People Underestimate the Value of a Good Ramble

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Things I Learned by Joining NaNoWriMo

This year, for the first time, I decided to join NaNoWriMo. I had no real idea what to expect, but since I love to write and I always have lots to say, it didn't seem that scary. I wasn't really sure what my novel would be about, but I decided not to take the term too literally. Maybe it wouldn't really be a novel, maybe it would just be me rambling. But at least I would be writing.

I started out well, as I'd been told would happen. People do well for the first few days and then they fall off.  Maybe they can't keep up the pace or just run out of things to say.  I wasn't sure if I could keep up the pace, but I didn't think of myself as a quitter, per se. I figured I could at least hold out a month. Plus, I knew I had lots and lots to say.

I did have my doubts about November, though, cause so many things happen in November. It's not a good month to avoid distractions. Honestly, I'm not sure there is a good month, but November is really bad, since Thanksgiving is my big holiday and it takes me a whole week to prepare, what with cleaning and shopping and cooking.  And this year I had just started my job in the middle of October so I knew I wouldn't be able to take days off. I'd need to work every day and do all that other stuff at night. 

Yep, I was a little worried. I should have been more worried.

I did pretty well for the first week, keeping to my daily goal most of the time. I even did well into the second week.  I made up for time lost on the weekend when I didn't have time to write.  But then it all started to get away from me. One day after the next day I just didn't have the time or the energy or the inspiration to write anything. At all. I lost track of the story I was writing and I would just end up going in a completely different direction.  Overall, I think I ended up with about five completely unrelated stories and around 12,000 words.

So although I didn't make the 50,000 word goal and I didn't actually win, I don't feel like a loser either.  For one thing, NaNo taught me a few things:

  1. No matter how any words I think I have inside me, there aren't enough to write 1667 every day in a related fashion. Maybe not even every other day.
  2. All my time on Twitter may have caused me to think in short spurts.  I would have preferred long lovely run on sentences.
  3. I need a better plan. Maybe if I had gone into it with an actual idea for a novel and not just all these jumbled up thoughts in my head I would have accomplished more.
  4. Organization is a good thing. I am a fairly organized person, but I may have allowed myself a little bit too much latitude in terms of my writing schedule. 
  5. I've always thought of myself as very goal oriented and yet I didn't come close to making the goal. I'm OK with that.
  6. I'm not very competitive, but I think I already knew that. Which is probably why I'm OK with not making the goal.
  7. You need a lot of energy to write a novel.  I may be more of a short story person.
  8. Although I did go into NaNo without an actual plan, I did manage to keep coming up with new ideas to move things along. Of course, they don't all fit together yet, but some day they might.
  9. I don't perform well without sleep, even if I have had lots of coffee.
  10. I will participate in NaNo again, cause overall the experience was fun and enlightening.
NaNo is over for this year, and although I didn't make the goal, I did achieve something.  I didn't write as much as I planned to and I didn't write every day, but I did write. I have thousands of words now that I didn't have in October. So far they don't make up anything great, but I believe there may be something in there that could turn into something else. And it might even be worth reading.

Monday, November 29, 2010

My Cousin and My Friend

There were 19 of us.  Johnny, Mary Lou, Judy, Jimmy, Chuck, Angie, Linda, Mikki, Michael, Salvatore, Karen, Joey, Michael, Mark, Marci, Marianne, Maryann, Debbie and Toni. There have been 19 cousins since 1964, but as we end 2010, there are only 17 of us left.  Earlier this year we lost my cousin Judy, and just this week, we lost my cousin Marianne.  Age-wise, Marianne was my closest cousin, even closer in age than my sisters. We were born seven years and two days apart.

We were close in other ways, as well.  For several years, starting in the late 80's through the mid-90's Marianne was the director of an ensemble that I sang in. Not just me, but my mother, my sister, my husband, her sister, and several of our very closest friends. I'm not sure, maybe we were all close because of Ensemble. It was just one of those experiences that stays with you.

Marianne was amazing. She taught me so many things. She could do anything. She was like MacGyver when it came to sewing. You could ask her to make your wedding dress and she could create a perfect fairy princess gown out of paperclips and lace. In an hour. She taught me to sew, not like her, but still passably. She showed me how to cut out patterns and put all the pieces together.  She took me to buy what I needed for my own sewing box. It's pink with a flowery pattern. She gave me a set of straight pins and bought a red heart magnetic pin cushion and little pink snips for me.

When I told her I was getting married, she jumped right in and created all the decorations for the church, all the flowers, the corsages, the boutonnieres, even two topiary trees for the altar. I still have one of them at the turn of my staircase and it still looks beautiful.

Marianne taught me about music, too. When she needed a song transposed from one key to another for the Ensemble, she'd give it to me.  I know nothing about music.  I can carry a tune, but that's about it. I can't read music and I don't know one key from another.  But Marianne forced me to learn.  She taught me algebra, something I never managed to understand while in school, just by showing me how to transpose the keys in a song.  And she taught me to remember the notes in the five main lines of the treble clef by using the acronym Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge. It was years later before I found out that the real acronym is not about food.

We shared so many special times and we laughed. A lot.

Marianne had become ill with cancer about 5 years ago. She was a fighter and every time the cancer struck her, she hit back. It traveled around her body, attacking here and then there, but she never gave in. She was hopeful through all the treatment, through chemo and radiation, through all the pain. When one cancer center told her it was over, she found another that would keep on treating her.

Over the summer they told her that the cancer was in her bones and there was a tumor in her brain. Then they started the radiation.  We drove to Philadelphia to see her and I thought for sure that she would not be coming home. But she did.  A few weeks later, several of the Ensemble members met at her house to talk and sing and laugh, and it was amazing.  From the woman I had seen, laying in the hospital bed, doped up and barely able to speak, this was Marianne as we knew her, laughing, talking, directing.

She did have more radiation and we went to see her again, just about two weeks before she died. We all laughed a lot. It was a wonderful time. She was telling us all about a production she planned on directing in the summer. She was bed bound, but still cheerful, still hopeful, still busy. Marianne wasn't afraid to die, but she didn't think about it because she still had more she planned to do.

At her funeral today, so many people spoke and had wonderful things to say, stories to tell, songs to sing, laughter to share. One thing that her husband said really stuck with me. It epitomized what everyone else had been saying.  Marianne was a person who lived her life fully engaged. 

I love you, Marianne, and I'm going to miss you.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Rabies Anyone?

So, you remember that we were visited by a  bat, right?  I'm not sure I even finished that story. We did eventually catch it.  Early on a Wednesday morning, coincidentally, the very day we needed to get up early and go back to ECMC for our last rabies shots, my hubby woke up to the bat circling his head. Clearly, the bat liked him.

My husband, now on a mission to get this bat, started clearing every last bit of everything out of the room. Curtains, furniture, bedding, etc. He finally cornered the poor, tiny little thing hanging on the inside of the bed skirt. His brother had brought him a fire extinguisher thingy that sprays cold air. The bat was knocked off the skirt and ended up on the floor where my husband and I caught it in a box.

The County came and took him and, sadly, he was not rabid. So it was all for nothing, which makes me really unhappy.

But now, we have a new, possibly-rabid friend who keeps coming to visit.  Here's a little sample of what has been happening in our yard:



Yes, we are now the most favorite visiting place for a skunk who is uprooting our front yard to find all the juciest grubs.  My husband takes his lawn very seriously and has spent much time and money on it this summer, since this is an area where we have had trouble growing grass.  There was a pine tree in that spot - planted by my father in the 70's, I might add - that my husband insisted on cutting down because of the grass. Personally, I don't care about grass.

I said that the skunk is doing us a favor by getting rid of all the grubs now and anyway pretty soon it will be winter, so there will be no grubs, no grass and no skunk. He was not amused.  

Now, he's talking about getting a pellet gun and shooting the skunk. I've pointed out that we don't know if he's a good shot, since he has never, in my recollection, ever shot a gun. And even if I wasn't against killing woodland creatures, which I am, in my opinion, skunks are not animals that one should unnecessarily annoy, as they can make things very unpleasant. Really. I'd rather he trapped it or something, but I'm not sure tangling with a skunk in any way is a good idea. Unlike bats, skunks can and will defend themselves in a way that won't be fun. 

 At this point, I'm thinking we should just let the animals take over.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Glee Is Making Me Gloomy

I'm a little sad right now. I think Glee may have failed the Buffy test. We're three eps into the season and so far I've had to force myself to watch each ep more than once.

The first ep, which I was so excited about, fell flat for me. Mostly cause I didn't know any of the songs. Not one. Unless you count that little snippet of Every Rose Has It's Thorn. I'm not a Britney fan, so the second ep was the same way. I don't even get being a Britney fan. From my perspective, Britney is a fat, gross, slut with addiction issues. I continue to be completely unimpressed with her.

So then we come up to this past week and Grilled Cheesus. Now they're just trying too hard. It's like a child who's been really spoiled by too much attention and thinks they can get away with  more than they can.  I just didn't even get the point of that entire ep, unless it was just to make me hate what a whiny little jerk that Kurt has become even more than I did from the week before.

This is going to be hard for me, cause I loved Glee season 1. I have all the music and everything. Look, I never said I had excellent taste or anything. But how can you truly hate on musical numbers with choreographed dancing delivered to your living room every week? You just can't.

But I think I'm starting now. Three more eps is all I'm giving you Glee. Get back to the happy days of music I like, kill off all the whining and let's have more Sue Sylvester. Or this is where we part ways.

Sigh.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Breakfast anyone....

I'm still trying to eat better, when at all possible, but it gets harder as the weather gets colder. In wet, cold, yucky weather, I crave comfort food, all of which, while comforting, tends to be on the less healthy and more fattening side as well.

So I was very proud of my new breakfast cereal invention this week. I've been having lots of yogurt, plain, with berries, which was great for the Summer, but wasn't cutting it as we head into Fall.  So this week I made up a weeks supply of a yummy, healthy, fruity, nutty, grainy hot cereal that's been just perfect.

It was really easy.  Here's what I did:

I toasted 1/2 cup each of millet and quinoa, added a tablespoon of butter, a touch of sea salt and some stevia. (Don't ask for exact amounts, cause I don't cook that way.) Then I added almond milk (about 3 to 1 to the grains),  brought it to a boil, reduced to a simmer and cooked for a while (1/2 hour maybe).  Added more almond milk (1 1/2 cups), brought it to a boil again, then 1/2 cup of oatmeal , cinnamon, vanilla, peeled and chopped apple, chopped dried apricots and cherries, toasted slivered almonds and chopped pecans. I simmered for about another 10-15 mins and voila!

It was warm and creamy, but had a crunchy texture, too. It even looks good.

I'm excited thinking about what other fun foods I can make up this winter that will still be comforting, but can take the place of less healthy alternatives.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Nobody Puts Baby in a Corner

A conversation at work about Jennifer Grey on Dancing With the Stars got me to thinking.  First of all, it brought to mind all stories about how Grey and Patrick Swyaze didn't even like each other while they were filming Dirty Dancing. I firmly believe this, cause why would they even say that, since Hollywood prefers to make everyone be in love. Up until the moment that they need a story about their break up, that is.  But anyway, they just seemed to try so hard on DWTS to make us know that this was Baby we were seeing here. Baby was dancing for us again, with a guy who is young and handsome, just like Johnny Castle was back in the day.  Sorry, but I wasn't impressed.

Anyway, back to thinking. What it made me think about was what movies I have to watch whenever I see them on. What I mean is, if I'm flipping channels and a particular movies is on, from that point forward, I'm forced to watch. Well, not forced, exactly, I want to watch, but still I have no choice. I MUST watch them.

So, in no particular order, here are the movies I must watch when I'm scrolling the channels:

1. Dirty Dancing - Bet you guessed that one was coming just from the way I spent the first two paragraphs of this post talking about it.  I just  love this movie, it's fun and musical and full of young people and dancing and human rights and ...wait a minute, it's like High School Musical or Hairspray, only with sex.

2. Independence Day - My family always watches a movie or two on Thanksgiving, after the food when we are all sitting around in a stupor.  Well one year, when this movie first came out and we hadn't yet seen it, my husband went out with my nephews to choose a movie and came home with this video, which he decided to buy rather than rent. I think it cost like $20+ and I wasn't happy.  I actually refused to watch it with them.  It has since become one of my favorite movies and I watch it every year on 4th of July (but not on Thanksgiving). Even so, I end up watching it probably three times in that week, since there is generally at least one station that plays it over and over again. What can I say, I'm just a sucker for aliens, explosions and computer geeks.

3. Jurassic Park - The first time I saw it was at my sister's house. For some reason, she had bought it and she and her husband were having a "viewing" to which they invited me and my husband. I recall spending much of the movie with a pillow from her couch clutched in my hands, ready to cover my eyes at any scene I didn't feel up to seeing at that particular moment.  We were terrified, but in an awesome way, so whenever I see it on I watch cause I want that feeling back.

4. Beautiful Girls - Just seeing little baby Natalie Portman and Tim Hutton talking about Winnie the Pooh makes this movie worth a watch every time. Honestly, do you need more than that?

5. The Truman Show - I'm not really a Jim Carrey fan. In fact, I dislike him intensely when he's being what I would loosely call funny and I simply tolerate him when he's being serious. Of course, this movie is serious and somehow, when I'm watching it, I can completely forget that I'm seeing Jim Carrey. So I guess that makes him a good actor....hmmm.  In any case, this is just one of those movies that sucks me in when I see it. Suddenly, I'm watching it, again, and I'm still somehow expecting him to be able to sail his boat right out of there.

6. Silverado - I'm a fan of westerns and this is one of my faves. I remember the first time I saw it and was introduced to a crazy acting Kevin Costner for the first time.

7. Legally Blonde - Can you say shallow? OK, fine, maybe I am. But this is such a FUN movie.

8. The Shining - How can anyone resist the lure of Jack Nicholson's "Heeeeerrre's Johnny"  which gets me, every single time? And the woman in the bathtub and those creepy kids in the long hallway.  But only the original movie, not the remake. As I always say, accept no substitutes.

9. A Knight's Tale - One scene:  We Will, We Will ROCK You.

10.Back To The Future - I actually saw this about a week before it first came out as part of a test audience. It was the only time I've ever been in a movie where everyone in the theater was applauding and encouraging the hero. Out loud. It was just such a neat group experience. I feel like I should still be friends with those people, although I didn't know them and this happened back in 1985.

11. Terminator - I already mentioned my thing for explosions and computers, right?

I asked my husband and he said his movies were Shawshank Redemption, Fargo, Good Fellas, Scent of a Woman and Riding in Cars With Boys.

Yes, we are very different.

So, what are your "can't pass by" movies?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Buffy Test

I read a blog post the other day at Dating After 40 about using your favorite TV shows as a dating scale. It got me to thinking. Not about dating cause, since I'm already married, I'm fairly certain that my husband wouldn't look kindly on my deciding to date other men.

Since we've just entered the Fall TV season, it made me think about how I determine which shows to watch each year.  My husband has always thought I watched too many shows and, I'll admit, in the past I've watched 20+ hours a week, which may seem a bit excessive, depending on how you look at it.  But keep in mind that I wrote two different entertainment blogs at the time and you can understand the need to watch that much TV in a week. And honestly, it's less than 3 hours a night anyway.  Just because he never watches anything or reads anything or has any other interesting hobbies, is that my fault?

So, um, where was I? Right, how to decide what to watch this year. Normally, I have this system whereby I watch every single show I want to, as long as I'm able to DVR it and can find time to watch it at some point before the DVR (fine, two DVRs) was full.  That basically meant that I could record up to four shows at the same time and, if I really needed to, watch another one on a different TV.  I could even, if absolutely necessary, watch a show or two online at some point, too.

Even worse, once I started to watch a show I felt like I had to finish out the season and, often, once I finished one season I felt the need to keep watching. As though I owed the show something. Last year, I implemented a new policy. The "three strikes and you're out" policy.  If I didn't absolutely love a show after the third ep, I was done. It was better and it cut way down on my TV watching, at least by the end of the season. 

This year, I was even more ruthless. I decided to only watch the bare minimum of shows I really, really want to watch. But even then, I've been starting to think that I may have chosen too many.  So then I read that blog post. I've been thinking, maybe I should use a similar litmus test for what shows I'm going to watch.

The show I'd use as my standard would be Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which is, as anyone who knows me already knows, my very, very most absolute favorite show of all time. Ever. I couldn't miss an ep when it aired and I watched every single ep at least three times in the first week.  I've seen each and every one of the 144 eps (also the original pilot ep) at least 25 times. At least.

So, now, I'm comparing every show on my list with Buffy. If I'd rather watch a repeat of an ep of Buffy that I've already seen 25+ times, then the show is totally off the list.

Probably. 





 

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Holy Bats!, Man

I realized that I had neglected to share our bat story, which is still ongoing, I might add.  I've told it so many times, I guess I just forgot about you people. So here it is. 

A couple of weeks ago, on a Friday night/Sat morning, my poor hubby got up to the let the dog out and then went to sleep in our front room cause it's cooler and quieter than our bedroom in the back. Planes landing at the airport, which is about 3 miles away, shine their lights in our room all night, but I can sleep through anything and he can't. So anyway, around 4 am he got up to use the bathroom, felt something on his hair drop down, hit his chest and hit the floor. Just some dirt. He went back into the room and Bella was sitting up on the bed. He sits down and suddenly sees something flying around the ceiling over his head. He grabs the dog and runs out, closing the door and knocking over the hall table in his haste to exit the room. He's not too proud of that part, so I love sharing it.

I vaguely heard the crash of the table and then the dog being put down on the bed next to me.  He turned on the light and woke me up. He says, "don't get scared, but there's a bat in the house." I say, still half asleep, "OK, just turn on the light, open a window and he'll fly out." I'm not afaid of bats. He's not happy with this advice, since it involves his re-entry into the room with the bat, but he does it anyway. He does not look to see if the bat is still in there.

At this point, I'm awake, so we walk all over the house picking up bat poop (the dirt he found on his head!), which is basically all upstairs in our sitting room and in that front bedroom, and looking to see if the bat is somewhere. We don't see it, so we figure it must have flown out the window. We go back into the front room, close up the windows, turn off the lights, shut that door and go back to bed. It's about 5:30 am.

My great nephew Jofus (how his sister Natalie says Joseph), who's about 1 yr old, came over on Saturday around 9:30 am and we kept him til around 4 pm. Of course Bella is licking Jofus all over his face cause she can - they are at the same level and he can't stop her. Normally, that's not an issue, but we didn't take rabies into account. My nephew and his wife come in to get the baby at 4 pm, both pet the dog. They take the baby back to a party where he interacts with lots of people.

My husband comes home from a caricature job around 7:30 pm and I mention that he should sit outside during dusk to see where the bat may have come in the house. He ignores me as he so often does.

At around 9 pm, he's upstairs watching a movie, Bella is in the kitchen eating and I'm in my mother's room setting her hair (I have to do this every week and I HATE IT!!!) when her phone rings. He says, "Guess what? The bat is still here and it's big. Close the door." I close mom's door, but then he realizes that we don't know where Bella is, so I run back out to find her. I am dressed in a little cotton babydoll nightie with spaghetti straps cause it was very hot. This is not bat hunting apparel.

I get about half way through the living room and suddenly the bat swoops down the stairs towards me. When you are moving or making noise (and, yes, whimpers are noise), bats dive towards you. They are using their sonar to figure out what you are and your size. I know I said I wasn't afraid of bats, and I'm not, but honestly, when one is circling over your head, repeatedly diving towards you, traveling at excessive speeds, mostly, you're just thinking "BAT!!"

So I'm now cowering on the floor, calling Bella, who comes from upstairs.  Clearly she was with my husband the whole time. She looks at me like, What? What? I call her over and hold her while being divebombed. Can't make it back into mom's room cause of the bat who keeps circling the living room and hallway back up the stairs and around, so I head into the kitchen. I put Bella down in the foyer, turn back and no bat.

I've been on the phone with my husband the whole time and he's been upstairs opening windows trying to entice the bat to go outside. He comes down, we meet in the living room. No bat.

We both go back upstairs and look around and nothing. So we call these people that he's heard about recently who capture bats and other wild creatures, called Crittr Gittrs. (Yes, that cutesy.) We speak to them on the phone, it's after 10 pm by now, and they give us lots of pointers on how to catch the bat and scare us silly with stories of rabies, death and quarantines. She insists we call the emergency number for the department of health, which we do. This was our first big mistake. Also, the guy was kinda stupid (typical County employee) but sorta gives us some info, too.

Now we have to swing the opposite way. At first, we were turning on all the lights and opening windows to get the bat out. Now we were told to catch the bat, so turn off all the lights and close the windows, leaving just one open window, with the screen in place, per room, and turn off the ceiling fans. The point being that bats roost when the lights come on, looking for the darkest place and come out in the dark, seeking the air currents. Of course, it's really hot, really, really hot, so closing windows and turning off fans is even less fun than it sounds like.

Anyway, it works, the bat comes back out and starting circling the living room. At this point, I was hiding in my mom's room with her and Bella, and my poor husband, who is still terrified of the bat is out there, dressed from head to toe in warm clothing and gloves, walking around our dark and very warm house, looking for it.  At one point, the bat came at him in the dark while he was walking down the stairs. I hear this little yelp on the other side of the door and I'm all worried.  Turns out, he hit himself in the face with the garbage can he was carrying to trap the bat and almost fell down the stairs.

The bat, meanwhile, refuses to land or head to the open window so he calls me and tells me to call the Crittr Gittrs, which I do and they come over.  By the time they show up, it's 11:36 pm and the bat has once more disappeared. They walked around our house for 2 hours. Mom, Bella and I fell asleep. By 1:30 am, there was no bat found and I owed them $200. I had to put on one of my mother's flowery house dresses to come out of her room and pay them, too, since I wasn't really wearing the appropriate clothing for a visit with strangers. I should have changed earlier when I had the chance, but I was too busy being stressed out.

They left. Yes, they just left. We couldn't afford to pay them any more. We head back upstairs and finally go to bed a little after 2 am. With the lights on.
 
So on Sunday, we ended up staying home all day because we weren't sure about rabies. We went through closets and our office (stuffed with crap) and took all the pics off the walls, all the curtains and blinds down, we put towels in all the doorways so that when the bat came out, we could close the doors and completely block it out of rooms. We got all dressed for bat hunting, we had boxes ready, nets, sheets, my nephew even came over to help us catch it.

It never showed up.

Monday night was the same, we were all ready. My husband was completely stressed out about it. I was watching TV and typing up some letters and he was getting all mad at me cause I wasn't scared or worried. I said, would it make you feel better if I was terrified, standing with my back to the wall in the dark with a net clutched in my hands. He said, YES!!

We still had to sleep with the light on, but by Monday night it was a little light in the bathroom. So he was clearly getting better. Tuesday night I asked him to sleep in the other room so I could turn all the lights out.

Well, we haven't seen the bat since that Saturday night. But we still have the rabies shots to remember him by. We both have to get nine shots overall, but that's a story for abother day.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

The Yeast of These

I'm seriously trying to cut all the yeast out of my diet for a while to see if it makes me feel better.

This is insanely hard. No sugar, no wheat, no caffeine (which means withdrawal headaches) and no fruit. I'm still finding food to eat, but not much. My husband said that this is the diet for people who don't care about food. At all. Unfortunately, none of the people living in this house fit into that category. We basically plan our lives around what we are going to eat and when.

So right now, for breakfast, it's plain yogurt. Plain. No sugar, no fruit. Plain. And maybe an egg. But those two things don't go together. An egg should be fried and served with toast. Only no toast.  Lunch has been a salad, lettuce, tuna, hard boiled egg, cukes, radishes. You can have spices and olive oil, but no vinegar. So boring salads. (Although I did make a sort of poor man's ranch dressing once, with yogurt, and it was interesting.)

Dinners have been pretty good actually.  One day it was flounder that I poached in a sauce I made with diced tomatoes and onions, basil, oregano and bay. No white wine, cause no alcohol.

So many things are fermented, who knew??

Then I sliced and grilled an eggplant (not a fan really, too slimy) and steamed some broccoli.  We've also had another vegetable I'm not too fond of, brussel sprouts. No, really. But I did roast them in the oven with garlic and toss them with butter and crumbled bacon. (It was this great recipe I saw on the Food Network, and it almost made me not hate brussel sprouts.)  We've also eaten lots of chicken, salmon, tilapia, turkey, broccoli, zucchini, onions, peppers and green beans.

See lots of veggies, but very few of the ones I really like. *sigh* I want mushrooms and carrots and corn and peas. I want potatoes.  Wait, who am I kidding?  What I really want is a hot butter caramel sundae with pecans and homemade whipped cream from Antoinettes.

But I have been learning to make lots of the foods I love in another way. It's taken a few tries for some things. I've perfected an amazing rice pudding, with brown rice, almond milk and stevia. I ate the entire last pan, all by myself, in about a day. I'm serious.

I've also been maying soy/buckwheat muffins. I experimented with all sorts of different flours, cause the first batch was terrible. Terrible. Within a day it was covered in mold and we threw it all out. The second batch was slightly better, but now I've got it figured out so at least they are edible.

This morning, I even made buckwheat pancakes and they were really good. I mean, really, really good. So maybe it is possible to live without sugar.

For a while.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

"Bambi" July 23, 1997 - June 22, 2010

Last Tuesday I had to do what was probably the hardest thing I've ever had to do or ever will have to do. I had to bring my little baby, Bambi, to the vet and have her put to sleep.

We've had Bambi since she was a tiny little round puppy.  We almost didn't even get her. I remember it very clearly, even though it happened nearly 13 years ago. I had called the breeder and they only had one girl in the litter, but she was already promised to someone else. I was so disappointed, because we were all ready to get the puppy, had saved the money and everything.  We were gonna surprise my mom. This particular breeder had been recommended by a couple of independent sources, so I just felt it was the right place to go. But she wouldn't have any more litters that year.

A couple of days after she told me she didn't have anything for me, I decided to call her back one more time. Just in case. Maybe she knew someone else who had puppies now. But then the best thing happened. Turns out the other person hadn't shown to pick up the puppy so she was available again. We were so excited, driving out to Olcott, NY, nearly an hour away, to see her.  We thought we were going to see the puppy, discuss it, put down a deposit, come back to get her the next week.  Then we saw this little tiny ball of fur, all round and cuddly and playful and we had to have her. That minute. I wrote the check and we drove home in the dark with her shivering, tucked into the front of my husband's jacket.

We came home and put the puppy in a large paper bag to bring her to my mom. We had to wake her up to tell her we'd brought home a doggy bag from dinner.  Surprise!!  From that Friday night in October of 1997 to the very end, Bambi was the sweetest, most beautiful, patient, loving companion we could have had.

In November 2007, we thought we were going to lose her. She became very ill and had to be taken to the emergency vet.  Her lungs had filled with fluid. They said she had an enlarged heart and liver. They wanted to put her down then, but I  insisted that as soon as she was breathing properly, we were taking her home. We took her to see our vet the next day and she was diagnosed with Cushings. Turns out a lot of the things we thought were part of old age were actually because of the disease. Once she was on the medication, she perked up again, became more active and lost a lot of weight. She had been very overweight, which was another sign of her illness and not just that she loved food. 

And she did love food. She would eat anything you were eating, right off your fork or spoon, if you let her. My mother has eaten most of her meals that way over the last few years. One bite for mom, one for Bambi. Sometimes she just made up a plate for Bambi. Noodles were Bambi's very favorite and if you even mentioned them, her ears would lift up and she would tilt her head, ready to eat any and all noodles that were forthcoming.

Once, she modeled for Tops Markets, making the cover of their pet flyer. They told me she was the best dog they ever photographed, cause she just sat where they put her and smiled at the camera. What they didn't realize is that Bambi was just a very polite and patient girl. She always just sat where ever you put her. Maybe it was just easier than trying to do something else. She instinctively learned to do things that good dogs did, like wait for you to go first and walk next to you when on a leash. Certainly it's nothing we ever taught her to do. She slept in our bed, usually taking over one (or more) of our pillows, so that we had to sleep further down on the bed. How one little tiny dog managed to lay her body out over several pillows at once is still a mystery to me.

I know that we were blessed to have had in our lives. I'm thankful that we had the additional time with her that was almost lost to us.  But even so, there's a hole in my heart and it aches.

I miss her.  I know I will for a very long time.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Guilt and Failure

I'm feeling very guilty.  I told myself at the beginning of this year (which was approximately 20 some weeks ago), that I was going to read more, blog more, write more in general, watch less TV, work out more and eat better. Um...I've been reading a bit. Does that count?

Then I had to go make myself feel even worse by reading this post on Zebra Sounds.  Sure, there are actually people out there who make a plan and stick with it. Then they brag about it. I hope Judy's happy now.

So now the guilt and failure are building up and I have to do what I do best: slap myself around because of it.  I go through all the stages: guilt, depression, anger, ice cream, hope and failure.

I want to be a better person. I want to post on my blogs every day. I want to spend time reading something interesting and informative (and not just re-reading Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 8). I want to work on some of the writing projects I have started and abandoned when things got too hard (like those people who adopt puppies and then can't care for them).  I want to start that new eating plan I spent time researching (I even have two weeks of meal planning, a grocery list, recipes and everything all set). I want to get up just a half an hour earlier and work out every day (or, you know, like maybe 4 or 5 days a week, at least).

I just haven't done any of those things yet.

So, Judy, thanks for kicking me where it hurts.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Blogging Can Be Beautiful

This post is quite a bit overdue. One of my most ardent blog fans, herself an interesting, intelligent and most lovely blogger, Rachel in the OC, was kind enough to award some recognition to my ToniTV blog. I realize that this post is here and not there, but I just posted there and this blog needed someone to pay attention to it. So there you have it.

In any case, this award comes with some rules, as follows:
•Thank the person who gave you this award.
•Share 7 things about yourself.
•Pass the award along to 15 bloggers whom you have recently discovered and who you think are fantastic…


First with the sharing:
1) I'm not that much of a chocolate person. That will probably get me blocked, I know it, but I just happen to like caramel better.

2) At work, I have to have everything arranged on my desk just so and I feel the need to put everything away at the end of the day. But at home, I'm willing to shove stuff in drawers and feel good about it if I can just get them closed.

3) I'm just slightly under 5 feet tall and yet I rarely if ever wear heels. I prefer ballerina type flats.

4) I really love working out and yet I rarely do it cause I'm just too lazy to get started.

5) If left to my own devices, I would basically sit on the couch all day re-watching eps of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

6) I have two Maltese dogs, Bambi and Bella.

7) My favorite color is green. All shades, lovely pale yellowy green, grassy green, emerald green, forest green, all greens.

Now that the hard part is over, it's time to nominate some great blogs:
1) First Pages

2) Zebra Sounds

3) You Had To Be There

4) Making Stuff Up For A Living

5) A Longer Letter Later

6) Lisa Adams on Life, Death, Cancer, and Family: “You’d Never Know”

7) Thoughts from Inman Square

8) MacLean Space

9) Pretty in the City

10) The Bloggess

11) PaigeWorthy.com

12) The Writer's Notebook

13) Allison Winn Scotch

14) Salgrunkshire

15) Words

So lots and lots of lovely places to visit and read and enjoy.

Have fun!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Reunited

Some good did come from the two days of wake and funeral for my cousin Judy, and that was getting to see my cousin Jeffrey again. Jeff and I are only a year apart in age and we grew up together. He is actually my first cousin once removed (the child of my first cousin) but our close age and the closeness of our families at that time meant that we were together a lot. We stood up together in my sister's wedding (I was 6 and he was 5), and spent many weekends at my aunt's cottage on the lake. Jeff and his parents moved to Connecticut when he was 11 and I hadn't seen him in over 30 years. In all that time, I had always remembered him and thought of all the fun we'd had as children. From the moment we saw each other across the room, there was that flash of recognition and we spent the time together, afraid to let each other out of sight. The amazing part was that he remembered me the same way I remembered him.

Back in the 70's, when they moved away, pre-teens didn't have a lot of options to staying in contact. You could write letters, sure, but who really did that? You could call on the phone, but the cost of long-distance calls was an issue. Now, we can communicate so much more easily, through calls, texting, email, skype, twitter, facebook. This time, I have all his contact info and I plan to use it.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Death and Memories

My cousin died and we buried her on Thursday. She's the first of my generation to die. There was a very nice write up about her in our local paper.

The funeral was sad, as most are, but made even sadder by the fact that her 87 year old mother was sitting in the front row. Instead of a standard service, the family chose to have certain songs played between prayers. Before one song her husband told a story. Judy had been suffering from dementia for some time. She didn't always remember who she was talking to or what she was talking about, but she remembered all the words to her favorite songs. He would put the songs on and she would sing along. The song he played then was "The Way We Were" and everyone was in tears. In the quiet moment after the song, I heard my little 2 year old great niece whimpering softly, upset by all the weeping around her.

When my sister told her husband to let us know if there was anything he needed, anything at all, he said, "Bring her back."

Friday, March 26, 2010

Creatively Depressive

I've been wondering lately if my husband and I have been together so long now that we just natually suck the energy from each other. Since he's been laid off, he's started painting, which is a great thing. He's feeling really good about the stuff he's creating and he should, because he's a very talented artist. But since I've been back to work, I'm feeling more and more depressed.

I felt so happy, hopeful, rested and calm while I was unemployed. Working every day makes me all stressed and angry. I never want to talk to anyone when I get home and mostly, I just want to sit around all evening, occassionally perusing my Twitter feed for anything interesting and watching TV. No, really. That's all I want to do.

More and more, I just don't feel like I have the mental energy to write any posts, or read any books, or do anything at all productive. If it involves thought on my part. I'm just not up to it.

So I'm just wondering if it's possible that there's only just so much creative energy to share between the two of us and, if that's true, is he using it all up right now?

video

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

They Say A Woman's Work Is Never Done


There is no such thing as unisex. Men and women are completely and utterly genetically different. Completely.

A conversation I had with a woman from work the other day really set me off on this. She was telling me how when her husband gets their daughter ready for school for her he leaves the child's other clothes laying around instead of putting them away or in the hamper. My issue was that she used the phrase "for me" as in, "he got our daughter ready for school for me." Why for her? Isn't that his daughter, too? Isn't he just as responsible for her welfare and schooling as her mother?

I really wonder at these old fashioned ideals that we continue to carry around with us, stereo-typing each role we perform in our day-to-day lives. For example, ask a man to empty the dishwasher and, I've found, he will do exactly that. Empty it. No where in his genetic make up does "empty the dishwasher" necessarily also mean that he should put away the clean dishes and and then deal with that pile of dirty dishes in the sink by putting them into the now empty machine.

Women tend to know, without being told, that a dishwasher full of clean dishes should be emptied, the clean dishes put away, and then the washer re-loaded with all the dirty dishes waiting to be made clean. This is not a task that is somehow exclusively feminine in any way that I can see. Men use dishes, too. Yet, they just don't seem to grasp the full concept of tasks that are traditionally considered woman's work.

And I'll be honest, I'd be a very happy homemaker. I'd June Cleaver my days through cooking, cleaning (maybe not too much cleaning), laundry, sewing, whatever housewifely chores need doing. I doubt I'd do it in a twinset and pearls, but still, I'd be happy. I have no need to hold down a job outside of the home. (Just think of all the time I'd have to read and write!!) But, unfortunately, our household budget requires that I work a full-time job that brings in a certain amount of cash every week. So, since we both work full-time jobs (well, we did until my husband was laid off last June), why is it that the cooking, the cleaning, the laundry and the dishes are still somehow woman's work?

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

My First Novel


The other day I got to thinking about my first novel, which was based loosely on the 1960's version Harlequin romance novels. My lovely neighbor Mrs. Ward, who took an early interest in teaching me to read (I could read before Kindergarten), would lend me her books as part of a group of neighbor ladies who loved those romances. Initially, of course, she lent me (and taught me to love) more classic authors, like Mark Twain and Jules Verne, and I forget who else. Probably the books left behind by her two grown daughters. Her oldest daughter was and still is best friends with my sister who is 15 years older than me.

After instilling me with a love of reading, she then made me a part of the book group and we all shared the romances. She would, of course, hold back those she felt were too racy for me, since I was probably only 10 or so when she had run out of children's literature for me. I know I started writing that novel in one of those composition notebooks when I was in about 6th or 7th grade and I recall, dimly, that the heroine was named Faith Matthews, which clearly sounded romantic to me. The opening scene was Faith sitting out by the pool with a daquiri or some other random mixed drink which I knew nothing about then, and still don't.

When Mrs. Ward died, I was in my early 20's and her daughter told me she wanted me to have all those books. I went over with a box and loaded up dozens and dozens of Harlequins, all our initials in the front so we could remember which ones we'd already read, and her notes in the ones she felt were inappropriate for someone of my tender years to read. A few years after, when Mrs. McQueen (another of our group book ladies) passed away, her husband loaded up her books and came walking down the street, grocery bags in his arms, to give those to me as well.

I still have them all. Because some things are too precious to give away.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Please Excuse My Daughter by Julie Klam


Just finished Julie Klam's memoir, Please Excuse My Daughter. I loved it! No, really, I loved it. I felt like I had to read the whole thing in one sitting and I very nearly did.

I realize that some of this could be a hero-worship thing, since she's a successful writer and she talks to me on Twitter. But it's honestly not just that. Obviously, I was excited to read her book, since it felt like I already knew her (in that weird internet way that people know each other now), but also I was a little worried that I may not like it or may not have anything good to say.

But, thankfully, I have only good things to say. Julie's memoir is warm, funny, interesting and honest. She describes her life, good, bad and ugly, without holding back or trying to paint herself in the best light. That's rare.

Julie helped me to understand something about my sad little scribbles. Certainly, I don't think I'm anywhere near her level, but even so, she helped me to gain some insight about myself. While I'm always trying to hide my true thoughts from people, she is willing to share real emotion, and that's something that makes her writing so very powerful.

I can't wait to read her next book.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Magic For Beginners


A package came from Amazon this weekend and I was hoping it would contain Julie Klam's book, Please Excuse My Daughter, but as it turned out, I had completely forgotten my previous order. So instead, it was the Leverage Soundtrack CD and Magic for Beginners by Kelly Link. I'm not complaining.

I didn't have too much time for reading, since I was trying to write. (Please note the word "trying," since it basically sums up the last couple of days. But at least I was able to listen to the Leverage CD while I wasn't writing.)

In any case, I did manage to read the first couple of stories and so far, I love it! I've just had a long, long day, so I'm looking forward to snuggling up with Magic and a cup of tea before bed.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Stories of Breece D'J Pancake

I finished reading The Stories of Breece D'J Pancake. I'm still not sure how I feel exactly. I liked them, but I think I need more time to digest. My favorite of the stories was probably "Time and Again," which was, in my opinion, the creepiest of them, or maybe "The Way It Has To Be."

Ever since I started to read them, I've had the niggling feeling that the folksy Appalachian tales were somehow familiar or reminiscent of something I've read before. I just can't put my finger on it. I even tried doing a little research to see if anyone else thought the same. Apparently, no, because I couldn't find what I wanted.

In any case, what I found most interesting, was how much texture Breece Pancake's stories have, especially because of how young he was when the stories were written. Not that I'm saying you have to be older to write well, but obviously life experiences add to what you have to say. It just felt as if Pancake shared more in his stories than he would have been able to experience and absorb in his few years.

They were well worth the read, so you may want to check them out.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

To Read or Not To Read Bolano


So I got this book at the library, 2666 by Roberto Bolano, 896 pages of book.

I want to read it. It came highly recommended by somebody or other. As I may or may not have mentioned already, I've been feeling guilty that everything I've read in the last few years is at a grade school level. It's a shame really, because I could read before I hit kindergarten. When I was in third grade, I read at a seventh grade level; by seventh grade, I was at college level. Now I'm a dunce.

Anyway, in my last trip to the library, at the last minute before I headed to the check out, I grabbed the Bolano. I've just left it sitting on my bedside table, because I've felt so daunted by it. I mentioned that it has 896 pages, right? Plus, it has this tiny, tiny typeface. Also, it was translated from Spanish. I'm very nearly terrified of this book. And yet.

Just the other day on Twitter, I came across this site, BolanoBolano.com, where they are planning to have a group read of 2666. It looks like it might be fate.