Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloweenie

Last night Stephanie and I gave a talk at Writer House, the fabulous center for writers here in Charlottesville. (It was lovely—Elizabeth McCullough had us all kitted out with podcasting equipment and I’ll link to it when that’s up.) Before the talk, we went downtown for dinner. Apparently there was to be some doggie trick-or-treating on the mall: tons of dogs in little doggie costumes were out. I predicted that on the front page of today’s local daily, there would be a headline along the lines of “Downtown Goes to the Dogs!” I was wrong. On the front page of today’s local daily, the headline was “Happy Howl-o-ween!”

I love Halloween. You order the kid a costume, buy some candy, and that’s it. No fuss, no muss. Usually in our neighborhood, we get some pizzas and socialize before dark, then hang out on our porches.

And usually, there will come some religious folk who will try to convince us that Halloween is the devil’s work. I have to say, I can’t make myself act interested even particularly respectful to these people who are harshing my mellow. One year, though, I was standing with a group of neighbors and I noticed that Kathleen was nodding and listening and generally giving this stranger a few moments of her time out of politeness. The rest of us found it a good moment to corral the kids or refresh the beer or check the candy situation. I looked over at Kathleen and realized that she was wearing a headband that made it look as if she had a knife stuck through her head.

Happy Halloween! Here’s a song by They Might Be Giants about the tallest, widest, and most famous haunted mansion in New Jersey.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

ARM: The Gossipy, Name-Dropping Piece

It was dark and chilly and before six in morning. There was a cab waiting for me in front of the house because I was flying to Toronto for the Association for Research in Mothering conference, and I didn’t trust myself to drive that early. I spent the car ride listening to the driver, an amiable enough guy, tell me how, at 50, he doesn’t know why 20-year-old women find him so attractive. With that living example of The Patriarchy at work, I was off.

Damn, it was fun. I’m going to write about the ideas in the conference (“You Say You Want a Revolution?” it was titled) in the winter issue of Brain, Child, but I have to say: Half of the stimulation was the social stuff.

I had lunch with Amy Anderson from Mamazine and Amy Hudock from Literary Mama shortly after I got there on Saturday, and I had already missed a few days of the conference (argh, but the work, the family, etc.). I got to meet the organizers of the whole shebang, Andrea O’Reilly and Renée Knapp. They’d been running full steam keeping everything going, and at some point on Saturday, a university patrol officer came in and informed Andrea that her car—which she left at seven that morning in the lot in the middle of a downpour—had been running all day long, at least six hours. There was a metaphor for the mothers’ movement there, she told the group.

During the conference, Joy Rose, Lynn Kuechle,and Rebekah Spicuglia were interviewing and filming the people there to make a movie. And because I cannot interact socially without saying something regrettable at one point, this time I did it on film. I was trying to explain how, when I was a new mother, how much I resented being invisible and condescended to. Suddenly, back then, everyone was calling me Mom. “I’m sorry, but unless you came out of my vagina …” I said to the camera. Oh, no. It’s never a comfortable idea to make reference to one’s own vagina, unless you’re in a much different line of work than I am. So there you have it: I was the Eve Ensler of the 2008 ARM conference.

The panel I was on—with Joy and Lynn, Amy and Amy, and Juliana Forbes and Beth Osnes of Mothers Acting Up—was a lot of fun. We—me and the Amys—worried about it a little, talking about creativity and art, after hearing the other discussions about women in prison, say, or the future of child-making. But if I can say so myself, we did just fine.

Afterwards, ARM held a reception. I got to meet a whole lot of people that I’d heard of, and probably that you’ve heard of, through the magazine, and also some people whose work I didn’t know but I want to. I spoke with Lisa Chiu (whose panel I really regret missing), and Lori Slepian (one of the founders of the National Association of Mothers’ Centres), and a ton of other women whose email addresses I imagine I’ll be looking up for months into the future.

Later, Amy, Amy, Lynn, Jocelyn, and I went out for beers. We drank our Stella, and you know what? It was one of those very rare occasions that we could just segue right into real talk, like a discussion of mothers and abortion (and the essay by Elana Sigall in the current issue of Brain, Child). I’m trying to find words to describe what it was like to experience this in person, but suffice it to say that maybe for me, it was just the perfect storm: Good conversation, fun people, beer, more beer.

The next morning I would have breakfast with Joy and Amy Richards (writer and co-founder of the Third-Wave Foundation) and Mary Olivella (VP of MomsRising), and it would be another stimulating interaction, my last one before I had to catch my plane. Joy would send a clip she’d made of the conference, although I’m not in it, because by that time, I was standing in the customs line, worrying that I’d miss my flight.

But that night, we walked back to the hotel and went to our respective rooms. I’d bought a new travel-sized thing of contact solution, and the plastic seal wouldn’t budge. I looked around the bathroom, around the suite. I flew, so I didn’t have any sharp objects on me and the room didn’t seem to hold any either. So I stood there for what seemed like twenty minutes and gnawed at the plastic, my contacts blurry, my eyes sleepy. I thought about the conference and all these mothers, like me, trying to care of business the best way they know how.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Calling All Drama Queens

Hey! This weekend, I went up to the Association for Research in Mothering conference—and boy howdy, that was fun. I’m going to write about it soon.

But until then, I’m hoping you can help a magazine out? We’re running a little low on Backtalk stories for the next issue. (It’s that section in the front where people send in anecdotes in response to a certain topic—they’re usually about 200 words or so.) If you have something in response to this:

“We know an man who likes to say, “The older I get, the further I could swim as a boy.” We can relate to that kind of inflated memory. (We swear one of our pregnancies lasted for seven years, for instance.) Tell us the tales from your childhood or parenting life that you’ve somehow managed to blow waaaaay out of proportion.”

Mind sending it to editor at brainchildmag dot com?

(I’m posting this on Brain, Child’s Facebook page, so sorry for the double whammy.)

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Exquisite Corpse

I was reading an article in Poets & Writers last night about a writing professor who does prompts with his students and also does them for himself to get pumped up for writing. I’m pretty sure I’m too easily distracted to do that, but I was thinking, hey, mebbe I’ll do a little Exquisite Corpse thing on the old blog!

I actually had to look it up, and this apparently isn’t a real Exquisite Corpse thing (with rules about the structure of sentences, or secrecy, or whatever), but the idea is, we write a story together. I’ll start, then in the comments, write a paragraph that picks up the story where the last person left off. At comment #20, we’ll stop.

The fun!

Okay, here’s the first graf:

We had driven a ridiculously long way and spend a ridiculously large amount of money only to end up here.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

What I’ve Been Meaning to Say

Long time, no blog posts, huh?

Here are some subjects I meant to blog about:

--I noticed a wasps’ nest out back the other day and was horrified that my first throught was that I needed to mention it to Brandon because I somehow believe that it’s his job to deal when the wildlife start infringing on our homestead. WTF, I believe the kids say. Be gentle when you break it to me that women got the vote, okay?

--We went to dinner at the Red Hen in Lexington, co-owned by my Brain, Child pardner Stephanie Wilkinson. Review: Y to the UM. Seriously, that red-wine/chocolate sauce is something they must serve in heaven.

--Squirrel frolicking season. Review: Thumbs down.

--A treatise on why I’ve been quiet about politics and the election, the gist of which is that I can’t bear to lose faith in my fellow Americans again should somehow McCain win.

Be back after I dig myself out from under some work!

Monday, October 13, 2008

More Time Suck

Okay. I promise I won't become one of those people in your life that keeps forwarding things that are "funny" or "cute" or "something every woman should read." That said:

I'm posting this because if there's anything funnier than babies swearing, it can only be puppies knocking over a liquor store:

On Brené's recommendation, we watched the movie Once this weekend, and, boy howdy, I loved it. Have you seen it? Have you watched this song on YouTube three million times, like I did?

Thursday, October 9, 2008


--Brain, Child is doing another caption contest for a cartoon by Beth Hannon Fuller. Get your buns over there and submit something, would you?

--The hardcover of my book Practically Perfect is going to be remaindered soon, so if you like hardcovers and dislike paperbacks, it’s now or never, peeps. Buy from Amazon here, or Brain, Child here.

--Every once in a while, I’ll drive down Jefferson Park Avenue and see the apartment that Brandon and I used to live in. It was cheap ($200 a month for each of us). All the walls were a dark wood panelling; the downstairs carpet was a red shag, and the upstairs carpet was Rice-a-Roni–inspired. It was the last place where we ever had a roommate.

The last roommate we had there subletted the place over the summer when our fabulous roommate Emily left. He was horrible. (Here I was going to go on and describe the many ways in which he was horrible, but I’m on a less-mean-is-more kick. Let’s just take this one fact to stand in for the sum of his annoyingness: He gave himself the nickname Foucault, but told us his real name was Miguel. It’s wasn’t. It was Michael.)

There were hushed, and then increasingly less hushed, conversations about him. This brought me back:

See more funny videos at Funny or Die

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Time Won't Give Me Time

Last week, I was wondering why I wasn’t getting very much done, work-wise. On further reflection, I began to suspect it had to do with whiling away a half hour taking pictures of myself for a new profile picture on Facebook. Even worse, I just wound up with some smirky black and white dealio.

I need to stop with the Facebook. I need to stop telling people what I’m doing (because guess what? it’s the exact same thing that you’re doing!). I need to stop checking in on what other people are doing. I need to stop obsessively checking to see who played a move on Wordscraper. (Caroline Grant, yes, I’m looking at you, but I understand you’re busy promoting your new book!) I need to ignore friend suggestions from my former high school classmates, particularly ones regarding people that I was not actual friends with while in high school.

Caleb’s home sick or “sick” today, with either a real or fake cough, and I have a resolution: I’m going to take my notebook downstairs and be offline ALL DAY LONG. You may now start placing bets on how long that’ll last.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Look Away

I got nothing to say. I'm writing marketing copy for Brain, Child, which is harder than it seems. Some days, words not work so good for me.

So, I'm directing your attention to the following:

--Jenn Mattern's post on Wall Street. It's the first engaging piece of writing about the economy that I've read in many moons.

--Jody Mace's post on kind of tricking the goyim.

--This thing that I found via Jincy Willet's blog. It's a Photoshopped take on a Mormon ad, although the style will be familiar to anyone with a passing acquaintance with Sunday school. I laughed and laughed and if you don't hear from me in a few days it's only because the Lord has smote me.