Making sense

Anne Lamott, on writing ...

"We are a species that needs and wants to understand who we are. Sheep lice do not seem to share this longing, which is one reason why they write so little. But we do. We have so much we want to say and figure out.”

Monday, June 29, 2009

Monday, Monday ...

Well, I feel like the shock of Michael Jackson's death is behind me. I let myself feel down in the dumps for three days, but it's time to move on. I just hope the media doesn't further crucify this extraordinary talent.
Today all three kids are home, and so far two are still in bed. And it's 1 p.m. How do they do this? When I loll about in bed I am subject to strange dreams that usually involve skyscrapers and feeling as though I'm being chased.

Because it's still stupidly hot I might not leave the house today; or, end up seeing a movie. My Sister's Keeper intrigues me, but I don't know if what I need now is a crying spell. The heat already has me feeling depressed.

I've done no writing on my Bologna Book. Will I even get to it this summer?

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Rest in peace, Michael

So the King of Pop left this world today too. What is happening?
First Farrah and now Michael.
I feel numb and so .... so old. So much of my adolescence revolved around Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson. I was in high school when MTV premiered; Michael's Thriller video was something to behold. Everyone I knew endeavored to learn the dance.
One of my boyfriends had Farrah's red swimsuit poster hanging on his bedroom door.
My family watched Charlie's Angels together; I wore the Farrah signature style from 1979 until 1982.
Two pop icons are gone.
I'm feelin' pretty down.

Rest in peace, Farrah

My favorite Charlie's Angel died this morning in a California hospital. Just 62, Farrah Fawcett succumbed to a three-year battle with cancer.
Stupid cancer.
I hate cancer.
I hate cancer.
I hate cancer.
Along with nine million viewers on May 15, I watched Farrah's Story, an excellent docudrama chronicling Farrah's medical visits and hospital stays. The television special showed the needles and the blood and the vomiting; nothing was sugar-coated. At times it was painful to watch, as doing so brought back painful memories of watching cancer steal my dad's health.
Did I mention how much I hate cancer?
It pangs me to know that Farrah was not the recipient of the miracle she'd fervently prayed for.
Rest in peace, dearest Farrah.

Joining the 21st Century ...

Welp, I finally did it: I figured out how to access the speaker on my cell phone, and even though it was an accidental "A-ha!" victory was still sweet. And then -- THEN -- because I was feeling less a digital immigrant and somehow younger (summer always makes me feel younger ... I think it's the smell of sunscreen and every-other-day trips to the ice cream store) I mustered up huge quantities of courage and decided to navigate the world of Facebook.
Yes! You heard that right! I, Kate, who cannot figure out which remote control to use to get my DVD to work, have a Facebook page. And as the Web masters instructed, I am to direct my friends to:
I think.
Let me know if you're unable to get there. I'll ask my 17 year old to help me troubleshoot that one.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Why do people give up on each other?

In the last few days I've learned that two couples I care about are splitting up; additionally, reality TV's Mom and Dad of the Year are calling it quits. Of course I'm talking about Jon and Kate Gosselin, the parentals on TLC's Jon and Kate Plus Eight.
I can count on one hand how many times I've watched the show (my students got me interested ... ), but I'd set my stove timer for 60 minutes to remind me to tune in Monday night.
There I sat on my sectional in the living room, riveted to the "couch scenes" whereby both Jon and Kate said something along the lines of "we don't hate each other, but we can't live together because we fight too much and that's not good for the children."
Hmn. Married couples who fight. Married, parenting couples who fight. OK, so what's divorce-worthy there?
All my adult life I've searched for non-combative married people who are parenting (the hardest job on the planet, BTW) and I've yet to run into a couple who are ALWAYS googly-eyed and exhibiting their best honeymoon behavior and never getting bored with one another and are perpetually smiling through life's big and little disappointments and "gosh-golly-gee-whizzing" their way through the week. Puh-leese.
I've been searching for going on 35 years now and I just haven't found that golden couple. I'm fairly certain that perfect couple does ... not ... exist.
There's something called LIFE that prohibits us adults from behaving perfectly 24/7. There's too much month at the end of the money; the dog pees on the new carpet; the three-year-old throws hourly tantrums and screams "You're Not My Mommy!" as you haul her over your shoulder through the automatic doors at Target; your spouse is balding; you are balding; you're tired at the end of a work day and want to go to bed at 7:30; the remote control has gone missing; the flirtatious co-worker is making you feel valued; the in-laws are a pain in the neck; the house needs painting but the Pontiac needed a new transmission and now the neighbors are just going to need to DEAL WITH YOUR FADED PAINT in the subdivision that tells you which colors to use anyway; your headaches (real ones, not the fake sort) preclude any romantic notions; the bank didn't post your deposit on time and now you owe a $25 overdraft fee; the cat killed a bird and delivered it to your doorstep, which your four-year-old has carried into the house with his bare hands; there's a perpetual toilet leak in the downstair's bathroom; middle-aged spread has attacked your midsection; your 13-year-old just brought home a grade card with five F's and one A (P.E.); the stomach flu has ripped through your house and it's two days before Christmas ... .
I could go on. And on and on.
Here's the deal: No one gets through this life unperturbed. Even Angelina Jolie at times is sick of Brad Pitt. And vice-versa.
The show must go on, people. Especially when there are children in the picture.
So, A.L. and B.L., and K.K. and B.K., is there any way to reconnect, to find that joy that first brought you together?
Please try. You're too loving and smart and compassionate to give up on each other.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Finished another novel ...

Just turned to the last page of Elizabeth Berg's newest title, HOME SAFE. I absolutely love her down-home writing. Her style is casual and seemingly simple but really her message packs a wallop of understanding. She's one of those authors a reader wants to get to know. I imagine sitting down in a bookstore cafe sharing a slice of cheesecake with her. I would not have to be embarrassed licking my fork after enjoying the final bite ... .
In addition to being thankful for cheesecake and any sort of fancy pastry, really, I am enormously thankful for writers. Also, I am grateful for publishing agents, editors and houses.
I am starting to feel like books might be going away -- technology replacing the hardcover, the tangible pages. And every single time I hear someone bragging about the virtues of one of those hand-held Kindles or Tindles or whatever the heck they're called I start to feel bitter and a tad bit witchy. I do not want to hold a tiny computer screen in my hand when I sit down in my favorite chair with my favorite cup holding my favorite coffee. I want a bona fide book in my hands. I want to feel the weight of the tome sitting in my lap. I want to use the bookflap as a bookmark; I want to smell the pages; I want to break the spine and enjoy the soft craaacck, the newness of the book; I want to write my name in pretty script using a pretty pen upon a bookplate that I spent careful minutes choosing at Border's.
Stupid technology!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Forensicating in Alabama ...

So the child I was ready to give away a few days back is in Birmingham, Alabama, this week competing in a national forensics competition. No, not the dead body sort of forensics, but the sort involving humorous interpretation of literature. She and her AMAAAAZZing partner, Emma, are showcasing their hysterical parody of Stephenie Myers (sp?) TWILIGHT saga.
Very funny this act is, the sort of funny that if you suffer from any sort of bladder malfunction you might want to bring along something depend-able.
Elizabeth phoned (breathlessly) last evening to announce that their TWILIGHT piece seemed to be delighting judges and that they'd made the first two "breaks" in competition. From around the nation 222 duo acts went to the southern state, and from that number Elizabeth and Emma have survived the first two cuts: they're now in the Top 30. Later this afternoon, E. will call to tell us if they've gone further. She's elated to have made it this far, and although she says she'll be "fine" if they "lose" I know she'll taste the bitter pill of disappointment. Still, it's quite an accomplishment! Needless to say, I await somewhat nervously the phone call ... .
On a separate note, the law-school son and I have been obsessed with watching WEST WING episodes, a show that aired back in the late 90's and somehow sneaked into evening programming without me knowing about it. I hate to come late to pop culture, but that sort of thing seems to be my modus operandi. My sister-in-law lent the seven-seasons catalog to my son and now he and I are staying up until 2 in the morning laughing and exchanging worried glances concerning the situations Josh and Sam and C.J., and, of course, President Bartlett get themselves into. It's quite a show!
The Prairie Relatives are coming to visit this Friday. Whoop! Seriously, no sarcasm. I do so love company coming!!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Bad Mommy

For Sale or Lease: One obnoxious 17-year-old girl who thinks the parental units are talking bank machines. High maintenance: must be fed and watered daily. Prone to sudden outbursts or periods of intense sarcasm.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

LSAT and meatballs and professional jealousy

On Monday, my 21-year-old son took his Law School Admissions Test (LSAT). In the days leading up to the exam, the household experienced a mild-to-medium level of distress. Son was alternately hyper ("I'm going to law school!") and depressed ("I'm going to fail the test," "No law school will have me," "I'm going to end up a teacher.")
I gotta say: That last comment hurt me.
I am a teacher.
Why don't any of my children want to go into education? Is it because they: a) know I make very little money; b) am frequently chained to the dining room table grading papers; c) hear me complain about the child that makes me want to set my trash can on fire?
As my husband has long said, I am the abused wife of education. I love it; I hate it. It knocks me down; I get back up. It beats me up; I leave it. "Shoot me in the head if I go back to teaching," I said, years ago, when I left the field. I was burned out, my brain fried, my emotions charred. Just couldn't discipline one more child. Didn't want to grade one more paper.
And then, like the beaten wife who returns to her husband because she loves him, I went back.
"So do you want me to use an air dart or a BB gun?" my best friend asked when I admitted I'd signed yet another contract.
Next year marks my fifth year back in the classroom. With the exception of becoming a famous author (read: wealthy) or a full-time grandmother or the owner of a Victoriana boutique I cannot imagine doing anything else with my life.
OK, so I'm really good at the kitchen thing. Now that school is out for the summer, I've been tying on the apron. My meatloaf and corn casserole dish from Tuesday was well received by the visiting sister-in-law; the family enjoyed Monday's grilled chicken meal. Tonight I'll be serving a steaming bowl of spaghetti with meatballs. The house smells garlicky and subsequently fantastic-o!
On a separate note, I'm feeling a bit blue today. A writers' group member will soon go on the book signing tour to promote her YA novel HATE LIST (hitting bookstores in September). I'm happy for her, as I know how much she's desired publication ... but I'm sad for myself because it's not happening to me. Feeling rather childish, actually, as though my big sis has stolen my coveted chocolate bar.
Grow up, Kate!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

That was fast ...

Two days ago I placed an order with Victorian Trading Co., and today -- yes, TODAY -- the order arrived. I hadn't paid for express shipping, so imagine my profound and delirious surprise to come home from the bookstore to find an enormous box sitting on my wicker settee.
My gosh, I do so love me some Internet shopping ... and I ADORE the vintage-style tea dress ... couldn't wait to try it on ... nearly tripped over the cat and a gigantic 18-pack of paper towels trying to get upstairs in record time. Now I need to buy the beautiful cameo necklace I'd admired earlier today at a boutique on the Square, Crybaby Farm. (Wonder if they have a Web site?!)
Additionally, I am looking forward to the next rainy day just so I can put to use my Monet-inspired handy-dandy Victorian Trading Co. umbrella. It's G-O-R-G-E-O-U-S!
Why does shopping make me so happy?
Earlier today, Elizabeth (my seventeen year old) and I went to Penney's. I headed to draperies and she headed to the Sephora counter. She's a cosmetics girl ... the apple sure doesn't fall far from the tree there! I too love makeup and all things girlie. (Currently I'm in search of an old-fashioned powder puff for talcum ... .)
Before leaving Penney's, I ended up buying a Waverly red/cream toile window dressing: panels and sheers and a valance -- and Elizabeth scored a "Girls Night In" gift set in a cute plastic tote.
My favorite purchase today, however, was picking up half a dozen "What a Hoot" note cards from Crybaby Farm. I intend to send one to Carol Cassella (author of OXYGEN, a novel I strongly recommend!) and then another to Elizabeth Berg, once I finish reading HOME SAFE. Berg's prose is simple and sweet, not too complicated, and although she's predictable, I appreciate her domestic details and heartfelt approach. I also bought Berg's OPEN HOUSE trade paper edition while at Border's today. Check out the first paragraph that hooked me into purchasing: "You know before you know, of course. You are bending over the dryer, pulling out the still-warm sheets, and the knowledge walks up your backbone. You stare at the man you love and you are staring at nothing: he is gone before he is gone."
I'm not sure if authors actually receive their "fan letters," but I'm an optimist. Besides, I really got a kick out of my letters and e-mails back when I wrote my newspaper column. There's a sense of validation, that what you're doing has merit and brings happiness to other people.
Corny but true.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Peanuts and Cracker Jack ...

Yes! Today was a baseball day, which means, for me, experiencing heaven on earth.
The minor-league baseball game (Go T-Bones!) started at 11 this morning. Spouse and I met another couple at the stadium and for the next seven hours (no kidding ... there was a double header, and the first game played lasted 4 hours, 10 minutes) we drank beer and ate dollar hotdogs and laughed and behaved immaturely.
However, I did catch a rather miserable sunburn ... should have applied my sunscreen more liberally and more often ... .
But the best part of the day was spending glorious time outlining my summer writing project, which I did this morning, bored to distraction in my husband's office. I'd gone to work with him stupidly early (he arrives at his desk each morning at 6:15) and after listening to him talk through various telcons for ninety minutes, I sneaked off to the lounge and pulled out my pen and set to work.
Part cookbook, part memoir, the book will celebrate my blue-collar Midwestern upbringing. Tentatively titled chapters include "Broccoli-Rice Casserole," "Fried Egg Sandwiches," "Gravy," and "Recession Food." Of course one chapter will be devoted to my love and profound appreciation for Miracle Whip. If it's never published officially (Read: reputable publishing house) I'll just vanity press it and leave copies for posterity. I really don't want my mom to die before I get out of her how it is exactly she made her famous pork chops in brown gravy, or how to assemble the milk toast dish she talked about from her own childhood.
I'm jazzed to start the writing.
Stay posted!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Rainy days and Tuesdays ...

I'm extremely affected by the weather.
Today the sky is threatening rain and I'm feeling blue. I'd really wanted to head to the pool today to soak up the Vitamin D; also, being at the pool means not having my hand in the Doritos bag.
So I went shopping, which always improves the mood. First, I did some Internet therapy, ordering a cute/artsy Chico's top and a beautiful vintage-reproduction tea dress from my favorite Web site ever:

Then, I headed over to Kohl's (the real store) and picked up two pairs of sandals. Very cute. Bought a new bag and a busy-print Vera Wang summer dress.

Saw my hairdresser at the appointed 2 p.m. time and sat, scalp burning, under the dryer while my color oxidized. Two and a half hours I was there, total, and when I left the salon the gray clouds dumped a deluge. Yippee! My hair looked salon-styled for an entire four minutes.

Fortunately, I have the newest Elizabeth Berg title to finish reading.
Must make some hot black coffee and curl up in my cuddly chair.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Coupla things ...

My sis turned 45 this Saturday. She and I and a few of the Bunco Babes met for biscuits and gravy (ohmy) at the local eatery. My sis wore a blinking rhinestone birthday tiara. Very fun. We then went back to my house to organize for a morning garage sale hunt. While there, Sis made a comment about the length of Husband's grass (my husband, not hers) ... about how long it was, and if he was holding out for me to do the mowing.
That was Saturday morning, around 10:30.
My husband is still not speaking to me.
He sucks. Male pouting is disturbing on so many levels.
My neighbor friend, Nancy -- also a teacher -- theorizes that Husband is pouty not just because his male ego was hit, but because I'm out of school for the summer and he still has to work Monday through Friday. There is definitely a transition time, that's for sure.
I've decided to start going to Overeaters Anonymous. Yes, I, Kate, am an overeater. I've been an overeater ever since I discovered bologna with the red string and Miracle Whip. So what was I ... four or five? I have a particular fondness for sandwiches, and all the goodies that go into the construction of a good sandwich. ... A local hospital hosts the OA meetings on Saturday afternoons. My sis (birthday sis) says she'll go with me. We talked briefly about stopping for breakfast first, but then we laughed at the same time and decided against that.
One of these days I'm going to write a memoir about my food addiction. For years I just thought I liked to eat, and then it occurred to me that my issues with food weren't just food related. It's that old "It's not what you're eating, it's what's eating you" philosophy. Sometimes I'll cook just to cook, as I love it so, but generally, I cook because I feel a compulsion to spoon warm bread pudding into my mouth at midnight. It's figuring out what triggers the compulsion that I need assistance with addressing. I'll let you know how the OA meeting goes, only I think I have to post anonymously or something ... I remember reading somewhere that what happens at an OA meeting must stay at an OA meeting, under punishment of death.
I am currently feeling compelled to sell my house and buy another, which is a stupid thought because the economy is in the toilet and real estate is suffering. Who might buy this house in particular when there are 467 other homes in the area available?
Yes!!!!! I just discovered one of my favorite writer's Web site: Elizabeth Berg. You'll have to check it out if you're a Berg fan:
Happy perusing!