Friday, June 27, 2008

(Not so) deep thoughts

I saw singer-songwriter Brooke Fraser in concert last night. Two observations:

1. She's an amazing lyricist. If you like Sheryl Crow, Indigo Girls, or that sort of sound (you know, musings about life and love) she's worth checking out.

2. The return of the skinny jean is an unfortunate thing for the males of our species. Really, it's just painful...

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Further Exploration, part 2

So Carrie's second comment/question (scroll down to yesterday's post if you're wondering what I'm talking about) is equally provocative: "After reading HLMHLMN, I found myself wanting Trish to explore her own individual passions and purpose apart from her quest for landing a man."

Fair enough! I actually laughed a bit when I read this, because I'm not sure how to explain what my deepest passions were in my twenties without sounding like a bit of a loon. So I'll ease into it slowly with a slight digression on the craft of memoir:

When you turn in your first draft of a memoir, the first thing an editor does is go through and cross out all the sections that don't connect with your narrative arc. Funny stories, poignant moments--if they don't move the reader forward in the story you're telling (and oddly enough, every memoir is the story of only a small portion of the author's life), out it goes. It has to, otherwise who could tell their story in under 972 pages?

So one of the many things that never made it into my pages is the fact that my BIG dream in life back then was.... To own and run a private, maximum security prison. Yep. Seriously. This was my plan. I was fascinated by the utter failure of our national correctional system (really, there aren't many places where we get less bang for our buck as taxpayers), and I was certain that a kinder, gentler approach to rehabilitation was the key. And clearly I was the perfect candidate to turn this ship around: my political science major meant I had stored up four years of strong opinions. Pair that with my minors in philosophy and dance, and who wouldn't think "Prison Management" when looking at my resume?

The best part of this, though, was that at the same time I was plotting to revamp our country's approach to corrections, I was also vehemently anti-gun. My boyfriend at the time was the grandson of one of the big names in gun manufacturing, and the things I read in the magazines he subscribed to (about the rate at which various bullets rip through flesh and such) so upset me that I all but put a "No Way NRA" sticker on my car (I didn't have a car; I suspect that's what stopped me...) I have no idea how I planned to maintain order in my gun-free prison: was I going to club bad guys with my baton? Nag them until they agreed to behave?

So as you can see, I had big dreams. They didn't always make much sense, but mine has never been a life without gigantic hopes that could only happen through some sort of miracle. The writing dream kicked in right around the same time I realized I didn't want to be a lawyer anymore. If God had to pick one to make happen, I'm rather glad it was this one, and not my prison plan!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Further Exploration, part 1

Carrie just sent me her fun response to HE LOVES ME, HE LOVES ME NOT. In it, she mentions two areas she wishes I'd explored further in the book, and she's not the first to ask. So I thought, "Well, I have a blog...I could explore them there!" So here you have it, part one. If I'm organized, I'll post part 2 tomorrow :)

Her first question is why I had such a deep sense of insecurity, given that my family was (is) happy and intact? She rightly points out that in our society, we're pretty quick to associate longing to be married with some sort of dysfunction, rather than a natural desire.

For me, the quest for romance started out normally enough (after all, 90% of our music, movies, books, and tv shows wouldn't be based on romantic relationships if that wasn't an interest most of us share), but I took it to some dysfunctional levels. As near as I can tell, I lost my grasp on normalcy when I started doubting that my longing to be half of a fabulous marriage was okay. I absorbed the message that somehow, I was supposed to be fine on my own, but I had no idea how to pull this off. The truth is, I didn't want to be fine on my own. I got all muddled trying to reconcile the impossibility of that image with who I was. So I became this weird chick who'd flirt with a guy madly, reassuring him that, "Of course, I don't just want to be married...I'm not one of THOSE girls," and then burst into tears when he gave me a gift certificate for a spa day rather than a diamond on our one-year anniversary. My fundamental problem was that I was too scared to be honest.

I think the "deep abyss" Carrie refers to IS filled by my relationship with God, but not entirely. I think he wants the rest of it to be filled by real, 3D relationships with other people. I don't buy that we're supposed to do life alone; I just don't see much evidence that it works all that well.

The key, for me at least, is that I can't maintain any of these relationships without God's help. On my own, I'm just not all that great a friend, a sister, a daughter, or a wife. At best, I'm a mediocre dog owner. But with God, I've built relationships that are stronger than my mistakes, bouyed by a love that is far bigger than what comes out of my little heart. That is a fun place to live, and I'm glad I wrestled with faith and love and life for long enough to get here.

(I still wrestle with all of these things, mind you, but the nature of the scuffle is different)

So I guess the take home point for today's post is some combination of "Don't blame Trish's parents--it's not their fault!" and "What if feeling like half of something bigger that's yet to come isn't such a bad thing?"

Tomorrow, I'll try to remember if I had any passions or hobbies OTHER than my quest for Mr. Right (besides baton twirling--I don't think Carrie was asking about my Jr. High School years :))

Monday, June 23, 2008

Dreaming of vacation...and great conversation

37,478 minutes until vacation...

That's what I'm thinking about this morning as the thunderstorms roll through. I'm almost irrationally excited by the prospect of driving five hours north into the Maine mountains, where bears and moose roam, but my cell phone doesn't.

My sister and I were chatting earlier, laying out plans of what to bring. My brother-in-law is our house chef on vacation, so Steve and I try to earn our keep through creative drinks: last year we introduced the "Trish-tini"; this year will feature the "Steve-jito." Our shopping list? 1. Vodka. 2. Mint.

But the other vital packing question that must be addressed is what to READ on vacation. Can we trade suggestions? I'll list three books I've read recently and loved, and if you have any to recommend, drop them in the comments. (I'm just waiting for my next Borders Rewards coupon to come and I'll head off to the store).

Okay, here are my three:

1. The Divorce Party by Laura Dave.
I ADORED this book. I don't know how she captures the subtle nuances of love from so many stages of life, but this book is beautiful and true...and both heart-wrenching and hopeful at the same time, which is tough to pull off. It's worth a space on your bookshelf.

2. House Lust: America's Obsession with Our Homes by Daniel McGinn
Why do we suddenly crave granite countertops and stainless steel appliances, when 100 years ago, the kitchen was the part of the house everyone wanted to hide? This book is hysterical, insightful, and non-judgmental (the author fesses up to his own house lust right from the start, which I appreciate). A fun read.

3. Not the Religous Type: Confessions of a Turncoat Atheist by Dave Schmelzer
My friend Dave (who you may recall as a character in my book) wrote this, and I was lucky enough to read it early on. I'm a big fan, and not just because it's the first book I ever blurbed :) This book is the stuff great cocktail party conversations are made of...

Which brings me full-circle to Trish-tinis and Steve-jitos!

And a question (in addition to my request for book recommendations--don't forget that!): If someone threw a cocktail party in July in Cambridge (in a 900 square foot condo with limited air-conditioning and a small-ish dog) but promised compelling conversation of the sort one imagines in the "salons" of Renaissance times, would you show up?

Thursday, June 19, 2008

I Love A Parade

There's a big parade today in Boston! Ostensibly, it's to celebrate the Celtics winning the NBA championship, but I think that's just a cover. Why? Because the REAL reason to celebrate is that Steve and I were married four years ago today!!! Now I realize that four years isn't all that big a deal in the history of long marriages. But if you know a bit about me and my relationship history, you understand that this qualifies as an official miracle. (I'm expecting a certificate verifying this miraculous status to be Fed-Exed from heaven later this afternoon :) )

In lieu of a newsy post, here's a link to a fun interview I did yesterday with Debbie Chavez. It gives a bit of background on how I went from a will-try-anything spiritual searcher attempting to connect with my inner woman through interpretive dance workshops (um, embarrassing!) to finding real happily ever after.

(And the wacky news she shares right before the interview is PRICELESS. You'll love the piece about "EMMA.")

Happy Thursday!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Total Turn Around

I'm pretty fired up about the Celtic's win last night. Not so much because of the championship, but because it represents such a total turn-around from where they were last year. Last June, the Celtics were reeling from a season so disastrous that everyone was calling for these two guys (Coach Doc Rivers and team captain Paul Pierce) to be shipped off to some remote island to wrestle lions. The team simply stunk. And now? Complete turn around.

When we make changes, the results change. I find that encouraging :)
(I've blogged more about this over at 40 Days of Faith, if you want to check it out.)

In other news:

Author Holly Kennedy has some BRILLIANT advice for writers.

Legally Heidi is engaged! Pop on over to congratulate her :)

And here's a link to a talk I gave on Sunday about wrestling with questions of faith and prayer.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The Making of a Superhero

I'm reading a book about being heroic right now. It's totally provocative and interesting (as some of you might know, I've wanted to be a superhero since I was a little girl), and yet at the same time, in the middle of all this inspiration, I keep falling asleep.

Steve and I were talking about this last night--how there are different seasons in each of our lives. Right now, I'm in a season of needing some extra sleep, after two months of planes, trains, automobiles and hotel rooms. Fortunately, though, these seasons change on a regular basis, so it's okay to doze off in the middle of hero training. (Actually, having seen the previews of Will Smith's new movie, I think catching up on my sleep before learning to fly or leap tall buildings might be a VERY good idea. It seems like depth perception and sound judgment are valuable skills in the superhero world...)

That said, here's how I began my superhero training yesterday (in between naps): I drove around the suburbs searching for a good cry. I played Patty Griffin songs. I wondered about a dead squirrel on the side of the road, and where he was going when the car came along. I watched the rain hit my windshield and searched for hidden meaning in the clouds. You know, helpful tear-producing activity, because I needed to cry.

Nothing is wrong in my life. I'm not sad. Just the opposite, actually: I'm a bit overwhelmed by everything that has happened over the past year or so, and how wonderful it all is, and a good cry is an oddly helpful way for me to process that. Have you ever felt this way? If so, you understand that when you feel this urge coming, it's best to figure out a way to do something about it, lest it burst forth like a shaken soda in the middle of some public gathering. Sometimes, it's smart to ease the pressure ahead of time.

So I'm driving through the rain, tears welling up, and I'm already starting to feel better. And that's when it hits me: I'm in a new car, and there are NO TISSUES of any form anywhere in the vehicle! Now, I'm a rather liquidy crier; no small polite sniffles for me. So if I continue on my present course, I'll have nothing but the floor mats and/or my t-shirt (which is cute and new and NOT something I want to use as a hanky) to sop up my emotional purge.

So I stop. I turn Patty Griffin off, and switch to the sports channel. I push the squirrel from my mind, and notice how well the windshield wipers work. I put the cap back on that bottle, and hope that it won't blow.

My first lesson in superhero preparedness? BRING TISSUES.

Monday, June 16, 2008

THAT FROG is home!

It's true! The suitcases are stowed in the closet, my moisturizer has been restored to its rightful place in the bathroom cabinet, and Oscar (the latest dashing addition to the fabulous frog collection) is resting happily on the bookshelf in the living room. We are HOME for the next month.

It's been an amazing book tour. Truly more than I could have imagined, in so many ways. And I'm happy to say, it ended on as great a note as it started:

On Thursday night, I was in Princeton NJ with an amazing group of women. I was there because of the fun invitation of my friend A.J. She and I met at the Festival of Faith & Writing in April, and she became my hero almost immediately. I can't tell you how much I admire her approach to life; whether the subject is writing, marriage, faith, pregnancy, or the care & maintenance of a toddler, she takes it all in stride. (Not to mention the fact that she's not AT ALL shiny in pictures!)

And many thanks to Mary, the director of Women's Ministry at Westerly Road Church where we gathered that night. She and her spectacular team threw a great, fun event and it was a honor to be part of it. I'm so glad I have Oscar as a fun memento!

On Saturday night, I was back here in Cambridge for the final night of the tour. Unfortunately, however, blogger won't let me download anymore pictures, so I'll have to tell you all about it in my next post. Let's just say it was the ONLY event to feature sushi, Korean BBQ, funny Chinese immigration tales and a chef with 1,000 names...

Now, I'm off to clean the accumulated crud out of the toothbrush holder. It's the glamorous life, for me!


Thursday, June 12, 2008

Off to New Jersey

I'm about to head out to South Station to catch a train to New Jersey. I never thought to pray for a lack of natural disasters while traveling in the North East before, but after last week's adventures...

If you're in the greater Princeton area, I'll be at Westerly Road Church tonight at 7:30pm--come on by! It's been great to meet so many blog friends in my travels for the book, and I'd love to add to the list. (And if we meet, please remind me to take a picture! I'm in the very bad habit of forgetting to USE the camera I bring with me, which makes the results rather disappointing!)

Happy almost weekend!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Where to begin?

It was an EVENTFUL weekend!

I went to Chicago for the Printers Row Book Fair, and met up with two of my favorite blog friends that I've "known" (you know, in the online sense of the word) since I started blogging a couple of years ago: Swishygirl and Manic Mommy! (Here we are with Ina, the lovely volunteer who hooked us up with special Author Superfriend Badges so we could get into different events).

Back when we realized we'd all be at Printers Row, Manic and Swishy invited me to go on a road trip to join in the launch party for fellow blogger Jess Riley's awesome book, Driving Sideways. Of course, I jumped at the chance...what could be more fun than to drive to Wisconsin? (We had many opportunities to answer this question in our unexpectedly crazy journey, but more about that in a bit...)

First, we saw Jen Lancaster and Stephanie Klein. (I got this picture by following Manic and Swish into the room where the authors were signing their books. We jumped ahead of an ENTIRE line of people, because Manic said, "We know the authors!" And they do: JL & SK greeted them like long-lost friends. Me, on the other hand, they quickly identified as a Swishy/Manic minion, but I was fine with that. I'll roll in their entourage any day of the week!)

Jen and Stephanie engaged in a VERY interesting conversation about how to write about certain delicate (and not-so-delicate) subjects, knowing that various family and friends will someday read what they've written. They've reached rather different conclusions on how to handle this, which gave Swishy, Manic, and me lots to talk about once we got into the car and pointed our headlights north.

Then it started to rain. And rain some more. Sheets, buckets, cats and nothing I've ever seen. Lighting all around us, no other cars on the road. Little did we know we were in the middle of a tornado. We wouldn't find THAT out until the next day; we just thought, "Wow-Wisconsin has some intense weather!"

Here is the eye of the storm, which lasted approximately eight minutes of our ten hour round trip:

Undeterred, we drove on (and on and on), largely due to the fact that there was really no reasonable place to stop. We passed dozens of billboards offering adult entertainment, but somehow three girls pulling off the road in a storm to seek solace in a porn shop seemed too much like the beginning of a horror Swishy gripped the wheel and got us to Oshkosh.

It was totally worth it. Here is the gorgeous Jess Riley:

We got to meet her husband, her best friend who inspired one of the main characters in the book, her adorable nephew, even her Mom & was great! People kept bringing PILES of books for her to sign, but we tried to be gracious and share her with her adoring fans. It helped that there were yummy meatballs and other culinary concoctions to tide us over.

My computer battery is running low, so I'll have to save part two of this post--where we try to find our way back from Wisconsin without using any highways--for tomorrow. (I think I'll call it: "Fond du Lac: I'm not Fond du the Lack of highway signs..." ) But before I hit post, let me share two things you might not know about Manic and Swishy that they'd never tell you. It's amazing how their superhero powers work together:

First, EVERYONE loves Manic. No matter where we went, she won people over--waiters, McDonalds workers, NYT bestselling authors. If you meet her, you'll be overcome with an urge to fetch her a drink and/or rotate the tires on her car. She's that fabulous.

And second, Swishy is a man magnet. I sort of guessed this from meeting her before (you may recall my Charlize Theron references), but we were only hanging out with girls then, so I had yet to appreciate the full impact of Swishy on the males of our species...and the females. I actually witnessed firsthand when we walked into one place: a girl saw Swishy and instantly grabbed her boyfriend and started making out with him. Later, when she had to go to the bathroom, the girl actually made him HOLD HER PURSE, lest there be any doubt that he was taken. Hysterical.

But the best thing about Manic & Swishy? They're girls' girls. They wouldn't take your man, or make you rotate their tires... that's just not how they roll. Love them!

More tomorrow :)

Friday, June 06, 2008

There was an old man in a yurt....

This astounds, baffles, and exasperates me. A girl agrees to tie herself to a man two decades older than she is with a 15 foot rope, live a celibate life with him forever (in a YURT no less) and people are flocking to her for relationship advice?

Shouldn't there be some point at which we look at the people we're seeking counsel from and think, "Do I really want to end up where s/he is?" How many of us want to end up tied to an old guy in a yurt???

I wonder if this is where my parents thought I was headed, all those times I came home and explained how they needed to spread salt around their house to absorb any negative energy, lest they suffer harm when Mercury came into retrograde?

At the very least, spiritual exploration gives you funny stories to share at cocktail parties. You know, once you've left the yurt and vaccummed up all the loose salt from your parents' living room...


Thursday, June 05, 2008

Animal Planet

THAT FROG has a Facebook page.

THAT DOG won't eat potatoes, even when it's mandated by the United Nations. She's holding out for the International Year of the Hot Dog.

THAT SQUIRREL left a partially eaten corncob on the railing of our front porch. Apparently, he's enjoying seasonal produce, although I'm not above shipping him to New Jersey with promises of sweet corn to get him and his leftovers out of my yard.

And, best of all...THAT SISTER found a one-eyed Pomeranian by the side of the road. (I can't even say "One-eyed Pomeranian" without laughing.) What makes this doubly funny is that she was on her way to the vet anyway, with a stray cat that has made it's home on HER porch. My niece has named the stray Sophie, giving all of us the impression that we now have a THAT CAT in the family. Try it: "One-eyed Pomeranian" Admit it, you're starting to giggle...

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Potato Party

The United Nations has declared 2008 the International Year of the Potato. Apparently, potato awareness is at an all-time low worldwide, and the people we trust to facilitate world peace have chosen this as a key action item for this year's agenda.

Always ready to help, the lovely Wikipedians have prepared an entire page on how to celebrate IYOP. This page includes inspiring photos of a heart-shaped potato and some purple spuds, along with a handy, two-item list of "Things You'll Need" (1. Potatoes. 2. Information about potatoes.)

It also shares the puzzling news that the potato--an important potential source of nutrition, according to the U.N.-- loses most of it's vitamins when baked, boiled, or fried...but should not be eaten raw because our bodies can't digest the starch. I know I'm no expert at this cooking thing, but what exactly is left in terms of preparation techniques if you take the big three out of the mix-- Toasted? Flame broiled like a Whopper? Smoked?

I plan to celebrate with a bag of Ruffles. You know, just to do my part.


I collect mugs.

There, I said it. Out loud, to other people (which we all know is the first step to admitting you have a problem...)

It started with the leaking mug debacle earlier this year. As I cast about frantically for new ceramic to contain my morning beverage, it occurred to me, "Wait--mugs don't have to match, do they? Why can't I have all sorts of different mugs, for different things???" I went to the Pfalzgraff outlet and picked out a couple (okay, four) assorted mugs to replace the ones that leaked. No big deal, right?

Then I went out on the road. Have you noticed that hotels don't give you coffee mugs anymore, but rather those icky styrofoam cups that hold approximately three ounces of liquid? I don't despise much, but those cups are on the list; I can almost FEEL the chemicals attacking my mouth as I drink. And that's before the cup bends in some weird way and slips out of my hands, showing me just how much of my stuff three ounces of liquid can cover. ARGH.

My solution? I decided to BUY a mug in each city I visited! It would be the most practical of souvenirs, something I'd really use, and then could take home to remember the visit, all for under $10. This worked well at first. I found a white mug with a starfish pattern in Chicago, a gorgeous blue and white mug in Grand Rapids. When I was in Atlanta for a TV show they GAVE me a mug (okay, it was on the set for me to sip from while taping and I wandered off with it by accident/on purpose...)

It was all good until I saw the giant city mugs in Starbucks. Then, in a flash, I became that sucker who needs a 27 gallon mug to show that I've ordered a latte in five different cities. (And don't even get me started about the special Boston mug featuring the Public Garden...that's where Steve proposed! Don't we HAVE to have that mug???)

But yesterday, it happened: the unavoidable sign that I've crossed the line from enthusiast to person with a problem: I found myself in Bed, Bath & Beyond, asking three different sales associates if they could help me find a MUG TREE, because I'm out of cupboard space to support my mug habit and need a stylish way to leave them out on the counter.


My friend Peter says that the time to draw the line on material acquisitions is when your stuff needs stuff--in this case, when my mugs send me out with a shopping list. He has a point. But I'm heading out to a reading in Connecticut on Thursday. And then Chicago on Saturday. I'll need new mugs for memories, won't I?

I wonder if Ebay has mug trees?

Sunday, June 01, 2008

I guess I have more faith than I thought...

A little while ago, I spilled an entire glass of Cabernet Sauvignon in the living room. All over our living room, actually: I doused the couch, the rug, the coffee table, the wall...I even caught THAT DOG square in the face, sending her into a fit of alcohol-induced sneezing.

As I rushed to the hallway to grab some towels, I blurted: "Jesus, you turned water into wine...any chance you could reverse the process???"

I'm not sure if it's miraculous intervention or scotchgard, but I'm happy to report that our couch and rug are clean. THAT DOG looks like she's just back from her first frat party, but other than that, things are pretty much back to normal :)

(Addendum, 52 minutes later):

Okay, things just got a WHOLE lot better! Check out this very cool piece in Sunday's Chicago Sun-Times by columnist Cathleen Falsani (you gotta love a girl who entitles her blog, "The Dude Abides"). It mentions a certain book, with a certain frog...and the story of how my best friend Kristen saved my life with a check, a key, and a discreet Fed Ex delivery. Good stuff!