Saturday, April 30, 2011

The sweet taste of (temporary) freedom

I'm done! Both papers are off my hands! As of about 70 minutes ago, my eight days of freedom began. Sure, I've still got 16 of 17 student final papers left to grade and a whole bunch of calculating of final grades to do, but that's cake in light of the week of paper tortured I just endured. 

(And it's only eight days of freedom - as opposed to the 4 months one might expect - b/c my six-week language class begins in early May.) 

So, to commence "Funday" - the official title Brad and I have given tomorrow - a bit early, I'm sippin' on a Stewart's Orange 'n Cream, watching Hitch with my hubby, and relaxing on the couch. I can safely say I've earned this . . . 

The Friday 4: Serious Questions

Last Friday I was MIA for reasons I can only now guess at (they all sound a bit like, "Extremely stressed out and working like a maniac"); to make up for my absence (which I doubt anyone but me noticed), I offer four very serious questions for you to ponder. And I'd really like to hear your answers. It is my assertion here that you can't really know yourself until you've considered your answers to the following: 

4.  If you had the opportunity were forced to be on a reality show, which one would you pick? 

Survivor, duh. I'd get rockin' skinny, in mad crazy shape, lose my caffeine addiction (though I'd suffer a monster headache in the process), and have the chance to win, what, $1 million? Doesn't sound so awful - that is, till I start thinking about all the bugs out there in those outdoorsy places . . . 

3.  You've won a contest! Now choose from the following prizes: a brand-spanking new monster truck or a 2 yr. old dolphin. 

There are serious considerations to be weighed here. Like, the monster truck is giant, so where are you gonna keep it? The dolphin, though, lives in water; where in the h-e-double-hockey-stick are you gonna keep that one? 

Dolphins are cool, no doubt. They're swimming mammals, for crying out loud! Plus, they're smart and kinda pretty. And some dolphin species are endangered, so it's not a shabby idea to protect them or, conversely, get your dolphin prize and set her free off in the wild, wild waters. 

Even so, I've got to go with the monster truck. Yeah, it'd guzzle gas like nobody's business, but from what I hear of Shannon's hometown, it's just the kind of place where you could drive around on 66" tires without raising too many eyebrows. Though I might mock off-roading, I think I could make an exception for a truck on steroids. 

2.  Gotta give up (gasp) either bread or cheese. Decision, please? 

I'm twitching just thinking about this. In either case, you ain't havin' pizza no more. Which in and of itself is weep-worthy. 

If you say "see ya" to the cheese, you can't eat, well, cheese. I'm not sure any other argument needs to be made. Nachos would be sorely missed, for sure. And none of Olive Garden's dishes would be the same. 

If it's the bread you wave bye-bye to, you're not eating toast, sandwiches, stuffing, and on and on (well, on and on if you can think of other things. At this late hour, I cannot). 

I'm sorry to say it even as I'm saying it (typing it), but the cheese-o would get the heave-o. No, I'm not happy about it, but bread makes possible butter, which I'll affectionately call My Life's Staple. 

1.  For one day, you've got a monkey at your disposal; detail your activities. 

A baby mona 
Who doesn't love monkeys?! Who wouldn't want a pet monkey for a day?! Since meeting a mona monkey at the community college where Brad and I worked after first getting married, I've been about two steps away from trekking to the jungle and hiding a furry friend in my backpack. 

Ala Dane Cook's hilarious animated clip from Shorties Watchin' Shorties, I want a monkey to fight. With swords. And it's got to talk. And be funny. After we swordfight for a few hours (with breaks scheduled for our respective favorite beverages and foods), the monkey and I will go out to mess with my friends' minds. I'm not yet sure what the plan is, but I'm pretty sure it will be awesome. Brad can come with us if he wants (and how, really, could he not?). But only after the monkey and I have messed with his mind, too. 

Lastly, I'll have the monkey show me how to be a tree-climbing-and-swinging bad*ss. There are woods all around these parts that should do nicely. Oh, and actually lastly - another swordfight, this time with blindfolds (don't worry, we're using Nerf swords for this one). 

(I couldn't find the clip from Shorties - much to my disappointment - but the content of his stand-up on the monkey is here. Be forewarned, you delicate souls: it's not PG or even PG-13. He gets to the monkey bit at about 2:40, but trust me, the whole things is soooooo worth listening to. Oh, and Dane Cook is a babe.)

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Oh, yes, I did

I most definitely did just use inchoate in my modernism paper. You better believe it! 

This might be lame, but I'm feeling quite satisfied at the moment. Although, I'm pretty sure I should wipe this grin off my face and get back to the day's torture . . . . 

Too-short Paper = Lamest Thing I Could Be Doing on My Birthday

Yep, you heard right - it's 2:10 in the afternoon on my birthday and I'm holed up in the family room (with a sweet kitty to my left), trying to lengthen a paper that's 3 pages short of the minimum, even though I'm absolutely out of things to say and was about a page ago. 

That sounds like something a high school or college student would do, you say. Are you sure you're in grad school? you ask. Yeah, I'm sure. I've been here for the past 6 years - I know what it looks like.

Don't cry for me, though. (At least not yet - the paper's due on Friday, and another one on Saturday. Though there's no page limit for the second one, it's half-a-debacle at this point.) Brad's heading out of work in no time to come home and hang out with me, my mom will be on her way over in the early evening to celebrate, and there's delicious veggie/chip dip and pretzel Jell-o on the horizon. My day will improve yet!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Why is my understanding of the word inchoate so inchoate?

I can't tell you how many times I've read the word inchoate without knowing what it means. I still don't know. I learned the definition for the GREs and, as Brad predicted, promptly forgot it (and every other word I'd learned) after taking the text. 

Plus, in my mind I always always always say "in-chote" b/c that's so much more reasonable and obvious than the actual pronunciation of "in-ko-et." So, like niche - which is a great word, by the way - I'm leery to say inchoate should I be reading something aloud b/c I just know I'm gonna get the pronunciation wrong. 

So, I'm going to (try to) finally put my ignorance to rest, though my hopes, admittedly, are not high at this point.

Inchoate: being only partly in existence; imperfectly formed or formulated

The word even has Latin roots, which means I should be 'bout it 'bout it. It comes from the past participle of inchoare, which means "to start work on." 

(Thanks, Merriam-Webster.) 

Let's have an example for illustrative purposes, then we can count ourselves edified and call it a day on this one: 

The professor's inchoate ideas regarding his own paper assignment led to students who were decidedly confused about what was expected of them

There we go. I know I feel (at least temporarily) smarter now. Don't you?

Some philosophical pondering on the Resurrection

Today (well, yesterday by the time this post is completed), my pastor gave a characteristically articulate and thought-provoking sermon (the man's got a PhD, for crying out loud). It piqued my interest even more than usual, however, b/c it was structured around the thinking of seventeenth-century philosopher and mathematician Blaise Pascal - one of my favorite philosophers since my early college days. 

In note 322 of his Pensees, Pascal considers Jesus' disciples and the resurrection. What strikes me most about note 322 is what has always struck me most about Pascal: his use of rationality to support belief in Christ

I'm not saying he's right or wrong in doing so. I can only say that I think faith is a complicated thing - and that Pascal's method appeals to me b/c I have an extremtly rational mind. (And I would love love love to discuss Pascal's Wager, but that'll have to wait for another time, since I want to post about the resurrection given that it's Easter.) 

If Jesus was not in fact raised from the dead, says Pascal, there exist two options regarding his most committed followers: 

"The apostles were either deceived or deceivers. Either supposition is difficult, for it is not possible to imagine that a man has risen from the dead. While Jesus was with them, he could sustain them; but afterwards, if he did not appear to them, who did make them act? The hypothesis that the Apostles were knaves is quite absurd." 

As my pastor asked, What could have possibly been gained by anyone by tricking the disciples into asserting that Jesus was risen? That is, why botherThe kingdom and rewards promised by Jesus are not earthly - not material, not political, not social. In other words, no one has anything to gain by tricking the twelve into believing and telling others that the resurrection had indeed occurred. 

Pascal continues on to the second possibility, that of the disciples being themselves deceivers, saying, 

"Follow it out to the end, and imagine these twelve men meeting after Jesus' death and conspiring to say that he has risen from the dead. This means attacking all the powers that be. The human heart is singularly susceptible to fickleness, to change, to promises, to bribery. One of them had only to deny his story under these inducements, or still more because of possible imprisonment, tortures and death, and they would all have been lost. Follow that out." 

Given that 10 of the 12 were martyred b/c of their faith (the exceptions: Judas hanged himself after betraying Jesus, while John most likely died in old age), the whole deceiver thing is a bit more than specious. Further, no one ever confessed that he lied about Jesus' resurrection, that it was fake, a concocted story, a conspiracy. 

There exist a variety of other supports for the deceiver/deceived possibilities (such as - and I try not to laugh here - the idea of mass hallucination), many of which my pastor debunked in his sermon, but what interests me more than this is that Pascal makes a really convincing argument

So many times religion - and it seems Christianity especially - is derided as being irrational and, in our hyper-rational world, therefore worthless. Pascal's logic belies that notion. And while God's complexity and mystery far exceed human understanding, it is not beyond the rational capabilities of the human mind to make reasoned judgements about what happened and what didn't happen based on given evidence. 

I certainly don't have all the answers, nor do I have nearly as strong a faith as I would like, but Pascal makes a pretty convincing case for Christ's resurrection being a reality. 

Sunday, April 24, 2011

This again?

Unless I'm dreaming - and the whole point here is that I'm not, unfortunately - then yes, I am up again at 4:30 a.m. Working. 

This time, I'm not dealing with grading, but with a paper on a poem by modernist poet Mina Loy, visual culture, and feminist theory. Basically, it's about marriage/female objectification and commodification/consumer culture/dept. store display windows/the male gaze/mannequins/and possibly prostitution (why not throw a little bit of that in there?), which, I realize, sounds anything but basic. 

Why such odd timing, you ask? Well, I've got Mr. Snores-a-Lot to thank for that. He somehow managed to go through not 1, not 2, not 3, but 4 varieties of snores in about 15 minutes. Every time I nudged him awake, he shifted slightly and proceeded to snore differently. Unfortunately, once I'm un-sleepified even the tiniest bit, I'm pretty much done for the next few hours. So, with no time to waste during this final week of the semester, I dragged my 4.5-hours-of-sleep arse out of bed and down here to start working on this paper. Again. 


Before this proceeds, I think I need some Word Bubbles Rising to get my mind going . . . okay, really I just love that game. 

Friday, April 22, 2011


B/c I really do learn something new every day, I just want to spend a moment on the beefalo. Until 4 minutes ago, I had no idea such a thing existed; in fact, when Shannon texted the word (as part of the following phrase, it should be noted: "I'm coloring a beefalo, don't pressure me, sista!") I assumed it was either a typo or a make-up. 

But no. The beefalo is, indeed, a real, true-blue creature

Courtesy of Wikipedia, I have learned that the beefalo is a hybrid of a domestic cattle boy and a bison/buffalo girl. When they meet and fall in love, the two go back to the barn and . . . . 

The breed used to be called "cattalo," but for reasons too complex to enummerate here, it is no longer. But that's okay, b/c "beefalo" is so dang cute.

My amazement at all this is two-fold. First, I now know of a breed of animal that for me, had never existed. And, in the not-so-distant past (150-250 years), it didn't exist. 

Almost 29 years old and the world never ceases to amaze me.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

My pre-workout fuel

(I didn't eat the whole bag!) 

As Shannon would say, Don't judge me. 

The above "meal" is not only my pre-workout snack, it's also breakfast and lunch. (Hey, I spent the afternoon at Starbucks with Shannon - what do you want from me?) I mean, it's better than nothing. (?) 

On this nice, if chilly, day, Brad and I are taking the opportunity to ease back into working out with a 1/2 hour walk through the neighborhood. Don't scoff at walking - I'm a speedy little thing. I'd say "power walking," but I can't bear the dorkiness of the image that phrase conjures in my mind. 

I haven't moved my booty in months, so there's bound to be some creaking of bones and aching of muscles. Sure, I've been doing crunches and ab exercises, as well as lifting dumbbells (in fact, I did both earlier today), but I've been AWOL from cardio land. Hopefully my crispy, salty faux-potatoes will provide me with the necessary energy while the Mt. Dew keeps me awake . . . .

Don't tell me you're not a Feminist IF

you believe women and men ought to have equal access to the educational, professional, political, and social arenas. 

you believe women and men are equally capable, intelligent, and creative. 

you believe women, like men, should have the opportunity to determine their own paths in life. 

Contrary to what my students may think, being a feminist does not equate to burning your bra and hating men. (That's not to say some feminists don't do those things, but I'd venture to say with the cost of undergarments these days, most savvy women aren't buying 'em just to burn 'em.) 

Feminist is not a dirty word. It's not a shameful word. It's not an ugly word. It's a beautiful word, and you should be proud to use it to describe yourself. I am.

A feminist is someone who supports women, their opportunies, their abilities, their dreams. You don't have to believe men and women are "exactly the same" to be a feminist. What you must believe is that men and women are both worth the same. If that's the case, it follows both should be given the same chances in life. 

So, don't tell me you're not a feminist unless you also tell me that I don't have the abilities and/or intelligence of the guy next door. In that case, get ready for a brawl. 

And don't even talk to me about heavy lifting - I don't know many guys who can squeeze into the tight spaces I can wiggle into, and that's as handy as hauling a flat screen from one room to the next anyday.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Meditation on an Approaching Birthday

For years, I loathed birthdays. I dreaded their approach for days in advance and often cried on the big day itself. I figured that, as I aged, things would only get worse. But at some point in the past few years - 26? 27? - I stopped hating my birthday. No, I wouldn't say I love my birthday now (let's not overdo it here), but I find myself having a pleasant attitude toward it in general and, specifically, its approach this year. 

Next Tuesday I'll turn 29, which will officially put me into the almost-30 realm. For me, that's a little frightening but also a little exciting. My 20s have been good to me - marriage, a house, several degrees, the start of a career - and I'm looking forward to the plans I have for my 30s. 

I've found quite a bit of truth in things I've read about life becoming more enjoyable as you age. For a long time this seemed to me like nonsense propagated by people who were jealous of the young. Sort of like, "I'm 35 and hate it, and in an attempt to convince myself that I don't want to be 25, I'm going to say being 35 is the best thing ever." But within maybe, I don't know, the past year or so, I've experienced a number of random moments where I've thought just that: this is so much better than it was back then

In the past few years, I've achieved greater self-confidence and comfort in my skin, a fuller sense of direction in my personal and my professional lives. It's a cheesy thing to say, I admit, but I've figured out - even if just a little bit - how to appreciate the journey instead of rushing to the end. Like a lot of people, I rushed through high school, rushed through college, and kept rushing rushing rushing through much of my twenties. There wasn't a specific moment when - poof! - I stopped doing that, but thinking about the difference b/t then and now, it seems that I must've asked, "What am I rushing toward?" and decided instead to take the scenic, 25 mph route. (Which sometimes feels like the back route . . . to an unfamiliar destination . . . haha.) 

And I've become more grateful. These days, I'm a lot more conscious than I was in the past of the wonderful things I have. And, no, I'm not just talking material possessions, though a warm home, nice and clean clothes, and a working (though piece of crap) car are certainly things to be grateful for. 

I'm talking about a supportive family, a funny and generous husband, kind and caring neighbors, understanding friends, time to myself (every once in a while), a strong mind, a healthy body, creativity. A lot of women live in frightening, unsafe, unhealthy situations from which they can't escape; I'm grateful to be surrounded by positive people in a positive environment.

Sure, I miss things about being, say, 20, like my smooth, clear skin. I've got a lot more wrinkles these days (especially from furrowing, sigh), and my cheeks are a mess from rosacea that suddenly appeared at around age 25 and just won't quit. But I think overall I've gained more good stuff than I lost. 

I've got a lot to work on, this coming year and in the years after. One thing that comes immediately to mind is my body image. Even though I don't obsess about food and working out like I did a decade ago, how I look has way too much impact on me, and I struggle to feel good about myself when the scale goes up 2 or 3 pounds. This has been a problem for many many years, and although I haven't changed it yet, I'll continue trying to. 

And that's where I am: still trying. I've got to credit Lumosity with giving me the inspiration for this post - in the form of a quote by Thomas Edison - "I have not failed 10,000 times. I have successfully found 10,000 ways that will not work." Turning 29 gives me a whole new year to search for ways that do work. 

And hey, maybe the next celebratory day to get a major makeover in my mind is New Year's/New Year's Eve which I hate with a passion. Though I wouldn't take that to the bank.

Monday, April 18, 2011

What you should be doing at 4:12 a.m. on a Monday

1.  Sleeping. 

2.  Not frantically grading response/rebuttal and extension papers. 

3.  Not writing a blog post about how you're not doing #1 and #2. 

*If you fulfill none of the above, chances are you have procrastinated beyond all reasonableness and now have 7 papers to grade and half a paper to write by Tuesday. 

**Dumb idea.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

I'm getting really good at this

Getting rejected from conferences, that is. I just got #6. 

It's a nice Sunday afternoon, you go to a kid's first birthday party (Amanda's son Jack's), chat and laugh with people, eat yummy yummy food, walk out into the actually-pretty-nice-if-chilly early evening, climb in your car, and then find a real downer of an e-mail in your inbox. Looks like no MSA conference for me this time around. 

It's okay though - Amanda got me an oh-so-sweet-and-thoughtful birthday present (yes, at her son's party) which, among other things, includes edibles. None other than flying saucers, Sour Patch Kids watermelons, Swedish fish, and, oh yes, those lollipops I was craving. I just drowned my sorrows in a little bag of flying saucers . . . I think that's about 18 calories total. 

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Why I will never be a poet; or, When in Doubt, Blame Your Childhood

For those who don't know, I stink at writing poetry. 

To read my fiction, you might reasonably think I would be an all right poet. My fiction is all language, images, rhythm, sound. Further, I haven't the vaguest sense of plot, so lyric poetry really sounds like it would be my kinda thang. 

Au contraire, my friend, au contraire. I am a debacle with the poetic form. Even narrative poetry. And I've decided to locate my failure in childhood. 

You see, my crowning poetry achievement came in the 4th grade. A poem I wrote about rain (what else do 4th graders write poetry about?) was chosen - among who knows how many others - to be displayed at the Carnegie Library (or Museum?) in Oakland. I wish I had more details about the whys and wherefores of their displaying elementary school students' poetry, but I do not. Why? you ask. B/c my family didn't take me to see the display. 

Imagine what a success I might be today if only I'd had the opportunity to glimpse my poem set upon a public pedestal, if I'd felt that thrill and pride. Imagine what inspiration I might have taken from my success and how that would have motivated me to write, write, write. I could've been winning a damn Pulitzer as we speak, for all you know. (Not impossible - at 29, Annie Dillard won in nonfiction for Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. But she's supposed to be a mean person. Which matters.) 

Instead, my most worthy achievements in poetry are sad, sad things. Once upon a time (during the last year of my MFA), I won honorable mention in a university-wide competition (read: small and insignificant) for a 7-line poem about Rasputin. (It was at least sophisticated enough to allude to WCW's "The Red Wheelbarrow"!) I think that brought me a whopping $50. Last year, I won second place ($100 this time) in a city-wide poetry competition for people under 30 (or something). But that was a small, small city (not Pittsburgh).

Alas, I shall have to blame my parents for my failure as a poet. Perhaps it was their busy schedules, or maybe a general cluelessness about the central importance of that event in my burgeoning identity as a writer. 

Rest assured that, now that I've remembered this little situation, I will remind my mother of it tomorrow at church and attempt to induce much guilt.

Rain, rain, go away

Seriously. Go away. 

It was 80 degrees last Sunday and siz-unny outside. Now it's 54 and rainy. The day could not be more "blah." Well, actually, it could be 34 and rainy, so the previous statement is untrue. Anyway, I'm not asking for 80 in April. In fact, I don't want 80 in April - that's July and August weather, and two months of that is sufficient. But where is the, well, April weather? 

I request the following: 

1.  Sun. Enough to call the day something other than "gray" (or "grey" for you, Diplo). 

2.  Sun. Preferably on my backyard, which is in one of its phases of nasty-mucky-muddy-messiness, and is home to my patio, which is a nice, if rudimentary, place to lay. 

3.  Sun. To wake me up. 

No, bright, sunny, and scrumptiously warm weather doesn't help me do work - it makes me want to nap with the window open or lay on the patio with a magazine - but who said anything about warm? Besides, this gray/rain/ick crap definitely isn't helping me stay awake or feel motivated, and I'm 3.5 hours into what's looking to be a 7-hour day of paper writing and grading. Sigh. 

$23 + 20 minutes of shopping =

8 second-hand picture frames that will be painted and variously distressed to look super rockin'. 

What a score! (Only six of the eight are pictured.)

I'd call this a thrift store success. We went in specifically looking for cheap-but-cool frames to make-over. Not a half hour later, we left with an armload of said c-b-c frames and still had enough money to buy groceries. (That's actually just a rhetorical flourish; the groceries were already in a trunk.) 

If you've recently done any shopping for picture frames, you know how dang pricey they can be. I usually look at Target, JoAnn Fabrics, and Pottery Barn (though I never buy any from the latter), and depending on the size of the frame and the store, you're talking $10-$80. 

I recently saw ones very similar to the small oval ones at JoAnn's on sale for $10, down from $20, during their Daffodil Days sale. That was $10 a piece; we paid $2.12 for the pair. (And, I just have to say it: they had a pink tag and pink tags were 1/2 off, so they should have only been $1.06 total. But the girl didn't ring it up right, and Brad insisted I not "make a scene." Would it not have been reasonable simply to inquire about the sale price . . . ?) 

I've already got plans for the little oval ones and the bigger green one in the middle. In addition to the painting/distressing, most of the pictures will be removed and replaced. Unfortunately, I cannot say that no animals will be harmed in the process - that rooster's gettin' the ax.

Friday, April 15, 2011

The Friday 4: Summer House Projects

So, I've got lots going on this summer. Along with rest, relaxation, and socializing (lots of all three!), here's the plan: 

- 6 weeks of German for 3 hours a day, 5 days a week (a language is required for my degree; I'm not this masochistic); 
- teaching a creative writing class so long as the enrollment is sufficient (which it currently isn't and probably won't be); 
- working on a new short story I started this past weekend and my novel-in-progress (there hasn't been a whole lot of progress); 
- sending out my already-existing fiction to various journals (and a contest or two); 
- revising a paper (on Tim O'Brien) in hopes of sending it to a journal later this year; 
- reading for fall classes so I am not helplessly behind three weeks after school starts; and 
- researching my dissertation idea. 

Despite this insane list, Brad and I have quite a few house projects lined up, and I'm almost as excited for these as I am to spend time on my writing. Here are the top 4. Hopefully we'll accomplish more, but if we even just finish this list, I'll be a happy freakin' camper. 

4.  Drastically improve the kitchen with wallpaper removal and paint (and surely some cute accessories!). 

The previous owners and/or the owners before that had a thing for two types of decor:  wallpaper and pink. In this house there's wallpaper/borders in 6 rooms, two hallways, and along the stairwell. Only one of these wallpapers (in my office) is nice. The rest gotta go. In the kitchen, we'll be stripping it and re-painting the walls. Who knows what color . . . something fresh, I sense. 

We'll also be repainting that trim above the counter (see it?). This trim, of course, is currently pink (not unlike two rooms-worth of carpet we removed soon after moving in; also not unlike the walls in the family room - this is a subtle pink, easily mistakable for a less contemptible color, but pink no less). That will not be the color after I've had my way with it. 

It's not a huge overhaul, but it's wallet-friendly fix and will allow attention to be focused on what are really very nice quality cabinets. Now if we could just replace that dang countertop . . . and replace that horrible linoleum . . . 

3.  Make the dining room table reasonable and non-hideous. 

The dining room table currently looks like this 

b/c underneath it looks like this 

Enough said. 

2.  Convert the main bathroom from ugly to pretty through paint, recaulking, a new mirror (and eventually sconce), and wallpaper border removal. (Not in that order.) 

I feel like this bathroom in its current incarnation was designed by someone whose eyes were closed. Or someone who hated me. Or both. 

Yes, THE TOILET IS BLUE. Right now, there's no way around that b/c we're not dropping $200 on a toilet and however much more on installation (although Brad says I think we can do all projects ourselves, this is one that I accept is beyond us. At least currently). 

I find the (blue) tub offensive, but less offensive than that stupid toilet b/c I have some awesome shower curtains (not shown here) to hide it. (Not to mention the fact that, if the door's open - which is usually is - that toilet is the first things you see when you walk up the stairs.) The caulking around the tub, however, could have been done better by my cats (and that's really, really saying something), so we're got to pull out the old utility knife, cut that crap out, and redo it. 

We've already got an oval mirror (courtesy of my mother) and a plan for painting the cabinet/vanity/whatever it's called. As we start on that project, I'll show you my inspiration, but for now, let's just says it's gonna be sooooooo much better. 

1.  Remove the atrocity that is the upstairs hall wallpaper, stairwell wallpaper, and dining room/downstairs hall/upstairs hall border. Add paint (what color?!) and, in the upstairs hallways, probably chair-rail and my beloved beadboard wallpaper. 

It's here 

and here 

and here 

and I can't even put anymore pictures of it up. Obviously, this needs to happen sooner rather than later.


No, I'm not talking about ships or kitchens. 

I'm talking about page proofs for my story that's coming out this fall. I got them via e-mail on Tuesday, and let me tell you, it's so cool to see my work that way! 

Basically, the galleys are a PDF version (they used to be in print and sometimes still are) of how my piece is going to look in the journal. The layout, spacing, font, exact wording and punctuation. Once I check it over and make sure it's a-okay, I e-mail back with a go-ahead. Or, if I want changes, I send the details of what needs to be corrected (or, in proper Pittsburgh speak, what needs corrected).

When I got the e-mail, I was in the office chatting with Butcher and some other classmates after class, and I pretty much just had to sit there in silence and stare at the PDF for a full minute. It felt like, Wow. As a writer, probably as any sort of artist, this is one of those moments you wait for. There you see it, your writing, looking just like the writing by other people that you've been reading and admiring for years. You've fantasized about what it would be like to see your name in one of those journals and now, all of a sudden, there it is! 

And, happily, this came late in the afternoon on a day when one of the creative writing professors at school read my piece (he had asked to, and of course I obliged) and sent me this response:

Wow. I mean: WOW. Just a stunning piece. People rarely get this short form right, but you really nail it here. I love the play of food and sex and violence and, ultimately, intimacy. Deeply visceral . . . Just brutal, but so perfect. Congrats to you on such an amazing piece of writing. Many more awards to come, i'm sure... 

 A serious writer treating me like a serious writer = major confidence boost!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

It's like being on drugs

Actually, it's like not being on drugs - that is, withdrawl. 

Remember how I was loving the chiropractor? Now, I'm missing the chiropractor something awful. 

This week we're trying to cut back to two visits instead of the usual three. This was Dr. L's ideas, not mine. Well, my body is not taking this nonsense lying down. Headache, neckache - check, check. He said to call if I was feeling sketchy, and I know I should, but it's late in the day and I haven't gotten squat accomplished for tomorrow so I just don't have 45 minutes to devote to an appt. Looks like I'm gonna have to suffer the pain with no one but myself and a bad work ethic to blame. 

I'm not headed back till Friday, which isn't seeming like a good sign. I'll try to keep the twitching and sweating to a minimum, but if you see me in bad shape tomorrow, you know the reason. 

This isn't me. But still. 

Getting smarter . . . for $5 a month

Brad recently convinced me that we should sign up for Lumosity, a web-based service that improves your thinking and keeps (makes?) you sharp. The site had a deal, $5 a month if you signed up for a year, so I said, "What the hey," since both he and I would be able to use it. 

Basically, you play various games, most of which are pretty fun - that is, if you're naturally competitive like I am - and only need to spend about 10-15 minutes a day most days of the week to (so they say) see improvement. The areas of focus are flexibility, attention, memory, speed, and problem-solving. The majority of the activities/games that I've done take 1-3 minutes or so. 

Brad's been doing the training course pretty regularly. The site tells him what activities to do each day, based on his personal progress, etc., and it's different every day. 

I've gone another route - a route that is surely less beneficial, since I'm not getting the varied experience he is, but more fun. That is, I've become obsessed with a game called "Word Bubbles" and its sequel "Word Bubbles Rising," which promise to improve your verbal fluency (whatever that means).

These two games are basically web versions of a game - and this is no joke, despite its excessive dorkiness - that I forced Brad to play over Christmas break. A game I . . . thought I invented. (Yes, I am that absurd.) You get the first so many letters of a word, and you make words that start with those letters. But, it's trickier than just coming up with as many as you can think of - you have to make them a certain length. So, you make three that are 3 words, three that are 4 words, three that are 5, and so on, up to 10+ letters. 

This game it right up my alley. Like, I couldn't find it more fun. Which is sooooo geek-face, but I so don't care. And I'm sure, somehow, it's making me more "with it." 

Anyway, if you're worried about losing your edge or paranoid about Alzheimer's (as I am, for no reason other than general paranoia), I'd say give Lumosity a try. It's inexpensive, you can do it on your own time, and it's pretty fun. You might even figure out how to spell "veterinarian." It only took me 3 tries. 

P.S. I can beat Brad at every single game. Shiz-am!

Monday, April 11, 2011

What I Do and Don't Miss about Writing Workshops

For anyone who is unfamiliar, let me provide a quick-and-dirty version of the writing MFA (which stands for Master of Fine Arts): 

In most graduate creative writing programs, you can focus on either fiction (me), poetry, or creative nonfiction. The MFa is a terminal degree and has been for many decades - meaning that universities that require you to have an advanced degree for a teaching job will hire you if you have an MFA - but increasingly popular is the creative PhD, which exists at about 35 schools in the country. 

At the core of these programs is the writing workshop. Although you take other classes, mainly in literature, you spend about half of your time in workshops. These classes are small - usually 10-12 people - and while they include discussion of published work, the most important element is discussion of one another's work. 

The best way I can think to describe the writing workshop is as an acquired taste. An acquired taste that you still only like sometimes. And that you easily find nauseating once you've been away from it for any amount of time. 

I'm about two years post-workshop (having graduated two years ago next month), and in the shower the other day (where I, of course, do my best thinking) I was musing about the workshop experience: what am I glad to be done with? what do I miss, even if just a little? 

Sitting through a workshop of your writing is about one of the most soul-draining things I can think of. (But it does not even come close to law school.) You must remain silent while your classmates criticize, challenge, misinterpret, misunderstand, and attempt to change every last aspect of your work (sometimes, it seems, down to the name of the author). 

At the very end, you are permitted to ask a question or two; of course what you really want to do is mount a WWIII-size defense of your work and then launch a nutso offensive - flame throwers, UZIs, the whole shebang - about what careless readers your classmates are, how they're ideas don't make sense, how they're so stupid and clueless b/c they "just don't get what" you're trying to do. Etc. etc. 

Everyone has a bad workshop at some point or other, and it's not a pretty sight. Believe me, I've been there. 

That said, a workshop isn't always like that and, even when it is, sometimes something can be salvaged from the steaming wreck. 

When your work is critiqued week after week, your skin becomes thicker. It never get thick enough that criticisms don't hurt at all, but after a while you learn to filter and separate out much of the nonsense. You decide whose comments matter and whose don't. Writers whose work you respect, who are good readers, thoughtful, meticulous, open readers - these are the people you listen to. The other commentary, well, you do your best to toss it out the window.

If you can do this - keep what counts and forget the rest of it - you find that you've gotten a rare opportunity. There you sit, with people who have paid attention to your work and taken it seriously; who have the vocabulary to think and talk about creative writing; who have the skills to envision how your piece could become stronger, fuller, more powerful - there you sit, and all eyes are on your writing. It's not a perfect system, and it's always a crapshoot, but sometimes things don't turn out so bad. 

And, every now and again, you might just get a comment like this from your prof: 

"Your sentences are nearly perfect. They read like Anne Tyler's." 

As someone who values the language of writing above all else, I didn't mind reading that one little bit.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Listenin' to the Chili Peppers, thinkin' about guns (or, Lots of Strange Sign-age)

Yeah, you read that right. 

So today we're driving back from TJ Maxx, rockin' out to "Hey Oh," buffalo wings and other goodies in tow, sun shining (it was 81 out!), wind blowing through our hair and all that business; and what do I see off to my right but a giant purply/violet/blue billboard with the words 


overlaying the letters 


Yeah, you read that right. 

Oh, but that's not all. I live in a place where, Brad jokes, they don't even bother to take down the "gun bash" yard signs from year to year - they just cross out the old date and write the new one in; a place where a local church has a billboard out front with a picture of newlyweds (white, middle-class, and heterosexual, of course!) surrounded by, "Marriage: God's Plan for Safe Sex"; a place where yet another billboard - this time, one of those electric kinds - provides a list of ways to cut local school taxes, one of which is "Raise class sizes from 18 to 30 students." 

So, if I'm interpreting the (frightening) general sentiment floating around here, we've got, basically, Buy guns; if you get HIV, it's your own fault, you sinner; who cares if our kids actually learn anything in school if we can save money? oh, and screw those greedy teachers!; and, Buy guns (plus, government restrictions are an embodiment of evil). 

I'd sigh, but Brad's asleep so no one would hear me. (If someone sighs in her living room and there's no one awake to hear . . . . ) And believe me, these are not the only worrisome things I've noticed here outside the city (we're not even that far away - less than 35 minutes if the traffic's not bad) . . . it's just that these things are posted on signs (!). 

Last weekend Brad was lamenting billboards, talking about how they're eyesores. Given that and all the above examples of, well, I don't even know what to say at 11:44 p.m., I'm really starting to understand his pronouncement: "If I were president, I'd make billboards illegal." Amen.

Little Luxuries

We all have them, those little things we treat ourselves to. A new lipstick or nail polish, a favorite beer, maybe a yummy scented candle or a magazine from the check-out line. They're small things, usually not too expensive, and they make the everyday a bit brighter. 

My little luxury of choice is a Starbucks medium (I refuse the pretentiousness of the word "grande") iced caramel machiatto with whipped cream and caramel on top. (I don't wear make-up, drink alcohol, or like most scents - so coffee it is.) 

Do I ever feel bad about spending $4+ on a coffee drink multiple times a week? Sure I do. After all, that's $20+ a week I could be using for clothes or groceries or stuff for the house; or it's $20 a week we could be socking away in our savings (a savings to which we currently sock away nothing - call it the trials and tribulations of being or being married to a grad student). 

But I look forward to my drink; I really enjoy it. And in the grand scheme of things, it's a very minor expense that brings me a lot of smiles. 

Besides, I figure I've earned it - I work hard and don't spend much money on myself. Yes, I buy clothes frequently enough, but I buy nearly all of them at the thrift store (for, like, the cost of a machiatto), at Gabriel Brothers (sells "irregular" merchandise - that's often got nothing wrong with it - for low prices), and on sale in stores/online (for instance, I got five awesome $54.50 sweaters this winter for $12 a piece - or less).  Brad and I don't go out frequently, and when we do, we usually do it on the cheap (exceptions: The Cheesecake Factory and Olive Garden). Other people our age drop big bucks at the bar, at the club, at the movies, but not us. And we're certainly (and unfortunately) not jetsetters bouncing from this city to that on the weekend or in the summer. 

So, I don't beat myself up too much over the cost of my little indulgence. I deserve it. And I could be spending that money on a much worse habit - like smoking or drinking. Coffee doesn't seem so bad in comparison. 

(Although, maybe I should do a little more beating up - do you have any idea how many calories are in that drink?!?! You don't want to know. Trust me.) 

Today's little treat (in addition to the coffee, of course): 
Starbucks' new Very Berry Coffee Cake
(what a healthy lunch! Haha). 

Friday, April 8, 2011

A good week for titles

Earlier this week, I came up with a pretty rockin' title for a dissertation. Oh, you've written a dissertation? you ask. No, silly. I'm still eons away from the writing phase! But last week I had the makings of an idea for a dissertation topic. And thinking up a snazzy, jazzy title has helped me to conceive of an even more specific possible direction. 

Would I write a dissertation to fit a title? Oh you better believe it, mister. 

Next in the title saga is a great title Shannon came up with today for a paper she's currently writing on Lady Audley's Secret and The Woman in White. (This chick reads everything - everything except the one thing she should be reading, which, of course, is contemporary literary ficiton!) She's already got the paper going and certainly didn't need the title to make it happen, but I'd put money on the fact that she's got some extra steam now that she has that little title in her brain (like most titles of critical work, it's actually not little at all, but never you mind). 

The final installation of this week's successful title-age (though it's only Friday - who knows what titles tomorrow will bring) comes in the form of a title for a story that I just started writing tonight (and admittedly, on which I have not yet gotten very far). I spent the week conjuring up the idea for this story, and in thinking of a title, I was trying to find a word that meant what "orphan" means regarding a child who loses a parent, but applied to a sibling who loses a sibling. Well, no one I asked had any such word, and I got distracted and started thinking of other things and then the perfect title popped into my head today when I was musing about the story's projected thematic concerns. 

Not only is this title on-the-money - I'm sorry, but I refuse to be modest about titles; they're simply my fave part of writing! - but it even led me to a character's name! And naming characters all kinds of layered, allusive, symbolic, yet seemingly average names is probably my second favorite thing about writing. It's so darn satisfying! 

Why is a good title so important to me? Well, for lots of reasons, not the least of which is something I tell my students all the time: it's the first impression your reader has of your piece; it's the first chance you have to pull her in and the first opportunity for you to lose her. But, even more than that, the title sets a tone, a mood, even an expectation, for me when I'm writing. It helps me to know the piece as I craft it, to understand it, to feel where it's going and what it's going to become. I know that sounds awfully intangible, and I guess it is. But when I've got an awesome title facing me from the top of the page, I write always trying to do it justice.

The Friday 4: I Am My Mother's Daughter

Sure, my mom and I differ in not a few ways - her house, for example, is spotless whereas mine is, well, very spotted - but I think that's to be expected given a 30+ year age difference. She was a skirt-wearing child of the '50s after all, and I was flipping over the handles of my ten speed wearing '90s neon. 

But my mom and I do share a lot of characteristics in common, and the number of these characteristics only seems to be increasing as I age. I'm okay with that, though, b/c my mom's pretty cool, and as long as I don't start saying "foward" instead of "forward" (like she does), I'm happy to say we're pretty similar. 

4.  We've got a lot of the same eating habits/preferences. 

Neither of us is an adventurous eater. At all. I won't get involved with run-of-the-mill things like tuna or gravy; she would never touch a piece of salmon and balks at the idea of trying any Chinese food that isn't General Tso's chicken. 

We're both obsessed with flavor. Very few things are complete without gobs of sauce, dressing (no non-fat or low-cal for these ladies), or other condiments (she likes mayo way too much). And, unless we're eating out at a restaurant, we both gravitate toward snacks - as meals - rather than, well, actual meals. My mom's idea of dinner? Cheese sticks heated up in the toaster oven. My idea of dinner? Potato chips dumped in a bowl. (I'm at least civilized about it!) See the family resemblance? 

Yum yum, love that dressing 

And for everyone who thinks it's weird that I get up at 6:30 in the morning and don't eat anything until 3 or 4 in the afternoon, let me tell you, my mom takes the cake here: she usually eats her first "meal" at 7 p.m. or so. In fact, Brad mock-gasps when we see her eating while the sun is still out. 

3.  Like her, I take the word "literal" to the next level. 

A literal crown for the Literal Queen 
My mom didn't earn the nickname "Literal Claire" for nothing. 4/5 jokes must be followed with, "That was a joke."

Well, I'm in hot pursuit of her title as Literal Queen, it seems, which is funny given that I love figurative language like nobody's business. In conversations, I just can't seem to understand what people mean when it's not exactly what they say. Is it possible I'm just tired? 

Note: while Brad finds humorous my inability to see the humor in half of the headlines/articles he shows me from The Onion, I don't think that's due to my "literal-ness." I think it's just because I actually don't get what the heck they're saying. 

2.  We both jump immediately to the worst possible conclusions. 

My mother claims to be an optimist, and maybe she is an optimist, b/c to see herself as such despite the fact that she automatically leaps to the worst possible conclusion does require an immense amount of optimism. As I've said before, I'm a realist, and I'm sticking to it. But my so-called pessimism does come out from time to time . . . 

Brad laughingly recalls a recent incident that was clearly no laughing matter

For a few days, he'd been suffering jaw pain. Like most men (oh, yes I did!), he verbalized his agony rather frequently, so it was in my head. Then, all of a sudden one day, I called him at work in a panic and said, "You don't have meningitis, do you?!" I was truly in an uproar. Now that I'm thinking about it, I can't remember what connection I was making b/t meningitis and sore jaws (is this a common symptom?), but it seemed like a very real possibility to me at the time. Clenching during the night had actually just made his jaw sore, so it turned out to be no biggie - easy to say after the fact

*A notable addition to my mother's assumption of the worst, is her physical inability to sugar-coat just to make you feel better. Conversations often go more or less like this: 

Me:  My arms hurts a little. 
Mom:  Where? 
Me:  Below my shoulder. You don't think a rare, poisonous Australian bug bit me, and this pain is a precursor to my arm turning purple and falling off, do you? 
Mom (very seriously):  I sure hope not. 

1.  Supposedly (that is, so my husband says), I tell stories increasingly more and more like she does as time passes. 

This turkey has nothing at all to do with
this post, but I like him, and Brad and
I saw a turkey the other day
Am I a little digressive in my tales? Sure - but who, I ask, is not? 

Have I been known, now and again, to include every last detail about a situation in order to paint a full, proper picture? Yes - so sue me for thoroughness. 

Do I, perhaps, at times make clear that I have something very important to share and then take 10 minutes to tell the story that gets to that important point, thereby inducing feelings of stress and worry in the listener? I will not comment on this issue, beyond stating that such a claim is slanderous! Or libelous! Or whatever-ous!

Month #6, no big news

Yep, you guessed it - still just the four of us over here. Me, Brad, and the crazy cats. We're a cool bunch, no doubt, but we'd be cooler +1. Strength in numbers, and all that jazz. (Though I'm pretty sure babies aren't all that strong, I'm sticking with my strength-in-numbers claim. I'm stubborn like that.)

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Powder Room Update

Things have been quiet around here (blog and house) on the powder room front recently, mainly b/c the remaining task - actually making the sink work - sucks and takes a lot of time and effort. Time and effort Brad and I haven't been willing to devote to it. 

Somehow I got it in my head tonight that I'd just "do a little bit of it," and then we'd finish it this weekend as we have planned. Let me tell you how that went: 

First, I got all wet. 

Next, me and the floor and the wall got all wet. 

Then, Brad and the floor and the wall got all wet. 

You see where this is going. We went through about 5 dishtowels and 20 paper towels. And it's still not done. Brad did manage to fix all of the leaks (except one) with his big strong man-biceps. Now the task is figuring out how to stop that "except one" . . . .

Chiropractic: Hocus Pocus or the Magic Touch?

I've been going to the chiropractor for nearly 5 weeks now, and, for the first time in my life, I'm toying with the notion that it's actually working. But don't call me a convert just yet. 

Now, I'm no newbie to the chiro scene, and a month ago, you could've said I was a little more than skeptical. Don't get me wrong - I do believe chiropractic is effective for some people. My sister swears by it; it's helped her daughter's posture, making her a better rider of horses; and Amanda gets immediate headache relief whenever she gets adjusted. Not to mention that Brad has felt a lot better since he started going. I do question, however, its effectiveness for me

Dr. L., my current chiropractor, is the fourth guy I've gone to since the beginning of college, and in the past I've never been more than minorly and temporarily impressed with the results. When I made my first appointment in February, I'd had a headache every day for about a week and a half. A pretty bad headache, too. Neck and shoulders so tight it felt like there were rocks under my skin. And no matter how I stretched, used heat, rubbed; no matter how much Brad rubbed and pressed on the knots in my neck, back, and at the base of my skull, this headache wouldn't go away. 

I almost never take Advil for anything other than cramps (and even then, sparingly), but I was tossing two back several times a week just to be able to sit through class and do my work at home. Call it stress (it's stress), call it too much sitting in front of the computer with incorrect posture (it's too much sitting in front of the computer with incorrect posture), call it lack of sleep (it's lack of sleep), call it drinking insufficient water (it's that, too) - call it whatever, but man, oh man, call it wicked above all else. 

So, I was definitely willing to give the chiropractor another try (fourth time's a charm, maybe?). And it certainly didn't hurt that our insurance covers it completely - no annoying co-pay. 

At first, I didn't notice any real improvement even, as Brad (who started going around the same time as me) was feeling immediate relief. I was quite jealous. 

But I said I'd give the thing three weeks before throwing up my hands and calling bullsh*t. And, at just about that time, my shoulders started to ache less and my forehead felt less acutely in pain, although the daily terrible headache did not subside. 

Not until last Thursday. My head hurt Thursday, but not in a debilitating fashion. Friday it hurt even less. Monday was the first day in a month and a half when I didn't have a headache. And I can't tell you how amazing that felt. My shoulders and upper back are loose in a way I only ever experience during the summer - that is, when I'm not stressed beyond belief. Yes, my neck is still sore a bit, esp. on the left side, but it's a huge improvement. 

Next week, Dr. L. wants me to cut back from 3 to 2 times a week. So we'll see how this goes. I'm reserving judgement for a little while longer. But, I've got to say, the results I'm currently seeing are making a pretty good case for chiropractic.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Eight (un)Important Facts about My High School Employment

This post started out as a "Random Memory," but there's just waaaaaaaaaaaaay too much preface necessary to include everything all at once. So, instead, that memory will follow tomorrow or later this week, and right now I'm going to note some things about my third "real" job (I use that term very loosely to denote things other than my baby-sitting gigs) that should take you back in time . . . b/c we've all had ridiculous jobs . . . 

(Amanda, this one's for you.) 

1.  In eleventh grade, I worked as a sales associate at a short-lived store called the Finish Line Clearance Center. As in, we sold the reject merchandise from the Finish Line. (For more on this merchandise, see #6 below.) 

2.  I applied for said job wearing ripped jeans and a belly-showing halter top. And I applied at the urging of one of the managers. 

3.  Of the 4 managers - 1 store and 3 assistant; 3 male and 1 female - at least 2 (male and female) were stealing. And that's to say nothing of the employees (4 were definite thieves; surely there were more). 

4.  Speaking of stealing, one might characterize my primary duty as "theft prevention" rather than "sales." Which means, essentially, that I stood with my back facing the wall to "protect" the various FUBU merchandise, Timberland gear, and outdated NFL jerseys from being shoved into "shoppers" bags. 

(5.  I don't even believe in irony, but is the irony of 3 + 4 not absurd?) 

6.  The main type of merchandise we had was, of course, sneakers. Sneakers that nobody had wanted when they were in the real store. And, better yet, sneakers hooked together with the plastic zip pull things they use (or used to) at K-Mart. And, even better yet, sneakers in boxes with the lids removed or cut off, boxes lined up on folding tables like the kind they have at church functions. (I did get a cute pair of Nike trail runners that I just recently threw away - 10 years later.) 

7.  Meeting Amanda was the best thing about this job, though she escaped as soon as she could find another place that would hire her unqualified self. I, on the other hand, didn't even try getting my unqualified self hired anywhere else - though it's funny to say it, I actually didn't mind working there. The employees were nothing if not characters. Frequently hungover, sometimes drunk at work, loud, goofy - and did I mention the fact that they were all thieves? Oh, right. I did. 

8.  One of the biggest characters (and, other than Amanda, by far my favorite coworker) was Angie, a 19 year old whose boyfriend was in jail for something I cannot remember. He got locked up multiple times during my Finish Line tenure, and 16-year-old me just could not believe that I knew someone who knew someone who was in jail. It seemed surreal. 

I remember sitting on the washing machine in the backroom (why in the world was there a washing machine in there?) on my first day as Angie regaled me with her boyfriend's love letters from jail that detailed all of the sordid things he wanted to do to her. These were things I'd never even heard of, and there she was, reading them aloud, proud and confident, to someone she'd known for about 35 minutes. Let's just say that this was not the type of environment in which I'd been raised. 

But it was par for the course with Angie (who, I must say, was good people, despite her rough edges). No sooner had I first walked in the door that day and made her acquaintance than the dear thing asked me a question I dare not repeat here. Instead I offer a delicately worded paraphrase: has anyone ever used his mouth on your bottom? 

I cannot express my shock at not only learning that such a thing existed but also that people actually talked about it out loud.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

A (sweet-tooth) trip down memory lane . . .

(Prepare to see a lot of pictures.) 

Today on our way home from P.F. Chang's where we met Shannon and Butcher for an early dinner, Brad and I stopped at Dairy Queen. Somehow I'd gotten a craving for an old childhood snack, something I haven't thought of in years and I wasn't even sure they'd still have. Sure enough, we pull into the drive-thru and it's not on the menu. But when Brad asks, the woman affirms they do, indeed, still carry the Misty Float. 

Growing up, we called it a Mr. Misty Float. It's like a Slush Puppy (only I'm thinking DQ doesn't have that brand - ?) with soft serve in the middle. Kennywood Park has something like it called an Iceberg, which is soft serve and Icee. Also delicious, but it can't touch the blue raspberry Mr. Misty I had today. 

This one little Mr. Misty - I haven't had one in at least a decade - really sent me spinning back to childhood in the most delightful and nostalgic way. When I was young, elementary school-age, me, my mom, and one of my sisters would stop at DQ on our way here or there, and I'd always pick a Starkiss (loved those!) or a Mr. Misty. I was little and they were simple and delicious, yet more special than a regular cone. 

Memories of the Mr. Misty then call to mind the Slush Puppy machines at convenience stores, and what a treat it was to get one when my mom or dad went in to pay for gas. And, of course, thinking about convenience stores of old has me thinking about pumpkin seeds and penny candy - Swedish fish and Sour Patch Kids and flying saucers that tasted like styrofoam (and that I still love). I'd fill up a mini-paper bag of treats while my mom (who in 2011 still pays cash for her gas) stood in line. 

Thinking about penny candy (do they even sell such a thing anymore?) brings to mind the time my dad took me to S & S Candy and Cigar Company in the South Side so I could pick out big boxes of candy; it was like penny candy on coke. I can't remember everything I got, but I do remember Sour Patch Kids Watermelon and these lollipops (they're made by Swizzels Matlow), which I never see anymore and totally forgot about until about 10 minutes ago. I now desperately want to find these wonderful, chalky treats, and if anyone knows where to get these, well, my birthday's coming up . . . 

After the candy store, my dad and I walked down to the the Pretzel Shop on E. Carson St. They make homemade pretzels, as you might have guessed - salted and unsalted, cinnamon, other flavors I can't remember. After we bought some (they put the pretzels in big paper bags), my dad asked if they'd show us the brick oven they use to make the pretzels. It was big and hot and really cool; I'd never seen anything like it. 

Thinking about this 20 years later (did I really just say that? Eeks), I realize this was very likely something they did frequently, whenever someone asked. But, as an 8-year-old, this was thrilling. My dad seemed like a superman. First, he'd taken me into the city; next he'd let me have my pick of the candy store's seemingly infinite contents; now, he was showing me some super-cool oven that no one else got to see. Now that I think of it, this has got to be one of my fondest memories of childhood. My dad and I would visit the Pretzel Shop every now and again in the ensuing years, and when Brad and I began dating, we'd often stop to pick up some pretzels on our way out of the city to my parents' house. That little shop has remained special to me for all of these years. 

There's obviously something about food that brings people together. Just look at the big Italian families with the big spreads across their tables and dining rooms filled with laughter. Simple memories like these above are really the sweetest things. They're just the kind of memories I want to make with Brad and kids of my own.

Friday, April 1, 2011

The Friday 4: Premature "Cancellations"

I'm being creative in my use of the term "cancellations" here, but it fits well enough. 

4.  Car:  Pontiac Bonneville 

Brad's looked just like this 
It's just sad that this car doesn't exist anymore (the same can be said about the whole brand). Good, old, American comfort. (Says the person who drives a Honda. But still.) I miss seeing them on the road. I also miss Brad's 2000 gold Bonneville, which he - I sigh - totaled in 2009. This, of course, is why we have the Blazer. More sighing. 

(runner-up:  Lincoln LS) 

3.  Presidential career:  Hillary Clinton

I voted for Hillary in the 2008 primaries. So did my husband. The rest of the county we were then living in, however, voted for Obama. It was a happy day for me when she accepted the Secretary of State position, but it ain't enough. I'm confident she'd be an effective, competent, and knowledgeable leader - and I'm holding out delusional hope that I'll soon have to retract this post b/c she'll be the 2012 Democratic nominee and, ultimately, our 45th president . . . I know, I know, come back to reality. I don't wanna. 

(runner-up - Bobby Kennedy) 

2.  Restauant dish:  Chili's chicken tacos 

Just seeing these saddens me 
Oh, oh, oh, I weep. Soft shells, delicious greasy sauce (what was that sauce?), chicken, lettuce, tomato, and, of couse, cheese - what's not to love? Brad and I used to split an order (plus bottomless chips and salsa) about twice a month. Until they started Menu Annihilation: the years-long process by which they replaced everything that was good and reasonable (by picky people standards) on their menu with nasty and/or tasteless and/or weird options. No more chicken tacos, no more Mushroom Jack fajitas, and they changed the recipe for the chicken Caesar salad (and the Caesar dressing). Now, we don't even bother going. 

(runner-up - Chili's chicken nachos) 

Ain't she cute? 
1.  TV show:  Veronica Mars 

I LOVE Kristen Bell. Could anybody be cuter? I think not.

Mock if you will (I did before I watched the show), but Veronica Mars is a freakin' great show. The people at the CW network were fools to cancel it. Fools! I say. Brad and I still haven't watched the third season (we only came to our senses once it was cancelled), but it's at the tip-top of the list for the summer - when we have time to watch like 6 episodes in a row and pull unreasonable and fun all-nighters. 

Veronica and Logan . . . love it! 
It's just so darn engaging. Drama, comedy, mystery, detective story - what's not to love?! Not to mention the fact that I love Logan. (What a babe!) Sure, it's completely unrealistic - no high school or college life is anything like this - but who the heck cares! People don't seem interested in shows that are like real life either (see the runner-up below), so that's not a solid strike against it. 

(runner-up - Boomtown)