Sorry about the poor photo quality â€“ I caught Boggart in the act with my cell phone.
If you are thinking to yourself, â€œSurely that little poohead is not EATING artificial pine needles off that PLASTIC TREE?â€ allow me to assure you that, actually, yes, that is EXACTLY what said poohead is doing. He is saving them up in his fourth stomach, so he can make spectacular green flecked Christmas cat yack to herald Epiphany.
The circled objects are the corpses of ornaments that offended him in some way. They were plucked off the tree and summarily executed. As a veteran of more than one Kitten Christmas, I knew to put the dollar store candy canes and unharmable silver coins down LOW, and simply prayed that the concept of CLIMBING did not wander into the pea-sized dollop of brain matter at the front of this little mutant. So far, so good.
Yes, that IS Rock Band in the background. Santa brought it for Wii, and THANKS SANTA, because without it, I doubt my 6 year old would be charging around the house singing the end of Suffragette City, like this:
â€œaaaaaAAAWWWWW! WHAM! BANG! THANK YOU, MAâ€™AM!â€
She is currently in an outfit so red and pink and orange and spangled and DOWNRIGHT GLAM that Ziggy Stardust himself would forgive her the gratuitous G on the end of the BAM, I think. But I am not sure her first grade teacher will appreciate it if we canâ€™t stop her spontaneous dirty-lines-from-Bowie eruptions before school starts up again.
Yesterday they FINALLY dragged me down to make me play Rock Band WITH them â€“ and by them I mean the kids and SCOTT, who has logged more time on the drums than both kids combined. I rocked the mike, and I picked that same Bowie tune because Maisy had put it in my head. It was one of the hardest songs currently open, and right out of the gate I got a 99%. No mean feat, considering I have all the innate musical talent of a clam. Word to the wise? The lyrics to Suffragette City make NO sense. I think Bowie may have been on DRUGS. Shocking, I know, a 70â€™s glam rocker on hallucinogens, but I see no other explanation for naming oneâ€™s groupie Suffragette City and saying, sheâ€™s â€œa total blam-blam,â€
After we were done, Scott said, Isnâ€™t that SO FUN AND NEAT?
I said, Itâ€™s fine. I guess.
He said, Okay. Right. I forgot you were you for a sec. Let me rephraseâ€¦can you imagine how fun and neat it would be for a person who, say, LIKES SONGS?
You know what? I kinda can.
SO you know I had developed VIOLENT BLACK IMPLACABLE HATRED toward my van, right? It was a very old and very awful van, and to give you an idea of its disreputable horrors, the trade in offer was 1200 bucks. This was NOT A GLAMOUR CAR, you savvy, me hearties? This was poop on wheels.
But I planned to drive it a couple more years because it WENT from one place to the next (mostly) and that's all I ask of a car (mostly) and it was paid for (all-y). SO I was going to suck it up at LEAST until next year, maybe 2010. But this winter, it developed UNFORGIVEABLE HABITS.
1) Before it warmed up, it would quite often do this shuddering weird THING where it coughed and lurched forward like Frankenstein if he was trying to do the hula while being electrocuted---a sort of undead WHIPLASH inducing hurky-lurch. The movement would be accompanied by a terrible noise HUH-CHUGGA-CHUGGACHUGGA-CHUGGA-CHA-GUHGUHGA. It would do this on and off for 20 minutes, any morning that the temp had dropped under 30 degrees.
2) Sometimes, in the middle of one of its fits, the engine would stop enginging. It once DIED on the interstate going 60 MPH. Granted, the van was MUCH more likely to stall out at a red light or in a parking lot--- it was staunchly ANTI-IDLE and could reliably be counted upon to self-save on gas by shutting itself off after a thirty seconds of no forward movement. But then it started also dying WHILE MOVING. After the interstate event, I began to ask myself what would happen if I was rocketing along with my children and an 18 wheeler was riding my butt with truckerly impatience and the Van. Just. Died.
The answer involved tragedy and smashing.
3) I HATE high pitched repetitive beepy noises. I hate them with all my hate. If they go on for LONG enough I want to bang myself in the face with a brick to make it all be dark and quiet. WELL, the van started turning on its emergency brake every time I took a right turn. The brake would just BARELY catch and the van would say, "BEEP! BEEP! BEEP!" until pulled the brake release lever. IRRITATING, but I could live with that. BUT!
THEN the release lever stopped working. I would turn right, and the van would go BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! at me, eternally, on and on, beepwithoutendamen, until evil mystic forces felt it had beeped enough OR until I MADE A LEFT TURN. If I turned right ONTO A FREEWAY it could beep for HALF AN HOUR...I developed a facial tick, and the children stopped calling it Vincent Van-Go, rechristening it DING DONG DEVIL VAN.
4) When it rained, rain would come down through the sunroof and get on me. Rain would ALSO come down through the sunroof and get in the digital clock, and the display would go mad and only show some of the lines needed to make up the numbers. I have no internal clock to speak of, and if I looked at the VAN clock, it would say the time was E thirty. E THIRTY? On rainy days, I was consistently MOIST and LATE.
I do not like to be either of those things.
There were other issues. Many many many other issues. MANY. Small, not deal breakers, but cumulatively enough to make me think, "WOW we have NO food, and I REALLY need to go to the grocery. Oh. Wait. I would have to get in the van. Hmmm. Letâ€™s see whatâ€™s here in the pantry... Can I cobble a dinner out of this pickled egg, this can of pimentos, and a box of taco shells that expired in 2002. Yes. Yes, I can."
Scott was put in charge of safety and gas mileage and whatnot, all I wanted was for the car to 1) be ORANGE and 2) not have a sunroof. Everything else was negotiable. I cart a lot of books and travel a lot, so a small SUV seemed like a good pick, and I have always had a fondness for Saturns, so if it was a Saturn that was a plus, but any orange non-sunroofed thing that didnâ€™t BEEP was JUST FINE by me.
About 6 months ago, I started internet shopping, looking every orange car made. I finally settled on a Hybrid Saturn Vue as my dream car. Scott ran the numbers and said we could probably buy a hybrid in 2009 or 2010. Then the VAN ISSUES escalated as described above, and I started looking on CARMAX for a non hybrid orange sunroof free Vue we could buy next year. Or NOW, I told him. NOW WOULD BE GOOD.
Scott complicated matters by saying I could not have a Vue if it was 2007 or older, because the safety ratings were no good. (The 2008 got a redesign and is now very safe.) Then SATURN complicated things by CANCELLING ORANGE CARS starting in 2009. SO I could ONLY have a 2008. Then I complicated matters by refusing to EVER buy a new car. T I never have yet. The idea of driving off a lot and suffering an IMMEDIATE 5K depreciation...nononono. I am too, erm, thrifty. Some people might employ OTHER terms, like, say, â€œstingy Irish tight-wad.â€ But THRIFTY is what I like to call it. RIGHT MIR? We are THRIFTY!!!!
I put an alert up on Carmax to get an email anytime a used 2008 non-sunroofed Orange Vue came up for sale within 300 miles, and for several months I got exactly zero emails. HEH. SO I took out the color consideration and started getting 2 or 3 emails a week, but the non-orangness of the proffered cars left me icy cold and unmoved to go 18 or 19 thousand dollars into debt.
THEN I saw Saturn had this red tag sale, and UNUSED 2008 cars were five thousand dollars off as they moved them out to make room for 2009's, and that was also the SAFETY RATINGS OF JOY year, and the last year for orange. WOW, I thought, that takes care of my depreciation issues and Scottâ€™s safety issues and Saturnâ€™s FOOLISH NO MORE ORANGE CARS in 2009 issues. SO. I started looking.
GUESS HOW MANY SATURN DEALERSHIPS WITHIN 250 MILES OF MY HOUSE HAD 2008 ORANGE VUES IN STOCK? GO ON, GUESS.
Yes. That would be...zero.
I washed my hands of the whole thing and sourly decided to drive the van until it killed us.
On Christmas Eve, I had to go get EMERGENCY ROLLS and the van BEEPED AND STALLED and WAS DEMON INFESTED and it RAINED and the clock glowed with ugly satanic non-numeric symbols and I was moist and displeased. When I got home, I called the Saturn dealership closest to my house in a PET.
I got connected to a guy who said, â€œHi, I am Nathan, how can I---â€œ
I WAILED, â€œNATHAN WHY DONâ€™T YOU HAVE A 2008 ORANGE VUE FOR SALE??? WHY? WHY?â€
Nathan: Becauseâ€¦um...we do.
Me: No, you do NOT. I ASKED MR. GOOGLE and he says you DONâ€™T. *sniff*
Nathan: But. I am looking at one. I SEE it.
It was a TRADE IN! I had been looking at their NEW stock for 2008's and at Carmax for used 2008s. I had not searched SATURN for used 2008s. Doh! It was the XE, the very one I wanted, and orange as the autumn-est of all autumn leaves.
Nathan said: It is used, is that a deal breaker?â€™
Me: NO, thatâ€™s GREAT! How much is it?
Nathan: Oh. Let me lookâ€¦It was like 18,750 but I think it is on sale from that.
Me; On sale for how much?
Him: Oh. WOW. Holy cow, this canâ€™t be right.
Me; What canâ€™t be right?
Nathan: Let me just check this and find out what the actual price is.Let me call you back.
I paced around and ten minutes later he called me back.
Nathan: Okay I looked it up and it IS right. You will like the price!
Me: Great. Say the number.
Him: It was 18,750, but got discounted because of the red tag sale.
Me; SUPER! How much?
Nathan: Also, I donâ€™t know if you know this, but we are moving to Marietta, so we stacked another discount on this car as we arenâ€™t moving it. Itâ€™s a REALLY good price.
Me: Nathan. You are KILLING me. Say the number!
THEN NATHAN SAID A MAGIC MAGIC MAGIC NUMBER.
Now, understand, I have priced these things every which way from Sunday. I have looked at every 2008 for sale in the state. This car was priced LITERALLY a THIRD LESS than every other used 2008 Saturn Vue of comparable mileage and options IN GEORGIA. For real. 33% less. It was INSANE. It was an INSANE price. I said the price to Scott and Scott said a word he does not generally employ and began nodding vigorously.
Me: Nathan, if you can truthfully say four words to me, we will drive over RIGHT NOW here on Christmas Eve and buy that Vue from you. LIKE NOW. In five minutes.
Nathan: What are the words?
Me: I need you to say to me, â€œIt has no sunroof.â€
Nathan: It has no sunroof.
Thatâ€™s how I got the best Christmas present EVER, pictured below.
We named him The Good Cat (because he is orange, like Boggart, but he is not a JERK, like Boggart), and I super love him with all my love.
Now, I am not saying this in a JUDGING way, you understand.
There are no UNDERCURRENTS of naughtiness versus NICENESS, no cause for comparisons, no reason for conclusions to be drawn.
I am simply giving you some COMPLETELY IMPLICATION FREE information:
Scott got an office chair.
This is not a meme, but it should be. I am going to tell you ten things I believe.
Belief is not fact. I do not BELIEVE the earth is round. I KNOW the earth is round. Astronauts and satellites have taken umpty pictures of the whole dern blue-green spinning shebang from space. I have seen earth being round with my own eyes.
Belief is also not that little winged chick that Pandora found at the bottom of the box she was ABSOLUTELY NOT SUPPOSED TO OPEN. Belief is more than optimism. I truly HOPE that the recession we are in will be short lived, but I do not BELIEVE it. I donâ€™t know enough about how global economies work to invest belief. I only hope it.
My beliefs are based on surrounding things I DO know, factually, blended with the things I hope. Itâ€™s less certain than knowledge, more certain than hope, but in many ways more powerful than those things put together.
Christmas is for me is very much about belief. It is a high holy day that has more to do with the Advent of Grace than with, you know, Santa and fatting around with the hyper gluttonous consumption of ham and chocolate and the rending of brightly colored paper shells to get at the meaty goodness of the presents inside. I like all these things, sure, but for me Christmas happens when my family sings Joy to the World and means it.
SO, before I leave town to indulge in ALL the pleasures above, let me tell you ten things.
1) â€¦every word of The Nicene Creed.
2) â€¦ my children are growing up into good people. Flawed, yes. Talented, yes. SPOILED? A little. But I see goodness in them, and it is growing with them. Yay.
3) â€¦most women secretly find Spock to be hot, but they are too embarrassed to say so because of the geek factor. And the pointy ears.
4)â€¦people can change.
5)â€¦most people donâ€™t change.
6) â€¦this book SO FAR is the best thing I have written to date, the bravest and the hardest. (I put the words SO FAR in because the end I THOUGHT was coming is not the actual end, and the REAL way the book will end is a mystery wrapped in an enigma and served up hot with conundrum sauce. I HOPE it all comes together and holds and is the end that the first two thirds of this book DESERVE, and I also HOPE the end comes to me this week as I stop working, as I set the book down and walk away for seven days to celebrate Christmas with the people I love best in all the world.)
7) â€¦ Life is currently the best show on Television, in fact the best thing since Firefly was wrongfully cancelled and everyone needs to WATCH IT so that can have a MINIMUM of five seasons and can be on TNT (WE KNOW DRAMA) in reruns into perpetuity.
8) â€¦ if someone is hungry, someone else should give them a sandwich. If someone is hungry near me, I should be the someone else.
9)â€¦ a house with no little animal heartbeats in it is CLEANER, but too sad for me to want live in.
10) â€¦yammering and venting in this blog, and being part of the little community that has grown up around it, seeing yaâ€™lls familiar and beloved names in the comments, reading your responses and your own stories, makes me a happier, more connected human being.
We talked yesterday about how to write books. It isnâ€™t hard. Maisy Jane, my smaller loin spawn, learned how to write books only last week, and she is 6. She learned how by sitting down and writing one. She writes them a LOT now.
Here is her latest, and I think we can all agree it shows the nascent beginnings of a significant talent. My plan was to sell it to my editor at GCP for MILLIONS OF DOLLARS and retire, but alas, I did not think to do that BEFORE I posted it below, so NOW it is already technically PUBLISHED, and I shafted my kid out of a major book deal. Hopefully the movie rights sales will make up for this.
Green Title Page reads, â€œLilieeâ€™s Life, by Maisy, Illustrated by Maisyâ€
â€œTranslated by Joshilyn Jackson,â€ should probably appear, but I did not get a pub creditâ€¦ghost translator?
You can see by the cover art that this is going to be an action packed and exciting read. Liliee is screaming (or perhaps laughing?) and her dress is very fancy.
She is not having a good hair day.
The color choices for the cover pull the eye â€“ this is absolutely going to pop when it sits on the shelf at your local book purveyor.
One day Liliee sad, â€œOooow thes day is rainy.â€
(One day Liliee said, â€œAw, this day is rainy!â€)
Liliee is not actually HARMED by rain, only disappointed. By â€œOoooowâ€ she means AWWWW. Or DERNIT. The picture shows a pink cloud raining pink rain onto a pink fence surrounding pink yard. This hypersplosion of PINKtasticness is forshadowing. The astute reader realizes now that Liliee must be more than she seemsâ€¦pinkâ€¦is she a fairy? Or a princess?
The next page tells all:
But Liliee did not no she was a faree.
(But Liliee did not know she was a fairy.)
Liliee thinks she is just a girl with either VERY pointy arms OR possibly no arms and a truly astounding rack. Now the cloud is black and the rain is black, and the central conflict of the book is revealed. This is a book about IDENTITY! Who or what is Liliee, truly? Not even Liliee knows.
Sudinlee a see snak came uq! (Suddenly a Sea Snake came up.)
See Snak: rrrr!
Maisyâ€™s Translation of See Snak dialog: Trarslaation ---> Iâ€™m huingaree!
My Translation of Maisyâ€™s translation of See Snak dialog: Translation (arrow) Iâ€™m Hungry!
Sudenlee she groo hre wings and sringkt!
(Suddenly she grew her wings and shrinked!)
The villain appears here, and I think the phonetic spelling of shrinked is both perfectly phonetic and perfectly awesome. I also think that was a HECK of a rain storm, if it could in a single page flood the pink fenced yard to such an extent that a see snak could inhabit it.
Please note here too the preternaturally early understanding of how to use quotation marks. I credit Mrs. P, her first grade teacher, with the fine installation of some of the basic rules of punctuation. HUZZAH to Mrs. P, and meanwhile, you best beloveds (and my copy editor) are blackly thinking, â€œIf only JOSS had had Mrs. P AND hadnâ€™t failed (YES! FAILED! BIG FAT F!) her typing class in tenth grade.â€ Donâ€™t think I do not see you thinking this. Because I SEE YOU.
It of course helps that Maisy is a total genius. *nodnodnod*
And she floo hoom. The end.
(And she flew home. The end.)
Publisherâ€™s Weekly criticized this final page, with the reviewer implying that the illustrator became bored with the project and wanted to go play on the wii with her brother. AU CONTRAIRE PW, YOU CYNICS!! Do you not recall that Liliee SHRINGKT??? She and her house are merely drawn to scale.
Anyway, thatâ€™s how you write a book.
Maisy says, Youâ€™re welcome.
Remember a longlonglong time ago when I said to you, â€œHEY! BEST BELOVEDS! Should I have an FAQ?
And you said, â€œOh Helsya, you desperately need an FAQ.â€
Then I said, â€œOKAY THEN I WILL ABSOLUTELY HAVE AN FAQ!â€
Here we are, months or years later, and if one of the questions on the FAQ was â€œDo you have an FAQâ€ the answer would be NO and that would be the only word on the page. If it existed. Which it emphatically does not.
If you followed that, stop reading immediately and go get a cookie. You earned it, and your brain probably hurts. (While you are in there, can you get me a cookie? My brain hurts, too.)
Here is a short list of things I have sworn most solemnly to you that I am going to have that I STILL do not have:
1) A WORKING mailing list that doesnâ€™t send to only the first 15 people and then poop out and which does not share all 15â€™s email addies with each other.
2) A hybrid Saturn Vue. (ORANGE! Or maybe Green.)
3) Mental Health
In order to move toward one day HAVING an FAQ, I shall for about the next 1000 years, every now again, put one of the FAQ questions up HERE and answer it and save the answer someplace else, too, in a single file, and in a few short decades I will have created an FAQ by accident, since I am clearly not going to manage to do it purposefully. I will actually create TWO FAQs in this slow, haphazard and unwieldy fashion, one for writers, specifically, and one for everyone.
I am going to start today, and with a question I get a lot:
â€œHOW DO I WRITE A NOVEL?â€
There are several possible answers to this. The most honest one is, â€œI have no freakinâ€™ idea. I only know how I write a novel.â€
You do not want to write a novel the way I do. I am hideously inefficient. I sometimes write 10 or even 50 or even (in one notable horroshow of a case) 120 thousand words before I come to understand what I am actually writing about, and then I throw those 10 or 50 or (Sweet Lord help me) 120 thousand words away and I start over. I do this SEVERAL TIMES per book. If there is any other possible method on Godâ€™s Blue-Green Space Ball available to you, I suggest you do it THAT way. My way is chronically disorganized and leads to mental illness and yelling.
If you read Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott (and you should) you will learn how SHE writes a book. If you read On Writing by Stephen King (and you should) you will learn how HE writes a book. You can take little bits of their methods and test drive them, and if you put your butt in a chair and your hands on the keyboard and tap words in, you will learn how you write a book. Your method wonâ€™t be exactly like Lamottâ€™s or Kingâ€™s, but it will work for you, and if there is a merciful God, it will be nothing like mine.
You also learn to write a book by reading as many books as you can get your hands on. Read books you love and books you hate. Read once for pleasure, and then again (and again) â€œlike a writerâ€ to see how the author made you care for their imaginary folks and made you laugh and made you cry. If you read enough, you will accidentally learn things while enjoying yourself, and this is bar none the best way to learn ANYTHING.
You can read books about HOW to write books, of course, but itâ€™s kinda like the difference between having a pinch-mouthed and frigid Victorian Mother explain your wedding night to you (Close your eyes! Think of England!) and just going and HAVING the wedding night. You will learn a LOT more about what actually goes where with the latter method, and it will be hella more fun.
The two books about writing I have recommended have this in common: Both do SO much more than explain technical things. They SHOW how to write a fantastic book by being fantastic books.
Tomorrow, I will have Beautiful MAISY JANE who is barely six answer this question, and then we will be done with the FAQ for another month. Or ten years. Or forever. If I had a single organizational skill (or a scrap of human decency) I would institute FAQ TUESDAYS where every week I put up a new FAQ question and answer it and the whole thing would be built in a reasonable and timely fashion.
Wouldnâ€™t that be great.
FINE. I am absolutely going to do it. I am sure. In a second. Right now I have to go to the Saturn website and build my Hypothetical Hybrid Orange VUE . Again.
UPDATE: I am not TRULY in the market for a new car. The mom-tastic mom-mobile is still rolling. Mostly. ALTHOUGH I HATE IT IN THE GUTS. In fact, it's name has been officially changed from Vincent Van-Go to The Ding Dong Devil Van. Hates the van. preshus. I dream of Saturns, and I just went to build my hypothetical VUE....And Sunburst Orange AND Sea Mist Green were BOTH discontinued in 2008. BOTH. *weep* A dream deferred is a dream dead.
From Beautiful Maisy, who is barely six, this sage advice on cooking and nutrition.
Maisy: The best food is food that comes on a stick. Everything good comes on a stick. Like pudding pops. And corn dogs.
Scott: Do things that are not naturally on sticks taste better if you put them on sticks?
Maisy: *unequivocally* Yes.
Scott: What about Rat on a Stick?
Maisy: *stern* Daddy, NO. No one wants to eat rat. Even on a stick. Then the second best foods are fried. Everything tastes good fried. Mommy told me.
Scott: And what are the third best foods?
Scott: So if we could put butter on a stick and somehow FRY it?
Maisy: That would beâ€¦AWESOME.
From beautiful Scott, who is barely old, comes this advice on to be Smothering or to NOT be Smothering, that is the question
This morning, Scott came to wake me up because I FOOLISHLY stated within the range of his creepy-good hearing that I wanted to get up early. He climbed in bed beside me and began bothering me and talking and encouraging me to open my eyes. I quite naturally and rightly then attempted to smother him with a pillow. After he had cleverly escaped my murderous intentions (by lying there breathing enragingly and saying "You need to exert more pressure, Sugarbritches. Good try though, there, this sure is a cute little attempt at a smother!" til I moved the pillow) we had the following exchange.
Him: You should not go around smothering people.
Me: Sometimes people NEED smothering.
Him: There is a downside, babe.
Me: No, sometimes smothering is wholly justified and great.
Him: No. There is always a downside.
Me: Okay Mr. Smarty, whatâ€™s the downside to smothering the Marquis de Sade?
Him: AH â€“ You would absolutely have to buy a new pillow.
Me: TouchÃ©, Smart Cat, TouchÃ©.
From Various Preteen and Teenaged Males in the house
ALAS, I have no wisdom from Sam, as he is away on a 3 day field trip to a local swamp. The only words I have from Sam are, â€œWe saw two snakes! I am going to dissect a fish!â€ SO that seems to be going well. Unless you are the fish.
But Boggart, my teenager cat, was reunited with his beloved PIECE OF PLASTIC STRING when I pitched it angrily out of the underpants drawer this morning. HE LEARNED A THING. From Boggart, this nugget of helpful truth:
If you are lucky enough to have returned to you that which you thought was lost, TAKE IT TO THE BASEMENT. AND HIDE IT.
An excellent plan.
SO, picking up from yesterday, here is how the whole NATURAL SLEEP thing wentâ€¦
9:00 PM: I fall deeply, beautifully, happily asleep in just a couple of minutes. Extremely deep. Extremely satisfying and awesome. UNPRECEDENTED!
9:20 : The alarm clock goes off. I wake to find drool. A lot of it. So much that little ladybugs could come and put up parasols and take a pleasant boat trip across my drooly pillow. I crack a disbelieving eye at the alarm clock, and notice that a weird light NEXT to the alarm light is on. The weird light reads, â€œNAP.â€ All caps. I take one angry slap-hand and whang the alarm clock very hard on top. The noise stops.
9:30: I fall back asleep. MIRACULOUS! Double UNPRECEDENTED!
9:40: The alarm clock goes off. Yes. Again. I sit bolt upright and GLARE. That word, â€œNAP,â€ is still lit, and this troubles me. It occurs to me that a short nap lasts about â€¦.twenty minutes. And that the clock may be prepping to BEEP every 20 minutes, all night long, and then all morning, and then forever.
9:41 â€“ 9:42: I turn on the lamp and poke and twist randomly on the hypercomplicated button-laden clock that SCOTT has inflicted upon us. This clock can bend time and solve for Pi and understands what E=MC2 means. I could safely go into SPACE inside this thing. I poke so many random controllers that I send my neighborâ€™s horrible little dog back in time where he smashes the wrong butterfly and forever alters the course of human evolution (before last night, people had ANTLERS and could pop their eyes out on stalks to see around corners, but you probably do not remember). The NAP button remains inexorably lit.
9:43: Reach down behind the bedside table, feel around for the plug, and PULL IT.
9:43 and 2 seconds: The room goes dark. I have unplugged the LAMP.
9:43 and 5 seconds: Say A Very Bad Word Indeed.
9:43-9:45: Get up, turn on the overhead light. Find the plug. Plug in lamp. Lamp comes on, turn off overhead light. Get back in bed. Pick up alarm clock and turn it over and over around and around in my hands like a raccoon with an inexplicable food and no washing pan. After several minutes of this, see that the NAP light has MIRACULOUSLY gone away. Set down the clock. Turn out the lamp lie back down.
9:45 to 10:50: Look at ceiling. Fume. Toss. Flail.
10:51: Fall into a light accidental sleep when I am not paying attention.
11:01: Boggart and a piece of plastic string decide to mount a production of â€œBOGGART AND THE PIECE OF PLASTIC STRING: AN INTERPRETIVE KILLING DANCE." They stage it on my butt and legs and feet. Ow. I wake up poinked, danced on, and enraged.
11:02: Piece of Plastic String is hurled from the bed. Boggart is hurled from the bed. I say TWO excrutiatingly bad words and then take another moment to describe to Boggart in great detail exactly what became of the last cat with theatrical leanings who mistook my hind end for The Great White Way.
11:03 â€“ 12 midnight: Lie there glaring at the ceiling and waiting for BOGGART AND PIECE OF PLASTIC STRING PART 2, THE REVENGE OF SON OF STRING, to begin, but Boggart maintains radio silence. Apparently this one will go straight to video, if it is released at all. I decide that absence does INDEED make my heart grow fonder, and I could come to quite passionately LOVE tthe Boggart, if only if only he would take up permanent residence in Japan.
Midnightish: A gray sleeplike stillness begins.
1:30: BOGGART AND PIECE OF PLASTIC STRING PART 2, THE REVENGE OF SON OF STRING, is launched. Onto my butt.
1:31: Piece of Plastic String is ripped from the bosom of Boggart and shut up in the underpants drawer in my bedside table.
1:32 â€“ 1:40 Boaggrt stages protests, yowls, batters at the drawer, cries for Piece of Plastic String, paces worriedly, marches all over me, cries, cries, yowls, bats at drawer, flops and wails and bats and flops. Boggart was only ever happy that time he had PIECE OF PLASTIC STRING. WIthout PIECE OF PLASTIC STRING, the world's pleasures are as ash in his mouth! DOOM! DOOM! DOOM!
1:41: Boggart falls peacefull to sleep on my feet
From then on, all night: I drift in and out of fitful dozes, alternately drooling and calling upon the dark gods to appear and eat him. And the clock.
Future plans include: Melatonin, wine, bad TV, Belladonna and, on truly desperate nights, a whang on the head with an enormous mallet. Butâ€¦I am not sure who will get the whang, me or the clock or Boggart.
First let me say that Scott returns TODAY. TODAY! which means my TOWERING HEAP of double high crazy will abate and my mental illness number might even stabilize and I will stop blogging about my desire to murder folks, who, in other contexts, are probably quite nice. For example, I bet the guy with the goatee is an excellent BROTHER who can recognize a hit-n-quit dog sniffing around his sister from MILES OFF and he then protects her from the wily predations of his very own kind. It takes one toâ€¦yeah. SO.
That said, I still want to kill people, obviously, for the next 4 Scottless hours. La la la! Merry Christmas!
Also, it doesnâ€™t help that I decided to pursue a mythological creature last night: Natural Sleep. I call this thing mythological because itâ€™s very like the loch ness monster or a yeti: I know many people who claimed to have had experiences with this thing, but I myself have never seen it.
I have many methods for tricking my insomniac brain into the waters of Lethe. A glass or two of wine or a melatonin pill can work (although one makes me wake up 3 hours later and the other makes me groggish in the AM.) Watching TERRIBLE sit-coms until my brain shuts off purely as a self defense mechanism works â€“ Becker anyone?
When Scott is home, he pets my hair and tells me about the quarterly budget reports. On truly desperate, evil nights, I take a little belladonna. Yes, real belladonna, and YES it was given me by My REAL doctor, not some stringy haired herb addicted broom wielder named Mother Abigail who I met in Salem, circa 1692. But what I NEVER do, nevernevernever, is get in bed, turn out the light, close my eyes, and fall asleep for seven or eight hours.
I decided to try this last night. Foolish, I know. Last nightâ€™s bed was SCOTT-free, and Scottlessness traditionally means I sleep POORLY, if it all. It was like sticking the Marquis de Sade in a white dress and asking him to go prance about in a meadow to attract a unicorn. BUT I decided to try anyway.
Scottlessness aside, it LOGICALLY seemed like a good night to pursue this thing. Hereâ€™s whyâ€¦Yesterday I ate well, by which I mean I didnâ€™t have a lot of sugar or caffeine, and I had ALL 5 of the recommended servings of fruits and veggies. I drank a LOT of water, so I was hydrated, but I stopped drinking it after Boot Camp, so I would nto need to get up and go pee all night. I was both SLEEPY from MANY insomniac scottless nights previous, and EXTREMELY physically tired because I went on a hike with Julie in the morning and then went to boot camp led by Amy the Beautiful Sadist that evening.
I call her AMY THE BEATIFUL SADIST to differentiate her from AmyGo, not because I do not like her. I met her at my new church, and I like her a lot, ackshully. She is cool and smart and funny and 23 hours a day she is just NICE AMY. Two days a week, however, on that 24th hour, she runs boot camp, and she becomes Amy the Beautiful Sadist whose perfect calf muscles look they have been carved by elves from strands of smooth-sanded oak, and who can TALK while doing fifty push-ups.
By talk I mean she can do push-ups (REAL BOY ONES) and yet simultaneously say, â€œDOWN one, DOWN two, DOWN three---Joshilyn do not stick your butt up, thatâ€™s cheating, DOWN 5â€ and so on (and on and on) at a pace that leaves my stringy arms wobbly and trembling like terrorized deer. Deer being forced to watch that hunter scene in BAMBI level terrorized. And I do the fake GIRL ones on my knees and all I can say is *gaspgaspgasp*
DIGRESSION: Did I tell you I started boot camp? Yeah, okay, WELL. I did. Remember I recently did some WAILING and NASHING about the ever expanding borders of buttlandia? Yaâ€™ll know I work out every day, doing either 45 minutes on my beloved elliptical or 30 minutes on it and then light weights sets, depending on the day. YEAH. What Boot Camp has taught me is that I go EASY on myself. I am merciful with my pains and twinges. Amy the Beautiful Sadist does not have this problem. AT ALL.
Oh CRAP it is almost 9, I have to run, I have to be at the kids school for a THING and then go to the airport and snag me a SCOTT.
THE PURSUIT OF NATURAL SLEEP shall Be Continued Tomorrow. BYO Pink Socks.
THE FIRST: That Cross Dressing Poet Tennyson, my sweety-pie of a geriatric gerbil lady whose back end ceased working, has rallied. She seems to be getting FUNCTION back, and is quite mobile and pleased with herself. Her front end walks like a gerbil and her back end walks like a duck, but both ends are WALKING, so I am not going to complain. We decided she must have had some sort of stroke, and magically recovered. A tiny stroke. A MINI stroke. Barely worth mentioning. I told Mir about it and she said, â€œOh yes, nothing SERIOUS. Just a LITTLE stroke. Why, I bet that stroke was WAFER THIN.â€
EXACTLY! WAFER THIN. I gave Tenny a very firm talking to about not having any more strokes, and she pooped in my hand, which I took as an agreement that she is not going to do anything irksome like die. Of course, the LEAST likeable of ALL my mice ladies, the one we call â€œBitinâ€™ Alice,â€ the escape artist who has TWICE managed to flee and scratch out a feral living in the vents and under the sofas, she of the glowing pink demon eyes, is completely sassy and the picture of health and has probably sold her teeny gerbil soul chip to become the pocket-rodent version of immortal, which is to say, she will live for another five long bitter, biting years.
THE SECOND: I think when I begin threatening to crumple up litterers and throw their lifeless bodies into the very receptacle they have shunned with their 20 oz Mountain Dew Bottles, we can all agree I am past my normal stress levels and my mental illness number is up in the place where the air is thin and even the eagles do not dare to fly. This is of course and obviously because SCOTT has left town for 12 days. I do not DO well without my favorite friend and ballast-master and co-parent, the dream-team captain of my groovy, my best fella and favorite kissing partner. I NEED SCOTT TO COME HOME, and here on Scottless Day 9 my grumpy horror is PEAKINGâ€¦
The miracle is this: I did not murder the guy in Starbucks yesterday. It was close. You might be asking yourself if NOT committing murder COUNTS as a Christmas miracle since it seems I trot along MOST days not committing murder, but trust me, if Angels had not been at SERIOUS work, this guy would be in pieces.
Scott is out of town. My children are CONSPIRING to forget to tell me vitally important things until we are walking out the door at 7:30 AM, things on the level of, â€œToday I said you would bring cookies at 11. Why? Because the school Nativity play is today. Yes, I am in it. Are you coming? Iâ€™m a cow. You need to make me a costume.â€ This on a day I had SIX precious hours carved out of my childrenâ€™s schedules, SIX hours I needed to work, not make cookies and tape cardboard cow horns to a ski hat, because my deadline is looming and the book is not FINISHED, and the children are about to be out of school and I have to go in and out of town for various family holidazing about for the second half of this month. Anyway, my HARDWON VITAL six hours was cut down to about 2.5 and THIS GUY! THIS GUY!
He came in about the same time as me, and we gave each other the standard polite smile-and-a-headnod as we ordered our over-complicated and overpriced coffee-crack masterpieces. I went my usual spot and he went to the good table right by it and side by side we set up our laptops.
He was a cute guy in his early twenties, dressed slouchy, with Jim-from-the-Office hair. The kind of ARTFULLY tousled hair which, when combined with his LIVE LIFE UNBOTTONED Leviâ€™s and his complicated goatee shape, was meant to send a message to attractive women under twenty-five. It was a CLEAR message, easier to read than a TELEGRAM or a TATTOO, and it said, â€œPretty Ladies! Single Ladies! Allow me to establish immediately that I am not looking for any sort of, like, serious commitmenty relationshipish thingy, but THAT said, do you think you might want to come back to my place and listen to CDs with meaningful lyrics so you will understand how I deep I am, and while we are there, can I have your underpants?â€ You know this guy, right? You have seen him about?
Anyway, we set up, and started working, and he put EARBUDS in and strapped an ipod to his arm. FINE. I thought. He is not going to talk to me. I LOVE this guy. I start clicky clacking away, on the road now with my pistol packing Rose, trying to remember and catch in words that exact air-blend of clove cigs and dog crap and patchouli that lets you know in a single inhale that you are on Mission Street in San Francisco, and then the guy saysâ€”or more like, WARBLES--- â€œThough I didnâ€™t know.â€ Or something like that.
I look at him. And he is working on his laptop (Read: scanning Facebook for more de-underpants-ing prospects) and not talking to me. And yet he keeps on. Every three or four minutes, just as I get BACK in Roseâ€™s head, he releases little PHRASES and PEEPS and MINI-WAILS and OH YEAHS and MM HMMMMS and I come to realizeâ€¦he is SINGING. He is singing along with his IPOD.
He is not a good singer.
Even so, I did not yet have a serious desire to kill him. AND THENâ€¦the kicker. He sung the words â€œGenerationâ€¦lalaâ€¦population,â€ and in a BURST OF HORROR I realized he was listening to JOHN MAYERâ€™S â€œWAITING ON THE WORLD TO CHANGEâ€ which is UNSPEAKABLE. I am sorry, but that is NOT FORGIVEABLE.
Really, I would have wanted to kill him LESS had he been listening to FREAKINâ€™ CHRISTMAS SHOES. No one with a Take-my-deepness-seriously-PS-I-am-a-panty-hound goatee should be ALLOWED to pipe the words, â€œItâ€™s not that we donâ€™t care, we just know that the fight ainâ€™t fair, so we keep waiting, waiting for the world to changeâ€ directly into a brain already SO steeped in college cool boy apathyâ€¦
Anyway, Angels stayed my mighty wrath-hands, and I put on headphones and piped THE CRANBERRIES directly into my own brain and ended the day blameless as a non-murdering lamb. What about you? Any Christmas miracles happening down your way? HEH.
PS, Scott comes home TUESDAY and I fully expect to stop blood-lusting in my heart. Pinky Swears. I will be kinderkinderkinder more patient peaceful loving. I WILLIWILLIWILL. I will. I WILL.
The Big Weep
Please do not judge me harshly. I am a woman of a certain age, and prone to sniffling at southern bell commercials and velvet paintings of big-eyed children with a single tears hovering on their lower eyelids, and, conversely, inexplicable rages and, on particularly bad days, stress murders. By which I mean, sometimes, people reallyreallyreally get on my last raggedy nerve and bounce â€“ for example PEOPLE WHO LITTER when I can SEE a trashcan less than 30 steps away AND THEY SEE IT TOO -- and then I kill them.
Oh. Not really. But I see it play out in my mindâ€™s eye, perfectly, how I will pick the litterer up in my mighty hands and crumplecrumplecrumple them and throw their destroyed remains IN THE CAN instead of down in the grass while saying, â€œAND DATS TAHHHKIN OUT DA TRAAAASH!â€ with lots of German accent and ZERO inflection, as if I were Arnold Swarzenegger, circa 1989. So, yes, weeping at schmaltz and killing the inconsiderate. I LOVE being 40. No, really. SO MUCH.
BUT WE ARE NOT JUDGING HERE. This is important to remember, o best beloveds, as I am going to share the deep ugly secret hidden in my ugly guts.
For three years now, I have burst into tears whenever Christmas Shoes came on the radio.
I am HIDEOUSLY shamed, shamed beyond all mortal ken, to admit that such a pernicious and wily perpetration of manipulative SAP AND TWADDLE could WORK on me and make me squirt with the weepies.
Do you know this song? It is a nightmare. I only heard it ONCE when it first came out, and I wept until I was close to puking and every since the opening bars undo me and I have to flee the song WAILING like the Sabine women. In the song, itâ€™s Christmas Eve, some guy is in line at a shoe store, and this KID ahead of him is buying some shoes. For his mother. So she will look PRETTY WHEN SHE MEETS JESUS AS SHE IS DYING HERE ON CHRISTMAS EVE.
And if this is not enough, the kid doesnâ€™t have enough money. He and the clerk sort through all his crumpled ones and change and there is NOT ENOUGH for the Christmas shoes. Also it is snowing, I am sure, and somewhere a sad kitten expires of hypothermia pressed against cold, dead side of the starved and frozen The Little Match Girl, but NO WORRIES, because the singer ponies up for the shoes, and then, just when you think it cannot get worse, the singer shuts up, and this WARBLEY LITTLE FLEET OF BIG EYED-SOUNDING ORPHANS sings the final chorus while the music goes all TINKLEY with SAD SAD bells.
BY the way, strictly to make myself feel better, I will tell you that professional cynic and red head Amy-Go BAWLS LIKE A LOST SEAL PUP whenever she hears the opening bars. SO. I am not alone in this awful madness. Whoever wrote that song, whoever perpetrated the singing of it, down to every child in the chorus, when at last they slip their mortal coils (or I get them for littering) they are ALL going directly to HELL, and they have earned it. OH, and last year I found out some heinous creature made a MOVIE out of it, and HE is going to the special hell. That is all.
Itâ€™s a manipulative awful song that plays SHAMELESSLY on every twinging heartstring it can find. AND YET, every Christmas, it starts to come on, and I find myself flailing into immediate bawlage, driving blind, desperately whanging my fist at the radio to change the station. YARG.
Until THIS year. Friends, I have defeated Christmas Shoes.
Hereâ€™s how: I actually listened to it. For the second time. I listened to it, and the Spock part of my brain, the lizardy piece that lives just under the occipital bone and takes care of fight or flight and my autonomic functions said, â€œWHOA, Nelly. This song makes no SENSE.â€
I sniffled a little, and then started actually PAYING ATTENTION.
Itâ€™s Christmas Eve, and this kid with the dying mom is IN A SHOE STORE. His FATHER has sent him. Um, no. Who says, â€œHey, kid, your mom is about to kick it, take a fast run over to Pay Less?â€ No one. And then the crumpled bills and all?
My Spock brain, listening to this poor sap concluding that the Lord sent the future motherless boy to remind him Christmas is about..shoes and hope, or something? No. NONONO. My reptile brain said, Dude, itâ€™s a SCAM. There is no MOTHER. There is no DYING. There is some Fagin-esque teenage brother in an alley waiting to see what the kidâ€™s TAKE is going to be so they can go to the pawn shop and get money for the ARCADE. Next the kid will go to WOLF and not have enough for the camera his mother needs so she can get a photo of heaven;s golden roads. Then they will head off Best Buy so the kid can warble, â€œSir I want to buy this 42 inch flatscreen, for my mother, pleaseâ€¦â€
It is SO CLEARLY a scam. Anyone who has ever been approached by the guy who needs 3 bucks for the train to get to the interview for the job he needs to be able to support his 4 starving babies that he was on his way to catch when robbers took his wallet and he will miss the interview OH HALPS HALPSâ€¦yeah. I have met that guy a hundred times, and he NEVER agrees to walk to the subway or Marta with me and let me buy him a ride. He just wants the cash. For Meth. SO, I buy him a sandwich and tell him to get help, but I do not BUY HIS DRUGS FOR HIM.
Christmas Shoes is the same thing, and if the fellow in line had ANY sense, he would grab that kid by the scruff, drag him out, round up the mastermind teenage brother, take his cell phone, flip through for the inevitable entry that says MOM N DAD, and CALL THEIR TOTALLY ALIVE NOT DYING AND WELL SHOD PARENTS to come PADDLE THE BUTT of con-the-younger and ground con-the-elder for the natural born rest of his LIFE.
Well played, Christmas Shoes, well played. But this year? I win.
OH best belovedsâ€¦yesterday I ate a modest scoop of Kashi Vive for breakfast, then went on an hour long vigorous hike straight up the side of a mountain with Julie. I came home, had a Fettucine Alfredo Lean Cuisine for lunch with a full of cup of steamed fresh broccoli stirred in, then ate fruit salad and a lean hamburger patty for dinner.
Reading the above, perhaps you are worried that I am no longer QUITE FAT ENOUGH to destroy the earth by stomping down upon it with such a mass of authoritative weight behind each step that the very crust cracks and WHOLE VILLAGES go plummeting down into the magma (or, if you believe Jules Verne and Brendan Frasier, into the dinosaur infested cave-jungles). Well, please, relax.
At 8 pm, I LOST MY MIND, popped an ENORMOUS bag of full fat movie theatre butter flavor Orvilleâ€™s popcorn, dusted it liberally with white cheddar powder for EXTRA fat and salt, and then poured an enormous tumbler of Shiraz and settled in to watch CHUCK with my eldest kid. After Sam went to bed, I remembered a DARK CHOCOLATE AND MARZIPAN Ritt bar had snuck into my fresh veggie laden cart at the Publix, and I went and gobbled half of THAT down as well. *burp* I then went directly to sleep for eight hours and metabolized all that crap, turning it directly into MORE BUTT.
This morning, I saw ONCE MORE the horrifying and EXACT number that made me join Weight Watchers in the first splace, and lose that seven pounds, when I needed to lose 12. EXACT AND HORRIFYING NUMBER.
AND CHRISTMAS IS COMING. With Christmas comes my traditional family Eggs Benedict brunch and TONS of ham and fat potato fat fat and my great aunt Gladysâ€™ Pecan Pie and my motherâ€™s fudge and walnut crecsents and ting-a-lings and hot cider and pans and pans and pans of the delicious parker house rolls made by Sister Schubert, who is neither my sister nor any relation to my cat, Schubertâ€¦but the woman can make some FANTASTICAL CARBOHYDRATES, let me tell you.