Monday, December 31, 2007

Last post of 2007

I'll probably be posting sporadically over the next few weeks, what with business travel (and fun vacation) being the story of my life until Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend. I'm excited about this new chapter in my professional life. I'm also excited about my per diem and my corporate card and having a hotel room all to myself.

Bets on how quickly the novelty wears off? I'm thinking around Thursday.

I'm entertaining the notion of becoming a bizarre food blogger while I'm on the road. Photographing my restaurant meals and writing about them. Because seriously? Without my kids and husband and neighborhood for material, I'll be scraping the bottom of the barrel.

But I'll tell you one thing...this training? Will result in me being very jacked up on caffeine. I can assure you of that.

Friday, December 28, 2007

8 Things for 2008

As promised, my eight lofty, yet attainable, goals for the upcoming year.

1. Utilize my gym membership. I had a good streak going for several months, but I got out of the habit after a bout with the flu. This business trip, with the two-week hotel stay, could get me back in a good exercise routine. If I lost a few pounds, I wouldn't be heartbroken.

2. Keep my desk clean. I used to have a really, really messy desk at work. I resolved, about a year ago, to spend a portion of Friday afternoon making sure my desk was clean before I left. I've done well with that and am trying to increase the frequency of the desk purge to daily. Hopefully that will spill over to my purse.

3. Stealing this one from Zoot. I'm going to take the dogs, particularly the big girl, on longer walks. I'm sure she'd be a better dog if she got more exercise. Plus, she's getting a little chubby, which is cute but certainly not healthy.

4. Eat more fruit. If I had my druthers, I'd live on cheez-its, dinner rolls with butter, and country fried steak. With macaroni and cheese on the side. Unfortunately, that's not a sensible diet for anyone. Adding a couple of pieces of fruit might help me break the cheez-it addiction.

5. Ride my bike more. I live downtown. I work downtown. I do a lot of things downtown, and I feel pretty stupid driving around, looking for parking, when I live under a mile away from most of the things I do. Our house isn't in the downtown core, but it's an easy bike ride to get most places we go. If I bothered.

6. Give more of my time to help others. Delivering meals on wheels was so easy and so rewarding that we'd be crazy not to sign up do continue throughout the year. And I'd like to find more things we can do, as a family, to help out. Especially in our own neighborhood.

7. Finish the book. Along with exercising, that's part of my two weeks in a hotel plan.

8. Get more photos printed. Not everyone wants to look at a tiny camera screen. And computers crash. I really love the photo book I made of our wedding pictures. The next step would be to make more, like for vacations, birthdays, holidays, or whatever.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

7 Things That Happened in 2007

Stealing my own meme from last year, but it seems a worthwhile endeavor.

1. Started a novel. It began as a reckless foray into National Novel Writing Month, totally consuming my life for three weeks, and now remains a nagging project I'd like to finish. Two weeks away from my family next month might be just the push I need to get it done.

2. Preached a full sermon. I'd spoken in church several times before, but this was the first time I was the lone speaker. It wasn't as hard as I thought it would be. But that doesn't mean I have any plans to become a minister. I'm way too awkward visiting the sick.

3. Got a well-deserved promotion. After the bitter disappointment of being the second-place contestant last year, I laid low and decided to stay in my current department. I had faith in a couple of very trustworthy and loyal colleagues, and it worked in my favor. (Plus, just to make me feel better, the person who got the other job looks just plain miserable every time I see her. Another trusted colleague assures me that I would have hated it and would probably have thrown in the towel by now.)

4. Refinanced my mortgage. Too many scary stories of adjustable rate mortgages ending in foreclosures led me to the loan officer's office for a fixed rate mortgage. Peace of mind? Priceless.

5. Looked long and hard at my priorities and made some changes. I sleep better at night.

6. Met some bloggy friends in real life. Which was just as awesome as it sounds.

7. Drove 850 miles in one day, by myself. It was hard.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

2007 in review

At the end of last year, I made a list of goals for this year. Let's see how well I did.

1. Vastly improve my cooking skills.

Not really. I've been so busy with #2 that the kitchen has been neglected. But I've sorted out a few good dishes and my palate is probably better. Oh, and I'm better at baking bread. So maybe I can get half-credit.

2. Change jobs in an upward direction.


3. Help my church develop a religious education strategy for children with disabilities.

Huh? I don't remember writing that. Definitely didn't do that.

4. Be more present when I spend time with the kids.

I'm gonna say yes on this. I think the kids would agree.

5. Do at least three catering gigs. The two I did this year went well. I can do even better next year.

Not so much. How about zero instead?

6. Keep blogging.

Obviously. I even went to BlogHer!

7. There are several things I'd like to do better: singing, being a better wife, getting more exercise, increasing my community involvement....okay. I'd like to get an iPod or MP3 player for myself.

a. just did karaoke the other night, still enjoying the afterglow
b. ask the husband on that one
c. until last month, I was doing great...and will do better in January
d. yes, I've done that
e. yes

Obviously, some of the things that I thought were really, really important this time last year have slipped in the rankings a bit.

And yes, I think you're being completely reasonable to expect an "8 things for 2008" post this week. I assure you it'll be done by Monday. Because making deadlines? Is probably on that list.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Media Frenzy, Round Two

When we walked into the MIFA headquarters this morning, we were wondering how many meals we would deliver. We were wondering where we'd be going. We were wondering if the kids were going to be okay with delivering meals to homebound seniors. We weren't wondering if the reporter from Channel 5 was going to be our new shadow.

But that's how it played out.

Something about my family screams, "Media, follow us!"

I'm thinking it's the kids.

That or the "Media whore" tattoo on my forehead.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Wish I had that much money sitting around....

This is an awesome prank.

That is all.

Christmas Eve

Because I somehow think I'm some kind of writer, I volunteered to write the children's portion of my church's Christmas Eve service. And because I have suffered from writer's block, I flagrantly lifted text used in my parents' church (which is 750 miles away, so I doubt anyone at church will recognize it).

"Stealing" a worship service from a Presbyterian church is not necessarily as easy as it sounds. Because I adapted it to become (a) Unitarian Universalist, and (b) kid-friendly. When I wrote our church's holiday play a couple of years ago, the words practically flew out of my fingers onto the screen. This one required more thought. Which, yeah, suggests that I might have had an easier time coming up with something completely original.

But I didn't. And, despite the theological differences between Unitarian Universalism and Presbyterianism, I think I've come up with something nice.

Spoiler alert...if you're going to Neshoba Church's Christmas Eve service tonight (at 6 p.m.!), you might not want to read this.

Seriously. Don't read it before the service.

Are you still reading? Don't say I didn't warn you.

"Let there be light"

Staging: after I welcome the congregation and the kids join me on the podium, the lights will be turned off, even the Christmas tree lights. Pitch black, or pretty close. Six readers are assembled.

Reader 1:
In the beginning, when it was very dark, God said: ‘Let there be light.’
AND THERE WAS LIGHT. (I light the reader's candle.)
Light goes on shining in the darkness

Reader 1 lights the candle of reader 2, then walks to the front right corner of the sanctuary.

Reader 2:
Carrying a candle
From one little place of shelter
To another
Is an act of love.

Reader 2 lights the candle of reader 3, then walks to the back right corner of the sanctuary.

Reader 3:
To move through the huge
And hungry darkness, step by step,
Against the invisible wind
That blows for ever around the world,
Carrying a candle,
Is an act of foolhardy hope.

Reader 3 lights the candle of reader 4, then walks to the back center of the sanctuary.

Reader 4:
Surely it will be blown out:
The wind is contemptuous,
The darkness cannot comprehend it.
How much light can this tiny flame shed
On all the great issues of the day?
It is as helpless as a newborn child.

Reader 4 lights the candle of reader 5, then walks to the back left corner of the sanctuary.

Reader 5:
Look how the human hand,
That cradles it, has become translucent:
Fragile and beautiful; foolish and loving.
Step by step.

Reader 5 lights the candle of reader 6, then walks to the front left corner of the sanctuary.

Reader 6:
The wind is stronger than this hand,
And the darkness infinite
Around this tiny here-and-now flame
That wavers, but keeps burning:
Carried with such care
Through an uncaring world
From one little place of shelter to another.
An act of love.

Reader 1:
The light shines in the darkness
And the darkness can never put it out.

Reader 2:
You are like light for the whole world. A church with doors open wide, welcoming all and serving all, cannot remain a secret.

Reader 3:
A home filled with love, nurturing, supporting, forgiving, caring, will never be empty and lonely.

Reader 4:
A life spent in service, volunteering, helping, sharing, will never be ignored or forgotten.

Reader 5:
In this season of long nights and short days, we are here to watch and wait for the coming of light into the world. We long for the day when the things of darkness—selfishness and greed, suffering and oppression---shall be no more. We seek ways to help hasten that day.

Reader 6:
Together, we can
Light up the past
That we might learn from it with thankfulness.

Reader 1:
Together, we can
Light up the present
That we might live in it with love.

Reader 2:
Together, we can
Light up the future
That we might prepare for it in hope.

Reader 3:
As we watch and wait,
May we be always ready to find the holy
Which is already and always with us.

Reader 4:
The Ancients greeted the longest, darkest time of the year with rituals and celebrations of light and fire, anxious to keep the darkness at bay, hopeful of a return of the light. Gradually this dark season was transformed to a time of the bringing of the good news: Light DWELLS among us! We strive to share the light---the light of hospitality, of acceptance and inclusion, of love.

Reader 5:
As we enter this special season, we think of all the holiday preparations---the baking, the shopping, cards and gifts, decorations….sometimes it is fun and exciting….and sometimes it is exhausting and overwhelming. Just like the Ancients, we huddle together for warmth, for companionship, in the season of long nights and short days. We may try to get together with lots of family and friends, and try to squeeze in parties and open houses and caroling and the Nutcracker and concerts and the Christmas Carol….as if there won’t be time after December 25 for any of this! But the season calls us to stop. To wait. To think about what lies ahead…the light is returning. What does this really mean for us?

Reader 6:
We wait in the darkness of the season. We notice the nights drawing in. As we notice the darkness of our world---the violence and pain, the fear and uncertainty, we can open our hearts to that darkness. We notice the darkness in our own lives, our personal struggles. We know that in the darkness, in all those places of darkness, the holy is still present, already present.
So, in the darkness we wait for the coming of the Light into the world.

Reader 1:
Christmas celebrates the birth of a special baby who grew up to change religion as it was known before. His light shines in the darkness, illuminating every corner…we cannot help but see the poor, the oppressed, the ignored, the neglected, the stranger in need. Now that we can see---what will we do?

It is easy welcome friends and loved ones…but can we welcome the stranger too? Hospitality---the gift of welcoming not just the friend but the stranger too---and it’s not that simple. In Celebrate Advent, by John Hendrix, it says “God’s people were strangers in Palestine, but they could never quite settle on what to do with the strangers in their midst. For most of the ancient world, the stranger was an enemy---an unknown sinister one who needed to be driven away. Yet, they were not quite sure because the stranger might be a messenger from God. This feeling of fear and suspicion was mixed with fascination, curiosity, and the need to be helpful.” Abraham welcomed three strangers to his tent in the desert…and they brought a blessing and a promise of a son. The Bible wants us to know that welcoming a stranger brings us close to an experience with God. …Jesus says, “I was a stranger, and you welcomed me.”

Reader 2:
But it’s easy to welcome the sweet little baby, boy-child of Mary, meek and mild. What about welcoming the Jesus who ate with sinners and had tax collectors and prostitutes for friends? The person who broke the rules and had no place to lay his head? Is that the kind of person we want in our homes? The Baby Jesus remains, in some ways, a stranger, one who, by his example, asks us to do difficult things---to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the imprisoned, care for the outcast, welcome the stranger, do unto others as we would have them do unto us, be the light in a dark world.

Reader 3:
holy child of bethlehem, whose parents found no room at the inn; we pray for those who are homeless.

Reader 4:
holy child of bethlehem, born in a stable; we pray for all who are living in poverty.

Reader 5:
holy child of bethlehem, rejected stranger; we pray for all who are lost, alone, all who cry for loved ones.

Reader 6:
holy child of bethlehem, whom herod sought to kill; we pray for all who live in danger, all who are persecuted.

Reader 1:
holy child of bethlehem, a refugee in egypt; we pray for all who are far from their home.

Reader 2:
holy child of bethlehem, help us to see the divine image in people everywhere.

Reader 3:
With lights on the trees

Reader 4:
With holiday cards and greetings

Reader 5:
With letters of remembrance and thankfulness

Reader 6:
With packages under the tree

Reader 1:
With donations to MIFA, Habitat for Humanity, Bond Homes, Heifer International

Reader 2:
Invite blessings into your home

Reader 3:
Welcome the lonely, the sick, the downtrodden, the homeless, the jobless, the poor, the forgotten

In Unison:
Be the light to the world! Be the light to the world! (Christmas tree lights are lit up)

All readers return to the front and sanctuary lights are turned back on.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

No details yet

Sometimes it pays to stay at work even though it's time to go home.

Today, for instance.

Because that promotion that my boss has been talking about for the past month? Happened exactly fifteen minutes before time to go home.

Now, the interesting part is how fast it happened once the wheels were in serious motion. Normally, time at the Corporation is measured, well, geologically. In this situation, I honestly expected things to get going in February, maybe even March.

But not so much. Because when I come back from vacation in two weeks, I won't be coming back. My family, literally, will be dropping me off on the way home, in another city, where I'll be in training for two weeks. All expenses paid. But that also means that next week, meaning the week including Christmas, is my last week on my current job.

The timing couldn't be better. Or weirder.

But it's really hard to get all the way excited until I know what kind of raise we're looking at. Maybe I'll know tomorrow, but probably not. I have a pretty good guess, since my current position is one that is privvy to that kind of information.

Annnnnnnnnnnnnd, I don't know how to end this post. So I guess I'll just stop writing.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007


My darling husband turns 39 today.

The world is a much more awesome, hilarious place because of him. I've been lucky enough to be his sidekick for just about half his life (we met a few weeks before his 20th birthday), and I can assure you that he's much cuter today. And funnier.

Hope 39 is the best year ever, Sweetie. I love you.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Much more important than my whining

Please, y'all. If you don't already know about Bossy's daughter, please click here and find out why mothers get gray hair and wrinkles. And then say a prayer or two for them that they get good news on Tuesday.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Bullet point update

I've neglected my blog lately, but haven't had anything to write about, really. So here's a bullet point update.

  • My kids did a great job in their respective performances at the school's holiday program. Alex and Susie both had more than one thing to do, so Craig and I remained engaged in the action pretty much the whole time. Susie has made good progress on the cello, and Alex amazed all of us with his mad hip-hop dancing skillz. He also received his award for coming in second place in the art contest, so it was a good evening all around.
  • We did almost all our holiday shopping in one fell swoop yesterday. In the rain. And the cold. But we were done, and home, by 3 p.m., which made for a nice relaxing evening with the visiting in-laws. Barbeque was consumed, basketball was watched, and all was well.
  • My daughter is mired in some pretty crazy pre-teen girl drama with a friend who moved away about two years ago. They have an email group, along with a few other girls (and I get copied on all the emails), and the last few days have been, well, high-traffic. And pissy. It's a hint, I think, of the years to come. I alternate between being amused and feeling sorry for the girls. Email is a hard way to communicate, even without hormones flaring. Not sure if I need to intervene yet, but I'm glad my daughter put me on the distribution list, just so I can see what's going on.
  • The lack of television, due to the writers' strike, is beginning to make a difference in my life. And after tonight it'll be even worse, I'm afraid (season finales of Dexter and Survivor). Please, networks, get this sorted out. It's looking pretty bleak for January.
  • It's unreasonably cold today. But it sort of got me in the holiday spirit. Go figure.

Annnnnnnd, that's all.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Media frenzy

You'd think we were people who actively sought out the media. But I promise, they came to us.

Here's the cover:

But perhaps even better is the very surprising and delightful article about my son. (Page 25)

He gets his award tonight. Betcha $10 that I cry.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

If you're local

Pick up the most recent issue of the Memphis Flyer. There's this awesome family on the cover. I think I recognize the house. (Their website should update Thursday; the last issue is still on the site right now.)

In all seriousness, I'm very, very pleased with the picture and the article. I was in a pretty flippant mood when we were interviewed for the story, so I was a little worried that she didn't have much good material, but I shouldn't have worried.

Plus, it's further evidence that my neighborhood is truly awesome.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Still alive

It's an amazingly busy and chaotic week, not just at work, but in other areas of my life. The first time my husband and I will be in the same room for more than an hour or two, awake, will probably be late Friday night. Unless you count when we attend the kids' holiday program at school on Thursday. And I don't count that because we can't talk to each other while watching our son do his hip hop dance routine or watching our daughter sing or play the cello.

We've moved from one facility to another at work. (Sorry I'm so vague. Some of you know what that means, and if you ask me I'll explain privately.) So far things have gone pretty smoothly, with a few bumps. But it makes for fast-paced days, followed by absolute exhaustion by bedtime. I guess that's good timing: the writers' strike has seriously curtailed my television viewing. Which means I have no reason not to go to bed, other than playing on Facebook.

Did I mention that I'm working a full day today, plus staying late for a service project, then coming back to test another software/hardware upgrade? I'm told they'll only need me for a few minutes, around 9 p.m., but that time I stayed until 6 a.m. I had been told we'd be done by 10:00 p.m. or thereabouts. So I'm going to wear comfortable clothes.

And yeah, as an indication of my overworkedness (if that's not a word, it should be), let's consider the mailing of my grandmother's birthday card. Her ninety-ninth birthday is tomorrow. And I drove to the main post office yesterday, addressed card in hand, ready for the mailing. And I put it in the mailbox, well before the deadline of when they pick up the day's mail. Re-read that paragraph. What's missing?

The stamp.

How dorky is it to FedEx my grandmother a new card?

Sunday, December 09, 2007

But aren't you scared?

I guess NaBloPoMo got me all crazy, what with two posts on the weekend.

Over the past few weeks, I've been putting in more hours than usual at work. We've got a couple of very big projects going on, and that's sometimes meant that I leave work closer to 6 p.m. than my usual pre-5 p.m. departure.

Do you know what the difference between leaving work at 4:45 p.m. and 6:15 p.m.?

It's dark.

As I've mentioned, my commute is atypical for Memphis. I walk to work. Until a few months ago, my walk was one city block, then I entered the safety of the well-guarded campus where I work, then was across a parking lot, across a street, then inside a building that is connected to my department (door to door, about 1500 steps). Road realignment and other construction projects have removed the back entrance from service (temporarily), increasing my commute to about eight blocks outdoors, six of which are not inside the campus. (Which, incidentally, has prompted more than one person to note that I seem to be losing weight. I think they may be correct.)

When I tell people that I walk to work, most people express envy, telling me that it must be nice to save all that money, to get exercise, and so on. But a few people, especially those familiar with my neighborhood, say something else. "But aren't you scared?" they ask.

Let's consider the dangers involved in my commute.

I cross two streets. I don't have a crosswalk or a traffic signal for either crossing, but the traffic patterns make for a safe trip across the street. I suppose there's potential for injury, but it's pretty slim.

I walk in a residential area and then on the sidewalks along busy streets. Streets with plenty of car traffic but little foot traffic.

What should I be afraid of?

I'm not afraid of being hit by a car, or even a bus. I know how to look both ways before crossing, and I give myself plenty of time to wait for a safe opportunity to cross. I suppose there's the outside chance of a driver losing control of a vehicle, but those kinds of freak accidents are freak accidents, and I don't spend time worrying about them. (Plus, I'm just as likely, if not more so, to be injured while driving in a car in such a situation.)

Oh, I know.

I should be afraid of the people who are on foot. The people walking to the bus terminal, to a bus stop, to somewhere, wherever that may be. People who don't, for whatever reason, probably economic, have the use of cars. People who might be pushing shopping carts full of aluminum cans or their personal stuff. People who might ask me for a dollar.

Wait a minute.

I'm one of them, right? Because I'm walking, too.

Almost fifteen years ago, right before we got married, Craig and I bought a house in Cooper-Young. The neighborhood, at the time, was in transition. It had had some bad years, resulting from the growing suburbs beckoning to young families. When the solid middle class abandoned the area, things got dicey, and crime rates soared. The crime was diminishing, businesses were moving in, and Craig and I (wisely, I might add) saw a great opportunity to buy a house that would easily appreciate in value (it did, more than we thought it would have).

At the time, Craig was working at a video store, often working nights, and I was alone in the house a lot. And I was mostly fine with that. I would often walk from our house to the neighborhood coffee shop (we just had one car), and I frequently made that walk alone, in the dark. Maybe that was stupid. Maybe I should have been afraid. But it never occurred to me to feel anything but confidence. I was in my neighborhood, on my street, surrounded by my neighbors.

Maybe I'm still stupid, if that's what I was then. Because I don't feel scared walking in my neighborhood. I don't feel scared walking past the construction parking lot (I've gotten to know the men who work there, and I tend to think they're looking out for me). I don't feel scared walking on the sidewalk on a well-traveled street, especially when I can see homes owned by my hairdresser, by other people I've gotten to know by living here.

I'm walking in my neighborhood. If I'm scared to do that, then why the hell should I live here?

I might just be a little sad when my walk gets short again. Maybe I'll keep taking the long way home.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Delving into other territory

In general, it's my policy to avoid blogging about my marriage, or at least to do so in vague, superficial areas. Members of his family and mine read here, and, at least in that arena, discretion is the better part of staying happily married.

Last night, however, we got one of those date nights. The kids had been hounding us to let them go to "Freedom Friday" at a local church. Have you heard of these things? A seemingly unlimited number of children (no reservation is required) show up around 6:30 (or have stayed over from the church's afterschool childcare program), pay $15, and skate, do karaoke, watch movies, play basketball, play video games, and generally run amok. (They also can buy pizza and snacks for quite reasonable prices.) The only rule is that parents must pick them up by 11:00 p.m. (I bet there are other rules, but I really didn't see much evidence of that.)

So we had a few hours to spend doing stuff that kids aren't allowed to do. Like see rated R movies. Well, one movie. December is prime movie season, so there were several films out that I was more than willing to see. Craig selected the newest Stephen King adaptation, "The Mist."

We were a split panel. He thought it was great. I thought it needed a lot of editing. An hour in, I was restless. An hour and a half in, I was ready to leave. When it was over, I was delighted. The final credits gave me information that I think was important to what I thought the film's failings were caused by: the same person wrote the screenplay, directed, and produced the film. Equally important to me was that the film was based on a novella. As in "short novel." The movie was fully two hours. Not short.

I'm not going to spend any more time bashing the movie. It wasn't horrible, but it wasn't great. I've seen plenty better, but I wasn't mad or cranky about not liking it. (I was, however, quite sure that Craig was kidding when he told me he thought it was great. I finally realized he wasn't.)

But what happened next was interesting. It didn't last long, but we had a pretty loud argument. My screenplay of said argument:

Me: So, should we pick up the kids now?
Him: You don't want to eat?
Me: I'm not really hungry. Are you?
Him (louder): I haven't eaten anything! And you just want to pick up the kids!
Me (louder): That's cool, we can go eat. Do you want to go to Huey's?
Him (even louder): You said you wanted to pick up the kids and go home!
Me: ???
Him: You don't care that I'm hungry and you want to go home!
Me (quite loud): WTF???
Him: You haven't cared about anything we did all night!! You just said whatever to anything I suggested!!
Me: Dude, I just effing suggested that we eat at Huey's!! And I told you that there are like five movies I wanted to see so I didn't care which one we saw!! Eff!!!
long, long silence...about four blocks of driving

Me (coldly): Do you want to go to Huey's?
Him: Whatever.
long silence, punctuated by a few random curses by me

Him (softer): So are we going to be in a fight the rest of the night?
Me: Whatever.
shorter silence

Him: I'm sorry I...
Me: It's okay.

And, scene.

So, what was the magic word?

I bet you can guess. I love it when he apologizes when he's been a butthead.

But I'm pretty sure the whole argument happened because we were a split panel on the movie. He and I have been together are entire adult lives (we were 17 and 19 when we started dating), and we inform each other's taste. While he has a broader range of appreciation for movies and music than I do, it's rare that we're such a split panel (unless it's a romantic comedy, a genre for which I have a weakness, but I'll still admit that it's mostly crap....deeply enjoyable crap to watch, but crap nonetheless). And I think when we do have divergent opinions, it can cause tension. Maybe because it's so rare that it flips us out that we're not 100% soulmates. In fact, when I look back at our almost-15 years of marriage, I see that most of our big fights were because we couldn't figure out why we had a divergence of opinion.

I also see that most of them were solved, completely solved, by two words.

We don't need to apologize for disagreeing. Good heavens, how boring we would be if we agreed all the time. Heck, we often vote differently in major elections. But we do need to remember that a surprising difference of opinion is not a bad thing. It doesn't chip away at our marriage. It needs to be honored, celebrated, that we, as two distinct individuals, can still be together.

But I'm picking the movie next time.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Holiday spirit

Just got off the phone with a friend, who was putting up some holiday decorations while we talked. The nativity scene she was erecting is a stained-glass ensemble, attached to the windows with suction cups. And, clear as day, she said the most awesome thing I've ever heard in my entire life.

"Hang on, I need to put the ass in the window."

True story.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

November 24

It has been called to my attention that I didn't discuss my brother's wedding to his hot girlfriend in full detail here. (I did post pictures, however, and if a picture is worth a thousand words, I've got well over 100,000 words!)

And now I've missed the boat, it seems. Because the wedding has become a minor internet sensation, with mentions here and here and here.

But I may have something to add. This is my only brother we're talking about, and it was a stunningly happy occasion. Happy for all the right reasons (true love, she's the yin to his yang, etc.), but also because I know what happened before the big day. Before they met (and after). I know how much crap he withstood before this wonderful woman came into his (and my family's) life.

Seeing the two of them holding hands and promising to be together forever was powerful. Seeing the support of their friends - friends who, by the way, were immensely welcoming and friendly when I met some of them in July - made my heart very happy. My brother is a good guy, a kind person, a really good uncle, and he has surrounded himself with a group of people deserving of his awesomeness.

And his new bride is a big part of that. She lived in Chicago before he did, and I presume that many of his friends started out as her friends. That she had these people in her life is a credit to her character, which had already impressed me when I first met her last Christmas.

The strength of their relationship (and the wedding plans, and each of them) was tested a few months ago, when her mother finally succumbed to the cancer that had been present for years. (I don't know all the details of her mother's illness, so please understand if I don't fill in the blanks very well.) When things got really dire, my brother appeared at the hospital, ready to have a chaplain-officiated ceremony there in the hospital room so that his fiancee's mother could see her daughter get married. (Hopefully he'll fact-check me in the comments, because I don't exactly remember what happened at that point.)

And the wedding went on, despite the recent loss of her mother.

And it was beautiful.

I have only a casual understanding of Steampunk, while my brother and his wife have at least a strong affinity for the aesthetic that accompanies it (again, my ignorance keeps me from going into satisfying detail). I know (from the Wiki article) that it has roots in scifi/fantasy literature, but everything I've found regarding fashion points to neo-Victorianism. Since my kids were in the wedding party, I knew what the bridesmaids were wearing. And I struggled to figure out what to wear, seeking help from the internet, and from a real-life friend who started out as an internet friend. (And I wound up not being neo-Victorian but going with the gray color scheme. Because sister of the groom is not one of those flashy roles in a wedding. Leave the bride to be flashy.)

But here's the part that I want to tell you. The ceremony? Was amazing. My parents, definitely not steampunks in any way, enjoyed it. The "minister" did his job quite well, straddling the line between stand-up comedy and reverence perfectly. He paid tribute to my parents' and Siouxzi's parents' long marriages. He drew everyone in attendance into the power of these two people's love for each other. Yes, I got teary. Maybe I even cried a little.

The reception was delightful (in the same space as the ceremony, quickly transformed by the wedding party and a few close friends), with music from their high school years (think New Order, Information Society), and plentiful food and drink. The cupcakes my mother made were topped with some pirate figurines, and the cakes were decorated with gears made from fondant.

My children adore their Aunt Siouxzi and Uncle Alan. They were so proud to be part of the wedding.

I'm so happy to welcome her into our family. I hope they continue the romance and keep making each other happy, because each of them deserves just that.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Not NaBloPoMo, Day One

The writer's block, it is ugly. And leaves me with nothing to say.

That's not true. I just wrote and deleted three paragraphs so horribly boring and poorly-written that even my mom would have thrown her computer out the window.

So just a couple of film recommendations for you.

Enchanted is lovely. All four of us enjoyed it thoroughly, and I didn't cry! (Ask the kids...they find great sport in catching me dabbing my eyes during Kid Nation or Hallmark commercials or um, a lot of things.) Excellent, funny, well-done.

But if you're strong of stomach and are amused by horrible Japanese movies, please to enjoy "Terrifying Girls' High School." (Hint: "terrifying" must have gotten really messed up in translation.) It's hilarious! (But not for children or grandmothers or any other kind of viewer who would be offended by torture scenes that are, um, funnier than scary.) Seriously, I played computer solitaire the whole time it was on and had NO problem following the plot's amazingly insane twists and turns, despite the fact that it's subtitled and I only know about twenty words in Japanese (and six of them are numbers).

That's all I have.

But remind me to tell you about my son winning an art contest. That's a really good story.

Friday, November 30, 2007

It's official

NaBloPoMo: A Triumph

Well, maybe a little melodramatic. Triumph? Okay, fine. Success.

In other news, I dragged myself and my daughter to see a documentary last night. I was a little stunned at the tiny, tiny crowd (when we sat down, we doubled the audience, but a few others straggled in, making an audience of about ten, including the panelists for the discussion afterward.

The film was short, about 30 minutes, consisting of adolescent and pre-adolescent girls talking about the media. It was filmed in 2000, so some of the pop-culture references are a little dated (back then, Britney Spears was still considered a role model - the daughter and I just giggled and giggled over that one), but most of the content carried more general themes, some of which I could remember experiencing at that age. The gist of it being that the media creates some physical expectations of what girls are supposed to look like, and it's impossible to look like that, and that catch-22 sacrifices some self-esteem in these girls.

Susie was interested and engaged during the movie, and vigorously nodded when I asked her if the girls in her Girl Scout troop would be interested in watching it sometime. I, however, was more engaged in the panel discussion afterward. I haven't flexed my feminist theory muscles many times in the past few years, and it was nice to be in a room with feminists who engage in such discussion frequently. I heard my voice saying phrases like "dominant paradigm" and I was a little stunned.

Even more stunned when the two panelists approached me after the discussion and asked for my contact information so we could continue the conversation and some of it was applicable in their research and I think I might have glazed over at this point because of the sheer happiness.

I had found my people.

I didn't know how much I had missed them.

So ladies, please, hurry up and call me. I need you in my life.
And that, my friends, is my final post for November. I have posted every day. I have bored myself, and probably you, occasionally, but I've also dug inside and found a few bits of gold. Thank you for the comments and the emails and the awesomeness. While I started out writing this for me, I've found myself thinking of you more and more as I write. I know some of you in person, even more of you online, and it's awfully gratifying to see loyal readers stopping by to see what this dorky girl is up to.
I do not promise daily posts in December, but I do expect to continue writing most weekdays.
Peace out, and bring on the holiday decorations!

Thursday, November 29, 2007


After my thorough gift-bash that was yesterday's post, I feel like I need to come clean about something.

My kids are getting a Wii for Christmas.

See, I got this idea to do almost-nothing for the holidays not only because of my high-mindedness, but also for practical, pragmatic reasons. The kids, at 8 and 10, are getting a little old for toys. I haven't seen Alex play with a toy in ages. Susie still enjoys her dolls and animals, but even she will tell you she has plenty of them. And going to a school that requires uniforms means they don't really need clothes (I stocked up on uniforms earlier this fall...thank you, Ebay).

But they've been coveting the Wii for at least a year.

It all came together perfectly, to be honest. We're taking a trip to Florida in January, so we knew we weren't going to do a lot for Christmas. Then I saw the announcement on the bulletin board at church that MIFA needed drivers for Meals on Wheels for Christmas Day. And everything started jumbling around in my head.

(Santa spoiler ahead...if you have a believing kid reading over your shoulder, it's time to turn off the monitor. NOW.)

My kids don't believe in Santa. I don't think they ever really did. So I knew I wouldn't be ruining anything for them when I said, "What would you guys think if we didn't do any presents for Christmas and instead I just bought you a Wii?"

The jumping and screaming and giggling and chanting gave me a hint that they wouldn't be devastated.

So that's how I convinced them to be okay with no presents. By promising them the best present they could imagine. Which, yeah, seems a little bit like cheating.

But maybe it's a start. Maybe they can learn to associate Christmas with service to others (because OF COURSE they'll be riding along as we deliver the meals on wheels) instead of a great orgy of gifts. Maybe they can see the wide disparities in our city between the haves and the have-nots, and be moved to do something differently to make a little more justice.

When my kids were born, I did astrological charts for each of them. Not because I'm a big believer in astrology, but because I thought it would be something interesting for their baby books. And something jumped out at me, something that was the same on each of those charts, 22 months apart. These kids, and the millions of children born in their generation, are thought to be the children who will bring in the true "Age of Aquarius" - a time of enlightenment, justice, peace, and fixing what's broken. A generation of children who will solve problems that it took generations to create - they'll clean up the air, the earth, the water. They'll create peace. To a starry-eyed new mother, those words were just what I wanted to read: my kids are going to save the world.

Let's say that again. My kids are going to save the world.

My kids are going to save the world.

And if you're a mom with kids who aren't grown yet, yours are too.

Your kids are going to save the world.

But they can't do it if we don't teach them how. And today seems like a good day to start.

But I'm still going to let them play video games. They're just kids, after all.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

I'm dreaming of a....

So, Christmas.

Here's the thing. There are things about the holiday season that I love, truly love. The music, the food, the family togetherness, the marvelous television specials, receiving cards from friends and family who are far away. Heck, I even love the Christmas card letters.

But something's been gnawing at me, and last night it all bubbled to the surface.

It's the present thing. It's out of control, people. Kids in TV land, you're being duped!

We're being sold on this idea that the only way to show people that you care about them is by running out to the mall or, even more, the big box retailer that treats human beings like cattle, and spend as much of your hard-earned money as possible. Preferably with plastic. The kind that, at best, overdraws your checking account. At worst, puts you in some really amazing debt.

How did this happen to us? How did we get the idea that if you love somebody, you need to buy them a bunch of mass-produced crap that probably has lead paint in it. And, if you're extra lucky, it was made by some kids in a third world country who work eighteen-hour shifts for pennies a day! Awesome! Because that's the spirit of Christmas/Hannukah/Kwaanza, right?

I saw something on the news the other day that gave me hope. This guy is spreading a new gospel. True, he's not likely to be taken seriously. But what if we all listened?

Would it ruin our holidays to skip (or at least greatly reduce) the gifts?

How much is too much?

How much do you really need?

Where is it going to go?

Who gets hurt because of this gift?

And while I was considering these questions, one of my favorite bloggers wrote about a great campaign in the U.K. One that really, in my mind, fits the bill.

So, if you're reading this and you were going to buy me a gift, don't. There are a lot of fantastic charities out there who need it more than I do. I have plenty of stuff. More than I'll ever need, really. And if you need charitable suggestions, I've made a great shopping list for you.

Heifer International
St. Jude Children's Research Hospital
The Unitarian Universalist Service Committee
Planned Parenthood
Boys & Girls Club

And there are so many more who need help.

I won't begrudge you the tax deduction, either.

Tomorrow? How to approach the kids and sell them on the idea.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

In the kitchen

Stumped for dinner tonight? Need more beta carotene in your diet?

I've gotcha covered.

How long can I get away with this?

We're just four! more! posts! until NaBloPoMo is over, and I'm not sure who should be more relieved, you or me.

I think it's probably me, but not by much. Posting on weekends and holidays means, for me, slapdash posting with little thought or concern for niceties like sentence structure and transitions. So, for the sloppy writing, I apologize. And, as God as my witness, come December, we'll be back to high-quality writing. Most of the time. When I remember.

The other part of NaBloPoMo that has me very! happy! that we're almost done is that I don't necessarily have anything to say everyday. My life, and I assure you, I like it this way, is pretty low-key and drama-free. Sure, we have our ups and downs, but mostly we chug along, doing our work, trying to be good parents and good neighbors, keeping the damn kids off the lawn.

And that kind of life, my friends, does not make for fascinating reading.

I spent a lot of time this month trying to write a novel, and documenting that effort here. I haven't written one single word on the novel in a week, and I'm not sure there's even a remote, snowball's chance that I'll get done this month. Writing 2,000 words a day, give or take, is not how I roll. I can write 500 words a day, when I feel like writing, and then revise something I've already written, netting about 750 words a day. That works better for me.

So. Taking stock.

NaNoWriMo: not a dismal failure, but barring cheating, I won't hit the goal.
NaBloPoMo: SUCCESS! I can't say I wrote a great post each day, but I never really thought that would happen. I posted every day.

And the combination of the two? Not as daunting as I would have thought, since they involve completely different disciplines, at least in my brain. Writing fiction is much harder than transcribing my interior monologue. Journaling and essaying (if that's not a word, so what?) are much more my cup of tea, my natural mode as a writer. Fiction, however, especially historical fiction, is an effort. Sometimes it came naturally and the words poured out of me almost faster than I could type, but there was a lot of staring at the computer and not knowing what to do next.

All that's to say that I'm definitely doing both again next year.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Back to reality

And, we're back. Back to school, back to work. To a fairly ordinary life in which the biggest question we face this week is: "Should we turn on the heat?"

We arrived home at dinnertime last night, and the house was cold. Not freezing, not pipes-bursting or anything dramatic. 61 degrees downstairs, 57 upstairs.

A few of my neighbors and I have been playing "freeze out," a simple game with one rule: don't turn on your heat. So far, we've had an easy time of it. It's been a warm November, with only a few days that made heat a little tempting. Heck, the day before Thanksgiving it was 75, and the house was, well, toasty. Even after a dramatic temperature drop that night, all the cooking on Thanksgiving kept the house cozy.

But now we're facing the decision. My goal was to make it, heatless, until December 1. Last night, however, my children were not amused by our game and begged me to turn on the heat. I gave them another blanket.

If the house is below 60 when I get home from work, I'll be throwing in the towel. Because I'm not able to tolerate the whining noises that freezing children make. And because the next few days aren't going to be warm.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

My new favorite family picture

Not much to say when you've got this to show.

Edited to add: more pictures here.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Wedding day!

We're back in the hotel, recovering from my brother's wedding. The kids did a great job in their respective roles as bubble girl and ring boy. It's always gratifying to hear people go on and on about how cute, well-behaved, awesome, superior, etc., my children are. Just shows that they inherited some pretty amazing DNA.

Aside from the obvious awesomeness that today's festivities embodied, we also partook of some traditional Chicago pizza. Now we all have horrible breath, from the fresh garlic and cheese pizza that my sweet son selected.

I'm too tired to upload pictures tonight. Can't promise they'll be done tomorrow, but they should be done in the next few days.

Congratulations, brother and hot blonde girlfriend, er, wife. I'm so glad you found each other. And you both looked hot today.

Friday, November 23, 2007

In Chicago

The last time I was in Chicago, it was July and lovely and warm. Not so much today. But we made it, and the kids are snuggled up in their beds, and all is well.

I'm kinda tired now, after nine hours on the road followed by a rehearsal dinner, so I'll have to tell you later about how we had lunch at a fireworks outlet. For $15. Total. It was awesome.

But see, I'm so dedicated to NaBloPoMo that I bothered to update, even though we've got a major family milestone going on, plus a mall next flipping door to the hotel.

Gotta go.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thanksgiving, minus...

...the poultry. Due to an awesome miscommunication, neither I nor any of my potluck guests brought any kind of poultry to the table. We feasted, however, and really didn't miss it at all.

Traveling to the windy city tomorrow. Will update shortly.

Peace out, y'all.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007


I'm feeling a little whiny this morning. My kids and husband were sleeping when I left the house. Because they don't have school today. And I'm conserving my vacation days, so I didn't take the day off.

And it's raining. Seriously raining. With thunder and lightning. And I walk to work. I considered taking the car, but that would leave my family without a vehicle, and that's probably not a good idea.

But walking to work in a flash flood warning might not be a good idea either. Because my pants? Are soaked to my knees.

I do need to publicly thank my mom for a gift from two years ago. The cherry-red patent leather Doc Martin boots? Are waterproof. So at least my feet are dry.

Hair update: my hairdresser didn't cut my bangs. But she did change where my part is, to maximize one particular curl which she proclaimed her favorite. Even though I slept on it, my hair still looks great. I hope I can recreate it after washing it.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Bonus post

Thanksgiving vegetable recipe on my other blog. Enjoy.

Still posting

Quick NaNo and NaBlo statistic: The month is 66.66667% complete.

We're going to have a nice Thanksgiving this year. We have a few friends who are "orphans" this year. One set is a father and eight-year-old son from church; the mom/wife just took a new job in a different state and moved last week. She was planning to return for Thanksgiving but it's not cost-effective. The father is a former chef, so that works out well for a potluck. Since they're packing to move in December, we decided it was easier to host at our house.

And then I saw an email from other friends from church who decided to stay nearby for the holiday because her grandmother's health is failing, so they anticipate needing to travel at a moment's notice. Since we all like each other, and since really, Thanksgiving is so much more fun with a crowd, I emailed them and invited them over.

Years ago, when Craig and I were still newlyweds and he managed a video store, we had lots of single friends who didn't have family in Memphis. And there was a really great Thanksgiving dinner we hosted of all our "orphan" friends. We were both vegetarian back then, so there was no turkey; instead, I made something out of "it's not turkey" (not its real name, but close enough), dressing, and puff pastry. (It was okay...looked good...and was an amazing array of carbs.) And much, much, much wine was consumed. The photos I took of the evening are a little cringe-worthy. It was the early 1990's. Our outfits and glasses were, well, a little larger-than-life, I suppose. And Craig was in his long hair and goatee phase, which wasn't his greatest look. (He's definitely aged gracefully. Gets cuter by the minute, if you ask me.)

Bad hair and big glasses notwithstanding, it was a great night. Our friends enjoyed the food, we all enjoyed the company, and the photos remind me sufficiently of the happy memories that I forget to cringe at the gigantic Cosby sweater my husband was wearing.

And this Thanksgiving is another opportunity to make memories. Memories with a family who will be leaving the fold soon, but also with one who has no plans to leave (or at least none that they've shared with us). And one day, years from now, we'll cringe at our hair and clothes, but we'll smile when we remember the jokes and stories. At least that's how I'm writing it.

Monday, November 19, 2007

The funk sets in

I've spent too much time inside my head, or, more accurately, too much time trying to get inside dead people's heads, concentrating on a difficult (at best) time in our history. And it's taking its toll. I'm feeling kind of ragged right now, processing the emotions that I'm mostly imagining these people to have felt. Tell you what, I don't really believe in psychic stuff, but if there are people who really can and do communicate with the dead, I don't envy them. Feeling just my own emotions is sufficient, thank you.

Which is why I'm taking a break from the Civil War today. And maybe all week. I'm going to concentrate on the decade prior for a while. When my main characters were kids, just doing kid stuff where they were. I think it will cheer me up.

Because I reached a pretty sad place last night, re-reading some of the more despondent letters.

Maybe next year I need to try my hand at chick lit.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Not what I expected

One of the odd side-effects of this NaNoWriMo mess I'm in is that I'm thinking a lot about war and battles and how they work. Seriously, I'm thinking of the battle choreography. And it's really, really hard to envision it, to have any clue if my protagonist was surrounded by people or not when he got wounded. Even after seeing the very spot, or very nearly, I'm still stumped.

I've never been a war buff. And not really much of a history buff. But that's not to say I'm not interested in history. Every time I visit Mud Island River Park, I read the informational signage, much of which includes Civil War information. I've read a few historical novels in my day, and I never hated history classes. And, well, fair enough, I was an art history major, too, but I was really most interested in contemporary feminist art those days, so really no reason to see a future interest in the Civil War.

But another side-effect, one I was discussing with my mom this afternoon, is that, the more I think about that war, it just makes me more certain that war is futile. Arbitrary. Let's put a bunch of young men in outfits, give them guns, and whoever kills the most of the other team gets to say their side wins, and that's how decisions will be made on a national (or global) basis. And looking at all those graves, all those boys and men dead just from one battle (and plenty of the dead from that battle aren't buried where I was...this cemetery only included the Confederate troops).

I just keep imagining how discouraged these guys had to be at that point. Okay, in all honesty, I don't really have to imagine this. The family letters make it clear. Of the three cousins who were in the same company, one of them, George, was a very observant and expressive writer. He made it so clear that, after nearly two years in this ugly, ugly war, he didn't really know what they were fighting for anymore.

Keeping in mind that these guys were from mid-state Missouri, it must have been a huge culture shock to wind up in middle Mississippi. The role of slavery was vastly different in Missouri (yes, these folks did own slaves) than it was in Mississippi, where plantations frequently had over 1,000 slaves per household. Fighting for King Cotton must have been a slap in the face for these apple and hemp farmers.

Not sure what I'm doing with this. But I'm agitated and just hate that, a century and a half later, we still send teenage boys and young men to shoot and be shot, thinking that's a reasonable way to decide world events. Insert some cliche about not learning history and being doomed to repeat it.

I've got a novel to write. Peace out.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Field Trip

I've bemoaned NaNoWriMo several times already this month. I've been blocked for days, even a week; I'm horribly behind in my word count. Lesson learned? Start the research early.

But I made up some time today by dragging my sweet family four hours south, to Port Gibson, Mississippi, the site of the battle that killed my 22-year-old cousin Isaac, one hundred forty-four years ago.

We saw Isaac's grave at Wintergreen Cemetery, along with the graves of other Confederate soldiers who died in (or sometime after, due to injuries incurred in) the Battle of Port Gibson. We tromped through the graveyard, looking for any sign of the woman who took care of him for the six weeks after the battle, until he died. The woman who wrote a beautiful letter to his mother, telling her the horrible, yet probably unsurprising, news that her son had died. The letter that started this book.

And then we visited Great Gulf Military Park, site of a battle the few days before the Battle of Port Gibson. I scouted around, looking for any signs of my cousins, who were members of Company B of the Sixth Missouri Infantry. Success! I found a rifle embankment with a sign that specifically states that the 6th Missouri held that position. Which meant I did what any mother would do...I made the kids lie down in the embankment and point gun fingers at me, and I took pictures. We also saw a Civil War ambulance, possibly the same one that transported my wounded cousin to his final home, a makeshift hospital staffed by young women whose husbands were likely in some other place, fighting in the same war.

I expected this trip would help me write, particularly descriptions of the town. Many of the buildings, especially churches, are the same buildings that stood in Port Gibson a century and a half ago. The Presbyterian church with the golden hand pointing heavenward on the top of the steeple. The Catholic church with the hand-carved altar rail. Several antebellum mansions. I wanted, and expected, to get a sense of place.

What I didn't expect was that Isaac would talk to me the rest of the way home. No, I don't mean in some psychic, "from beyond the grave" type thing. Nothing like that.

But he's talking to me, trying to tell his side of the story. And I need to get back to transcribing.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Hard to write

I'm not looking forward to writing this post.

Not because I'm burned out on writing, NaNoWriMo and NaBloPoMo notwithstanding. I really enjoy the writing. And writing everyday is fine, although sometimes I'm a little stumped as to exactly what to write.

But today I have something to write about, but it's not funny or snarky or witty or heartwarming. Just a little upsetting. By the time I get it all out, it might be more than a little upsetting.

And I feel the need to put a lot of preface here. Preface about how I love my city and I know damn well that we have crime problems and I am committed to being a part of the solution. That's why I moved to one of the poorest census tracts in the city when it was redeveloped. That's why I send my children to public schools. That's why I walk to work.

But yesterday I doubted my choices.

Because yesterday, my son told me what happened on the playground. (This is all hearsay; he did not witness the event, but he was there when it allegedly happened. So believe what you want to believe.)

A few children were playing (throwing rocks, actually, is what he told me) near the fence that borders the playground. A man was on the other side of the fence. (Maybe across the street. Details, again, are fuzzy.) He spoke to the kids. They spoke to him. He pulled a gun and showed it to them, or maybe pointed it at them.

This happened at the beginning of recess. The kids didn't tell anyone until they went back inside. (And yes, the kids got in trouble for not telling.)

My son is a sensitive, sensible kid. He was pretty damn scared afterward. Not so scared that he wanted to stay home today or that he had nightmares or anything like that, but scared enough that it showed on his face when he told me about it.

And no, the school, the teacher, no. They didn't send a note home about it.

So if you'll pardon me, I need to call the office. This is a problem. And if it's not addressed to my satisfaction, you can bet your last dime that some grumpy redheaded blogger is going to wind up on the news.

edited to add:
The principal was aware of the situation yesterday and questioned the children involved. Each child's story was different from the others; she thinks the whole thing is a tall tale. As soon as it was reported, a teacher went back out to the playground to check out the situation and nobody was nearby at all. Even though she doesn't think there's a problem or that anything happened, the principal did contact the district's security office and reported the incident, also requested patrols. I still think a note should have come home, but at least she did what was necessary. The schoolyard is bounded by a fence, and the kids reported that this man was on the other side of the fence. I was impressed that my kids knew that it was a felony to be within 500 yards of a school with a gun (unless you're the police). So I'm okay. For now.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Halfway done!

It's November 15! That means these orgies of writing known as NaNoWriMo and NaBloPoMo are half over! Exclamation point!

But now comes the time when I take yet another opportunity to ask you, my lovely readers, to help me make life decisions. I've got a few quandaries right now and I'm nowhere near the decision stage. And I need to hurry up. Or toss a coin. But y'all are so much prettier than even the shiniest Tennessee quarter. So HALP!

1. The singing thing. I didn't sing the September concert because I was working extreme hours at work. And then I decided to NaNo and NaBlo and train for a 5K, so I decided not to sing the holiday concert. My in-box started getting some rather flattering emails that I think were more about the group needing alto singers than my fantastic voice. And I hedged and said I'd think about it. It's been a week and I'm no closer to a decision. Should I go to the rehearsal on Tuesday and hope I can learn the music in time for the concert (Saturday, December 8)? Or should I be firm in my decision to sit out? (I do love me some holiday music...I'm torn...) I really need to let them know this week.

2. The hair. Should I keep on growing my bangs or should I cut them?

3. What should I wear tomorrow?

4. Is November 21 too early to hang up Christmas lights on the house?

5. What should I bring to Thanksgiving dinner with friends? Did I mention that the husband in this couple is a former chef? And that makes me a little nervous? Should I make pecan pie, even though it will eventually kill us all with its sugary, buttery goodness?

Thanks, everyone. Please number your answers in the comments so I know which question you're answering.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Just ten days

My brother's getting married in ten days!

I've written about him before, and about his fiancee and how well-suited they are for each other. They're a very special couple and it's nice to see how genuinely kind they are to one another.

My daughter is particularly excited about the big day. She's very likely the fiancee's number two fan (and only #2 because it's fair to say that my brother gets the #1 spot), and she can't wait to be a part of the wedding party. Oh, and Alex? Can't wait to wear the tux. The boy likes to dress up.

And, for what it's worth, I'm quite a bit more excited about the upcoming festivities than I expected to be.

Maybe because I have a good feeling that this one's a keeper.

And it doesn't hurt that I'm not a bridesmaid this time. Since every time I've been one, the couple has divorced in less than five years. So don't ask me to be in your wedding. I'm cursed. It's real.

But I'll be delighted to sit up front and dab my eyes during the vows.

And I hear they've taking dancing lessons. I promise to video it and put it on YouTube. Because I'm generous that way.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

So, now what?

While I didn't reach the lofty heights of writing 5,000 words yesterday (who was I kidding, anyway?), I did get a lot done, and I'm mostly pleased with the results. When life isn't getting in the way, I've found a pretty good rhythm to the writing that seems to work.

See, fiction? Pretty much new ground for me. I took a fiction writing class my senior year of college because it fit nicely into my schedule and I needed an elective, and my friend had recommended the instructor. And I wrote a few short stories that the instructor had proclaimed to be very, very good. (Strangely, looking back, they were all in the horror genre, with cannibalism, burning at the stake, and bludgeoning being the themes of the three stories.) After the course ended, however, I never had any interest in writing more fiction.

Essays, research papers, reaction papers, sermons: those are my comfort zone. Even my blog posts, when they aren't about what I had for dinner, take the form of essays quite frequently. The five-paragraph essay, the one I learned how to write in seventh grade, is still my favorite thing to write. Except the 8-10 page research paper, with footnotes. MLA style, preferably, although one of my graduate professors told me I used APA style "with sophistication." (Strangest comment I've ever received in my academic career.)

And that means when I'm writing historical fiction, I find myself slipping into nonfiction, especially when I'm trying to include details from the era, or set up the situation with the whole Civil War thing that the book sort of hinges on.

But I've figured out that I can fix it afterward. If I just need to get those details OUT, onto the page, I'll allow myself a few paragraphs of nonfiction. But I have to highlight it and go back and fix it.

I'm really proud of how I did that yesterday. I turned two dry paragraphs about Grant's Vicksburg campaign into two pages of good dialogue.

I'm still working on getting the characters to act out their thoughts instead of just thinking them.

5700 words. 11% complete. Yes, I know the month is 43% complete. I'm behind. But I'm making progress. I just need to find a way to write 2,500 words a day.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Ask, and you shall receive

Apparently the universe read my blog yesterday. And the universe also seems to think that I needed a day to work on the book. Which is a perfectly reasonable explanation of why my son spiked a low-grade fever yesterday. And held onto the fever today. Which is why I'm at home.

Dedicated employee that I am, though, I did go in to work at 6:30 and stayed until 8, bringing work home with me, and tethering myself to computer and cell phone. I've received no less than four calls so far, which has inflated my sense of my importance at the Corporation. If this keeps up, they'll have to get me a Blackberry.

Hey, universe, I was only halfway kidding on that one.

Oh, and YouTube? With all those video clips from Grease? You're dead to me. Because that's all my son wants to do.

Universe, I'm kidding there. If he weren't watching Grease videos on the internet, he'd be keeping me from doing important things, like blogging.

If I really focus, I might get 5,000 words written today. That would be awesome.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

NaNoWriMo = Fail?

If you've been paying attention to the tally in my sidebar, you may have noticed that my NaNo word count has not changed in almost a week.

I've forgiven myself, given my insane work week last week, and I'm strategizing now how I can still complete my goal of 50,000 words by November 30.

I'm 10% complete and the month is 40% gone. That's a little daunting.

I've also learned that I tend to get blocked, bored, restless, distracted, pick a few more similar adjectives, after I've written about 750 words. Which makes me a good essayist, but not so much a novelist. At least not so much a good sprint novelist.

But there are so many good reasons to keep at it. This project has been floating in my head for more than a decade. I've got so much wonderful primary source material that it should be easy. Of course, I decided to go in a much more difficult direction with the material, and this road has taken me on a much more research-intensive detour, but I've already admitted that the research is what I really enjoy most, anyway.

All this means that I've cleared my (and my family's) schedule for next Saturday. We're taking a road trip to Port Gibson, Mississippi, to look at a cemetery and to check out the scenery. It makes sense, I think, to have a look around the place where at least a large chunk of the book is set. Right? Plus, I'd like to take pictures of my late cousin-however-many-times-removed's grave. Since he, and his death due to a rather nasty wound in the Battle of Port Gibson, sets the whole story in motion.

The problem is, in all these family letters, this particular guy (who died at 22) is barely mentioned. I have letters and letters and letters from and mentioning his older brother, who was not killed in the war. That brother was eight years older, and seemed to be an outgoing, charming, and witty guy. My main guy's younger brother was much younger (I'm too lazy to walk across the room and look, but I think it's another 8 years or so), and his letters are not as well written (which makes sense, in a historical way, because he lived on the "frontier" his entire childhood, while the others lived in Virginia, so his education was considerably less than his elder siblings and cousins). (Which, when you think about it, must have been very difficult for him, to be around all these older people who seemed so much smarter and cooler.)

As a result of the lack of mention of this Isaac, I'm free to make him whatever I want. But that's a mixed blessing. I've given myself a task that kind of makes my head hurt. See, my mother and her cousin (who share the same last name but so little DNA that they're only barely related) have done a great deal of work on their family tree. This side of my lineage is very well-researched. (And my mom's cousin is a direct descendant of the older brother, the one who lived. So I feel a sense of responsibility to his character; I don't want to paint him in an unflattering light.) (Neurotic much?)

Which means I really don't want to make stuff up.

But that's what writing fiction is all about.

See my problem?

My mom and I had a good conversation about all these people and I asked a few key questions. Her answers, fortunately, confirmed what I was thinking about Isaac. He's younger than this cool group of cousins, almost a decade younger. His letters home from the war are well-written, so he wasn't dumb. But his letters are serious, guarded. He doesn't share anything, but accurately (I assume) describes where he is, who is with him, and what's happening. I don't get any sense of how he feels about the war and his part in it (he fought on the Confederate side, a whole other tangle that is messing with my head more than I should let it). And in the letter written by my main character, the woman who nursed him in a makeshift hospital where he died of his wound six weeks after the battle, the letter to his mother informing her of her son's death, the nurse reports his last words included mention of his uncle and someone named Sarah.

He had an uncle who was a General (I think, again, too lazy to cross the room) for the Union army. How interesting would it be if that was the uncle he mentioned.

And Sarah?

A girlfriend?

A cousin?

This is where you, dear readers, get to help write my book.

Who is Sarah?

Saturday, November 10, 2007

An interesting day it was

Friday capped off a very work-intensive week for me. And around noon, I got dessert.

11/9/04 was the date I first interviewed with the Corporation, and also the date I got the job offer that changed me from a banker to what I am now. The job I got was a newly-created position, one that was well-suited to my strengths.

This job has mostly been satisfying. There have been frustrations, of course, but I've never dreaded going to work. And I feel very very good about where I work and what I do there. I know I play a valuable role, and my work is high-quality. I've received public accolades after just a year on the job and was asked to join a professional association's steering committee.

But lately, I've felt like I could do more. And this spring, when I got a new boss, she started seeing that I could do more.

And yesterday, at my annual performance evaluation (which, if you must know, went extremely well), we continued a conversation from the day before. A conversation that included the words "promotion" and "new position" and "manager" and "pay grade increase" and "human resources" and "job description".

Needless to say, it was a good day.

Followed by clocking out a little early to walk to the kids' school, a snack at Bigfoot Lodge, a drive to the 'burbs to drop the kids with their respective sleepover hosts, a trip to Davis-Kidd to treat myself to a new purse, dinner, and some much-appreciated TiVo'd shows.

Just try to get the smile off my face. I dare you.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Much better, thank you

I'm better-rested and it's Friday, so I get to sleep late (but not too late) tomorrow. Especially because the kids are spending the night away.

I did something uncharacteristic yesterday. Apparently my crankiness from the morning may have lasted a tad into the workday, and by that I mean ALL DAY.

Here's the story, with identifying details left out. You tell me if I'm in the wrong.

I worked all day and night for the majority of 36 hours this week because we were replacing machines, including putting in a new server (no, I'm not in the I.T. field...I'm our department's go-to girl in these situations). So I gave up, willingly, valuable sleep and time with my family in order to improve something in my workplace. Something that is not specifically part of my job, mind you.

As with many hardware/software installations, things weren't perfect. Wednesday morning and yesterday were spent in troubleshooting mode, helping the employees figure out the machines and dealing with problems as they came up.

One of the employees seemed to have many, many more issues than anyone else. This employee also seems, in general, to have a piss-poor attitude most of the time. And this person is smarter than he/she lets on, in my opinion. And maybe a little manipulative. I called shenanigans.

When this person's machine crashed for the third time, another manager tried to make it work. And couldn't. I was called. And figured out, very quickly, that the network cord was plugged into the wrong jack on the wall. Once I'd ascertained that, I asked the employee to come over and look, so that he/she could know where it should be plugged in, just in case it happened again. But instead of, "Thanks for helping me," or, "Great, I'd like to know more about how my machine works," or, "Okay," the reply was this: "I don't want to know."

"I don't want to know."

I processed this one for a second.

"I don't want to know." How to do my job? Anything that may put me in a position to move up? Any more than I have to know in order to do the very least I can do and stay employed?

Sorry. That's not how I roll.

And I may have thrown my hands up and said, "Fine, if you don't want to know how to operate your machine, I'm not going to worry about it. See you later."

And then when he/she told me that I misunderstood the response, I may have used the example: "If your child was failing math and you wanted to teach her the multiplication tables so she could pass math, and she told you I don't want to know, would that bother you?"

Should that bother me?

Because it does. Still. Honestly, yesterday I really wished I was Donald Trump, because I would have said, "You're fired!" with a great flourish. And a smile.

So, am I wrong to expect employees to want to actually do their jobs well? And to be glad that this person is not on the schedule today?

Thursday, November 08, 2007

So tired

My insane work hours have left me bone-tired. So tired that I was grumpy this morning. So tired that I snapped at my husband. So tired that maybe I yelled a little too.

I got home from my work marathon at noon yesterday and parked myself on the couch with a glass of orange juice (which I was craving yesterday...I wound up downing three glasses, which is more than I consume in a normal month). Watched my saved episode of Dexter and a few minutes of the prior night's House, but the closed-eye part of blinking was beginning to overtake the open-eye part, so I wisely turned off the television, finished my OJ, and gave into the sweet snuggle of my two smallest animals, Gravy (the dog) and Roxy/Kitter (the kitten). They're the cuddlers of our menagerie, and served to keep me toasty since we've not yet turned on the heat.

Next thing I know, I can feel people looking at me. Those would be the children, just home from school.

I'm not normally a heavy sleeper. I wake up if it rains. I wake up if the dog gets off the bed. I wake up if my son throws up in his bedroom.

My husband had come home, been in the house for over an hour and left again, and I slept through all of it.

The rest of the evening was easy enough. I started some chicken boiling on the stove, walked the dogs, watched more television, made dinner (chicken pot pie for the meat eaters, veggie pot pie for the vegetarians), watched more television, walked the dogs again, went to bed.

The highlights? My daughter coming into the kitchen to keep me company while I prepared dinner. Eating real food. My son sitting on my lap to watch Kid Nation. The feeling of going to sleep in my bed with an extra blanket. The knowledge that the extra work I did not only will make a difference in my paycheck (and likely my paychecks to come, since my anniversary date, and performance evaluation, with the Corporation is later this month), but also made a difference in the success of the project.

Making a difference is worth losing sleep sometimes.

If I could just pull it off without the yelling the next day. That would be good.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

NaBloPoMo cheat

Yes, I'm doing a meme today. Sorry to be so jarringly non-posty today, but my body still thinks it's yesterday. Because I worked overnight, until 6 a.m., went home, walked the dogs, showered, woke the kids, and came back to work at 6:45 a.m. I'm so jacked up on caffeine and sugar right now that I may never sleep again. And if I'm having trouble reading, you can imagine what would happen if I tried to write a paragraph. So thanks, Kelly, for the help.

Four First Names of Crushes I’ve Had
1. Curtis - last I heard, he was in prison
2. Brian - turns out he was gay
3. Greg - a few people already know about this. Yes, Melissa, I'm talking to you.
4. James - no, Melissa, not that one

Four Pieces of Clothing I Wish I Still Owned
1. My polyester satin Picasso jacket.
2. That cute red plaid miniskirt. I know Craig mourns that one, too.
3. A pink twinset that was very, um, flattering.
4. My black leather jacket. Because I'm punk rock.

Four Names I’ve Been Called at One Time or Another
1. Kathleen
2. Katie
3. Kaleigh
4. Mommy

Four Professions I Secretly Want to Try
1. Real estate tycoon
2. Trust fund recipient
3. Slumlord
4. Pro skateboarder

Four Musicians I’d Most Want to Go on a Date With
1. David Bowie.
2. David Bowie.
3. David Bowie.
4. David Bowie.

Four Foods I’d Rather Throw Than Eat
1. Whipped cream pies
2. Jello
3. Chicken if I don't know who cooked it
4. Stovetop stuffing

Four Things I Like to Sniff
1. Earl gray tea bags
2. Cut lemons
3. A new bag of coffee beans
4. Flowers
Is it bad that the first thought I had was "Glue"? Probably so. I think it's the sleep deprivation talking. Only two more hours until I get to go to bed.

Four People to Tag
1. Kristabella (because it's NaBloPoMo and she needs help, too)
2. Melissa (because I don't tag her and I called her out, by name, TWICE in this post)
3. Nic (see #1)
4. Oh, The Joys (because I want to see her answers. I'm putting $5 that the words "National Park Ranger" appear in her post at least once).

More coffee!