Sunday, November 30, 2008

It's Jolly Holiday

We sort of accidentally put up the Christmas tree on Friday. We were having a bunch of people over for dinner, and I'd announced that Friday was Clean Up The House day. And then I crankily sat in bed with the computer all morning, doing some work I had to get done while Jeff entertained Theo. And I dawdled around, knowing that once I got downstairs I was going to have to vacuum or dust.

When I finally descended from my lair, our fake tree was standing in the living room and Theo was dancing around it yelling THEO HELP DADDY TEE! THEO HELP! So the tree was up and the garland was hung around the banister with care and I'll be darned if it didn't cheer me right up. So we strung up the lights and wiped off the nativity set and here we are in a Christmas wonderland.

We'd considered going undecorated this year since we'll celebrate the big day elsewhere, but it's amazing how much nicer it is to walk downstairs in the morning to see twinkling lights instead of an empty expanse of carpet and a sad little footstool occupying our living room. Maybe we'll just leave it up year round.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Second to Last Day of This and Aren't You Glad?

We just had thirty-plus people in our house for dinner. I baked a delicious dessert that I forgot to take a picture of and we all had a nice time and nothing got broken. (As far as I know. Sometimes these things show up days later.)

And that is all I have to tell you.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Photo Shoot

Yesterday I sat at the loooooong dinner table (23, yes twenty-three adults at dinner) after eating turkey and brussels sprouts and mashed potatoes and gravy and green beans with fried onions on top and a roll. (Well, actually I did what I always do with the roll, which is take one and not eat it, so there it sat on my empty plate.) I was half-listening to a conversation across the room about wineries, and slightly tuned in to someone else talking about potty training, but was snapped out of my post-turkey snooze by a voice calling everyone together for a family photo.

Fortunately, I didn't actually have to be in the photo. It was just going to be a picture of the kids. There are nine of them right now, all under the age of seven. The youngest is not quite a year old, the oldest is a first grader, and the rest are like squirming stair-steps between them. And speaking of stair-steps and squirming, here is one of the shots.



Believe it or not, that's the best of the lot. After I took it, one of them started crying and one of them dropped the baby he was supposed to be holding and someone else decided to play dead and slide down the stairs in a heap, out of camera range. Someone walked up midway through the photo shoot and said, "This is a disaster!" And she was right. But what a fantastic disaster it was. I'm just impressed that no one fell down the stairs and broke a limb or split a lip.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Turkey Lurkey

My friend Erin and her friends are showing a live video stream of their turkey's journey to the table, via a smoker, today.

Go see!


I hope you're having a great Thanksgiving. I'm off to eat some brussels sprouts with bacon. The turkey is OK but it's the bacon that makes the holiday. Don't tell anyone.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thankful

The past three years we've spent Thanksgiving away from our families. Our first year in Deutschland, we ate mashed potatoes and broccoli and went to bed early because we hadn't purchased light fixtures yet and our apartment was pitch black after the sun went down. We talked to our families on the phone in the dark and got a little depressed. Two years ago, I was pregnant and hosted Thanksgiving lunch for my international book group. I made a big turkey in my tiny oven and practically collapsed from exhaustion at about 4pm. Last year, we left Theo with a babysitter and went to a nearby spa and sat around in our towels eating pretzels.

Tomorrow, we'll be surrounded by more than thrity family members (and that's just on Jeff's side), and we'll be just one time zone away from my side of the family, so we can all celebrate and talk to each other during daylight hours. It's going to be different and overwhelming, but that's why we moved back.

That, and because we wanted Theo to learn to say GOBBLE GOBBLE in proper context.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Grandma's Chili

Today was cold and rainy, just the kind of day when I drag out my recipe binder and dig through to find my grandmother's chili recipe. It's written in her handwriting on a recipe card from her kitchen. Although it doesn't require any exotic ingredients or unexpected flavors, it's what I crave when I want some chili. Haul out your Crock-Pot and enjoy when you're sick of leftover turkey:

Grandma Liz's Chili
2lb hamburger
1 cup chopped onions
1/2 cup chopped green pepper
2 (15oz) cans chili or kidney beans
2 (16oz) cans crushed tomatoes
1 (6oz) can tomato sauce or paste
1 clove crushed garlic
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp chili powder

Brown hamburger, then add the rest of the ingredients and simmer for one hour to 1 1/2 hours.

(Special note from Grandma at the bottom: "I cook mine in Crock-Pot overnite on low, Grandpa always had a bowl full for breakfast.")

Monday, November 24, 2008

It Was All Purple

I was inspired earlier today by Jonniker's post to seek out video from the 2004 Grammy Awards, of Beyonce and Prince tearing it up to Purple Rain. And I was totally going to embed the video here and call it a post, since if you haven't seen it, you really must, the two of them together practically set my TV set on fire, and that was on two-day tape delay thousands of miles away.

But Prince and his infinite control issues have apparently scoured the internet and removed all traces of the video. That's part of his charm, I guess. So you'll just have to trust me on this one.

And since I just got home from my book group where we did actually discuss the book, (we re-read a book we'd read a decade ago (how great is it that my book group has been together for something like 15 years?) and discovered we still liked it a lot the second time around) I'm going to have to blame Prince for the severe lame-ness of this post.

I advise you to break out your Purple Rain soundtrack (What?! You don't own one?! Download that baby, stat.) and thank me later.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Sunday Night Questions

-When did I start liking Christina Aguilera? She used to drive me up the wall but I kind of love her now.

-Is there anything better than moving into a house with pre-strung Christmas lights? Well, maybe a house with a built-in housekeeper/gardener, like that robot on the Jetsons. But I'll take what I can get.

-Have you noticed I'm totally ignoring the lack of comments on that post where I asked you to comment? I'm trying to be cool and not feel sort of embarrassed about it.

-Have you read anything by Anne Lamott lately? You totally should.


-

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Pounding it Out

We had that day today, the one I knew was coming. It was the day we remembered we had become homeowners and we had to actually do some stuff around the house. Jeff spent most of the afternoon raking up soggy leaves, the same leaves he'd looked up at when they were still living on the tree and we were looking around the place with our realtor. He pointed out that soon they would be wet and lying on the driveway. Call him Nostradamus.

I started my afternoon by putting a bunch of holes in the walls. The people who lived here before us must have owned a whole bunch of very heavy artwork, because they left monster-sized picture hangers behind in every room. We're talking about the kind with plastic casings and fat screws hung side-by-side - multiple hangers for each picture, it seems. And they were kind of bugging me, but until I pulled them out of the walls I didn't even realize how much. They were a glaring reminder that we hadn't yet made ourselves at home, that we didn't have enough substantial stuff to fill up our walls, and neener neener neener, the people before us were better decorators than we are.

So when I had a satisfying pile of sheetrock-dusted screws and hangers in my hand, I spackled the holes and sanded them down and even painted over them with paint I found in the garage (fortunately the right colors - probably should have checked that out before I began ripping stuff off the walls and smearing white spackle everywhere, but apparently it was my lucky day). And, wow, it made a difference. I don't find myself gazing at the walls, wondering what once hung there and trying to figure out if we having something to hang there so I don't have to pound in another nail. Now that they're gone, I can pound my own nails and hang my own pictures, and start feeling like I live here for real.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Telling Stories

The Story Lady at my childhood library was white-haired and gentle. She looked like Mrs. Claus and gathered the kids around her at storytime each week. We all sat quietly in a semi-circle at her feet and looked adoringly upon her for a full thirty minutes, hanging on every word and picture in her many storybooks.

Actually, we probably ran around for fifteen minutes, screaming and hitting each other on the heads with the board books and knocking down the paperback book racks, but that's not how I remember it.

Storytime at our local library is led by a young and energetic librarian who knows a million kids' songs and finger games and walks around the room while she reads that week's book. The kids run around and dance and learn how to jump and play under a parachute and drag out the plastic toy bucket at the end. There are name stickers and hand-stamps and bubbles.

Theo loves it and displays his adoration by applauding and, today, lying down on the floor with his feet crossed while the librarian led the songs. As though he thought it was a personal concert, just for him. I think I love it just as much as he does, because it makes me think of the Story Lady but also (and this is key) because I get my very own nametag sticker every week.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Wherein I Get Out of the House and Do Something Intellectual

I just got back from hearing Annie Leibovitz speak. She showed slides of some of her photos and read a bit from her new book and answered questions from the audience. She was obviously uncomfortable, especially when the questions were about her own celebrity or the well-known figures she's photographed. She laughed at herself when she couldn't form a complete sentence and clearly preferred reading from her prepared notes, though she even stumbled there.

But when she was asked a couple of questions about her craft - about digital vs. film, or how her photography has changed over the years - she became articulate and went on at length. She said her advice to young photographers was not to wait around to be assigned a subject, or get a job at a magazine, or for someone to tell you what to do. Choose a subject you love, and follow it, and learn all about it. Take photos of your loved ones, of things you know.

Thanks for your comments on my post about the disappearance of my European lifestyle. I thought of them tonight, when Annie said to focus on the things you know. And I thought about something that Courtenay said:
"...no matter where you live, you are all of the past as well as the present."

It's hard to trust our own experiences, to feel that the things we love are also worthy of our focused time and attention, and to remember that we don't have to try so hard to be who we are. There's probably a lesson in here about living in the moment and simply trusting that our experiences will inform our values and our choices without trying so hard.

But it's getting late and I'm a little to tired to make that point, so I'll just say thanks. To you and to Annie.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Whither Thou Goest

When I'm tapped out for interesting things to write about, I like to send you to other blogs that I love. And while there are many blogs that I love, I've already sent you to most of them before (see that blogroll to the right). I haven't discovered anyone new in a long time - not because there aren't bunches of great blogs popping up every day, but because I haven't had the chance to cruise around the interwebs as much as I used to.

If I send you to see a couple of my friends, will you find some new ones for me?

You'll love Mego, and not just because she's from Montana. But that part doesn't hurt.

Abby just wrote a beautiful post about friendship and love and freedom. Go see her too.

Evany is delightful and takes photos of her clever outfits.

In case you're not already reading Linda, you should. She writes with wit and bravery about parenthood. And being a person. And she has a rockin' bod.

OK, I've shown you mine. Now you show me yours.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

I am my own worst nightmare.

When we left Germany, I swore I would bring the European lifestyle along with me. Not all of it - not the sausage and gravy at every meal, or the horrible customer service. But I'd bring along the simplicity, the habits of taking a walk every day, of shopping only when I really needed something, of using only as much as I really require. I figured we'd live in a small house within walking distance of a grocery store and a park. We'd try to get by with just one car. I would grow lettuce.

But either I'm an easily swayed consumer (probably) or I'm a living example of why the American lifestyle is the way it is (also probable). Yes, I could have had all those things I wanted. But they would require sacrifice and I'm weak willed and, believe it or not, those things can be really expensive. Living near a grocery store AND a park AND in a neighborhood where we felt OK about the local elementary school meant we'd all have to share one bedroom. And, well, if I wanted that lifestyle I would be living in New York City. At least we wouldn't need a car there, but it would be tough to find a place for my lettuce.

So here we are, not quite in the suburbs but almost. We have two cars, one of them an SUV and neither of them a hybrid (because we don't live on a bus line, and buying one hybrid would have cost more than both our cars combined). Theo spends more time in his car seat now than in his stroller. I have yet to fully explore our neighborhood on foot.

On the other hand, I met a really nice mom at the playground yesterday and we could actually, you know, communicate in a common language. And I'm ten minutes from Trader Joe's, where they sell delicious food and the checkers are unfailingly courteous. And I do plan to plant some lettuce in the back yard.

Monday, November 17, 2008

What Theo is Doing Right Now

Well, right this very moment, he's asleep. But besides sleeping, here's what else he does:

-Says Mo Peez Mo Peez Mo Peez (More, please) over and over in a screechy whiny voice when he wants something. I'm trying to focus on the good manners but the delivery leaves much to be desired.

-Points to my leg and says Mama pants! and points to his leg and says Theo pants!

-Asks me to sing Wheels on the Bus when he is trying to delay naptime.

-Has a crush on Abby Cadabby from Sesame Street.

-Steals the rolling pin out of the kitchen cupboard, takes it into the living room, and lays down on his belly on top of it and rolls back and forth.

-Always wants broccoli for lunch.

-Whimpers No Loud? No Loud? every time I go near the KitchenAid mixer.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Home for the Aged

Do you watch 60 Minutes? I kind of love it. I'd forgotten about it until tonight, when I tuned in and saw Steve Kroft joking with Barack Obama about his mother-in-law. There's something comforting about the fact that it's still on the air, and that Steve Kroft's hair is still terrible, and that Andy Rooney just gets crankier and crankier. And, especially, that I still have the attention span to watch it.

Because now that I've sort of figured out my DVR, I watch a lot of Oprah, and I swear there's never more than ten minutes without a commercial on that show. Especially in the last fifteen minutes. It's the true hidden cause of the explosion of ADD in America. My fast-forward button is getting a workout. When I remember that I'm not watching live, that is, which is almost never.

All this is to remind you that really do belong in that retirement village down south. Me, Andy Rooney, black cherry vodka, and a TV with a manual dial that forces me to get up and cross the room to change the channel. It's a winning combination.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

TGIF

I've never been so breathlessly anxious for the weekends as I am since I quit working in a real live office. Even back before I had a 26-pound wind-up toy running around the house, I loved Friday nights and Saturday mornings. Existing on my own all week long can get boring and lonely, and feels like just as much of a grind as when I had to put on real shoes at 7am and worry about parking the car close enough to my office that I didn't have to slog through too many puddles in my nice clothes.

Our weekends aren't exciting around here, but they're just so weekend-y; hanging out in bed, wearing sweatpants, eating waffles, going out for ice cream. But since we bought this house I've sort of ruined most of them by rampaging around the kitchen on Saturday mornings, enumerating all the stuff that needs to get done or we're all going to DIIIIIIEEEE. There are pictures to hang and bookshelves to fill and clothes to wash and leaves to rake, and OMG the weekend is going to be over! It will end in 48 hours and then whatever will we do when the pictures are still lying on the living room carpet instead of hanging on the walls?

It's a wonder Jeff doesn't slip some Valium in the maple syrup on my waffle.

But today we got a few things done and took time out to go to the park and ate Thai food for dinner. And the laundry is still dirty but so far we're not reduced to wearing those outfits that lurk in the back of the closet for those times when everything else is in the hamper. And none of has self-destructed because the to-do list isn't complete. So maybe I should remember this weekend the next time I think I've got to do everything in a two-day period.

Either that, or start drinking mimosas for breakfast.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Animalize

Our local Humane Society is running an ad campaign touting its mission to provide a pet for "every man, woman, and child." Every time I see it, I shudder, because it makes me momentarily concerned that someone is going to force me to adopt a puppy.

I am not interested in having a pet. I realize they're great companions and they love you, and they teach children to be comfortable around animals and take care of them. But, really, no. To me, most pets are hairy and smelly and loud and ruin the furniture and are just one more thing to think about when you are trying to plan a trip out of town. Yes, I'm sorry, even yours.

That's not to say I don't appreciate certain animals. I do like cats (cue the dog people in the audience removing me from their feed readers). But they have sharp claws and all that damn hair. I can appreciate a nicely trained dog, as long as I don't have to sleep near it or, heaven forbid, WITH it, and it doesn't leave saliva anywhere on me. There's a turtle in our extended family that I've admired, mainly because it once crawled into someone's raincoat pocket and showed up unscathed several months later.

I grew up on and near a cattle ranch, where animals were outside and people were inside, and only when the temperature dropped further than 20 degrees below zero was that barrier crossed. Yes, even the bunnies stayed out of the living room. I've got a unique (warped?) view of animals, especially pets. I realize that.

So does the Human Society really think that every man, woman and child should own a pet? Clearly they've never met me.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Things I'm Not Loving Right Now

-Why is my recycling bin blue, and my garbage bin green? I intuitively think recycling = green and throw everything in the wrong bin every time.

-I signed up for Gwyneth's GOOP newsletter and it bugs me. I unsubscribed today after she recommended four Little Black Dresses, all of which were cut mid-thigh and would flatter only those with stick legs. I've always liked her but I'm starting to wonder if the haters who say she's condescending and boring might have a point.

-Two-year molars. They're kicking our butts around here. Fortunately Elmo Hypnotism is almost as good as a nap.

-My sad housekeeping skills. After spending four days in someone else's clean, nicely decorated home, I've realized that getting my act together would really improve my mood. Too bad I'm sitting here blogging instead of, say, doing laundry or mopping the floor.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Home Again

It's nice to come back to a place that, while it doesn't exactly feel like home, houses my bed and my clothes and where I know how to work the TV. We're right back in our routine, driving cars through the pouring rain and sitting side by side on the couch with our dueling laptops.

I'm still working on making this house feel like we really live here, but I suppose since I didn't feel at home in Deutschland even after three years, and I've been here only half as much time as we lived in the hotel, I shouldn't rush it.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Remind me again

why I signed up for this Blopping thing?

I'm going home tomorrow and perhaps you'll get a different kind of post at that time. Until then, I'm still in retirement mode. We ate dinner tonight at 5:15pm and had chocolate sundaes for dessert, at home afterward.

The radio station we listened to all day played nonstop Christmas music. I'm not ready.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Little Boxes

We've spent the past few days visiting my dad and his wife at their retirement community in the great American Southwest. It's been eighty degrees every day and we can take a golf cart anywhere we need to go, which apparently includes a swimming pool, pharmacy, stock brokerage, and hair salon. Who needs Starbucks when you've got CVS? The houses all look exactly like and even the garbage cans are underground. It's kind of like Disneyland for over-55's. And people like me who enjoy order and silence and golf carts. I've even started imbibing an afternoon cocktail (I've discovered black cherry vodka and its tasty marriage with caffeine free Coke).

This place represents all the American stuff I said I wouldn't miss when I left - strip malls, wide highways, big cars, and cookie-cutter houses. And while I'm not quite ready to retire (or maybe I've already retired?), I do feel soothed by it all.

It's time for my afternoon toddy, I guess I'll be on my way.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

HELP ME

I'm making a Life List. Go on, call me woo woo, an Oprah-lover, what a total girlyblogger thing to do. Creative visualization and all that.

I'm having a hard time getting it going, though. Maybe because I'm still trying to decide whether I should put on makeup today or not. And it's currently 1:52pm.

Can you help me? What's something you would recommend doing before I die?

Saturday, November 08, 2008

BOO

I had no idea that Halloween is the best parenting day of the year. I'll bet it even beats Christmas morning.

Last year Theo was old enough to wear a cute pumpkin get-up and visit Daddy in the office cafeteria, and that was about it for our celebration. Outside America, Halloween is gaining in popularity, but it's more about teenagers and twenty-somethings wearing a bunch of black eyeliner and fangs and drinking a lot of blood-themed beverages in dark bars. That happens here too, but here it's still mostly about the kids. Though I'd been led to believe that trick-or-treating had been moved to the malls or eschewed for backyard parties, and that in the big cities and evens small towns like my hometown, the pint-sized ghouls no longer haunted sidewalks on October 31st.

Boy, did I get some bad information. Maybe it was because of the gorgeous fall weather or because it was my first time out in about 25 years, but trick-or-treating was even better than I remembered it. The houses were decorated with pumpkin lights and chattering skulls, and kids from Theo's age to teenagers were decked out as Harry Potter characters and baked goods (the three pre-teen girls dressed as cupcakes got my vote for best costume). And they were all so delighted to be there. The residents of the neighborhood were fantastic and kind, and we only encountered one cranky old guy who snapped, "I WILL DOLE OUT THE CANDY MYSELF, DON'T GRAB." He probably saw some toilet paper in his yard the next morning.

Theo, dressed as a little green turtle, clutched his plastic pumpkin and toddled behind a gaggle of cousins from house to house in Nana and Grandpa's neighborhood. He teetered up steep driveways and pressed doorbells and stood next to Luke Skywalker and Indiana Jones and the Snow Princess as they shouted TRICK OR TREAT (he never quite got the hang of that, but it didn't matter). Then, when the bigger kids had each taken a piece of candy, he reached into the bowl, smiled up at the generous soul who had answered the door, brightly said "Thank you!" and scooped as much loot into his bucket as he could. One of his parents then leapt to his side, returned all but his share, and scooted him off the steps as he waved bye-bye.

Best of all was his wonder and thrill at every stage of the process. He loved his turtle shoes, he loved his pumpkin (in fact he keeps asking to sleep with it) and he LOVED the candy. No matter that he hasn't really eaten any of it. CANDY CANDY CANDY he said as he peered into his plastic pumpkin. RUNNING RUNNING RUNNING he said as his short legs churned along the sidewalk behind his cousins. And HAPPY, he sighed, as Jeff picked him and carried him home from the last house on the street.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Must Post

My screen is blinking on and off and the last time I shut down the computer, it wouldn't power up again until I had UNplugged it from its power source. I fear this is the death knell for our beloved laptop. Please light a candle for us.

Must go back up everything so that our family photos and address book aren't lost in the ether.

This is what it's like when you get to hear from me every day for a month. You're loving it, I know.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Corrected

A few of you guessed at which book I evicted from my shelves. It's significant to me not because it was SO TERRIBLE but because it was the first time I remembered giving myself permission to just quit in the middle and start spending my time elsewhere. I used to pride myself on finishing every book I started, no matter how much I disliked it. I still have a few books I've been "reading" for, oh, a decade or more just because I can't quite admit defeat. Most of them are titles I chose because I thought they might make me feel smart (if you've read any Lawrence Durrell, you know what I mean). Still not smart enough, I guess. Or maybe I'm getting smarter as long as I'm still reading them? Anyway, there they sit, with bookmarks slid hopefully between their pages.

Anyway, the offending book was The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen. Many bright and interesting people love this book and it has won a bunch of awards. But I feel about it like I felt about A Confederacy of Dunces: Why read a book without a character I can, if not like, at least sympathize with? Why voluntarily spend my time in a place with a bunch of people who make my skin crawl?

The answer is, of course, because it might teach me something or because the writing is beautiful, or because there's a payoff at the end. And most of the time I'm on board with this argument. I loved Lolita, whose hero is a child-molester, for goodness' sake. But that's the genius of Nabokov, that he could make a pathetic excuse for a man also a funny and interesting hero of fiction, using language in a way no one before him ever had.

Someone told me that my family must be too happy for me to enjoy The Corrections. Maybe that's true. One more thing to be thankful for, I guess. And, incidentally, Oprah liked The Corrections but disinvited the author from her show because he dissed her. Say what you will about Oprah, but I would probably have done the same thing. Who wants to spend time with someone who doesn't want to be there?

I'm sure The Corrections is as grateful to be out of my presence as I am to have it gone.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Turn it On

Back in the days when I had a "work wardrobe" and a "weekend wardrobe;" when I didn't wonder whether I should just wipe the drool and chewed-up graham cracker off my shoulder instead of adding another shirt it to the laundry basket; when I didn't know the topic of every Oprah episode for the past three months; I had an entire evening television lineup in my head. I followed several dramas and a couple of reality shows and looked forward to prime time comedy every night of the week.

I'm not sure exactly what happened while I was away, but TV is different. Yes, my life is different (I was not trying to split my attention between complex plotlines on "Lost" and blog writing on my laptop, for example), but I swear it's not just me. When did the cool series start showing up on channels I've never watched? ("Project Runway," I'm looking at you. Bravo used to be for Inside the Actors' Studio on Saturday afternoons.) And when did the season extend into the summer and across the holidays, and how come I'm hearing about season finales in November (Um, "America's Next Top Model," anyone?) And who talked Lisa Bonet back into series television?

There's DVR and HD and BluRay and Alec Baldwin in primetime. And the only show I can seem to watch consistently, the only TV appointment on my calendar these days is, wait for it...

Dancing with the Stars.

I've officialy become a new demographic. The OLD LADY demographic.

I don't understand my TV and I'm currently watching Lionel Richie performing "Dancing on the Ceiling."

Somebody come and confiscate my remote. I can't figure out how to use it anyway.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Monday, November 03, 2008

Vote

I remember going to vote with my mom at the courthouse or the lobby of my elementary school, and standing behind the curtain with her while she filled in her ballot. It seemed like a big deal. I've only once ever voted at the polls, getting up in the dark, driving to the polling place in my work clothes, then dropping off my car at the Park-N-Ride before boarding the bus downtown to my first job. After that, my state encouraged absentee ballots and eventually went to vote-by-mail. I think we're the only state in the country that won't have a single in-person polling place.

There's something a bit sad about that, but I'm all about progress. I miss the grey-haired ladies checking off the signatures and handing out the ballots, but this is the way of the future. And I still get the satisfaction of a paper ballot and a pencil, but I get to use them next to my laptop and my voters' pamphlet at my kitchen table (well, actually, at Panera Bread, while eating a bacon spinach souffle).

Now if someone would just give me an "I Voted" sticker, everything would be perfect.

Go out and vote tomorrow. And eat some bacon for me too.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Bookish

We finally bought bookshelves yesterday, after living for almost a month with all of our books in a big pile on the floor. It looked like an art installation; I thought of it as my life, there in a huge mound on the carpet.

Because I, like many readers, see my books as my life story. I saunter over to other people's bookshelves and stand there imagining where and when those books were chosen and read, and why they are still hanging around the house. I used to keep each and every book I'd ever purchased, whether I'd finished it or not, whether I'd loved it or hated it, even the textbook from my 8am Anthropology class freshman year. I liked the story they told, I liked it when people would strike up conversations after seeing certain books in my house, I liked loaning them out.

But soon the bookshelves started to take over our home, and when I married Jeff he brought about a half-box of books along with him and I felt a little self-conscious about my book hoarding habit. And then, for the first time I started and did not finish a very popular book that everyone raved about. In fact I hated it so much that I stopped halfway through and decided it need to be gone from my house. So I gave it to Goodwill. And that was the first step. I gave away my old textbooks and sold some other books I never liked anyway.

I still hold on to more books for longer than I need to (just ask Jeff how many I brought to Germany and back with me - he'll tell you, ALL OF THEM). But I've gotten rid of a bunch as we've moved around the world, so I've winnowed down my collection to the ones that matter to me, the ones I either loved or that I know I'd like to loan to friends.

Our new shelves don't hold all the books we own, so I had to choose which ones to stack there, and where to put them. And it took me almost all day to figure it out, to decide what face I would show to my visitors, and in what order. In the end, more of them fit that I'd anticipated, so there are a few out there that I'm not exactly sure I want in public (Robbie Williams's biography, anyone?), but then again, I'm still hanging on to them, so that must mean they're part of me.

What do you do with your books? And any guesses about the book I couldn't stand to keep in my house? (Hint: Oprah chose it too.)

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Keep on Blopping in the Free World

Due to overwhelming demand (well, OK, just one fellow blogger who is looking for company in her misery), I've decided to participate in NaBloPoMo again this year. Remember last time? When you learned about Theo's breakfast soundtrack, and my shoes? I believe there might even have been some swimsuit video.

I can't wait to see what flies out of my keyboard this year. Let me know in the comments if you have any requests.