My DSP: Line 6

I’m not sure if I’m mad at myself for concocting this project all together, or just not waiting to start until after the quarter finished.

There was a small stretch of time that I really enjoyed being a food critic.

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My DSSP: Line 5

I know it’s past midnight, but let’s pretend it’s still the 5th, k?

“Subtle, Callie, I’m sure nobody saw that and thought they were watching a sitcom.”

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My DSSP: Line 4

Some days you’re just not feeling it. Which is why it’s good to have a plan in place that you stick to, like sitting down for just 15 minutes to try to put something on the page. From today’s “not-feeling-it” session:

How hypercritical can one person be of oneself before one just implodes? Or explodes? Or otherwise bursts into pieces?

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My DSSP: Line 3

I just want to mention that all writing contained in this blog is copyrighted material.

I also wanted to note that just because a line appears here in the project does not mean it will appear in the finished product. You’ve all seen trailers where the funniest bit isn’t even in the movie. Faulkner’s advice is best (and hardest to follow:) “Kill your darlings.”

Here’s my line for day 3:

I have momentarily stopped thinking about Sam, but I feel like I myself might shuffle off this mortal coil, so instead I shuffle off to bed.

 

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My December Short Story Project

For the past four years, I have written a short blog post every day in December, chronicling songs that I like and the reasons I like them. A few days ago, I had to decide whether I wanted to do that again. At the end of the project last year, I felt exhausted with it, so I thought I might not do it again. But I also created a spreadsheet to keep track of all the songs I had covered (so I didn’t repeat anything), which made me want to do it again, just to utilize the spreadsheet.

Sorry, spreadsheet. Maybe next year. In the meantime, I took the advice of my husband to use the time I otherwise would’ve spent to work on a different project. I fiddle with this short story from time to time, trying to get at least 5,000 words out of it and a beginning, middle and end. For practice. Ultimately I want to end up with something good, but since fiction is not my strong suit, that may be too much to ask at the moment.

My plan for the project is this: I’m going to write for at least 15 minutes a day. (I find the logistics of all of this problematic – 15 minutes might be enough time to get one into a thought, but then one wouldn’t want to abandon it post haste. But I may not be able to devote more time.) To keep myself honest, I’ll post one line each day. I’ll try to make it a line I wrote that day, but as I’ve already got a chunk of the story written, I’m not promising that I won’t delve into the history. That may be lucrative for me anyway.

At least, that was the plan. As you may notice, it is December 2nd. Almost December 3rd. After I came home last night, I turned on the TV and forgot all about it. Forgot it was even December. So I guess I’ll post two lines today and try to carry on. Who’s going to notice, anyway?

By the way, I don’t have a title for this story yet. I find that titles either come to me very early or dead last, so I guess this time, it’s last. If I finish the story this year, and if I’m not too horribly embarrassed by my work (two very big ifs), I’ll consider publishing it in its entirety here. Eh, don’t get your hopes up though.

Here are my two lines for December 1st and December 2nd. Hope you like them.

By the time our newspaper landed on your doorstep – and it probably didn’t because you cancelled your subscription years ago – our most current story was yesterday’s trending hashtag.

 

Once a salesman for home security tried to convince me he was saving lives. My guess is that he didn’t think of himself as a murderer when things went horribly awry.

 

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My Phone and My Books

I always write lots of blog posts in December. I like looking-back and summing-up, especially when I think how beneficial it will be in the future, to jog my presently deteriorating memory. I thought before December rolled around I’d have a nice, picture-filled update of our bathroom remodel. I wanted to show dramatic befores and afters, but as we’re still middling with it, things have been rather quiet on the blog front.

For reasons that will probably seem obvious to any American, no matter how you voted, I disconnected from news and decided to make more time for reading. I wanted to read old things or new things, just so long as I wasn’t reading news things. Also, just as a general, apropos-of-nothing-else fact, I like myself better when I read books, instead of squinting at my phone. The phone that chimes at me every time I enter Target, pushing me to use discounts for products I don’t even want. The phone that knows when I’m at Jack in the Box and threatens to post a picture of it, as if trying to shame me into making better choices. The phone that, when tossed on to the passenger seat of my car by itself, causes the seatbelt warning light to go off, a feat no other inanimate object has accomplished – not my purse or my backpack or bags of ill-advised, overpriced purchases. The phones are so close to sentient beings that the cars want to protect them in the event of a crash. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

When I read on my phone, I feel sucked into a black abyss, possibly never to return if I can’t remember to look up. When I read books, I engage with them. We have little conversations. I pause to contemplate, if necessary, and I keep track of the best bits. So with nothing better to do or say, I decided to share a few of the best bits of what I’ve come across in the past couple of weeks/books.

The first quote is from a collection of essays by F. Scott Fitzgerald, called, “A Short Autobiography.”

Only one thing can I be sure of about the world in which he will live – it will not be as cheerful a world as the world into which I was born. Never had faith in the destiny of man reached such a height as during the nineties – seldom has it ebbed so low as it has now. When we see around us a great decay in ideals of conduct there is some fundamental cause behind it. It is impossible to be vicious in a vacuum. Something serious (which only professional evangelists, cheap novelists, and corrupt politicians profess to understand) is the matter with the world. It will be a strong heart that can fight its way upstream in these troubled waters and not be, like my generation, a bit cynical, a bit weary, and a bit sad.

-F. Scott Fitzgerald, “Wait Till You Have Children of Your Own!” Excerpt from Woman’s Home Companion, July 1924

 

When the prefrontal cortex is overwhelmed, a person can no longer make sense of the situation. Correlation is confused with causation, and people make theories out of coincidences.

from “How We Decide,” by Jonah Lehrer

 

The brain always learns the same way, accumulating wisdom through error. There are no shortcuts to this time consuming process; becoming an expert just takes time and practice.

from “How We Decide,” by Jonah Lehrer

 

I fell in love with London while I was at school there and have never fallen out. I love their being as bound up in their history as they are, preserving their buildings instead of razing them to the ground to make way for another big beige building with lots of windows to throw yourself screaming from. I love its accents, its exchange rates, its idiosyncratic friendly behavior, its museums, its parks you need keys for, and its colas without ice. If I can forgive a place for not making ice a priority as part of their lifestyle, that’s true love.

from “The Princess Diarist” by Carrie Fisher

 

She: One of us is boring.
He: Why do you say that?
She: Because…well, we’re just sitting here, not talking.
He: What’s wrong with that?
She: Well, I don’t know. Probably nothing – it’s just that we don’t need each other for it.
He: For what?
She: Being quiet.

from “The Princess Diarist” by Carrie Fisher

 

 

 

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My (Non) Weather Event

The Northwest and the Puget Sound region in particular are famous for seeing a flake of snow and immediately clearing shelves in grocery stores and hunkering down in our houses, bracing for the worst. But, since we live in the Northwest, nothing particularly remarkable happens. Usually.

A few days ago, we started hearing rumblings of a windstorm that would rival the region’s 1962 Columbus Day storm, where wind gusts upwards of 80 miles an hour downed trees and power lines, and caused memorable chaos. My initial thought was, oh thank God, we’re finally going to have something to talk about besides the election. Though I don’t usually do this, I turned on the news last night to get the latest weather update. The storm, itself remnants of Typhoon Songda, was no longer going to rival ’62’s Big Blow, but it could reach the level of 2006’s Hanukkah Eve storm. I for one did not realize that storm had a name, but do remember it. We were out of power in our apartment complex for a few days, and I permanently marked our brand new kitchen table with purple candle wax.

This year’s “wind-pocalypse” was set to hit us in the late afternoon or early evening hours today, so I went to the store this morning and bought a big flashlight and an LED lantern. I was, so help me, “preparing,” just as the news suggested I do. Now, this might not seem like much. “Big deal, you bought a flashlight,” you might be saying. But I don’t believe in preparing for Pacific Northwest weather, because our local media has a tendency to blow things out of proportion. I already have flashlights. I already have candles. And surprisingly enough, my faucets are not electric, so I can get water from them even when the power is out. But that’s how bored I was. I watched too much news coverage, and I ran to the store like a lemming.

And then, come 5 o’clock, a few leaves descended from the trees, making their way peacefully to the soggy ground. Storm of the century.

storm-meme

There have been a few memorable weather events in the northwest, but none that I ever prepared for, and I’m still here. The most memorable was 2012’s ice storm. That one actually changed our landscape, when the tine of a three-tined tree broke off, leaving us with a two-tined tree. It was also memorable because our daughter was only four-months old, and we were struggling to keep her warm and heat bottles of formula under hot tap water. And nobody predicted that storm; no one even knew to be prepared.

The Ice-Storm

The Ice-Storm

Sonja's First --pocalypse.

Sonja’s First –pocalypse.

Then there was that time a few years ago (sorry can’t remember and can’t find it online) when it snowed and it took Shaun 10 hours to get home from Redmond. That was pretty memorable. Especially for him.

And last spring we lost power for a day when a tree fell on a power line on our street. That was memorable for being the second time that year we lost power, and one of only a handful of times we’ve lost power.

Today was unremarkable and insufferably boring, but I’ll always have the flashlights to remind me not to take the forecast too seriously.

Totally prepared and completely underwhelmed

Totally prepared and completely underwhelmed

 

 

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My Five-Year-Old Well-Child

I’ve spent the past year taking Sonja for quarterly height and weight checks, at the request of her doctor, to keep an eye on her steady but slow growth. When the doctor first suggested this, I asked what on earth could possibly be wrong or be done to correct it. He said, if I recall correctly, something about potential developmental issues, of which Sonja has never had any.

So it was a surprise to me when Sonja and I left her well-child check and I realized not a single thing had been said about her height or her weight. I guess we’re done caring about that now. Personally, once I realized that I didn’t actually have to wait for Sonja to grow out of her clothing to buy her new clothing – that I, as an adult with income could just buy her new clothes if I felt like it – I let it go. As I have reiterated time and time again, there is literally nothing I can do to make her conform to American growth standards. I want to note that while it is a struggle for me to find pants that fit Sonja – jeans are pretty much out of the question – she had a pair of hand-me-down shorts that came from France and she outgrew them. In the waist. She has size 12 month shorts that she hasn’t outgrown the waist.* Perhaps she is just the victim of American sizing.

The doc agreed with me that she is ready to start school, but here’s yet another situation I can do nothing about. Since she’s such a picky eater, I’ve decided to use Sonja’s pre-kindergarten gap year to get her more comfortable with lunchbox foods. We’re working on ham sandwiches.

And that’s about all she wrote for the checkup. She’s 39 inches and just shy of 30 pounds. She did not need vaccines this time, but I made her get a flu shot, which she was not happy about. She seemed to have a really good time telling everyone that she DID NOT like getting a flu shot, though.

She also went to the dentist this week. She kept asking me, “Mom, when can I go to the dentist?” I think she sees it as little more than a ride in a chair and a prize at the end. She doesn’t like the flavor of the polish and I don’t blame her. The dentist says her arch looks great as do her teeth. No indications of decay. He praised me for doing well with brushing at home, but, due to a general lack of supervision, I think it’s a combination of good genetics (solely and completely on Dad’s side) and the fact she doesn’t drink soda or juice and doesn’t like candy all that much. Except for chocolate. Some apples don’t fall far from the tree.

When Sonja was a baby, I used to think I wouldn’t make it the two or three months between scheduled doctor visits. I had so many questions. Now, the scheduled visits are a year apart, which is remarkable not because I think it’s too long but because it feels so short. It feels like two or three months between visits. I take her to the dentist twice a year and that feels like we’re there every week. Time is hurtling along, so I’ll see everybody again in a couple of months for the six-year write up.

*I have no idea what size the European shorts were. They could have been 12 months.

 

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My 5-Year-Old

Jumping for joy that she's 5!

Jumping for joy that she’s 5!

If you follow me on Facebook, you may have seen a couple of posts in which I lament that my mid-September baby, who is overwhelmingly ready for kindergarten, can’t go to kindergarten because she just misses the cutoff. When I complain about this, people kindly say that at least she will do really well when she finally starts school. I am not an obtuse person but this makes no sense to me. What is the point of delaying this development? Are we really, as a nation, that fearful of Bs and Cs and grades that show that work is needed? Work is good.

But then I think, because I am nothing if not introspective, about the real issue at hand. Is it that she is ready for school and I am mad at the system for being so bureaucratically rigid, or is it that I, whose birthday is the cutoff date, was always the youngest in my class and know my daughter will, for her entire school career, have a very different experience than I did? That would not necessarily be a bad thing.

matisse-lb-photography-9741

If you ask Sonja, she is excited to go back to preschool and meet her new teacher, but she would also really like to ride on the school bus.

She is ready, though. She can write all her letters, spell and write her name, and read a few small words like the, go, zoo and no. We are working on reading with learn-to-read books. When I leave her bedroom at night (still a terrible ordeal), and she complains that she can’t sleep, I tell her she can read a book to herself. She finds the one she wants and looks through the pages. When I go in to check on her, I usually find the book open and propped up against the wall or a stuffed animal, as if being exalted.

Sonja is (still) very independent. She picks out her own clothes with the assistance of a small chair, and dresses herself. She buckles herself into her car seat. She insists on helping me with anything I’m doing, like laundry or cooking, because anything I can do, she can do better. The one thing that she shows no interest in doing whatsoever is cleaning up after herself. At least at home. She’ll do it in a group or at school. When I ask her to clean her room, she says, “but Mo-om, I like it messy.”

matisse-lb-photography-9705

She doesn’t have as many temper tantrums these days (still a few), but there are battles of will over things such as cleaning up, going to bed, or entertaining herself for 10 minutes while Mom finishes the dishes. The other day she yelled that she didn’t love me anymore because I was always yelling at her, which was heartbreaking in its reminder that my impatience has impact on her, and terrifying in its preview of teenage dramatics.

We have Netflix and she knows how to use it. She will watch the same show for a couple of weeks (sometimes the same exact episodes), and then she’ll move on. She loves going to the movies. I took her to see The Secret Life of Pets on my birthday. She loved it. And we rented the new version of The Jungle Book, which I thought might be too scary for her, but which she also loved, because Mowgli defeated the scary lion tiger. She had a pair of tan cargo shorts that I tried and failed to get her to wear this summer, until she watched The Jungle Book and decided that those most closely resembled Mowgli’s shorts. She doesn’t love everything she watches. Notable exceptions were The Good Dinosaur and Home, and I agree with her on both fronts there. Those were terrible movies.

For reasons I don’t understand and won’t remember, I decided to try Pokemon Go. Sonja loves spinning Pokestops and catching Pokemon for me. She’s pretty good at it, and she already understands video games so well it’ll only be a couple of months before she surpasses me.

I remember Shaun and I wondering, when Sonja was an infant, what she would be like when she got a little older. At age 5, she is smart; she is precocious; she is musical; she is verbal; she is outgoing; she is easily frustrated; She is a picky eater. But more than anything else, she is happy. You won’t meet a happier 5-year-old, you just won’t. We love you Sonja, and we can’t wait to see what year 5 brings.

matisse-lb-photography-9844

 

 

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Mining My Own History

I’ve been doing some fine-toothed decluttering and reorganizing that of my past which I wish to keep. And what do I wish to keep? Writing, apparently. I came across a very nice, three-ring purple binder full of old material, neatly organized and divided into categories of time and place. As I flipped through it, the tabs came off the dividers, the glue being so old as to have disintegrated. I went back to the beginning – the very first tab – which was labeled “favorites.” I turned to the first story, Peter, William and Mary, completed on April 22, 2003. As I began to read, I didn’t know what the story was about. The introduction rambled, and I was embarrassed for myself. But then, I got to the point and I wound up with a story that I actually liked. I liked it for two reasons. First, I like it when I see my current self in my old writing. It probably sounds narcissistic, but life is constantly changing, and people (including you!) are constantly changing, so to recognize myself in writing I did 13 years ago makes me feel permanent. When I describe London’s weather as “ass-numbingly cold” and write lines like, “the fact that I was not having a good time only spoke to the fact I never had a good time,” I say, “yup, that’s me.” The second reason I like it is because I’m SOOOO f***ing glad I wrote this stuff down. I wrote this piece about London, two years after I was in London, and as I reread it, I realized I had forgotten most of the situations I described. So, although it may again sound narcissistic, thank you, past self, for being smart enough to write this shit down. (Just so you know, I don’t think all my old stuff is good. I have a whole section of teenage girl poetry and – yeesh – Maya Angelou I wasn’t.)

School is starting in our district. Sonja can’t attend, for just missing the cutoff, and because she is so smart and so well-adjusted, it’s killing me that she has to wait. In my mirthier moments, I think, “what will become of her gap year? Surely, she’ll be too old by the end of high school and have to go straight to college.” I myself did not have a “gap year” as that was not a thing 15 years ago, and probably won’t be 15 years from now after someone does damning but inaccurate research on its consequences. Still, I took time at the end of my college career, when I was ready to graduate a quarter early (or two quarters late depending on how you look at it), to do some exploring. And while all signs point to Sonja being a completely different person than I am, perhaps someday she will find this story interesting. And so it is that I share it with you.

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