Thursday, March 31, 2005

I Suck.

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Ever have one of those weeks where nothing you do satisfies you? I'm having one. I look around and can't find anything to be happy about. I suck at work (don't have my lesson plans done). I suck at home (place is a wreck, and we're still finishing up the trim work in the bedroom). I suck in the closet (nothing to wear, and I'm overweight anyhow). I suck health-wise (you don't even want to look at that last cholesterol screening). I suck personally (forgot to call some friends on their birthday). I suck at writing (synopsis is stalled).

Basically, I suck!

What do you suggest to lift me out of the funk? Chocolate? Massage? Long trip off short pier? Ideas, please. I'm slap out.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Two Minute Pity Party

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I didn't final in the Golden Heart.

Again.

While installing our new bedroom floor, I had one ear tuned to the phone, just in case someone from Houston was calling to tell me that Crash Test had finaled in the Novel with Strong Romantic Elements category. The phone rang several times, but none of the calls came from Houston.

**sigh**

I'll live. It's not the first time I've been shot down by the GH. Hell, I've been shot down every time I've entered the GH. I should be used to this by now. I'm just not contest material, apparently.

On the other hand, I am on loops with several people who have finaled in the GH and the Rita, which is great. It is possible to be peeved on your own behalf and thrilled for someone else, even if those someone elses are taking up all the finalist spots. (And if the readers don't have the good sense to finally give Kathleen O'Brien the Rita she so richly deserves, I may have to pimp-slap somebody.)

Grr. Whine. Nobody loves me. Everybody hates me. I think I'll go eat worms.

Okay, I'm over it. Two minutes are up. Back to your regularly scheduled blog.

The Bed List/The Dinner List

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Since I've been in full-bore home improvement mode all week, I nearly went for the home improvement version of Bed/Dinner (Ty Pennington, anyone? Carter Oosterhouse? Bob Vila?). In the end, though, some classics won out. Submitted for your approval:

BED LIST: DENZEL WASHINGTON



I read somewhere that the reason women respond so strongly to Denzel Washington is that his face is nearly perfectly symmetrical. Whatever floats your boat, science geeks. Denzel is hot because, well, he's hot. Those eyes! That voice! You could curl up in bed with him and have him read The Wall Street Journal's stock pages to you and still get turned on. He has amazing range as an actor--from charming us as Dr. Phillip Chandler on "St. Elsewhere", helping us fall in love in Much Ado About Nothing, and impressing us with his brooding, volcanic roles in Glory and Training Day (won Oscars for both, thank you very much). Denzel is one of the men on the "I love you, honey, but I'll be back in three days" list--you know, the list you make up with your husband/SO that gives you relationship immunity in case that certain someone shows up at the door? Denzel's always in my top five, and DH knows it. Of course, DH also knows that Denzel has been happily married to his lovely wife Pauletta for forever, so the likelihood of his showing up at our front door matches the likelihood of our being taken out by an asteroid, but a girl can dream, can't she?

DINNER LIST: RICK REILLY



My favorite page of Sports Illustrated is the last one. "The Life of Reilly" is sometimes funny, sometimes serious (this week's essay on steroids in baseball is one example), and often touching. Best of all, it's always well-written. As a writer, I love to read sportswriters. They have a deft touch with metaphor, and Reilly is one of the best out there. I often clip Reilly columns to bring to my students. If nothing else, they can provoke discussion, laughs, and envy for their wit and style. Check out a copy of The Life of Reilly or Who's Your Caddy? to bring your Reilly knowledge up to speed, then subscribe to SI and give yourself a treat every Thursday. Meet you on the last page.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Paige Davis, Eat Your Heart Out!

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It's Spring Break in sunny Central Florida, so lots of moving and shaking at Chez mimi. Instead of lying around on the beach with the rest of the tourists, we're in full-bore home improvement mode.

The men who are recovering my counter with granite came to make a balsa-wood template of my kitchen today. That was cool. I've never seen a butane glue gun before. About two weeks from now, I should have lovely new counters that will demand a lovely new tile backsplash. More work on the horizon. (Please, God, let it all be done by the end of the school year...)

Exciting news: I now have a ceiling!! My lovely drywall contractors have put up a ceiling in my bedroom, complete with knockdown texture. They'll be back in the morning to paint. You know what that means. Freshly painted ceiling needs freshly painted walls. So we'll be painting tomorrow afternoon, of course.

In the midst of that, we're ripping out the ruined carpet (nine days without power in the middle of August, courtesy of Hurricane Charley, destroyed it) and putting down parquet. That involves carpet knives, knee pads, saws, and cursing. It will be gorgeous when we're done, though. Better yet: I have a very, very good shot at sleeping in a real bed, not just a mattress on the floor, by this weekend. Woo hooo!!

Today I painted DD's room. Pink, natch (she's five). I grit my teeth when I bought the color (protesting gender expectations, yada yada), but it looks pretty in there. Now DS wants his planets and aliens. Must strip wallpaper first...

How the hell do those people on TV get things done so quickly?

Monday, March 21, 2005

Pawns

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Florida's in the news again. Again, the news isn't good. You'd have to be living in a cave not to have heard about the Terri Schiavo case.

I'm sorry for Terri Schiavo. I'm sorry her life was cut short. I'm sorry her husband Michael had to cope with losing his wife so early in their marriage. I'm sorry her parents lost their daughter. Mostly, I'm sorry that so many people are on the sidelines salivating over what Terri can do for their cause.

All protests to the contrary, Terri Schiavo is a political pawn. Her entire existence now has been robbed of dignity. I'm cynical enough to believe those folks on the sidelines who are grandstanding for Terri's feeding tube to be restored, the ones belonging to Political Action Committees, the ones who issued a subpoena for Terri Schiavo to appear in court (Hello?? She's been comatose for over a decade??), the ones who've fought hard enough to provoke Congress into debating a special law on Palm Sunday, nonetheless, are thinking much less about Terri Schiavo than they are about the legal precedents such laws will establish for their other, far more important causes. Either that, or how they'll look to certain groups of voters in the next election cycle.

That, my friends, is criminal.

I don't know about you, but I don't know anyone who'd say to someone they love, "Even if my brain has ceased functioning, even if I can't hold you or talk to you or see or hear you, even if I can't laugh or go to church or pet my dog or make love or enjoy a sunset, make sure you keep me connected to a feeding tube for however long it takes until my body finally gives out." I know I couldn't say that. I love my husband and kids, my parents and siblings, too much to have them suffer, even if I'm not.

Friday, March 18, 2005

The Bed List/The Dinner List

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It's musical Friday!

BED LIST: KEITH URBAN



I don't normally go for blonds. I had a bad experience with a blond back in my early 20s: cute, toothy, completely self-absorbed. Baaaaaad mojo. But I'd be willing to make an exception to my date-dark-men rule for Keith Urban. This guy is gorgeous (as you can see). He's also an incredibly talented guitarist. Check out the video for "You're My Better Half" here. I haven't seen hands that fast since that one boy back in the ninth gr...ahem. Anyhoo--watch Keith play guitar and ask yourself what that combination of finger speed and touch might do to your libido, and you'll see what I mean. Plus, he's Australian, so he's as yummy to listen to as he is to look at. Keith Urban. In this case, blonds might be more fun.

DINNER LIST: JIMMY BUFFETT



What can I say about the Chief Parrot? I adore this man. I have been a devoted Parrothead since high school (an increasingly long time). Back in my younger days, I drove to Miami to go to a Buffett concert, then hightailed it back to O-Town to attend the closing Buffett concert the very next night. How's that for a Parrothead-in-training? Since then, I've seen Buffett live at least five times. He always puts on a great show, where you're guaranteed to have fun even if the dork behind you spills beer down your Hawaiian shirt. Buffett's a fascinating man, a singer, songwriter, sailor, and writer. He's lived all over the Southeast and sailed all over the Caribbean. He's a devoted adopted son of Florida (we'll forgive the fact that he was born in Biloxi on Christmas Day rather than here in the Sunshine State, partially because he's a cofounder of the Save the Manatee Club). He's friends with Carl Hiaasen, another of my favorite Floridians. He's mayor of a very strange city, Margaritaville (perhaps you've been there). He lives a big life. I can even tell you the menu for our dinner: margaritas (of course), followed by Cheeseburgers in Paradise. Preferably on St. Barts.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Beware!!

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Today is March 15. The Ides of March. The day Julius Caesar was betrayed and murdered in the Senate by Brutus and Cassius, who are now killing time in the lowest circle of Hell, being chewed on for all eternity by Lucifer himself.

It's also DH's birthday.

We started dating during his birthday week. I knew I'd found a keeper when I presented him with a birthday card covered with various permutations of the word "Beware!!" and he got the joke. A cutie and a reader!

And because it's a milestone birthday for him, he deserved some milestone gifts. So, he now has a new iPod mini (cheaper than a new car), a new suit (he looks good in blue), and a free steak dinner from Charley's, one of the best steakhouses in the U.S. of A. Oh, and a bottle of this very fine malted beverage:



Yep, you guessed it. He's 45 today. Happy Birthday, Prince Charming.


Sunday, March 13, 2005

Bed Full O'Babies

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Last night, the whole family gets home from a party and it's clear that this will be a "togetherness" kind of evening. We're all in pajamas, laughing, having a tickle fight (Is there any sound more wonderful than little kids' laughter?), when the next thing you know, we're all piled into the bed. Mind you, we have a queen. A queen that's not even in a bed frame since it'll be ten days before the drywall man comes to repair the huge (15x6) hole in my bedroom ceiling the roofers had to tear out to rebuild all the trusses. A queen that squeezed in my 6' husband, 5'2" me, two kids (7 and 5) and three stuffed animals (two bears and a dog).

You know how it is being in that kind of mom situation, right? Exactly. I ended up with about 6" of mattress and a handkerchief-sized section of the blankets. Good thing I sleep on my side.

One of these days, the kids will be too big or too cool to pile in at bedtime, so I'll have plenty of mattress and covers. That'll be nice. Not as nice as a bed full o'babies, though.

If I'm lucky, they'll still pile on top when they're teenagers, even if they do slouch and scowl their way down the hall to go to sleep.

Friday, March 11, 2005

The Bed List/The Dinner List

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New Friday, new selections. Submitted for your approval:

BED LIST: GEORGE CLOONEY



I don't care what you think of Jennifer Lopez Noa Judd Anthony, you must rent a copy of Out of Sight, then do a little wishful thinking over the handsome Mr. Clooney. Trapped in the trunk with George. Trapped in a luxury hotel in a snowstorm with George. Trapped in federal prison with George (one of the few men good looking enough to work the jumpsuit to his advantage). He makes intelligent, interesting movies (Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, Three Kings) and is game enough to go along with the Coen brothers (O Brother, Where Art Thou? and Intolerable Cruelty). He's gorgeous, articulate, and his eyes do that crinkle thing when he smiles. He's Rosemary Clooney's nephew and Miguel Ferrer's cousin. Plus, he was born in Kentucky, so that makes him a Southern gentleman. Lock us in the trunk and lose the keys.

DINNER LIST: BONO



I fell in love with U2 in college. To this day, I crank the opening riff of "I Will Follow" loud enough to make my ears bleed. Boy. War. The Unforgettable Fire. The Joshua Tree. Can you say seminal rock and roll? U2's latest, How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb, is the bomb. Talking discography alone with Bono could absorb an entire evening from appetizer to dessert, but this rock star is more than just album sales. Somewhere between the salad and entree you might discuss third world debt forgiveness or the AIDS crisis in Africa, Irish government, or any number of social issues. Hell, his name's been tossed in as a candidate for President of the World Bank! (I'd like to see P. Diddy top that.) Dinner with Bono would be thought-provoking and challenging.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

No Child Left...My Behind!!

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Okay, so it's testing week in sunny Central Florida. This means that all meaningful learning screeches to a halt while a slew of young people between the ages of 15-18 determine conclusively whether I'm a good teacher.

All together now: Oh, Holy God.

I'm not against testing per se. However, I do have issues when 160 minutes of read-and-answer, with a little writing sprinkled in, determine whether a student graduates from high school. Or I can keep my job. Never mind the work we've done all year or the portfolios they've assembled or the writing and rewriting and questioning and laughter and learning. One hundred and sixty minutes tell the whole story. Or so the Florida legislature and, I daresay, the Department of Education would have us all think.

I teach in the inner city. These kids live nightmare lives you wouldn't wish on your worst enemy--drugs, violence, abandonment, abuse. I mediate, counsel, listen, wipe tears, and work in some literature and writing and questions about themselves and their places in the world. Contrary to what the media would have you believe, there is not a single public school teacher in the United States who's sitting around on his/her butt drinking coffee and watching kids throw their lives away. There's simply no time. Unfortunately, since corporate types are so invested in their bottom lines, they've invented one for my profession: test scores.

Let me say this very, very clearly. MY STUDENTS ARE NOT WIDGETS, AND I AM NOT A QUALITY CONTROL OFFICER. If I were, three quarters of them would never cross my threshold. They're damaged goods from the word go. But I don't have the luxury of changing suppliers, as the corporate world does. There's no such thing as a competitive bid process for kids (unless you believe that vouchers really are a good thing--and that's a whole different rant altogether). There's a saying in my corner of the 'hood: Their parents aren't keeping the good ones at home. They're sending us the best they've got.

Know what? I love them for their flaws. My students are funny, bright, wise beyond their years. They have taught me more about myself than I knew was possible. They've also broadened my world far more than I would have imagined when I was growing up fat and happy in the 'burbs.

But the world won't, because funny, bright, and wise don't come across in 160 minutes of multiple choice questions. But that's what they'll be judged by, and so will I.

No child left behind? Give me a break. Make sure every kid in the US has the same damn ticket on the same class of bus, then we'll talk.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Synopsis=Greek Word for Hell

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I'm bad. I'm supposed to be writing the synopsis for book 2 at request of Dream Agent. Instead, I'm surfing, leaving pithy comments on other blogs, checking email, bidding on website software on eBay...basically, anything to keep from writing the synopsis. I've even considered doing laundry and other cleaning, but straits aren't quite that dire. Yet.

Normally, I don't freak out over writing a synopsis. It's just telling the story, short version. Right? Funny thing, though; every synopsis I've ever written ends up reading like a giant barbell. Tons of detailed information about the opening, tons of detailed information about the final scene (for some reason, I always view the ending like one giant Technicolor movie very early in the writing process), and a lot of "things happen" phrases in the middle. As my friend Karen Potter said about a synopsis of hers, the part where you get frustrated and write, "They date."

I think the best way to visualize my synopsis woes is to refer to a classic Far Side cartoon, the one where the two scientists are staring at a chalkboard covered with mathematical equations except in the middle, where one of them has written "Then a miracle occurs." The caption? "I think you need to be more explicit here in step two." That's my problem. I need to be more explicit in step two, aka the rest of the entire synopsis!

On top of that, the squirrels upstairs are not cooperating. I ask for synopsis, I get bits of dialogue. I ask for narrative storyline, I get scenelets. I ask for theme, arc, character development, I get pith. Those squirrels are in for a world of hurt if I get my hands on them.

Is it me? Am I trying to do too many things at once with one poor synopsis? Is the one-page-per-ten-thousand-words rule of thumb not the rule I should be using right now? Help, please. I'm about to research Greek words for lots of other things, like pejoratives. And invective. And cussing.

Friday, March 04, 2005

The Bed List/The Dinner List

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New Friday, new selections. Submitted for your approval:

BED LIST: MATTHEW McCONAUGHEY



At the famous dinner party wherein I met Dream Agent, we'd gone a round or two when one of the servers walked in and offered her choice: "Matthew McConaughey. I could sop him up with a biscuit!" Since then, "Biscuit-Worthy" has been an ultimate compliment among my close girlfriends. He sure is. That grin! That six-pack! Plus, any guy who feels comfortable enough to play the bongo drums naked is a guy who's probably comfortable enough to do lots of interesting things, if you get my drift. Hazel, get the flour. Let's bake us some biscuits!

DINNER LIST: JON STEWART



I read somewhere that Jon Stewart is the thinking woman's sex symbol. Have you picked up a copy of America: The Book? It's a scream (and those folks in Mississippi were so overreacting at the "Dress the Justices" interactive activity). Love the forward by none other than Thomas Jefferson. When Jon pulled the media equivalent of a bitch-slap on that gum-flapping, bowtie-wearing Tucker Carlson on Crossfire, I had to watch it twice, I was laughing so hard the first time. There's always the danger that, during dinner, he'll say something so funny you snort marinara sauce up your nose, but it would be worth it. For dessert? What the hell. Have a serving of Jon. He's a good choice for the bed list!

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Take that, IRS!

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I hold in my hands (well, I was--had to put it down to start typing) one of the few documents that will convince the IRS that yes, I am a writer in serious pursuit of a writing career and not a dilettante who happens to own a computer and an overactive imagination (my shortcomings regarding the fine art of keeping a journal notwithstanding). Yes, gentle readers, I have an Agency Agreement.

I'm still basking in the glow of the cover letter, which tells me that Dream Agent and Company (hereinafter referred to as "D.A.&Co.") wish to "express our enthusiasm" about Crash Test and about "working with you toward building a mutually successful partnership." I know this is a boilerplate letter that's sent out to all of the new chicks, but I'm loving that my name and my book are in the mail merge fields.

Now I can officially call Crash Test "the Work" (that's with a capital W, thank you) and myself "the Author" (capital A, thank you again) of "the Work." At least for the time being. Considering that D.A.&Co. "want to help [me] sell [my] book and build a successful writing career," "the Author" had better get the synopsis written for "the Next Work," or Dream Agent will be quite put out.

As God is my witness...

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Desirous of a little time kill on a rainy afternoon, I took the "Which Classic Novel Do You Belong In?" quiz and discovered, to not much surprise, that I should be lounging on the front porch of Tara with the Tarleton twins:

GWTW
Darling, it seems that you belong in Gone with the
Wind; the proper place for a romantic. You
belong in a tumultous world of changes and
opportunities, where your independence paves
the road for your survival. It is trying being
both a cynic and a dreamer, no?


I should have known. Southerner, hardhead, total weakness for a dark, handsome man with a mouth on him. Plus, radishes make me retch. Bring on the hoopskirts!

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Up on the Roof

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Yesterday, I came home to the most wonderful sight in the world.

ROOFERS!!

There's no way non-Floridians can understand the sheer ecstasy of real, live, roofers with real, live power tools. I'm sure you all know about the hurricanes (God knows we do; we were told we were going to DIIIIIIIIIIIEEEEEEEEEEE immediately for six weeks straight last summer). What you may not know about is the post-hurricane trauma most of us have been suffering ever since.

About three months ago, I heard a story of a woman who, flying into Orlando International Airport, looked down and said to her seatmate, "Look at all the pretty blue roofs down there."

"Those are tarps," was the reply.

Blue tarps are Central Florida's Mark of Zorro (or Charley, or Frances, or Jeanne). Some of us even decorated our holiday gingerbread houses with blue raspberry Fruit Roll-Up tarps, just to be sarcastic. But you can't really understand the utter inconvenience of things like FEMA trailer housing until you've spent six months sleeping in every bed in the house but your own, or finally giving in and putting the mattress and box spring on the floor, despite the gaping hole in the ceiling and the constant flap-flap of the plastic DH has screwed into the drywall so it won't snow insulation.

I am SO ready to have my bed back. Which is why I'm SO ecstatic to have roofers on my house.

Today, they make the hole worse as they cut out the two busted trusses and start over. But hey, if it means a real bed by this weekend, I'll be their insulation-picking do girl as long as they need me.

A real bed! I could just
DIIIIIIIIIIIEEEEEEEEEEE!!
 

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