Archive | April, 2011

Hippity-Hoppity Happity Easter!

24 Apr

Happy Easter one and all! I hope you have a lovely Sunday, whether you’re celebrating the holiday or not.

Wanna know how I got in the Easter mood? Arts and crafts, o’ course!

I made Easter egg cakes:

But since the only food colorings in the cupboard were blue and green, some of them ended up resembling alien eggs. Oh well.

I made a book-page egg wreath, inspired by the one found on Away With Words:

Whew! I happen to consider myself something of a savvy crafter, but this was one HARD project. I’ve already announced that this decoration will be enjoyed for a little while after the Big E-Day–I worked too hard to only enjoy it for one day of the year!

I hope you’re refueling with some family time or sunshine time or lazy Sunday time! Don’t forget–today, your chocolate consumption should increase like bunnies.

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What Are You, Chicken?

22 Apr

Lucy: One Tough Chick

There are chickens in the neighborhood. I don’t know where they are, or even which house is hosting them, but I can hear them cluck-clucking when I stand in our backyard. I’m mildly curious as to why someone has chickens and mildly concerned that they’re being kept in the backyard of a semi-suburban home and not on a nice farm somewhere. But as I’m only mildly anything, the chickens haven’t really bothered me too much.

Lucy, on the other hand, is losing it.

Lucy is one of our dogs. She’s a talking dog and a haiku poet, but she’s also a wannabe huntress. She chases birds with all the gusto of a creature that doesn’t know that birds can fly. She let’s squirrels know, in no uncertain terms, that they are not welcome. She pounces on flies and blades of grass with every ounce of her seven-ish pounds. And she absolutely cannot figure out the clucking. She doesn’t know where it’s coming from and, since I highly doubt she’s ever seen a chicken, she doesn’t know what sort of animal is responsible for the noise. The poor thing spent most of yesterday afternoon running back and forth on one side of the yard, her little head darting right and left, and barking frantically. Ironically, she looked like a chicken with its head cut off. After a while she sniffed the whole perimeter of the yard, came up fowl-less, and settled down near the fence to cry forlornly whenever she heard a cluck and look at me meaningfully. Can’t you hear that? Alien noise!! Why are you just sitting there?

My grandma says I’m getting boring because the only thing I talk about is the dogs. Well, it just happens that my dogs are fascinating and adorable and full of character. And when you’ve been spending as much time at home as I have, you end up mimicking Jane Goodall and collecting dog stories. Besides, I’d argue that the only things I talk about is my dogs and my grandma (the proof is in the pudding, er, blog posts)…but then, she probably wouldn’t think that was as boring. Anyway, the reason why I was so interested in Lucy’s confusion is because I sympathize. It must be distressing to know that something new and strange is nearby, but not know exactly where or what it is. For all she knows, that clucking is coming from a tyrannosaurus rex-sized foe. (Actually, I seem to remember that chickens are descended from dinosaurs–it’s amazing what information the brain keeps–so maybe that’s not such a stretch.) If you think about it, Lucy’s got the right idea when it comes to the chickens. Instead of being scared, she’s itching to find the little mother cluckers. She seems genuinely appalled that I am content to sit back, rather than investigate the noise. As someone who has screwed up fight or flight instincts, I find it encouraging. Yeah, that’s right, I’m finding admirable qualities in my dog.

Oh, and stay tuned for unrelated-to-dogs posts. Not that I agree with grandma (at least not completely), but I don’t want my words to get repetitive or predictable or (oh my dog) uninteresting. In the meantime, I think I’ll go watch Lucy come to terms with the world.

Woof.

Floppy Disks and Shitty First Drafts

19 Apr

My family is finally getting rid of an old computer we’ve had for years and I’ve been combing through the documents on it, trying to determine if there’s anything worth saving. This is an old relic of a computer. It’s bulky and solid, and when I forced it to boot up last week, for the first time in years, it wheezed ominously. I had a brief flashback to the Flintstones because it almost sounded like a little critter was inside trying to power the computer through sheer physical energy.

This computer has a lot of my old school reports and essays on it, and I hate to think of the agonizing hours I spent picking just the right words to describe the colonial revolution because now the results of those hours are going to be deleted permanently. I can almost see the specter of my past self sitting at the desk with a word-choice headache and a half-finished essay. I want to reach out to her and say “you know, that perfectionism is going to be a real pain in the ass in college,” and “you can sit here until 11 obsessing, but you’ll just end up deleting this essay in five or six years.” That’s a bit doom and gloom though, so I guess I could also throw in something reassuring, like “don’t worry, you will get a good grade on this” or the more helpful “don’t worry, in college you’ll obsess over your writing but be accompanied by gallons of grown-up coffee and hours of laughter from your roommate.”

Besides school stuff, this is also the computer that had the duty of storing my early attempts at creative writing. I’m talking poems written when I was in middle school, and short stories from high school that were slightly dark and more than a bit wobbly–like the moody drunk that everyone avoids. I feel actual, physical pain when I read some of these pieces because I can remember feeling inspired enough to write them, thinking that I really had something, and the truth of the matter is: they’re just not that good. And yes, this was years ago and I was in high school and you really can’t expect anything good to come out of high school. I know. But still, it’s more than a little disheartening to read these bits of writing and realize that it was no great tragedy that they were locked away on our family’s ancient computer for years and years. In fact, maybe that plastic block was containing them for my own good, acting as a sort of asylum for the creatively deformed.

I consider Anne Lamott a patron saint for aspiring writers. Read her book Bird by Bird and just try not to be motivated and inspired. Bird by Bird is my bible, my self-help book, my continual aha moment. I am currently rereading it, because Ms. Lamott herself is going to be speaking at a nearby bookstore this week and I plan to make the pilgrimage to hear her talk about her new book. (I regret that I have not read her new book, but it’s on my ever-growing, ever-lovin’ To-Read list!) I am SO excited about this book event. It’s the same level of excitement that someone else might experience for a concert or when meeting a movie star. Anyway, one of the chapters in Bird by Bird is called “Shitty First Drafts,” and it is the sole reason why I have not sentenced my old creative writing to be deleted and forgotten. “For me and most of the other writers I know,” Lamott says, “writing is not rapturous. In fact, the only way I can get anything written at all is to write really, really shitty first drafts.”

I am saving those old pieces of writing, poor souls that they are, because it occurred to me that they might be really, really shitty first drafts. And that’s a good thing! Maybe, beneath and between the awful transitions and stiff dialogue, there’s a gem of a sentence or a character that’s desperate to be developed. (“Make me three-dimensional!”)  I’m definitely going to find whatever hidden treasure awaits because, as part of this file conservation process, I have to re-type the horrendous poems and short stories of my high school days onto my laptop. See, the old clunker computer only has a slot for floppy disks (USBs were a distant dream when it was made), but a floppy would do me no good when it came time to transfer the documents. (My nice, relatively new laptop has never even heard of a floppy disk, although, I do happen to have a few that have been saved from being tossed out thanks to the what-if-I-need-it-someday philosophy.) So I’m being forced to confront my old words as I transfer their ugliness to a new computer. It’s possible there is a more efficient way to go about this, but at least this way I am reading and typing and thinking and mentally calculating possibilities and ideas. I am trying to be loyal to the originals, trying not to automatically edit as I re-type, because then I’ll get bogged down and lose the whole point of the exercise and probably miss anything worth saving.

I imagine that Future-Me is looking at Now-Me and nodding in approval, or maybe saying “Don’t worry, it’s for the best—you’re gonna want to save your old words, no matter how cringe-y they are. Wonderful, beautiful new words will follow!” That’s nice. I like Future-Me. But then, that’s to be expected. I imagine Future-Me is very wise and patient and happy and successful and has great hair with a part that isn’t crooked.

Or, she’s working on Now-Me’s shitty first drafts and is miserable and wants company and expects Now-Me to have to deal with Past-Me’s shitty first drafts. Wow. Future-me is sadistic. 

If My Dogs Wrote Haikus

13 Apr

I’ve tried to train you
but still, you sit on my couch
No! Bad human! bad!

 

You smell like a dog.
You smell like another dog.
Scoundrel! Traitor! Slut!

 

I dream of running
of chasing squirrels and such
Wake me if you dare.

 

We’re out for a walk
Look! Here comes another dog.
My sidewalk! All mine!

 

You’ve been gone so long!
It’s been years and years and years.
Now, the world is right.


Noise! I hear a noise!

Do you hear it? Do you? Huh?
Why do you shush me? 

 

Don’t insult me, please.
That dog is just on t.v
I know that, you fool.

 

My bowl is empty.
Your plate is full of good food.
The universe sucks.

 

I have a big day.
Nap, bark, eat, play, nap, nap, nap
Whew! Workaholic!

Don’t Ask Me, I Can’t Talk About It

11 Apr

Something happened today, but I can’t tell you about it. I might jinx it. Apparently, I’m very superstitious when it comes to things like what happened today. I had to wear a ring from my grandma and a necklace from my aunt to the thing that happened today, with the theory that they’d act as comforting, powerful talismans. (Hey, just because I’m not a hobbit, doesn’t mean my life can’t be influenced by magical  jewelry.) I had to drink from my lucky cup–an oversize teacup with Monet’s Red Poppies at Argenteuil–before I went to the thing that happened today. But I couldn’t have coffee, because that would only mess with my nerves before the thing that happened today, so I had nice, hydrating water. I had to listen to You Make My Dreams, by Hall & Oates, and Michael Jackson’s Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough before going to the thing that happened today. That’s what I listened to the last time I went to something like what happened today, and it was really great pump-me-up, here-I-come music. Plus, these songs make me think of the funny Chris Tucker and a happy, sexually-satisfied Joseph Gordon Levitt. (If that sounds creepy, I beg you to extend your movie-watching to include Jackie Chan buddy flicks and indie films.)

I took the ferry boat to go to San Francisco, where the thing that happened today happened. I couldn’t sit backwards on the ferry, because it would be bad symbolism to go towards your potential future, backwards. (You can take the girl out of the English classes…) I had to sit on the right side of the boat, because on that side you can watch as the city by the bay gets closer and closer. Again…lucky symbolism. As the heroine of this story that is my life, I figure good symbolism can’t hurt. The thing that happened today might benefit from some symbolism–who knows?

Don’t ask me, because I can’t say any more about the thing that happened today. Maybe it had something to do with watched pots and boiling lives, maybe it didn’t. Maybe I’m DYING for a positive outcome, after the thing that happened today. Maybe I spent the whole ferry ride back thinking this-is-the-first-day-of-the-rest-of-your-life thoughts.

Maybe.

But I can’t talk about it.

What Sexy Raccoons Cry About

5 Apr

Yesterday started with eyeliner. Well, it started with me feeling brave and adventurous, which is why I put on eyeliner before going to work. I do not have a good relationship with eyeliner. Like Adam Sandler movies and my math skills, it always disappoints me. First, I rarely apply it correctly. I don’t know if I was absent the day eyeliner application was taught to the world (even Johnny Depp can handle it!), but I almost always end up with a zig-zagged line above my eye that would not pass any sobriety test. Even if I do manage the desired look, it never lasts. For one thing, I have a tendency to touch my eyes throughout the day when I’m bored, frustrated, or deep in thought. I also have a theory that I blink more vigorously and more often than most people. The result is raccoon eyes, and I’m pretty sure raccoons are not sexy.

As you can tell, I’ve given the subject of eyeliner a lot of thought. Actually, that’s what today’s post was going to be about. (I know, now you’re saying to yourself That’s what this post IS about! Well first of all, don’t jump to conclusions. Second of all, are you talking to yourself in front of people? Are you at work? You should be careful, your boss might not appreciate my relevance and your good taste in blogs.)  Things, and post subjects, have a way of changing though.

After I left work yesterday, I dropped some books off at the library, made an exchange at Target, and stocked up on craft supplies at Ben Franklin. The sunshine made me cheery, and as I drove home I was doing crafts in my head and thinking about what to eat. There were three messages on the machine and I started rummaging in the fridge as I half-listened. The first two were unimportant, but the unimportant callers talked and talked until they were cut off. Then, the third message came on. It was my grandma. “Hello? When you get home from work, I’m in the emergency room. Just….well,  just come get me. And hurry. I want to leave.” There was some background noise, and then, “oh, how do you turn the damn thing off? Hello? Nurse? Hello? Wonderful. I’m blind and they’re deaf. Shi–oh nurse! would you turn this off, please? Thank you much.”

I didn’t know what time she had called because she hadn’t said and our answering machine isn’t that smart. When I got to the ER, a nurse in a smock with sleeping kitties brought me to the back where the examining rooms are. She pointed towards one room. “Is that your grandma?” I looked over. It was a white-haired grandma, but it wasn’t my white-haired grandma and I told her so. “Okay, over here,” she said. She led me towards another room, which also had somebody else’s grandma in it. I was starting to wonder about the professionalism of this ER–had they lost my grandma? Was this some sort of Grandma Identification test? I turned to the nurse to ask some form of these questions and she looked sort of startled. Then she patted my arm and pointed straight ahead. “There you go.”

She’d gotten grandma on the third try. There she was, in all her grumpy glory. She’d been there for more than eight hours and was anxious to go. The docs believed she’d had a “heart spasm,” which means she probably had a heart attack but they were too chicken to commit to the words. “Why didn’t you CALL me??” I scolded. Because she’d called the ambulance at 6:30 and knew I wasn’t awake. “So what? I’d wake up when you called.” Well, she didn’t want me to miss work. This was unbelievable. “You mean my unpaid internship? Don’t you think they would have understood?? I think I could afford to miss one day.”

We stood there arguing until the nurse came with the release papers, then we smiled and thanked her and looked cute. Then we walked outside arguing, got in the car arguing, and argued during the short trip to the pharmacy where I had to pick up her new medicines. I waited in line for 25 minutes and when I got to the front the woman said that one medicine was not quite ready. I huffed out a breath and tried to decide whether to leave grandma waiting longer (she was sitting in the car) or come back later. The pharmacist pursed her lips while I thought. She looked like a grandma herself, and her eyes were full of sympathy over her tiny rectangular glasses. “Why don’t I check again?” Pleased and surprised, I just stood there. I don’t know if the woman lit a fire under one of the other pill counters, but pretty soon everything was ready. I thanked her and she smiled and said she hoped my grandmother felt better soon.

Grandma and I got home and I made her eat something. After I checked on her medicine, it was time for Jeopardy. The two of us blew the competition away and by the time I left, I was feeling reassured that Grandma was doing better. I got home and made a bee line for the bathroom to take my contacts out. I almost had a heart attack. (Is it inappropriate to make heart attack jokes, given the circumstances? hmmm…) I had the BIGGEST black rings under my eyes. I not only looked like I had slept in my makeup, I looked like I had swam, jogged, and wrestled in it. It was black and blurred and it had gotten all over. How many people had seen me like this? Did I go a whole day at work with black craters under my eyes? Did I come into the ER looking like a zombie? Couldn’t someone have TOLD me?

Looking back, I have to wonder if the ER nurse and the pharmacist thought I’d been crying. They both knew my grandma had had a health scare and that I was anxious about it. Maybe that pat on the arm and those odd, sympathetic looks were more than they seemed at the time. I don’t cry for just any crisis, but those women couldn’t have known that. I think I’d prefer it if they thought I’d been crying, because the alternatives are a) they thought that was the look I was going for, or b) they knew it was a makeup meltdown and let me go about my day. I don’t know how they could have brought it up (I suppose it would be an awkward conversation), but it seems to me that people should always let you know if you have something in your teeth or grotesque smudges under your eyes. Just saying.

So, yesterday ended with eyeliner. Well, it ended with me taking the dratted stuff off. I think the next time I’m feeling brave and adventurous, I’ll just have a cookie for breakfast. Oh, and you know what? You were sort of right–this post was partly about eyeliner. So there you go, I half-apologize. But then, I’m also going to squeeze in a half-I-told-you-so, because it wasn’t all about eyeliner. See how that works?

Whew, I think I need a cookie.

My Words Are Older Than I Am

1 Apr
  

One time in high school, I was sitting in the hallway with a bunch of friends and someone was entertaining the group with some scandalous bit of gossip that was really important breaking news–I’m talking about High School Red Alert kind of stuff. When the storyteller got to the big climax, the real dirt, I exclaimed “Oh my stars and garters!”

Old woman or young girl? Oh my words! It's hard to tell!

Slowly, heads turned towards me. I think the storyteller still had her hands raised in an explanatory gesture, so she sat there frozen in a Vanna White pose (but sadly lacking Ms. White’s charm and sequins). It was as if I had ripped off my face, Scooby-Doo style, to reveal that I was not, in fact, a sixteen year old, but rather an elderly blue-haired woman with a fanny pack. I don’t even know where that expression came from. You all know, based on past posts, that I’m very close with my grandma. You might think that grandma’s everyday sayings would naturally rub off on me. That’s certainly true, but my dear grandma has never, ever said Oh my stars and garters! Frankly, she’s cooler than that.

It remains a mystery why those particular words burst from me at that particular point in time. Maybe I had heard or read them recently and my subconcious tucked them neatly away in a fold of my brain to be used for just the right occasion. (A bit like special underwear…) Perhaps in a past life, I frequently shouted oh my stars and garters as I fluttered my lace fan and sipped sun tea. That’s certainly plausible.

It happens a lot–I open my mouth, and decades-old words come flying out. Sometimes, like with the situation in high school, the conversation will come to a halt as my words float around and slowly collide with the other newer, cooler words. (Picture a sort of social-linguistic tetris game.) More often, though, the old-time expression is such a natural part of my vocabulary that the words mix and mingle without any awkwardness. Really, you have to own your old soul.

So what other sayings do I say? Here’s a sampling, plus some commentary (because why wouldn’t I explain these words with more words?):

Oh my word!
I know, I know–this isn’t much of a shocker. I just wanted to take this opportunity to tell you that in addition to being a clever title for an online collection of my thoughts, this is also something I say regularly.

If I had my druthers….
A combination of “would” and “rathers,” druthers also sounds like an uptight, rigidly formal butler with a heart of gold. Sure, he’ll sniff his nose at you when you speak to your dogs in cutesy talk or ask for a poptart, but underneath it all, he cares enough to conceal your secret identity. (Or, if you’re not a superhero, then he cares enough to save you from ironing.)

What’s that got to do with the price of peas?
I’ve heard other versions of this expression. (What’s that got to do with the price of tea in China? the price of eggs? the price of fish?)But bursting out with “the price of peas” is so alliteratively satsifying. 

Lord love a duck!
Once again, the alliteration here is oh-so-satisfying. This is also a wonderful subsitute for a more, let’s say, adult expression that you’d like to burst out with in times of crisis or frustration. But I have to wonder, is it the Lord loving a duck? The big G himself? Or is it an English aristocrat? In that case, I’d be worried about hunting seasons if I was the duck. (Hey Daffy–don’t trust declarations of love from men with hunting hounds and animals on their wall.)

Geeze Louise!
Who was Louise? Was someone once upset or astounded by her? Do women named Louise ever use this expression, or is that simply too weird? Was this saying only created because Louise rhymes with geeze? Because in that case, you could’ve said Geeze sneeze! or Geeze cottage cheese!  or Geeze Taiwanese! (Okay, I suppose that last one could be misinterpreted, but as long as you said it with respect and love, I don’t foresee any problems.)