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.