Friday, December 26, 2008

See you next year!

According to my mother, I'm going to Luke and Luna's wedding in Guam.

That's not quite right. But in less than six hours, I'll be on my way to Luke and Oona's wedding in Guatemala. I'm going to Panajachel, which looks something like this . . .

. . . or maybe even this . . .

And I won't be back until New Year's Day.

I will miss you!

Christmas in Birmingham

I got a camera for Christmas. Laura took this picture of me learning to use it.

Here's Parker trying to get in on a manger scene . . .

Laura and Dad walking by our old house . . .

Breaking the peppermint pig for luck . . .

And of course, the deep, dark forest . . .

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry merry

This is what it looks like when the sun sets at my parents' house in winter.

Santa Claus is in the room with me right now. He just stuffed my stocking and told me it's time for all good little girls to be in bed. Even though I'm grown up, I'm going to listen.

Earlier today, he rode by our house on a fire truck. The dogs freaked out.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Grown up

I've spent a lot of time with other people's children this week. Most of my friends in Birmingham are "settled down," mostly with kids. The other day the four-year-old daughter of my great high school friend and cousin (second, once removed, because we know these things in Alabama) asked me, "Are you grown up?"

I was both flattered and bemused. I know I am fun. I know I look younger than I am. And I know I am super good at playing princesses. No wonder she was confused.

I did not say, "define grown up," or any other self-deprecating thing. I did not question my grown up status, which I might have done even a couple of years ago. Because I am grown up. For reals. Even though I don't have a house, or a kid, or a bathtub in which to use the bath beads her mother gave me for Christmas.

(And dear, dear high school friend and cousin, if you're reading this, the bath beads are lovely. I will use them at my parents' house or as soon as I get an apartment that has a bathtub. I seriously love baths. I love bath beads. Bath beads are awesome, and much nicer than the little notebook I gave you because we don't see each other often enough to know what to give each other for Christmas. Such is life.)

Anyway, when this little girl asked, "are you grown up?" I didn't even think about my answer (which I might have done even a couple of years ago). I said, "yes, I'm very grown up. I'm older than your mommy."

Then she found out that me and her dad are the same age and asked if that meant we were twins. So, maybe I was wrong to feel flattered.

Bemused was just right.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Eleven first lines

The first lines of each month from my first year of blogging, starting with February. It hasn't even been a full year yet! Via Gwenda.

This is a personal exercise in journaling and a public exercise in accountability. No expectations for today. So it says there right in my tagline that I'm trying to remember the sublime in everyday life. We finished the Chalmers residency yesterday, and I will miss those kids. Don't slip. Tonight, we made friends with the tree frogs that live in the marsh outside our building. I'm wondering if my lack of motivation to blog goes hand in hand with my current focus on critical rather than creative work. Remember that picture I posted of the DO NOT OBSTRUCT sign with the anarchy symbol below it? I don't want to say what I'm currently reading because I want to complain about it without being a jerk. Because it's daylight savings time, and that means that until I go to sleep, time has no meaning, right? Imagine you're wearing a discus-shaped hat on your head.

Is it me, or do I get weirder as the year goes on? It's all downhill from the tree frogs.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Junk Lady

Anybody remember The Junk Lady from Labyrinth?

She was terrifying. Much scarier than David Bowie, who was awkwardly erotic but not exactly menacing.

Going through my closet at my parents' house reminds me of The Junk Lady. If I tried to carry all the random stuff that's in there around with me, I would quickly turn into a goblin. My sister helped me do some clearing out. This is just a dent that doesn't include the giveaway bags or the "try-to-sell-on-ebay" stack . . .

Here are some of the finds:

A giant poster of a storm trooper with my name on its head from the Star Wars-themed Thanksgiving feast my high school senior class hosted. Yes, you read that right.

An unfinished paper model of Notre Dame.

A finished, but lame, paper model of Green Gables, complete with stand-up paper Anne and friends.

Some VERY cracked and clunky pottery (one in the shape of a sea sponge if that gives you any idea of what we're dealing with).

A humongous sweatshirt from a college I did not attend. My high school crush went there (until he got kicked out) and I purchased the shirt while on college tours as a talking point? Lame attempt to bond? You'll have to ask high school me -- she was a little nutty.

The Invisible Woman, an "exciting dimensional model of the human body with skin, skeleton, and vital organs."

A gazillion t-shirts from the sorority I briefly joined at my parents' insistence, but dropped out of as soon as I realized that belonging to a sorority means you have to spend time there.

A dried-up set of "Multicultural" Crayola markers with eight different skin tones.
I thought these might be a relic, but no.

The BLAAAG of the Asian American Alliance at Columbia University has them tagged under "institutional racism." I'm not sure if that means they think the markers are a good thing or a bad thing, but clearly my instinct was that there's something out of date here. Maybe because they make diversity as an "special problem" that you can choose to address or not address by purchasing this product? I know my young self thought they were sweet, but I would have been just as happy with any big set that included a full range of colors . . . I digress.

Getting rid of it all feels good. Lighter.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Down, another shade of cream

I'm in Birmingham. I sneaked away without telling you.

In Birmingham, there are organic snacks to be eaten, and premium channels to be watched, and baths to be taken, and a million shades of cream -- mink, and moonstone, and ecru, and eggshell.

The temperature is 65 degrees, more than four times Chicago's 15.

I'll be here until the 26th, when I sneak away again to Guatemala. Let it be even warmer there.

The other day, in Chicago, my car doors froze shut. Froze shut to the point where, when I tugged at the door handle and leaned backwards, I feared breaking it off. I am stronger than the door, and the ice is stronger than me. I was able to open the trunk, and because I'm a messy person, I happened to have a spoon there. I used that spoon like a lever around the door frame and cracked it open without doing damage.

Last night in Birmingham, we got warm and turned on the AC.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Partial Fulfillment

Today I completed all my end-of-semester materials, including proofreading and printing out my critical thesis, "Growing Up Marvelous: Coming of Age and the Fantastic in Novels for Young Readers," which I finished oh-so-long-ago, but which I've procrastinated on submitting.

At the bottom of the cover page are the words, "Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements of the Master of Fine Arts in Writing for Children Program at the Vermont College of Fine Arts."

Making anything permanent makes me nervous. After I mail it in on Monday, anyone who cares to will be able to read it in the program's reading room. But at least I am partially fulfilled.

I know you're dropping everything and running to Montpelier to be the first in line. No rush. If you really want to read it, I'll send you a copy.

Monday, December 8, 2008


The mastiff had some HBO that I really enjoyed watching. I don't have that at my house, so today I cancelled my cable.

I have books to read, and things to write, and I can watch it all online anyway.

Oh, right, I canceled that too. But it's okay, because in the latter days, the internet sings in the sky.

It's been a number of years since I could say, "Oh, I don't have cable." I'm going to try not to sound smug when I say it. I mean, it's not quite the same as being able to say, "I don't have a TV in my house." They're on the same track though: the my-life-is-full-enough-without-packaged-entertainment track.

Oh, that's not the track that came to mind for you? You happen to think that TV has limitless potential as a unique medium for artistic expression, especially when it comes to long-evolving narratives that dialogue with the culture at large. Well, yeah, if I'm honest, I guess I do too.

So, the track that came to your mind was I'm-a-grad-student-who-earns-little-money-and-spends-too-much-of-her-free-time-in-front-of-a-screen . . . um, okay, yeah, I could see that. Could we phrase it a little differently though . . . something to do with priorities? And corporate culture?

No. Okay, fine.

But that means I get to keep Netflix.

Also, I spelled "cancel(l)ed" two different ways in this post. And they're both right. Stop being self-conscious about it.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Was I successful?

My advisor congratulated me on "finishing a new draft," so I'm going to say that I was.

Not counting my trip to New York, I had around three weeks to complete my last packet of the semester. It was due Thursday morning, and when I added it all up, I'd written 69 all new pages and substantially revised another 87 pages, the first 8 chapters. Yes, we're calling them chapters now. A new, and exciting, development.

If I haven't mentioned it here before, I can be really freaking hard on myself. I'm going to take a moment to enjoy a positive response before I go back to work.

This weekend, I dog-sat the mastiff again, which led me to take an unplanned, but much needed, internet break. I watched the second half of the True Blood season, read a chunk of the The English Patient, paid visits to Evanston and Chinatown, made progress on the Wine and Roses Mitts I started oh so long ago . . .

. . . and saw some friends play music at a benefit for the Benton House.

I didn't write, or even think about writing anything. Smile.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Snapping turtles

Imagine you're wearing a discus-shaped hat on your head.

It is heavy, and hard to balance when you walk.

That might be because, attached the discus by various threads

Are a host of small snapping turtles

Not large enough yet to bite through a two-by-four

As snapping turtles have been known to do

But big enough to take a bite out of your pinkie finger

Or your ear

Or your self-esteem.

One of them is a yet-to-be-paid parking ticket

And one is the stranger you're meeting for drinks late on Thursday

One is the packet that's due in about 30 hours

And one is the ice -- you're late and it stops you from running

One turtle asks, is it winter that makes all the children you know want to hit other children?

Several turtles sound like characters in the novel you're revising

Chattering, chattering

Gnashing their teeth

That's why I'm not posting more.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

100% Woman

Via Tutaj, the GenderAnalyzer says The Storybook Girl is 100% woman.

That's right.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

I am too ridiculous to live

Over the last couple of days, I've found lots of reasons to laugh at myself, which can't be a bad thing. I'm in a mood: high-energy, low impulse-control, and abundant optimism.

I had a productive couple of days, in life as well as in work.

I spent quality time on Thanksgiving with a few of my favorite people, and made a wild rice dish that made me feel accomplished.

Apparently, half of my friends were conceived on Valentine's Day -- it has been a month of endless birthdays.

Also, I'm giving myself carpal tunnel, which in a perverse way makes me feel like a real writer. Five days till my deadline.

Just read: The Twits by Roald Dahl

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Remember when . . .

. . . I felt good about writing 1,000 words a day.

I did that today, around 1,100 all new, filling in a gap in my story, plus some tinkering. That should feel good. When I'm actually working I feel really good. The rest of the time, I'm stressing myself out. Pat on the back. I still have six whole days to draft my novel. It doesn't have to be -- WON'T BE -- perfect this go round.

I mean, it won't be perfect ever, but a girl can dream. Or, is it all perfect, because it is exactly what it is at this be-here-now moment, and how could it be otherwise? This is how my brain is working today, so I'm shutting it off for the night.

I'm making wild rice for tomorrow. And catching up on Top Chef while I cook. And after waking up early to write and lesson plan, I took a break this afternoon to see Tim Supple's Indian and Sri Lankan Midsummer Night's Dream at Chicago Shakespeare Theater. Pretty.

You know that thing called inspiration that's supposed to be good for a fried brain. This was that.

The actors sang and danced and drummed after their curtain call, inviting the audience to join them, which is how I wish every play could end.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Reduce, reuse, recycle

I'm proud of myself. WIth several good breaks, I worked off and on all day and into the night -- sometimes, revising, sometimes writing new stuff, sometimes jotting notes.

There's a groove when things are clicking into place. It didn't happen all day long, but enough of the time that I'm super satisfied, especially with one section of around 2100 words (some new, some carved out from half a dozen scenes from older drafts). Clearer and shorter.

Reduce, reuse, recycle. I have done all three.

I started off the day with Pandora as my soundtrack. I made a station from Gary Jules' cover of "Mad World," so the first song that came up was his "Lucky." Both of these so suit my story. Gary Jules is my new boyfriend.

It's hard for me to divorce "Mad World" from Donnie Darko, which I dearly love, but this video makes it a bit easier to appreciate it in its own right. I had never seen it before, and I find it dreamy.

Currently reading: Coraline by Neil Gaiman

Monday, November 24, 2008


To my rockstar roommate at Vermont College, Jessica Leader, who just sold her first book!

NICE AND MEAN, to VC's own Kate Angelella at Simon and Schuster.

In our first residency, everyone in our class got singles. Since then, we've had to share, and I've been lucky to have Jess to chat with late into the night. She is super dedicated, talented, and funny, and I cannot wait to read her debut novel!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Shaking my fist at the collective consciousness

I thought of a great new title for my work in progress. The perfect, poetic title that's eluded me.

Googled it.

It is taken.

Somebody else's book by that title is coming out with a major children's publisher in 2009.

Shake it off like water. Write. Write.

Friday, November 21, 2008

On second thought

I was wrong. I can't take it. I'm a baby, and, hilarious as they are, Varian's consequences scared me away from my blog.

I'm half kidding.

A consequence is only serviceable if you're willing to follow through with it. And I'm not willing to inscribe anything about Sarah Palin and beef on my future book or my body. This picture is enough to make me gag. Let's not talk about tattoos.

If I committed to one of those consequences, I might start off motivated, but soon I'd be driven to distraction by the risk that, in spite of my best intentions, I could get stung by a wayward tsetse fly, fall down with sleeping sickness, and fail to meet my deadline. Instead of writing, I'd waste all my time imagining horror scenarios like the above and wind up sabotaging myself.

I wouldn't have a big moral problem with eating a slab of beef, but I also wouldn't be able to digest it, so, gross.

Here's the other thing. I don't have a clear sense of what it will mean to "complete" this draft. My book is currently around 118,000 words long, and there's also this giant folder named, "Extra," and I don't even want to think about what's in there. My book needs to get shorter and clearer, not longer.

I'm confident I'm not yet telling the middle of the story in any coherent way. So that's the goal -- to fill in the gaps, or to at least write the raw material that will lead me there.

Wednesday, I did a bunch of revision and a couple of heavily rewritten pages, getting the first 20 pages of my novel in shape to submit as my workshop piece for the upcoming residency. Thursday was a giant teaching day. Today, I did some hardcore revision and reordering and a little more than 700 new words. By that time I was pretty tired. A hundred of them might be worth keeping.

My real consequence is that I have until December 4 to submit my best work to my advisor, the last advisor I'll have before I'm meant to prepare my creative thesis in my final semester of school. I'm scared of failing this book. That's enough stress for me.

Currently reading: Catherine, Called Birdy by Karen Cushman

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Words or consequences

4,100 words today. All new. One of my biggest writing days ever. But I'm going to need days like that if I'm going to push through a new draft by December 4.

I did the last 1,500 of that on Write or Die, which seems to work well for me when I'm already tired.

On December 4th, if I get my work done, I will celebrate.

If not, consequences. What should they be?

Be cruel, I can take it. The meanest (legal) suggestion wins.

Now, I'm meeting up with a college student so she can write a profile piece about me for her journalism class. For the next hour, I'm going to be pretend-famous, which is probably way more fun than real-famous.

Monday, November 17, 2008

My ride

I've got a new guy. He's French. Moves fast. Very supportive.

I haven't decided on his name yet, but he and I took our first spin yesterday. 13 miles to Kate's house with Lacy and Tai.

My ride couldn't come inside. He had to wait in the garage. That deflated him. What I thought was just a temporary flat came back, so Lacy and I had to take public transportation home. But while we were riding, I felt strong. I felt warm, in spite of snow flurries, and I felt happy.

I need to get him to the bike doctor so that he and I can continue to outrun the winter blues.

Taking suggestions for my new ride's name in comments . . .

Kick in the pants

Thanks to all the NaNoWriMo (that's National Novel Writing Month) people who posted about Write or Die.

It's a good kick in the pants for rough draft, thumbtack-on-the-delete-button writing, as my little victory tag shows.


After a six hour rehearsal, an after-school class, and oh, right, that trip to New York, this was just what I needed to get past obsessing and into typing. I have a lot of work to do in the next few weeks as my advisor has challenged me to push through to the end of my new draft of my novel for my last packet of the semester. It's time. The new stuff will be raw, as it should be.

So here it is. Hold me to it. No later than December 4th, I will have a new full draft of my novel. Somebody grab a bucket of water because my fingers are on fire.

Sunday, November 16, 2008


New York pulled me underwater. With the rain, my cold, the early dark, the headiness of being elsewhere. Even my last sunny day, humidity soaked me.

Larissa and I went swimming. She knows how to handle a teacup on the river, and she knows where the fish bite.

Downtown friends surfaced to splash me and tickle my feet. They've learned how to breathe in that city. The show we went to see, Fuerza Bruta, invited us to drown.

I set out with no plans, no agenda, let the current take me, and it did. This place, for example, called out to us in Chinatown.

We saw a bright white sign in the distance, followed it until we got close enough to see slabs of meat in the window. A turn-off. I wanted tofu, and not silken like they do it in Chicago, something firm.

New York would not let me down. The sign had led us to a corner where, down a street sticky with yellow leaves, we saw the China Village. We both agreed it was singing to us. Later, I bought cheap and gorgeous scarves to keep us warm and dry. My wildest Chinatown dreams fulfilled.

To all my friends who've grown gills, thank you. I miss you again.

Abingdon Square

Sometimes, it's not 
    easy to be in the


                                              until later

Friday, November 14, 2008

The New Sublime

Coffee in the shower.

Larissa lives in a teacup -- a beautiful teacup on the river that used to house tuberculosis patients. I have a cold, which is not as bad as tuberculosis, but it's interesting to imagine being quarantined here. There's a shower curtain covered in surfers that catches the light. The tuberculosis patients would not have had such a shower curtain to enjoy, but they might have drunk coffee in the shower.


Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Travel Lightly

I'll be in New York for a few days, visiting my sublime friend Larissa for her birthday! I've made it a point to treat this trip with as little stress as possible. No agenda. Tiny plans. I will see who and what I see. And I will love it.

As is my nature, I've not yet finished packing, and it's nearly 1 AM.

Posts may be sporadic to nonexistent for the rest of the week.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Three things

About 30 hours ago, I turned in my fourth packet out of five for the semester. That means only one more and then I'm in my LAST semester. This is not entirely a good thing. I love my program. I don't want it to end.

After packeting and doing a bunch of brainstorming on a new project, I don't have much left in me, so instead of a full-on post, I offer these three things:

One good -- I learned how to read tablature for ukulele tonight.

One bad -- Prop 8 sickens me. I don't understand how any American can vote for a proposition, any proposition, that begins with the words, "Eliminates the right . . ." I don't understand people who want to legislate morality. Believe whatever you want to believe, but when it comes to other people's rights and other people's PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS, mind your beeswax. I've been purposefully avoiding thinking about it in order to enjoy Obama's election, but seriously, California, about 51% of you need to stay after class.

And one silly -- I attended the baptism of five-year-old twins today (the adopted sons of a couple who California wouldn't like to see married by the by, and how's that for family values? But wait, this isn't the bad, sad, angry thing, this is the silly thing. Deep breath). After the baptism of four children, which was touching and lovely, the priest sighed in an all-in-a-day's-work sort of voice and said, "Four less Pagans in the world. Four more Christians."

I didn't realize those were the two options. Now I know.

Currently reading: I Am the Messenger by Marcus Zusak.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

When Parker asked if she could be Bob Dylan for Halloween . . .

. . . I didn't know how to say no.

Also, Lacy wrote a post about a recent show we did that makes my heart happy. As I recently said, I am not a fan of anxiety-producing phrases like, "live each day like your last," but I do believe in squeezing every possible drop of silliness out of my silly life (see dog with fro, pictured above).

Currently reading: The Boy Book by E. Lockhart, yes, sequel to The Boyfriend List. And yes, believe it or not, this is for school.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Grant Park, Election Night, 2008

Feel the love.

This is what it sounded like when CNN called it on the jumbotron . . . The bouncing is me jumping uncontrollably.

For the first time in more than ten years, I trust in my President. He is humble, and that is more of a relief to me than I could ever have anticipated. He says he will be honest, and I actually believe him. He makes me believe we can do better.

In Grant Park, it didn't feel so much like we had elected one man as that we had lifted roughly half of America up from apathy and frustration. I'm not expecting miracles from this one man, but I am expecting that the positive energy he's harnessed will serve us for years to come. I am so proud to be an American today.

I've gotten so used to feeling jaded, powerless, and fearful about my government that last night took me by surprise. I wasn't taking anything for granted. Even after Pennsylvania and Ohio had been called, I felt chest pains waiting in line. But over the course of the night, a huge weight lifted. It feels so good to feel patriotic without cynicism and to take pride in how the rest of the world sees this country.

Gretchen's camera makes it look like we were closer than we actually were. It took a piggyback ride from Jason for me to get an actual glimpse of the man. Still, I would not trade being in that sea of happy people at the moment Obama won for anything.

The vibe on the streets of Chicago after Obama's speech was strangely peaceful -- not subdued, but joyful and content. Cops stood in rows on the sidewalks maintaining a presence, but they were happy too, and their biggest job was smiling for pictures. All the downtown streets were closed, so we walked northwest from the park and crossed the river. Walking in the middle of the streets afforded us a rare view of our beautiful city. People danced on the walls that split Michigan Avenue, and I don't think I've ever felt so much unity among a truly diverse crowd of people.

I walked past the saxophone player who can be heard playing "Hail to the Chief" about 20 seconds into this vid . . .

Monday, November 3, 2008

I only have a little ulcer . . .

. . . and this made it feel a tiny bit better.

Scraps, Shaq, Elections, Edamame, and Me, Rachel

Here ends a rockstar Monkey day. I am tired-ed.

We performed 19 all new stories at the Cleveland School this morning. I am personally most proud of our adaptation of "The Apple Family" in which the Apple Family (apple dogs and all) get devoured by a real dog, Shiloh McRufus. Imagine if you will a cross between puppet theater and The Hills Have Eyes. "Shiloh McRufus ate Scraps! I can see his seeds!"

Also, I played Shaq. See the resemblance?

Later, Joe and our volunteer teacher Caleb and I taught a thrilling after-school class.

Tomorrow night, I'll be going down to Grant Park with Obama with, oh, maybe a million other people. The ticketed area holds about 70,000 people. Those tickets were gone in minutes. I'll be going as someone's guest -- and I feel pretty lucky about that.

But wait, Rachel, where does writing fit into all of this?

Um. I guess my personal meeting with Obama (and one million other people) will have to wait until after I get some writing done tomorrow morning.

Also, I am eating chocolate with edamame in it. Amazing.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

An impossible affair

I'm trying to figure out why I'm attracted to Rob Morrow. Or to anyone.

Okay, I'm not really attracted to Rob Morrow. He is quite a lot older than me, acts in a boring show (Numb3rs), and has a daughter named Tu. I just can't get behind that.

I'm attracted to Dr. Joel Fleischman, Rob Morrow circa 1990 or so, and those days will never come again.

Here he is looking all nebbishy and fish out of water.

What is it about him?

He's obnoxious as often as he's charming. Classically intelligent but interpersonally dense. According to Maggie, he's a good kisser, but they can't ever get it together.

Could it be the parka?

Why am I posting at this hour?

Because it's daylight savings time, and that means that until I go to sleep, time has no meaning, right? Right?

Your result for Howard Gardner's Eight Types of Intelligence Test...


8% Logical, 25% Spatial, 55% Linguistic, 51% Intrapersonal, 27% Interpersonal, 8% Musical, 16% Bodily-Kinesthetic and 51% Naturalistic!

"Verbal-linguistic intelligence has to do with words, spoken or written. People with verbal-linguistic intelligence display a facility with words and languages. They are typically good at reading, writing, telling stories and memorizing words and dates. They tend to learn best by reading, taking notes, listening to lectures, and via discussion and debate. They are also frequently skilled at explaining, teaching and oration or persuasive speaking. Those with verbal-linguistic intelligence learn foreign languages very easily as they have high verbal memory and recall, and an ability to understand and manipulate syntax and structure.

Careers which suit those with this intelligence include writers, lawyers, philosophers, journalists, politicians and teachers." (Wikipedia)

Take Howard Gardner's Eight Types of Intelligence Test at HelloQuizzy

Via Patrick

Friday, October 31, 2008

Spooky school

Vermont Public Radio did a fantastic story on the ghost that haunts my school's College Hall . . .

I'm not sure what's spookier . . . Anna the ghost or Bob the security guard who's in love with her and might just have been through a time warp. Bwaaaaaaaaaahahahaha!

Happy Halloween!

It makes me happy.

These are kind of corny, but . . .

Tai's joke, not mine. Also, his pictures . . .

Lacy is . . .

Scott and I take direction well.

Tai and Lacy have a pretty good chance of surviving a horror movie featuring corn. I'd be dead by morning. Scott did not even try.

Here's Lacy at the top and me at the bottom of the 50 foot slide.

We were born again.

Happy Birthday Headlamp!

It's late Thursday, early Friday, so my birthday's officially over, but the taste of champagne truffle lingers on. Thanks to family and friends, my home is full of sweetness. It's been a pretty brilliant day.

Midnight found me playing Incan Gold with a few of my favorite people.

Yes, I'm wearing a headlamp. No, I can't explain why. Just further proof that my nerdiness knows no bounds.

This morning, I made about 50 calls to Ohio on behalf of Obama. Lots of the people I talked to had already voted for him early -- nice to hear -- but I had at least one good conversation with an undecided voter and helped another woman with a broken leg figure out how to vote absentee.

Later, I did a new yoga podcast from my former teacher in LA, Hillary Rubin. It's #67 if you want to try it out, and it's pretty fantastic.

And tonight, some more of my favorite people joined me for a trip out to Spring Grove to visit the world's largest corn maze.

It's tilled with GPS guidance on 28 acres with 11.1 miles of trail. This year, it, like everything else, is political.

Lacy said it far surpassed her expectations for what a corn maze could be. I heartily agree. I went back and forth between feeling at peace with the rustling corn on a gorgeous night and feeling pleasantly maddened by being walled in. We were brilliant and brought no artificial light beyond our cell phones, so that heightened both extremes.

After the maze, we played on the 50 foot slide and found a campfire. My hair still smells like it. That makes me feel like I went camping on my birthday, which if you're me, is a really nice feeling.

Note to self: One does not need a headlamp to play a card game. Headlamps can however be useful when navigating 11.1 miles of corn maze in the dark.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

I can vote

My reward for writing this morning is early voting. I can't wait.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


Performing in last night's That's Weird, Grandma! was the most fun I've had in a long time -- I mean, in days -- and that's still saying a lot. I've been having a lot of fun lately. The show went by in a blur.

I used to have a little bit of a complex about having fun. I thought about it like juggling. If you have too many good things up in the air at once, one of the balls has to drop -- maybe all of them. It's just a matter of time. If you think like this too, I encourage you to get over it.

I have perspective. I understand that terrible things can -- and will -- happen, but there's no point in trying to trick the universe by being miserable when it's not my turn. "Oh, look at me, universe, I'm so sad, my life is so hard, please don't challenge me in some new and worse way." That gives too much power to the bad.

(Which, as a side note, isn't even always bad. Halloween for example has always struck me as a time for making friends with death. Sides of a coin, night and day, yin and yang, balance, balance, balance . . .)

And I'm not a fan of phrases like, "live each day like your last." I mean, go ahead, seize the day, but don't stress about it to the point where you can't enjoy what you've seized. Don't color it with the gloomy edge of an axe hanging over your head.

At the risk of revealing yet another layer of my nerdiness, check out the Fool . . .

He's about to step off a cliff, but he's happy, which is why he's the first card of the deck, and why he represents being open to experience, optimism, and trusting in the universe. He's in the moment, potential energy. He doesn't care what people think about him, and he's got a cute dog with him so you know he's a nifty guy. He is all sublime all the time.

An acquaintance of mine -- who is pretty amazing -- is currently having an awful time, but she's dealing, and in such a healthy way, she's supporting my theory that having a good attitude and embracing it when life's good to you actually helps you deal with the bad things when they crop up.

Things aren't perfect right now, and they're not awful, but I'm happy. And I don't choose to waste any of that happy on being anxious about whether things are about to get better or worse.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Status update

Rachel is . . .

. . . learning how to play a silly song on the ukulele

. . . watching the Phillies beat the Rays

. . . doing laundry

. . . thinking about boys

. . . excited about the plane tickets she just bought

. . . afraid somebody's mad at her

. . . prepared to rock her last TWG show of 2008

. . . wanting to be a good daughter

. . . thinking about cutting her own hair

. . . and dying the tips blue

. . . less anxious than she was a year ago

. . . currently reading: Thaw by Monica Roe

. . . certain that Facebook is changing her DNA

Friday, October 24, 2008

I'm not sure this is such a good thing

Your result for The Literary Character Test...

Captain Nemo

Good, Human, Roundabout Thinker

Captain Nemo is the man who rules the sea. His powerful submarine, the Nautilus, is a perfect vehicle to match his powerful intellect, and the matchup is easily understood why; it was designed by his mind, and so the enigmatic engine is as strange and fantastical as the unreadable mind that brought it forth. A castaway by choice, Nemo has sworn off contact with the human race he has come to mistrust and despise, and with good reason. Still, to those who he realizes have done no true wrong, he extends mercy and even protection, and still nurses the hope that one day man will overcome his own imperfections. The tortured Captain remains in wait for that day, at the bottom of the sea.

Take The Literary Character Test at HelloQuizzy

Thursday, October 23, 2008

One o'clock PM

We're sleeping in shifts around the planet.

It's my turn to keep watch, but I'm fighting.

The music I'm listening to has me convinced that beauty and pain go together.

And it's barely past noon.

Currently reading: The Boyfriend List by E. Lockhart, and yes, I'm making my own.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Taught it

My Monkey teaching residency wrapped up with a five hour reading meeting on Sunday night, and today's the first free Tuesday I've had in six weeks. Guess who's still in her pajamas?

I've been doing a bit of Monkey blogging lately: here, and here and here.

Please accept that as my offering for today, because I really must get some novel writing done.

Here I go . . .

Ready . . .

Set . . .

For reals, y'all . . .

May vicious yetis haunt my dreams if I don't get some work done . . .


Saturday, October 18, 2008

Snow Day

We recently passed a date that's burned into my head: October 16th. This is the date of the first snow my first winter in the Chicago area -- a particularly bad winter -- but one I loved since I'd never seen snow that big before. At the time, I went around starry-eyed and beaming more often than not, and I would not hesitate to throw myself down in a snowdrift for fun, to stay out late talking on a "romantically" frozen beach, or walk around outside with wet hair.

My hair froze a lot that year.

I need to remember that winter because this winter will be coming sooner than not, and last winter was a time of hibernation. Partly I was still numbed by the blinding, buzzy shock of LA and the silly jobs I did there, partly working through the detritus of a failed relationship, partly dealing with the lack of light -- which I wrote about in my very first entry for this blog. I didn't spend last winter sad -- I finished a draft of my novel, performed in plays, made new friends, kissed in the snow -- but I did spend last winter sleepy.

This winter I'll be wide awake. Even if it means buying a bike and learning to ride it in the snow. Even if it means joining a gym.

Or a cult.

Whatever it takes.

Friday, October 17, 2008


I'm dealing with a couple of anniversaries right about now.

On October 1st last year, I moved back to Chicago after being in Los Angeles for two years. One of the first big social events that took place after I returned was the Monkeys' Fancy Schmancy Benefit, which happened a week earlier last year, and which returned in all its glory last night.

At the time of last year's Fancy, I was thrilled to be back in town but uncertain of how I would fit back in with the company or with my old friends. I'm not sure my bed had been delivered to my apartment yet. I might have still been sleeping on the floor. I'm certain I based my outfit on which boxes I'd gotten around to unpacking. At the benefit, I watched a show full of stories I'd never seen before and several people I'd not yet met. I did a job at the event, but no one expected me to, and I didn't feel any ownership of the night. The extent of my schmance was to wear my hair in braids.

In the few pictures of me from that night, as in this one from last year's after-party, I have my hands or arms folded. I think I spent a lot of time staring lovingly at people -- in this case Jen -- and hoping they still liked me.

This year, I performed in the show. I showed up early to deliver a keyboard. I wore a fancy dress paired with evening-gown gloves, hot-pink capri tights, hot pink sandals, my Quirk and Quill mardi gras mask, and LOTS of glitter. I felt both fancy and schmancy and grateful to have this company and the people who go with it back in my life.

Now I'm headed out to wish farewell to two friends who are leaving for New York. I hope they're happy there, but if they're not, I will be thrilled to have them back.

More anniversaries forthcoming . . .

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


I have to give a shoutout to my first fantastic advisor at Vermont College of Fine Arts, Kathi Appelt, who is nominated for a National Book Award for her novel The Underneath!


Monday, October 13, 2008

Cuteness Break

I just finished knitting this hat, an adaptation of the "Miss Dashwood" pattern from Knitty. It's looks adorable on Parker, who was very kind to model it for me, but it's even cuter on its new owner, baby Harper.

And a reading update: I'm back to Pedro Parama. I took a break for Specials by Scott Westerfeld and Thirsty by M.T. Anderson. I read them fast -- one's a dystopian future, one's to do with vampires, two of my favorite things. Now it's back to the surrealist masterpiece, which I'm sure will be great, if I can get over my resistance and read more than thirty pages.

Friday, October 10, 2008


I'm doing much better, thank you.

Wednesday was balanced. Thursday, a teaching marathon. Friday a "no" day in which I still got writing done.

I'm not going to post my word counts on Manatee anymore. I don't have experience revising a project this huge; I'm still figuring out my process, and I don't know if word counts figure into it at all. I will say that Wednesday's word count was high -- thanks to balance I'm sure.

And speaking of balance, here are some pics Tutaj took from "When I Know How to Ride My Bike," currently in That's Weird, Grandma!

I know these guys came to rehearsal hoping they'd get to carry me around in figure eights for half an hour!