Friday, July 31, 2009


I recently watched one of my favorite movies again - Proof, starring Gwyneth Paltrow and Anthony Hopkins. It made me remember how much I love that movie, how much I love Gwyneth, how much I miss my dad and that I have completely forgotten to blog about two outstanding books I read this summer.

But, first, back to the movie Proof. For anyone who didn't see it or forgets the plot, Proof is the story about a young woman whose father is a mathematical genius - but he's losing his mind and she gives up her college career and goals to go home and care for him. With the fresh perspective of having just gone through something similar with my own dad, the movie was even more poignant. Of course, my dad was no mathematical genius, but he was a master mechanic and often in the nursing home when I'd arrive, he would be going on about things he needed to get done and jobs that needed to be finished - and sometimes, when he could speak more than a word or two, he'd belt out, "Let's go, I got work to do."

I often looked for proof that my dad knew what was happening to him - usually, it wasn't there. And, I suppose in a way that is good. Because he was only 58 years old and having the realization of his situation would have made things much worse. There were, however, two times I can remember in the year I spent with him when he showed signs of knowing what was going on. Two times before he died when he looked at me - really looked at me - grabbed my hand, squeezed and cried for all that he had lost. It was heartbreaking. But, for me, it was proof that he was still there, somewhere, and that he knew I was by his side.

The movie Proof also reminded me of another beautiful story about a math genius - No One You Know by Michelle Richmond. I devoured two of Richmond's books this summer (No One You Know and The Year of Fog) and I can't believe I forgot to add them to my list of recommendations for summer reading.

And don't fret if you aren't a math fan - I should say that neither the movie Proof nor the book No One You Know is about math (though math plays a huge part, a wonderful character in each.) No, just as the movie is a human story about a woman and her father, Richmond's book is about two sisters - one, the top math student at Stanford, who is murdered. She leaves a notebook and unanswered questions behind and the real story is the journey of the other sister, Ellie, to find out what really happened to her sister.

I love Richmond's writing - she is lyrical and poetic and weaves places and things into her stories like no one I know. She breathes life into San Francisco and brings you so far into the place and story that you can taste the coffee and see the fog, and you won't put her books down until the mysteries are solved.

So, if you haven't already - pick up both of her books: The Year of Fog and No One You Know.

And rent an old movie - Proof with Gwyneth. (And go home and hug your dad.) Oh, and speaking of Gwyneth... check out her new issue of GOOP to see what she and her lovely friends are reading for their end of summer downtime.(And thanks @JennyBrooks for sharing that list.)

Thursday, July 30, 2009

End of Summer Reading

What happened to the time? It seems like just yesterday when the entire summer was spread out in front of me, complete with endless possibilities and the promise of lazy, hot days doing absolutely nothing (except reading and writing, of course). Yet, already the kids go back to school in less than two weeks and the choas of gathering school supplies, bus schedules and weeding out too small clothes is in full swing! I barely saw a firefly, let alone caught one. And with the recession still breathing down our necks, we didn't step foot on a beach - we barely left our own yard. Where did all that time go?

Speaking of time and it getting away from you, time travel seems to be one of the literary trends of the moment (does this mean vampires are fading? doesn't appear to be, but one can hope, right? And don't go hating on me all you Twilight fans, I actually love the's just all the other vampires coming out of the woodwork that irk me.)

Anyway, I've just finished two time travel books - two completely literary opposites, but both worth your time, nonetheless.

The Time Traveler's Wife
Earlier this summer, I picked up Audrey Niffenegger's The Time Traveler's Wife because I wanted to read it before the movie comes out (can't wait by the way, August 14th starring Eric Bana and Rachel McAdams, both whom I adore! View the trailer.) Many of you know, I am interviewing her for my piece over at She Knows and I'm so excited.

The book is a journey through time, a powerful love story between Henry (who time travels uncontrollably due to a genetic epileptic-type disease) and his wife Claire (who spends much of her time waitng and wondering when Henry will return.) One minute he's there, the next he's not - a pile of clothes left in his wake. You see, he can't take anything with him when he goes. And on the other end, he arrives naked and completely unsure of where and when he is, or when he'll get back to Claire.

Friends who read the book indicated that, at times, the datelines and time travel could be confusing, but stick with it. The book is worth the energy - it's literally a love story for all time. For me, the book was like gravity, pulled me in and I can't wait to pick the author's brain!

Time of My Life
The other time travel type book I just finished, called Time of My Life, comes out in paperback next week. I had the chance to interview the lovely author, Allison Winn Scotch, who is so fun and sweet - my interview with her will be up on She Knows early next week (she dishes on the movie version and the glamorous life she leads!) and she's also answering "25 Things Liz and Lisa Want to Know About..." over at the popular chick lit blog: Allison is also one of those lovely authors who blogs and answers questions about writing and the industry and things we writers love to know.

Time of My Life is the ultimate "What if?" book - it's the story of Jillian Westfield (a woman who has it all - perfect husband, lovely home, angelic toddler) until she wakes up and finds herself seven years in her past. Suddenly, she's living with her ex-boyfriend (the star of her what-if fantasies) and back at her high-powered ad agency job - before marriage, before baby. Can she do things differently this time around? Will she? It's worth your time to find out.

So if you are lucky enough to be planning a last-minute summer getaway, pick up one or both of these books. Neither will disappoint.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Summer Reading

There's nothing I love more than summer - sitting poolside or on the beach with a great book in my hand. One that smells not just of crisp ink and paper, but adventure and heartache, salty like the ocean or dewy like the grass. A book that vibrates like a small propeller engine or a hot air balloon ready for flight. One that sounds like electricity cracking with every turn of the page. Okay, so I'm getting a little too excited, but books can do that to a girl.

When I was a kid, my grandma took me to the library every Monday. I picked out six books to read - and I'd gobble them all up and be fidgeting to go back the following Monday. To this day, I can vividly remember where I was when I conquered A Separate Peace by John Knowles, Dicey's Song by Cynthia Voigt and even this sappy Silhouette book called Written in the Stars about a girl who falls in love with a boy from the other side, a ghost who appeared to her in her backyard (think Edward and Bella minus the blood sucking! I've tried many times to find that book again - and I'll admit, I camped out in my backyard a few times in search of my own ghost boy to love.)

So yesterday I took my almost ten-year-old daughter to the library to snatch up some books. She had a handful and was unsure which ones to check out with her shiny new library card burning a hole in her pocket. So I told her to sit down and embrace the book, read the first couple pages. If the book grabbed her, like a fishing line cast out from the pages and hooked her in, then we'd get them.

She chose two:

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman (a Newberry winner, he also wrote Coraline) - We read the first couple pages and both had chills. It wasn't a fish hook that reeled us in, it was more like being pulled by the hair and yanked in (like your first junior high girl fight, you really have no choice and blindly start swinging...with this book, you have no choice, you just have to read it, you can't stop yourself.)

If a Tree Falls at Lunch Period by Gennifer Choldenko (author of the excellent Al Capone Does My Shirts - also a Newberry winner) I think what really hooked my tween into this one was the fact that the first few paragraphs had the word "crap" in them several times. But don't let that turn you off - it's a great book.

A couple other recommendations for your tween/middle grade reader:
Shug by Jenny Han (about first love, starting Jr. high - as sweet and sticky as a cherry Popsicle. I've read it twice.)

The London Eye Mystery by Zetta Elliott (have not read this, but can't wait to and if you're tween likes mystery and adventure, this is supposed to be a good one.)

For older tweens and teens, I recommend anything and everything by Sarah Dessen - I just finished her new one Along for the Ride and am interviewing her next week.

As for me, here's what I'll be reading this summer:

The Pull of the Moon by Elizabeth Berg
The Family Man by Elinor Lipman
Dark Places by Gillian Flynn
Follow Me by Joanna Scott
Mercury in Retrograde by Paula Froelich (can't wait for this one! A great chick lit read about three NY women who move into the same SoHo apartment building)

Also, if you love chick lit, Jennifer Weiner has a new book coming out in July and Emily Giffin's Love the One You're With (LTOYW) is out in paperback. Both of these authors will be featured on the popular blog with a super fun "25 Things to Know About" each of them. Emily will be June's (up starting next week) and you could win a copy of her book (watch the blog for details) and Jennifer will be up in July promoting her new book Best Friends Forever. Fun stuff!

Last but not least, for any men out there who might be reading this...I have a recommended list for you too:

The Strain by Guillermo Del Toro - about a Vampire virus infecting New York. Hey, why should we women be all the ones enjoying a good love affair with teenage vampires? This one's for the guys and is uh...adults.

The Tourist by Olen Steinhauer - a CIA spy thriller (don't all guys wish they were a spy?)

Drood by Dan Simmons - if you like a terrifying thriller

Okay, so even though I could ramble on and on about books for ages, I'll stop now. After all, I need to get back to my book.

p.s. Take your kids to the library this summer!
p.s.s. I just re-read Jodi Picoult's Songs of the Humpback Whale - if you haven't read it, pick it up. I love this book!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Book Round-Up: Handle With Care, The Department of Lost and Found, American Wife

Quick book round-up since I've had my nose stuck in various books over the last several weeks....

Handle With Care by Jodi Picoult
So, I'm a huge Picoult fan as many of us are. I love so many of her books and I was truly excited to dive into this new one and get lost in Picoult's relevant and captivating storytelling - her books are more than stories, they are experiences which is what I love about them.

Handle With Care was like baking a rich cake full of texture and flavors - I felt like a real pastry chef. I could smell the desserts baking in the warm kitchen while the snow melted outside. I savored every word, every character and character flaw, I rolled her eloquent passages over my tongue like the best icing I'd ever tasted, sometimes sweet and sometimes bitter. The raw emotion and passion of her characters, and their likable and not so likable actions, are what make her a genius. But I have to say, this book experience for me was like baking that wonderful cake, anticipating it coming out perfect and opening the oven door to find the damn cake had folded into itself, crumbled under it's own weight. Perhaps the weight of my expectations?

And the thing is I didn't feel that way until the end. I was rolling along enjoying the story (even though at times it felt like My Sister's Keeper all over again)and loving the characters (especially Sean and Willow) and then just -bam! - it ended in a way that left a bad taste in my mouth. I felt like Picoult was trying too hard to recapture that moment at the end of My Sister's Keeper where everyone was shocked to the core. I felt like for this story, how it ended, just wasn't necessary.... but maybe it was? I don't know... I'm still perplexed. But I'm still thinking about it and maybe that was her point? And the part that really got me ticked off was the money - so unrealistic and what a waste, think of all the other kids that could have helped. Makes me angry to think about it.

The Department of Lost and Found by Allison Winn Scotch
This was my first foray into the literary world of this writer - who came highly recommended to me by my friend and author Lisa Steinke. It's about a tough subject - a young woman who gets breast cancer - but it's handled with the right balance of seriousness and necessary humor. The result? Hope. Which I think we can all use right now.

The premise is this: 30-year-old Natalie finds out she has cancer the same day she is dumped by her boyfriend. She embarks on a journey of recovery through chemo and by digging into past relationships (five of them) to see what went wrong in each of them so she can learn from her mistakes. I loved the humor, the touching emotional moments throughout where the cancer becomes very real to her and breaks her facade of strength and the whole idea of learning from your mistakes. Not that I would go back to past boyfriends and ask them what went wrong (oh Hell no!) but it was fascinating reading about her journey. What I found in The Department of Lost and Found is another great writer to look forward to reading over the years.

American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld
So I loved this book. I have to admit I enjoy fiction that is inspired by real people or real things - and this one is inspired by Laura Bush. I love how a writer can take a nugget of information, a small glimpse of someone and create an entire story of their life that is real and believable and so amazingly layered that I am wondering if it indeed is fiction or not. Sittenfeld is gifted, there's no other way to describe her writing.

But, no, this is not a book about Laura Bush, her childhood or her life with W. It's a story about a woman from the time she's a teenager (where she is responsible for a life-altering tragedy not unlike Laura Bush) through her choices (some a bit shocking) and into womanhood and adulthood where she ends up as the American president's wife. It was fascinating.

What am I diving into next? Well thanks to Mary, I'm excited to start Ahab's Wife and my mother in law just sent me a collection from my all-time favorite Joyce Carol Oates called Dear Husband.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Dora the Exploited

Sometimes I can't believe what parents get upset about these days. Like the fact that Dora the Explorer (the fun, Spanish speaking, monkey loving little adventurer) is getting a new modern makeover to appeal to today's tweens. Parents have actually started a petition against this! I find this hysterical since a great many parents can't find time to petition for say ... better education... but they can find time to rag on a toy company for expanding its fan base to include girls a bit older than those learning how to count beyond ten?

Now, I am the parent of a tween and I think it's great that they are trying to keep Dora alive for those beyond diapers, goldfish and sticky fingers. After all, she's wholesome, super intelligent, bi-lingual, resourceful, adventurous and kind-hearted. What tween in today's society doesn't need a role model like that? Especially when current role models include the likes of Lohan, Spears and a gaggle of Disney princesses gone bad (and nude!)

Yet over-zealous parents are freaking out... from what I've read you would think Mattel is making the new Dora into a tramp (a la Paris Hilton, Britney Spears or any number of inappropriate examples as mentioned above.) I've read the articles and seen the picture of the new Dora. She has longer hair, bigger accessories and - gasp!- a skirt...with leggings. She is sweet looking and current and relevant what if she ditched those orange boy shorts and bad hair cut for a stylish little makeover?

The thing is, Mattel is still keeping the old Dora around for the preschool crowd, so it's not like they are replacing that Dora with the new one, forcing young kids to only get their Dora fix with this new sassy, pre-pubescent Dora. They are catering to both age groups, separately.

The new Dora is a far cry from one of those freakin' BRAT dolls (with the vampy eyes, Victoria Secret model hair and curves Hef's Girls Next Door would envy)and I have to say, don't we all have bigger fish to fry right now?

In fact, if you are so worried about your tween and this whole Dora thing, shut off the TV, take away the iPod and take her for a walk... go exploring. That's what Dora would do.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Jingle All The Way

You know when you get a jingle in your head - a song or a bit from radio or TV - and you can't get it out? Like there's this one on the local radio here....a little commercial song that goes something like this... "Christy Smith, helping people on the move. Christy Smith, helping people on the move. Christy Smith, helping...*pause for dramatic effect here*...people on the move." I have no idea who she is, there clearly wasn't much thought put into the lyrics, but every time it comes on, my daughter says "Oh turn it up!" as if it were her favorite song. (Of course, this is the same daughter who insists we need a swiffer, a snuggie and that I need the dual lash spinner to get rid of clumps in my mascara. Clearly, she is easily swayed.) But, I digress. Christy Smith, when I move, I will remember that you help people in that situation.

Just this morning when I was waking up my daughter, I said "Get up, I hit snooze and now you need to bust a move!" The rest of the morning, I've been stuck with the same line in my head... "If you want it, baby you've got it....just bust a move." Now, honestly, I can't tell you the last time I actually heard that Young M.C. song. YEARS. But, there it was playing over and over in my head. ("This here's a tell for all the fellas, try to do what those ladies tell us....")

And I guess it never goes away...those lyrics and jingles get engraved in our brains and pop out at random times. It's like Whack-a-Mole...that crazy game with the psychotic mole that pops out of the holes: you never know when or where he'll pop up next before you have to thump him on the head with that crazy hammer-like instrument. (I have to admit there is something quite satisfying about thumping that annoying little weasel!)

But my point is, these song lyrics and jingles stay with us... one day at the nursing home when I was having dinner with my dad, there was an old lady at the table with us. She was in a wheelchair, curled up into herself like a puppy dog tail. Her head was bowed, her eyes were closed, her face grimaced as if she were in perpetual pain. Her food sat untouched in front of her. It was hard to tell if she was asleep or if this was her common state of lethargy, just waiting for it all to be over.

My daughter went over to the piano in the dining room at this point. It was just after Christmas and she had been rehearsing for her recital. She began to play "Jingle Bells" and the sweetest thing happened. The lady with her eyes closed, seemingly unconscious, began to move her lips ... "Jingle Bells...Jingle Bells...Jingle all the way..." She mouthed the words right along while Anna played. When Anna stopped, she stopped. When Anna picked up again, the woman picked right back up with her. She never missed a beat, never missed a word. She never opened her eyes but the music moved her.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

The Rest of the Story

I was sad to read that broadcasting pioneer and one of my all-time favs Paul Harvey has died. I mean, he was 90 and had a long, amazing life. But, still, it's a huge loss felt by his millions of fans including me. To think we'll never hear these words LIVE over the radio again "....and that is the rest of the story."

He was legendary and he narrated many walks for me between my dorm room and classes at Purdue University. No matter how cold it was trudging across campus; no matter how tired I was; no matter how I didn't want to go to class; he always made me smile with his "The Rest of the Story." It felt like he was my grandpa, encouraging me softly, indirectly by other people's stories, emphasizing why it's important to see the best in me, in my story, letting us know we are all human and in this together. His voice broadcast softly, encouragingly in my ear many cold, lonely mornings.

Whether you are familiar with him or not, take a minute and read a little about this legendary broadcaster's story:

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Bits & Busts

Feeling a bit like a train has run me over, so just posting a few random things today....

First of all, my daughter and I started "Are you there God, it's me Margaret?" the other day. We read together a few chapters each night before her bedtime (okay, fine, my bedtime). She literally cracked up at the bit on "We must, we must, we must increase our busts!" I have to admit, I laughed as well. It's amazing how exciting the prospect of wearing a bra is to a tween. I myself was terrified of it. Not today, girls can't wait to wear a bra and lipstick and deodorant and be all hormonal.

Anyway, to connect with your inner Judy Blume, visit her on her site.... and, yes, she even blogs:

On another note, ever wonder who is behind those amazing and articulate speeches Obama delivers? Apparently, he's young, hot and can communicate.... learn more about him at

And a last little bit, February is Love a Children's Author month.... For me, that brings to mind not only Judy Blume but Astrid Lindgren and several more - too many fabulous new and seasoned authors to make a list when I'm feeling like a train is running through my head. But, here's a great blog on that....

I'm heading back to bed with some stuffy head, fever, soar throat, so you can rest, because you're completely knocked out medicine.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Diary of a Wimpy Kid

I heart Jeff Kinney (if I was savvy enough, I could probably actually put a heart there, but I'm not.) Like, if I was in middle school, I would scribble his name on my trapper keeper in bubbly blue ink...complete with a little heart dotting the i in Kinney.

And the reason I heart him is because he is very clever. He writes clever books that appeal to both boys and girls...and my girl in particular. He writes the kind of books that make my 9-year-old cuddle up at night, in the corner of her closet, with her favorite blanky (named Bubbie), with the light on and doors closed, reading, when she is supposed to be sleeping. Oh that makes mama proud ...and it makes me heart Jeff Kinney.

They are casting for the Wimpy Kid right now.... and it would almost make Anna cut off her hair and give up her affection for all things pink and glittery just to try out (so Shakespearean!) I mean, she knows all three books by heart!

And, so, I heart Jeff Kinney. And if you do...if you are the wimpy kid or know the wimpy kid because he might be living in your house or in your neighborhood or at your school or whatever... check this out:

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Another Mother's Life

I'm a creature of habit. If I find something I like, well I tend to stick with it. Granola bars, for instance. I have one everyday for breakfast. I am a granola and coffee girl.

It's the same with books. If I find an author I like, then I pretty much stock up on all things published by said author and read, read, read. For instance, Jodi Piccoult. I have every book she's written - all 15 of them and cannot wait for the new one coming in March! (On a side note, many people think that "My Sister's Keeper" is her best novel. And, I loved it, I did. I read it twice. However, "Songs of the Humpback Whale" and "Plain Truth" are both bloody brilliant.) I also absolutely adore Sarah Dessen (even though I am no longer a young adult) and Joyce Carol Oates (and boy is she prolific! I have invested a pretty penny in her work.)

So, anyway, after thoroughly enjoying Rowan Coleman's "The Accidental Mother", I hurried over to B&N to gobble her up...well, her work I mean. The sequel, "The Accidental Family", is supposed to be out this month but B&N doesn't have it. I think it's out in the UK but not here. Bloody hell!

Good thing they had another Rowan book: "Another Mother's Life."

So, I sat down, opened it up, gave it a good smell and it was something like:

- sleeping with the enemy
- telling someone how you feel and then holding your breath
- inviting a friend for coffee in order to say sorry and waiting at the table with butterflies wondering if she'll show up
- sitting in the front seat of a Delorean (equipped with a flux capacitor of course) and jetting off into the past...
- where you are promptly dropped onto a roller coaster that veers dangerously back and forth between the elementary school playground, junior high, high school and adulthood....complete with brief, gut-dropping, head-jerking glimpses of the carelessness, jealous tirades, emotional meltdowns, heart pounding affections, brief love affairs, past-their-due-date love affairs, betrayals, broken hearts, mended hearts, commitments, secret crushes, public embarrassments, forever friendships, fleeting friendships, lovers, enemies and pure chaos that defined coming of age.
- realizing that even in adulthood all those things above still exist, still hurt as much, still mean as much
- mending a broken heart
- mending a broken friendship
- remembering the minute you fell in love for the first time
- seeing the boy you fell head over heels for fall madly in love with someone else
- waiting by the phone
- hiding under the covers
- packing your car full of whatever possessions you can fit and driving away from the life you thought you couldn't live without
- watching the sunrise as you drive to your future realizing you can live without that life and actually looking forward to what you can do
- basking in the the power of friendship which is probably the fuel that drove that car where it needed to go

"Another Mother's Life" is the story of two friends, betrayal, love, marriage, family, forgiveness. If you've ever looked at another mother and wished you had her life or wondered what your life would be had you chosen a different path, then you might want to pick it up, give it a good smell and see how it makes you feel.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

The Accidental Mother

So I picked up my copy of "The Accidental Mother" by Rowan Coleman the other day. I bought it awhile back and hadn't gotten around to reading it. I wasn't familiar with the author, but the book drew my attention while perusing around the book store. Alright, I bought it because of the cover. There, I've said it. I judge a book by its cover.

Or maybe it was the title... after all, some of us mothers do feel like we came about motherhood quite accidentally (in my case, quite literally) and motherhood can seem like one accident right after the next. I mean, it starts out by celebrating at a graduation party, next thing you know you are pregnant and then before you can say "Oh Sh*@!" you could have three children and be well versed in the areas of immunizations, lactation, boppies, bumbos, butt paste, weaning, whining and the pros and cons of plugging your infant's pie hole with a binky.

Anyway, I picked up the book quite by accident, knowing nothing about the author, the story or what to expect. I started reading it because I needed something to take my mind off bad things going on right now. I cracked it open, gave it a good smell and dove in.

And what I found was something like....

- receiving a letter from an old friend
- finding the misplaced box of Christmas ornaments you had given up on
- coming home to flowers on the table from your sister after she found out you'd lost your job
- discovering an old photograph of your parents when they were happy
- hearing your baby say his first word
- finding the humor when your toddler pulls out his penis in the women's locker room and says "Well what do you think of this?"
- laughing until you eject salsa from your nose over lunch with friends
- watching your young daughter brush your mom's hair and freezing that image in your mind so you won't forget it
- finding forgotten money wadded up and sweaty in the pocket of your jeans
- falling asleep and dreaming about someone you haven't seen in years

The tale of Sophie, Bella and Izzy warmed my heart, made me giggle to myself and laugh out loud. I smiled, I cried, it took my mind off the bad...and I want more. The sequel, "The Accidental Family" comes out this month. Oh happy accident.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Isn't it Ironic?

"And isn't it ironic... don't you think?

It's like rain on your wedding day

It's a free ride when you've already paid

It's the good advice that you just didn't take...."

~ Alanis Morissette

When I started my first semester at Arizona State University some years ago this month I had to go through all the headache of getting my records from Purdue, dotting the i's and crossing the t's so I could start my new life as a Sundevil and leave the Boilermaker in me behind. I had spent enough time fannying about in engineering when I knew I really wanted to be a writer. It was time to get serious and stop wasting time. ASU, here I come.

I hit a snag when the head of the English department at ASU would not take my Freshman English credit from Purdue.

"We require our students to have an entire year of Freshman English," he said curtly, looking at me over his thick spectacles and tossing my file onto the desk between us.

"Oh, well I took advanced English, I was gifted and talented you see and so it was Advanced English, even though it was one semester, so that should cover it," I said triumphantly.

"That's lovely but we here at ASU require all of our students, gifted and other, to take two semesters of Freshman English," he said.

"I'm sorry, you are telling me you won't accept my English credit because it was advanced but if I had two semesters of, say, remedial English, I would be fine?" I was fuming. The lines, the red tape, the costs of text books and this idiot were really raking on my nerves.

"Ok then, what is irony?" he asked me as he sat back in his chair folding his arms over his pot belly.

Where was Alanis Morissette when I needed her? I fumed, stumbled around for a minute, I knew I knew the answer but I was caught off guard.

"Sarcasm," I spat back, folding my arms over my chest and starting to realize that maybe it wasn't such a great idea to be arguing (disrespectfully) with the head of the English department at a major university, one that I'd hoped to get a degree from.

"No. It's not sarcasm. You may leave now," he returned to the papers on his desk signalling that I was clearly dismissed.

I marched out of his office, out of the English building and all the way back to my apartment where I proceeded to get on the computer and look up the word irony. Damn.

So I was transferring as a Junior (and a late junior at that because I had been an intern at Purdue every other semester) and would have to take a Freshman English class. I would look like a grandmother in there! I was so mad.

On a whim, and because I did feel pretty stupid, I emailed the head of the English department. I apologized for my outburst and disrespect, citing my frustration with how difficult the transfer process was and how I would feel uncomfortable in a class of people where I would appear as a senior citizen. I also included the proper definition of irony.

He wrote me back and said it showed great character on my part for taking the time to write an apology and admitting to my mistake. He said I could take a 200-level English class instead of English 101 with all Freshmen. It was a small victory, I guess.

On the first day of English 215, I was still annoyed that I had to take another English class. Some of us showed up at the classroom when we were really supposed to go to the computer lab to meet. Finding the lecture hall empty, we decided to walk to the lab to see if the rest of the class was there.

I fell in line next to a guy dressed in a grungy flannel shirt, long wavy hair, hat on backwards and jeans that looked like they could walk themselves. He lit up a cigarette on the walk over and exhaled a cloud of smoke.

"Want one?" he asked, smiling at me.

"No thank you," I replied but was happy not to be walking alone.

"I'm John," he said taking another drag and blowing it out. "John Patriarche."

"It's nice to meet you John."

And that, my dear friends, is irony.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Your Choice is Crystal Clear

"Your Choice is Crystal Clear"

Crystal Lee for Student Body President

Clever and catchy, yes? That was my political campaign slogan some *cough* years ago in high school. It worked, too. Despite some relentless and deliberate sabotage from a group of senior girls (with rather large hair) who made it their mission to torture we underclass girls (with equally large hair but better looks - imo). If you detect bitterness and resentment in my tone, well you are...completely right. Dumb buuh... I mean, no, no. I am so over that and them and have been for years. Bygones, right?)

So why bring this up now? Perhaps the Obama fever sweeping the nation brought back the nostalgia of my foray into politics. Or perhaps it's being in my hometown after all these years. Regardless, I was thinking about life and choices and things being crystal clear. You would think at my age *cough cough* one would start to gain a sense of clarity. Things should be crystal clear, right?

Well, I find in my life things tend to be clear as...mud ...or, more accurately, poo ... which is what I'm usually dealing with (three young kids, two dogs, you get the picture.)

In my inaugural blog here, I've come up with a sort of state of my union...things that are clear and some things that are... well, poo.

Clear & Poo:

  • This economy sucks. Like huge suck fest. Huge like my ass is getting (thanks to this freaking Midwest weather.) Income could become challenging... as is zipping.
  • Caleb (one-year-old little Cherub that he is) has the third child syndrome. Need a remedy and stat. Symptoms include but are not limited to: Throwing his lovely blond curly head back despite where it might land or whose jaw it might sock, body becomes instantly rigid, mind blowing screams and stuttering "uh uh uh uh!" with a crescendo effect.)
  • Eli (little Precious nearly-five-year-old that he is) takes after his father. You know the whole men only hear what they want to hear thing? Apparently, it starts early. Case in point: this morning while buttoning up his coat, I instructed him to be good at my sister's: play nice, share, clean up, follow the one toy at a time rule and use his manners. When I asked him, "Did you hear what I just said?" He replied, "Yeah, play with one toy and don't jump on the furniture."
  • Anna (little nine-year-old Princess that she is) suddenly has a limited three word vocabulary: "Oh my God!!" Eye rolling and feet stomping come included.
  • Dogs (lovie little golden canines that they are) are afraid of the snow. Mind you, they are desert rats. Born and raised in Arizona (oh how I miss you!) So, until they brave the cold white, I am cleaning up poo in the garage.
  • John (hubby bubby that he is) has become a huge motivation and time suck right now. I mean, how am I supposed to work while he's bundled up on the couch watching episodes of LOST?

It seems that this list is all poo.... where is the clear part? It's clear, crystal clear, that I need a new slogan and a new campaign and a husband with a job and Super Nanny and ... a pooper scooper.

But wait! I am a PR professional and a fledgling politician. I know it's all about how you spin something:

  • This challenging economy is the perfect time to be resourceful. No income? No new shoes. No need to cook dinner- PB&J for all! Oh wait, there was that peanut butter recall... Top Ramen then... once ate it religiously. Hallelujah! Zipping becoming a challenge? I still have maternity pants. I seldom leave the house anyway which is helping with fuel expenses.
  • Caleb is suffering the terrible twos at one... So he's advanced for his age.
  • Eli only hears what he wants to hear.... He is selective. Nothing wrong with being choosy. Especially when choosing say... a wife.
  • Anna is turning into a teenager already... I'll be turning into my mother earlier than I thought. Was bound to happen anyway.
  • Dogs are pooping in the garage ... John can have that job. I mean, until he finds a better one. You know, a paying one. No disrespect, dear. You are handy and very good with a shovel.

And in the meantime, we are all together, in the town I grew up in where it's clear we have lots of family and friends.

I guess your choice is crystal clear - it's all in the way you spin it.