Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Blog Smorgasbord

At long last, the Yardwork Injury Curse has been broken, as I emerged unscathed after perching high on a ladder and using an electric hedge trimmer. My bruises are healing, and what’s more:

The new contract is here! The new contract is here! At long last, my new contract from Random House has arrived, full of legalese that I am helpless to understand. (Thank you Magnificent Agent Laura, for deciphering the fine print for me.) I am apoplectic with joy. Commence with the signing and initialing where indicated!

My new garden is in, too. While putting the finishing touches on it this weekend I hunkered down to eavesdrop on eight leather-bound, dusty, surly, helmet-free, tattooed, bandanna-wearing bikers who pulled over near our house to discuss their route. One of them fielded a phone call from a guy named Tom. At the end of his shouted conversation he said, “Okay. See you there. Love you, man.” And the stereotyped image I held of “a biker” exploded, debris missing my right eye by mere centimeters. Remember how in the seventies bikers did angel dust and ripped people’s hearts out with their bare hands? No more, my friends! Now they wear sunscreen, eat Luna bars, and share their feelings. They even star in commercials for incontinence protection.

This breaking down of traditional roles been going on for some time, as I'm sure you know. Hell, even I have a tattoo and spent the weekend around a bonfire swigging homemade liquor. (I also interacted awkwardly with adolescent children who seemed mildly disappointed to learn that I do not write children’s books. “No, they’re pretty much for adults,” I said. Awkward pause. Then, because one young man’s mother was with him, “In fact, you should probably be 18 to read them.” Said the hypocritical writer who read Cujo, The Shining, and Night Shift at the age of 12.)

Anyway, despite our ingrained urge to compartmentalize in order to impose some kind of order on (and thus wrap our heads around) anything unfamiliar, the moral of the story is that when you stereotype, you make a stereo of a type you never want to listen to Barry Manilow on.

But maybe you could listen to this album on it.

Or if you're not a gay dog person like I am, how about something a little more festive?

The diagonal mismatched font was mandatory for all artists wearing white jeans with white shoes in 1983.

My eyes are painfully drawn to his Lyle Lovettesque hairdo, which almost looks like the insult known as my own hairdo in 1989. Sorry, I haven't built up the courage/drunk enough cheap wine to post a photo from that era yet. And the shirt! The pastels...the scribbled angles...was this visual molestation meant to distract us from the fact that his fingers are mere nubs of their former selves? Dear god, how can this man eat Cheetos like a normal person?!?! He can't, that's how. Because he's wearing white pants. And everyone knows that you just don't eat Cheetos in white pants, especially when your fingers have been buzzed off in a painful circular saw accident, perhaps while trimming the brushpile that you call your hair.

Oh, and rumor has it this photo was taken AFTER Labor Day.

I don't remember where I found these album covers, but they're out there. Somewhere.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

I should just stop while I’m ahead. While I still have a head, anyway.

You know, the image that typically comes to mind when you hear the word “gardening” is of a bucolic, loamy field blowsy with pink and yellow flowers. Maybe your vision features an attractive retired woman in a giant floppy hat pruning a rosebush, about to herald the benefits of Boniva to the camera. Or, perhaps you think of a beloved grandfather in overalls picking raspberries, okra, peppers, and tomatoes in a well-tended berry & veggie garden.

You don’t typically think of “bandages” or “blood” or “bruises the size of a Dodge Grand Caravan.” So far, our spring gardening misadventures have included the following casualties:
  1. A sprained lower back from simply bending at the waist to set a flat of sunflowers on the ground.
  2. A bruised upper back from falling down the back stairs while trying to balance six potted plants. (Actually, it’s a temporary “stair,” as we still haven’t installed concrete steps like normal people. But this incident mirrored almost exactly the time I fell down the front stairs this winter. I openly wept in the yard after both falls because pain trumps embarrassment. This time, instead of asking my dog to take a dump between tears, my crybaby line was, “I don’t care about a TV stand…I just want some back stairs!”)
  3. A scraped forearm, thanks to the same back stair.
  4. A gruesome, bloody stubbed toe, from walking into the screen door. Thanks, flip-flops!
  5. Jason scraped four inches of flesh from his shin while digging a trench in the backyard.
  6. I also generally look and smell like a landfill, which is painful in a different way.
My gashed toe left drops of blood on the bathroom floor, which Daisy immediately licked up. Which can only come to no good. Now she’s got a taste for my blood. So if I died alone in the house and was undiscovered for weeks (like, if Jason took a vacation without me or something), Daisy would probably have my face half-eaten by the time he got back.

This is dangerous work. I should just spend summer on the couch watching HGTV and fantasizing about The Yard That Could Have Been. At the rate I’m going, I may sever a limb just going out to get the mail. One of my favorite aunts accidentally mowed her own big toe off with the lawnmower several years ago … and then she drove herself to the hospital. My god! Think about that. I stub my toe and I’m prostrate on the living room carpet, the mere thought of applying foot pressure to a gas pedal giving me hives. (Paying $3.50 for a gallon of gas also gives me hives.)

I guess I’ll have to live with the smell of Ben-Gay, Bactine, and self-pity for the next few days. I take comfort in the fact that my pathetic backyard efforts have already yielded three butterflies for the season: a mourning cloak, a monarch, and a red admiral.

Oh, who am I kidding. I can’t lie to you. The butterflies came for the decrepit lilac that was probably planted the year our house was built (at the dawn of time), along with the man-eating bridal wreath spirea--the sheer size of which suggests a certain level of radioactive material in the ground.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Stuff, Glorious STUFF! (My Ode to Dangerously Easy Online Shopping--Now with Extra Parentheses!)

It’s been said (by me, just now) that one can tell a lot about a person by the mail order companies they patronize (and speak condescendingly to). So, in the spirit of the whole “information superhighway” that this blog is suckling at the teat of (I absolutely hate that phrase, but it always cracks me up in a most goofy way, so I had to use it at least once here), let’s discuss the online / mail-order companies we throw our disposable income at.

Here are some online vendors I wholeheartedly recommend supporting, even though they're not paying me to say so nor have they asked me for a plug. I simply like them THAT MUCH.

Let’s begin with gardening—especially online purveyors of plants. I want to begin here because right now, this is the area I am currently blowing my future child’s diaper fund in. ‘Tis the season!

1) Graceful Gardens. Planting Party People in the House. Do you like large, healthy flowers? Do you like saving money? Clickity-click that lil’ mouse on over to order up a tray of some gorgeous perennials and annuals. They specialize in delphiniums and breaking my heart because I only have so much space in which to plant. (I promise an update later in the season on how my Graceful Gardens bebehs do in my new flowerbeds.) I know, this is another porch shot, but look at the size of those plants! They are worthy of inclusion in a Godzilla-themed diorama, or perhaps to serve as backdrop to Barbie's Ecotourism Romp in Costa Rica (the one that bastard Ken refused to go on with her, because he's afraid of bugs. What a f*cking baby, that Ken.)

2) Bluestone Perennials. Another winner. Ordered and planted some anise hyssop, astilbe, asters, and columbine last fall. And despite a solid trampling by some beefy contractors plus subzero temps this winter, 90% of these bebehs are already churning out the foliage. I am expecting another shipment from Bluestone later this week.

3) Spring Valley Roses. I just received 9 bareroot plants from Spring Valley. They are in this giant box, scaring the dickens out of me because they will require much digging. I apologize in advance, back muscles.

Daisy, you are no help to me with this planting project. Get some opposable thumbs and we’ll talk.

I had nothing to do with the torn linoleum to my right.
Nor did I have anything to do with the chewed trimwork to my left.
I swear.
Okay, but you know I really had nothing to do with the ghetto doorframe.
And what the hell is up with this giant box of plants?


Ohmygod. Something in this giant box just moved.

4) I also support Gardener’s Supply Company and Gardens Alive! Seriously; how could I not support a company with an “Alive!” family of products? It makes my heart want to tapdance and hum a happy tune.

5) I am expecting two rose bushes (the elusive and delicately-petaled Fru Dagmar Hastrup rugosa, rumored to be of heady scent with hips to boot in fall) from High Country Roses next week. The company and its product come highly recommended. I will let you know if my expectations are exceeded or dashed against the giant rocks we keep discovering in our garden excavations.

On to the beauty products.

1) DHC. I got sucked in to the DHC cult after receiving some glorious free samples. Expensive products, but you get free samples with every catalog (and they seem to come monthly). I highly recommend the Deep Cleansing Oil. And did I mention the free samples?

2) I recently received some quality samples (not free, but inexpensive) from Emerita skincare products. Visiting their website, I see they also specialize in products to enhance sexual vitality. I have not tried this sexual vitality line of products. (Come on, click…you know you want to.)

Pet products! I buy Daisy’s food at a lovely Ma Shop (there’s no Pop) a block from my office. But from time to time, I also support:

1) Drs. Foster and Smith. Heck, they’re from Wisconsin. Yadderhey, ya know?

2) I recommend the Tripett green beef tripe, but plug your nose when you open the can. The scent will defoliate the small hairs in your nostrils, and strip the cilia from your lungs. And then you will probably throw-up.

3) Only Natural Pet. When Daisy had her bleeding muzzle issue last fall, I zeroed in on this place as a potential salvation. I still feed her half an allergy tab when she’s looking wilty.

1) The Tea Table

2) Paper Street Teas

Both companies offer a delightful looseleaf green tea with cherry infusion. (The Tea Table lets you order free samples. Free! It’s one of my favorite words.)

Coffees: Thanksgiving Coffee Company. Pick your flavor / pick your cause.

I’m not even going to discuss the clothing I order online now and then, because it’s just really uninspiring and sad. Of course, I also order scads of books online. And vitamins. And candles. And other perishables and non-perishables that come in boxes and make it feel like Christmas until I get the bill. And I don’t even have CHILDREN yet!!!

Whew. I'm spent.

So where do you shop online?

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

A Coherent Post? Me?

Why don’t I live in a world where I can write about the funniest things in my life? Oh right. Because my family and friends would kidnap me, blindfold me, and drop me off in the Sonoran Desert where I would wander aimlessly for days, tonelessly humming the One Day at a Time theme song while my lips blistered, cracked, and finally sloughed right off my face like sad little Rice Krispie scabs.

Granted, I do keep a few of the amusing moments in my life close at hand so I can furtively drop them into a scene in my next book. But I can’t think about this right now, as I am focused on three things: 1) figuring out how to solve a problem near the climax of my book so that it exceeds my editor’s expectations (Hehehe. She said “climax.”); 2) finishing my last two grant proposals of the year so that they exceed the expectations of two of my favorite elementary school principals in the whole wide world; and 3) digging, planting, and generally obsessing over the new gardens I am in the process of establishing, with the ultimate goal of having my morning coffee in a backyard oasis (which no doubt will never live up to these expectations). I also want to entertain back here, if anyone wants to come over and be plied with a level of wine that I believe will help you ignore the flaws in my planting scheme.

So in lieu of a real post, here are some photos:

I found this ancient skeleton key and tiny spoon while planting some bareroot blackberries next to the garage. (Hmm. I bet that sentence has never before been written in the history of humanity.)

A Recipe for "Makin' the Magic Happen" (My, how that recipe has changed over the years...)

Two weekends of Painting. (You don't think this gives the impression that I live in a barbershop, do you? I have been cutting my own hair lately...)

A Porch Planting "Before" Photo. My goal is to make the mailman feel he's entering Borneo when he delivers my daily bale of charity requests. As you can see, we're off to a tepid start. I'll follow-up on this in late August.

Moving on. Because my favorite professor just gave me some material too good to pass up, I also present to you a collection of bits from the journal entries of college freshmen, one week before the spring semester ends:

Student #1: “…This is why I hate girls; they are moody, self-absorbed, flakey, ignorant, na├»ve, ostentagious, egotistical, popmpous creatures too busy with their own meaningless lives to notice anyone else.”

Student #2: “The only problem with today is that it is an asshole’s birthday. My latest heartbreak, I really wanted to make this birthday amazing for him. Las year I went to a part with him, basically he ended up telling me he wasn’t interested, so I made out with his brother. Then he decided he was interested.”

Student #3: “I have basically decided I am an attention whore, everything should be about me, all the time.”

Same student: “So there we were on our way to IHOP on hwy. 41 going 45 miles per hour because my dad doesn’t know how the fuck to drive.”

Student #4: “If I didn’t have to go to college I would piss my pants in happiness.”

Same student, on lying: “I lie about everything, from exaggerations to my abilities…I told people here I got a scholarship…I’ve lied about actually going through with killing myself…I lie about sex. I say I’ve had sex with like 5 people and that I’m really experienced. Truth is I’ve had sex with one person I didn’t know after getting drunk and now that person is dating a friend…I’ve never had a boyfriend, but I had like week things which are basically a week of making out in their house and maybe a little more.”

Student #5: “I actually worked out for once today. I need to get in shape because I’m goint to Sheboygan for Spring Break.”

And finally, some random responses to the journal assignment Things I’ve Learned in College So Far:
  • "Boys are only interested in a piece of ass."
  • "Parents aren’t as clueless as they seem."
  • "No one cares what you do."
  • "I’m not invisible."
  • "Some people are beyond help."
  • "I have a lot of growing up to do yet."
  • "Don’t get drunk the night before a test. You won’t get a good grade."
  • "Facebook = procrastination."
  • "Don’t pass out in someone else’s room. You’ll get drawn on with Sharpies."
  • "Peeing and puking in public costs you money."
  • "You get away with a lot without being called a slut."
  • "I never know there were so many books until I walked into the library."
In closing, there is exciting literary news! The lovely and talented Allison Winn Scotch's well-reviewed debut novel The Department of Lost and Found has been released, and is available NOW at your local bookseller (or online). Allison's a terrific writer and a generous person, and I'm proud to be pimping her book on my blog. (For a great review of the book, check out Manic Mom's Tuesday post; for a great Q&A with Allison, check out Eileen Cook's site. I will also be pimping Steph's & Eileen's books when they are released in the near future. Just a heads-up.)

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Even Zamfir Would Have Been Better

The past weekend was quite musical, in many ways. Musical foods were ingested by many loved ones in my close proximity (if you catch my drift), and I attended two musical events: the first, on Friday, was a joint performance by a couple from Santa Fe: he plays classical guitar, she weaves silk tapestries, and together they were a collage of pomposity. They also made me a little envious, since they earn a very comfortable living just “exploring the tonal language of color” and “nurturing all parts of themselves by reflecting, contemplating life, and pursuing their whole selves through art.” Not that I want to explore the tonal language of color, but I would like a contemplative nook, koi pond, and lush, rain foresty-garden in which I can just…contemplate. (Well, I’m working on my "contemplation" garden, but I’m not sure how much contemplating I’ll be able to do mere feet from neighbors screaming things like, “Get out of the car now! You’re not supposed to be in the car all wet! I’m calling your dad. Okay, he says you’re supposed to get out of the car. I promise, I won’t do it again! GET OUT OF THE CAR!”

On Saturday we attended a wedding reception at which the DJ played a mediocre-at-best, repulsive-at-worst selection of music. Including the old polka favorite, “I don’t want her, you can have her, she’s too fat for me…she’s too fat for me (Hey!), she’s too fat for me!” I think it almost goes without saying that the DJ’s musical repertoire included the chicken dance, the hokey pokey, the Electric Slide, and that one weird stompy dance with fast hand-clapping that I never quite understood. Couples swaying to a somewhat acceptable Journey song toppled tables, chairs, and small children as they stampeded off the dance floor when the DJ gracelessly segued into Shania Twain’s “Feel Like a Woman.” I file this song under “Things that most certainly do not make me feel like a woman,” right between Hogan’s Heroes reruns and that white crap that collects in the corners of your mouth when your lips are chapped. My grandmother had a touch of the stomach bug that evening, but I suspect she was simply experiencing a visceral reaction to the auditory assault being inflicted upon us all by the DJ.

There was also a bizarre dancefloor-ritual conducted by the DJ to the Bee-Gees “Stayin’ Alive.” All of our old friends were there: the Shopping Cart, the Sprinkler, the Lawnmower, the Cabbage Patch, the “Walk Like an Egyptian,” and a few I think the DJ made up right on the spot: the Estranged Father, the Who Farted, and the Cry in the Corner.

I was sitting right next to the near-empty dance floor, trying to stifle a raging, uncomfortable case of church giggles while my brother mouthed across the table, “This is SO. Painful.”

I was really starting to feel bad for the DJ. I hadn’t seen anything that awkward since the poetry I wrote in junior high while wearing tapered, tight-rolled, acid-washed jeans and enough hairspray to shellac a thousand guitars.

Well anyway, here’s to the summer wedding season. May your DJ play music people won't run away from, and may all your salad spinners come with receipts.