Tuesday, December 18, 2007

A Welcome Break

Got to enjoy a little unexpected fun the other day, being gifted with two tickets to the St. Louis Rams-Green Bay Packers game in St. Louis. We happen to live in that area, but being a longtime Packers fan, I was all about the visiting team . . .

Now, trekking to the city for a football game just 10 days before Christmas was not exactly in my plans -- I had cards to write, cookies to make, a house to clean, and presents to wrap. Even considering taking hours out to sit in a football stadium seemed ridiculous. But so did turning down free club seats, so we went.

And am I glad we did. Been so busy with work, kids, holiday stuff, getting ready to go south for Christmas, it's been the typical hectic holiday season. What a great thing, then, to just run away for a little while, catch a great game, see Favre break the all-time NFL passing record, and relive a little childhood magic of my own -- as I think I've mentioned before, football was it in my house, and I loved it. Still do.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

A Horrible Blogger

That title up there? That's me this month -- it's been 10 days since my last post, and I've been too ridiculously busy to even check in. Which is a good thing in some ways, but I do love my blog, even with all it's imperfections, and my handful of kind readers who mosey my way every now and again.

I guess I need to just officially say that I will be spotty -- extremely spotty -- with my posts until Jan. 1, especially with a Florida vacation looming for the holidays (yay!). After Jan. 1, I will be the perfect blogger. After Jan. 2, however, it's anybody's guess. No, really, I'll be back -- just need to take care of my Ps and Qs -- also known as the stuff that helps keep food on the table.

In the meantime, visit me at The Budget Fashionista, where I continue to write up a frenzy with my wonderfully fashion forward boss Kathryn Finney.

Also, here's an article I liked, in case you need something else to do now: http://www.azcentral.com/offbeat/articles/1212wacky-warnings1212-ON.html

Monday, December 3, 2007

7 Little Known Facts About Me

Kimberly at Creating Ms. Perfect tagged me for this meme, and I thank her sincerely, because it's one of my favorites to read. I'll let you know how I feel after writing it, but here goes:

1. As a kid, I had huge gaps between my teeth -- so much so that I could easily stick a toothpick between them (and I do mean the widest part). Thank you, Mom and Dad, for the braces.

2. Growing up I wanted to be an archaeologist, and even though I was a psychology major, I took as many anthropology courses in college as I could (love that evolution stuff!).

3. As a teenager, I was a huge Metallica fan. Now, I am nursing an irrational, adolescent, and on-going obsession with the Red Hot Chili Peppers (that's them up there -- hi guys!).

4. I got my first stitches (in my finger) horsing around on New Year's Eve (1988, I think) and got my finger stuck in the mouth of a beer can -- I pulled one way, he pulled the other -- those cans are sharp. I told my parents it was a Coke can, because of course I was underage. (Sorry guys -- but it wasn't mine anyway. Really.)

5. I got my second set of stitches (in the forehead) after misjudging the distance between myself and the edge of the open car door. No beer was involved -- just clumsiness.

6. I took Spanish all through high school, and completed second year Spanish classes at Michigan State. I can read and understand a bit, but speaking it is something I haven't even come close to mastering.

7. I took guitar lessons as a kid, and still play sometimes. Not well, but I play.

Hey, that was kind of fun. Do I have to stop at 7? I've lived in seven different states . . . oh, alright . . . so I'm tagging these bloggers:

Kelly O. at O for Obsessive (forgive me if you've done this one already!)

And my loyal reader Christine at MariaChristina (who will probably stop reading altogether if I tag her for one more meme, so just say the word!)

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Holiday Wishes

Well, my holiday spirit seems to be seriously lacking this year. Not sure if it's being a different location than last year at this time, working from home vs. being out in the holiday-laden world everyday, or the fact that my kids are past the Santa Claus years now.

Still, I'm trying, trying, trying to get in the mood. Someone asked the other night what we'd wish for the holidays -- but it can only be something that doesn't have to do with money.

My daughter's answer? World Peace. We're thinking a run for Miss Universe might be in her future.

My son? That dogs could live as long as humans. Hmmm. Sounds like some unresolved death issues that have been conveniently swept under the rug. We'll leave them there until after the holidays at least.

My answers? Well, up until this moment I didn't give it much thought. But I have to write something, so here goes:

~ That my childhood football hero OJ Simpson (yes, I'm a girl but in my house if you didn't love football you didn't survive the fall) would finally just fess up to everything, already. And then just go away.

~ That someone would round up all the Crocs in the world and launch them into space for some higher intelligence to deal with (I'd say burn them, but we've screwed up the environment enough).

~ Speaking of the environment, we should do something about that. I can't take another story about polar bears drowning. There's my bid for Miss Universe ( but I'm not holding my breath).

~ And speaking of arctic climates, somebody should free the penguins from the horror that is their life cycle. I was under the mistaken impression that "March of the Penguins" was a good movie to watch. I've been traumatized ever since.

~ I would go ahead and put in a bid for world peace, the arrival of an inspiring and viable presidential candidate, and a Super Bowl win for Favre and the Packers, but I'm a hopeless cynic, so I won't even bother.

Well, this doesn't seem to be helping my holiday mood at all, but at least I got some stuff off my chest. And that's good for the spirit in the long run, right?

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Post-Thanksgiving Thankfulness

My daughter said that the days after Thanksgiving are her favorite. Why?

Because she gets to eat the leftover apple pie for breakfast.

I'm thankful that she's wise enough to enjoy the simple things in life.

And before you judge -- apple pie isn't much different than an apple turnover or other like-minded pastry, right? I'm really trying to convince myself here . . .

Monday, November 19, 2007

The ABCs of Angie

Kelly O. at "O is for Obsessive" tagged me for this meme, which I love because I'm in constant need of validation. Oh, wait, did I say that out loud? No matter.

The rules: list a word that describes you for every letter of the alphabet. Offer as much or as little explanation as you wish. Please keep the words positive (for example, don’t use “fat” for F or “lame” for L), and feel free to get creative. Tag as many or as few people as you wish. Link back to your tagger and forward to your taggees.

Angie is:

egocentric (hey, I'm working on it)
juggling ambitions
needed (and needing?)
xerophytic (this means able to withstand drought, which is true to a point)
zealous (in a good way!)

And I'm tagging these folks:

Christine at Mariacristina

Susie J

Amanda at Tumble Dry

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Yet Another Reason to be Wary of My Space

This story really shocked me, although I don't suppose it should come as any surprise. It's just another incident that validates my continued uneasiness about My Space and sites like it.

Click here for the full story, but the essence of it is, a 13-year-0ld girl committed suicide after being dissed online, publicly, by a boy she liked. The real heck of it is that the "boy" not only didn't really exist, but was "created" by an adult neighbor who wanted to know what the girl was saying online about her own child. Follow that?

This incident took place about a half hour from my own home, and just a few days after my newly-12-year-old daughter came home broaching the subject of having a My Space page of her own, at the suggestion of some of her seventh grade friends.

Not going to happen.

Anyone else have experience with their own kids and My Space? What do you think?

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Book Review: The Daring Book for Girls

Note: Following is my first book review for Mother Talk, and I’m so very happy they’ve given me the opportunity. If you haven’t been there, please check it out -- but not until after you’ve read my riveting review. Thanks.

As the mother of a 12-year-old daughter, and a once-and-former girl myself, I was really excited to have the chance to review “The Daring Book for Girls,” by Andrea Buchanan and Miriam Peskowitz. I mean, just look at it -- swirly, glittery letters, a girls-only vibe -- what’s not to love? Ah, but you know what they say about a book and it’s cover -- never the two shall part -- no, wait, that’s not it. Anyway, luckily for me the inside lived up to what the outside promised, and then some.

This is one of my favorite kinds of book, really -- one that you don’t read from beginning to end, but rather pick up, let fall open, and dive right in. The look of it definitely took me back to my own girlhood -- with pages of text and illustrations more reminiscent of those old encyclopedias we used to have in the school library than the glossy, graphic-heavy reference books of today.

But it's much more than interesting to look at. The Daring Book for Girls is a compendium of all things fascinating, mysterious, seemingly old and surprisingly new for girls of all ages. Here’s a random sampling of the contents:

~Making a Willow Whistle
~Women Spies
~Japanese T-Shirt Folding
~Rules of the Game: Softball
~Putting Your Hair Up With a Pencil
~Pressing Flowers
~Finance: Interest, Stocks, and Bonds
~Five Karate Moves
~Friendship Bracelets

~Periodic Table of the Elements

This is not your mother’s (or even my own) kind of girlhood -- it’s upgraded, empowered, and vastly improved. This could easily have been a traditional manual of traditional (read: stereotypical) girl stuff -- the daisy chains, the handclap games, the Chinese jump rope (all in there, by the way). But mix in a healthy dose of history, science, economics, and athletic prowess, and -- voila! -- the modern girls guide to just about everything.

At my house, we gave this book the ultimate test -- a middle school girls’ sleepover. The verdict? Well, there was a lot of giggling, so that has to be good.

And my daughter’s summation? “It’s fabulous, I love it.” Well said. She suggests, also, that it should be used as a textbook in school. And I can’t argue with her on that one.

Because what’s more practical, really, than knowing what goes in a good toolbox?

Buy it: @ Amazon.com

To see the authors on the Today show, click here.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

A Poem

Note: I wrote this a while back, and it's been hibernating since then. I still like it.

archetype: rock god

He knows how to party. He knows how to feed chickens. There’s a myth here somewhere, but it’s up to you to find it.

Once upon a time there was a man whose face was a clarification. Once upon a time he gathered up his wits and dropped them, one by one, into the jet stream. He carved with a shiv, a shank, a thick arc of bone and precision, leaving an absence. Once upon a time there was a man who knew how to party, how to empty the tree of its fruit, how to shoot across the bow just low enough to warn, to alarm. Once upon a time there was a man who scattered feed, sparking frenzy, a mad pop of feathers which he later used to pick his teeth. He straddled momentum, dipping in like a baptism, just short of drowning. Once upon a time, there was a man who was only.

He knows how to party. He knows how to feed chickens.

He knows how to tie things up.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Mid-Life Fallout, Part Deux

I have a feeling that this begins a season of barely finding time to post! Alas, I will try to persevere . . .

My daughter turned 12 yesterday, and it's probably no coincidence that I've recently begun to visit the gym on a regular basis. Oh, and I've decided to go to graduate school. Maybe you can help -- I'm attending an open house in a couple of weeks, and noted my major of interest as English, but there's also Mass Communications (building on my journalism background) and Education (building on my teaching background) to consider. Decisions, decisions -- I've always been very bad at this. Any thoughts?

Ultimately, I am determined to get my Master's degree before I turn 40 (that's in two and a half years, natch, so it's high time I make it happen). Oh, and I still want a tattoo.

The mid-life crisis continues, but could result, I'm thinking, in exceedingly positive results (other than the tattoo, maybe, but that remains to be seen). Anyone want to share their own mid-life (or heck, any-time-of-life) crisis? Do tell.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Daylight Savings: The Gift of Time

Ah, an extra hour -- forget Christmas and my birthday -- this is my favorite day of the year. This morning I got the full effect, having forgotten to turn my clocks back last night. It was 8:20 a.m., and I was leaping from bed because I'd overslept, and needed to get some work done. Then sweet realization -- it was only 7:20. Yippee.

I continue to savor my hour, and conveniently forget that it will be snatched back in the spring.

The photo, by the way, is from hugovk on Flickr.com, and it made me smile, because that would be me.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Halloween Bullies

Yes, I know the picture's blurry. But it's one of the last glimpses we had of them, looking sufficiently spooky and completely unsuspecting.

Later that night, five of the six would disappear, only to be discovered at a grisly scene, just a couple hundred feet down the road, smashed into a multiple gory pieces.

"They didn't take the candles out," my son observed, observantly.

He, and his older sister, took the news surprisingly well. Being that they'd carved their own this year -- two apiece -- I had expected them to be upset, to say the least. As it turned out they were irritated, a little indignant, but upset? No, not really,

Crisis averted.

We were comforted, too, by the fact that the perpetrators had missed our little green pumpkin which, we suspect, was camouflaged in the dark night, looking very little like a pumpkin at all.

Take that, Halloween bullies.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Fashion Bullies: Is This Really New?

As a mom, a fashion writer, and a former non-stylish kid, this article from the Wall Street Journal online caught my eye:

Fashion Bullies Attack

It's a valid issue to examine, but I'm always amused when an issue like this comes up as though it's something new and somehow worse now than ever. I remember being 11 years old in 1981, and being considered a total dork for not having Jordache or Gloria Vanderbilt jeans. That was (yikes!) 25 years ago, and now that I have an 11 year old daughter, I know that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Or something like that.

The issue also puts me in a mind to step up onto my favorite soapbox, so I'll indulge, if just for a moment. Parents are ultimately responsible for their kids' choices and attitudes. While we don't have control of the little buggers' every thought (darn it), we do have the power to influence the way they think about things. Where we put our emphasis, is mirrored in them. I'm tired -- oh, so tired -- of blaming big, bad retailers for all the evils in the world.

If your kid is a "fashion bully," just know this -- it's not Marc Jacobs fault.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Cockroaches are People, Too

Just a quick post on, of all things, cockroaches.

This caught my eye at ParentDish, and just because I have an appreciation for weird and gross things -- at a distance, of course -- I thought I'd pass it along:

There are those among you who might see a cockroach petting zoo as a unique educational opportunity. While I love and respect all creatures, I will not be petting a cockroach anytime soon. Having lived in Florida where, like the Texas home of the author of the ParentDish post, the cockroaches are big enough to file flight plans, I respectfully decline.

Everytime I start missing the Sunshine State, I just remember these creatures and I feel better.

As a side note, anyone see that (super cheesy) Ripley's Believe It or Not show that featured a guy who eats nothing but (live) cockroaches? Oh, the humanity . . .

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

My Next Job

Found this job on JournalismJobs.com today, my favorite place to surf around for jobs I'll never have in cool places I'll never live.

Apparently, the St. Kitts-Nevis Observer (in the Caribbean, natch) is looking for a senior writer. The job qualifications are as follows:

Must be able to supervise others, a proven writer, be a team player, good news judgment and of good moral character and have a record of stability. No drug users please.

The successful candidate will have at least 10 years experience as a Journalist with supervisory skills. Please do not apply if you are not a good writer, have a good record of stability and is unable to commit to at least two years of employment,or not serious. Only qualified applicants will receive a reply.

Sounds like they've had some trouble finding good help. But seriously, they offer a car, housing, and a modest salary. They also ask that you not be "fussy" when tools and supplies are "not as readily available" as in the U.S.

Truly, all I need is a beach and a palm tree. A hammock (make that two trees). And an umbrella (just in case). And just look at those headlines. I bet there's never a dull day . . .

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Writing About Writing

Christine from Mariachristina has tapped me to write a list of my five greatest strengths as a writer. She has marked me as "concise," for the record, noting that she likes my "pithy commentary." I just love that anyone called my writing "pithy."

She also hoped that the bloggers tagged would "morph the meme," but knowing how to do that intentionally would require me to be way cooler than I am.

So, here goes:

1. Meticulous. Not so much in the research (I'm sometimes a wee bit lazy there, but shh, don't tell) but more in terms of word choice. I'll rewrite a 75-word post 75 times to make sure each word is the best word possible. Then I'll look back and find later that it still wasn't perfect. Bummer. Tagging this meticulous blogger: Jillypoet

2. Honest. I had to Google the word "meme" because I'm a loser blogger who doesn't even know the first thing about blogging. Well, I've got the first thing, but the second and third are still mysteries. How's that for honest? Tagging this honest blogger: O is for Obsessive

3. Serious. That is to say, I take writing seriously. It is important to me. It is important in the world. I don't take a single word, or thought, or idea lightly, though I may write as if I do. Tagging this serious blogger: Creating Ms. Perfect http://creatingmsperfect.blogspot.com/

4. Not Serious. I looked for an antonym for serious, but came up only with lighthearted, lightweight, and trivial. But really, I'm talking about levity, I guess, with a dash of wry observation. Because being too serious turns into being dour. I hate dour. Tagging this not serious (in the best possible way) blogger: I'm Not a Girl, Not Yet A Wino

5. Fearless. Well, sort of -- this is more of an aspiration than a strength. Hey, maybe this is part of the morphing -- what do I aspire to as a writer? Well, this is it. Tagging this fearless blogger: A Brain Like Mine, Diary of a Feminist Housewife

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Be Right Back

Ugh, time does go by . . .

Life has sort of gotten in the way of my blogging these last few days (darn life!). I'm just posting quickly to say that I'll be back soon, with a long post in response to a tag I got recently from Christine at Mariachristina, who happens to be a favorite fellow blogger.

Thanks for stopping by and I promise, I'll write something very important, very soon, and you wouldn't want to miss that, right?

In the meantime, this is what you get if you're in a hurry, and search Yahoo! images for "funny":

And it actually is pretty funny.

photo by jtkauderer, at flickr.com

Thursday, October 4, 2007

The Power of a New Hat

This is my son.

This is my son's new hat.

This is my son who, upon acquiring said new hat, has decided to embark on a career as a male model.

I think he might be able to squeeze it in between his world-famous actor and awesome rock star gigs. Anyone know a good agent?

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

(Kind of) Deep Thoughts: Women and Failure

I did a Google search on women and failure, and came up with little more than heart issues and sexual dysfunction. Not really what I was going for.

I'm interested, instead, on how women perceive failure, and how we handle it. Because, as I gain wisdom (read: get older), my own views on success and failure change on a daily basis.

Case in point: I used to be an elementary school teacher. For two years, I worked in ESE (Special Education) in an inclusion setting, in a school with a 70% low income population and lots of behavior issues. According to my supervisors and peers, I was very good at it. I loved my students, and they loved me. Well, most of them did, anyway.

So what's the problem? Every day, I struggled. Struggled with learning a new profession (certified by "alternative" means, I had no background in education whatsoever), struggled with managing a classroom (a profession in and of itself). But, mostly, struggled against my true self, and that's where I really ran into trouble.

Because while I loved teaching kids, and while I was successful, I wasn't happy. It's still hard to put my finger on -- the act of teaching was natural, but being a classroom teacher definitely was not.

Logic would dictate, then, that it's okay to move on. It's okay to do what is most natural (writing/editing/loving words, for instance) and make it work.

Except, it's not. Somewhere, and I think this is true for lots of women, I've internalized the idea that if I choose to stop, it's the same as quitting. And that's the same as failing. Because, as women, we're told we can (and should) do it all. That sounds great, but can be a beast that's hard to tame. Especially when we discover it's not true at all.

So here's my plan: let it go. Allow myself the pleasure of knowing what I love (writing, publishing, working with kids), and do what makes sense in that framework. I've already started: I'm creating yet another career through writing (woot! to that), and I'm volunteering to teach mini-art lessons in my son's classroom. I'm also mulling over the possibility of starting a writing workshop for kids through a non-profit organization I currently work with.

There's a difference, I'm finding, in being capable of doing it all, and actually doing what makes sense.

So, tell me: what makes you feel like you've failed? And how did you get past it? Comment at will.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

New Motto

I think I'm going through a mid-life crisis.

Despite my best efforts to squelch it, these words keep running through my head, both when I'm thinking of my kids' futures, and my own.

"Life is short. Be a rock star."

What does it mean? An alternate personality? Subliminal message come to light? Alien transmission?

Maybe it's just a sign that there might be some therapy in my future.

Still, I like it . . .

Saturday, September 29, 2007

The Glamorous Life

If only my job were as glamorous as it sounds.

Freelance writer. It does sound pretty good, huh?

It's funny how people (usually those who actually have to leave home to work, and have to contend daily with bosses, co-workers, customers, etc.) get a faraway look in their eye, or lean in with interest, when I mention that I'm a freelance writer.

"Really?" they say. "Who do you write for?" I rattle off my list of current gigs, which also sound more glamorous than they really are. People are impressed when you say you write for a business journal, it seems. Go figure.

What they're thinking is this: how great it would be to jump off the 9-to-5 treadmill, or in most cases, the 7-6 treadmill (or worse). How great to be your own boss. How great to be able to hang out with your kids, or run to the bank if you need to, or to wear the proverbial pajamas in the "office."

And it's true. That's good stuff.

But, at the same time, I do have bosses, more than one in fact. My kitchen gets lonely sometimes, as I huddle in the corner over my computer all day long, with no one but the dog and cats for comic relief (and they're pretty dull, mostly). The pajama part? Well, as a woman who loves clothes but happens to be on a budget, I no longer have an excuse (read: being seen by other people) to buy new pieces at will. And a paycheck issued at regular intervals doesn't mean nearly as much until you don't have one.

I'm not complaining -- I feel very lucky to do what I do, especially as I get to pick my kids up from school every day now, and no longer does a child's illness (and subsequent staying home from school) cause something akin to an international crisis. And I can take a coffee break whenever I want (having been a teacher, I really appreciate this part).

And, maybe someday, I'll be so fabulously successful that I'll be able to afford an office and an assistant -- now that would be glamorous. And then I'd have an excuse to buy some cute new shoes after all.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Indulging in Sweet Publicity

Does this even look appealing to anyone?

"The Fortress Stilt Fisherman Indulgence," a $14,500 dessert, being served at a resort in Sri Lanka. Well, being offered . . . no one has forked out (excuse the horrendous pun) the cash to try it. It does include an 80-carat aquamarine, of course, but is this necessary?

What we won't do for a little money, and a lot of attention. And, quite frankly, it doesn't have enough chocolate for my taste . . .

photo from Reuters

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Daily Rant: The Jena Six

I was checking out the top 20 “Most Viewed News Stories” on Yahoo! this a.m., as I do several times a day. There were at least two stories on Britney Spears, one on Salma Hayek, one on Marcia Clark (of O.J. Simpson debacle fame), one on George Clooney. Clint Eastwood. Jessica Alba and Dane Cook. There was something about a rare hummingbird in Wisconsin, and a Dear Abby column.

Hard news made a weak showing, with an item about the Delaware State shooting, and something about Iran’s threat to the West. But what happened to the story that everyone was talking about last week – the “Jena Six”? How quickly we forget.

For me, this was the most important story of the week. It seems on this Saturday morning, however, more folks reading news online are interested in Britney’s latest flub, or Salma’s ability to procreate.

What about the young man languishing in jail (after a judge denied his release on Friday)? Oh, but I forgot. The demonstration is over; CNN has gone home. We’ve moved on.

This is an issue, however, that bears dwelling on. I know, I hear the groans – race issues are a sore point in this country, everyone’s weary, worn out. Tough. Because as much as things change, well, you know how it goes. Things stay the same.

No way do I condone violence, and justice must be served for the young man who received a terrible beating. But you want to know who’s not being held accountable?

The school. Because how in the world are nooses hanging from a tree a “prank”?

We refuse, as a society, a bureaucracy, a leaders, to make the hard decisions that we need to make. Like holding some dumb kids who took a “prank” into highly-charged racist territory accountable in the first place. What they did is not okay. It’s not a “joke.” Suspending them is great, but not bothering to address the racially-motivated aspect of the situation was a mistake. And it’s no wonder that the situation escalated into physical violence – that’s often the unfortunate result of pent-up frustration, the chip on the shoulder that’s helped along by authority figures who don’t do the right thing to begin with.

Most of all, it’s painful to see our children fighting these battles we should have long ago managed to put to rest. And until we choose to recognize the undercurrents that lead us repeatedly down this painful path, we’ll continue to read these stories in the news. Or, if the "Most Viewed" story list on Yahoo! is any indication, not even that.
photo by Everett Taasevigen, from Flickr.com


Thursday, September 20, 2007

Thursday Round-Up

It's funny -- I'm a writer, so you'd think my own blog would be updated every day, right? As it turns out, writing for other people means either a) precious little time, or b) precious little creative energy, to write your own stuff.

So on that note, it's been a week of multiple deadlines. I'm pooped -- in a good way -- but have little coherent thought to offer at the moment.

Instead, some links you might like:

Popstar Poetry -- I have no idea who is behind this site, but it cracks me up in a way that's probably not very becoming. Still, I enjoy it. A word of caution: I haven't seen profanity or anything here, but it's probably not appropriate for the kiddies either.

Cooking Diva -- Chef Melissa has a beautiful blog with some beautiful narrative and beautiful recipes. Have I tried any? Well, no. But for me this a Food Network kind of experience. I love to look at food, eat food, talk about food. Cooking? Not so much.

The Budget Fashionista -- Okay, okay, so in the interest of full disclosure, I do some work for this one. But it's where I've focused a significant amount of time and energy this week, and thought I'd share it with you.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Freelance Job Boards: The Underbelly

Just a quick one today.

The thing that cracks me up the most (and makes me cringe) when searching freelance job boards is when I see something like this:

"Need a part time writer for a Pet Publication. Orange County L.A. area. Or pay per artical........ "

Granted, it was on craigslist, but how does this happen?

Ugh, the English major in me dies a little each time . . .

Friday, September 14, 2007

Sweet Rejection

I finally heard from StorySouth yesterday on a story I submitted back in April (!). Of course, it was a rejection. Am I bummed out? Just a little. But what a rejection it was.

Usually, the rejection letter (or e-mail) says something like this: "We regret to inform you that your submission does not suit our needs at this time." Fun, right?

Well, here's my rejection from StorySouth:

"Angela, I'm afraid we're going to pass on this for now. We were fascinated by the subchapter organization and Garcia-Marquezish tone, but we still felt it needed a little more plot to connect the dots. Best of luck placing it elsewhere."

What was that? Fascinated by the subchapter organization? Garcia-Marquezish tone?

Did he say fascinated?

Best. Rejection. Letter. Ever.

And this is my reaction because a) I might be completely insane, and b) because, as my skin gets tougher, I'm also learning to take whatever nugget of encouragement I can get in the face of "no thanks." I'm choosing to overlook, for now, the suggestion of "a little more plot." I'll come around to that later, and I'm a big enough girl to admit he's probably right.

As a published journalist and a busy online writer, life's great. I'm still working on the creative writing side, however, and my ego is a bit more delicate there, so thanks StorySouth fiction editor Scott Yarbrough, for throwing me the proverbial bone. I'll chew on it for awhile, gratefully.

And, for the record, I'm now rereading "One Hundred Years of Solitude." That Gabriel Garcia Marquez really knows his stuff.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Couldn't let it pass . . .

I have nothing to say that hasn't already been said. But I remember.

The Britney/Michael Connection

Okay, we all know by now that Britney Spears gave a less-than-wonderful performance at the MTV Video Music Awards the other night. Many of us tuned in just to see what would happen, myself included. What happened was pretty much what was expected, perhaps even worse than one might have imagined.

It's pointless to dwell on the imperfections of the performance, or the performer. I have imperfections, too. We could probably dwell on them for hours. It would be less than interesting, partly because I have never been held up as an object to be emulated but mostly because, in the end, there's not much to say beyond the first stinging barbs.

But here's what I do want to say: much has been made of Britney's physical appearance -- she's been called paunchy, jiggly, lard-like. I wouldn't go that far myself -- I'm thinking she looked thicker, but less than lumpy or droopy, which, as anyone who's had kids can attest, is a feat in and of itself. Still, the talking heads have been brutal -- and then, naturally, there's been a backlash. It's been a busy 36 hours.

The real question becomes, however, why would someone who knows darn well that they'll be held up to vicious scrutiny, and who is clearly not in the best shape of her life, slip into a sparkly bra and undies and put herself on display? I mean, seriously, think about it. Why?

Here's what I think. It's something like the Michael Jackson Syndrome (which I have just invented), that disconnection between reality and fantasy.

Consider this: Most of us women don't see ourselves as we really are -- we look in the mirror and, typically, see flaws before all else. I think for folks like Britney, it's the opposite. She goes to photo shoots, and then sees these pictures (touched up, of course) that make her look amazing -- all the lumps, bumps, extra width are miraculously gone. She has (I'm guessing) surrounded herself with hangers-on that tell her everything a girl wants to hear -- you look great, better than ever, they're all just jealous -- because she's the meal ticket, and who wants the fun to end? So how could she possibly see herself as we do -- warts and all?

There's no other explanation for leaving the house the way she does, and I'm not being glib.

Someone needs to save her, and quick, before she finds her own Neverland.
photo from MTV.com

Monday, September 10, 2007

Daily Rant Update: Parent No Show, Part II

This one (Daily Rant: Parent No Show) seems to have hit a nerve, so I'm readdressing it just to make one thing clear. In no way am I bashing all parents who don't show up for PTA or PTO or whatever it's called in your neck of the woods. Obviously, for some it's simply not an option (I figure if you have a newborn at home, you're basically excused). And if you're a parent that's involved in any capacity, kudos to you. I've got your back.

The problem is bigger, however, than small unavailability issues. Having 10 involved parents out of a pool of hundreds is unacceptable -- and I'm not just talking about showing up to meetings. The idea that it should just be left to the other parents who aren't as busy isn't cutting it. Most of us are very busy. All of the time. I was running a newspaper, writing freelance, and raising two kids under 8 while I was on the PTO board -- I didn't do it all well, all of the time, but really it's simply a matter of making the decision that it's important, and doing what you can to make it work.

And perhaps there are many schools out there with loads of parent involvement -- I just haven't had the good fortune to be part of any of them. Thus my frustration.

I still think we're not doing a good enough job as communities in general to support public education. And I still think, on the whole, people are much better at pointing the finger than taking action.

Cynical? Yeah, I guess. But I calls 'em as I sees 'em. And thus far, the evidence stands.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Women I Love: Paula Deen

Paula Deen was just on Oprah (a luxury I now enjoy, being a work-at-home freelancer -- yippee!), and I was inspired.

Top three reasons I Love Her:

1. Her laugh is the greatest EVER. I should put it on the ipod for when I'm tired/frustrated/stressed out. Totally re-energizing.

2. She uses three sticks of butter for one cake. Fabulous. Justification? "I'm your cook, not your doctor." Take that, arteries.

3. She's a Supermom. Warts and all, she's a mom's mom through and through. Love it.

De-Funct, Part Deux

My third and final announcement for Poetry Thursday, which no longer exists:

Last week I posted a link for their Next Big Thing, the Big Asterisk Poetry Project. Please disregard -- as it turns out, that project is over before it began. I'm beginning to feel like a jinx.

At any rate, you can visit their old site for further info, or not. I'm not going to tell you what to do.

I am mulling over, however, the possibility of starting some poetry-related blog of my own. Haven't quite figured out what type of project I'd like to initiate. Suggestions are welcome.

Daily Rant: The Parent No-Show

Pet peeve alert: I'm about to complain, but just a little. Bear with me.

I attended the first PTO meeting of the year at my son's school Tuesday night. Including the board, there was a total of 10 people there. Where, pray tell, were the representatives for the other couple hundred families? That's a good question.

I've lived in three different states, in three very different communities, and the common denominator is this: pulling parents in to the schools is harder than, well . . . I'm not feeling very creative, so let's just say it's hard.

I've been on a PTO board in northern Michigan. Our number one problem? Getting parents into the school.

I've been an elementary school teacher in Florida. Our number one problem? Getting parents into the school.

Now, I'm a parent in a mid-size town in southern Illinois. I'm new, but it doesn't take a genius to figure out one of their biggest problems. You get the picture.

So my question is this: How can parents continue to piss and moan (I'm being as G-rated as possible here) about what's going on in the schools, when they refuse to get off their duffs and show up? Is this just my bad luck, to land in these areas, or is it this way all over?

Public education actually involves the public, in more ways than just tax dollars. It's a lesson that many parents just don't appear to be learning.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Big Asterisk Poetry Project

Since I made such a big deal about the end of Poetry Thursday, I would be remiss if I didn't post a link to the founders' new venture, Big Asterisk Poetry Project. Go to http://www.bigasteriskpoetry.org/ to check out their preview page; the site is slated to go live on Sept. 4.

Also, I'd love to hear about poetry blogs you know and love, so if you have one to share, please leave a comment!

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Where to Now?

Moving is a funny thing. I've been thinking lately how the experience is a very distinct ladder of phases, but instead of jumping off the top (which one might think more symbolic of moving faraway) the move is actually the first rung up. And then you climb, navigating travel troubles, unforeseen (or intentionally ignored) costs, emotional upheaval, excitement, regret, fear, hope.

It's like a death and a birth at the exact same moment -- mourning the loss for what's been left behind (romanticizing it as soon as the door closes behind you), and rejoicing in the new that lies ahead (while at the very same time secretly dreading the unknown).

I know this because I am a relocation addict. I know this because my whole life has been a study in movement, in change, in adaptability. I would complain, but I'm all too aware that some part of me lives for this, depends on this.

So what happens when you get to the top of the ladder? Well, turns out there's a wide open view, and it's hard to imagine staying forever in that small space where you stand. Distance, movement sometimes equal possibilities. And we all know that right where you are almost never seems the perfect place to be, because life is messy. But the catch is that life follows you wherever you go.

You may think this means that I'm not happy where I am, which is actually not true. I've managed to live a number of placed around the country, both as a child and as an adult, and I feel quite drawn, quite rooted in this mid-size Midwestern town poised on the Mississippi, with a deep vein of history running through it and a future that looks less certain. I came from booming Central Florida, where the sun is shining and the investors are smiling all the while plowing citrus and gator holes under like so much garbage. If that's progress, I don't want it.

People look stricken when I tell them we just moved to this area, and ask "why?" I give them the pat answer (my husband's employment, we have family here), but the truth is that we're here because somewhere in my gut told me "this is the next place." And something will happen here. So we came.

And this is it, for awhile. My daughter's in middle school, and my son will be next year so, good sports that they are, we're done giving them the runaround. They'll settle in and play in the band and have football games and dances, and part-time jobs at the Dairy Queen or whatever. And whatever's supposed to happen will.

And in all likelihood, even standing still at the top of that ladder, we'll still spend most of our time mourning the past and rejoicing in the future, because that's what we do, isn't it? That's what we do.
artwork: Martin Puryear, Ladder for Booker T. Washington

Friday, August 31, 2007

Jumping Through . . .

This is my post for Poetry Thursday -- in true "me" fashion it's being posted on Friday. I have, in my defense, been busy making deadlines on things I'm actually getting paid for. And I like food and clothing. So, at any rate, a dashed off blurb of a poem (no fine crafting here) -- more like advice, using Poetry Thursday's (completely and totally optional) prompt, "an open window."

Jumping through
An open window
Is not recommended.

But more so
Than jumping through
A closed one.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007


Evidence that my child is the best kid ever:

When she eats an Oreo, she eats the cookie parts, and gives me the cream filling.

She also has an Oreo song:
"When milk wants a cookie, it says O-R-E-O. Oooorrreeeooo."

Having kids rocks.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Yes, You Can Has Cheezburger

Again, slow on the uptake, but this is my new favorite place to go. Escapism is a wonderful thing. And it makes my son laugh that really hilarious laugh, the one that's uncontrollable and completely contagious.

My cats don't get it, though. Go figure.


Leave it to me to jump on the bandwagon just before it pulls into the parking lot for good.

Poetry Thursday, it seems, is ending.

The project, which has been in existence since February 2006, and of which I've been aware for at least four months or so, is drawing to a close. I suppose it's only natural for such an experiment to have a shelf-life. Revolution, even that of the smallest proportions, becomes rote with repetition. Nice alliteration, eh? I've still got it.

Any-hoo, there is one last Poetry Thursday on the docket, and I encourage all three of you who are reading this (potentially) to mosey on over to their site on Aug. 30. and add your two cents. The (completely and totally optional) idea they've given as a prompt is "an open window." Or you can just post a poem about whatever. But do participate.
It also seems that there will momentarily be an announcement about their next community poetry project. I fully intend to jump in on the front edge of this one. Because poetry is under-rated, under-appreciated, under-written, and under-read. And it's my first true love.

So join me, won't you? It'll be fun.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Poetry Thursday

In a half-hearted effort to refocus a tiny portion of my energy to creative writing, I've decided to take part in Poetry Thursday's, well, Poetry Thursday. So here goes:

An Inventory of You and Me

I am a little bit elliptical,
obtuse when it comes to you,
a silver service missing
the odd knife and spoon.
I linger over you intentionally
and catalogue your every look.
I am angular in my appreciation of you,
deliberate, and skeletal.

You are contrite and formulated,
a short order for the lunch hour.
You make notes instead of sleeping.
You are remiss to pick out patterns,
reluctant for the walls.
You grow fatter with each word I render,
a nominal fee for your appearance.

We exist in overlapping circles;
mine a saucer,
yours a dervish.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Open Wide

I'm not sure what to make of this, but I'm hearing about a connection between ADD and, of all things, tonsils.

The latest (and actually, it turns out this may have been out there for awhile), is that some studies are showing that children who have been diagnosed with ADD or ADHD, and then have tonsils and/or adenoids removed, are later found to be free of symptoms.

What frightens me a bit is tendency to leap to this conclusion: that tonsil removal is a "cure" for ADD (check out this FoxNews report, for example). It seems to me, however, that what this really means is that some kids with sleep disorders (caused by problems with their tonsils or adenoids) are being erroneously diagnosed with ADD in the first place.

This also says to me that, perhaps, the "mysterious" increase in incidence of ADD in the last 25 years could be chalked up to a number of things, one of which might be undiagnosed sleep disorders. Remember, up until 25 or 30 years ago, most kids got their tonsils removed as a matter of course. My older brother did, but a couple years later, when it would have been my turn, doctors were saying not to bother.

I've endured years of strep and excruciating bouts of tonsilitis, thanks to that, but that's another story . . .

Regardless, as a woman married to a guy with adult ADD (thank goodness for Concerta!) and a son who shows occasional signs of the same, I wonder how to incorporate this new information into my already tangled web of understanding.

Any thoughts?

For more on this topic, read here and here.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Back to Reality

This is it. Summer is officially over.

Despite the fact that it's only mid-August. Despite the fact that the temperatures will hover in the mid-90s all week long.

Today, the kids went back to school.

For a lot of moms, this is cause for celebration. It seems to appear a lot in editorial cartoons this time of year, the circle of soccer moms chillin' over coffee and thrillin' over the fact that their brethren have been dispatched, once more, to the hallowed halls of knowledge. Away from them. For eight hours a day. Yippee!

I, however, am not one of those moms.

Perhaps it's because I've worked outside the home for most of my kids lives. The summer has always been a chance to spend more time with them just having fun, rather than nagging over homework and trashed rooms while rushing to (pick one, or mix and match: cook dinner, throw in some laundry, feed the pets, vacuum the living room, mow the lawn) before dark.

Perhaps it's because we've moved them a couple of times, and this is one of the years where they're both starting over. New town, new school, new kid on the block. I did that a bunch growing up, and I know what it feels like. It's tough. Especially in middle school, where my seventh grade daughter is right now, having to make the traumatic switch to middle school all over again after starting in Florida last year.

Perhaps it's because I just like them so darn much, that I actually miss them when they're gone.

This year there's something else, too: back to school for the kids means that it's now time for me to really figure out what I'm doing here. We're settled in from the move. The house is set. The kids are feeling at home. We have a routine. So now what?

Am I going to be able to get more writing jobs? Am I going to have to break down and substitute a whole lot more than I originally wanted to? Am I going to make the leap and go back to school for my Master's?

And am I ever going to get this dag-nabbin' house clean?

On the one hand, this is the first "first day of school" in years that I've been able to just concentrate on getting my kids ready and not worry about getting myself ready to go to work as well. What a relief. On the other hand, I don't really have a job, so it's time for an existential crisis (and perhaps a financial one as well).

So this is my plan: Take a deep breath. Have some coffee. Make that phone call interview for an article I actually do have an assignment for. And see what happens next.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Excuse My Dust

... and it's not because I'm so far ahead of the pack.

Actually, I'm rather far behind it seems, a conclusion I've come to after perusing the multiple fabulous blogs out there and then returning to my rather sad-sack design.

I need an overhaul.

To that end, I will be using my limited design skills to create, at the very least, a new header. I've made the one that you see above, mostly as an experiment. Not thrilled, but it's a step in the right direction.

You will probably continue to see changes, as I attempt to find something even remotely usable. I know -- you can pay people to do this sort of thing. And I would. But school's starting, and the kids like clothes, paper, lunch. That kind of stuff. Very demanding.

Some of you clearly are much better at this, however, so I will shamelessly solicit any thoughts, suggestions, helpful hints, free advice. The first step, they say, is admitting you need help.

Friday, August 17, 2007

A Different Way of Looking at It

My 10-year-old son told my husband yesterday: "You're only old without your glasses."

I'm sure he meant well. Makes me wonder if I should start wearing some.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

In Praise of Tori

I just love Tori Spelling.

Those are five words I never imagined I'd utter. But against all odds, it's true.

To qualify this statement, I must make another cringe-worthy admission. I've been watching Oxygen's "Tori and Dean: Inn Love" lately. A lot. In fact, while I'm making confessions, I need to tell you that my TV watching tastes are atrocious, running from police drama (that's a fancy way to say "Cops") to talk shows (Sylvia Brown on Montel is a DVR-worthy favorite, but I draw the line at Maury or Springer) to, yes, celeb reality.

Tori and Dean are my current favored fix.

Most of celeb reality, of course, is an opportunity to rubber-neck, check out how the other half lives while I avoid scrubbing the toilet for just a little while longer. What I like about Tori and Dean, however, is that they seem so, well, normal.

Consider this: Spelling had a baby, and she looks like a woman that had a baby. On this week's episode (I'm paraphrasing -- I'll leave transcripts to the "Lost" and "24" forum devotees): "People are used to seeing celebrities snap right back after having a baby, but that's just not how it works." It does appear to work that way for most celebrities -- do they do the tummy tuck right there in the delivery room? If so, Tori didn't get that memo, it seems. Upon viewing a plate set out for guests, filled with diet-busting pastries, she commented, "I want to stick those donut holes in every orifice of my body." Go Tori!

Other highlights include wrangling a mouse out of a bathtub with rubber gloves and a shoe (not to smoosh it, but rather transport it to a woodland home), and scraping aside bird poo to put up a flier for her yard sale.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know what you're thinking. Duh -- it's a TV show. They want her to come off likeable, relatable, normal. She's an actress. Did I say duh?

Yes, she has a nanny. Yes, she balked at selling clothing she never wears because it's Chanel! But for a woman who grew up in the house of a billionaire, her hanger-on friends seem more spoiled than she does.

Maybe it's because of some reality checks. Failed marriage. Feuding with mother. Minuscule inheritance, comparatively (only $800,000!), acting career relegated to the B range. Public humiliation, in it's many forms, tends to create perspective. Or maybe it's just that she's a better actress than I give her credit for.

Regardless, it's awfully nice to see a female paparazzi target who A) is actually working at something, and B) doesn't act as if their mere existence entitles them to great wealth and adoration.

That alone makes me want to root for her.
Now, pass the donut holes.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

I Can't Seem to Help Myself

I read an article this week in Newsweek (I'm only three weeks behind in my reading now, thank you very much) by a married woman without children who is sick of hearing about motherhood. She wonders, in eloquent but clearly frustrated prose, about why moms feel the need to hold their own maternal status over her head, as if it were the Holy Grail and she is somehow inferior for having failed to reach it yet.

My question is, who in the world is she hanging out with?!? She needs to get new friends, and travel in new social circles, and her problem would be solved just like that.

It seems that the moms she runs in to actually put their hand on her stomach (under her shirt, natch) and ask if she's pregnant yet. They take their infants to "fancy, adult, nighttime restaurants" and R-rated movies. They belittle her job by telling her that she won't know happiness until she's had a baby. And, to top it all off, an acquaintance's 4-year-old popped her in the mouth, drawing blood, and the mom told the author that she "shouldn't talk down to kids."

If this is her experience, I don't blame her for sounding catty and bitter. Which she does. But I would, too, hanging out with these crackpots.

I've never (and to my knowledge, neither has anyone I know) placed my hand on another woman's belly and inquired about the status of her womb.

I've never taken an infant to a fancy restaurant (not having actually gone to any fancy restaurants while my kids were infants, this was easy to achieve). R-rated movies? Duh.

I would never presume, either, that I possess a greater degree of happiness based on my decision to procreate. Nothing makes me happier than my children, yes. Is it inconceivable that someone else is at least equally happy without children? What am I, a moron?

What I don't like is the assumption that all mothers are like this. Most of the moms I know are reasonably balanced, occasionally frazzled, uproariously funny, and overall interesting human beings. They have no need to put other women down. They actually adore their children appropriately, make intelligent daily decisions, and are sensitive enough to know that anyone else's reproductive choices are none of their business.

On a similar note, I recently read a blog (but in my hazy state of entertaining out-of-town visitors and withstanding the 100-degree-plus heat around here, I don't remember where) by a mom who is sick of hearing about being a mom. Again, I do feel her pain, just a little. And yet, I can't stop myself. I'm a writer, and a mom. And thus, I write about being a mom. It's sick, but I can't seem to control the urge.

So, my solution is this: follow the rules your mother taught you and that, if you happen to be a mom, you teach your own kids. Keep your hands to yourself. Respect others. Don't be rude. Play nice.

And I'll add one more: if you don't want to read about motherhood, simply turn (or close) the page.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

From the Mouth of Babes

Well, she's almost 12, but still.

My daughter on plastic surgery:
"If I were going to get a facelift, I'd do it right before I renewed my driver's license."

She's an old soul.

When It Rains, It Pours

I spent the entire summer lamenting my lack of progress, and as the summer draws to a close (based on the start of the school year, of course, not the calendar) I suddenly have 15,000 things to do.

Two weeks ago, I was thinking of hocking the computer and just being done with the whole thing. Today, my busy brain is juggling these things, even as I type:

  • Catching up on missed sessions of a grant writing course I'm taking online
  • Completing a review of the extensive materials involved in my application to become a tutor on tutor.com (has anyone else had experience with this?)
  • Anticipating my first assignment for a local publication, the Illinois Business Journal (a real job -- hooray!)
  • Completing a sample assignment for a high-profile family website which could prove to be lucrative if I don't blow it (they're paying for the sample -- hooray again!)
  • Anticipating a response from the local school district regarding my completion of the (extensive) application process to be a substitute teacher
  • Visualizing possible scenarios for the phone call expected tomorrow a.m. from the owner of another high-profile website which could also be lucrative, again, assuming I don't blow it.
On top of that, signing kids up for school, doctor's appointments for everyone, and parents in from out of town!

Probably sounds a lot like your life, right? Well, mine had been devoid of such activity since our move to a new state earlier at the beginning of the season, and so I've been moping around wondering how I would EVER get anything going. Well, suddenly things are going (or they seem to be).

This isn't exactly how I imagined a "freelance" career. I was picturing writing articles or, even better, editing written material, with a bunch of jobs similar in scope and nature. Instead, I've got a hand in blogs, websites, print journals, tutoring, substitute teaching, and more. I'm not sure if this is better or worse, but just different, and has me feeling both a wee bit apprehensive and really excited about the possibilities.

Of course, it would have been nice to sit back and enjoy my "time off," so rare it is. But it's hard to relax when the bank account is dwindling, no matter how hard you try. That hasn't changed, but at least there's hope.

And, it appears, maybe a whole lot of work ahead.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Neglecting My Computer

That's what I've been guilty of this week, but with good reason. We've had family in from out of state, and it's the last two weeks of summer, so I haven't been very focused on anything but gleaning the last bits of fun and sun from the situation. I likely won't be posting anything until Wednesday at least, so if you stopped by to visit please accept my apologies for giving you little to show for your efforts. Thanks for coming, and I'll try to have something interesting to say very soon. In the meantime, some photos:

Monday, July 30, 2007

Saving Summer

In between moments of cultivating my writing life, I'm cultivating other useful skills, in case my literary ambitions fail to sustain me. Mostly, I'm just trying to feel useful. To that end, my daughter and I spent Saturday learning to can tomatoes, under the tutelege of my mother-in-law, who lives down the street.

My son, upon joining us later, was mystified with our use of the term "can" when we were actually utilizing jars. I had no wisdom to impart on the subject.

I felt like a bit of a fumbler (hot tomatoes are slippery, as it turns out), but the end result was worth it. They're just lovely to look at, those vibrant red jars.

I could tell you how we did it, but this pretty much covers it.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Thinking Rash-ly

I have spent the last two days obsessing about poison ivy. I haven't seen any lately, but apparently that's not a necessary component to reacting violently to it. Okay not violently. But it stinks, nonetheless.

At first I thought I had lupus. I have found that any strange combination of symptoms my body exhibits at any given time can look exactly like lupus. Just ask MayoClinic.com. They tell me so everytime I visit.

Eventually I realized, however, that the migraine was just a migraine, and my hair is falling out because the women in my family loose their hair. Oozing and hair loss. It's been a banner week.

At any rate, as soon as I diagnosed myself, I noticed that columnists and writers everywhere were obsessing about the same topic. Well, not everywhere. In a couple of places. And it's summer, so not such a stretch I guess.

But, it's like when you're pregnant, or when you get a new car. Suddenly it seems that everywhere you turn are swollen, waddling women. Or a black Jeep Cherokee just like yours. An epidemic of them, almost. Just like poison ivy. Only not as foul, and usually not oozing.

Speaking of foul and oozing, it's remarkable how many thoroughly disgusting photos there are of poison ivy rashes online. I will save you the horror by not linking any here. Suffice it to say, I've been scarred for life, and I don't mean just on my skin.

I will comfort myself with the knowledge, however, that poison ivy is a minor problem to have, in the big scheme of things. A minor, but really annoying, problem.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Are We Still Talking About This?

Well, are we?

Okay, I'm a bit behind, having just read this Newsweek article from last month about breastfeeding. Seems that there's been controversy about some photos of actress Maggie Gyllenhaal breastfeeding her baby in public. I apparently was too wrapped up in my own life to notice this particular celebrity shocker, but now that it's been brought to my attention, I have to ask, why?

Ten years ago, I was breastfeeding. I was a breastfeeding machine. I had two babies, 17 months apart, nursed all through my second pregnancy then nursed both babies at the same time for nine months or so. You can imagine what all this nursing activity has done to my physique. On second thought, don't.

But I digress. Ten years ago, I was breastfeeding, and it was "controversial." Not the feeding part, of course, but the feeding in public. I didn't get it then, and I don't get it now.

Breastmilk is by far the best for babies. We know this. Breasts were made to feed babies. We know this too. The other stuff? Get over it.

I breastfed in public, in a mall and in restaurants specifically, mostly because I figured patrons would prefer that to a screaming baby. And after one attempt to nurse in a public bathroom (would you eat lunch in there?) I decided if anyone had a problem with it, tough. Of course I was as discreet as possible, using a blanket or making sure my top covered up any offending flesh. And when they could eat other stuff on a regular basis, I pretty much stopped the public feeding.

But seriously folks, how long will feeding a baby be a controversy? Victoria's Secret ads are a mile-high in the mall, and feature much more flesh than most breastfeeding mommies flash, and I don't hear anyone complaining about those.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Don't Hate Me Harry, I'm Only Human

Okay, there must be something wrong with me. Tell me what you think. I can take it. As my son likes to say about himself, I can cry but I'm tough.

Confession #1: I've never read a Harry Potter book. Never ever ever. Not one word.

Let the flogging begin ...

It's become sort of a secret shame, this, as the phenomenon has grown into a full-blown, decade-long international obsession. It's something to be hidden, to be guarded. To be danced around, cleverly, like a pagan bonfire. Whatever that means.

I even have children for heaven's sake, who have, by the way, actually read one or two of the books. They own at least three in the series, though I've not purchased them new in hardcover, only in paperback or at the library book sale for a buck. They've enjoyed them but have not scrambled to read the rest, and that's probably my fault, too, because we've seen all the movies. Blasphemy, I know.

So why, you say, haven't I read them, at least one of them?

Excuse #1: I was a new-ish mother when the first book came out. I was interested, but reading hadn't exactly been worked back into the daily schedule at that time. That took exactly 3.264 years to get back to normal, in case you were wondering. And then she just kept cranking the tomes out, and each time a new book arrived I was further behind the rest of the world in hanging on the every word of the young boy wizard. And there are a lot of words, more and more all the time it seems.

Excuse #2 (the real one): But really, I think, on some level it's a bit of jealousy. Which brings me to ...

Confession #2: I want to be J.K. Rowling.

Not that I don't love my life, I do. Here's the obligatory guilt-induced disclaimer: My family is fantastic, my home is, well, home, and I've done a few interesting things throughout my uneven and often accidental professional past.

But as a writer, I want to be her. I want to be the one with The Idea, the fantastic, never-done-before, no-one-has-ever-seen-anything-like-it idea, executed with brilliant wit and charm and literary clarity. I don't care about the notoriety so much but the achievement, the achievement would be amazing, wouldn't it? Because after all aren't most artists (writers included) after just a little smidge of immortality? Aren't we?

Rowling's certainly got it. And her little wizard, too.

Perhaps it would be a great growth experience if I just got over it. I could start reading the books now; after all, she's written the last one, so it's not as if I'll get any further behind. I'll read them with my kids, and redeem myself twice over.

And who knows? Maybe, just maybe, I'll be inspired. Or maybe I'll just crawl into bed for three days and pull the covers over my head.

I'll let you know how it turns out.

Friday, July 20, 2007

To Be, or Not to Be, Gifted

It's been a while since I posted, and this is mostly what's been keeping me preoccupied.

I've been focusing in large part this week on getting my kids signed up in their new school district, as we settle even further in to our new surroundings. Ran into a snag, which will sound trite and elitist perhaps at first, but it's a problem.

Turns out that "gifted" means very different things in different states and that, in fact, only 30 or so states mandate gifted education in the public schools. Turns out, also, that I moved to one of the 20 states that does NOT mandate gifted education. My district does offer a gifted program, but would not accept the rigorous testing and evaluation my son had already gone through in Florida, and instead based his "giftedness" on a 30-minute test on patterns, given in the middle of the summer in a place he'd never been before, administered by the superintendent's secretary. She says he doesn't qualify. Can you see the steam coming out of my ears? Is it really possible for blood to boil?

I'm so irritated that I can only think in time-worn cliches ...

It's not that it's so important for him to be gifted -- if he hadn't qualified through all of the observations, IQ tests, checklists, etc. initially, that would be completely cool -- but how can you tell a child he's gifted, then, based on one little test administered in a vacuum, tell him he's not?

So I'm doing what I do, and that's write a letter to the superintendent. My initial reaction was to let it go, but sleep didn't come easy last night, and I realized that as a parent and a former teacher (I taught learning disabled and gifted) I'm doing both my child and other students a disservice by not speaking up. When something's not right, you say so. I've never been very good at that. I'm getting better.

I'm planning to substitute teach in this district, so I'm hoping that this issue will not sour that opportunity. But in the end, there are lots of other school districts; I've only got one silly, funny, extraordinarily difficult and extremely bright and shining son. And he deserves a voice.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Visiting Lovejoy

Spent some quiet time today at a cemetery steeped in history in Alton, Illinois, where I happen to reside.

At right, a monument to free speech martyr Elijah P. Lovejoy, who died defending his press from a pro-slavery mob, who shot the 34-year-old newspaper editor in cold blood in November of 1837.

A plaque at the site, quoting Lovejoy, reads: "But gentlemen, as long as I am an American citizen, and as long as American blood runs in these veins, I shall hold myself at liberty to speak, to write, to publish whatever I please on any subject -- being amenable to the laws of my country for the same."

For more on the life and extreme sacrifice of Lovejoy, click here.

It's humbling, indeed, to stand at the base and look up, reflecting on the sacrifice of a man who laid down his life in defense of free speech and the abolitionist movement. As a writer and former newspaper editor, I find myself renewed each and every time I visit this monument and Lovejoy's grave.

... and, thus, this is what passes for summer fun at my house ...

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Who's Having Fun?

Okay, as I sit in the house and write my heart out, it is entirely possible that life is passing me by. These are the things my son has done this week while I've been working:

1. Went off to the rodeo with a neighbor, ate cotton candy, sno-cones, hot dogs, returned home with a balloon and, inexplicably, a print portrait of a baseball player from the St. Louis Cardinals.

2. Established a "secret hideout" with his buddies, which my daughter later informed me (she's the moll) is filled with bugs, snakes, and poison ivy. She thought I would lock him in the basement for the duration, no doubt. But really, should a secret hideout be any other way?

3. Discovered a lost driver's license in the woods, and had an hour or so of very intense speculation over the fate of the license's owner. They said they will be alerting the police.

4. Scrounged change from the dryer and under the beds to pick up the following items at a garage sale down the street:

~ an antique radio
~ a plastic camouflaged truck
~ baseball cards
~ two hockey pucks
~ a lavender plush cat (for his sister)
~ a Hard Rock Cafe Chicago coffee mug (for me)
~ a pocket-sized bendy rubber Pluto (the dog, not the planet)
~ nunchucks

I, on the other hand, completed a couple of brief assignments, checked my e-mail 651 times, and sorted all my paperwork into a handy little plastic organizer.

Ain't summer great?

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Shameless Self-Promotion

I've got two new gigs and so I am taking this opportunity to make a shameless plug for both.

First, a fun little slip of a job, selecting and writing the review for the "Awesome Blog of the Week" at Project:Blog, an off-shoot of The Budget Fashionista. The site is a bit addictive, lots of really cool fashion and style focused blogs to check out. And if you happen to have a fashion or style oriented blog of your own, you can submit it to be added to the roll.

Second, I've started writing for Suite101, which I figure is a fine way to get more stuff out there and keep my writing muscles fit. My first articles can be found here and here, and I'm planning on spending a ridiculous amount of time adding more in the coming days.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Earthly Delights

Ah, the abundance of summer ...

It was late in the evening, and the air had cooled a little, and we were chillin' in the backyard with the in-laws and the mosquitoes, when a troop (or is it a pod?) of young men stopped by bearing paper bags.

My son was traveling with them, his buddies, from door to door, as they doled out the bounty of a grandmother's garden, slim sweet cucumbers and thick hearty zucchini. (I can't get my son to pick up his underwear, so how he ended up doing manual labor? Well, that's a mystery for another time ...)

Peering into those laden bags, instant visions of cool summer salads, cucumber and ripe tomato, and sauteed zucchini and onions ladled over al dente pasta (pasta is always part of my food fantasies, natch). Pure culinary bliss.

Having moved earlier this season, I didn't get to plant my own veggie patch, so I will have to depend on the kindness of strangers. Thank heaven for grandmas with overproducing zucchini and cucumber vines. And thank heaven for the boys willing to go door to door, delivering a little bit of earthy bliss, on summer nights.

To whip up a cucumber salad, go here: http://pauladeen.com/recipes/recipes.aspx?cat=20&Page=1

To find out a whole bunch of stuff about planting your own vegetables, go here: http://vegetablegardens.suite101.com/blogs.cfm