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!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Argument Day

Reasons I had a hard time writing today:

1) Within less than 24 hours, I taught three Monkey classes (featuring college student observers, premiere performances by 7-year-olds, and one very confused substitute teacher) AND started the new round of That's Weird, Grandma . . . in which I sang a fast and wordy song . . . that I heard for the first time on Saturday . . . while being carried.

2) After turning in my packet Friday night, I took the weekend off (from writing, not from early-morning Monkey rehearsals), and spent my limited writing time yesterday going over feedback on my packet but failing to fully dive back in. That made today both "back to work day" and the start of a new draft.
A new draft is full of opportunities.
Opportunities to wreck everything.

3) I decided to start my new draft with a blank page, which, while it helps unstick the words that multiple revisions have carved into my brain, also makes me feel the irrational need to "get it right the first time . . . again." Ridiculous.

4) I need to do some outlining and synopsis-ing before I move forward, but that doesn't feel like doing anything because it's not work that's easy to quantify, and I'm too tired to do that, whine, whine, and didn't I start doing that yesterday and not get anywhere, and can I really afford another day where I don't get anywhere?

None of this is helpful. I count it as a success that I spent a good chunk of time in front of my computer in spite of so much negative thinking and wrote 415 new words. I put so much pressure onto every word I wrote, it's amazing anything survived my constant deletions.

Lessons learned:

1) Writing before teaching is a-okay. Writing after teaching is nearly always a fight against sleep. That doesn't mean don't do it, but manage expectations, yes?

2) I will never be perfect. Never ever ever. Ever.
Practice does not make perfect.
That was an evil lie perpetuated by muppets and Math Team.
No one is ever perfect.
I must stop trying.

3) Starting a new draft doesn't mean starting over. It's just another day.

4) All work is work. Even work that's not easy to quantify.

In conclusion:

1) I'm not going to write anymore tonight. It won't be productive. Better to rest and start fresh tomorrow.

2) Tomorrow, I have plenty of time and no teaching. Tomorrow, I will do some outlining and some time-lining.

3) If I write new material, I will do it in one steady stream and tape a thumbtack to my delete key. I may or may not record how many words I wrote here. I haven't yet decided if that's helpful right now or not.

4) Looking back over this post, the thing that strikes me is how eager I am to show that I'm productive, even over the weekend. What's wrong with not working on the weekend?
Last night, I was telling a couple of friends about what I turn in for each packet for school. They were flabbergasted by the amount of work I've been doing.
I MUST acknowledge that what I'm doing is hard, AND within my power. Then I must do some yoga and give myself a break.

P.S. Today was argument day for Barrel of Monkeys. When I asked the children if they knew what important thing was happening on TV tonight, the first class knew about the presidential debate right away. The second class guessed:

1) Hockey

2) Celebrating Columbus Day

3) 90210

4) Halloween

Bonus points for wishful thinking.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Fancy Schmancy Benefit

Me: Barrel of Monkeys is holding our annual Fancy Schmancy Benefit.

You: Oh, cool, what's it called?

Me: The Fancy Schmancy Benefit.

You: Oh, neat. Can I come?

Me: Please do!

You: Oh, but what if I'm a starving artist, do-gooder type and this event's too fancy schmancy for me?

Me: You're in good company. Drop me a line.

Only the Good Die Young

My friend Larissa loaned a book to me eight years ago because she thought I would love it. I said I would read it, and I'm a woman of my word. Read it I shall. It just took me a while to get around to it.

The book she loaned me should be a good book. Everyone says so. It's Pedro Parama by Juan Rulfo.

Meanwhile, it's officially a year and six days since I moved back to Chicago from Los Angeles. That tells me I've gone six days over the one-year deadline to give my friend Kristie a wedding present, since I arrived in town just in time for her wedding last year. I bought the present, months and months ago. It's just been hanging in a bag on my front door waiting for me to wrap it and walk it over to her house.

See, it's not that I'm not thoughtful. I'm just not at all timely.

This brings me to a conviction that first occurred to me in maybe fourth grade. I was reading Little Women and obsessed with a particular scene featuring Beth. She's miserably shy, but the nice old neighbor has given her a piano, and she has to repay him. She overcomes her shyness to take him a Christmas gift (a pair of slippers I think).

This girl's already annoyingly good, and in this scene, she triumphs over her last fault. Shortly thereafter she gets sick and dies. Clearly Louisa May Alcott was warning me: Don't be too perfect or you'll have nothing left to learn on earth, and God will take you away.

I should mention that I played Beth on stage more than once, so there's some identification there.

This reading was only reinforced by my local classic rock station's habit of playing Billy Joel's "Only the Good Die Young" at least once a day during my drives to and from high school.

Billy Joel and Louisa May Alcott were on the same page. If you want to keep hanging out with your friends and eating ice cream and being in plays and writing books and doing yoga and all the other things that embodiment affords, you'd better take your time in perfecting yourself.

So I will read Pedro Parama eight years late, and Kristie will get her wedding present sometime in this decade, and I will rock this day full of teaching and writing and acting and maybe even ice cream.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Bad book! Bad!

I don't want to say what I'm currently reading because I want to complain about it without being a jerk. Wow! This book . . . it's YA, and the author's so clearly stuck in the 90's I feel sympathy embarrassment. It's full of references to movies that were popular ten years ago (and haven't stood the test of time) and it has that ironic, Gen-X loser, I-want-to-be-like-John-Cusack-when-that-was-still-something-people-wanted-to-be vibe, but it's not a period piece.

Beyond that, it's full of cliches, and logic problems and ambivalence. Every time I get a clear idea of where a character stands on something, the author backs off of it -- down to the tiniest things like whether the main character likes his bedspread (I made up that example, but it's not an exaggeration). I don't trust the author at all, and no way do I want to hang out with the main character.

I read a lot of well-written books for my program, so many that it can get daunting. It's not a terrible thing every once in a while to read a book that boosts my ego.

Especially the day before I have to submit my novel for the first time to my new advisor.

Oh, right. Why am I blogging again?