Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Frustrating evening

Have you ever had one of those days that just didn't go well? (Don't answer that. It's a stupid question. Of course you have.)

I returned to work today after a long weekend, and it started. The person who had covered my position while I was away left me a mess. So the first hour of my day. Sucked.

The rest of the day was okay. Nothing special. The end of the month is a busy time for me, and since we lost a manager last month, those responsibilities also fall on me until we find a replacement. Even without those additional duties, the end of the month is a busy time. So I was in motion, pretty much perpetually, all day.

And then I slammed my thumb in a door. Ouch.

I come home, looking forward to taking the kids to the gym (there's a kids' gym activity at 5:15 and 6:15). The kids were excited, too. I changed into the workout clothes, walked the dogs, told the kids to change clothes, and we went out to the car. Turned the key in the ignition. Click. The battery, which is a frequent source of irritation, has died again.

We were planning to hit the grocery store after the gym, since things are pretty bare after vacation. And I had promised TV dinners to the kids (that's a treat for them). Well, without a car, that wasn't happening. Fortunately I found enough stuff in the fridge to make a reasonable dinner.

But my son hadn't remembered that we were going to buy the TV dinners at the store. He thought they were in the freezer. And when he saw the dinner I made, the weight of the evening's disappointments hit him, hard. He turned his face away from me so I wouldn't see him. But I saw. And then he went into the pantry, still refusing to look at me. But I saw.And thank goodness there were some vegetarian chicken patties in the freezer. Because frozen food was the only thing that was going to work. He did, reluctantly, eat his vegetables while the patty cooked. And I made fruit smoothies. And that veggie chicken patty was what saved his evening.

My evening, however, was saved when Craig called and I told him my tale of woe. He was planning to go to the gym after work, but he went to the car parts store, bought a battery charger, and then called me again from the grocery store parking lot.

So I'll get to the gym tomorrow morning, then work a double shift, then sleep. Craig's taking the kids to one of my favorite movies, shown outdoors at a local museum, so I'll be home alone.

I sure hope tomorrow is a better day.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Since I claim to talk about the balancing act

For several years, I've had an on-again, off-again relationship with the Memphis Vocal Arts Ensemble. I sang three concerts, then sat out six. I sang six, and now rehearsals are about to start for the new season.

As of today, I've decided to sit out the next concert (or two, or even the season). The rehearsal space has changed to a location about twice as far from my house, and that adds about half an hour of driving time to rehearsal days. As last season continued, it became more and more difficult for me to be away from the family for so much time in addition to working full-time. Twice-weekly rehearsals, plus driving time, added up to about 8 hours per week, more like 16 the week of a concert. Adding another hour per week away just doesn't sit right with me.

Add to that a few schedule conflicts (rehearsals are on Tuesday nights, but so are the monthly board meetings at my church, and it looks like Craig is going to teach on Saturday mornings, the other rehearsal time) and my new commitment to getting in better shape, and I just can't do it.

Singing with the group has been so positive for me in many ways: improving my musicianship, meeting new, great friends, the all-important "me" time that is in no way related to my parenthood or my job, contact with very talented people. But it's not all wine and roses. The rehearsals are sometimes frustrating. That many talented musicians in a room means just as many egos in the same room. The minority of us who are not professional musicians in "real" life definitely have a different experience of the group than do the pros. The changes in this year's schedule and rehearsal space created just enough of a conflict for me that I need to sit out for a while.

I know I'll miss it. And I'll probably go back, especially for the Christmas concert, because I deeply love singing Christmas music and don't get nearly enough of that in the Unitarian church.

But it begs the question: how much time should a working mom devote to her own hobbies, especially if those hobbies take her away from her family? Where's the tipping point demarcating self-care versus self-indulgence? Do working fathers ask themselves the same question?

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Welcome bloghers!

I attended BlogHer yesterday.  And I'm writing a very short post now, just for you ladies I met there.  If you are stopping by to say hi, thanks.  Please stick around.  May I direct you to a few of my favorite posts, which are linked in the sidebar, about halfway down?

In a nutshell, I'm Kaleigh, a working mom of two.  My kids' fake names are Susie and Alex.  Susie is ten and her brother, Alex, is eight.  My husband picked the fake name Craig.  We live in downtown Memphis and are very enthusiastic in our love for our chosen hometown.

Even though I reference work in my blog's title, I almost never write about work.  You're more likely to read about my family here, or maybe some of our goofy adventures in the kitchen or in an area restaurant.  My church involvement also gets plenty of attention here, too.  

As an unapologetic fan of reality television, cheap beer, and movies, some of my pop culture sensibilities wind up here, too.  And discussions of race and class.  It's hard to ignore, being in Memphis.  I write about my friends and sometimes get meta when I'm feeling all thinky.  

But mostly I just write whatever is on my mind.  Might be political, might be the weather.  

Welcome.  I'm glad I met you in Chicago.  I look forward to visiting your blog, too. 

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Perfunctory Pre-BlogHer Post

My poor blog has been neglected for several days. Honestly, weeks. I've been swamped at work and have been devoting more time to my physical self, leaving less time to write.

But there's another reason. I don't really have much to say these days.

Which is terrifying, really. I'm leaving, late tonight, for Chicago to attend a conference of women bloggers. Hopefully some of the bloggers I meet will stop by and read my musings. That awareness of audience (beyond my mom, my best friend, my brother, and a few other folks), however, has been crippling.

I've started at least five posts this week, only to delete them and walk away from the computer. This pressure to perform, it's horrible.

And totally self-inflicted.

But it's also telling. I have never fully embraced the title "mommy blogger," primarily because my children are older than the "typical" mommy blogger's children. But with the children out of my house for three weeks, it's apparent that I am, indeed, a mommy blogger. Because without them, I seem to have nothing to say.

And back to the actual event of BlogHer...I'm excited but more than a little apprehensive. So many women are arriving in Chicago today and will spend this evening together, bonding, having fun, creating and deepening relationships. I arrive Friday morning. I'm a bit worried that everyone will already have their bonding completed (and their hangovers well-earned), and I'll wander around being the odd girl out. If you're reading this and you're going to be there, please don't let that happen. I know quite a few of us bloggers have some level of social anxiety (hence, we blog), and I'm probably stewing over nothing. I promise I'll be lots of fun and you'll be glad you were nice to me. Plus, I'll be wearing the awesomest shirt ever in the history of shirts.

So, if you're a new reader, welcome. I hope you like it here. Leave me a comment so I can visit you, too.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Back from my media blackout

I'm paying the price today. In the wee hours this morning, I finished the final book in the Harry Potter series.

I won't write about it now, however, because not everyone reads fast.

I can't wait to talk to people who have read it. Because my husband? Does nothing but refer to it as my "children's book" and won't even watch the movies. And he's a film professor.

So? Did you love it? Did you cry?

My brother and I obviously share DNA

Your Score: Lion Warning Cat

80% Affectionate, 63% Excitable, 44% Hungry

You are the good Samaritan of the lolcat world. Protecting others from danger by shouting observations and guidance in cases of imminent threat, you believe in the well-being of everyone.

To see all possible results, checka dis.

Link: The Which Lolcat Are You? Test written by GumOtaku on OkCupid Free Online Dating, home of the The Dating Persona Test

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Preaching the word

This is gonna be a long post, so if religion ain't your bag, go ahead and visit some other blog that doesn't talk religion. Because I preached today, and it went quite well.

Here's what I said.

When I read the theme for this year’s summer series, "The Search for Truth and Meaning," it sounded a bit familiar. I realized quickly why. Until this year, my alma mater, Rhodes College, required each student to complete a four-semester humanities course called "The Search for Meaning (some long subtitle here about Western religion, literature, history, and philosophy)" (they have recently redesigned their liberal arts curriculum and it seems that they’ve eliminated this course entirely). Having been an Art History major, a Women's Studies minor, and filling as much of my elective time as possible in the Religious Studies department, the "Search" coursework was near and dear to my heart.

I started college a good Presbyterian girl. Rhodes is a Presbyterian college. The expectation, all around, was that I would graduate a good Presbyterian woman.

But that's not what happened. The courses I took in religion, history, art, literature, philosophy, psychology, and anthropology opened my mind to a broader worldview and a wider definition of the divine. By the end of my sophomore year, I had stripped myself of the "Christian" label and began searching for my own truth and meaning. In those explorations, I found the Unitarian Universalist church.

But let’s back up. What happened that made me a good Presbyterian girl? What is a good Presbyterian girl, anyway? And what did my Presbyterian childhood bring to the table in college, and afterward?

The easiest answer is two words: Sunday School. My family attended church almost every Sunday, a few Wednesdays, and most every holiday. Other than the holiday services, the kids attended Sunday School for an hour before church, then we attended church with our parents. This is pretty typical of mainstream Protestant denominations, and it’s a model of church that is very comfortable for me. We children learned to sit still, and maybe even listen, through the church service, and we learned the familiar Bible stories in Sunday School. Moses and the Burning Bush, Noah and the Ark, Abraham and Isaac, Jonah and the Whale, the Sermon on the Mount. These old stories were all too familiar to me by the time I was in school. I could locate them in the Bible easily by the time I was my children’s age. By middle school I could quote fairly long passages of Scripture and could name all the books of the Bible, in order (I don’t think I’ve retained that skill, unfortunately).

That working knowledge of the Bible was, and is, extremely useful. In my religion courses in college, my understanding of the Bible was enhanced by learning more about the historical and political context in which the Bible was written. And the more I learned, the less I believed. But, even if I didn’t believe it, I still knew my Bible very well.

That knowledge serves me well in numerous situations. Trivia? I’m your girl if the topic moves toward the Bible. Looking at Renaissance art? I can tell you what’s being illustrated. Dogmatic battle? I can bring on some Leviticus like nobody’s business. And I’ve done it.

See, the thing is, we Unitarian Universalists are sometimes guilty of throwing out the baby with the bath water. In our search for truth and meaning, we are happy to embrace Eastern traditions, Earth religions, Native American spirituality. Anything, really, except the tradition from which we are direct descendants. (Go ahead and squirm: I’m talking about Christianity.)

Kathleen Norris, a poet and author, has explored faith for the last twenty or so years. Brought up as a mainstream Protestant, the granddaughter of a Methodist minister, she strayed away from the church in college and for years afterward. In 1985, she joined the Presbyterian church in her mother’s childhood hometown, where she had lived since 1974. But at the same time in her life, she began visiting Benedictine monasteries in a nearby state, becoming a lay associate with the Benedictines. In her book, "Amazing Grace," Kathleen Norris explores the language of the Christian faith. This collection of essays about "The Ten Commandments", "Repentance", "Prayer", "Salvation" and more also includes other meditations about other aspects of faith.

This book is near to my heart. During a very difficult time in my life, my mother gave it to me, only because she had thought it was interesting and thought I might agree. I read this book slowly, just one essay at a time, and Norris’s words washed over me like a warm shower. Although I was not on the same faith journey as she, her words resonated in my soul. They awakened something from my childhood that felt real and right. I visited a few churches that summer, Methodist and Presbyterian, but they did not feel like home. That exploration, however, led me to Neshoba’s door, which is a wonderful ending to that chapter of my life, and the beginning of another.

One of the meditations in "Amazing Grace" is titled, "Inheritance: What Religion Were You Raised In And What Religion Are You Now?" in which Norris recalls a panel discussion she chaired at a literary gathering. Her chosen topic generated high emotion, with some participants expressing anger, while others communicated to her that the topic was simply too painful to discuss.

"…I had long claimed to be "spiritual but not religious," a distinction that no doubt reflects my secular education. Long before I had entered Bennington College, that bastion of John Deweyism, I had soaked up his notion that the educated person is religious, but against religions…
I could understand their wariness; at base it reflected a deeply held and justifiable distrust of institutionalized religions, which at least in the twentieth century have not been particularly welcoming to artists.
I spoke of my surprise at finding myself attending church after twenty years away. In returning to Christian worship, and a worshipping community, I sensed that I was engaged with my inheritance in ways that I had yet to fathom."

Later in the essay, she writes words that resonated so strongly with me during that difficult time in my life. As I reread them yesterday, they still light a spark inside me. Norris writes:

"There is a vast difference between blindly running away from old "nothings," and running with mature awareness toward something new. The best aspects of the religious openness in our culture are exemplified in the wealth of literature that stems from converts to Buddhism…The worst might be seen as an all-American shallowness, a temptation to take the quick and easy way out of any dilemma that threatens to last awhile. It has forced people whose religions have become trendy in our time, American Indians and Buddhist monks among them, to grow adept at sorting out people who have an adult grasp of their own religious traditions and are seeking interfaith dialogue from those who are trying to escape their own inheritance by simply appropriating someone else’s. Indian tribes are suing to keep New Age shamans from practicing on their ancestral holy sites, and defining as ‘sacred theft’ the sale of Indian names by entrepreneurs… A young man I know was stunned when he went to Thailand and tried to join a Buddhist monastery. Go back home and become a Christian monk first, they told him, learn your own tradition."

Even the Dalai Lama, when asked by an American reporter what advice he would give Americans who want to become Buddhists, said, "Don’t bother. Learn from Buddhism, if that’s good for you. But do it as a Christian, a Jew, or whatever you are. And be a good friend to us."
What do those words mean, to us, as Unitarian Universalists? With few exceptions, you, the people in this room, are in this faith by choice, not by birth. This religion of ours is not our heritage.

But what is our heritage? Do we adopt the colorful heritage of our merged faiths? The intellectual Unitarians and the inclusive Universalists? Do we honor our individual religious heritages?

That goes back to the beginning. To Sunday School. While we, the adults in the congregation, mostly chose this faith, our children did not. They’re the second generation. And it is our duty to give them a heritage. It is our duty to teach them about the Unitarian and Universalist "canon of saints" who came before us. It is our duty to teach them the old stories which began our faith. It is also our duty to teach them the whole story, which includes Christianity, which is the history of both Unitarianism and Universalism. To gloss over that history, and the living faiths that built that history, is to bury our heads in the sand.

The Unitarians and Universalists often exemplified the teachings of Jesus. Looking at historical Unitarians and Universalists, as well as the Unitarian Universalists of today, we see social reformers tackle such issues as capital punishment, the abolition of slavery, the education of people with mental retardation, prison reform, women’s rights, the Civil Rights movement, same-sex marriage, and our nation’s involvement in war. In looking at our denomination’s good works, our stance on those, and other issues, I find it amusing to ask myself, "What would Jesus do?"

Because, truly, I think he’d be on our side.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Pumping iron

I worked out with a personal trainer on Wednesday.

Take your time. That sentence was unexpected and out of character. Breathe.

Really. I did.

See, here's the thing. From age 17 to age 33, I was sick enough with thyroid disease that aerobic exercise was forbidden by my doctor. He told me that walking and yoga were quite sufficient and that getting my already-hummingbird-like heart rate any higher could end badly, like in a coffin. Not having a death wish, I complied. One of the "fortunate" symptoms of hyperthyroidism is weight loss, so it really didn't have a big impact on my figure.

Which means, for all of my adult life, I've been thin (or close to thin) but not very fit.

Now that my thyroid gland is, well, gone, and my pulse is down below 100, it's okay for me to exercise, which I've done, in fits and starts. Yes, I walk every day. And there have been a few instances of jogging. And riding bikes. But it's become increasingly obvious that I needed to do more. Add to the situation my husband and his recent and impressive weight loss (he's down 8 inches in waist size! since October!) that is entirely a result of an exercise program, and it had to happen. I had to take it seriously, which is why we joined the gym. (Learning that my employer had negotiated an amazingly cheap rate with this gym didn't hurt, though.)

(It's worth noting that I really don't like sweating. Just thought I'd put that piece of information out there.)

But the trainer and I met for my fitness assessment. The first few minutes of that assessment included a health history, getting weighed and measured, and talking about fitness goals. That was all completed before he started teaching me how to make those medieval torture instruments work. A few excerpts from our conversation:

Him: How old are you?
Me: 36.
Him: No way! I guessed you to be in your early 20's!
Me: Yeah, that's what you say to all the old ladies.

Him: What is your main goal for this fitness program?
Me: Well, I'm not getting any younger, and I need to stay healthy if I want to stay around.
Him: Okay, I'm going to write down, "To feel and look young." Does that sound right?
Me: .....

After he has me do twelve reps of some rather hideous exercise...

Him: Did you feel that? Do you feel a burn?
Me: .....
Him: Where do you feel it?
Me: points vaguely to an area near my arm
Him: You didn't feel that. :::adds weight to the machine::: Do another twelve.
Me: .... (silent sobbing)

All in all, it went well. Nothing was too painful, and even when he measured my hips it wasn't too embarrassing. My weight was perfectly respectable (even though I did some stress eating before my appointment...I was really nervous about it), and I was able to lift more than the minimum amount of weight on each machine. It was maybe, just maybe, even a little bit fun.

When I woke up yesterday morning, I expected to be in pain. I wasn't. And that concerned me a little. Maybe he'd been too easy on me. Because, honestly, I did more than my share of eyelash batting when the going got tough. And a couple of times I really thought it worked, and he reduced the weight on the machine or reduced the number of reps. Craig and I talked about it, and we agreed that a female trainer might be what I need because she would be less likely to take it easy on me. (And yes, this made me a little sad. Because this trainer is definitely in the eye candy category.)

As the day went on, however, I started feeling it. That soreness. Which is a feeling I don't often experience, but I remember from being younger. It's not exactly painful, or even uncomfortable. But it gets my attention. And it tells me that maybe this guy didn't take it quite as easy on me as I had thought. (Which is good news. Remember, he's cute! And compliments me! Tells me I don't have wrinkles! Yes, really. He said that. Love.)

We're going back today, and this time I'm on my own. I have a little anxiety still about the machines. Will I remember which machine is which? Will I look stupid carrying around my little "cheat sheet"? What if I lose my "cheat sheet"? Will I still be sore enough that the exercises are much more difficult today? Will I eat ten pounds of pasta afterward, negating all my hard work? Can I really keep this up after the kids come back home?

But I'm not going to let those anxieties win. I need to do this, and I like how I feel afterward. I really, really hope that I can like how I feel during. And soon.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Ten Seconds

Sarah and I have something in common besides each having a boy and a girl, and a musical background. We both have pink cell phones.

So here's the deal. Mocha wants us to introduce ourselves in ten seconds before BlogHer. Good thing, because I've been so flipping busy this week that my blog's gotten a little dusty.

Start your stopwatches....

I am 5'3" but my hair makes me taller. I'm a Southerner by choice. I love to cook. By BlogHer I'll be missing my kids sorely, since they've been with my parents since July 7. I love to talk and I've never met a stranger. And my date for the cocktail party? Is my brother.

Oh, and here's what I look like:

Monday, July 16, 2007

Only five days away

Since our minister is on vacation in July, we've had pulpit guests each Sunday this month. Next week is my turn, and it will be the first time I've delivered the full, 20-minute sermon. I've shared the pulpit a few times, but I've never been the main attraction.

This summer's theme is "The Search for Truth and Meaning," which is, um, pretty vague. But also familiar. You see, until this year, my alma mater, Rhodes College, required each student to complete a four-semester humanities course called "The Search for Meaning (some long subtitle here about Western religion, literature, history, and philosophy)" (they now have a more flexible way to complete the requirement). Having been an Art History major, a Women's Studies minor, and filling as much of my elective time as possible in the Religious Studies department, the "Search" coursework was near and dear to my heart.

I started college a good Presbyterian girl. Rhodes is a Presbyterian college. The expectation, all around, was that I would graduate a good Presbyterian woman.

But that's not what happened. The courses I took in religion, history, art, literature, philosophy, psychology, and anthropology opened my mind to a broader worldview and a wider definition of the divine. By the end of my sophomore year, I had stripped myself of the "Christian" label and began searching for my own truth and meaning. I explored earth religions like Wicca (didn't work for me), and through those explorations, found the Unitarian Universalist church.

The UU church has been a great fit for me and for my family. My children are natural skeptics. My son is the youngest person I've ever met that claims to be an atheist. (Actually, he doesn't like that word at all. He just says that he doesn't believe in God, the devil, heaven, or hell. This all coincided with him figuring out about Santa. I think these two things are connected.) My daughter is more comfortable with ambiguity and refuses to be pinned down about her theology. Her skepticism is most visible when she watches television or movies. When something amazing happens onscreen, she often wonders aloud how many "takes" were needed to get that shot.

But our church gives us more than a place to not believe.

One of my favorite UU quotes (that I'm about to misquote) is that we are "searching for the truth with love." That's what I appreciate about our church. Nobody claims to have "THE" answer to life's questions. We do know that there are paths that don't work for us. That's something that I think is important to point out. Many people think that if you're a Unitarian Universalist, you "can believe whatever you want." No. No. NO!

If you believe that sacrificing babies is a good way to worship the Divine, no. That's not okay at my church. Not a bit. If you believe that white people are superior to other people, no. If you believe that it's okay to treat gay people poorly, no.

But if you believe that it's okay to not have all the same beliefs as the person sitting next to you in church, if you believe that there is good reason to choose inclusive language in church, if you believe that community can also be a verb, then the Unitarian Universalist church might be a good place to visit.

And hopefully, if you visit this Sunday, I'll have chosen good words. Because my sermon it not finished.

Friday, July 13, 2007

I'm gonna win this one

I knew there was a good reason I got a new camera.

Little of interest to report, except I saw the Harry Potter movie and loved it. But I'm not sure my kids will love it; it's pretty heavy and dark and not entertaining the way the other films have been. With so many well-written, well-reasoned reviews already out there, I have little more to add, so I won't.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Blah blah fitness blah blah cardio

I did something new yesterday. I joined a gym.

Which is definitely a change in pace.

But I think it's a necessary change. Despite eating relatively healthy and walking to work, things in my physical manifestation are not as great as they could be. The belly never quite recovered from carrying an 8 1/2 pound baby and then, less than two years later, a 10 pounder. I did zillions of sit-ups after the first baby but never saw a change, and really didn't try after the second.

We took the tour yesterday, and it was intimidating. Our tour guide was huge and very buff and looked like he'd been that way his whole life. And while Craig has lost an amazing amount of weight (he's down 8 inches in his waist size), and I'm naturally pretty thin, neither of us has lifted weights since high school. The machines looked more like medieval torture devices than anything else to me, and I really haven't a clue how to use most of them.

Craig perked up when he learned about the spinning class. The area where the class is conducted is dark, with groovy Christmas lights and stuff. So that's going to be the first class we take. I'm already comfortable with yoga, but will start with the beginner-level class because I'm rusty. There's also a boot camp class that I think would be hilarious, but Craig has no interest.

So now I'm waiting to get a call to schedule my fitness assessment so the fitness professional can help me (a) figure out what I want/need to accomplish, (b) how to accomplish those goals, and (c) learn how to work the machines. Until that happens, I have a feeling that all I'll be doing is the elliptical machine (it's pretty self-explanatory) and classes.

And, yeah, I'm a little nervous about it.

I don't think it's body issues that are making me nervous. Honestly, I feel pretty good inside my skin. True, I don't weigh 110 anymore, but I'm okay with my curves. But I really don't like not knowing how to do things, and all those machines are absolutely foreign to me. When I was in high school, I got pretty serious about circuit weights for several months, at the Y in our small Wyoming town. I knew how to work the machines and I enjoyed seeing my progress. But that weight room was about the size of my living room, with about ten machines, so mastering that circuit was not at all difficult.

Now I'm faced with two stories of machines, none of which looked particularly familiar. And none of the people in the room looked familiar, either. Which means I'm totally dragging Craig along when I go, at least for the first few weeks. If I'm going to be in a strange and unfamiliar world, I need a buddy who is just as uncomfortable as I am.

Oh, here's the good news. There's a liquor store across the street from the gym.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

My daughter says I'm boring

I got an email from Susie yesterday. A lovely email that detailed the adventures she and Alex had at Busch Gardens with my parents. Roller coasters, water rides, heat, crying: all the ingredients for a typical family vacation.

My reply to the email was short, and it simply gave her an idea of what our life is like in their absence: we had gone grocery shopping and gotten some great tomatoes, and we ate them. I was going to make something for dinner that they wouldn't like. That's about it.

And, as if I needed further confirmation, this is what she wrote back:

That sounds so boring to me.

Love u!!!

I love you too. Thanks a pantload.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Summer reading

I've read a couple of books in the past few weeks, which is not something I can often claim these days. My free time is generally claimed by meetings, rehearsals, family time, or television. In the summertime, however, rehearsals are on hiatus, and there are fewer meetings.

One of the books I read was for an online book club. The book was The Washingtonienne: A Novel, and it was a fun, easy, mind-candy read. Sex, sex, sex, along with large portions of alcohol, bitchiness, and mild sociopathology. It's such a quick read (seriously, one day) that you probably still have time to join the book discussion.

Deeper, however, was my other recent read, Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia. Elizabeth Gilbert, who is about my age, is a very accomplished author. This very personal book details a year of her life in which she takes extreme measure to heal her wounded spirit after a difficult divorce and another heartbreak on its heels.

That book had been on my Amazon wishlist for some time. While it was there, I read a few conflicting reviews of the book. Not that I'm a big believer in reviews, but one rather harsh review suggested that Gilbert's approach was patronizing to the indigenous people of India and Indonesia.

My take: the first couple of chapters didn't pull me into the story very well, but once she gets to Italy, I was hooked. The India section was interesting because of my history with yoga, and it made me think of my friend Christie a lot. I know she would have enjoyed that part of the story. Indonesia, too, was compelling (if memory serves, that's the section that the negative review really took to task...for what it's worth, I don't agree with that part of the review).

I finished the book while I was at the hotel, so I gave it to my mom, along with Julie and Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen, which I had devoured a year ago, and she had picked up the last time she visited Memphis. She didn't take it with her (accidentally), and I was a good enough daughter to remember it and bring it with me.

I'm up for more reading, so please send your suggestions. I like Anthony Bourdain and Poppy Z. Brite, when it comes to fiction. Well, I like Anthony's nonfiction too. I pretty much like everything about him. And I like reading about food. So suggest, please!!

Monday, July 09, 2007

I'm back. I drove exactly 850 miles yesterday, which is a personal record. Not one I ever want to attempt to break. That's really far. I played the alphabet game, listened to some podcasts, listened to NPR, talked on the phone, and drank coffee in the interest of staying awake at the wheel. It worked. Plus, the pretty scenery of Virginia and Tennessee didn't hurt matters a bit.

The trip was uneventful, which was my expectation. My cousin's daughter's wedding had all the trimmings: nice rehearsal dinner, pretty dress, cute bridesmaids' dresses, cute flower girl, open bar and edible food at the reception. No problems. It would have been nice if my family's table hadn't been so close to the DJ's speakers at the reception, but no biggie. Oh, and remember dude? He hung out a lot at the DJ table and got really psyched when they played "Urgent" by Foreigner. I've never seen such an enthusiastic reaction to that song. I hear that at brunch on Sunday, he dipped his bacon in catsup. Which is probably a crime in most states. Or it should be.

And now Craig and I will live without children for a few weeks. You wouldn't have noticed a change had you visited our house last night. No exotic dinners, no exciting plans. Just dinner and television. We did talk about doing some exciting, or at least interesting, things, but we never fully committed to anything beyond using my gift card for Spindini.

So, my readers, all three of you, what should we do? (Besides the obvious, of course. We know that part.) Those of you with kids at home, what would you do with three kid-free weeks?

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Update, with pictures

If you're curious about my July 4 feast, an update is here.

Deadbeat Blogger

Not so much with the updating here. I plead work overload, holiday, then travel. I'm currently blogging from a hotel room in West Virginia. It's unreasonably early, but I'm generally plagued with non-sleep when I'm not in my own bed. And having changed time zones hasn't helped at all.

We left Memphis, the kids and I, at 10:00 a.m. on July 5. Our intent was simply to get more than halfway to our destination of Shepherdstown, WV. The kids were, all in all, agreeable travel companions. Our rental car, a Mitsubishi Lancer, is small but not tiny, and sips gasoline so much less than our van that I estimate our cost savings in gasoline consumed almost covers the cost of the rental. All told, I think renting the car, this time, had an actual cost of $20 once I factor the gas savings. Wear and tear probably makes up at least another $20, so it's a cost-neutral prospect. File that fact away for future travel.

We spent the first night in Bristol. It had rained a bit shortly before we checked in to the hotel, but we would not be daunted in the kids' desire to swim. In the outdoor pool. Which was cold. The swimming adventure was cut short when the kids realized that they don't like to swim without goggles, and the goggles were safely at home in the hall closed. I also learned that it's best to avoid asking the children to choose between breadsticks and cheese bread from Domino's. Because each child has a strong preference for one or the other. And they don't agree. I decided on cheese bread because it has much more fat and calories. Guess what: they both ate it.

Yesterday's leg of the drive was shorter, though a bit more difficult. The majority of my long road trip driving experience is Memphis to Detroit. I can do that drive blindfolded with one arm tied behind my back. It's mostly straight, and almost entirely flat. Interesting? Not really. But very, very easy.

This drive, however, was through the hilly country of Virginia. Traffic was a bit tighter (probably because of the holiday we just had), and the wee car I was driving definitely only has four cylinders. I insisted upon a break around 11 a.m. (Denny's!) (clean plates all around!) (bacon!), and we arrived at the hotel within a few minutes of my parents, around 2 p.m.

Another round in a cold, outdoor pool (very cold!), then a quick trip to the nearby Dairy Queen and drugstore (hey! goggles on sale! with snorkles!), then on to the rehearsal dinner. Because my cousin's daughter is getting married.

I'm not from a close-knit family with frequent visits to see cousins. Outside my parents, brother, and grandmother, I almost never see people I'm related to. The last time I saw my cousins was at my brother's first wedding. That was eight years ago. Honestly, I wasn't sure I'd recognize the bride, since she'd been a young teenager back then.

No worries - I picked her out of the group immediately. And recognized everyone else as well.

At the dinner, we (Mom, Dad, the kids, and I) wound up sitting with some of the groomsmen. The one sitting next to Susie was a live wire. The rest of this entry will be a recap of his antics, with one comment. I can't wait to see what he'll do today.

When the waiter came around to pour wine, he offered each of us red (merlot) or white (chardonnay). Dude chose "both" and the waiter, being a good sport, poured half a pour of white, then half a pour of red into his glass. Dude drank it (slowly). I think he's a beer drinker. Probably from a funnel.

My son was the recipient of a plate of chicken tenders (pretty obviously the Sysco brand that are served at most places, including where I work) and fries. Dude saw his plate and told the waitress that he really wanted that, not the "fancy" food everyone else was being served. Once the waitress stopped laughing, she realized he was serious and it was done.

Dropped multiple "F" bombs. With a ten year old sitting next to him. (In all fairness, he apologized profusely.)

After giving us his life story (my mom simply had asked where he lived), shared with our table, and the tri-state region, that his IQ is 128. (My dad high-fived me when I mentioned that my daughter and he had something in common.)

There's one at every party, right? When I called Craig last night I told him the tale, and the wine mixing was his favorite bit. He's pretty sure that he could be best friends with Dude.

So, wedding this afternoon. Tomorrow I abandon my children in West Virginia, confident that my parents will do as good a job raising them for the next three weeks as they did with me.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Also appearing here

Because I feel like I'm watching my foodie self atrophy, I started this. If you want to eat what my family is eating on July 4, my plans are detailed. With recipes.

Please check it out and comment often!

Sunday, July 01, 2007


Last night was the largest fireworks display in the Mid-South, ever. We watched from the amazingly un-crowded Mud Island (the best view, plus the nicest spot in town). Craig and I kept commenting at how few people were there; the best we can figure is that some pretty strong thunderstorms came through part of town yesterday and maybe the folks in the 'burbs were afraid that downtown was soaked (it wasn't).

We got there a little over an hour before the display began, enough time for the kids to play in the water a bit and to set up our blankets and chairs in a prime spot, overlooking the Wolf River and close to the fireworks.

Not much to say except Loud! Bright! Shiny! Fun! Here's a visual expression of our night.