Wednesday, November 30, 2005

To Birth or Not to Birth

I've got a bit of a dilemma. I'm at that age when my friends are recorking the wine and heating up the infant formula. The pressure's on. The in-laws and my own parents are getting that wistful, misty-eyed look: when are you selfish bastards going to give us our grandchildren?!?!?!

The baby showers are coming faster than the wedding showers now. In fact, I'm going to yet another baby shower this weekend. And I just bought the gift at Geoffrey, which only got on my nerves a little. (I worked at KB Toys for 7 years in high school and college, so there's some of that residual resentment of the competition/general impatience with whiny spawn I don't know.) Oh, but the baby section smelled so...infanty and sweet!!! And just about a week ago I read some graph that indicated my chances of conceiving at this age are only about 50% now, and dropping fast.

The longer I wait, the more dried up I'm getting. My eggs are frying, getting scrambled, cracking up! But I'm not ready to push another person from my loins and minister to his or her every dietary, developmental, entertainment, and personal hygiene need just yet, because I feel I'm on the cusp of maybe, possibly achieving my dream of becoming a published author (*sending good energy in the direction of NYC where the powers that be are mulling my fate*). Also, because I've fallen in love with some of the children here: The man who runs this orphanage hails from my best friend's brother-in-law's family, and my BFF is possibly volunteering there for a few months this spring. Of course I want to go with her and adopt all of these beautiful children and bring them home with me and love them forever. (My husband just called me a typical woman and accused me of wanting to save all of the little babies with flies in their noses...ah, the dear man I married. What a softy!!!!)

So the clock keeps tick-tocking along. My ovaries are getting lazy, laying on the couch watching soaps and stuffing bon-bons in their lazyass mouths. (Scratch that. I just pictured ovaries with actual mouths and got really creeped out.) I feel like I've still got time, but if it runs out, there's thousands of fly-eyed orphans just waiting for a good home.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Brain vs. Mouth

My life is a series of gaffes and bumbles. And this will probably appear on my headstone. Actually, since I don't want to be pickled and packed in a crate to molder slowly for all eternity (preferring instead, cremation or a green funeral, the details of which would horrify my grandmother), I will not likely have a headstone.

But I digress. On to the gaffes. Several Christmases past I was braying to the relatives about how my ex's grandma gave everyone a Glamour Shot of herself for that holiday. Ex and I felt this was extremely funny, for some reason. So guess what my own grandmother gave everyone that Christmas? Not an hour later? Yep. Framed portraits of herself. This happened again yesterday, and because the wound is so fresh, I'm not yet ready to post the details. But let's just say they involve Wal-Mart and a relative's fresh employment at said retailer.

This has, in fact, been a lifelong habit of mine. Here's an example from my childhood: I answered the phone one morning to learn that my parents' carpool partner wanted to tell my parents she was running late. Not content to simply relay the message, I gleefully responded with, "My dad calls you a Polack!" I think i was 8.

So you see what my private battle has been. Brain vs. Mouth. So far, mouth is winning. But I guess as a writer, I have to cut mouth some slack, because otherwise I'd never write a word for fear of offending someone, somewhere.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

The Turkey in the Blog

Well, another Thanksgiving has come and gone. Hope you fine folks enjoyed yours! As for me, I ended up bringing the exact same salad that my aunt brought to the shindig. With Craisins, walnuts, mixed greens, and blue cheese crumbles. Okay, we had different dressings, but still.

Ten, even five years ago I'd have gone out with my old chums the Wednesday before the holiday. "Crashing the Copper Kettle" is theThanksgiving Eve tradition 'round these here parts. But no, I'm getting old, as my brother is thrilled to point out, as evidenced by my breathless recounting of the multitude of mushroom varieties J and I spotted on a recent hike and/or my keen anticipation of a PBS special a few weeks ago. And then last night I drank half a bottle of wine, robotically shovelled half a bag of Red Hot Blues into my mouth, and watched Turner Classics AND the pre-Leo 1996 Titanic (who knew there was one?) before retiring with a semi-bad book. This is very sad behavior. Even I can see that. When J returned around 12:45 am from an Xbox marathon at a friend's house, his body still feverish from simulated violence and eye-numbing graphics, I mumbled through wine-blue lips: "We can't buy chips and cookies anymore." Then I promptly passed out.

I used to be fun. Really! You'll have to trust me on this. I wasn't always Debbie Downer, watching the anti-Wal-Mart DVD the night before the busiest shopping day of the year or ranting about Peak Oil and melting permafrost in Siberia. But maybe I'm just my mother's daughter. Upon hearing of a relative's recent trip to China to adopt a little girl, she said, "Oh, I hope they don't get the Asian flu!"

The Final Word: Hey everyone, go to this website and vote for my friend Valen in the Davita cruise contest! You can vote once daily 'til December 2. Valen is an amazing person with an inspiring story, and because she was kind enough to read an early draft of my novel, I owe her one. So go vote!

Monday, November 21, 2005

Won't you be my Neighbor?

I told myself last August that once I had a blog, I'd post this story. So pull up a chair and let me tell you a tale called: 27 Hour Police Standoff in My Neighborhood (A True Story).

Saturday, August 13, 2005. 10 pm. J and I return from a family outing with little more on our minds than watching some mindless late-night television. (Sadly.) What luck! Humanoids from the Deep is on one of the commercial-free channels.

11 pm. I notice a squad car parked across the street from our house. What's going on? A police officer wanders the sidewalk near our house, apparently searching for something. For love, his lost childhood, a dollar that blew from his open car window--only he knows for sure. I kneel on the carpet, spying between the 4-inch gap between our windowframe and the shade. I'm excited. And so is Jason, because Humanoids from the Deep features full-frontal nudity, it turns out.

11:30 pm. Another squad car pulls up a few houses away. And another. And we begin to hear this: a spiraling siren, kind of like that annoying car alarm loop, followed by an amplified behest from the local police department asking a particular gentleman to exit his house with his hands up. I don't know what house this is yet--perhaps ten houses down on the next block?

12:30 am, August 14. More squad cars show up, one of which blocks the street near our intersection. The cruiser blocking the street is left running with the flashers on. What a waste of gas! I grow bored with the whole ordeal, even though the officers shouting from their PAs have added a few new sound effects.

1 a. We go to bed. But sleep proves elusive, as the flashing lights from the squad car parked near our corner have turned our bedroom into a disco that reeks of cruiser exhaust, and I again reflect on what a waste of gas it is to leave a car running like that all night.

2 am. We fall asleep. Somehow.

4 am. We are jolted from bed by the sound of a bomb going off. For a minute I think I'm in Baghdad. J tells me this is something called a "percussive grenade," meant to startle Standoff Man from his house. I start to think Standoff Man is dead, maybe.

10 am. I haul my groggy self from bed, convinced that the whole ordeal will have resolved itself overnight. But no. And now, there is a new development: the swat team is here! And the neighborhood has converged around our house. Our retaining wall has the best seats--and the best view--in the neighborhood. I meet a friendly neighbor named Kelly. I call as many people as I can so they can hear about the latest craziness in my life.

noon. I make a pizza and joke with the neighbors about selling them beer and snacks. The whole standoff thing is turning into a great excuse for a block party. I eat my pizza on the porch so I don't miss anything. The swat team comes and goes. I have no idea what errands they're running.

1:30 pm. The power and water people come to cut Crazy-Standoff-Man from the grid. Maybe without ice cold Coors and sandwich fixins', he will crawl defeated from the house. I am even more convinced that he's dead. The little boys in the neighborhood spy on the swat team, lying behind bushes and taking pictures of them paparazzi-style. People offer the police cold beverages, which I think is a nice touch. We joke about phoning in a pizza delivery for Standoff Man, and how this could be an ingenious way for the police to nab him.

2:30 pm. The swat team guys hold up their shields to protect themselves when they run past a spot that may be in Standoff Man's line of fire. Three minutes later, a woman walking a baby follows, unprotected. There is a rumor that shots were fired by Standoff Man in the wee hours of the morning, but nobody can prove anything.

3:30 pm. It's becoming Monty Pythonesque and I tire of the crowd on my retaining wall. I also tire of the endless siren loops, so I leave for my parents' place. For the next few hours I drink pinot noir (2 glasses, tops) and bitch about my wacky neighborhood. I tell everyone to watch the local news.

8 pm. I return home, and the standoff is still going on. My corner has become the hot spot for middle school students to hook up. They ride their bikes in loopy figure eights and text message their friends, inviting others to the Standoff.

10 pm. We're on the news! Well, not me personally, but my corner. I watch the news anchor recapping the scene on the street for a cameraman, illuminated by bright white lights. I tune into her channel and watch her saying the same things on TV at the same time. There will never be another strange moment like this in my life, I bet.

11 pm. I join the neighbors down the block and try to see what's going on in the Standoff House. The lights are all out. I tell someone he's probably dead. We learn that the news anchor interviewed Standoff Man's downstairs neighbor, who'd been in a boating accident earlier in the day. This was another event that made the local news.

We go to bed around midnight, and by 1 am on August 15, it's over peacefully. Standoff Man came out with his hands up. All that foreplay and no climax, really.

So thank you, OPD. My neighborhood is once again safe for ordinary hooligans and pumpkin smashers.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Weekend Update

What a lazy weekend. Is it me, or has it been extremely difficult to remain vertical and awake these days? Went out with my best bud Friday night, lazed about the house Saturday, did some shopping, saw Harry Potter at the late showing last night, and here we are. I know I should be writing, but my muse is slacking big time these days. In fact, I think my muse is passed out on someone's couch across town. One cute thing: a family (mom and two kids) sat next to J and me at the theater, and all three began to read books from the library to pass the time before the movie started. As a writer, I found it awesome that people actually brought books to read in a movie theater!

Oh, did you know that the "God Warrior" from Trading Spouses has endorsed a talking bobblehead doll made in her likeness? It's being auctioned off on E-Bay, along with an autographed Glamour Shot of herself. Last I saw, the bids were around $900. Does this mean the apocalypse is nigh?

Friday, November 18, 2005

One big lumpy holiday

So yesterday I was driving to a meeting in Plainfield, Wisconsin and passed two truckloads of freshly cut and bound Christmas trees. People, it's not even Thanksgiving! These trees will be perfectly crispy fire hazards on New Year's Eve, if their new owners haven't tossed them to the curb by then. And have you noticed that the Christmas stuff was in a few stores NEXT to the Halloween candy? Pretty soon we won't have a unique Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Festivus, Chanukah, Kwanzaa, New Year's Eve, or winter solstice. It'll all be rolled into one big blur. We'll hang jack o' lanterns and gourds on our trees and hand out turkey sandwiches and dreidels to trick-or-treaters. And then after New Year's, nothing. Nothing but some stale candy canes and slightly-off eggnog to nurse our post-holiday letdown.

By the way, Plainfield is the hometown of Ed Gein, inspiration for the movie Silence of the Lambs. My late grandfather was a guard at Central State Hospital, where Ed spent the rest of his days after the...ahem...incidents. Apparently, ol' Ed was a model prisoner. Creepy as hell, but he kept to himself.

Now, who wants some eggnog!!!

Thursday, November 17, 2005

*tap tap tap* Is this thing on?

Hello world!

A blog is born. I'm not sure what shape this will take in the coming months, but I hope to share my thoughts on several topics that may or may not interest you:

1) The road to being published. After a bajigitty agent rejections for my "practice" novel, it seemed I'd never see my name in print on anything other than bills and solicitations from the American Cancer Society. So I kinda threw in the towel. I focused 180% on my day job (grant writing) and took a deep breath. It felt good to quit daydreaming. In fact, it was almost like that scene in Singles where Bridget Fonda's character finally decides Cliff is a jerk. How refreshing to get my life back! I would get so much accomplished at work! Sure I could learn to love words like "utilize," "overarching," and "facilitate." I could even learn to love and describe a nebulous process called "quasi-experimental evaluation," the contemplation of which is rumored to have caused tremors and uncontrollable weeping in lab rats.

But a funny thing happened on the way to my thirties. I *gulp* missed writing! It's true what those darn authors say. Writing is in your blood. Those pushy bastard characters start running around your head, demanding you give them histories and motivations and conflict and a pet guinea pig and a rent-controlled apartment in the city and crap like that.

So here's what happened. A quirky girl named Leigh popped into my head; she'd had a kidney transplant and wanted to take a road trip. Who was I to argue? I finished Riding with Larry Resnick this September. While it was still a work in progress, I entered it in two contests: the James Jones First Novel Fellowship and the "Get Your Stiletto in the Door" competition sponsored by Chicklit Writers of the World. Entering these contests turned out to be the best decisions I ever made in my life, other than marrying my darling husband and buying my Cairn Terror, Daisy. (Yes, that's an intentional misspelling.) 600 people entered the JJ fellowship, and I made it to the top 8. Finalist! Yessssss! And I placed first in my category in the Chicklit contest, with a manuscript request from both the agent and editor final judges. People. Let me tell you. Contests (legitimate ones that is, research carefully) rock the hizzouse. On Edit--you can find me & the contests here: the James Jones one and the Chick Lit one.

I subscribed to Publishers Marketplace, located the agents that had sold to the editor who requested my full manuscript via the contest, and composed my query letter. Of 8 queries sent, I had 4 requests for the full. An offer of representation was made. Two offers were made. A third agent, still reading, indicated strong interest. A few days later, I made a decision that just felt right and signed with Laura Blake Peterson at Curtis Brown. Yippee!!!!

The book is now under consideration at five houses, and I'm apoplectic. I am limp with anxiety. My face is breaking out. But this is good. I have gotten farther than I'd ever imagined I'd get. And I'll keep you posted on these developments.

Oh yeah. The other topics.

2) The weather. So we cheeseheads had our first major storm of the season last night. New England gets "Nor'easters," so I think we should get "Midwe'tners." Whatchall think?

3) Food. New favorite: Sabra's roasted garlic hummus. You like garlic? You love this hummus. Look for it in a dairy case near you.

4) TV, movies, music, miscellaneous. This post has gotten way too long, so I'll leave the rest for another night.

Ramble on!