Friday, December 29, 2006

The best of books, part 2

I'm back with more great reads from this year. Before I dive into the fiction list, I should note a couple of honorable mentions that didn't get props yesterday. Red Sun asked if I'd read Running with Scissors, and the answer is no - it seemed too grim. But I grabbed Dry, another by the same author, and LOVED it. And if you're curious about the music biz, check out Everything I'm Cracked Up To Be by Jen Trynin. She almost made it huge, but then didn't. Not a perspective you read about every day (I'm contemplating a similar book, chronicling my brief gymnastics career...)

Okay, on to fiction...

This was a GREAT year for fiction reads, probably the best bunch of books I've read since I skipped Spanish class every day for a week to find out what happened to Alya and Jondolar in the Clan of the Cave Bear series. Here are my top five...

5. Dear Zoe by Philip Beard
This is the best angsty teenage girl voice I've read, and Beard does it without making his character annoying - rather a miracle. There is real life "stuff" going on in this book, and I loved the choices he made for his characters - they felt right, somehow. Fabulous book. It's on sale at Amazon, so grab a copy and thank me later :)

4. Plan B by Jonathan Tropper
The people in this book are the kind of friends we all want - that we all hope we'd be, if push came to shove. Tropper captures that, "Oh crap - I have to decide what to do with my life?" stage well, and winds it through a fun story to keep it from getting too dark. All his stuff is great.

3. The Myth of You and Me by Leah Stewart
I used my Barnes & Noble Christmas gift card from Starbucks Girl to get my own copy of this book. It makes me think about why some friendships survive and others don't. No big answers so far, but this story is a great example of how love is often more elastic than we give it credit for.

2. The Big Love by Sarah Dunn
How cool to see a character wrestling with her faith life and her love life at the same time. Dunn tortures her main character, but the result is a great story that doesn't resolve perfectly OR leave you dangling in the misery. It takes an artful touch to find the middle ground, and Dunn has it. I read it twice.

1. Once Upon A Day by Lisa Tucker
This book comes out in paperback in the spring, and if the author comes anywhere near New England, I will be there. This story blows to smithereens our incessant pop-psychology labels and personality types. The characters, each faced with some pretty untenable situations, do the best the can with what they have in the moment. It's beautiful, messy, and fabulous. Hands down, the best book I read this year.

How about you???

Thursday, December 28, 2006

The best of books, part 1

Today's subject: Best non-fiction books I've read this year!

But first, a little insight into why I loved some books and sent others back to the library...

I think it can be summed up in the two anthologies Santa left me under the tree on Sunday night - one of great sports writing, the other chronicling the year's best travel tales. Now, those of you who have been reading this blog for awhile know that my travel in 2006 was limited to trips to Altoona, Kansas and St. Louis, Missouri, and that I spent my childhood spinning - and falling - in the driveway, chasing after my baton. Given this history, you can see that these were obvious must-have gifts for someone as worldly and athletically inclined as me :)

Seriously, though - This is the first year I've kept track of the books I've read (thank you, Amazon, for your handy wish-list feature), and scrolling through it gave me a chance to think about what works for me in reading and what doesn't (even if, according to my demographic/life experience/prior reading choices, it should). Here's what I learned: as much as I love non-fiction - essays, memoirs - I really only love them if the author is doing something, not just thinking. I've attempted several much-heralded books of deep rumination regarding the meaning of life, death, relationships, family, pets, etc. and failed to connect. But give me a book about someone who is has to line up their green beans in one-inch parallel lines before eating them, or shuffling around a cancer ward messing with the nurses, or breaking up with their high school sweetheart/being wooed by a husband they just divorced, or chasing their mud-covered dog through a crowded shopping mall, and THAT keeps me reading.

I need action. If you're writing about travel or sports, chances are you're doing something. In contrast, when I read the review for the collection of great essays from this year, one of the opening lines said something like, "The theme of these works seems to be death..." For that reason, said book was not on my wish list to Santa, as it seemed like a rather grim lump of coal.

So in what may be the worlds longest preface, there you have a little insight into why these books were my favorite non-fiction reads this year (I also left out blockbuster bestsellers that need no more hype, and books I've raved about endlessly already). Here are a few you might not have thought of:

5. But Enough About Me: A Jersey Girl's Unlikely Adventures Among the Absurdly Famous by Jancee Dunn
I loved Dunn's fun honesty - she does a great job of being among the fabulous people without needing to convince us that she was accepted as one of their own. She leans heavily on self-deprecating humor and tales of her ultra-normal family, which makes a pointed contrast to what she encounters in the celebs she meets.

4. Devil in the Details: Scenes from an Obsessive Girlhood by Jennifer Traig
This book is David Sedaris-level funny.

3. EAT, PRAY, LOVE: One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India, and Indonesia by Elizabeth Gilbert
This book is beautifully written, full of direction changes and adventure, and allowed me to live vicariously through some three adventures I have almost no desire to try myself. What more can you ask of a memoir???

2. THE GLASS CASTLE by Jeannette Walls
This story of Walls' childhood is so grim, but her description of the ways she and her siblings coped made me see that we totally underestimate kids in this country. This is a fabulous book on every level.

1. THE LAST SHOT: City Streets, Basketball Dreams by Darcy Frey.
A tale of four kids being courted by the NBA, trying to get out of the Coney Island projects. This is a fabulous, gripping read about two worlds I never would have known about. It changed the way I watch basketball, and the way I think about opportunity in this country.

There you have it! I'll be back tomorrow with the top five fiction picks. (And for fuller reviews and a longer list, check out my book log.)

What have your favorites been this year???

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

December 27th - a day of thanks!

We survived! Honestly, I think Thanksgiving should be moved to two days after Christmas. Forget the whole Pilgrims & Indians thing; we should all have an extra day off to relax, take down our holiday decorations, and revel in having conquered another season of giving and receiving. For this new Thanksgiving, no parties would be allowed, and the only food you can eat or offer must be cobbled together from whatever is in the fridge - or, even better, offered on a take-out menu pulled from a drawer.

My day of thanks began early this morning (okay, I'm not certain it was early, only that I had just recently woken up). My sister called to tell me that my three-year-old niece had donned the Little Mermaid costume Steve and I gave her for Christmas, and was prancing around the play room singing to herself: "I swim through the water la la and I catch the fishies la la la and I'm a mermaid la la..." That's a whole lot of cuteness for $14.99.

I've cleaned up almost all evidence of Christmas except for one lone CD that's still in the car and the nativity scene I can't bring myself to put away. On a scale of 1 to 5, how tacky is it to leave it up year round? If it's up in the 4-5 range, is the tackiness diminished at all if said decoration is tucked into a discrete corner? Just asking...for a friend, you know...

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Good News

Joy to the world, the Lord is come.
Let earth receive her King!

Let every heart (including Santa, you, and me) prepare Him room...

I think I'm finally catching on this year to what all these carols mean, and why someone would carry a big sign like this (I used to think it was just the quality rhyme scheme). And yet for all the ways I now understand why Jesus' birth is indeed good news, I still can't get through this song without launching into the alternative lyrics from my childhood about an exploding cigar that I'm SURE was not at the original - or even the Veggie Tales version - of the Nativity. Maybe next year...) In other holiday fun, check out this cartoon. Funny, painful, true. I suspect that political correctness is one of the things Jesus came to free us from :)

Have a Merry Christmas, one and all. Be blessed, in Jesus' (or Jesus's, depending on your school of grammar) name!

Friday, December 22, 2006

Scenes from the livingroom, and the backyard

I've been home with a stomach bug for most of this week, hence the lack of blogging. My quality time on the couch has included a bizarre array of books, making me wonder if it's brilliant or disturbing that I can flip so easily back and forth between the gut-wrenching pages of A Hope In the Unseen: An American Odyssey from the Inner City to the Ivy League and Jennifer Weiner's The Guy Not Taken?

In other news, THAT DOG came home from the groomers looking spiffy and spry with her new clean self, then promptly gulped down a pile of poop left by who knows what sort of animal while rooting around in the back yard. Honestly, I don't even want to imagine the creature that left that - we live in the city, so it's not like we have many wild kingdom moments. Kylie, however, dove right in and reveled in the moment, so to speak, celebrating the "unique gift" from her mammalian brethren. Seeing a hawk circling overhead, I quickly pulled her and her poopy mouth inside before she fell down a rung on the food chain.

She, I noticed, does not have a stomach bug.

And while I kvetched about it back in November, now would be a perfect time for a little Barry Manilow Christmas music...

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Prayer, please...

My fellow blogger/writer/friend Darlene posted yesterday that her 24 year-old son, Mark was in a serious car accident. He is in ICU with a broken back and various other injuries. Please join me in asking God for one of those miracles we read about in the Bible, where Jesus shows up and the broken are inexplicably, miraculously put back together, healed and well, with a new understanding of what life is all about. Advent is a season of expectation, so this seems like an apt use of our time and our prayers.

Thanks, all.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Update from all fronts

In happy holiday news, my brilliant, beloved Sister told me about a new take on Nativity happiness: The Veggie Tales Nativity Scene! Honestly, what's not to love about vegetables celebrating the birth of Jesus??? It's enough to make me swear off salad forever...

It also takes my mind off the fact that I just received two Christmas cards from people I forgot to send cards to. The bummer of it is, both of them are fun and awesome people, so I can't even take solace in the belief that they will so enjoy feeling superior to me in their execution of pre-holiday matters that it will make up for my abject failure. When it comes to this kind of thing, sometimes I'm the windshield, sometimes I'm the bug.

Among the other "who knows how this will go?" items, THAT DOG is at the groomer this afternoon, getting her quarterly bath & trim. Please join me in a brief prayer that she not come back looking quite as bald and antelope-eque as last time.

And finally, an Important Question For Today: WHY doesn't tupperware EVER dry in the dishwasher???

(Important Question For Tomorrow: WHY does this bother me so much?)

Monday, December 18, 2006

Culinary Cry for Help!

Ack! I just remembered that I promised to bring some sort of "savory dish" to a Christmas party tomorrow night. Too bad I don't know any savory dishes. And I like the people who will be at this party far too much to subject them to the "special sausage sauce" I found on last New Years Eve, which consisted of the following instructions: "combine one cup ketchup with one cup grape jelly. Cook in crock pot for 45 minutes and serve."

If anyone out there has a savory dish recipe that doesn't break the basic laws of condiment separation (preferably one that cooks quietly in a crock pot while I take the dog to the groomer and finish up my Christmas shopping), PLEASE email me at trishstevekylie AT yahoo DOT com.

Muchas, Muchas Gracias!

Focusing on what matters

As you can see, we're quite serious about our charity work here in Boston.

I didn't run the race (I was curled up on the couch watching a rerun of Good Will Hunting), but have made up for it with a productive Monday here in Trishland. I awoke THAT DOG from her slumber around 1pm to go for a walk. (Hubby's chiropractor will be delighted to know that while Steve isn't sure about the new special-order pillow, Kylie is enjoying it tremendously). We took the long route so I could mail some Christmas cards. (An aside: I always intend to write long, heartfelt messages in these cards, then get overwhelmed and fail to do so. So if you get a card from me, know that there's a tear jerking treatise of love and appreciation underneath my mundane message about having a Merry Christmas and a good 2007. And if you don't get a card for me, please know that while I may not have your address, I still have an uncommunicated heartfelt treatise for you, too!)

Anyway, about halfway through the walk, it starts to rain. First a few light drops, and then a pelting fury of cold bullets falls from the sky, at which point THAT DOG plants all four paws on the sidewalk, yanks her neck backwards to let me know that her little self is marching on no further, and shoots me a seering look that says, "Twenty minutes ago, I was warm and happy in bed. You've ruined everything! Fix it!"

But then a fat squirrel ran by and she regained her zest for life outside the bedroom.

Now that we're home, she is pacing through the house whining pitifully, unable to decide where to hide the sock she just pulled out of the laundry. Honestly, the song, It's A Hard Knock Life was written with her in mind. While Kylie wrestles with the bigger problems of the universe, I pulled a nasty raw chicken (really, is there any other kind?) out of the fridge to cook. I'm more convinced than ever that somewhere, hidden in the complex language of the book of Revelation, God says, "Don't eat poultry - it's just too gross." I've yet to find a Bible scholar to back me up on this, but I think it's a valid theory.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Important information

If you're hoping to find minions under your Christmas tree this year (or acquire some in post-holiday sales), Stacy has an important post up over at her blog regarding their care and maintenance.

On a related note, I'm reading Juicing the Orange today, wondering how I can put this principle to work in my own life. I suspect that minions would be invaluable. (If you search Google Images for minions, it's clear that the world needs some happy ones. Thank you, Stacy, for spearheading this effort).

Friday, December 15, 2006

Books: weather resisitant, always the right size

I just placed ANOTHER order on Amazon for Christmas books. They say we tend to give gifts we'd like to receive, and I guess I'm proving it true. But I've had a crazy number of, "Oh - this book would be perfect for ____!" moments over the past month or so, and it's gotten to the point where I no longer try to resist.

What books are you giving? More importantly, what is on your wish list?

I'm asking Santa for an odd assortment this year, including this, this (my nominee for funniest cover ever) and this.

I used to be this passionate about shoes, but living in a place where it's winter half the year, I find books a sturdier obsession :)

Thursday, December 14, 2006

If the world was your oyster...

I had one of those great "girlfriend hangout" nights with Starbucks Girl last night. We ate pasta, we talked about the meaning of life, love, relationships, God...all the good stuff you're not supposed to discuss in polite company but makes the best sort of conversation. At the end of it, I asked what would make her life better (okay, the truth is I asked, "How can I pray for you?" but if that weirds you out, pretend I said "What would make your life better?")

Her answer? A fun, relaxing vacation.

And that, my dear readers, is where you come in. I am the least imaginative person on the planet when it comes to vacation ideas. I'm all vague about the places I'd like to visit - "Somewhere warm" comes to mind, or "The West Coast, perhaps." But I know some of you out there have fabulous travel experience and/or fun vacation dreams you can share.

So where would you go on vacation? Make your suggestions reasonable, please (because as much as we shell out for our Venti Mocha Lattes, it doesn't go directly into Starbucks Girl's pocket). I don't think she's looking to rent an island or charter a yacht. But if you know of someplace fabulous, fun, and relaxing (preferably warm) drop a line in the comments!

And yes, the hippo in my last post was made from a potato (good eye Alyssa!) You can also get his friends, Sweet Potato Pig and Squash Goose to make an entire veggie farm. (You probably won't, but you could...)

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

If only...

Do you think anyone would notice if I snuck a hippo into my nativity scene? I mean, I know it's unlikely and all, but do we have proof that there WASN'T a hippo shuffling around near the manger?

Green be gone.

I'm sick with some sort of sinus horror. I've had this before, so I know where I'm headed, and it ain't pretty. About six months ago, a disgusting glob of goo lodged in my throat and wouldn't let go for two weeks. I coughed and coughed and could not get rid of it. Then it spread to my eyes, and I had giant patches of green "stuff" (I can't bring myself to use that word) literally stuck to my eyeballs. Unbelievable. Let me tell you - do NOT mess with your sinuses. When they fight back, it's UGLY.

This past Saturday afternoon, my throat felt a little scratchy (okay, that's not true - it felt like I was choking on a cheese grater) and then Sunday morning I could hear the dude from the Mucinex commercial taunting me, "I'm baaaaaack!" (Aside: Is it just me, or is "Mucinex" the grossest product name ever? Why can't they call it "Green Be Gone"or something nice and encouraging like that?) Anyway, I'm downing Green Be Gones and drinking GALLONS of water to fend this stuff off. I see the doctor on Thursday (if it gets to my eyes by that point, I'll post pictures - but please pray that it doesn't!) The one benefit I'm looking forward to: last time, when I drank this much water, even though I was choking, sniffling, sneezing, blowing, gagging and not sleeping for days on end, my skin looked FABULOUS. The glass is half full, folks!

On a happier note, thank you all for your kind concern for the fate of baby Jesus yesterday. It's times like this when I have to remind myself that He got over the whole born-next-to-a-donkey-in-December thing and the story turns out okay (albeit with a decidedly grim turn there towards the end). But the commonality of our childhood experiences mauling the young savior makes me even more convinced of his miraculous abilities (which is a good place to be as I feel that green stuff plotting to slime my eyes...)

Monday, December 11, 2006

Manger abandoned due to heightened security

The highlight of my weekend was getting my very first grown-up nativity scene. I've wanted one for quite awhile now, but they're not cheap. (Is it wrong for me to admit that I can't wait until next year to add the backdrop and the giant camel???) Somehow, presents for real people always pushed the ceramic replicas of the original players off the bottom of my holiday budget, leaving me pining for the days when my sister and I would try (and fail) not to touch the fragile manger scene that grew more banged up every year as Mom set it up in early December and sis and I mauled it uncontrollably all the way up until New Year's Eve. (I suspect that one frequently beheaded-then-glued wise man virtually LONGED for the shoe box he inhabited the rest of the year). The manufacturers of that set were smart - the baby Jesus was made of plastic - virtually indestructible, even as our curious little hands turned him over and tossed him about. I'm not sure we ever believed that this little wiggle of painted plastic was the hero we sang about in "Joy to the World," but it would have been a bummer to lop the head off of the Messiah.

The fine people at Willow Tree took this one step further. Our new Christmas scene casts Jesus safely within the arms of his mother, rather than in a trough/cradle. Local municipalities that frequently find their savior stolen during the holidays might consider this approach, as who would be bold/stupid enough to wrest Jesus from his mother's arms? Apparently, Jesus-nappers have formed a network of sorts, making me think they've REALLY missed the reason for the season...

In other news, I read this over the weekend, after finishing this awhile back. Check the booklog for reviews coming soon, and feel free to recommend my next great read in the comments!

Friday, December 08, 2006

So where CAN you buy a bow & arrow in greater Boston?

I had a FABULOUS shopping experience yesterday at the new L.L.Bean. It doesn't compete with the Maine store (no pond, no men's dress shirt section, a noticeable absence of weaponry), but everyone there was super-friendly and helpful, and I trust that both hubby and Mom will look great in their Christmas presents, which are currently strewn across my dining room table.

The truth is, L.L.Bean could have been selling wool unitards in shades of 1970's kitchen appliances and I still would have loved it, because right next door I found THE BEST BORDERS EVER. L.L.Bean is, therefore, perfect by proximity.

There are a few things that make me happier than a bookstore (hubby, flannel pj's, God) but not many. This new Borders was like a well-trained puppy - everything shiny and beautiful, with only a slight hint that it's still figuring out how life works (such as the cafe guy who asked, "what's grande?" when I ordered my coffee, and the manager who, when told that a bird had flown into the store and appeared to be contemplating early Jewish literature, said only, "Well, at least he's warm...")

So yes, there were warm Maine-ish clothes and miles and miles of books (not to mention freakishly warm 62 degree weather). After my shopping was done I sat outside on a cedar bench with my grande=medium coffee and thought, life is good :)

It all came full-circle at exactly 6:22 this morning, when THAT DOG decided she needed to go out immediately. It was 22 degrees, with a wind-chill factor of one million-four. Nothing like chasing the poop as it blows across the driveway to get the day off to an exhilarating start.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Changing with the times

I'm off to check out the new L.L. Bean store here in Eastern Massachusetts. I'll admit that it feels a little strange for this Maine girl to be shopping down here for fleece and parkas, but I'm going to give it a try. I don't think the new store has an indoor trout pond and they're not open 24/7/365, but if they help me find gifts to put under the tree for the people I love, I'll make it work. I'm resilient that way :)

(Besides, I think the Maine store will deny me access once they find out my Christmas tree is 4 feet tall and plastic. They might not even let me into the state.)

Wednesday, December 06, 2006


I am hip deep in mundane life activities today. (You know, the stuff I ignored last week when I was living in my pajamas typing frenetically.) This might be a tad depressing, but for my deep and abiding love of laundry. The ability to take piles of chaos and turn them, in just a little over an hour, into neat and ordered opportunities for fashion greatness (not to mention blog exaggeration) brings peace and joy to my cluttered soul.

As I sort, wash, dry, and fold, I'm giggling to myself about Gwen Stefani's new single. I'm not sure why, but sampling the yodeling goat song (lyrics inexplicably provided by the National Institute of Health/Department of Human Services) from "The Sound of Music" strikes me as one of the funniest things I've ever heard. When I saw the video - which looks so Madonna-esque that Gwen should fess up to a tribute even if she didn't have the Divine Diva in mind as she wielded her riding crop and donned her platinum wig - I thought, "Yay Gwen." Honestly, she's an impossible mix of creative and normal, always teetering right at the edge of embarrassing but never falling over. She inspires me, as I stand here folding laundry (in an outfit that teeters on the edge of embarrassing...) I think she's our generation's unheralded music genius. I hope she does a follow up single based on "Climb Every Mountain," might enjoy some crossover success in self-help circles if Gwen plays her cards right :)

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

All the news that's fit to print

According to the fine people at Comcast News ("Stay on top of today's headlines!"), when you consider everything going on in the entire world today, here is what you most need to know:

"Clooney loses beloved pet pig Max"

"Lance Bass, boyfriend break up"

"Serena Williams' dog bites guard in Florida"

Don't even get me started about the woman who found a bat in her Christmas tree.

Monday, December 04, 2006

It's beginning to feel a lot like Christmas

Three things happened this weekend to put me in the Christmas spirit.

First, the Christmas ornaments made their magic migration from the dining room table to the branches of the tree. And as much as I liked the whole installation-art feel of the little snowmen and angels spread out across my placemats, I have to say they look rather marvelous hanging amidst the lights. It's satisfying, like returning wildlife to their native habitat.

Second, our friends Van and Carmine were baptized on Saturday. The ceremony was casual (we're a shorts & t-shirts kind of church when it comes to dunking) but SO inspiring. There must have been seventeen people who stood up and described what Jesus had done to make their lives better, then went under and came up to the promise of being made new. Maybe there's someone out there who could sit though an hour of mini-histories of God helping people break addictive drug use, wiggle free from depression, or leave a job/life they hated in faith that God had something better. I, however, am not that person. On Saturday, I made the connection about why Christmas is good news (aside from the presents. You all KNOW I love the presents). Jesus came so we could have abundant life. At the baptism, I saw 17 bits of evidence that he's making good on his promise. That's good stuff :) I also received the very encouraging cheers of my church friend Paul (Hi Paul!) who told me he reads the blog and supports my desire to decorate with chickens (or at least to blog about it). You gotta love unexpected encouragement like that!

Finally, our downstairs neighbor - a young boy of about ten - asked if he could decorate our communal porch with Christmas lights. Naturally, we said yes. "I can't wait until it gets dark to see how they look!" I enthused. Last night at about 9:45, we turned onto our street to see the most pitiful/wonderful display of Christmas cheer ever. Picture this: a single string of white lights coming out a side widow, crawling along the side of the house to the porch, where it meets up with several strings of colored lights, which wind around one side of the railing in no discernible pattern. That's it. And in it's abysmal lack of all things planned and perfect (not to mention symmetrical) it makes me happy. Jesus is the reason for the season, and sometimes he strings the lights a little crooked, just to see how we'll react :)

P.S. I typically don't go all Jesus-ey in my posts. But it's Christmas, which makes the topic a little hard to avoid. If you don't consider yourself a Jesus-ey person, thanks for bearing with me - I appreciate it :)

Friday, December 01, 2006

Tag, I'm it

Alyssa tagged, me! So here, before I take my "Omigosh I finished my first draft" celebratory shower (thanks for your support, all), is everything you never wanted to know about Trish and Christmas:

1. Egg Nog or Hot Chocolate? Hot chocolate. Egg nog tastes good, but it's essentially fat and egg in a glass. For the holidays, we can do better.

2. Does Santa wrap presents or just sit them under the tree?
He wraps them! Carefully! With all kinds of different pretty paper, and none of those gift bags, either :)

3. Coloured lights on tree/house or white? Growing up - colored. This year - white. I could come up with some deep theory on how the white lights represent purity and innocence, or the combination of all the beautiful colors of the rainbow, but it would be a total sham. I just like the white ones better.

4. Do you hang mistletoe? I'm all for the holiday romance - I have the "mistletoe" Yankee Candle, so the scent wafts all over our house. We kiss a lot in December :)

5. When do you put your decorations up? Define "up"? This year they made it as far as the dining room table on the day after Thanksgiving. The tree is naked, but the table looks great. I'm hoping to get to step two sometime before the 25th...

6. What is your favourite holiday dish? Stuffing. Everything should be stuffed - ham, roast beef, eggplant. Christmas is a celebration of carbohydrates in my world.

7. Favourite holiday memory as a child? When Santa brought my first bike. He even knew I'd need training wheels, as he'd noticed that while I'd been very, very good, I was a tad uncoordinated.

8. When did you learn the truth about Santa? You mean, that he'd find a way into our house with the presents even though we didn't have a fire place? First grade.

9. Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve? I did that once, the year I was SURE I was getting my first bra. It turned out to be long underwear. That taught me to wait.

10. How do you decorate your Christmas Tree? Gradually.

11. Snow! Love it or dread it?
Love it in December. Dread it in March.

12. Can you ice skate?
If Steve holds me up, I'm quite fabulous. On my own, not so much.

13. Do you remember your favourite gift? There have been a bunch - pretty much any time you give me a gift, it has the potential to be my favorite! (See #18)

14. What's the most important thing about the holidays for you? Seeing my cute niece and nephew.

15. What is your favourite holiday dessert? PIE!

16. What is your favourite holiday tradition?
Um, not to sound obvious, but presents :)

17. What tops your tree? Nothing, yet. By the time we thought to shop for a tree topper last year, all the good ones were gone. I didn't want a demented glowing angel, so we tied a bow on the top branch and called it a day. Hopefully we'll do better this year.

18. Which do you prefer giving or receiving?
Okay, I know I'm supposed to say "giving." But come on! I'll be honest - I LOVE receiving presents :)

19. What is your favourite Christmas song?
I just heard a new medley of "Joy to the World" which I love.

20. Candy Canes! Yuck or Yum? Yuck. Once you've seen a half-eaten one stuck to the back of your dog, it's hard to look at them as food ever again.

There you have it :)
I'm tagging Stacy, Lynette, Swishy, and Jenny.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Scenes from the bedroom...

A huge "Thank you" to all of you who have let me know how much you enjoy the adventures of Trishville as reported here in the blog. Your kind words have, unfortunately, collided with the most uneventful week of my life to date, as I spend 120 consecutive hours sitting on my bed in flannel pajamas, finalizing the first draft of THE BOOK to get to my beloved agent.

I caught a wave with the adverb thing on Monday, but beyond that it's kinda tough to make hitting delete and cut/paste, wondering when I last took a shower sound exciting. It is exciting, to me at least - I'm happy as a pig in - well, flannel. But it's not like I'm being chased by the authorities like Swishy, or creating brilliant holiday crafts like Beck, or poetry like Darlene.

Right now the closest thing I have to excitement is my new, borderline pornographic hair product which promises that - even as I sit here typing - "non-greasy humectants are creating a sexy look scented with fruity floral dew." I guess when you get the non-greasy humectants going, there's no telling what might happen :)

Anyway, thanks for your patience!

Monday, November 27, 2006

I'm delighted (but not actually, incredibly, or amazingly)

I’m editing today.

In preparation, I began my morning by reading a few pages from the book of Acts, hoping to bolster my faith in miracles. Then (in what may be an atypical transition) I picked up a book by Stephen King.

“The road to hell is paved with adverbs,” he said, and I believe him. I opened my manuscript and typed “LY” into the FIND option, to see what I could see.

Oh. My. God. (And I mean that in the most reverent, deity-acknowledging, flat-out grateful I was blind and now I see kind of way). I eliminated an embarrassing 1,064 adverbs from my manuscript, at least 300 of which were the word “actually.” I never realized this before, but if “actually” lit up in neon orange each time I typed it, my pages would read like a tribute to pumpkin pie.

To all my writing friends wrestling with pudgy manuscripts – Use the FIND tool. Type “LY.” Delete. It will change your life.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

From rags to romance in five short days

At approximately 1:39 this morning, it dawned on me that the first draft of my book is due to my agent on December 1st. It is now November 25th, which means that I've got some work to do. I'm writing a happily-ever-after memoir (After James Frey there does seem to be a need for true stories that end well), but right now in my manuscript, the heroine (me) is alone and penniless, having just been dumped by her bankrupt (morally, financially, spiritually - the full gamut of loser) boyfriend.

But never fear! The plan is to have her rescued by the end of today, happy by sometime tomorrow. If only it worked this quickly in real life! Stay tuned :)

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

The next job I won't have

My dear Stacy, who has won herself my lifelong friendship (not to mention a brand new snail if I can figure out how to get one to Michigan from here) has, hysterically, nominated me for President. I'm not sure what inspired this level of confidence - unlike her, when I'm trapped in the Whole Foods parking lot I don't use the time to think of crafty solutions. Instead, I'm fully occupied by the effort required to bite my tongue so I don't scream out, "You're all idiots! Every one of you!!!" I don't recall hearing that line in my "Future Leaders Of America" meetings back in High School...

This picture is from my High School graduation, where the first George Bush addressed our class and sent us out into the world to buy property, create multi-national corporations, and devote our lives to the American Dream. Actually, I have no recollection of what he told us to do that day, which serves as further confirmation that I'm probably not cut out to be President. When Bill Clinton met John Kennedy, I suspect he paid attention. To this day, I bet Bill could tell you every word JFK said, that he wasn't shaking the President's hand but secretly hoping the talk would end early so he could get home to pull together a cute outfit for the party that night...

So Stacy, I am grateful for the nomination, but for the good of the Nation, I really must decline :)

(Kylie, however, has assumed her duties as First Dog effective immediately, seeing no reason to wait for a formal election when there is so much work to be done on behalf of her canine constituency. KYLIE 2006 and Forever!)

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Chiming in on the important questions of our time

My blog buddy Amanda Brice inspired this post with her musings about the traditional "No Christmas Music Until After Thanksgiving Rule." She protested the rule today, treating her office to a rousing musical celebration of "The Nutcracker." Normally, my thought is that any office playing something other than MUSAK mid afternoon as we wind our way into the dull days of winter should be celebrated. But I have to draw the line on Christmas songs, and chime in to say that we (okay, I) need to keep them on ice until this coming Friday.

Now, I'm not usually a stickler about these kinds of things. You can place responsibility for my rigidity on this particular point of etiquette squarely on the slim shoulders of my college roommate:

Back in my dorm days (junior year, to be precise) I came back to our room one morning after a Biology class that involved analyzing the inner workings of dead mammals. (To this day, nothing says "deck the halls!" to me like the smell of formaldehyde.) As a political science major/aspiring lawyer, I thought I should be exempt from dissecting animals because I spent my time dissecting arguments, but the administration didn't buy my line of reasoning. Anyway, I entered our room, threw my books on the desk, and collapsed on my bed, only to be surrounded by a surreal, high-pitched wail, an electronic drumbeat, and a bit of tambourine thrown in to sweeten the tune. To my astonishment, my quiet, preppy roommate was dancing around our room with a hairbrush, belting out the lyrics to "I saw Mommy kissing Santa Claus" via the song stylings of The Carpenters, and their hit album, An Old Fashioned Christmas.

It was October 19th.

The next week it got worse, as she broke out Barry Manilow's Because It's Christmas, to which I replied, "Um, no. It's not."

We had a moment of tough love there in the room. I told her that finals were coming up, that we had papers to write. She said, "But we need a little Christmas...right this very minute...candles in the window...carols at the spinnet!" "Don't argue in Christmas songs!" I protested, "You don't even know what a spinnet is!" She looked sad, like my three year-old niece when I tell her that my dog won't ever get to go to kindergarten. "But if you find out over Thanksgiving," I relented, "You can play Karen, John, and Barry all you want after that."

As Robert Frost once said, "Good fences make good neighbors."

For years after we graduated, my phone rang on the Friday after Thanksgiving, and I'd be greeted by the vibrant enthusiasm of Barry's "Baby It's Cold Outside." Payback, as it turns out, is part of the holiday spirit :)

So it's in her honor that my two new Christmas CD's (okay, the first I've ever owned - it's taken me awhile to cozy up to this seasonal music thing) are sitting on the corner of my kitchen counter, still wrapped in cellophane, waiting for Friday afternoon when I haul the decorations up from the basement and wrap our little condo in a sparkly festival of Christmas cheer.

Until Friday, though, there is much for which to be Thankful. Start thinking of yours, cause you know I'm gonna ask...


Sunday, November 19, 2006

Group hug

Okay ya'll...Put down your beverages, and say hello to my online buddy Stacy, who has had one doozy of a week.

First, her snail died. And now she's facing irreconcilable differences with Target. (I don't usually take sides in these things when I'm close to both parties, but Target, I've seen your Christmas display, and I have to say - Stacy has a point...). And yet, in the midst of all her pain, she's still working hard to solve the parking problem at her local Whole Foods.

This girl cracks me up, and makes me happy I live on the same planet. If you have a moment, head on over to her blog and offer your condolences about the snail.

Friday, November 17, 2006

You gotta pick your fights

Are we really worrying about a children's book about gay penguin adoption when the spectacle of TomKat is hijacking our news?

Now I have no opinion on the merits of various penguin family structures, although I think the likelihood of little Tango being eaten by a sea lion or a killer whale is too high for me to worry about who he hangs with until then. But I have to agree with fellow Blogger Steve Salerno (scroll down to the third paragraph) when he points out that treating the marriage of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes like some sort of coronation, what with their deliberate choice not to hurry to the alter when they learned little Suri was coming along and Tom's long history of romantic carnage trailing behind them (not to mention his bizarre behavior and surreal and pushy spiritual life), is really rather gross.

(Don't hold back, Trish...tell us what you think...)

America, we can do better. Turn off the TomKat broadcasts, walk away from the gay-rights-for-fictitious-penguins debate. There is stuff that matters is life and is worth our effort and focus, and this isn't it.

Now before you accuse me of going all crazy political on you, let me assure you that's not what I mean. HERE is the kind of thing we'd do better to spend our time on:

Many of you out there are, like me, attempting to write a book. Write it now, because until you do, I can't read it (and if you've been reading my blog, you know I'm in a bit of a rut and need the options!)

Many of you out there are, like me, attempting to have a happy marriage. Well, in the words of one of my favorite firey women preachers - Ladies, you got to MINISTER to your husbands. Consider devoting your weekend to indoor sporting fun. :)

And finally, many of you out there are, like me, trying to fit into jeans that don't seem to have quite as much denim as your current proportions require. Let's follow Swishygirl's lead and do the aerobic boogie until our groove thing fits into those jeans, at which point we will no longer care what TomKat or the penguins are up to.

And there you have it - my weekend manifesto :)

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Nancy French brings the Happy

I asked for happy, and you all answered. Thank you ever so much :) Not only do I now have some fabulous book recommendations, but Nancy French sent me the answers to my unorthodox (okay, nosy) questions about her book, RED STATE OF MIND.

Those of you who have experienced RED STATE know that several chapters contain hysterical stories about Nancy's first year of marriage to her husband David. Much of the humor comes from the fact that they didn't know each other all that well when they fell in love and got married, something Nancy herself didn't realize until they'd tied the knot and moved from Tennessee all the way to Manhattan.

Now I'm a sucker for the early details of happily-ever-after stories, so the minute I finished the second chapter of RED STATE, I sent an email to Nancy, asking for the skinny on how David wooed her. Her answer was even funnier than I expected:

Q: How did David propose?

Just a few weeks after we met, we were in Mississippi where David’s lovely Nana lived. We’d taken a walk around the neighborhood before dinner, came to a large concrete sewage pipe, and – inexplicably – sat down there to talk. David was going on and on about his feelings for me, and I tuned back in right when he said, “So I guess what I wanted to ask you… was if you would marry me?”

I was shocked. There was no ring, no candlelight, not even a one-knee plea. He just threw it out there on the spur of the moment, and I said yes. I pray more about getting a good parking space than I did about getting married.

He did get me an awesome ring, by the way, which I insisted upon before telling my mother that I was engaged. In fact, David asked me to marry him before he’d even met my Dad. Plus, I was only twenty. You can see why I wrote “Red State of Mind” and not “Steps to Ensure Your Marriage is Perfect.”

(Note to Trish: Please delete this blog post before my kids get to be marrying age.)

There you have it folks, true love on a Mississippi sewer pipe. Confirms my suspicion that if when the guy is Mr. Right, the locale just doesn't matter :)
Thanks for making my day, Nancy!

Who else has romantic stories to share? (Bonus points for funny...)

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Happy needed on aisle 4, STAT!

As you know, I've had a rough patch with my book choices lately. I thought my luck was changing yesterday, when I discovered a newish little bookstore around the corner from my house. I wandered in, and Alice Sebold's memoir, Lucky, caught my eye.

I knew it wasn't a happy book, but I didn't expect it to be unendingly grim. Naively, I thought there just might be a happy ending - an idea I should have put to rest when the bookstore clerk looked at my choice and said, "This book will destroy you."

This book will destroy me???? Um, no. It won't. If it's too gruesome, I decided, I'll simply put it down.

It wasn't, and I didn't. It was so well written that I didn't even notice the writing; I was too caught up in the story. But as the pages flipped and the chapters passed, I started wondering, When does the happy part start? When does she reclaim her life? She's married - when does she tell me about her wonderful husband?

Nope, none of that. The afterward is simply a whirlwind trip through years of heroin use, bad waitressing jobs, and fear of windows left unlocked. All understandable, given what happened. I just wasn't prepared.

So now, dear readers, I need your help. PLEASE, Please, please...tell me about your happy books - the stories that make you smile, that fill you up with warm fuzzies and bring joy into your life. Tell me what, tell me why. But most importantly, tell me soon, cause I need some happy here in the land of Trish!

I'm off to read At Home In Mitford for the seventeenth time - things always work out for Father Tim :)

Postscript: I just dropped Mitford in the tub...So sad!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

This is love?

Love - in all its various shapes and forms - is clearly in the air these days. Or at least in the news.

Meredith from Grey's Anatomy, is now engaged, which gives me hope that some inner glow will bubble up from within her on the show, giving her character enough of a backbone to make this more than (in the words of a friend of mine) "Ally McBeal in a Hospital."

I was feeling a bit sorry for Kevin Federline yesterday; it seems odd that he's taking such a beating in the press when he never pretended to be anything but a dancer/bad boy. Britney fell for it, but she knew what she was getting into. So as bad as his new CD might be, I'm surprised that he's getting pummeled so much harder than certain other celebrity men whose relationships ended because they were unfaithful. Apparently, we are far more offended by men who rap badly than men who sleep with other women. We might want to think about that...

In other news, the wax museum has decided to pull their planned depiction of a Brad Pitt/Angelina Jolie wedding. Not because such a thing would be strange, gross, and utterly unappealing, but because they don't want to offend the celebrities. If this article is correct, this might have been Ben Affleck's one chance to stand side-by-side with Liberace. Sorry, Ben.

And finally, TomKat & Co. has arrived in Rome for the long-awaited ceremony. This will make it easy, I suspect, for Katie's family to pray round-the-clock rosaries for her deliverance from the undefinable strangeness that has overtaken Tom Cruise.

Okay, it seems like this wasn't much about love at all...but I have a fun love story for you tomorrow, so stay tuned...

Monday, November 13, 2006

An adventure is what you make of it

I am delighted to report that all of last week's angst about my bummer reading choices was wiped clean by the first-ever visit by my sister and her family to the lovely state of (in the words of my three year old niece) "Mister-choozits."

My sister and I take a rather unorthodox approach to travel. Neither one of us is particularly into museums, statues, or historically important sites. We're more about the who than the what when it comes to filling up our visits. Accordingly, we bypassed the opportunity to herd her delightful children into the numerous educational opportunities available here in Beantown: we didn't go to the Science Museum, the Aquarium, or the Freedom Trail. Instead, in the time-honored tradition of our family, we went for a ride.

Now, neither Yes We Do Eat Fig Newtons For Breakfast Boy (hereinafter, "The Boy") nor Glamour Girl (hereinafter, "The Girl") had been on any mode of public transportation before. Indeed, other than the big yellow bus that comes to transport The Boy to first grade on weekday mornings, they had only the assurance of a few children's books that such a thing as buses and trains existed. So our "big adventure" this weekend was a trip on a bus and train, which we leveraged mightily to extract good behavior from the children for a full twenty-four hours beforehand.

And yesterday afternoon - just as it started to rain - we headed out for the bus stop, scurrying as fast as tiny feet could take us so we wouldn't miss the 12:04. The four of us huddled under two umbrellas as the sky let loose, drenching our feet and soaking the hems of our jeans. Dear Sister and I stared at each other over The Boy and The Girl's little heads, wondering, "Where the &^%%# is the bus???" Soon it was 12:18, and three buses had passed on the other side, with The Boy shouting, "Is that our bus?" in anticipation and glee, and The Girl asking, "Well why can't it be our bus" in baffled frustration. (Glamor Girl still has faith that if you want it badly enough, everything in the world will turn around, pick you up, and go your way. I admire that in a person.) Finally, at 12:26, a miracle of lurching majesty appeared on the horizon, and our bus pulled into sight. "Hooray!" The Girl yelled. "Mumma," The Boy exclaimed, barely able to contain himself, "I'm going to get on that CITY bus!"

We climbed aboard, glowing children in hand, and were greeted by the blank stares of people who have no intention of giving up their seats even for two soaking wet women trying to broaden the horizons of the Future Leaders of America.

We took the bus to Harvard Square ("Are we really underground?" The Boy asked, incredulous. "You mean, the train will really come under all the buildings???") We picked up the Red Line, which sped along through the tunnels until emerging to cross the Salt & Pepper Bridge over the Charles River. Uncharacteristically intimidated by her surroundings, The Girl pulled me close to whisper, "Are we allowed to talk on the train?" while the boy speculated how fast we might be whizzing along. After passing over the bridge, we got off at the Charles/MGH stop, assuring the kids that now they could tell their friends that they had, in fact, taken the underground train all the way to Boston. On the way home, we stopped at Kendall Square to ride the escalator and use the potty at the Marriott (thanks to the nice lady who directed us to the extra bathroom on the third floor), then hopped back on the Red Line, and the 73 Bus (which the driver switched, right there in front of us, to the 71 Bus - but don't even get me started about that) to go home and tell Dad and Uncle Steve about our fabulous adventure.

The kids skipped home from the bus stop, utterly enthralled by their new worldliness and all of the wonderful tales The Boy would tell his class today in sharing time. And my sister and I looked at each other, exhausted and victorious, happy to have passed along our family belief that when you're with people you love, it's all about enjoying the ride.

Friday, November 10, 2006

You take the good, you take the bad, you take them both and there you have...

The good news today is that I figured out my linking problems on my new Mac and can offer exciting links to burning issues of great importance such as this and this. Keyboard shortcuts - who knew??? (My husband, fortunately. Thanks honey!)

The bad news is that I'm reading a memoir right now, and here in the middle of chapter two, I LOATHE it. Generally, I adore memoirs; even if someone is annoying or atrocious they're at least interesting enough to keep me turning the pages. I LOVED Devil In The Details, and Everything I'm Cracked Up To Be. I even liked Leaving The Saints because it is brilliantly written and fascinating, in a car-crash kind of way (although I'll go out on a limb and say that if this woman is making a million-dollar living as America's Life Coach after purposely blowing up all the connecting bridges to her own family, we Americans need to raise our hiring standards a bit).

Anyway, all that to say, if you take the time to write 250+ pages about your life, chances are I'll find a place for it on my bookshelf. This, however, is going back to the library immediately. (You all said you wanted the truth; here goes...) I'm not even sure what to's just kind of sad. And graphic. The author (who I will freely admit I'm slightly afraid of - from other posts about her book, it's clear that she is a bit like the bully on the playground who will turn all her friends against you if you say your favorite color isn't green) can't possibly be as unlikeable in real life as she is in this book. I want to like her - we've been through some of the same things. But midway through chapter two, I'm not sure I can take anymore. There are funny moments, which are much appreciated in the midst of so much anger and grim determination. But for the most part, it's a manifesto of how she's going to get what she wants out of life even if she has to wrestle it (him) to the ground and sit on it until it cries "uncle." Thank God I didn't read this in my own post-divorce "I wonder if anyone will ever love me again" days, or I might have just hidden in a dark closet for the next 20 years convinced that life wasn't worth living.

So there you have it, my first bad review. Last week I wrestled over my love/hate relationship with the Dixie Chicks, but this week's dilemma will be over with a quick trip to the return bin at my local library.

In happier news, my sister and her family are coming to visit tomorrow. This will be the first visit to the big city for Glamour Girl and Yes We Do Eat Fig Newtons For Breakfast Boy, and it should be quite an adventure. We may just drive them through Boston's Big Dig and tell them it's an amusement park ride for kids who like construction :)

Happy Weekend Everyone!

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Better than sheep

I couldn't sleep last night. One of those tossy-turny nights where right after I'd doze off, I'd realize both of my arms had fallen asleep and I'd spend the next ten minutes trying to restore circulation to my extremities.

Here is a small assortment of my late-night random thoughts, in no particular order (or context, for that matter):

1. My new chiropractic pillow with the big divot in the middle makes my head feel like it's in an egg carton.

2. I wonder if Advil or Tylenol is better for lower back pain?

3. I bet going to the gym is better for lower back pain.

4. It really is a miracle that our country can undergo such a gigantic change in leadership in the middle of good times, let alone war, and we all expect it to work out smoothly. And it will. I'm not sure I appreciate the miracle of our American process enough (One hour later: I am fully satisfied that I'm caught up on my awe and wonder; I am now ready to get some sleep).

5. My niece (Glamour Girl) and Nephew (Yes We Do Eat Fig Newtons For Breakfast Boy) are coming to visit this weekend, along with their delightful parents. I should probably spend some time on Friday removing poisonous, breakable, and electricity conducting items from the lower shelves. After that, the lower third of my house will be pretty bare.

6. If Britney Spears writes a self-help book on the importance of avoiding Mr. Wrong, she can count on me for 15-20 copies. In the words of my friend's 3 year old daughter, dressed as Sleeping Beauty for Halloween, "You shouldn't let the bad guy kiss you!"

7. I'm going to see my parents today, and my Dad is going to buy his first computer. He is 75, so that is very cool. But I don't think he's part of Apple's target demographic, as their on-line machine specs are in six point font, all in grey. I see a long afternoon of reading aloud to my father, in a techological language neither one of us understands. But perhaps I underestimate him; just because I don't know how many gigibytes I have, want, or need doesn't mean he doesn't. After all, the man understands Algebra.

8. Going to see my parents means that YES! this is another day where I will shower and put on clothes other than my pajamas. It's a big day in Trishworld.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

I'm not even sure what to call this

I was reading this article this morning, and the full text of the letter Ted Haggard wrote to his congregation in the wake of his recent scandal. (I know I don't usually talk about such serious things on this blog, but after reading the letter, I think it's helpful and important for any of us who are wondering "What on earth happened?" to read Haggard's comments in their entirety. Not because of what it reveals about him, but because of what it reveals about us. His experience of shame, disgrace, and deception strikes me as a profound example of what can happen any to us when we get separated from each other - and from God. Whenever I start prettying up my image in the hopes that you'll think I have it all together, chances are I'm headed into a dark place. I think the take-home lesson from this chapter of Haggard's story is, at the very least, Stay out of the dark, kids. And don't wander through life alone.)

So anyway, I'm reading the letter, and I notice - as you may have - an ad on the righthand side featuring a pair of tighty-whities hanging from a clothesline. The ad is sponsored by a builder in Colorado Springs, I realized, with this super-special tag line to entice you to build yourself a brand new house: "Buying a resale home is like...wearing someone else's underwear!"

I did not need that particular bit of imagery this morning, thank you very much. Now the reason this caught my eye is that I used to work for a new home builder. And I confess, I planted my share of doubt-filled seeds with customers considering one of those used homes: I may even have mentioned things like leftover toenails in the carpet, or asked, "Don't you wonder how many butts have been in that tub???" Not a proud time for me, clearly. But I take some solace in the fact that I never - even in months where I was danger of not making quota - compared a house to underwear. I don't have to see the numbers on that ad to guess that folks aren't flocking to that community!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Bright light, dim bulb

There's a chance I'm getting a bit fuzzy, here in writing world. Two things happened yesterday that made me realize the importance of maintaining some connection with the outside world as I'm holed up here at my laptop finishing volume one of The Story of Trish's Life.

First, I got an email from my author friend Nancy French. She and I have been communicating quite a bit recently, both about the success of her hysterical book, Red State of Mind, and about the copy of said book that was supposed to be on my doorstep several weeks ago. I'm not exaggerating when I say, I LONG for this book. I've seen the advance reader copy (the one with all the saucy language), but there's something cool about the final hardcover version that makes me happy. I even know where this book will go on my bookshelf, and space there is hard to come by.

But the book didn't come. And didn't come. Days and weeks went by, until the only feasible thing I could think of was that someone must have stolen my copy of Red State right off of my little front porch. Now, we've never had anything taken from our porch, so the likelihood of someone in our exceedingly blue neighborhood perloining my copy of Nancy's tribute to conservative America is pretty low. But I was desperate for an answer, and that was all I could come up with.

Fast forward to last night's email. It's Nancy, who says UPS called to verify my address because they couldn't find me in the place I said I'd be. "That's strange," I thought. "My address is pretty easy..."

That is, when I get it right. Turns out UPS has been trying for weeks now to deliver my copy of Red State to some non-existent address in downtown Boston. I live in Belmont. Sigh.

I wonder if I should ask to dig around a bit in the UPS truck when it finally arrives, just to see what else I've sent to the wrong place???

The second thing making me reach out into the blogsphere for a tiny dose of sanity is the embarrassing fact that when Steve arrived home from work yesterday, I was still in my pajamas. Still in bed, to be precise, in exactly the place he left me, typing away on my laptop. What's worse is that I'm still wearing those pajamas now. Thirty-six hours and counting.

Don't worry though - I'm changing soon. Someone (prompted by my husband perhaps) sent me one of those articles about how personal appearance is an important part of author marketing these days. At the very least, it inspires me to get in the shower, as I guess cleanliness is the next big thing in books.

You heard it here first :)

Monday, November 06, 2006

Where I've been, what I've been doing

So sorry for my absence over the past few days. I've been deep in the thick of manuscript revisions, faced with the daunting realization that the time is coming where my Work In Progress will be taken from me to be printed and bound, and I will not be allowed to fix any of those dangling modifiers or sentences that sound pretty but don't quite make sense.

In the midst of this red-pen editing frenzy, I've had some ups and downs.

On the down side, I've reached the awkward conclusion that it was probably a mistake, in my first phone conversation with my Editor since early last summer, to mention, a.) that I hadn't looked at my manuscript in over two weeks because of a death in my family; and b.) Elizabeth Wurtzel.

The first bit of news she took with aplomb; my Editor is a total sweetheart. But forgetting that she's also a businesswoman, I launched into a joke about how Prozac Nation author Wurtzel moved into her editor's office when she hit a rough patch in her second book, sleeping on a daybed and having Chinese take-out and cocaine delivered directly to the security desk in the front lobby. (I'm not making this up or spreading ugly rumors, Wurtzel herself tells this story in her third memoir, More, Now, Again). Anyway, my Editor doesn't know me all that well yet; I suspect it wasn't the best idea for me to plant the idea that in addition to any support and hand-holding I might need to finish my manuscript, she might also be called on to provide room, board and recreational drugs. She laughed at my joke, but I found myself scrambling to assure her that Excedrin is the only chemical crutch I lean on while writing (and even that will be lessened now that I finally found a store that stocks humidifiers on a shelf a 5'4" girl can reach.) We ended on a good note, but I worry her heart skips a beat now whenever she gets a call announcing a visitor in the lobby.

The up side of my total immersion writing days was the purchase of a new gadget. Now you've all heard me rave about my hair dryer (say it with me: TOURMALINE IONIC POWER!) and I know it's not the done thing to define our quality of life by the stuff we buy. Well, that's all well and good, except for the singular joy I'm getting from my latest acquisition: A Swingline "Light Touch" desktop hole puncher (I got it cheaper than this at Costco, but that link wouldn't work). Honestly, it's the most fun you can have while waiting for the Excedrin to kick in. I keep my memoir manuscript in two small binders for portability (Binder #1 - "The Sucky Years;" Binder #2 - "Thank God Things Got Better"). When I print new pages, I need to punch in holes to fit them in. We had a hole punch, but it handled - I'm not even exaggerating here - two sheets at a time. Suffice to say the prospect of major revisions was a bit daunting. Not anymore. I printed 74 new pages this morning, and had them punched and in the binder in three piles. That's more than the promised 20 pages at a time!!! Yippee :)

Doesn't take much to keep me happy.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Wide Open Spaces

I'm watching "Storytellers" on VH1, featuring the Dixie Chicks, and it has me in quite a quandary. I don't want to start a political firestorm here on my blog (please refrain, actually) but let's just say I don't super-duper love some of the choices the Chicks have made in recent years. I agree with some of their politics, but strongly disagree with their methodology. In the words of those well-known political advisors, Destiny's Child - my Mama raised me better than that.

So here I am, hunkered down in front of the TV with my dog and a little bowl of guacamole, ready to dislike them a little more. But then Martie (the violinist) tells the story behind "Cowboy Take Me Away" - how she wrote this song for her sister, and the guy she hoped would love her sister in the way that she deserved. Well that just got me. That's the good stuff. This is something my sister and I would do for each other, if we had any musical talent whatsoever (which we don't, so we just share a bottle of wine from time to time and say, "Thank God you didn't end up with THAT guy!")

It's so hard sometimes, when you don't really like someone (I doubt Natalie Maines and I would last long as friends) but you love what they do. I am awed by some of the Chicks' songs - "I'm Not Ready To Make Nice" could be the anthem to any number of breakups I wrestled through, and "Wide Open Spaces" is the theme of my early life (the "room to make a big mistake" part in particular). Their music is so good, covering a range of life's joy and angst and sorrow that hits me in a way only a few other artists do. But some of Natalie's comments make me long for TiVo.

I'm not sure what to do with this dichotomy? What do you do when you find a musician/actor/author whose work you love when they do things that infuriate you?

On a lighter note, maybe I just like the banjo. Honestly - it's tough to be unhappy around a banjo.

Dryer update

Turns out my new hair dryer - the Revlon 1875 with TOURMALINE IONIC POWER - rocks! I got three compliments last night at class, all from people who see my hair often enough to not bother commenting unless something is really different.

I still don't get it - the ions, the use of semi-precious stones. One helpful article told me: "Tourmaline is a stone. It helps hair dry faster." Um, okay. Sure.

But I've never been one to question the scientific breakthroughs that make us beautiful (except for that whole "put mayonnaise in your hair to make it shiny" idea that circulated in my early teen years). If you're looking for a dryer, remember this unlikely equation:

Ions + gemstones = compliments.


Tuesday, October 31, 2006

An update from conservative utopia

Okay folks, I'm back from my errands with a quick report on life here in conservative utopia, or at least the 5,000 square feet of it occupied by our local Target store.

I got a nifty new blow dryer which is going to change (dare I say revolutionize?) the entire hair drying process for me. It has - are you ready for this? TOURMALINE IONIC TECHNOLOGY! I have long suspected that what stood between me and that perfectly pulled-together look was semi-precious jewelry; I never thought to incorporate it into my small appliances. Just think what a difference a diamond drill bit might make!?!

My joy was slightly diminished my my inability to get the other appliance I needed, a humidifier. I did not get the humidifier because Target moved them all up to a shelf by the ceiling in order to make room for Christmas decorations. Which is essential on October 31st. I guess I'll have to ask Santa to bring me a humidifier, as I suspect he's the only one who can reach them. In the meantime, let's hope that all those extra tourmaline-generated ions in the air keep my nasal passages clear :)

Rethinking my political geography

I was lamenting my lack of blog-worthy thoughts this morning when I read a book review in October 23 issue of New York Magazine that made my head spin. (Forgive my lack of a link here - I'm still working out my Mac/Blogger issues).

The book in question is Andrew Sullivan's "The Conservative Soul." Not typically something I'd look at, but the author picture featured a man in a beard and plaid flannel, and the incongruity grabbed my attention. The book sounds somewhat interesting; Sullivan apparently makes a living trying to reconcile his multi-faceted life (Irish Catholic, gay, Generation X) in print. I do much the same thing (although I'm quite heterosexual, even when wearing plaid) so I can appreciate the effort involved when your faith and your life seem to point in two different directions.

But what made this article blog-worthy had nothing at all to do with Sullivan himself. What got me was a pithy comment tossed off by the reviewer, who says:

"A name comes to mind for the conservative Utopia Sullivan would like to see built. It's called Massachusetts, though actually the Netherlands would serve just as well."

Apparently, I live on the east coast of conservative Utopia!
Who knew???

Now I've heard Massachusetts called many things in my lifetime - heaven knows we leave the door wide open with our tax structure, the Big Dig, and the 1700 times the Red Sox have blown sure-win situations and gone home before the World Series. But I've never heard ANY part of this state - even downtown in Boston's financial district - called a conservative Utopia. I'm not even sure what the reviewer means by this comment (he clarifies his point by saying, "both places have fetishized their history while making themselves open to any sort of liberalism but in reality supporting the most bourgeois societies imaginable") but it makes me feel, at the very least, like my state is suddenly a much more interesting place to live. What does this mean, I wonder? Are we destined to become the new destination hotspot for conservative politicos who secretly adore JFK? Will Rush Limbaugh buy a home here and enroll in comparative religion classes at the Harvard Extension School?

I'm headed out to run errands now. I'll have to look around more carefully, just to see what conservative Utopia looks like :)

Monday, October 30, 2006

Life lessons

I had another fun weekend babysitting for my niece and nephew (heretofore known as Glamour Girl and Yes We Do Eat Fig Newtons For Breakfast Boy. My brother-in-law was having minor surgery, so I don't think it was all that much fun for him, but he is recovering nicely and I've had another, "Wow - kids ARE harder to raise than dogs..." epiphany that will keep me from mentioning crate training the next time one of my parent friends mentions the challenges of teaching a toddler to use the potty.

My major contribution to my niece and nephew's development this weekend was in the unexpected area of reptile management. Did you know that one of the popular cartoons for kids today features a character who keeps a pet anaconda??? Saturday's episode offered an important message about how when our friends need help, we need to do everything we can to assist them. For example, if you see an anaconda, and it looks like it might be lost, the best thing do do is poor water over it to prevent dehydration, then wrap it around your neck and take it home.

Um, no.

Now I don't mean to be a stickler for details here, but if I'm teaching kids about snakes, and anacondas in particular, the take-home point of my message is: Leave them alone, they might eat you. This is a usable piece of knowledge young children can work with. Granted, my little charges are unlikely to encounter an anaconda up in Maine. They're equally unlikely to encounter a lion or a tiger, yet they're fully aware that they look like tasty little appetizers to most large members of the wild kingdom.

I was delighted to see that my explanation prompted a wide-eyed level of respect in both Glamour Girl and Yes We Do Eat Fig Newtons For Breakfast Boy, with many questions about how an anaconda would eat you and exactly how long that might take. My excitement was tempered somewhat, however by the new game my lesson inspired, where they slithered around the house pretending to BE anacondas. When they started squeezing the poor dog, I had to intervene. All I could think of was to tell them I was a hippopotamus (I've been on a bit of a hippo kick lately, as you might have noticed) All I heard for the rest of the day was, "Be a Hippo, Aunt Trish! Be a Hippo!"

So now I'm back in Massachusetts, with my half-bald dog and a new appreciation of what it takes to raise the next generation :)

Here in blogger world, your call for candid (albeit kind) reviews is duly noted. I will have some new books - some good, some not-so-spiffy - up on my website by the end of the week, by which time I hope to figure out the intricacies of using blogger on a Mac. Can anyone tell me why I have no options now? I can't create links or use bold/italics - anyone know how to make this work?

Friday, October 27, 2006

Let your voice be heard!

Fellow Bloggies, I need your opinion.

Part of my excitement yesterday over Nancy French's fabulous new book was that it came on the heels of not just a bad life week, but an exceedingly bad book week. Or month, actually. I'm not sure why, but the last five or six books I've read have been infuriatingly bad for one reason or another - either not at all what the cover promised, or filled with the author's odd agenda that has little to do with the subject of the book. These books have mostly been non-fiction, and (fear not!) none of them were written by any of you :)

As some of you know, I keep a book log over at my website, with a few sentences about what I'm reading. (I love getting book recommendations, but can never think of an answer when someone asks me what they should read next. So I figured the log was a way to repay all the great suggestions I've received AND jog my memory when someone has a bookstore gift card burning a hole in their pocket.) By and large, I only review the books I like, which has been easy because this summer was like a tidal wave of literary fabulousity washing over my nightstand whenever I reached for a book (okay, that was a fun phrase to write). But, as I mentioned, Fall has been a little, um, arid...

So here's my question: when I read something I don't like, should I include it on the list? Now, I would never diss a book just because it wasn't my style, or because I felt the lead character should be a brunette former baton twirler from the great state of Maine. I keep those thoughts to myself. But when something goes horribly wrong within a book, or the author promises eggs and delivers oranges, do you want to hear about it? Let me know!

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Turning my frown upside down

As some of you may have noticed yesterday, I've had a bit of a tough week (thanks for your awesome words of support in response to my guys rock!) I'm delighted to report that my head is back in the land of "life is good/I'm happy to be here" thanks in no small part to a priority mail envelope that I found on my doorstep last night when I got home.

The envelope contained my long-awaited copy of Nancy French's book, RED STATE OF MIND: HOW THE CATFISH QUEEN REJECT BECAME A LIBERTY BELL, the contents of which turned my mood around by page two (You know the little disclaimers non-fiction books all have now, a few tiny lines at the top of the copyright page explaining how some names have been changed? Well Nancy's disclaimer had me laughing so hard I raced ahead to the Table of Contents to see what other gems this book might hold.)

That said, I have to acknowledge the elephant in the living room: In this book, Nancy discusses politics. Nancy is a Republican, which means Nancy discusses Republican politics. I am a lifelong Blue Stater (I never gave up my Maine license the entire eight years I lived south of New England) who was admittedly less than ecstatic at the result of the last two elections (at one point I drove down the street in tears, asking, "Really God, how can you possibly be against universal healthcare???") so I waded into RED STATE with a bit of trepidation.

Let me say this now: regardless of your political/social/spiritual stance, this book is SOOOO good - not just from a humor perspective, but also in terms of depth, warmth, and overall "wow I'm glad I read this"-ness. I loved it.

Remember my post earlier this week about how we're all too careful in our social conversations, relying on standby questions about work and lawn care strategies no one really cares about rather than sharing what matters? Well, in RED STATE, Nancy shares what matters. It's filled with things you don't typically hear at a cocktail party, which makes me want to put her on every guest list I make from this point on. I don't know if I agree with her take on the use of our military, but her story about how the chance to enlist changed the entire trajectory of her father's life brought tears to my eyes, and helped me "get" her patriotism in a way that makes my world a better place. I LOVED her passages about the effort she and her new Blue friends put into their budding friendships, and her honest thoughts on how hard it is to feel like you've landed on a planet where you just don't belong. That she managed to cover all this territory and still keep me laughing after my day from - as some Red Staters might put it - "H-E-double hockey sticks" was a nice little miracle, right there in my grateful hands.

There's an old point of etiquette that says that the two things one should never talk about in polite company are politics and religion. Nancy talks about both, which makes me realize she's my kind of girl. When I first put my website together, I called Nancy my favorite Republican, and she's defended her title well with this book.

So there you have it. I am grateful to God, the U.S. Postal Service, Nancy French, and my beloved blogging friends for pulling me through yesterday's funk. Thanks ya'll :)

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Floating? Sinking? Sometimes it's hard to tell.

When I was little, my Mom had a saying she'd blurt out when the cacophony of our young demands got the best of her. We knew it was time to give Mom a little space was when we'd hear her plead, "Stop the world - I want to get off!"

Today, I understand how she felt.

It's funny - last week I blithely linked to an awesome article by singer Nicole Nordeman about how God challenged her to stand up to the cultural idea we've absorbed that we all have to be stressed and exhausted for our entire adult lives. I fell in love with one line in particular, where she said something to the effect of, "I want to regain control over the climate of my life, rather than letting it swing me around by the tail."

Ah, such wise words. Unfortunately, it appears life has me be the tail this week, and is swinging with wild abandon. I'm trying to keep in mind the reassuring words of my law school friend who once said - as he headed off to take a nap an hour before our Torts final - "Things tend to work out." God has a pretty amazing track record of proving my friend true in spectacular and astonishing ways, so I'm not entirely wrecked; I'm expecting some miracles anytime now. But I'd be lying if I denied that this sort of ride always makes me a tad nauseous.

So there you have it. Not very shiny-happy-people, but what can I say? If you need something to lift you up, here's my survival recipe for today:
1. Pray
2. Call or email a friend who gets it
3. Look at the hippo picture again
4. Repeat #1

(Reassuring note: After posting this, I remembered how blogger Ayelet Waldman alerted her friends and family that she was skidding too close to the edge via a long blog about the suicide rates of people just like her. Please know that this is not that post :) I'm okay, just a tad overwhelmed. And I feel much better having blogged. Thank you all for being part of my #2.)

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Five things

My apologies to those of you who were unable to get the full experience of the "This is the scent of Jesus" website yesterday. Not sure what was up there, but I suspect it was divine intervention. I've read the Bible, and I'm pretty sure there's no particular way the air has to smell before Jesus will come hang out with us.

That said, on to today's excitement! I was tagged by Amanda Brice, who requested five interesting things about me. I LOVE this tag because I believe most people are FAR more interesting than they let on. We get caught up in the dullest conversations - "What do you do?" "Where did you go to school?" "How old are your kids?" And we rarely move on to the juicy fun stuff that rounds out the edges of our lives and differentiates us from all the other people who share our job/school/rate of reproduction.

So here goes...I'm calling this, "Five things I probably wouldn't mention at a cocktail party." And the next time I'm actually AT a cocktail party, I will try and fit all five of these into the small talk, just to see what happens:

1. I've read some of the same books as Rory Gilmore. Check out Gilmore Girl Fanatic's site and wonder which ones :)

2. I'm unusually aware of the status of our Federal Prisons. I'm close to someone who spent some time as a "special guest" of our government, and I've lead student tours through maximum security. When I was in college, my big dream was to run a private prison. (I went to one of those open minded schools where no one would ever suggest that a short girl from Maine with a background in dance and baton twirling might not be the best candidate for high-level prison management - I've often wondered what they would have said if I told them my other dream was to play professional football?) Anyway, trust me when I say that despite the media wailing about how we're soft on crime, our prisons are unspeakably awful and our prisoners are plenty punished.

3. I like professional sports. I loved the Red Sox and the Patriots long before they had winning seasons, and my willingness to attend Bruins Hockey games made my soon-to-be husband smile wider than the promise of a homemade lasagna. Shaquille O'Neal is one of my favorite people, and that was even before he became a sheriff.

4. My Dad retired from teaching when I was in Jr. High and became a lobsterman. I was too girly to go out on the boat with him like my siblings did (dead fish before dawn? Um, no.) To this day my Dad insists that the only time I set foot on his boat was when I rode my bike down to the pier one day to ask him for money. Regardless, I know lots of random things about lobster, many of which I learned from my dear Father before furthering my lobster education through my esteemed career as a butter girl.

5. Finally, I think I'm the only person (or certainly one of the few) in the history of the public library system to borrow the autobiographies of Hillary Clinton and Billy Graham at the same time.

There you have it. I have my doubts about how much of this is interesting, but all of it meets the standard of "Not usually discussed at cocktail parties," so I'll take that as success. And I'll tag Nancy French, Swishy, Lestes65, and Stacy.

Happy Tuesday :)