Monday, August 31, 2009

Why Do I Write?

School is back in session today.  I sent Christian off to middle school (even though he can't possibly be old enough), Max off to first grade (even though he can't possibly be old enough), and Ryan off to be a professor (even though he can't possibly be old enough). 
As for me, I'm going back to school as well.  (And you can too!  Check out the details here.)  My first assignment is to write about why I write.  And since I am pressed for time, I'm going to spill my thoughts here with no editing.  Which is usually the best way to write anyway.

On Friday night, Ryan and I went to see Julie & Julia.  Ryan was skeptical before the movie started because the average age of the other patrons in the theatre was roughly 113-years-old.  I began crying about 2/3 of the way through the movie and didn't stop until about three hours after it ended.  And to be perfectly honest, it wasn't my favorite movie ever-ever-ever, but not because it wasn't a great movie--it was a great movie.   The problem was that instead of becoming lost in the movie (like my other favorites), I became involved in the movie--a third story line in my own head.  There was just too much that related to my  own thoughts and dreams that I almost stood up in the theatre to perform my own monologue:

You see, everybody, I would say, I too have dreams of doing something special with my life! And like Julia Child and Julie Powell, I too am a thirty-something middle-class white woman who is inspired and empowered by other people who follow their dreams!  I'm watching these stories here and I GET this.  I mean, I really, really GET this!  Right down to my toenails, I GET this--the angst, the hope, the impossible dreams!  I, too, have spent countless hours blogging (and eating), wondering all the while if it is a complete waste of time despite a nagging hope that it might be the most important and meaningful endeavor of my life.  And someday you might return to this very theatre (unless, of course, you pass away first, my elderly friends) and watch the true story about how I was inspired by Julie who was inspired by Julia and how I was also inspired by Julia who was inspired by her love of French food and how I turned all that inspiration into a bestselling novel about a worried little boy who blogs about butter and cream sauces!  It's the circle of life, geezers, and I am a WRITER!  And, okay, I'm kind of second-guessing some of those details about the novel, but the point is that I want to announce right here and right now that I am a WRITER!  An all-caps WRITER!  Not just a copywriter, but a writer-writer!   And it doesn't matter that I don't have a publisher, an agent or even a good handle on using semi-colons!  I'm a writer, dammit, a WRIIIIIITERRRRRRRRR! 

But I didn't stand up and give my monologue, interrupting the wonderful movie.  And I certainly didn't announce to a theatre full of senior citizens that I'm a writer.  (I mean, it's one thing to interrupt a movie, but just imagine the nerve of calling myself a writer!)  

Instead, I just sat and cried and cried and cried.  We walked out of the theatre and I cried while Ryan used the bathroom.  We walked to our car, buckled up and drove in the rain while I cried.  Ryan asked me to express my thoughts--such is the charge of psychologist husbands--but I couldn't find the words.  They don't come out of my mouth very well; they never have.  Words come out of my fingertips.  So I cried all the way home and Ryan squeezed my hand until it could find the words.  

And days later, I have an assignment.  Why do I write?  Because Julia loved butter.  Because Ricky loved Lucy.  Because Forrest loved to run.  Because the sky is blue.  Because my feet are small.  Because life is beautiful.  Because I used to have a bathroom made of dry-erase boards.  Because I was bullied.  Because I fell in love.  Because I became a mother.  Because I'm self-absorbed.  Because my hair is curly.  Because my eyes are brown.  Because I used to hate dogs.  Because I love to laugh.  Because I went fishing once in the rain.  Because I want to be thinner.  Because I love everyone.  Because I hate everyone.  Because I sleep with one foot sticking out of the covers.  Because injustice makes me worry.  Because I dance in the kitchen.  Because, because, because.

That's why.  That's exactly why.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Upcoming Video Tutorial: Open to Suggestions!

First I taught you how to zhuzh.  Then I taught you the correct and righteous way to cube a watermelon.  

Lately, I've had several requests (okay, like three) for a new video, but I don't seem have any great ideas for a topic.  Do you?  

My friend Kelly suggested How To Put Together An Outfit.  And I'm bashfully considering it.  I'm not sure how much I might have to offer on the subject, though I see some real comedic possibility there.

But I'm wondering: Do you have any other suggestions?  I'm here to please the readers!  Both of you!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Drama in Real Life

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Beach Makes Me Philosophical

It's a marvelous thing to sit at the edge of land, look out into an endless ocean, and contemplate your self.  To take a look around at all the dusty corners of your being, all at once accepting them and committing them to improvement.  To look at the crashing waves and remember that life's problems are so similar--regular, temporary, and part of a beautiful pattern.  To be removed from buildings, appliances, and devices we fear we can't live without.  To share fresh air and frivolity with your loved ones.  To dig holes.  To lie open-armed in the sun, receiving its warmth.  To not know what time it is.  To sit still.  To refresh.  To be.

And it's even better if you do all of this with a giant bucket of french fries.

Friday, August 21, 2009

My Best Ideas Are Always Stumbled Upon

Remember my Big Dream?  That book I'm trying to write?  Well, it's coming along, slow but sure.  I tend to think of it as a fetus or a tortoise--slow growing, slow moving, but steady nonetheless.  I hope to be done with it in early 2037.

Anyhoodle, I happened upon a great editing technique that I wanted to share with any other would-be writers out there (and don't hate or gloat if you already thought of this idea ten years ago, mmmkay?): have someone read your piece aloud to you.

While I've always read my own writing out loud when editing (honestly, it's the best way to recognize typos and awkward sentences), I'd never listened to my work being read by somebody else.  

Recently, I had Christian read my story out loud.  The narrator is a young boy, so I asked him to read it.  I wanted to see if it sounded authentic and sincere.  It was the strangest happening--hearing the words in a young boy's voice brought new life and character to the story for me.  Parts and places that I was wrestling with sounded completely different in his voice and I gained new insight as to what to tinker with and what to let be.

And then, last week when Erik and Becky were in town, they were asking about the book and I bashfully agreed to share it with them.  At first, I was going to read it to them, but a fleeting idea brought on by vulnerability/embarrassment caused me to hand it over to another reader.  Erik read it out loud to all of us as we drove to the beach.  Again, it was a strange and fascinating experience.  Now the story, read in a man's voice, sounded like a reflective memoir.  Again, I was drawn to new places to polish and other places that I was determined to alter to leave as is.  It really gave me a chance to see it with new eyes and gave me a surge of energy and ideas.

So, there you have it--a stumbled upon idea that really helped me.  I hope it helps you too!

Thursday, August 20, 2009


I have a secret.  That's why I'm whispering.  I'm writing in a small italic font, because that's how you whisper in print.  Anyway, back to my secret (and I'm warning you, I will deny this if you ever mention it in public) I'm feeling like.......the thing's just that........{sigh}.......OK, here it is: I'm getting the teensiest, tiniest, itty-bittiest tired of summer.  It's becoming slightly annoying to dab my sweaty face seven times with a towel before applying my makeup in the morning.  The mosquitoes are eating me alive.  Everything is sticky, and the air at night is more hot and dead than the entire Cullen family put together.  

There I said it.  But I'm warning you: DO NOT TELL A SOUL!

Monday, August 17, 2009

It's Always Darkest Before the Power Comes Back On

The power goes out all the time here.  Even when I have made my payment to the power company.

And when it goes out, it goes all out.  I mean, it really overachieves.  It excels at being out.  It's constantly trying to one-up itself.

If there is a significant rainstorm, the power will most likely go out.  And not for a few minutes, but for several hours.  I've learned to count on it.  But yesterday--bright, beautiful, sunny yesterday--the power suddenly went out around noon.  

"You've got to be kidding me," I said.
"Did you pay the power bill?" Ryan asked.

After 45 minutes with no power, I called the power company.  A robot told me that my outage was known, was affecting nine other houses, and that there was no estimated resolution time for the problem.  Thanks, robot, you are so helpful, friendly, and informative.

We left in the car to go to my eye appointment.  I've been wearing my last pair of contacts for longer than I'm willing to admit.  When the nurse?/technician?/examiner? used his fancy machine to take a look at them on top of my eyes, he remarked that there were several "deposits" on them and that they reminded him of the constellation Cassiopeia.  He moved to the other eye and said, "Ahh, and here's the Milky Way."

"What a relief," I said, "they're only deposits.  I thought I had glaucoma."

Then I endured a short lecture about disposing of my disposable contact lenses before they become home to deposit constellations.  

And just when I thought my exam was over (my prescription improved, by the way, so I could argue that leaving contacts in forever actually repairs vision) he informed me that he needed to dilate my eyes since this was my first visit and they like to create a baseline.  Twenty minutes later I checked out with fully-dilated eyes and some new boxes of contacts.  

When we got home, the power was still out.  I called the power company and the robot told me that my outage was known, was affecting nine other houses, and that there was no estimated resolution time for the problem.  

I needed to work, but I had no power or internet.  I also had no vision.  But I did have a piercing headache, so I went upstairs and took a nap in our ever-warming, un-air-conditioned house.

When I woke up an hour later, the power was still out and my eyes were still dilated.  I could have given birth through them, they were so dilated.  I harumphed around the house, feeling completely restless.  I couldn't work because the power was out and I couldn't see.  I couldn't watch TV because the power was out and I couldn't see.   I couldn't make dinner because the power was out and I couldn't see.  I thought about reading--an activity that requires no electricity--and remembered that I couldn't see.  Hence, all the harumphing.

Finally, we decided to flee.  

We got in our car and drove to our favorite Mexican restaurant, relishing all the way in the air conditioning and ample electricity--playing the stereo, charging the cell phones, rolling the power windows up and down!  

The dimly lit restaurant was bustling and we worked our way through two bowls of salsa as we waited and waited for our food.

"This is taking forever," Ryan said.

And then, as if to spite him for his impatience, the power went out in the restaurant.  (See what I mean about the one-upping?)  Before we could decide what to do, our food was delivered to our table.  We ate in the darkened restaurant with only an emergency battery-powered flood light shining into our refried beans.  By the time we left the restaurant, all of our eyes were dilated from the darkness.

We drove home.  The power was still out.  We stayed in the car while I phoned the electric company on speed dial and the robot told me that my outage was known, was affecting nine other houses, and that there was no estimated resolution time for the problem. 

We drove to the mall and walked around in the electricity until they closed.  My vision seemed to finally be restoring.

We drove back home and saw our street lined with big, fancy trucks from the power company with big, fancy flashing lights, and several men walking around scratching their heads.  I called my robot friend and she gave me a new message: my outage was known, a crew had been dispatched to investigate, the problem was affecting nine other houses, and there was no estimated resolution time for the problem.

I had a flash of genius and outsmarted my power outage.  I grabbed my laptop, a DVD, and my family.  We watched Where the Red Fern Grows on the couch.  I hadn't seen it in years.

"See?" I said watching the Coleman family in the Ozarks, "They don't have any power either."

The dogs died, the red fern grew, the Colemans moved to a bigger city (with electricity) and the movie ended.  The big, fancy trucks on our street were long gone and the power was still very much out.  I tucked the kids in to bed by candlelight and then plopped myself next to Ryan on our sweltering bed--dead, hot air all around.

Sometimes it's so hard living in the twenty-first century.    

This morning the power is back on.  Ryan said it happened around 12:40 a.m. when he was still reading in bed with a flashlight.  My eyes are back to their normal size and a fresh, new workday is before me.  The problems and annoyances of yesterday seem long gone except for one perplexing question: What is that smell coming from the refrigerator?

Writing Prompt: If Summer Was a...

For lack of a better blog post, I'm turning to my writing notebook today.  The following are a couple of exercises I did at my writing group last week using the prompt, "If summer was a _____, it would...." and a couple of random words drawn from a bowl.

If summer was a song, it would play on my stereo more than any other.  It would start out slow, but with a sassy beat--toe-tapping is most definitely required.  It would have a chorus that would get stuck in your head for days, but not in the annoying way; in the way that taps on your shoulder in the grocery store checkout line and reveals itself as a familiar friend.  It would be the most covered song in the world--everyone would have a recording of it, from the Black Eyed Peas to Barbara Streisand.  And no matter the artist, it would shoot straight to number 1 platinum status.  If summer was a song, I would have to become a singer.

If summer was a woman, she would be tall and bronze and merry.  She would be invited to all the parties--all of them--and she would go.  Even to the backyard BBQ of the married first cousins in Arkansas.  If summer was a woman, she wouldn't care; she'd just want a plate of food and a place by the table with the tall pitcher of lemonade.  If summer was a woman, she would kiss everyone on the forehead, the nose, the apples of the cheeks and the tops of the shoulders.  If summer was a woman, she'd find a way to bring everyone out of their houses, calling to them from the street, beckoning them into the lush green outdoors where she entertains them with her enchanting dance.

Feel free to play along!  Choose one or two (or seven) of the words from the list below and fill in the blank:  

If Summer Was a ________, it would...
  • song
  • woman
  • museum
  • car
  • wrestling match
  • legend
  • man
  • child
  • meal
  • drink
  • color
  • disease
  • movie
  • dessert
  • teenager
  • album
  • conversation
  • book
Set your timer for five minutes, write as fast as you can--don't stop to edit or think--and see what you come up with.  (Leave it in a comment, please.  I'd love to read!)

Friday, August 14, 2009


One year ago today we had lunch with my mom in Sandy, Utah.  James and DeDe joined us.  We sat outside in the summer air and ate our turkey sandwiches and laughed.

One year ago today we loaded our suitcases and weighed them on my mom's pink bathroom scale to make sure they didn't exceed 50 pounds each.  One of the suitcases contained a frying pan.

One year ago today we drove in my Mom's van to my dad's shop.  He came outside and we hugged and laughed a little and hugged one more time.

One year ago today we drove to the airport and unloaded our heavy suitcases on the curb.  I hugged my mom in an unbreakable clutch and we cried.  I hate goodbyes.

One year ago today my mom left us at the airport and drove directly to the hospital to welcome my beautiful niece Abby.  Goodbye.  Hello.

One year ago today we boarded a plane.  Lucy sat in her kennel beneath my feet, mildly sedated.  We traveled 2200 miles while we watched Kung Fu Panda and ate beef tips with mashed potatoes.

One year ago today we rode in a shuttle van from the airport to the house of some new friends.  We were stuck in traffic for hours.  We were so tired--physically, emotionally--and the brake lights and orange cones seemed to never end.

One year ago today we refused to wonder if we had made a horrible mistake.

One year ago today we found our way to the quiet house of our friends.  They were away on vacation, but left a welcoming note for us and fresh towels.  We laid down on a foreign mattress and fell asleep to the sounds of the summer bugs outside.  The next day we would buy a house, an air mattress, and a sheet cake.  The house to live in, the mattress to sleep on until our stuff arrived, and a sheet cake to make everything all right.

One year ago today we left home to come home.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

'Cause You Gotta Have Friends

I dropped our friends Erik and Becky off at the airport this morning after a wonderful few days together touring Washington DC and hanging out in our 'hood as only the Awesome Foursome can.

Talk, talk, talk, eat, eat, eat, see, see, see.  Rinse and repeat.  

One of the things I loved about having them here was creating memories with them in our favorite places, sharing some of our "new" world with our "old" friends.  That way, the next time we visit the place, we'll have a memory of them there and they don't seem quite so far away.

Interestingly enough, most of those "favorite places" are places to eat.  Go figure.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Immortal Summer Soundtrack

Question for you: What is/are the song(s) that mean summer to you?  

I want to immortalize summer and since strutting around in a string bikini all year long is NOT an option (nor good for my children's development and eyesight) I thought I'd download some tunes and make a mix tape.

Leave me your favorite song idea(s) in a comment and you'll be entered to win a copy of said mix tape.  (Or CD if you're in to that newfangled technology.)  I'll give away three.

(P.S.  I like to write in parentheses.)

Friday, August 7, 2009

Summer, Don't Leave Me

I'm entering a stage of mild panic.  Summer is whittling down from months into weeks.  Soon weeks will whittle down into days.  




Have a great weekend.  Go soak up the sun.

{P.S.  I took this picture along the roadside one day.  Full of summer glory, don't you think?}

Thursday, August 6, 2009

A Good Idea That Only Cost a Dollar

Always a sucker for the dollar bins at Target, I picked up this dry erase board recently that has grade-school paper markings.  

It reminded me of a cute idea that Max's kindergarten teacher used.  Every day at the beginning of kindergarten, Max's class would gather on a rug and read a letter their teacher had written to them on a giant sheet of paper.  It was a simple letter, stating the date and a brief synopsis of what they were planning to do in class that day.  The class would work on reading it together--practicing memorized words and learning new ones.  Plus, it gave them an idea of what their day would entail.

I wrote Max a letter on the dry erase board and was surprised to see how much he enjoyed reading it.  It was like reuniting him with a familiar friend.  He thought it was funny to read "Miss Mom" at the bottom instead of his teacher's signature, "Miss Waters."  

I've tried to have a new letter for him every morning.  Except for the mornings when I forget.  On those mornings, I present him with another valuable, educational tool: Spongebob Squarepants reruns.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The Ballad of Max and Brianna

This is Brianna, my sister's daughter.  She is bright and funny and adorably compact.  She says hilarious things like, "We're not supposed to say 'butt crack,' right, Mom?" 

Everybody loves Brianna.

Well, everybody except for Max. 

Temporarily ousted from his place as Resident Littlest One last week, Max had a taste of life as an older sibling as Brianna followed Max and her big brother Ben all around.  And, oh the frustration!  

One morning, the kids started a movie.  At one point Max said something about the moving being on, to which Brianna declared that the movie was not on.  And then something like this followed:

Max: Yes, it is.

Brianna: No, it isn't.

Max: Yes, it is!

Brianna: No, it isn't.

Max: YES, IT IS!

Brianna: No, it isn't.

At that point, Max who was staring at the movie that was most definitely on, boiled in frustration and spontaneously sprouted a gray hair.   

Well, you can only imagine the rest of the week.  

As soon as Max realized that Brianna loved going to the pool, he announced that he was ready to "take a break from the pool."  In fact, he explained, he was pretty sure the pool was closed.  Forever.  

Who's calling the shots now, huh?

And then there was the time that Max and Ben set up all the Transformer toys on the coffee table.  Max anticipated Brianna's interest in sabotaging their fun joining them and built a barricade out of pillows to keep her out.  He sat vigilantly in the chair next to the pillowcade and announced as she inched near, "I'm watching you."  It was very Robert De Niro.

Only twice was he detained for assault during the week.  Only once for attempted assault.  

The evening after they left, he was a little lethargic.  Of course, he was missing Ben--his constant companion of the last week--but he also seemed to be depleted physically.  Self-restraint can be so exhausting.

Tonight after dinner, I decided to test the waters and see if absence could make the heart grow fonder.

"Max, do you want to call Brianna on the phone and see how she's doing?"

He volunteered to call Osama bin Laden instead.  

I'm not worried about these two.  Eventually, they'll make nice.  A truce will lead to a treaty and a treaty will lead to a lasting friendship based on common bonds.  And I have a feeling that common bond will be butt crack jokes.  It's only a matter of time.

You're Going to Need a GPS to Follow This One

I'm pregnant.

Just kidding.  I'm not pregnant; not even close.  

Sorry, that was a terrible joke.  Just terrible.

Some of you loved ones will be mad at me for weeks and weeks for the roller coaster ride you took in those few short sentences.  But try to focus on the momentary joy you had, instead of the anger.  OK?

It's just that I've been feeling the need to liven things up here on the old blog.  When I first began blogging, I seemed to have a better idea of what I was doing here, a little more direction.  Lately I feel blurry.  A little weak.  In need of a stronger voice.  

I thought to myself, "What's a good, strong, energy-filled sentence to start out a blog post?"  And I figured it out within seconds: I'm pregnant.

But--just to reiterate--I'm not pregnant.  At least not with a human fetus.  

Or an alien one, for that matter.

Perhaps I am pregnant with something else--perhaps it's this book I'm trying to write.  This book I'm trying to think about and touch every day, but often failing to do so.  This book that wants so hard to climb out of my limited brain and wants me to forget that I am a mother, a wife, an employee, and a homeowner.

And similar to a regular pregnancy, I worry about all that I'm doing that will screw it up.  I should be reading more books and watching less TV.  I should be listening to Bach instead of the Black Eyed Peas.  I should be writing chapters instead of blog  posts.  I should stop worrying that it will be born disfigured, retarded, or ugly because the truth is that I will do cartwheels on my front lawn if it survives this "pregnancy" at all.  And I will love it unconditionally, even when people tilt their heads, pull out their most forced smiles and say, "It's--it's--lovely."  I just want the chance to have it.

I've digressed.

This post started out with me wanting to write a better, more interesting blog.  Which I do.

But I think it was Oprah who said you can't have it all, at least not all at once.  So, like Oprah, I'm going to get fat in order to have success in these other areas of my life.  And my blog is going to suffer and become an intermittent showcase of my most random thoughts.  Will you still love me when my blog putters and sputs with the black smoke of my dumbest ideas?

Cut me a little slack.  After all, I'm pregnant.

Monday, August 3, 2009


I really like my sister.  
She is an uncommonly kind person.
And funny.  Don't forget funny.
It is fun to make her laugh.
I wasn't supposed to make her laugh because she is recovering from surgery.
Surgery is no laughing matter.
I really tried not to make her laugh.
But I failed a few times.
Sorry about that.
She told me not to clean the house before she came.
And though I intended to, I did not clean my house before she came.
In fact, I didn't even shower that day.
And I didn't even feel bad about it.
That's the kind of person she is.
She loves me even if my house is dusty.
And my armpits are smelly.
We had fun hanging out and talking.
And reminiscing about our childhoods.
She shredded chicken while I made a salad.
She is a wonderful mother.
She worries that she is not a good parent.
I think that's probably one of the signs of a good parent.
We talked about all the silly mistakes we made on our firstborns.
It's really hard not to make silly mistakes on your firstborn.
We stayed up way too late one night.
That's one of my favorite things to do.
We talked about everything in the whole wide world.
We took our kids to the pool and then took turns making sure they didn't drown.
We went to a county fair and got drenched in the rain.
She felt funny about having her daughter on a kid leash.
Because she is not one of those people who puts a leash on their child.
It's okay, I told her; I've used a leash before.
Don't we always end up doing the things we swore we'd never do as parents?
Besides, who cares what people think?
I mean, whoever said at 21 years old, "My dream is to drive a minivan!"
Nobody, that's who.
We ate donuts.
We watched movies.
We did dishes.
She still takes a long time to get ready.
It made me remember our teenage years.
She always sat cross-legged in front of her long mirror to get ready.
She used Clinique makeup.
And a knitting needle to poof up her bangs.
I always wanted to look like her.
It's OK that she takes a long time; I don't mind.
She made Rachel Ray's french toast one morning while I was working.
It was delicious.
A week went by so fast.
Max was grumpy the day they left; he didn't want to say goodbye.
He'd had a cousin all to himself for days and days.
I knew how he felt.

Oh yes.  It's nice to have a sister.
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