Tuesday, December 30, 2008

2009? No Way.

So Happy New Year! If the Mayans were right, we've got three years left to whoop it up 'til the world ends.

I always like to begin on an optimistic note.

If you've had the TV on at all in the last few days, you've probably noticed that the stations are basically vomiting infomercials geared around diet & fitness products at us: the Total Gym, Bowflex, video systems including Hip Hop Abs and Crunchless Abs...it seems 2009 will be the Year of Abs. I have already boarded the New Year Fitness Bus, with mixed results:

1) I recently received a large balance ball so I can work my core while I watch TV (or just bounce around on it, that seems like fun too). I purchased a yoga mat and balance ball video and got down to business yesterday. As soon as I inflated the ball, I noticed a strange smell. Much like Daisy’s anal gland expressions. Not to be confused with “Glade Scent Expressions." I yelled at Daisy to get out of the living room, but after she slunk out, I realized it wasn't her. Apparently, the ball was off-gassing and it smelled like my dog's ass. I did the video anyway, inhaling all the tiny plastic molecules and likely offsetting any fitness results. Later I took a vitamin to deal with all the plastic gas I breathed, because I like to think that might have helped prevent some of my cells from getting all wonky. I'm already getting gray hair, for f*ck's sake. That's plenty wonky for ME, thank you very much.

2) I also purchased what is euphemistically called a "Body Band." It's basically just a giant latex rubber band, and you use it during certain pilates moves. Of course J and I broke it in horsing around in the kitchen, swinging each other around and pulling each other back and forth until I accidentally let go and the band snapped him in the neck.

Sorry, J. It's all fun and games until someone gets snapped in the neck with a giant rubber band.

3) I tried Zumba for the first time at the Y last week. Why didn't you guys remind me that a) I'm not coordinated, and b) I tend to space out in the face of complicated choreography? I spent half of the class looking over my shoulder and leaping around lamely in an effort to catch up to everyone else. As I engaged in a wild hip swivel I wouldn't even do in the privacy of my own home, my neighbor walked by the wall of windows with his kids. I hope he didn't recognize me, because I looked like an epileptic performing some kind of bizarre voodoo ritual. Now if we ask HIM to come look at our plumbing (because he's a plumber, and we need things plumbed), it'll be all weird and awkward for me. It'll be worse if he greets me with, "Hey, SugarHips!"

4) I joined Sparkpeople, which I haven't done much with. I just get annoyed at the thousands of emails they send me.

There you have it. Enjoy your New Year's Eve, and hey! We already have something to look forward to in 2009: VH1's Confessions of a Teen Idol.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Was Santa Good to You?

Has it been a week already since my last post? Wow. Okay then, a quick recap of the last seven days: food...snow...driving...more food...more snow...more driving in snow...gifts...wine...friends...family...more food and more snow. My snowblowing adventures succeeded, though I learned the hard way that one must wear a hat while engaged in such activity. Particularly if you have long hair and don't want to stop halfway through to use the hair dryer on your head so you don't catch pneumonia. We have about four and a half feet of snow piled near our sidewalks and driveway and are running out of room for the stuff. One month down, three to go...

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas...one random thing I concluded this holiday season is that whoever is dating or married to Bear Grylls of Man vs. Wild is definitely crazy. Okay, yes, he is attractive enough, and there is that nice accent of his. But ... his name is BEAR. So if you're dating Bear and ever use the phrases "Bear with me" or "Bear down" or "Bear in mind" in mixed company, you might be implying something other than what you actually mean. Also, have you SEEN him urinate into a snakeskin and then drink his own urine??? Who wants to make out with a guy who drinks his own urine from a snakeskin??!!

That might appeal to some people, but probably not anyone even mildly keen on good oral hygiene.

In other holiday news, I finally achieved success with the Tom & Jerrys. Remember when I made them two years ago and they tasted like nail polish remover? I have fixed the problem, which was cut-rate booze one molecule off from another career as rubbing alcohol. Plus, you have to REALLY dollop in the frozen goo-mix.

There is also an epic battle being waged in my household over the purchase of a new ginormous flat-panel TV that we don't need. You would not believe the amount of begging, bargaining, badgering, buttering up, and bartering going on. There is also an excess amount of alliteration, as my last sentence illustrates. A certain sale is supposed to end soon, so the pressure is being applied liberally. I'm both annoyed and amused, depending on the moment. Wild pronouncements are being made. "So if I wanted to buy a purse costing $800, you'd be totally fine with that." ... "If that's what made you happy I would!"

Right now, I'm ready to give in just for some peace and quiet. J is supposed to go to the Y twice a week with me now (that was part of the deal), so at least we'll be in decent enough shape to fit in the TV box, which we will have to move into in order to afford the TV.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Mick Jagger appears briefly as a drag queen

Last night we went to happy hour with 'the gang,' which turned into dinner and a reminder that drinks + crayons + paper tablecloths = you'd better leave the server a nice tip. We typically organize our get-togethers by email, and I kept noticing messages from a guy named "Greg Ran"* ... yet I'd never met Greg Ran. So we arrived at the bar and I turned to our pal Norm to ask, "So who the hell is this Greg Ran guy? I always see emails from him, and I've never met him!" Norm sighed. "Um, that's me."

So I've known Norm for a year, yet not known Norm.

Anyway, we sidled up to the bar and I noticed that the bartender was grubbing through a giant jar of black cherries (or black olives, who could tell). I was briefly disgusted by the idea that he took money crawling with bacteria from people and also handled drink accents with the same filthy fingers, but of course by the time I ordered I'd already forgotten. Drink #1 was a "Back in Black" martini that looked like a urine sample and tasted like Nyquil. It was two-for-one martini night, so I tried again. "I'd like a dirty martini. Make it really dirty. Filthy."

Later, as I accidentally stabbed my eye with the skewer of olives, it came back to me. "Ew," I said to J, "I just remembered that he touched money AND these olives with the same fingers."

J shrugged. "You wanted it dirty!"

Indeed I did, I mused, and chewed an olive thoughtfully.

This morning a snowstorm hit, and as I skipped through dreamland, J sat next to me and roused me with a gentle, "Honey? I'm running late for work. Do you think you could snowblow today?"

I groaned and pressed a pillow over my head.

"It's really easy."

"No," I moaned, wanting to return to the bizarre dream I'd been having: a biopic on the life of Geraldine Ferraro, who did not fall from political grace due to shady spousal business issues but rather, a leaked video of her smoking a doobie and doing a song and dance number with Liza Minelli at a party at Johnny Carson's house.

"Sweetie," J persisted gently, "It's really easy. All you have to do is...."

Here he said things about levers and start buttons and such, but I was already tuning out. Johnny Carson was starting a conga line, and I didn't want to miss it.

"And guess what else?" he cajoled, in the same voice you might use to convince your kids that cleaning their room will be an adventure, "You'll discover something men everywhere don't want their wives to know!"

"What, that they're lazy?" I mumbled.

"No," he said. "That snowblowing is FUN!"

Later, he even described deciding where to shoot the excess snow, which was my main concern, as 'like completing a puzzle!' But I've never been into Tetris or Jenga, really. So I'm going out to try this jazzy, exciting new activity shortly, and I can already tell you. It will not be fun.

*I've changed the name to protect the privacy of ... Norm.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Racing Nowhere for an Hour

To offset the additional cookie intake this time of year (and because I'm apparently somewhat of a masochist, not to be confused with my husband's former band "Massakist"), I have been upping the ante for myself at the Y. Monday night, for example, I took my first ever SPIN class.

As we hopped on the bikes and began to warm-up, I turned to my friend Julie. "So how long does this last?"

"About fifty minutes."

My heart sank. Actually, it began to look for the exits, because I was about to demand a great deal of work from it. Around the fortieth minute, I noticed I was looking at the clock an awful lot. Ten minutes to go, I thought, allowing myself to see the light at the end of the tunnel. And just at that moment, the instructor shouted, "We usually go for just fifty minutes, but I thought we'd go a bit longer today. Is everyone cool with that?"

My foot fell out of the pedal holster and I would have kicked her with it, had I been able to do anything other than sweat, pant, or take giant, rubbery steps like a cartoon character from the thirties.

Surprisingly, my legs are not sore from the ordeal, although now I remember why bicycling isn't my favorite activity in any season.

Next week, Zumba and pilates. Although it's been so cold here lately that I think I'm getting a pretty good core workout just by shivering.

PS: It's my best friend Cindy's birthday today ... I based the character of Jillian on her in the book, and she was SUCH an incredibly good sport about it. The universe and I would like to wish you a happy birthday, Cindy!!!!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Holiday Hodge-Podge

Has anyone seen the movie "Away from Her?" Good LORD...cut me open, pluck out my heart, slap it a few times on the pavement like a wet towel, and hang it back in my ribcage. True, heartbreaking art. Bring your Kleenexes.

Does anyone have any good Christmas cookie recipes? I love almond paste, chocolate & mint combos, and peppermint.

Every morning on my way from the parking ramp to my office I walk by a 'dry' night club for teens. The windows are scribbled with various colorful messages advertising specials, events, etc. Frequently, they are hilariously misspelled. Today "Ladies' night" had three lines drawn through it; a new note had been written above: "Every 10th person gets in free!" Now I'm trying to imagine the young man who bitched about ladies' night being unfair to guys. Something tells me he practices dance moves in front of his bedroom mirror. I'm also guessing he was quite the playground tattletale in elementary school. I fear for his future colleagues.

Last night I left to meet some friends for happy hour, calling D to confirm the location because I am a space cadet and forgot. After I asked D replied, "Um, we're meeting NEXT Thursday. But at least you're not at the bar already, waiting." Because yes, I did that last winter. Have I mentioned I'm a space cadet?

So J and I decided to go to dinner instead. On the way there, we listened to the Ben Merens show on Wisconsin Public Radio. The theme was good holiday reads (or something like that, we were jabbering on and didn't hear), and all of a sudden I heard "polycystic kidney disease, and it's about a roadtrip. It's heartbreaking and also hilarious." I screamed, and it turns out my friend Hope called into the show to recommend my book. Squee for Hope!! Her birthday is the day after Christmas. Happy birthday!!! Sometimes I hear her husband calling in on the WPR morning shows, and it always makes me smile. Especially when I hear their little girl babbling in the background.

And, as promised, a few more anonymous college journal entries. Funny, sad, poignant, cringe-inducing, ironic, titillating, always revealing:

"If that goddamn car of his doesn't get fixed then this relationship will be over sooner than planned."

"Ew! Ew! Ew! Bailey has herpes! My f*cking roommate has herpes! I'm so grossed out...it just freaks me out. I better not get it. I don't think I can. I'm almost positive I can't unless we have 'contact,' which I won't."

"So I'm 19. No different. Getting older sucks. I didn't believe those words when I was younger. But they held true. I don't regret my life one bit."

"She's a ho who is doing a 34 year old. Good luck."

"To his credit, he was completely hammered."

"I am crabby and these two kids who sit in front of me are annoying the shit out of me. One girl is bragging that she only wore a sweatshirt to class. I hope she gets frost bite and is unable to speak. She obviously was not hugged enough as a little girl."

"I finally brought a b*tch back. I don't even remember her name, but oh well, it was a great f*ck. I woke up this morning and she wasn't even in bed with me. She used me. AWESOME. I love getting used."

"I'm going to hook him up with one of the girls I know. She's too ugly for me to f*ck, and I know Chase will f*ck anything that walks. As long as he get his nut, he's happy."

"To make a long sotry short, we started kissing, kissing turned into touching, and touching turned into penetration. I regret that night, but regrets are just reminders of our mistakes. I don't think anything like that will happen again. I was a thief. She was a virgin."

"I really want to be an author, interior designer, coach, wedding planner, or a photographer, it's hard to tell."

"I'm starting to realize that a lot of college girls are quite slutty. Not that I'm complaining, but even I get sick of the one night stands. I really hope I can find just one decent girl on campus."

"I called my teacher for alcohol class. Wow, does he seem like an a$$hole! What do you expect, though, he's there to punish us for what we've done and 'educate' uus about our 'problem.' How about this: I don't have a 'problem.' I drink for fun."

"Today I had two exams and was raped by both. :("

"I really wanna strangle my sister. First off, why did I get stuck being a twin? Second, why is she so much smarter? So I'm the dumba$$ f*ckup of a daughter and my twin is amazing! You watch, I'm going to kill that B*TCH and solve all my problems. Peace, Magz."

"I have a 5-7 pg research paper coming up. I'm doing it on Charles Manson and his awesomely f*cked up life. Hope it goes well."

"I had Chinese again tonite and I wanna kill myself. LOL. I'm getting too fat! I repulse myself. :( I gotta lose weight so my boyfriend doesn't puke. I used to weigh 115 lbs and now I weigh 125 lbs."

"I wish I could fast forward my life."

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Sit n' Reach

I’ve never been a very flexible person. Physically speaking, at least. I’m usually fairly calm and laid back (though J would probably beg to differ), but what I wouldn’t give to be able to touch my toes on a regular basis. Why, you ask? Because, I vaguely reply.

To that end, I’ve begun attending pilates class again. I was a regular last spring, but slacked off in an epic and astonishing way all summer (preferring instead to crash certain cocktail parties and stuff my face with tiny cream puffs).

So here I am, back in pilates. There is a semi-creepy guy who always sets up mat next to me…have you ever seen the Three’s Company episode where Janet is taking dance lessons and her leotard-clad instructor hits on her? Well, my mat mate looks like THAT guy. Creepy gray-bearded leotard dance instructor. All he’s missing are the leg warmers. I absolutely hate it when we have to lie on our sides doing the leg-swingy moves, because inevitably, we end up facing one another. But I’m not sure I want him looking at my flip side, you know?

Last week there was a woman in front of me who quite possibly spent her formative years in the circus. Seated, she had her legs splayed wide apart, split at exactly 180 degrees, and she was bending easily forward, then left and right, nose completely meeting her knee or the floor. Whatever she pushed her face against, it met. Imagine that kind of flexibility! When I tried bending over to touch my toes in a seated straddle, I was lucky to achieve a 45 degree angle, straining, red-faced and pathetic. Because my hamstrings have the flexibility and length of a plastic spork from a kitchen play set. They always have…I was probably the only kid in gym class who had to practice the Sit-n-Reach each night for a week before the Presidential fitness award testing so I wouldn’t get an F. Let's not even discuss the rope climb or Flexed Arm Hang.

Now, before you men think, “Oh, that’s so hot!” imagining Stretchy Pilates Woman all spread out and bendy, know this: she looked like a man-boy with a terrible haircut, and she was wearing a turtleneck embossed with Christmas wreaths, plus brown socks. She was also dancing to the seventies tunes played by our instructor. Well, ‘twitching, bobbing her head, and scrunching her toes while showing off’ is more like it.

So I’ll continue to work on touching my toes. I won’t be wearing a holiday turtleneck, though.

I’ll be back tomorrow night with more Fun with College Students.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Book Clubs and Freshmen

One of my favorite things to do is getting together with book clubs. I've met some fabulous women this way:

They are all so lovely and sweet. I wish they would adopt me in some sort of time-share arrangement.

I adore them all!

We may be planning a trip to Tunisia together.

Last but not least...No, he's not a book club, but I couldn't resist. Look at that hat!! Could there BE a cuter hat in the history of head warming? My sister said she had a dickens of a time finding a good winter hat for him, because they were all too tight for his generous cranium. But this one seems to work. At being exceptionally adorable.

So I promised you an early Christmas present last week, and I'm still preparing it. But as a teaser, here are a few anonymous journal entries from my favorite college freshmen:

"Can someone tell me why I attract the ugly girls. I was at this party this weekend and I was talking to this group of girls, most of them very good looking, when a girl comes up and starts grabbing my nuts. I don't know her at all. I was scared and she wasn't good looking at all."

"I sit there, literally sit there with my thumb up my ass."

"It's 12:19 a.m. and that means me and Sam have officially been together for one month."

"I had breakfast for the second time since I've been here. Then I had gay as fuck Biology."

"The Brewers are in the playoffs. Yay! I had a good / terrible weekend. I dumped Dustin early Sat. morning. I have never cried so hard in my life."

More to come!

Thursday, December 04, 2008


First, J would like everyone to know he's fine, just a few bruises to his person and pride (thank you for your concern), and that it most definitely was NOT he who had the funky balls. My mother was so concerned about the ER incident she emailed me this helpful bit of advice:

"Thank God I check your blog everyday or I wouldn't have known that J collapsed at work! I'm glad it turned out to be as simple as no breakfast. But even that seems like something he should check out further. He should do what I do and eat a bowl of oatmeal every day for breakfast. I just put 1/3 c oatmeal in a bowl with dried cranberries and add 2/3 c water. Then I put it in the microwave for 1 min 20 sec (1 min 18 sec when I'm running late) and voila out pops a nice healthy breakfast that will also help lower cholesterol."

(Mom, I know you didn't say if I could blog about this or not, but it was just so adorable I couldn't help myself.)

Second, yesterday I saw something else that truly tickled my funny bone. Our neighbor is a large man who rides around in a souped-up motorized scooter...we got some snow yesterday, and I happened to glance out my kitchen window at one point to see this:

I shot this through a window screen, so I apologize for the poor quality. That is his SON on the Rascal scooter, cruising down the sidewalk while holding a plastic shovel in front of him to push the snow. Another view:

I don't know whether to file this under "Laziest people alive" or "Redneck ingenuity on parade."

I have a REALLY nice early Christmas present for you next week...'til then, keep your feet on the ground, and keep reaching for the scars!

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

GCC Presents: Malena Lott (plus something for you to do)

Today is my birthday, and I can think of no better way than to celebrate with GCC Author Malena Lott, whose new novel Dating da Vinci was recently released (from Publishers Weekly: "Written smartly...satisfying and uplifting"). I met Malena in San Francisco this summer, and she is such a doll. She kindly invited me to guest blog at Athena's Bookshelf last month, and I'm happy to return the favor by featuring her here today.

About the book: Ramona Elise is in a rut—a 36-year-old widowed mother of two, she can’t seem to find what makes her truly happy in life. Making sure her kids are happy isn’t the hard part; Ramona’s looking for the passion she lost two years ago when she lost her husband and her world turned upside down. When a handsome Italian immigrant walks into her English class, Ramona never expects to find la dolce vita (the sweet life) in a younger man—or in her self.

Word Candy describes Dating da Vinci as "a Texas-based hybrid of How Stella Got Her Groove Back and Under the Tuscan Sun." Which is a pretty irresistible description. To learn more, visit her website at: http://www.malenalott.com/.

You can also learn a little bit more right here:
1) Now that you are published, what (if anything) have you changed about your writing routine?
I definitely treat my writing as a job. I’m either marketing, writing or editing every day. It’s a commitment I make to myself and my future, but yet I love it so even on the tough days, it’s still better than any other job I can think of!
2) Do you listen to music while you write?
Sometimes. For Dating da Vinci, I was really inspired by the Italian Café CD. The tunes were just so catchy even though I had no idea what they were saying. On the manuscript I just finished writing, I listened to a lot of jazz like Ella Fitzgerald because I wanted a 1940s vibe in the story. But I can write well without anything at all, and sometimes silence (which I rarely get around my house with three kids), truly is bliss.
3) Have you found that as you've developed your writing and story telling skills, you watch movies or read books 'differently?'
Being an author definitely makes me read and watch with a more critical eye, I suppose, but I never let that get in the way of just being the watcher/reader and enjoying the story. Thing is, you know it’s great when you just get swept away in the story and you don’t think at all. Then you reflect on it, and you’re like, “yeah, this and this and this is really what made everything click.”
4) What vacation would be most inspiring to you as a writer?
I can really write anywhere and I’m pretty “tied” to home since I have three young kids, but any new experience adds to your brain file that you can retrieve later for a story. For my fourth novel my characters are traveling, so I’d love to go where they are going. Right now I have them in Mexico visiting the pyramids and the cathedrals and I’m pretty jealous of them.
5) What is one of your strangest / most quirky author experiences?
I really enjoy getting to meet readers so I love author events. I’ve had six events for Dating da Vinci, with one more scheduled for January. One such event was in Woodward, OK where I graduated from high school. My middle sister lives there and after about the third “exuberant/excited” reader had come and gone, my sister looks at me with the strangest look on her face and says, “I don’t get it. Why are they so excited to meet you?” I just had to laugh. To your family, you’re just “you,” you know? The whole author thing is like a different persona, I guess. And it felt a little surreal having to explain to her that some people are thrilled to meet authors, even her own big sis.
Thanks for the interview, Malena! Congrats on the book release; here's to "la dolce vita."
Something for you to do: Tomorrow (Thursday Dec. 4) I will be at my alma mater, UW-Oshkosh, at the University Bookstore at 748 Algoma Blvd in Reeve Union from 5-6:30. It's my last public book signing this year, so if you want a personalized, signed copy of Driving Sideways to give as a gift for the holidays, stop on down!
I'll be back on Friday with a new post, kiddos.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Prostate with Grief

First, if the title applies to you, eat some tomato soup! Now, on to the goods.

Spent the entire afternoon in the emergency room after a frantic call from J: "You need to come home and take me to the hospital. I passed out at work." Apparently, he was discussing Thanksgiving with a friend during lunch, began to feel lightheaded, and the next thing he knew he was lying on the floor, his friend shaking him and yelling in his face.

So off to the ER we trekked. J was strapped onto a gurney, hooked up to various monitors, placed in a large plastic neck cuff, and given a barrage of tests...he's fine, but he WILL be eating breakfast from now on. Right, J? I hung out with him in his wired & semi-bionic state waiting for the results. To add insult to injury, I tuned the TV in our room to Wife Swap. It proved dysfunctional enough to distract him from the regular auto-inflating of the blood pressure cuff on his arm, painful enough to make him wince each time the compressor kicked in. "Listen to that," he'd say, a whiff of panic in his voice as the cuff squeezed his bicep, "You can hear the VELCRO ripping it's so tight!!! If they put this on old people, it'd turn their bones to DUST!"

The doctor whizzed in, pulled off the neck brace and poked his neck a bit, then said, "Okay, let's get your hickey protector back on." And J was again uncomfortably bound in the massive plastic brace for another two hours.

"This is SO uncomfortable," he'd say, staring at the ceiling. "It feels like someone is picking me up and dangling me by the head. I feel like I'm choking!" To distract him, I made jokes about the unfortunately named "Cavi-wipes" sitting on the counter. Only one step up from "Cadave-wipes."

The doctor said I had to give hourly neck massages and eliminate the "honey do" list for a week. Pffft! On our way out five hours later we each had to pee so bad we went in separate directions to find the nearest restrooms. When I came out of the bathroom, I got lost in the ER and wandered around a bit. A nurse had to show me the way out.

I remember all of this because I jotted the best parts on a receipt I found in my purse. On it was an old note I wrote to myself in early October, meant either for a future blog entry or bit part in a novel: "You could tell just by looking at him that his balls were funky."

The end.