Wednesday, November 30, 2005

I Hab a Code

I cad't seeb to shake this thig. By dose feels about three tibes as big as dorbal.

It probably doesd't help that I keep stayig up too late readig youg adult dobbles. So it's by owd fault that I'b a sdot bachide.

I should be stayig up todite to write by reviews. But the hell width it. I'b goig to take sub Code Care P. Eb. ad go to bed.

Good Dite.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Thanksgiving: Home Improvement Edition

More people and things to be thankful for:

  • RW and her dad, who spent all day Friday putting in the laminate flooring in our bedroom while I napped and "took care of Mermaid Girl."
  • The video of The Sound of Music, which MG watched twice on Friday, and which is responsible for the ironic quotation marks above.
  • Miter saws. RW's dad loaned us one, so we could cut the thirteen-- count 'em, thirteen--pieces of base molding required to cover up the gaps left by the laminate flooring. (Why thirteen, when we only have the standard four walls? Long story short: big closet.)
  • 45-degree angles. I'm not sure if "thankful" is the exact word. I've certainly never given 45-degree angles any thought before. But I have now. Did I mention who cut every one of those pieces of base molding last night and today? With a bad cold, even?
  • Wood putty. It really does cover a multitude of sins. I don't think I need to say any more. But if you're ever at our house, I'd be grateful if you wouldn't look too closely at any of the thirteen corner joins in our bedroom.

Best Quote of the Weekend, born of our mutterings as we crashed around with molding and wood putty, as heard by MG after immersion in the aforementioned Julie Andrews vehicle:

"Good enough for governess work."

And so it is. Going to take another nap now.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Brief Health Upd-- Argh!

Crap, I'm still sick. No, wait, now I'm feeling better. Oh no, have to lie down, feeling rotten again. Now I'm better! Now I'm sick! Better! Sick! Better! Sick!

Never mind the sore throat; I think I'm getting whiplash.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Fortunately/Unfortunately: Thanksgiving Edition

Fortunately: I'm feeling better! Golf ball in throat: Gone. Fever: Gone. Headache: Gone. Desire to do nothing but lie around grouching: Gone.

Unfortunately: My family is also Gone, to our friend Cindy and her daughter Soralie's house, since four hours ago at the appointed departure time I did still have the fever, headache, golf ball, etc. and also didn't want to infect anyone.

Fortunately: I like being alone in the house.

Unfortunately: I think I've finally had enough of it, and they're still Gone.

Fortunately: They promised to bring be back a plate of Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings.

Unfortunately: Did I mention they're not back yet?

Fortunately: Since I'm feeling better, this is the perfect opportunity to get started on the prep for tomorrow's Laminate Flooring project, to begin when RW's dad arrives with the rented saw at 8:30 or so in the morning.

Unfortunately: Um. See "Fortunately" above.

Fortunately: This is also the perfect opportunity to watch a movie RW doesn't want to see, at least until she and the Girl get back. Also, the perfect chance to post without being lambasted for antisocialness.

Also Fortunately: I had a dream during my fevered nap this afternoon that RW and MG and I were living with either relatives or friends, saving up until we had enough to get our own place. It was going to take another couple of years. I woke up feeling genuinely thankful for our very own cozy (albeit small and badly-carpeted) house, our own beds, our own sheets (in the dream I was worried about MG spilling something on our hosts' sheets) and my own family trying to be quiet so I could rest and get better.

And soon after I awoke, I was also thankful that during my nap MG had made me a five-page Get-Well-Soon book, with hearts on every page, and that she and RW had baked pumpkin-cranberry muffins.

They were still warm. I had three, with butter.

And that is not the worst Thanksgiving experience to have.

Happy Day, all.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

I hate writing bad reviews. I'm always afraid the authors will go after me.

Oh, bleargh. I'm sick. (Sing to the tune of "Raining on Prom Night": I'm sick on/Thanksgiving/I want chicken sooooup/My throat, it/Is hurting/I might have the croooooup....wa wa wa wa...)

I retired early to bed last night with Julie and Julia, by Julie Powell. This book is totally fascinating to me because it's the realization of a dream not-so-secretly held one or two or a thousand bloggers: someone at a crossroads, bored with her life/job/apartment/kids/lack of kids, has an idea one day and starts a blog, which becomes wildly popular, resulting not only in a lucrative book deal but lots of press, television appearances, and a new career as a writer. It's a Cinderblogging story!

In Powell's case, not only was she possessed of a strong, inscousciant voice, but she had a terrific hook: she determined (stop me if you've heard about this already, i.e. if you haven't been living in a cave for the last year or so) to cook all 524 recipes in Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking in the space of a year. She wasn't an especially experienced cook, she had a small and inconvenient kitchen, and she continued working at her "crappy government job" for the whole year, cooking far into the night and writing blog posts each morning. And thus she transformed her life.

It's such a great story that I wanted it to be a great book. I even felt a tiny bit of "I knew her when"ism when I first heard about Julie and Julia, having arrived at this worldwide blogging party just in time to catch her last post, a lovely and graceful eulogy written the day after Julia Child's death. So I bought the book--in hardcover!--the other day, thinking to read it myself (carefully, without cracking the spine) before giving it to a foodie relative for Chranukah.

But now I think I might have to return it. Or maybe just keep it, as a cautionary reminder. Because...I didn't like it that much. Here's what I think, not that anyone asked: It has many of the flaws of most blogs (including this one)--repetitiveness, sketchiness, lazy description, confusing chronology--without the immediacy. Because the book is partly about the Project and partly about the phenomenon that Powell's blog became, I sometimes felt like I was missing the best part; I wanted to yell at her, "Just quote what you wrote that night, already! Don't just tell us about it!"

I started to wonder if she was that good a writer after all. Then this morning I looked up some food articles she's written since, and they were really good! There was a thoughtful and eloquent one about sauce-driven French cooking vs. the cult of fresh, local ingredients, among others. So what was up with the book?

It must be a hell of a project, turning a blog into a book. Because a blog is essentially a serial: it draws you in, post by post, until you feel like you know the blogger. Then you get hooked on the story: will she take the new job? Will he be okay after the surgery? Will the adoption go through? J took on a huge and exciting and definable project, and her readers were rooting for her the whole way. But by the time I picked up the book, I knew the end, I knew she'd done it. And even if I didn't know exactly what happened, I knew it was over. Because there it was at the bookstore: Not a living, glowing, changing collection of pixels, but a finished object, between hard covers, in a green dust jacket. A whole different creature.

So now I'm pissed at her publishers. Because my guess is, they figured they had something hot on their hands, and they rushed it. It's such a great story, and she's a good enough writer, that it could have been a really good book. Where was the editor who could have gently suggested, say, that she find some alternative adjectives to "crappy," or who could have yanked the time sequence into alignment and eliminated the confusing mini-flashbacks? There were times where I could feel the lusciousness in the book, the obsession and terror and love that made her start the project in the first place, and I wanted to tug at it, like pulling a loose thread on a sweater; pull away the sloppiness and the mess and reveal the book it could have been.

This is coming off kind of condescending, I think, and I don't mean it to be. If Powell or any of her die-hard fans happens across this site, they'll probably be hurt and mad (if they care at all). So, I should say, because it's true: I loved parts of the book, especially the core of it, the food writing itself. I didn't care so much about the friends and their love lives, but some of the work stuff was funny. I was in love with the Project from the time I heard about it. I'm in awe that she took it on kept at it, and that then she went and wrestled with all that material again and made a book out of it, that she had that kind of courage and determination and focus twice over. (Note how I have no book to my name, good, bad, or mediocre. It's easy to critique, yes? Harder to do.)

Now I want to read her next book and see if it's better.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

My life, on glossy paper

A few weeks ago, I ordered the complete 80 Years of the New Yorker on DVD. Now, thanks to the wonders of modern technology, I can find any New Yorker article or story and view it on RW's computer screen (not mine; my computer's too old).

Today, I sorted through my old New Yorker magazines.

I've been subscribing to the New Yorker more or less continuously since I moved to Seattle some fifteen years ago. The magazine is published weekly, which means approximately fifty issues a year. Which means that when I wrote in this space a few months ago that there were about three hundred old New Yorkers on my office floor, I was not exaggerating. On the contrary, I probably had about twice as many.

I do try to throw them out. I do! But it's hard. I've been thinking, as I sorted today, about why this should be. Yes, I'm a pack rat in general, and have a lot of trouble throwing anything away. Why is it?

And it's vaguely embarrassing. I mean, the New Yorker! So bourgeois, so not-edgy, so pretentiously literary in the most mainstream way. I mean, it's not like I have a stash of Hip Mama or Bitch or off our backs or anything groovy like that.

Part of it is the coolness factor (such as it is) of holding in my own hands the magazine that features, say, the original Susan Orlean article on orchids that was the basis for her book The Orchid Thief that was in turn the basis for the movie "Adaptation". When that magazine came to my house, there was no book, there was no movie with Meryl Streep playing a fictionalized version of Orlean, there was just this weird little article about a guy obsessed with orchids. And here it is, still, in a magazine file, having survived two or three moves and ended up here in this house with me. It'll probably stay in that magazine file for another fifty years, and then MG will have to recycle it when I die. Or maybe I should sell it on ebay? But the truth is, it probably isn't worth that much. And anyway, I don't want to sell it, I want to have it.

Ot the two-part series on Genie, the Wild Child, who was discovered at the age of 12, having never learned to talk after growing up in a horrifically abusive household. I remember when the second part of that article came out. I was living in a studio apartment, and I came downstairs to wait for a ride to somewhere, and I saw the magazine in my mailbox and clawed it open immediately to read that article while I waited. I don't remember where I was going or why I couldn't read it right away, but I remember the gasp of anticipation, seeing that the magazine was there and that I was going to find out what happened, as compelling as any soap opera or mystery novel.

Or that Adam Gopnik article about the birth of his second child, in Paris, that was published while RW was pregnant. Our actual drive to the hospital for MG's birth is all mixed up, in my mind, with Gopnik's discussion with his wife about how they'd have to get the taxi driver to make this special U-turn to go in the right direction to get to the maternity hospital. Our first ultrasound competes, in my memory, with the ultrasound where they saw their daughter, and the technician complimented them on her "allure." Even if I could pull the article up on a screen any time, how can I throw that issue out? It's like a letter from a college friend whose baby was born around the same time as ours.

Well. I did toss out a few hundred of the magazines. I only have about two bookshelves' worth left: maybe a hundred issues in all. And I feel lighter. If somehow they all disappeared, I'd be fine. But I can't bring myself to throw them all out with my own hands. They're like my paper self, somehow.

Taking the Bait and Guarding the Peas

After all that, Ginger slept over last night.

This had been planned several weeks ago, before the Return of the Pinch, and for a couple of days it looked like it might not happen. But who knows the workings of a five-year-old's mind? Yesterday morning, Ginger pronounced her eagerness to sleep over here at Pincer House.

We told MG, and she swore up down and sideways that she'd be a good host. I passed on some of the excellent suggestions left in comments below, and RW delivered a parenting coup de grace in the form of an illustrated parable about the sad little fish who bit the worm and ended up as dinner, and the happy little fish who resisted and was able to swim merrily on with its life. Moral of the story, as all of us with any relatives whatsoever know all too well: DON'T TAKE THE BAIT, whether that bait is a worm or the annoying tics of your school friend. Don't do it! Don't! It will just get you in trouble!

So Ginger came over, and she and MG arfed like puppies in their delight at seeing each other. They were eager waitresses at dinner time, scurrying back and forth carrying plates of mac and cheese and bowls of peas (warmed for us, still frozen for them-- frozen peas being a rare delicacy at our house) with only occasional whines of "Hey, not fair, she got to carry three things and I only got to carry two things!"

At dinner time, MG and I commenced the "Watching the Peas" game. Basically, the premise is that the plastic bowl of frozen peas is mine, "for later," and MG's job is to keep an eye on it for me while I eat the rest of my dinner, because I am saving the yummy frozen peas for last. She gleefully crams peas into her mouth while I studiously look the other way, snapping my head over in her direction every once in a while to make sure she's guarding the peas well, then narrowing my eyes suspiciously and declaring that there seem to be fewer peas than there were before, and what's that in her mouth, anyway? "I think the cat got them," she'll mumble, chewing furiously. "I'm just eating my mac and cheese! Really!"

(Occasionally she gets freaked out at all this deliberate disobedience and lying, and hisses out of the corner of her mouth, "I'm really supposed to eat them, right?" and I hiss back, "Yeah, it's fine, that's the game." This exchange must be whispered, ideally while looking elsewhere, as if we're spies meeting on a park bench.)

The Peas Game drove Ginger bananas. She watched gravely during the setup ("Now, you'll keep an eye on these peas for me, right?" "Yep, I'll watch them for you." "And don't eat any!" "Oh, I won't!"). As soon as I turned to my dinner, she comenced to tattling. "She's eating them!" she shrieked. "Elswhere, MG's eating your peas! She's eating them!"

I leaned over and muttered, "It's okay! It's a game! You can help her!"

"Yeah," MG whispered. "I'm supposed to eat them!"

I turned to MG and said, in a normal tone, "Hey, where'd all my peas go? Didn't there used to be more of them?"

"It was a ghost!" MG grinned with green teeth. "A ghost got them while I wasn't looking for a second!"

Ginger's gaze flitted suspiciously from MG, to me, back to MG. Then, all of a sudden, she got it. "It was a ghost!" she yelled. "I saw it! A ghost ate your peas, Elswhere!"

"Yeah, a ghost!" MG chimed in.

"Hey, can I guard your peas next?" Ginger asked.

"Sure," I agreed. "Just as sure as I eat these...hey! They're all gone! MG, DID YOU EAT MY PEAS?"

Raucous laughter. "Ha, ha! I ate them!" "She ate them! It was really her! Hee, hee! We tricked you! My turn now!"

Really, a bowl of frozen peas is a small price to pay for a precious bonding moment like that.

Friday, November 18, 2005


The pinching continues. And the rather smug tattling, on Ginger's part.

If they were both my kids, I'd be tempted to just bang their heads together. As it is, I've told MG that she can't go to gymnastics next class if I hear about any more pinching. Since Ginger's mom takes both of them.

"I'm trying," she squeaked, all pathetic, and "It's really hard," and "I couldn't bear to miss gymnastics!"

I was unmoved. "Well, then, you'll just have to try hard enough so that you don't pinch Ginger at all between now and next Tuesday."

Then I elaborated on how I couldn't let her be in the car with Ginger if she couldn't keep Ginger's body safe, and I couldn't let Ginger's mom do us a favor if my kid was hurting Ginger's mom's kid. Which is the real crux of it.

The truth is, Ginger can be a total nudnik and a pain in the butt. Since they're together so much--on the bus, at after-school care, etc.--and we're friends with Ginger's parents, she can't just totally ignore her. I told MG they don't have to be best friends or even like each other, but they absolutely cannot hurt each other.

We are working on a list of things to do when Ginger bugs her, instead of pinching. So far the list is pretty short. Any suggestions welcome.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Field Notes: First Parent/Teacher Conference

1. I was thinking we'd have to sit in tiny chairs, but no, Mrs. Lebec had a a table and three grownup chairs all set up for the occasion. We rate!

2. Wow. This school system has some serious standards, for what that's worth. They want the kindergarteners to know 50 sight words, write their first and last names with capital and small letters, and be able to write numbers to 20 by the end of the year. I mean, our girl will be able to do it by June, especially if we drill her, but come on people this is KINDERGARTEN. And what if we didn't know English too well? Or worked double shifts? Or had a bunch of other kids and a sick mom to take care of? Etc.

3. To her credit, the teacher doesn't seem to approve of this any more than we do. But it's her job. She has to get them ready for first grade, so the 1st grade teacher can get them ready for 2nd, so the 2nd grade teacher can get them ready for 3rd, so the 3rd grade teacher can get them ready for 4th, so the 4th grade teacher can get them ready for the Big State Test. She said she's seen it change in the years she's been teaching, and K now is more like first grade was then.

4. Apparently our girl has already heard most of the books Mrs. L. reads to the class. (She credited this to MG's having two librarian parents; I credit it to her having gone to a preschool where they read them all kinds of great kid lit, with little attention to "age-appropriateness," so our girl had heard The Stinky Cheese Man and Captain Underpants and Charlotte's Web and Catwings, as well as zillions of picture books, before her fifth birthday.) So when she starts up on a book MG's heard, our girl will say, "Oh, this is a good one. I've heard this one. They're going to love it!" Or if they're coming up on an exciting part in, say, My Father's Dragon, she'll say, "This is a really great part! But I won't tell what happens. But it's great!"

5. She got checks or plusses or at-or-above-grade-level on everything except "Uses time well" and "Values and respects others." Neither of these came as a huge surprise to us.

5a. The Uses Time Well issue is that when she's tired or sad or just wants to opt out, she puts her head down on her desk or goes and sits in her cubby and sulks. Less now than at the beginning of the year. "I used to come and get her when she sat in her cubby," Mrs. L said, "but then I realized that that was just what she wanted me to do. So now I just invite her to join the group when she's ready, and eventually she gets interested and comes over."

5a.1 It is such a comfort to know that MG's teacher totally has her number.

5b. The respecting others etc. thing appears to be mostly about some pinching. Mrs. L. didn't make a big deal out of it. I think the person MG's pinching mostly is Ginger, who has complained about it to me and to her own mom. When we confront MG she says "But Ginger makes me so mad!" I think it's partly that Ginger is just there all the time, and they're not particularly compatible, though they're friends. Sometimes. When they're not hurting each other or tattling on each other.

6. MG wrote the sentence "I see a chkn" all by herself. Now I know she can do invented spelling I'm going to stop spelling everything out for her letter by letter.

7. She likes to be a helper. The very first day of gym, she hated it, and the next day she didn't want to go, and Mrs. L said, "But the gym teacher is looking forward to seeing you! She needs you there to help her out!" And then the gym teacher reported that MG was right there next to her every minute, handing her things and getting stuff ready and just being her little gofer. Awww!

8. We talked Mrs. L.'s ear off about how MG likes to help at home, too, and how now she loves to teach us things she learned at school, and how she digs her heels in with stubbornness, and how when she was a baby you couldn't even substitute toys on her, she'd just throw the offending toy down on the floor and scream, and...until Mrs. L. gently shoved MG's portfolio at us and led us to the door and booted us out so the next parents could come in. Oops.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Curriculum Vitae

After I wrote my food service post yesterday, RW and I had a lovely time reminiscing about our crappy jobs. You'd never know it from my last 7 years of stable employment, but for about fifteen years before that my life was a carnival of short-lived crappy jobs* (except for the three years at the childcare center, which was lovely if low-paying) (Hey, another L Word: Low-paying! Now, there's one for the ages).

I haven't filled out a job app or written a resume since 1998, but before that I did so with such frequency that I finally put together a master list of all the jobs I'd ever had, so I could pick and choose depending on what I was applying for. This list was also useful when filling out the occasional hellacious sadistic Public Library job application wherein the applicant is in fact required to list every job s/he has ever had, attaching additional pages if necessary. Hah! That used to make me laugh, "Attach additional pages if necessary." Like, who wouldn't have to do that? Who hasn't had more than a dozen or so jobs, not even counting the high-school babysitting gigs?

It's weird to think that next time I go through the Application Process I'll pretty much be able to throw that list out the window. All I'll have to do is list my current job and the temporary/student Public Library gigI had for a couple years before that, maybe throwing in the childcare and bookstore experience to round it out a bit and fill up the page.

No one will care about the gap from the year after that child care center closed and I was on unemployment, or the summer I canned salmon in Alaska, or the half-dozen jobs I ran through in the summer of 1987 alone. No one will look askance because I quit cleaning suburban houses partway through my junior year in college, or demand to see clippings from my half-hearted post-college year in Chemmical Marketing journalism.

My future employers will be unimpressed that I looked after six kids at a time the summer before my senior year of high school, or that I had two simultaneous internships--at a science-fiction publishing company and in the marketing department of an off-Broadway theater--the summer before I started college. It's unlikely that they'll discover what a rotten waitress I was, or that at nineteen I had so much trouble getting up in the morning that I was reprimanded for my habitual late arrival to a job that started at 1:00 PM. And I doubt that anyone, even my old boss (who's since retired), will care how much time I spent reading in the stacks when I was supposed to be shelving at my college library job.

Nope. They'll want to hear about my educational philosophy and my take on intellectual freedom and censorship. They'll ask to see me teach a sample class and maybe do a booktalk. If it's a public library, they'll ask what I'd do in various reference-desk situations. They'll call an administrator from my current job, who will talk about me like I'm the professional I appear to be.

And I guess I am the professional I appear to be. But I still don't quite understand how I got here, from there.

*Just like you'd never know how very, very single I used to be for a very very long time if all you did was look at my life now. Strange, eh?

Monday, November 14, 2005

Blast from the Past: Food Service

Cross-posted (lightly-edited) from the alumnae website my alma mater has set up, on which someone recently started a discussion group for former Dining Services workers:

Just found this group. This is amazing. I haven't thought about my freshman year in Dining Services for a long time, but reading all these posts and remembering makes me realize that I learned at least as much there as I did in classes that year.

I'd never done any kind of food service before, and was totally at sea. My very first shift I worked the pot sink, washing and washing and washing, sweaty and miserable, close to crying but I did it!

I heard my first Madonna song in that kitchen: "Lucky Star," blasted out during cleanup, everyone singing along.

One night a few weeks into the semester I took the train to my mom's for the weekend right after a shift. There was a high-school student from town at the station too, and I was telling her how I was at the college and had just started this job at food services. "Oh," she said in this weirdly matter-of-fact yet aloof way. "I don't have a job. I don't have to." I was stunned. I hadn't had a job in high school either, but lots of my friends did, and it had never occurred to me to be snobby about it. It was like a window into a whole other class system.

Because I never got that good at food service, I didn't expect compliments, just to get through the shift. I got snapped at a fair bit for being slow and doing things wrong. It was new for me, and in retrospect really good for me, to do something regularly where I didn't shine and had to work hard just to keep up. Not that I shone at everything else in the world, mind you; I just tended not to keep doing things that weren't easy for me.

One night we were short-staffed and I threw myself into it, along with everyone else in the kitchen: washing pots, pulling the dishes off the conveyor belt, running refills out to the salad bar, running the garbage out to the dumpster, back to the pot sink, everything a blur, until finally the shift was over, everything washed, wiped down, closed down, fresh bags in the garbage bins, the machines turned off. Only then did my student supervisor turn to me and say what a good job I'd done, how I'd helped keep everything going during a really tough shift. Those words of praise meant more than any grade I got on a paper. And they were harder-earned, too.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Weekend Update

Mermaid Girl is stalling her way to bedtime, post lights-out, post-story, post-song. Little Latke's mom took her to a klezmer festival today and she is droning "Simon Tov u'Mazal Tov" over and over, just the middle lines, "Y'hey lany y'hey lanu, uuuu v'kol Yisroeeeeelll, Y'hey lany y'hey lanu, uuuu v'kol Yisroeeeeelll, Y'hey lany y'hey lanu, uuuu v'kol Yisroeeeeelll, Y'hey lany y'hey lanu, uuuu v'kol Yisroeeeeelll..."

While she was gone RW and I took advantage of the time alone to go out to lunch and then spent the afternoon ripping up the yucky old carpet in our bedroom. And pulling out the little strips of wood along the edges. And all the scary staples.

Now we have a floor of bare formaldehyde-emitting plywood. But not for long! Soon, soon we will have lovely laminate flooring like MG has in her room. We will spend the long Thanksgiving weekend being thankful for all the money we'll save by doing this ourselves rather than hiring someone. And I will personally be thankful if our relationship survives the re-flooring process.

This weekend update will have to be incomplete because I don't even remember any more what we did yesterday. All is carpet, staples, carpet, staples, simon tov u'mazal tov, mazal tov 'u simon tov...

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Another L Word: Ludicrous

The most exciting thing in my middle-class, middle-aged, middle-of-a-seasonal-funk life these days has been Season 2 of The L Word. We are almost through with the season, with just one measly episode to go. Herewith, in List form, I bring you my notes:

1. Those of you who have Showtime and watched Season 2 as it came out: it is totally worth renting the third DVD anyway, just to watch the commentary on Episode 9, which is the one where they all go on an Olivia cruise. Leisha Hailey (Alice), Katherine Moennig (Shane), and whatsername who plays Dana do the commentary, and I swear they must've been drunk at the time. Or else up very, very late at night. They dish all kinds of dirt and laugh hysterically at everything each other says and make in-jokes and reveal quite pointedly how much they hate the opening song. It's like a cross between "Car Talk" and a late-night college bull session. My God, those women are funny.

2. Speaking of the opening song: RW and I hate it too. For anyone who's never seen this pinnacle of television brilliance (it is so, so, so, so NOT "Six Feet Under"): The opening song plays over a montage of the characters looking incredibly glam and L.A.-ish, while the band belts out "This is the way that we live....and looooooooove!" This never fails to crack us up.

3. Jenny, a/k/a The Most Irritating Character Ever Seen on Television, has basically worked out her sexual-identity issues and is on to other things. But just because she's not marrying and then dumping people does not mean she has become any less irksome; quite the contrary. Now she is exploring her Jewish heritage, which seems to consist entirely of waxing dramatic about the Holocaust and muttering Hebrew prayers under her breath as she assembles collages of family photos, her family consisting of stock sentimentalized Old-Fashioned-Jewish-looking people. Worst of all, every time she shows up these days she is accompanied by a mournful Klezmer-esque French horn, sort of like she's just wandered out of a production of Fiddler on the Roof in her tattered artsy $300 outfits. I find all this excruciating (and actually kind of offensive), and whenever Jenny and the musical score wax all Semitic I scream and clap my hands over my ears and duck under a blanket and beg RW to tell me when it's over.

4. Because the show is called "The L Word," every episode title starts L. Subtle, no? Like, "Lap Dance"; "Late, Later, Latent"; "Loyal"; etc. etc. One night, punchy after watching two episodes in a row, RW and I started working up some titles for our own version of the show: the way that we live. We came up with: "Laundry," "Leftovers,""Lists," "Lazy," and "Lunch". And I just thought of another one: "Loopy."

And yet, we keep watching. It's addictive, in its trashy soap-y way. And now, thanks to that one brilliant commentary, I feel like Alice, Shane, and Dana are Laughing along with me.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Breathing my own air

My friend Rosie recently posted about starting a new job, about the exhilaration she feels at starting something new and not having "that claustrophobic feeling of sitting around just breathing my own air".

It's a lovely post. And it made me realize something: I'm jealous. I have a job I love, but I've been there for seven years now. Almost exactly seven years this month, in fact. And while I still get a kick out of starting new programs and doing interesting stuff, I've been breathing my own air there for quite a while.

The first few years were hard; I didn't quite know what I was doing and was always scrambling to keep up, plus I felt I had to prove myself so I was always starting new projects that turned out to be tons more work than I'd bargained for.

By the time I was starting to get a handle on the job, I had a baby at home, then a toddler. That was all the novelty I could handle for a while, and it was beyond interesting. But now I no longer have a baby at home. Or a toddler. Or even a preschooler.

Having an older kid has affected this blog, too. A month or so ago, MG was telling me something totally fascinating that she likes to pretend, and I went for the computer and asked, interview-style, "what is that you do again?" And she got a panicked look and ordered, "Don't blog about that!" It hit me that she's not as bloggable-about as she was a year ago: not only is she more and more like a regular third person in the house (albeit an exceptionally adorable person) and less like a cute unpredictable little creature, but she's more self-conscious, more private. I feel more constrained in writing about her now that she's older.

So: work isn't interesting enough to write about, at least the un-dooce-able parts, and MG is more and more off-limits. And the truth is, work and MG are the biggest chunk of my life right now. So what on earth can I write about?

I've been writing this blog and reading others' blogs for long enough to know that things go in cycles: people take a break, officially or just de facto, and then come back when they've got new things to tell about. Sometimes things go on about the same for a while, and it gets kind of boring. Just like real life.

It strikes me that this is just a long-winded way of saying "I got nothin'," and that might be. I'm not quitting, and not even planning to scale back, or at least I wasn't before I opened up this screen. I just started writing with the idea of putting down what I'm thinking, right here, right now.

I've also been thinking about why I do this, write this blog. I started doing it just to have a forum for writing--I missed writing so much--and a way to connect with other people. And I've been doing both of those things. what? I've seen other bloggers use their sites as a jump-off point for activism, new careers, community, paying writing gigs. Me, I'm still plugging along. I've made a few good friends through blogging, but ultimately it's frustrating to not get to ever see them in person or beyond the blogging forum; it's like knowing people only through the cafeteria and never seeing them anywhere else. And I think about gathering up some of what I've written here and putting it into something more cohesive, something I can send out. But I don't seem to have the structure or self-discipline to do that. Blogging feels like the start of community, but not sufficient in itself.

It's fall. It's dark when I drive home, dark when I get up. We don't see our neighbors much these days. We stay home and light fires in the fireplace. People are hunkering down, and I seem to be, also. Maybe I can just accept that.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Three is a Magic Number

There are many, many creative people writing blogs, but I'm not one of them. At least right now. My mind, it is like unto a veritable desert. I have no fun ways to describe my weekend, or juicy stories from my past, or incisive analyses of anything political or philosophical or literary.

Fortunately! Kate has tagged me with a meme. I know there are 2 or 3 old ones I owe people, too. Okay! Memes! Fun! Easy! And you don't have to be creative! Let's go!

Three screen names I've used: 1) elswhere, 2) anonymous, 3)...hey, this was supposed to be easy, but already it's stumping me! elswhere and anonymous are the only screen names I've used. Except for my real name. Okay: 3) my real name.

Three things you like about yourself: Um. Huh. Well, I'm...hmm. Oh! Smart! I'm smart! And, I like that I'm a lesbian. I think it's kind of cool. And I'm pretty good with kids. Except when I'm not.

Three things you don't like about yourself: Laziness. Impatience. And I have trouble finishing things I start. But isn't that related to the first two?

And indecisiveness!

Three parts of your heritage: Eastern European Ashkenazi Jewish all the way, baby.

Three things that scare you: Tsunamis, cancer, and the dark corner near the bathroom in the middle of the night.

Three of your everyday essentials: Text, granola, and...God, I don't know. Food? Chocolate? Though I don't have to have that every day, necessarily.

Hey, I have a story about chocolate! When I first moved to Seattle, I was dead broke for about a year. I bought the very cheapest food, like carrots and cabbage and dry beans and rice. Then I got a job as a childcare teacher, which as you probably know is about the lowest-paying job a person can get. But since I was coming from occasional temporary work, even that small regular income looked pretty good. So I decided that to celebrate my newfound prosperity, once I started getting a paycheck I would BUY A PIECE OF CHOCOLATE EVERY DAY. And I did, for a couple of years. There was a newspaper store near my apartment where you could buy these little 5-cent chocolate squares, so that's what I got most of the time, and felt very self-indulgent in a frugal and noble way.

I had a friend who had a 5-year old (he's almost 20 now! Ack!) and one day he was complaining about being a kid and how it meant you couldn't do the things you want, like eat candy. And I said, "Hey, M, guess what? When you're a grownup, you can eat chocolate EVERY DAY!" His jaw pretty much dropped. I felt kind of bad, like I was rubbing it in his face. On the other hand, it gave him something to look forward to.

Okay. Moving right along.

Three things you are wearing right now: OldVintage Dykes To Watch Out For T-shirt, black sweats, glasses.

Three of your favorite songs: I have a couple thousand favorite songs. Right now I'm really liking: "I Wish I Could Go Back to College," from the Avenue Q soundtrack; "Minivan Mom," by The Kegels, a punk-rock-moms duo RW went to see a couple weeks ago; and "Joy" by Lucinda Williams, from her new-ish live album.

Three things you want in a relationship: Uh, Pina Coladas? Getting caught in the rain?
Okay: Someone who'll laugh at my jokes, or at least get them. Someone who can remind me to breathe when I'm freaking out. And, well, my parents read this blog so that's enough.

Two truths and a lie: I've never read Moby Dick. I've never read The Scarlet Letter. I've never read Treasure Island.

Three things you can't live without: Text. Chocolate. Long conversations with friends where you end up laughing so much you can't breathe.

Three places you want to go on vacation: Venice, the Big Island of Hawaii, and Mexico.

Three things you just can't do:Roll my tongue, see those Eye Spy pictures no matter how much I stare at them crosseyed, and Turn off the computer (RW just suggested that last one).

Three kids names: But, wouldn't these just be people's names? Because all people were kids once.

Okay. Fine, probably it means contemporary kids names that I like. Hallie, Sadie, Claire.

Three things you want to do before you die: Write a book, see Venice (I already put that under vacations but I really want to see Venice), see MG grow up.

Three celeb crushes: Susan Sarandon, that woman who plays Brenda on Six Feet Under, and...God, I don't know. Can I count Susan Sarandon twice? The Rocky-Horror era one and the contemporary one? Because she's just been hot her whole adult life as far as I can tell.

Three of your favorite musicians: Varies depending on mood, but just based on a quick survey of the CD rack: Joni Mitchell, Carmaig DeForest, Joan Armatrading.

Three physical things about the opposite sex that appeals to you: Huh. Can I do the same sex? Let's rewrite this as "Three physical things about your favored sex that appeals to you."
Wait, that would be "That appeal to you," because it's plural, right?

Um. Shoot. My parents read this blog. Forget it.

Three of your favorite hobbies: Procrastinating, cooking, reading.

Three things you really want to do badly right now: Sleep, skip work, eat raw oysters (it's oyster season!)

Three careers you're considering/you've considered:Journalist (but I don't have the time sense for it), activist (but I hate conflict), and when I was a kid I used to want to be a rabbi.

Three ways that you are stereotypically a boy: Lazy about housework, don't care about clothes, have short hair.

Three ways that you are stereotypically a girl: Don't understand cars, like to cook, played with dolls as a kid.

Three people that I would like to see post this meme: Everyone else in the blogosphere has already done this meme. I was the last one. But, if you haven'!

Will I be surprised if they ignore this: no

Friday, November 04, 2005

With the Barkers and the Colored Balloons

So I was tucking MG in, after singing her the requisite Corny Leftist Lullabye favored this week: Malvina Reynolds's "Turn Around", which has replaced the previous favorite, "The Circle Game." They're both incredibly self-indulgent and sentimental, but I like them, and MG likes them.

But you know, I'm thinking maybe they're not such a good idea.

Tonight after "Turn Around" she fell apart, sobbing, crying, clinging to me. "I miss being in the Dragonflies! I miss Mikey and Karen! I miss my friends! I hate kindergarten, kindergarten's stupid, I feel like I'm a Billy Goat again! I'm in the youngest group again! It makes me feel like a baby! And it will take years and years and years to get to be like a Dragonfly again! I miss the group names, like Billy Goats, Sparkling Butterflies, Leaping Ladybugs, Dragonflies! School has stupid names, like First grade, Second grade, Third grade, Fourth grade! Those are dumb names!

"And I miss the play structure, it didn't have too many kids on it! [does the SYS play structure have too many kids, so you can't play on it?] Yes! And it's too big! I wish I could go back to preschool, but go on the bus! [but the bus doesn't go to preschool...] Then I don't care about the bus! I just want to be back there! I don't want to be in big kid school! I wish I could turn around, turn around, and be back in the Dragonflies! [How long have you been feeling like this?] For a long time, but I just kept it inside! I didn't want to say! But now I can't keep it inside any more!"

All this poured out amid sobs, with lots of repetition and interspersed questions from me. As usual I was torn between wanting to validate her feelings and not wanting to feed all that melodrama. Because the girl, she is a drama queen. In case you didn't notice.

And while I'm sure all the above is true, and she's been keeping it in, it's not the only truth. I asked her at one point if she wanted me to remind her of some of the things school has that preschool doesn't, and she said no. When she started rhapsodizing about how much her old teacher Mikey liked her, I made the mistake of venturing that Mrs. LeBec likes her too, but she choked out that she didn't care about that, and it was obviously beside the point.

So I shut up and rubbed her back, and eventually she brightened up and said, "Hey, I'm out of tissues! Would you get me a tissue, please?"

At least I didn't break it to her that I still feel like that about not being in college any more.

Hmm. Perhaps this isn't the time to break "Sugar Mountain" into the lullabye rotation.

News exclusive: Rogue Keyboard Irks Blogger

\argh! my keyboard's all fujckedujp!\ Whenever I heit\ backspace I getf a backslash, like s\]

]Whenever I hitf retfujrn, I getf a rightf-bracketf.
And whenever I tfhi\tf T it types F

Hey wait

The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dogs.


Oh! It's better! I'm cured! It's a miracle! hallelujah!

All I had to do was threaten to blab to the media, apparently. My keyboard knuckled right under to the power of exposure in the mighty Travels in Booland, read by dozens daily!

Now all I have to do is remember what I wanted to post about in the first place.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

It's That Time of the Month Again

That time!

Once again, I have waited until the VERY LAST MINUTE to review my books. And once again, I have chosen a book to review that's very complex and totally un-summarize-able in 200 words or less, never mind a sentence or two to give my actual opinion of the thing.

So let me tell you about it, okay? Because thank God there's no word limit on this blog.

Though some of you might wish there were.

So: The book is called Mira, Mirror, it's by Mette Ivie Harrison, the inside front cover says it's for ages 10 and up but some very conservative families or libraries might have an issue with 5th graders reading it because of a few oblique references to sex and the possibility of one character having an illegitimate daughter. Also, there's a fair bit of violence and death in it, but honestly no one seems to care about that. Usually all people care about is sex when they talk about "appropriateness" for one age or another, so I've learned that's all I have to worry about. For my library, I think it'd be fine for 5th grade. Actually I gave it to a 4th grader to read a month or two ago, before I'd even read it, and she had no complaints. She's a very sophisticated reader, though, very smart, on the old side for a 4th grader, and I know her mom. So, yeah, 5th grade through maybe 9th grade is about right. Older kids won't touch it, it doesn't look teenage-y enough.

The main character and first-person narrator of this book is named Mira, and she is a mirror. You might think this would present a narrative problem, as mirrors tend to be rather passive. And this mirror does spend a lot of time plotting and scheming to get people to do things for her so that she can become a person again, as she once was, before that evil witch trapped her in wood and glass.

You might wonder, who would let a witch transform her into a mirror? Ah, but Mira was blinded by needy love for the witch, her fellow-apprentice, her adopted sister, the only person who ever showed her any affection. She would've done anything for her. And that's what the witch counted on. Then she used Mira to help make her beautiful, so she could gain power, become a Queen, get rid of that nasty little princess... but something must have gone wrong, because the witch-Queen disappeared, and Mira was left abandoned, hanging on a wall for a hundred years.

And that's just in the first seventeen pages.

Then a young girl, Ivana, finds the mirror while running away from an abusive father and an arranged marriage. Mira speaks to the girl, ostensibly helping her, but really trying to manipulate her so that Ivana can lead Mira to a source of magic, enough magic for Mira to finally escape the mirror and become human again.

But magic is not benign, in this book. Magic comes from life, and the best way to gather magic power is to take it from a dying creature. Of course, if you're unscrupulous, like the witch-queen-sister, you can just get your magic on by torturing and killing animals and people. Mira has never quite had it in her, plus, being a mirror and all, there's not much magic-gathering she can do any more, so her only hope is to convince Ivana to become ruthless and try to be around when magic power is in the air so she can snurfle it up into her mirror-self.

And there's another girl in it too, named Talia, and the mirror makes Ivana and Talia switch identities for reasons to complex to go into here, and lots of stuff happens. I told RW and Mermaid Girl the ending but I'm not going to tell you. But it's really good, and everything comes together just as you're wondering if it ever, ever will. It's really good and dark and magical and hopeful and complex and multifaceted.

In other words....ARRRRGH!

I've tried various hooks to get started: the Snow White angle, which is of course part of the story, but only a tangential part; the who-ever-thought-a-mirror-could-be-such-a-sympathetic -heroine gambit, the just-recount-the-plot-and-say-it's-good device. Nothing is working, here.

So here I am, trying the just-say-what-I-really-think-in-normal-colloquial-non-book -reviewer-ish-language technique. Much more satisfying. But I think this is clocking in at 500 words or so.

Oops, nope-- it's more like 700.

Like I said: ARRRRGH!

Oh, and I have to write up the meeting agenda, too. *&#*%! being President. Being President sux.

So, anyway, um: The book is good. And there's love in it. And death. And powerful scary magic. And it's about the mirror in Snow White, but not about Snow White herself, who never shows up. Highly recommended for grades 5-9.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Not about my kid, for once

Shannon of Peter's Cross Station has quite a story to tell. It's in several parts: first this, then this, then this, and then finally this.

Please go read it and then keep the people she speaks of in your thoughts.