Thursday, January 31, 2008

I know this much is true

Wanting to stave off another night of counting my own heartbeat, I went out for a run yesterday to see if burning off some adrenaline might help. The sun was shining, the temperature was in the upper 40s--honestly, it seemed like the perfect day.

Have you ever noticed that it's the seemingly perfect days that end up teaching you the tough lessons about life? Now, I'm no Oprah; there's not much I can claim to know for sure. But yesterday I added one more pearl of wisdom to my string. Are you ready? Here it is:

Never brush your teeth with minty toothpaste before running in a high wind.

I'm adding this to my other bit of hard-won life understanding (Never apply lip gloss before eating a powdered donut). Pretty soon, I'll have a collection :)

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

No sheep, no sleep

I couldn't get to sleep last night. Or the night before that. My brain has been swimming with different projects I'm working on, and there doesn't seem to be enough time in the day to process all the input. So I lie awake in bed at night as a random succession of previously ignored questions wander through, demanding my attention:

Do Presidential candidates pick their own outfits?
If you let your cuticles grow, would they eventually cover your whole fingernail?
Could I make sushi?

I tried counting sheep, but stopped pretty quickly. Sheep are odd animals; they sort of freak me out. (I kept picturing them with goat eyes, which didn't help their cause.)

My four year old niece makes the most of her late nights when she can't sleep: she sings Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star, she teaches her stuffed animals to swim. I admire her spirit of carpe diem (or carpe noctem, as the case may be). But singing would wake Steve, and THAT DOG doesn't swim under any circumstances, imaginary or otherwise.

So I checked my pulse, because I couldn't think of anything else to count. It didn't make me fall asleep, but I have a new gratitude for my pulmonary system.

I'm not sure I can do that for another three hours tonight, though, so I'll ask:
How do you get to sleep?

Monday, January 28, 2008

Our "It Girl"!?!

I watched the Miss American Pageant last night on DVR. Now, just to be clear, I have no gripe with pageants. I've always thought they were kind of kitchy and fun. How else would we know that if you need to maintain a shiny, happy smile under bright lights and stressful conditions, the answer is to slick your front teeth with Vaseline? THAT's beauty news we can use.

Last night, though, the story was quite different. You see, they've modernized Miss America, trying to position the pageant as a search for the quintessential "It Girl" we'll all look to for inspiration. I'm not sure whose idea of modern they applied, though. Here were some of the scripted comments the contestants were forced to say while introducing themselves and their states (and no, I'm not making these up. Or even exaggerating):

Miss Delaware: "I'm from the birthplace of Henry Heimlich, the inventor of the Heimlich maneuver!"
Miss Wyoming: "We moved up our primaries, but nobody cared!"
Miss Nevada: "When you come here, your money stays here, and we thank you!"
Miss Utah: "We have the nation's highest long as the Osmonds don't move!"
Miss Indiana: "I'm here to prove that we have more than just corn!"
And my personal favorite:
Miss Texas: "We have a population of 21 million, not including the 60 million cattle!"

I guess that's one way to look at modern.

After that, the field was narrowed to 16, and we learned in little film clips that Miss Michigan can't ride a bicycle, and Miss Virginia's special talent is to put her foot behind her head (which she was then unable to do because of the tightness of her jeans.)

Up until this point, I was still captivated by the pageant, for one reason and one reason only: Miss Iowa was still in the running, and her talent is --wait for it!--BATON TWIRLING!!! You can imagine my excitement to see her sitting with the other top ten contestants, holding not one, not two, but THREE batons. People, let me pause here for a moment and explain that while there is much to make fun of in the world of twirling, you can't fake three batons. That's actual talent, and it's just incredible to watch.

So I fast forwarded through Miss Michigan belting out Somewhere Over the Rainbow because I couldn't stop giggling, imagining her true lyrics: "Somewhere over the rainbow, kids ride a bike! If kids ride over the rainbow, why then oh why can't I???" The next two contestants must have heard my laughter, because they sang in foreign languages I couldn't revise: Miss California performed an Italian opera piece, and Miss Indiana gyrated while singing in Spanish (You know, because there's more than corn in Indiana. There's Spanish!).

And that's when it happened, the worse decision in the history of my pageant watching life: They ELIMINATED Miss Iowa, right there in the middle of the talent segment!!! She never even got to twirl!!! I almost threw up. I mean, this was the ONLY one of the talent segments that had any sort of fun, any performance value, any spunky "It-girl" possibility. I hit the fast-forward button over and over and over again, hoping against hope they'd have some outtake from her planned routine, some farewell tribute to show us what we'd be missing. But NOTHING. Just Clinton from What Not to Wear (whose sole job was to placate the non-winners with a giant tray of donuts) ushering Miss Iowa offstage while commenting that earlier in the competition, her routine had brought the house down. Mmm Hmm. They allowed her to a tiny bit of twirling as they went to commercial, during which she threw in a triple toss turn around. That's the hardest trick I could ever do in my brief twirling career, and she threw it in as an afterthought in front of millions of people after being booted from the competition. I'm telling you, America, we were robbed.

I was too depressed to watch the rest, so I forwarded to the end. Miss Michigan won. If she hasn't chosen a platform yet, I'd suggest bicycle safety.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Sunday Salon (posted a few days early)

The pile of books on my nightstand looks like that wedding poem for brides: something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue.... I'm not sure why this strikes me as so funny this morning, but there you have it: a glimpse into the mind of Trish between her first and second cups of coffee.

Since you don't care what I have for lunch here's a rundown of what I'm reading:

Something Old: Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton.
My friend Genius only reads dead authors. As a living author, this concerns me (I think we've reached a compromise of sorts that will allow his wife to read my book aloud from the next room when it comes out,"reading" and "overhearing" being two entirely different things) but the deeper I dig into Orthodoxy, the more I understand Genius' point. Chesterton--who possessed a fabulous, self-deprecating sense of humor--published this self-proclaimed "slovenly autobiography" back in 1908. In it, he describes all the same angsty struggles over faith and meaning and philosophy we think are so new today, revealing the truth: humanity has been staggering down the same dark roads for more than a century, so it's probably okay to stop worrying that the Da Vinci Code or some comment by Ann Coulter is going to topple civilization. God is bigger than we think, and he probably has a plan :)

Something New: Not that You Asked by Steve Almond
The piece about his attempts to care for his newborn daughter made me laugh so hard a high-pitched squeal came out of the back of my throat. The next time you're in a bookstore, pick up this book. (Just make sure you set down your double latte before you open it).

Something Borrowed: They're all borrowed, truth be told. Have I mentioned that I HEART my local library? I'm still astounded that a place exists where you can go in, pick ALL THE BOOKS YOU WANT and take them home for free. I'm quite grateful that my biggest obsession is books; I'm fairly certain no local municipality funds a program like this for shoes or purses.

Something Blue: Someday My Prince Will Come by Jerramy Fine
Okay, only the sky is blue on the cover....but this looks like a fun book! I mean, a memoir by a girl who has spent her life convinced she's going to marry the Prince of England? As a child who believed firmly that I was going to make a living as a professional baton twirler, I can appreciate this kind of story! As my new friend Chesterton points out in Orthodoxy (see how I'm bringing this full circle?), it's imagination and mystery that keep us sane. It seems like Miss Fine has a good dose of both, which makes her my kind of girl. I hope I get to meet her someday :)

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Another clue in the mystery I don't want to solve (or be involved with in any way, really)

When I took the trash out to our backyard yesterday, I found this heavy, elegant tumbler (it might even be crystal) abandoned in the snow. It was just sitting there, as if someone set it down before dashing off to another appointment. The only thing I can think of is that The Squirrel is back, and now he's serving cocktails on the veranda. This is not good news

I'm not sure if this abandoned drink is a philosophical statement about his glass being half full (although now that it's frozen over I'd guess that message is lost), or a George Thoroughgood-style admission about why he drinks alone. Regardless, you'd think he'd want a more swanky place to toss back his single malt than the patch of grass next to our trash cans.

(On a marginally-related but no less horrifying note, as I Googled for the proper descriptors for this piece of abandoned glassware I found this delightful video. This should raise the sales Nalgene bottles exponentially).

Friday, January 18, 2008

Finding the fun

Two things that are making my day today:

1. David Kuo's blog on how his dog's persistent hope for treats--even when it's been a long time since that hope was rewarded--is a great model for prayer. (As THAT DOG will attest, you just never know when all that persistence will pay off and some yummy morsel beyond your wildest dreams will land on the floor right between your paws).

2. No One Cares What You Had For Lunch: 100 Ideas For Your Blog. The title alone has had me laughing for over an hour. I'm off to make a baloney sandwich (not that you care) and learn to write world-changing posts. I'll be skipping the suggestion that I blog entries from my old journals, though. Nothing good could ever come of that.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Birthday fun

Today is my birthday!

I woke up this morning to find yellow post-its stuck all around our condo, on which Steve had written things like "I love you!" and "I'm glad you were born!"

My favorite, though, was the one I found in the refrigerator, stuck to the bottle of milk he knew I'd be reaching for to make my morning coffee. It read: "Baton Twirlers are the coolest!"

You can't argue with the truth :)

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Trish's messed up dishes

My dishes are falling apart. You'd think that would only happen if we were using them on a consistent, demanding basis, churning out the tasty options from Rachel Ray and Paula Deen with some sort of regularity. That, unfortunately, is not the case. And yet my dishes all look like somebody punched them, with ugly cracks in the glaze that turn a appalling shade of brownish gray when subjected to the heat or chill of actual food. Apparently, Steve and I must have been shopping in the "for decorative use only" section of Crate & Barrel when we made this choice. Except that we weren't; I checked.

We've learned to live with this. We're not fancy people, and a healthy serving of pasta covers most of the cracks right up. But this morning, things took a turn for the worse. I poured that all-important first cup of coffee, only to see my beloved, precious liquid seep out from a crack in the side of the mug, leak across the counter, and spill onto the floor. THAT DOG licked it up; she's been pacing ever since.

There, in my morning haze, the only two lines I remember from law school contracts class surged to the top of my brain (excited to finally--finally!-- be put to use): "What about the implied warranty of merchantability? " I demanded. "And it's all-important sidekick, the implied warranty of fitness for a particular purpose?" Clearly, C&B should have known that I was buying these mugs to hold coffee, and it doesn't seem to be too much to ask that their product be up for the task.

(That's right, folks: ten years after such quick legal thinking might have been helpful, mine kicks in. That's $100,000 well spent, if you ask me.)

Of course, the mere fact that I've linked to Wikipedia to explain what these two warranties mean makes it rather clear that I'm unlikely to take legal action over my disappointing dishes. I'm not sure what I'll do, actually, other than swing by Target later today to buy a new coffee mug. (Gotta keep the basics covered before moving on to the bigger issues.)

I'd write more, but THAT DOG is jumping back and forth across my lap in a caffeinated frenzy. Thanks Crate & Barrel. The next time my young & exuberant niece and nephew come to visit, we'll be stopping by one of your showrooms to say hello. Count on it :)

Monday, January 14, 2008

Snowed In

We're hosting a blizzard today, here in New England. With seven inches of snow and counting, I suspect there will be many opportunities for the locals to demonstrate that chivalry I was bragging about last week.

On the writing front, I had my very first official book interview this morning! It was so much fun, and kind of surreal, too. I'm still struggling to hone in on the exact right answers to questions about why I wrote this book, and what I hope readers will get from it. There just doesn't seem to be a savvy, sophisticated way of saying, "I want to meet all the women out there who are feeling hopeless about life and love, give them a giant hug, and say, 'Don't give up! God's got more for you!!!'"

But between you and me, Blogger friends, that's the answer :)

(And for those of you who aren't all that fond of giant hugs from authors you've never met, feel free to view my book as a cordial--albeit enthusiastic--handshake, with similar words of encouragement.)

Friday, January 11, 2008

There's no place like home

I've been tagged by the lovely Larramie to share 7 local knowledge facts with you, my wonderful readers. I stalled for a day when I read this meme, stuck on the word "local"--what exactly does that mean?

Were I to share 7 facts about my immediate locale, it would include the giant fuzzy cat who just arrived in our neighborhood (who I'm hoping will take care of the squirrel problem) and the new gas station that just reopened, replacing the one that blew up. Not all that interesting.

If I went a bit broader and included all of Greater Boston, we'd probably end up with an mix of stuff you already know from American history class about tea parties in the local river and a guy named Paul who rode a horse across town in the middle of the night and saved our country from being snuffed out by people wearing red coats. And I might mention a certain baseball team, a controversial (but winning) football team, and a phenomenal basketball team, along with the important truth that every last one of those teams has been HORRIBLE BEYOND BELIEF for most of my lifetime and that their recent victories still make me all amazed and tingly inside.

But I think I'll go even broader, and offer up some unknown facts about life here on the New England Coast. An intrepid visitor can cover the whole thing in a single visit, so you might as well know what the real treasures are:

1. Chivalry: New Englanders will stop and help you if you're stuck in snow or have a flat tire. They may not make much small talk, but they'll pull a rope out of the back of their Ford F-150 and tow you out of a ditch without asking anything in return. (I realized how rare this was when my car was stuck in the L.L. Bean parking lot a few years back and nobody--nobody!--offered to help this damsel in distress. I was baffled until I looked around and saw that all the cars had licence plates from...well, let's just say, not New England.)

2. Entrepreneurial Spirit: We like to sell things by the side of the road. In the past year, I've seen signs for everything from homemade jam to freshly taxidermized animals on wooden stands at the end of driveways, along with a little can where you can leave the money, honor-system style. If you need baby bunnies, four cords of firewood, or a hubcap for your Nissan Sentra, you'll find it here.

3. Understanding of What One Needs for a Good & Happy Life: All New England citizens are required to prove ownership or access to a pickup truck and a black labrador retriever. Two degrees of separation are allowed (which is how Steve & I still qualify--my sister has the dog and Dad has the truck) but go much beyond that and you're frowned upon as someone who doesn't quite get the way we do things around here.

4. Unique Genius: If you wander out to a pier and don't try to catch the lobsters with a fishing pole, you might meet a lobsterman who will explain his amazing profession. It will be the highlight of your trip.

5. Seasons: If you come here between January and May and don't have friends to visit, there's a good chance you'll leave wondering why anyone would ever live here. Unless you ski, and then you'll be to busy perfecting your Bode Miller impersonation to care about the lack of leaves on trees.

6. Other Seasons: If you come to New England between July and October, you'll want to come back as soon as possible, and you'll probably have a renewed faith in God. Who else could have created such a gorgeous place for us to inhabit?

7. THAT DOG: The New England coast is awe inspiring, gorgeous, and different from anywhere else on earth. It's also the home of THAT DOG (a Philly native, truth be told, but she doesn't remember that) which is as much of a tourist attraction as anything else you'll find here :)

Thursday, January 10, 2008

The joy of giving

I'm heading north to my home state this morning, bringing my Dad the receipt for his Christmas present so he can return it. He returns all presents; it's gotten to be a bit of a family joke. Many years, if he can swing it, he sends you out at the end of the day with the same gift you came bearing that morning. One of my brothers has a collection of crock pots and super-massage shower heads that I think he just wraps up on rotation for odd and even years. Last year I thought I was in good shape with a biography of the New England Patriot's football coach, but Dad not only returned it to Borders where I bought it, he didn't know I'd used a 40% discount coupon, so he returned it for a profit. Hysterical.

This year as I was shopping, I kept this in mind. So, in addition to the gigantic remote control I found with super-sized buttons for folks in their senior years (for which I'll be driving 100 miles at $3.11 a gallon to bring him the $9.99 receipt), I got him a gift card to his favorite store: the grocery store. That, he's not returning.

As far as holiday victories go, I'll take it :)

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

If you're happy and you know it...

The sun came out today, after what feels like weeks of grim gray skies. I don't think so well in the grim gray; it's as if some primal part of my body understands that when the weather is cold and frightful, a fire might be delightful--but after the flames die down the only sane response is a long nap. You know, until April, when the sun comes out again.

But today is one of those faux-April days and my mind is up & running again. I'm thinking about this post I found on Kristin Nelson's blog about a soldier who blogged his goodbye. I'm thinking about this article I found on Carolyn McCulley's blog about how studies show that keeping our options open doesn't lead to happiness the way we think it will (and about the book cited in the article, which clearly makes the point that most of us have no idea what will make us happy). And I'm thinking about the astounding fact that I've been happy for more than three years now (albeit in a determined, amazed sort of way) and I don't want that to stop.

Not much doing going on right now. Just lots of thinking.

And the squirrel left the remains of a nectarine in the driveway. Apparently, he's having fresh produce flown in.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Real squirrels do eat quiche

We have acquired a squirrel.

This audacious, gluttonous rodent waltzed boldly onto our property two weeks ago, and has set up shop like some crazy distant relative, prancing around like he owns the place. Last week, I saw him scoffing down a cinnamon raisin cookie on our front porch. Friday, there was a nibbled slice of quiche on the upper back porch railing (where does a squirrel get quiche???). And this morning, I found the wrapper and a few remaining pieces of a McDonald's breakfast sandwich outside of our front door. Unbelievable.

THAT DOG is beside herself. She keeps running at the kitchen window in unrestrained fury, howling at this interloper, only to have the squirrel stare back at her unfazed, as if to say, "What? You want a piece of me?" He has a point. THAT DOG might outweigh him by a pound or two, but in paw-to-paw combat, my beloved pup would be cowering in the corner. She's a lover, not a fighter.

All this leaves me wondering why squirrels exist at all--Do they eat mosquitoes or keep down the rat population? Does their breath somehow cleanse toxins from the environment? This one, at least, doesn't seem to have much in the way of redeeming qualities. He's lucky he's a city squirrel; where I come from folks keep BB guns in the kitchen for just this kind of encounter. Not that I know how to shoot a BB gun or anything, but it sure is fun to think about when I'm cleaning up his leftover quiche.

Friday, January 04, 2008

This is our country!

While the rest of you were glued to the Iowa Caucuses last night, expanding your knowledge base about civic duty and our bizarre but democratic election process, I was stretching my mind in an altogether different direction. I watched approximately four hundred episodes of a reality show following auditions for the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders.

The Three Stages of immersing myself in this slice of the American pie:

1. Horror. I spent four years at a college that made sure I insisted everyone call me a WOMAN rather than a girl, so my first reaction to six-hundred sweet young things shaking their ha-has at some guy dressed like a drill sergeant was not, "Oh, what fun!" I mean, these girls can't even claim they do it for the scholarship money. My righteous indignation was short-lived, however, nudged out by the stronger force of...

2. Total Understanding. Dancing + Cute Costumes + a Gigantic Cheering Crowd? I am so there! Let's be honest--I was not only a cheerleader during my formative (pre-college, obviously) years, I was a MAJORETTE...If the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders had ever thought to hold auditions in Maine (and I can't understand why they didn't) I would have been all over it. Of course, our cheering and twirling was pretty understated up there in the frozen North, but that's not to say I wouldn't have been a contender. I bet I'd be the only one doing my little tour-jete's to the tune of Frank Sinatra singing New York, New York...

Eventually, though, I came back from my "what might have been" fantasy, and found myself in...

3. Cultural Awe. Okay, we may be one country, but let's be honest--our United States are made up of several different planets. Planet Texas is altogether different from Planet Maine, and even different-er than my current home on Planet Massachusetts. By the fourth episode, I longed to go to Planet Texas (with my noble tour guide Nashville Girl, who grew up in Texas and knows her way around) and beg them to teach me how to do my hair and makeup. I mean, those girls look good all the time--how do they pull it off? And they had a level of poise and, to use a southern word, polish that would be great to have in the repertoire. Because the truth is, we've all known since Gloria Steinem that it's easier to be a successful, intelligent woman if your hair looks good and you're not riding your emotional roller coaster in full view of the world. Texas girls know the secret!

The whole thing made me wonder if we don't each know our own little bit of what it takes to be a fabulous woman--brains, beauty, graciousness, wit, wisdom, discipline, vision, optimism, love--and God wants us to bump into each other, go hang out for a chocolate martini or two, and exchange information?

(If you're a guy reading this, please ignore all of the above and comment instead on how embarrassed Kobe Bryant and the Lakers looked the other night in their retro 1980's uniforms with short (short!) shorts).

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Steve & Trish + Dog

We had a particularly glamorous New Year's Eve this year, celebrating the transition to 2008 with party supplies like Kleenex, NyQuill (Day and Night capsules for colorful variety), and the gross green dude from the Mucinex commercials. We were decked out in the pajamas we'd been wearing pretty much nonstop since Christmas, sprawled out on our sectional couch with blankets and pillows, saying sexy things like, "Hey Babe, do you know where the remote went???" and "I think THAT DOG wants you to take her out!"

The highlight of our night was a marathon of "Jon & Kate + Eight." Have you seen this show??? Omigosh. Nice young couple, can't get pregnant, tries IVF and has beautiful twins. Three years later, thinking the girls might like a younger sibling, they dive into the science lab once again, and end up pregnant with SIX kids. Yep, SIX! Can you imagine? That's like here's a kid, and here's a kid, and here's a kid, and here's a kid, and here's a kid, and here's a kid. ACK! Now, I was too wimpy to consider IVF before I saw this show...I'm just not into all that mysterious poking and prodding. But six hours of watching what might happen confirmed our resolve that we'll pray for the one (or at most, two) at a time route and trust that that will suffice. I mean, we live in a 900 square foot condo!

At one point I ended up in a fit of giggles, imagining where we'd put six babies. The shelving unit in the living room would work while they were little if we put up some sort of barriers to keep them from rolling off. As they grew, we'd have to convert closets and unplug major appliances to create extra sleeping space. Someone would have to live in the basket under the bathroom sink. Or perhaps we'd let them all curl up in the corner with THAT DOG on her cushion, until she waded out indignantly and demanded to be let up onto the bed with the grown ups.

The warning of this show was not lost on THAT DOG, by the way. Fifteen minutes into the first episode, she spread her little body out full-length between Steve and I, and has pretty much maintained this vigil ever since. It's as if somehow she knows..."If I can keep them from touching, this can't happen to us..."