Monday, October 29, 2007

The Heat is On

We finally turned the heat on tonight. Our goal was (as it is every year) to wait until November. We talk about how we come from hearty New England stock and how it's really perfectly warm if you just bundle up. We try to ignore the way THAT DOG seems to cling to us in the final days of October, always lying as close as possible to to keep her short-haired little body at a temperature that will sustain life.

But tonight, Steve walked in as I was dumping boiling water from the kettle into our bathtub. "What are you doing?" he asked, wondering (hopefully, perhaps) if I'd spent my day looking up new cleaning techniques on the internet. "I'm preheating the tub," I answered, as if this was the most normal thing in the world.

You see, when cold weather approaches, it hits our bathroom first. And whatever the material is that bathtubs are made out of (porcelain? ceramic?), it freezes like an ice-cube. So by the time the water from our not-so-large hot water heater makes it up here to the third floor (through cold copper pipes that inexplicably take it OVER our living room ceiling), it's not all that hot anymore. And once it hits the ice tub, forget about it.

I thought my answer to this problem was rather clever. I remembered how, in the Little House on the Prairie books, Ma would boil water on the stove to fill the bathtub to keep the family happy and warm. I thought I'd give it a try. And guess what? It worked! The pre-warmed tub filled with nice toasty water, and soothed my chilly bones.

(Unfortunately, the boiling water also peeled off some sort of casing on the drain, and may have compromised the long-term viability of the soap dish. I may need the number to one of those Bathfitter outfits that comes and refurbishes damaged tubs...)

But the good news is, the heat is on!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Humbled by the British Phone Salesman

This video is amazing. It makes me cry every time I watch it. Paul represents the opposite end of the spectrum from the bespangled pageant contestant I blogged about last week--he doesn't command the spotlight with either his beauty or his costume; he just sort of shuffles on, almost apologizing for taking up space in the world. The thing is, though, he has a dream; a dream that pushes him out there in front of all those snickering faces who can't imagine he has anything valuable to offer, people who think his appearance might be their best chance to dash to the restroom before the next big star takes the stage.

And then he opens his mouth.

He sings, and it's so clear that this is what God created him for, his gift to us here in this world. My eyes filled with tears as I watched and listened to him--partly because it was just so beautiful, but more because I know that if I'd been in the audience that night, I'd have missed it. I'd have been one of those people in the ladies' room, touching up my lipstick while out there on the stage this guy was living one of the magnificent moments when God shows up IN one of us, changing EVERYTHING for all who stick around to witness it.

I don't want to miss these moments. I want to be there for every one of them, because they force me to remember what it looks and feels like when our talent connects with God's timing. Amazing.

Late (oh-so late) breaking addition: Speaking of fabulous moments I wouldn't want to miss...

(For a girl who grew up having people LAUGH at me when I'd say, "I think they just might win it this year," watching the Red Sox celebrate still feels like a big gigantic miracle. Well worth three weeks of missed sleep :) )

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Just like Oprah...

...This I know for sure:

If I lay out my newly washed BLACK sweater in an out-of-the-way corner of our condo to dry, THAT DOG will wait till I'm not looking, place her slightly chewed rawhide in the middle of said sweater, and then curl up on top of it all for a nap.

Is it too soon to put extra-strength lint rollers on my Christmas list?

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Good, Evil, Imagination, and Sparkle

I'm finally reading Harry Potter (I'm just starting book 6 now, so PLEASE no spoilers!) which has me thinking about good & evil. Rowling's depictions of this ongoing battle resonate in a way I haven't found since I read the Chronicles of Narnia. The whole idea of a personal evil--an actual being who takes the time to get to know us, feels out our weaknesses, and dreams up temptations specially designed to get us off course for God's best for our lives--is a profound one, and pretty accurate, in my experience.

I'm also reading this book, in which the author--a longtime Harvard professor--inadvertently offers an interesting battle plan to fight off these temptations. He writes about the class he developed for a program Harvard started back in the 1980s to make sure all students had some basis in moral thinking (I guess the faculty was a little upset that so many alums were ending up in prison, which probably cut down significantly on annual giving). This prof was asked to guide students through what Jesus offers along these lines. Some of his conclusion are surprising.

He points out that there aren't all that many do's & don'ts in the New Testament (the second half of the Bible, where Jesus comes on the scene), because most of the rules for daily living were already established. What Jesus does, he argues, is press us toward a more creative way of thinking that enhances our ability to live within those rules and resist the temptation to veer off on dead-end adventures. Jesus, he claims, challenges us to develop our imagination, which is the key to not just knowing what we should do, but actually pressing through to do it; to walk away from the bright shiny opportunity that is actually a pair of golden handcuffs in disguise.

He says that stories, like the parables Jesus is so famous for, teach us to use our imagination, stretching our brains in new directions that might just come in handy later.

I know many of you are writers, so I thought I'd run this by you: how do the stories you read influence your thinking? More importantly, what do you think of the idea that as a writer, you are a KEY PLAYER in the battle against evil?

What if you're a SUPERHERO???

(And yes, for those of you who are wondering, this is all part of the grand strategy I alluded to earlier this week to make sure we can all wear sparkly costumes to book signings)

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Sparkle Power

So I think I'm the last person on the planet (aside from perhaps my Mom, who owns a computer but refuses to turn it on) to see Star Wars Trumpet Solo on YouTube. But it made me laugh so hard that I had to write something about it, if only to immortalize this moment in my own little cyber journal so I can access it again later on days when I'm feeling down.

You see, when I watch this video, I'm not laughing AT her, I'm laughing WITH her. I too have spent my share of time in the public eye doing some sort of performance or another, truly believing deep in my heart that the best possible attire included silver fringe dangling from my knees and elbows. (There are days when I still believe this, just ask my sister).

Now my spangled appearances never included musical instruments; I'm not that talented. But hand me a baton lit on fire, or the story of an angst-filled girl trapped on a tropical island dancing for her life (angst-filled girls trapped in dungeons don't get to wear sequins and sparkles, so there's no way I'd ever take that part...) and you'd have quite a show. The first time my father saw one of these extravaganzas, he was trying so hard not to laugh afterwards that all he could say was, "I've never seen anything like it!"

Now that I think about it, maybe the reason God sent me to law school when he did (within six months, I'd lost my sparkle, and every item in my wardrobe was some shade of black, navy, or grey) wasn't because I was destined to be a lawyer. Maybe it was part of a larger "Spangle Protection Program," where those of us with a flare for shiny costumes were hidden away before our early moments could be captured forever to be posted on YouTube?

But I'm telling you, if I can figure out a way to incorporate baton twirling into my book tour, I am SO making some sparkly elbow-ties to complete the look!

Monday, October 22, 2007

For the Love of Gourd

This weekend, aside from a spot of rain on Saturday, was the perfect example of fall in New England. The sun shone through leaves of gold and auburn; a slight breeze blew along making it just cold enough for a light sweater; the Head of the Charles regatta enticed thousands of otherwise smart students to risk getting dumped in our murky river...and I got in touch with how much I love the humble gourd.

A gourd, for those of you who live in places where they don't appear outside the grocery store every October, is a hollow, dried shell of a fruit in the Cucurbitaceae family of plants of the genus Lagenaria. (Those Latin terms mean, essentially, "Not so good for eating.")

(The Gourds are also a country music group, but I'm not nearly so inclined to see those guys in a decorative pile on my dining room table.)

As I was food shopping yesterday. I passed row upon row of pumpkins, harvest corn trios, and dried stalks to tie on the front porch. I felt a stirring deep inside me, and realized, "I would like a gourd. Or perhaps three or five or twelve to place around the house as a tribute to the glory of fall." I tend to get a little grandiose in my decorating dreams around this time of year, and typically the ridiculousness of my thoughts--i.e. "A tribute to the glory of fall"--is inversely proportionate to the disappointment I'll feel when I realize a small pile of squash-like objects isn't much of a tribute. But hey, it's part of my creative process...

What I love about gourds is that they're bizarre--they look like something you'd find in the dumpster behind Harvard's science lab. People grow them, knowing full well that they have no purpose. The glory of the gourd is that it places almost no expectation on me as a consumer. I can buy one or ten or twenty, and everyone understands that all I'll be doing with them is decorating--I'll place them on shelves, in bowls, artfully tumbling down some stairs, perhaps. Eventually, I'll throw them away. There's no annoying recipe book at the checkout counter pressuring me to MAKE something of my gourds, like a pie or muffins or a tureen for soup. I don't need to crave it into some creepy face that will scare small children. The gourd is complete as is, with no reassembly required. I like that.

The sad thing is, there were no gourds to be had yesterday. All the good gourds ("good" being defined as bright orange or green or yellow, with a nice assortment of weird bumps and bulges) were gone. There were just a few scrubby ones in a anemic shade of yellow-ish, truly pitiful little fruits that failed to live up to the minimal gourd standard of looking interesting enough to take home.

Wandering forlornly back to my car after grabbing coffee and milk and cereal, I found myself singing the Counting Crow's version of that Joni Mitchell song:

Don't it always seem to go
that you don't know what you've got till it's gone?
They paved paradise, and put up a parking lot.
(Ooo, sha la la la...)

Friday, October 19, 2007

I'm sure they had NO idea

The Red Sox kept the dream alive last night!!!

It says something about the precarious nature of life as a Red Sox fan that even though they were up 7-1 in the middle of the 9th inning as the clock moved past midnight, I didn't dare go to bed lest I wake up in the morning only to learn that the boys had staged yet ANOTHER spectacular meltdown and lost 219-7. Thank God (and yes, I'm one of those people who prays about baseball), this didn't happen.

The funniest revelation of the night (for me anyway) was the singing of the National Anthem. Not usually a giggly moment, but it turns out that the Cardinals brought the ex-girlfriend of the Red Sox pitcher to belt out the Star Spangled Banner. They said they had "no idea" of the former connection between the two. Mmm hmm...right. Sure.

I've gotta hand it to them, though--this is the funniest bit of gamesmanship I've heard about in a long time. I SO hope that the Red Sox are planning something for tomorrow night's return to Fenway Park.

And if you're wondering WHY it's still worth it to be a Red Sox fan even though every season is like seven months of skiing Olympic moguls, check out this video. This is how our superstar team celebrated winning the division, lead by first baseman Kevin Youkilis and closing pitcher Jonathan Papelbon (who might be interested in an off-season appearance on "So You Think You Can Dance")

How can you not love a team that's this weird???

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Let your voice be heard...or read, as the case may be

Not much going on here, which makes it kind of tough to blog. I missed blog action day, which is probably okay because I'm not sure I have much to say on issues like "sustainability." I'm still trying to live by the old motto, Recycle/Reuse/Renew, which is why I was so upset when the bag boy at Stop & Shop gave me such an evil look yesterday when he heard my response to "Paper or plastic?" He even said, "Are you sure you wouldn't prefer paper?" as if there were no possible way a thoughtful, sane person could still request plastic bags in this time of dire environmental catastrophe.

"I have a dog," I said, squaring off with him, unwilling to be told by a complete stranger that I'm not doing my part to save the planet. I AM doing my part, considering that as I continue to feed THAT DOG, she will continue to produce what one might artfully call a "stream of revenue" that requires picking up and throwing away for me to stay within the ordinances of our fine city. Said ordinances specifically request that plastic bags be used for the job. So take that S&S bag boy.

Now you know why they don't ask me to speak on Earth Day :)

Anyway, in the midst of all this not-much-happening (clearly demonstrated by the fact that I'm blogging about my right to procure plastic with which to scoop poop), I'm wondering what to blog about. What do you want to read when you click on Trish's Dishes? Stories about the writing/publishing world? Antics of THAT DOG? Random musings about faith? Let your voice be heard, so I can stop scanning the Comcast news page for stories like this...

Monday, October 15, 2007

Big Question for a Monday

So I'm sitting in church yesterday and I felt like God asked, "So Trish...what would life be like for you if you were sure that all this stuff you're praying for--things you hope will happen, people you love who need help, world events that seem insurmountable--was taken care of? If you knew for sure that I ANSWER your prayers?"

I was a little stunned, and not sure how to respond. I've often thought of how much more fun my early adulthood would have been if I'd just TRUSTED that God was bringing me a husband (the lack of which was the biggest hope/need/world catastrophe I could think of at that time). But what about now?

So that's my challenge this pray the prayers for the things that seem like they need God's help (which for me is pretty much everything from getting a decent parking place--this is Boston, after all--to miraculous healing for my friend's daughter) and then live as if I know God will do it.

Yesterday, this new attitude involved taking a two hour nap on the couch while watching the Redskins/Packers game. God says to rest on Sundays and let him do the heavy lifting; the least I can do is comply :)

How about you? What would life be like if you KNEW God heard and was answering your prayers, even the secret ones deep down inside that you don't even dare to mumble because they're so preposterous? How would that change how you live right now?

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Boston in January--what could be better?

I just got an email from the rockin Lynette, announcing that she'll be coming back to Boston the third week in January...just in time for my birthday! (Now, she didn't mention my birthday in her email--she said something about coming for business--but I know that's just a cover up for the only REAL reason anyone would brave the New England cold in a season where almost anywhere else on the planet is more hospitable, right?)

It's turning into a bit of a party (as tends to happen when Lynette is in charge of programming) even though I only jest when I say that my survival of another year is the reason for the gathering. Kristen will be here, along with the awesome Alicia (who needs to start a blog). And Jane will be traveling from lands far away to join us. As I was reading Lynette's message, I had a vision of her as the Pied Piper of Blogging, with everyone from our blog rolls following her to Boston so we can all meet in person, drink chocolate martinis and eat tiramisu (maybe I could even learn to spell it). The picture made me smile :)

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Sporting News

Steve and I drove 100+ miles this past weekend to watch Glamour Girl and Yes We Do Eat Fig Newtons For Breakfast Boy (AKA our four year old niece and seven year old nephew) play soccer on their town's local league. Honestly, you haven't lived until you've watched dozens of small children with no sense of team sports set loose on a giant field to chase a ball.

Glamour Girl's team is called The Duckies. Picture thirty five (or three hundred and fifty; at times it was hard to tell) tiny people in light blue shirts and little shin guards, and one determined man with a whistle trying to organize them. The impossibility of getting one's ducks in a row has never been clearer to me. The high point was when he taught them the "superhero" move where you lay with your chest on the ball, arms outstretched, pretending you can fly (watch for it in the next World Cup). After that, he blew the whistle and announced "Water break!" at which point his small charges ran full-throttle off the field and into the crowd, searching for parents and then gulping down water to quench the thirst they'd worked up in their five minutes of superhero soccer skills.

But my favorite moment was when, about twenty minutes later, the coach blew the whistle again and called the Duckies back to the pond. They were gathered in close around him to hear the secrets to the next big soccer trick, when an excited little girl yelled, "Coach--look!"
"What is it Ashley?" he asked.
"That cloud," she said, turning and pointing,"it looks just like a UNICORN!"

The Boy's game was next. There were no unicorn sightings, but that doesn't mean we didn't have fun. His team scored six or seven goals, only half of which were for the other team :)

Friday, October 05, 2007

Do you? If so, HOW?

The very creative Jane posted this quote in the comments section yesterday: "One of the most common causes for not getting to an important activity is that you haven't set aside a specific time in which to do it."

I laughed when I read this, because I'd logged on to ask you guys a question about a common activity that I pretty much NEVER set aside a specific time to do anymore, which is keeping a journal.

When I was in law school, lonely and miserable and wondering "Oh, what have I done?" I kept a journal. Journals, actually, because my misery couldn't be condensed into one or two daily paragraphs. When I look over those lined books now (each one covered with some deceptively cheery looking fabric) I see that in hindsight, the theme for those years can be summed up thusly:

It has to get better. It simply has to.

I'm happy to report that it has. But life is still interesting. There have been incredible highs, along with wild free-falls that I haven't scrawled out on to journals or notebooks to look back upon in a decade or so. (I'm not sure my collection of half-thoughts jotted down on post-its counts.)

But yesterday, my friend Nashville Girl sent me a book by an author she adores. I ripped open the package right there on my porch and started reading. The first lines had the author looking back over her journals. She saw patterns there, patterns that gave her hope and inspiration about how far she's come and where it seems like God is taking her. "I want that!" I thought. I mean, who wouldn't? But to get there, I think it will take a tad more structure than just me thinking, "Hmmm...that might be a fun idea...."

So here are my questions: Do you guys journal? How often? Do you write about everything that happens, or just the big stuff? Do you worry that your journals will be found one day? And (most importantly) what do you do when your hand cramps up and you still have more you need to say???

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Finding What Works

Allison Winn Scotch had an interesting post yesterday, about the things she needs to write productively (coffee, order, and--if I remember correctly--an absence of footwear). It got me thinking about the different types of writing I do all day that I don't "count" as writing, where I don't need things to be lined up in a certain way to churn them out: emails, lists, notes to Steve about where I've jogged off too in case I get too winded to jog myself home.

I think blogging falls into this category. Right now as I type, I have no coffee (although I'd love another cup), nothing is organized, and THAT DOG is giving me the look that says, "Don't get too involved in whatever you're doing there, cause it's time for my walk...." I've been more faithful to blogging than my other writing over the past few months. It's easier, and the gratification of comments left by people like you guys--who I feel like I know through your own daily posts--comes in hours, rather than months or years. It's just a little bit seductive for a writer looking for a quick hit of approval.

All this has me wondering this morning if we (okay I--I'm sure none of you have this issue) don't need some sort of delay in the gratification to get to the real writing? You know, where we wrestle with sentences until they are as right as we can get them, or rush home from work because we've finally figured out how to fix a problem in a scene that's never been quite right.

I guess I'm fishing around for input here from those of you who are better at this balancing do you balance blogging and your OTHER writing? How do you resist the urge to post every cute or funny thing that happens to you on your blog for a quick laugh, and hold on to a few of them to mull over and craft into something a little more lasting (or at least available in 3D form by people like my Mom who don't have computers)?

(Speaking of instant gratification, this is the first post where my spellchecker responded "No Misspellings Found." Honestly, I'm not sure I've ever seen that line in relation something I've written...)

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

A new career path...

I've spent the past half hour wondering if I can fit a completely unrelated chapter into my next book about how my dog makes me laugh. Why? Because then it would be my job to keep up with blogs like this.

(Here you see Miss Kylie--aka THAT DOG--up in Maine on vacation this summer. I'm not sure if it's the cocker spaniel or the afghan genes that make her such a vigilant watchdog ...)