What I'm Reading

Stardust by Joseph Kanon
Coming out in the fall, the next novel by the author of The Good German. It's so good I kinda want to lick the pages.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Shoe Slut

It was raining when I left this morning, so I got to wear the pretty new boots I got for Christmas. I've been wanting a pair of rain boots for forever. Walking to work in the morning in the rain, my feet get wet, and then I have damp socks the rest of the day. Ick.

I've been looking at and trying on boots for more than a year. But there were, of course, very strict requirements. I know you're shocked. They had to be fun and colorful and pretty. There was the money issue--I couldn't bring myself to spend a lot of money on a pair of boots I wasn't going to get to wear that often. And after I found pairs I liked and that suited my thriftiness (I get weirdly cheap about some purchases--this was one of them) I had some serious Goldilocks syndrome going on. Every pair I tried on was too big or too small, too soft or too hard (okay, not really, but I had to extend the analogy).

My niece found these and sold them to my mom as part of my Christmas present. And they were just right.

p.s. I know the background looks like a cheesy photographer's backdrop, but it's actually the view from my office at night. Or, you know, any time after 4:00 in winter...

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Cats and Dogs

I had similar conversation recently with both Countrygirl and Polly Poppins, and what it comes down to is this. There are two kinds of kids in this world. There are your puppy kids—the ones who clamor all over you looking for attention and affection and will do just about anything to get it. And there are your cat kids—the ones who might, if you’re lucky, deign to cuddle with you. But it’s on their terms, when they feel like it, and only after you’ve passed their rigorous selection process.

Let’s take my nieces for example. Last time I was at their house, Emilie kept following me around the house, giving me her most winning smile, looking hopefully up at me and saying, “Mama?” with her arms outstretched so I’d pick her up. She’s willing to go through her whole bag of tricks, simultaneously if necessary, to get you to love her. My sister had this dog, and if you took out a treat, she’d go through every trick she knew until you gave it to her. You didn’t have to say a word. She’d roll over, sit, and beg in rapid succession, figuring one of those had to be what you were looking for, and going through them all would get her the treat faster. That’s Emilie. She gives it away for free. We’re hoping she’ll outgrow that tendency before puberty, but that’s another story.

And then you have Ella. I love my Ella. You all know that. But she’s got enough attitude for the entire cast of Mean Girls. None of her uncles are allowed to touch her. Not one. They can talk to her, but she’s not going to respond. Or even acknowledge that they’re speaking. I’m one of her favorite people, and she just flat-out refused to say my name until she was 2. When she met my roommate, I told her, “This is Jodie. Can you say Jodie?” She looked at me and said, “Jodie. Jodie. Jodie.” And then kissed her. The little bitch. She’s a total cat.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

What's It Worth to You?

On New Years Day I was having brunch with the boys, and we were talking about all our hopes and dreams and goals and wishes for the new year. “But,” I added at the end of the conversation, “I’d give everything up to get a Democrat in the White House.”

“Would you give up sex?” Anthony asked me. “Wait. That’s not a good one.”

Asking the celibate girl if she’d give up sex is much like asking the vegan to give up pork. Not exactly a huge sacrifice. But he was off from there. Even though by “everything” I had meant all my other goals, this was a fun game.

“Would you give up chocolate?”

Yes, yes, and yes. And I realized that there’s precious little I wouldn’t give up to see a Democrat elected in November, I’d give up Diet Coke. I’d give up my car. I’d give up shopping. I’d give up pleasure reading. I’d give up television. As long as we’re just talking from here through the election, I’d give up my friends. And my family. I’d even, wait for it, give up Ella. Now you know how serious I am.

If someone waved a magic wand, and told me that my sacrifices could guarantee a Democratic win, could make sure that our party would get a chance to fix what’s broken in this country, the list of what I would give up encompasses basically everything except my job, my apartment, enough food to eat, and enough clothing to cover me. (Yes, I’d even give up the leopard-print shoes.)

I’m not pretending the Democratic candidates are perfect, or even ideal, but they’re ours, dammit. And they certainly can’t make things worse. There’s a great conversation over at Left Side of the Moon on the Democratic candidates, and I already blathered on there, so I won’t do it again, but if you’re interested, check it out. Warning, if you’re NOT voting Democratic, don’t bother. It’s a viciously anti-Republican crowd over there, and we like it that way.

So now all that said, there is no magic wand. And the only sacrifices I can make that will make a bit of difference to the election are time, energy, and money, all of which I fully intend to pitch in to the cause. So thankfully, I won’t have to give up my lattes, my loved ones, or my favorite shoes. But I would if I had to. I swear.

p.s. This bumper sticker is hanging in Grand Central. God, I love New York.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Why I Hate Facebook

So being in marketing, I’m always looking for a new way to market my books. I need to understand where people are going to talk, to exchange ideas, to swap stories. And of course, a big part of that happens online. I’ve got MySpace down. I have a Friendster profile left over from before that was passé. I’ve been on Gather, because they’re an especially book-friendly site. I’ve logged onto Second Life, but haven’t been able to go so far as creating an avatar. And of course, the site everyone’s talking about these days—Facebook.

But I’ve got a confession to make. And it’s not pretty. Facebook makes me feel old. I just… don’t… get… it. At first I made excuses. It’s just because I’m new to it. It’ll all make sense. But it’s been a while. And it still doesn’t. Stuff shows up on my profile, and I can’t figure out why. People email me things that I have to sign up for. And at first I just said no to everything. No, no, no. But then I realized I wasn’t learning anything that way. So I started accepting these requests. And they’re confusing. Worse, they’re not grammatically correct. I got this message today:
”Added you to one of circles. Which circle do you want to put in?”
Seriously, that’s not English!! It looks like something my barely literate super would post on a sign in our laundry room.

I’m not happy, my friends. I feel the way my mom must have felt back when I was trying to teach her how to program the VCR. It gives me sensory overload, that same slightly panicked, out-of-control, I’m-out-of-my-element feeling I get in Best Buy and Home Depot. I briefly considered begging one of my friends for a tutorial, but then I realized that would officially make me pathetic. And that’s not an admission I’m willing to make yet.

I’ve heard that you have two choices in life: to master that which intimidates you, or to have it master you. But I disagree. I think there’s also a third option. To abandon the attempt entirely and pretend that it never mattered to you in the first place. And right now, that option is looking VERY attractive.
p.s. If you didn't click on the link to my MySpace profile, go do it. Now. My profile song would make my top songs of all times list. But that's another blog...

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

You Ain't Mickey

Dear Mr. Mouse,

Listen up, you little bastard. Me and you, we’re going to have a throwdown. And I’m going to win. You know why? Because I’m bigger, and I have technology on my side. I have traps. Where are your traps? Oh, right. You don’t have any. Suckah.

New York City is a big place, and there’s room enough for the both of us. My loathing for your kind has never been a secret, but up until now we’ve been okay. I stuck to my turf. You all stuck to yours. When I saw you on the street or in the park, I didn’t cause trouble. Because hey, I wasn’t defending my territory. But coming right out into my living room in front of my roommate? With the lights and the television on? Not smart, Mickey. Not. Smart.

I asked around to get people’s opinions on the glue trap vs. traditional trap questions, and they started talking about which kind was more humane. (You might not want to read this part, Dol, bless your Buddhist heart.) But let me make this clear. I’m not looking for the method that will be the most kind. I’m looking for the one that will get you the most dead.

It didn’t have to be this way. If you had stayed outside, or even in the walls where I couldn’t see you, we would have been okay. You could have played happily with your vermin friends until you reached a ripe old age. But this is war. And remember, you started it. It’s on.

Monday, January 7, 2008


In Memorial
February 14, 1996-December 29, 2007

Nearly twelve years ago, my sister Michelle brought home a perfect little black lab puppy. But this was no ordinary puppy. My family is split pretty evenly between those who are animal people and those who are not. And PJ even won over the “nots.” When my niece called to talk to Mich after she heard the news she said, “For what it’s worth, even I liked him.” I myself even voluntarily took him for a walk once. Those of you who know how weak my stomach is know what a huge deal that is….

Now that perfect little puppy, like all dogs do, he started to grow. And grow. And grow. Which explains why he was often referred to as “The Moose.”

One year he knocked over the Christmas tree with his tail. Just his tail. As he got bigger, Mich waited for the puppy energy to burn off, for him to settle down into the temperament of a normal dog. She waited. And waited. And waited. And it never happened. She would take him for 4-mile walks to tire him out. It didn’t work. She would play chase the ball for, literally, hours. Barely even made a difference.

PJ was a good dog. But he was just a teeny bit rambunctious. He had a tendency to eat things. Other dogs eat shoes. PJ ate Mich’s hope chest. And her bedroom moldings. Oh, and the kitchen linoleum. She tried to train him, she really did. But he was too smart for that. One book suggested that she buy a water bottle and squirt him in the face when he barked. But the day she started using it, she left it out while she went to take a shower. He ate it. Another book said to tape balloons to the edge of the dining room table so if he tried to jump up they would burst and scare him. She found him playing with one of the balloons, batting it gently back and forth between his paws. He wasn’t having any of that training stuff.

PJ was the Worst. Guard Dog. Ever. If you came to Mich’s house when she wasn’t home, he’d come trotting up to the door, tail wagging, tennis ball in his mouth. She swears that if a) she had been home and b) he hadn’t known me, he would have barked. And maybe she’s right. But if she wasn’t home, anyone who wanted to could have robbed her blind. As long as they kept flinging that tennis ball, he would have happily let them clean out the house.

I read a book proposal once that said that instead of pets, they should be referred to as “animal companions.” And I’m not going to lie. I rolled my eyes. But that’s really what PJ was for my sister. He was her buddy, her partner, her friend, her child. As she called him, “her boy.” There were rough times when he was what made her get out of bed in the morning. And a lot of times when he was her biggest source of joy.

Michelle’s in a place in her life now where she’s happier than I’ve ever known her to be. She’s got a house right on the ocean, a man who makes her happy, and with that man came a ready-made family. Someone told her that’s why PJ was able to let go. Because he knew that she was happy and taken care of, and he had done everything he was brought into her life to do.

PJ leaves behind a mom, a stepfather, and a sister, a beautiful retriever who’s helping to heal the hole in Mich’s heart. And he also leaves behind a lot of people who were better for having known him. We’ll miss you, Peej.

p.s. If you have a PJ memory of your own you'd like to share, please leave a comment. I'd love to hear it.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

The Sweater

My sister Jean had this favorite sweater. It was hot pink, white, and black stripes. It was a hoody that zipped up. I LOVED this sweater. I called it the Good -n- Plenty sweater, because it was those exact same colors. It sounds ugly, I know, but it wasn't. Did I mention I really loved this sweater? I convinced her to go back to the store and buy one for me, but they were all out. Every time time I saw her wearing it, I lusted for it in my heart. I'm not proud of it, but it's true. I coveted my sister's sweater.

When Christmas came a year later, we were both broke. I was paying off my credit card debt, and she was buying a new house, so we decided to do "gifts from the heart," which basically means something handmade or with sentimental value that costs little to no money. And my sister made the ultimate sacrifice. She wrapped up her favorite sweater and gave it to me. Talk about a tangible symbol of how much I'm loved--it's absolutely impossible to wear the sweater and not feel comforted.

For two years I've loved that sweater, but it came up in conversation recently, and she confessed that she still misses it. And there was only one thing to do. I wrapped it up and gave it to back her as one of her Christmas presents.
It turns out you really can wrap up love and put it under the tree.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Week in New England, Part One

Like the Barry Manilow song. Except longer, and without the romance...

So I'm back from my week in Woonsocket with the family. There were no blogs written while I was there, since their house is the land that technology forgot. I finally convinced them to upgrade to a high-speed connection from their crappy dial-up, but only on my last day there, so it didn't do me a whole lot of good. It does, however, mean that they will now be able to open up their Yahoo! email in fewer than 5 minutes, and will actually be able to get onto websites with graphics, so I feel like my work there was well worth it.

I did girls' nights and a spa day, had more family time than I know what to do with, and spent one-on-one time with most of my sisters (except Michelle, who had the world's. Worst. Vacation. Ever. Poor thing.) I didn't get much time with my girls, since there was a vicious stomach flu running through Sarah's house, and my mom would have kicked my ass if I went over and brought it home with me. But that just gives me an excuse to go back for the boys' birthdays in a couple of weeks and spend some time with them then. (Um, Sarah. You were planning on inviting me, right??)

Since every one of my local friends is either pregnant, nursing, or was sick last week, it made for a very relaxed trip. Most nights I stayed in and watched old movies with my mom. I stocked up on Netflix, and came home bearing White Christmas, Holiday, Going My Way, and Holiday Inn. (And when I say watched, I mean saw the first half hour and then fell asleep on my parents' incredibly comfortable recliner and had to watch the rest the next day.) I spent Friday night playing dominoes with my parents and had a blast, except for the occasional twinge of "Oh my God. What happened to me?? I used to be cool." And since they don't even have cable (see earlier "land that technology forgot" comment) I got a ridiculous amount of sleep. I had forgotten what being that well-rested felt like....

On my way back to Rhode Island I stopped in Connecticut to see my friend Nando, who's nine months pregnant and ADORABLE (slight waddle and all) and then stopped by my sister Jean's on the way home, partially to see her new kitchen and partially to get to use her fireplace. So they made me a nice fire, and I lay down on the couch to watch it and instantly fell asleep. After I woke up, I told my sister, "I invited myself over to your house, ate your food, and fell asleep on your couch. If I weren't your little sister, it would mean you either gave birth to me or we were dating. Because no one else could get away with that."

While I was there, I was reminded anew of exactly how different our lives really are. Jean lives in the woods. I mean, their neighbors have farm animals, all the houses had chimneys blazing, her kid packs himself a thermos of cocoa and some snacks when he strays too far from the house into the yard, and I drive by at least twice every time I try to find the house because it's so far back you can't see it from the road. Woods. I gave her older son a driving lesson because my car is standard, and he took to it instantly, starting and stopping on hills without even stalling. I was impressed, until he reminded me that it was because his tractor is a 5-speed too. I'm guessing city kids don't have that experience. My godson, Jeremy, had made himself a Charlie Brown Christmas tree in his room and decorated it. Adorable, right?

But look closer. What are those he's using as ornaments? Are those tiny little John Deere tractors? Why, yes they are. And that? That would be a shotgun shell casing.

And a cork.

I dubbed it the redneck Christmas tree, and spent the rest of the time I was there singing "White Trash Wedding" by the Dixie Chicks. While my nephews are rednecks, not white trash, I don't know any redneck songs, and I figured that was close enough. Jean and I look almost identical, she's my best friend, and my mom swears we're really related. But sometimes it's hard to believe.