Will head off to Calaveras Big Trees for a camping trip with Will's Campfire troop tomorrow. This will be Ryan's very first camping experience, and let me tell you, he is oh so looking forward to it. While he's out, I will going out for a girls' night with some friends to celebrate my birthday, which is Sunday. 35 years old -- how did that happen? This is the first number that has bothered me, and I'm kind of over that, really, since I've already passed the part of the year where I start thinking I'm the age I'm about to turn. That happens around the beginning of March pretty much every year...

I think we have about reached total Beatles saturation in this house. I've pretty much gotten to the point where I want to listen to anything but the Beatles in the car, and we've now rented "Yellow Submarine," "Help!" and "A Hard Day's Night" twice each. Am thinking it's time to try turning Miss Rachel on to some new music before I start to go a little buggy.

Weirdly cool weather this week -- even some rain yesterday. It didn't bother us -- all Rachel cared about was that her swim practice didn't get cancelled. People are complaining that it should be warmer right now, but as far as I'm concerned, any summer day where the temperature is under 90 degrees is okay by me.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Memo to Self, re: Surviving Summer

Things to accept:

1. That it's going to get damn hot, and there's nothing I can do about it. That I can plan our days around staying cool as much as possible, but that I'm still going to have to go out and end up hot and sticky and uncomfortable some of the time. That Rachel and I are going to hate it, and that even Will is going to be a pill about it some of the time.

2. That the kids are probably going to watch more TV and spend more time on the computer than is ideal. That even though I laid down stringent rules about when and where and under what circumstances they will be allowed to play with the Gameboy I bought yesterday, they will still use it more than makes me happy. And that the proceeding facts do not automatically disqualify me from making the Good Mom list.

3. That even on days when I try to be creative and make things more fun for them -- like today, when instead of sticking them in childcare at the gym, I decided we would ride our bikes to Davis Commons, have Jamba Juice and linger at Borders for quite a while -- even on those days they are going to fight with each other and complain about being hot, tired, hungry, thirsty, deprived because I won't buy something for them, or otherwise put upon.

4. That sometimes I'm going to be lazy. That somedays I'm going to sit here on the computer and procrastinate on going to the gym, cleaning the house, taking a shower or doing the laundry. That some days I'm going to skip the gym and let the kids watch TV and play video games and eat junk food all day long. That sometimes, after doing all of that nothing all day long, we're going to go out to eat, even if we just went out the night before. And that none of those things makes me a bad person.

Promises to myself for this summer:

1. I promise to stick with Weight Watchers, even if it keeps taking forever, for the whole summer and as long after that as it takes to lose the weight I want to lose. I promise not to use the fact that it's hot or I had a bad visit to the scale or I'm stressed or whatever as an excuse to overeat and go off program. And I promise to indulge myself on special occasions, not stress about points, and not beat myself up afterwards if I go a little overboard.

2. I promise not to let my kids' occasional need for an attitude adjustment discourage me from planning fun things for us to do this summer.

3. I promise to go to the gym several times a week whether I feel like it or not, since I know I'll feel better and lose weight faster if I do.

4. I promise try my best to manage my stress and not take my frustrations out on my kids.

5. I promise to give myself a break and remember that I'm only human when things get to be a little too much.
I can't stop reading every possible word available about Tom Cruise's whole career/image implosion. It's all just too bizarre.

I will admit -- I have not been a Tom Cruise fan for a very long time. He lost me during the whole "Top Gun" thing. I went to see that movie with my friends and was like, "huh?" Why did everyone worship that movie? They would show planes flying in the sky and expect you to know which one was which. They killed Goose! And did they even notice that the sparks flying between Tom and Val Kilmer during their homo-erotic "hostile" exchanges generated far more heat than any scene between Tom and his so-called romantic lead, Kelly McGillis? So yeah, whatever. Tom was adorable in "Risky Business," but when he became this huge movie star, that was it for him and me. When I was a senior in high school, a couple of my good friends called to invite me to see "Cocktail" and I just started laughing and told them I'd meet them to get something to eat afterward, because... no.

That being said, I've never actually avoided a movie just because he was in it or anything. He was good in "Born on the Fourth of July" and decent in "Rainman," and when we actually sat through that trainwreck "Eyes Wide Shut" a few years ago, I pretty much thought his performance was the only good thing about it. He's a decent actor, and I don't see many of his movies mainly because they tend to be of the ginormous, action-packed summer blockbuster variety, which doesn't appeal to me a whole lot. But that doesn't mean I dislike him as an actor.

I don't really care for him as a movie star though. I tend to develop an antipathy for anyone who generates a lot of hype, so I definitely started getting really sick of him starting in the late 80s. Then there was his marriage to Nicole Kidman and all the press and the icky "we're on our honeymoon for the rest of our lives" and bleah, spare me. I pretty much always believed the rumors that he was gay -- I mean, they're pretty persistent, you know? An uncle of mine in the entertainment industry was telling us a few years ago that Tom was in love with the mailroom boy at Paramount and had also had a thing with Nicole's brother, and you know, I could buy it. People in normal healthy relationships don't need to proclaim to the world over and over again how happy they are in their marriage, you know?

Then there was the weird break-up and "Nic knows what this is about" (I saw an interview with Nic a year or two later where she said something like "I think I know what it was about now") and immediately he starts dating Penelope Cruz, and no one says a word about how she was his co-star in a movie he made before he and Nic broke up -- what's that about? How come all this attention is focused on Angelina and Brad in the same situation but not on Tom and Penny? Yeah, I don't get it either. Then the two of them go on to have the most boring, non-newsworthy relationship in the history of celebrity journalism, then they break up and no one cares, and then...

Tom evidently makes a list of cute young actresses. Kate Bosworth and Jessica Alba are busy or not interested or something, so Katie Holmes ends up in his office, and within a couple of weeks, the two of them are making out in public, flashing their ultra-white teeth at the cameras, and declaring their adoration for each other every time anyone comes near them. Tom goes on Oprah and embarrasses himself. They're in love, people! Love!!! He thinks she's an amazing woman. Amazing!!!

Please see my comment above about people in happy relationships not needing to keep proclaiming how happy they are.

Some are hypothesizing that this is somehow a big, misguided publicity stunt directed at promoting the upcoming films "War of the Worlds" and "Batman Begins." I don't really buy that, given how badly it's all been handled. I think, quite simply, that Tom Cruise is a) pretty weird and b) not real bright about dealing with the public, and that now that he's handed the reins of his PR over to his sister and fellow Scientologist, what we're seeing is the "real" Tom. I do think the whole Katie thing is largely for show, that somewhere in his weird little mind the idea germinated that it was time for him to hook up with some adorable piece of industry fluff -- preferably one that couldn't out-act him this time -- and make a big show of how happy he is with her and marry her and maybe have some babies and therefore cement his image as the virile, masculine, wholesome family man with the pretty actress wife again.

You know what this reminds me of? Remember in "Groundhog Day," when Bill Murray first has a good date with Andie MacDowell, and they build a snowman, and then they end up in a snowball fight with some kids and they fall down in the snow together and it's a nice moment? And then he wakes up alone and starting over again the next morning, so that night he tries to do everything the same as the night before, only it's totally artificial and weird and she's freaked out when he wants to build the snowman and he pulls her down in the snow next to him. Well, Tom and Nicole is that first night where it all happens pretty naturally, but Tom and Katie is that second night, where he's trying to recreate it and he thinks he's saying and doing all the same things, but this time, the public is just kind of going "ew" and "what's wrong with them?" and stuff like that. It's pretty sad.

And the scariest thing about it is that Katie seems to be buying into it all -- at the beginning she seemed sort of embarrassed but now she's parroting all the stuff about how happy they are and she's moving in with him and becoming a Scientologist, and, you know -- what? She just met the guy a couple of months ago -- why in the world is she not, like, freaking out and filing a restraining order? Obviously I am not privy their private conversations, but I'd sure like to know what he's saying to her away from the cameras to sell her on all this shit, because wow.

Okay, I've gone on about all of this long enough, and I'm not even going to get started on Tom's asinine comments about Brooke Shields using medication to get over post-partum depression, because if I haven't already stated outright that I think he's a fruitcake, please consider it done. In these next few months I will be trying to rip my eyes away from this car wreck but, as a shameless watcher of celebrities, I cannot make any promises.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

50 Book Challenge: True Crime and Mystery

A few months back, I complained that the last couple of true crime books I'd read were duds. Not so the last one I picked up, House of Secrets. It was definitely a page-turner -- each time I read it, I could hardly put it down, and I pretty much blew through it in just a few days.

When I look at true crime books and try to figure out what I want to read, I have some basic guidelines. First of all, I'm pretty sure that half the books on the shelf in the True Crime section of any bookstore at any particular time are about men who kill their wives. I've read a lot of those, and they can be facinating, but unless the description on the book alludes to some kind of strange twist or it's written by one of a handful of authors whose books I always read, I usually avoid those. It's getting to be the same with books about women who kill their husbands -- there are fewer of them, but I've read a number of them, and after a while, the whole "black widow" thing gets a little old. I am also not big on books about serial killers, or the ones about well-known cases. I might make an exception if I like the author -- I am looking forward to Ann Rule's new book on the Green River Killer -- but not always. I think Vincent Bugliosi is awesome, but I am not interested in reading anything about the O.J. Simpson case, even Bugliosi's book, Outrage.

House of Secrets falls into the "twisted family" category, and I usually relish those, though they are very disturbing. In this one, you have a family with 12 kids who kind of keep to themselves. Naturally, it turns out that dad rules the family like a cult-leader and subjects the kids to horrifying physical, emotional and sexual abuse. Mom says she is a victim too, and the kids say that he beats her up sometimes but she also seems to participate in Dad's abuse of them pretty willingly. The kids are beaten regularly, kept under lock and key, and encouraged to tattle on each other for any little infraction. Sons are sodomized, daughters are raped, and two of them even bear their father's children. Finally, one daughter steps forward and starts talking to social services, but even though the minor kids are removed from the home and Dad is arrested, things get fouled up, the parents manage to take off to another state with most of the kids, and by the time they are arrested, their baby grandson and son-in-law have been murdered. Though he didn't physically participate in either murder, Dad is convicted in the killing of the son-in-law and now sits on Death Row in Florida. But he was never charged for any of the hundreds of crimes of abuse he committed against any of his 12 children. A few of the older ones spent time in prison for crimes they committed at his behest, while the others tried to pull their lives together. The minors had their names changed and were adopted by other families. Nearly all of them suffered from debilitating emotional and mental illness after finally escaping their father's clutches.

After that doozy of a book, it was nice to read something light. I'd seen the "No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency" book and sequels but hadn't been overly interested in reading them. I guess the work "Ladies" threw me off and I was thinking it was going to be some kind of "Ya-ya" type with about female bonding. Instead, there is only the one lady, Mma Precious Ramotswe, a cheerful roly poly woman who opens her own detective agency after her father dies. She is the only female detective in her beloved country of Botswana, and she solves mysteries great and small with cleverness and good humor. I particularly enjoyed the part where a woman comes to her wanting proof that her husband is cheating on her, and Mma Ramotswe lures the wayward husband to her home and takes of picture of him kissing her -- not exactly what the angry wife had in mind. Anyway, very cute, and I don't know how much of a discussion the book will generate, but I will definitely pick up the others in the series next time I want read something fun and familiar.

"Buffy" and "Veronica: A Comparison

"Veronica Mars" is one of the best shows on telelvision. Reruns of Season One start a week from today, after UPN is done fumigating the time slot now that Britney and K-Fed are about done with it. I've watched a few minutes of that show -- accidently Tivoed due to it being set to record "VM" -- and all I can say is, wretched. Anyway, I read in Entertainment Weekly last week that "VM" holds the distinction of being the lowest rated show on television this year that was renewed for another season. It doesn't surprise me that its ratings are that low because it's on UPN, and it doesn't surprise me that they renewed it anyway because it's not like UPN has ever had a critically-acclaimed show before and they'd be stupid to toss it on the trash heap, because, people? The show freaking rocks. Watch the re-runs if you don't believe me.

"VM' has garnered a lot of comparisons to another show about a petite blonde former cheerleader who now deals with darker issues and kicks ass doing so, "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," of which I was a fan for many seasons. This similarity was driven home to me during the first appearance of Tina Majorino as Mac, Veronica's cute, soft-spoken, kinda awkward, computer geek pal who has long red hair and reeks of high-school-era Willow from "Buffy." Thinking about I further, I discovered a lot of other parallels that are less obvious, but here they are:

Sunnydale was the picture-perfect California town with demons lurking beneath the surface (literally). Neptune is the picture-perfect California town with demons lurking beneath the surface (figuratively).

Sunnydale had vampires and other assorted demons. Neptune has really nasty rich kids called 09ers, which refers to their zip code in the nice part of town.

Buffy had Giles, who began as her mentor and became a father figure to her. Veronica has Keith Mars, her actual father, who has become a kind of mentor to her in the realm of private investigation.

Buffy's first sexual experience resulted in Angel losing his soul and turning evil. Veronica's first sexual experience was similarly traumatic -- she awoke after an 09er party having been drugged and raped.

Buffy fell in love with Angel, but it was a love that could never be, because he's a vampire and she's a slayer and it's not a good mix. Veronica fell in love with Duncan Kane, but it's a love that could never be because his dad was messing with her mom on and off for years and they might be brother and sister (ew!). That mystery is cleared up in the last few episodes of Season One, but I'm not giving that away since I want people to watch and enjoy if they haven't done so already.

Spike is a vampire who is evil but comes to befriend the Scoobies and falls in love with Buffy. They go on to have tumultous relationship. Logan is an 09er who seems pretty evil but comes to need Veronica's assistance and falls in love with her. They have a tumultuous relationship. I always liked Buffy better with Spike than with Angel. Similarly, I like Veronica better with Logan than with Duncan.

Buffy had Willow, Veronica has Mac. Buffy had Xander -- Veronica has Wallace.

Now the contrasts:

Buffy kicked literal ass. Veronica kicks more figurative ass -- she's smart and she cell phones, the internet, her dad's PI doodads and tricks she's picked up from him, a Chrysler convertible, and a dog named Back-up to solve mysteries and right wrongs. I like Veronica better. I always found Buffy a bit whiny and kind of a drama queen. Veronica has been through some equally crappy stuff and only gets a little broody from time to time. She dresses better too. And the storylines don't feature cheesy demons and stuff like a lot of Buffy's used to. With all due respect to the Slayer -- "Veronica Mars" Season One is a better show. Let's just hope Season Two lives up to the promise of Season One -- and that people start watching.

We have a new picture

I got tired of the picture of me that Rachel took on our camping trip last summer. She did a fine job -- I was just sick of it. So I put in a new one -- my picture from my first year of preschool and my mom's all-time favorite picture of me, which she has always referred to as my "sweet little girl" picture. I'll probably get sick of that one in a few months and replace it with something else. I crave variety that way. Ask my husband, who has frequently come home to find the furniture rearranged during our marriage, or my hairdresser, who knows me as one of those clients who wants a new look practically every appointment. I'm never going to be one of those people who can eat the same thing for lunch every single day. Oh well.

Friday, June 10, 2005


Some anonymous person (very brave of you, by the way) commented on my last post wondering if my obviously sarcastic reference to "socialist daycare" was serious and leaving a link to a wholly bogus site called "Daycares Don't Care," which basically smears the entire concept of daycare, offers no alternatives, shares all kinds of "facts" about what happens to kids who spend time in daycare and the care they receive there, and finally encourages people to write to their representatives asking them to "end unfair tax policies that favor paid child care over parental care of children." Tax policies? Huh? If such policies exist, they must be absolutely the only thing our government does to embrace the reality of working parents and daycare.

Here are a few more tasty tidbits from this site:

"Are you sick of politicians and others pushing for more government daycare subsidies? Tired of hearing people brag about the "benefits" of institutionalized child care? Most importantly, do you want to put an end to government policies that promote the childcare industry instead of the welfare of our children?"

Uh... right. Which politicians are those? How many parents do you know who brag about the benefits of institutionalized childcare? Which government policies promote the childcare industry? Perhaps the person who wrote this lives in Europe.

In the FAQ section:
"Although I never felt comfortable with the whole idea of daycare, I kept my opinion to myself.
As time went on, however, I became fed up with people continually hounding me to place my kids in day-care. I began to look for information to defend my decision.
The last straw came after my sister's eldest son suffered multiple compound fractures and his little sister almost died from a severe infection while attending daycare at a state-of-the-art facility at a prestigious university!
This got me so upset that I decided to put the information I collected on the Web, so that parents could easily find out about the serious problems with day care."

Okay, again, I'm not sure where this woman lives, but I've been a SAHM for over ten years, and I have never been "hounded" by anyone to put my kids in day-care. And yeah, we've all heard the horror stories about what can happen to kids in bad daycare. Then again -- kids can get hurt at school. They can get hurt at home. And, as a response to the experiences of two children at one childcare center, starting a site to rail against daycare as a concept is extreme, simplistic and alarmist. Good job.

"Q: Why is this website so one-sided? Why are you saying day care is bad?
"A:OK, just what is the other side you're referring to? That daycare is good for kids?
If you think that day care is good for kids, is more daycare even better?
What's the next step? Keeping children and babies in day-care 24 hours per day, 7 days a week? That's ridiculous!"

No, your logic is ridiculous. You live in a fantasy world, while most of us prefer reality. You probably believed all that crap about how passing the ERA was going to lead to unisex restrooms too, right?

Obviously, the "other side" is better daycare, not more. No one except maybe Newt Gingrich has ever suggested putting kids in childcare 24 hours a day (and his ideas were based more on the idea of punishing the poor for not being able to afford to support their families, so not exactly the kind of warm and fuzzy family-friendly stuff you're promoting on your site, right?).

Are you in junior high? Your debating skills seem to be at about that level.

"Q.Why doesn't your website offer any solutions to fix the problems with daycare?
"A. No amount of legislation, government funding, money, early childhood training, regulations, or inspections can fix the problems with daycare. Raising small children in substitute care is an experiment that has failed."

Your insistence that daycare is too complicated to be fixed by the government is based on what? Exhaustive research? Give me a break. I know know lots of great kids -- happy, healthy, well-adjusted -- who have spent time in daycare. Several of my friends work in childcare and are very good at their jobs. I have happily left my kids in their care from time to time. That childcare is a failed experiment is your opinion. A lot of others feel differently. Not to mention the fact that, regardless of whether you or anyone else likes the idea of daycare -- what is the alternative?

Our government is anti-family, anti-working-parent, anti-poor-people, and intent on supporting corporations and defense over the welfare of its citizens. They tried to pass off that lame, half-assed unpaid family leave bill back in the early 90s as some kind of huge victory for families. Do you really think that pay for parents who stay home to care for their children is on the horizon any time soon? Because I don't. And until that happens, parents are going to have to go to work. And for many of us, that means daycare. You can sit there and bitch and moan from your ivory tower if you like, but really -- what are you accomplishing? I could publish a whole site about how some people have what I think are really ugly feet, and how this bad bad bad and no one should have ugly feet -- but some people would still have really ugly feet and need them to walk on now matter how much I hated that. That would be pointless, right?

I don't know who the person who left the anonymous comment linking to this stupid website is. I suspect they typed some words into a search engine and my blog came up. But if they actually read my post, they would have known what my views on this subject are. Anonymous, if you're reading this -- the website you linked to is a load of crap. The opposite of bad daycare is good daycare, not NO daycare. And if you're not part of the solution, guess what? You're part of the problem. So please go away.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

50 Book Challenge and The Mommy Myth

I decided that instead of listing additions to my what-I've-read list in actual posts, I would just put a running list below the links section on the right side of the screen -- a brilliant idea if I may say so, and I may, because it wasn't mine. I actually lifted it directly from another site, 50 Books, wherein this woman Doppelganger (yeah, I'm pretty sure that's a screen name) attempts to -- guess what? read 50 books in one year like I'm doing. I like her site because a) she's a good writer and has written about some interesting books, and b) she's embracing this challenge even though she just had her first child a few months ago and I admire that (as opposed to the bemused sympathy I felt for the woman who posted on the NaNoWriMo boards a couple of years ago whose first baby was due around the end of October and who somehow thought this was going to leave her with oodles of time to sit and write a 50,000 word novel during her first month of motherhood. I always meant to go and check her word-total later on but I forgot her screen name. If I had to put money on it, though, I'd guess she may not have ever even gotten started -- unless of course the baby was late).

And while we're on the subject of Motherhood, that revered topic, let's turn to the latest addition to my list on the right, The Mommy Myth. I would very much like to organize my thoughts on this book into one cohesive, brilliant little essay about how my own experience as a mother has been affected by all the issues addressed in the book, but -- who am I kidding? When I want to do that sort of thing, what almost always ends up happening is that I get so intimidated that I never end up writing anything at all. And so I'm going to say what I have to say a bit at a time, as it comes to me, and not worry about whether it's organized or not.

In a nutshell, this book is about how the idea of motherhood and issues of parenting have been treated by the media in such a way over the past 25 years so as to create a standard that no mother can ever live up to while at the same time masking the fact that social policy in this country has failed working families in almost every way possible. In other words -- you need to work and can't find affordable, high-quality daycare? Too bad, because if you were a good mother, you'd stay home with your kids and provide them with the kind of 24-hour stimulation, nurturing and motherly selflessness every child wants, deserves and needs if he's going to grow up healthy, successful and well-adjusted. This is America, not one of those European countries with their socialist daycare systems and parental leave policies that are going to turn your kids into little commies, you know! Look at all the celebrity moms who manage to do it all, stay thin and beautiful, and still have energy at the end of the day to profess how much more fulfilling it is to be a mother than a well-paid, famous, respected professional who gets to go to glamorous events all the time. So what if they're rich and have staffs of 15 to help them do it -- they have their priorities straight, while you who are trying to make it on the income of a regular family -- you're just a bunch of whiners! What did you think when you had those kids -- that you would still have time to be a human being with your own needs for the next 18 years?

This book is not without its flaws. In the end, it doesn't offer much in the way of solutions to the problems it brings up, and while reading it I occasionally had to remind myself that there are many things I enjoy about being a mother, that I'm happy with my choice to stay home with my kids, that I personally haven't been sucked into the fantasy of being the "ideal mom" the way the authors claim all mothers have been, and that I feel good about the way parenting duties are divided in my own personal household.

At the same time, I appreciated the fact that the authors didn't feel the need to remind the reader that none of the stuff they were pointing out meant they didn't understand that moms do love their kids and want the best for them -- that's a given. They didn't need to say it, because the whole book is about how that fact is played upon and manipulated to make mothers feel like they can never be doing enough for their kids. It's facinating stuff, and reading the book made me want to start passing copies of it out to every single mom I know, starting with those who regularly beat themselves up for whatever it is they thinking they're not doing, or not doing right. And I know a lot of them.

This is a hard job. It is not a glamorous job. It comes with its rewards, to be sure, but it also comes with days when you think to yourself, "What the hell was I thinking when I got pregnant with this thing?" It is okay for me, as a mom, to say that every moment of my day is not filled with sunshine and bunnies and rainbows and joy because I have children. It is even okay for me as the mother of an autistic child to say that I have, quite often over the years, had moments where I thought, "What the fuck? This is not what I signed on for." I am not a saint. I am not a child development expert. I am not a great housekeeper or cook. I am lazy and selfish a lot of the time. But I am still a good mom who loves her kids and wants the best for them. I do the best I can, like most of the other moms I know.

I am very, very fortunate to be able to make the choice to stay home with my children and to be happy with that choice. I am also very, very fortunate to be married to a man who earns a good salary and sees my contribution to our household as equal to his own. Nevertheless, I want good, affordable daycare for the people in our country who need it, and I think the government should get off its ass and start taking care of that. I think people should stop whining about their tax dollars going to people who need welfare and start whining about their tax dollars going to corporations that don't need welfare, not to mention to wars on countries that don't need invading. I think women's magazines should stop doing cover stories on rich, pretty actresses who have nannies and housekeepers to help them raise their children, and start doing cover stories on real parents -- not just moms, but parents -- who are doing a bang-up job raising their families without being able to afford all those luxuries. And I think everyone in the media should take a deep breath and think before they allow the next Susan Smith or McMartin Preschool or SIDS story to snowball into a crisis or circus or "epidemic" that puts all mothers on guard, or under suspicion, or both. Enough already.

You know, I think that actually covers a whole lot of my thoughts about this book pretty well. I'll probably add to it later, but really -- not bad.

Good-bye, Freedom -- I'll See You Again in the Fall

This morning at the gym I realized that today is the kids' last full day of school. Tomorrow they both get out at 1:30 because it's Wednesday, and on Thursday, ie the last day of school, dismissal is at 12:30. Therefore, I have decided to lay around like a slug today. I already worked out, which is good, because I might have slugged out on that as well had I realized the situation earlier. In any case, I am good and grubby from my workout but I have no plans to shower any time soon and I plan to sit here with the ol' laptop for a good long while. I have a coffee from Starbucks beside me, and if I can just get rid of this stupid freaking headache that keeps bugging me, this should be a very nice day.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Eyebrow Erosion!

When I went to have a "consultation" at Sephora, the make-up store at the mall, with my friend Sue the other day, I knew I'd be learning lots of new things. I knew I'd find out I'd been doing things incorrectly (concealer, then foundation, then powder -- wrong! "The concealer covers what the foundation doesn't," my make-up artist, Sarah told me, and Sue repeated it after her as though this was a hard and fast truth with which she'd been acquainted for some time). I knew I'd learn about products I never even thought of before (eye-lid primer! eyelash conditioner and mascara sealant! light reflecting concealer!) I figured I'd even find out a few new things about my own face, like which colors of eye shadow look good on me (I don't generally use the stuff) and that kind of thing. I did not, however, expect to be told that I had been allowing my eyebrows to slide downward on my face. That one pretty much came as a total suprise to me.

Let me start to explain that one by saying that, for the first 34 years of my life, I took a laissez-faire approach to my eyebrows. They are sparse and light in color, and since any time I'd tried to, say, darken them, I'd come out looking, in my own opinion, kind of scary, and since I didn't figure I really had anything to spare up there, I figured a no-pencil, no-pluck policy was the way to go. Unlike my husband, I do not tend toward overgrowth in the brow area. I could just let them grow hog-wild for years at a time and never develop the dreaded unibrow. They didn't bother me. They didn't enhance my face, either, but that was okay. I just felt it was best to leave them alone.

Then one day I went to the nail salon to have a mani and a pedi, and the lady doing my nails asked me if I'd like her to wax my eyebrows. I was surprised. "Do you think I need that?" I asked. "I mean, I don't really have much up there." She ran her finger along the lower part of my brow, explaining that she could shape them for me and it would look nice. I thought, what the hell, and I let her do it. The waxing part itself was minimally painful -- more so was the tweezing of the residuals, but I lived through it. When I got home, I studied my appearance and concluded that yes, my eyebrows looked somewhat better than they had before. It was worth the 12 bucks or whatever it was I'd paid for it.

Then a week or two later, I noticed that what had been plucked out was growing back in. It looked messy. I grabbed some tweezers and tweezed, and thought, what a pain in the ass! What had I done? Now I *had* to do this shit! A month or two later, I had them done again, by a lady who works in the same salon where I get my hair cut, and several months after that, this past fall, I finally used a gift certificate at a day spa my husband got me me for Christmas a while back and had my eyebrows waxed and shaped during an otherwise lovely facial. Since then, I've been maintaining them on my own, and evidently, I've been doing a poor job of it.

Let me just admit this upfront: I am lazy about hair removal. Whatever else I may hate about my body, I don't have much in the way of body hair. I shave the usual areas every day in the shower without incident. I have never worried about my bikini line one way or another. I don't get more than kind of a peach fuzz on my upper lip, and if it gets to bothering me, I am not above grabbing my razor from the shower and scraping it across my upper lip a few times. I have never bought any kind of fancy kit or appliance for hair removal, and I don't think I ever will.

The eyebrows, therefore, presented a complicated dilemma. Plucking them was painful and took just too damn long. I soon lost the shape of them and found myself plucking pretty randomly, which I don't recommend. I lost patience with that pretty quickly. Using my leg razor seemed like a pretty bad idea. Then I realized my husband's trimmer might come in handy. We ordered one of those little mini-hair groomer thingies off TV for him a while back -- he uses it to keep the back of his neck tidy between haircuts. I figured if it worked for his neck, it could work for my brows, and I went to work. Since then, I've used it from time to time whenever needed, with tweezing in between. Then, a month or two ago, I noticed that one side of my left eyebrow kind of had a gap in it. I wasn't sure what that was about, but I pencilled it in as lightly as I could and left it alone for a while. The next time I trimmed, the same thing happened. It occurred to me that it was probably time to involve a professional, but since I knew I was going to be told I was doing something wrong, I put this off.

Then Sue and I made our trip to Sephora. Sarah put some cooling products from Skin Iceland on me and then began to apply make-up she thought I would like. She put a regular, covering concealer on the dark bag under one eye, and a light reflecting one on the dark bag under the other and asked me which I liked better. When I chose the light-reflecting one (which just happened to be on the side with the not-as-dark bag, I realized later), she nodded approvingly and I felt proud for making the right choice. Then she looked at my eyebrows. "This is weird," she told me. "Your eyebrow is below your natural brow line." She had me look in the mirror. "This is where you eyebrow should be," she said, drawing a pretend arc up above my flat, plucked brow.

"Really?" I said innocently. I did not mention my husband's micro-trimmer, but I did proceed to explain to her how I'd manage to avoid doing anything at all to my eyebrows for most of my life.

"Let me show you what it would look like," Sarah told me, and she covered my actual eyebrow hair with concealer and drew in an eyebrow a good inch higher, using a color a good two shades darker than what I would be willing to wear. "See?" she said. "What do you think?" I thought it bent weirdly in the middle, and that it kind of made me look like a goth chick.

"Hm," I said, and then I let her draw the other one in. Now let me just say, for one thing it was hard to see what it really looked like, considering that even covered with concealer, my real eyebrows were still visible. Also, again, the dark color. Sarah said it matched my hair color, but my eyebrows have always been lighter than the hair on my head.

In any case, the end result was discovering that my lazy approach to eyebrow grooming had resulted in my having eyebrows that are both lower and straighter than they should be. This was apparently a bad thing. "You have a brow line like a model," Sarah told me. "A lot of people would kill to have this brow shape."

"Have you been plucking up above?" Sue asked me.

"Uh... yeah."

"You're never supposed to pluck above," she told me. "Only below." This was apparently another one of those things I'd failed to get the memo on.

"You should probably let those grow out and then have them shaped professionally," Sarah told me. She really was very nice about the whole thing, but I still have a feeling she thought I was kind of a moron. She told us a story about having done make-up on a production of "Madame Butterfly" and how all the actresses fought her when she tried to paint their eyebrows in lower and straighter in order to make them appear more Asian. I could imagine her telling a story about ME later on: "This one time I worked on this woman who had an awesome brow line but she'd been plucking her eyebrows all stupid..." I was glad I'd kept it to myself about using Ryan's mini-trimmer thingy.

So now I have a new goal for the summer, which is to grow out my eyebrows and have them reshaped. I just hope it doesn't take as long as growing out a bad haircut.