Friday, August 28, 2009

Last Weekend: Des Moines edition

A week ago, I was in the Cactus Pearl Corolla, headed north.

I drove the unbelievably charming drive up through Grinnell and over to Des Moines (Iowa farms are the most beautiful you will see, for reals), to visit Lindsay, who was in town with her husband and twin baby girls. Holy COW, we had fun. She summed it up on FB perfectly: Lindsay F. loved reconnecting with Genny today. It's been ten years, but in a lot of ways it feels like we were only out of touch for ten minutes. From the second her sweeter-than-sweet Dad said "Hi, kiddo!" in their driveway as I pulled up (just as he always did when I'd visit their house in high school) to the moment we all hugged goodbye in the parking lot outside the cafe where we had Sunday brunch/lunch, the trip was absolutely fabulous. It wasn't a huge effort on my part to be there, and since Linds lives in Florida, this would be one of the few chances when the babies are this tiny (OMG you should see their toes EEEEEE!) for me to spend some good quality time with everyone.

I stopped by on Friday night, to catch up with Lindsay, meet her husband, and gab with her parents for a bit--a really great chance to start mellow, without the excitement of new babies (they were in bed by then), and to see if we still had that *spark*...which sounds odd when you're talking about friends, but I can't think of a better word. She and I hadn't seen each other since our senior year in college (1999, eek!), and had drifted apart over the years (pretty danged easy to do when you're a half-country apart). We were joined at the hip in high school, and since she went to college an hour away from where I did, it was convenient to see her often during that phase of our lives. After she moved to Florida, though, it grew harder to keep in touch, until gradually, it faded completely. But we reconnected via Facebook, and corresponding since then had been so natural and just-like-old-times that I didn't really have many doubts that it would be the same in person. Still, it WAS great to know that nothing had grown weird or awkward, and even that, as we get older, our friendship can be even more meaningful and (sorry to be corny, but--) precious.

Saturday morning I showed up early to meet the breathtakingly precious Fontana girls, Olivia and Sophia, each SO different, SO charming, and SO hilarious...the second Livi saw me walk through the door she was *laughing*. At four months old! This girl is WAY happy and energetic and looks like a beautiful little papoose (and, in fact, almost exactly like Lindsay did at that age, as we saw in scrapbooks over the weekend). Sophia, on the other hand, looks like a pretty porcelain doll, and is quieter, mellower, and more introspective than Livi. She noted my presence at first, but wasn't giving in so easily--I needed to work to get her to love me. But once I tried my parents' never-fail 'cheer move' (take baby's arms and move them like you're doing a cheer), she was smiling big-time, all "Oh, yeah, you cool." I am SICK that I forgot my camera, but I'll steal some shots of the weekend from Linds sometime.

We all loaded up the van and went to the HUGE and awesome Farmer's Market in downtown Des Moines, the likes of which I had never seen before. The best I can describe it is a conglomeration of Art in the Park, a typical Farmer's Market, Taste of Chicago, and, like, some festival with street performers. It was CRAZY crowded, but in a delightful way, with dogs and babies and Dutch letters and yummy stuff EVERYWHERE. I wanted to buy everything, but only gave in to a six-pack of fresh-baked cupcakes to bring home to Neil. (OKAY, I might have eaten three.) We had a delightful lunch at a brewery there (shredded pork sandwiches with a BBQ sauce made from stout--HOLY CRAP good--and Bloody Marys all 'round, served with pickles and olives), then went back home so the ladies could nap.

Next, Lindsay and I took off for the second AWESOME part of the day: scrapbook shopping! I have not allowed myself to buy much in the last couple years, so I was super looking forward to it. I loved seeing what my favorite companies had released recently, and since I'd been preparing for this trip for awhile, being actually able to buy what I coveted! We went to two really great shops (and a toy store selling almost exclusively Melissa & Doug stuff--sooooo cute!), then returned to the Kem house to play with the babies again and hang out til dinner. Which was an AMAZING home-cooked Iowa meal, the likes of which I hadn't had in a looooong time. (There is absolutely nothing like fresh, sweet Iowa corn!)

Saturday was fantastic in many ways, but also interesting because I got to see what it's like to be a parent ALL DAY. Not just overnight, not just for a couple hours, not just during naptime (which is what I'd mainly been exposed to)--but from morning to night. And it was a pretty atypical day for everyone, to be sure, but I still got a sense of what it's like to be a mother, and how Linds handles it. I don't know how she wrangles two infants every single day, never getting a nap or much down-time at all (and waking up twice as much during the night as any other new mom, since you can't exactly ask the babies to coordinate their feeding times). I mean, as delightful as Soph and Livi are, BOY OH BOY it's got to be exhausting for her!

We were blessed that we did get the afternoon together (thanks, Ann & Dan!) was a perfect mix of girl-time with Lindsay and, for the rest of the weekend, GIRLS-time with the twins. I know it's cliche, but those babies were freaking ANGELS. I'd been warned about Soph's moodiness, but the Iowa air must have agreed with her, because aside from her initial "I'm-not-sure-about-this-new-person" sussing-me-out period (which really just consisted of her looking at me with exasperation while I tried various baby tricks), we were total BFFs. And Livi...Livi, my god, that girl could make ANYONE smile. I didn't think these young bundles of cuddliness could have such personalities at just a few months old, but WOW. Like--they are already so cute; they don't need to be CHARMING, too, you know? Enough already with the making-me-fall-in-love-with-you business! I won't see you again for a long time!

I left Sunday after a final meal out with the gang, and reluctantly bid my goodbyes so I could make it home at a resonable hour. It was a completely satisfying, exciting, memorable weekend, but it went by in a flash. I hope we all get the opportunity to see each other again soon...and, as Linds texted me afterward, "not wait another ten years!" "HYEALL no," I responded.

HELL no!

Monday, August 3, 2009

48-hour Reading Challenge...TAKE TWO!

Okay, I was all set for this entry, but then I went to Google Reader before I started. Under the "People I Know" tab, I read three beautiful entries that got me all choked up and mellow:

Em's brother Steven's gorgeous, intensely heartfelt tribute to his wife, Tamara, on their two-year anniversary.

Lindsay's account of her announcement, a year ago, to her husband--of the second line on the pregnancy test.

Andi Diggs' 37-week belly little childhood neighbor, who's always been so strongly positive, and whose relationship with her husband is inspirational.

So...I needed a few minutes. I cry at EVERYTHING!


This weekend, I totally did it! I completed the 48-hour Reading Challenge, on better terms than last time, and got a LOT read. No, I didn't make it all the way through Judy Blume's oeuvre, but I did read all weekend, and I plan to finish up before all those books are due back.

I took a few breaks--ran a couple of errands on Saturday, went out to lunch with Neil on Sunday (Bread Basket Cafe FTW!), but my main focus was definitely on reading. When the TV was on, I read in our bedroom--but stayed in the living room, reading, for two Cards games turned down low. I accessed the internet only once, to see if I had any more books to mail on Saturday morning--and, since my default IE8 page is Facebook, couldn't help clicking on that little red number at the bottom to see what notifications I had. I guess it was cheating, a bit, but I wasn't on there for more than a few minutes.

In total, I read over 2059 pages....for 1200 minutes (that doesn't sound as impressive in hours...20 hours out of 48; not even half!) chronological order, except in cases where there was a series and I just read the series straight through. The following are the books I read, with my transcribed notes beneath each (I kept a Mead Five-Star Fat Lil' Notebook with me at all times to take notes as I read)--my current, non-notebook thoughts are in brackets:

Start time: 8:30 PM [7/31/09]

[First note:]

I'm excited:

  • Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret (c1970)

*my favorite! I like the blond cover best.

*Never liked the "Other Yearling Books you will enjoy" statement. "MAY ALSO ENJOY" would be less of a command.

*she's more mature than I remembered.

*purple towel! Nancy Wheeler is awes. [I always wanted a fluffy purple towel like the one Nancy loaned Margaret]

*LOOOOVE the name Gretchen

*Mavis: a "secret sensational name"? Blech. Alexandra or Veronica was best.

*I never saw this book as about religion, but it so is!

*loved that pink [door] color in the bra dressing room

*"One day in class..." vs. "Tuesday morning" or "Rosh Hashanah" etc. [Okay, here are my thoughts that went with this: All my favorite books--Ramona, Laura Ingalls, and this one--had a way of narration that made me feel like I was experiencing every day with these girls. Like I didn't miss a moment. And I think part of it was because the narration never said "One day, Ramona was in class when..." or "Three months later, Laura got a cat." I can't explain it well, but because these books always just addressed their next story as "Friday afternoon, I met Nancy after school" or "On Christmas Eve, Laura's cousins arrived" didn't seem like I was missing anything. Even though I obviously wasn't reading about every day in their lives. I just know that when one of the books--I think Shores of Silver Lake, maybe--began, and the Ingalls suddenly had Baby Grace and Mary was blind from scarlet fever, I felt betrayed. How could Laura have deprived us of such big events??]

*I heart Sylvia Simon! [Margaret's sassy Jewish grandmother]

*[the girls' lecture in class] made me scared of Tampax.

*Margaret's birthday is March 8--SKM's birthday! [Sarah's]

*No belted pads! This is revised--I compared it to my 1982 copy (this one's [published in] 1986). [have to admit, I was disappointed. Some of the charm of the original version was learning how this girly stuff used to be--and feeling lucky we don't have to deal with belts, nowadays!]

*149 pages--ALL were so familiar.

*1st-person [eff]-up that confused me: "Grandma said...all her jewelry was for 'her Margaret'..." [Oh, I agonized over this passage when I was little. When I began to understand different points-of-view in books, I knew it had to be all or nothing; mostly 1st or 3rd omniscient in these types of books...and I just could not wrap my head around Margaret referring to herself, via Grandma, as 'her Margaret' drove me nuts.]

  • Iggie's House (c1970)

[this is where I started wondering how many of Blume's books were NJ-or-NYC-set. I decided to begin keeping track.]

*Not 1st person :( I feel like Margaret taught me to prefer that POV!

*Winnie: 11

*Farbrook, NJ (Margaret--[moved] from NYC); NJ here, too

*Herbie--younger bro; Herb--Margaret's dad [I also started to take notice of other commonalities between her books, like names. This was as far as I got with names, though--they weren't consistently repeated.]

*A move from light fare to pretty serious subject matter

*Man--this girl is mature too.

  • Then Again, Maybe I Won't (c1971)

*1st person--yay!

*NJ-set - Jersey City

*Hero: Tony, age 12/13

*So far--title always in the book, 1st few pages

*move to Rosemont, Long Island

*[I remember this book being a lot more dirty than it was this go round!]

[Day 1] End time: 1:10 AM

Day 2: begin 9:00 AM

  • Freckle Juice (c1971)

[doesn't *really* count, since it's way more easy-read than the others]

  • Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing (c1972)

*Peter: 9 y.o.

*Fudge is so funny! [I never saw him as THAT funny when I was a kid reading this.]

*How the hell did he ever get the name 'Fudge'? [And they never explain it--not after FOUR books! Why did this not drive me crazy as a kid??]

*I learned "make" from Blume books. Still have never really heard it from anyone else.

*Ohhhh I just got "chip off the old block." Wood chips!

*I miss the illustrations in this newer version. They were bell-bottomy. I wonder if anything else is different (content)?

*The striped balloon from the shoe salesman Mr. Berman sounded way cool. Peter refused it but I'd totally have taken it. A lolly AND a balloon, just for shoes? [I also hated that Mr. Berman did not appear in Double Fudge during a shoe-shopping scene. Why not, Judy Blume? WHY NOT??]

*Mr. Hatcher's secretary Janet was pretty, and so was [our family friends] Paul-and-Janet Janet, so that was a "pretty" name for me. So were Mark & Chris [for boys]. I had crushes on those names.

*"I'm not sure when I realized Fudge was gone." ?? Yes you are! You're just not sure when he left.

*"I named him remind me."--I choked up!

  • Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great (c1972)

*The cover was always so unattractive to me, I never read it as a young-un, even though I'd read the other Fudge bks over & over. I never realized it was Sheila Tubman, either. [Plus I hate the name 'Sheila.'] She looks like an ugly boy. With ugly, too-short, raggedy-ended bell bottoms.

*I don't like "Oh oh!" for "Uh oh!"

*Sheila Tubman--10 y.o.; Peter's building...NYC-set, summer in Tarrytown

*Ugh, Sheila's so unlikeable. She lies to make friends--I hate that!

*Eek: Mouse would be Sheila's "first real-live girl friend"??

*I kinda want a yo-yo right now. A good one!

*Exact title p. 73!

  • Superfudge (c1980)

*[I found an inconsistency I never noticed!!]: Peter's now in 5th grade ; Fudge is 4. He was 2 1/2 in Fourth Grade Nothing, but turned 3 during that bk, [which] ended May 10th of Peter's 4th grade abt 4 months later, Fudge had another b'day? Really, now?

*Moving to Princeton, NJ from NYC

*I really think this is my 2nd favorite

*I always wondered what a Kreskin's Crystal was.

*...and what "sic" means.

*Tootsie turned 1 in Feb. [now I'm looking for more inconsistencies!]

  • Fudge-A-Mania (c1990)

*Fudge is now 5. Tootsie is 1.5. 6th grade is over.

*These are not "Fudge" books, to me. The 1st person makes them "Peter" books. We hear much more about him than Fudge.

*Title implied in Superfudge but expressed here.

  • Double Fudge (c2002)

*Tootsie--not yet 2. Fudge is still 5 - almost 6. School is abt to start for Peter - 7th grade.

*I am uncomfortable with the modern-ish references--Harry Potter & blading. It lost the vintage feel & it's not timeless.

*This whole Howie-Hatcher plotline is far fetched--I don't like it at all. [Later I realized it reminds me of National Lampoon and their awful relatives, which I also don't like.]

*Really not liking this one. Not helping is the fact that I'm sleepy.

*I miss having loose teeth to wiggle.

*213 pages: DUMBDUMBDUMB

*[and where does that title come from?]

  • It's Not the End of the World (c1972)

*Ah...this is sounding comfortingly familiar. I must have had it...or R'way/DBRL did.

*Karen: 6th grade, 12 y.o.

*Setting: near NY--NJ it is!

*When Karen goes to sleep one Sat., Val suggests they wash their hair. Karen says hers isn't dirty--she washed it just MONDAY NIGHT. Ew!

[Day 2] Stop time: 1:20 AM

verrrrrry tired...

Day 3 begin: 10:30 AM

  • Deenie (c1973)

*Set: Elizabeth, N.J.

*She's 13 y.o., 7th grade

*Calling her mother "Ma" seems ugly. Only Laura Ingalls can get away w/ that. And boys.

*I have Wii-tennis-elbow pains from holding bks all weekend!

*I like that there's an underlying theme to each book, but [yet] it explores a lot of territory. Like, Deenie with scoliosis, but also her period, masturbation, kissing, modesty, & being judgmental.

  • The Pain and the Great One (c1974)

[see note for Freckle Juice]

*love different POV books [i.e., within the same book]--haven't seen it in a kid's book before. Very cute.

  • Blubber (c1974)

*5th grade.

*I kinda can't wait til 8:30

*These kids are mean. It's hard to read when it's the heroine. [Also, I never liked calling the lead boy or girl 'hero/ine.' I feel like a title like that should be deserved. Ramona never did anything particularly heroic. Aside from finding her aunt's wedding ring.]

*Hm...Pennsylvania-set. Different.

*This reminds me of how mean we were to SarahSallyDevonSarah [EveMarieCollaFawnWright] in 6th grade. It's easy & fun in a group.

*& she's a stamp collector!

  • Forever... (c1975)

*setting: Westfield, NJ

*Katherine--HS seniors

*picks raisins out of b'fast buns & piles them on the corner of her plate--just like Fudge!

*I remember flipping thru this book to see if ellipses were on every page. I'll check again when I'm done. [Verdict:] 36 pgs w/o [ellipses] (including ch. separators [normally a blank page])

*Another word I didn't get: "came"

*I remember a comedian or something complaining about this book; the "and then I came"s over & over & over.

*She doesn't like hot dogs! Neither did I! (but I loved Vienna Sausages)

*Reading makes me sleepy...[right before a 24-minute break]

*Yeesh...a suicide attempt...!?

*Why did Kath take a hot dog at Michael's grad party when such a big deal has been made abt her not liking them?

*Ew...Theo has a 'stache.

*Judy uses "Naturally" ALL the time!

*Blegh I do not like deaths in books. G'pa was old, but still.

  • Starring Sally J. Freedman as Herself (c1977)

*1945 & 47--Eliz., NJ.

*Sally's fave marble is clear green...& Fudge's favorite is green!

*Older bro is 13. I think Sally is 10 - 5th grade

*dropping an egg in the malted when they weren't G'ma did to Fudge!

*I love how Ma Fanny talks - just like an old Jewish grandmother. I wish I had one of those.

*"...Aunt Bette didn't approve of Nancy Drews. She thought Sally should be reading books about the prairie girl." AWESOME!!

*I like this, abt long stretches of travel: "Breakfast turned into lunch and lunch turned into supper."

*White Shoulders...I think Mom liked that perfume.

*I never did the watch-Mom-get-pretty-to-go-out thing. I wish I had!

Stop time: 8:30 PM [8/2/09]

[only got to pg. 134 (of 298) when the 8:30 end-of-marathon mark hit...and I was READY TO STOP!]

Okay, so...quick, final thoughts before this post spontaneously combusts.

1. It's really fun seeing the patterns in these books, like setting, age, and little details she repeats.

2. I want to continue taking notes as I read the rest. I'll see how much I can do that. It was difficult, reading another book during today's lunch hour, to *not* take notes on it. I think I'm a margin-writer at heart, but my obsessive respect-the-books-please side won't let it out.

3. I got a little--a lot--tired of reading by Sunday, Day 3. I think it's best to keep this as a once-yearly thing...and just to have weekends where I read a lot in between.

4. Judy Blume is a damned genius. Except when she forgets that her heroine doesn't like hot dogs. I wish I could meet that woman!

Monday, July 20, 2009

The 48-hour Reading Challenge!

...or, well, not exactly 48 hours...more like...I dunno, eight to twelve? A bit more?

So I'm going to do this thing over. With rules this time.

I went into it sort of half-assedly. I read the page with the announcement and guidelines, and talked to Elise about her experience doing the same thing on her own, and stocked up with Smart Ones, Lean Cuisines, and 100-calorie packs so I wouldn't have to cook at all during the weekend. I selected ten or so way overdue library books (bad me. BAD LIBRARIAN!)--perhaps a little optimistic, but I wanted backups in case I didn't like the one I was reading, and I didn't want to waste time rifling through my collection deciding on another, because I would most likely take gobs of time doing that...and I wanted to spend my time reading, goldurnit! (Almanzo Wilder said that in Farmer Boy, and he was so ashamed of himself. *sigh*...I need a Little House reading weekend...and a Judy Blume...and a Beverly Cleary...and an L.M. Montgomery...and a Maeve Binchy...)

So I had my little stack, and my foodstuffs, and Neil was all kinds of supportive of it. I was planning on starting Friday night after dinner, maybe 8:00 or so.

This was my first mistake. Next time, I am STARTING AT A CONCRETE HOUR. None of this "whenever I get settled in" crap.

Because, you see, my sister came over to work with Neil on her website. And I thought I could just go in our bedroom, lay on my tummy on the bed, put a pillow at the foot to rest my arms in and put the book in front of the pillow (I have a definite system for reading in bed) while she was there. But did I retreat? Oh, no. Lily is much too fun! I stayed up with her and Neil until we were all yawning and fighting sleep...we chatted and looked through catalogs and laughed at recent familial hilarity and so on. And it was a great Friday night! I regret none of it.

But, it didn't start my 48-Hour Weekend Reading Challenge off well. I tried to read a bit after she left, though I was dog-tired...but instead I fell asleep on the couch for two hours. I stumbled into the bedroom (teeth unbrushed and unflossed), contacts clinging to my eyeballs voraciously, and set the alarm for 7:30.

Saturday included a necessary errand--taking my car into All-Star Automotive for alignment and to get a re-issue of my inspection, which had failed miserably last Saturday due to the huge crack in the windshield that was TOTALLY STARTED when I bought the car but I didn't notice because it was right on the windshield-wiper line, and when I called Toyota a month later, they refused to believe me so I had to pay out of pocket for the whole replacement. But I'm not at all bitter or ANYTHING. Anyway...we dropped off the car, then stopped in Barnes & Noble where I accidentally purchased the last issue of Simple Scrapbooks (it is a Collector's Item, people! how could I not?) and a British scrapbooking magazine encased in plastic which was apparently enough to warrant its $11.95 price tag. I know from experience that the Brits SUCK at scrapbooking, but when I see everyday British magazines on sale at B&N I often cannot help myself. Because despite not having the very, very best of times there, I do miss an awful lot about England. (And NOT just Harry Potter's wang, I swear. I also miss living on the same street that Rent was playing.)

Okay, so we go back home, and putter around a bit, and I shriek "I am going to start reading at 10! If I don't make a time, I'll *never start*!" I set up my station in the bedroom, all windows open to let in the RIDICULOUS 73-degree July air, and cracked open Alphabet Weekends.

I like books with multiple perspectives, a la Maeve Binchy, and this promised to be such a book.

And I was liking it all right. But not loving it, you know? And I wanted to love something, especially if I was committing to this read-all-day thing. I hadn't had that in awhile. I was also reading Inkheart at work, a chapter a day during lunch because it mostly sucks but I want to give it a chance, listening to The Host on audiobook in the car on the way to work, and was about seventy pages into Then We Came to the End (cool cover, look!)

...but I hadn't been as happy with it as I thought I would. I'm not giving up on it, yet, but it's just not a super-fun read.

So I put aside Alphabet Weekends for the time being, and took up an epistolary....because I loooooooove epistolaries!! This one, Which Brings Me to You, was the ticket:

Couldn't put this sucka down. Billed as "a novel in confessions," it tells what amounts to a backwards love story. But instead of flashbacks, the hero & heroine tell their backstories to each other through letters, just after they've met for the first time--both hoping to meet again. Almond and Baggott are co-authors, and [I assume] Almond wrote the guy's letters, and Baggott the gal's. I read this through the rest of Saturday, finishing right before 2:00 Sunday morning.

Okay, but it wasn't like I read solidly through Saturday, as I'd wanted to. No, there were plenty of Bejeweled breaks, WordTwist pauses, Guitar Hero moments, Google Reader, e-mail, Facebook, and Twitter checks (yes, I rejoined...I'm probably following you if you're on there, so follow me back so we can dish!)...I think I watched some TV, and I *know* the Golden Girls made an appearance for an hour or so. Or an hour and a half, or perhaps two. (Between Blanche's sass and Sophia's constant need for independence despite the handicap of old age, I really can't control them.)

Sunday was much like Saturday, except I was reading a different book: Pretty Little Mistakes.

I was kind of wary about it, but mostly excited. A "do-over novel," with "one beginning, 150 endings: the choice is yours." And, at 504 pages, this isn't one of those dog-eared slim Bantam books of yore:
(Not that this is, either...I just liked the photoshopped cover.)

What I soon discovered was that this adult version of the old Choose Your Own Adventure-style books was depressing. Each of the 150 endings (well, I'm assuming "each" since I'm not done yet--I'm probably halfway through but I have NO IDEA how many pages I've read and this is EXACTLY why the kid versions drove me crazy because my neurotic self MUST read EVERY SINGLE page, every option, before I can consider the book "done") tells how you die, and while some are, I guess, *meant* to be nice (i.e. You live to the very old age of 102, surrounded by family and friends, and heaven is a opalescent meadow filled with all the loved ones who preceded you in death), some are terrible, like being randomly stabbed in the street by a schizophrenic. No matter how pleasant the book makes death sound, I still hate hate hate reading about it. Someone just died in The Host, and after sobbing through pretty much most of the last half of HP7 in the car, I am SO DONE with sad or depressing things in books. DONE. (Of course, I cry All The Time while reading L.M. Montgomery, but somehow it's different.)

And? The crap you get yourself into (yeah, it's second person...another mark against it, as far as I'm concerned) is insane. In-SANE. Bordering on ridiculous, in many cases (practicing voodoo in Iceland? Running across a football field at halftime nude with meat strapped to your chest?). I soooo almost put this book down, several times. It's to the point now where I'm interested enough to keep reading, far enough along where I might as well just finish off the damned thing already, and somehow, begrudgingly, liking it.

Okay, so final tally from the weekend: About one and a half books. Not terrible, but definitely not what I'd hoped from it. So I've decided, I'm doing this again...because I really didn't make it a challenge at all. I stopped often to pursue other leisure activities, and it ended up just being a weekend where I read a lot.

Next time: No internet. No TV. No video games. No phone (not that I'm a phone talker...but it's the principle of the thing, people). Start at a pre-arranged time Friday night, and don't deviate. And maybe put some shorter, YA-level books in the mix, like the copy of I Love You, Beth Cooper that just arrived from PaperbackSwap, or really do have a whole weekend dedicated to a single author. Log hours more thoroughly, as well as pages read.

Maybe in the next few weeks, I'll be able to. The report is forthcoming...and let's hope it encompasses more than a book and a half.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Ideas are rampant...

...but free time is not. I have a list in my planner (I am SORT OF REGULARLY keeping up with a planner, you guys!! Can you believe it? It's only taken 32 years!) of 'things I want to blog about,' (y'all, I still need to recap our NKOTB concert! I started it, but life got in the way) but until I choose to make time to cover those topics, it'll be more of this:

Ten things about the last 24 hours that didn't suck

1. Kicked some ACE last night drumming, with Neil on guitar, on Guitar Hero World Tour. I love that it's a game about collaborating to get through the level, rather than competing against each other! (And I'm totally competitive, so this is a coup for me.)

2. Made a delicious, filling, and VERY WW-friendly dinner last night: soft tacos with seasoned ground turkey, fat-free refried beans (with chiles & lime), reduced fat sour cream, WW shredded cheese, taco sauce, and fresh salsa. I should make this a staple--I love it every time. And I have no desire for *anything else* all evening when I make it!

3. Neil got up with me this morning, which is always so darling. I love having his impossibly smiley face around before I leave for work!

4. I found Chris Harrison's Twitterfeed, Jillian's blog, and Chris' EW blog this morning. Yay for juicy Bachelorette inside scoops! (Sorry to see Reid go, but at least the Men Tell All is next week!)

5. I've been slogging away at this miserable cart of materials at work...a cart that I thought would take me maybe half a day, escalated into almost a full week. Ugh ugh ugh. But this morning, I finished it with a flourish, and strolled it over for processing.

6. Another work-related pleasantry: I'd been putting off my boss' suggestion to e-mail this cataloging list-serv for advice on a quandary we're having on Dewey numbers, because I was afraid I'd get back negative or condescending responses from some of the more pompous catalogers. I finally bit the bullet and posted this morning, and within half an hour, received five very nice and helpful pieces of advice (and only one slightly douchey e-mail). I forwarded the best idea to my boss, she loved it, and something I was dreading for weeks has suddenly been resolved.

7. I fully and completely updated my planner today. I mentioned above I only *sorta* keep up with it, so when I get my act together and update everything, it feels good.

8. Fake WW is going awesome--I'm not hungry, I'm not yearning for anything horrible for me, and I've made a resolution to stick with this every day until our StL/Chicago trip next month, when I'll take a couple days off (there ain't nothing at Portillo's you can get and stay within points allowance).

9. It's Bastille Day, which always reminds me of the Place de la Bastille, where my hostel was in Paris. Which was actually a shitty, rainy little trip, but it did have its moments. Pere Lachaise was my favorite.

10. My car needs its plates renewed at the end of this month, which has turned into a big dumb hassle since there's a big crack in my windshield, and during the inspection, the people reported that my alignment was all off--which I could totally feel on the highway every day. Because of this, my tire treads were rubbed slick, 20,000 miles before they were really supposed to be replaced. SO, this month we'll need to have all four tires replaced, my alignment fixed, my windshield replaced, the car inspected, and the plates renewed. I made an appointment today for the windshield replacement, and everything else is almost ready to be taken into the this source of irritation is *almost* over.

*bonus* 11. Facilities finally visited my cubicle area to check on the vent, and indeed, it was 'up a little high.' So maybe I won't get so warm each afternoon, yay! desk is pretty dusty. Time to get out the can of air! (LOVE those things!)

Thursday, July 2, 2009

I've skipped June entirely!

....but it was SO crazy. So it's okay.

A virtual (and perhaps soon, IRL) friend, Mel, posts a weekly "Randoms" entry on her blog...which is basically what I do ALL the time, but I like that she makes it a habit. So even though *this* entry is a tiny bit linear, I want to make the "Randoms" entries more of a feature, instead of just saying "Um....I don't really have a point here, so here's a bunch of stuff on my mind/what's been going on."

1. June 2-4 was spent in a GORGEOUS, three-room hotel suite at Tan-Tar-A in Osage Beach. Our room was three flights up (no elevator!) but the view, and the swank, was totally worth it. oh, and it was free, so that was DOUBLE worth it. :) The conference was absolutely wonderful, the weather mild, and the outlet mall pleasing. The first night, Brandy and I went out after the keynote speaker (he completely rocked), buying a box of wine (i.e., a box containing 6 bottles of wine, not a boxed wine) from Hy-Vee. We used their cold water wine-cooler thing, and it was way nifty! I chose my favorite white wine from Summit Lake Winery, plus a cute pink polka-dot-bottle Riesling, and, to keep things classy, a $4 metal bottle of Beaujolais with a dot that changes color when it gets cold. That's right--like Coors. We drove through some decidedly unhealthy places to bring dinner back, met Neil in the lobby, and ate in front of the glass walls, amazed at the utter deluge of rain that suddenly came upon the region. Then we trooped up to Brandy's room in the maze that was her hotel wing, Cindy joining us, to partake of the wine.

The next day was the full conference day--normally the kind of thing where I'd be plagued with social anxiety and wondering who I'd sit with and afraid I'd have to eat lunch alone and feeling out of place wandering about alone. But with all of my FABULOUS co-workers joining us for the entire day, I needn't have worried! I've never been surrounded by so many folks who make me feel so comfortable in a work environment. We hung out all day, various folks splitting off into their sessions, reuniting for lunch and breaks, and generally having a great time. The sessions themselves were surprisingly informative, but I'm not sure how much you want to hear about how much I learned about Authority Control or What's New In Cataloging.

That evening, everyone took off, but I was staying one more day for post-conference training. Neil and I visited the outlet mall, grabbed some snacks from Wal-Mart, and ate some nasty, congealed hotel-Sbarro's pizza for dinner.

2. The next event was the day after we returned to Columbia--my 32nd birthday! We had a leisurely morning, then set off for StL at around 2:30 for the weekend. We grabbed Taco Bell for an early dinner and took it in with us at the hotel--a $67-a-night Marriott in Westport Plaza--what a deal! After a little while (and a nap!), we got dressed and headed to the Fox for a night I'd been looking forward to for a YEAR. I was so, so, so excited! Just seeing the familiar weird pyramid-ish structure of junk metal and bicycle tires and mannequin heads onstage was enough to make my heart beat faster. Neil had never seen Rent, and I was so hoping he'd like it...I've *never* taken anyone who hasn't. It was the signed performance, which could have been really interesting....except my eyes were only for Adam and Anthony. This was the Broadway Tour, which meant the cast was pretty much the same cast as the one that had closed the show on Broadway last fall (except Mark and Roger, of course) other words--AMAZING. By far, the best cast I'd ever seen together. Angel was astoundingly energetic, and added in little things here and there I'd never seen before. Andy Senor, London's Angel, returned here for a lesser chorale role. No one can compare to Jesse L. Martin or Taye Diggs, but Collins and Benny weren't at all bad. (Oh, and I learned something--I overheard someone saying weekend matinees were when understudies usually step in for shows like this. Duly noted, stranger-girl behind me in the bathroom line!)

...Whoa, sorry for geeking out there. It was a great, great night.

The next day, we went first to Panera for breakfast (egg and cheese souffle, whoo), and then stopped at a Trader Joe's. Then was the Galleria, after which Neil dropped me off at Emily's for some girl-and-Noah time. He spent a few hours in Vintage Vinyl at the Delmar Loop, while I enjoyed myself catching up with the Southerlands and taking a sun-dappled walk over to The Cupcakery for Indulgence Time (also, I could watch Noah play in the fountain for HOURS). And they had the cookies. Oh, Frosted Sugar Cookies, why must you be so perfect? I refrained from eating anything then, because our next plans required an empty stomach--meeting Neil at the Loop for dinner at Fitz's. Fried pickle slices...fresh grape soda...and the Chili Frito Burger. You can't even eat that thing with your hands. For real. And forget eating any of the fries. The only way your tummy can have room for those is if you sample them first. And you know me, I'm a one-thing-at-a-time eater.

Next, Neil and I said our goodbyes and headed to Star Clipper for a short stop to get us some Kasoogi Uglydolls, and were glad to lurch into our hotel room shortly thereafter to recover from the day.

Sunday was another gorgeous day (the weather is always perfect on my birthday, without fail), and we slept in a bit, then packed up, checked out, and spent a little while at our favorite side-by-side stores: R.E.I. for Neil, The Container Store for me. One last stop at the Galleria for California Pizza Kitchen (we both got pepperoni--you may say that's against the rules, but I'm telling you, their pepperoni is AWESOME), and we headed home to Columbia.

3. The next five days were spent working and preparing--for the big trip, a week in Oak Island, North Carolina with the Dazets. We left Saturday morning, traveling to Knoxville the first night and the rest of the way on Sunday.

Actually, you know what? I'm saving this one. Because I actually have pictures for it.

So, to be continued...hopefully sometime during the upcoming awesome 3-day weekend! And STEVE is gonna be here! Yay for brothers!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

A sprinkling of et cetera, a dash of romance

1. I'm very picky about strawberries, but I LOVE them. And I'm not a big fan of fruit in general, so when I find one I like, I try to have it as much as possible when it's at its best; i.e. strawberries RIGHT NOW. But I can't stand a single imperfect patch on them...and I don't mean just those nasty white fuzzy areas that everyone cuts off. Even the slightly darker-colored soft spots that they get simply by resting against the plastic in the container or another strawberry, means I have to perform Berry Surgery. Whenever anyone serves cut-up strawberries, for shortcake or whatever, it throws me off because I can't do my usual inspection without looking rude.

2. I'm on my second-to-last weekend at Stephens, and it is d-r-a-g-g-i-n-g. This May has five weekends in it, and with the finish line so close, everything feels slow. Days at MOSL don't usually pass this sluggishly (unless it's Friday afternoon). It may have something to do with the fact that my Stephens office has huge windows overlooking this unspeakably cute bricked courtyard below with sun streaming through the trees arching above everything, whereas at MOSL we aren't really near windows at all so I have no idea what spring weather I'm missing. Which would normally be depressing, but my co-workers are such joys that it matters not.

3. Lily's dance recital was last night (and will be tonight). Sarah went with me, Dad, and Gilbert last night, and it was two and a half hours of Lily looking gorgeous, Lily looking adorable, and Lily taking my breath away. There were also the usual round-up of tiny, tiny 5-year-old girls and boys performing VERY cursory 'dance moves' to 1950s songs (i.e., "Book of Love") in their fluffy, tulle-ey sequined dance outfits (sequined vests and black shiny pants for the boys--

oh I just need to tell you one the aforementioned "Book of Love," during the "Chapter" verses, the little boy was, contrary to usual little boys in these types of dances, REALLY good. He went down the line of his four tiny girl co-dancers at each 'Chapter'--

Chapter One says to love her
You love her with all your heart
[tiny boy bows to first tiny girl, tiny boy moves on]

Chapter Two you tell her you're
Never, never, never, never, never gonna part
[tiny boy and second tiny girl vehemently shake their heads at each other like 'no no no no no no no no no', tiny boy moves on]

In Chapter Three remember the meaning of romance
[tiny boy links arms with third tiny girl and turns a circle with her, tiny boy moves on]

In Chapter Four you break up
But you give her just one more chance
[tiny boy spins fourth tiny girl]

I mean, at this age group, the most these dance teachers can hope for is a boy who will just stay in the line, much less one who Does The Actual Dance Steps. He was awesome. TOTAL player.

Once upon a time, I would have never loved this performance, as cute as it was, because my 8th grade boyfriend broke up with me in a note quoting the lyrics. It was, in my little world, devastating);

Paul Pepper and Uncle James creepily looking on from the audience (okay, I'm projecting the creepiness--and yeah, when Dad told me last night that 'Pepper & Friends' was being yanked from the air, I was a TEENSY bit sorry for them); at least one song I couldn't help dancing and singing along to (this year's pick: RuPaul's "Supermodel." YOU BETTER WORK); one instance of Lily bringing me to tears (happens every time, pretty much); and last but infinitely not least, several very unflattering dance costumes. I do love to dance, but I'm glad I don't have to stand in front of hundreds of people in velvet stretchy pants and a tight halter top every May.

4. I started pseudo-Weight Watchers on Thursday, and I think it's going well. I feel like I'm forever looking for a short-cut solution to weight loss, but I always come back to the WW philosophy. Yep, it sucks to be sucks to have to leave the cheese off everything and be astounded at how small a serving really is, and to select the blander-tasting snack food (fat-free pretzels, yuck!) knowing you'd just eat the whole damned box of White Cheddar Cheez-Its within two days if you bought THAT one. And I'd completely planned on joining back in January, before our finances became really tight. Now, I've just done some research to find what points I should be at, how much activity I should be doing, and found an online calculator so I always know where I am at for my points totals during the day. And it's working fine. Boom, saved $20 a month!

5. I've been kind of half-ass following this blog, Starting Over at 24, written by this dude who broke up with his girlfriend after six years and has to start over in the dating world. I like cute little romance novels, so I'm always on the look-out for blogs that follow real-life adventures as a singleton because it's so cool to see where they end up (so let me know if you follow any, too!). And sure enough, SO@24 got a visit from an internet correspondent (and blog-follower), Beth, not long ago, and they apparently had a ridiculous weekend together...both are completely giggly and excited for what may happen next and planning for MANY future visits (they're on opposite coasts--and they've already spent like three weekends together in the course of a month and a half or so) and it's, so cute.

Anyway, this satisfying finale (and he's said he's ending the blog since he's pretty sure this is the ONE, so it really is a finale) made me regret so bad that I'd not had a blog (or done things the old-fashioned way with a pen and lined journal) around the time I met Neil. The way Beth writes about their first meeting makes me wish I'd captured those days in my life...not because I yearn for them, but because I was so giddy and out-of-my-head happy that I really *don't* completely remember every bit of how I was feeling, and I'd like to. I have little notes written down about what we did around town, what movies we saw, etc...but there's nothing like describing an event when the emotions are fresh and raw. Through the bad times this past year, and also when Mom was sick (and even junior year of high school, when she had brain surgery), I wrote things--blog/journal entries, e-mails to friends, etc., that I can't yet reread. When I have in the past, I break down. But I love that I *have* them.

And I wish I could re-visit how I felt that Friday afternoon (November 17, 2006), watching the clock at work, hightailing it out of Special Collections exactly at five and racing downstairs to release a few minutes of tension with Sarah, who was working at the Ref Desk, before heading home to shower and gussy myself up...a couple hours later, laying on the couch as the minute hand inched to the '12,' knowing he was due any minute. I mean...I remember the
facts. I just wish I'd recorded my exact feelings, then and during the weekend, and the Sunday night after he'd left and I'd spent three hours gushing to some friends at the winery about the visit. And, like these two (Beth and SO@24) say over and over, I knew it may have sounded crazy to everyone else...but I knew it about Neil. I knew that if he'd have me, he was my One. After three days! I mean, I'd hoped for it, so bad, as had he, but we also both realized we couldn't know for sure until we had really met. And Beth's post about her feelings before the meet-up brought back so many memories of those doubts and fears and excitement and, finally, relief and unbelievable happiness.

I'm happy with the memories I have...I just wish I'd captured more in black and white.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Regulation Minutiae

1. Last night was AWESOME.

a. Neil picked us up Subway sandwiches. Tuscan Chicken: yum.

b. Idol finale from 7-8. Adam began the show by being HYDRAULICALLY LIFTED ONTO THE STAGE STAIRCASE in a long, totally sexy coat and big boots, backlit with dry-ice mist being pumped onto the stage like crazy, and dived into "Mad World" again. Even yummier than the sandwich.

c. GLEE from 8-9. Oh MAN it got me pumped. And Stephen Tobolowsky is ge-ni-US. I can't wait for the season!

d. And THEN, I switched it to the Cardinals game. We'd not been doing great lately, so when I saw we were playing the Cubs I didn't have my hopes up. But there we were....3-0, top of the 9th, and we watched long enough to see Piniero pitch an entire-game shut-out. He looked so fiercely happy about it!

2. Other things:

-I'd purchased a regular Pepsi and a Throwback Pepsi from Gerbes the other day, because someone else had done it at work and given us a blind taste test. I wanted to do the same for Neil, so I poured some of each into different glasses and told him to guess which was which. He tasted one...then the other...then the other...then the other and the other. His verdict:

"Well, they both taste the same now."

We are planning our trips this summer, and I'm having fun! Yesterday, I booked our so-close-to Busch-you-could-catch-an-out-of-the-park-home-run-ball hotel, and I'm taking Lily's advice and waiting until just before the game to get tickets from someone with good seats who can't use them. It's risky, and I don't generally do risky when it comes to planning, but NO seats on eBay or the official ticket site look good (and in our general price range) and dammit, I am GOING to see Eckstein up close. (We're seeing StL vs. Padres in'll be sad not to see David in Cardinals-red, but I'm still hoping they walk him so I can see him run really fast to first even though he doesn't have to. Thurston does it too, but it's not really equivalent because he doesn't look like a little ball of flying cuteness in the same way. He's plenty attractive, but not at the Eckstein level.)

That one will be a whirlwind weekend: Friday night in StL for the game, leave Sat AM for Chicago, go see the Harry Potter exhibit, stay Sat night, see Neil's friends Sunday, then head home.

I've been reading my latest manuscript installments at about 100 pages a day, which seems, finally, to be a pattern I can work with. Even after seven years of it, I never seem to manage my reading time properly, so I'm always scrambling during the last couple days before they're due to be sent back plowing through hundreds of pages, tiredly writing B.S. reports, and rushing to the UPS store at the last possible moment. But even with bad manuscripts (which 9/10 of them are), 100 pages a day is never terrible. I use half my lunch hour and a few minutes at home, and it's done.

So: life's going pretty good. Lily dances this weekend (yay!), I'm off Monday, and then June begins with a bang a week later.

Saturday, May 16, 2009


It's not really a bad 'argh'...just an "Aw, man!" argh.

I just read about this awesome awesome thing from MotherReader...the Fourth Annual 48 Hour Book Challenge, where everyone who signs up reads constantly for that weekend (taking whatever breaks they want, but mainly focusing on the reading) and posting short blurbs/reviews about every book they read. The only requirements are that the books read be at or above a 5th grade reading level.

It sounds FABULOUS.

Only, it's June 5-7th, a weekend I already have mega-plans for...and even if I didn't have mega-plans for it, it's totally my birthday weekend and I'm not going to spend my birthday weekend holed up reading because there is Art in the Park and lovely family time and I could use that to make people play board games or Celebrity with me and take me out to Sophia's three times, at least. And a cookie cake from Hot Box Cookies, which did you know MAKES YOUR COOKIES WHILE YOU WAIT? Oh my freaking god. And it makes me sad that there will be no Art in the Park for me this year, because that is always Dad's present, to buy me something I pick out there, and I love it. But I have never had a getaway weekend for my birthday, and we did it for Neil a couple years ago--went to Chicago for IKEA and chocolate cake shakes at Portillo's and to see USA vs. Brazil play soccer and Ronaldinho was there (it's confusing because on the same team was Ronaldo, who is not as good but whose name is easier to pronounce, especially for a novice such as myself). And it was a FANTASIC trip. Except I made Neil miss the US's like, only goal because I was thirsty and he went to get me a bottle of water and himself a t-shirt and we scored. Did you know they won't give you the bottle tops to the water? Because people throw them onto the field too much? That's the stupidest thing ever. Like we don't have a billion other stuff in our purses we could throw down? I'd rather have a plastic bottlecap thrown at me than a mascara wand or some girl's used kleenex. Or fingernail clippings. GAG ME, I don't think there are many things grosser than fingernail clippings. But I am grossed out easily, so it's all pretty bad.

I have only had a little caffeine today, but I kind of feel like it has been more.

I am eating baby carrots and dip, and crunching the carrots always makes me feel tough and bad to the bone, like I am going to KICK your ASS with my TEETH so you better watch it. Except the name 'baby carrots' pretty much wimps it down.

So anyway, I wish I could do this fun challenge. I've never really participated in anything like it, but I've always wanted read HP the weekend it comes out (never have, I always wait like a month), or go to the Crossword Puzzle Tournament or some kind of Set/Cross Sums/PathWords mash-up weekend somewhere (it doesn't exist, though) or a scrapbook crop or convention...just....something that I could devote an entire weekend to, and it would be awesome and I'd meet other total geeks such as myself who enjoy it, and we'd talk about it the whole weekend because come on, no one's husband wants to listen to their wife discuss the merits of chipboard letters vs. foam and how come the sticky backs never stay on the page like other adhesive letters do. That's one of the reasons I loved so much the weekend Emily and I spent almost *exclusively* scrapbook-shopping around St. Louis...we couldn't get sick of it, and we went crazy, and talked and talked and talked about what we liked and didn't like and wanted and hated and used, and spent far too much money (but not REALLY, because the WHOLE STORE WAS 75% OFF EVEN BASICGREY!), and it was exhilarating.

And I'm not saying an entire weekend devoted to 'pleasure reading' would be exhilarating. But I'd most definitely look forward to it, and I'd get everything all set up, like buy single-serving juices and finger sandwiches and pre-fill all the bottles of water I would need and mark off a space where I would be reading and blog about the things I read and see if anyone else would do it too, or if not, no big deal, and pick out the array of books I could choose from, being careful to include multiple genres and MOODS within genres (like, sassy chicklit, sassy sensual chicklit, sassy YA, naive YA, humorous fiction, celebrity memoir, clutter self-help, scrapbook idea books, etc) and turn off my phone and LOVE IT. And even though it would be tempting, I would not read anything I'd read before. Maybe that could be another weekend--Beverly Cleary weekend, or Judy Blume or LM Montgomery or Maeve Binchy or Nick Hornby or Lemony Snicket weekend.

It's weird, because although the idea of doing a single type of thing all weekend appeals to me, one of those 'TV Marathons' does NOT. It sounds depressing. And I am a huge fan of the TV! I just know I'd get so sick of it...even my Golden or Gilmore Girls, I fear, and that is a risk I shall not take. Also, I think I'd get too hung up on the 'not-being-at-ALL-productive' thing, and come to work Monday being ashamed to answer when people ask how my weekend went. "Awesome! I ate 5 bags of Baked Lays, an entire pan of brownies, and watched 100 episodes of Frasier straight through!" I mean, at least with reading, even if it's trashy, your mind works a bit. And that's more books I can put on my "Books Read" list (yes, I have a list. It is 66 pages long) and return to the library or put on Paperback Swap. And I might just come across a book that changes something about me, or how I think, in a good way, which happens once in a blue moon but is the most awesome feeling.

So maybe I'll just do it. My next free weekend is not for awhile, but it IS coming... (after May, I'm not working weekends anymore, and in June, we're traveling every weekend except the last one, when Steve will probably be here and he is TOO FUN FOR READING!) It'll be tough to resist the 'oh, no, things need to get done around the house or whatever' urges, but I think if I set aside a weekend ahead of time, and let myself look forward to it and prepare for it, it'll be a grand old time.

[statement at end of entry to give some dramatic space in between REAL last statement of entry and the time stamp/comments link.]

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Happy Mother's Day!

PostSecret's Sunday Secrets were all about moms today....some were hilarious, some touching, some downright CRABBY! It made me think on why girls' relationships with their mothers are always so and cold...passionate, pissy, precious.

Is it because females are pretty much always a little catty around each other? I don't mean every second of every day, I just mean that I've certainly never had a relationship with another female where it's 100% happy and sunshiney every time we're around one another. Why are we inherently so...competitive? So embittered? And then the next minute/day/week, feel like that very same woman is the most fantastic creature to walk the face of the Earth?

As much as I'd love to think my mother and I got along our entire lives together when I look at the moon and wish her good-night, that simply wasn't the case. Here's a highlight:

When I was in...I don't know, 5th grade? I was living downstairs in what became Joe's room, and is now Gilbert's staging area. I was a SLOB. A slobby slobby slob. My room was a freakin' WRECK. I was probably officially supposed to clean it once a week or so, but I never did, and at that point, my parents didn't have a system in place for chores. One day, probably disgusted by the mess COMPLETELY COVERING my carpet, Mom and Dad gave me the bad news: I had until a certain time to completely clean my room, or Mom would come in with a garbage bag and throw out everything left on the floor. They gave me plenty of time; probably 2-3 hours to get everything done.

Did I mention that, along with the slobbiness, I was also an INSANE procrastinator, even then? I swear, my last name should have been "Dawdle" instead of "Dawson."

Anyway, so that day, I took a gander around the mess....decided it wouldn't take more than a few minutes, and commenced dilly-dallying. Read some Sweet Valley Twins...listened to Huey Lewis and the News' "Fore!" on my bitchin' record player...probably called Alena to ask what we should wear on know, your basic 10-year-old Dream Afternoon. Then, with about seven minutes left in my Window of Clean-Up Time, I figured it was about time to start.

After five minutes, I realized I might not have left myself enough time.

I raced around the room, throwing things haphazardly onto my shelf system, shoving acid-washed denim into drawers, etc.

At exactly the deadline, Mom came in, armed with a black garbage bag. Without a word, she started tossing things left on the floor into the bag. My 3-D plastic red apple plastic puzzle I got at the last Children's House garage sale (it was a totally hard puzzle, believe me)...NUMBER TEN in the Sweet Valley Twins would I LIVE without these things?!!

I could NOT believe she would DO THIS TO ME! They actually kept their threatening promise?!! They'd never been this harsh before! I figured...what did I figure? That they'd forget to follow through? That if I cried and begged enough, she would stop? Maybe so, because I cried and begged and grabbed stuff right out of her hands and tugged at the bag, etc., etc., generally being very obnoxious and bratty. She demanded I leave the room, but I stayed rooted to the spot, yelling and crying....eventually she somehow got me out the door, but I pushed the door open and would NOT let her complete the job. She finally shut the door, not seeing that my fingers were clinging to the jamb, and I HOWLED. I needed to make her feel TERRIBLE! And it totally didn't even hurt...she didn't slam the door, she just shut it, and it only pushed my fingers out of the way. But I figured if she *thought* she'd just slammed my fingers in the door, I could rescue my things. My precious, valuable things.

It didn't work. I vowed I would not speak to either of my parents, but especially Mom, for the Rest Of My Life. They would Completely regret this.

I'm not sure my vow lasted much longer than dinner that night.

That was kind of silly...other, later stories are a little more serious and squirm-inducing, and I look pretty crappy in them, (even more than in this one...but that's excused, cuz I was ten) so I won't relay them now. But I do wonder if daughters *always* have such a stormy relationship with their moms, or if most other women live a "Gilmore-Girls"-like existence, where, when asked to name their best friend, they smile and say "My mother. Truly." Or, is that really just fiction?

I don't mean to say Mom and I always butted heads, at all. We had wonderful chats almost every day I lived in New York...her packages and calls brought me to tears (happy ones, I-miss-home ones) throughout my semester in London...I always felt special and loved whenever she'd make an effort to visit me at Grinnell, or in the public library, or call to have lunch together at Main Squeeze. And I like to think that if she were here for all the wedding stuff, we'd be perfectly lovely together and stress-free, popping into a coffee shop in between trying on dresses downtown, then laughing as we dashed through the rain to My Secret Garden, taking a mosey through the gardens to decide on a perfect place for the ceremony, having a girly lunch with Lily after our Dawson-Women mani-pedis, etc.

But I bet be would have driven each other a little crazy, too. :)

I love you, my sweet mama! We'll be toasting you tonight. You take care...

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

It's about time for a list.

I know I've been trying, over the last few years, to not focus so much on the negative.

But sometimes I don't try that hard.

I saw this on "i hate so much," and I found myself agreeing with just about all of them (except jazz music. I do love to get slightly buzzed...or more than slightly buzzed...and sit in a darkened dining room watching an attractive jazz band playing).


Ten Things I Hate That People Seem To Like

1. Running. Come off it, no one really likes to run.

2. Steam Rooms/Saunas. Granted, I've never been in one. But the idea is COMPLETELY unappealing to me. The sitting bare-assed on a wooden bench just sweating and not doing anything else but sweating? I can't even have a magazine? No. no, and no.

3a. Bananas. Yellow, perfect, in Runt form, in Chunky Monkey. (Exception: banana bread. I also used to do Dannon banana yogurt...I can still stomach the strawberry-banana Yoplait kind, if it's totally blended.)

3b. Watermelon. It's mushy. It tastes like mushy pink NOTHING. And it's so wet. And what's with those gross slimy seeds? And that white part? That's even more of a nothing than the pink part! (I will do watermelon-flavored candy.)

4. Laying Out. I suppose this is similar to the steam room/sauna problem. Sitting still, doing nothing, being hot and sweaty. No thank you.

5. Bette Midler (Singing). Her voice always sounds so atonal and flat to me. And I'm normally a huge fan of whatever the gay boys like, but I am always so amazed at why people think she's a talented singer.

6. Jennifer Tilly. She is NOT cute. Her squeaky little-girl voice is NOT cute. No matter what they say.

7. Balderdash. Not even a game. It is not even a GAME. It is lying and trying to make people think you are not lying.

8. Ladysmith Black Mambazo. Not even in the Heinz commercials.

9. Trying Out Different Ring Tones/Changing The Ring Tones In One's Phone. I find one I like, I stick with it. And that way my senses are acclimated to responding to that certain ring every time, instead of being startled out of the silence by a new ring tone you don't remember changing it to because maybe no one has called you in three weeks.

10. Reggae music. Star Wars. Weddings. Paperclips. Gardening. The sun, especially when it's cold/wintry outside.

(Had to sneak in a few. I should have known I couldn't keep to ten.)

Saturday, April 4, 2009

This and that

I'm not sure why, but I feel like I'm not reaching anyone lately. I'm having trouble connecting. I don't have any basis for this, really...just this weird sense.

Life has been completely up-and-down lately, in every area of life.

The UPS: Paul went in for a CAT scan and the tumor has immense relief, obviously, but I wish we could see their family sooner than this summer to celebrate. Lindsay had her twins, beautiful and healthy (didn't think it was possible at such an early age, but Olivia looks just like her--a delicate beauty. Sophia is completely adorable, strong and robust; neither one have that "ugly newborn" look people always try to avoid talking about). Neil is doing really well, working on his writing, getting things ready for future plans, and always taking care of household duties that I have let slide in my absence. I have more than a little guilt about this, but it can't be helped right now.

The DOWNS: Work. Work is getting me tense. In a more major way than I have ever experienced. For the first time, I have way more expected of me than I have time to do...and some that I don't actually have the ABILITY to do, regardless of time. I am so afraid I'll have to walk tearfully into my boss' office and say "I can't do this huge project. I have no idea what I'm doing." I don't like admitting defeat, but I've been astounded this week at what's expected of me...and if no one else thinks it's a big deal, then I have to face the fact that I just can't handle this job. I want to do my best, and I don't want to waste anyone's time, all the time and effort they have put into hiring me and training me...but I feel like I'm in over my head. On Friday afternoon, I threw on my Skull Candies for 4 hours and took the self-training course again that may help me. I'll finish that up on Monday, but the office is so pro-meeting that I barely have more than one free hour at a time next week. And while I do enjoy my co-workers (they are delightful, honestly), if I'm expected to complete all my duties, I cannot waste two to three hours a day playfully arguing about flyers for National Library Week or what we'll serve at our co-worker's baby shower. And I look like a bad Team Player if I say I can't make it--I've never seen anyone in the office skip what seems to be an inconsequential meeting because they're busy doing actual work.

I'm sure it'll get better...I was just so bummed that I'm feeling overwhelmed at work, too, when my livelihood has always come easy. (With the exception of waiting tables, which was infinitely more stressful, but fun at the same time, and its variable-rewards system kept me going--yes, I'm a textbook Intro to Psych case, I'm afraid.)

Other downs include, as usual, this constant "things are out of control!" feeling. I'm not getting *anything* done at home. I have dozens of thank-you cards to mail out, and I finally have all the elements to them (photos, embellishments, cream-colored cards and envelopes, pretty stamps), and every time I use our new red Crock-Pot or the red windowpane kitchen towels or the fold-out TV trays or spend one gift card or another, it's with guilt: "I didn't even thank them for this yet. I am a crappy bride. I don't deserve to even use this!" I just can't get the energy to do them. I hate that.

Guilt, guilt, guilt. Guilt's getting me DOWN. What a useless damned emotion.

I gotta cheer up, what would do that for me? What do I want...??

1. A day to catch be clean and run errands and nap and read and watch a backlog of shows and see my family and visit babies. Okay, this may take longer than a day. Maybe I just want *time*.

2. A trip somewhere to enjoy spring. To the gardens, or a baseball game, or a state park, or to go to Cosmo Park see my tiny brother Joe play in his tiny-tots soccer league where everyone would just run together in a pack after the ball. (Okay, that last one is impossible, as Joe is no longer tiny, nor did his soccer career take off.)

3. A scrapbook shopping spree in stores I've heard about in Kansas City (that Heidi Swapp herself raves about!)...a trip to Grinnell to stay in the Carriage House B&B, wander around the campus and campus bookstore the first day, then drive to Des Moines and Iowa City the second day to raid their glorious scrapbook stores...then stop by Jaarsma's on the way home for goodies.

4. June to come, so this schedule will lighten by a third.

5. To have the time/energy to eat better and exercise. I feel like such a PIG lately!

A few random observations to close...

  • This morning, I left the house at 9:40 AM. I ran THREE errands, and was strolling into my Stephens work a little past ten. I have no idea how I did it.

  • I am kind of, slowly slowly, working my way through my pile of library books. I'm a horrible librarian to have well overdue books, and I really just need to go through the pile and say "Okay, which of these do I really not care if I read or not?" Maybe I should do that tonight...

  • I know this may look a little cutesy, but I *love* this idea...if I had a cat or a small dog, I'd be all about it! But I'd never have a cat.

And, with that, I close.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Spring's shoelaces seem to be untied.

It's running, trying to catch up to where it's supposed to be, but it can't run fast because its shoes are flopping around its feet, the laces flying out in four directions. And any minute now, it's going to trip over itself, and break the lace, and then you have one shoe with a dead-end of a shoelace, and why does that ALWAYS seem to happen when you're just in the beginning of the All-School Picnic at Cosmo Park and have to spend the rest of the damned day with stupid broken-laced shoes and you can't play anymore? And you haven't even gotten to go up in the Rocket-ship yet?

(P.S.? That rocket was SCARY! I bet they took it down because it was a safety hazard.)

I may have taken the metaphor a little far here.

All I'm saying is that I should not still be wearing socks every day.

So this morning, I was finishing the NYTX...groggily, yes, but ever since Intro to Shakespeare my freshman year at Grinnell, when I frantically read Henry IV a few hours before my morning class when it was due and for the first time, actually UNDERSTOOD IT, I've realized I do my best thinking in the morning. And I am NOT a morning person. So I very rarely get to have the opportunity to THINK in the morning, because every instinct is telling me to get to bed.

Anyway, so I did about half last night, then saved it so I could go to bed with my cutie of a husband. This morning, pre-shower, I turned the TV on low (KOMU-TV's morning broadcast...YAY ERIC ALDRICH!), and opened my half-completed puzzle. I was moving along, but one 3-letter area was stumping me: "NL team, on scoreboards"...and it was idiotic, because if there's anything I know, it's my National League teams! And I know their shortened names! I had "N - M" and couldn't get it. "New MEXICO doesn't have a team. Nam? Is Vietnam suddenly in the Major Leagues?" Frustrated at myself, I idly glanced over at the TV...and just below the reporters, on the scrolling Current News Bar, at that *very second*...was yesterday's score of the Spring Training New York Mets vs. StL game. It was a strange moment of "Oh my god, DUH!" and "Whoa...the TV is totally psychic!"

In other news:

1. Lindsay is having TWO KIDS today! Two! I thought it would get less surreal each time as friends have babies, but it's really not. It's pretty much always "Whoa, KIDS?! But *we're* still kids! We have rehearsals for the All-School musical every night next week and that huge research paper due for our Honors English class at the end of the month; how will you have time to watch after babies?" Maybe this will be an easier adjustment when someone who *already* has a kid, has another one. But definitely not two at once. Wow.

2. Megan was finally, mercifully booted off "Idol" last night. She is one messy piece of crazy with a dollop of "wtf?" thrown in. I liked her at first, when she was earthy and barefoot and warbly, but she morphed into this ugly big-haired inappropriately-styled train wreck who chose "Rockin' Robin" on MICHAEL JACKSON NIGHT. You have the world at your feet, sunshine...and you choose Rockin' Damned ROBIN??

3. Anyway.

4. While I am following a *few* of my faux-Lenten promises, my "check-off sheet" is behind a few days. And I haven't exercised. I wore heeled sandals yesterday afternoon (too soon; it was way chilly) and my calves were feeling it. I'm okay for walking long's those other muscles that have lain stagnant for so long.

5. I was driving home on Tuesday evening, heading down Forum Blvd right past the Walgreen's and the turn for D. Rowe's, when I saw a horse. A man on a horse. Plodding along. Looking sad. The horse was brown and white and almost shaggy, like a pony, but big like a regular horse. The man atop the horse was a corpulent, odd-looking character, dressed in one of those small-patterned camo jackets; head down. It was so extremely out of place--I could see a Stephens girl bobbing along on her sleek brown steed, wearing one of those weird velvet hats and pants that have the weird shape and holding herself perfectly erect...I mean, it would still be strange, but not so fish-out-of-water as this dude slowly, sadly ambling past the Country Club with everyone in their Altimas and Priuses gaping at him.

6. I'm suddenly out of steam. Not permanently, just for the moment. And I haven't changed my calendars yet!


Sunday, March 29, 2009

On a roll? Or just procrastinating and/or introspective?

"Change will only occur when the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of the change itself."

I read this in a blog I follow called Bitch Cakes...spoken to her by her Weight Watchers leader.

I really liked it. I can apply it to so much in my life: clutter, money, work, weight loss.

All of which I'd love to change...I just....can't. Why can't I just do it? Why is change so hard? I get so excited about prospective change, and maybe I even stick with it for a little bit, but it never 'takes.' Only in a blue moon can I truly say "I've adopted this habit, and it's good for me, and I can't imagine life without this!"

I've done it with drinking lots of water every day, and finally with showering...

(there are two kinds of people: those who hate showering, and those who love it. Maybe there are those who just don't mind it; I don't know. I'm making judgments here, so bear with me. At any rate, I am firmly in the former category, which if you've forgotten since it's way up there is that I HATE IT. I hate wet hair, particularly when it's loose...I hate seeing my body in the mirror and wanting to change it...I hate the extra 20-30 minutes it takes out of my morning-sleeps...I hate the coldness of shutting off the water and having to step out, all shivery and wet...but I do it now, every other day without fail, and not just because I have a date with somebody cute. Because that's EVERY day!), that was a lengthy segue. What I'm trying to say is...I *have* done this. And while I still hate showering, and brushing my teeth when I reaaaaaalllly just want to drag myself to bed, and some days I have to stay up an extra ten minutes to finish up the day's drinking water, cursing it all the while because I'm not thirsty...I just know the habits are pretty well stuck.

And I also know from the past that I *can* get into exercising daily. That I can even enjoy and crave it. That I *can* successfully lose weight, feel fantastic at being able to fit into those cute jeans I hadn't been able to wear in months, and take pleasure in eating more healthily. That I *can* purge useless junk from my past and not regret it ever again. That I *can* eschew spending money in times of need and feel great about not falling back into spendthrift habits, and even pay off debt if I'm really good.

I just wish it wasn't so easy to slip back into the poorer habits just because I might treat myself every so often. I can be doing really awesome at a diet, or cleaning, or exercising, or not spending money...and then I say after a little while "I deserve a treat after all this monk-like living. Shakespeares sausage and pepperoni on wheat, just this once" ...but then, it is NEVER just this once. It is nothing, or it is ALL. And I hate to think I'll never solve all my problems always living in a 'nothing' world...with no cookie dough or frosted brownies or Barnes & Noble or Graceland gift shops or lazing on the couch without exercising or cleaning first.

What to do when uninspired...what to do, what to do...

I again find myself in a place where I want to write...but nothing's coming to me.

So, from PoliBlog, which is about Political Science, begging the question what the hell was *I* doing there...

I've never:

1. Seen a horror movie (unless you count "Sixth Sense." I don't.)

2. Owned an expensive purse (unless you count the Esprit & Liz Claiborne junior-high models)

3. Drunk a full serving of beer

4. Been to New Orleans, Boston, Toronto, Orlando, Egypt, or Trader Joe's (and I want to!)

5. Run a full mile (unless it was in summer gym many moons ago when we'd do it once a week and I got better and better at it. But I think I still walked for a bit of the last one.)

6. Been seriously injured (The thumb was inconvenient and painful, but not really a big deal)

7. Liked makeup, hair-doing, jewelry/accessories, designer duds, etc. the way girls are supposed to (but I don't consider myself a tomboy)

8. Been comfortable in the dark

9. Read Crime & Punishment, East of Eden, or A Tale of Two Cities all the way through.
I'm sorry, all you fantastic Honors English teachers! Clearly I didn't deserve to be in your classes...

10. Played a game of Balderdash. And I never want to.

Lately, I...

1. Brush my teeth every night before bed. Yee-haw!

2. Have really been pondering selfishness, in myself and others

3. Am wondering if I need to step it up a bit

4. Stop myself from thinking 'what would happen if things keep getting worse?' (in the world/economy/etc.)

5. Wish I didn't cry so easily

6. Am surprised at how little time I have to take control over my is slipping away every day, leaving messes and undone errands and obligations in its wake

7. Hope I am a good enough friend

8. Have been drinking my Recommended Daily Water Intake of at least eight 8-oz glasses

9. Have wild thoughts of de-cluttering every little thing I've hung onto over the years. I'm too sentimental!

10. Believe greener pastures are on the horizon.

That was kinda therapeutic!

And now for more of a fun, less thought-provoking one...

1.What is in the back of your car?
From memory: A big umbrella with Caillebot's Paris: A Rainy Day printed on it; a huge army-green cd-holder with rivets that I keep all my audiobooks in; two littler cd-cases, gray and purple, with Harry Potter 5 in them; two containers of Windex wipes (one is a generic brand); a big red ice-scraper/brush combo that looks tough but is surprisingly ineffective; a hook I hang on the back of the driver's seat to hold grocery bags. I think that's it.

2.What color is your toothbrush?
It's white with blue accents. And it's running low on batteries.

3.Name one person who made you smile today.
Neil, all groggy!

4.What were you doing at 8:00 AM?
Just getting up to an icky brightly-lit, melted-snow world.

5. What were you doing 45 minutes ago?
Looking at Memes, or doing the one up above this one.

6. What is your favorite candy?
Chocolate: Smarties from England (NOT those nasty-ass powdery things in plastic lame people hand out at Halloween)
Fruity: Chewy SweetTarts (apple...grape...cherry...and lemonade. I love them ALL. I never know which one to save for last.)

7. What is the last thing you said aloud?
"Thank you"...I think

8. What is the best ice cream flavor?
Vermonty Python. And I think it's being phased out. :(

9. What is the last thing you had to drink?
I'm drinking one mother of a thing of water right now. It's been Brita'ed.

10 What are you wearing right now?
Black boot-cut pants, a dark reddish-orange pullover v-neck, undies, socks that say "The Joy of Sox," and my Danskos are kicked off underneath my desk.

11. What is the last thing you ate?
A sugar-free Andes. Better than you'd think (though not the same as the real thing)

12. Have you bought any new clothes this week?
Yes, just last night.

13. When was the last time you ran?
Earlier this week, for like four seconds.

14. What was the last sporting event you watched?
With any interest--last night's exciting Elite Eight game, Mizzou vs. Connecticut. But Neil was watching the US-El Salvador soccer game after, so technically my eyes rested on that one last.

15. Ever go camping?
Have I ever? Sure. Mark Twain lake. (Now, 'would I ever again' is an entirely different question. Do you guys know what HORSEFLIES are???)

16. Do you have a tan?

17. Do you take vitamins daily?
We take Fiber Choice some nights before bed, and mine has a multivitamin in it.

18. Do you go to church?
No, no.

19. Do you like Chinese food more than pizza?
No, although I had some good noodles last night.

20. Do you drink your soda with a straw? out in a glass?
With a straw if it's in ice. In a glass when it's convenient.

21. Are you someone?s best friend?
I hope so, yes!

22. What are you doing tomorrow?
Mondays are my long work-day: Jeff City 7:15-5:45, then Stephens for three hours after. Not looking forward to it! I've actually started to count down how many Mondays I have left. They're fairly torturous.

23. Where is your dad?
Hm, I'd say at home working on something or other, but he may be at Home Depot or Lowe's or Gerbes or Schnucks. He's completely unpredictable!

24. Can you say the alphabet backwards?
I think so.

25. Do you have a maid service clean your home?
No, it was always weird having a housekeeper around. I felt guilty.

26. Do you have a favorite pair of shoes you wear all the time?
Not really. I love my Keens, but they're lace-up and won't do when I want the freedom to slip on or off shoes. And I don't really like wearing socks, so flip-flops are next up. While I haven't yet found a pair I love above all else, I do have reasons for loving every pair I own.
It's a Catch-22 to have a favorite pair of shoes, because if you're wearing them all the time, they get worn out/grimy faster, so they can't be your favorites for very long.

27. What color is your car?
Cactus Pearl. NOT what I was expecting.

28. How do you like your popcorn?
I don't go out of my way to eat popcorn. If I must, though, it has to be flavored: cheesy, caramelly, peanut-buttery, etc.

29. How did you get your worst scar?
I have a scar somewhere on the back of my head from when I split open my head playing Mario Brothers, but I've never seen it. My second worst is a small white dot on my chest from the Pox.

30. Look to your left. What do you see?
Which way is expanse of fake-wood desk. My Sak purse. My orange baroque market tote on an ugly 70s orange wood/winyl padded chair. An office door leading to a long, dark hallway of books.

31. What color is your watch?
I don't wear a watch right now. I miss watches.

32. What do you think of when you think of Australia?
Dame Edna. Hugh Jackman. The Bush. How that old dude on "Home and Away" (a horrid Aussie soap they show in London) always said "floymin'" as an adjective, like "You floymin' kids have no idea what you've gotten us into!" I assumed he was saying "flaming."

33. Do you use chap stick?
Generally multiple times a day.

34. Do you have a dog?
No, I wish. Every time I see a little dog flopping along the sidewalk I die a little inside.

35. Last person you talked to on the phone?
Neil? Yes, Neil.

36. Have you met anyone famous?
Kind of...I talked to Anthony Rapp in London after Rent, and I spoke to Edward Albee when I stage-managed his appearance at Jesse. And I had to converse with a SUPER UNPLEASANT Dave Attell when I worked his show. But I guess I've never been in a situation where someone says "Genny, this is my friend Steve Guttenberg." I DID get a message from Arye Gross on Facebook after I wrote him. Does that count? Probably not.

37. Any plans today?
I work late-ish today, til 6 or 7. After that, I really want to work up the energy to clean the house a bit. We'll see how that goes.

38. How many states have you lived in?
MO, IA, IL, NY....Four!

39. Do you dye your hair?
Not at the moment. But I have. Red is a surprising match for me. I may do it again sometime.

40. Do you like cats?
Uhm...I like kittens because they're cute and silly. But I'm, for one, severely allergic to cats, and two...they're so BITCHY. I can appreciate a pet who doesn't live for the moment their owner comes home, but come on, don't act like you're all BETTER than me.

Okay, I think it's time for some buckling-down. Happy Sunday, everybody!