Saturday, November 29, 2008

Studying up

I'm a nerd.

I am the kind of person who buys a book about everything. When I got pregnant with booger, I immediately went out and bought three or four books about being pregnant, nutrition during pregnancy, etc. I even saw a nutritionist so I could be sure I was eating/drinking what I should be and avoiding what I was supposed to avoid.

At any rate, it struck me this week (after driving poor Brogan to drink last Tuesday because I couldn't wrap my head around simple geometry) that I have not been reading any books about pool. How did THAT happen? So, this morning found me at the library, where I checked out the only two books about pool that they had (as well as a book or two by Sylvia Browne - we'll see how that goes).

I've started with Byrne's Wonderful World of Pool and Billiards, which is a cross between an instruction manual, a history of the game, and anecdotes about billiards greats. So far, I've read mainly the stories about pool players of yore and some funny essays that Mr. Byrne included. (One, by J.B. Priestley - "At Thurston's," was really really good. And I remember where I've heard of Priestley before; in college, I performed in one of the plays he wrote - Dangerous Corner. Small world, no?)

Here's what I've learned so far:
1.) Pool players are bullshitters. Half of the game, it seems, is trash-talking your opponent and trying to throw off his/her game. The other half is telling your glory tale to folks once the game is over. Pool players seem to conceive and perpetuate the myths about themselves. (An early PR trick, I suppose.)

2.) Pool players are gamblers. Most of these guys raised a significant amount of money hustling folks. Don Willis hustled on the road and hated to have his picture taken (not good for business). Until he quit hustling in the late 60s, Byrne claims, "only insiders knew what he (Willis) looked like."

3.) Pool players have awesome nicknames. Willis was also known as The Cincinnati Kid. Here are a few other colorful names I've run across: George "The Ripper" Rippe, "No Neck" Nolan, "The Seldom Seen" Kid, "Fast Larry" Grindinger, "Machine Gun" Lou Butera, Ernie Morgan (A.K.A. "The One-Armed Bandit"), Leon "Behind the Back" Yonders, "Wimpy" Lassiter, Norm "Farmer" Webber, New York Fatty, the list goes on and on and on. There were also great players who didn't really seem to have nicknames, but how much cooler is it to have an awesome nickname than to just be known as Willie Hoppe?

(We have a guy on our team named Tiny. I have no idea what his real name is. When I told Brian about Tiny, Brian asked me how big he was. I had to admit to him that Tiny is rather large. Brian replied, "No one ever nicknames a little guy Tiny. It's always some huge dude.")

4.) Anybody can play pool, if they work hard enough at it. (Good news for me, right?) There was a guy named George Sutton, playing in the early 1900s, who could run hundreds and hundreds of points in straight billiards. And George had no forearms or hands. Seriously. His arms were cut off just below the elbows. His nickname? "Armless" George Sutton. And the dude still played WAY better than me. Talk about a handicap . . . Jay Bozeman (another great player) swore that ol' George could not only delicately lift a bowl of soup to his lips with his stubs, but could also write his name in beautiful penmanship when autographing materials for fans.

I can't MAKE this stuff up.

Anyway, I'm finally getting to the instructional part of the book, and I have one suggestion for Mr. Byrne. Next time, include a @#&%$! glossary in your book. I'm having to look all kinds of terms up on the Internet.

The second book, Steve Mizerack's Complete Book of Pool, seems like it's geared more towards the beginning player. There are lots of photos and diagrams, as well as some handy drills to help players improve speed control, shot selection, and thinking ahead. I have a feeling I'll be using this book to actually improve my game (such as it is) more than Byrne's, though I have found Byrne's stories to be entertaining.

Too bad I'll look like a complete idiot if I go toting any of these books into a pool hall. I guess I'll just have to use my famous memory to retain all this stuff. Luckily, I've had lots of practice at studying.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Drink it in.

I just finished reading Blackberry Wine by Joanne Harris. Harris, the author of Chocolat (on which the movie was based) and Five Quarters of the Orange, seems to enjoy writing stories that focus on well-developed characters, rural life, and food. And I am only too happy to read them!

Blackberry Wine tells the story of Jay Winesap, a washed-up author who, in a moment of inspiration, buys a farm in the French countryside. The place speaks to him about his past, about something he feels he has lost, about something that he hopes he can recapture.

We learn that as a youth, Jay developed a relationship with an eccentric gardener named Joe Cox. Jay spent his summers hanging around Joe's garden, weeding, tending to plants, and listening to Joe's wild stories about life. With his famous parents divorced and too busy to involve themselves in Jay's affairs, Joe becomes a sort of surrogate parent for the boy. Jay is crushed when Joe leaves with no explanation.

The story alternates between revealing current events in Jay's life (fixing up the farmhouse, embarking on a new novel, meeting the townspeople, etc.) and detailing his relationship with Joe and his formative experiences as a teenager.

I really enjoyed this novel. Harris has a descriptive writing style that I like, and, though many of her novels are reminiscent of one another (all set in small European villages, all preoccupied with amusing character sketches and village life, all incorporating food), the formula works. At 350 pages or so, this was a quick and entertaining read.

My only complaint - the first third or so of the book was a bit choppy, alternating too abruptly from the past to the present and back again. This defect improved as the book progressed; Harris allowed more time in each flashback/forward so that the reader could become more engaged in the narrative.

Beautifully sad

Remember my discovery of James McAvoy a while back? I liked him so much in Becoming Jane that I decided to finally get off my tukkus and watch Atonement. Wow.

Beautifully shot, the movie begins by introducing us to the wealthy Tallis family, ensconced in an impressive estate in England during the late 1930s. Briony (played as a young girl by Saoirse Ronan), the youngest member of the family at 13, is a budding writer, concocting plays and other works to be presented at family gatherings. We also meet Cecilia Tallis (played with heartbreak by Kiera Knightley), Briony's gorgeous older sister. During the early course of the film, Cecilia learns that Robbie (McAvoy), educated son of the family housekeeper, is in love with her. In a moment of almost-shock, Cecilia realizes that she returns this love.

Young Briony, who happens to have a crush on Robbie herself, accidentally walks in on the two lovers one pivotal evening. Events later that night lead to Briony accusing Robbie of a crime he didn't commit. His quick arrest, and subsequent enrollment in the British army (WWI), deny Robbie and Cecilia the time together that they so long for.

Years later, Briony sorts through what happened, understanding her terrible error and what it meant, leading to the title of the film.

This film is beautiful to look at. Shots are carefully composed. Period costuming, hair, makeup, and props are impeccable. Keira Knightley wears an emerald gown that is a revelation. It is cut so delicately that it even makes her stick-thin body look curvy. Don't believe me? Check it out for yourself.

Performances are amazing. Knightley portrays Cecilia as achingly bewildered by her feelings, then stricken with yearning at being separated from her lover. McAvoy's Robbie is a triumph, particularly in the scenes during his military service. There is a slow, uninterrupted shot of his face, during which he discovers the evidence of a mass execution, that will stay with me a long time. An older Briony is played in a genius turn by Vanessa Redgrave at the end of the film, summing up the heart of the tale.

I sobbed like a baby at the end. Sooo worth seeing.

Poetry Project

A friend of mine has had this poem posted on her MySpace profile for a long time now. I never heard it before I read it on her page, and I've loved it ever since she led me to discover it. It is also, I think, a fitting verse for this holiday weekend. Enjoy!

The Orange
by Wendy Cope

At lunchtime I bought a huge orange
The size of it made us all laugh.
I peeled it and shared it with Robert and Dave—
They got quarters and I had a half.

And that orange it made me so happy,
As ordinary things often do
Just lately. The shopping. A walk in the park
This is peace and contentment. It’s new.

The rest of the day was quite easy.
I did all my jobs on my list
And enjoyed them and had some time over.
I love you. I’m glad I exist.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Trytophan high

We had a wonderful Thanksgiving!!! For the first time, I hosted, and I've decided that I'm going to host every year. I hadn't noticed what a pain in the butt it is, packing everything up into the car, driving somewhere, unpacking, having dinner, re-packing, driving home, and then unpacking yet AGAIN. It's much easier just to fix everything and get ready for folks to arrive.

Here's what we served:
Appetizers - my super smoked salmon dip (one of Brian's favorite appetizers; I was never a big smoked salmon fan, until I tried this stuff. It is an amazing holiday munchie.), smoked almonds, and dates stuffed with softened cream cheese and a single whole pecan (these are so easy - both to make and to eat; plus they are delish and beautiful.).

Main course - Turkey (I just stuffed mine with sage and onion, rubbed it with butter and spices, and roasted it in the oven. Brian is an excellent carver. The platter always looks like something out of a magazine when he's finished with it.)
Cream gravy (I make this from the turkey drippings, lots of butter, half and half, and a bit of cornstarch to thicken it. I don't make giblet gravy; mine is smooth.)
Garlic mashed potatoes (YUM.)
Grean bean casserole (A MUST-have.)
Cornbread dressing (My sister makes this every year from my grandmother's recipe; it wouldn't be Thanksgiving without it.)
Green salad (Dad has to make this every year. His salad dressing is legendary.)
Parker house rolls (Brian would revolt if we didn't serve these, and lots of them.)
Homemade cranberry sauce (Another one of Brian's faves; I've been making it for several years now.)

Dessert - Pumpkin pie (Pretty standard recipe. No twists here.)
Amaretto whipped cream (Oh, yes. I sooooo went there. I never make whipped cream without doctoring it up with something. I *almost* put cinnamon in it, too, but hubs wouldn't have liked it. So I restrained myself.)

We washed this down with red wine, sweet tea, and French vanilla coffee. (I bought the whole beans and ground them last night. Mmmmmmm. I *might* have even put a dollop of yummy whipped cream in my cup . . . )

Lunch was amazing. Miraculously, all the food was ready at the same time, and there was plenty to be thankful for. We had the nicest meal, talked with one another, and enjoyed being together. Then, we laid around like beached whales for a while and watched a football game. Caleb and Clay scooted all around the den, getting into trouble and generally enjoying one another. Then, everyone slowly began making their way to the door. Brian and I put all the food in the fridge, stacked the dishes next to the sink, and put the baby down for a nap.

All my feelgood enzymes are kicking in, so I may lie down for a while myself! Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Wish you were here!

This post is for my little sister, Grace, who can't be with us for Thanksgiving today. We love you, honey! I will miss you veryvery much today, and I will be thinking of you.

Here's your promised baby update:
Clay is talking more and more now. I never realized how often I point things out for him to look at, but it must be alot, because now he will point to things and say, "See? See?" to me all the time. Also, when he hands you something now, he'll say, "Tankoooo," because Brian and I always say thank you when he gives us something. He's saying a few more words - cracker, ball, juice, no, bye - all of this is happening very quickly. He's repeating the things that he hears us say, too, though I don't think he knows what he's saying. (You know what that means. Time to clean up the language, mama. This will be a pretty sustained effort in the coming weeks.)

He can point to various body parts now, his ear, arm, hands, feet, eyes, nose, mouth, chest, etc. He's waving hello and goodbye now, and he is really starting to enjoy interacting with other adults and other kids. He's fascinated by older children, and he's turning into a bit of a social butterfly. I took him to eat Thanksgiving lunch at Dad's office this week, and he flirted and charmed the whole place (though he didn't want anybody to pick him up but me). The kid smiled and cut his eyes at everybody, giving out free hugs to the folks he especially liked. He even fussed when we left, because he wanted to stay and party some more.

I thought I'd include a video of him doing his stuff. I took this one early in the morning, so he's still wearing his jammers and sporting his albino Alfafa hairdo.

Love you, Grace!! Have a great Thanksgiving!


video

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Old friends.

On Monday night, our little family went to Clinton for an annual holiday dinner hosted by some longtime neighbors of ours. When we were growing up, the Goodmans lived in the house behind us. Our yards abutted, and the Goodmans had two little girls - Rebecca and Courtney - that we played with all the time. (We were the only females in a neighborhood full of boys, so we became fast friends, sticking together pretty much until we all graduated high school.)

Now that all the girls are grown and scattered around (Laura's in Byram, Rebecca is out at the reservoir, Courtney lives in Louisiana, and the Goodmans themselves have moved to a different neighborhood in Clinton), we don't get together much anymore. But every year, we meet to eat and talk, catch up with one another, and break important news.

Our little group has grown. Now, Laura has a 5-year-old, Courtney's daughter Matilda is 2, and Rebecca is pregnant. The kids puttered around, playing with everything and diving into the tupperware cabinet. We all drank Christmas punch and ate copious amounts of Mrs. Goodman's famous cheesy potatoes.

And we laughed. And gossiped about what had happened to everyone from high school and the old neighborhood. And I remembered, again, how nice it is to converse with people who know you well, who share a history with you, and who still like you well enough to invite you over and feed you every once in a while.

Little mess-maker

So, on Sunday night, I'm getting booger ready for his bath. The water's all drawn, and he's been stripped down to his diaper. He's futzing around in the bedroom while I get the last of the things in order in the bathroom.

When I'm ready, I turn to him and ask him to come let me take his diaper off and put him in the tub. He smiles, reaches down, and takes his own diaper off with a few dramatic twists of the wrist. It's then that I notice that he's got a DIRTY diaper.

"Oh, wait, Clay! Wait for me!" I say, making my way quickly over to him. But not quickly enough. With one fluid motion, he steps into the contents of the dirty diaper, then turns and begins to run all through the master bedroom and into the den, laughing like a madman and leaving little brown footprints in his wake.

By this point, I'm screaming, "Brian!! Aaack! We need wipes, STAT!!" Sweet hubs shows up with wipes, and we corrall the giggling little monster, clean his feet, and throw him in the tub.

I made a desperate call to the carpet cleaners on Monday morning, begging them to get out to the house before Thanksgiving (which I am hosting this year). Thank goodness they could pencil me in for yesterday afternoon, and my carpet is clean again.

For now.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Tormented

This post is going to be long, and it's going to be a downer. So if you're short of time or already in a bad mood, I suggest you stop reading now.

I have an odd mind. I'm kind of a type-A personality, and I'm a worrier. Sometimes, I find myself obsessing about certain things, and it's very hard for me to forget/disregard them. So I'm hoping that today, by writing all this down, I'll purge this demon a bit and reclaim some of the real estate in my brain.

For the past week or so, I have been unable to stop thinking about this. I'm sure you saw this story in the paper. This poor little four-year-old boy was basically starved to death by his grandmother and his aunt. This kid weighed 19 pounds when he died. (To put it into perspective, Clay is 16 months, and he weighs 24 pounds.) These types of stories have always affected me, but they seem to bother me more now that I have a little one of my own.

I've thought about what things must have been like for this little guy. How hungry he must have been. How he must have asked for food, and they told him no. How surely other people in the house were eating sometimes, and he smelled food or begged for some, and they told him no. How he must have found things - paper, odd bits of string - and ate them because he was so hungry.

And the cruelty of what these people did is not the only thing that's gnawing at me. It's all the things that the existence of such cruelty mean. I am a Christian, and I believe in God. But when I hear about things like this, I doubt Him. I struggle to understand how the painful death of this little boy can fit into some larger plan.

For example, IF perhaps this death is meant to teach someone somewhere a larger lesson, or prevent other deaths, etc., why couldn't the same objective have been accomplished without having a innocent suffer for it? And if God is benevolent, and He loves His children, how can He let a four-year-old starve to death? Is He asleep at the switch up there, or what?

I am a proponent of the idea that Christians are supposed to be God on earth. What I mean is, instead of moaning and groaning about how God should feed the hungry, we, as God's children, should get off our butts and help feed the hungry. We should do God's work in the world; it's part of our job as Christians. So maybe there were people near to the situation who could have/should have acted, and because they did nothing, this boy died. (Boyd's Life had a really interesting post a while back, talking about how man could be both God and Satan on Earth, how it could all reside within us. It's an interesting idea to chew on, especially since we do so many awful things to one another that the case can be made that we are our own enemies on Earth.)

BUT, if we're the only safety net, if God isn't stepping in when things go horribly wrong, then who the heck are we praying to? If it's all up to us, then what are we bothering God for?

I understand that part of faith is just that - faith in the face of puzzle pieces that don't fit. Faith that there is a larger design, even though we can't see/comprehend it. But it is difficult, difficult for me to see a story like this and not doubt, especially when I know so many people who would be GREAT parents, would be ecstatic parents, but are unable to conceive or carry a baby to term. Good people who have not been blessed with a child. Why withold a child from those people, and then give one to these monsters?

I think it would help me work through issues like this if I could find a church where you weren't expected to check your brain at the door, too. I have visited many places. But I am not looking for a congregation that accepts whatever should come down from the pulpit without question, without dialogue. And when bad things (like this) happen, platitudes about the Lord's mysterious ways are not sufficient for me.

What I would really appreciate is a church (or maybe a really good Christian Bible study group?) where it is acknowledged that horrible things happen. Evil happens. And we don't know why God allows it, why He doesn't stop it. And we probably never will know, because we don't have the answers. And that it's almost inevitable that, at some point, most people are going to resent God and wonder what the crud he's doing with his time, while we're all down here trying to keep this thing running with string and chewing gum. So far, I haven't had any luck finding a group like that, but I'll keep looking.

And in the meantime, I guess I'll pray a little bit harder, hug Clay a little bit tighter, and hope for the best.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Exotic tale

I finished reading Water for Elephants, by Sara Gruen, this week. I loved this book! I will be looking into more works by Gruen in the future.

The meat of the story is told in flashback form. Jacob, a 93-year-old man living in a nursing home, recalls his stint as a vet on a traveling circus during the 1930s. As a young vet student at Cornell, Jacob is just about to sit for his final exams when both of his parents are killed in a car wreck. Sorting through their affairs, Jacob discovers that his family was penniless, having mortgaged their home to pay for his Ivy-league education.

Sick with grief, Jacob hops a train. A train, he discovers, that is carrying the Benzini Brothers traveling circus. Before he knows it, he's on staff as the circus vet, tending to the needs of the circus lions, chimpanzees, and other fauna. It doesn't take Jacob long to meet Marlena, the beautiful performer in charge of the trick horses, and he's instantly smitten. However, Marlena's not free; she's already married to August, a bipolar, abusive manager in the traveling outfit. (Hence the requisite love triangle.)

The rest of the tale follows Jacob as he discovers Rosie, a talented performing elephant; finds his own voice; siezes true love; and makes his way in the world.

This is a great book. It's entertaining and easy to read, but not so rote and predictable that you don't get a kick out of it. Details of circus life in the 1930s are colorful and rich. Plus, the characters are great.

A solid four stars for this one.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Being thankful

We spent the weekend down on the MS Gulf Coast with Brian's family. Because his sister couldn't make it up for Thanksgiving this year, we all met down there and celebrated Thanksgiving last night. We drove down Saturday, and booger was good the whole way. We made it in with no wrong turns. I was thankful. Then, we checked into a suite at the Residence Inn (which totally rocked. You wouldn't think that a Residence Inn in Gulfport would be posh, but it totally was. Our suite had two bedrooms, a kitchenette, and THREE flat screen TVs. Heaven.). I was thankful.

We then met up with the family for ham, green bean casserole, dressing, and all of the other fixings. YUM. The kids played together, we all chatted and relaxed. Very thankful.

Then, we headed back to our hotel, where I put booger in the bed and took perhaps the longest, hottest shower that I've taken since the baby was born. Then, Brian and I lolled around on the cushy king bed while we flipped through various shows on the huge flat screen TV. At last, we settled into a deep, dreamless sleep. So freaking thankful I could hardly believe it.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Flight of fancy

Booger and I had the chance to swing by the Mississippi Museum of Art this week to catch their Audubon exhibit. It's substantial, beautiful, and interesting. They had several depictions of Audubon himself on display - a bust, some portraits, etc. - as well as many of his creations and a few of his personal effects. I found it really fascinating to see things like his calling card and case, his ledger for expenses (you can see how much he was spending on things like paper and paint when creating Birds of America!), and his personal seal. He was also a taxidermist, and they even have one of the birds he mounted on display - a beautiful snowy owl.

Plus, his renderings of America's birds and wildlife are beautiful, and there are lots of them there to see. They have a couple of interactive areas, too, where you can listen to CDs, post your own ideas to conserve America's natural heritage, and put the events of Audubon's life in chronological order.

The exhibit is very well done, and I encourage you to go see it!

If you make it over there during the Christmas season, you can see the Christmas creche on display. (It's in the main lobby area; you don't even have to pay to see it.) It is gorgeous. They had the ceremonial lighting of it a while back, but I was unable to attend that event. Suffice it to say, though, that the creche consists of an impressive collection of Italian figurines surrounding the holy family. There are many many angels positioned in the evergreen branches which make up the pinnacle of the display, and a veritable town of people filling up the outlying corners. It is meticulously arranged, and Clay loved looking at all the townsfolk and thier "stuff."

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Dance machine!

I'm not a dancer, even though I love to dance. I'm good at the kind of dancing where you're just out having fun and making up your own steps to the music. And since hubs doesn't dance much, I take every opportunity I can to dance on my own. (Remember my impromptu street dancing in Memphis? I should have put out a hat or a cup or SOMETHING. We could have gotten our drinks for free that night.)

But if I have to remember steps or routines, everything quickly devolves into a HORRIBLE mess of arms, legs, and feet. (Remember all my teeth gnashing when I had to learn steps for that show at New Stage? This failing is one of the reasons I had such trepidation about bellydancing class. Memorized steps? Check. Undulating midsection? Check. Dancing on stage in front of a live audience - and later, for cameras? Check. Very well, then! I see we have all the ingredients for disaster!)

A director has never, NEVER seen me dance and said, "I MUST have her for my next production!" Usually, what happens is the director sees me act, hears me sing, and is interested in casting me. Then, when I show up at the dance callback, he/she thinks, "Hmmmmm. Maybe we can put her in the middle, have her sway a bit, and then have the really good dancers pirouette all around her or something. 'Cause this chick is a train wreck."


Anyhoo, a while back, New Stage called me in to do a dance callback for Smokey Joe's Cafe, which they are producing this summer. (I'm not sure why they called me for a "dance callback," as I haven't auditioned all season. I guess it was in response to my whiny complaint that they kept calling me up on short notice to audition for other productions, and they figured that a fall audition for a summer production ought to be enough notice for even the most overscheduled mother.)


They told me that they were holding two sessions, one at 3 p.m. and one at 3:30 p.m. I chose the later audition, and showed up promptly. I could hear session one still auditioning. I signed the sheet, stretched my legs a little, and waited my turn. All of a sudden, the door to the audition room bursts open and eight VERY SWEATY people came out. They were all breathing hard, like they'd just run a marathon. I knew one of the girls in the group, and she mentioned that they'd been "auditioning" for NEARLY AN HOUR. Then she told me that the routine was really "quick-paced." People, these folks were in WAY better shape than me. And TWO of them looked like actual dancers, with leggings and leotards and stuff. At this point, I started to realize that I was soooo in over my head.

As I've said before, I'm no dancer. I'm an actor/singer who can walk. And, looking at the dripping, exhausted group, I began to wonder what (in the name of God and all that's holy) I was doing at this audition.

Finally, their audition ended, and the damp collection of skinny people practically limped out the door. I was nearly hyperventilating by this time. Then, I looked around. The waiting area was oddly quiet. And oddly bare. With a start, I noticed that there was NO ONE else in the waiting room. You guessed it. Session two was ALL ME. What? You mean, no one to hide behind? No one to strategically position squarely between the camera and myself? Sweet Lord in heaven. At this point, I seriously thought about making a break for it.

"Next!" chirped the choreographer. I took a deep breath and prayed I could make it down the steps without taking a head dive.

The choreographer was really nice. We talked about my ability level (nil), and then she taught me a quick routine. It was alot of step-pop, some turns, and the requisite "ta-da" pose at the end. I have no idea if the previous group's routine was more difficult, but I'm betting it was. We practiced for about 10 minutes, then I did it a couple of times for the camera. I managed to get *most* of the steps right, but I was no Baryshnikov (no surprise there).

At any rate, I got through another harrowing experience. And I must say, I am SHOCKED that the director didn't call immediately to offer me a role.

Shocked, I tell you.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Music to my ears

You may or may not know it, but I am a die-hard Mary Chapin-Carpenter fan. I have been listening to her music since high school, and over the years, I've bought most of her albums. Passionate Kisses is one of my all-time favorite songs, but there are too many great ones to really start choosing.

I mean, This Shirt? Tender When I Want to Be? I Take My Chances? I Feel Lucky? (Only a Dream; Goodbye Again; Come On, Come On; we could be here for days . . . ) There are very few songs of hers that I don't love. And, to boot, she writes on most of her albums, which means she can sing her songs with the same conviction they were created with. This is no teeny-bopper singing about how she will learn to love again. (Of course you will, you twit! You're fourteen!) This is someone who has some life experience under her belt telling it like it is.

And she's coming to Jackson! YAY! My dearest friend and I bought our tickets to her April 17 concert today! (You didn't think I would tell you about the concert before I bought MY tickets, did you?) She'll be performing downtown at the Belhaven Center for the Performing Arts. It's a fairly small venue, so I think the concert will have a very intimate feeling.

I am soooooo stoked!!

Caffeine

You know how I kinda wilted at pool night last week? Well, this week, I was determined to keep my energy up. How did I go about this, you ask? I downed two cans of Coke in quick succession.

Now, for most people, this would be no big deal. But I don't really drink many caffeinated drinks, and certainly not at night. I was bouncing off the walls. I think you could have hooked a generator up to me and powered a small town. Or maybe even the western grid of a large city.

Looking back on it in the sobering light of morning, I'm thinking two cans might have been overkill. My stomach was kinda hurting on the way home. AND I had a little trouble sleeping. (Yes, I am at the advanced age now that caffeine in the evenings interferes with my precious sleep.) I think I'll try one and a half cans next week to see if I get more pleasing results.

And I'm steering clear of the Red Bull. Sheesh.

Down memory lane . . .

Yesterday, I filled my car up with regular unleaded for a little more than $20! I paid $1.70 a gallon!!! I did a happy dance and nearly called hubs to crow about it a little.

I can't remember that it's been this low since I graduated college. I guess that's the one bright spot to the American economy circling the drain . . .

Monday, November 17, 2008

Bumper cars.

When I was growing up, little car mishaps were part of life in a household with three kids. There was the time when my older sister nearly totaled our battered Chevrolet Caprice after hydroplaning on a wet road one night. The time that the front end of another unfortunate vehicle clipped her as she was pulling out on a busy road. The numerous times that my younger sister, Grace, inflicted little dents, dings, and scrapes on the family's fleet of transportation.

Luckily, I never really had any fender benders. (Well, there was that ONE time when a guy bumped my car from behind. I can only guess that he didn't notice that the light was still RED. But, hey, at least that wasn't my fault, right?) Well, this weekend, the rent came due.

Mom had come over to babysit while Brian and I went out. Hubs and I decided to take the convertible, as it is the car that makes us feel least like exhausted, sleep-deprived parents. Brian was driving. Allow me to repeat that. Brian was driving. As he was backing out of our garage, he scraped mom's car. I don't know if he didn't see it, got too close, didn't expect it to be where it was, or what. But he gave it a good scrape, trading a bit of paint and even causing a couple of small dents.

Brian was cussing like a sailor and gritting his teeth. I felt really bad about it, both for mom and dad and for us, as we will now be repairing paint and minor dents on TWO cars. (Because if you think I'm allowing scrapes and dents to remain in my precious convertible, you are dead wrong.)

The only upside? I now have a nice little barb to tease hubs with, and I haven't had a good one in a WHILE. It's only been a day or two, and it's already served me verrry well! Hee hee!

Enchanted evening!

An old friend of mine celebrated a landmark birthday last week. (You know, one of those birthdays with a zero in it.) In honor of the occasion, her family planned perhaps the biggest surprise party I've ever been to. It was such fun!

She was picked up at 4 p.m. and taken to a salon, where she had her hair and nails done and was presented with a few different formal dresses from which to choose. Then, she was whisked off to a downtown hotel, where 100 people or so (yours truly included) were waiting in their cocktail attire to wish her well. Her son played live music, there was a photographer, and everything was beautifully catered. It was really a lovely evening.

I've always thought having a surprise party thrown in one's honor would be immensely satisfying. But when she walked in, and we were all there waiting for her, I thought that maybe it was too much pressure! If it had been me, I think I would have started bawling! She was so gracious and pulled together, though, much more ladylike than I would have been.

After we greeted her, we all had dinner, and then her family members told some really funny stories about their memories of her. They are clearly all very close, and she is lucky to have such a supportive, loving network of people around her.

It was just a beautiful, sweet occasion. I'm the better for having gone.

Love bites.

I just finished reading Twilight for my MomsLikeMe book club. It's the first book in Stephanie Meyer's series about devastatingly beautiful vampire Edward and his human love interest, Bella. This book is basically a Gothic romance, written for teenage girls. That said, however, I do think it is a well-written example of the romance genre.

Our story is told from Bella's perspective, and she is a fully-drawn character. Bella moves to Forks, Oregon, from sunny Phoenix to live with her father. On her first day at school, she notices the gorgeous Edward, a pale-skinned student who turns out to be her lab partner. Over the next few days, she keeps "noticing" him, and Edward notices her, too. Pretty soon, Edward is saving Bella's life, and Bella is falling hopelessly in love in the way only a 17-year-old girl can.

I thought the novel was good enough. Many of the lines were trite and over-the-top, but that's to be expected from a romance. If anything bothered me, it was Meyer's penchant for hyperbole. Everything was extreme. Edward is too gorgeous, too appealing, too "perfect" (a descriptor, and one that I don't like, that Meyer uses often). No wonder Catherine Hardwicke (director of the film adaptation, coming out this week) had such a hard time casting the role of Edward. It's like looking for a Cleopatra or Helen of Troy. And if such physical perfection DOES exist, you better hope like hell that this guy can a.) speak English and b.) ACT.

I thought Twilight (and probably the rest of the novels in the series, too) would have made for a great beach read. I probably won't pick up the next book in the series until I'm lying in the sand, in search of some easy, undemanding entertainment.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Disturbing drama

I TiVoed Little Children, starring Kate Winslet, Patrick Wilson, and Jennifer Connelly a long time ago, and I finally got around to watching it this weekend. Yikes. Though well-done, this is a very difficult movie to watch.

Sarah (Winslet) is a stay-at-home mom in a small, suburban community. Her only child, daughter Lucy, is three, and Sarah apparently has no plans to return to the work force. Though her family could well afford it, Sarah does not put Lucy in any part-time childcare, and she shuns opportunities to spend time with other SAHMs. (I can only guess that she feels "above" them?) However, she seems to resent her duties as a full-time mom. In fact, it doesn't appear that she enjoys spending time with her daughter at all, even though that's primarily what she does. As a result, Sarah feels unfulfilled.

Brad (Wilson) is a stay-at-home dad with a young son and a knockout wife (Connelly) who works in the documentary film industry. He's graduated from law school but, thus far, has failed to pass the bar exam. Money is tight at Brad's household, and his wife routinely questions his expenditures - magazine subscriptions, his desire for a cell phone, etc. Because his wife allows his son to sleep in their bed, sex is at an all-time low for Brad. As a result of all the above, Brad feels unfulfilled.

When Sarah and Brad meet at the park one day, an unexplainable kiss sets them on track to potentially life-altering events. In addition, tightly-wound subplots - a sex offender moving into the neighborhood, a local cop who's now "retired" due to his use of deadly force on the job, etc. - add to the ominous feeling that everything could very well fall apart by the end of the film.

Performances were very strong throughout. There was not a character in this film that I did not believe. Everyone turned in A work here; cannot write enough good things about that. In my opinion, the performances are what make this film so compelling.

However, I had difficulty watching Little Children, which I suppose was partly the point. First of all, I didn't understand WHY the characters made some of the choices they did. Sarah and Brad's first encounter was completely baffling to me. They hardly know one another, and they kiss. Wha . . . ? And since this is the initial event that sets all of the others in motion, I kinda wanted more motivation for the characters here.

Other "whys" - why doesn't Sarah talk with her own husband regarding the distance they are experiencing and her need for fulfillment; why doesn't Brad assert himself more in his own marriage, rather than surrendering his whole self to being a SAHD? They are both kind-of weak personalities.

The subplots were not easy, either. The sex offender is being harassed by the "retired" cop. The offender's mother (who he's moved back in with) is trying her best to protect her son and help him reform. The "retired" cop is struggling with his own guilt at using force on the job (which resulted in the death of an innocent 13-year-old) and pacifying his inner demons by persectuing the sex offender. Aaargh. There's nothing simple about this film. Everything is so . . . twisted up.

Anyway, this movie is based on a book by Tom Perrotta, and lord, my mom's book club would probably have a field day with it. This movie is worth watching, but not for the faint of heart. All kinds of fit hits the shan before it's over.

Holidays on Ice

I'm a big David Sedaris fan. I think that Me Talk Pretty One Day is one of the funniest books I've ever read. I've checked out several of his books, the most recent being Holidays on Ice, a collection of holiday-themed comic essays.

If you've seen the stage production of Santaland Diaries (which New Stage Theatre produced in the Hewes Room several years back), then the anchor story in this collection will be very familiar to you. It details Sedaris' stint as a Macy's Christmas elf one year, and it is freaking hilarious. From the humiliating "uniform" to the strict instructions by the Gestapo-like Macy's Christmas management team, you will chuckle during this one.

I found the rest of the book a bit uneven. "Season's Greetings to Our Friends and Family!!!" went on far too long, as did "Christmas Means Giving," which took one joke and spun it out for more than 10 pages. I did enjoy reading "Dinah, the Christmas Whore," though, as well as "Front Row Center with Thaddeus Bristol."

Though every story isn't a gem, the book is a quick read and worth checking out if you're in the mood for some subversive holiday humor.

Enjoy!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Pictures of booger

They brought a professional photographer in to take pics of the kids last week at Clay's Mother's Morning Out program. I was thinking they'd be taking the photos outside, because it was pretty that day. I dressed booger up in basically the same clothes he wears every day. (I have no desire to have a pic of my little boy in a white sailor suit, or even a jacket and tie. When I think back on him during his growing-up years, I want to remember him the way he actually was, not think of him all gussied up for picture day. Plus, Clay is all boy. He's a runner, jumper, climber, screamer, etc. He loves getting into everything, making a mess, and pouring water/juice/whatever all over the place. This kid does not take well to dressing up.)

So anyway, I put him in a pair of blue jeans, a long-sleeved tee, and his favorite tennis shoes. Well, we got the proofs of the pics back this week. She sat my little boy on a white wicker chair in front of a pastel blue backdrop. He's looking at the camera, but he has this deflated expression in his face like, "Don't you have a REAL chair? Or a puppy? Some dirt? Anything?"

Ah, me. Well, I guess we won't be ordering the deluxe package on this one.

Fruits of my boredom . . .

I was bored for 15 whole minutes yesterday. And what do I have to show for it?

I have now decided that I MUST have a Sham-Wow. It was the headset on the guy schilling it that finally sold me.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Making a list . . .

Well, my house is clean.
And my baby is peacefully sleeping in his crib.
There are plenty of groceries in the kitchen.
I've gotten out what I'm going to make for dinner tonight.
I wrapped my freelance project this morning, so that's done.
There's nothing I really want to see on TV, and I'm all caught up on my blog reading.

I don't have anything to do, I guess.

What is this I am feeling?

Is this BOREDOM?

Shucks! I didn't recognize it!

Always a Bridesmaid

I watched 27 Dresses, starring James Marsden and Katherine Heigl, this week. In a few words - it's a ruffle-y, predictable chick flick.

Here's the skinny: Jane (Heigl) has been a bridesmaid 27 times. She's kept every one of her dresses, and she reads the "Commitments" section of the NY Journal with relish. She dreams of the day when she will walk down the aisle herself, wearing her mother's wedding gown and marrying George, her hunky boss at work (Edward Burns). Enter Tess, Jane's hot sister. It's nearly love at first sight for Tess and George, and Jane shortly finds herself planning their wedding. Ouch.

Then Jane meets Kevin Doyle (Marsden), a writer for the "Commitments" section of the journal. (You see where this is going.) As Jane learns to finally start saying "no" to people and stand up for what she wants and needs, she discovers her affection for Kevin. Pretty soon, she's planning her own happily ever after.

Mmmmkay. This movie is sweet and trite. It's not BAD, per se, but it's all been done before, kwim? And you know how I posted before about how, in most of his films, Marsden never gets the girl? I think I get it now. He is too physically perfect. Stay with me here. There's nothing "off" about him - no slightly crooked nose, no patchy skin, no scars, nothing. You'd think this would be a tremendous advantage, right? But I find that little imperfections are often what make a face attractive and, well, interesting. So, sorry James, but I think you might be too pretty to really be a leading man we can all love. *Gasp.*

Whine-Fest 2008 . . .

. . . or "Playing" Pool?

Last night was pool night. And I was awful, awful, awful.

Allow me to set-up: Clay got his 15-month shots at the end of last week. Though he has had fairly mild reactions to all previous vaccinations, these proved to be more problematic. For the past few days, he's been clingy, fussy, and a little off his food and sleep schedules. And wanting me to hold him ALOT. We are just now coming out of it. Needless to say, I was REALLY looking forward to getting out of the house for pool night.

I showed up at 7:30 p.m., fairly chipper. But as the night wore on, my eyes got droopier and droopier. Before too long, I was yawning and checking my watch. I did end up playing some games at around 10 p.m. The problem? I misplaced my trademark energy and enthusiasm somewhere around 9:30.

I was playing a guy who was a whole lot better than me (no surprise there), but I was missing shots that I KNOW I can make. I think I only scored three points or so THE ENTIRE NIGHT. And the worst part is, I wasn't having any fun. I just wanted to get out of there and go to bed. It was bad, bad, bad. And I felt like I really let my team down. Demoralizing. Last night, I felt very much that this pool playing business is a one-step-forward, two-steps-back kind of enterprise.

What have I learned from this?
1.) Ask to play earlier in the evening. That way, maybe I won't be a wilted flower by the time my games come around.
2.) Sleep better. (Any advice on how to do this with a cranky 16-month-old would be greatly appreciated.)
3.) Practice this week. I missed last week's pool night because hubs was out of town. (Thus, no one could keep booger.) That meant I hadn't played in a while. And, boy, did it show.

Ok, ending the pity party now. Here's hoping to a better week next week.

Monday, November 10, 2008

What's going on in my life.

As many of you already know, hubby's job often takes him out of town Mon.-Thurs. This was not a really big deal before booger came along, or even while I was pregnant. But since the baby was born, it's been a bit more difficult to manage, even though I am a stay-at-home parent.

Sometimes, it's been GREAT, because when hubs is in town, he works from home. This has led to lots of long family lunches and other great time together over the past year. But it has also led to a whole lotta weeks when booger and I hardly saw Brian. And now that the baby is old enough to notice when Daddy's not here, it's becoming a bit of a problem. (Not to mention that hubs is pretty exhausted from traveling and has stockpiled more frequent flyer miles than we will probably use in the next decade.)

In an effort to remedy that, hubs has found a local job. YAY! So now, we will ALL get to see each other more.

This opens up a couple of other possibilities as well. I hadn't considered returning to work until now, because being a single, working mom Mon.-Fri. was NOT what I signed up for when we started a family. But now that hubs will be local, sharing duties during the week, returning to the office could definitely be a possibility. IF the right job came along.

Soooo, I guess we'll see! Yikes!

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Miseltoe Mischief!

I KNOW I am late posting re: Miseltoe this year, but I have been SO BUSY.

First of all, a shout-out to all the sponsors of the new "Sit, Eat, and Be Pretty" luncheon this year - it was an awesome event. Lunch was catered by Bon Ami, and it was fabulous. Baptist Health Systems kicked in as a sponsor, providing an actually useful goody bag (a travel kit containing great soap, lotion, shampoo/conditioner, a travel razor, and all the other small toiletries you'll need on the road). And of course, the trusty Clarion-Ledger was also a sponsor. (YAY!)

When I first heard that Deanna Favre (Brett's wife, and a breast cancer survivor) was going to speak at this event, I have to admit that my expectations were not super-high. But people, she is amazing. She gave a great presentation/speech. I was riveted. The woman has a story. If you have the opportunity to hear her speak, don't pass it up. It was inspirational.

This morning, I stopped in to help man Miseltoe's Clarion-Ledger booth (as a faithful Moms Squad member) and get my shop on. The place was covered up with people, but I browsed and came away with some great purchases.

And now, a word. Because I broke down and FINALLY installed Statcounter on this blog, I can now see what browser searches are leading people here. And in the past year, ALOT of you have been looking for Cowboy Country Amaretto Pecan Honey Butter. Like, ALOT. Allow me to say that I have tried the product. And I love it. It instantly improves nearly any carbohydrate you slather it on. Plus, I have never seen it available locally. I wait for Miseltoe, buy a few jars, and pray that they last me until April. (Last year, I bought two jars for $15. This year, the price had gone up - two jars for $20. Who cares? When I am buying something this good, I'm not going to quibble over $5. Just take my money, hand over the butter, and no one gets hurt.)

This year, I asked the two guys selling the stuff if they had a Web site. They don't. And they've told me that they are not planning to create one. So here's the best I can do - the butter is made and sold by a guy named Wilbur Aylor, and the label says they are located in Cherokee, Texas. After Miseltoe in Jackson, their next show (this year, anyway) is in Houston, Texas. So, for those lucky enough to live in the Houston area, BUY SOME BUTTER. You will not regret it.

And for those of us either a.) unfortunate enough to not live in Houston or b.) unlucky enough to have not bought the butter during Miseltoe here in Jackson, I can only tell you to scour the Internet for Mr. Aylor's contact information, give him a ring, and beg him to be kind enough to ship you some of this stuff.

For some things, it's worth going the extra mile.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

A genius.

Ok, this is freaking hilarious. The comments are as good as the post. I love this guy and read his blog regularly. If you haven't added him to your blogroll, you are missing out, dude.

The end of the trilogy

I finished reading Pullman's final book in the His Dark Materials trilogy - The Amber Spyglass. Allow me to say this. Pullman is an excellent writer. His stories are wonderfully told. The characters are engaging, and the plot certianly clips along. He has a powerful imagination.

But he is dealing with very heavy subject matter here to be calling his books "young adult" fiction. I can totally see why organized religion has a problem with his books. (And if I'M saying that, you know it's true. I'm pretty moderate, I think.) Organized religion, in this trilogy, is the enemy/villain. God himself, and his cadre of angels, are the characters that the protagonists fight against (and defeat). While I think these books can be fruitful reads for adults, as they stimulate thought on topics not traditionally entertained (much like Sophie's World, which I really enjoyed), I would not want my, say, 10-year-old kid reading this stuff. It's hard enough trying to teach your child to comprehend the immensity of the world, God, faith, good/evil, without Pullman undoing all you've tried to instill.

Sooooo, if you're interested in theology, and you're over 18, read these books. If you're part of the elementary-school set, though, you might want to talk with your parents about them first.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Put down the beer.

On Election Day, just after voting, I had to take booger to the grocery store with me to pick up some milk. (The kid drinks it like it's going out of style.) As I walked into Kroger, I noticed a sign on the door that said that there were no beer sales allowed on Election Day. Wha . . . ? Is this a law or something? Maybe so, but I never noticed it before.

I can see the wisdom in it, though. Who wants somebody out there, drinking at 10 a.m. in the morning, and then heading to the polls to cast their ballot?

Friends don't let friends vote drunk!!

Saturday, November 01, 2008

My 101

Still here, still working on the 101 list. I accomplished three goals during October. Keepin' on keepin' on . . .

101 things to do in 1001 days

Record family history (Create a family tree with my grandmother? Photos? Stories?)
Take Clay’s picture professionally at least once every 6 months
Make a will
Make a living will
Talk with Laura about Clay
Send a Christmas card to an estranged family member
Write to my grandmother
Attend services at three local churches
Volunteer in a way that’s meaningful to me
Go back to the gym – at least 3 times a week
Lose 10 pounds

Keep it off for 6 months
Train to run 3 miles without stopping
Try a yoga or pilates class
Go to the International Museum of Muslim Cultures
Go to the Smith Robertson Museum

Go to the Lauren Rogers Museum
Take an art class (pottery, painting, etc.)
Paint a picture
Learn to play at least one song on the guitar
Write a food article and get it published
Write at least one poem or short story
Paint the front porch swing
Tile the master bathroom
Plant some flowering shrubs in the back yard and DON’T let them die
Plant an herb garden
Fix the patio table
Get a window shade for the baby’s bedroom
Have an energy audit done on the house
Paint the shed in the back yard
Paint the inside of the garage
Take Clay swimming
Drink wine in California
Ride in a helicopter
Ride in a hot air balloon
Go to Graceland
Go to New York City
Create a “great books list” and start reading (at least 5 books) - I was finally able to read the last of the five books and cross this off the list. The books I read were Tender is the Night, On the Road, A Room with a View, Wide Sargasso Sea, and Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.
Create a “great movies list” and start watching (at least 5 movies)
Treasure hunt on Highway 49
Host a New Year’s open house party
Host a “dinner among the leaves” party - I hosted two couples and two very sweet kids in October for an autumn-themed dinner party.
Host an Easter brunch
Throw a Kentucky Derby party
Celebrate the Chinese New Year
Pay off the last of my student loan
Buy some sexy new underwear
Attend at least one live concert
Go the fall flower show/festival in Crystal Springs
Visit a botanic garden
Learn more about the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict
Watch a meteor shower
Give blood
See snow
See the ocean
Adopt an Angel at Christmas
Go bowling
Pay for the person behind me in line
Do an anonymous good deed
Learn to bake a good loaf of bread
Go on a day hike
Write a letter to the editor of my local newspaper
Go on a vacation sans baby
Let Clay ride in the convertible with the top down
Perform in at least one stage production
Attend at least one Mensa meeting
Attend at least one college alumni event
Get back in touch with some of my college professors
Learn how to play poker
Learn how to shoot a decent game of pool
Make a real paella
Make a real sangria, to go with the paella
Get a facial
Start taking vitamins again
Take mom to have her makeup done
Discover 5 new recording artists I really like and buy their CDs - This one has been really fun. I put it on the list because I almost NEVER buy CDs, and so I've listened to the same artists for literally decades. CDs by these artists were new buys for me: Josh Radin, Remy Zero, Regina Specktor, The Fray, ColdPlay, and the Once soundtrack.
Find a pair of sunglasses that will change my life
Find my signature fragrance
Take some pictures of leaves turning color in the fall
Set up and take some faux-tography shots of the baby
Write to Grace
Visit Grace in Oregon
Go on a picnic and eat food that I MADE, not food that I bought
Visit a dermatologist
Book a session with a personal trainer
Buy sheet music for a song I like and learn to play it on the piano
Learn to do a passable waltz
Bring the baby to visit my dad at work
Take a bubble bath
Light some candles just for us, when we DON’T have someone coming over
Make mint juleps and drink them on the front porch swing
Go ice skating
Preserve Clay’s foot and hand prints
Attain APR accreditation
Buy or make Clay a kick-ass Halloween costume
Give a gift that I made.
Send someone flowers for no reason
Begin using my wine notebook again and identify at least three new wines that I like
Buy a birdfeeder and set it up in the back yard
Fix the broken window pane on the porch
Spend an afternoon lying in the hammock



First day of the challenge: January 1, 2008
Last day of the challenge: September 28, 2010