Monday, December 31, 2007

Music Monday - Imagine by John Lennon

I have some stories about the Beatles and John Lennon, in particular. They're for another day, though. For today, I just want to wish you all a Happy New Year and leave you with one of the sweetest songs I know.

I hope we have a 2008 that will find the world in a more peaceful mood than it has been during the past several years. May there be change for the better.

Join Soccer Mom in Denial for more musical tales to start off the new year.

Lennon - Imagine live at Apollo Theatre-NYC(Dec 17, 1971)

Sunday, December 30, 2007

The Luxuries of Winter

Many of us seem to be settling in during this break between holidays. Anno speaks of the joys of finger sandwiches and reading on the couch; Greg has time for books, walks downtown, and introspection.

I thought I'd share my ultimate luxury scenario, which I've been enjoying this afternoon:

1 Sunday New York Times and the leisure to read the whole darned thing if I want to.
1 enormous cup of Celestial Seasonings Sugar Cookie Sleigh Ride tea
1 slice of lemon-blueberry buckle bread defrosted from the height of summer blueberry season and infusing my senses with the taste of summer
1 roaring fire
1 happy family engaged in other activities

Tomorrow craziness will ensue, but more on that tomorrow.

I hope all my blogging friends are having similarly delightful year-end events.

Friday, December 28, 2007

The Mom Thing

I'm on a weight loss/health site called sparkpeople. I really love it, because it offers amazing tools (calculators, recipe programs, exercise videos, strength training exercises), wonderful support, and it's free. On the side bar there are current topics of conversation through the message boards. This morning, one of those topics was "What is your biggest accomplishment of 2007?"

I wrote without hesitation: finally shopping my YA novel and getting a good start on my mystery series.

And then I paused.

Wasn't it a bigger accomplishment that my ds is back in a regular public school setting and doing well?

But that's his accomplishment, isn't it?

And then I thought, well, yes, it's his accomplishment, but I also gave six years of my life to help him get to that point. So, yes, it's my accomplishment, too.

But, you know, it isn't. And then I felt guilty, selfish, that I put my writing before what was a huge step for the family. That I was looking at ME in terms of my accomplishment rather than at my son's accomplishment or those of my students.

Because isn't that the nature of being a mom? That we subjugate? Especially if we're home full time? Because that's what our lives end up being about - our kids. Yes, our kids, and our spouses, and our parents, and our volunteer or part time positions out of the home, but really, we end up being all about our kids.

Or do we?

I'd love to hear from other moms on this subject. Or non-moms. Where do we, as moms, end, and where do we, as women, begin? And my comments above are in NO WAY a reflection that working moms are any less identified as moms than stay at home moms (just that you may get out of the house more often). ;-)

Okay... so why on earth would I feel guilty for posting about my own accomplishments rather than those of my son? What do you all think?

And now for a little book talk in honor of Day to Read, January 10, 2008:

It's vacation week, so I've been reading vacation-type books. I'm not finished with the second one, but I'm going to recommend both anyway, because they're both a lot of light fun.

The first is The Spellman Files by Lisa Lutz. This is a first in a series about Isabel "Izzy" Spellman and her wacky family of detectives. This is really a character driven book - the mystery aspects were almost non-existent, but I'd definitely pick up more by Lutz, as she had me on the floor laughing. And sadly, my younger self can relate to Izzy. (To find out why this is sad, you just have to read the book!)

The second book is apparently the third in a series, and it's called Foul Play: A Sophie Metropolis novel by Toni Carrington, a pseudonym for a husband/wife writing team. This one was billed as a mix between Janet Evanovich and My Big, Fat, Greek Wedding, and I think that about sums it up. It's about a P.I. from Astoria, Queens, Sophie Metropolis, and the ins and outs of her neighborhood, family and her search for romance in the not-so-big city. It, too, is very funny. Happy Reading!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Happy Holidays!

Love and sweet wishes for a Happy Holiday (for those who celebrate) and a happy year (for everyone) from our family to yours. Thank you all for making my life that much sweeter! See you in a few days - we're off to celebrate.

M (my Swedish daughter), C, my mom and my nephew N, when we were in New York in March visiting M and my Mom and about to see Spamalot, which
was a hoot!

D and C at Coit Tower in San Francisco in May

S (our German daughter) and C making Jack-O-Lanterns in October.

D and me snapped by M in May.

Friday, December 21, 2007

A Strange Week

This has been one strange week.

First off, my beloved little "guy" Starlight, guinea pig extraordinaire, had a heart attack and died Monday morning while getting a wound cleaning at the vet. He deserves a full tribute, but I'm not ready to write about him yet. He was by my side from his birth to his death, and he was my greeter in the morning and my snuggler in the evening. He was a good pig, and I miss him terribly.

This event came on the heels of friends staying with us from Saturday evening through Monday morning, as we were snowed in, and they lived over an hour away. It was lovely to have them and gave me an excuse to avoid all of my Christmas tasks. But, strangely enough, those tasks were still there when they left, and since Starlight died within two hours, I felt overwhelmed at the prospect of catching up.

But then I learned about two of my blogger friends who are having hard times with health issues affecting their children, and much as I loved my little piggy, it's nothing compared to a crisis with a child. And that gave me some great perspective. And my thoughts and prayers are with them.

Then my 83-year-old mother decided that she couldn't join us for Christmas. We're all going to a big family celebration and there are to be lots and lots of people who want to see her there. So that was very sad and disappointing. On the other hand, I understand her need to feel secure. She's made the decision that she feels comfortable with, and we all just need to love and support her. And she's selfless enough that she wants C to be with his cousins, aunts and uncles, so we're sticking with the original plan. So, again, I felt a great deal of sorrow.

But then there was this amazing news report of the father and children of the Dominguez family, who were rescued after being missing for two days in frigid weather. And the report showed the mother getting the call that the family was okay. And I burst into tears for joy.

And I guess when all is said and done, this is a season when the cycles of life are brought to mind. We miss our loved ones who are gone, and we feel thankful for those whom we still have.

It's easy to get caught up in shopping and baking and decorating, but we all need to remember that it's only about the people. Really, that's all that matters.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Bookish Meme

I was tagged by Wholly Burble to do an "8 random things about me" meme. In honor of Day to Read, January 10, 2008, I decided to choose 8 random books/authors that mean something to me, instead:

1. Age 4: The Little Engine That Could. I loved the old-fashioned illustrations from this book and even thought that milk might not be evil after seeing the happy children getting their bottles of milk. I also took the message to heart, and during various times in my life, thought of that little engine. I've been a lifelong fan of underdogs, and I think that started here.

2. Age 9: Harriet the Spy. She wrote everything down in a notebook. (So did I). She lived in New York City. (So did I). She spied on people from dumb waiters (I didn't, but I wished I could). She had social issues at school. (So did I). I loved Harriet for her flaws and her strengths, and I sympathized with her sometimes bizarre family life. And growing up in NYC can, indeed, be weird sometimes. And it was good to remember that writing can get you in trouble.

3. Ages 14 - 17: The Godfather and anything by Judith Krantz or Sidney Sheldon. They taught me about sex. (Or so I thought). Who needs bad info from friends when you can get it from 70s trash authors? 'Nuff said.

4. Age 15 - 18: Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy, Shakespeare, D.H. Lawrence, Emile Zola, James Joyce, Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald. I discovered classics and fell deeply, deeply in love. While junk may have fed my loins, these writers (and others of their ilk) fed my heart and mind and soul.

5. Age 17: On the Road by Jack Kerouac. And, of course, I had to take a road trip myself. Which I did, crossing the country at age 19 to see what there was to see.

6. Age 33: ALL of Jane Austen. I became pregnant. I apparently craved Regency England. I read her books over and over through the pregnancy.

7. Age 33: Operating Instructions by Anne Lamott. After giving birth, I took care of C and read this wonderful, tender book. And cried throughout both experiences with the joy and wonder and tragedy of life.

8. Age 37 (?): Discovering the Harry Potter series. J.K. Rowling brought sheer anticipation back to my reading. I was able to gobble up each and every book. And I still wonder whether she'll be seen as ground breaking 200 years from now.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Music Monday - My Favorite Latke Music

Okay, so I know that Hanukkah is already past. But it's typical of my very mixed upbringing that at the height of my connection to Judaism, my favorite Hanukkah holiday music was Christmas music.

I was completely enamored of all things Judaica at the time: I happily poured through Jewish cookbooks of all types, searching for the heritage recipes that my Christian mother had not been able to pass on. I was at Temple most days, (in fact, for a while I even worked at Temple). I learned Hebrew. I had an adult Bat Mitzvah. I was determined that my son would have the clear identity that I never had as a child.

But, darn it, Hanukkah music sucked.

Now, to be fair, there is one wonderful CD called Festival of Light, by such diverse artists as Marc Cohn, Rebbe Soul, and The Klezmatics. And what's not to like about Adam Sandler's The Chanukah Song,(as Flower Child shared with us).

But, you know, that lovely experience of the snow falling all around you, and wonderful cooking smells, and writing cards or wrapping presents - that belongs to Christmas music.

And I have always, always loved Christmas music. So even while I was in this, my most Jewish of phases, I continued to add to my massive Christmas music collection. And listened to it whenever I had the chance. And since I had grown up listening to Christmas music while doing holiday cooking (which had been Christmas cooking for the most part, for our Jewish holidays, we usually went to our neighbors' or to other friends' houses), I listened to Christmas music during the eight days each year that we made pancakes of one type or another (which was our Hanukkah tradition, because you're supposed to have something with oil each night of Hanukkah). So I give you, my all-time Favorite Latke Music:

The Roches have put together a sublime Christmas collection, called We Three Kings , that contains beautiful harmonies, wit and both traditional and unusual arrangements. And now that we're back to Christmas traditions again in our household, it's my favorite Christmas music, too. The clips below really don't do them justice, but enjoy!

SMID, over at Soccer Mom in Denial started Music Monday in this post, reflecting on her sons' learning history lessons from "Prof." Cash. Please join her, and others, for Music Monday

Christmas Caroling with The Roches

Wednesday, December 12, 2007


I do a lot of thinking in the shower. I'm not sure why, but I think it may have to do with the fact that I've always been attracted to, and soothed by, water. I loved swimming as a child and would brave the coldest waves if it meant I'd have my freedom in the ocean. As an adult I still enjoy swimming (although in much warmer temperatures), and I also love baths, showers, hot tubs, even drinking water (it's definitely my drink of choice). My favorite activity in the world, both as a child and now, has always been snorkeling.

So water provides me with fertile ground for thought. Sometimes I'm planning a scene for my novel or an entry for this blog, sometimes I'm creating a lesson plan, and sometimes I may just be having a philosophical discussion with myself.

This was a "philosophical discussion" morning. I'd just been working out, and I'd
been listening to the GooGoo Dolls' "Better Days". I'd gotten it mixed up with another song I have on my iPod, a different song that's terrific, but will probably be the "one-hit wonder". And I was reflecting on how many one-hit wonders there are these days, both in books and music.

We are speeding, hurtling through communications with incredible rapidity. We have so many choices in music, books, movies, TV, food, clothing that I think it's hard for anything to seem really special. I wonder what this says for our musicians and writers - how do they make something stand out? Of the masses and masses of "stuff" we have at our fingertips these days, what will we still want to retain 10 years from now? 20? And why, with the ever-increasing numbers of books and magazines in publication, do we see the same authors in the best seller lists? Are they really the best, or are we so tired of new choices that we grasp for anything familiar? And is this also true for music? How do songs or stories sift to the top?

So now, dear readers, I turn the question back to you - what do you think of all this? What makes something a classic, and why do you think our "top" lists in the arts contain the same names over and over?

And now for some BOOK TALK in advance of Day to Read, January 10, 2008:

Today's topic is author, scientist and producer, Kathy Reichs. I chose Kathy because when I wrote an earlier entry, several of you expressed similar joy in her books. I am just a huge fan. I love Tempe Brennan in her book series, and the very different Temperance Brennan of Bones. I love Andrew Ryan, the love interest of Tempe Brennan from the books, and Seely Booth, Temperance Brennan's partner (and maybe love interest?) from Bones. And I love the fact that Temperance Brennan of Bones writes a mystery series about a forensic anthropologist named Kathy Reichs.

For those who are not familiar with Kathy Reichs and her work, she is one of the fifty or so forensic anthropologists in North America. She works for UNC as a Professor of Anthropology, for the state of North Carolina's Chief Medical Examiner's office and for the province of Quebec, and at these last two, in her capacity as a forensic anthropologist. Her book character, Tempe, shares those jobs, and I'm particularly partial to Reichs's books that are set in Montreal. She brings Montreal to life with great affection, and it has now become a dream of mine to go there. Tempe is also in her forties, separated from a wandering husband to whom she's still attracted, and has finally allowed herself to fall into a relationship with Det. Andrew Ryan of the Montreal Police. She also has a college-age daughter. Themes of family are front and center throughout the series, as are timely issues. Since this is book talk, and not TV talk, I'll leave you with information about Bones via this link.

Kathy Reichs has fun with her world and her projects and it shows. I'm grateful to her for the many, many hours of delightful recreation that she's given to me and so many others.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Music Monday - Born to be Wild

Like a true nature's child,
We were born, born to be wild,
We can climb so high,
I never wanna die

- Mars Bonfire

February 1973. I was in 8th grade and falling in love. This would cause major problems later that spring when I was a "guest of honor" (so to speak) at a particular Bar Mitzvah, which has been written about here.

I went to a very alternative school from preschool through 8th grade. In fact, it started out as John Dewey's original lab school.

We took off school for moratorium days during the Viet Nam War. We staged sit-ins. We could get science credit for petition drives. We transformed our 4th grade classroom into an African village. We created a speak-easy to show our parents what we'd learned about American history. And twice a week, we had electives.

We were on the trimester system, and so we got to choose three electives each year, from what I remember. Electives reflected our very diverse curriculum, and probably included such gems as basket weaving and the History of Basketball. But starting in February, one of the middle school electives was "Rock Band".

I have to backtrack here, and say that starting in sixth grade, I had fallen in love with the guitar. From the moment I learned "Hey, Mr. Tambourine Man" in school (during a guitar elective), I decided I had to have my own. And a year of babysitting jobs later, I proudly walked down to the myriad music stores on 54th St. and bought myself a simple yamaha, which served me well until about 10 years ago.

But to make Rock Band even better, M. was going to join it. And encouraged me to join, too. M. was a blue-eyed, blond drummer and the object of my very confused desires. A younger man (12, as opposed to my worldly 13) but more experienced in the ways of love than I, having already had a long-term girlfriend for 5th and 6th grades. M. and I were still just friends, but we managed to find time to run into each other at least 10 times per day and have short exchanges. Something was brewing, and I had no clue what was coming.

So I joined Rock Band to have more time with M. And the song we picked, was perfect for young, hormone-mad teens. In fact, there may be no more perfect song to express the pure exuberance that is youth on a natural high: "Born to Be Wild" as done originally by Steppenwolf, for that movie about youth insanity: Easy Rider.

No matter that I had an acoustic guitar and our bass player drowned me out. No matter that I'm not sure we ever got the beat, despite M.'s best efforts. No matter that our music teacher chugged aspirin through our rehearsals.

We were.... Born to be Wild!

Enjoy the mixed (movie and band) clip below and get the FULL-ON 60s experience.

SMID, over at Soccer Mom in Denial started Music Monday in this post, reflecting on her sons' learning history lessons from "Prof." Cash. Please join her, and others, for Music Monday

Steppenwolf Born to Be Wild - Easy Rider

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Book Talk: No Place Like Home by Barbara Samuel

Just some BOOK TALK in advance of Day to Read, January 10, 2008 today:

I just finished a truly remarkable book: No Place Like Home by Barbara Samuel. It's a small book, in a lot of ways. A simple story about families and generations and labels. There's a romance. In fact, there are several.

It's so much more than the sum of its parts, however. I happened onto this book because it fit a category of research that I'm doing for my mystery. It was on my list of "books to read for research." While I usually enjoy these, I don't tend to jump up and down, as I might for, say, the latest John Burdett or Kathy Reichs.

This book was just exceptional, however, and absolutely earth shaking for me. Ms. Samuel gets families on a very deep level - the good, the bad, the ugly. She writes a book that brings ultimate joy from tragedy, but her characters have rough roads to cross along the way. I was entangled not only with her marvelous, rich characters, but with my own musings about my family relationships, past and present.

I ended up crying from about 3/4 of the way through the book until the very end. And I don't cry easily. And I didn't feel the least bit manipulated. This was just beautiful writing and beautiful characters and a perfect treatise on families and society and much more.

It's not for everyone who reads this blog. It's a quiet novel. There are no action sequences. No governments fall. But man, what a lovely, lovely story.

My best news of last night was that Ms. Samuel has several other books and I can now snap up. Happy reading!

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Annual Murphy's Law Week

Thanks so much for the well wishes! They are appreciated and I'm probably going to need them.

Because this is my third annual Murphy's Law Week.

Every first week in December, D leaves for a week to a conference. It is the perfect start to December, otherwise known around here as Hell Month.

The administrators for the project D works on, in their ultimate wisdom, schedule an increasingly longer conference every December just prior to the project's biggest software release. The release is usually scheduled for December 26th, which means that most Christmas holidays it is impossible for us to join relatives or see much of D at all. So, December consists of Dave being away for end-of-term school programs, most of Hanukkah (remember, we are a mixed family) and then returns to work 18 - 20 hour days, while I try to deal with finals, final grades, writing deadlines, Christmas prep, some sort of Hanukkah acknowledgment, and usually a visit from my mother.

I just love December.

But I love this week even more, because Murphy moves into my house while D is away, and he takes his boots off his stinky feet and sticks those feet up on my coffee table and refuses to budge from my favorite reading spot.

Two years ago, he visited us by blowing up our range top (think safety glass thrown ten feet) and my slicing off the tip of my thumb and being too pissed and stubborn to go to the doctor, so I walked around with bloody bandages for two days. (I know - TMI).

I can't even remember last year, but C seems to remember a trip to the ER. He's probably right.

This year Murphy moved in the moment D took off for his plane.

Murphy arrived and I got sick. This would have been okay, but:

I was hosting two teen events this past weekend.
We had a friend of C's staying with us from Saturday afternoon through Sunday evening.
There were two ice storms.
I had to go in to work to give exams.
My final grades are due.
C's interim grades are due at the end of this week and he's had masses of work.
I discovered a massive tumor on one of the piggies and another piggy was showing signs of a UTI.
First piggy has to go in for surgery tomorrow.
Both piggies were at the vet's today.

I'm still sick.

Did I mention how much I hate Murphy? He hasn't helped with any of this, and he hasn't even touched the dishes piled up in the sink, nor has he done the laundry that's accumulating downstairs.

He's not my favorite house guest.

So I'm going to kick Murphy out on his big, fat tuchus tomorrow. But in the meantime, I can sleep tonight with dreams of sugarplums dancing in my head, or dreidels singing "Hanukkah, oh Hanukkah". And I can talk about this:

BOOK TALK in advance of Day to Read, January 10, 2008:

The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde. I love Jane Eyre. It may be my favorite book of all time. And I love any kind of weird, funny contemporary fantasy. Jasper Fforde creates a parallel England where Romantic Poets are the equivalent of rock stars and an agent, Thursday Next, is pulled into Jane Eyre to fight against a villain who is kidnapping literary characters and wreaking havoc with the classics. It's funny, if sometimes juvenile and over the top (one enemy agent is named Jack Schitt, for example), but it's definitely a good light read for when you just want to laugh. This is the first in a whole series of Thursday Next books. They just get more and more off the wall, and after a while, they ran a little dry for me, although I'd certainly still read them. I enjoyed the second book just about as much as as I enjoyed the first one(which was a whole heck of a lot) because Miss Havisham is a major character, and it's a Miss Havisham that you've never seen before (among other things, she racks up speeding tickets like a Nascar driver). So for anyone who enjoys classics, and poking a bit of fun at British lit., find The Eyre Affair and have a grand old time.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Sick - The Annual Murphy's Law Week

I'm off dealing with sick humans and sick animals. I'll explain the title later. I'll also provide a Music Monday story next Monday and more book reviews when I return.

Off to bed now.

I hope that all of you off in bloggyland are doing well!

Friday, November 30, 2007

Things I've Learned from Nablopomo

It's been an interesting month. I set off at the beginning of November planning to add 50,000 words to my work-in-progress and to post here every day. With this post, I achieved my nablopomo goal, but I failed miserably at nanowrimo, which is weird, because I usually write about 1000 words on the wip/day. But not this month.

I mused about this, and I realized that part of it is that with the exception of a few days here and there, I really did have fun working up posts for the blog, and since there is immediate feedback (or feedcrack, as Luisa of Novembrance calls it) I was drawn to these posts.

This morning I sat down and did my novel first. Smart girl. Gotta go back to that.

I love nablopomo as a project, however. I loved seeing what my regular blogroll buddies would come up with on a daily basis. I learned that when desperate, Flower Child of Blooming Idiot will write about dryer lint, Gunfighter of The View from Here will start throwing up haikus right, left, and sideways, and Liz of Los Angelista's Guide to the Pursuit of Happiness will write about Rock Star Energy Drink. I was reduced to having a post about throwing up my hands on the whole deal, but I was rescued by a bunch of blog friends who cheered me on and gave me some ideas to write about. And for all of us, I laughed when I recognized that we were TIRED and had run out of ideas.

I learned that Luisa of Novembrance has got to be the most disciplined blogger in the universe. She sought out questions ahead of nablopomo and answered them in lucid, gorgeous posts from November 1st through today. I can't even imagine. She scares me, but I say this in a good way.

So, goodbye to nablopomo and hello to December, with its endless rounds of special this and that for "The Holidays".

And in keeping with my promise of yesterday, here's a little BOOK TALK in advance of Day to Read, January 10, 2008:

I guess I'm on a children's book jag, because Flower Child was running around talking about getting books for her nieces. I already told her about this series, but here it is for the rest of you:

I highly, highly recommend the Dealing with Dragons series by Patricia C. Wrede. Some of the books are better than others. The first one, Dealing with Dragons, is magnificent, however. It concerns Cimorene, a princess who runs away from home and begs a dragon to kidnap her, so that she can avoid marrying a sappy prince. When princes inevitably come to rescue her, she and her dragon friend, , just plain attack the princes back. Cimorene ROCKS. The character from the series that I love best, though, is Shiara, an always grumpy fire witch who shows up in book four. She's the kind of bad girl you just have to love. Enjoy!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Reading Day

DAY TO READ campaign

Soccer Mom in Denial, founder of Music Mondays, is trying to pull us on board for a very worthy cause.

Despite being a dedicated blogger herself, she is asking us to put away our blogs for a day on January 10, 2008. Why, you may ask? To read a book.

Anyone who blogs regularly reads every day. Here are some statistics, though, about reading in general (at least here in the U.S.):

* only 30% of 13-year-olds read almost every day
* the number of 17-year-olds who never read for
pleasure increased from 9 percent in 1984 to 19
percent in 2004 - that is 1 in 5 kids doesn't read for
* Almost half of Americans between ages 18 and 24
never read books for pleasure
*The average person between ages 15 and 24 spends 2 to
2 1/2 hours a day watching TV and 7 minutes reading

And here is a direct quote from the article that got SMID thinking in the first place:

"The poorest Americans who read did twice as much
volunteering and charity work as the richest who did
not read" [a direct quote of Dana Gioia, NEA
Chairman] "The habit of regular reading awakens
something inside a person that makes him or her take
their own life more seriously and at the same time
develops the sense that other people's lives are

Books were my saviors during a very chaotic and difficult childhood. I still remember the day when my elementary school librarian took me over to the fiction section and set Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time in my hands. I'd never met a character like Meg before. I didn't know there were others out there who felt the way I did. Meg became my best friend, and sustained me through a year of cruelty at school and confusion and family tragedy at home.

To support Reading Day, I'm planning to blog a bit about a different book each time I post, as part of my general posts, between now and January 9th. I'd love to see what books have also been important to my blogging friends. But on January 10th, I'm shutting the old computer down and reading. And then we can all come back together on January 11th and report on what it was like and what we read.

So, wanna join? If so, please get the code for the button from me at jenshaines at gmail dot com and hang it in your side bar. It will go nicely where that Nablopomo button has been sitting all month. ;-)

Breaking News! Dana Gioia will actually be speaking on the report that was the basis for the article, and about the state of reading in the U.S. in general, on NPR's Talk of the Nation at 2:00 p.m. EST today. Catch it if you can!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Be an Ally and a Friend: Transgender Day of Remembrance

I think we've all been stuck in something that makes us uncomfortable - a job, a conversation, even a piece of furniture. In the big scheme of things, this is minor. We can move on, fairly easily, to something else. And in general, society won't condemn us for it. We have simply enormous freedom in that respect.

But imagine being stuck in something that's not right, that doesn't fit, that's supremely uncomfortable day after day after day after day. And imagine that the only way you could become unstuck was by doing something that would take enormous courage, medical interference, and possible condemnation from both people you love and people on the street.

I'm sure I came up with a poor analogy above, but not being transgendered, it was the closest thing I could think of to what it must be like to be in the wrong body. It's hard for me to wrap my mind around how painful that must be. And I can only admire the extraordinary, mind-boggling courage it must take to finally make the switch.

And when someone does something that requires enormous courage and will make their world a better place and does no harm to anyone else, then they deserve full support and appreciation and kindness and most especially, tolerance.

The kind of tolerance that Tina Hester was denied on November 28th, 1998, when like many others that night, she met a man at a bar and took him home. And was murdered when he found out she was transgendered. And to make it worse, the local press reported that she "deserved" it for "tricking" the guy. Or Brandon Teena, who was raped and murdered on December 31, 1993, simply for living the life that felt right to him. His story has been portrayed in both the documentary, The Brandon Teena Story , and in the Academy Award-winning Boys Don't Cry .

Transgender Day of Remembrance was actually on November 20th, and I was confused about the dates. It was started in honor of Tina Hester and others who have lost their lives tragically through hate crimes. I figure it's never too late to bring attention to important issues, so here I am posting on the anniversary of her death. I was alerted to this important Day of Remembrance through Jami Ward's blog, Not THAT Different, and yesterday's post by Soccer Mom in Denial. In both of their blogs, they posted a wonderful PSA put together by GLAAD - the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, which is called "Be an Ally and a Friend" and which features reminding us to be just that - allies and friends to the transgendered community.

Since those PSAs have been posted through the other two blogs, I decided to provide some suggestions for action posted by the National Center for Transgender Equality:

Things You Can Do For Transgender Equality
be an ally & a friend resource guide > things you can do for transgender equality

Transgender men and women often face discrimination, bigotry and hatred from their families, friends and coworkers. These harsh reactions usually stem from fear and a basic misunderstanding of the transgender community. By being an ally and showing your support of transgender people, you are doing your part to help end ignorance surrounding transgender issues.

Here are some tips provided by the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE)on how you can increase transgender awareness:

1. Look at your favorite organization's policies and ensure that transgender people are welcome to join your country club, your work union or your book group.
2. Volunteer to help get a transgender-supportive candidate elected.
3. Ask your local film festival to include films inclusive of transgender issues.
4. Work to pass a non-discrimination policy in your workplace. Slightly less than one-third of Americans live in a jurisdiction with laws that ban employment discrimination based on gender identity and expression.
5. Submit an op-ed to your local paper about the transgender community. This is an effective way to express opinions and distribute information on transgender issues from a variety of voices.
6. Plan or attend a Day of Remembrance Event every November 20. This is a yearly opportunity to remember those lost to hate-motivated violence directed towards the transgender community, and also a time to encourage people to take action to make the world safer.
7. Start or attend a transgender support or education group in your neighborhood. These groups are often a vital way that transgender people connect with one another. To view a clip of a fictional transgender support group on ABC's All My Children.
8. Encourage fair, accurate and inclusive media coverage of transgender issues. Many people learn about transgender people from watching television or reading stories in the newspaper. GLAAD encourages journalists to use its Media Reference Guide when writing about transgender issues. If you see transgender people being misrepresented in the media, contact us at

To read all 52 of NCTE's "Things You Can Do for Transgender Equality," please click here.

The National Center for Transgender Equality is a national social justice organization devoted to ending discrimination and violence against transgender people through education and advocacy on national issues of importance to transgender people.

For more information about the GLAAD PSA campaign, please click here.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Roaring at Writing Game Buddies

Lovely Carol, of Northwest Ladybug, gave me this wonderful award, for which I'm very grateful! It comes at a particularly good time for a whole variety of reasons. Thank you, Carol!

So here are the rules:

List three things you believe are necessary for good, powerful writing and then pass the award on to the five bloggers you want to honor, who in turn should pass it on to five others, etc. Let's send a roar through the blogosphere! (The image above can be copied and pasted onto other blogs.)

Three qualities I believe are important for good, powerful writing:

1. Discipline. What I mean here is that you need the discipline to sit down with that manuscript over and over again until you get it just right. (This is the part I hate the most, and therefore I most admire writers who do this beautifully, like Charity of Writing Wrongs).

2. Honesty. Write what you know or research what you want to write. Be clear and honest with your characters, your voices and your settings. Don't be afraid to make your characters do something awful, if the story warrants it.

3. Write your passion. Write what gives you passion in life. When I say "passion" it might even be something you hate, but then know absolutely why you hate it. Passionate writing will trump anything that's anemic. Always. I don't care how much beautiful imagery you use, if you don't have passion you ain't got nuttin'.

Here are some bloggers I think deserve the "Roar for Powerful Words" award. It's actually a group, and it's actually a group of more than five. These are the brave souls who took me up on my Writing Game challenge at the end of October/beginning of November, along with their posts:

1. Anno of Anno's place. Anno was given ideas by Leslie of My Mommy's Place and she turned it into a wonderful story of love and betrayal, called "Storm".

2. Gunfighter of The View from Here. Gunfighter gave us a slamming start of a suspense series (while fighting off the flu no less!) with ideas generated by yours truly. His wonderful piece is called Gunfighter of "A Murder in Washington, DC".

3. Leslie of My Mommy's Place. Leslie took the ideas of SMID of Soccer Mom in Denial and turned them into an untitled Leslie of story of bittersweet internet intrigue.

4. SMID from Soccer Mom in Denial. SMID took Anno's ideas and turned them into a lovely story about an artist breaking away from a difficult mother in SMID from "Be True".

5. Veriano of Haikuku. I really want to encourage everyone to read this one for two reasons - 1. This entry came a little late and was missed on the Writing Game day itself (November 12th) and 2. This is the debut offering of my very own DH's blog! Veriano took Wholly Burble's rollicking ideas (I've had the pleasure of working with Wholly Burble in my online writers group for over five years now, and her ideas are always rollicking!) and turned them into a suburban mother's escape into her rock star wannabe past in "Strut at 40".

6. And finally, Ms. Wholly Burble herself, of Rocking Chair Ruminations. Gunfighter, who never does things halfway, gave WB a very specific group of historic characters to work with, and she did them proud with a Revolutionary War story that she now plans to lengthen into a novel: "The Road Home".

Monday, November 26, 2007

Music Monday - BNL

I wish I had a good story about The Bare Naked Ladies, but I don't.

I just really, really love them. They don't inspire me the way U2 does, but they make me laugh. A lot. And to laugh at myself, because I think I can relate more than a little bit to all of their insanity. And like Ed, I probably have more of a hair-trigger temper than I give myself credit for.

I love so many of their songs it was just really hard to choose. But I decided to go to my introduction to BNL - One Week. So enjoy, below.

And check in with Soccer Mom in Denial who started Music Monday and see who else is playing!

Barenaked Ladies - One Week - Live

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Thanksgiving Memories - final part

Here is part 1 and here is part 2 and here is part 3. Now for part 4:

So we were all awake by 5:30 or so. We didn't need alarm clocks, it was better than Christmas morning and you just wanted to be up.

Some of us had instructions to wake up our parents and some of us had instructions definitely not to wake them.

We'd pull on our warmest clothes and take an elevator or a staircase and make our way outside as quickly as possible. And in the street-lit darkness we'd find all of our old friends (Dino, Elsie, etc.), and new, blown to twenty feet high outside our doorways. And we'd shuffle around until some other members of the "gang" (no, not that kind of gang) would come out as well, and then we'd go as a pack across the stretch of the American Museum of Natural History, past the workers and the clown suits and smaller floats to 81st St. (the posh block I mentioned earlier) and we'd stare in rapt wonder at the beauty of the floats. The boys would be clustered by the inevitable pirate ship, and the girls would be lost in daydreams by the princess castle. Plus, another very important thing about 81st St.: we'd find out which celebrities would be part of the parade that year, as the signs for the floats were always prominently displayed in front of each float. So we'd oooh and aaaah over the thought that Carol Burnett; or the cast of the Partridge Family; or Marcia, from The Brady Bunch; would be there in mere hours. Standing, maybe, right where we were standing.

Exploring everything between 81st and 77th took a good couple of hours, because being New Yorkers, there was always a lot of need for commentary and debate. Was it as good as last year? Was the Cinderella float looking a little shabby? Would they retire it? Was Underdog gonna hang in there even though his TV show was off the air?

By 7 or 7:30, it was time to stake your place for the parade, if you were really dedicated parade-goers. And we were. And the parents would come streaming out of the buildings with step ladders and blankets and kids would perch on the rungs (unheard of today, but back then everyone understood that the little kids would get first priority), and we settled in with thermos cups of hot cocoa or coffee. And people were actually nice and in a good mood, so you could save spaces if your Mom had to run upstairs to baste the turkey, or your dad had to run with your kid brother because he had to go.

By 9:00 anticipation was running high - the Parade Leader on his big pedestal would be screaming orders into his bullhorn every couple of minutes, and we strained our ears to catch every word because these hints would let us know what fun was coming in which order. We played clapping games, jacks on the sidewalk, and talked to the policemen who were almost as excited as we were.

The only drag about 77th St. was that the bands, etc., wouldn't do their first routines until 62nd St. or so, but that was okay by us - we'd run upstairs the second that Santa had waved us off with his prerecorded, "HO! HO! HO!" and we'd run upstairs to turn the TV to channel 4, where we'd see all the band routines and acts by the Broadway and movie stars in front of Macy's downtown. Around the time the parade was leaving 77th, the beginning of parade would just hit Herald Square.

So we'd watch our parade, minus the acts, surrounded by the love and happiness of our entire neighborhood, excitement staving off the cold, and take in the best that New York had to offer.


Saturday, November 24, 2007

Thanksgiving Memories, pt. 3

Here is part 1 and here is part 2. Now for part 3:

We saw clusters of kids like ourselves, wrapped in the warmth of our moms, dads or siblings, walking in a sleepy haze with cups of hot chocolate supplied by the Block Association.

We saw Snoopy's nose, 5 feet high, and maybe the tip of his 15 foot snout. So that's how we knew where Snoopy was. Earlier in the evening, on the way home from Chinese or the pizzeria, or from a friend's party (and there were lots of them that night), we'd look at whatever balloons had been partially or completely unrolled on their tarps and we'd make guesses. We were often wrong, but those of us who were true, old-timers could usually make pretty good guesses at the regulars.

The regulars included Elsie the Cow, from Borden's Dairy Products, the Sinclair Oil Dino the Dinosaur, Underdog, and Mickey Mouse. Snoopy was newer, as were an ever-changing cast of the latest cartoon characters. In later years there were Muppets, Smurfs, etc.

I never liked watching Mickey Mouse being blown up. His ears weren't solid like the rest of the balloons. They had thick rims but thin membranes for the middle. And I was sure those membranes were going to burst in the wind. Underdog's ears were similar, but they didn't have anything holding them still, like the rims of Mickey's ears, so I figured if they blew off, no one would get hurt.

I was scared of that Mickey Mouse.

Usually two balloons would be going at a time, and we were only allowed to stay up for one balloon to be completed, which usually took around an hour. We always hoped that one of our favorites would be going at the time we were awakened. Sometimes you got to stay later if your mom was part of the hot chocolate crew, because, let's face it, the dads wanted to be out there as much as you did, and they'd let you stay out later.

The balloons would be blown up in sections. It isn't like you send in the helium tanks and it starts at one end and is a smooth progression - a hand would be blown up, then maybe a tail, a snout or a head, and finally, the torso would generally be last. Then the weighted nets would be placed over the finished products, because these babies were huge, and would take several folks with them if they took it into their rubber heads to blow away.

If you were a teen, you might stay later. But probably not. You would have been up, and after your pizza you would have drifted from one apartment to another, with an occasional wake up run through part of Central Park. You would have stayed up straight through balloon time. But you'd be out there, along with everyone else. And you probably weren't too grown up to accept a cup of hot cocoa from Mrs. Mendez down the street.

But all fun comes to an end, and young or older, you wanted to be in bed by 1:00 or so - early for a holiday night for the teens, but you knew you'd be up at 5:30 and out by 6:00 the next morning, when the streets would belong to just the neighborhood for the last time.

Tune in tomorrow for the last part of this neighborhood tale...

Friday, November 23, 2007

Thanksgiving Memories, pt. 2

So here's what it was like:

The longest three hours of the year were from 8:30 to noon when we had school that day. The entire city had school until noon, always ended by a Thanksgiving concert or production of some sort, and then everyone ran from their prisons institutions of learning with hysterical relief. It was the first "real" vacation of the year - a four and a half day weekend. And everyone was more than ready. Especially on 77th street.

The street was closed down by about 1 pm or so. From 1 until 5, we kids had free reign of that wonderful, smooth pavement. No cracks, no textured cement, just smooth sailing for our skates, roller hockey, bikes, etc. We ran and played like spirits possessed - we never knew how long we'd have, so we had to take advantage of every possible second.

Around five or so, folks from Macy's would start arriving and shoo us back to our apartments. They'd spend the next five plus hours laying out the tarps and the flattened balloons.

Upon returning to our apartments, TV dinner or spaghetti smells would hit us like warm breath. We were ravenous, starving after four to five hours of serious outdoor play, but our mothers always admonished us not to eat too much - "save room for the turkey tomorrow."

As I got older and our neighborhood got more varied and safer, the TV dinners and the pots of spaghetti generally went by the wayside. More business appeared around the corner on Columbus, and as a junior high kid, I could usually be counted on to join friends for a slice of pizza a coke at the pizzeria around the corner, or sometimes my parents decided to go out for Chinese on 72nd St. One particularly memorable Thanksgiving Eve, we went to dinner and my brand new boyfriend was invited along. I remember taking his arm and feeling very sophisticated on our five block walk downtown.

As a younger child, though, I'd inhale my plate of spaghetti and be pushed into an early bedtime, for the fun was still to come. Around 11:00 p.m. a mysterious phone chain was started after some telltale sounds from the street, and mothers throughout the entire neighborhood would wake their sleeping children - children in footies, children in flannels, children in Cinderella or Raggedy Anne nightgowns, and we'd put on our slippers and a coat and we'd trundle down to see what was there... and for what we saw, tune in tomorrow!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thanksgiving Memories

New York City in the 60s and 70s was truly a great place to be a kid.

There were no worries about September 11, poisoned water or subway systems. The tallest building in the world, for most of that time, was the Empire State Building.

Museums were free.

I rode the bus alone, from age 7 on, to my rounds of ballet lessons or in going back and forth to school. I had a "bus card" and kids could ride anywhere just by showing that magic piece of colored paper.

Yeah, there were problems. I was mugged several times by the time I was 11. There was a time in my life when I became scared to go outside alone. My old neighborhood is "oh-so-posh" now, but it certainly wasn't that way when I was growing up. There used to be a pretty rough bar on the corner and a welfare hotel down the street that housed junkies and former (or current - we weren't sure which) prostitutes, who would comment on our outfits as we passed by, or give us advice that we were too young to understand. Kids I knew from the neighborhood spent time in juvie. The "smoke shop" guy around the corner dealt drugs, and we all knew it. There were teen pregnancies, overdoses, kids who were beaten by drunken dads or moms.

But all of those events were stuck away in the corner of my mind, where I tried not to touch them. I was lucky enough to go to a private school, so my days were orderly and I learned well; my apartment was clean; my building was safe; my parents were educated and caring and had dreams for me beyond the neighborhood.

One time of the year, however, all of us - kids of all stripes, backgrounds and sizes, moms of all ethnic, religious and economic backgrounds, dads who worked in factories, dads who owned factories, and dads who couldn't find work - all came together for the best night of the year: Thanksgiving Eve.

Now, there was no actual holiday called Thanksgiving Eve, but there was if you grew up in our neighborhood. Because my block was the block where they blew up the balloons for the Thanksgiving parade. My block was the block where the parade started, where the bands were lined up and stretched down Central Park West for what seemed like miles, where the parade leader would shout over the megaphone: "Odessa High School, step lively behind Goofy, please!" "Rockettes, take your positions!" "Diana Ross - Miss Ross, are you on your float?" And my friend Kate's block, the truly nice block on the other side of the museum, well, that was where the floats were assembled, creating fairy castles and Santa's workshop, giant turkeys and Gingerbread Houses overnight.

But in the interests of getting my turkey done, and not creating a long post when many of us have too much to do today to read long posts, I will return tomorrow to how this all played out each year...

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Wordless Wednesday: Reunited

C and S on Halloween as a vampire hunter and a lederhosen girl - the latter was a joke, because S hates the stereotype that Germans would run around wearing either lederhosen or a dirndl. And now her boyfriend has to have lederhosen for some of his gigs, so she borrowed them for Halloween here (and, of course, the traditional Bavarian costume would be a dirndl for her, not lederhose). And yes, that wasn't so wordless.

For those that don't know what lederhose or dirndls are click here and scroll down a bit.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

I may be done...

with Nablopomo. I've gotten to the point today where all I can come up with is another pointless meme, so I'm going to give you all a break from my ramblings.

(But this counts, right)?

See you tomorrow with a picture. 'Cause it doesn't involve words.

Now does that mean I can split it in two and post half tomorrow and half Thursday because a picture is worth a thousand words?

Maybe I should have posted that meme instead...

Monday, November 19, 2007

Music Monday - Walk On

Since I'm joining Music Monday for the first time, I had to start with U2. It's hard for me to explain just what U2 means to me. Bono and the lads are my "go to" guys for any hard day, exhilarating day, boring day, exciting day, and well, you probably get the point by now. I absolutely would not have gotten through grad. school without them. Or probably motherhood for that matter. Their music absolutely leaves me on a high, as do most of their politics (or maybe all of their politics - I just don't know all of their politics). I just love them in every, possible way.

I chose "Walk On" because of all my favorites, it's the song I have most often in my head when I'm writing. It's the song that just lifts me like wings.

And my nephew is just plain wrong - U2 knocks the pants off of Red Hot Chili Peppers in terms of influence over the past 20 years. Any. Day. You wanna argue with that? The gloves are ON!

I can never get my youtube clips to work into an actual post, so please look below for the clip.

SMID, over at Soccer Mom in Denial started Music Monday in this post in this , reflecting on her sons' learning history lessons from "Prof." Cash. Please join her, and others, for Music Monday.

U2 - Walk On [US Version]

Sunday, November 18, 2007

A Good Book

As some of you figured out from my Singular Saturday word, I needed some time to myself this weekend. And I'm one of those folks for whom "time to myself" usually involves reading a good book.

This time, I got to finish a fantastic book that I started long, long ago and only this weekend was able to return to. It's not that the book didn't grab me initially; it's more that I've had to read the classics that I teach, as well as many other books for my novel research.

One of the best things about this fantastic book that I read, Nightswimming, is that it was written by one of our fellow bloggers - Rebecca James.

I had the great good fortune to spend the last day and a half with Sarah, Brett and Josh and become completely immersed in their story. The synopsis can be found here , but I guess I'd add that the reason that I enjoyed the book so much was because the characters were so easy to relate to, the settings so familiar, and I was absolutely engrossed. It doesn't matter that the settings were in Australia; anyone who has had children and seen their romantic relationship change as a result will understand both Sarah's and Brett's feelings and actions. It was just absolutely marvelous writing and I enjoyed every minute of my escape.

As an appetizer, I was able to read the work of another talented, fellow blogger, Marianne Arkins. Last week was the release of her new story, "The Christmas Curse," and it is a humorous, light-hearted romp. I call this an appetizer because it's a short story, rather than a novel, but it brought me a very different kind of escape - one of laughter and lighter moments.

I'd happily and heartily recommend both books, and you can buy Rebecca's Nightswimming here, and Marianne's "The Christmas Curse" here.

I thank both of them for my wonderful weekend "getaway".

Saturday, November 17, 2007

After Spinning Plates


Singular Saturday was started by Jenn in Holland (for which legions of Nablopomo participants are grateful to her). Go check her out and look for other Singular Saturday participants in the blogosphere!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Spinning plates

There are times when life is just a bowl of cherries, and there are other times when life is just a mass of spinning plates.

You know those plates - the kind that someone in a circus or at a fair sets spinning on the ends of impossibly long wands, that are balanced on various parts of his/her body, and more and more plates are added, each one spinning, until they all crash down.

This morning I sit here in my office with a to do list longer than my arm. My sweet, wonderful German daughter has safely landed back in Germany, and the house is empty. I've given up on Nano, realizing that I need to do a plot overhaul on the novel (but all of this is good news - on the days I can write, I'm averaging 2,000 - 3,000 words). I need to do final prep on my send to the Golden Heart and continue to query the paranormal and I still need to do some research for the mystery. But I'm still IN for Nablopomo. To quote a lovely little boy named Andrew: "Boo-yah!"

And then there are the normalcies of life: basics like cleaning and balancing the books, both of which have been neglected for too long. And spending some time with D and C is always a good thing.

Finishing the semester for my students would also be useful. ;-)

And then there's the fun stuff - blogging and reading blogging and corresponding with bloggers and reading and cooking.

And I really should exercise.

And while I'm at it, there are several political causes that certainly demand my attention.

Now, while this might seem whiny, I'm actually in a glorious mood today. I'm determined to keep those plates spinning. All of them. And it's all good. I feel incredibly lucky to have all those plates. And to keep 'em spinning.

But I do miss my German daughter, S.

P.S. And no worries about those who asked for interview questions - they're almost all done and I had a BLAST doing them!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

An Interview with... Moi!

Carol, over at Northwest Ladybug, had this really fun activity a few weeks ago. Another blogging friend of hers prepared individual interview questions for regular readers and then sent it out to those bloggers to respond to on their blogs.

And Carol issued the same invitation. And knowing Nablopomo was coming up, I took her up on it! So here are her questions and my answers:

1.) What have you found to be the biggest joys and challenges regarding your writing?

Nothing like starting me off with a bang! The biggest joy is probably those rare times when everything comes together at once. You're "in your zone" with your fiction and your characters and plot are just zinging along. And I'll also be honest here - another big joy is when someone reads your stuff and clearly just loves it. So that brings the challenge thing - getting published. Keeping up with the ins and outs of getting published, the queries, the rejections, the political stuff, etc. Another challenge I have with the writing itself is that second draft. The first one usually flows, but getting the second one down, which is really major revising, rather than editing, is my bugaboo. I do tend to revise as I go along with the first draft, but the second is the BIG PICTURE revising draft, and as I am a very impatient person, I just stink at this.

2.) Can you name an experience in your past that had an immediate and significant impact on your character? Forming it, strengthening it, challenging it, etc.

This was a totally easy one. There are two: living in Soviet Russia and teaching school there for a semester and having my DS and becoming a mom. Hands down, those are the two most character-forming experiences of my life.

3.) Tell me about something that makes you laugh.

My DH. He makes tons of puns and is great at silly jokes. Sometimes they aren't funny, but he's charming about that, too. I've never laughed so hard in my life at some of the things he's come up with.

4.) Tell me about your favorite job. What about your least favorite?

Favorite job is a hard one, because I've really been lucky to love many of them. I'm really enjoying the teaching I'm doing right now. I have two groups of AMAZING high school students whom I really enjoy. I also love (almost) any job that involves writing. I'm really a writing whore. Give me something to write and pay me for it and I'm happy. ;-) My least favorite job - EASY - selling encyclopedias door-to-door to businesses. As much as this job would stink going to homes door-to-door, it was that much worse going business-to-business, because, I mean, aren't merchants all about stopping their work days and leaving paying customers standing there because they totally NEED encyclopedias at their auto mechanic shops, grocery stores, clothing stores, etc.? The Limited, Too staff is so completely in need of encyclopedias to get through their day, for example. (Not meaning to put down or single out those salespeople, I'm just saying the whole enterprise was ridiculous).

So... wanna play? Just let me know via a comment here and make sure I can reach you via e-mail and I will send you some interview questions tailored just for you!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The Best Bumper Sticker I've Seen in a Long Time:

My Child is an Honor Student. My President is a Moron.

'Nuff said.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Spice girls wannababes

In honor of renaming the guinea pigs in my current mystery to Ginger Spice, Posh Spice, Sporty Spice and Scary... and because you can never have too much spice in your life.

Monday, November 12, 2007

The Writing Game - It's HERE!

This story came from the ideas of Veriano from Haikuku:

Story Ideas:
- Unambitious, unsatisfied thirty something wondering if this is all there is to life.
- A sharp private detective who is ambitious and wants to work for progressive causes and who also needs to pay the bills.
- A seven year old who wants to go home. Now.
- Someone who now has enough money to retire and who has just given up their prior job.
- An old girlfriend / boyfriend happens by unexpectedly and asks a question.

Spide, Sam Spide

I was sitting at my desk on a Tuesday night. I had closed up shop for the day and was reviewing the material for the DiGregorio case. The pictures were clear. Yeah, she was right. He was cheating. The same story among thousands, in this town of Hollyweird.

I was sick of this crap. When was Erin Brockovich gonna knock on my door? Greenpeace? Even the American Civil Liberties Union for Chrissake. Was it so wrong of me to want a little morality in my future? A little chance to mean something in this way-too-short life we’re given?

Sure, I had enough dough to take me to Brentwood and back. Yeah, I had enough of a rep now among the starlets and the agents and the producers. Star backing out of a contract for “exhaustion”? Trophy wife maybe not being such a trophy after all? Questionable investors on a big name film?

I’m your man. Sam Spide. Yeah, Spide, not that other “Sam.” And believe me, this name sucks, when you’re a private dick. And I am. A private dick, that is.

One of the best dicks you’ll ever know.

But despite this, despite the fame and the fortune and the cash, despite the romps in the hay with girls half my age who can’t spell their own names, I can’t attract the cases I really want. No one wants Sam Spide to dig up the dirt on the Governator. No one wants Sam Spide to dig deep into the latest pork project. No one wants Sam Spide to find out why the Anaheim City Council won’t give the green light to an appropriately green project.

Oh, no. I’m just Hollywood’s lackey.

And as I was about to reach into my desk drawer for my little silver canister of something good, there was a knock on the door. Could it be? Was this finally my call to what I wanted - my chance to be a real name for liberal causes? Could this be my ticket to an interview on The Daily Show? A chance for a mention on The Huffington Report? Or (drool) a chance to meet… (gasp) Samantha Bee? She may be married, but what dame isn’t these days?

But no. I got up to answer the door. And there she was. Walking into my life just like she walked out nine years ago.

“Hello, Sam,” she said in that voice that sounded of honey dripping through liquid smoke.

She was a cool drink of water, alright. All 5’8” 120 lbs. of her packed into a mauve pencil suit, that showed off all the right curves in all the right places.

“Jasmine,” I was speechless for once. “It’s been a long time.”

“Um, yeah. Can I come in? This won’t take long.”

I took her in, my eyes taking a snapshot of every pore. “Yeah. Sure.”

But she didn’t move. She looked to her left, out the door and out of my vision. “I said it won’t take long.” And she put her hand out to whoever was on the other side.

And taking her hand was a much smaller hand, followed by an arm attached to a little redhead, the spitting image of her Mom, and dressed in an array of colors that reminded me of jello shots on a Saturday night.

“But Mommy. I. Want. To. Go. Home. Now.” The little lady pulled on Jasmine’s arm, and she meant business.

I went behind my desk and sat down, pulled out my little canister of something good and took a long swig. Jumping Jehosovat. Jasmine had a Mini Me.

Jasmine came in, despite her daughter’s protests to the contrary, and sat herself down in one of the two chairs on the other side of my desk. “Sam, Jasmina – “ Jasmine waved to the little girl. “Jasmina, Sam. Sam’s an old friend of mine, Baby.”

“Tough shit,” the little angel whined. “I want to go hoooooommmmmmeeeeeee.”

“Now, Darling, you know we don’t use language like that.” Jasmine drew herself up, her posture as stiff as an ice sculpture in February.

“But Daddy does. All the time.” Jasmina squatted down in a corner of my office and started to pull tiny dolls from a tiny Prada bag. And I think it was a real Prada. She began playing, and I felt like Jasmine and I might be off the hook.

“So, you walk out nine years ago and you walk back in married with children.”

“Yeah, that about sums it up.” Jasmine examined her long, perfect, fuchsia nails. “So, you getting any, Sam?” Jasmine looked up at me, her emerald eyes sparkling in the LA smog reflected in my windows. “You getting any good cases?”

“Nah, same old, same old. Britney one week, Lindsay the next.”

“Sorry,” the honey-drenched voice purred. “I was hoping Greenpeace had called by now.”

“No such luck.” I took another swig of my something good. I offered it to Jasmine, but she shook her head with the delicacy of a rose petal blowing in a Madrid breeze.

“So what brings you here? You miss me?” Yeah, sure, and horses dined at Nobu.

“Well, I had a question for you, Sam. A job, maybe.”


“I’ve seen it all, done it all, had it all. I’m married to,” and here she coughed the name into her silk-covered wrist, so that his identity wouldn’t be compromised. “I have enough money, married or divorced, to last me several life times. So, last month, I took the plunge. I quit my job as a librarian.”

I almost dropped my canister mid-swig. “No!”

“Yes.” Tears welled up at the corners of those amethyst eyes, which had seemed emerald only moments before.


“Yes!” She pulled a patterned Pucci handkerchief from her identical (though larger) Prada purse and dabbed at the corner of those aquamarine eyes.

“Mommy, I want to go home! Now!” Jasmina had stood up again and was crossing to her mother’s chair. She started to climb onto Jasmine’s lap, but Jasmine gently, but firmly redirected her to the chair next to her, saying:

“You know we mustn’t mar Mummy’s suit.”

Jasmina took the chair next to her mother and folded her little arms and pouted her little lips.

Jasmine folded her arms and crossed her legs and pouted a bit like her daughter. Oh, Boys, let me tell you. It was a glorious sight.

“Yes,” Jasmine repeated softly. “So, I have no idea where to go. What to do. There’s only so many stores in the world. So many spas…” she trailed off. “I mean, is this… is this all there is?”

I nodded sympathetically, and remembered, a searing pain in my left ventrical, just why I’d loved this woman so many years ago.

“So, what do I do, Sam? Where do I go?”

“HOME, MOM, NOW!” Jasmina jumped up and bashed her mother over the head with the little Prada purse.

“Now, now, Darling,” Jasmine shushed her. “We mustn’t muss Mummy’s hair.”

Jasmina kicked my desk and went back to her corner, dumping her dolls out on the floor again.

I thought about the dame’s predicament. It was a tough one, alright.

And then, as the last light of day caught her ale-brown eyes, it came to me. Brilliant. Even if I do say so myself.

“I’ve got it! And it’s brilliant. Even if I do say so myself.” I sat back in my chair and had some more of something good.

Jasmine leaned forward in her chair, her pink tongue licking her lips in anticipation. Jasmina started gathering up her dolls again and looked at me expectantly as if to say, “Does this mean I can get the hell home now?”

I was going to make both ladies very happy. “Here’s the thing, Jazz.” I loved calling her Jazz. That word hadn’t left my lips in nine, long years. “There’s this thing you can get. As a civilian, now. It’s called a library card. You can visit the library any. Time. You. Want.”

“Oh my God! Really? I can go back to the library? Just by using a card?!” She clasped her hands in supplication and a quick prayer escaped her lips. Then she jumped from her chair, ran around my desk and gave my shoulders a quick hug and my cheek a quick peck. “I knew if anyone could solve this, you could.”

Tears streamed down her face, leaving her mascara running in rivulets. “Jasmina! We can go HOME now!” she cried joyfully, and Jasmina ran behind my desk, gave my shoulders a quick hug and my cheek a quick peck.

And before I knew it, I was alone again. Just me, the LA sun setting in the west, and a little swig of something good.

Maybe Greenpeace would call tomorrow, but for today, I had done my little bit for service in this world. And life was good.

For other stories in The Writing Game, just click below!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Singular Saturday on a Sunday


For more words today, join Jenn in Holland and the Soap Opera Sunday crew for some soapy goodness!

For more words tomorrow, join us here for The Writing Game!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

My Bank Account versus My Penis

No, I don't have a penis.

Never have and never will.

Didn't even have penis envy, other than one time when I was about four years old and arguing with my best male friend, T, about which, um, gender (? - no, it was more about anatomy) was best, and we ran into my bathroom and he showed me how far away from the toilet he could be and aim. And yes, that was pretty cool and impressed me for about five minutes. (My argument that I could sit down and be comfortable didn't hold the same amount of weight. Darn.)

But I have two e-mail addresses, and one thinks I'm in terrible shape financially and the other thinks I need to build up my penis.

And it's hysterical, because it's not like I get a mixture of these spams between the two accounts: AOL spammers DEFINITELY believe I need financial help. Gmail spammers DEFINITELY believe my penis is too small.

Now, some folks could argue that it all boils down to the same thing. I could get very Freudian here, but some might argue that I'd need a LARGE bank account to account for a SMALL penis, or that if I was sufficiently not the man I should be that my SMALL bank account would match my SMALL penis. And then there's been all that research about the fact that TALL men do better in life then SHORT men, but we're not going to go there, because, after all, this post is all about bank accounts and penises.

Now, according to AOL spammers, I have bank accounts at most of the major world banks. And my security has been breached at all of them. (Note: for those who don't know this is phishing). And if this weren't enough, apparently my investment strategies aren't too robust, either, because I immediately need to invest in a half a dozen "sure" things. But my financial smarts can't be too bad, because I'm also invited to be the representative for any number of international "businesses," where all I have to do is give them my bank account numbers and they'll wire money into my account for "safe keeping." And yes, I do report these spammers, and in a couple of cases, I've called the police and alerted them. But be that as it may, on a bad day, I could definitely be worried about my security, identity, and financial state if I were looking at AOL spamming trends.

In terms of my gmail spammers, I really have nothing to say. Perhaps the name Jen is too confusing. I could really be Jan... or maybe I'm Jens... that could work. But then that is assuming that everyone with the name Jan or Jens needs penis work. I certainly hope not. To condemn an entire category of names worldwide to penis reconstruction, creams or the like would be an awful fate. Talk about predetermination! I just do my daily dump of spam in terms of the gmail - really, these spammers just don't have my number. And I must say, even if I were male, I'm so medicine/surgery phobic (unless those things are REALLY necessary) that the likelihood that I would change a part of my anatomy with anything would be pretty slim to none.

Okay... way too long for a post on penises and faulty financial security. But what about you? What do your spammers target YOU for? Come on... don't be shy... they can't be any worse than mine.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Writing Game - It's Coming Monday!

Quite some time ago I posted an idea for a bit of writing fun. I had nine brave respondents, who've now dwindled to seven, and on Monday we're going to post our stories.

I'm going to add the links to this post later, as I am pressed for time right now, but here are the list of victims brave participants:

Anno of Anno's place
Gunfighter of The View from Here
Wholly Burble from Rocking Chair Ruminations
SMID from Soccer Mom in Denial
yours truly
My DH of his soon-to-be blog - Haikuku
The lovely Leslie from My Mommy's Place

So be there, or be square!

And for other writing fun, Jenn in Holland is hosting Soap Opera Sunday this week, so don't skip that, either!

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Update on Pookie Girl

UPDATE: Firelight is JUST fine - she made it through the surgery like a trooper, is happily bossing us all around and the tumor was completely benign

Thanks so much for all the kind comments! And now, have fun with the video below:

the guinea pig way

Piggies in all their charm!

Pookie Girl

Yeah, I know. It's embarrassing. But I really do call my guinea pigs "pookies". I never used baby talk with DS or any other human baby or small child, but for some reason I do smear the dignity of Sunshine, Moonbeam, Starlight and Firelight.

Each piggy has his or her own personality, and I'm not planning to go into all of them today, but I do want to focus on Pookie Girl, otherwise (and properly) known as Firelight.

Sunshine is the mom to Starlight and Firelight, and the two young 'uns ended up with the monikers of Pookie Boy and Pookie Girl. At least by me. I believe my DH and I know my DS rolls his eyes in disgust when I use these terms of affection.

Pookie Girl is by far our smartest guinea pig. In fact, she may be one of the smartest anywhere, according to her behavior and according to our vet. Even though she is not the Alpha (a very important role in guinea pig society), she can manipulate the others, even Pookie Boy (who is the alpha) to let her do whatever she wants - eat in the food dish she wants, wrestle the pigloo away from one of the others, get the warmest spot on the pillows when they're roaming outside, get groomed when she wants it and be left alone when she wants that.

She is also sleek, healthy, curious and a good eater - all those signs you want to see in happy guinea pigs.

So it was with no concern that I brought her to the vet this morning for her annual physical. And then it was with great shock when our lovely vet found a very palpable mass along her mammary track. And now it's two hours later and she's still at the vet for emergency surgery, which will be performed at 3:00.

Well, I'm sure that some of you are saying - crazy person - she's having surgery done, on a guinea pig?!

Well, yes. They are our little, furry companions and they've been good friends, and any creature who is under my roof (except many of the 6-legged kinds) will be treated with kindness, care and medical care.

So, I'm distracted, edgy and just waiting for the call from the vet. And even after today we won't know if she's going to make it - whether this is a benign tumor, a lymph situation or the guinea pig equivalent of breast cancer.

I'm just hoping she makes it okay. And that it's nothing. And that we get to keep her around for the next 3 - 5 years that would be her normal life span.

She's a good pook. And here she is:

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Not So Wordless Wednesday - Punk Angel

Last spring, my family and I had the great good fortune to be able to travel to San Francisco. We came out of a very popular breakfast spot one morning and found this angel smiling down at us. We were all intrigued by the spikes, and realized they were pigeon deterrents.

This is my DH's photo. He's a wonderful photographer and haiku master, and I'm hoping he'll get his own blog up and running soon, and then you can see his photos there!

For those familiar with SF, can you guess where this was taken?