Sunday, November 30, 2008

NaBloPoMo Day 30: The End

I haven't accomplished a lot with NaBloPoMo this year, not that I did last year. I feel like I should be writing a serial poem, with a new stanza posted every day, or...I don't know. But right now I feel like I can't do much, and I don't want to do much, and as a result, all is vanity.

Something more interesting is coming, though. I didn't want to announce what I have to announce during NaBloPoMo, and so I've had a post sitting in queue for December First for a week, and I keep going back and re-writing bits of it and realizing that it doesn't need to be re-written really, it was fine how it was and as usual my first instincts are usually my best ones.

I just am so fucking anxious these days that I can barely stand it. I may need medication of some sort soon, and I'm not even sure that's a possibility. The weather today is cold and grey and rainy and I feel exactly the same way, and I have a new job that starts tomorrow that I barely feel alert enough to be excited about, and I have been horribly neglecting domestic duties here--all I want to do is sit on the couch, snuggle with Max, and watch movies.

I am in a true anxious funk, and I'm sorry that I was so thoroughly uninteresting this month. This enforced-writing seems like a homework assignment. While discipline is a good thing and everything, there are days when I just don't have much to say. Unfortunately that seemed to cover the entire month of November.

If NaBloPoMo brought you here, please stick around. Better times lay ahead.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

NaBloPoMo Day 29: Hello, Jesus? He Hung Up

I would try to think of something interesting to say, but all in all, it's been a bit of a day, and now "Real Genius" is on cable. Have I mentioned how much I love this movie? So. Freaking. Funny.

Wait, don't answer that last question I just asked. I know the answer. Yes, I've mentioned it. Last year, during NaBloPoMo, as a matter of fact, I mentioned it. Still, never mind. One of the greatest movies ever.

One of the best movie lines ever: "I was just thinking of the immortal words of Socrates when he said 'I drank what?'"

Look closely at Lazlo in the following clip. You may recognize him as Uncle Rico from "Napolean Dynamite."

Friday, November 28, 2008

NaBloPoMo Day 28: Elephantitis of the Face

I'm just thinking, what's up with Javier Bardem's head? Why does it look so enormous on his body? He's so beautiful, and it's totally ruined by the effect that he looks like a bobblehead.


Javier, you are too fine to be so...bobbly. Seriously. Maybe it's that you're dressed in black, and it's slimming. Still.
I would wonder that you can even hold that giant melon up, except that I've seen your neck:

At least you didn't keep the Prince Valiant hair from "No Country For Old Men" which, to be honest, wasn't really helping the whole ginormous-head issue.

And in an unrelated tangent, what's up with Turtle being able to get Jamie Lynn Sigler in the season ender of "Entourage?" Seriously, Turtle, Jamie Lynn will always go for the Vincent Chase of the group. Always. Even if her therapist is right and she is addicted to losers--it's gonna be Johnny Drama for her. Accept your lot in life: the girl from the dog park with the giant face --you know, the one who was Joey's college roommate on "Dawson's Creek."

Come to think of it, maybe she's out of your league too. She's probably with Javier Bardem, their giant heads lolling helplessly on the ends of their comparatively tiny necks.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

NaBloPoMo Day 27: Thankful

I have an announcement brewing. I am not really ready to come out with it just yet, there are too many variables for it to be, you know, public knowledge, but soon, I think. Suffice it to say that today, a day that we are so focused on gratitude, thanksgiving is something that is really resounding with me.

Our lives are so complicated and challenging, and they become more so all the time. The challenges multiply all the time, and we live in a time where easy answers are rare and there are no real black-and-white issues anymore, and the shades of grey fade into each other in ways that defy us as citizens and human beings and children of the universe. When gas prices are high and unemployment is even higher, we're frightened of each other and we're troubled by what we see on the news, we focus on what we want and what we need, not so much on what we already have.

This has been a challenging and, in a lot of ways, frightening year for me. There've been highs and lows and every time I have found myself up against a wall, there's been a way to re-frame the question and I can keep on going. Don't think I don't recognize the fact that I've been lucky, and resourceful, and that I've worked hard and kept my head above water, but never, ever has it all been about me.

This has been a year when I've had to re-define what "enough" meant to me. Our lives have undergone dramatic change, and they will undergo even more dramatic change, and I am constantly reminding myself that it is all manageable when I remain humble and grateful and loyal and constant.

I am grateful to my family, my boys, for their faith and fortitude. I am grateful to our parents, whose support is our foundation. I am grateful to our friends, the family we chose, who sustain us.

Today we celebrate our small victories. We enjoy the fruits of our labors. We remind each other of everything we've achieved. We prepare for what's ahead and remind ourselves that there will be more good times and more lean times and we'll be together again and the circumstances won't matter then either.

If only for today, be good to your family and your friends and your neighbors and yourself. Be kind to someone even if they don't seem to deserve it. Pay it forward. Remember that in an existence like this one, in a universe like ours, there are no mistakes, there are no accidents, only gifts and opportunities. Say thank you to someone who helps you, even if helping you is their job, even if they only think they've helped you. You might be the only one who says thank you to them all day.

I am thankful today, and I pledge to try to remember to be thankful tomorrow too, and the day after that, and the day after that. Thanks is something to aspire to, to work towards. I don't think about that nearly enough, caught up in my everyday, and I pledge to try harder.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

NaBloPoMo Day 26: Unadvisable

To be filed under "Just Because You Can Doesn't Mean You Should":

Paula Deen's Deep-Fried Stuffing on a Stick

P.S. I wasn't aware of Paula Deen's working relationship with Smithfield Pork products, which is an absolute abomination of a factory farm, but I don't have to love her to shake my head in wonderment at the woman who's deep-fried a stick of butter, do I?

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

NaBloPoMo Day 25: Thanksgiving

My friend Chris is, I think, my evil twin. She and I have the same birthday and also we couldn't be more indifferent toward Thanksgiving food. She and her husband (Hi John!) moved here from Michigan also and aren't burdened with family for this particular upcoming holiday, so we're celebrating my usual non-traditional Thankgiving dinner together this year.

Here's the menu:

Artichoke Spinach dip and French bread toasts
Cheese spread and crackers
Veggies and homemade dill dip
Chips and homemade salsa
Cocktail meatballs and sausages
Steamed shrimp and cocktail sauce
Cookies and ice cream for dessert

See, it's all the good stuff about Thanksgiving, with the exception of stuffing. And gravy. But I really only like stuffing and gravy, everything else I'm indifferent at best to. Growing up, it took my mother a small eternity to get Thankgiving dinner on the table, and so she made a lot of the snackie-type stuff, and by the time it was time to eat, we'd all really filled up on the snacks, which tasted better anyway. So, I figured, why not just eat the good stuff and forget about the hassle?

Oh, and apple salad. Chris said she'd make apple salad, and I freakin' love apple salad. Now I'm ready to give thanks.

Oh, and regarding yesterday and Dan's eye: he's got a bacterial infection called a stye. They happen when fluid backs up in one of the glands in the eyelid and clogs. This one was a bad one, and it got infected and he now needs antibiotics for it, but it's improving quickly thanks to hot compresses and some gooey medicine that he has to put into his eye a couple of times a day. I'm sure you can imagine how much he loves that.

Monday, November 24, 2008

According To Dan: Two Mentions of his Testicles in One Day has to be an All-Time Bad Taste Record for Me

Dan, rubbing his face: Man, I need to shave something fierce.

Molly: How about a bobcat?

Dan: How about my testicles? Hah, walked right into that, didn't you?

NaBloPoMo Day 24: Taste the Rainbow

My husband is sort of like a Skittle. He is tough on the outside, looks (I’ve been told) like Stone Cold Steve Austin, has a big, loud voice that intimidates the crap out of high school freshmen, and spent years in the military. On the inside, he is squishy and fruity and sweet and you have to pretty much bite him in half to find that out.

Dan’s Achilles heel is his eyes. This is a man who has cheerfully held my hair back and made jokes while I threw up, wrestled students to the floor who’d been beaten to the point of brain damage to keep them from bleeding all over other kids, and seen things that I’m quite certain were grosser than that which I really would rather not think about. But if he watches me take my contacts out, he turns green and has to put his head between his knees.

I have no idea why he’s this way about eye things, but in a Murphy’s Law-style twist of fate, he keeps managing to somehow injure his own. A couple of years ago, he somehow managed to get some tiny shard of metal or glass—we were never able to fully ascertain what it was—stuck in his eye. It required months of treatment to heal fully and for months, he would wake up in the middle of the night in enough pain to have him thrashing around and gritting his teeth.

I’m in the waiting room at Urgent Care as I’m writing this.

Dan woke up yesterday morning and was rubbing his left eye a little. “It feels like somebody punched me in the eye,” is what he said.

“It wasn’t me,” I said.

An hour or so later, he walked up to me and took off his glasses. “Does this look normal to you?”

The answer was a resounding no. Normal was not what his eye looked. It was red. It was swollen. There was a…I’m not sure how to describe it—sort of a purplish cluster of spots near the center of the edge of the upper lid. “What is that?” I asked, totally horrified.

“I don’t know,” he admitted.

“No, seriously, what is that?”

“You’re freaking me out,” he told me.

I shut up, firmly resolved to diagnose him and cure him with the assistance of Dr. Google. I decided it could be maybe a sty, or something called a chaliazion, neither of which sounded like great fun. This morning he admitted that it was worse, although not painful or itchy, just gross and creepy-looking. Yesterday’s recommended treatment of warm compresses didn’t help at all, and he was too self-conscious to go to school today. All morning, I haven’t been able to stop staring at it. Every time he catches me, he says “Stop staring at it.”

“I can’t,” I admit. “It’s got, like, a life of its own.”

“Other people will see you staring and stare too,” he said.

“Other people will see your face and stare too,” I told him. “Do you not recognize the element of inevitability here?”

He’s really being pretty much a peach about it. It’s his tough, skittle-candy-like shell. On the inside, though, Dan is totally freaked out by being red and swollen and grotesque-looking, not to mention the fact that it’s his eye. I sincerely think he would prefer to sustain a testicle injury than an eye ailment.

But lucky him, he’s married a woman who feels comfortable discussing his various afflictions with the internet. Frankly, it's no wonder he’s not squishy on the outside too.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

NaBloPoMo Day 23: Surrender

Want to know what today has been like at Chez Nonhipster?

Imagine that I'm a cat in a box, and my son is a bulldog.


That is what my day has been like.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

NaBloPoMo Day 22: Jackass

So far today I've been accused by my usually wonderful husband of acting like "a psycho" and "a pregnant person." Neither of which I am, to the best of my knowledge. So there, A-hole.

I don't feel like writing a blog t0day. I don't feel like getting off my ass today either. I'm tired and queasy and short-tempered, so maybe he's right and I am acting like a pregnant person. I'm still not though. I'm just lazy and ate too much bacon for breakfast.

Here's a recipe, which is of course my fallback when I'm feeling uninspired. Back in the 1970's, rumaki was really big, along with disco, open marriages, and shag carpeting. This, however, is not a bad idea, this is a good idea. Rumaki are chicken livers wrapped in bacon and baked. I have no urge to eat chicken livers, though, so when I make this, I make it with strips of chicken breast. Along toward the end, I brush the whole sizzling thing in a mixture of soy sauce, chicken broth, and brown sugar. It makes for a nice, yummy glaze. I also like to substitute sliced water chestnuts for the chicken once in a while.

Ooh, another good glaze is dijon mustard, honey, brown sugar, and a couple shakes of tabasco sauce.

Chicken Rumaki

Makes enough for a big baby or wedding shower or a medium-sized party.

4 large skinless boneless chicken breasts, cut into 1 inch wide strips, strips cut into 2-inch pieces
1 1/2 pounds bacon, cut crosswise into thirds.
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup low-sodium soy sauce
1/4 cup brown sugar

Preheat oven to 375.

Wrap each piece of chicken in a piece of bacon and secure with a toothpick. Lay on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper, leaving 1/2 an inch between each piece. Bake at 375 for 20-25 minutes, or until chicken is done and bacon is crispy, turning the rumaki occasionally.

Mix together the chicken broth and soy sauce. Stir in the brown sugar until it dissolves. Using a pastry brush, brush the mixture over the rumaki 5-7 minutes before they're done, then again a minute or two before if you like. Serve hot or warm.

Friday, November 21, 2008

NaBloPoMo Day 21: Insomniac

Not me. I sleep just fine. I live with a three-year-old insomniac and I am losing my goddamned mind.

The kid is getting up every night somewhere between six and twenty times, between bedtime at 8:00 and 4 a.m. It usually starts two minutes after we tuck him in at night, and continues roughly every ten to fifteen minutes or so for an hour. He always has some totally surreal excuse for being out of bed, like "I have fingernails" or "I need my bike." Finally, after a few of those, Dan or I loses our mind totally, yells at the kid, and sends him back to bed in tears. We're sincerely thinking of doing the lose our mind and yell thing immediately when putting him to bed in the hopes that being yelled at is somehow what's keeping him in bed.

Then sometime between midnight and 3 a.m., we begin to experience what I refer to as "The Night Visitor." I'll open my eyes and he'll be standing at the foot of my bed, stroking my foot through the blankets and sheets. Then he'll crawl up between Dan and I and under the blankets, and then he'll spend as much of the rest of the night as we will allow him to get away with tossing, turning, prodding, pushing, kicking, and otherwise harassing Dan and I. Sometimes we let him stay and ignore him as best we can, being too tired to fight him down the stairs and into bed. Sometimes we let him stay and one or the other of us can't ignore him and ends up in the living room on the couch. Sometimes we frog-march him back to his room and back into bed.

Last night was terrible, totally awful. He got up maybe five times, then at 2 this morning, there he was. He complained that he was cold. Sure, in your footie pajamas with the sheet, down comforter, and four blankets on your bed. We let him stay until Dan got tired of being kicked in the kidneys, took him back to bed, and then stretched out on the couch for an hour or so. When he came back, he mumbled to me, "I think he's out."

Alas, at 3:39, there he was again. I took him downstairs this time, put him back into bed, and laid down on the couch. Not ten minutes later, there he was. "What's the problem?" I asked him.

"I have earwax," he said.

I sighed. "Lay down on the couch with me."

He did, and then he wiggled, tossed, turned, and generally drove me completely crazy until about 4:40, at which point I took him back to bed, where he remained for the rest of the night. All 20 minutes of it.

The kid is exhausted, totally bonkers out of his mind tired, and employing every conceivable method to keep himself awake. Dan and I are both totally bonkers out of our minds tired too, but Max gets a nap during the day and we don't. I'm falling asleep on the couch at about 9 every night, and Dan typically catches a nap in the same spot while I'm making dinner. It's a very comfortable couch.

It's becoming pretty disruptive to our life, and I don't have a clue what to do, so if you've got kids, please please please tell me how you keep them from getting out of bed at night. We do all the things you're supposed to do--we have a ritual, he gets a non-sugary, non-disruptive snack and a drink of water before bed, we institute quiet play or TV watching half an hour before bed to give him time to wind down. But it isn't making a dent in the fact that he is just totally incapable of sleeping through the night, suddenly, three years after he initially started to do it. If you have any advice, I would be happy to hear it.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

NaBloPoMo Day 20: Teenage Me

Officially less than 13 hours until "Twilight" premiers. I don't think I'll be going out at midnight to see it, what with tomorrow being a work day and all, but if I find someone else who wants to, I might be persuaded.

Are you going to see it, or are you afraid you'll be disappointed? I see all the Harry Potter movies when they come out, and I am always disappointed by them, and yet I'll continue to see them. The whole "Twilight" phenomena is bizarre and a little juvenile to me, and yet I can't seem to control myself. I can't freaking wait to see it.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

NaBloPoMo Day 19: Motor City

One of the very finest writers that I have ever known is Jim Griffeon at Sweet Juniper. I went to high school with him and have a son who is several months younger than his own Sweet Juniper and I admire his writing and his photography and his creativity and his principles very much.

Jim is a resident of the city of Detroit and a close-up observer of the place. He, unlike the vast majority of people who live there, lives there by choice and by design, which makes him both an oddity and a perfect advocate for the place, which has its detractors.

And probably for good reason. Detroit's reputation is, in many ways, well-deserved. It's a troubling place and has been for many years, and as our economy has, in recent months, headed south, there has been an increase in the discussion about what's to become of the Big 3. It's an important discussion and one that, frankly, people should have had years ago, decades ago really.

Jim's written a fascinating and extremely significant post about a proposed bailout of the auto industry. Read it here.

I understand the urge to blame corporate greed and shortsightedness for the current situation. I was troubled by the government bailout of the banking and insurance industries last month, and I am increasingly troubled in an I-Told-You-So kind of way by the lack of oversight and accountability in regards to the bailout that's now being reported on a daily basis, but Jim articulates perfectly why it is that I was so uneasy about the banking bailout and why I feel the auto industry bailout is important and needed and necessary.

The banking bailout is about people who move paper from one folder to another and who send each other emails and move numbers from one column to another column. Yes, I understand how banks work, and I understand why insurance is important--as someone who worked for two years in a non-profit arena dealing with credit and housing, I would humbly say that I think I have more insight into the subject than, say, Joe the Plumber. But I'm more than a little troubled by the idea that a guy in a suit that costs more than my monthly mortgage payment needs to be bailed out. I would complain further about the fact that it's my tax dollars that are bailing him out, but what the fuck, this is the government of the United States, not the government of the people that agree with the government all the time. I get my pound of flesh in the shape of student financial aid and tax breaks for the middle class and what-not, and we really can't just let the economy collapse, so I'm willing to suck it up. Mostly.

The auto industry is about people who make things, and people who make things and who make things work and who make the things that make things work. They're people who do things that are critical to who and what we are as a nation, what we do and how we function on an hour to hour basis. Should they have been more forward-thinking when it came to innovating? Very much so. Is hindsight 20-20? Same as it ever was.

We don't hold people who make things and who make things work in very high regard anymore. Just ask my husband, who teaches kids English to kids who are uniquely suited to making things, whether it's by aptitude or interest or conditioning or personality. These are kids who aren't special education students to a degree that they need to be in a special education classroom--they're kids who, like my husband, have learning disabilities. Some are emotionally impaired. Some come from backgrounds of such abject horror--my aunt, who's a public school counselor, said it best when Dan was beginning teaching. She said, "It's kind of hard to give much of a damn about enriched math when your mom's a crack whore." My husband has taught children whose stories would make people with a stronger stomach than mine throw the fuck up, and I am not exercising my over-developed sense of hyperbole when I tell you that.

Of course there are inspiring stories about kids who rise above their station. I am married to a man who not only overcame dyslexia to have a successful military career but has completed two college degrees and is pursuing a master's degree as well. But the educational environment is such that kids aren't encouraged to do anything but go to college and become that guy in the suit, sending the emails and moving the paper from one folder to another.

Look, I think if a kid wants to go to college and can possibly be successful in doing so, nothing should stand in their way, especially not their ability to pay for it. But I also think that we need to throw out the notion that everyone should go to college. I think we need to get used to the idea that we need auto workers and plumbers and electricians, people who make things and fix things. I think we need to prepare the people who want to be those people as thoroughly as we prepare our doctors and lawyers and teachers and support them as thoroughly.

Yes, I think we should bail out the auto industry, not because I think that the auto industry is so great, but because I think that the auto industry is about real people, doing real work and producing something concrete that we need. I think the people who do that work are a dying breed in a dying industry, and I think it's important that we not let it die. It matters in the short run and in the long run, it matters for my kid and your kid and their kids. The thought of Detroit becoming more and more like a modern day goldrush ghost town breaks my heart, because of the real people who live and work there, who are raising their kids under circumstances that I can't even fathom. We've had it good for a long time, and I think that how we weather this storm will define the next century the way that the Depression and the World Wars defined the last one. I hope that we get it right.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

NaBloPoMo Day 18: Six Things I Am Currently Enjoying

Gee whiz, Day 18 and I'm already hitting a wall. That didn't take much time. It's hard to find something to talk about every day, much less something interesting. Some days I think of two things, and I write a post ahead of time, which makes me feel virtuous and also like I manage time very well. The second thing is true, the first one, not so much. It's hard to like soft, ripe cheeses as much as I do and still refer to yourself as virtuous.

I've often said I don't really have guilty pleasures. I am not plagued by guilt when it comes to pleasure, mostly because I'm pretty comfortable with myself and I am basically a sensible person who doesn't do a lot of things that I should feel guilty about. That means that I freely admit my enjoyment of microwaved frozen bean and cheese burritos, secluded beaches, rainy Sundays, prosecco, moderately terrible television, chips and really great hot homemade salsa, unabashedly making out with my husband on the couch like teenagers, pedicures, high thread count sheets, fabric softener, the smell of bacon, luxury yarn, my late grandmother's ugly but extremely comfortable old recliner, listening to my son sing the songs he's learning in preschool, playing Scrabble online, and a number of other things that I feel certain most people would find unpleasant at best, and thoroughly annoying at worst.

Here are a list of some of my current favorite things, in no particular order.

1. Nathan's Kosher Half Sour pickles. Holy cheebs, I have never had a pickle this good in my life. My paternal grandfather used to make homemade pickles with cucumbers and dill and garlic and other spices that he grew in his garden. When I was little, I would eat whole jars of them at a time. But even my memory of these pickles can't measure up to Nathan's Kosher Half Sours. I bought a jar this weekend at the grocery store--we are a family of pickle lovers and I didn't have high hopes for getting more than one or two of them. But last night when I got home from work, Dan said, "Have you tasted one of the new pickles yet?"

I said, "No, are they great?"

To my great surprise, he said, "No, they're awful."

I had to try them. Dan does a thing sometimes--he tells me something is terrible so he can eat all of it. I took the jar out of the fridge, I opened it, and sliced a pickle lengthwise into quarters. The whole time, Max was jumping up and down, begging for a pickle. I immediately gave him the first bite, which he chewed--and then his face soured, his eyes teared up, and he immediately turned to his father, who held out his hand. Max spit the chewed up pickle into Dan's hand, and declared, "That's disgusting!"

I've never seen Max turn down a pickle. Never.

I bit into the pickle, and was immediately pleasantly surprised. This pickle was crisp, without being the slightest bit tough or rubbery. It was perfectly balanced, with just enough salt, garlic, tang, and just a hint of pepper and mustard seed. It was quite simply the perfect pickle. I honestly haven't enjoyed a pickle that much since I was pregnant. The best part: I get the whole jar!!!

Nathan's Kosher Half-Sour pickles are available in the refrigerated section of the grocery store. Go to your grocery store right now, and buy several of them.

2. West Wing Reruns. My very favorite show, ever, rerun in two hour blocks, at least, every morning on Bravo. Typically on days that I work, I work from home for a couple of hours in the morning just so I can watch, despite the fact that I own the series on DVD.

3. KitchenAid Stand Mixer. My mother-in-law bought it for me for Christmas last year, and I am crazy about it. It makes amazing bread, perfect cookies, and for the first time in my life, I am having success with cake--real cakes, not Betty Crocker. I am thinking about which attachments to ask for for Christmas: I'm thinking of the ice cream maker and the meat grinder. Because what goes better with homemade sausage than ice cream?

4. Twitter. Everyone knows about Twitter now. I have this blog, of course, and I am on Facebook, like every other person on earth, but Twitter is simply blogging in 140 characters at a time or less. I like that. It forces me to be concise, pithy, and self-editorializing.

5. Thanksgiving Plans. Dan and I have friends who, inexplicably to me, not only love to eat, they hate to cook. They love to buy groceries, invite us over, and have us cook--possibly the best deal ever for us, because they have a great kitchen. Remember last year, when I admitted that I don't really care that much about Thanksgiving food except for mashed potatoes and gravy and stuffing? I still don't, and better yet, our friends don't either. So we're planning on another Thanksgiving like last year--sausage balls (which I still can't say out loud without giggling myself half to death), shrimp, bacon-wrapped water chestnuts in teriyaki, dill dip with veggies, hot spinach artichoke dip with French bread toasts, meatballs and kielbasa. Maybe bacon-clam dip and potato chips. Maybe chips and homemade pico de gallo. And dessert! There has to be dessert. There, now I'm thankful.

6. Gas Prices. I never thought I'd be excited to see gas for $1.89 a gallon, but I am. Right down the street from here, too. What I don't get, though, is why gas is so cheap here and 20 minutes away, where Dan works, it's typically $.30 to $.50 a gallon more. Someone explain that to me.

One short order of business: my most heartfelt and deepest condolences go out to my best friend Kimberly and her family, whose loyal, adorable, and deeply loved retired guide dog, Garnet, had to be put to sleep last week; and whose stepmother Debbie died yesterday. If ever there was a public service announcement for thorough regular checkups, this is it. Kimberly and I met in college, and her family has sort of become mine over the last 14 years. Kimberly, Michael, Ian, Perry, Annie, Jana, and Carter: we love you and we're thinking about you all.

Monday, November 17, 2008

NaBloPoMo Day 17: C.J. and Two Big Birds

Once again, The West Wing. As I'm sure you're aware, there's a tradition of pardoning a turkey in the White House--this extends both to the real White House, and this much better, fictional one.

C.J. Cregg is one of my favorite TV characters ever, both because she's smart and funny, but because she's elegant and human and so, so, so wonderful at what she does. If you don't believe me, watch her convince the President to pardon Troy, a turkey who is about to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.

One of the ongoing jokes in The West Wing is C.J.'s height. Her Secret Service code name is "Flamingo" which she is most certainly not amused by. I am 5'11" and have endured more jokes about my height in my life than I care to recall, and I'm quice sure that C.J. has too. Watch this scene, and tell me that the non-verbal exchange between Big Bird - which, believe it or not, was my nickname in high school - and C.J. and tell me that The West Wing isn't the greatest thing ever.

At the end of the clip, there's a short exchange between C.J. and deputy press secretary Annabeth Schott, played by Kristin Chenowith, who is diminutive by any standards. Next to C.J. she looks like a member of The Lollypop Guild.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

NaBloPoMo Day 16: Domestic

Dan and I got married in July of 2004, in my grandmother's church. One of the drawbacks to getting married there (beside the fact that it wasn't air-conditioned, and I was wearing a big, hot dress comprised of many layers of non-breathable, man-made fabric) was that the church was pretty strict about the music that they allowed. Nothing secular was permitted, which was fine with me because I wanted to walk down the aisle to Purcell's "Trumpet Voluntary."

Dan, however, wanted me to walk down the aisle to a song by a band called Domestic Problems from Grand Rapids, Michigan. The song was written by the lead singer for his own wedding.

My husband, as I'm sure I've mentioned before, is very much the sweetest, most adorable man on this earth. Here is Domestic Problems performing "Beautiful Girl." I choke up a little every time I hear it.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

NaBloPoMo Day 15: Of Interest

I wrote some stuff here awhile ago of really no consequence at all about my first boyfriend, who later became a rock star, demonstrating that I am kind of a dumbass and really had no kind of good judgement, like, at all, and I've since then just gotten rid of it, because while I'm not really that embarassed by my lack of good judgement as a teenager, I do feel like sort of a dumbass for bragging about going at it with a talented but very awkward, sort of weird, kind of monomaniacal guy who later turned out to be moderately famous. Well, not bragging so much as just putting it out there. Anyway.

I am totally horrified by the passage of Proposition 8 in California, even almost two weeks after the fact, to the point where it's hard for me to wrap my brain around it. Seriously, I can't believe we're still in this place where people are still so threatened by the idea of two people who genuinely love and care about each other so much that they want it to matter, no matter the persuasion.

I'm horrified by the idea that legalizing marriage for people of the same gender is still a point of contention at all, to be honest. You know, I'm a grownup and I can acknowledge that there are plenty of points of view that can be recognized as perfectly valid, but is this not something that we've dealt with before? I'm busy and I'm not doing any research, but are there still states in the country where interracial marriage is still illegal? There aren't, are there? I can't believe we haven't moved past any of this yet.

Is this really still a topic that needs to be addressed, because to me it seems blatantly obvious, and I'm known for being annoyingly prone to arguing both sides of any given topic, but I've got nothing to say on the other end of this. When you offer something to one group of people, no questions asked, and deny it to another group, equally qualified in every way, you're doing a disservice to everyone.

There is nothing, absolutely nothing, to be lost in embracing the differences between people, in celebrating people who are different and the differences as well. We are all better, richer, more whole, smarter, more grounded, kinder, less likely to hurt people intentionally, and less tolerant of people and things that do, when we do.

This is exactly why I stopped going to church, why I stopped embracing religion and started relying on my own judgement of what spirituality really means: there are way, way, way too many people who use their beliefs to draw a line in the sand. I think sometimes that when God sees what goes on in his name, it makes him/her throw up. I can't stomach the people who draw attention to their piety and use it as justification to exclude and hurt people.

Defeating Proposition 8 wasn't about religion, or tradition, or legality. It was about a level playing field. I thought that's what America was supposed to have, a level playing field. Recognizing same-sex marriage doesn't devalue straight marriage. It doesn't encourage people who aren't gay to become gay--that notion is so absurd to me that I am stunned that people are still putting it out there. It doesn't do anything but open a door that should be open already. And I am blazing pissed that as a nation, we're still fighting this fight, and losing.

Friday, November 14, 2008

NaBloPoMo Day 14: Garnet

My best friend, who is blind, got a guide dog when we were in college. Garnet was a big black lab who had a stubborn streak and an occasional attitude problem. At Kimberly's wedding, Garnet snored loudly through the service. She walked Kimberly into puddles in an effort to keep her own feet dry. She was more eerily human in her non-verbal communication than most people that I know.

When Garnet retired three years ago, I know it was a tough decision for Kimberly to make, but Garnet was getting older and arthritic, and Kimberly worked long days which Garnet spent mostly laying on the floor. I wasn't worried about Kimberly, whose independence I had already seen demonstrated for two years before Garnet came along, but more about the dog, who was very much a working girl. It's not as if retired dogs take up golf or do some volunteer work. I couldn't imagine Garnet without a job to do.

Over the past few weeks, Kimberly has been saying that Garnet's been getting weaker. I know that she doesn't think she gave Garnet all the love or attention she should have over the last few months, but Garnet's love for and loyalty to the Boss Lady never wavered, I'm sure. The two of them have been such an unbreakable team for the last twelve years, I can hardly imagine them apart.

Garnet was loved by everyone who met her, not just for being a cute doggie, but for being devoted, keeping Kimberly safe and independent, and even for the smart mouth to which she was prone. When I read this yesterday morning, I sat down and cried.

Kimberly, Michael, and Ian: we're thinking about you.

Garnet: congratulations on a job well and faithfully done. You've been a part of my story, as well as a part of the story of some of my favorite people in the world. Here's to squeaky toys, a bottomless bowl of kibble, a big spot of sunshine to nap in, and a much-deserved rest that you are finally taking. We will all miss you more than you know. Good girl.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

NaBloPoMo Day 13: What Does The Rest Of The Recipe Look Like?

Tonight on the way to my knitting group, I was listening to our local talk radio station, and there was a commercial on. I thought it was for one of those fake "Italian" restaurants, like Olive Garden or something, because they were describing the simmering of the tomatoes, onions, garlic, and celery, the perfectly-prepared pasta, the fresh loaves of bread straight from the oven.

There could be something to this, I was thinking. This is actually making me hungry.

The commercial continued (and I'm paraphrasing here): this family-style Italian home-made goodness is brought to you by fertilizer.

"..." I thought.

The commercial went on to talk about how everything we eat is all thanks to fertilizer, and how great fertilizer is, and let's all go to Lowe's right now and buy some fertilizer, and eat it straight from the bag with a spoon.

But the crowning glory was the closing line, which had so much resonance that I actually sent it to myself in a text message so that I could come home and write this.

Fertilizer: It's life's main ingredient.

I've often thought so myself, but I don't tend to espouse a view like that in a forum as popular as local radio.

It could be worse, I suppose. Just tack it into some other popular advertising slogans and see what you get:

Fertilizer: It's what's for dinner.

What happens in fertilizer stays in fertilizer.

Fertilizer: It's finger-lickin' good.

Fertilizer: It keeps going, and going, and going...

Fertilizer: Because I'm worth it.

It could most definitely be worse.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

NaBloPoMo Day 12: How-To

Google is my homepage. That sounds disturbingly like "God is my co-pilot," which makes me think of the bumpersticker I saw the other day on the Beltway that said "Dog is my co-pilot," which makes me chortle. But Google is my homepage, and at the top of it, there's a daily "How-To" box, which I love. How to think like Leonardo DaVinci. How to roll a Center-Pull ball of yarn. How to compost kitchen scraps. Awesome, no?

Part of the reason that I love them is because I like to think about how I might do some of these things before I actually read the How-To's. For example: today's says "How to Conquer your Fear of Karaoke, Once and For All."

I am not afraid of karaoke, per se. I just figure that I make a total jackass of myself on average three times a week, so why would I willingly up that average by singing? My uncle Lonnie, who I am deeply crazy about, once wrote the following poem, after my one and only piano recital:

"Mary played on the white notes,
Molly played on the black.
Fred the kitty covered his ears
While Granny sang in the cracks."

Suffice it to say that it was an accurate summation of my family's musical abilities. So I just say no to karaoke. As if karaoke isn't socially awkward enough most of the time without putting me into the mix?

So for you, I'd like to offer my own "How-To" in regards to conquering karaoke:

Here is the original. I would just like to note that in the "related" How-To's, they've included "How To Break a Glass With Your Voice." Yes, exactly.

Here is mine.

1. Begin drinking. Start with tequila.
2. Choose your friends carefully. I recommend the friends who have a low tolerance for alcohol and no shame. You will look good in comparison.
2. Choose a song you know well, and a short one. I suggest "My Bologna has a First Name."
3. Tip the karaoke hostess to lose your name.
4. If all elese fails, try everything you can to go right after this guy:

I'm not sure what song that used to be, but you can only look impressive next to him.

5. Drink enough that you will forget what happens by morning.
6. Don't go home with anyone. You will certainly regret that more than anything you could possibly sing.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

NaBloPoMo Day 11: Aaron Sorkin is my Hero

I love TV, and the best thing I've ever seen on TV is still "The West Wing." My love of The West Wing is well-documented, long-standing, passionate, and unwavering.

Here's why I love it: like most things in life, it's serious and very very funny, both, simulatneously. I love how incredibly well-written it is. I also love how smart and just plain great it is, how the politics reflect the best thinking of the decade, how good a country this would be under a Bartlet administration, and also, my really sort of ridiculous crush on Josh Lyman.

Bravo TV is replaying episodes of "The West Wing" which is, of course, wonderful, although wholly unnecessary, since I own the series on DVD. This morning, it's the Pilot episode and "Post Hoc, Ergo Propter Hoc," the episode in which the deputy communications director, Sam Seaborn, played by the funny and charming and handsome Rob Lowe, confesses to Deputy Chief of Staff Josh Lyman and Communications Director Toby Ziegler that he has accidentally slept with a law student and very expensive call girl, and would now like to see her again.

Sam: It turns out that I accidentally slept with a call girl.
Toby: Accidentally?
Sam: Yes.
Toby: You slept with a call girl?
Sam: I didn't know she was a call girl.
Toby: It wasn't a clue when she charged you for sex?
Sam: She didn't charge me, Toby.
Toby: Accidentally--I don't understand...did you trip over something?

And later, when Sam goes to meet with Laurie, the call girl, they have the following conversation.

Laurie: You are aware that I make more money than you?
Sam: You and any kid with a decent paper route.

See? Funny. And smart. And totally a conversation I would have. Not that I'm a call girl, or dating one, but whatever. What I want to know is, why is everything on TV not this good? Why do we have things like "Cavemen" and "Survivor" and "CSI: Rapid City" or whatever sorry thing they've moved on to by now, when there are people who can write this stuff?

There's good TV out there. "The Office" is wonderful. Our friends have introduced us to a Canadian TV show called "Corner Gas" that is pure genius. But I am suffering through vast quantities of total awfulness every time I turn on the TV, and I can't even blame it on Dora the Explorer for once.

Quick, someone write some more good TV. My brain is growing mold.

Monday, November 10, 2008

NaBloPoMo Day 10: Dream Injury

Saturday night, I had a dream that I was teaching Max how to ski. It's what I used to do--teach skiing. The pay was bad, but I mostly did it for the cute-boy potential and the free season pass. I learned how to ski when I was right around Max's age. My mother tells a story about me at age three skiing full-speed down the bunny hill, singing "Joy to the World" at full volume: the Three Dog Night version, not the Christmas carol.

Sunday morning, before I even got out of bed, I noticed my left knee, which has always been my "good" knee, not that either are terrific after 30 years of skiing, was stiff, and a little swollen. When I got up, it felt sore, and wobbly, and unstable--the way it would after an ACL tear.

It now hurts pretty significantly--enough that I'm considering taking something stronger than a couple of Tylenol. To be honest, the whole leg hurts, the way it would if I were injured, trying to ignore it, and injuring it more significantly in doing so.

Here's the thing: I haven't done anything to injure it. I've barely been out of the house all weekend.

Does anyone have any theories as to how I may have injured myself in my sleep without waking myself up?

Sunday, November 9, 2008

NaBloPoMo Day 9: Dip

I love dip. Everyone who knows me knows I love dip. If I died tomorrow, I'd die happy--as long as I drowned in a swimming pool full of guacamole.

Here's a recipe for spicy eggplant dip. Eggplant is something people have strong feelings about. I love it, as long as it's done well--meaning salted and rinsed to get rid of the icky bitter liquid that sort of oozes out of it. I love eggplant sliced, breaded, fried, and piled on thick-sliced hearty bread with onions, peppers, spicy tomato sauce, and provolone cheese, and grilled.

Anyway, here's eggplant dip. It says spicy but this doesn't sound particularly spicy to me. That's okay, spicy's not everybody's cup of tea. I happen to like it, so I might add a pinch of cayenne to this. Serve it with those multigrain tortilla chips that are on the market now. Yum. Also, pita chips would be good with this.

2 medium eggplants, halved lengthwise
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
1/4 cup red bell pepper, chopped
Salt and pepper

1. Heat oven to 400 F. Line a heavy baking sheet with foil.
2. Brush the cut sides of the eggplant with 1 tablespoon of the oil and arrange cut side down on the baking sheet. Bake until cut sides are browned and eggplant is soft (about 25 minutes).
3. Combine remaining oil and garlic in a skillet and heat over low heat until garlic sizzles. Stir in cumin and remove from heat.
4. Scoop out softened eggplant, chop finely and then add to skillet. Add ginger, bell pepper, and parsley. Stir mixture over low heat until blended. Add salt and pepper to taste.
5. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

NaBloPoMo Day 8: Breathless

Goon Squad Sarah and I are both obsessed with the Twilight series.

Yes, I admit it. I made fun of numerous people for it, and now I'm totally having to eat crow, but 14-year-old me would never have had a boyfriend if I'd read Twilight, because I'd be out looking for Edward Cullen. No one else would have measured up.

And now there's a movie. A movie! I don't care how much fun Dan makes of me, I am so there.

The actor who plays Edward is named Robert Pattinson. He played Cedric Diggory, who met an unfortunate end in "Harry Potter and Appallingly Bad Movie." That's not really what it's called, but I've blocked it out of my head because the movie was so bad. Also, I don't feel like walking across the room to see what the movie was. You know which movie it was.

Something is wrong with my internet and I can't upload pictures to Blogger for some reason, but you can do a google image search for him. He's hot. Just trust me.

Anyway, this is what he recently said about kissing in an interview with USA Today:

"I always get carried away when I'm kissing people. I just go nuts."

Thanks for that, Robert. No, really. Thank you.

Friday, November 7, 2008

NaBloPoMo Day 7: Schadenfreude

By this time, everybody's familiar with FailBlog. Their tagline: Delighting in the Suffering and Humiliation of Others Since 2006.

Mostly I think a lot of the things on there are sort of awful, but this one cracks me up. Look:

fail owned pwned pictures

Nothing cracks me up like things that are lost in translation.

I like my nonsense braised, personally, but whatever.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

NaBloPoMo Day 6: Five Adjectives

One of my favorite books of all time is Nora Ephron's great novel Heartburn. I've written about it before, because I love the story and I love the story of the story and I love the food in the story. Nora Ephron was married to Carl Bernstein of Woodward and Bernstein, and he had an affair with an absolutely wretched woman, a Washington D.C. socialite. It must have been devastating to her, and it all comes out in Heartburn.

In one wonderful scene (I can't remember if it's in the book or in the movie, or both) there is a scene where the characters play a game where they choose five words or short phrases to describe themself. I love this little exercise. It is more illuminating than a three-hour-long conversation, sometimes, when it comes to finding out who someone really is.

One character says that he is:


See what I mean? That character's wife says that she is:


The main character's list:


Here's my list. Leave me yours in the comments.


Wednesday, November 5, 2008

NaBloPoMo Day 5: Silent All These Years

In 1992, when Bill Clinton was elected President, I was 16 years old on election night. I couldn't vote yet, and I had tickets to see Tori Amos in concert at the State Theater in Kalamazoo, Michigan.

Brian VanderArk opened. He is the lead singer of The Verve Pipe, which, at the time, was a local band. That night, he came out alone and played the acoustic guitar and sang. It was the first time I ever heard a song called "The Freshman." Years later, it became an enormous hit.

Tori came out on stage in jeans and a plain white t-shirt, sat down alone on stage at a grand piano, and she was stunning. Breathtaking. Shattering.

Without question, it was one of the most haunting, unforgettable, and beautiful nights of my entire life. Election night 1992. I think of it every time I hear Tori Amos' voice.

Here she is, singing "Silent All These Years." It was her final encore that night.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

NaBloPoMo Day 4: What Will Suck

What will suck is in two weeks, when all that's left of Max's Halloween candy is Bazooka and the "?" - flavored DumDums, and I'll get all excited because I'll see a Snickers wrapper in the bottom of the bag and dig through only to realize that the Snickers wrapper is actually empty, and I ate the Snickers on Halloween night.

Then I'll get mad and throw the whole bag in the trash.

Then two hours later, I'll go get the bag from the trash, dig through it again, and eat the DumDums.

The holiday between Halloween and Thanksgiving isn't called "Veteran's Day." It's called "A Season of Regret."

P.S. Please go vote. Even if the lines are long. Even if it's raining. I'll loan you my umbrella. Please go vote.

Monday, November 3, 2008

NaBloPoMo Day 3: Knitting

I don't really take pictures of what I knit. For one thing, I don't think I'm that great a knitter. For another thing, I typically forget to take pictures of almost everything.

But I am knitting like a madwoman. I have a lot of yarn stashed, and instead of cooking expensive and decadent meals that I'm too wound up to eat, I am instead knitting madly. Lucky for me, other people take pictures of things very similar to things I am knitting. Here are some of them:

Noro Striped Scarf: See it Here, Here, and Here.

I am very fond of Noro Kureyon, which is a Japanese wool with incredibly vivid and beautiful colors and long color runs. This scarf is slightly different from what I'm knitting. The pattern calls for Noro Silk Garden, which I don't have stashed, in two different colors. I have a lot of one color of Kureyon, which I bought for a blanket which I still would like to make but that I don't have the stamina for right now. I also have a nice coordinating shade of merino wool which I'm using as the other color.

Next time (and there will be a next time, because I love this scarf) I might use two skeins of the same colorway. There is enough contrast within each skein that I'm thinking I'll like the results. I might bite the bullet and buy a few skeins of Silk Garden -- it's a sizable investment, but beautiful yarn.

Felicity: See it Here, Here, and Here.

This is named after some hat that Keri Russell wore at the Sundance Film Festival. I love it. It's slouchy and adorable and chocolate brown wool. I can't wait to wear it. I can't wait to make it in thirty different colors. Love, love, love love.

Pleat: Here, and Here.

The saddest thing in my life is that this will not look good on me. I would need far smaller boobs than I have for this to look anything other than appalling. But I have beautiful yarn for it, a silk/linen blend that I picked up in Kentucky when I was there for Kimberly's baby shower. I don't have any flat chested friends that come to mind immediately--if I'm forgetting about you, please let me know, because a much-cherished hand-made object may be coming your way shortly.

I also have a few other things going--Treen and Gerry's wedding gift, a shawl for my mother, a shawl for an undetermined recipient.

I am finding myself watching a lot of "West Wing" and knitting a lot these days. Both are wonderful escape for me.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

NaBloPoMo Day 2: Vote

It is my most fervant hope that in a few days, this country will be a different place.

I'm voting because I have a three-year-old son, and I want him to have every opportunity that I did, and more.

I'm voting because I have a chronic illness, and stem cell research could help me live long enough to meet my great-grandchildren.

I'm voting because a woman should be able to choose whether or not she wants to have a baby.

I'm voting because everyone who falls in love should be able to get married and have kids if they want to.

I'm voting because gas costs $2.19 a gallon in my neighborhood right now, and when Bush took office, it was $1.41.

I'm voting because the economy is terrible.

I'm voting because I believe that education should be more than teaching kids to take a test.

I'm voting because too many kids in America will go to bed hungry tonight.

I'm voting because my husband was a soldier.

I'm voting because 100 years ago, I couldn't have.

I'm voting because soon the retirement age will be 75.

I'm voting because of what's been done in the name of patriotism in the last eight years.

I'm voting because I'm angry.

I'm voting because I'm sad.

I'm voting because I know we can do better.

I'm voting because it matters more now than it ever has.

Why are you voting?

Saturday, November 1, 2008

NaBloPoMo Day 1: Starting

I did this last year and I don't know if I'll have the time or the wherewithal to do it this year, but it was a good exercise in consistency and discipline and I learned a lot. I'm not sure I have a lot to say right now, due in part to high (but falling) levels of dissatisfaction with my life, but I'll try. Maybe what I'll try is things that have shaped me, things from my past, things I'm historically connected to. I don't know. I'll give it a try.

Today I give you a poem by an author who I admire a great deal: Dr. Joe Survant. He is a professor of English at Western Kentucky University, my Alma mater. He is widely published, the Kentucky Poet Laureate, and a thoroughly remarkable writer and teacher. He deeply shaped how I read and how I write in the one class I took with him, Literature of the Modern Western World, part of the freshman Humanities semester I took.

I like this concrete image of an abstract concept. Dr. Survant's gift as a teacher is illustrating very abstract ideas, things that aren't clear, sometimes, even to him, I think, as something very real and...stone-like, if you will.

The Stone
By Joe Survant

When you were born a tall handsome woman with the
slenderest of fingers gave you back your stone. She placed
it on your tongue like an aspirin and held your mouth shut
and stroked your throat until you had to swallow. The
stone is smooth, shaped and pressed by the weight of all
the world's waters, rolled by the journeys of all the world's
rivers to the sea. Inside you it becomes a perfect sphere the
size of a pea. A thin layer of cells coats it so that you can
carry it all your life like a shark carries souvenirs from all its

When you are ready to die the woman will come again.
She will still be handsome and her fingers will still be sharp.
With incredible ease, and drawing very little blood, she will
reach through your side and pluck out the stone, now big
as a cherry. It has absorbed all your days and nights which
give it the color of pale blood. It is your stone, but she will
keep it for you. When she swallows the stone your heart
will burst. When you are ready to try again, she will come
to you. She will put the stone on your tongue and hold your
mouth and stroke and stroke your throat. It will be harder
to swallow. You will always wish for a smaller stone.