Monday, February 26, 2007

40 Days of Faith

This is my favorite time of year in our church. As our observation of Lent, we do something called 40 Days of Faith...from now until Easter, we focus on Jesus, asking him to bless our lives in outrageous ways, fasting from things that distract or comfort us that aren't about him, and looking for fun ways to bless the people around us.

In years past, I've fasted from coffee (difficult), television (even more so), and reading (nearly impossible-imagine me for two hours at the hairdresser getting my highlights done, NOT reading...just looking out the window. I looked like I'd lost my mind...) But in the midst of the effort and embarrassment, I've seen amazing answers to prayer and even a miracle or two, which is what makes this whole thing so much fun - there's no telling what will happen.

This year, I'm fasting from computer-related distractions: blogging and blog surfing. So you won't see much of me between now and Easter Sunday. I'll miss you!!! I know that in the natural world, dropping out of the blog-sphere for over a month is a sure recipe for losing online friends. But while I'm believing for miracles anyway, I've decided to trust that these fun friendships we've developed will endure, and that Spring will bring more good news and funny observations to post about all around.

If you feel like you could use a miracle of your own, everything for the 40 Days is (or soon will be) on the website I linked to above, free for anyone to use. There's a "User's Guide to the 40 Days of Faith" you can download, and a weekly reading that goes through the book of Luke in the Bible. Ask for something big and see what happens :)

I'm off for now. Have a wonderful pre-Easter season (how's that for a bizarre exit phrase???) and I'll see you in April!

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Soaking it up

As you've probably noticed, I'm on a bit of a consumption jag, devouring books and movies and music at a frenetic pace, then flinging out recommendations in lieu of blog entries. (Although, to whatever extent this blog is about what is going on with me, this about sums it up unless you want to hear about the new pillowcases I got at a discount outlet last time I went to Maine...)

I go through this stage about once a year, usually in February when everything is gray and dingy and dead from winter, and those same words describe the inside of my heart and mind. Not depressed, not discouraged; there's no need to fear (much) for my overall mental health. But I've been feeling rather dead, needing something new to revive me. This is typically when I long to move to New York City, where stuff is happening, stuff that might wake me up and give me something to write about again. Instead, I've been finding it in the four hundred word sentences of a famed octogenarian writer, a pudgy nine year old dancing to music selected by her unorthodox grandfather, and - today- the songs from a couple of singers I'd never heard before in quite this way. I listened to them, and I wrote. Real stuff, not the wow, she's trying way too hard pithy drivel I churned out last week.

So if you're looking for inspiration, here are today's suggestions:

For funky, ecclectic music talking about faith and life: Ayiesha Woods. She's like India Arie meets Tracey Chapman meets Queen Latifah. Her song Happy made me happy...what more can I ask for?

If you're feeling introspective, and want to think and feel and see the world with big new eyes, Cindy Morgan's new CD, Postcards is brilliant. An hour with this CD this morning, and I'm a better human being.

So there you have it. Now I'm off to the video store to get the new DVD by the Dixie Chicks, to see their creative process from the inside and to try to dislike Natalie Maines a little less. I'm not sure why, but it feels important for me to see her as more than one of those girls who would round everyone up to hate me in the first grade because I wore a funny shirt or sat at the wrong place at lunch. I'll let you know how it goes!

Monday, February 19, 2007

Let me entertain you!

Okay, not me, really. (Although as soon as I master internet video technology, there may be some early baton twirling footage to be seen...especially now that I know that there is a National Coalition forming in support of our advancement!)

More on that later. For now, suffice to say that this was an entertaining weekend, due to the miraculous discovery of TWO good rental movies (a first in my life) and a hysterically funny book. So now I'll pay it forward...

In the "whoda thunk it?" category, The Lake House with Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves. I know, I looks cheesy and dorky, and really Keanu really only works when he's duking it out in The Matrix...but still. I totally loved this movie and recommend it for those times when you want to see a creative path to happily ever after.

Next, in the, "okay you're right indie films don't all suck" category (following closely on the heals of last week's slam-dunk viewing of Little Miss Sunshine - Olive is now my screen saver because she makes me so happy) is Trust The Man - David Duchovny, Julianne Moore, Maggie Gyllenhaal, and Billy Crudup. The title has nothing whatsoever to do with the film from what I can tell, but the story is great. I never understood what the big deal was about Ms. Gyllenhaal before, but now I do. She was great, as was the writing. There was one scene where she was doing that thing we all do where we blurt out words like "I know I'm on a journey" and "I'm learning to live life in the grey area" to insist that really, we're FINE, when every feature on our face screams out "Help me! My life is going down the toilet and I don't know what to do!!!" All the actors are brilliant in this, and it's another great rental for your viewing pleasure. As my friend Gilmore Girls Fanatic would say, this movie gets FIVE Pop Tarts!!!

And finally, I'm halfway through a book with what must be the Longest Title Ever - it's cover reads:
This Publication, Proudly Sent Forth Under The Title Of THE DEAD BEAT Will Gratify The Reader With A Survey Both Humorous And Poignant Of The Wonders Enfolded In The Pages Of An Ordinary Newspaper, and Including Many Marvelous Tales Relating To LOST SOULS and LUCKY STIFFS And The PERVERSE PLEASURES of OBITUARIES. At 52 words, I suspect this was written by Gay Talese. The book, considerably shorter than the title, is pretty darn funny.

And finally, this just in from my favorite Texan. Hee :)

Happy President's Day everyone!

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Things that make you go ewww

What is going on in the world that this and this are today's headlines????

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Heavy Lifting

Last night, as the rest of the world watched Simon, Paula & Randy break young hopeful's hearts on American Idol, I cozied up on my couch with 448 pages of Gay Talese: A Writer's Life. It's the closest thing to aerobic reading I've ever experienced.

Talese, a longtime writer for the New York Times and the author of several gigantic works of nonfiction (not to mention the husband of power editor Nan Talese) seemed like a good bet for a little inspiration, and his book does not disappoint. Never in my life have I seen so many words - conveying such a wide breadth of information - crammed onto a single page. Two hours into this journey, my right foot was sound asleep and my eyes were wide with awe. I'd covered a mere 78 pages in that time, wherein Mr. Talese led me, like a kindly but adventurous grandfather, across three continents, four decades, two home offices, fifteen restaurants, and at least three generations without missing a beat. I've never read anything like it - I got up to go to the bathroom at one point and thought, "Wait a minute - how are we talking about his parents waltzing in the living room after dinner in the 1940s when two paragraphs ago we were wondering about the fate of a Chinese soccer player who missed a penalty kick in 1999?" I felt like a little kid again, having no idea where we were headed or what decade or industry we'd wander through next.

I was encouraged (and slightly amazed) by Talese's description of his writing process: he writes long-hand on a legal pad, in pencil. He writes a sentence, ponders it, changes it, erases it, starts over, wrestles with it until it's perfect. Then he starts a new sentence. When he's accumulated a full page of these perfected gems, he moves over to his typewriter and commits them to typeface (at which point he thinks of things that should be added or changed, which sends him back to his legal pad...) At this rate, he managed - over the course of a decade - to create 52 pages of usable prose. His finished books come in at 400-500 pages, making this man the perfectionist triathlete of the literary world. I say give him his preferential seating at Elaine's - he's earned it.

My FAVORITE part of the book so far, though, is on page 71. Explaining his tendency to drift off and eavesdrop while dining in New York's fine restaurants, Talese lets fly with a FOUR HUNDRED AND FORTY ONE word sentence. That's right - 441 words/one period. It's both horrifying and fabulous - I've never seen anything like it. Clearly, Talese ascribes to Stephen King's maxim that the road to Hell is paved with adverbs, as his 441 word creation (which, by the way, is really just a toss-off sentence where he ponders the fish someone is eating at a nearby table, speculating as to what sort of confusing day the fish must have had) contains only three.

My favorite part of the sentence (it's so long, it almost has chapters) is where he imagines the "bearded, brandy-breathed, scrawny, wife-abusing French-Canadian fisherman" who might have pulled up the net that captured the fish. Honestly, I don't use that many adjectives to describe ALL the people in my book, let alone one fictitious fisherman. Inspiring. (Although I suspect that to get this kind of monster by an editor you need to have reached a point in your career where people like David Halberstam call you "The most important nonfiction writer of his generation." I'm not quite there yet).

I'm going to type out this sentence - it may take me the next week or so - and frame it.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Straight up with one Olive

Thanks for the cheer-up all really are the best :)
I'm back in the saddle, writing wise, and it feels good in an off-key, I'll make it sound good later kind of way. I went out and bought one of those writing books on getting up the gumption to start new projects, and the threat of having to read it drove me back to my laptop in a way I never would have guessed! The only thing I dread more than writing drivel, it turns out, is reading other people's opinions on how I can generate more such drivel, and how necessary and important my drivel is. I don't disagree, but it makes very dull reading. God willing, I won't ever read that book, I'll just keep typing frantically, year after year, trying to avoid it :) (Probably not what the author had in mind, but I take solace in knowing her commission is the same whether I crack the binding or not.)

Two other things chimed in to pick me up off my duff this week:

We rented the movie Little Miss Sunshine the other night, and let me tell you, Miss Olive (pictured above) has changed my outlook on life (not to mention dance and fashion....) forevermore. If you haven't seen it, get thee to the theater ASAP. I almost maybe wet my pants while watching the closing scene.

And I downloaded "Best of Disco" on iTunes. I defy anyone to be depressed while singing, I love the nightlife, I got to boogie, on the disco arrrrrraaaahhhh Oh yeah...

I'll leave you with that audio-image :)

Monday, February 12, 2007

Notes from a narcississia

Weekend update: In an attempt to stay entertained during the cold, I saw Dreamgirls with friends yesterday. Dang, Jennifer Hudson can sing! I tend to forget that performances like that are practiced - they don't come out perfect in their initial incarnation - so it kind of made me feel like crap. That happens (I've noticed) when I forget about things like learning and rehearsal. Or, in Anne Lamott's great writing terms, crappy first drafts. I read my favorite writers and listen to my favorite singers convinced that their words burst forth (with musical accompaniment, no less) the moment they deign to put pen to paper. Not fun, especially as I've been a little shy on earth-shaking creative force lately. As I ponder the vast hopelessness of wrestling a poignant, transformative collection of brilliant nonfiction from my brain out onto my computer, you can imagine how much fun I am to be around. (If you have a moment, kindly drop me a note in the comments and remind me that the quality of your life is not contingent upon me writing the perfect book...tell me how you're doing just fine and I should get over myself, shut up, and write something, whether it's world-changing or not :) )

In happier news, the Red Sox equipment truck left Fenway Park to head down to Florida for Spring Training today. Not the players. Not the coaches. Not even a lucky fan. The equipment truck is headed for Florida, and people all over greater Boston are pinning the story to our mental bulletin boards as proof that spring will - has to - come. To which I say...I wonder if I could write something poignant about that....

Just kidding :)

Friday, February 09, 2007

Lo and behold, an epiphany...

As I was stepping into the tub last night, I realized, in one of those, "Duh - why didn't I think of this sooner?" moments, that I need a hobby. (And then I fell into the same trap as the rest of the people who have ever read books dealing with the improvement of the human condition: I took my personal revelation and flung it out onto the broader landscape of humanity, deciding once and for all that ALL women over thirty who don't yet have kids need a hobby. But that's another post).

The problem is, though - what to do? What sort of hobby can one pick up at this point in life? It seems a bit late for gymnastics, I'll admit; and I don't think that collecting blue bottles to display on the window sill is going to stretch my mental muscles in the way that I need. I considered knitting, briefly, but (as my sister will tell you) my history with handmade crafts is a brief and tortured one, and I'm not the best candidate for activities involving fine motor skills and long sharp needles.

So I'm thinking of learning to play the piano. It's absurd, I'll admit, but with those new keyboards that come with headphones, the chances of someone getting hurt are minimal; I appreciate that in a hobby. There's not much musical talent in my bloodline (we've long joked that a recording of some other family singing "Happy Birthday" would greatly improve our annual parties) but what we lack in skill we make up for in enthusiasm. I've danced to enough Janet Jackson songs to know I'm a part of the Rhythm Nation (I'd learn drums if we weren't in a 950 square foot condo...) and at the very least I can learn the chords (notes? how does piano music work?) to "Happy Birthday" to drown out our voices at my nephew's birthday party next month...

So that's my plan...for today anyway. Tomorrow I may decide to become a travel agent.

If you could try anything, what would your new hobby be?

Thursday, February 08, 2007

So that's why the melons at Whole Foods cost so much....

I can't think of any way to comment on this article without sounding heartless. So I won't. (Except to say "Please, someone, tell me this is a joke..." and "Aren't there better pursuits for scientists questing for breakthrough inventions???") Okay, I guess I commented. (Note to self: work on restraint and political correctness).

Moving right along...I need your help. I recently discovered the joys of iTunes, but am overwhelmed with all my choices. So here is what I need from you, my friends (besides patience with my inability to recognize the innate humanity of crustaceans) - song recommendations! What are your favorite songs in the following categories:

1. Inspiration: Music to keep you going on the treadmill/elliptical machine

2. Relaxation: Hanging out on couch thinking about how much better than feels than being on the treadmill/elliptical machine

3. Destination: Road trip/long flight music

My ipod thanks you :)

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Other great books to read while waiting in the hospital

Okay, I never thought my 2007 book log would take this particular turn, but so far, my major reading has been done in hospital waiting rooms as my Mom has been run through a gauntlet of tests. She's kept up a level of heroism (not to mention an uncanny ability to navigate narrow corridors in a cold hospital wheelchair without getting either her oxygen cord OR those little strings that hang down from the johnny tangled in the wheels) that makes me wonder if there might not be a spot for her on the next round of the MTV Real World/Road Rules challenge...

Anyway, I already shared how happy I was to have Julie Carobini's Chocolate Beach last time. Yesterday's read was Joy School by Elizabeth Berg. I'll write a full review for the book log once I finish the book and gather my thoughts, but wow, does she do a good job creating her young protagonist's voice. There are some writers who inspire me as to how I can write better. There are others, though, who make me stand back in awe. I suspect Berg is in the second catagory :)

And thanks again for all your prayers for Mom...she's still not feeling great, but all these tests show that her heart and lungs are way better than they thought...which makes me and my family a grateful bunch!

Friday, February 02, 2007

Options for my pen name

I've been tagged by my favorite Michigan girl, now known as Sbra! I love her extra now that she has punctuation in her name. There's a good chance that when I finish blogging, I'll spend the rest of the afternoon exploring my options in this area:
I could be Trish!
Or Trish%
Or (on a bad day) Trish?
Or the Spanish version (pretend the first one is upside down) ?Trish?
Wow, this could be a long weekend...

Okay, here goes the meme:


Trish (Patricia, actually. Not Pat.)

2. YOUR GANGSTA NAME: (first three letters of your name, plus izzle)

Triizzle. That sounds like a weather report, anticipating small amounts of precipitation.

3. YOUR “FLY Guy/Girl” NAME: (first initial of first name, first three of your last)

Tayn. Don't mess with me, I'm pretty fly.

4. YOUR DETECTIVE NAME: (fav color and fav animal)

Blue dog. If I ever start a career as a jazz musician, there's the title of my first album (I'll need some sort of cover for my detective career, no?)

5. YOUR SOAP OPERA NAME: (middle name, Street you live on):

Nadine Ericsson. Clearly, she's a woman not to be messed with! I bet I'd have a long career in the soaps, cause they keep the villain women around forever.

6. YOUR STAR WARS NAME: (the first 3 letters of your last name, first 2 letters of your first name, first 3 letters of mom’s maiden name)

Ryatrcoll. I think that makes me the machine that dispenses cold beverages.

7. SUPERHERO NAME: (favorite color, favorite drink)

Blue Cabernet (and her alter-ego, Blue Chocolate Martini). Now there's a cartoon I'd tune in to see.

8. YOUR IRAQI NAME: (2nd letter of your first name, 3rd letter of your last name, any letter of your middle name, 2nd letter of your moms maiden name, 3rd letter of your dad’s middle name, 1st letter of a sibling’s first name, last letter of your moms middle name)

Radosma. That should be all it takes for me to fit right in. Who cares if I have freckles if my name is Radosma?

9. YOUR STRIPPER NAME: (the name of your favorite perfume/cologne/body spray)

Destination. I think I'd do better as a cruise director.

10. YOUR WITNESS PROTECTION NAME: (mother & father’s middle name)

Amelia Russell. Now when you meet me, you'll know my secret.

These are all fine options, but I still like the look of !?Trish?! Doubt encased in enthusiasm - what more could I want in a name?

I'm tagging Lynette, Swishy, Sarakastic, and Jenny.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

I wrote a book!

My manuscript has been submitted! (I'm so wiped out that I don't even care that I'm making my big announcement in the passive voice). It was too early to run to the wine store to celebrate, so I toasted the moment with a "Yay, I wrote a whole book!" bowl of toasted oat squares. You'd think that would feel anti-climatic, somehow, but I was pretty hungry...

At some later date, I'll share with you what happens when you realize, the night before your book is due, that you've switched tenses midway through your story and now have 157 pages of sentences that need to be changed by tomorrow... Suffice to say that 3:32am is not my finest writing hour. I am newly appreciative that my days of academic term papers and all-nighters are behind me!

Thank you all for your awesome encouragement. As soon as I wake up from my nap I'll post something more celebratory. Who knows, I might even take a shower and put on real clothes! Woooo Hooo!