Sunday, October 31, 2004

The Circle of Quiet

Yesterday, I handed out Amazing Grace: A Vocabulary of Faith to my friend Carol to offer to her book club, which I may join (though, it meets on Tuesdays at 4:00, and technically, I have to work...). And in the absence of that book, and to take a break from the Timothy Ware I am reading, I started reading The Circle of Quiet by Madeleine L'Engle, which I picked up by chance a couple of weeks ago. I haven't read L'Engle since I was a child.

I love it.

I was sitting on the couch reading it this morning, and then, I was pulled, this beautiful sunny day, away to campus with my two younger sons to play hide and seek. I came home to cut Dereck's hair before he goes to hear the democratic guvenetorial candidate speak at 1:00.

Sam went to a slumber party on Friday night, and when I went to pick him up for his soccer game, I was struck by the fact that the kid looked like he needed a shower. He at least needed for somebody to wrestle him to the ground with Q-tips. But we had to go to soccer first.

I was hot all day Friday, so yesterday's sun fooled me, and I arrived on the wet, 55 degree soccer field in a light jacket, shorts, and Teva's and bare feet. Liza, (whom I wrestled willingly into a cap Friday night and gave blonde highlights to) took one look at me and sent me home to change my clothes. I only live a mile from the soccer fields, and while there, grabbed an extra hat, sweat pants, jeans, and two pairs of extra gloves.

After, we went to McDonald's with Barbara and kids and then when we got home, I mentioned that the kids could earn money raking leaves. Sam looked like he was about to pass out, telling me he had gone to sleep at 5 or 6 in the morning, so I apologized and sent him to bed.

He went to bed at 2:00 p.m. and emerged this morning at 9:00 a.m.

To break his fast, we had McDonald's, after he and I took the dog for a nice walk. She is now old enough to be trained, and we can tell her to "sit" while we fasten her leash to her and she will do it.

Ah, Dereck is ready for me to cut his hair.

It is a lovely sunny Sunday.


Friday, October 29, 2004


I probably will not be submitting word counts to NaNoWriMo, because that will not be honest. I will, however, probably post my ongoing work here. (I just posted the first chapter).

Let me just explain and confess right here, right now. I am not actually going to be writing a novel. I am taking advantage of the month, the structure, the moral support, and the pressure to jump start my own memoir. But I'd be lying if I said I haven't been working on it already. And I am not going to take time away from it to write a novel right now.

So, as you can see, I cannot really go ahead and submit word counts to be a "winner" with NaNoWriMo, but I will be writing and sweating along with the rest of you.

But I had to confess from the get go.


Thursday, October 28, 2004

Election Day

I hadn't even really given this any thought until I was posting on Philip's blog today. But not only am I going to vote on Tuesday (I like to vote early in the day. Late in the day makes me nervous), but I am going to take my children and explain to them what I am doing and why.

Here is my question: Should I take them

a) before school

b) take them out of school to go vote, and then to lunch (more memorable, don't you think?)

c) just take them out of school and then take them back

d) right after school

Please give your vote (and your reasons, if you like) in the comments section. Come on, it'll be fun! You get to vote on something before Tuesday.

So, Whose Goose is Cooked Now?

There are pictures...

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

It's a New World...

The Dylan concert rocked-- but this news made my night. Sorry, Karldinals fans...

What curse? Boston Red Sox win World Series

It's finally happened for the long-lowly Boston Red Sox -- the curse has been broken. And not just broken -- battered, crushed, you name it. The BoSox tonight completed their World Series sweep of the St. Louis Cardinals, taking the fourth and deciding game by a score of 3-0.

This bodes very well for the elections, methinks.

Anything is possible.

Oh The Shame...

An Open Letter...

It's been fun. Better than fun. It's been grand. But we've been discovered-- and I can no longer continue the betrayal, the rationalization, the lies...

Darling, my body has discovered that I have been cheating with you. It didn't notice at first-- a little drink over dinner in Orlando was perfectly harmless, justifiable. And by the time it noticed that it was drunk tipsy and that I had eaten one and a half desserts, well, its memory was foggy the next day...

But as you know, it wasn't harmless. This has been a full-on love affar: cheesy, deep fried appetizers, thick alcoholic wonders called "Chocolate Pie," and then at home: the Ben and Jerry's, the oreos with the orange creme for Halloween, the Butterfingers, the Reeses Cups...

But the pinnacle was this weekend when I went to Jaarsma Bakery in Pella, Iowa, and got Dutch letters, sinful pastries filled with creme called "pillows" and a creme tart.

My body finally came forward with the evidence: an expanding waistline. Exercising Friday and Sunday did not convince my body that I was ready to stop. My body has finally staged an intervention.

"Look," it told me, "it isn't enough that you live with me. I need more of a commitment. How do you think I feel with you running around town with every cheap tart that will go home with you? It's humiliating! Do you think the other bodies haven't noticed this? And now it's time to think of the clothes. Surely you know it is inappropriate to be carrying on this way in front of the clothes, the clothes in whom we have invested so much time, money, and love. Don't you think the clothes have felt the strain? The tightened seams, the straining buttons. And soon, when you replace them for newer, younger clothes, how will they feel when you don't spend time with them? Will they be convinced, in the back of your closet, that it is only temporary and it is really them that you want?"

I had to agree. I have a lifelong commitment to this body, and I don't think it's going to stick around very long if I continue this way.

So, even though, really, it has been dreamy-- it's over, now. Please don't call me or try to catch my eye in the grocery store. I am sure you will understand when I walk by without speaking or making eye contact. Please don't be hurt when I quicken my steps, or avoid aisles that you are in... I can't remain friends... the temptation is just too great...


Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Completely Swamped (and Covered with Orange Cat Hair)

So, I'm sitting at the kitchen table, minding my business, eating my tomato soup, when Dereck checks his phone messages on his way out the door. He comes back in. "Who was that?" I ask him. It was the vet clinic. They have our orange cat.

Rewind to last week: Dereck gets a phone call during class. An orange cat has gone into a girl's house. She looked at his tags and called the vet, who give her Dereck's cell number (can you tell we live in a small town?). She calls back. He got out. Fine, he'll just go home.

Our neighbors tell us that Boone comes over daily for tummy scratches. Our cats are incurable flirts, charming the whole neighborhood and we joke that without collars, someone might keep them.

It is becoming one of those weeks that you have to be particularly careful what you put out into the universe. Karl writes at work that he is leaving his current position to pursue a professional writing career. Boom! He gets a nice offer.

This morning, Sam tells me Tuesdays are his favorite days because he has speech therapy, which he really likes. Boom! I get a call today saying they are kicking him out of speech, due to correct articulation. Congratulations, Sam, but we are sorry...

I am notorious for whining about wanting to be busy and to have projects and meaning in my life. Boom! I have (count with me now, folks):

(1) grant to write. Waiting for Godot guidelines... any day now, folks.

(3) articles to edit/write to submit by December 31

(1) grant to review/edit

(1) grant to edit for Dec. 5

(1) book chapter due Jan. 31

(1) memoir/novel to write for NaNoWriMo

(1) manual of operations to work on

(1) grant due February 5

That's all. No biggy. I am not panicking. I am not lying on the floor panting. I fully anticipate being able to sleep again. Someday.

Seriously, I love it! I would rather be inundated with all of these projects (and so what do you do when you are too busy to breathe? Oh, you blog too? Good) than be bored out of my freaking mind.

But if you are wondering what I am doing, if I go for bits between blogging, refer back to this list and it should give you some idea of what I am up to.

So, what, you may ask, does this have to do with my orange cat? Well, a college student found him and thought his leg was hurt, so she took him to the vet. His leg was fine. I went and got him, and of course, I am wearing a black blouse and black skirt today. Of course. I took him, purring, over to the posters of missing animals and said, "We do not want you to become one of these, Boone." Then, I popped him crying into his cat carrier and took him home. He is grounded right now, has to stay in the house. But he seemed just fine with that.

The moral of this story is: Be careful about what you are sending out into the universe right now. I am hoping that I have my three (Karl is included because I am aware of it).

p.s. My nephew Devon's surgery has been moved to Nov. 4, due to a newborn whose condition is much more serious than his, if you could keep that date in mind.

One More Time!

Under Arrest, and I Need Bail!!!

I just agreed to be arrested on November 17 for the Muscular Dystrophy Association. I don't know who outed me and gave them my CELL number, Liza, but I agreed to do it, and so now, I need your help. All of your help.I have to raise my bail money before that day to the tune of $1250 (I think, I haven't gotten my packet yet). So, I have to bring with me checks, cash, money orders, or credit card information: names, credit card numbers, types of card, and expiration dates, with pledge amounts. $1250 is the amount of money it takes to do 20 minutes of MDA research. So, if you could please throw a little cash my way for a very good cause, I will be happy to reciprocate (ask Don, ask Yvonne, ask Karl).Contact me at if you can help! Thank you!

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Greetings From Omaha

I just worked out in the hotel gym. Good for me! 45 minutes. That's two workouts this week. Hopefully I'm back on track.

We drove 5 hours to Omaha, NE yesterday (and I finally got the speeding ticket I've been karmically begging for) and had a nice dinner with the speakers from Dereck's conference last night at an Italian restaurant walking distance from the hotel.

There actually, to my surprise, is more to do and see here than I will have time for today, and tomorrow I have meetings.

I have decided, after some consideration, to go to Barnes and Noble and take my notebook and pen. I could go down and explore Old Market, and who knows? It's not even 11:30 a.m. yet-- maybe I actually will get sick of Barnes and Noble (coffee, books, writing, what are the chances?) I want to go to a Christmas shop because Dereck's mom likes all things Christmas (Shhh, Tom). It is so delicious to have a free day-- what to do what to do! I also, while exercising, finished For the Time Being. Wow, that is not a book for the faint hearted.

Also, I have learned that my wee nephew Devon, who is not yet two months old, will have heart surgery Friday to correct a kink in his aorta. The prognosis is very good, but still, it is a very scary thing to surrender your child to a surgeon's care, especially for 6 or 7 hours, and especially when your child is not yet two months old. So, any good thoughts, prayers, chants, hula dances, etc. that you want to throw toward Devon who will be in Denver would be greatly appreciated.

Friday, October 22, 2004

Oh, this is PRICELESS.

Go check out Dereck's blog-- his alma mater, the University of Chicago Divinity School has soundly thumped George W. for sacrilege in calling his appalling foreign policy God's will.

It is great.

I'm offline til Sundown tomorrow, at which time I'll be posting from Omaha.

Good Shabbos.

Friday Boredom

My Faboulous Jewdaiac Name is Yente Goldberg.

Take Become Jewish!!! today!

Created with Rum and Monkey's Name Generator Generator.

I think this one is broken.

My boredness is You must actually enter some names for the name generator to produce anything ....

Take i'm bored today!

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My Your patronus is: is Unicorn.

Take Reveal Your Ridden Harry-Pottery Patronus today!

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This one just never changes. It must be right.

My very British name is Elizabeth Butcher.

Take The Very British Name Generator today!

Created with Rum and Monkey's Name Generator Generator.

I had to do this one, for obvious reasons (which is funny, considering that I actually do have a Mormon name)

My Mormon name is Jannifer Camerlee!

What's" yours?

Another Putrid Day.

As you can see from the title, it is another Putrid day. Will we ever have another sunny day this Fall? And to make matters worse, I was just about to leave for lunch, and it started to rain. I can hear it hitting my window, as well as see it.

Somebody ordered Krispy Kreme doughnuts, which were made at 3 a.m. and then driven several hours to get here. I ate one. Who am I to refuse a freshly made Krispy Kreme doughnut that somebody took the trouble to drive here?

I am in another fine, buoyant mood today, again for reasons I cannot fathom. I do suspect that in light of the recent tragedy, my mood could be related to the simple gratitude I have for being alive, that my children are alive and well. That Dereck is alive and well.

There is thunder! That is just wrong. There should not be thunder in autumn. I don't know why. Too cold.

And I told Dereck that I would go home at lunch and walk the dog. Well, missy, you will just have to wait.

I have challah in the bread machine for Shabbat, but sometime during the noon hour, I will have to go home and shape it into a braid. And I have to get my fat self up on that elliptical trainer. Enough is enough.

There is talk here that we might be released at 3:00 due to the recent tragedies.

I am not surprised.

Last night we went to see a friend's documentary about protests during the Republican National Convention. We were told that tonight bands are playing to support Rock the Vote. We had not planned to go out tonight-- Dash has grading to do, and I am reading a good book (see other posts). We might go out for an hour-- we don't have kids tonight. But I am going to play it by ear and guage my fatigue, guage the weather. If it is raining, I won't go. I am already registered to vote, and ain't nothin' gonna stand in my way on election day.

Yes, I did knock on wood. But thanks for asking.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Oh no.

I just found out that I did know one of the passengers on the plane. I did not recognize her name from the list. One of our friends here had a 40th birthday party last spring which we went to and which was great. Her mother was also there, and she looked like our friend's sister. Dereck and I and one other couple went out afterwards with our friend and her mother and drank and danced and we have pictures of all of this. She was a lovely, vibrant woman, and now I am just stunned and shocked.

A little too close to home.

And now I need to go and order some flowers.

Check This Out.

Warning: If you have small children, do not watch this with them in the room!


Mist or Ghost?

Under Arrest, and I Need Bail!!!

I just agreed to be arrested on November 17 for the Muscular Dystrophy Association. I don't know who outed me and gave them my CELL number, Liza, but I agreed to do it, and so now, I need your help. All of your help.

I have to raise my bail money before that day to the tune of $1250 (I think, I haven't gotten my packet yet). So, I have to bring with me checks, cash, money orders, or credit card information: names, credit card numbers, types of card, and expiration dates, with pledge amounts.

$1250 is the amount of money it takes to do 20 minutes of MDA research.

So, if you could please throw a little cash my way for a very good cause, I will be happy to reciprocate (ask Don, ask Yvonne, ask Karl).

Contact me at if you can help!

Thank you!

The Dust Settles.

Today, we received the names of the dead. I recognized some of the names, having given two presentations to this group. They were a lovely, convivial group of people. Oddly, the one person I had the most knowledge of, knowing not only him, but his wife, his daughters, son, daughters and sons-in-law, grand children, is the survivor. He has a large extended family here, and indeed, the news of his survival is nothing short of miraculous.

Karl called me last night to tell me that his friend Paul, whom I have met, will be performing the autopsies in Columbia. Too few degrees of separation.

If we are all separated by six degrees, does blogland, the internet, somehow abbreviate that to less?

How do I feel today? The day is fall at its most sympathetic dead. There is a steady drizzle, there are no longer any leaves on the tree outside my window, only the brown, empty branches and the sky behind it-- not even a gray sky. It is a putrid sky.

Despite the drizzle, the putrid sky, the tragic plane crash, I am in a remarkably good mood today, for reasons I cannot fathom. The dead are still dead. The work I have to do is no more interesting nor less necessary than yesterday, and yet today it has my (almost) full attention. It has more of my attention. I got what might actually be enough sleep, and this morning got the children bathed, fed, and to school on time.

So, what is on the plate now that the children are with their dad until Monday and we do not leave for Omaha until Saturday?

This evening, I will attend a candle light vigil at 5:30 p.m.

Then we will come up with something for dinner, no doubt fast and fattening (again) so we can make it to a friend's documentary about the protests in NYC during the republican convention. I told Dereck, "Just so you know, I am probably not going to Karaoke tonight. " To which he replied, "Well, good, because I'm not going." Last night, he went out and returned some videos, and came home with half and half, a newspaper, a popcorn ball for me (because I love them), and For The Time Being, by Annie Dillard, which actually may account for my mood, and also seems strangely appropriate to be reading today. When Dereck walked into the door with da stuff, he got a big, enormous kiss, and I told him, "I think you love me."

That could also account for my good mood.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Fast-Acting, Skin-Stripping Acid

I have been doing my nightly blogwalk and my almost-eleven-year-old son

who talks as fast as I do (and apparently, as we learned during an hour and fifteen minutes of parent teacher conference that my middle child does, too), about Star Wars, when one phrase stood out among all the rest:

Fast-acting, skin-stripping acid.

It just flew off his tongue, peripetetically, and he didn't even stutter.

I had to ask him to repeat it three or four times just so I could write it here.

Kid's a freakin' genius.


From the time you hear about the crash at 10:00 p.m. when you go out for what you think is going to be an evening of karaoke until you finally see the clock for the last time, four hours have passed. You had heard sirens earlier and not given it a second thought.

This is a corporate plane that flies in daily to your town from a major metropolitan airport. And from what you have heard that night from people who reacted to the crash around you, from the slivers of information anybody has, people affiliated with your university, and possibly or probably people from your school were on that plane. People you do know had been there to meet the plane, but you have not spoken to them, would not speak to them about that horror: waiting for a plane to come in that starts to pull apart in the air, and lands in flames...

When you wake up in the morning, you move slowly through the house because even though you do not know who the dead are, you already know that eight of the fifteen passengers have died. Two have survived, and five are missing. They have been missing all night.

Friends who went down to the scene tell you that they counted 18 emergency vehicles. Another who unknowingly passed the first troopers headed to the scene says she has never seen a vehicle moving so fast.

It is a tragic and surreal thing, it will touch everyone in the community, as tragedies do with those less densely populated areas. Even if you don't know anyone on the flight personally, you will know someone who is grieving. In all likelihood, you will go to a memorial service this week. And it is strange and sad to be moving through the morning, checking the news for updates, straining to hear the radio while getting kids moving through their morning, more slowly today.

Because it is sad enough that it happened. But the worst part is that you are moving through this molasses of shock and sadness, but underlying it all, you know that once the names are released, it could be much much worse.

Update: We have received word from our president that information will be relayed to us as soon as families have been notified. I would hope that this is a generic message. Our prayers are with their families.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Will the Real Annie Dillard Please Stand Up?

So, Do I Look Like Annie Dillard?

Holy moly, I think I kind of do.

The real question, though, is can I write like Annie Dillard?

And that remains to be seen.


Poor Dereck, he has terrible insomnia lately, and I don't expect it will be abated until/unless John Kerry is elected our next President.

Seriously, we had a half-kidding conversation last night about moving to Canada.

I do not have insomnia. But I feel like I am sleepwalking today. I am so tired. I had a little melodramatic self-indulgence last night that did not last long, but boy, it wiped me out. I don't think Dereck was even aware of it, blissfully grading on the couch while I was having a little meltdown in front of the computer in the kitchen.

But there you go. I realized at the time that it was self-indulgent, but sometimes you get to the point where you just need to cry.

I am wondering what is in the water or the air lately. A lot of people in blogging land are in flux. I don't know what is up with Yvonne's blog, but it does not work anymore (phew!). Some other people are in flux, and I send out good vibes to you. Karl is taking his new flux with the gleeful prolification of someone who is no longer keeping secrets. He is a blogging fool, and I wonder where he will end up next.

But the atmosphere seems particularly charged. I feel as though I am waiting for something-- and I am. I am waiting for the elections. I am waiting for Christmas. I am waiting for grant guidelines to come out so grants can be written, submitted, and hoped for. I am waiting for this weekend, because we are going to Omaha to stay at the Sheraton (yes, Pie, sorry-- but it's Omaha, for crying out loud, so you know the weather won't be anything to phone home about). Dereck has a conference, but I have my own reasons for looking forward to Omaha, and they have nothing to do with the conference or with the Sheraton (though, admittedly, a day in a hotel without having to go to any meetings is a feast in and of itself-- a hotel that someone else is paying for-- the grandest kind of all).

Underlying all of this electricity and the coiled kinetic energy that comes with patience, with waiting, is another sense of excitement, excitement bred solely of my inner life, the inner life that I suddenly feel guarded about. I am not a private person, or a secretive person. But right now, I am savoring, I am considering, I am reflecting, I am thinking, and I feel like I am sitting in a tree and watching everything happen, grinning like a cheshire cat.

Monday, October 18, 2004

Just another Manic Monday

This morning, I check my voice mail after leaving the cell phone to charge overnight in the mini-van and I have one message. This is the voice message that strikes fear into the hearts of bloggers.

"Hi, Jen, I just called to talk to you about your blog."

It is from? My mother.

I call later, and my dad answers. "Hi, I am just returning Mom's call about my blog."

"Yeah, did you get married and not tell us?"

All because I used the term sister-in-law. So, I take it back. Partner's sister.

No, we did not get married and not tell anybody.

But, feel free to send gifts anyway.

Christian Goofiness

Yesterday, Christian had a play date with his best friend in the whole world. And he and her younger brother refused to open their eyes for the shot. Isn't this a great picture? Alina's mother sent it to me later in the day.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Sunday Afternoon

Instead of taking a nap this afternoon, I have been changing my blog template. The sunflower one was vibrating too much and I thought I was going to provoke a seizure in somebody. This one is boring, but that is okay right now.

Reading and...

While I was in Florida, I finished In a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson, which was just outstanding. Very very good.

Then, I started reading The Cloister Walk by Kathleen Norris. The Cloister Walk was exactly what I needed, and more than I expected. I ate it. So, now I am reading Dakota: A Spiritual Geography. And it is not really what I was hoping for-- it is truly about the Dakotas, and it is good, but it is not really what I need to be reading right now, so I will order Amazing Grace.


I have written more than 26,000 words on my memoir. This is one of the main reasons I haven't blogged this week like I usually do. And this week came to the sobering conclusion that in order really to write it as it should be written, it will take me about a year. Sigh. Hence, the re-ordering of the studio. We came to a compromise about the dog: if we tie her up so her lead is shorter, she can still sit on her chair and walk around half of the studio, but won't be able to eat the computer. I won't have email out there, so I am still frustrated that my little USB thingy doesn't work. Oh well. I'll live.

Out of the Mouths...

At soccer yesterday, I was holding Tommy in my arms like a baby because he wanted me to, and it was cold. So, he said to me, as my children are prone to, "I don't know what it is like in Heaven, Mommy. I wish I knew what it was like."

"Me, too, honey. What do you think it will be like?"

"I think there will be an All You Can Eat Buffet."

He has been obsessed with these lately, for some reason.

After Sam's soccer game, I went over to talk to my friend Carol and told her about what Tommy had said.

Last night at dinner, Tommy said, "Hey, hey guys! I've been thinking about this a lot. What if I was smart enough to skip every grade and be in college right now?"

I said, "What made you think of that, honey?"

"They have an a All You Can Eat Buffet."

And I heard Sam mutter into his plate, "Just like heaven."

Life is Strange

I am trying so hard to keep it together right now and not lose my cool.

I bought a USB jumpdrive awhile back, and so I go to use it today, and of course, my computer doesn't detect it. Neither does my other computer. Arrgh.

So. This morning at 9:00 a.m., I hear a knock on the bedroom door. Christian. It must be. "Yeah?" I call, surprised that he has not also just barged in, so maybe it is Sam.

"Is the coffee on?" I hear Karl say. Goodness me!

"Hang on," I croak, and get out of bed and pull clothes on and go out to find him sitting on the couch. My children just don't get surprised by strangers in the house, I guess, not that Karl is a stranger to them, having spent the day at Six Flags with him (which I had forgotten, but not they).

I knew Karl was in town, mind you, so it was not a complete surprise, but it was a funny and good one. We saw him the other night at TJ the professional frisbee player's 50th birthday party, and Robin's girl band Happy Ass rocked the house. She teased me later because it got too loud for me, so I went downstairs to smoke. Too loud= too old.

Yesterday between two soccer games, and necessary errands to the library, Hastings (books and music), and Walmart for sorely needed groceries, then a much needed nap, we never made it over to Bob's where they were whiling away the chill in the air with a chimnea and gin and juice.

Karl was feeling a little hungover, dahling, this morning, so I made coffee and plied him with gatorade, tylenol, and valerium. Karl has had quite a month, but you will have to read about his month, his weekend, on his blog. I will just say that his feline similarities will keep him on his feet, and that the next few months will be interesting, to say the least.

After he left this morning, we were up anyway and by this time, caffeinated, so we put on NPR and kicked it into gear, throwing out papers and cleaning the house, doing dishes (Dereck) and then I got two out of three kids out to the studio to help us clean it out. We swept up torn up paper and leaves and general chaos because the dog has been staying out there. We vacuumed. It didn't take that long.

Then, I took them to Walmart to spend their money, and I got:

a color block rug

a coffeepot

ground coffee

a table cloth

a throw with fall colors

some vanilla creamer (little cups)

a file container

two mugs

some computer paper.

I strung white lights and we rearranged the furniture to make me a writer's corner. We moved the computer out from under Sam's desk, and you know what? It still does not work. I have been trying to install Microsoft Office, and it won't work, and so, I think I will have to put it back under a desk, and hook up my laptop to the keyboard instead. That will do me just fine.

Liza, are you happy now?

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Can I Just Brag a Little?

My sister-in-law Partner's Sister Amy is not only a gifted writer, but man, her photography... She has given us the privilege and gift of sharing them with us on her blog.

They are amazing.

If you love photography, what are you still doing here? Even if you don't, wow.

Why are you still here?

Check This Out...

A cool electoral-poll site.

I'm back. I am coughing. I feel like I have been hit by a mack truck.

It was a good trip, though.

More later.

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Thoughts From The Coast

Yesterday, I drove to Kansas City and got on a plane and flew toFlorida.

Heh, I know, I know you already knew that. And my internet wouldn't work earlier. Well, I didn't try the internet last night.

I called my Nebraskafriend so we could have our dinner to talk about writing projects (shehas many) and we ended up eating in the hotel restaurant. Let me back up.

Florida is hot.

And we got off the plane and walked and walked and then waited andwaited for the Enterprise bus to come and take us to the Enterprise Office. There were other buses parked in our bus's spot.

Jen: "Everytime I look up and see that bus, it Hertz."

Jane: "Oh, that is terrible!"

I see another bus go by. "I thought I was being Thrifty."

Jane: "Just not very Enterprising."

Sure fired way to get a bus to come is to light up a smoke, so after 20 minutes, I did, and sure enough, there it was. Of course, it didn't stop for us, so we had to pick up bags and run over to it, with all the other passengers. By the time we got done at Enterprise and to the hotel, it was 6:30.

So, Naomi and I sit down at a table that hit us at mid-chest, so we felt like we were in Alice in Wonderland. The waitress, Afaf from Morocco (with whom I bonded many hours later over a cigarette), askedus if we'd like cocktail.


Let's say we did not exactly talk shop. The prices at that restaurant were astounding. We chattered about many things and it seemedrather a good idea to continue to order chocolate martinis. By the time we left, I was falling down drunk. I scarce know how I got back to my room, set an alarm, took out my contacts, and took my medication. Naomi called me to make sure I'd gotten back,. made sure I had stopped in the lobby to get a wakeup call, and reminded me totake out my contacts and take my anti-depressant. She also told me to drink 8 or 9 glasses of water. I drank four or five, but I am convinced that that is the reason I was not hungover this morning.

I was quite possibly still drunk.

I hit the snooze button for a longtime, and got to my workshop about a half hour late-- they had been doing introductions the whole time, so I didn't miss anything. And I left early this afternoon-- it was startlingly redundant.

The hotel is not posh. It is located in the middle of a bunch of strip malls and restaurants like TGIFridays. And a Harley Davidson shop. The hotel is not swank. The carpet is lime green and the rooms smell musty. The bedspreads are thin fare such as you would find at a red roof. I have stayed at nicer Holiday Inns. But it just cracks me up more than anything else. I'll still take it.

And now, I will take me a nap.

Friday, October 8, 2004

Jason Sister

Jason Sister sent me the book of poems.

I remembered Jason Sister this morning as I was crossing Baltimore and driving down Normal toward Truman (which won't make sense to readers who don't live here, but will make sense to Jason Sister).

Thank you, Jason. The poems are great.

And you still need to do the and get on with your life.

Thursday, October 7, 2004

Rainy Thursday

I just sent Dereck off to Karaoke alone.

On Thursday nights, Karaoke is held in a bar called Toons. There are no comfortable seats. Only stools that I always feel like I am falling off. The carpet is always sticky, and when you go to the bathroom, you have to a) hope the toilet is not broken and b) hold the door shut the entire time.

The last time I was in the bathroom, a very large woman with a drink in her hand was saying to her reflection and her friends, "I think I'm pregnant."

A closer look revealed that she was, in fact, pregnant.

It is raining.

I have to finish laundry for my trip, so I think I'll just stay home.

I removed some posts earlier today, but it is still on my mind. It's hard not to let your mind reach for the ache, the toothe that is missing. If only because it is a different sensation.

In situations like this, it is hard to laugh normally with friends, indeed, it is hard even to feel worthy of friends, even though I am very lucky. I still have good friends who love and support me. And for that, I am very grateful.

So, you can imagine my surprise and guilty pleasure upon looking in the mailbox and finding a padded envelope. I thought one of the booksellers from amazon or ebay was just waaaaaay overdue with a book I'd forgotten. I looked. No return address. Kansas city postmark? I open it and there is a book of poems. There is a note stuck to it with a yellow post-it. It is very short: Jen, this so reminded me of you. smiley face, signed J.S.

Here is the thing. The handwriting was very familiar. But I have no idea who J.S. is. I have been wracking my brain. I was friends with a J. S. in high school, but this J.S. wouldn't know me well enough now to have anything remind him of me. Let alone a book of poems.

No, this is someone who knows me well, and in particular, knows my poems.


The only thing I can think of is that it is a friend whose married initials are J.S. but who usually goes by her maiden name to me.

If it is not she, I have no idea.

I read the poems, all of them. They are very good.

And yes, they remind me of me.

Where to Go on Your Next Vacation

Today, I took a little quiz, thanks to Heith. I am not looking for a new hometown, thanks to circumstances beyond my control, but feeling pretty rootless, I thought I would take the quiz and find out what places are ideally suited to me. Because hopefully I will get to retire one day.

Here are my top ten (of 24) results:

Las Cruces, New Mexico

Champaign-Urbana, Illinois

Salem, Oregon

Eugene, Oregon

Sheboygan, Wisconsin

Shreveport-Bossier City, Louisiana

Portland, Oregon

Corvallis, Oregon

Little Rock, Arkansas

Albuquerque, New Mexico

Now, I will have to get Dereck to take the quiz, just for grins.

Tuesday, October 5, 2004

What Day Is It Today?

Have you ever had one of those days in which you did not really even know what day it was?

It's been a rough patch. 'Nuff said.

So, anyway, what do writers do when the going gets rough? They get writing. Liza is persistently, to my great honor, on my butt to write.

She knows I have a book to write. And I have been neglecting it. Not to say that the blog is not worthwhile, but I do tend to favor it because I get so much immediate gratification and feedback.

So, today, being greatly troubled of mind, I lost myself in my book and delivered to her door, which I do not think she even knows yet, 30 pages of manuscript.

No, I did not write all of it today. Some of what the book requires is rigorous editing. And I have not wanted to wade in and do it. So, remniscent of Don sticking his hand in his sewer line this weekend, I waded into it.

Orson Scott Card and other writers have said that it is important, when writing, to hold two opposite thoughts equally in your mind: That you are the most brilliant writer in the world. That you are the shittiest writer in the world.

Right now, the deck is toppling towards... shitty.

Sunday, October 3, 2004


from Keri...

Parents or someday parents - if you could ensure one single personality trait in your children, what would you want it to be? Integrity.

If you could have a cup of coffee with any one person in history, who would it be and why? Oh, wow. I'm not telling, because it's too personal.

Name the last CD you purchased. (I'm curious and want to expand my music collection...) I got some Gaelic music yesterday, but haven't heard it yet. I bought the soundtrack to Garden State last week, and I lurve it.

Who put the bomp in the bomp-da-bomp-da-bomp? Who put the wham in the whama-lama-ding-dong? Um...who cares?

If you could have been any sports figure from history, who would you want to have been? Cathy Rigby because she also got to be Peter Pan and she got to guest star on the Bionic Woman.

If you could have been a jury member in any court case in history, which trial would you choose? The Menendez Brothers, because it's the first and only court case I watched in its entirety on court TV (hey, I was snowed in with a baby). And it was a HOOT!

And This is What G-d Meant by Sunday...

Don't laugh, but after reading for a couple of hours (some of that

time spent in the bath with a mudpack on face, and deep conditioner on

over-processed hair) (and after having slept in late, after waking

early to find Dereck's half o the bed empty, and him in bathrobe,

reading the paper on the couch, his having been up for an hour, and my

enticing him back to bed with promises that neither of us indulged in,

both falling back to sleep), I actually got a cleaning bug, and

started cleaning. I got the laundry started, folded clothes from the

basement, brought them upstairs, put them away, and in the little

boys' room, transferred summer clothes to the top shelf, brought down

winter clothes from the top shelf, having Christian run things to the

trash, to the dirty clothes.

He is not a happy little man with me because I cut off his

movie-watching, telling him he had to do other things with his day. I

told him I loved him, and he started declaring his hatred to me, so I

told him he had to leave the room. He apologized, and I said, "You

should feel bad. I cannot imagine talking to my mother that way."

And heretofore, I told Dereck that Christian was grounded from movie

watching til further notice, and Dereck told Christian, then took the

boys out to clean the minivan. Sam got his room cleaned, I picked up

our room and vacuumed it, moved the bed, vacuumed under, have got

windows open and rooms airing out.

The little boys' room remains to be further picked up and vacuumed,

but I changed their sheets, and will change ours later. I vacuumed

the kitchen and computer area, and the hallway, but need to vacuum the

tv room, living, and dining rooms. My chest hurts a bit, dunno why,

so I thought I'd sit down a bit. Dereck just left with Lloyd for a

walk with the dogs at Thousand Hills.

Christian just came in and we chatted a bit and seemed to make up. He

was much more agreeable when he left the room this time. He started

out mad because yesterday I made him clean up the pumpkin he smashed

on the sidewalk. If I talk to him in anything resembling a firm tone,

he has a little meltdown. To some extent I think this might be

whatever neurological spectrum thing he has, but I am not going to

treat him with kidgloves when he misbehaves.

There is entirely too much cat hair in this house, by the way.

While I was in the bath, Tommy knocked on the door and asked permission to come in and wash his hands. We had kicked all the kids out of the house sometime before, saying, "It's a beautiful day, take your dog up to campus and throw the ball, get some fresh air, act like little boys!"

They hate this. They would rather sit in dark, dusty rooms and watch television, unnoticed for as long as possible. They do not want to go outside and use anything resembling their imaginations. We have to pry them away from the insides of the house with a crowbar.

So, Tommy came in, and I hid behind the shower curtain, peeking at him through the mud mask and the greasy/conditioned hair. He looked at me without comment and said, "Well. I hope you and Dereck have enjoyed your time in the house without me and Sam and Christian."

I put on my best sober look. "No. I missed you. "

He lifted his chin and replied with the gravity only a six-year-old boy can muster, "Me too." And quietly left the bathroom.

I said, "Hey, close the door!" Which ruined his poetic exit, and he resumed his natural Tomminess and said, "I was going to, but I forgot."

So, while I am vacuuming and a bit irritated anyway, I remember a

conversation I had with Barbara in May (did I tell you about this? I

don't think so) in which she told me that "we" were "going to have to"

talk about the crosses in my living room and where else to put them.

You may not know, dear readers, about the crosses. Dereck and I like crosses. We collect them from our travels. We have some really great, beautiful crosses too, prominently displayed above the piano, and on the opposite wall, some framed Orthodox icons (incorrectly hung, by the way) and perched against the piano, still more icons.

I love Orthodox icons. I collect those too.

Which is a very strange thing for someone studying Judaism to do.

And I have become troubled of late because we are going to Dereck's parents' for Christmas, and I fully intend to enjoy every minute of it. Joyce and Tom have a LOVELY home, and I for

one fully intend to enjoy Christmas with no ambiguity, with cookies

and carols, and Christmas Eve service. Honestly, I think it will be

the perfect Christmas setting. I can't wait to see Joyce's

decorations because she collects them. The house will be lovely, and

there will be evenings of hot cocoa and good conversation, Scrabble,

and much good cheer. There will be mornings of bundling up against

the snow to collect eggs and sled and see cattle. I feel fairly

confident that there will be a white Christmas there, and admittedly,

in my life, a white Christmas is a rarity and nothing ever really

seems like Christmas without it.

My children like to make gingerbread houses with graham crackers, lots

of frosting, and candy. And to leave cookies for Santa, and to feel

the reindeer oatmeal flecked with sprinkles across the lawn, sprinkles

so the reindeer can see it. I like to put some of their wrapped gifts

under the tree so they can anticipate and wonder, and they like to

open one gift on Christmas Eve (this is written by a woman who laments

her family's absence of traditions), and to read The Night Before

Christmas before they go to bed, and to wake up earlier than the cows

the next morning.

And did I mention the fireplace? or the hot tub?

I had to throw that in there, just for grins.

And here lies some of my dilemna. Being a Jew who refuses to give up

Christmas-- is something along the lines of being a pro-choice

Catholic. It is just not in good taste, and it really is not allowed.

Jews are so offended by all Christian iconography because to them it

represents their entire history of persecution.

So once again, I am straddling the fence. Which is why I am thinking

that yes, I like Liza's word "hybrid." I draw the line at being a

Messianic Jew-- but I think that just as I am not officially hand-tied

or married, but that perhaps I can take what I need spiritually and

not make formal commitments if I am not able.

Because if I decided officially to convert to Judaism, I would feel

guilty about Christmas.

So, regarding the little conversation about my crosses, I have ignored this. "We" are not going to talk about anything. One of my main problems with organized religion

is that in order to belong to the community, you must submit to some

exercised control over how you do things in your own home. This is

how they get loyalty to the group, this is (I do understand this) how

Judaism has survived for centuries (not to mention Orthodoxy), but I

bristle at it very much. I can see how thoroughly the Mormons do it,

and it is very much a HUMAN thing that has nothing to do with G-d as

far as I can tell because (once again) G-d knows I have icons and

crosses on my walls, and as far as I can tell, G-d doesn't seem to


He also did not seem to mind last night that we ate soup made of both

cream and chicken broth at our sukkot celebration.

So, this leaves me basically at the point of this:

1) I believe in G-d.

2) I like ceremony and ritual.

3) Ceremony and ritual tend to go hand-in-hand with communities and


4) I have, from my life experiences, a deep-seeded mistrust of these

communities and organizations. I am suspicious of them and wary of


5) I will bring into my life the ceremony and the ritual within the

organization and community of family and friends, and only the larger

community to the extent that it will not make me compromise my life.

I can actually understand Jews not wanting me to have Christian

iconography on my walls, and if it represented a belief system, I

might even symbolically have taken it down by now. But it does not.

I try to understand that to them it might be as offensive as swastika

and confederate flag are to me-- but crosses and other Christian

iconography are NOT offensive to me.

On the other hand, when I was Mormon, I hid my coffeepot and wine when

other Mormons came over, and I would be very afraid of offending the

rabbi (or his son) with my crosses if they came over. And yet, to

take them down? Because that would offend? Easier not to have them

over to my house. In and of themselves, the crosses do not mean

enough to me to be a deal breaker with making the larger commitment of

conversion. But the freedom to choose to have them up is a deal

breaker. I am not yet ready to conform that much in return for entry

into the community. Believe me, it is so much easier to pretend that

I am-- oh, how pleasing to Barbara that would be. The pressure to go

ahead with the wedding is so great, many people would rather divorce

later than disappoint people by calling off the wedding. But not me.

But I shall not let this spoil my enjoyment of such a fine day! No sir!

I shall go and take me a little nap instead!

I just walked into my freshly vacuumed and picked up room. If I did

this more often, would I appreciate it the way I do today?

My friend's daughter is eight years old today.

What a thing is a daughter. My mother laments that I do not have one

with whom to have this special relationship. And I admit, I do think I

am missing something. But I apologized to Dereck yesterday for the

fact that I wanted a dog, he didn't because he suspected he would end

up taking care of it, he has ended up taking care of it, and I said,

"I recognize this, and I thank you for doing it and for not throwing

it back at me, but I want you to know that every day I realize it and

feel badly about it."

And he thanked me for recognizing it.

Not willing to have another child just because there is a 50% chance

it might be a daughter! No sir, not now, not how.

I am doing laundry in anticipation of my trip to Orlando next week. I

am still nervous, glad when it's over. But I'm thinking that I might

try to enjoy it a little bit! Not that I am all that interested in

Orlando (nor paying heavily to enjoy Disney), but the resort, well, I

think I could enjoy that very much! And the solitude-- a trip by

myself. I will not lie and pretend that I won't enjoy that very much.

That element of it will be all too short.

Doorbell twice in five minutes!

The first time it was Laura Gruber, whom I assured had our votes.

Next was Hayley, (G-d love her!).

All right, now I am just prattling. My nap/book await, then some more

work on me house.

I hope you are all having as lovely and uncomplicated (I say that without irony, the previous post notwithstanding) a Sunday as I am.

Friday, October 1, 2004

To Pie:

a) no, not holiday, it's for work. so sad, really, someone else is paying for it.

b) oh, that i had that kind of power (to send out least favourite person for coffee or for creamer).

c) thank you, we are planning to indeed. This will make your head roll: we have three national and two state all due nov. 22. and the guidelines won't be available til oct. 11. hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha




sorry, no, i'm okay, really.

Parenting Tip 167.5

When you send off your coupon to Uncle Milt's for free ants, read the fine print, and go ahead and splurge. Pay the $.50 for information on how to keep your ants alive.

But just in case you don't read the fine print, if you are curious about how long ants can survive without food and water, the answer is: about three weeks.

Where Do You Write?

During the course of the day and many emails, it has been pointed out to me (by Liza) that cleaning, painting, and taking over the studio attached to my house might be a lot cheaper than grad school, and might actually get my butt writing.

Virginia Woolf says that it is essential for writers to have a space, a room, of their own in order to be able to write.

Arguably, I have an office, but in it, I am expected to work.

I have two computers at home (not counting my laptop, which never gets used unless I travel). One was in the studio, but nobody ever went out there to use it. So, we moved it into the kitchen, and now everybody uses it. I use it, Dereck uses it, Christian uses it. Sam prefers the one in our bedroom (our= Dereck's and mine) because it is faster for Age of Empires. Tommy hasn't used the computer for awhile-- can you see why? It's always occupied. And when we aren't using it, Boone, the world's cutest orange cat, is sitting in the chair in front of the computer.

And it is rare that someone is using the computer without four other people trying to talk to the computer user at the same time.

So, the studio.

Ugh, where do I begin.

The dog has now taken over the studio. (A heated kennel in the back yard-- also cheaper than grad school).

It does sound fun to paint and decorate the studio, turn it into a real space. I am thinking I would have to, and have to put a coffeemaker and little fridge out there in order to make it a space that I will really and truly and honestly, not just saying so, no fingers crossed behind my back, use, because honestly, when the computer was out there before, I did not use it.

And I am not going to move the computer from the kitchen, or from the bedroom. We like them there. I will either use a pen, my laptop, the computer under Sam's desk which sucks for internet but might be okay as a word processor, or find my old typewriter from the Salvation Army. I used it to type almost all of my poems back in the day, and maybe that's the secret.

But anyway, it got me to thinking, fellow bloggers: what is your writing space like? From where are you typing?

Your Mission, Should You Choose to Accept It...

Is to tell me all of the reasons why I should not go into significant debt to commute an hour and a half one way for the next four to five years to get a PhD in creative writing.

Even though, every year, I want to.

Come on, let's talk sense into Jen now.

October 1

This morning, I went to fill up my usual cup of work coffee (distinguishable from home coffee because I don’t make it, it is made with Folgers, and it is one of the only times I use the powdered non-dairy creamer). Poured the coffee, and flipped up the little metal latch for the nondairy creamer and shook over my coffee. I do this every morning.


I guess there are limits, even with nondairy creamer. No biggie. I 'll just get some more out of the cabinet.

All gone!

And it is raining outside. Or I’d go to the grocery store for more out of my own pocket, I swear.

Or better yet, if I am going to brave the rain, I should just go to the coffeeshop for real coffee, a double cappucino, or a large mocha.

But I am not going to brave the rain. Yet. This morning I walked the dog in the rain. That was fun enough.

We are all sitting here in the rain, in our Friday jeans, waiting for federal guidelines to be released. Until then, we are in a holding pattern. Waiting for Godot. Compared to the gray skies outside our windows, the flourescent lighting seems very bright inside. Almost cheery, almost warm.

The tree outside my window has started to change, and now has nearly as many yellow leaves as green.

This afternoon was supposed to be our Homecoming Parade. Well. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I won’t be standing out in the rain to see it. And soccer tomorrow? And the Scottish Highland Games? Dinner in the Sukkot? Not if it is raining.

One of my secret fantasies for this weekend is that it will continue raining into the morrow and so our packed weekend, soccer at 9 a.m., soccer at 10 a.m., the Scottish Highland Games, The Red Barn Arts Festival—everything that requires sustained time outdoors—will give way to coffeetime on the couch in jammies and slippers, NPR, lingering breakfast…

Granted, it’s my choice. I don’t have to do anything tomorrow if I don’t want to. But if it is not raining, then I do want to go do and all of those things, and I will wait for a tucked in Sunday morning instead.

Last night, we stayed in. Ahhhh… Tomorrow, busy busy busy. Tonight, Dereck may go out and hear some Celtic music, but I have steadfastly refused to get a sitter this week or weekend. My body, mind, and soul are telling me that I need more quiet, less activity, more sleep, more just time that is unassigned, time in my house, restorative time. I spent an inordinately long time last night looking at down comforters and sateen sheets on various websites, trying to figure out which kind of down comforter I want (Angela, you have inspired all of this, what kind do you have?), what kind of sheets. I want extravagance. I am using the jersey knit sheets on my bed readily available at Walmart. I have quilts on my bed that my grandmother and her sisters tied for me for my wedding, 13 years ago. The stuffing is coming out of them, they are torn, they are old.

I want to vacuum out my room, flip the mattress, and put on 500 count sateen sheets, matching pillow cases, my down cover with it’s sueded duvet cover. Of course, I do not have any of these things, and as I look at prices, I wonder, do we really need goose down? And maybe the 250 count sheets would be so much better than Walmart jersey knit that I wouldn’t even know what I was missing—and I don’t know that I have ever experienced 500 thread count sheets, so I truly wouldn’t know what I was missing…

And even though I am looking, I am not buying. Not yet. I am prolonging the enjoyment with the delicious anticipation and daydreaming and fantasy. I want these for the holidays, I want these for winter nights when it starts getting dark at 4:30 p.m. and we don’t even want to go outside in the evenings anymore. I want them to be fresh and new so long, that I don’t even want to have them yet—in my mind’s eye they are fresh and soft and new and clean and I am sinking into them.

I am feeling so generous, I even want a down comforter for Sam’s bed, want him to have that experience. Christian and Tommy can wait—but Sam is standing on the edge of age 11, which was for me such a significant age in my childhood. It is the age at which I really started to wake up and become a person, not only a child, a time at which I began to make connections I hadn’t made before. And he will be 11 next month.

Next weekend, I’m going to Orlando, if there is anything in Florida left.

The next weekend, no plans so far. Don wants to have poker night, but I have my kids, they start poker at 6:30—can’t do it.

The next weekend, Omaha for a conference with Dereck. Then, the middle of that week, Bob Dylan in Columbia.


Time seems to be rushing toward me like a train speeding through the dark. I can hear it long before I see it coming.