Monday, December 31, 2012

Welcome 13


I was so much older then.

I met David 24 years ago tonight. We have spent every New Year's Eve since in each other's company, even when we lived in different cities and were in relationships with other people (which was all a long, long time ago, as I have lived here in this very same house in Cleveland Heights for almost 18 years).

Funny. All of this still amazes me.

Tonight we spent our evening with friends we have found through kids and school - a sentence that would not have made sense to me the night we met. Second time in a month I have played Apples to Apples with a room full of tipsy adults.

Reading:
no

Writing:
no

Dinner:
Lasagne three ways, by Beth

Soundtrack:
Pop, new and old

Random thing:
The night David and I met, my hair was blue and so were my Dunhills.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Fly home

It was a 7 hawk trip.

Day of homecoming. I am impressed and gladdened with how happy to be home ZandO are. They are giddy with it. And yet also sorry to have their week at MP's over. It is nice when the thing you are leaving and the thing you are arriving at are both things you love.

David and I celebrated with Dr. Who, Knob Creek rye old fashioneds, and folding laundry. We really know how to live it up around here.

Reading:
None yet

Writing:
ditto

Dinner:
Simple Spiced Black Beans (an old standby from the Vegetarian Times Complete Cookbook), yellow rice from a box and frozen "farmer's market blend" (broccoli, green and wax beans, red peppers, and yellow and orange carrots). Feels good to cook, even simply.

Soundtrack:
Bluegrass and old timey music on WOUB for a suprisingly long part of the journey home.

Random thing:
It was a 7 hawk drive home. Two in flight and the others puffed up grandly in the cold. (It was a 6 hawk drive going down last week.) I watch for hawks on car trips, and I have a personal superstition that the more hawks the better the trip. As a child of the 70s, I thought hawks and other big birds were rare, but (as I understand it) as ddt in North America has left the avian food chain, more and more of them thrive -- I am not an expert, and I am not taking the time to research this statement. I feel a thrill each time I see one. I believe the birds I count are mostly red-tailed hawks, but I am curious what others there are that I might misidentify.

More than one kind of ghost

Yesterday I woke in the morning to find the power had gone out and the trees were all frosted with heavy white snow.



We spent the morning by candlelight in front of the fire. D & O even hauled out the Harley Davidson Monopoly game. Then after getting the kids new snow boots (needed but procrastinated about at home in the unseasonably warm autumn), we went out to my sister's boyfriend's family compound - 200+ acres of woods and ponds and rolling hills near Albany - for snowball fights and meeting horses and a hayride and a bonfire and cocoa by the wood stove. Adrienne and I made a snowman too, but didn't get around to giving him a face.

Needless to say, it wasn't much of a writing day, but I did read quite a bit.

Reading:
The goodreads page is here.
Finally, I finished the Lurie book of short stories. I liked many of these stories, and I found them technically interesting (which was a big part of why I wanted to read this book -- to examine how she introduces ghosts into her essentially realistic literary fiction), but my overall impression is of a lot of female characters whom I don't particularly like as people. Not that a fictional character must be likable, right? And their shallowness I think is part of what she is writing about, but still, cumulatively it was a bit hard to take.

And so, what next to read? I have no "reading plan," although I do keep constantly shifting mental lists (and incomplete handwritten and digital ones too). I read different things for different reasons, and never as much as I would like. Certainly not as much as some other people in my life -- my mom, my aunt, my friend Jane, my writer friend Charlie O. All of them tear through books and are much more up on contemporary fiction than I. Sad, but true.

The goodreads page is here.
I carried a small library with me for this week in Athens, including a stack of novels I was considering to read next. Tonight, I subjected David to the epigraph/first line test of the 4 that are most promising. He thought I should read Memoirs of an Ex-Prom Queen (about which I could right a whole blog entry, and I haven't even read the book yet), but it didn't seem like the right one, so we compromised and I am reading Madeleine's Ghost by Robert Girardi.

This book came out in 1995. The copy I have is a reader's advance I got at the time. It has been sitting on my book shelf and survived several purges since that time, waiting for the day to come when I would finally read it. That day has come. Again, I am drawn to the technical issues -- writing a ghost story that does not rely on suspense, that is not about spookiness. But beginning the book, I am most struck by its depiction of New York City, and also the vividness of scene.

I think this book was well received, but I don't really know anything about Girardi. Curious, I googled him, and found this fascinating and cautionary tale. Iowa MFA, years of menial jobs waiting for a break, big first book (the one I'm reading), strong follow-ups, and then a complete screw over by the self-cannabalizing consolidation of publishing conglomerates, and attendant personal meltdown. The article portrays him as weathering this with some strength of spirit and a kind heart. I hope that is true, and that in the nearly 3 years since good things have happened for him. I hope too that he is still writing.


Writing:
A tiny bit.

Dinner:
Larry's Dawg House take out at the Smiling Skull. I remember when I used to cook things ... I did get an immersion blender for Christmas, so I see pureed soup in my near future.

Soundtrack:
My sister listens to the greatest 50s XM station.

Random thing: 
My mom's old dog, Betty, overexerted herself in the snow. I had to help her stand up and get up and down from the couch because her hips were hurting her so much at the end of the day. In gratitude she scooted up next to me and lay her head in my lap while I read by the fire. We've known each other for 9 years, but this is the first time we've really been friends.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Why are you interested in ceramics now?

Sitting in a certain hospitable coffeehouse this afternoon, I couldn't help eavesdropping Harriet the Spy-like on the threesome of artists sitting at the table over my right shoulder. After chitchatting for an hour about upcoming travel and past residencies in various European countries, and the threats of said places to car mirrors and introverted personalities, and discussing the layouts of gallery shows and other people's little studios, they finally got to the heart of things.

A 19th C white porcelain water dropper from the British Museum
See more of their ceramics collection online at http://bit.ly/WaryO4

The guy (a painter, I believe) was discussing his new project and explaining how he could only work on it at certain times because he didn't want to be observed making decisions by grad students. The female ceramicist with the plummy accent countered with a question about this new project. "Why? I mean, why are you interested in ceramics? Now?" He did not have anything very coherent for an answer, so she continued to explain how she had actually be "rather offended, really" when he'd asked her for a recommendation of a book that would help him learn ceramics. He apologized without really seeming to understand what might have offended her, then explained how ceramics really hadn't been his idea at all but a challenge presented to him by someone else.

Then she asked him rather pointedly about what ceramics he liked, and he admitted that he'd never really looked at ceramics thoughtfully or critically, or at all really, it seemed. (One guessed that this included her ceramics, too, which did little to dispel the tension.) She proceeded to quiz him on the ceramics displays in famous museum collections in the cities to which they had earlier discussed traveling. He made non-committal noises. After that the conversation got rather technical, though her admonition that an artist needed to learn by doing rang clearly. Finally, with a kind of understated serpent coolness, she told him, "I'm happy to. I'm happy to answer any questions you have," before holding forth on kiln temperatures, a topic about which the third member of the group, also a ceramicist, so quiet through all this, finally was able to find something to say.

Reading: 
My goal was to finish the Lurie and start something new, and the night is still, sort of, young.

Writing: 
Yes. Several pages of revision. Tomorrow is my last real day of writing before my big day structure and mapping on 1.1.13

Dinner: 
After a two-hour wait, veggie and pork empanada at Casa Nueva. Not the best Casa meal I have ever had. The Van Helsing Bloody Marys I had while waiting were, however, outstanding.

Soundtrack:
I think I listened to no music today, nor did any in my surrounds penetrate my consciousness. To be fair, I was very busy eavesdropping.

Random thing:
Do you know what an eggcorn is? Neither did I, until I came across it while trying to figure out how to spell querulous, and found a linguists discussion of quarrelous as an eggcorn of querulous. You can find more at the Eggcorn Database.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

All Hail the Goblin King


Today is the day when vacation begins to feel surreal. The hype of the holiday is over and we are all just here, out of routine. Picked my mom up from the dentist, made clay figures with O, went to see The Hobbit. Fretted about things in real life, but tried to keep it to a minimum since there is nothing to be done from here. Was still watching The Hobbit. Ha Ha. It was fun cuddling up with Z and trading whispered remarks and funny faces. My favorite part of the movie was the goblin king. And, in fact, the clay figure I made earlier, sort of resembled him. 

That'll do it.
And, OK, fine, I was excited when Smaug's eye opened and was ready to keep watching, but 3 movies? Really? And 3 movies shot under labor dispute, prompting the NZ government to declare film production workers can not organize? Not shiny, Peter Jackson. Shiny thing fail. And someday, when I have nothing better to do, I would like to find out how Jackson convinced anyone to green light LotR.

Reading: 
Still, with the Lurie.

Writing:
Yes, fleshing out some scenes that have always beeen sketchy. Good, chewy work. Trying to ignore the demon voices. Hey, maybe if I begin to think of them as goblins rather than demons, I can dispatch them with greater ease.

As an aside, if you ever create a character and then realize you need to tar over her in order to make way for the true course of the story, be prepared to suddenly miss her with a visceral pang at unexpected moments.

Dinner:
Take out Chinese after the movie, with my sister.

Soundtrack:
Z added One Direction to her ipod, so we have that going on.

Random thing:
I am finally making friends with the elusive Frankie, the half-feral, fluffy, pastel calico under my mother's protection.

P.S. My hobbit name is said to be Dolly Burrows. What's yours? 

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Under 20, dammit

Anita Loos photographed by Edward Steichen
presence of photo explained below, as though a picture like this requires an explanation.

This exercise in blarg-- blerg-- uh, blogging is enjoyable, but I think I have been breaking my 20-minute rule rather regularly. So, the challenge now is to keep it under 20. And, somehow, it took me 2 minutes to write that first sentence. No wonder it is taking me so long to write the tome of tomorrow ... that's my official new name for it. Tome of Tomorrow, or ToT for short. No more of this BiP or E(ndless)BiP or what have you.

Reading:
Continuing on with the Lurie. Looking forward to beginning something new tomorrow.
Also, the writing letters chapter from Bird by Bird

Writing:
Muchly, at the hospitable Donkey.

Dinner:
O and I made a nice succotash with shallots and a splash of half and half to perk up the frozen limas and corn. My mom made a second night of Yorkshire pudding, because she could. If you have bothered to render suet, you might as well make a Yorkshire pudding. That's our family motto. Along with leftover beef and gravy from Christmas dinner.

Soundtrack:
Johnny Cash is always welcome on a coffeehouse sound system. "Coffeehouse Soundsystem" -- that's the name of my new band. We do acoustic covers of LCD Soundsystem tunes.

Random thing:
Things float around in my head, get submerged, and then resurface at the most random times. Today, while working on a scene that involves no one at all like her, I started thinking about the portrait of Anita Loos that was part of the Youth and Beauty: American Art of the American Twenties exhibit that traveled through Cleveland this summer. It is by Edward Steichen, and it makes me want to cut off all my hair. And it makes me want to know more about Anita Loos, beyond Gentleman Prefer Blondes.

Please, I would like someone to send me on assignment to write an essay about Anita Loos. Please? Thank you.

/and cut, at 21 minutes. Sorry no time for linkies.

of spoon rings and speculoos

Christmas eve and day were both remarkably lovely. There have been times in my life when I have been trapped by depression and self-consciousness about my inability to rise above it, and that functioned like a stiff, painful body cage of sorts, keeping me always uncomfortably at a remove from the celebration. One of the things I am most thankful for is that those times are past. I am present and available to this place and time, these people and all their quirks, opinions, and great love.
also comes in handy for flipping the bird

And I also got fantastic gifts from all quarters. I think my favorite is the spoon ring with a T monogram, given to me by Z, who stood over me with much delightful anticipation as I opened it. And that's saying something, because I also got a new laptop (desperately needed, as I have been working on a tiny netbook with 2/3 of a working screen for far, far too long. Imagine typing inside of a kindergartner's cubby.)

Reading:
I got to sit by the fire with a toddy and read Women and Ghosts, just as I hoped. Not all day as I had fantasized, but for a nice chunk of the afternoon. So far, I like the first story best, although the one about the haunted chesterfield is amusing.

On a side note, all the books (most purchased at the lovely Loganberry) I gave for Christmas seemed well received, including Found vol II for Cousin Nick, Ape House for my mom and auntie to share, Sutton and Skyjack for Chris, and best of all Throat Sprockets for my sister, which is one of my favorite books ever. The copy I own is the galley I picked up in my bookstore days and I've always half thought it only exists in that form. I came across the copy I gave Adri at Myopic Books, which is a place everyone who is ever in Chicago for any reason should go to.

Writing:
Good 3 hour chunk on xmas eve at the Donkey.

Dinner:
I had the great pleasure to have a roast beef dinner that I have very little part in preparing. However, I did doctor the gravy successfully, make damned fine Old Fashioneds, and throw together a pear and speculoos crumble. Sort of like this, with a combo of Royal Riviera pears (gifted from David's Aunt DeDe) and NEO macintosh apples with a tiny bit of cardamom and some Club crackers to supplement a paucity of speculoos cookies. Les crumbles are all the rage is Paris, don't you know?

Soundtrack:
Z got a ipod shuffle. Her first act was to download Taylor Swift's new(?) album. She plugged in her earbuds and walked around the house singing along. "trouble, trouble, trouble"

Random thing:
My children never got out of their pjs yesterday, not even for our fancy dinner.

Monday, December 24, 2012

A positive light appeared to issue from Fezziwig's calves

Breakfast with Jelly and Kosh, Z's final indoor soccer game of session (they went down fighting), drive to Athens listening to Patrick's Stewart's Christmas Carol, arrival and first night of merriment. O and Grumpa Chris (aka Detroit) built battery-powered electro-magnets and played pool while listening to Lou Reed (which O declared "good pool playing music") in the garage. Z worked on her powerpoint about her year. Wine and good food and cheesy Christmas movie. In bed by 10. Party on.

Gave a georgous new(ish) book on the Kokoon Club to J&K. They gave us a bottle of Knob Creek rye. All good.

more images here

What is the Kookon Club, you ask? "At times shocking, fun and outrageous, a group of local artists who formed the Kokoon Klub [sic] and started hosting Bal Masques in 1911 did more than bring out vice squads or orders from Cleveland mayors to cancel one of the hottest events in the city. They introduced modern art to Cleveland." (Read whole article here.)

Reading:
Only reading I did today was the Magic Treehouse Jack & Annie save Charles Dickens from writers block book I am reading to the kids. O was allowed to pick one holiday book from the school book fair last month and this is it. It's big on highlighting the plight of children in Victorian England and portrays Dickens at this point in his career as simultaneously revered by the public and totally out of step with contemporary views on such issues.

Writing:
No, but December sabbatical #2 begins today. Stay tuned for details.

Dinner:
My mom made a beef and butternut stew with chickpeas and lots of cinnamon.

Soundtrack:
Calvin Harris's I Created Disco is really good driving music.

Random thing:
I got to see Patrick Stewart do his one-man Christmas Carol on Broadway 100,000 years ago. He is so freaking good. His Fezziwig scene will live in my heart forever.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Two-two-two Days in One ...

Today was all about the preparations for a week at Wolf Manor - finishing up shopping (thank you Loganberry, where I found the perfect things for all the malingering oddballs on my list), finishing up work, or at least packaging it so that it can be finished remotely, cleaning house, packing, planning for Christmas dinner dessert (leaning towards a pear and almond pudding).

Yesterday was work and play and an evening with the "yogamomz" - women and their families I have known since I was pregnant with Z. My sisters for whom I am so thankful. It was a (not the) end of the world party. We all wore the same goofy plastic necklaces. We drank beer and ate Julie's incredibly good venison pie. Karl played "11:59" for me at 11:59.



Reading: 
Huh.

Writing:
Yesterday morning, some energizing stuff. Today, nothing.

Dinner:
Yesterday homemade venison pie. (I sadly never had any of Karl's chili)  Tonight pepperoni, mushroom, olive, broccoli pizza from Whole Foods.

 Soundtrack: 
Karl's apocalyptic list.
Today I noticed that the Duran Duran version of "White Lines" really kicks ass, and Bob Dylan doing Santa themed polka is really bizarre.

 Random thing:
This made me cry. It is about embracing joy and turning your face to the light in the face of evil. About showing your children the bigness of living. I say it is good.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Damsel in Distress


Me and the box.
(and lawsy me! googling "damsel in distress" images reminds me
that I need to turn on the parental controls.)

So I bought David something large, heavy, and unwieldy for Christmas. (There is a joke in there, I'm sure. I will pause now while you formulate your own version ... ) It was delivered yesterday while I was out. The UPS guy(s) left it behind the house. When ZandO and I got home it was raining hard and threatening snow. I did not think that David's new object should be left out in the rain. Moving an object 3/4 your own height and twice your width that weighs 98 lbs (I just looked it up. That's how much it weighs.), in the cold wind and rain, is no small feat. I managed to get it into the side door, so it was out of the rain, but I couldn't get it up the stairs into the kitchen, so I couldn't close the door, which meant I couldn't leave to take ZandO to music lessons.

I sat down and literally put my head in my hands. I had that deep existential gut exhaustion that makes you feel like crying (and also signals a need to return to a regular workout schedule), and I felt helpless. O said, "It's okay, mom. I know how you feel. I had to wait 5 weeks for you to give me my allowance once." David  was at work and couldn't be home for hours. He encouraged me to call someone to come help. Who? I hate asking for help. It means I'm helpless.

I told the kids we'd miss music lessons, and I lay down on my bed and thought about all the ways I have failed in my life. O came and cuddled up with me. We breathed together for a while. Then I had a bright idea. I posted on my neighborhood facebook page that I needed help ... and in LESS THAN 5 MINUTES help arrived -- in the form of Barb, a smart, funny retired grandmother and neighborhood dog walker, eye-keeper-on, and co-block party planner extraordinaire. I knew Barb was bad ass, but I had no idea she was so BAD ASS! "I actually life weights," she told me after tidily helping me to walk the box up two stairs then tip it and slide it into the kitchen. My heroine!

I love my neighborhood.

(Oh, and Whit Stillman released a movie last year called Damsels in Distress? Why did I not know this? I love Whit Stillman.)

Reading: 
Still inching through story 1 in the Lurie book. "Ilse's House." Studying her magical realist technique. Wishing I had a whole day to cuddle up with this book and have someone bring me hot toddies at regular intervals. (I know what I'm doing on Christmas.)

Writing: 
>sigh<

Dinner: 
Mushroom barley soup, with the last little bits of the Hanukkah brisket. Next year, I am doing an 8 Nights of Miraculous Brisket recipe collection.

Soundtrack: 
Katie Goodman's I Didn't F*ck It Up!, which my boss that I should hear. Very funny rauncy, middle aged, liberal, feminist comedy songs, but "Soccer Mom Hos" should have been a lot funnier than it was.

Random thing:
O and I often stop in at On the Rise bakery after his drum lesson to get a cookie and sit and read or play a game. Tonight, I was so beat by the box that I bought a cookie for everyone in the family just so I could justify having a whole cookie (apricot pecan bar) myself. We started in on O's new "Top Secret Adventure" pack from Highlights, which is 100% exactly the kind of thing I would have loved as a kid. As we left O held hand and said, "On the Rise is a pretty great place, don't you think?"

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Ba Ba Ba-Bamp!

On the way to the botanical gardens, I was listening to 87.7 FM, this new and (to me) mysterious Cleveland radio station that has cropped up recently to please the Gen-X listener. It is like an oldies station for my people, which is disturbing if you give yourself any time to think about it. [If you know anything about this station, please tell me about it. I find it so odd.]

"I Wanna Be Sedated" came on and I sang along with the radio turned up while the kids played with the Kindle in the backseat, and I was struck by the open joy of Joey Ramone's voice on that track, and I thought for the millionth time about how Joey Ramone is a beautiful chip of the divine, all dressed up in ripped jeans and black leather.

Yesterday Stiv Bator. Today Joey, and some very young Beasties.

I first saw the Ramones at Mem Aud in Athens in 1985, when I was 14. I was in the pit or perched on the back of the front row of seats. I had black hair. Here is what somebody said in an article about Mem Aud:
"As one of the auditorium's cadre of student ushers, David Snow, BS '85, was driven batty by the crowd during a 1985 concert by the Ramones, a punk-rock band.
'Everybody ran down toward the stage and started dancing, and it was so loud you couldn't hear yourself think," he says. "We were sent down to get people to go back to their seats. I grabbed one guy and shouted at him, but he just looked at me like I had something growing out of my head. I gave up.'"
Saw them again 10 years later at Nautica in Cleveland, and felt very, terribly old. In the intervening decade, I had lived in NYC for 7 years, where I never saw the Ramones, but I did listen to Vin Scelsa's Sunday night Idiot's Delight as much as I could. He would often interview Joey, who would call in from wherever he was in the world. They were quite a pair. And once in a while, there be a live performance. Like this rare piece of acoustic ephemera:


Thanks, universe, for letting us have Joey Ramone. Very shiny, indeed.

Reading: 
Women and Ghosts and a little bit of Bird by Bird, oh and a shiny copy of O magazine in the lunchroom, promising me all perfection in the new year.

Writing: 
Revising the real guts, wishing for more time.

Dinner: 
Tofu and mushroom teriyaki (using the fabulous housemade teriyaki sauce from Flying Cranes, also their hand-toasted black sesame seeds) with a cucumber ribbons salad in sweet vinegar-soy-sesame.

Soundtrack: 
Duh.

Random thing:
I love, love, love that ZandO do not take themselves too seriously to ride the little garden holiday "train" at the botanical gardens right now. Last night they rode it twice, once with me and once with David when he showed up.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Punk Rock Supergroup

Long day, brief blog.

Kim's last day at work and I hire her replacement. #circleoflife

Made my daughter cry when I yelled at her for locking the bathroom door on her brother.

Found out I had had 2500 postcards printed with the wrong year on them.

But over all, not a bad day.

Reading: 
Women and Ghosts by Allison Lurie. Feeling a great affinity for her right now

Writing: 
Some good non-manuscript writing this morning. A bit of manuscript writing after this, before succumbing

Dinner: 
(lunch was at the Greenhouse Tavern, and was divine, as expected. Not, however, a big fan of the mucilaginous "60 minute egg.")

Kraft mac-n-cheese and salty roasted cauliflower, after Z's science fair exhibition, whilst David gamboled at his company holiday party.

Soundtrack: 
I am officially sick of Christmas music, awkward as I live with such dorky carolphiles.

On the other hand, Karl issued a challenge for an end of the world playlist for a party on the 21st. That's fun. "11:59" by Blondie was the first to leap to mind. I also have an inordinate fondness for "Apocalypso" by Lords of the New Church, from their eponymous album, which I spent my early adolescence playing on endless repeat while I fell asleep at night.

Lords Of The New Church
Punk rock "supergroup" - is this an oxymoron?


Random thing:
Uh, did I mention I am sick of Christmas music. Also, I got a a PURPLE TURNIP at City Fresh, and Anna's Christmas card has a javelina on it, which makes me homesick for Tucson (no, I have never lived in Tucson, but having visited twice, I am sure the Sonoran Desert is my spiritual home).

Monday, December 17, 2012

typing in my sleep

Received an email from the kids' pediatrician's office today, about dealing with tragedy. It was lengthy and thoughtful and included an extended meditation on "a beautiful Jewish tradition to thank God for the 'little miracles that happen each day'."

God or no god, I tend to think this is a worthwhile practice. It is the underlying rationale behind this blog - if I can record the shiny bits, at least some of them, then I know i am pausing to see the world, tiny bit by tiny bit.

So this blog becomes both a study in gratitude and a kind of awareness meditation. 



Reading:
Starting Carry the One by Carol Anshaw or Nalo Hopkinson's The New Moon's Arms, or Alix Kates Shulman's Memoirs of an Ex-Prom Queen or Women and Ghosts, about ... haunted women! -- by Alison Lurie ( a short story collection.)

Writing:
Ordered the power cord from A-zon. Got some riffing on a major character done, hoping it will help me push on in the revision.

Dinner
 Used last week's brisket bolognese to serve as the base of a brand new relationship. 
[*ed note: this is an example of "hallucinatory writing," reference below. Sentence should read "base of a new version of veggie-might sauce," but I instead deliriously kept typing other things. The night this was written, I actually thought I had edited my ramblings into the correct sentence.]

Soundtrack:
The Nerves doing "One Way or Another"

Random thing:
I got four hours of sleep last night and I am so tired I am typing hallucinatory messages to myself as I drift off the sleep, sitting up. Dream selves are typing things I could never comprehend.

This veggie pasta is so good, witches, I will take you as my brides, and then we will go over Niagara Falls in a barrel. It will be the beginning of a brand new relationship.


If I had a file cabinet, I'd file in the morning ...

Z told me tonight that she wishes she had her own filing cabinet, so she could file all her school papers and artwork. Then at the end of each year she would clean it out and start over. I asked her, hypothetically, if she would file her math papers chronologically or topically. She thought she would do it topically (multiplication, division, fractions, etc.) and went so far as to say that she would also have a miscellaneous file for papers that "put a whole bunch of stuff together," like the practice sheets for the state tests.

I told her I thought this was an admirable plan, and I wish someone had taught me the value of filing when I was younger. The weirdest part of this story is that I was totally serious about that.

organization porn

Reading:
Again, for writers group. I realize I am dragging my heels about committing to a new book. This is unfortunate as I have a lot of books I want to read. Will pick one and take it to bed with me. 

Writing:
Did I mention the power cord for my laptop shorted out? But I TALKED about writing at writers group. That counts, right. In the words of my fabulous writer friend, P, "there just is the day that is, and you can't worry about what it should have been." Writing, tomorrow, yes.

Dinner:
David and O made dinner while Z and I were at violin - baked chicken breasts in barbecue sauce with browned onions and a side of green beans. O browned the onions himself and decided they should have cumin and nutmeg (of all things) in them. He was correct! Also, he insisted that David put lemon juice on the beans. And as we were eating, he asked, about the chicken, "Don't you like all of the spicy, and the sweet, and the tangy, and the crispiness of the onions, all mixed up together?"

Soundtrack:
None in particular.

Random thing:
At writers group, L offered a checklist for line editing, which included familiar points like weeding modifiers and making sure your verbs pull their weight. Most interesting item: looking at the last word in the sentence to make sure it is doing everything it can to lend your prose strength.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

What do we do?

They published the names of the victims in Newtown this evening. The 20 children killed were all 6 and 7 years old. I have a 7 year old. I send him to school every day and think about him all day long. My first son was stillborn. I can't even begin to imagine the crush depths of grief those parents are feeling, and the lifelong scars the other children in that school will bear. And yet ... there are places in this country where gun violence, though not massive like this, is routine. There are places around the world where, right now, children are suffering terribly. There is too much hurt. What do we do? 



Reading:
for writers group

Writing:
no, and my power cord for my laptop shorted out

Dinner:
Kim and I created on of the best meals I have ever cooked.
Fabulous polenta (made with coarse cornmeal, almond milk, water, rosemary, thyme, bay leaf, and olive oil) spread in a pan to set and then layered with roasted grapes tomatoes, roasted peruvian potatoes, roasted blue oyster mushrooms tossed with garlic, and arugula lightly dressed with olive oil, lemon & orange juice, and salt. 

Dessert was a rather bizarre (nearly) frozen concoction of cream of coconut, lime juice, and crushed candy cane.

Oh, and Kim made great mulled wine.


Soundtrack:
I kept thinking about The Clash today, but never got to a place to play music.
O DJ'ed for a while during dinner prep and played Queen, Young MC, Michael Jackson, Jackson 5, Weird Al, and Nirvana. Z sight read christmas carols for the violin.

Random thing:
Tiger cat sandwiched between old throw pillows, the cream to a very exotic cookie.

Friday, December 14, 2012

no words

There were some shiny things today, but they all were damped by the news from Newtown.


Holding hope in my heart that the people there can someday find some healing, and that we as a culture can figure out how to make this madness stop.


Thursday, December 13, 2012

Put a bow on it


picture from the bow-making link. 
The elves suggest that you might like to make your own wrapping paper, with rubber stamps or paint or even collage. 

But also this: MAKE YOUR OWN BOWS WITH MAGAZINE PAGES:  http://howaboutorange.blogspot.com/2009/10/make-gift-bow-from-magazine-page.html

You're welcome. 



Reading:
Not much -- the chapter on making phone calls in Bird by Bird, (because it was next, not because the chapter spoke to me) which was funny to me as I loathe the telephone. And a tiny bit more of Calvin Trillin's essay on Oaxaca in the recent food issue of the New Yorker. I think I will start something new before I fall asleep. Not sure what yet.

Writing:
Mostly manuscript organization -- I discovered things I forgot I had written! And relocated things I didn't know I had lost. Also, some revision in bold new territory.

Dinner:
Leftover brisket "bolognese" over penne with aged gouda in lieu of parm. (awesome!), and a green salad.

Soundtrack:
Brubeck Quartet and related items -- and in the afternoon "The Locomotion"

Random thing:
Entering the library, I made it through the first set of doors and in the little antechamber, was diverted from my straight path by the man coming out the doors to the left. He held the door open and said, "Here use this one," before I could open my own door. It was the sentence I liked as much as the act.

North Pole Postage

I walked into the Lee Rd. library this afternoon, where they have all manner of Tolkein displays in honor of the new Hobbit movie, and saw on the shelf at the top of the stairs Tolkein's Father Christmas Letters. Have you ever seen this? It is freaking amazing. Yearly, Tolkein would write a long letter to his children from Father Christmas, complete with beautiful illustrations, including hand-drawn postage stamps from the North Pole.


I scooped it up and paged through it and cried, sitting there at the little computer desk by the window. Overwhelmed with the intricate, superfluous beauty of it, with the tenderness and love contained in that effort, with the sense of persistent wonder maintained, even as WWII invades the frame of the fantasy.

And I was made so glad about the little ritual we have in our house. I acquired a Santa Mailbox when Z was a toddler, because I couldn't find an advent calender in the bookstore on Nov. 30. The first year, all we had to do was deposit a pre-printed pseudo handwritten letter from Santa into the box each night before bed. They had stories and crafts and little bits of Santa wisdom on them. All the years since - 7? - we have had to fill the box with our own inventions - usually letters from the Elves, sometimes a brief, quickly scrawled note from the man in red himself, occasionally a gift (it was the Elves who first provided us with Hanukkah candles - they do not adhere to any one faith, our Elves) or a suggestion for an activity, once in a while candy. It is a pain in the ass, but my tears over Tolkein suggest to me that it is worth it. Z is nearly 10, and very smart. I don't think she actually *believes* and yet, every morning of December the first thing she does is hurry downstairs to see what the Elves have brought.

Reading:
Finished, finally, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, which four years ago Junot Diaz inscribed to me "for love." Indeed. Two chapters of Heather Seller's Page by Page. A bit of the intro of bell hooks' Remembered Rapture. A couple pages of Paul Selig's I Am the Word. And some of Calvin Trillin's essay on Oaxaca in the recent food issue of the New Yorker.

Writing:
Slow and hesitant (hence all the reading about writing and spiritual growth), but then jammed through to finish the revision of the Wisconsin section. On, Wisconsin!
Dinner:
Lovely coconut glazed calamari and gruyere grilled cheese with a dirty martini at Rockefeller's while talking nonprofit development shop and working mom stuff with Adaora.

Soundtrack:
Heights school kids exuberance on Lee Road.

Random thing:
I am told O made his first white sauce tonight while I was out having professional mom cocktails.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

It's ALIVE!!!

"by the glimmer of the half-extinguished light, I saw the dull yellow eye of the creature open; it breathed hard, and a convulsive motion agitated its limbs." -- Mary Shelley, Frankenstein, Chapter 5

I was foiled last year, a whole year ago, trying to write a post about my experience seeing Cabaret and a variety of ruminations I had about my younger self, feminism, life, and Sally Bowles. It got all tangled up and I could never get it to say what I wanted it to, and it killed my already frail blogger self.

That post on Sally Bowles was really not appropriate for a blog. It would have made a nice ruminative essay for some kind of schmancy boheme mag.

The whole point of this place here is not to be a solipsistic schmancy boheme mag in miniature. As the title suggests the whole point is for it to be a solipsistic collection of things that catch my fancy. Quick bits of shiny.

I will take a cue from The David, King of All Blogs, and will incorporate some basic guidelines and templates. Call it the Reanimated Magpie Manifesto, if you will:

Rule #1 I will write about whatever strikes me the given day I am blogging. If something spills over, a la Sally Bowles, into some lengthy meditation, it will be immediately amputated and moved to a place more appropriate for essayistic ambitions.

Rule #2 I am allowed to spend no more than 20 minutes on the enterprise. Bits. Shiny, shiny bits.

Rule #3 Though I can and will write about whatever has caught my fickle eye, I will surrender myself to my major preoccupations: reading, writing, food, music, and the pleasure of odd things and will allow space for specific notation of these items, in specific I will do this:


Reading:
Almost done with Oscar Wao, also a chapter of Bird by Bird, and lots of internet stuff about leftist politics, objectivism, anarchists, the American Indian Movement, and radical feminism.

Writing:
1000+ words of new stuff, finally getting out stuff that's been in my head but not the page.

Dinner:
Beef brisket with dried fruit and aromatic spices (http://bit.ly/SqVFTG), egg noodles, green salad. Happy fourth night of Hanukkah! 
(Brisket was yummy but disappointingly tough after all the marinating and slow wet cooking.)

Soundtrack:
Weirdly, a Spotify station based on Eric Burdon and the Animals. (Has to do with a scene I thought I was going to work on and then promptly did not.)

Random thing:
My friend Barry, on his own obsessive tear, asked me to track down the subject of an Ezra Pound essay for him. I don't own the book of Pound essays in question, but I managed to find the full text online (http://bit.ly/Ro6BDFin less than 5 minutes. Barry bowed down to my Google-foo.


And so, we will try this for a while. Having already broken rule #2, I will now go do something else.