Thursday, June 28, 2007

I'm in love

I am listening to Wild Hope this morning, the amazing new album by Mandy Moore. It's breathtaking. I saw her singing Extraordinary on TV last weekend while waiting for our flight to DC, and I couldn't believe it was the same pop princess who used to compete with Britney & Christina - her lyrics are gorgeous and real; entirely different than anything she's done before. If you've ever picked yourself up after a heartbreak, trying to put back all the pieces like Humpty Dumpty, this album is for you.

As I type, I'm listening to Latest Mistake:

There's part of me that wants an answer
And part of me that doesn't want to know
Part of you that I am in love with
And the part that I am willing to let go

This is a delicate unraveling
Now and then I find pieces on the floor
Tiny little bits that tell me
Maybe I shouldn't do this
Or love you anymore.

This is the real deal. Totally worth your time, attention, and $9.90 at itunes :)

Now I'm off to check out Kelly Clarkson's latest. Breakups are horrid, but wow - nothing fuels creative genius like that particular kind of pain. Projects like these remind me that God will use all the mud we've slogged through for something good, something we'll look back on and say, Now I get it. Now I understand...

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Today's post, brought to you by the number 8

The lovely Alyssa has tagged me for a meme, so today you get 8 random items about me:

1. Hubby and I switched the bedroom around last night, to see if being on the other side might help me sleep better. The look on THAT DOG'S face when she wandered into the corner where her bed used to be and found only bare wood was priceless. Her furrowed puppy brow glaring at me, as if to say, "What have you done now?" I struggled not to giggle. Eventually we returned her majesty's bed to it's original location.

2. THAT DOG and I have moved 9 times and lived in 6 different states in her 11 years of life. You'd think she would have been okay relocating to the other side of the room.

3. When I meet new people, I can never remember what they do for a living. I remember every detail they tell me about their interpersonal relationships - if you hated the flower girl dress you were forced into for your Great Aunt Matilda's seventh wedding, I'll think of your story off an on for years. But I'll still have no idea what you do all day when you go off to work.

4. My first concert was Shaun Cassidy. Da doo run run yah, Da do run run.

5. On my wedding day, my hairdresser was so hung over that my updo looked like a third-grade art project. All I could say was, "Um, I guess let's attach the veil towards the top so it will cover it...." By the time of the ceremony, though, I didn't really care :)

6. I was born with WAY too many teeth. I'd had 13 teeth pulled by the time I was in 4th grade. Thinking about this now, I should be calling my parents HOURLY to thank them for investing in orthodontia.

7. I once wrote to a famous author who was leading a trip to Europe to ask if she'd take me with her as her assistant. The next thing I knew I was in the International Departures section of JFK airport, passport in hand.

8. I once won a trophy for walking in a T formation while smiling. It was part of a baton twirling competition, but I wasn't carrying a baton. I just walked and smiled. (I think "gifted & talented," is what they call it now when a child shows that kind of promise...)

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

My version of "The Office"

I woke up in the middle of the night last night thinking about superheroes and superpowers. Not sure why (maybe the buzz of being in DC makes one think about saving the world?) but it was fun to drift back off to sleep murmuring, "Wonder Twin powers - Activate!"

If you've read the "My Story" section on my website, you know that this superhero dream isn't new to me. Ever since I was a little girl, I've wanted a business card that listed the Hall of Justice as my work address. A nice office on the 7th floor, perhaps. Lunch with Wonder Woman. Aqua Man giving swimming tips at the office Christmas Party. Hearing the female interns swoon over Superman's muscles. That sort of thing.

The best part of the job, though (aside from the defeating of evil creatures seeking to destroy humanity, that is) would be seeing the resumes that came into the office from rogue superheroes looking to connect with a good firm. You know, the ones who had recently married or had a super-baby and needed a good benefits package to support the family. What a great way to spend the day, reading about other people's super powers, and getting to meet them.

Today's question: if you were to submit an application to the Hall of Justice, what would your superpower be?

Monday, June 25, 2007

A Great Vacation

We are back from our trip to the nation's capital, happy and well-rested. The past four days have been like a dream vacation for us, a perfect combination of great friends, good food, amazing conversation, and morning coffee out on the deck overlooking trees and horses.

I would feel slightly obnoxious raving about how wonderful everything was if Steve and I didn't have such a LONG string of bad vacations behind us. We honeymooned on the equivalent of a deserted island (which sounds romantic until you really think about it). Last spring we stayed in a hotel that had burn marks from the crack pipes in the bathroom. And last summer - while vacationing in my hometown, where you'd think I'd know how to organize a decent vacation - our getaway cabin dangled precariously over a muddy inlet and had a rodent's nest... under our pillow. The pool was closed due to some sort of chemical catastrophe, and the restaurant was closed for renovations. Should I even mention the rain?

This trip was entirely, delightfully different. We stayed with our amazingly brilliant friends I'll call Genius and Harmony, who live in a suburb of Virginia best described as bucolic. They are southern, which means that hospitality abounded - they cooked more for us in four days than I've cooked for us this year. We talked about books and music and relationships. Steve left inspired to take guitar lessons, I left with a new love for the poet T.S. Eliot. To say that our horizons were broadened is an understatement. And as if that weren't enough, Genius and Harmony have reproduced, so there were three little examples of what a great DNA combination can create running around their house (okay, the littlest one didn't run so much as lounge - she's only 3 months old - but her occasional wiggly smile made up for her lack of forward movement).

We saw the WWII memorial, which was jaw-droppingly beautiful. I'm not a huge fan of monuments/museums (I wish I was that kind of person; it's a bit embarrassing that I'm not) but this newest work of dedication was both a powerful remembrance and artistically mesmerizing. I could have stayed there all day. And the Korean Memorial was beautiful and haunting. (Anyone who wonders if we should stop funding the arts should wander through these two displays of vision, skill, and devotion before making a decision). Then we went into Georgetown, to a little French bistro were we celebrated our anniversaries - three years for Steve & I, ten later this summer for Genius & Harmony. Honestly, the DC Bureau of Tourism should have followed us, as that day alone was a great sampler of all the city has to offer.

We're back now, and I need to get to work. I've missed life here in blog-land and hope to get around to see everyone later tonight. In the meantime though, Harmony is thinking of starting a blog - feel free to post words of encouragement in the comments, as she will be a fabulous addition to our online family :)

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Discovery day in cyberspace

I'm off on vacation for a few days, where I'm sure blog-worthy stories will abound. In the meantime, here are some fun things to check out while I'm gone:

Attention pubbed writers: Lesa (who runs amazing book reviews on her blogs - she's a librarian, and therefore in the know) has a call out for writers posted on her page. It looks like a great chance to have a chunk of your work featured in a "how to write a book" book, so if you have something in print already, send it in!

Her blog then led me to, which may be the most fun a book nerd can have online. You can enter your books, arrange them all different ways, connect with other people who love those books....the list goes on and on (it's sort of the library version of playing Barbies, when you think about it). Once you enter all your books, click on the "Author cloud" link in the profile section...pretty cool. The site is fun to use and the designers clearly have a sense of humor - what more could a girl want?

It even allowed me to pretty-up my blog...if you look on the left hand side below the list of recent posts, my awesome sister TV Guide Girl (hereafter to be known as HTML Genius Who Needs To Start Her Own Blog So I Can Send Folks There To Tell Her She Rocks Girl) put the cool link with the ever-changing block of books from my library. How cool is that? It's like interior decorating for your blog :)

Other things to fill your day with amusement:

If you've ever wondered what it might be like to break a cheekbone, see Swishy. (And don't worry, I've seen her since the incident and can assure all concerned readers that her face has healed nicely).

If you want to see an ADORABLE baby picture, see Lynette.

If you've ever thought that a week at Disney in the heat of summer might be a complete and total nightmare, see Manic Mom, who will rid you of all doubt and have you booking a beach house in New England faster than you can say "Dumb mouse ears."

And finally, if you want a funny perspective on THE SECRET, see Nora Ephron's hysterical blog on the Huffington Post. She's a genuis, just like my sister.

Have a great week!

Monday, June 18, 2007

Life in the tropics

I'm glad I mentioned the Caitlin Flanagan article in Friday's post, because your comments were inspiring. It's true - writing gives us the ability to keep dreaming big dreams even during the multi-tasking certain seasons of life require. Funny - people often lament the downside of the writing life, but I'd say this is a HUGE example of the upside. Thanks for the reminder!

In other news...the wedding (and my new swishy dress) were both a big success, and tons of fun. The bride and groom are headed for Hawaii, which a friend of mine recently told me belongs on every vacationer's must-visit list. Have you been? Do you agree? I would love to go (the whole warm & sunny/surrounded by clear-blue water thing has always worked for me) but I get overwhelmed by the logistics: How do you know where to go? Which island? Which hotel?

I'll segue into an odd, "All roads lead to Caitlin Flanagan" moment here and mention the New Yorker article she wrote about Hawaii that was included in "The Best American Travel Writing 2006,", in which she revealed the depressing truth that one of the most prestigious hotels Maui charged the highest fees for it's worst rooms, simply by virtue of calling one building "exclusive." She arrived to find that her room was "exclusive" in that it was nowhere near th beach, or anything else she or her family might hope to get to during their vacation. How does one avoid traps like this?

(And to come full-circle back to the great perks of the writing life, I bet a huge chunk of her overpriced vacation was a tax-write off because she was working on this article. That, my friends, is a beautiful thing.)

Friday, June 15, 2007

And she straggles accross the line!

I got the word today from my editor that my book is officially (finally, unbelievably) DONE! Here's a confession for those of you who are new here (and those of you veterans wondering, "haven't I read this here before?") - I first blogged about being DONE a long time ago. Almost five months, to be precise. And the thing was, when I first handed in my "final draft" lo those many months ago, I honestly believed it was really good. Certainly as good as I was capable of.

Fortunately, my editor thought otherwise. Here's what I learned: I'm a pretty good writer. But with a really awesome editor (and for me, "awesome" means the ability to sandwich some serious tough love in between encouraging comments and jokes about how great this would all be when it was over) I can be more than a pretty good writer. I'm sure there's a deep lesson of universal significance in there somewhere, but I'm too much in the weekend-zone to find it. All I know is that I've never been so grateful to be humbled :)

In other news, author Caitlin Flanagan has a provocative article in this month's edition of Oprah's magazine, where she wonders why we are so much less likely to dream big dreams for our lives once we reach the age of husbands, mortgages, and kids. Whether you're at this stage yet or not, it's a great question. Unfortunately, the article didn't really give her enough room to answer it, but I think it's worth revisiting.

Especially now that I know how willing you all are to get prettied up for a party...big dreams give us reason for big parties!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

A jumble of thoughts

The good news is, I found a dress for the wedding. It's a swishy halter-top number, black with turquoise leaves swirling around on it. Hubby walked in while I was trying it on and it put a big smile on his face, so I think this was a good find :)

But walking out of Macy's with my new purchase under my arm, I couldn't help but admit how unsophisticated most of us are now compared to the women of our mothers' generation. When I get dressed on Saturday night, I'll blow dry my hair the usual way, perhaps with a bit more fluff. I'll put on my normal makeup, albeit with an extra coat of mascara and a slightly darker lip gloss. That's it. There will be no fancy up-do, no gloves or hat, no painstaking application of false lashes to my fluttery lids. Which makes me wonder if maybe there should be? I wonder if going out - to dinner, to weddings, to the movies - wasn't more exciting when our womanly preparations consisted of more than throwing a dress on rather than jeans?

On the back cover of About Alice, author Calvin Trillin's tribute to his wife, there is an amazing picture of the two of them taken in younger days. She looks like a blonde Jackie-O with her beautifully coordinated skirt and jacket, a hat perched carefully atop her shiny mane. It's clear she didn't just pull these items down off a hanger five minutes before and throw them on. And Calvin himself looks quite dashing, decked out in a suit in the days when this was what one wore when joining friends for drinks and dinner. I think I miss those days.

A friend of mine recently threw a birthday party for her husband, and the invitation instructed us to wear our "fancy party clothes." I was surprised by how much we all liked it, standing in ever-shifting groups in our nice duds, talking about all manner of books, ideas, hopes, dreams, and funny things that happened to us on the way to the party. It was like dressing up, dimming the lights, and pouring some wine made us rise to the occasion; those were some of the most interesting discussions I've had in years.

Which got me thinking...if I made my book events next spring a chance to "wear your fancy party clothes," would anybody show up?


I'm thinking deep thoughts about friendship this morning. Partly because my copy of Jennifer O'Connell's wonderful anthology, "Everything I Needed To Know About Being A Girl I Learned From Judy Blume" arrived yesterday from Amazon (I'm three essays in and already I want to go out and repurchase the entire collection of Judy Blume's books from my childhood!), and partly because I'll be spending this afternoon shopping for a dress to wear to a good friend's wedding this Saturday night.

You'll meet this friend in my book....he's the one I call Will, although that's not his name (the stunning array of men named "Dave" in my life history forced me to do some creative renaming).

Will became one of my closest friends a few weeks after I wandered into our huge church for the first time, wondering why on earth all these normal-looking people were hanging out in a school gym listening to a talk about Jesus on a sunny Sunday morning. Will, along with my friend Amy, helped me figure out what all this stuff meant, and what it might mean for me. But more importantly, Will prayed for God to send me my husband, which was what I was looking for when I wandered into that church in the first place.

Will prayed for my husband, and I prayed for his wife. Apparently Will's prayers were more powerful (or perhaps he was just more organized about it?) because my wedding day arrived three years (to the week) earlier than his. Who knows, maybe God knew that marriage was a bigger deal to me. I'm not sure I'd have handled the three-year wait as graciously has Will has :)

Anyway, Will's wedding has me thinking about how people come into our lives for a season of time and make a world of difference. And when that season is over, sometimes you fade away from each other a bit. You still care, you still hope for good things and enjoy the chance to cheer each other on, but the intensity dies down a bit once that season is over. And that's okay. So here's to Will, his lovely fiance Joy (perhaps I should call her "Patience" or "Charity" to keep with this renaming thing?), and the God who brings people together and surprises us with how things turn out.

And to think, just yesterday I was posting about the divine origins of baloney :)

Enough with the deep thoughts...I'm off to the mall to find a dress!

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Where baloney comes from

Just got back from an amazing weekend up in Maine with my family. The weather was gorgeous, the sun was shining through the trees, and I got to sit on a hammock in my sister's backyard with my almost-four year old niece, Glamour Girl, while she shared some of the wisdom she's accumulated in her first 47 months of life.

"I know where turkey comes from!" she told me as we swung back and forth. "It comes from turkeys! And milk comes from cows!"

"Where does baloney come from?" I asked, trying to trick her.

She looked me straight in the eye and said, "God."

So there you have it.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

The key

I am back in action from the food poisoning debacle - thank you all for your kind wishes! Here is what I was going to write about before I did my 48 hours in the new secret indulgence!

I was sitting on the couch the other day, surfing through the channels and chiding myself for not working, when I came across Kathy Griffin: My Life on The D List. It was a marathon, as it turns out, and for the next three hours, Ms. Griffin had me hooked. Now I'm a bit shocked by this - it's not like KG is a logical nominee to replace the Gilmore Girls in my heart. But man, she is funny. My favorite scene was when she flew to Louisville, KY because they were going to award her the key to the city (which is a bit hard to imagine, as I've always thought of Louisville as rather conservative, and Kathy is, in her own words, so far to the left that she's for gun control at gay weddings). Nonetheless, Kathy arrived in KY and went forth to meet her people. All nine of them. There, outside the mayors office, were seven administrative assistants taking a donut break, one fan, and the Deputy Mayor, filling in for his boss (who couldn't be there because he had a dentist appointment). They gave her a lapel pin and sent her on her way. It was so pitiful, it was funny.

She also did an AMAZING job going to visit our troops in the Middle East - she had me laughing and crying at the same time. I was impressed by how smart she is, how she adjusts her material to suit the crowd in front of her, but also how she "got" that much of what she saw in Iraq wasn't funny at all. I like that she shows a full range of who she is, rather than just being the wisecracking girl all the time. Good stuff. If I'm ever awarded the key to a city, I hope Kathy will be there :)

This weekend's question: If you could have the key to any city, what city would it be, and why? Kathy's got Louisville, but there are still plenty left for the rest of us! (I'm going to Chicago next month to scope it out).

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Decorating tips

When picking out a bathroom decor, consider how it will look to you at 3am when you have food poisoning and can't go far beyond that little room. I suggest a mild, soothing color scheme, and a toilet with nice know, in case you find yourself facing it for hours on end.

That's all I've got for today...

Tomorrow's topic: "Silver Linings: The joy of unexpectedly fitting into your skinny jeans."

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Basic rules for driving in Boston

(This just in from my brother-in-law. These would be far less funny if they weren't entirely true. Welcome to our world...)

BASIC RULES FOR DRIVING IN BOSTON (subject to change at any time):

1. Geography. Here's what you need to know: The geographical center of Boston is in Roxbury. Due north of the center we find the South End. This is not to be confused with South Boston, which lies directly east from the South End. North of the South End is East Boston and southwest of East Boston is the North End. Backbay was filled in years ago.

2. When on a one way street, stay to the right to allow oncoming traffic to pass.

3. Never, ever, stop for a pedestrian unless he flings himself under the wheels of your car.

4. The first parking space you see will be the last parking space you see. Do whatever you must to grab it.

5. Double park in the North End of Boston, unless triple parking is available.

6. Learn to swerve abruptly. Boston is the home of slalom driving, thanks to the Registry of Motor Vehicles, which puts potholes in key locations to test drivers' reflexes and keep them on their toes.

7. Never get in the way of a car that needs extensive bodywork.

8. Always look both ways when running a red light.

9. Honk your horn the instant the light changes.

10. Breakdown lanes are not for breaking down, but for speeding, especially during rush hour.

11. Never use directional signals when changing lanes. They only warn other drivers to speed up and not let you in.

12. Making eye contact revokes your right of way.

13. Never pass on the left when you can pass on the right.

14. Whenever possible, stop in the middle of a crosswalk to ensure inconveniencing as many pedestrians as possible. And if a pedestrian ahead of you steps in the road, speed up loudly and
chase him back up on the curb.

I'm sure that our local department of tourism is having these made up into an inspiring commercial just in time for summer tourist season. Welcome to New England!

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Searching for the line between nicely chilled and frigid

Our refrigerator conked out yesterday, which gave me lots of time to ponder deep questions while waiting for Larry the Repair Guy to come save our milk and mayonnaise. (Which he did. Yay Larry!!!)

Here's what I was thinking about:

Many of us have spent all kinds of time thinking/wondering/planning/praying/hoping for the qualities our "Mr. Right" (or "Miss Right," if you're a guy) might have. But what about the flip side? What are the qualities a good Mrs. Right should bring to the party? More importantly, perhaps, what skills should we be working on if we don't currently have them?

(And to keep things from sounding like a pop-psychology book, let's all agree that yes, communication is very important.)

And (I wondered, while Larry replaced the timer and thawed out the freezer with my Revlon 1875 with TOURMALINE IONIC POWER) what are some of the coolest qualities you've seen in other people's marriages?