Tuesday, December 26, 2006

To dos

I am lucky enough to have this week off, so, of course, I need a to do list to make sure I don't go insane. My two must-do to-dos are:
  1. Revise my thesis proposal
  2. Do my MFA reading

Other things I hope to get done:

  1. Make headway on redoing our second bathroom. I'd really like to finish it, but I want to be realistic here since I'm doing a lot of the work myself and I've never done this type of thing before.
  2. Put a second coat on the touch up paint in our bedroom; hang art there.
  3. Finish and start knitting projects: Start and finish 2 hats (1 for my dad, one for a friend of the family); finish my mom's scarf; finish B's hat; master the lace knitting scarf pattern; start my fun, adorable pocketbook.
  4. Read the pile of books near my bedside
  5. Work on my break-up friend essay and write a draft of a"who wears the pants" essay I've been thinking about. Edit down my cleaning essay to submit to the Globe.
  6. Decide what photos we want for our wedding album, scan them, and order them. Finally! Also decide which four we want framed and order them. Also order a few honeymoon pics to frame in the hallway.
  7. Scan new clips and ask B to add them to my website.

Best Blogger Tips

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Sunday Scribblings: Change

What a fascinating Sunday Scribblings prompt. I plan to write a New-Year-themed post later in the week, so today I'll just write about the concept of change.

I think change is wonderful. It can be scary, but honestly, how boring would life be if it weren't constantly changing? And to take that one step further, how boring would you be if you weren't constantly changing? Life is all about taking on new challenges, and, what's harder for me, allowing yourself to fail.

There is a great article in this month's Yoga Journal about the concept of starting over, and how when you want to make a change in your life, big or small, you have to allow yourself to start over as many times as it takes until the change sticks. This attitude really helps me (and maybe other perfectionists out there?) because when I realize I didn't stick with my plan, I can allow myself to notice it, and then start over. So after I don't go to the gym for four days, I don't wallow in the fact and get down. I just say, today I'm starting over, and then go. Ditto for my more cerebral goals, which I find the hardest to keep, such as stay in the moment, not judging myself, and allowing my feelings to be no matter how much I don't want to feel them. Best Blogger Tips

Essay and other stories

A few of you asked me to post links to my essay when it was published in the Globe, so here your go: http://www.boston.com/news/local/articles/2006/12/24/the_dog_days_of_december/

There's even a fab pic of my favorite dog.

And here are two other stories in today's Globe. Thanks for your interest, everyone!
http://www.boston.com/news/local/articles/2006/12/24/a_caroling_mob_takes_to_city_streets/ Best Blogger Tips

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Christmas Meme

Thanks to Kim G. for passing this along!

  1. Wrapping paper or gift bags? Either is fine with me!
  2. Real tree or artificial? Real, definitely.
  3. Eggnog, hot chocolate or apple cider? Eggnog grosses me out, just the name--bleh! (They should rename that, like they're calling prunes dried plumes now to make them seem more palatable.) But I love hot cocoa, even though it makes me break out. Apple cider is good too, though I associate that more with late fall.
  4. Favorite gift as a child? Hmm. I don't remember too many of the gifts I got early on, but I do remember an electronic cat that my Oma got me. It would move around when you clapped, and it purred when you pet it.
  5. Nativity Scene? Yup, we have a few, though we're not religious.
  6. Hardest person to buy for? I'd say my lil brother. He lives in AZ so I don't see him much so it's hard to know what he has and doesn't. I usually go the gift card route with him, though I hate doing that.
  7. Mail or email Christmas cards? Mail - but only to people who I won't see around the holidays.
  8. Worst gift received? Can't think of one. I'm pretty easy to please. I guess if you pressed me I'd say one of the 5 sweaters I got from various in-laws last year. How many sweaters could one person need?
  9. Favorite Christmas movie? I love the Grinch and Charlie Brown, and I crack up at A Christmas Story everytime I see it.
  10. When do you start shopping for Christmas? I pretty much spread it throughout the year, though I do most of it post-Thanksgiving.
  11. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present? Sure!
  12. Favorite thing to eat? Everything!
  13. Clear or colored lights? Clear, though I kinda want to spice it up next year and add some color
  14. Outside lights? Just on our front windows
  15. Favorite Christmas Song? This year it's that duet, Baby it's Cold Outside. So cute!
  16. Travel or stay home? We usually do a little bit of both, to see B's family, which is local, and mine which is in NY. If at all possible, I like to be home Christmas morning.
  17. Angel on top of tree or star? Star
  18. Open presents Christmas Eve or Christmas morning? Growing up it was one on Christmas eve and the rest on Christmas morning. But that switched as we got older and my older brother liked to sleep in until noon, and me and my little brother liked to get up early. Then Steven opened most of his gifts at night and now we've morphed into doing most of the gifts that night. But when we're here, it's all about Christmas morning.
  19. Favorite ornament theme or color? I love an eclectic tree with ornaments from our childhood.
  20. Favorite Christmas Dinner? Maybe Italian food? Though I really just like food, in general. :)
  21. What do you want for Christmas this year? Nothing in particular. I'm blessed with a husband who is an amazing gift giver, so I'm always delighted.

Merry Christmas!

Best Blogger Tips

Friday, December 22, 2006

Like a rock

One of the many things I love about my husband is how well he takes care of me when I'm sick (even when that sickness is self-inflicted in the form of too much alcohol). The other day when I drank much too much, he picked me up from the bar and drove my very drunk friend home across town.

Then he was very patient with me as I begged him to stay at said friend's house so I could drink some more. All of this while I spouted funny but very inappropriate things, such as "EVERYONE LOVES BOOBS!" (That was one of the more proper ones.... But tell me, is it not true?)

After he finally corralled me back into the car, I made him listen to Paul Simon, whom I love and Brian hates. When the song Love Me Like a Rock came on, I said (quite a few times) "I love you like rock. Because a rock is solid, and I love you..."and over and over. Until finally I said, "Do you know what I mean? I love you like A ROCK, as in a stone. Not I-Raq, as in the country. George Bush totally fucked that up."

From the mouths of drunks.... Best Blogger Tips

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Note to self

Next time you want to drink 6 cocktails on an empty stomach on a Wednesday night, Just. Say No. Holidays or not, being hungover at work is no fun! Best Blogger Tips

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Win some! (and lose some)

First, the good news: The Boston Globe's City Weekly is taking my essay about Brian and me adjusting to our puppy dog! I'm so excited!

I'm also doing a small article for them on this amazing event Brian and I went to Sunday night: the caroling mob. (I'll post a link to my article this weekend if you want to know more about it.)

Then, the bad: my cleaning essay got rejected from Skirt. I thought this magazine would be a good fit for it, so I'm bummed. I'm wondering if the essay needs tweaking, or if I just need to keep on sending it out there. If anyone who hasn't read that essay for me yet wants to, please let me know. I'd love more comments! Best Blogger Tips

Sunday, December 17, 2006


Check me out! I've got a small blurb in this week's Sunday Globe Magazine.

(Sunday Scribbling to follow on Monday...I'm having internet problems at home!) Best Blogger Tips

Thursday, December 14, 2006

What I learned from a man

I sometimes read Thisfish's blog, which is mostly about dating in NY. She recently had a post about the 10 things she learned from a man, and I thought I'd steal the concept.
  1. How to fight fair (bug)
  2. How to save and invest (my dad)
  3. How to respond to difficult people with some semblance of grace (my boss)
  4. How to love Christmas (bug)
  5. How to play poker (my cousins)
  6. How to write a coverletter (my big brother)
  7. How to rollerblade (my little brother)
  8. How to develop photos (a male college prof)
  9. How not to break up with someone (in a letter; thanks to a jerk I used to date)
  10. How to make a fort out of your bed and not get out of it all day (bug)
Best Blogger Tips

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

A small update

Not sure what to write about, so maybe I'll just catalogue some goings on in this Bug's life.

  • I am officially done with Christmas shopping. Christmas knitting, on the other hand, is still roaring.
  • I've started running with Chloe in the morning. I don't go very far, but it's something.
  • I found a new yoga studio that I love.
  • I've also been meditating myself to sleep at night, which is quite nice.
  • Though I'm still having crazy bad dreams about my upcoming MFA residency. Usually I am lost/forgot to do my homework. So annoying.
  • I'm getting my hair cut by a new person tomorrow. I've had the hardest time finding a hair dresser I like. Fingers crossed...
Best Blogger Tips

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Sunday Scribbilings: Punishment and reward

This week's Sunday Scribbling prompt is Punishment and Reward. Nothing comes immediately to mind about this phrase, so I think I'll just freewrite and see where it takes me.

We had a Christmas party last night, and the reward was getting to talk with people I haven't talked with in a while, including BostonErin, and DJ. It was also nice to chat with my upstairs neighbor over beer, instead of over condo docs and contractor bills, and with my sister-in-law outside of the normal family cauldron. But the punishment for inviting a lot of people was that there were some that I barely got a chance to say hi to.

The punishment for having really high hopes around parties and the holidays is that inevitably the event is disappointing. We were disappointed that a few people who said they'd be there didn't show, and that people left on the early side (a lot before midnight--are we getting too old for late, drunken, silly parties?)

The reward for having high hopes though is that you're an optimistic person in general, so after you wallow a bit in the disappointments, you can spend more time concentrating on the good: Brian made a lot of wonderful food that everyone enjoyed, I got just tipsy enough to laugh a lot but not be hungover today. We got to share our insanely decorated house with friends. We realized the joy in having a Christmas event with friends instead of only with family--the best part being that we could control the guest list and truly be surrounded by people we love. Best Blogger Tips

A poem

As you all probably know, I'm not much of a poet. But I was inspired to write this after two events occurred yesterday. One, I heard a teacher give this exercise to a group of teens at an event I covered for the Globe. The exercise: write a poem telling someone how to do something. Two, a friend announced she was pregnant (and another friend recently announced she was trying to get pregnant).

Here goes.

How to congratulate a friend on her pregnancy
Shriek, "Oh my God, I'm so happy for you!" and mean it
all the while tramping down thoughts
of, I guess I should've appreciated more
the last time we got drunk and talked until 2
about things that had nothing to do with breast feeding or poo.
Say, "You guys will be the best parents!" and mean it
all the while not thinking
I feel lonely already, not initiated into the varicose vein club
Whisper, "That's so amazing," as you touch her tummy, and mean it
all the while refusing to acknowledge the voice in your head screaming,
Why don't you want to do this? Will you ever
And the other voice screaming, Why should I?
Everyone else is doing it doesn't seem a meaningful enough reason. Best Blogger Tips

Friday, December 08, 2006

recurring nightmare

So, apparently I am nervous about my upcoming MFA residency. I have now had 3 dreams with the same theme--I show up for a class and I have forgotten to do the reading and/or I don't know where to go.

The wierd thing is that I don't really feel nervous about the residency. No, I haven't done my reading yet, but I've got weeks to get that done. And I'm really psyched to see all my buddies again. I guess getting workshopped is always nerve-racking, but I should be used to that by now... What could it be?

I guess it will be a break from my routine, which may be causing anxiety? Though that's not usually my M.O.... Maybe getting a new mentor? That will be a scary change since I loved my current one so much... Maybe part of me isn't happy with what I accomplished this semester? Though I wouldn't be surprised because I'm psycho like that, I should be very proud of myself. Maybe making a list of writing accomplishments will help:
  • Wrote 2 short stories that are on their way to being finished. Definitely the best writing I've done ever.
  • Wrote everyday, between blogging and morning pages.
  • Wrote 2 essays that I consider done.
  • Started submitting them places. Though they haven't found a home yet, at least I'm in the game.
  • Reinforced my writing community, through blogging and meeting with locals like BostonErin and Poetmom.
  • Pitched and got assigned some articles for the Globe.
  • Started taking myself more seriously as a creative writer.
OK, let's see if my dreams change tonight... Best Blogger Tips

Monday, December 04, 2006

Short story/novel suggestions?

I'm trying to think of a list of books I want to read next semester. I know I want to delve into these short story collections. Has anyone read anything lately (or in general) that they love? I'm looking for stuff that I can learn a lot from as a writer.

Brief encounters with Che Guevara: stories
by Ben Fountain
The Collected Stories of Amy Hempel
Something I've been meaning to tell you by Alice Munro
Something by Chekhov (suggestions welcome!) Best Blogger Tips


I am feeling spent. I am sick of writing, sick of knitting, sick of cleaning, sick of shopping, and sick of party planning. Unfortunately, that doesn't leave me a lot I want to do. Tomorrow I will be taking a day off from work to do more of the things I am sick of in preparation for my Christmas party this weekend. I am looking forward to the party at least. Best Blogger Tips

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Sunday Scribblings: The last hour

This week's Sunday Scribbling topic is The Last Hour.

I was struggling with what to post because I am really not in much of a writing mood this weekend. Luckily, though, I finished a knitting project in the last hour, so I'll post a picture of that. It is an Ipod cover for my friend whose birthday is coming up. (The Ipod cover is on the left, the right is the ball of one of the yarns I used to knit it. My next project is a baby hat and slippers for two babies who are coming to my Christmas party next weekend.
Best Blogger Tips

Thursday, November 30, 2006

I remember

So I tagged myself for a meme/writing exercise that PoetMom recently posted. The directions: Write down 10 "I remember"s and fill in the rest of the sentence.

I remember feelings rather than facts. Ask me what happened in 8 Mile and I can only give you the broad strokes. Ask me where I was, who I was with, and what I was feeling that day? I can tell you specifics.

I remember lots of random facts about people. I can tell you where a distant colleague went on vacation 4 years ago. Where I left my glasses? That's another matter.

I remember as a child/teen how every minor emotional blow felt HUGE and inconsolable. I hope I can remember that the next time I have to console a 13-year-old about the breakup that is "ruining her life".

I remember a family vacation where we drove to Florida. Somehow I snagged the "way back" of the family station wagon and I sprawled out and read for about 20 hours straight. I remember a large part of that time was spent getting ahead on my Spelling homework. I remember that I was quite nerdy (in a somewhat cool way, I swear.)

I remember when going to an indoor flea market to buy scrunchies and posters of Kirk Cameron was my favorite way to spend my weekend.

I remember being a senior in high school, not paying attention to a word my 1st-period Advanced Chem teacher said, and then suddenly feeling panicked at the thought of doing poorly on my final. So panicked that I read a Chem study guide for 5 nights straight (and got an A!).

I remember watching a naked baby take a poop on a public beach on Nantucket while a friend was trying to teach me how to knit.

I remember being able to walk home from work, not arriving until 6:30 with the sun still shining. (It's now dark here around 4:30.)

I remember life before Blogging. But barely. ;)

Gogo I'd like to tag you for this one to make up for not doing the Meme you tagged me for! Everyone else is welcome too, of course. Best Blogger Tips

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

A new feature

I've always been meaning to keep a list of the books I read. So now I will be doing so under the favorite books part of my blog profile. I'll do movies too. I'll try to rate them on a scale of 1-4 stars. Best Blogger Tips

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

No more deadlines

Last Tuesday, I had trouble sleeping. I actually got out of bed at 4:30 in the morning and took a shower because I couldn't lie in bed trying to sleep any longer. As if that wasn't sign enough that I was stressed out, the next day my left eye started twitching. Stress that my mind is not acknowledging makes my eyes dance for some reason.

So I tried to figure out what had made me so hot and bothered. I really couldn't think of anything. Then I remembered that in my insomnia haze, all I could think about was my writing. What if I didn't get my essay done on time (ie my own personal deadline)? What if I didn't get my new story done in time for my MFA submission? Would I ever work on my thesis?

I didn't write much over Thanksgiving, though I did think about my new story and my essay quite a bit. I still don't feel relaxed. So, here's what I'm going to do: I'm taking December off. You heard me. Off. Not off off as in I won't write (that would be silly!) but off as in no personal deadline-setting. I'll get my Dec. 4th submission out, and then I'll write only when I feel like it, no pressure allowed.

Hell, I'll have enough of a deadline with my many outstanding Christmas knitting projects. Best Blogger Tips

Monday, November 27, 2006

New assignment

So it looks like I'll be covering this Grub Street writing workshop for the Globe. I'm very excited. I've been hoping to break into more feature writing with them, and here's my chance! I also got an email from the Skirt editor acknowledging my submission. Hey, it's something. Best Blogger Tips

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Last list of November

All in all I had a wonderful Thanksgiving. I still need to figure out how to deal with my parents better. (They're very nice people and we never actually fight. But they do annoy the crap out of me from time to time, and I just hold it in. Healthy, right?)

Anyway, enough about that until the next time I have to see them. :)

I missed blogging this weekend, and having a sense of structure. So here's a list. It's short, but time consuming.

  • Finish new story for submission on Dec. 4.
  • Revise old story once I get feedback from writers' group and the two women who were in my MFA small group (we're exchanging work).
  • Get my house ready for my 12/9 Christmas party. This mainly means getting the hallway painted (hiring someone to do that, thank god), hanging up art in the hallway, priming and painting the spots I plastered in our bedroom and hanging art in there.
  • Work on Christmas knitting projects.

Best Blogger Tips

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

What do vegetarians eat on Thanksgiving?

I get this question A LOT, so I thought I'd inform all of y'all what I'll be eating tomorrow.

A bunch of these:
(Stuffed mushrooms made by mom)

Stuffed acorn squash made by moi

And some sort of mashed sweet potatoes made by Brian.
Yum, yum, yum!

Happy Thanksgiving to veggie-heads and turkey-eaters alike!

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I've been working on an essay about when Brian and I adopted our dog, Chloe. The gist: I loved her from the start, Brian hated having her and wanted to give her back.

After that NPR session I went to, I realized this essay would be much better short. So I cut it down to 450 words. And I'd love to submit it to NPR soon, since it's also got a Christmas theme. I know we're all super busy, but if anyone would like to read it and give me comments, I'd appreciate it. Let me know in comments, please! Best Blogger Tips

Thanks giving

I just read the best article about thanks giving that I've seen in a long time. (One of my favorite quotes: "To thank is not simply to express obligation or gratitude, although it is both those things. An act of thanking that goes beyond the merely formal starts with an act of appreciation. But appreciation isn't easy. It requires perspective. You have to get outside yourself, turn off the endless mental scribbling that covers everything with cheap verbal graffiti.")

So I thought I'd try to list some things I'm thankful for, above and beyond the biggies that I'll think about on Thursday (my husband, my friends, my health, my job, my family, having enough money, being born into the country I was, etc.)

So, I'm thankful:
  • That I have a beautiful forest to walk my dog in every day.
  • That I realized that if I drink decaf coffee I don't have to take medicine for acid reflux.
  • That my husband loves to stay in bed as long as possible on cold weekends.
  • That I often wake to my 16-pound cat lying on my belly.
  • That I found yoga.
  • That my friends stretch and support me.
  • For yarn.
  • That websites like this exist where you can buy art straight from the artist.
  • That this year I realized how important writing is to me (and my sanity).
  • For random connections with strangers, like when a man held the door for me at Dunkin Donuts yesterday and then refused to get in front of me in the long line, even though he really was there first.
  • That I can get away with blogging at work.
OK, enough from me. Please post your own list and let me know! Best Blogger Tips

Monday, November 20, 2006

Behind the scenes

I came across this neat journal today, the Sycamore Review. The coolest thing about the journal's website is that the editor has posted a few essays on what the submission process is like on her end. Very intriguing to get to be a fly on that wall! Best Blogger Tips

Sunday, November 19, 2006

NPR here I come

I went to a great workshop yesterday morning, sponsored by the Boston chapter of the National Writer's Union (a great organization that I highly recommend joining--they are a big help with contracts, and they're also into community building). The workshop was called Shaping and Taping, and it was about how to write and read a commentary for NPR and radio in general. The two leaders, Leslie Brunetta and Judah Leblang, are contributors to NPR and boy did they have a lot to say! Here are some highlights I thought my gentle readers might like to learn. A lot of them carry over to all kinds of writing:
  • Radio commentaries are generally 450 words, tops. So a big topic we discussed was how to get something meaningful out in so few words.
  • To narrow down an essay, pick one small thing about a bigger topic and focus on it. For instance, Leslie wrote a long essay on the name of our country and sir names shifting meaning. She narrowed it into a radio piece about how Italian names are often insults when translated directly.
  • It's easier to break-in to NPR with a topical newsy piece than with a personal essay. But you should bring something personal and different to newsy topics.
  • Pay attention to your train of thought. Your brain works differently from everyone else's, and that's what makes your story interesting.
  • You've got to tell the story in such a way that people who have been through it will learn something new, and that people who haven't will be drawn in.
  • Rhythm is really important. Reading your draft aloud is a must. Alliteration is important. (Hear that, Repeater?)
  • When you have a longer draft that you need to cut down, brainstorm about what the piece could really be about, and then shape it and cut it accordingly.
  • Ask yourself, Who's the main character? It could be an inanimate object, or even your train of thought, but it's important to identify the main character in order to shape your piece.
  • A lot of radio commentaries are told in the present tense. Even if you want to tell yours in the past, experiment with writing in the present.
  • Highlight all your sensory details. If most are on one theme, consider cutting those that aren't. Or if one detail really stands out because it's not on a theme, keep that and cut some others.

And we got a CD of ourselves reading an essay! Man, if I didn't know I talked fast, this was certainly confirmation of it. I read an excerpt of the essay I've just sent to Skirt. People laughed where I wanted them to, which is always a good sign. And there was something quite thrilling about hearing my voice reading my work on a radio-quality recording. Watch out, Terri Gross. :)

(I'll try to post the MP3 file if I can figure out how. If anyone knows, please tell me!) Best Blogger Tips

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Sunday Scribbilings: Hero

(A disclaimer: This probably isn't one of the more cheery Sunday Scribblings you'll read this week. It's in reaction to some new "mother issues" I'm having--just in time for the holidays!

For most of us, our parents are our first heroes. They gain this status before we can even articulate what we need from them or that they're giving it to us. There we are, days old, staring at them with eyes whose tears they stopped by picking us up.

For me, my mom is still a hero of mine in many ways. She's one of the most generous people I know, willing to give time and money to big causes and little--a friend who needs $20 to make it to the next payday, a stranger who looks lost, Hurricane Katrina victims. But most of all, her children. When I hear about a woman who died of starvation during the Holocaust while her husband and children survived, I didn't need to ask why she was the only one to perish. That's the kind of sacrifices mothers make. I know it because mine would so instinctively do it for me.

But when heroes of any type fall, they fall hard. And recently I realized that though my mom gave me a lot, there are some fundamental things I didn't get from her.

My mom and I are close on a few levels--we like to spend time going to the movies and museums together, we talk on the phone once a week about books and work. But we're not close in the highest way, that warm way that makes you feel you can say anything and that the other person really understands you. Though I've overheard my mom say to friends that we're as close as can be, I know she agrees with me. I can remember her saying quite a few times that my brothers are both more like her, me like my dad, that there were certain things about me that she would never get. And if she knew me well, she'd know that that was not the type of thing I could handle hearing.

To be close with someone, I need that person to be able to listen to my problems and not try to solve them, but just be with me in them. Someone who can talk about her feelings and teach me to talk about mine. Someone who says I love you more often than once, moments before she goes into the operating room to stop internal bleeding from an aneurysm that burst last Christmas. Someone who knows that saying those three words at such a precarious time would just make me more worried than I already am.

All these years I've blamed myself for our lack of true closeness, wondering on some level what I could do to be more like the brothers she so obviously felt closer to. But now that I'm realizing our problem with more clarity, I see that I don't carry much of the weight of this problem in our relationship.

If I'm being snarky, I'll think, she's the one who taught me just how much a mother's supposed to do for her children. Would some soul searching to figure out how to talk about difficult emotions have been so hard when cleary that's what her daughter needed? If I'm being kinder, I'll realize that my mother was nothing if not anxious, undiagosed and untreated for all of my childhood. And mental illnesses of that sort are very self-absorbing: it's hard to focus your antennae on what other people need when you hurt so much. And if I'm being impartial, I'll say that my mother's just not the type of person who can read well what others need emotionally.

Who knows who I would've been if my mother could've grown and changed. And who knows what this realization will do to our relationship when we come together for Thanksgiving next week. But I do know that any future daughter I have, whatever her complaints about me, not understanding her emotions won't be one. Probably in reaction to my mother's lack of emotional temperature-telling, I have an oversentive thermometer, constantly worrying about how those close to me are feeling, and what I can do to make those feelings better. Best Blogger Tips

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Giddy up

So I'm back on that horse. At the recommendation of FC, I am sending my essay to Skirt. Luckily for me, the January 2007 issue deals with the seven deadly sins, and my essay is about cleaning (or not cleaning, aka sloth).

Thanks for all your helpful comments! And Erin, I would love to see your editor-slayer model! Best Blogger Tips

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Close your eyes, dad

I usually shy away from political posts. I am a deeply political person, but I am also a quietly political person. This comes from growing up in a house full of Republicans. Who knows how I ended up the way I did, but it wasn't easy to get and stay here. In recent years, I've learned it's better to just keep my mouth shut, and to make my relatives do the same. Nothing I say will change their minds, and when you get 50 Republicans surrounding you, it's difficult to even get yourself heard.

So, thank you Gogo for posting something so poignant and funny and true to make me come out of my shell a bit.

November 14th, 2006

To My Conservative Brothers and Sisters,

I know you are dismayed and disheartened at the results of last week's election. You're worried that the country is heading toward a very bad place you don't want it to go. Your 12-year Republican Revolution has ended with so much yet to do, so many promises left unfulfilled. You are in a funk, and I understand.Well, cheer up, my friends! Do not despair. I have good news for you. I, and the millions of others who are now in charge with our Democratic Congress, have a pledge we would like to make to you, a list of promises that we offer you because we value you as our fellow Americans. You deserve to know what we plan to do with our newfound power -- and, to be specific, what we will do to you and for you.Thus, here is our Liberal's Pledge to Disheartened Conservatives:Dear Conservatives and Republicans, I, and my fellow signatories, hereby make these promises to you:

1. We will always respect you for your conservative beliefs. We will never, ever, call you "unpatriotic" simply because you disagree with us. In fact, we encourage you to dissent and disagree with us

.2. We will let you marry whomever you want, even when some of us consider your behavior to be "different" or "immoral." Who you marry is none of our business. Love and be in love -- it's a wonderful gift.

3. We will not spend your grandchildren's money on our personal whims or to enrich our friends. It's your checkbook, too, and we will balance it for you.

4. When we soon bring our sons and daughters home from Iraq, we will bring your sons and daughters home, too. They deserve to live. We promise never to send your kids off to war based on either a mistake or a lie.

5. When we make America the last Western democracy to have universal health coverage, and all Americans are able to get help when they fall ill, we promise that you, too, will be able to see a doctor, regardless of your ability to pay. And when stem cell research delivers treatments and cures for diseases that affect you and your loved ones, we'll make sure those advances are available to you and your family, too.

6. Even though you have opposed environmental regulation, when we clean up our air and water, we, the Democratic majority, will let you, too, breathe the cleaner air and drink the purer water.

7. Should a mass murderer ever kill 3,000 people on our soil, we will devote every single resource to tracking him down and bringing him to justice. Immediately. We will protect you.

8. We will never stick our nose in your bedroom or your womb. What you do there as consenting adults is your business. We will continue to count your age from the moment you were born, not the moment you were conceived.

9. We will not take away your hunting guns. If you need an automatic weapon or a handgun to kill a bird or a deer, then you really aren't much of a hunter and you should, perhaps, pick up another sport. We will make our streets and schools as free as we can from these weapons and we will protect your children just as we would protect ours.

10. When we raise the minimum wage, we will pay you -- and your employees -- that new wage, too. When women are finally paid what men make, we will pay conservative women that wage, too.

11. We will respect your religious beliefs, even when you don't put those beliefs into practice. In fact, we will actively seek to promote your most radical religious beliefs ("Blessed are the poor," "Blessed are the peacemakers," "Love your enemies," "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God," and "Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me."). We will let people in other countries know that God doesn't just bless America, he blesses everyone. We will discourage religious intolerance and fanaticism -- starting with the fanaticism here at home, thus setting a good example for the rest of the world.

12. We will not tolerate politicians who are corrupt and who are bought and paid for by the rich. We will go after any elected leader who puts him or herself ahead of the people. And we promise you we will go after the corrupt politicians on our side FIRST. If we fail to do this, we need you to call us on it. Simply because we are in power does not give us the right to turn our heads the other way when our party goes astray. Please perform this important duty as the loyal opposition.

I promise all of the above to you because this is your country, too. You are every bit as American as we are. We are all in this together. We sink or swim as one. Thank you for your years of service to this country and for giving us the opportunity to see if we can make things a bit better for our 300 million fellow Americans -- and for the restof the world.


To sign yourself, go here. Best Blogger Tips

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Editor: 1, Bug: Love

I started taking tennis lessons with three friends last night. An uninvited guest joined us--my editor. Usually he sits on my shoulder only when I'm writing, but apparently he's branching out.

I haven't played tennis in a serious way for about 20 years, when I quit lessons because my little brother got to be better than me. So I was a little rusty, and the editor wouldn't let me forget it. "The instructor said to keep your elbow straight!" he yelled as I lobbed a ball into the net. "And keep your feet moving!"

I was so caught up in these negative comments that it barely registered when my friend Mary said, "You're doing great! Your backhand is amazing!"

I looked around. Who, me?

I played well the rest of the night, but more importantly I had fun and got Mr. Editor to shut the F up. Now if only Mary could come over to watch me write, every once in a while shouting, "Great job! Look at those sentences!" Best Blogger Tips

Monday, November 13, 2006

Monday monday

So I had a post planned in my head about how nice it was to have a quiet weekend to myself, and how much work I got done. And then I found a rejection letter in my email box. It was a very nice, personal rejection letter (because I have a friend at the journal I submitted to). She said a few people on the staff gave my piece a thumbs' up, but apparently not enough people did.

I'll definitely resubmit it elsewhere, and I know that rejection is a part of the game and that everyone gets them, and blah blah blah. But none of that helps me feel any less disappointed, or less like crying. I guess I'll just spend this rainy Monday wallowing, and then get back on that horse tomorrow...

This experience does give me a glimpse into the life of a journal, though. It's interesting to know how many layers you need to get through to get published. Best Blogger Tips

Saturday, November 11, 2006

I'm dying, revised

You may recognize this story from a post back on October 10th.

Here's a revision, based on your feedback and that of my writers' group.

If you feel like commenting, I'd love to hear any and all feedback. Most importantly, do you get what the stories about? I learned that last time I was one of the few who did. :) The connection didn't feel as strong as it could've, I guess. Also, does it feel whole?

Death sentence (Thanks for the title suggestion, TI!)
“I’m not sure I understand, Seymour,” Dr. K said when I told him. I was sitting on the doctor’s table, naked save for the see-through cotton gown tied across my front. The white legs of an old man dangled down in front of me, black hair and blue veins snaking across them. “What are your symptoms?”

“I woke up today feeling weird.”

“Weird, how?” he asked.

I thought for a moment. I looked at the doctor standing before me—his white coat, his dark hair and mustache—and knew he wouldn’t understand. I tried anyway, considering that I was there and naked already. “My mind was foggy than usual. I lay in bed a long time, which is unusual for me. My hands ached, and my head hurt a little bit. When I concentrated on the faint pain, I knew, without a doubt, that I would die soon. That feeling hasn’t gone away since.”

“The pain?”

“Well, yes, but more than that the feeling…”

“That you’re going to die.”

“Yes!” Maybe I was wrong about this Dr. K.

“Have you been under much stress lately?” he asked.

I waved the question away. This problem wasn’t in my head, or maybe it was in my physical head, but not my psychological head.

“We can run some tests, but I think you just need some rest.”

“I’ll get plenty of rest when I’m dead,” I said.

Dr. K sighed and gave me a referral for blood work.

After he left the room, I lied back on the paper-covered couch. I wondered what was happening at work. At this time, I’d likely be having my second cup of earl grey tea. I had never missed a day before, not in the 18 years I’ve worked at the university library.

I wondered if my boss Howard came looking for me yet. I skipped a mandatory all staff meeting the day before. I knew what he was going to say, and I didn’t want to have to argue with him in front of everyone. I’m much better at articulating my points one on one than I am in front of a crowd, where I feel their eyes on my reddening skin, my moist palms. Maybe he thinks I’ve quit. How pleased that would make him! Then he could hire someone half my age who likes those wretched computer machines.

I don’t care what the numbers show, people like to hold books in their hands. They, like me, get pleasure from the smoothness of the pages, the smell of the dust from hundreds of borrowers’ houses that gets imbedded in the pages, the sight of the black marks on the yellowing pages that, extraordinarily, create meaning. Just the other day an hour passed as I stared at the markings of a middle Eastern language I couldn't read, in a book from generations before I was born. How do societies come up with these letters? These words? How do they decide on them? My tea got cold while I thought about it.

I mend the books that fall into a careless reader’s hands, or fall from them, or get into the mouths of a dog or child. People don’t know I exist in the bowels of the library, working in the basement to tape and glue and restring those most precious possessions. It’s true that I have had fewer books to process than in the past. But that doesn’t mean we should hoard them in the depository and make people wait days to get to them. And that certainly doesn’t mean I should take a class on the new computer system where students can access old journal articles and book chapters without holding the pieces of history in their hands. Mending books is not just something I do. It is who I am.

I can feel my heart beating fast at the thought of that stupid man making decisions about me, about my books. “They’re arcane,” he had said before. I don’t know if it’s the books or people like me he was talking about.

Like I said, I am dying. Best Blogger Tips

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Like reality TV...

...only not as exciting.

Taking advice from those of you who read my crazy list of things to do, I'm going to give myself some time off tomorrow and go see a movie. I love seeing movies by myself in the middle of the day. The problem? I can't decide what to see! Help me decide. Vote in the comments section.

Your (my) choices:
Running with Scissors (which I haven't read)
Little Children (which I have)
Marie Antoinette Best Blogger Tips

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Tag, you're it

I've been tagged by BostonErin to do this Letter Meme. J is a hard one...

10 wonderful things that start with J:

  • My last name, though no one can pronounce it (despite its shocking similarity to a very famous psychiatrist).
  • June, the official and unofficial start of summer
  • Jelly belly jelly beans
  • Jackolanterns
  • John, having one when you need to pee (or is that spelled jon?)
  • Journals
  • Jam bands (like Phish)
  • Jewelry (OK, I don't love jewelry that much, but I'm running out of ideas here.)
  • Jewish people (and Christians, and Muslims, and those who have no religion....)
  • Jungles (if you are safe and seeing them as an ecotourist, I imagine)

Five bad things that start with J:

  • Jury duty (I'm all for civic duty, but I can think of a thousand other things I'd like to do with a day than sit and wait around for a judge to send me home) Judgemental people
  • Jobs, the need to have one to pay bills
  • Jailbait (as in the idea that young girls would be seen as sexual objects to older men. Gross.)
  • Jackass (the TV show and jackasses in general)

You're it. I tag:
TI for K
Repeater for L
Jim from North Carolina for M
Kim G for N

Gogo for O
Kerry for P. (I'm not even sure you're reading this, and your blog seems to be down right now but...)

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An outline and a shorter list

Here's a chunk of the To-Dos I'd like to get done this weekend (which is a long one thanks to Veteran's day, but it may just be a normal one thanks to an insane work project that might need some love over the weekend. Brian is away at a mystery writer's conference and I have consciously left a lot of my time open to get stuff done, and/or relax. Ha.)

  • Get my interdis study plan created
  • Get a second draft done of my short, short story
  • Work on my Chloe essay. Hopefully have some semblance of a draft.
  • Work on my thesis. (Not sure how to chunk this into smaller pieces yet so that's as specific as I can get, unfortunately.)
  • Bring up Christmas decorations from basement
  • Set up sewing/knitting area
  • Freelance projects (bleh)
  • Possibly go to the hardware store for some project goodies
  • Possibly work on my new story, for which I now have the start of an outline:
    • Scene with mom showing how she is now, post aneurysm
    • Scene where aunt comes to visit to see how mom is doing, and where aunt sheds light on the fact that the mom is acting how she used to act, before her marriage.
This new story's writing process is reminding me a lot of the saying, "Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can only see as far as the headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way." Best Blogger Tips

Monday, November 06, 2006

The beginning

Here's the beginning of my new story:

"This is Dr. Dent. You paged me?"

I hate Dr. Dent. I was hoping he wasn't on duty today. I sat down on the step in the hallway of my mother's condo building. With only 800 square feet between the two of us, it was the only place where I could be sure she wouldn't hear me. "This is Emily Richards. My mother, Lucille Richards is your patient. She had an anneurysm two weeks ago?"


I had been hoping for some sort of personal recognition. "Well, I don't know how to say this. Mom's been acting strange since we got home yesterday. It's just that..." " I was babbling, I knew it then. He made me nervous. The other three doctor's on my mother's team, as they call themselves, were friendly and informal, like we were all chatting about blood vessels because we happened to love them, not because a blockage in one nearly killed my mom. But not Dr. Dent. I didn't want to say the next words aloud, not to Dr. Dent. But I had to. "She's been singing. All the time. And she never sang before, not even in the car or at birthday parties. She said she had an awful voice. Which she doesn't. But I guess that's beside the point."

"I'm not sure I understand. You're calling because your mom is singing?" He said it like I was a child, not a 33 year old woman with a master's in public policy and a mortgage bearing down on her every month. And the worst part is that I played into his condescention, playing the part of the unsure idiot.

"I know it sounds strange. But she's just acting like a different person. Singing is just an example."

I can hear papers being shuffled in the background. "I see here she's scheduled for a follow-up appointment next week. Do you think this could wait until then?"

"Well, if you do. You and your colleagues told me to call if she seemed to be having any symptoms, and well...I just wanted to make sure this wasn't a sign of anything gone wrong. "

"Singing? No." I could hear the smirk in his voice. "I'll see you on Tuesday." Best Blogger Tips

To Dos

As we all know, I need my structure. Here's a very long list of to dos for my post-submission time. I'll check in weekly to let y'all know how I'm doing. Talk about accountability...

Writing to do's, in order of importance
  • Get my interdis study plan created.
  • Write new story by Dec 4, to hand in for my January residency. I currently have three ideas floating around:
    1. A woman's mom has a stroke/anneurysm and survives while the woman is out of town and unreachable. She goes to her mother to help her recoop, but discovers a side effect of the illness is new personality traits, like singing along to the radio when she hated to sing before. She talks to her aunt about this, and they realize these traits were ones the mother had before she was married to a jerk who bruised her spirit.
    2. I was totally enthralled by a man I met at breakfast at my hotel in Santa Fe last week. While I was waiting for my bagel to toast, he basically told me his life story--He was from Arkansas, visiting Phoenix to play baseball, and now in SF to visit his ex-wife, if he could find her, to deliver tax papers. I liked the idea of doing a kind of road trip story, where the purpose of the trip comes out in snippets as the man is talking to strangers.
    3. Something about how a child loves Christmas and hides in that love to get away from his abusive family. So from Sept. through Jan. he'd sit in his room in the dark, listening to Christmas caroles by candlelight.
It seems the first is the most developed, so I think I'll go with that one.
  • Revise the short short story about the man who thinks he's dying and SEND IT OUT! There are a few contests/calls for subs for short-shorts.
  • Get a draft done of my essay about adopting Chloe, submit it to my writer's group, and then SEND IT OUT!
  • Resend my cleaning essay out if it doesn't find a home at the first place I sent it to.
This is something I haven't talked about here because, well, it makes me very anxious and because I think it makes me look insane. Here's the deal. When I signed up for my Lesley MFA program, I had every intention of having finished the Harvard MLA program I had started. But through circumstances beyond my control, things got delayed, and delayed and delayed. So, now I'm doing my thesis and the MFA program at the same time. (Did I mention I also have a job? Insane, I know.) So, during this time off from my MFA, I need to plow through getting a very good draft of my thesis proposal out. Something that is so good that it will get approved and will take minimal effort to expand into a thesis in the near future. (FYI, in this program, the thesis isn't as bad as it sounds.)

I need to fix some house stuff before my Christmas party on Dec. 9 (Boston bloggers, you better be there! Invites to follow soon.) and I want to take on some other projects after our party during the week between Christmas and New Year's, when I have off:
  • paint patched wall areas in our bedroom, and hang art
  • Get wedding pics framed and hung, along with some other photos/memorabilia
  • Redo second bathroom (cosmetic only; will hire someone to do some of it)
  • Paint touch-ups in other rooms
Plus all the stuff that comes along with Christmas--shopping, baking, decorating, etc. Obviously I will need to make this a simple Christmas in order to fit everything else in! So don't expect any presents. ;) Best Blogger Tips

Final submission: DONE!

My final submission for my MFA program is out the door (or email box, as it were). This was a tough one for me, between a work trip that through off my schedule and a very-unlike-me bout of procrastination. So though I was up until midnight last night writing my second annotation, it is done. Phew.


I didn't fall in love with any of the books my mentor had me read this semester. I can't tell if the books just weren't a great match, or if the knowledge that I was reading them to write about them made it hard for me to lose myself in them. Other MFAers, can you comment on your experiences?

But as for the writing, I can only say that in my own opinion, my understanding of story and my writing have improved tremendously. And my love of writing has also increased.

I've noticed that some weird emotions come up after I send off a submission. I get sad and mopey, almost like I'm mourning for the pieces I had to let go. I'm worried that this feeling will be magnified this time since this is our last structured submission for the semester. Though I do want to get a new story done to submit by 12/4 to my workshop group for the January residency, and I have a lot of other writing and house projects I want to get underway. (Post to come about those!)

Anyway, congrats to all the Lesley MFAers out there who have completed their first semester!
Best Blogger Tips

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Sunday Scribblings: Mornings (and procrastination)

Following my personal theme this month, I am procrastinating doing on my school work (due tomorrow!!). At least this form of procrastination is interesting and useful, unlike the hours of TLC I watched last night.

I am not a morning person. I'm not a night person either. I'm a sleep person. I could happily sleep from midnight until 10 am (like I did last night), and then lounge in bed for a few more hours, relishing in the fuzzy yet very interesting thoughts that come when I'm half asleep and warm beneath my down comforter (which I would've loved to do today, but alas, I can only allow myself so much time asleep when I have deadlines). In that blissful time, I think about my strange dreams (is there any other type?) of the night before, the emotional slush I'm slogging through at the time, what lies ahead that day or week, what has happened recently or not so recently, any stories I'm working on.

Of course this lounging time is a luxury I can partake in only on the weekends. But I've recently started a weekday morning routine that makes it a little easier to get out of bed after only 7 or 8 hours of sleep. I wash up and then I do Morning Pages, three pages of long-hand writing in my journal about anything. It's kind of like a more structured version of the thinking I do while lying in bed on the weekends. It's also like a form of therapy, helping me uncover things that I wouldn't notice otherwise.

After that I walk my dog--something that hasn't been as much fun lately because it's cold and because my favorite walking companion is in India for 3 weeks on vacation. K and I have fascinating conversations. She's one of the few people who I felt comfortable expressing fairly intimate thoughts with right away. (Thankfully she'll be back soon.)

Then it's time for a rush of what to wear, does the cat have food, what can I eat for lunch. And then my lovely and short commute involves walking for a bit and reading on the train for another bit. At work, I luxuriate in making some decaf coffee and eating breakfast (my current fave is whole wheat oatmeal) while I check my email and get my day started.

So, maybe I am a morning person. As long as the morning starts at 10 am, and allows me time to read, walk, chat, and eat.


Read more thoughts on mornings here. Best Blogger Tips

Friday, November 03, 2006

Random thoughts

I don't seem to have many blog-worthy thoughts going on here, but I do want to keep this thing active. So here are some random thoughts for this Friday:

  • I'm trying very hard not to hate winter, but I'm falling short. Anyone have any thoughts on why winter is good? Anything I can think of--drinking hot cocoa, snuggling--are actually things I could do in the summer, so they're not doing it for me. I'm not too big into winter sports, either, though maybe I could try again to embrace skiing/snowboarding...
  • I am still loving morning pages. Any of you who don't do them should really give it a shot. It's easy--just babble on paper for 3 pages every morning. Write about whatever you want. Just don't stop until you've done 3 pages.
  • I'm excited about my lunchtime yoga class. I haven't worked out much lately, between being away for work and then getting a cold.
  • I'll post a pic soon of the baby booties I'm knitting for my friend's shower--tomorrow! Guess what I'm doing tonight?
  • While I'm knitting I'll be listening to The Ha-Ha on my computer, thanks to a free download from my local library. I love the library. (And this book is pretty good too!)
  • I'm looking forward to Sunday Scribblings this weekend.
Best Blogger Tips

Friday, October 27, 2006

I could do this

I learned a lot at my conference, most interesting was what I wrote about in my last post. At one of the breakfast roundtable on press release writing, I realized, "I could teach this." I knew more than the presenter, although she's been doing it longer. People started addressing their questions to me instead of the leader, which I tried to deflect back to her out of politeness.

I just finished teaching an adult ed class on freelance writing, so the idea of other courses to teach was in my head. I'm not sure if adult ed centers would want a class on press release writing, but I'll look into it. I also would love to teach a class on creating a writing community--about the importance of writer's groups, writing friends, and blogging. My dream would be to teach writing at the college level in the near future. I think I could teach medical writing, journalistic writing, and probably creative writing, though I haven't published in that genre (yet!). So, readers, any advice? I know quite a few of you are teachers at the college level... Best Blogger Tips

What I've learned so far

First, I've learned that conferences are f'n exhausting. Our flight got delayed, so we arrived very late on Wednesday night, and then had to get up before 7 for our first session. But more importantly.... the best session I went to so far was called Advanced Writing. The basic message was how much of writing is (or SHOULD be) planning. The teacher was an editor at the Texas Heart Institute, and said that she increased her writers' productivity by 50% by making her writers stick to a formula where they:
  • Spend 50% of any project's time in a planning phase, which includes first brainstorming, then researching, then creating an outline, which helps shows you where you need more information/research.
  • Spend 25% freewriting a first draft where you cannot edit it for grammar, style, etc.
  • Spend 25% editing--macro editing (making sure your points make sense and there's no redundant info) and micro editing (for grammar, word usage, etc.)

The reason the formula works is that it supposedly tricks your brain out of feeling nervous and blocked. By spending so much time in planning and no-judgment-allowed freewriting, you get yourself psyched up for the project and convince your subconscious that you can do it. In that way, I think this formula can be applied to all writing projects, be they creative or not.

I feel like there were some more gems to the session, which I'll post later after I've had some time to relax and eat dinner.

Hope everyone is having a good few days!

Best Blogger Tips

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

One foot out the door

I'm about to take off for a conference in New Mexico. I'm sure my boss wouldn't be thrilled to hear it, but I'm more excited about hiking and seeing Santa Fe and Albuquerque than I am for the actual conference.

Here's what I'd like to get done in the next 6 days:
  • Learn a few new things I can bring back to my office
  • See Georgia O'Keafe art, hike, get a massage
  • Eat well and exercise
  • Read the Hours and take notes on an annotation
  • Think about my revision, take notes
Here's what I need to do when I get back, before Nov. 6:
  • Finalize metaphors lesson for interdisc. project
  • Proof rest of ID project and 1st annotation
  • Finish 2nd annotation, and revision of story
Other misc things to do before the New Year:
  • Work on short short story about dying
  • Work on new story
  • Finish draft of dog-couple essay
  • Submit, submit, submit
  • Read the Situation and the Story, and Autobiography of a Face
  • Organize linens
  • Put summer clothes away
  • Finish knitting projects: baby booties, mom's scarf, hat for Kenny
  • Buy paint and other supplies for some home projects. Get in touch with contractors for others.
  • Organize papers in the study
  • Get organized with Christmas gift shopping
Have a good few days! I'll probably post at some point this weekend. Best Blogger Tips

Monday, October 23, 2006

My weekend: a recap and some lessons

My weekend was a good one overall, but I definitely ignored a few things, mostly my writing. I did not do my morning pages (gasp!). And, because I was slightly ahead of my MFA schedule, I didn't work on that stuff as much as I could've. I did come up with a new story idea that I am excited about, but that's about it.

Taking a few days off isn't necessarily a bad thing, but I woke up Monday morning feeling drained, and I think not writing was part of that.
(Another part of that was staying out one hour and one beer too late on Sunday night...)

But the biggest lesson I learned was really a re-teaching of a lesson I already know: It's OK to say no to things. Even things you might want to do.

My weekend was already a busy one when I got invited to brunch and pumpkin picking on Sunday. I love brunch, and I love fall, so it was hard to say no. But mostly it was hard because the friend who invited me (L) also invited a friend of hers who I met at L's wedding. Let's call this friend C. I liked C and her husband, and so did Brian. It turned out that they lived near us, so we exchanged info and we all went out for a drink a few weeks ago. The couple had a habit of constantly interrupting and correcting one another, but otherwise seemed pleasant. Though part of me got a small feeling that I didn't like something about C. But still, I was happy to be given the chance to hang out with her again with L. So happy that I said yes even though I was looking forward to a morning of sleeping and relaxing.

So off to L's house C and I go, and when we get up to L's porch, I'm a few steps behind C. And that's when the first aggravating incident occurs: She lets L's door slam right in my face, without so much as a backwards glance or "I'm sorry". Forgivable? Of course. But not when coupled with this odd aggressive manner she had all day, where she made it seem like we were all in some competition to prove that our life was better than everyone else's. For example, she name-dropped Tiffany's more than once over breakfast when talking about her engagement ring. And she's been married for years. Why would anyone need to know where you bought your wedding ring?

And the worst part? What she brought out in me. First, I became bitchy, not responding warmly to her, and being slightly mocking when she said we had to hurry up because her husband missed her after we'd only been gone a few hours. Then, I got mad at myself for being a bitch and I ended up giving into her pushiness and know-it-allism, kind of deferring to her authority on things I knew she knew no more about than I.

So, lessons:
1-Go with your gut. I was pretty sure I didn't like her after our bar date, so I definitely shouldn't have gone out of my way to hang out with her.

2- I can be very forgiving to friends--overlooking the occasional bout of self-absorption, flakiness, moodiness, whininess, self-pity, etc. But the common element in people I want in my life is that being around them brings out the best in me. So if you turn me into a bitch, I will not be your friend.

3- Always make time for writing.

(Pics: Top two from the Life is Good Pumpkin Fest, bottom two from the farm where we got pumpkins. I so want a pet goat!) Best Blogger Tips

Too tired to think. Some questions.

Thanks January for this Meme. I've shortened it a bit... Others, feel free to steal it!

Fill in what you’ve “done”:

(X) Smoked a joint
( ) Done cocaine
(X) Been in love
( ) Had a threesome
(X) Been dumped (WAH!)
(X) Shoplifted (But I feel bad now!)
(X) Had feelings for someone who didn’t have them back
( ) Been arrested
(X) Made out with a stranger (Welcome to my high school world)
( ) Gone on a blind date
(X) Had a crush on a teacher
(X) Been to Europe
(X) Been to Canada
(X) Been to Mexico
(X) Seen someone die. (I literally saw my beloved cat Manxy die. It was a sad and touching thing to witness)
( ) Thrown up in a bar. (I threw up outside of a bar. On Newbury St. When I hadn't even been drinking much. I think I was allergic to something. Fun. I also threw up all over my favorite dress after way too much wine at a wedding. I was in the car on the way back--not driving! I ruined the dress and the car had a wonderful odor for a while)
(X) Met a celebrity. (Bob Hope asked me for directions near my house on Long Island)
() Met someone from the Internet in person.
(X) Been moshing at a concert
() Gone backstage at a concert
(X) Lain outside in the grass and watched cloud shapes go by
(X) Made a snow angel
(X) Been lonely
() Fallen asleep at work. (Though I've been tempted!)
(X) Fallen asleep at school
(X) Used a fake ID
(X) Been kicked out of a bar (Though in my defense I didn't do anything to get kicked out. A friend I was with, however, was rolling around on the floor with some guy she just met. Ahh, going to Mexico when you're 18)
(X ) Felt an earthquake (I actually felt a minor earthquake that rumbled through Boston a few years ago. It woke me up, and I screamed, "Why is our bed shaking?" The next morning, I heard why.)
(X) Slept beneath the stars
() Been robbed
(X) Won a contest
() Run a red light
( ) Been suspended from school
() Had braces
(X) Had deja vu

( ) Totaled a car.
( ) Stolen a car
(X) Hated the way you look
(X) Witnessed a crime
( ) Been to a strip club
( ) Been to the opposite side of the world
(X) Swam in the ocean
( ) Felt like dying
(X) Cried yourself to sleep
(X) Sung karaoke
(X) Paid for a meal with only coins (The pizza delivery guy loves me and my quarters...)
() Had a one night stand
(X) Been a cheerleader
(X) Sat on a roof top
(X) Talked on the phone for more than 6 hours straight (In high school, when I wasn't making out with strangers, I was talking on the phone.)
(X) Stayed up all night.
(X) Not taken a shower for three days.
(X ) Had more than 30 pairs of shoes at a time (I. Love. Shoes.)

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Friday, October 20, 2006


The very vague yet very appealing Sunday Scribblings prompt is "good."

Life is Good
Brian and I, along with our dog Chloe and a smattering of friends are going to the Life is Good pumpkin festival this weekend on Boston Common. Their goal is to have the most lit jack o’lanterns in one place. I'm sure it will be very fun, very pretty, and very New England.

I love the name of that company, Life is Good. Their silly mascot makes me smile, which I'm sure is the point. But whether life is good is a difficult question to answer. My
life, at this moment, is good. I am in a wonderful marriage, have some wonderful friends, and am truly enjoying the MFA program I'm in. I'm learning a lot, I have a lot of fun things to keep me busy (a bit too busy at times!), and I generally like my job.

But life in general? That's a different story. And I don't think "good" does it justice. Life is often good, but sometimes, it's really, really bad. So I would vote for life is complex. Or life is layered. Or life is rich. (And when it is good, like now for me, we should all be grateful!)

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Revising, part I

“In fiction, in order to engage our attention and sympathy, the protagonist must want, and want intensely.” --Janet Burroway

My mentor quoted that and asked me: What does Tracy want? (If you care to know who Tracy is, click here and scroll to "In My Character's Voice and In My Character's Voice, part II.) Here goes: Tracy wants a friend. She wants love. Though she doesn't want to admit these desires or, worse, feel them and then get hurt. She wants someone who accepts her as she accepts herself, who can be quiet with her, who loves dogs.

What would happen if... Chloe (her friend in the story, not my dog) isn't as commited to the friendship as Tracy is? What if this somehow comes out and Tracy is heartbroken? Then what would she do? Could she go back to her life the way it was? Would she reach out to someone else? Who? The vet? And then what would happen? Would she feel dirty for settling for someone who she doesn't find as compelling?

This line of story would work well with one of my mentor's suggestion: Ask yourself, what does Tracy want/love-- and then take that away. What will Tracy do to preserve the status quo? What will she do when it collapses?

I will also be doing some exercises to "spend time with Tracy."

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Thursday, October 19, 2006

Mentor comments

Whenever I get an email from my mentor with the subject line, "Your submission," I stare at my inbox for a while, taking short, shallow breaths. I wonder, should I open it right away? But what if it's really negative comments? Maybe I should open the other, safer emails--from my husband, or occasionally, something actually work related? That's what I did this time, taking care of a few easy tasks while that big scary email stared at me from my inbox.

And when I did finally open it, my jaw clenched, I breathed a sigh of relief. She called my work a "pleasure to read"! I was really happy with the story I submitted, so I was extra scared that she wouldn't be. I definitely have a lot of revising work ahead though. She points out (correctly) that my plot is nowhere near as strong as my characters, so I have to work on that minor (haha) thing. It was a little disheartening that, at the end of her comments she wrote:

"My expectations are that it will be a major revision, which means really thinking about what does and doesn'’t work, going at the piece with a ruthless pen, and trying lots of ideas out. What you end up with as a second draft may feel further off the mark to you, but it'’s part of the process of breaking a story down and rebuilding it to discover what it's really about."

The idea of ending up further off the mark makes me want to cry. Stupid process.

But anyway, overall, I am delighted to know that at least I was not deluding myself that this story was on the way to being something.
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Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Making room in the jar

A friend sent this story to me today. I'd heard it before, but I relished reading it again as a reminder of what I should be doing with my time. I ask you to comment: what are your golf balls? And what kinds of sand often get in the golf balls' way?

When things in your lives seem almost too much to handle, when 24 hours in a day are not enough, remember the mayonnaise jar and the 2 cups of coffee.

A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him. When the class began, he wordlessly picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls. He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.

The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls. He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was.

The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else. He asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with a unanimous "yes."

The professor then produced two cups of coffee from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar effectively filling the empty space between the sand. The students laughed.

"Now," said the professor as the laughter subsided, "I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The golf balls are the important things--your family, your children, your health, your friends and your favorite passions--and if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full.

The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, your house and your car.

The sand is everything else--the small stuff. "If you put the sand into the jar first," he continued, "there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls. The same goes for life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff you will never have room for the things that are important to you.

"Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Play with your children. Take time to get medical checkups. Take your spouse out to dinner. Play another 18. There will always be time to clean the house and fix the disposal. Take care of the golf balls first--the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand."

One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the coffee represented. The professor smiled. "I'm glad you asked… It just goes to show you that no matter how full your life may seem, there's always room for a couple of cups of coffee with a friend."

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Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Next submission countdown

As always, I need a schedule to keep me from totally freaking out about my next MFA submission deadline, which is 11/6. Here goes:

This week(10/16-10/20): Work on interdisc project, finish reading first annotation book.
This weekend: Write first draft of annotation
Next week and weekend (10/23-10/31): I'll be in New Mexico for work for most of this time. This should make for an interesting (ie stressful) submission period. In the first part of the week, I'd love to finalize my interdisc submission. Not sure if that's realistic though. My goal while I'm away is to finish reading my second annotation book and take notes on the annotation. I'll also be thinking/taking notes on the revision of my short story.
10/31-11/6, I'll work hard on my revision and finalize my annotations and interdisc project. I'll also write my mentor letter.

I think it's time for a primal scream: AHHHHH! Best Blogger Tips

Monday, October 16, 2006

True beauty

There's probably not a person in the modern world who doesn't have moments of self-fill in negative feeling here: contempt, pity, hatred at the way they look. Of course a lot of these feelings come about because we are insanely saturation with images of models and movie stars. Dove has a great video on their web site that shows what it takes to make a model look like she does. I hope we can all keep it in mind the next time we look in the mirror. Best Blogger Tips

Dogs and dead people

OK, not the most eloquent title, but I wanted some alliteration... BostonErin and Grafton joined me, Brian, and Chloe the dog for a beautiful and fun walk through Forest Hills Cemetary on Saturday. It was an organized dog walk where 30 or so dogs dragged their owners behind a very funny and engaging tour leader who led us to the gravestones that had animals carved into them, and explained their history. It was very interesting, and it was a beautiful day to be walking around. (Pics are actually from the next day as Erin and I both forgot our cameras.)

Best of all, against all odds in frosty New England, we made a new friend! One of the only other people there our age was a woman named Rebecca. We all got to talking and we learned that she is a painter (and more importantly to me, a knitter!) who just moved here from New York. The four of us went to brunch (sans dogs) and we exchanged info to set up a knitting date in the near future. I love meeting new people and making new friends, especially of the artistic variety. Unfortunately I find it happens much too infrequently, and so I think it's importat to celebrate the moments it does. Best Blogger Tips

Sunday, October 15, 2006


An article I wrote for the Boston Globe on some changes in my neighborhood was published today. Wish me luck pitching the next article on the topic--one that covers the meetings I talked about in this article. Best Blogger Tips

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Sunday Scribbling: Super powers

This week's Sunday Scribbling is in two parts.

Part I: What would YOU do if you could freeze time?

I'm trying to think of something profound, but I can't. So I think if I could freeze time, I would allow myself to sleep in an hour or two later. I would relish in the protection of my down comforter against the crisp, fall air. I would breath in the smell of my husband sleeping next to me. I would not worry about the ever-brighter sun making its way through my eyelids. I would rest comfortable knowing that I had as much time as I needed to do my writing, clean the house, see friends, walk the dog, and ride my bike through the falling leaves.

Part II: And also, if you could draw a super power out of the grab bag, what would it be?

Well, after writing that, stopping time sounds good to me! I would also like the ability to find the perfect balance between not caring about what other people think, and also not hurting anybody with my actions or words. Best Blogger Tips

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Who's your audience?

Brian and I were talking last night and I found out he hasn't been reading my blog. I was a little insulted since I find the blogs of friends so engaging. And I think it's neat to learn stuff about people that they might not tell you about in person. (In his defense: he says it's silly to have to keep in touch with your wife through a blog, which is a good point)

It got me thinking about the fact that only certain people in my life even know about my blog. I'm just branching out and telling non-MFA/writers group people about it now. (Hi Sarah!)

So, I was hoping you would share with me who you share your blog with. Who in your "real" life have you told about it? Do they read it regularly? Best Blogger Tips

Tuesday, October 10, 2006


At the urging of Poetmom, I am posting some fiction. Here is a very very short story. It's a very, very early draft. And I would very, very much appreciate any comments!

TITLE NEEDED (no that isn't the title. Suggestions welcome)

I’m dying. I guess you could say everyone is. The mortality rate of this disease called living is 100%. It’s just that I’m dying sooner than most. And the worst part is that no one will believe me.

This whole thing started this morning. I woke up and knew I was going to die.

“You're so melodramatic,” I can hear my brother say. In fact, he said just that when I passed him this morning, sitting in front of the television with a napkin tucked into the collar of his button down shirt, eating his egg sandwich.

“Where you going? You’re not supposed to leave for work for another 12 minutes,” he said.

When I told him about my appointment, he uttered his favorite line about me.

“I’m not sure I understand,” Dr. K said when I told him. I was sitting on the doctor’s table, naked save for the see-through cotton gown tied across my front. My white, hairy legs dangled down. “What are your symptoms?”

“I woke up feeling weird.”

“Weird, how?” he interrupted.

I thought for a moment. I looked at the doctor standing before me. His white coat, his dark hair and mustache, and knew he wouldn’t understand. I tried anyway, considering that I was there and naked already. “My mind was foggier than usual. I lay in bed a long time, which is unusual for me. My head hurt a little bit, and when I concentrated on the faint pain, I knew, without a doubt, that I would die soon. That feeling hasn’t gone away since.”

“The headache?”

“Well, yes, but more than that the feeling…”

“That you’re going to die.”

“Yes!” Maybe I was wrong about this Dr. K.

“Have you been under much stress lately?” he asked.

I waved the question away. This problem wasn’t in my head, or maybe it was in my physical head, but not my psychological head.

“We can run some tests, Seymour, but I think you just need some rest.”

“I’ll get plenty of rest when I’m dead,” I said.

Dr. K sighed and gave me a referral for blood work.

I left the doctor’s office with more holes in my arm than a shower head. They never can find my veins. I wonder if that’s a sign I should’ve paid attention to long ago.

Walking home, I passed my office. For the first time ever I didn’t want to go in. I didn’t want to pass my coworkers and say hello, tell them where I had been. I usually get in by 7, mostly to avoid those awkward conversations about weather and weekend plans. Why people who are joined by nothing more than providence and pay stubs should be friends, I just don’t understand.

I wonder if Howard has come looking for me. I skipped a mandatory all staff meeting yesterday. I knew what he was going to say, and I didn’t want to have to argue with him in front of everyone. I’m much better at articulating my points one on one than I am in front of a crowd, where I feel their eyes on my reddening skin, my moist palms. Maybe he thinks I’ve quit. How pleased that would make him! Then he could hire someone half my age who likes those wretched computer machines.

I don’t care what the numbers show, people like books. They, like me, get pleasure from the smoothness of the pages, the smell of the dust from hundreds of borrowers’ houses that gets imbedded in the pages, the sight of the black marks on the yellowing pages that, extraordinarily, create meaning.

I mend the books that fall into a careless reader’s hands, or fall from them, or get into the mouths of a dog or child. People don’t know I exist in the bowels of the library, working in the basement to tape and glue and restring those most precious possessions. And it’s true, I have had fewer books to process than in the past. But that doesn’t mean we should hoard them in the depository and make people wait days to get to them. And that certainly doesn’t mean I should take a class on the new computer system where students can get to old journal articles and book chapters without holding the piece of history in their hands.

I can feel my heart beating fast at the thought of that stupid man making decisions about me, about my books. “They’re arcane,” he had said before. I don’t know if it’s the books or people like me he was talking about. I sit down on the bench in front of my office. I can feel the building lurking in the background. I picture Howard’s round, bald head peaking out a window. My breathing gets shallow.

Like I said, I am dying. Best Blogger Tips