Tiny Coconut

I have things.

Friday, April 30, 2004

Book meme

I am so far behind in everything, including this meme. But here it is, taken from MOM & Pop Culture, but seen in a dozen places over the past few weeks. What I've read is in bold.

Now, before you look, there are some things to keep in mind. Yes, I've read a lot of these books. But, remember, I'm old. And I was a child geek. And I was an English major in college. And also I spent a year in Scotland at the University of St. Andrews, where I took these incredible do-almost-nothing-except-read survey courses, one of which was on Russian literature (which gives me about a third of the books below) and the other which was a survey of British literature, where I read Chaucer, etc. But I do love reading, and I've always loved reading "good books" almost exclusively, save fo that period in my early teens when my grandmother and i indulged a shared love of Harlequin Romances. (She even once took me to a "fan" luncheon where I got to meet some of my favorite authors and get--gasp--autographed copies of their newest books! For a while there, I was convinced that that's what I wanted to be when I grew up--a Harlequin romance novel writer.)

With that aside, here goes:

Achebe, Chinua - Things Fall Apart
Agee, James - A Death in the Family
Austen, Jane - Pride and Prejudice
Baldwin, James - Go Tell It on the Mountain
Beckett, Samuel - Waiting for Godot
Bellow, Saul - The Adventures of Augie March
Bronte, Charlotte - Jane Eyre
Bronte, Emily - Wuthering Heights
Camus, Albert - The Stranger
Cather, Willa - Death Comes for the Archbishop
Chaucer, Geoffrey - The Canterbury Tales
Chekhov, Anton - The Cherry Orchard

Chopin, Kate - The Awakening
Conrad, Joseph - Heart of Darkness
Cooper, James Fenimore - The Last of the Mohicans
Crane, Stephen - The Red Badge of Courage
Dante - Inferno
de Cervantes, Miguel - Don Quixote
Defoe, Daniel - Robinson Crusoe
Dickens, Charles - A Tale of Two Cities
Dostoyevsky, Fyodor - Crime and Punishment

Douglass, Frederick - Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass
Dreiser, Theodore - An American Tragedy
Dumas, Alexandre - The Three Musketeers
Eliot, George - The Mill on the Floss
Ellison, Ralph - Invisible Man
Emerson, Ralph Waldo - Selected Essays
Faulkner, William - As I Lay Dying
Faulkner, William - The Sound and the Fury

Fielding, Henry - Tom Jones
Fitzgerald, F. Scott - The Great Gatsby
Flaubert, Gustave - Madame Bovary
Ford, Ford Madox - The Good Soldier

Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von - Faust
Golding, William - Lord of the Flies
Hardy, Thomas - Tess of the d'Urbervilles
Hawthorne, Nathaniel - The Scarlet Letter

Heller, Joseph - Catch 22
Hemingway, Ernest - A Farewell to Arms
Homer - The Iliad
Homer - The Odyssey

Hugo, Victor - The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Hurston, Zora Neale - Their Eyes Were Watching God
Huxley, Aldous - Brave New World
Ibsen, Henrik - A Doll's House
James, Henry - The Portrait of a Lady
James, Henry - The Turn of the Screw
Joyce, James - A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
Kafka, Franz - The Metamorphosis

Kingston, Maxine Hong - The Woman Warrior
Lee, Harper - To Kill a Mockingbird
Lewis, Sinclair - Babbitt
London, Jack - The Call of the Wild

Mann, Thomas - The Magic Mountain
Marquez, Gabriel Garcia - One Hundred Years of Solitude
Melville, Herman - Bartleby the Scrivener
Melville, Herman - Moby Dick
Miller, Arthur - The Crucible
Morrison, Toni - Beloved

O'Connor, Flannery - A Good Man is Hard to Find
O'Neill, Eugene - Long Day's Journey into Night
Orwell, George - Animal Farm
Pasternak, Boris - Doctor Zhivago
Plath, Sylvia - The Bell Jar
Poe, Edgar Allan - Selected Tale
Proust, Marcel - Swann's Way
Pynchon, Thomas - The Crying of Lot 49
Remarque, Erich Maria - All Quiet on the Western Front
Rostand, Edmond - Cyrano de Bergerac
Roth, Henry - Call It Sleep
Salinger, J.D. - The Catcher in the Rye
Shakespeare, William - Hamlet
Shakespeare, William - Macbeth
Shakespeare, William - A Midsummer Night's Dream
Shakespeare, William - Romeo and Juliet

Shaw, George Bernard - Pygmalion
Shelley, Mary - Frankenstein
Silko, Leslie Marmon - Ceremony
Solzhenitsyn, Alexander - One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich
Sophocles - Antigone
Sophocles - Oedipus Rex
Steinbeck, John - The Grapes of Wrath

Stevenson, Robert Louis - Treasure Island
Stowe, Harriet Beecher - Uncle Tom's Cabin
Swift, Jonathan - Gulliver's Travels
Thackeray, William - Vanity Fair
Thoreau, Henry David - Walden
Tolstoy, Leo - War and Peace
Turgenev, Ivan - Fathers and Sons
Twain, Mark - The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Voltaire - Candide
Vonnegut, Kurt Jr. - Slaughterhouse-Five

Walker, Alice - The Color Purple
Wharton, Edith - The House of Mirth
Welty, Eudora - Collected Stories
Whitman, Walt - Leaves of Grass
Wilde, Oscar - The Picture of Dorian Gray
Williams, Tennessee - The Glass Menagerie
Woolf, Virginia - To the Lighthouse

Wright, Richard - Native Son

Thursday, April 29, 2004

Body Image

My birthmonth list was recently having a discussion that morphed into a really thought-provoking thread on teasing and the way it affects you and your self image or self confidence. And, as thought-provoking threads are wont to do, it, um, provoked me into thinking.

I've led this pretty charmed life. For whatever reason, I didn't get picked on much as a kid, or if I did, I don't really remember it. I know my sister, who was always drop-dead gorgeous, had several bullying incidents in her childhood, but I was somehow spared, overlooked, whatever. I was the quiet, smart kid with her nose in a book, who didn't raise anyone's hackles by being too anything. Even as a teenager, I remember the most difficult issue I had to deal with was my reputation--it was too good. Too squeaky clean. And I didn't deserve it. At all. I was doing all the bad stuff, but I was stuck with this goody-two-shoes rep that just annoyed the heck out of me. (In fact, it was so annoying that my friend Betsy and I set out on a campaign during my senior year in high school to smear my name. Not possible. I had a whole lot more luck in college, where my name became a little bit too besmirched for my liking. But more on that some other time.)

None of this is to say that nobody ever said anything to me that hurt. Nor does it mean that I was in a better position to deal when it did happen. Case in point: I'm 17. I'd lost my virginity a year-and-a-bit earlier. I'm spending the summer doing research in science at a big university far away from home, and I'm there with about 30 other kids my age. It's a blast. Great time. Sure, we're all geeks spending a summer doing science, but we're ALL geeks, so it's OK. And me, well, I'm transformed from goody-two-shoes into experienced rough-around-the-edges girl who the guys spend a lot of time playing around with. I'm a little drunk on the freedom, not to mention that I'd recently split up with my boyfriend of two years, so I'm having fun. Until I fool around with one guy, and then a week or two later with his best friend, who I actually liked a whole lot better. And the best friend, thinking he's buttering me up, tells me that guy number one had warned him off of me because--and I quote, despite the fact that it's 23 years later--"he said your t*ts hang down to your belly." (I'm pretty sure he hastened to add that he still found me attractive, but I don't remember that part as well.)

Well. Hmm. What was that sound? Oh, yes, that was the crumbling of my self-esteem. I'd spent seventeen years with pretty much an unscathed self-image. I was a pretty strong person. I knew who and what I was, and I knew where I was going. But that one comment. Bam. It wasn't until I had kids, when gravity and breastfeeding are expected to ruin your bust line, that I became comfortable with the way I look again. Up until then, it was steel-reinforced bras, if I could find them...anything that would push me up. I never let a man take off my bra if we were standing up or in a position where gravity might give away the sagging of my bre*sts--which, by the way, did indeed sag, which isn't suprising, considering that they were (pre-children) fairly large and hanging out on a fairly small body. (The same can NOT be said today.) And I long, long insisted on a lights-out policy for sex.

Remembering all of this makes me sad, not so much for me, but for Em. Because what it's saying is that I'm not going to be able to protect her from this. I'm not going to be able to give her the armor to deflect someone's nasty little barb. Because it only takes one comment, one zinger aimed at a weak spot, and it's all undone. She's on her own. She can lead as charmed a life as I have, and someone is going to hurt her, and change her, and I can no more help her than I could have helped myself. But then again, I guess it's not all bad. This is part of what makes me me. I guess Em is going to have to go through whatever she's supposed to go through in order to make her her. I just hope it's not too painful a transformation.

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Mama Jekyll and Mrs. Hyde (or, I Was the Best of Mamas, I Was the Worst of Mamas)

I was all proud of myself on Monday. Em was complaining of a stomach ache, but really had no serious symptoms. Still, something in her face resonated with me, and I realized that she just needed a mental health day. So I gave it to her. I made her do some writing, and some math and reading, and stuff like that--actually, I didn't make her, she asked for work to do, and I gave it to her. We had a good day, and she clearly felt better Tuesday, ready to face the jungle of first grade once again.

Pat, pat, pat on the back.

I was so utterly and completely disappointed and upset with myself on Tuesday. All four of us were outside in the backyard: Baroy was coaching Em on her cartwheels, while I was helping N with his somersaults. We were having a really nice time. Then I had to go off for a moment to attend to the bunnies, and N was apparently trying to get Baroy's attention while he continued to help Em. All of a sudden, I hear Baroy say, "OW! What was that?" and look all around him while holding his shin. Then he says, "N, did you just throw a rock at me?" And N gives him one of those defiant-yet-nervous looks that three-year-old have perfected, and says yes. Something in me snapped. I picked that kid up, shoved him under my left arm, marched him into the house. My intention was to put him in a timeout. But when we got to his room, I was so furious...I did something I swore I'd never, ever, ever do. I literally put him over my knee and spanked him three times on his diaper. Not hard, but I did it. And I did it in anger. Two big, major strikes against me. No Mommy Sainthood coming this way.

I'd like to say I immediately burst into tears and felt remorseful, etc., etc., etc., but the honest truth is that I didn't. I put him down, closed the door of his room, and walked into the family room to catch my breath and count to ten. I waited three minutes, went to get him, talked sternly to him about throwing things at people to get their attention (something he's been in timeout for in the past), and made him go apologize to his father. Which he did. And then went running off to play with his sister, returning within a few minutes to climb on my lap and say, "I happy now, Mommy," which is the way he always tries to get back into our good graces when we're angry with him. (And it always works, because it always makes us laugh, the delightful hubris of childhood that makes him believe that if he's happy, then we must be, too.)

In fact, it wasn't until much later, at bedtime, when we were cuddled up in his bed reading books, that I talked to him quietly about what had happened, and how serious throwing rocks at people is, but that it still wasn't OK for mommy to spank him, and how sorry I was. And I repeated my post-timeout mantra of "but you know that even when mommy is angry with you, I still love you, right?"

I was sorry. And I am sorry. But not as sorry as I expected I'd be. I expected this day, if it ever came, to be life-altering. You know, teaching me a lesson so deep and so shameful that I'd be transformed into a better person. I'm not. I'm not transformed, and I'm not a better person. And really, it wasn't until I sat down to write right now that I even thought about it. Spanking isn't suddenly going to become a part of my discipline repertoire, but not because of yesterday. Simply, it's not going to be part of my repertoire because I don't believe in it, and I never did. Yesterday neither taught me that nor changed that.

So I'm disappointed in myself. And a lot less smug about Monday's mental health day. One step forward, 16 steps back. Parenting is hard.

Monday, April 26, 2004

Home Sweet Home

At some point during the day on Sunday, I turned to Baroy and said, "350 thousand, 350 million...Right now, I would say anything we paid for this house is worth it."

What made me so contented and appreciative? It wasn't much, really. It was a horribly hot day, and early on, Em asked me if we could go get a kiddie pool so she and N could splash in the backyard. Big Lots had a HUGE one on sale, 10 feet across, so I decided to go for it, just to make what will no doubt be a hot summer a bit less miserable. (No AC in this I'd-pay-anything-for-it house...)

When we got home, Em invited her friend Grey over, and we blew up and filled up the pool. The splashing of Gray, Em and N immediately attracted the two boys next door, and so I invited them to join in. Their peals of laughter attracted another boy from across the street, so he jumped in as well. Those six kids played in that pool from about 1 until I literally dragged them out of there at 5 pm. (Well, to be honest, N had a bad cold, and he was the youngest by a couple of years, so he didn't spend the entire time in there. But the rest of them did.) We had a quick, early dinner, and then Emily got on her scooter, Noah got on his bike, and they went up and down the street (it's a deadend that's a full two blocks away from the first real cross street with traffic, and so about as safe as they come) for a good hour while I chatted with various moms, all people I enjoy spending time with. I gave up a lot of things that I thought were really important to me to live in this house, on this block, but yesterday, I couldn't have named a single one of them if you'd have paid me.
Yesterday was the perfect complement to Saturday, when I spent a fabulous day at the LA Times Festival of Books, which altogether made for a near-perfect weekend. Tamar already put together a word picture that I won't attempt to mimic here, but it was a really fun day--I don't think I stopped smiling the whole time. Well, actually, maybe during the sucky Creative Nonfiction panel. Snore. But other than that, I was either laughing or smiling or practically jumping out of my skin with the exhilaration you get when you've been truly inspired. Or when you're manic. Or, maybe, both. In any case, that's a lot coming from a person with severe crowd-induced claustrophobia. Because, man, those were some serious crowds.

I will say this, though. One of the best things about hanging out with a fellow writer is that you know that you're likely in the presence of someone with a level of neuroticism equal to your own. And so it wasn't at all embarrassing that within half an hour Tamar simply knew to allow me to have the aisle seat or the last seat in the row, so I wouldn't start hyperventilating. And we had an ongoing competition to determine which of us was more obsessive-compulsive than the other. I think I edged her out on that one, but she definitely out impulse-bought me. So I guess it was an overall draw.

Oh, and it was so great to get to see Tamar's truly gorgeous Craftsman home, and to meet the extremely handsome, funny and charming Dan. And Damian. Well, what can I say? I walked in, he took me to see the fountain and showed me his signature plastic frog, and boom. Instant love.

Yep, it was a good weekend. And I had today off, since my reduced hours go through the end of the month. But tomorrow I'll be back in the office. Wonder how long I can make this weekend buzz last?

Friday, April 23, 2004

Life's Disappointments

I'm about to spend several paragraphs bemoaning the fact that I have to work. Mind you, this is not as contradictory to my post yesterday as it may seem at first. I don't hate my job. I just hate having to work. If I do have to work, this is where i want to be doing it; I just don't want to work.

So, with that "don't call me a hypocrite" comment out of the way...

For the past few months, I've been working half-time. Normally, i work 80 percent time, taking off the equivalent of one day a week, but spread out over the week in various chunks. But when the book stuff got hot and heavy, I backed off and went down to 50 percent. It wasn't enough. What I really needed was to just have one job at a time--writing the book OR working here--so that I could do it well.

I figured that, once the book was done, it wouldn't be that big a deal to go back to my former 80 percent. But it's coming up, week after next, and it is a big deal. Heck, coming in just 50 percent of the time is a big deal. There are so many other things I want to be doing, and my job, right now, just isn't one of them.

What *do* I want to be doing? I want to be working up a proposal for another book. I enjoyed this one immensely, if you take away the enormous deadline pressure. I'd do another in a heartbeat, if it weren't so tightly scheduled.

I also want to be spending more time helping out at Em's school. I'm involved--don't get me wrong. I'm more involved than a good three-quarters of the parents. But I'd like to do it without it being such a huge added pressure on me, and it wouldn't be if I didn't have to try and fit it in between work commitments.

And I want to keep N home more often. For a long time I liked having him in full-time, five-day-a-week daycare, because he was a difficult two-year-old, and I needed the help. Not to mention that I spent a good chunk of last year being an insane person. So having sane people caring for him was a Very Good Thing. But now, he's a lot easier, and so much fun to be with. And I'm relatively sane. (Shut up, you.) A part-time preschool situation would be just fine now, if I could devote time to him when he wasn't there.

I want to be doing more reading, doing some of my many crafts. My tatting is simply being neglected these days, and that's too sad.

I'll never be in a position where I don't do any work, ever. Heck, even if I weren't working here, I'd probably do freelance projects for them all the time. I care about this place, and I care about this office's mission. I just hate being handcuffed to a job because I'm the sole provider for our family so much of the time. And even when I'm not, Baroy's work doesn't come with stability, or benefits. And I'm all about stability and benefits.

This is just a rant--the same one I've done several times in the past less-than-a-year since i started this blog. It's not a request for suggestions. Whatever you're thinking I should do, I've thought of, and I have a good reason why we're not doing it. It's just that I get sad about the way things are turning out in my life sometimes. It's not like they're completely horrible, or even a majority horrible. It's just that this is not how I figured I'd spend my life, having to not only work, but do so in order to put food on the table and clothes on the kids. It's the way it's turned out, though. Someone has to do it, and the way things are, it's me. And I'm disappointed. I'll get over it, but it's how I'm feeling today...

Thursday, April 22, 2004


It was bound to happen eventually, right? It's not as if it's never happened to a blogger before. It's not as if I didn't know it both could and probably would happen. But it's still weird when it does go down. Even without repercussions, it's just...weird.

I guess that's why I was completely thrown off balance today when one of my colleagues walked past my desk and simply said, "Tiny Coconut, huh?" At first I went with the always-smooth, "What do you mean?" But, to be honest, I didn't know what he was talking about. Then he said, "Well, I ran across this blog..."

Truth is, it's not a big deal at all. I really don't have anything nasty to say about my job or the people in my office. Heck, I basically did a love letter to my boss here a few weeks back. And I actually pretty much like everyone in my office, and being in public relations, I certainly would know better than to air dirty work laundry anyway. Add to that the fact that I'm not generally what one would call secretive about my life...and it all adds up to the fact that it really doesn't matter if someone from my office reads here.

But like I said, it's still weird. More weird to think that there may be people reading how know me and just aren't telling me they're reading. And, of course, a little weird because I'm a paranoid freak, and things like that conversation today lead me almost inevitably and fairly directly to "well, if he found me, then I bet Stalker Girl could find me, too..." And that way lies insanity.

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

All Thumbs

[Before I even start, I have to say how sad it is that I have to worry about altering the word s u c k throughou this entry so that ugly, yucky people don't come flocking to my site. Sigh.)

I was 13 when I finally stopped s*cking my thumb. That's not a typo, folks. 13. (And yes, in fact, I *can* say orally fixated, thank you very much.) At my junior high school parent conferences, my science teacher had mentioned to my mother that he'd noticed me s*cking my thumb somewhat absentmindedly whenever I had to concentrate hard during class. He said it amused him that for whatever reason, the other kids didn't tease me about it, but that some day they would, and she should stop me before that happened. So that evening, my mother put forth a deal: She would buy me the pair of $70 boots I was coveting (this was 1977, she had just married my stepfather, and money was still a bit tight, so this was a BIG deal), if I didn't s*ck my thumb for six months. I stopped that night, she bought the boots, everyone was happy.

It surprised me, since I had been such a devoted thumb-s*cker, that neither of my kids developed the habit as babies. Or, at least, neither of them had...until now.

The past few nights, N has been s*cking his thumb at bedtime. He's a few months past his third birthday. I talked to his favorite favorite preschool teacher today, and she said that there is one dedicated thumb-s*cker in the class, and that yes, she had noticed that N was starting to do that at nap time, but no, she couldn't think of any other big changes in him over the past couple of weeks, aside from the fact that he's growing more and more comfortable there--talking more, playing all the time, happy and smiling rather than sort of staying to himself much of the time.

So now of course I'm wondering where this is coming from. I'm totally disinclined to make a big deal out of it, since he's braces-bound no matter what (he's a little, tiny guy with bigger-than-normal baby teeth...there's no chance at all that he'll escape orthodonture as a bigger tiny guy), and because I know that breaking a habit like that is really hard to do until the kid is motivated to do it himself. But on the other hand, I'm concerned that this new 'habit' has a deeper meaning, and that if I continue to be laissez faire mama, I'm going to be missing an opportunity to intervene in some larger emotional issue.

My bet is that I'm dealing with nothing more than a little boy who recently had his favorite soother taken away from him--his many, many, many sipppie cups of Ovaltine-and-milk--because it was likely causing his constipation. My bet is that he's just replacing that with his thumb, especially at bedtimes, because he's simply not getting his s*cking quota met during the day. But what if my bet is off? What if I'm missing some big nasty thing that this is instead a sign of?

Yes, I am a big one for borrowing trouble. Why do you ask?

Sunday, April 18, 2004

Dr. TC to the Rescue

On Thursday, as I'm basically killing myself to try and meet my deadline, I get a one-line email from my normally chatty brother-in-law. "Are you there?" it said.

I wrote him back a sort of rambling thing about deadline pressure and where I'd be over the next few days, and then said, "Of course, if you need me, you can reach me at home."

His return email came seconds later. "I'm peeing blood. What should I do?"

Now, a fair number of the people who read me know me and have known me for years. And they're all laughing and rolling their eyes already, because they know that I'm probably the AMA's Public Enemy Number One. While I've never tried to literally practice medicine, that doesn't stop me from spewing advice on any number of topics, making "diagnoses," and generally begin a buttinsky. On the other hand, there are a lot of people who encourage me in my delusion of medical gradeur, so I'm not entirely to blame. (After my sister had some weird allergic reaction to a medication a few weeks back, she remarked to our mother, "I saw five doctors this week, but Dr. TC was the only one who knew what she was talking about.")

Anyway, I may be delusional, but I'm also responsible. My reply to my brother-in-law: Get to doctor. Peeing blood is bad--probably a kidney infection or something, but still, it'll at least need antibiotics. Go now.

A few hours later, while I'm out picking up N, he calls and talks to Baroy. Apparently, the doctor took a urine sample, thumped on his kidneys, and scheduled my bil for a CT scan the next day, "to rule out cancer." Bil is obvisouly a bit freaked by this.

Oh, another aside. My brother-in-law is both single and gay. And he's the only other person in the family living out there besides for us. So we're tight. And sometimes, that tightness means I play the role of his wife. So when I heard about the scan, I called him to offer to go to the hospital with him and sit and hold his hand, however metaphorically. He was very grateful.

I then started to ask some questions. My first one was, I thought, a gimme: "So after they did that dip stick test for blood in your urine, did they do anything else, or were they just sending it directly to the lab?"

"I don't think they did a dip stick test," my bil replied.

"Oh, of course they did," I said. "It's the very first thing they always do when you give a urine sample."

"No, I don't think so. It was very pink, my urine. I don't think they bothered testing it for blood."

Well. I was already starting to get pissed, but then I decided that bil just didn't know what had gone on. I made him promise to call his doctor's office the first thing in the morning to make sure they'd tested the urine for blood--though, as my bil pointed out, what else could it be?--and when the rest of the results would be in.

About 45 minutes later he calls back again. "Ummm..."

"Yes?" I said.

"So when I was out to dinner last night with Glen and had that huge plate of beets..."

"You had a huge plate of beets."

"Uh huh."

"And today your urine is red."

"Uh huh."

I sighed very, very deeply, instructed him to down as much water as he could handle, and see what happened to the color.

"So I'm not being silly," he said. "You do think it could be the beets?"

"Of COURSE it's the beets!" I said. "I'm just flabbergasted that your doctor not only didn't ask you whether you'd eaten anything unusual in the last day or two, but also actually didn't check your urine for the presence of, you know, BLOOD before scheduling you for a CT scan."

The long and short? He called the next morning, they said something like, "Beets, huh?" and then "Oh, yeah, testing the urine for blood is a good idea." And then they said something like, "Well, lookie here. There's not a single blood cell in this very pink urine. Who'da thunk?"

Me! I'd'a thunk! And this is one of those LA "boutique" docs who actually charges a membership fee before you can even be one of his patients! What is WRONG with these people!

Sigh again.

But I do have to admit, it's going to be worth all that tsuris just to be able to hold "the beet story" over my bil's head for the next umpteen years.

Friday, April 16, 2004


I got the last element of the book in to my editors at around 3:30 today. Less than a day late. That's gotta be some kind of promptness record for me.

I'm trying to muster up the excitement I felt at the time, but I currently can't even keep my eyes open. Might have something to do with the fact that I went to bed at 4:45...and was awakened by my son three hours later.

But it's done. Did I mention that? I wrote a 300+-page book in under four months. Obviously, nobody should actually be listening to what I have to say about mental health, since I apparently have none of it myself. Less than four months. What kind of idiot...? Well, I guess my kind of idiot.

Truth be told, underneat it all I'm beyond thrilled. I wasn't nearly so excited about my last book, because it rally wasn't mine. This one's mine. All mine. And I actually think parts of it are good.

I can't wait to see that baby in print. And to link to it on Amazon. And to start skulking around bookstores checking on how it's selling. (Hey. once/if my pretty paltry advance has been paid back, I'm going to be taking home about $.70 or $.80 a pop. Yeah, baby. I'm gonna be...slightly less poor. Woohoo!) So keep your eyes pealed. Who know? I might be skulking at a bookstore near you...

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Fear of...Success?

Baroy says I'm a freak. Maybe I am. But here I am, two days away from the final deadline on my book. And I'm chugging along. I'll have all three chapters ready by midnight Thursday, which is the official deadline, if not before. And if I don't have the rest of the odds and ends ready then, they'll be ready very soon thereafter.

So why is it that I'm in a total panic? And I mean real, medical, panic. Hands shaking, fingers tingling, chest tight. Like last year's Stalker-induced insanity, but muted a bit. It feels, to me, like I'm afraid. Of finishing. Of finishing this book that I've been almost literally dying to have off my plate. That is crazy, isn't it. It's freaky, just like Baroy says. And yet, I think that's what it may be. As I watch the page count tick upwards while I write, I get more and more nervous, more and more tight. Things aren't flowing more easily right now, they're...well, I feel literarily constipated, to be honest. I'm really having to push and strain. (Yes, I'll stop now. It was a forced analogy to begin with, and it's starting to make me roll my eyes, and since I'm the one writing it...)

Have any of you writerly types been though this? Not wanting, really, to finish, but not really wanting to keep writing either? I think it's a control thing. I know that the manuscript is imperfect, and once it's done, I have to accept that. Or maybe that's just pretentious and grandiose of me, to even imply that I could create perfection, or to think that I should. I do know, however, that I'm almost always disappointed by the difference between the initial vision in my head and the reality of what I produce. I think that dichotomy is inevitable, especially when you're writing nonfiction, where you're bound by facts and the quality of the information you manage to gather and, in this case, by time. But still, I guess I'm just feeling like I don't want to let go. I don't want it to be finished, because then it will be out there, flawed, not everything I'd wanted it to be.

On the other hand, I'm proud of the work I've done. It's been a huge undertaking, and I'm at the end, and I'm going to make it...and 'they' say it's good. Some of 'them' say it's really, really good. So i should be happy. I should be looking forward to the end of the week, when I'm free again, when I can be a real person who spends time with her kids and does laundry and hangs out on the weekend. And watches TV! And reads books! And does her tatting, which she loves!

So why aren't I excited? Why am I stressed? Why am I anxious? Why do I feel so conflicted?

Oh, yeah, I forgot. Because I'm a freak.


Friday, April 09, 2004

Makes Me Sick

Again, from Dawn:

"A hate group has googlebombed the word "Jew" to link to their site. Basically that means a bunch of their hate-cronies have linked to their horrible nasty site (it lists the Anti-Defamation League, B'nai B'rith, Simon Wiesenthal Center and the ACLU as "Jewish hate groups") and so Google is listing it at the top of their searches when you type in the word "Jew." So Melanie and others and I ask you to link the word "Jew" to the Wikipedia definition. All you have to do is this: Jew . If enough of us do this, we can knock them off the top spot on Google.

And people still argue that anti-semitism no longer exists."

Don't I know it. Please do what I've done and put up a post on your blog, somewhere, anywhere, that links to the Wikipedia definition of Jew as above. Thanks. It's much appreciated by me and mine.


As part of the research for my book on bipolar disorder, I had to interview my father's current girlfriend the other day. She's been with him for, oh, seven or eight years now. Since right before his diagnosis, but definitely not before his craziness. The thing is, she's a really grounded, nice person. Not at all like my stepmother, and not at all like my dad's previous longer-term girlfriends. My sister's met her, and raved about her--and she doesn't rave about anyone.

Of course, this means I've always been curious about why she's with my dad, and why she has stayed with him. Add to this the fact that her daughter is bipolar, as is her ex-husband...and you really start to wonder. Why would she get involved with my dad? She knew what she was getting into; what could she possibly be thinking? And why hasn't she left?

Well, courtesy of my book, I don't have to wonder any more. These and other personal questions were not only appropriate, but important for the book. It was wild. We talked for about an hour and a half. And I had carte blanche to just ask anything I wanted. So I did.

After we were done, my dad got on the phone, and went into one of his patented Why I'm So Proud of You speeches, featuring many comments about how he's so pleased that I'm really trying to understand him and what he's been through all these years, etc. After I'd rolled my eyes about a dozen times, I cut him off and said, "Dad. You gotta be kidding. I just got to sit on the phone with your girlfriend and ask her why the hell she's still with you. And I'm getting paid for it! It's like some kind of sick fantasy come true!"

To his credit, he laughed, and laughed hard. One thing my father has and has always had is a good, wicked sense of humor. And he always appreciates a good line--even if it has a loud, almost deafening, ring of truth to it.

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

The Bracket Quiz

Saw this in about a million places (yes, I read a lot of blogs, what's it to ya?), but ultimately stole it from Dawn. Here goes:

[Grab the book nearest to you, turn to page 18, find line 4. Write down what it says]
aclastic (a-KLAS-tic) [a neg. + Gr. klan to break] 1. pertaining to or characterized by aclasis. 2. not refracting.
(Dorland's Illustrated Medical Dictionary. C'mon, I know you want to be me...My life is EXCITING, no?)

[Stretch your left arm out as far as you can. What do you touch first?]
The arm of the futon couch on which N is sitting, watching "Dance with the Teletubbies." Remember what I just said about wanting to be me? 'Nuff said.

[What is the last thing you watched on TV?]
Aside from what little of "Dance with the Teletubbies" I'm catching? Actually, it was about three minutes of The Daily Show last night before I got back down to writing. And before that, it was Lifeline: USC Medical on Discovery Health. (That's my place of business, folks! And it's my office that helped make that show happen. If you're a Discovery Health addict like me, you definitely want to watch this show. It's incredible. And I'm not just saying that because I know about half the doctors on it...)

[With the exception of the computer, what can you hear?]
The music from Dance with the Teletubbies, and N chewing on a piece of gum quite vigorously.

[When did you last step outside?]
After I did an interview for the book earlier this evening, I took N outside to play basketball and ride his scooter a bit. Then we went out back to gather up our two bunnies and bring them inside for the night because it's still getting pretty cold after the sun goes down and I coddle them.

[Before you came to this website, what did you look at?]
Before I went to Dawn's site? I was at Chiara's.

[What are you wearing?]
An old pair of jeans and a blue and tan striped short-sleeved sweater.

[Did you dream last night?]
Not that I can remember.

[When did you last laugh?]
About ten minutes ago when N couldn't find something and started saying in his funny little 3-year-old voice, "Hey! Wait a second!"

[What is on the walls of the room you are in?]
There's a lot...There's a bunch of pictures of Em and N, a framed piece of hardanger embroidery I did years ago, a pencil drawing of a boy on a horse that my mother did some 37 years ago that is THE SPITTING IMAGE of N (it's a little terrifying...), a clock, DVD storage cabinets, a Nerf basketball hoop.

[Seen anything weird lately?]
Cat in the Hat shrimp cat treats at the checkout counter at the pet store.

[What do you think of this quiz?]
It's OK so far...

[What is the last movie you saw?]
Starsky and Hutch. Fluffy, but fun. Heck, anytime I get to go to a grownup movie with other grownups and no kids, it's going to be fun.

[If you became a multi-millionaire overnight, what would you buy first?]
I think I'd add on to my house rather than move, so I guess I'd 'buy' an architect. And I'd start by redoing my kitchen, for which I'd buy this fridge. The orange one. And then we would go on our first real vacation in almost five years. Baroy's never really been out of the country; I'd love to take him to Scotland, where I spent my junior year of college on a scholarship exchange.

[Tell me something about you that I don't know:]
I have a half-brother who's going to be, um, 22 this summer, I think. The last time I saw him or spoke to him, he was 8. Before that, it was when he was 5. He never saw us frequently enough to be able to tell me and my sister apart. "Which one are you?" he'd ask. Sad.

[If you could change one thing about the world, regardless of guilt or politics, what would you do?]
Just one? Shit. Um, decent healthcare? No, hold on, I'd reprioritize the educational system so that teachers flock to the profession, and so that every child could get the education he or she deserves. No, hold on, I'd legalize gay marriage...Aw, man. Maybe I'd just wave my magic wand and exterminate hatred, and be done with it.

[Do you like to dance?]
Not particularly. I have no sense of rhythm and two left feet.

[George Bush:]
Jackass extraordinaire.

[Imagine your first child is a girl, what do you call her?]

[Imagine your first child is a boy, what do you call him?]
Samuel Morris; but by the time Noah was born (yep, I put both their names in here just this once, because I am living on the edge, baby!) one of Baroy's cousins had had a baby and named him Samuel. So that's Noah's middle name.

[Would you ever consider living abroad?]
Permanently? No, I'd rather not. Too many people here who I'd miss. But my year in Scotland was the most incredible year of my life, and I hope my kids get to experience something like that at some point in their lives.

Poop and Laughter

#1: Em's been having a minor recurrence of the stomach aches that freaked her out in January so badly that she couldn't go to sleep in her own room or by herself, because she would get scared that her tummy was going to hurt again. Last night was particularly bad, and she kept crying that she was going to throw up, and she did have some very minor diarrhea. We've talked about this a lot--back in January, and over the past few days. Tonight, as she was getting ready for bed, she started whimpering and acting all freaked and stuff, and I kind of brusquely told her that she was going to have to figure out a way to get hold of herself, since I have just over a week left before my final book deadline, and I can't be sitting by her bed for hours every night. She whimpered a little more, ran off to the bathroom, then returned with a look of determination on her face.

"I'm just going to have to face my fears," she said.

Sometimes I really, really find it hard not to start laughing until she can't see or hear me. This was one of them. But, you know what? She did it. Go Em.

#2: N has hemorrhoids, if you can believe this crap. He's three, people. Three year olds are not supposed to get hemorrhoids. But he does. Also, if a three year old does have hemorrhoids, his parents are not supposed to laugh at him. And yet, how can you not, when he's so frickin' adorable and funny?

Here's why you can't not laugh. The hemorrhoids, obviously, come from constipation and the pushing that ensues. Actually, these came from one particular 24-hour period. Now, N is just at that almost-ready-to-potty-train age (my kids are sloooooooow in this area), so he's still pooping in a diaper. But he does let us know. So far, not particularly funny. I know. But wait. So the other night, he's all stuffed up (poor tiny guy) and he keeps telling us he needs to poop. But the way he does that is very N-like: He announces quite imperiously that, "I need pry-see. I need a poop in the chicken." And if you try and approach him during his very serious, very intense attempt at pooping, he starts to scream, "NO!!! I NEED PRY-SEE IN THE CHICKEN!!! GO WAY!!!!"

Confused are you? Ah, that's because you don't have the N Dictionary. (That would be me.) Pry-see, as you probably guessed, is privacy. I need a poop is actually I need to poop. And chicken? Get ready. It means kitchen. He needs privacy so he can poop in the corner in the kitchen, his preferred pooping spot.

Now, come on. Aren't you laughing? Doesn't the vision of a little boy pooping in a chicken make you laugh? Or am I just too infantile for words? (Don't answer that.) Maybe you just have to be there. But it just about kills me.

And yes, I should be writing my book. But I'd rather talk about facing your fears and and pooping in the chicken, if only for the fun Google referrals I'm bound to get over the next few weeks...

OK, OK, I'm going now. Sheesh. Slave drivers, all of ya.

Monday, April 05, 2004

Holy Days

I've been fretting, whenever I have a free second, about Passover. We're having a very, very low-key Passover this year, so low-key it might not even be recognizable. No one's coming over either night for seder, and we're not going anywhere. I'm not happy about this because Em is really, really starting to understand what all of this is about, and she gets so excited whenever there's a holiday. Add to that the fact that when I came home from the office yesterday (yes, Sunday; I was working on the book, and then worked more in the evening after they went to bed, only getting to sleep myself at 4:30 am) N and Em had made cards for me with little presents inside "to let you know we're thinking about you even though we don't see you hardly ever," Em said. Just kill me.

So, Passover. Feeling guilty. All that jazz. So this morning I decide that even if it's going to be the four of us, we're still going to do a seder, and we're going to have the kids' favorite all-time meal, chicken soup with matzo balls. (If you haven't had my chicken soup with matzo balls, you haven't lives. You may think you've lived, but you haven't.) So Em and I head out, and we decide to go to the library first (she's on spring break) and she takes out 12 chapter books, which is impossible for her to read in three weeks, but she's all excited, so I let her. Then we do the grocery shopping for the soup, and Em helps me find stuff. Then we come home, and Em asks if she can make the chicken soup. So I teach her how to clean out a chicken, and let her use a very sharp knife to cut up vegetables, and I even let her crack all the eggs and pour out the oil and mix up the matzo balls. She was so excited about doing all that stuff herself that she called her grandmother to tell her all about it, in excruciating detail.

Anyway, a little while ago, after we'd cleaned up the kitchen, she turned to me and said, "I think this is the best Passover ever, because we were a team."

Lesson learned. So what if it's just us? It's us, our family. And so what if it's only a small feast? It's a feast we made together. My daughter is a very wise young woman.

Friday, April 02, 2004

Egg Head

According to Em, the egg was indeed a very light, mostly speckled brown, with sort of white imprints where the leaves had been. She'll be bringing it home after school today, so I'll get to see it for myself later. But I figured I was probably causing insomnia throughout the land, so I wanted to update as soon as possible. Now you can all sleep at night.

Thursday, April 01, 2004

Teacher's Pet

Yesterday, despite the Damocles' sword of a deadline hanging over my head, I went to do my every-other-week story time with Em's first grade class. They're great to read to...they really enjoy almost anything I bring, and the teacher loves my selections, and even encourages me to 'teach' a little as I go. So it's really rejuvenating for me. Then, after I read, I stay until the end of the day, helping in the classroom. Sometimes it's math work that they do, sometimes it's an art project, sometimes it's science.

Yesterday it was science. And art. And math/statistics/graphing. That's this teacher's specialty; she never lets a single teaching moment slide by. It's almost astonishing how persistent she is in making sure they learn something all the time.

So, anyway. The project. She had eggs, carrots, onions, string, cheesecloth and a crock pot, and announced that the kids were going to do some Easter egg dying. (Yes, I know. Time for a diatribe. Insert one here. Truth is, I had just finished reading a book called "The Matzoh Ball Fairy" and regaling the kids with stories about Egypt and slaves and unleavened bread. So I'm not too riled up.) First she showed the kids how to peel skin off of an onion, and then she took the brown skin and put it into the crock pot. Next, she took some of the carrot greens off the carrots. She put down a small square of cheesecloth, then a piece of a carrot leaf, then an egg, then another piece of a leaf on top. Then she tied it up into a little bundle, and declared that each of the kids was going to do one of these, and that they were going to put them into the crock pot with the onion skin. And she would add water and cook them for a few hours, and then they would take them out tomorrow in class. And then she made them take guesses as to what color the eggs would turn out, and what they would look like.

I was fascinated. I've never seen this done before, and I can't wait to find out what it looks like. Anyway, the kids started guessing. Some of the guesses were hysterical...purple, dark red, rainbow-colored. My daughter was the first and only one to realize that the leaf would make an imprint on the egg shell that would be different from whatever the rest of the shell color was. Yay, Em! But most of the kids guessed that the eggs would be dyed green. I was so caught up in the whole thing, and it was driving me nuts that none of them was guessing brown or considering the onion skin at all, so finally, I raised my hand, and the teacher called on me, and I guessed brown, the sole vote on the chart for that color. It was so funny, though, to watch the look on the kids' faces. "You're not supposed to guess!" "You're not supposed to raise your hand!" "You're not in first grade, Mrs. TC! This is only for first graders!" Oh, no, I told them. I've never stopped wanting to learn, and I've never stopped wanting to be taught.

At the end of the class, i went up to the teacher--she's about six million years old, frail and tiny, and is strict as can be, but I like her a lot--and asked her if I was right, or if the leaves were going to leach enough green into the water to make a difference in the color. She just laughed at me and said, "You'll just have to wait until tomorrow," and I wailed, "But I'm not coming to first grade tomorrow!" and Em, who was standing with me, just about died laughing at me.

But, man. I can't wait to see how those eggs turn out. And what color they are. And whether I'm the smartest 40-year-old first-grader out there, or whether I got it wrong...

I'll let you know when I know. I'm sure you're all holding your breath.

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