Thursday, May 29, 2008

Kickin' It

Last night, I was on the phone with my sister Krissy, and I was relating a story about Caleb. (Who is spelling-bee-tastic, by the way.) “So, he comes up to me and wants to ride in the car,” I tell Krissy. “ And I was like, ‘What’s the matter, shorty?’ “

“Did you just say ‘shorty’?” Krissy asks.

Oh, but I did. I meant to say “sweetie.” I laughed so hard I almost knocked the wind out of myself.

“It’s cold in the motherfucking car,” Krissy says, all gangsta-style.

“Stop it,” I wheezed. “I’m going to pee myself.”

I almost did, yo.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Reader Girl

So, after the long weekend, I was all revved up to get down with some work today (an embarrassingly large amount of unanswered email), but I started Never Let Me Go last night and finished it this morning. And I cannot stop thinking about it. It’s one of those books where I definitely never ever want to meet the author (Kazuo Ishiguro) because if he turned out to be an asshole—or even just a regular flawed human being—a small part of my inner life would crumble. (This is meant to be a compliment.)

You know what? I’m not even going to describe it, mainly because it unfolds so beautifully but also because it came out in 2005 so you might know everything about it anyway. Just, my socks are officially blown off.

And now, Brandon just brought in the mail, and I got my copies of The Maternal Is Political: Women Writers at the Intersection of Motherhood and Social Change. It’s an anthology edited by Shari MacDonald Strong, and just looking at the TOC, I’m getting the feeling that today might be one of those Lost Days, all nose in a book. Stephanie and I have an essay in there, but guess who else does. Go ahead. Anne Lamott. Susie Bright. BARBARA KINGSOLVER. That’s right. Not to mention what I think of my Brain, Child people (which must be annoying for them), like Jane Hammons, Carolyn Alessio, and Valerie Weaver Zercher.

Ten emails and I’m calling it a day.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

TMI Time

Today, we will be talking about my cycle.

You could set your watch by my cycle, if you had a watch that could somehow be hooked up to the contents of my uterus and if you could convince me to give you my consent. What I’m saying is, thirty days, and Aunt Flo is in the hizzouse.

Except this month. Yesterday, I was in the weird predicament of having no period, yet having a (okay, three) negative pregnancy tests. This hasn’t ever happened to me before. It’s always been one or the other. But two days after beyond the normal cycle, and I figured out what hell would be for me: Not knowing.

This isn’t an unusual occurrence. (I know because I Googled “missed period” and “negative pregnancy test” and got to a 400+ post discussion board where women reported that the same thing happened to them.) And it turns out, it doesn’t really mean one thing or the other—you could be pregnant or you could be not pregnant. Either way.

“You know your body better than anyone else,” some of the women on the discussion board counselled. When I talked to my sister last night, we had a good laugh at that one. Sure, I know my body better than anyone else, but I also know my brain better than anyone else. This brain can easily convince itself that the body has had (variously): meningitis, breast cancer, pancreatitus, a brain tumor. Hey, why not an embryo?

So I just sort of let my imagination run, but on a short leash. If it were a girl, I was thinking maybe Calliope. For a boy, the baby Jesus. Wouldn’t that be horrible for Caleb? Yeah, this is my brother, the baby Jesus. He gets all the attention.

I couldn’t get too carried away, of course. I’ve read far too much about infertility to sink my heart into wanting it. In this body and with this brain, I can’t emotionally afford that kind of yearning. I’ll probably not speak of the maybe baby on the blog again. Aunt Flo finally came this morning, and I mostly felt relief at finally knowing. Thank you, baby Jesus.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Quiet. Maybe a Little Too Quiet.

Sometimes, I think, it’s better not to write anything on the blog when you’re at a period in your life when some calls and asks, “What’s new?” and you say, “Not much” and then fall silent. It’s mostly been a month of story starters with no dramatic endings.

For instance, last weekend, Caleb was outside playing and it was time for us to head out to dinner. I went out on the porch and called his name. Nothing. I called louder. Still no response. On the next block, the ice cream truck made its way down the street. The Doppler effect distorted its tinny music, changing the key and making it creepy and sad. “Caleb!” I called. Then another little boy came out from between the houses and told me where Caleb was. I found him. He washed his hands and we went out to dinner.

Or, earlier this month, it was storming. Brandon had the day off and we had plans to drive to another city forty-five minutes away. As soon as we slammed the car doors, the rain came out in earnest. Seriously, cats and dogs. My stomach twisted a little as we took the on-ramp to the interstate. People still were flying at 70 miles per hour. Semi trucks passed us, leaving our windshield drowned in their wakes. We turned down the music so Brandon could better concentrate. Then the rain let up. The fog wasn't as bad as we'd expected. We got haircuts. I was very pleased with mine.

Today, I was in line at the post office. A woman walked up next to me, and I smiled and let her pass. Instead of passing, though, she cut in line in front of me. Just me. She didn’t try to cut in front of anyone else. Normally, I’d say something, but some bit of intuition told me there was something off about her, something I didn’t want to entangle myself in. Just before it was her turn to walk up to the counter, she offered her spot to a college guy. He declined. She insisted. He declined again. She left. I took my spot at the counter and mailed my package. The end.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Exciting and New

I love a new project. I’m working on one right now and am trying to wrap my head around how to structure it. Someday, I keep telling myself, I’ll know this one so well, I’ll be able to describe it in my sleep. As one wise Mr. Michael once put it, “You got to have faith, faith, faith.”

Also? I downloaded a form today titled, “Death_by_mail.” No CODs, huh?

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Big Fat Liar

The neighborhood I live in really, really dense with kids. There’s a chicken in every pot and at least one child in every house.

Not long ago, I was outside and one of the kids—a little girl who just turned three, whom I adore—made good on her promises to come over for “a little visit.” We went inside under the idea that we’d see what kind of toys we have at my house. Once in the dining room, though, she noticed right away that the fish we had (whose name was Blue or Gold or Puce or some color that inexplicably was not on its body) was missing. We didn’t have the fish for long, and I sort of forgot that she even knew we had it.

“Where’s the fish?” she asked.

“Uh, we don’t have it anymore,” I said. “Hey, do you like puzzles?”

“Where’s the fish go?”

I took a breath. “Well, you know, sweetie, fish don’t live very long. Ooh, I think you’ll like this puzzle.”

She looked at the puzzle and asked for a tissue, which I got for her. “I know what happened,” she said. “You took the fish back to the store so it could live with someone else!”

I paused. “Yes,” I said slowly. “That’s what happened.”

Friday, May 9, 2008

Oh, The Places We Went

I’m not going to be able to see my mom on Mother’s Day, which bums me out. We have fun together, even in less than perfect conditions.

For example, one time she and my sister Erin came to visit me. Brandon and I had just moved to a place called Mt. Crawford, and I was not yet fully aware of the culture. I found a music festival and we all hopped in Erin’s little convertible. The festival was called “Home Grown.” A more discerning person might have gotten a clue what the festival was really all about from the title, but it was only after we parked the car amid a field of Jeeps and jacked-up pick-ups, and as we picked our way through the patchoulli-scented crowd—Mom carrying her white purse, Erin in a kicky floral print, me in dressy sandals—did I realize that I had taken my mom and sister to a big, rednecky pot party.

Or: When we went on vacation to the Outer Banks and attended a performance of the Lost Colony play. (Every vacation with me somehow turns into a social studies field trip.) We sat in the audience, rapt, as the players reenacted what might have happened to the lost colonists. At one point, a main character accuses the group of being willing to desert the colony. We had good seats. So good, in fact, that we could hear the murmurs of the bit actors. “I’D NEVER DESERT!” one piped up. Mom and I promptly lost our shit and started laughing loudly and inappropriately. The actors dispersed towards the outer edge of the stage. I had visions of them coming to scold me and stifled it. Mom did not get it back together, however.

Or last summer, when we went up to North Adams, Massachusetts. I was scheduled to give a reading with the awesome writers, Jenn Mattern and Catherine Newman. I did. But then I booked us in the hotel for an extra day for some mother-daughter hijinx. Guess what happens on Sunday in North Adams, Massachusetts? Nothing. NOTHING AT ALL. The big modern art museum was open, so we went and gawked at things like a video by a woman who claims she has two people living inside of her (not twins, but two separate and mentally healthy people inhabiting the same body) and some paintings of what an Italian hotel room wall looked like at various times of the day. For dinner, we had items from the hotel vending machine. We went back to the room and analyzed our own walls. We read the museum’s program notes. We were pretty happy not have noticed the installation made from used tampons.

I can’t wait until this summer. We’ll be taking on New York City.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

An Open Letter

Hey! The paperback of Practically Perfect in Every Way comes out today!

When I turned in the manuscript two years ago, I was very, very sick of thinking about myself. In my work with Brain, Child, I’m either on the phone with Steph, emailing writers/artists/photographers, checking in with other editors, writing a newsletter for readers, blahdee blah. In other words, interacting with people. Whatever I did next, I thought, it best be collaborative. This life of being sent off to work alone in the attic for months at a time? Who am I—Emily Dickinson?

I didn’t realize then that the really collaborative part comes after, and it’s between the reader and the writer. Because, hey, you can write all you want and even get a publisher to snazz it up between two covers, but if no one reads it and no one talks about it, it might as well not exist.

This is all to say thank you for making PPIEW exist. I’m offering up all the gratitude in my moderately hopeless little heart to everyone who bought the book, read the book, posted a review on Amazon or Good Reads or Library Thing, wrote about it online or in print, recommended it to a friend, invited me to a book club, come out on my travels last year, had me at their bookstore, had me on their show, sent me a kind email, or somehow felt a connection to the book.

Mad love to you. And now let the Amazon ranking obsession begin anew.

Saturday, May 3, 2008


Oh, thank you, gods of the meme. You’ve saved me from posting a movie that Caleb and I made Thursday night. (And by “movie,” I mean two minutes of the two of us being unable to tear our eyes away from the image of ourselves in the monitor. Don’t let your babies grow up to be narcissists, people.) In a very cool coincidence, both Tiffany and Libby tagged me for the Six Things Meme.

The rules:
1. Link back to the person who tagged you.
2. Post these rules on you blog
3. Share six unimportant things about yourself.
4. Tag six people at the end of your entry.

In honor of the impending paperback release of PPIEW and the finishing of Brain, Child’s summer issue (not there yet), I’m going to do six things about me related to publishing.

1. When my proposal for the book went out, quite a few houses wanted to see a picture of me. So I scanned in a bunch and sent them off. Then they came back and asked for, like, full-length ones. Miss Jay said I lost my neck, but Tyra thought I looked “fierce.” On my go-sees, everyone agreed I needed to work on my walk. Oh, I’m kidding. Except about them asking for pictures. And looking fierce.

2. If I had it to do over, I wouldn’t have written the whole section about Caleb and Parker in PPIEW. I believe I did it well and sensitively, but nonetheless, I wouldn’t do it again.

3. The cover of the hardback PPIEW is the same image that we ran as a cover one time on Brain, Child. I kind of fought against having that image on the book until I almost wound up with a cover with a fake-me-out Barbie doll, then one of (inexplicably) toast. Eventually, I became fond of the cover. But I really like the snazzy new paperback cover. One of the little circles has a drawing of a dog that looks like Luna, one of our pups. The woman holding the book is not me, although I do admire the arch of her eyebrows.

4. At Brain, Child, we run between one and two percent of the essay submissions we get. Isn’t that crazy? And to be honest, in the early years, if I myself had submitted an essay to Brain, Child, it probably would not have gotten in. I’ve learned so much about writing from editing really good writers. So, holla, you BC contributors!

5. I have really excellent graphic design skills for a person working in 1995.

6. Stephanie and I live about an hour and fifteen minutes from each other and I don’t have a single picture of us together that floats my boat. (We were recently asked for one because faces tend to attract people's attention--hence all those magazines with babies/models/celebrities on the cover.) There’s one that comes close, but the expression on my face might be best summed up as Yes, I Work For Brain, Child, But Let Me Tell You, I Am Not Happy About It. Subscribe today and you can achieve the same grimness as me! Jeesh.

So, I can’t remember who does memes and who doesn’t, so if you’re interested? Consider yourself tagged!

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Two Things

Thing One: This, from Julianne, cracked me up so bad.

Thing Two: A woman named Lauren Thompson dancing with herself, at four:

via Crooked House.

Think her influences might have included the Solid Gold dancers?

[Added later: I just rewatched and the four-year-old bit was filmed in 1987, so duh to me. At that point, I'm pretty sure the SG dancers had stopped filling all our lives with music and putting rhythm in our souls.]