Thursday, January 31, 2008

Philanthropy Thursday

It's been a while since I've had a Philanthropy Thursday, and I have found something that is the perfect reason to bring it back.


Have you been reading the news banners online about the Haitains who have to eat dirt on a consistent basis to fill their stomachs? Did you know these people have to buy dirt cookies? Here is a good article to start with.

What surprised me the most was the limits I encountered when trying to find organizations you could visit to help Haitians in need. I found two, and the second one showed pictures of Brad and Angelina in Haiti, wearing the aid organization's t-shirts, so I figured it was legit.

How sad is that? Brangelina is the reason I knew it was real? Is there anyone else out there who knows of outlets for us to help these people?

It is truly atrocious.

Today I am going to savor every non-dirt bite that goes into my mouth and thank God for the fact that I have so much I have to cut back what I eat. I wonder how many Haitians my kitchen could feed right now.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

It's the Middle Ground For Me

My husband is a handsome man. Tall, slim, beautiful face, and he can still wiggle my toes even though he drives me batshit crazy sometimes. We've been together for almost nineteen years and I'm only 36. We met when I was 17 and about to enter college life as a freshman. His good looks are not what swept me off my feet then, and they're certainly not what keeps us together all these years later. That said, I appreciate the fact that, nearly twenty years later, he still looks great, cares about his appearance, and wants me to want him.

He could of course, buck the system, rail against the machine, grow his hair out, bathe sporadically, wear unflattering clothes and scream that moisturizing his face to prevent skin cancer and wrinkles is the pinnacle of male vanity and a symbol of masculine insecurity. He could decide to totally let himself go and tell me that if I didn't love him for his soul and mind then I am surely a shallow and vain tripe myself, unwilling to see who he really is.

Of course, if he did all of these things, I would love him. But I would also be supremely annoyed, worried, and hurt. I would take it personally that he no longer wanted to look great for me, for himself, and for his health and longevity. Studies point to greater productivity, health and happiness in those who care about their appearance to a healthy level - kind of like the "dress for the job you really want to have theory" - ever tried to get a really important task done with your pajamas still on and furry teeth?

As it stands, he shaves, wears a suit, works out for health AND appearance, and keeps his teeth white....uh oh... should I believe him to be a shallow follower? A man who knows not his own worth?

And what about the men and women who believe that makeup wearing, conventional dressing, hair coloring folks are all really mindlessly insecure sad people who can't think for themselves? Maybe they are, but anyone who conforms to a group ideal is still relying on the power of numbers to support their beliefs.

I have lots of "granola" friends and I have lots of "glam" friends. My granola friends part ways with my more glam sisters in that they truly believe that they are individuals, warriors against the system and that my glam girls are lemmings who secretly hate themselves and conform to a uniform ideal of beauty out of deep-rooted insecurity, self-loathing, and an unwillingness to strike on their own.

Guess what? Both groups are followers. Both groups are insecure about some things, both groups are confident about some things, both groups are unique, both groups are comprised of special, caring individuals and both groups need the other group to feel better about themselves.

We're not all that unique, people, and pointing out extremes from ourselves may make us feel better, but it's divisive.

*Edited to add* Many things and events have inspired me to write this post, and beauty standards for American women has long been a topic with which I am fascinated. It seems to be on the minds of others, for example....*The venerable Mrs. G. opened up this debate a few days ago, and it struck a cord with many, many women. Lots of people who commented on her post seemed to have a very black and white attitude, and that scares me.

I got the feeling that many of these women would make snap judgments about me based on my appearance, and it got me thinking.

I cannot count the hours I have spent volunteering my time in my communities as a social worker, I literally spent two years working child abuse cases for free. I cannot tell you how many prayers I have said to God and the Universe, I cannot tell you of the love inside of me, the happiness and security I feel as a woman. Yes, I have my insecurities like anyone else. But I also know myself to be strong, capable, smart, and giving. Especially the giving part. I love my earth, my community, and my family and I think it shows in everything I do.

But I color! And get facials! And wear makeup! And I work out on elliptical machines so my legs stay toned! And on my fortieth birthday I am booking a chemical peel! Oh yes I am. Oh no! I'm melting into a shallow pool, help me! I want to look younger to match my age in my heart! I like it when the reflection mirrors back what I see in my heart. I lay in my bed and wonder what happened to my boobs after nursing four children and...Oh NO! I contemplate getting a lift to pull the skin back to where it used to be! I'm such a self-loathing follower, right?

Women who feel compelled to cut themselves and mold themselves into an ideal of beauty that doesn't match their own are indeed sad. I liken the struggle many of us feel about being appreciated for our beauty AND our minds to that of science and religion. Many people think it's either or, but I say there is a middle ground. A place where we can show off our abundant colors and plumage (if we so choose) and not be afraid to bend some spoons with our mindpower while we're at it. The same goes for men. We're a beautiful species - why is it some of us feel compelled to cover that fact up? We're animals at heart, and preening, plucking and grooming are wired deep into our DNA so that we might attract others. Is that so bad? Can't we look great while accepting our diplomas?

Why the line in the sand people?

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Like a Blow to the Head, Only Better

I think the end times are coming. All across the internet I have been reading tales of how children and adolescents have been kind, compassionate, and less than terrible.

I have my own story to share, which should cement my Armageddon theory quite nicely.

Last Friday I was getting ready to take the kids into school. All four were tucked into the car, and I darted back into the kitchen for a cup of coffee to take with me for the drive into town. Coffee in hand, I locked the kitchen door and started to walk around the back of the car.

I didn't see the gray patch of ice on the floor of our carport and before I even knew what was happening, I had slipped, my body hitting the cement with a solid thunk as the wind knocked out of my lungs, the clanging of my favorite coffee cup ringing in my ears as it broke against the tail of my bumper.

Let me just pause for a minute to tell you what was going through my head as I struggled to breathe and get wind into my lungs so I could properly moan in pain. I stared at the ice patch that was now up against my cheek and nose and thought, Damn. That was my favorite coffee cup.

I had no expectations of what was to follow. I have often wondered what my kids would do if I were to accidentally maim myself in the kitchen while preparing them a meal. My guess would have been that they wouldn't have blinked an eye from their slug-like postures on the couch. I can picture one of them hearing the thud of my body making contact with the kitchen tile and calling over her shoulder for me to fetch some fruit snacks once I regained consciousness.

So, imagine my surprise when I bit it on the cement and within one or two seconds I heard the doors to the car swing open and found myself eye to toe with three pairs of feet (Jack, understandably, was harnessed in his carseat, although I'm sure a well of compassion bubbled in his baby gut).

"Mom! Don't move! Let us help you up!"

"Are you okay, Mama?"

"I'll go get you more coffee!"

And I was pulled, patted, and led to the driver's seat as if I had just hired my own set of hospital orderlies. The nice kind.

I cannot tell you how happy this made me. All day I floated on a cloud of spun sugar and sparkles as I recreated the scene in my head. I called my friends. I called my husband. We ooed and aaahed over their sweet behavior. I now scour parking lots for ice patches in hopes of recreating the lovefest that was my crash to the ground. My children cared! Enough to move their bodies!

It is a glorious time, and certainly a sign from above that the world is ending. Make your amends now, and go inflict a head wound in front of your offspring to test my theory if you don't believe me.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Small Talk

Saturday Bob and I took the older kids skiing. It was the perfect day for it; sunny, cold, no wind, and just the beautiful snowy mountain to enjoy with our kids.

And we did enjoy it. The girls had a blast, and Bob got to help me get off the ski lift like an old lady. He is a really good skier, and I'm perfectly happy keeping it to the lower slopes. Anyone remember what happened to Sunny Bono? That's not going to be me. Bob is very patient with all the non-hotshot skiers he lives with, although he has a habit of stopping short right in front of me and blowing snow everywhere like he's in a Chap Stick commercial.

Sometimes we would ride up on different lifts, and when that happened, it was an opportunity to engage in small talk with out of towner skiers for the slow ride up.

I should mention that Bob is the cheapest man on the planet and likes more than anything to purchase a piece of clothing and amortize the wear over a period of years so that it's down to twenty cents a year. Last year his brother handed down an eighties ski ensemble to him. He wore it to the slopes, complete with his 1986 Rossignals that are so out of date they look like cross country skis.

No matter - people loved it. They chatted with him on the lifts, shared parenting stories, corporate stories, and tips on conquering the black diamond run.

Me? I rode up with an eleven year-old, and a series of middle-aged men who acted smarmily pleased when I told them I stayed home. Older men seem to think this is the "only way to go" and inevitably give me a "good for you" when I tell them this is what I do.

This doesn't make me want to share a hot toddy with them back at the lodge. First, I used to work and plan on going back when Jack is old enough. Second, it confirms my suspicion that all these old farts judge my working mom friends for a series of antiquated reasons that boils down to a bunch of white men wanting to control my uterus or my work status.

At the top of one of the shorter runs I grabbed Bob by his electric blue ski lapels and hissed, "You know if I wanted to work, I would, right? Staying at home is fine for now, but you know it is probably temporary, right?"

Boy, does he love being married to me.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Like a Shining Star

Accepting who our kids are has a lot to do with how we see ourselves. When I was a young Mom, I looked at my baby daughter and, aside from being totally in love with her, saw visions for her similar to mine, or better than mine as gauged by my definitions of success and happiness.

As my kids have gotten older, they have taught me so much. In fact, I think I should keep on breeding, because I realize now there is so much more I need to learn; so much that I don't know. Kids are amazing that way.

What I love most is being delighted by them in the most unexpected way. Sometimes when I'm talking to my daughters, I am wowed by their extraordinary lack of interest in vocabulary. I will try to pepper our driving home conversation with words they don't normally use, and I spend my time explaining the meanings to some very uninterested kids.

So when I watch my oldest onstage recite Shakespeare as Olivia in Twelfth Night like it was her native tongue, I am understandably floored.

Likewise, there is my youngest daughter, brilliant but certainly not very graceful (she has demonstrated this with a broken foot as a result of doing nothing) and the least physical of all my kids. When I was pregnant with Jacob I would hike the foothills in our neighborhood with her and she would inevitably ask if we could drive, rather than walk, the hiking paths. So when she returned last night from a class skiing trip unscathed, grinning from ear to ear with tales from the ski lifts, I was also floored. She wants to go downhill skiing this weekend with me. Who would have thought.

I used to dread this phase of my life. I would pity my girlfriends who no longer had little ones with chubby fists in their homes, and I imagine some of you out there with young ones hear my stories of adolescent woes and cringe for when it's your turn. That part is dreadful, but the flipside of that coin is better than anything you'll know.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

What's Wrong With This Picture?

Anyone? Or am I the only one to look at this advertisement and feel supremely annoyed?

If this company makes toilet paper, why not an advertisement with the woman performing her wifely duties and wiping her dear husband's bottom and declaring it the most absorbent t.p.? No?
Maybe I've just wiped too many chins/bottoms in my day to think it's cute when the woman does it for the man. Or maybe I've been married too long to think that the goofy "Hey, I can't even eat the sauce myself!" doofus is cute.
Does this mean I'm officially jaded?

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Can't Relate to the Angst No More

I cannot hear the song Missing you by John Waite on the radio without instantly being transported back to eighth grade. All that song does is remind me of school dances held during the afternoons at our junior high, and my fruitless quest to be asked to slow dance to this particular song. Oh, the angst.

Sadly, that's about the extent of my junior high boy angst. I wasn't one of those golden girls who clutched notes filled with intrigue and the inevitable "Will you go with me? Circle yes, no or maybe." I was the girl with the unfortunate Pat Benatar haircut, a dire need for braces, and oversized eighties glasses with a sparkly heart affixed to the lower corner of my lens. Any notes I clutched typically held plans of buying gummie strawberries at the local store, a few issues of Tiger Beat and then riding the ten speed bike home to peruse the glossy pages and tear out mini posters of Duran Duran and Ricky Schroeder.

I remember one eighth grade couple in particular, Jenny and Ryan. They were the king and queen of my junior high and had been going together for, well, forever. At least four months. Ryan was in my art class, and I sat at the large square table with the other cool kids (I was never really a cool kid but always their friend. I think they had a rule to always include one nerdy girl). All these shiny haired, lip-glossed, sparkly kids would analyze the latest developments in the Jenny/Ryan saga. I would listen intently, chewing on my Chapsticked lip, wondering when I would be able to wear makeup and would it ever look as good as it did on these kids?

One scene in particular has stayed with me all these years. I thought it was the most romantic interlude between a boy and a girl, bar none. It was my The Way We Were or Love Story. Ryan had asked Jenny to go with him after weeks, weeks I tell you, of deliberation and group discussion with the coolness roundtable in art class. Jenny of course knew all about this and played it cool, never flinching in her Esprit sweater or LJ Simone loafers, her mesh Madonna hand glove never absorbing a bead of sweat (I was certain of this, since my hands were constantly slick, and practically drenched my Trapper Keeper when I passed a boy who made my heart beat Like a Virgin).

Jenny had the note with Ryan's declaration of pubescent love and had the wherewithal to not read it until she boarded her bus after school. This alone cemented her as queen in my book. How, how was she able to not tear open the lined paper note the instant his handsome hands gave it to her? How was she able to coyly slide it in her Peechee and not break stride on her way to class? These were gifts I feared would never be bestowed upon me. As Jenny's bus pulled away from the school, she leaned out the window and called to Ryan, her hair blowing in the breeze. Yes, yes I'll go with you! she shouted from her departing bus, the Sea Breeze scented crowd on the curb bursting into cheers as Ryan grinned and walked away.
Sigh. It was beautiful.

Now, many years later, my own daughter is one of the golden girls. There is drama, intrigue, the class king to her queen. There are tears over notes passed that were forged by frenemies (Mom! She asked him how much he liked me on a scale of one to ten and she FORGED his writing to make it look like a...*sob*...FOUR. I hate her!) and I am left standing in the kitchen, mildly annoyed over the drama, wondering when she'll grow out of it, slightly in awe, and totally useless.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Please Send Your Healing Thoughts Her Way

I just learned from Nancy that Why Mommy is going into surgery today for a double mastectomy.

I've posted about her battle with IBC on this site, as have many other bloggers throughout the blogosphere. Please head over to her site and send her wishes of strength. Her husband will be reading these to her after her surgery.

She'll beat this.

Lady Luck

Some people really must be born under a lucky star. You hear about people who win Powerball and then go on to win other things, and then there are people who can't win a drawing to save their lives. When I had the kids mix the names up in a bowl and pick a name, they picked two people in a row who had recently won something! So, since I've never said it before, you can win more than once, but not in the same month. How's that? I really get a kick out of doing this, so it will be a regular feature this year, I promise. Once or twice a month is what I'd like to do, with great give aways, so don't get discouraged.

It's my way of saying thanks for reading.

We picked, on our third try, Magpie. So shoot me an email by the end of the week or it's back to the drawing bowl!

I am off to take the kids into school before I start to chew on some shoe leather. It tastes roughly the same as the frozen entrees I have been consuming, anyway.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Jesus God I am so Hungry

I have been slacking big time with the exercise. It has been sporadic at best since Halloween, which is a lot different from my usual five days a week workout schedule.

I got a little cocky and thought that since I typically eat quite a bit and don't gain weight that I could let the workouts slide while I concentrate most of my free time on writing. What I didn't take into account is the only reason that I could eat like a trucker was because I was burning it all off every day. Sitting at the computer while editing chapter twenty-six isn't going to burn off a bathtub sized portion of Thai peanut noodles.

Still, I was in denial for a bit. My jeans were snug, my shirts strained at the buttons, and all I could think was my damn dryer was on the fritz and shrinking everything. But the spillage and straining got to a point where finally I realized I was gaining some weight. It's not a lot, but I wear my clothes fairly fitted, so even five or eight pounds (my guess is it's more like eight) makes a big difference.

I don't trust myself with portion control, and the thought of weighing my food freaks me out, so I went and loaded up on a cart full of Weight Watchers frozen "food." Yeah, it's not really food. It's frozen flavored air, and let me tell you - twenty points a day?? I could eat twenty points in a typical meal. But I've been sick AND busy writing, so I know that hitting the gym while the kids are at school isn't an option until my bronchial issue clears up. Hence the diet.

I've been eating this "food" for a few days now and staying strictly within my points allotment. Yes, I can already see a difference. But holy mother of our sweet baby Jesus I am hungry ALL THE TIME. It's all I can think about.

Yesterday I bought Chloe a pack of sugar-free fruit flavored gum. I unwrapped a piece for myself and OH MY LORD I felt like I was eating creme brulee with a side of happiness. I sat in the car and chewed piece after piece of gum while my daughter stared at me like I was eating my own legs. And we wonder why diets don't work? Uh, it's because in order to lose weight by dieting alone you can't eat anything. I also think it's why so many American women are bitchy. It's the dieting. The minute I stop hacking up a lung I am back on the elliptical machine and lifting weights and eating real food again. And for anyone out there willing to shell out the big bucks for a diet program - save your money and go ride a bike. Then come home and have a grilled panini and some soup. Something good and real.

Have a good MLK day and tomorrow I pick a winner for the Kate Spade bag!

Friday, January 18, 2008

Another Give Away??

I just mailed the face masks earlier this week, yet the siren call of a give away is too much.

That, and I'm already spring cleaning the house - I'm not much of a winter girl. After Christmas, snow on the ground stops looking like a Currier and Ives postcard. It's more of a subliminal message telling me to take my family to Mexico until summer. That, or rock in the corner of my kitchen in the fetal position until the temp rises above 25.
So in my spring cleaning I have unearthed something that really needs a home. Yes, I'm giving you something used. Don't go! Because it is really a good used thing, to some of us.

I have *cough* a bit of a Kate Spade addiction, and although I pretty much only carry the black diaper bag these days, I may have a couple other Kates lounging in my closet.

One, in particular, hasn't seen the light of day in a looong time. It's my first Kate, the one I went to Neiman Marcus and bought while Bob fainted in the background (men do not understand the thrill of the chase with great purses). Yes, she's used, but she really is in excellent condition.

So, do you want a black Kate Spade Sam bag? Because if you don't, I'm sending her to Good Will.

Don't make me do that to Kate.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Connection - Coincidence?

When I was six years old I met a little girl who would be one of my closest friends growing up. We played, we fought, we were like sisters.

Even after I moved away in junior high, our strong bond kept us in contact through letters and even the occasional visit. We did this all through college and after; she was in my wedding and at my first baby shower.

Then life intervened, got busier, and we both moved around a fair amount. We lost contact. We reconnected seven years ago, right before 9/11, and were both equally thrilled. We discovered we both worked for a district attorney's office, she had just given birth to her first boy - I was yet to be pregnant with mine. Then, still in the Air Force, we moved again, and when I tried to contact her she was no longer at her numbers. She had moved, too, and to where I had no idea.

This past Christmas while sorting through the decorations to be set up I found the last letter from my friend. I read it and started crying. How was it that someone who literally played a hand in the shaping of my young self could just be gone? I showed my girls the letter and some pictures and told them how important it is to keep dear friends close. As I get older, I am increasingly grateful for the precious gift of friendship my girlfriends give me.

I've thought about her a lot over the holidays.

Yesterday, my sister emailed me with a message she had received on her cell phone. My old friend had found her number and was trying to find me. I was stunned. But it gets even better.

I called my old friend, ecstatic at the prospect of reconnecting, and told her everything I'm telling you now. She was quiet for a moment. She told me that she had been thinking of me over the years and wished we hadn't lost contact. But then, around Christmas, that feeling got stronger. She cleaned out a basket on top of her refrigerator and an old business card of mine from the DA's office fell out. She thought it might be a sign she should look for me again.

Later, she took her boys for a walk at the waterfront park in the town where I moved to in junior high. Unbeknownst to me, she now lives very close to this town. The sidewalk of this park is paved with thousands and thousands of bricks, each depicting a name of people who have sponsored a little bit of the cost of building the park. At one point my friend looked down and noticed she was standing on a brick bearing my daughter's names.

She wondered if someone was trying to tell her something.

Finally, on business, she was in the lobby of a large building and was admiring some elaborately decorated Christmas trees. One in particular caught her eye, and next to the tree was a small placard indicating that the tree had been decorated and donated by my mom.

She decided she had to find me.

All the while, I was thinking of her.

Coincidence? Fate? God? What do you think? I've had chills since yesterday afternoon.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Oh to be a Man

The thing that chaps my hide the most about being a woman is the social and cultural expectation of self-deprecation. It's as if the more we loathe ourselves or downplay our strengths or brush aside compliments, the more normal we are. It is so pervasive that I barely even stop to think about it much. Except when my dear husband reminds me, usually by relaying something he said that leaves me slack-jawed when I consider how people would respond if I were the one saying it.

Take yesterday, for example. We've all been sick, and Bob walked into his office spry and healthy, even though just a day before he was hacking up a lung. One of the secretaries mentioned how surprised she was to see him rebound so quickly and without breaking stride Bob just smiled and said, "Excellent genes, people. Excellent genes."

He wasn't kidding. He's a great guy, really, but he is also quite aware of it. He would never think otherwise. He can't stand the way I take compliments, and I have tried to explain to him that this is just how women are.

I don't know the last time I ever accepted a compliment with a simple thank you. I really don't. Typically I berate the complimenter for not seeing my elaborate system of smoke and mirrors, or point out how inadequate I am when compared to so and so. It's nauseating.

In the Air Force, officers are expected to write their own OPRs for their commander to sign off on. An OPR is a progress report that evaluates how you are doing and whether you should be considered for promotion.

My BFF's (Sarah of playground mafia fame) husband is in the process of writing his right now. Bob had to write many for himself. Trust me when I say these OPRs are so glowing they're practically floating about the room on a cloud of pixie dust. It is so easy for these men to highlight their strengths and brag away, practically canonizing themselves, and it is all completely accepted.

I joked that if Sarah had to write hers she'd never get promoted. She would only point out all the areas she knew she could have done a little better in. She would have even recommended someone else for promotion instead, and offered to wait it out a year so that she could really work to her full potential. Likely, she would have even recommended demotion, with a reinstatement to current rank only after she met all of her goals and got back into a size four. Lots of us are this way. I joke, but only a little bit.

Anyone else tired of this?

I've written about this before, as has Bob, and I just wish there could be a sea change right now where we could hold our heads high with confidence and know how wonderful we are without fear that whispers of showoff or full of herself followed. I feel an enormous sense of pride in all the roles I carry out, but in order to share how I feel it's more, "We are all wonderful and do an amazing job juggling the many loads we carry in life as women." I don't want to only be able to accept compliments when hidden behind the solidarity of such collective statements. Yes, we rock as women. We're amazing and we do so much, blah blah blah. That is all true. But the atmosphere certainly changes when we hear a woman say "I rock. I am good at what I do."

Join me, don't join me, whatever. As for me, I am not letting another year of life slip by with me denigrating my strengths and gifts. I wouldn't let my kids get away with that.

I rock. How about you?

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

In my Next Life

If you could come back as something in your next life, what would it be? A king? A president? The Dali Llama? Yeah, that's all fine and good. But I was thinking of someone with a little more power.

Me, I would come back as a literary agent.

In the slow, agonizing, wait-filled process that is obtaining an agent (if you even get one) I have discovered that they hold all of the power in the universe.

When you start out to find an agent, it is important that you research all the agencies and find the fit that is best for you. Then, within that house, you should seek out the agent most likely to be compatible with your work. After narrowing down the field, you must tailor your individual query to the agent - never send a form letter and do not pepper the industry with letters. They know. Then, sacrifice a lamb, cross your fingers and start on your next book. Because in all likelihood it will take months before you find anything out.

Here is an example of some typical agency submission guidelines for writers:

ACME Literary Agency, LLC

Welcome to the author submissions guidelines for the ACME Literary Agency, LLC. If you do not already have a book on the New York Time's Best Selling List please go away. We don't even like that you're on our website. Be advised that we routinely block the IP address of interlopers.

If you persist in submitting your work, please adhere strictly to the following guidelines or we will simply burn your letter upon receipt. If you err twice within the industry (and we have our methods of obtaining this information), we will hunt you down and burn you.

1. Please submit your 237 word query on 20# stock paper. Of course, we have a strong preference for papyrus or stretched lamb skin. Use only 11.479 font size, Times New Roman Version 9, and 1 " margins. Only letters written in Old English will be considered. If you must, we will on occasion accept Old Frisian. Please query before your query if this is the case, noting that this request must still be in Old English. Some, but not all, of our agents prefer this format. Good luck guessing.

2. List your credentials in order of importance. Please begin with Pulitzer.

3. You must itemize your previous publishing experience in chronological order. Please note that we laugh ourselves silly if you have none. Of course, we're never truly silly, but we will, nonetheless, make sounds that resemble mockery in our offices when reading your pleas for representation. Of course, we don’t really read them. We make our assistants stand on the slush piles and laugh for us.

4. Do not call us. Do not write. Do not even breathe our name aloud until we contact you. We will probably never contact you. Why are you submitting again?

Monday, January 14, 2008

Coming Soon....

Fifteen is hard enough.

Especially when your parents want to save the environment one hybrid car at a time.

Throw in a move from the exciting city of Portland, Oregon to a passive solar straw bale home ("the hellish house of hay") in the small mountain town of Flagstaff, Arizona and things suddenly get a lot harder for Amber Petersen.

Not only that, but while her parents are on a business trip in France, the young woman they hired to watch Amber and her brother, Jake, suddenly disappears. Now Amber has to figure out how to take care of her seven year-old brother with no real friends in her dinky new town, no driver’s license, and midterm exams.

Then things start getting complicated.

In a terrorist plot gone horribly wrong, much of the earth’s population is rapidly dying, taking the world’s infrastructure along with it. A mutated strain of the H5N1 virus has been unleashed on the world and no one can stop it in time.

Amber finds herself alone with her brother on their small farm with no way of communicating with the outside world, when Jake becomes very sick. Winter is fast approaching, and she has no idea if her parents are still alive.

Amber's parents have emerged from the global tragedy alive and find themselves in the south of France with a handful of other survivors. They travel from a village outside of Avignon to Biarritz, where they prepare for their ocean journey back to America.

Meanwhile, Amber and Jake struggle to stay alive and take care of their most basic needs, all the while figuring out what they future holds for them and for the rest of the people on earth.

Will Amber and Jake make it through the winter? Will their parents find a way to return home?

What happens when not everyone left on earth is a good person?

In less than one year, Amber finds her courage, love, and a new way of looking at life on this planet.

This is all part of Painted Maypole's Monday Mission. We had to write a movie trailer, so I took the young adult novel I've written and imagined that man with the deeeep voice doing the voiceover for mine.

Friday, January 11, 2008

The Playground Mafia

When I lived next to my best friend, Sarah, we would joke about some of the moms on the playground across the street from us. Okay, we didn't exactly joke. We mocked them over red wine, cheese, and Oprah. When I met Sarah, she had five kids (she still does, which is a testament to her amazing patience since other moms would have had at least one "go missing" if they had to endure the hormonal soup she partakes of each day with all those teens) and even though she had a two year-old, she also had an almost twelve year-old, which put her in a different category from the moms with just young kids.

As a result, I didn't see Sarah at the park with the other moms too often. When she did have the time to go there, it was usually while her older children were in school. That's also when I would meet up with her.

At the time, I had a baby and a five and seven year old. I was on the fence. I wasn't just a mom of young kids and my older girls were older, but barely. I had a questionable age gap between my second and third (what can I say? I like the big age gaps - it's wayyy easier to parent when you can teach your ten year-old to drive to the store for you). Although I may have still been eligible for membership, I chose to live in Sarah's world and the Playground Mafia took notice.

The Playground Mafia were the mommies who only went to the park in tight clusters, they never went alone with just their own children. All the children were young and closely spaced, with most of them somewhere between two and five. When the Mafia was on the 'ground, you either joined in or waited until they left. Membership was tight, and there were rules, people.

I used to be in the Mafia. I was the mom with the zippered pouches of goldfish, juice boxes, diaper bag, change of clothes, extra fruit snacks, and two or three educational toys packed for a thirty minute jaunt to the park with my two and four year old. I stamped. I scrapbooked. My entire home was overrun with the girls' toys and crafting supplies. I hosted playgroups, attended playgroups, scrimped begged and borrowed money so that the girls could attend the Gymboree "Mommy and Me" classes. I lived in fear that if I didn't stimulate my girls with outings, activities, something all the time, I was a failure and they would end up smoking on the corner in between classes before sixth grade. While nursing their newborn.

When I first met Sarah, we were chatting at the bus stop as we waited for our kids to go to school. I was frantic. I had been turned down as a Room Mom in my second grader's classroom. I was near tears. The policy at this school allowed for only one room mom, and my other neighbor, Laura, had been chosen. I would apply for co-room mom! I would make them see that if I wasn't manically involved with every aspect of my children's lives they would stop breathing. Or worse, grow up and vote Republican. Sarah just listened to me. When I stopped, she put her hand on my shoulder.

"You'll get over it. We all do." be continued...

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Geriatric Blogger Mauls Pubescents

Sometimes I feel spry and nimble and barely realize I'm in my mid-thirties. And I am still in my mid-thirties, contrary to what some of you would say. Thirty-nine is late thirties.

But other times I feel downright decrepit. Like the other night at the gym.

Usually when I go to the gym, it's in the middle of the day with the other SAHMs and the retired folks. That's also when I feel all nimble and young. Benchpressing next to a man with an oxygen tank does something to remind me of my youth.

But I've been busy, so I have been skulking off to the gym after dinner. Ladies, have you had children? When you last saw the decade of your twenties was Friends the hot new show? Then DON'T go to the gym at night. This is when the young people come out.

*cue screeching horror music*

I am nearing a very special time of the month, the time where I bring out the parachute-esque pair of worn cotton panties. The time where I don't want to wear clothing that presses on my pubis or lower uterine area - nothing that even reminds me of any girl part on my body.

So my attire at the gym was comprised of the following: full-waisted gray nylon pants (the kind that billow all around your tummy/ass region when you sit? Quite comfortable), old pink tank top and white hoodie that have both mysteriously shrunk since the holidays, thick black glasses (my contacts are rebelling and I look like an angry rabbit with them in), frizzy-post holiday winter hair hastily scraped back into *cue additional horror music* a scrunchie. I should add the extra special bonus that is the joy of wearing high waisted anything: each butt cheek looks about eighteen inches long.

My finest moment? Perhaps not. But I am not there to snag a man, and frankly, there have been times at the gym before noon when ensembles like that have made men have to crank up the oxygen levels on their tanks.

I worked out and realized I had been there for two hours and needed to get home and take care of some things. So I ran through the narrow hall by the racquetball courts, the swishing of my nyloned thighs announcing me, and these two young things were sauntering in front of me blocking my way.

They were really annoying. And not just because they were meandering and swaying and not maintaining a straight trajectory so that I might pass them.

But also because they were that young taut breed that I now think of as young. They had teeny tiny shorts on, the low-ride fit clearly not enough since the waist-band was rolled to the top of their hoo haws. They had no body fat except what was in their bras, and they skipped in front of me with long glossy hair - the kind that is effortlessly thrown into a messy bun. The very same way I sometimes try and wear my hair now, except I always end up looking like a bald woman with a knot at the nape of her neck. Four kids and the hair and nails take a slight beating.

So I finally pass these girls and I'm practically racing down the hall, my thighs this close to starting a fire, and I hear one of them giggle and say, "Excuuuse us!" and the other giggles right back and says:

(in an old lady voice like you would affect for oh, say, a woman in her nineties): "Yeah, excuse me, eh?"

When did I get old?

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

That Was So Funny I SWEAR My Kidneys Just Stopped Functioning. Really! LOL

Yeah, there is no reason for that title other than sometimes when I'm reading a funny blog, I will see commenters before me who make me ask, really? Did you just literally spew coffee on your keyboard? Or is that just a metaphor?

So I thought it would be fun to come up with some stock "LOL" phrases to use when someone has tickled the funnybone. Anyone?

I went to and had their list generator pick six random numbers and we have six winners for the face masks! Would you all quickly send me an email with your address and I can get those to you. I have a BIG trip to the post office today, and it's something I dread like death itself try and avoid with the little ones.

Here is who picked (with your comment number next to your name):

Melissa 12
Amanda 15
Painted Maypole 19
Mrs. G 23
Candy 35
Madame Queen 37

I want more winners - so next week keep a lookout for an EVEN BETTER give away!

That was so fun I lost my voice screaming! Really! I'm going to have to learn to sign!

Sunday, January 06, 2008

The Wrinkle Rexic Shares

Oooh! I have another give-away!

So soon, you ask? Yes, because I just can't wait on this one.

I recently tried a new face mask my mom sent me made entirely from natural and organic ingredients and it knocked my socks off. Was it because the mask had cocoa powder and made me feel as if I were making out with a Ghirardelli bar? Um, maybe.

But also because the moment I rinsed the mask off, Bob happened to walk by. Normally, the man notices nothing. Really. Once I dyed my normally blonde hair (of course it's naturally that way. cough.) auburn for a trip to Paris and I bounced in front of him and asked him how he liked my new hair. He had to wonder, hmmm, was it maybe shorter?

So Bob walked by and stopped. He looked at me and squinted his eyes and said, "Wow. Your skin looks really, really good."

Game over. I was hooked. So without further ado, let me introduce to you to my new favorite face mask in the entire world, ever, Muddy H2O. This stuff is fantastic, and contains really cool ingredients like cocoa powder, natural french clay, organic calendula, comfrey root and ground chickpea powder. There is nothing artificial in these wonder masks and after using the chocolate mask my skin was soft, smooth, and glowed like Jack's bottom. Before the rash.

I also used the French Clay mask, and mixed it with some pureed pumpkin like I read on their website. Holy small pores, Batman! I had considered going to my local day spa for their pumpkin enzymatic peel (for way too much money) and now I think that would be a waste of time and money.

Want your own? I'm giving away SIX natural face and body masks for you to try. Three French Clay and three chocolate. But seriously, these things are so inexpensive that you would all be silly, big-pored fools to not rush here or here and get yourself some chocolate blueberry amazingness.

Today and tomorrow all who comment are open for the draw.

Friday, January 04, 2008

In the Bones

I have the kind of fatigue right now that feels like it is leaking out of my bones.

I need to go hook up a nice plump vein to a pot of coffee and clear the cobwebs.

In the past, when I've heard writers liken the writing of a book to birthing a child I scoffed. I've done my share of birthing, and I just thought it was a weak metaphor.

Not anymore. I've been working for months on a young adult novel, and I feel like I am in the 42nd week with preeclampsia. I started sending out queries to the agents in New York who accept email submissions and I have been amazed with the swiftness of the responses. I have been receiving so many rejections that when I get one that isn't a form letter I feel touched.

Until yesterday. An agent from a house I really like sent me an email asking for the first fifty pages of the book. So I polished the first fifty as best I could and shot it off to her around 1:00 am today.

That was my water breaking.

Now, I am faced with the rest of the book. I need to get this baby ready for the real world on the off chance (and I do mean off; odds are she'll thank me for my time and "pass on the project") she wants the entire book.

Heavy breathing isn't helping much. I hope this doesn't jinx things.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

And Mom and Dad Can Hardly Wait...

Oh most blessed day of the new year, we give you thanks.

We thank you for children who now have to be wakened early, fed, dressed and taken to school where they might reside for hours, away from me. We thank you for a morning free of bickering, devoid of whining, and clear of the pitiful sounds of boredom. In the name of the father, amen.

After Christmas I acquiesced to the girls' requests for sleepovers with friends. At our house. In a bold, unprecedented move, I even agreed to the coveted back to back sleepover for my oldest.

That's right. A two nighter. At our house. Pretty much the brass ring of sleepovers.

On the second night, after I had dutifully threatened Maddie and her friend with bodily harm if they didn't turn in by 10:30, I came downstairs at eleven to warn them to be quiet and to turn the lights out.

Maddie, with a chunk of Christmas chocolate in her hand the size of the dog's head nodded my way and said something along the lines of, "yeah."

At 12:45, when I could tell they were still awake, I again stomped downstairs.

I entered Maddie's room and this time she held a jumbo box of junior mints in her hand. When I pushed open her bedroom door, both girls glanced at me, wild-eyed with fatigue and sugar poisoning.

"Maddie, I am turning the lights out now. This is ridiculous."

"Mom! We can't go to bed. It's too hot."

"Yeah, too hot," mumbled her flunky.

I told her it wasn't too hot, but that she was high on sugar and needed to set the box down. It was like dealing with a junkie.

She rushed to me, shaking the junior mints in the box and rattled the candy in my face.

"Oh yeah?? Let's just see how much sugar is in here, okay?"

Good times. All I can say is her friend's presence saved her life. And now back to school is saving mine.


Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Mommy Blogger Snags Pulitzer

Blogosphere- Holly Meyer always wanted to be a writer.

Now, thanks to hard work and a blogger account, she can say she’s a Pulitzer Prize winning writer. Holly Meyer, 31, started blogging about the antics of her five year-old just sixteen months ago. Within four weeks she was hooked, and by the time six months had passed, every stay at home mom (or SAHM, in blogger lingo) from Portland to Pensacola knew about the hijinks of little Kelsey Meyer.

The magic began for Holly one night at her subdivision’s weekly Bunko group.

“There I was, with eleven of my neighbors, telling them story after story about my little girl, Kelsey. My friends were laughing so hard, because everything Kelsey does is just so funny! For example, she can’t pronounce the letter r, so I’m laughing every morning when she just asks for ‘bweakfast ceweal.’ Really, I can’t make this stuff up.”

And so “Kelsey’s Korner” was born.

A typical blog entry for Holly always starts with a picture of Kelsey.

“She has so many princess outfits, and she used to wear them every single day. Then one day, out of the blue, she up and asked for a Star Wars costume. Star Wars! I can tell you, it was so darn cute to see her little face peeking out of an Annikan Skywalker robe! Nobody can predict Kelsey, and that’s part of what keeps people coming back.”

Along with a photo that warms the heart, readers get an accounting of Kelsey’s day. Holly usually posts about her picky eating habits (“she ate only white food for a whole month!”), her silly songs warbled from her booster seat in the mini-van (“she calls the mini-van a Mommy Van!”) and the drama that accompanies kindergarten playgrounds across America (“Kelsey had to learn to stand up for herself and tell that little boy to stop cutting in line. She grew up that day.”).

But it was the heart-warming post detailing Kelsey’s struggles with wetting the bed that pushed Holly into fame.

“I think I got something like 47 comments on that post. I didn’t know I would touch so many lives. Kelsey isn’t even in first grade and she has already left her legacy for the world. A legacy of laughter, princess tea parties, silly potty jokes, and her pain as she struggled to sleep through the night without wearing pull-ups.”

Will the $10,000 prize money change Holly and Kelsey?

“Absolutely not! My husband was going to build me an extra room for my scrap booking supplies and stamping gear, and now we can do most of it without breaking the bank. Our lives will still be the same: funny, full of love, and a little crazy.”

Or should we say, cwazy.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Dear God, it's me, Jen

Growing up as a beigey WASP I never knew the splendors of the coming of age celebration. No Bat Mitzvah for me. No wedding-like Quinceanera.

When I first got my period my mother grew weepy, called my Aunt, gave me a butterfly wing locket and announced my bleeding at the dinner table to mixed reviews. In between sniffed metaphors describing my metamorphosis into a young woman, my little sister noted that I had leaked onto the dining room chair, and my dad managed a grunt in between bites of pot roast.

I grew up reading Judy Blume and swimming at our local Jewish Community pool with my cousins. I went through a phase where I wanted to be Jewish like Margaret wanted boobs and a menstrual cycle.

After this last Christmas, I found myself again considering a conversion. Right around December 23, the point each year where I either threaten to run away or self-inflict a head wound in the hopes of a coma through the new year, I told Bob this was our last Christmas as gentiles.

I am more of a summer break girl myself. All this transfatty goodness/party with the neighbors/spend all my money American way to have Christmas is getting a little stale.

Then I thought of eight days of presents for the six people in our house, plus the relatives.

I think I'd rather just have the Bat Mitzvah? It's only 23 years late, I'm sure there is a loophole in the procedure, no?

So I am making 2008 my extended coming of age celebration.

I feel like this year holds great things, and I feel ready to spread my wings. How about you? Shall we come of age together?