Saturday, December 31, 2005

Biggest Phone Bill Ever

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Phone rings. I pick up. I hear, "This is the AT&T operator--"

Great, I think, telemarketer, but then he says, "--with a collect call from Iraq. Will you accept the charges?"

Hell, yes!

It's baby bro, who has two convoys and a lot of paperwork to execute before climbing on a plane to Kuwait. Woo hoo! January 5 is the big day! He talks to mom. He talks to his kids, who are visiting mom for the weekend. He talks to me. He tells me to tell him how much this phone call is costing.

Like I care. Merry Christmas to baby bro, and Happy New Year for us. Our soldier is coming home!

Friday, December 30, 2005

The Bed List/The Dinner List

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BED LIST: LL COOL J



I tend to play a lot of music in my classroom, and whenever LL Cool J's "I Need Love" rotates on, all the kids sing along with him. So do I. There's something about this guy that's just irresistible. Probably the growly voice and the six pack. The muscles don't hurt, either.

DINNER LIST: DICK CLARK



This man is a miracle of genetics, or modern science, or something. He never ages. Never. I remember watching American Bandstand (Yes, I am that old, get over it) as a kid, and he looks like that still, even if he is moving a little more slowly these days. The ball drop wasn't quite the same without him last year, was it? Glad to see he's back in action, freezing his *ss off in Times Square for our New Year's enjoyment. We could meet after for hot chocolate.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Back to Normal

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Christmas fun's over. Time to clean again (oy). The living room at Chez mimi has been exploded with toys, which now need to migrate down the hall, especially since mimi will be hosting yet another family dinner (dad, stepmom, baby sis/hub, sis/hub/nephew) on New Year's Day. Yikes.

Resolution season is coming, too, so I'm in the frame of mind to be changing some things. Like financial responsibility. I hate being stressed about money all the time! Since mimi's checkbook register hasn't been reliably looked after since--erm--May, methinks I will start fresh on Jan. 1. (There is a downside to debit cards) That, plus the usual diet/weight resolutions, blah blah, but this time, I'd like to get them right. Less pressure, more success. This could take some thinking. I'll get back to you in a week.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Gee, thanks, Dad!

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If you're sharp, you get the sarcasm in the title, but if not, let me explain. My dad went gray early. Like totally-white-by-the-age-of-fifty early. And of course, I am just. like. my. dad.

Gray hair started popping up when I was in my twenties. My early twenties. Luckily, I have a lot of curly hair, so they were easy to hide, but I'm vain enough to want some reinforcement. So I turn to the marvelous world of haircolor, starting off with a burgundy color wash. (It was the eighties. Sue me.) I think I look exotic. My more practical sister takes one look and delivers the death blow. "Purple." **cringe**

It's soon obvious that my hair will not be Nice 'n Easied into submission, so I turn to the semi-permanent stuff. Washes out in 12-24 shampoos. I'm Natural, I have Instincts, I'm a Southern gal, so I like the sound of this:


Pecan. Reminds me of pie. Pie is yummy. Pie, however, becomes less and less able to conceal the Gray's Rebellion taking place on my scalp. So I gulp and hit the hard stuff. Level 3. Permanent. And I turn to the Europeans.

Europeans like food, too. And so now I'm no longer a pecan. I'm a Chestnut.


Or not. Turns out haircolor oxidizes on your head. I live in Florida. That means lots of oxidation. So instead of my car rusting out, my head does. Lovely. I switch to Truffle,


a lovely shade of brown with no red. One problem: I have curly hair. Curly, dry hair. Curly, dry hair that soaks up haircolor, so if I'm not careful with the balance between enough-time-to-cover-resistant-gray and too much, I look like Goth Girl. Not a good look for an almost-40-year-old. Experimentation is good, especially when you have colors named luscious things like Chocolate Caramel:



(sounds great on the box, but not good on my head). Back to the store we go for more reinforcements. The winner:



Acorn!! Light natural brown. Looks mahvelous. I'm my old self again!

Okay, not that old looking, since the gray is gone, for now. I'll go gray someday. Just not today.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Merry Christmas

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Santa Claus came to town. Did you get everything you wished for? I already have. Wonderful husband, beautiful and healthy children, dogs, mortgage, car payments. Suburban paradise.

All I want now is peace on earth, good will toward men. But that's going to need some cooperation from some other folks.

Merry Christmas. And to my baby bro in Mosul, only 11 more days!!

Friday, December 23, 2005

The Bed List/The Dinner List

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BED LIST: MATT DAMON



I know, I know. Matt Damon's a pretty boy. I agree. But DH and I love the two Bourne movies (The Bourne Identity and The Bourne Supremacy), so I've been having an all-Matt smackdown for the past couple of days. Matt with his shirt off is darned cute, in a sneak-around-behind-your-parents kind of a way. Kind of like jailbait, but without the messy legal consequences.

DINNER LIST: JOHNNY DAMON



This is Johnny, aka "The Idiot," in happier times, when he was with the Red Sox. He's since committed the baseball cardinal sin and signed a big money contract with the Evil Empire, aka the hated Yankees. I know he's young and semi-good looking, but since I knew him when he was a teenager, he's pretty much permanent jailbait as far as I'm concerned. He'd be interesting to talk to, though. Like how he got a big, fat book contract just because he's a ballplayer. Sheesh!

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

In the Trenches

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Never let it be said that mimi has a firm grasp on time and planning. I plan, but not very far ahead. Case in point: I'm still Christmas shopping.

The problem with most of my problems is that I am a Mozart. Let me explain. In college, one of my professors kicked off our Theater Appreciation course with a small book called The Creative Process, which contained numerous essays about wildly creative people (like Mozart, Edison, etc.) and how they managed what they did. When I read the chapter on Mozart, bells went off. Mozart would walk around composing for weeks and weeks--in his head--and only when he could "hear" the piece the way he thought it should go would he get pen and paper and transcribe his work.

That's kind of how I do things. I'm no Mozart, of course, but I also walk around thinking about stuff. The new book. Scenes. Dialogue. Lesson plans. Home decor. Tonight's dinner. Christmas lists. After I've pondered it long enough, it spills out in one great rush. Unfortunately for me, that's usually right on top of some deadline.

Like kids in their jammies on Christmas morning. Eek.

Guess I have to brave the Toys 'R' Us after all. And popping a few cards in the mail wouldn't be bad, either. I think some of my college friends think I died.

Friday, December 16, 2005

The Bed List/The Dinner List

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BED LIST: NOAH HUNTLEY



I'm having a Narnia kind of week. DH and I took the kids to see The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe last weekend (which was great, BTW). Book Club discussed The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. One of the Book Club gals pointed us to this online Narnia personality quiz. So I take it, and I turn out to be Peter, the High King. How does this relate to Noah Huntley? I hear you cry. At the end of the movie, High King Peter and his fellow King and Queens are chasing the white stag when they stumble into the lantern waste...oh, heck, read the book for yourself. Noah Huntley plays High King Peter all grown up, and damn. I'd grovel all 'round his throne at Cair Paravel for a shot at His Majesty. Yea, verily.

DINNER LIST: RAY BRADBURY



Since I'm on a fantasy kick, I have to invite one of my favorite authors of all time for dinner. Ray Bradbury. Fahrenheit 451. The Martian Chronicles. Dandelion Wine. Something Wicked This Way Comes. "The Veldt" and "There Will Come Soft Rains" and "A Sound of Thunder." As a writer, I'm in awe of how this man crafts language. As a teacher, I love introducing students to his ideas, his love for language and thought and expression. As someone who loves smart men, I'd just love to spend a long evening with Ray Bradbury. Talk about a butterfly effect on your whole life.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Rejection Part Deux

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Got another reject today, from Kensington. Today's verdict: "The novel had an appealing angle and was very readable, but I felt the story development needed to be much more fresh and original. In the end, the boyfriend/car conceit didn't go very far for me."

Hate that running out of gas feeling, especially when it affects a possible sale. Argh. More pasta in the works.

Then, back into the game. I've been sitting in the writing coach waiting for the damned horses to show up. In essence, no movement. Seems like new horses are in order. Like maybe tooling the baseball book for NEXT. We'll see what Dream Agent has to say about that.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Little Monsters' Mommies!

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Apologies in advance to those of you who aren't as sports-obsessed as mimi, but this morning's paper contained an interesting story that dovetails so nicely with my rant on monster children, I just had to comment.

Apparently Josh Portis, the backup quarterback for the Florida Gators, will be transferring to another school after the Gators play in this year's Outback Bowl. Why? Because mom wants him to.

Mom, you see, has been orchestrating Josh's football career for years. When he wasn't getting what she viewed as the proper level of respect at Redondo Union High School in California, she transferred him to Long Beach Poly, a well-known football power. When it became clear that Josh wasn't going to be handed the starter job over a couple of seniors during his junior year, she transferred him to Taft High. Josh became a starter and was offered a scholarship at Utah, which became a scholarship to Florida when Coach Urban Meyer took over the reins at the Swamp.

This year, Josh is #2--as a true freshman, mind you--behind junior Chris Leak, who's talented enough to have been on the Heisman watch his first two years at UF. Apparently, that's not enough for mom. #2 in a blue-chip football program as a sophomore is just not enough respect for Patricia Portis's baby, so Josh will be transferring.

At this point, someone has to wonder what's in it for Patricia. Is she really looking out for Josh, or is she orchestrating what she thinks will be a mansion and a sweet, expensive ride once Josh makes it to the NFL? (Assuming, of course, his clock isn't cleaned and he's not permanently injured during his remaining three years of eligibility.) Are her machinations for her baby, or for herself?

Either way, that's a scary prospect. I'm a supportive mom and know I have the two best kids on the planet. But so do most of my friends with kids. It's a mother's job to be mama bear, to swat dangerous things out of your babies' paths and teach them how to survive in the big, bad forest of life. But I wonder whether Josh Portis and kids like him (aka, the little monsters who run wild in restaurants until the Big, Bad Owner asks them to behave like civilized creatures) will ever learn those survival skills if mom keeps moving them to a different part of the forest every time they comes up against a challenge?

If Josh Portis is as good as mom claims, there's no reason why Josh can't earn his place himself. Chris Leak, good as he is, hasn't adjusted quickly to his new coach's offensive style. Josh could have become the starter on his own merits, but how can that happen with mom swooping in (and showing up at least once a week at practice, and hanging around the athletic complex where Josh lives). Most tellingly, when asked about her role in his transfer choice, she hung up.

Mom, back off. Give the kid room to grow--and get knocked on his ass by a defensive lineman. More importantly, are you as forceful and concerned about his coursework at Florida? Do you expect him to earn his degree, or do you (and this is a scary thought) view him solely as a professional football playing-gravy train who's going to "get his regardless," as I've heard some parents say?
Assuming your kid does make it to the NFL, do you think a pro coach is going to go along with your demands? Josh's lockermates will probably wonder what kind of punk lets his mama make all his choices for him--not a good situation for a rookie to be in.

And that goes for you moms who scream at Little League/soccer/Pee Wee coaches, teachers, choir/drama directors, ballet masters, and principals when Baby Darling doesn't get the starter/A/star position. Sometimes, baby's gotta be a benchwarmer. A "C" student. In the chorus. How else is baby going to learn to be big?

Friday, December 09, 2005

The Bed List/The Dinner List

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BED LIST: ANTONIO BANDERAS



A couple of years ago, mimi and crew got to see Antonio Banderas in Nine on Broadway. Three hours' worth of singing, dancing, electric Antonio. Talk about charisma--we were in the balcony and wanted to rip his shirt off. Antonio Banderas has "it" in spades. The eyes? Check. The Latin soul (he's Spanish)? Check. The tongue-in-cheek sense of humor--Puss in Boots, anyone? Check. Swordsmanship? Check. And he looks hot in black leather and a mask. Antonio's welcome to mark me with a Z anytime--and anywhere--he wants.

DINNER LIST: HARVEY FIERSTEIN



No one on the planet can utter the words "Oh my Gaaaaaaawwwwwwwd!!" quite like Harvey Fierstein. That voice is classic. The eyeroll is classic. He's quite a performer. Who else could make you believe he's Edna Turnblad one week, Tevye the next? Plus, he's a better human being. He's done more to promote true acceptance for gays and lesbians that just about anyone who's out. Not a bad resume, professionally and personally. Dinner with Harvey Fierstein could get anyone all verklempt!

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

The Little Monsters!

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I have to admit feeling vindicated when reading about Dan McCauley, the proprietor of the Chicago-area bakery/sandwich shop A Taste of Heaven. Irritated to the limit by screeching wild creatures disguised as children that regularly invaded his shop, he posted a sign on the door of his shop reading, "Children of all ages have to behave and use their inside voices when coming to A Taste of Heaven." (Read more here)

Amen, Brother Dan, Amen. This isn't, as some outraged parents in his neighborhood allege, a childless vs. children problem. This is, essentially, a lack of courtesy problem, and one that's gone too far for too long.

I have two children. They are no angels. They don't listen, they think burping and farting are funny, they say embarrassing things. We've shared plenty of family dinners where I have had to say, in a voice slightly less loud than a tornado evacuation siren, "This is not the Wilderness, and I am not Moses. Sit your BUTTS down and DON'T MOVE." And they sit. Their wandering is usually confined to our table ("But I want to hug Mama!" my daughter will say) and doesn't happen every time we eat out. Usually, they sit, pay attention, say please and thank you to the server, and eat what's put in front of them. Are they unusual? Apparently so, if you eat out often.

I loathe rude people. Rude, loud, look-at-me people who think the world should cater to their needs. What's worse is the rude people who spawn. They may be rude, but their kids are worse. These are the kids who run full-tilt into servers carrying trays, who scream and throw tantrums, who have no manners. Worse yet, their parents hold conversations with the adults at their table, completely ignoring the havoc their little monsters are wreaking all around them. Godzilla Jr. can be pulling a destroy-Tokyo maneuver on someone else's table, but Mommy can't be disturbed from her latte to do anything about it.

I'm totally on Dan McCauley's side. From what I understand, several of these Mommies (he called them
"former cheerleaders and beauty queens" who "have a very strong sense of entitlement," which isn't far from the truth) are OUTRAGED and boycotting his shop. Joke's on them. His business has tripled since news of the "behave/inside voices" sign hit the door. Good for him. If I lived in the Windy City, I'd become a regular customer.

Friday, December 02, 2005

The Bed List/The Dinner List

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BED LIST: HEATH LEDGER



There's just something about Australian men, something very mad, bad, and dangerous to know. But they're friendly and approachable at the same time (a volatile mixture, to be sure). I don't know about you, but my inner teen fell in love with Heath Ledger in Ten Things I Hate About You. Conditions worsened with successive movies, but he won my grownup, English teacher heart in A Knight's Tale, of all things. The movie is so anti-Chaucer, it's marvelous. And Heath? Something about dressing like the Rolling Stones and dancing in a medieval banquet hall to Bowie's "Golden Years" lets you know that this is a guy who doesn't take himself too seriously, even if he is getting the crap jousted out of him.

DINNER LIST: TED KOPPEL



"The passing of an era" doesn't get much more profound than when you're talking about Koppel stepping away from the Nightline desk. Normally, I'm crashed by the time he comes on, but you have to respect someone who's done the job as long as he has. He's knocked heads with network folks (remember his plans to read the names of the soldiers killed during the Iraq War?) and maintained the respect of nearly everyone in broadcasting. That's some feat, considering that "news broadcasting" seems to be becoming more of the "how well can we get across the message we like better" every day. I think Ted and I would find enough to talk about to last us through dessert and even breakfast.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Feelin' Crappy

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I spent today out of the classroom at a department chairpersons workshop. These run the gamut from really useful to mind-numbing wastes of time. Today's leaned to the useful side of the continuum. Lots of good stuff about teaching writing, approaches to literature for students who aren't good readers, problem solving with other English teacher types.

It sucked.

Not the workshop part--that was good. The sucky part was the self-evaluation that inevitably comes after, the "You reek at this job" kind of obsessive thinking that can paralyze you despite all the cool "Ooo! I should try THIS!" ideas that also pop up during such a day. Unfortunately, my obsessive mind cranks up with the reasons I ought to just hang up the teaching thing right now: You should be doing SO much more. You can't keep up with your grades. Your lesson plans are stagnant (unwritten, actually--yet another sin). How come you haven't built a Webquest? How come you don't worship at the altar of Shakespeare? How can you call yourself a LEADER when you can't even keep YOUR teaching engine running right??

Teachers are already cursed with an overdeveloped sense of obligation. That's what makes us take home piles of work, buy hundreds of dollars of supplies out of pocket, pay for lunches for hungry kids who aren't our personal offspring, and devote hours out of the classroom to coaching, sponsoring, field trips, etc. What's worse is when we start thinking "I should do MORE." Hell, to do this job right, you'd have to spend the rest of your waking hours planning, researching, and designing lessons and seamless, meaningful curricula. This would be on top of the test prep, box checking, paperwork, forms, memos, reminders, assessments, more test prep, counseling, and myriad other tasks tossed in the job description, the tasks squeezing more and more time out of the teaching day and forcing us to do the preparation and research and paper grading at home, when we should be playing with our kids, making love to our spouses, or pursuing other interests, like the church choir or gardening or, God forbid, novel writing (does it help to know that my current project is stuck in the doldrums right now?). One teacher today chirped that she and 21 of her kids tackled NaNoWriMo last month, and she and six of her kids made it. I just about tossed in the proverbial towel when I heard that. I can't keep up with my laundry, and she wrote a novel even though she grades papers for 2 hours a night. Urk.

I can see why people turn to alcohol. Too bad my drug of choice is pasta. I'll be able to rent out my butt for advertising pretty soon if I don't get it together.

Okay. Enough whining. Must do something productive. Laundry would help. Advertising butt needs clean khakis for tomorrow.
 

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