Friday, January 30, 2009

25 Random Things About Me

I figured I wrote this out for facebook so I'd post it here too. Enjoy!

1. When I was born, the doctor told my parents that I would be severely mentally retarded because I had been deprived of oxygen for so long during the delivery (my heart had stopped) and my first birth certificate had the still birth boxed checked rather than the live birth box. Luckily my dad refused to sign the first birth certificate so they re-wrote it.

2. I am very sensitive and get my feelings hurt very easily when I am left out of things, even if I know it happened unintentionally. Not sure whether that's a legacy of being a nerd growing up or just a personality flaw.

3. I don't remember the first time I met my husband. Actually, given his version of events, I secretly think he has me mixed up with someone else because it doesn't sound like me at all.

4. I have an almost photgraphic memory and waste a lot of brain space with useless trivia.

5. I had a 16 inch head at birth (which might have contributed to the delivery problems) but I never appreciated just what a Charlie Brown noggin this made me until I had a child or three of my own and their sweet heads were only 14 inches.

6. I am on my 4th go-round with Weight Watchers. I figure one of these times it'll stick! Actually, I was at my all time low weight as an adult this summer but moving caused me to fall back on my stress eating and I fell off the wagon.

7. I have never lived anywhere longer than 5 years in my life and I've moved 15 times altogether.

8. I don't help my kids with homeowrk unless they ask (I do nag them about getting it finished though) because this is their school experience and if they are content to turn in something sloppy that makes me clench my fists, so be it. And for the most part this is starting to work and they are turning in fewer and fewer sloppy, incorrect, or incomplete assignments. Whether my sanity will last until the final child comes to the revelation that he cares about his education or not remains to be seen.

9. I am a snob about words and it makes me itchy when someone uses a made-up word or uses a word incorrectly.

10. I am occasionally passive-aggressive.

11. I have saved and printed copies of everything I've ever written about my children so they can have it later in life. I don't know if they will continue speaking to me once they read it all, but I think it's important to be honest about the struggles of raising children. I hope they appreciate what I have to give them and that whatever is in there they can also read of my great love for them.

12. I dread the teenage years in our house. I suspect a sarcastic mother and moody teens will not be an easy combination.

13. I have a personal library of around 8000 books, including the book on which I learned to read (The B Book), although it is not my original copy, and the very first book I bought with my own money (Jane Eyre), which is my original copy.

14. I never liked reading aloud to my children and it was a good day for me when each one learned to read on his or her own.

15. I don't like to shop except for three things: books, purses, and stationary. I have enough of all three to sink the Titanic.

16. When I was in high school in Minnesota, I went to the doctor because I had mono but I walked out with the number for the suicide prevention hotline (the mono diagnosis came on the return trip). This has left me with a deeply abiding distrust of socialized medicine. Needless to say, I never called the number.

17. I think my oldest son's disgnosis of "adjustment disorder" is hogswallop since it describes every person I've ever met who has ever moved and had trouble with the move. And it describes me at least as much as it describes him. I am leery of catch-all diagnoses.

18. I am a homebody and do not enjoy the effort that must be made to go out to events.

19. I am a bad corporate wife because I am a fan of honesty rather than coy dissimulation. D. actually asks me if I can behave before he takes me over to his boss to say hello at corporate events.

20. I never wear make-up or high heels.

21. I can touch my tongue to my nose and also bend it to make it look like a clover (not at the same time). Two of my kids can do the latter but no one can do the former (and they have their own odd stable of party tricks).

22. Although I rarely drink now, I was a fabulous chugger and shot-gunner in college.

23. Despite having high falutin' degrees in literature, my guilty pleasure in books is romance novels. I'm a sucker for a happy ending.

24. I always wanted to have a tutu when I was small. Perhaps this is why I signed my daughter up for dance lessons. She's fulfilled my tutu dream many times over now.

25. I talk to myself, a lot. Perhaps this is why I don't mind being alone. ;-)

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Anger issues

We are yellers in our family. Those of us old enough to know better (D. and me) are trying to curb our yelling tendencies (and incidentally, I originally typed "olde" so that must mean we are beyond ancient!). The shorter inhabitants of the house are still malleable enough to work through it without it being a permanent characteristic, I hope. In any case, we also have to be careful as to how we refer to this tendency around here because the other day T. announced to me, "Mom, W., R., and I all have anger issues, don't we." Whoops. When you want them to pay attention to what you are saying, they don't but when you think they are safely ignoring you, the little sponges are soaking it all in. So yesterday T. came home sobbing his little heart out. When I finally figured out what the problem was, it turns out that he came home because, as he put it: "They were all making me have my anger issues." It was all I could do not to laugh at him. I asked if he meant that he was getting annoyed and was yelling. He agreed that this was the case so he came home. Once I told him that he didn't have anger issues and that he just needed to try to stop yelling at his friends, he stopped crying immediately, bucked up and headed back off to play. We haven't had a re-occurrence. Does he have anger issues? A few but clearly we can't tell him that or his over active imagination will conjure up all sorts of extra things at which to blow his top. Leaves me wondering if I managed to pass along anything worth speaking of genetically or if I just passed all of them my atrocious personailty traits (which might be nature or nurture or both). I think this is why thinking people are not counselled before having children. Because if we thought about what we had to pass along, we'd realize it would be better for us to just adopt more dogs.

Cycle class

What does cycle class mean to me? The spare tire above my navel gets to meet the donut below my navel at high velocity. Even better, I get to be sore and achy for the following two days after 45 minutes of this forced introduction. Guess who's going to cycle class again tomorrow? Just call me a glutton for punishment.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Snort, choke, laugh

I just came across one of the most ridiculous lines I think I've ever read in a book. This one is almost as good as the line about the "black, leatherette, American Express credit card holder" in one of Kimberla Lawson Roby's egregious offenses against literature (a book my entire book club back in OH uses as the gold standard of craptacular writing--they even hosted a book burning party with this book, but I digress). This example of ghastly writing comes from something that makes no pretense of being literature: a series romance. Should I attribute the quote, given that if I had been the author I'd want nothing more than to distance myself from this? OK, I won't name names now but when I get around to reviewing it in full form, I make no promises. Here's what stopped me in my tracks as I was reading along, and I invite you all to guffaw loudly as you imagine this line, as intended, in the midst of a seduction scene: "Swiftly and expertly he freed the clasp at the back, easing the soft material from her swollen breasts and replacing it with the heat of his palms, cupping and lifting her in a way that no underwear could ever do." I know, I know. Try not to wet yourself with the laughing. There is so much wrong with this line that it simply defies explanation. Now you know why I read. Sometimes it's not the beauty of the writing but the sheer unintentional comedy is everything and more than you could have hoped for. (Trying to be an optimist here!)

Sunday Salon: random reading notes


My reading has been very catch-as-catch-can lately. Actually, my whole life has been sort of catch-as-catch-can. Over the past week, I've only devoted two big chunks of time to reading, instead of immersing myself in my books daily like I usually do. I do have three books I've finished since last Sunday I need to get around to reviewing (maybe I'll get to one of them later today since I'm putting it out in black and white--or black and green given the blog colors--that I'm behind). I have bookmarks putting down roots in several books, not because I am not enjoying them but because I just don't seem to reach for them right now. As close as I've come to reading lately has been scanning my books into librarything. I'm whitreidtan there. I'm up to almost 7000 books and I still have stacks of them to go. Once they are all scanned in, I can actually get them on shelves and be a bit more organized than I currently am. And I can get the duplicates out of the house, which will help the clutter in my head. In any case, I should be getting back to my reading now. Should I spend some time in Russia during the Napoleonic Wars (War and Peace), India under British rule (The Far Pavilions), turn of the century North Dakota (The Big Rock Candy Mountain), heading down an uncharted tributary of the Amazon River with Theodore Roosevelt (The River of Doubt), or in an entirely different book-i-verse entirely? Decisions, decisions, decisions.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

How to know you are really old

If you are in any doubt that you are no longer young. If the gray hair and wrinkles don't give it away, if the aches and pains and creaks in your joints haven't helped you face reality yet, if the leaky bladder post child-bearing hasn't dripped it into your consciousness, all you need is to go out to a bar with friends. Don't be a masochist and choose a bar that appeals to the preschool crowd. That's just sad and depressing on so many levels. Make sure you choose a bar that has a wider age range than that so that you can maintain your youthful illusion for at least a portion of the evening. Laugh and drink and dance and have all manner of fun. You will start to notice your age when you are the only folks in the bar who can not only sing all the words to the 1983 Lionel Ritchie song and the Animal House soundtrack song, but also that you might be among the few in the bar who were actually alive (and singing and dancing) when these songs were first recorded. As if this wasn't bad enough, also notice that you can sing all the words to current songs such as Britney Spears' Womanizer and Flo Ri Da's Low. Turn white with horror when you realize that the reason you can sing along so well to current stuff is because you spend so much time in the car driving your pre-teens places, not because you are hip and with it (which phrase guarantees your status as older than dirt anyway). Finish your last drink and slink away to your friends' house where you have loads more fun singing karaoke to pop songs from the 80's, because that's the music the young folks listen to nowadays, right?!

Friday, January 23, 2009

I know I'm odd

After all, it isn't every person in the world who insists that the movers pack her box collection. No, this isn't a collection of fancy boxes that you might display somewhere. This is a bunch of your garden variety cardboard boxes you wrap gifts in or mail things in or something like that. And I have spent a long time amassing a bunch of boxes of all shapes and sizes. Weird, I know. But have you ever had to pay for a box in which to mail something? Then you know how much money I'm saving by having my own collection. And furthermore, I am saving them from being heaped in a landfill or added to the recycling. Yes, I am trying desperately to justify my oddballness here and I think I'd succeeding (don't tell me if I'm not). In any case, I finally got around to unpacking the box that the majority of the boxes were in this afternoon and once again, pulling things out made me wonder if the packers who packed our things shared even one brain cell between them. Not only did they *unpack* the Rubbermaid tote I had full or gift bags and tissue paper (and my undiagnosed OCD--see, I am a sea of letter diagnoses today--required me to spend more than an hour getting them back in order, like occasion with like occasion and like color with like color, all arranged in ROYGBIV order), but they *tore* my boxes apart to pack them. I ask you what use ripped boxes are for anything?! I guess they go to recycling without being re-purposed. So much for my green efforts today. :-P And if I have to buy any cardboard boxes in the near future, I'll be billing the moving company.

Medicine

I'm not a doctor. I just play one on the internet. But I must say I'm pretty good. I diagnosed my neighbor's daughter's ovarian cyst. I diagnosed D.'s hernia. Conventional doctors told them exactly what I did and they charged for their expertise. I offered mine free. Quite the bargain when you consider how accurate my diagnoses are! So now I'm branching out and going to self-diagnose. I really think I suffer from SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). Yes, those who know me will probably say that this is the least of my worries medically but I assure them that being b!tchy is not a medical condition, at least not yet although the DSM-VI or whatever number they are up to now might be including it in the next edition. ;-) My mood takes a steep nose-dive when the weather is grey and gloomy. This is a key reason D. didn't consider for even one minute his boss' suggestion that he think about the job in Seattle. I'm sure it's a lovely city, when it's not raining but they have a high suicide rate there and I'm certain I know why. So instead we moved here to the sunny south, which has been distinctly unsunny on average for the past couple of weeks. And I've been gloomy and grumpy as a result. Let me put my doctor's hat back on and say that I probably need more Vitamin D, more exercise, and one of those odd lamps to feel better. Or the sun needs to come back out and stay out. Hmmm. Maybe I should get my internet degree as a weather girl next.

Student-led conferences

I'm sure there's some educational theory out there that claims that student-led conferences are a good idea. I say that theory is bunk. Today was the third day this week that the kids didn't have school. Monday was Martin Luther King Day; Tuesday was a snow day (more on that in another post); today was a teacher workday, which for the middle school translated into parents being guilted into going in and listening to their child run through a script about what they've learned thus far in the year and how they are doing. I know I'm grumpy, but I regularly check online to see the grades, my child comes home crowing with glee when he's done well, and I go ahead and pull teeth, I mean tease out information about his day to day life at school so this whole conference was unneccesary.

As a matter of fact, I'd forgotten about it until I happened to glance at the calendar on the fridge so W. and I popped out of the house completely haphazardly and last minute. I only had time to take a quick shower so my hair was still wet. W. was wearing shorts and a t-shirt, arguing that he wasn't going to be out in the cold very long. OK, not gonna fight that battle (and I was pleased to note that the silly list of parent tips for dealing with a pre-adolescent that we were given at conferences applauded me for not making a small issue a larger one--so apparently I'm to be okay with frostbite, as long as he gets to wear whatever weather inappropriate clothes he's chosen. Cool. Good to know.). At any rate, we got out of the house with some time to spare.

Back to the actual conference. For starters, W. told me half of what he was supposed to tell me in the car on the way to school. I have no problem with this but I could have saved the gas if we could have done this just as easily at the kitchen table (and given my childrens' tendencies to flapping lips, I suspect we definitely could have). We get to school and W. happily greets everyone he sees who he knows. Less than half greet him in return. This is an unintentional aspect to the conference I could have done without. I know he's socially immature (a less kind term comes to mind but I'll refrain) but I don't really want to see it in action because I might be a slacker mother of huge proportions, but this stuff still makes my heart hurt.

And I'd just witnessed the neighborhood boys' showdown at my front door yesterday when a child who has been less than kind to W. lately came, with back-up, to accuse my son of hiding Z.'s gun in the bushes. Now given that Z. and S. have recently mocked W. for being a baby (he does cry at the drop of a hat but I think being beaned in the head with something hard and sharp warrants crying, even in the most stiff upper lipped of boys), have tossed nerf guns and those squishy dart/bullets of W.'s into the bushes where they seem lost for good, and have been the ones to throw things at W., resulting in the mockable crying, I wasn't having much sympathy if W. had in fact gotten one back at them. (Note that I have never claimed to be a good parent.) But, and I tend to believe my kid on this since he's a terrible liar, he claims that he didn't do it. He admits he asked if he could see the gun but when he was told no, he said he came home. But three angry boys stood at my door certain that W. or T. or T.'s friend M. had done this and they certainly wanted blood for it. (None was given and they went away, probably to ambush my sensitive soul some other day.) So I already knew that W. isn't the most popular kid around before we walked into school. Thankfully he was so wound up about the conference, he didn't seem to notice.

The conference itself took all of 10 minutes and told me exactly nothing I didn't already know. Even worse, as I sat next to W. listening to him go through his class notebooks with me, I kept getting a whiff of the most appalling body odor. Yup. W. He threw clothes on without showering and he sat next to me like pigpen in his own cloud of fug. Very distracting. And I admit that my award as mother of the year is probably being revoked (again) because I leaned into him several times to ask about bathing, deodorant, and general hygiene. Dogged boy that he is, he shook of my questioning and raced through the conference at full speed so he could get home to the tv and computer. And for this they had no school? Next year I'll get two student-led conferences unless the teachers and administrators see the uselessness of them before then. Yeah, I'm not real hopeful either. Oh the joy!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Oh what a day

Today has been rough. The morning started off with R. crying on the couch because she didn't want to go to school. She was unwilling to tell me more than that she doesn't like her particular school. What brought this on? No idea. Makes me wonder what I'll be seeing on her report card soon. Then the middle school bus didn't come so I had to drive W. to school. He came back from the bus stop practically blue with cold (but that's his own fault as he's managed to lose yet another winter coat and I refuse to buy another one). I came back from dropping him off to find the dog throwing up on the stairs. No idea why she's sick but hours later, she's got the dry heaves so something is clearly wrong. The whole time, I've been fighting a bit of a migraine so I head to the couch to snuggle the sick dog and fall asleep to have to strangest, most disturbing dream I've had in a long time. I've slept on and off most of the day but my head is still making its presence known, unfortunately. Even worse, I need to shower, get dressed (yes, I'm still in jammies) and go to the store because we are out of milk and several other important things. I mean, if I intend to have the kids eat cereal for dinner, they should probably get to have milk on it, right? I think I'll head to bed right after dinner and hope that no other bad stuff can happen in the several hours between now and then because I'm exhausted with what I've already dealt with today.

Monday, January 19, 2009

People amaze me sometimes

They really do. In putting the trash out, I dragged out three recycling bins, our large trash can, and several flattened boxes, a few of which were moving boxes. I walked out a bit later to add to the recycling and found that someone had gone through the boxes and taken the moving boxes. Now, I certainly have no problem with this. The more uses they get before heading to the trash or recycling, the better. But whoever took the boxes tossed the remaining cardboard into my yard instead of re-stacking it so the garbage folks would pick it up. That's just d@mned inconsiderate. I hate it when people live up to my neighbor's assessment that most people are just jerks. But obviously the people who took my boxes don't deserve a nicer label. :-P

Mailbox Monday


This is the first time I've participated in Mailbox Monday, partly because it's gotten excedingly rare that books arrive at my house via mailbox, and partly because, well, it just is. But I thought I'd weigh in today since I did actually get something in the mailbox this past week. As a matter of fact, I received the same review book twice. So now I have two copies of Houston, We Have a Problema by Gwendolyn Zepeda. I'm still debating what to do with the second copy: a give-away here or take it to my bookclub and randomly hand it to someone there (I'm new enough that I don't actually know people's reading tastes there yet). Will have to ponder on that one. And just to point out how unequal my book acquisition habits are, only one (well, two) may have come in the mail, but 11 others road home with me in the car. Yeah, yeah. I am already in the red for the year since I've only managed to read 6 so far and have acquired 19. I wouldn't be me without this problem though.

Ever wonder?

Ever wonder why egg doesn't come off of things when run through the dishwasher? Other things that seem equally as caked on to my spatulas come off but not eggs. I guess I should also wonder why, even knowing this, that I continue to put eggy things in the dishwasher at all.

Eggs are/were the first dish that my children make when I deem them old enough to be cooking over a flame. W. and R. are old enough, T. not so much yet. While it was a lovely day when they decided they wanted to learn to cook for themselves, I wish they had learned to cook and clean up after themselves at the same time! Perhaps that's why I throw eggy things into the dishwasher, knowing what I know about the odds they'll come clean. If I didn't cook with it, it seems patently unfair that I'll have to clean it up. And I don't even like eggs.

As if eggs weren't bad enough, at least a good scrub by hand will get them off eveyrthing. This is not the case with the burned microwave popcorn smell that permeated my house sometime last week and is still lingering. Actually, it physically reaches out to assault me whenever I open the microwave door. I'm sure the odor was not helped by the fact that W. did it twice, separated by only a day in between. Not only that, but the liquification of the chemicals intended to mimic butter has permanently stained the inside of the microwave wherever it spilled off the turntable. Ugly and stinky: it's enough to make me consider banning popcorn. At the very least, we won't be having microwave popcorn here again any time soon. Eggs, well, I suppose if they mean I don't have to cook all the time, they can stay, messy as they are.

Mopey

Do you ever just have a blah day? Or a blah couple of days? I seem to be inhabiting a country of those days lately. Is it the lack of sun (and we thought we'd moved to the sunny south!)? Is it a lack of sleep? Is it the cold (knowing, of course, that we are quite a bit better off temp-wise than all our friends up north)? Is it that the kids are off school today (and again on Friday)? Is it the winter storm advisory that scrolled across Cartoon Network earlier (have I mentioned we live in the south and therefore winter storm advisories should not be mentioned here)? Is it that I haven't found myself able to stick with a book, instead hopping from one unfinished tome to another (I know this doesn't affect normal people but with me it is a concern)? Is it the lack of exercise (I'm down to about 12 miles a week of running but shin splints will do that to you)?

Whatever it is, I am so over it!!! I want to be energized again. I want to care about the big stuff (and the minutia). I want to be grabbed by the throat by a book I'm reading and gulp it down as fast as I can. I want to feel like I am accomplishing something, at least most days. I want... something. I don't even know what all but these grey and boring days aren't it. Maybe I need a tropical vacation or something (so I'm probably heading north to snow and ice and less light and sun than I'm currently getting--smart of me, isn't it?!). Feel free to give me a virtual smack. Maybe it'll jolt me out of the doldrums.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Sunday Salon: Review: Firmin by Sam Savage


Although I was always turned off by animal stories (even those like Animal Farm or Watership Down that were allegories for our own or future society) as a younger reader, I couldn't resist asking for a review copy of a book that features a rat born in a bookstore. Basically, mention books in your jacket or marketing copy and you can reel me in hook, line and sinker. The good news is that this book did not disappoint. Firmin is born into a nest of shredded pages torn from Joyce's Ulysses. This, perhaps, makes it understandable that it is a bit of a struggle to get into the book initially. But persevere and the omnivorous reader is rewarded. Firmin tells of his life in books, both eating them and once he learns, in reading them. I definitely chuckled when our intrepid rat tastes toilet paper for the first time and discovers it to taste similarly to Emily Post's etiquette tomes. But Firmin is the book rat in all of us. His imagination, nutured by his reading, is writ large and oftentimes gets him into trouble. He sees the coming destruction of his neighborhood but prefers to stay oblivious, with his nose in a book. He is, in short, a furry scholar who can only shut out the real world for so long. And don't for one minute think he's limited to the highbrow. Oh no. He is also a connisseur of girlie movies, featuring women he calls his "Lovelies," shown at the local movie theater, which is also a treasure trove of food for a rat. Firmin is a funny and loveable character and the book is a small gem for eclectic readers.

On a non-content related point, I will say that the chunk missing from the cover and pages of the book (shaped to look as if Firmin was a giant rat and had taken a chomp of the book), was highly annoying. It was cute in the store (yes, this was one of those Advanced Reading Copies I never received because of my new address snafu and so bought myself to fulfill the review obligation), but it was hideous in practice. The chunk was exactly where I try to hold a book and made holding this one uncomfortable. So any publishers out there thinking of doing something like this, it's nice to look at novelties of this sort but not a good idea in practice, at least as far as I'm concerned.

National Just Read More Novels Challenge

So I stumbled across this challenge a couple of days ago and thought, I can do this. Even better, I've already done this! I have read more than my usual share of non-fiction already this year but the month devoted to reading novels is helping keep me balanced. So far, The Water Babies, Firmin, and Fingersmith (reviews to come of the latter two) count towards my total. We'll see how many I can read before the deadline of the 31st! I suspect I'll earn a silver medal for reading five but not make it to a gold for 10 since I have a couple more non-fiction on the go too.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Review: How Not to Live Abroad by Shaun Briley

The title probably tips you off to the fact that this is not your typical moving and starting over travelogue. In fact, Briley and girlfriend Helen take a trip to Spain, mainly to avoid having to get actual jobs and to get away from Helen's mother. While there, they start entertaining the idea of investing the last of their dwindling money into a Spanish farm. Now, if they had money behind them, ensuring that they didn't actually have to farm, this would be a good idea, but for two people who seem fairly averse to working, buying a primitive (no running water, no electricity) farm seems the height of ridiculous. But they do it anyway, under the impression that Mother Nature will be kind and abundant. They soon discover that farming is a lot more work than they had anticipated, as is making their home a bit more amenable to people used to creature comforts. They do not go about modernizing right away, more like jerry-rigging things, because they are in financial straits. While this memoir of their time in Spain does have the requisite locals, they are folks living on neighboring farms, not workers come to improve an ex-pat's dream home or a summer retreat. Briley and his girlfriend learn how to exist with and on the land from the fellow residents of the campo but their life remains uneasy. Money is a continual problem. Their relationship is fraying. And they are at odds over what modernizations are welcome or needed in their lives. I doubt that this book would convince anyone of the appeal in a run-down, primitive farm life in Spain but it is, in its own way, still a paean to that country's more remote areas. I do think that the amount of backbreaking work that these two must have faced on a daily basis just to exist was certainly downplayed, perhaps in deference to an audience who might or might not believe how many hours a day one can spend fighting shrubby growths or trimming almond or olive trees. Even with the whitewashing of the work aspect, it was still clear that this paradise was an uneasy one both in the traditional sense and in terms of life there not being easy. This was a quick read and while I thought there was definitely a bit of bitterness towards Helen that still managed to squeak through, it was probably a fairly balanced accounting of their folly (relationship and life choice). For fans of the moving and starting over travelogue, this is a unique and different look at life as an ex-pat.

Eavesdropping doesn't pay

After getting myself all worked up about W. and "FWB," it turns out he was asking his buddy what "FWD" was. And then promptly forwarded the text he'd been sent to everyone in his phone, including but not limited to his grandmother and his father. Nevermind that he's not supposed to be texting. I think I'm so grateful we don't have to have that sex talk that I may let this one slide (or let D. handle it since I know he'd have turfed the other onto me).

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Eavesdropping

W., almost 12 years old, is talking to a buddy on his shiny, new cell phone in the next room. All I can hear is, "So what does FWB mean?" I am so hoping that it doesn't mean the same thing to the middle school set that it does to the old and perverted set because if he's discussing friends with benefits, we are going to have to have another sex talk. And trust me, no one wants that! Sex talk versus banning all texting, which one is easier?

The little things

I went to my first post-sign-up Weight Watchers meeting today. I managed to lose 1.4 lbs. despite the fact that the moms at the bus stop have had 2 impromptu happy hours since I signed up. I also faced Mexican night at Bunko, the Panthers play-off game post-tailgate gathering, dinner out at a burger joint, and a lunch with some friends. Not bad, if I do say so myself.

As to the happy hours, I am now officially the weirdo at happy hour (we cook these up spur of the moment when we are waiting for the kids to come home in the afternoons--ah, the life of a stay-at-home-mom!) since I arrive with a tray of veggies under my arm. Everyone else rummages around and find crackers and dips. Not me. I drag out healthy stuff. Here's hoping they don't kick me out of happy hour!

Apparently I can talk myself into doing something. During today's run, I started out by telling myself that I wasn't going to walk. Then remembering how all the experts and quasi-experts say you should frame things in a positive way rather than a negative way (and since both groups are in agreement, it must be true), I changed the annoying refrain in my head to "I will run the whole way." I'm not sure there's really any difference, but I didn't walk. (See, my natural inclination is to the negative. I even had a swim coach when I was younger who told my mom that I needed to go to the doctor because I was complaining differently than usual. Not that I was all of a sudden complaining. I was complaining differently. And as an aside, it turned out I was justified because I had a broken sternum.)

I've managed to do something catastrophic to my iPod. Before my run I was wondering if it would be horribly greedy to want more than one iPod so I could have one for running and one to leave in the iPod stereo thingie. But given that I can no longer adjust the volume on the one I own (and thanks to the stereo thingie it's set at a volume for broadcasting intergalactically), I really think I need a new one. D., are you reading this? Skip the roses. Just bring home a new iPod!

Also on the running front, as I've mentioned, I left my running shoes at my parents. And rather than take that as a sign (I'm sure it was, I'm just ignoring it, which will probably cause me to come back as a beetle in my next life or something), I have gotten out in a spare pair I had laying around here. Actually, it was a brand new pair I had never worn so I was hardly slumming it. But my mom had my dad send my shoes even though I said it wasn't a big deal (although I do like the brand and the yankz laces in the set I left at their house better). They arried by Fed Ex the other day. They arrived labelled express or urgent or whatever term it is Fed Ex uses. Should I be offended that my parents thought it was urgent I get the shoes back? I mean I realize I've gained some weight recently, but... In any case, I really wish the universe would quit sending me mixed messages. Someone up there is getting malicious glee out of my confusion. Either that, or they think I'll make a great looking beetle.

One last note on moving (or at least you all hope, I'm sure). In addition to all the other places I had to change my address, I forgot to change my address with the publishers and websites that are kind enough to send me books for review. Of course, given that I still don't have NC license plates, this lack of awareness and/or lack of action is probably not a surprise. But I only realized this oversight when I received notification that I should be seeing a book in the mail for review. It never arrived. A second book (from a different publisher) was also supposed to appear and didn't. How odd, I thought. And then I twigged to why. They are probably baffling the heck out of the people who bought our house in MI, unless by some quirk of fate those folks review the occasional book as well. So I duly sent my new address along to all concerned and because I felt terrible for not reviewing the books I was supposed to review, I waited until they were released and have now gone out and bought the books. Yes, the books were supposed to be free in return for my review. Now I've bought them and the publishers will still get a review. I probably haven't learned my lesson either. But with any luck, we won't move for many years so I won't have to re-learn this for some time. In the meantime, I've read one and have the second up next. Reviews to follow shortly!

You know you're a mom

Last week, T. brought home a small clay pot filled with vermiculite and seeds of some sort. It was what he chose to spend his remaining "auction money" (a first grade thing, about which I am still confused--although I'm grateful he didn't bring home any of the annoying toys I donated to it) on and he was convinced it was an instant grow kit. When he discovered it wasn't he put the pot on the dryer and completely forgot about it, as did I.

Well, someone inadvertantly knocked it into my washer when I asked the kids to toss all their dirty stuff in and it didn't land on the top of the clothes. Oh no. It was buried in the middle and since I didn't know that, I ran the washer. Imagine my horror when I start pulling "clean" clothes out of the dryer to find small brown flecks all over them. My first thought was that one of my children had had a bit of an accident in their pants and just tossed them without warning me. Yes, this has happened before and the outcome is similar to what I've just described. But, because I am a mom and therefore a poop connisseur, I carefully smelled the offending item of clothing. (Sorry to gross out you non-parents but I know any parents out there would back me up that this is the preferred method of determining just what you are dealing with.) Imagine my surprise when the brown stuff is odorless. So I continue pulling clothing out and having to shake it well to get all the unidentified brown stuff off of it (in preparation for it to be run through the wash yet again, as if laundry wasn't never-ending enough). Not until I am down to the last few bits of clothes do I come across the clay pot. It wasn't broken. Not even chipped. It was just really, really clean--and empty. Because I'm smarter than your average bear, I continued to shake out the remaining articles of clothing before the lightbulb finally went on and I realized the stuff I had showered all over the laundry room floor was the peaty vermiculite from the pot.

I know you all saw it coming from the first sentence of this entry, but I had a bit of a handicap. First of all, I didn't expect a plant pot and its contents to be in my washer. And secondly, my dryer is currently covered in an odd assortment of stuff since I've turned it into the area we dump anything the movers broke. So you see, I never noticed the disappearance of one small pot from the colossal mountain that is awaiting the moving assessor's scorn.

Fast forward to today as I am getting dressed for my run. It's colder than usual right now but given that I live in the sunny south, that doesn't mean it's too cold to run outside. It just means I am wearing long sleeves and pants. But since we had a couple of more reasonable days in there, I am pulling on a long sleeved shirt I haven't worn in over a week. I'm sure you can already see where this is going. Yes, the inside of my shirt is strangely gritty. Again, that blazing intelligence comes to my rescue and after picking several brown crumbs off of the hands I've thrust through the sleeves, I remember the dratted pot. Obviously this shirt was in that load of laundry and even more obviously, a second washing didn't solve the vermiculite problem. So what is my lazy answer to dealing with all of this? Well, the shirt is already on my body and since it is going to need to be washed to try to get rid of the dirt for a third time, I opt to just ignore the grit and run in it. I must say I was oddly speckled looking when I hopped in the shower after my run.

And while there has been no sign of sprouting in the washer, I can't remember what the seeds were so I can't speak to their resiliency. They are certainly getting watered enough to germinate. So if I post about mysterious plants growing in the washer, someone remind me why they are there, will you?!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Review: The Water Babies by Charles Kingsley

This Victorian children's morality tale is one that I've not heard many other people mention and that is a shame. It is more sophisticated than many elementary school-aged books written now and yet still sweet. Tom, a little chimney-sweep who is smacked about by his master, is cleaning a chimney at a great house when he is mistakenly thought to be a thief. He is terrified and runs off, all the while trailed by the queen of the fairies. After encountering huge obstacles in his path and overcoming them, he faces more mistrust and so wanders off to bathe in the river. He falls in and is transformed into a water-baby. As a water-baby, he has many adventures and learns to be a better boy than he had ever been when on land. This story owes much both to Gulliver's Travels and to The Odyssey. There are many strange creatures who instruct Tom in what is right and good during his quest and he has a loyal girl waiting for him to come home to her during his strangest adventure. The language would probably be a bit tough for elementary school readers today, either because they didn't understand it or simply because it is quite ornate and descriptive, unlike today's books, but the creativity of the land in which the water-babies live and the creatures that populate it might help children overcome these difficulties. There were pockets of the story that were a bit tedious in their insistence on moral lessons being pointed out in case the reader missed the significance of Tom's experience but this is very much a hallmark of the literature of the time and didn't ultimately detract from the overall loveliness of the story.

Still learning

How long have I been running now? Almost two years? You'd think I'd have learned all there is to know about myself and running already, wouldn't you? Apparently not. I had to really force myself out on my run today and instead of taking a tried and true route, I cooked one up around the neighborhood. But I'm clearly no judge of distance because the route was *very* short and necessitated me running past my house, not once, but twice, in order to even manage two miles (which is not nearly as far as I planned to go). Here's what I learned about myself during this run: never, ever, ever plan a route that goes past the house because I will see it and declare myself done, finished, kapluey. Yup, I unlaced the ole running shoes after a mere 2 miles. This can't be allowed to happen again if I think there's any chance I plan to run that half marathon on my birthday.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Confessions of a Fat Runner

This is an article from the Dec. 8, 2008 Newsweek magazine that I thought was pertinent to my own running form. I too am the walrus (read it and you'll understand). :-)

Confessions of a Fat Runner

More ham than hamstring, I have run more than 10,000 miles in my life. Try not to look so surprised.

Jennifer Graham

NEWSWEEK

From the magazine issue dated Dec 8, 2008

So I'm sitting, nearly naked, on the edge of the massage table, and the masseuse comes in to ask what kind of service I'll be getting today. "The Runner's Revenge," I tell her. Startled, she looks me over. "Why?" she asks. "Uh, because I run?" I answer, recalculating her tip in my head.

But when my hour was up and my deep tissues throbbed with contentment, I forgave the rube. After all, how was she supposed to know?

Most runners are ectomorphs: emaciated and square-jawed. Me, I'm an endomorph, possessed of a soft and thick body that looks as if it was stuffed to order at Build-A-Bear, not sculpted at an L.A. sports club. I look so unlike a runner that, when I first started jogging, passing motorists would pull over and ask if I needed a ride.

Twenty years later, defying all laws of science, my body doesn't look much different, even though I've run at least 10,000 miles.

Ten thousand miles? I pull out the calculator, because it doesn't seem possible that these thick thighs, slapping together rhythmically like a slow metronome, could carry me across the United States and back, twice. Solidly into middle age, I am more ham than hamstring.

But if the science doesn't work, the math does. Ten miles a week, 52 weeks a year-give or take a few rugged months while pregnant-equals 10,400 miles. And most weeks, I run more than 10 miles.

I'm not bragging, mind you. Ten miles is nothing for those long-legged ectomorphs who routinely cover that distance on their lunch breaks. The running magazines to which I subscribe regularly deflate my ego with headlines such as HOW TO RUN A SUCCESSFUL 10K ON ONLY 20 MILES A WEEK!

Only?

No matter. Dr. Kenneth Cooper, the fitness guru who coined the word "aerobics," says that if you run more than 15 miles a week, you're running for something other than fitness. Fifteen miles a week is great. But without a significant reduction in ice cream (a sacrifice I'm unwilling to make), it won't make you thin.

And so it happens that, waiting for the shuttle to take me to the starting line of the Kiawah Island Half Marathon, I am a size 14 among size 4s. And yet we all get on the shuttle, ride to the start, wait for the Porta Potties and then, when the gun goes off, start to run together. Me and the skinny people! And nobody kicks me out! Is this a great sport or what?

Of course, many of us are not so much running these distances as covering them. Sometimes we cross the finish line after the winners have already eaten, showered and boarded the plane back to Kenya.

But even calorie-deprived ectomorphs can do math, and at some point the organizers of road races figured out that my $20 entry fee is just as good as amateur marathoner Lance Armstrong's. Go watch any road race-except the Olympics-and you'll see participants of all sizes. Some races even offer special prizes for heavy runners, who are called Clydesdales and Athenas. We may never win the New York marathon, but like Rocky Balboa, we can go the distance and do it in style.

OK, maybe not in style. Even for skinny people, there's something undignified about galloping scantily clad down public streets. (The children of the late George Sheehan, a leader of the running boom, were mortified when neighbors asked why their father ran around town in his underwear.)

If you're overweight, and even faintly conscious of your appearance, care must be taken. Self-conscious women sometimes "double bag," slang for wearing two sports bras. And a bit of advice: try not to run at midday, when the sun is high. Mercilessly, it goes before you and adds 20 pounds to your shadow.

The spirit cries "gazelle." The shadow yells "walrus."

Nowadays, though, there's Lycra and Enell, amazingly forgiving shorts and anatomically engineered tights. We can all look good, at least as good as anyone can look running around town in her underwear.

But this is the beauty of the run: a mile into a good one, you stop caring about what anybody thinks. Push past the pain, ignore the passing cars, and soon you arrive at a place where your head is clear, your breathing calm, and the cares of the day fade away. This is why we run, all of us-the thinnest and the fattest. This is why we race. This, and sometimes there's free beer at the finish line.

Graham lives in Hopkinton, Mass.

If you don't know what it means...

don't use the word. Or perhaps more appropriately, if you think it's the correct word but it might be a homonym instead, look it up before you post it. I guess I shouldn't be surprised by an egregious word misuse in the celebrity muck that I click on when I run out of better reasons to be at the computer. And let's be honest, my better reasons include tossing possums on Facebook so this tells you how far down the list the celebrity muck is. In any case, apparently Yahoo hires people who don't know the difference between the word "illicit" and the word "elicit." Shocking isn't it? You too can read the article here. But if you'd prefer not to visit, here's the offending sentence for your entertainment: "We all nearly fell out of our chairs laughing as we watched Ryan Seacrest run down the stairs of his interview platform to get some face time with the passing Brangelina and not even illicit a glance over the shoulder from them." I say strike the "a" between "illicit" and "glance" and you have the makings of a fabulous Hollywood rumor. Wonder if I have a future as a Hollywood publicist?

Age...redux

So I had to go and get more beer for the hubby for the tailgate (we really don't drink nearly as much as the past couple of days' posts might indicate). Not only did I not get carded again, but I noticed the sign saying that they card if they think you are under 30. Good gravy! Rub it in, why don't they?! Not only do I not look in the neighborhood of 21, but I am easily and definitely identifiable as well over 30. ::sigh:: Stick a fork in me; I'm done.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Sunday Salon: Review: I Wanna Be Sedated: 30 Writers on Parenting Teenagers edited by Faith Conlon and Gail Hudson


I found this one sitting in my stacks and added it to one of my challenge lists with the thinking that I have a child racing towards the teen years so I should start reading along and preparing myself. After reading this book, I can see a good reason to follow the adage "Ignorance is bliss." Yowza! I am not ready for some of the challenges in this book. Will I be ready in a year? Probably not. But I don't think I get to stop the train now. My own personal state of panic aside, this was an interesting read. Very few of the writers focused on the really big issues you see in the news so frequently: drugs, alcohol, teen pregnancy, etc. Instead, they mostly confined themselves to the everyday irrationality of teenagers. They detailed frustrations, challenges, hormonal swings, and heartbreaks but the essays in here gave equal time to the overwhelming love the writers all felt (feel) for their teens, who amidst strife and chaos, are untying the apron strings and emerging from the chrysalis of childhood. I suspect that it's still hard to see exactly who the teens will be as adults, but these famous writer parents seem, for the most part, to be enjoying watching the transformation. The essays do run the gamit from humorous takes on the moodiness we all expect of teens to the pain of watching as your two oldest run away again. In the first essay, W. Bruce Cameron writes, "Congratulations! You are now the proud new owner of a teenage daughter. Please read this manual carefully, as it describes the maintenance of your new daughter and answers important questions about your warranty (which does NOT include the right to return the product to the factory for a full refund)." This essay stands in sharp contrast to Debra Gwartney's heartbreaking essay about her struggles with her daughters. Her essay details her attempt to change the situation after her daughters run away the first time but towards the end, she writes, "In the end, they had to go and keep going until they decided to return. I must have known that on some level, hard as it was to accept. When they left the second time, I didn't try to stop them."

Obviously, experiences with teenagers are as varied as the teenagers themselves and this book doesn't make any claims to be a parenting manual or even to dispense advice (except in the most flip and humorous of ways). It isn't designed to scare the pants off of parents (although some essays did have that effect on me) nor is it designed to fool them into a sense of complacency about the trials of living with teens (no chance of that!). It is merely an entertainment, filled with well-written and interesting essays about a time of life that no parent escapes. And on that level, it fulfills its purpose. As in most collections, there were essays I enjoyed far more than others. Some were better written than others. And as is often the case with specialized collections such as this, I'm not convinced of its universal appeal but for parents who can stomach reading about the teen years, this is a pretty decent choice. For my own part, after reading this, I have decided that "Dee Nile ain't just a river in Egypt, baby." If I ignore it hard enough, maybe I won't even notice the teen years as we plow through them here, right?!

Friday, January 9, 2009

Age is just a number

I'm in the grocery store yesterday picking up ingredients I forgot and also picking up about an entire cart full of beer for D. and the neighbor to have while watching the National Championship game. As I get in line, a kid carrying two cases of Bud Light heads over to the self-check lanes. He only looked about 12. OK, maybe 16. He scans his beer and heads over to hand over his ID. When said ID is deemed a fake, he runs out of the store like he's on fire. The checkers in the lanes around me are chuckling about the whole thing and looking at the ID. Now it's my turn to check out. I am in running gear with my hair up in a pony tail. In other words, I am looking as young as it is possible for me to look. I unload my cart full of beer (and a few other paltry items) and wait to be asked for my ID. Nothing. The kid scans it all, I pay and leave, trying hard not to be offended that I clearly look so far beyond 21 that there's no earthly need to check my ID. Didn't work. I'm still offended. And worse, I will no longer *ever* believe D. when he says I still look like my high school senior picture. Obviously I've married a practiced liar. And I look like an old hag. On the plus side, he's never told me I look like an old hag, even though I clearly do. :-P

T.'s latest

So D. was chivvying the kids to bed the other night and T. asked him "Dad, why are you so hard on your children?" (Yes, my six year old actually talks like this.) D. looked at him and said, "It's my job." What does T. reply? "Then you're taking mom's job." Can you tell who usually plays good cop and who gets to play bad cop around here?

Thursday, January 8, 2009

I'm a brat but then you already knew that

So I went and re-signed myself up for Weight Watchers today. I did it very successfully in Michigan, ultimately losing over 60 pounds. I only had about 5-10 more to go to be at my goal weight. But then I agreed to the marathon and decided that if I was going to stress my body out with the training, I couldn't very well also keep actively trying to lose weight. And I don't regret that decision because I think it was healthy and the right one. The problem came in when I had to move in the midst of training and being a stress eater, well, the move drove me right back to the great white psychiatrist in the kitchen (the fridge for the uninitiated--and sometimes his partner: the pantry). So I trained and gained all at the same time. Huh. It even rhymes. And then the marathon was over and instead of cutting back on the eating, I continued to eat as if I was asking my body to run 20 miles at a go. Obviously that was not the smartest thing I've ever done. And believe me, I've done more than my share of pretty stupid things. So I looked online and found the closest WW meeting and mentally noted when I needed to be there. I knew I wouldn't find a leader the caliber of the leader I had in Michigan. Julie was outstanding and funny and so great I hauled my sorry butt out of bed on Saturday mornings to go to her 8am meeting. She even made a donation to my marathon when I announced my grand plans at one of the spring meetings up there. All in all, she was fantastic and I knew I'd miss her. Anyway, I rolled into the meeting (in full running gear since I had a planned run with a friend scheduled for afterwards) and the leader greeted me. She was all bubbly and peppy, which is important for me. But, and this is a big but, after welcoming me and giving me the literature (essentially the same stuff I've gotten each other time I've signed up), she leaned in to give me a hug. Whoah lady! I don't know you but I like my personal space. I live in a bubble and I expect people to respect that. I'm sure she felt me flinch away from her since she hurried off to the next newbie. But I was still going to give her the benefit of the doubt because, after all, I was there for myself, not for her. And I will say she was a very energetic leader. But by the third time she used the word "ain't" as if it really was proper, I was twitching. I suspect that WW would say that was okay since it was an extra bit of exercise though. Argh!!! Are you kidding me? AIN'T? And not once, not even thrice, but uncountable numbers of times. I am a snob. What can I say? I am a snob but I accept that and I like me. Would it surprise you to hear that I disagreed with her vocally on her assertion that every ten pounds is a dress size? I just couldn't help myself. I know this is conventional wisdom and that every leader ever spouts it, but it is still not correct. She didn't like me saying that losing over 60 pounds led me to drop four dress sizes rather than six. Oh well. Maybe now she regrets that ill-considered hug. ::Wicked grin:: But I decided that I didn't want to be the horrid new girl that M. resents having in the front row each and every meeting (because this is the only meeting close to my house--d@mn the skinny southerners anyway) so I threw her a bone when someone was whining about multi-vitamins and I chimed in with Viactiv's chocolate chewy vitamins as a treat for yourself: sweet and good for you. She even gave me a bravo sticker for that one. I will go back; I paid for the monthly pass which charges my credit card every month whether I go or not, but the grammar issue is going to kill me. Here's hoping I make lifetime quickly and can back down to once a month asap!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Victorian Challenge


The last challenge I'll list today lest my few faithful readers hate me and quit reading the blog will be the Victorian Challenge. I don't think I have loads of books that will fit this one, but I'm interested in trying nonetheless. Even better, if I decide to read something other than what I've listed, the rules don't say I can't switch. So here's my initial thought on the 3 I'll read:

1. Fingersmith by Sarah Waters
2. A Lady's Life in the Rocky Mountains by Isabella Bird
3. The Water Babies by Charles Kingsley

What An Animal Challenge


Going through my lists, I found yet another one I have been reading along for but haven't bothered to officially sign-up with. I guess I'm just an unofficial rebel. ::snort:: At any rate, even though I never liked most animal stories when I was a child, I decided to go ahead and read for the What An Animal Challenge. And I decided to branch out a bit on the animals, reading about a bear and a pig in addition to dogs and cats. So here's the list for this one:

1. The Good, Good Pig by Sy Montgomery
2. Unleashed edited by Amy Hempel and Tim Shepard
3. Gentle Ben by Walt Morey
4. The Cat Who Covered the World by Christopher Wren
5. The Dogs Who Found Me by Ken Foster
6. Dog Years by Mark Doty

Well-Seasoned Reader Challenge


I have scads of books that would fit this challenge so it's no surprise that I want to jump on the bandwagon of the Well-Seasoned Reader Challenge . Here's my list:

1. Fork It Over by Alan Richman
2. How Not to Live Abroad by Shaun Briley
3. Lonely Planet Unpacked by Tony Wheeler

Winter Reading Challenge


I love the seasonal challenges because they are so lovely and loosey-goosey in their rules (ie: I determine the whole of the challenge for myself but get to call it participating in someone else's challenge--weird distinction, I know, but it works for me). So I was pleased to see that the Winter Reading Challenge will be continued this year. Generally I take these seasonal suit yourself challenges as a chance to finish all the books on the bedside table that I currently have bookmarks working their way through (no matter how slowly). But given the books on there at the moment (War and Peace and The Far Pavilions being just two of the insanely large books resting there), I've decided to go about this one slightly differently this year. I am still going to challenge myself to finish but I am only going to include one book, instead of all of them (I like my challenges to at least seem attainable). So I hope to have finished War and Peace no later than March 20th, which is when the challenge wraps up. Maybe then I'll go back to my regularly scheduled finish them all strategy if the Spring Challenge happens again (depending, of course, how far into The Far Pavilions I am by then!).

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Snapshots from my day

On an errand, I got stopped for a train. Aha! I always travel with a book just in case of situations like this. The arms went down. I reached for my book. The engine went past. The arms went back up. What are the odds? I guarantee that if I hadn't had a book, it would have been the longest train known to man.

I returned the book I bought while down at my parents' house (because I already owned it, of course). While there, I picked up a few more books. It seemed like an even exchange. One book returned while 6 more came home with me. Make that five. One of the six I bought has to go back tomorrow because... Yup, you guessed it. I already own it.

I stopped to get gas at a seedy looking station that was a full 5 cents per gallon less than anything else around here. I pumped the gas while pondering all sorts of minutia. Didn't snap back to reality until I realized gas was splashing onto my feet. Apparently the automatic stopper thingie didn't work. Now my lovely new shoes smell all gassy and my jeans are already in the wash. As for my feet, well, I didn't smell them but I'll be showering shortly. So much for the cheaper gas! I probably spilled what I would have spent at the other stations. :-P

I went for my first run in over a week. It didn't feel very good and was only 3 miles. Even worse, when Coach Jay stopped to talk to us (we'd inadvertantly left without him), I felt dizzy and nauseous. Clearly I am very out of shape. I need to sign up for a race to force myself out there more than twice a week. I figure if I sign up, I'm ornery enough that I'll run because I don't want to totally embarrass myself. Now to figure out which race to bless with my presence!

Monday, January 5, 2009

Unread Authors Challenge

I could have sworn I signed up for this one a while ago. After all, it is not only listed on both my handy dandy lists of challenges, but it is also listed in my excel database of which books belong to which challenge. You never knew what a nerd I was, did you? I admit the extent of my dorkiness sometimes even surprises me. In any case, apparently I only *thought* I'd joined the challenge officially because there's not a record of my participation on the host blog. So even though it ends in less than a month, I am signing up now. It's sort of satisfying to sign up when you've already finished reading for it too, I might add. ::grin:: This is one challenge I definitely won't fail! So the challenge is The Second Unread Authors Challenge and my list of books for the challenge is:

1. The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan
2. Skating to Antarctica by Jenny Diski
3. Raising Fences by Michael Datcher
4. The Tooth Fairy by Graham Joyce
5. The Bookseller's Daughter by Pam Rosenthal
6. Netblue by James L. Hayhurst

TBR Challenge



I am signing up for this one a little behind the usual time (story of my life these days). This is th TBR (to be read) challenge. Unlike most of my challenges, this one doesn't allow you to swap out books on your list once you create it so it takes some careful thinking. It does let you have a main list of 12 and a list of 12 alternates just in case though. In any case, I pondered my possibilities and finally created an eclectic list that should suit me all year long no matter what kind of reading mood in which I seem to be at any given moment. So with no further ado, here's the 2009 list I'll be tackling:

1. Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens
2. The Makioka Sisters by Junichiro Tanizaki
3. Fingersmith by Sarah Waters
4. River of Doubt by Candice Millard
5. Jim the Boy by Tony Earley
6. Merry Hall by Beverley Nichols
7. Eve's Ransom by George Gissing
8. I Wanna Be Sedated: 30 Writers on Parenting Teenagers edited by Faith Conlon and Gail Hudson
9. The Bar Sinister by Linda Berdoll
10. Dog Years by Mark Doty
11. Kartography by Kamila Shamsie
12. Don't Let's Go To the Dogs Tonight by Alexandra Fuller

alternates:
1. Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
2. Independent People by Haldor Laxness
3. A Lady's Life in the Rocky Mountains by Isabella Bird
4. Twilight by Stephanie Meyer
5. The Tale of Desperaux by Kate DiCamillo
6. Firmin by Sam Savage
7. Bless Me Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya
8. Pure Dead Frozen by Debi Gliori
9. Eve's Ransom by George Gissing
10. Blue Highways by William Least Heat Moon
11. Short Fat Triathlete by Jayne Williams
12. Tallulahland by Lynn Messina

Challenges and resolutions

It's that time of year when I go all hog-wild and join a whole bunch of internet book challenges. Sometimes this helps me focus my reading. Sometimes this overwhelms me. And sometimes I pay zero attention to the challenges I've set or joined. It's kind of like my own version of New year's Resolutions, which you might notice didn't appear on the blog. This is not because they are so private I can't share. I mean, let's be honest, I have no problem sharing--inapropriately even. It's more because I don't make resolutions anymore. I hate to set myself up to fail (and really, who ever follows through on their NY resolutions anyway?). Plus, the typical things that everyone resolves to do (lose weight, eat better, exercise more) just make me sound like a commercial for Weight Watchers (which I will be re-joining, as I've previously mentioned, but not because it's a new year, more because I've gotten off track--sort of like this post). In any case, the things I should resolve to do don't need formalizing by being placed on a list with a definite start date. They should just organically happen. And if you believe that pile of hog's wallop, you don't know me! But I'm only indulging my list making anal-retentive side with book resolutions this year so when you start seeing loads of entries on my upcoming book challenges (and last count has me signing up for 45), you'll know what has happened. My evil twin organizer has just highjacked the blog for a while although hopefully the loopy, chaotic twin will get to continue posting a bit too since I know you're all addicted to my nutball entries on life now, aren't you?

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Sunday Salon: Review: Amy's Answering Machine by Amy Borkowsky


Borkowsky is a comedian. Or at least she was when this book was written in 2001 (and the reason I give you the date is to orient you to the dominant technology of the time). Apparently one of the things she does/did in her act was to play tapes of her answering machine messages from her mother and then riff off of the over-protective messages. I have to hope that she is funnier doing stand-up than she is when writing this stuff down. Because this isn't funny. It's just dull. There is a good chance that her intonations and mannerisms made this a successful stage bit but it clearly loses in the translation to the page. Thank heavens this was short because had it been any longer than it was, I would have been sound asleep, head pressed to print, and drooling into the spine. I'm also hoping that the advent and proliferation of voice mail and the lack of taped evidence of her mother's over the top concerns means that we won't ever be subjected to another book of this stuff. Obviously not the way I wanted to start off my reading year and I recommend you don't bother with this either.

Should I just go back to bed?

I always thought that those mornings when I stood in the shower and honestly couldn't remember if I'd already washed my hair yet (sometimes yes, sometimes no) were as low as mornings got but today proved me wrong. I put both contacts in the same eye. Ummm. Yeah. I won't share how long it took me to realize why everything was so incredibly blurry. I may still go pull the covers over my head and call it a day later.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Not my preferred career path

I have a low patience level, a high frustration level, and absolutely zero tolerance for other peoples' learning curves. The whole world is breathing a sigh of relief that I recognized this about myself many years ago and chose not to become a teacher (and to those handful of students I traumatized while I was in grad school, well, my heartfelt apologies). D. and I decided to teach some neighbors how to play euchre yesterday. Now those of you who are not from the midwest have probably never heard of euchre, but I assure you, it is a fun game and easy to learn--provided you don't have D. or me explaining it to you, especially when one of us has had a bit to drink and the other is working on serious sleep deprivation. How the neighbors didn't just chuck us out into the yard and bolt the door behind us, I'm not certain, but they didn't. Instead, they chose to stick with the game and watch my blood pressure reach dangerously high levels. That must have been the draw, because they clearly weren't having fun. And I could never tell if they were just being polite when they declined each time I offered to throw our hands in and abandon ship. I tell you, I was never so happy to reach the end of a game as I was last night! And we should have known better. We've been to an evening where the goal was to teach other folks the joys of euchre and I felt like I was wearing a hair shirt all night. So while others may find euchre difficult to master (it's really not), I obviously don't learn from my mistakes. What a good idea: I am not now and never have been cut out to teach anyone anything at any time (I didn't even bother to toilet train my kids, allowing them to decide to train themselves--this is how unsuited I am to teaching) so let's repeat one of the most brutally frustrating evenings in recent memory and showcase my mad card teaching skills. Brilliant, wouldn't you say?! ARGH!!!!

On the plus side, the neighbors (who we really do like a lot--and as a result of which we will never, never suggest euchre in their presence again) seem to still be speaking to us. So while it was pretty obvious I was frustrated, I must have taken it out mainly on D. instead of our friends. This is good. He's stuck with me. They're not. (But I still say euchre is easy to learn--afterall, I learned in college in the course of one short evening when I was, shall we say, at less than my most coherent and best self. Just sayin'.)

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