Tuesday, January 30, 2007

A Ray of Chocolate In An Otherwise Dreary Waiting Room

So last night, as my head fell down into the divot of the ergonomically correct pillow Steve's chiropractor promises will realign my entire muscular, nervous, AND skeletal systems (mine doesn't have the little pump you see in the picture; apparently I can't be trusted with that level of technology) when I realized that I forgot to share the one bright spot in my trip to the hospital with my Mom last week - the paperback ray of sunshine and happiness that got me through the long day (and even made me forget about the gross tuna sandwich):

On my way out the door that morning, I grabbed Julie Carobini's new book, Chocolate Beach, and stuffed it into my purse. Wow, was I glad I did. This is a fun romp through beach life, friendship, the dilemmas of marriage and in-laws and motherhood. One look at Julie's website makes it clear that Chocolate Beach is a perfect beach read. What I'm hear to tell you is that it also makes the perfect accompaniment to a long morning in a hospital waiting room. (I'm guessing Julie's publicist never thought to pursue that angle... ) Anyway, a huge THANK YOU to Julie for keeping me entertained during a tough day!

Monday, January 29, 2007

Mom Update

Hi everyone. We're back from Maine for now (headed up again tomorrow). My Mom has stablized a bit but is still really weak; and she and my Dad both have some sort of cold that is knocking them for a loop, in addition to everything else. We're waiting to hear back from the doctors on the twenty bazillion tests Mom had last week. (Honestly, it was like healthcare spring training for her - we expect her to be an early pick in the major league draft.)

A few things I learned while accompanying Mom to the hospital:

1. If a perky nurse comes up to your 66 year-old mother who is being watched like a hawk for signs of stroke and/or heart failure and says, "We have a BRAND NEW nurse with us today who is learning to insert IVs, and she'll be right over to put yours in!!!" You need to say immediately, in a loud and forceful voice, "No %$##& way." You are not required to sacrifice your beloved Mother to New Nurse Nanette's medical training, no matter how certain hospital personnel are that really, it won't be a bit of a problem.

2. If your mother is attached to the oxygen machine on the wall while lying on a rolling bed, make sure they disconnect her from the wall before rolling her away. Because they just might forget to do so. Twice.

3. Never eat the tuna salad in the hospital cafeteria. (Rookie move, I know. But I'll admit my blunder in an attempt to protect others...)

All that said, however, I'm happy to report that everyone else we encountered at the hospital - the volunteers, Mom's doctor, the nice lady in the cafeteria who waited patiently for me to dig change out of the bottom of my purse because I forgot to bring any money - were all very wonderful.

Thank you so much for all your prayers...they're working!!!

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Life is what happens...

Hi All - Steve and I are headed up to Maine. My Mom is having some pretty crazy heart trouble - it's starting, stopping, starting up again - and she's in the middle of a series of medical tests that would exhaust even the healthiest of marathoners. Please keep her and my Dad in your prayers.

Thanks so much!

Monday, January 22, 2007

Deep Cover

I'm hibernating this week - me, my laptop, my manuscript, and seventeen boxes of microwave popcorn. (And THAT DOG, perched at my feet, waiting for a buttery kernel to fall).

THE BOOK is due to my editor next week - the final version, the one that says, "This is my very best!" Yikes.

In an attempt to head off obvious disasters, I'm reading my prose aloud, looking for tense changes, personality changes, or other things that make memoirs such fertile ground for critical stomping come review time. Nothing like nine months of trying to be "real" to completely mess with your head - I've reached the point where my main character seems like some other poor girl...and really, I wonder as I read, why didn't someone stop her from dating all those losers??? Fortunately, few things are as funny as our own bad decisions (presuming there's a happy ending in there somewhere), so I get to giggle quite a bit as I enunciate all the details of the many failed attempts to protect me from my own best thinking :)

Okay, I'm not even sure that last paragraph makes sense... I hope you're all having a great week, and I'll pop my head back out from time to time to get some air (and perspective). Back to the cave for me!

Friday, January 19, 2007

Today's Font Of Wisdom

I'm not usually cocky enough to make Oprah-esque pronouncements about "What I Know For Sure," but watching the latest episode of America's Next Top Chef emboldens me. Here is what I know for sure:

1. If you are challenged to cook with chocolate, don't (don't, don't, pleeeeease don't) reach for chicken livers as your other featured ingredient. Honestly, Elan's chicken liver truffle looked like something people would be forced to eat on a Real World/Road Rules Challenge. Yeeeuck.

2. If you are a woman competing against men on network television, this is probably not the time to chase your lifelong dream of shaving your head. With a few swipes of that razor, Elia took her marketability from a respectable 7 (cute girl, fabulous hair) down to a -5 (weird girl, looks like she escaped from a mental hospital). If this was Project Runway or some other show where she could balance out the baldness with fabulous clothes, it might be less awful, but those chef's coats look waaaaayyy to much like straight jackets for this to be anything but a debacle. Hasn't this girl seen that episode of Friends that warns us not to do this???

3. Finally, if you can't control the urge to put Marcel in a headlock - and let's be honest, how many of us could? - get him off camera. As much as the grown-up part of me was watching Cliff pin him to the ground and thinking, "Hmmm...this might not be such a great idea," the little kid part of me was cheering, "Shave His Head! Shave His Head!" just because he's soooooo impossibly annoying.

This is the first time I've considered the possibility that reality TV might be good for America...seeing things like this makes me realize that all of us have many more things we "Know For Sure" than we think we do.

What do you know for sure?

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

They say it's my Birthday :)

It's my birthday!!! Happy birthday tooooo meeeeee!

If I hadn't promised THAT DOG that we wouldn't get a monkey, I'd ask for a visit from this Chimp, whose first act upon seizing her freedom was to clean the bathroom. That's what I like to see in a pet - initiative! (THAT DOG is staring at me, as if to say, "I have no thumbs - how much cleaning can I possibly do???")

Putting my monkey dreams behind me, I'm heading over to Amazon to buy myself a little something from my wish list. I started this tradition a few years ago, when life was pretty grim and the prospect of another year wasn't something I necessarily wanted to celebrate. So I'd force myself out to the bookstore and pick out a book to encourage me to keep on keepin' on. One year it was about writing. The next about developing good character (instead of living life as if I was a character, trapped in a sitcom where bad things just keep happening). Last year my birthday kicked off my memoir craze, and I double-treated myself to the stories of a rocker chick (I even went to her launch party) AND a starving kid from West Virginia who grew up to be a NYC gossip columnist. This year...well, I already feel extra birthday celebrated because an advance copy of this delicious-looking novel was in the mailbox yesterday :) As for my trip to Amazon, it will be fun to see what jumps out at me and announces, "I am your birthday book for 2007!"

Any suggestions????

Monday, January 15, 2007

The View

A peak into my window (be careful on that ladder, you're up on the third floor):

Blue pajamas. A large green couch. A small blonde dog missing a tooth. Editing, editing, editing. Sending a copy of manuscript to my agent and two trusted readers for their comments, feeling pretty good about myself. Little happy dance, a la Miss Jackson: I'm in...CONTRO-OL. I'm. In. Con-trol.

Two days later: noticing that there is a large chunk of Chapter Three floating inexplicably in the middle of the Preface. Beating head against wall behind large green couch (we need to hang a picture there anyway...) Listening to husband reassure me that these three lovely people will not decide I'm a useless hack because of this mistake, that it's not as if my oversight was immortalized in 100,000 print copies in 7 different languages. Nonetheless feeling like my Mother must have the day she dropped me off at nursery school wearing my favorite red and blue plaid pants with my beloved orange print shirt, announcing, "She dressed herself today..."

Last night: Same blue pajamas. Same green couch. Same dog. Hubby and I jumping up and down on said couch, screaming, "Go - Go- Go- Go!" as Tom Brady leads the Patriots down the field to score a touchdown, make the 2-point conversion (I think that's what it's called) and then the new kid who is not Adam Vinatieri secures a place in our hearts by making a HUGE, GORGEOUS field goal to beat the San Diego Chargers. All is happy in the Ryan Hood :)

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Kylie's teeth: Quality, not Quantity

THAT DOG (or, more accurately, THAT DOG MINUS ONE SMALL TOOTH) is recovering splendidly from yesterday's surgery - she thanks you for the good wishes :) As you can see from this photo, the Vet shaved a big chuck of her leg to insert the IV, which adds a poodle-like quality to her already multicultural image. She is not pleased. Compare her to a greyhound, a beagle, even a chihuahua if you must, but don't call her a poodle; she gets riled up.

Really, though, she has little to be embarrassed about. Her fur will grow back, and the Vet polished her remaining teeth while he was in there, so now she looks like an ad for Crest Whitestrips. Honestly, if I ever need my appendix removed or some other surgery, I think I'll ask him to scrub in and do my teeth, cause clearly, this guy's got skills. That said, however, I hope to never see him again, as doggie dentistry is muy expensivo. THAT DOG needs to get some modeling work PDQ to earn her keep :)

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

A Big Day for the Dog

THAT DOG broke a tooth over the weekend (fortunately not one of the fang ones that would leave her chewing lopsided). She's not in any pain, but it could lead to funky bad stuff in her little mouth, so tomorrow morning she'll bound into the car when I ask, "Wanna go for a ride????" and her stubby tail will wag with glee right up to the moment when they knock her out for dental surgery. Having been through a bit of that myself in my younger days, I envy her total lack of worry, her complete certainty that things will turn out fine, and her utter optimism that there might even be a tender morsel or two that falls from the dinner table right under her nose at the end of the day. Of course, she'll likely be too stoned to notice, but hey, at least her glass is more than half full.

(And yes, her front legs are that ridiculously long. Her back legs are slightly longer, even, so when she runs her back skids out to the side like one of those drag racing cars with the fat tires in the back.)

That's really all the news from here right now. Other than that, I'm on the couch with my laptop, editing, editing, editing. February 1st is when my new year begins :)

And finally, if you find yourself in one of those places where you're wondering if your life has purpose, ask yourself, Why not a banana over Texas? and see if you don't feel...well, normal :)

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Sowing My Oats

I baked yesterday, for the first time in...well, ever. Steve didn't know what he wanted for his birthday, didn't want a big present so soon after Christmas, didn't want a cake that would make us both feel icky. And as much as I adore his easy-going "it's no big deal" nature, I come from a family where birthdays are a VERY big deal, and was having a bit of difficulty figuring out how to wrap all those didn'ts in sparkly paper to create the birthday extravaganza he deserves.

I was inspired by Beck, whose husband makes these fabulous cakes for their kids (scroll down a bit on her post and check out the pictures). I thought and thought, going through our cupboards to figure out what I could make that might be like that. Then suddenly, it occurred to me: I could make Steve the oatmeal cookies he's been begging for since September of 2005. Oatmeal cookies might not sound like a birthday delight to everybody, but this is my mother's special recipe, handed down from her grandmother or some such thing. We don't have many of those revered-for-generations things in my family (there is a three-part Korean obscenity my Mom learned in her first secretarial job that she taught to sis and I, that we are passing on to my niece and nephew, but that isn't something one can decorate for a Birthday) but this cookie recipe is spectacular.

Anyway...I trotted off to the store (uphill, both ways) because Steve had the car yesterday, and bought oats. Let me tell you, there are few things in the store less exciting to buy than oats. But I love this man, so there I was. I won't bother to describe my frustration at the self-checkout line; suffice to say I was ready to tuck the oats under my arm like a football, throw $5 at the customer service desk, and flee the building.

I got home, rolled up my sleeves, measured, mixed, poured, and smushed. Then I rolled out the dough and created 32 of the most beautiful oatmeal cookies on the planet. I had dough left over. A lot of it. Then, inspiration struck again, and I created Steve's birthday masterpiece - TA DA! Oatmeal Man was born!!!

This is what you get in my house when you say you don't know what you want for your birthday :)

Friday, January 05, 2007

Happy Birthday to Youuuuu!!!

Today is my handsome hubby's birthday! And I have to say, I am quite delighted that he was born :)

If you're in a festive mood, stop by the special page my genius web designer made and tell Steve how wonderful it is that he his wife knows how to post his picture online but isn't at all sure she has the ingredients on hand to make him a cake...

Thursday, January 04, 2007

One Dog, making her voice heard

It never occurred to me that THAT DOG might be reading my blog (although I'm not sure why, given her hours of free time each week and delightfully curious nature), but her behavior since my last post makes it clear that not only has she read it, she is HORRIFIED by the idea that I might adopt the resolutions mentioned therein. Last night she opted for the type full-body protest made popular in the 1960's (apparently she's been watching the History Channel and reading up on the women's movement, too).

Normally, we have a standard bedtime routine we follow, established by her majesty: She decides when we need to go to bed, then walks back and forth between the bedroom and whatever room we're in, pausing to glare at us until we relent (or smarten up, as she might put it) and come to bed. If one of us is in the kitchen and the other in the living room, this process is particularly cumbersome, as she has to herd us back together and then off to bed. Really, her role in the family isn't at all unlike that of a nanny.

Once we're in our bed, she goes over to hers, where she stays until approximately 2:30am, at which point she joins us on our bed. We've never figured out why she does this, but I'll admit it makes the whole "enjoying the marriage" thing a whole lot easier. Whatever hubby and I are gonna do, we're done by 2:30am.

Last night, though, she staked out her position on our bed at the unthinkably early hour of 8:30, and didn't budge until we finally crawled in around her. Then she stretched her little thirty-pound body the FULL length between us, and fell sound asleep. She didn't move until Steve left for work this morning. There was no a kiss goodnight last night for the Ryans - the best we could do was a high-five (which, contrary to what Heather Appleton told me in second grade, does not create babies).

Now I know THAT DOG doesn't object to our reproduction; I think she's rather looking forward to the opportunity to have a human of her own to train from scratch. So this morning over my coffee, I pondered what might be upsetting her, and all I could think of was THE LIST.

To the core of her being, THAT DOG does not want to live with a monkey. Not even for a minute, not even as an experience of the broader animal kingdom. She has made it clear over the past eleven years that she could care less about expanding her social network, and she's more than happy to live forever in the company of human beings who pet her and give her treats. The hot dogs question is negotiable, I'm guessing, but the trip to Sweden is not. Sweden is cold, and as Meg pointed out, it is a land of heavy sweaters. THAT DOG does not take kindly to being dressed up in fabric, knit goods, or even trendy little raincoats designed to protect her from the elements. Plus there is precipitation in Sweden, and THAT DOG does not like to be wet. We've not chatted much about metaphysics, so I'm not sure how she feels about time travel, but I'm quite certain that watching me belly dance would shave years off her life. She might be an odd looking dog, but she has a certain dignity about her, one she's not willing to sacrifice so I can learn the art of wiggling to shrill music that would undoubtably hurt her ears.

THAT DOG has taken a stand, and am writing here to say, "Kylie - I hear you!" So I promise, no monkey, no trips through the airport that end with you shivering in a wee sweater, and no Middle Eastern Dance lessons. Steve and I will have to make baby Ryan the old fashioned way - by going to bed when you tell us to and making the most of the hours before 2:30am :)

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Resolution...eat more hot dogs

Just as I'm not a fan of New Year's Eve, I've learned the hard way that devoting the first days of January to fresh resolutions of what I absolutely must do/be/accomplish in the coming year is a sure recipe to ensure I end up doing/being/accomplishing something altogether different. So for the most part, I don't bother. God and I had a nice chat on Sunday night where I mentioned a few things I might like to have happen, and he kindly agreed to take them under advisement. I'm fine leaving it at that.

But then I saw this post on Deb's site (doesn't she look great with that parrot?) about a website where you type in a wish and PRESTO! the site generates some important next steps to take in the coming year. Kind of like a life coach or a therapist, only private, quick, and free!

Wanting to be honest, I typed in one of the items from my chat with God - that Steve and I would like to add a new little member to our family this year, and move one step further up the adulthood ladder: having kept a dog alive for eleven years, I think I'm ready to care for person (and yes, I'm well aware that my prior success with crate training is not applicable to childcare, under either State or Federal standards) So I went to the "What should your new years resolutions be?" site, and when asked, what do you wish for in 2007? I typed in "a baby."

Here, apparently, are my KEY STEPS TO SUCCESS:
1. Get a pet monkey
2. Eat more hot dogs
3. Travel to Sweden
4. Study time travel
5. Get in shape with belly dancing

Based on this, I'm convinced this is a test to determine my fitness as a parent. But I'm not fooled! First of all, there's no way I'm getting a monkey. It will eat all the bananas, and potassium is very, very important for children (I may not know why, but I know it is!) Second, I can't possibly eat more hot dogs. They are the heated dinnertime version of bologna, my favorite food, and to eat more of them would push me over the edge of indulgence into the pit of gluttony. There's not much baby-making in that particular pit, so I'm choosing to avoid it :) Third, a trip to Sweden will do me no good at all, as this article clearly shows Europe is the land of falling birth rates. In Sweden, the article notes, fertility is linked to the economic earnings by the female, which means I'd not only have to travel to that cold, barren land, I'd have to get a job there. Um, no. I think Steve and I would do far better to schedule a trip to some tropical locale with fruity drinks... Forth, the time travel thing...really, am I supposed to take that seriously? I just read the book of Acts, where Jesus appears out of nowhere on several occasions and Philip engages in some airplane-free air travel. That will have to do. And finally, I refuse to belly dance on the grounds that it will mortify the children I hope to have. I understand that at a certain point, everything Steve and I do will embarrass them, but I see no need to take such clear steps toward making them right to be embarrassed.

So there you have it, I emerge resolution-free :) I think I'll go make myself a hot dog to celebrate!

Monday, January 01, 2007

Hooray it's 2007!

I'll confess, I despise New Year's Eve with everything I have in me. As much as I love, love, love to get dressed up all pretty, with sexy heels, a swishy dress, and some sparkly lip gloss, there is just too much pressure to be uber-cool on New Year's Eve, and I can't be uber-cool and wear my sexy heels at the same time. Oh Well.

That said, however, I LOVE New Year's Day. I love the idea of new beginnings, of a fresh start, a chance to jump back into the pool and start swimming again (when you read my memoir, you'll understand why. For my first thirty years or so, I needed January 1st to be a quarterly event...)

Anyway, HAPPY 2007! If you want to get your year off to a great start, check out Darlene's update on her son Mark. He was in a life-threatening car accident just before Christmas, and his strength and sense of humor are fabulous to witness.

If you want a laugh, check out Sarakastic. She plans to take over the Presidency of Canada this year (will that require a political uprising, I wonder, or do you just walk into the Canadian capitol building and politely inform the current President that his services are no longer needed?) Anyway, Sara has tapped Stacy and I to serve as Vice Presidents of Canada, which I'm hoping will involve much ceremonial drinking of Heineken. Stacy can go to the hockey games - she's from Michigan. And all three of us can check out my favorite Canadian singer-songwriter, Miranda Stone, who I'm hoping can play the national anthem of ANY country in a key I can sing. I'm still working up enough range to get through "Row, row, row your boat" and/or "Happy Birthday," so we'll have to pay Miranda quite a salary.

Looks like 2007 is shaping up to be a big year :)