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.

Saturday, October 15, 2005


My parents just came picked up the kids to take them out for the day. Reasonable Man and I may go to the movies. Or we may not. We may just hang around here and be slugs all day -- which is only different from our usual weekend in that we can do it guilt-free, without the kids bouncing off the walls and needing to be taken out. Which doesn't happen quite as often since the kids they like to play with moved in across the street. In any case, I'm sitting here on my couch, writing in my blog and eating oatmeal and playing Chuzzle in my pajamas and it's 10:30 and I have no current plans to change any of this any time soon, other than the fact that I'll be done eating the oatmeal pretty soon.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Up and Running!

I did what I said I was going to do and bought the cheapest laptop at Costco. It was $900, and I could have gotten one $300 cheaper at Best Buy, but without the sweet return policy that will allow me to get a new one when this one dies :-)

The one I got is a Compaq. I have mixed feelings about this, as we once had a Compaq desktop machine that didn't live very long and had a number of problems along the way. On the other hand, Compaq is merely a subsidiary of HP these days. We love HP. Our current desktop is an HP and has been going strong for a number of years, not to mention that I don't even bother with non-HP printers. In any case, I think this laptop will do me just fine for the next few years. Getting all my crap off the old one and on to the new one hasn't been as much of a pain as I would have thought either. There are only a few items left to transfer at this point.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

My Laptop: The Continuing Saga

Evidently, this is my week for destroying things around the house. Or perhaps month? I hope not. Anyway, if you've got something around your house that needs busting, I'm your gal. Give me a jingle and I'll come right over.

The ceiling is all dry and just fine. I'm giving it time to get extra dried out, and then I'll paint over the stained areas. As for the actual matter under the sink that caused all the leakage, I need to assess that at some point, but in the meantime, I can deal with only having cold water coming out of my fauct. And I did replace the faucet in the other upstairs bathroom. I'm not going to let a little dripping plaster and flooding of the kitchen stop my budding career as a plumber.

Yesterday morning I was killing flies. For whatever reason, there are a ridiculous number of flies this year, and no matter what you do, lots of them end up in the house -- I've been killing at least 10 or 15 every day for the last week or so. There was one on my computer screen, so I swatted at it. I missed.

Regular readers of this space know that my computer already has what you might call structural problems. I don't know if those problems contributed to how very much the screen of my laptop did not like being hit with a flyswatter, but the bottom line was, that sucker ceased to function pretty much immediately. The screen developed a jagged line from the lower left-hand corner to the upper right-hand corner. Above the line, the screen was normal and legible; below it, it was a mass of colored vertical and horizontal lines. I knew it was a fatal problem pretty much as soon as I saw it, but I restarted the computer anyway, as you do. It didn't work.

My first thought (after "oh, shit, am I a moron or what?") was "that's it, I'm spending the money on an iBook, switching back to Mac, and not looking back."
We were dedicated Apple computer folks for many years, before my parents were generous enough to buy us a PC back around 1998, and there is a part of us that has always longed to go back, but let's face it: we're cheap and lazy. Switching back to Mac-compatible software and such is a lot of work, and Apple computers don't come cheap. So we've had a series of PCs that live fast and die young, and I was pissed off enough yesterday when my laptop screen died that my immediate plan was to invest in what I believe to be the relative quality/reliability offered by Apple products.

My second thought was to go out and buy the cheapest PC laptop I could find with the things I needed in it and just assume that I'd probably have to replace it in about two years anyway.

My third thought is to go and buy a laptop at Costco. Know what's great about Costco, besides all that potential for disaster relief I was talking about a few weeks ago? When something you bought there breaks, you can take it (with receipt) back to Costco and they'll give you a refund. With computer equipment, this works especially well because two years from the time you bought something? A replacement usually costs about half as much.

Guess which plan I'm going with?

Anyway -- yes, it's true. As soon as I get all my files and shit off my good old Toshiba laptop with the busted screen and velcro-instead-of-functional-hinge arrangement, it will be no more. Oh well. I hate treating things like laptops as disposable, but what can you do?

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Ew, Gross!

God, I hate blog-comment spam. I just deleted this one:

Anonymous said...
Hello, Just wanted you to know that someone saw your Blog. My anorexia site that deals with pro bulimia websites gets only a few visitors some days...good job on your site.

And there was a link. OMG, who are these freaks?

Triumph & Defeat

Last night when I went to bed, I was feeling pretty good about myself. Why? Well, we live in a nice neighborhood of tract houses built from all the cheap-assest materials money can buy. And that means terrible faucets. My dad changed out the kitchen faucet and downstairs bathroom faucet for us a while back, but we still had the crappy faucets in the bathrooms upstairrs. I've been wanting new faucets up there for a long time. So the other day I actually went to Home Depot, purchased new faucets and a basin wrench and some teflon tape, and yesterday I got down under the sinks in our master bathroom and changed those suckers out. Sure, I scraped a couple of my knuckles to the point of bleeding. Sure, on the second sink I got a little cocky and got under there with my tools and started unhooking and detaching here and there and it wasn't till a lot of water suddenly rained down on my face that I realized I'd forgotten what I think must be the very first rule of plumbing, which is "always turn the water off at the source before you start messing around down there." I had myself all geared up to write an amusing blog post about that little mishap and how as a result of getting drenched, I awoke with Bride of Frankenstein hair this morning, but still, I am woman, hear me roar, women can replace faucets, girl power, yada yada yada. I went to bed in triumph, aware that two brand new faucets were gleaming in my bathoom -- faucets I had installed my very own self.

So you can imagine how happy I was to wake up to Reasonable Man telling me one of my faucets was leaking.

I groggily told him I'd take care of it. He told me it was "quite a bit" and that it was my sink, and then he left me alone. I was lying there in bed acting like I was actually going to go back to sleep for a while, but then I got up and went into the bathroom to survey the damage. Reasonable Man had turned off the leaky side of my sink at the source, and I got all my stuff out of there, but decided the inside of the cupboard needed to dry out before I could do anything with it and went downstairs.

Downstairs in the kitchen, Reasonable Man was dealing with the aftermath of a flood.

The water had leaked from upstairs down through the cannister light fixtures. One them is conveniently located above the sink, but the other is over the kitchen table -- so the kitchen eating area was drenched. As was the kitchen floor, due to the ceiling being lowered to accomodate our ugly fluorescent lighting fixture, kind of down the side of which the water was still dripping when I came downstairs. Reasonable Man said there'd been a "bubble" there but he'd already popped it. He'd moved all the chairs out of the way and mopped up most of the water by the time I arrived downstairs, so really all there was for me to do at that point was flop down on the couch and say some bad words and, you know, contemplate the folly of my hubris and all.

All I wanted was to replace the faucets. They really sucked -- you have to believe me.
And you know, they had kind of screwed when they hooked up the plumbing under that sink in the first place -- the hot and cold are on the wrong sides from where they should be, which means the tubing whatever thingies have to stretch farther than they want to and, you know, of the 4 water connections I attached, that one was the toughest because it didn't want to stretch. I thought I'd gotten it right but evidently -- no. So that's my morning so far. I'll get under the sink and see if I can fix the connection, and we'll wait for the ceiling downstairs to dry out so I can paint over the water damage. And I'm still going to replace the faucet in the kids' bathroom myself.

I'm just not going to enjoy it very much.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Great, Now I Have Blog Guilt

Like it wasn't bad enough that I feel like crap when I don't return emails to people in a timely manner. Now every time I get on my computer, I think of my blog sitting there looking withered and neglected, like the plant I've stopped watering because I forgot and because I was busy and because every time I looked outside and noticed it looking dry, it was also really hot and I didn't want to go out there and get sweaty taking care of it. I wish there was a such thing as an automatic drip system for my blog -- like somehow all the times every day that I'm away from the computer but my thoughts start to organize themselves into a blog post, they could send themselves directly here instead of me having to actually sit down and type them. That would alleviate some of this guilt I'm feeling.

There is a lot going on in my world lately. The first month of school has raced by, and a lot of my time and brain power has been occupied with figuring out Enthusio's situation. Things have been much better that last week or so. He has seen his therapist twice, and he really likes her. He has also been managing things better at school, at least in terms of staying out of trouble. I think he is still playing by himself at recess most of the time, though -- he doesn't really answer my questions about friends (so I'm trying not to ask) and one time he told me he spent recess picking up trash. That's something he did a lot of last year and got little awards for it, which is great -- I certainly don't have a problem with him being a good citizen -- but if he's doing that because it's easier than finding kids to play with, that's not good either. So he's staying away from the wrong kids, but he's still not finding the right kids -- it's progress, but there's still some ground to cover.

On the other hand, during non-school daylight hours, Enthusio, and often Mermaid as well, can be found out front playing with the kids on the street. About 6 weeks ago, a family with three kids (9YO girl, 7YO & 5YO boys) moved in directly across the street from us, and suddenly there are boys to play with, and the girls who already lived on our street are out more and there's this whole gang of kids outside playing all the time. It's great, and Enthusio has friends who are boys that he plays with all the time, so that's huge :-)

Complete change of subject: on our street, there is a couple who are in the process of starting a publishing house, and they have already published one book, written by the male half of the couple, Jonathan, and have a few projects by other authors in the works. I've talked to them about writing and the publishing business before, and I'd been vaguely encouraged to show them some of my work, but I hadn't pursued it at all. Last week, I ran into Jonathan at a coffee place and got to talking to him again, and told him a little more about what I have finished, which is two books in what I'm thinking will be a three-book Young Adult Series -- I've written one novel from the perspective of a 17YO boy (Danny), a second from his 15YO sister's point-of-view(Mollie), and there is a second sister (Susan), so logically she would have a novel as well. Since Danny was told in the third-person, and Mollie was in the first person, I was all ready in the process of converting Danny to the first-person because I thought they should all be the same. Jonathan sounded pretty interested and gave me specific instructions to a) write the third novel in November, when I'll be participating in National Novel Writing Month for the 4th year anyway, and b) get the two completed novels into the best possible shape, and then I'll take what I've got to show them around the first of the year.

Jonathan said even if they aren't interested in taking on the project (which I think is a distinct possibility, since I doubt they were thinking of moving into the Young Adult market), they have learned a lot about the publishing business in the last few years and made contacts, and they can advise me about what to do next. Naturally, this has given me a huge shot in the arm as far as working on these novels and hopefully moving them toward publication. Particular issues:

I've put in about 20 hours converting Danny to first-person, with all that entails, and I'm very happy with that. One problem with the Danny novel was that he's kind of closed off, and my narrator-voice tends to be a bit on the formal side anyway, so some of the people who read the novel had trouble relating to/sympathizing with the main character, which is obviously a problem. This first time through has mostly been converting all the "Danny"s and "he"s to "I"s and "me"s, but there was a lot of language that very obviously had to be changed just to make it sound like something a 17YO boy would really say. I will have a lot more of that kind of thing to do on the second time around, as well as working a little more detail in a few areas that were neglected the when I originally wrote the novel. The good news is that, just in changing it to first-person, I feel like Danny has become a warmer and more relatable character.

Next I'll be taking on the major issue with Mollie, which is the fact that the first quarter or so of the novel is rushed. Get this: last year, about 4 days into November, I somehow managed to erase the approximately 6,000 words I'd written and had to start all over. This obviously sucked, but I didn't dwell on it -- I just started over. I'd been feeling like those 6,000 words had been dragging anyway. So I wrote a condensed version of what I'd lost, which was good in that I was able to get going again, and get to the meat of the story like I'd been wanting to do in short form. But when I read the novel after it was done, I felt like a lot of what was in my head in terms of establishing the characters and setting up the plot didn't come out, and a couple of people who read it had a questions and concerns along those lines. So my main job with the Mollie novel is to plump up the first several chapters with richness and details that will set up the story in a more satisfying way.

My biggest challenge will be writing the Susan novel in November. Danny and Mollie are characters who have large chunks of me in them. Susan has always been more of larger-than-life supporting character who is a lot of fun to write, but I've never tried to get inside her head very much. Truthfully -- I created these characters back when I was a teenager myself, and they started out very much as types: Danny was the brain, Mollie was the athlete, and Susan was the blonde, pretty, popular Mean Girl. Danny and Mollie were easy to flesh out over the years because they were characters I could relate to. Danny became less of a geek and more of a regular guy -- he's still skinny and wears glasses, but he's developed a harder edge and can be more of a real guy than when I first envisioned him. Mollie is still an athlete as well as an excellent student, but her motivation to be so driven and such an over-achiever is rooted as much in her insecurity as they are in her confidence in herself. I always felt like there were pieces of my teen-age self I could put into these characters. At this point, I'm not sure how to do that with Susan. Her story will take place the year after she graduates from high school, when she's kind of stumbling along, trying to figure out where her life is going, and I certainly went through a certain amount of that when I was that age, but the difference is that I was a freshman in college, living in a dorm, and my lack of direction was mostly going on in my head while I followed a prescribed path that I'd been working toward all through high school. Susan isn't a student and won't be going away to college, and so far I haven't really made up my mind if her story will be rooted in a job, junior college, technical school, or what, much less how things will play out. The Danny and Mollie stories focused on romantic plotlines (that's probably the wrong word -- not much about the teenager years is very romantic) and Susan's will as well, but the story won't be authentic unless it also addresses the direction her life is taking, moving away from being the high school queen bee and into the real world, so what she's doing every day is important. And one month from today, I'm going to need to have a pretty good idea how this is going to play out.

(Just a quick note: normally, I hate talking about what I'm writing about. I'm happy to talk about the fact that I'm writing, how much I'm writing, why I'm writing, the genre in which I'm writing -- but details like plot and character names and so on and so forth -- it seems as soon as I start saying it all out loud, it usually sounds so stupid! Spelling out what I have in the previous few paragraphs is huge for me -- I've basically forced myself to do it, because normally, I'd honestly rather hand someone my novels to read than to summerise them. But part of moving toward the business end of things is going to be talking about what and who I'm writing about, so there you go. I've just got to do it.)

Very-long-story-short, the writing is taking up lots of my time, and it's not even my day gig. Yes, the kids are in school 8:30-3 everyday, and that leaves me lots of time to write as well as work out, keep the house and finances more or less in order, go shopping and other things I do to keep myself sane, but once they get home, forget it. Mondays, the kids get home about 3:15, Mermaid has swim practice 3:45-4:45, and then there's around 90 minutes of homework plus saxophone practice for her and 20 minutes of homework for Enthusio and dinner to get ready, and basically it's a sprint to get it all done by 8 pm so we can all have some time to relax before bed. Wednesday they get out at 1:30, but Enthusio has play practice 2-2:45 and then we spend an hour at the library doing homework -- that's if I've remembered Mermaid's swim gear so we can go straight from the library to swim practice. Tuesdays there's no swim practice but I often have something to go to that night so it's extra important to get Mermaid's homework done by 6 so Reasonable Man doesn't have to deal with it after dinner, since he often has work of his own to do then, and Thursdays there's no swim practice but right now Enthusio's therapy appointment is right after school so I pick him up, get him over there and then come home to get Mermaid, who arrives home from in the meantime. The only thing I can tell you about how much I hate Mermaid's homework is that it's more than I hated actually doing my own when I was in school, and she's only in 5th grade! And I swore I was never going to be one of these moms who was racing around getting multiple children to multiple activities each day, but the fact is that this is only two kids with one activity a piece (I refuse to count psychotherapy as an activity). And Enthusio still wants to try Taekwondo and Mermaid hasn't even started Girl Scouts for the year, if you can believe that.

On top of all that, my school-related duties this year seem to have tripled. In addition to the administrative duties I took on last year for the parents' night out fundraiser, I am also one of 5 people chairpeople running the two Scholastic Book Fairs we'll be having this year, and I'll be running my own event, the used book sale, at our end-of-the-year carnival. Can I just say, I vowed to never be one of those moms either? I swear I haven't set one toe inside a PTA meeting after the first and only one I attende when our school opened 4 years ago, but I keep getting recruited for this stuff anyway, and I don't mean to complain because I really do enjoy it (no one could be more surprised than I am about that), but, you know, it's a lot of stuff.

So that's my life, people. And it's all good stuff, but there's a shitload of it, that's why, you know, the old Green House is not updated too often these days. Writing here in this space is a pleasure and I'll get to it as often as I can, but I can't make any promises about the next few months, especially during November. I hope you all will hang in there and keep reading though, because I really do appreciate it! And now I'll bid you adieu, because there are Halloween decorations to get up, bills to be paid, showers to be taken, and so on and so forth. Here's wishing you all a relaxing weekend!