Saturday, March 31, 2007

Thinking Way Too Much

My brain is tired. I've been doing research for my book. Yes, every once in a while a writer needs to stop making things up and check the facts. The best lies contain a grain of truth and when you're planning to twist the truth, you need to know where to start. Especially when you're writing a novel in the political thriller/romantic suspense genre.

I'm convinced having to do all this research is karmic payback for not paying attention in history class. I even dragged out my daughter's high school history books today. If he could see me now -- and if he were capable of it, the dour old fart -- my AP American History teacher would be laughing his ass off.

Have you ever visited the website for The State Department? Or the CIA? Or the Defense Department? It is amazing just how much stuff is available for public consumption. Of course, I probably just got myself put on several watch lists. Sigh.

In the course of my wandering through the internet, avoiding any real work, I found an article about free will and whether it exists. Scott Adams, creator of the Dilbert comic, occasionally discusses this topic on his blog and that's where I found the link. Here it is, if you're interested:

Financial Times article: I think therefore I am, I think

Geez. Talk about thinking too much. Even I will admit that thinking about this theory made my head hurt. But I also find it rather fascinating.

I think I'll use it as a defense if anyone ever wants to know why I was doing all that other research. It was simply the result of random neurons firing in my brain.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Chunky v. Creamy?

Certain people have accused me of thinking too much. This ought to take care of that.

Lately I have found myself at a loss for words. Literally. I have run out of words. This is not good. So I asked over on another blog for suggestions about a post topic. If I remember correctly, the choices were: the price of tea in China, them bears, or this one. This one seemed least likely to cause damage to the world economy or wildlife in general. You all can thank MCB later.

Note: There were other suggestions later on, but I had already written this and now you're stuck with it.

The first puzzle was to determine chunky or creamy WHAT? I can think of quite a few things that might be described as chunky: salsa, shoes, small children, vomit, chocolate chip cookies, jam. And several things that might be called creamy: soup, white sauce, butter, salad dressing, um, soup (give me a break, I'm trying to behave here and it's not easy).

But there is only one thing I can think of that could go either way: peanut butter.

Some of my earliest memories are of peanut butter. Skippy, of course. Back then it was always the chunky variety. And then super chunk, once they invented that. That's what my dad liked, that's what we ate. Nothing evokes memories of childhood faster than peanut butter and honey sandwiches served with Campbell's chicken noodle soup. Never PB with jelly or jam. Always honey.

First time I saw someone eat a PB&J sandwich, I stared with a sort of sick, horrified fascination, wondering whether they would become ill. I think I was 17 years old. Of course, I was probably 22 before I ate asparagus, so what do I know?

Since then I've seen some strange peanut butter combinations. My dad put it on his grapefruit. He also put honey on his Wheaties instead of sugar, but that is off topic. The dog's favorite person, who prefers creamy PB, layered it with mayo and lettuce in a sandwich. My mom sometimes put PB on celery sticks, sprinkled it with raisins and told us it was "ants on a log." She also likes PB and raisin sandwiches.

One of my nieces is so allergic to peanuts that she once had to get off a plane at a stop before her destination because they served peanuts as a snack on the plane. They do not have PB in their house; neither chunky nor creamy.

I once fed a spoonful of peanut butter to my dog -- this was the one before Quincy the Wonder Dog; his name was Baxter -- and he ate the peanut butter and then mangled the spoon before I realized what he was doing. My inattentiveness might be explained by the prolonged fit of laughter at watching him eat the PB. Baxter was one of the best dogs ever. Sigh.

Peanut butter cookies and chocolate-star-topped cookies feature PB as a key ingredient, as do Monster Cookies, which have no flour but plenty of PB and oatmeal and chocolate to hold them together. Yum. I prefer creamy PB when I use it to cook.

But in a sandwich? Heck, I like some crunch in my lunch.

Well, that's about it. I believe I have now run out of words about peanut butter. I sense a trend here. Quite disturbing, this running out of words thing.

It has been years since I ate a peanut butter sandwich. I think I reached my personal lifetime quota well before I graduated from elementary school. But the thought of eating one is mighty tempting right now.

I wonder whether I have any honey?

Saturday, March 17, 2007

How Cool Is This?!

I am so excited to be able to say this: Jennifer Talty's e-books are now available to pre-order in PRINT form! At both Books-A-Million and at Borders -- even at Borders in Canada, but I don't know the link for that.

I am so happy for her and so proud. As I understand it -- and I could be wrong, but I'm not -- in the world of e-books pre-orders are everything. Extremely important. So go order a copy or two. I did. Go now. Yes, you over in the corner. Go.

Here's the link to Books-A-Million, where you can order RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOU


And to Borders, where you can order RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOU and her anthology HAUNT ME BABY, ONE MORE TIME


HA! I think I maybe even did that right without breaking anything.

I'm going to go hide out now, because she is going to just kill me for doing this. I don't even have to answer my phone because I know what she'll say: "I can't believe you did that!" Yeah, funny thing, people are saying that to me a lot these days. But what are friends for? Someday she'll do it for me.

It is just so exciting to see someone's dreams coming true.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The Small Stuff

I'm sure you've all heard the saying: "Don't sweat the small stuff." And the completely illogical corollary: "It's all small stuff." Which is just ridiculous. Because if it's all small stuff then there is no basis for comparison, so it’s all just stuff. I don't know about you, but my stuff has sizes and degrees and gradations and-- But I digress. Best to do that early on and get it over with.

Have any of you noticed that, if you ignore it long enough while you're dealing with the big stuff, the small stuff just disappears? Well, OK, not always. But usually.

Though sometimes it has the annoying tendency to become big stuff. For instance, even though changing the litter box seems like small stuff, it very quickly becomes big stuff if you neglect it.

But there are all kinds of things that seem destined to blissfully remain small stuff almost indefinitely -- that is, until someone comes along and oh-so-helpfully points them out.

Have I mentioned my DD19 is home from college this week for spring break?


I'm really not sure how I, of all people, managed to raise an opinionated, judgmental, vocal teenager. One who not only notices but delights in pointing out all the small stuff I have neglected lately.

I believe I could have gone months without knowing that I overlooked a few Christmas decorations when I was putting them away. Having them there on the mantle saves time next December, right? And those coupons I've saved in a messy pile on the kitchen desk. Does it really matter that they expired three months ago? And yes, I know the soup in that plastic container is too old to eat. Is it imperative that I remove it from the fridge the exact moment it becomes toxic?

Please tell me, what is the harm in having a cookie jar half-full of stale Oreos? It's not like I'd eat them even if they were fresh. Don't they have decorative value?

Apparently not.

Whoever said not to sweat the small stuff did not have a teenage daughter. Spring break is over in a week. Think I can keep her out of my closet that long?

Good thing she can't sneak a peek into my disordered brain -- all kinds of small stuff wandering around loose in there. She'd be horrified.

So what do the rest of you do with your small stuff? It appears that ignoring mine is no longer an option.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Public Service

If you are a woman, or if you know any women, go over here and read the post titled Evil Necessities:

  • Jennifer Talty's Blog
  • And then, if you have anything to say about courage or strength or generosity or humour or grace in the face of adversity and fear, you can come back over here and tell me about it. Though in this instance you won't be telling me anything I don't already know. Since the fool woman has turned off her comments, I promise to make her come over here and read what you have to say.

    But you'd also damn well better be prepared to tell me you have the sense to heed her warning and take her excellent advice.

    Saturday, March 03, 2007

    More than enough

    It has been one of those weeks. One of those weeks filled with bad news and sad news. The news has come by way of the phone and the television and the newspaper and the internet and in person and it has been incessant and unrelentingly awful, this past week.

    It seems bad news has touched everyone I know and so many of those I don't. Dear friends and mere acquaintances and complete strangers. People I talk to daily and those I will never meet. Hopes destroyed, lives cut short or forever altered. Disease, injury and death. Diagnoses pending and confirmed (god, that one hurt), ongoing treatment, mangled bodies, painful recovery and upcoming surgery. Anger, frustration, denial, miscommunication, dread, rage and grief. They have all torn through my life this week like a vile malevolent wind. Yet none of the news is mine, except by association. It is mine by caring. A painful privilege.

    It has been one of those weeks when more than once I have woken up in the dark cold hours of the morning, in that time before the night softens to gray with the coming of dawn. I've lain there shrouded in blankets and blackness, knowing I won't sleep again, wondering about life and fate and meaning. Trying to find the center of things, desperate to regain my balance. Waiting for the familiar slap of the newspaper at the end of the driveway, the sound flooding me with relief that the new day has arrived and the night was not interminable as I had feared.

    It has been one of those weeks when I found myself wondering, where is the good? Where are joy and laughter and peace? I think you have to look harder sometimes to find those things. They are not loud and needy. They don't rip at your heart or punch you in the gut, demanding attention. Sometimes the good stuff requires you to sit quietly and wait, to look closely and appreciate its subtlety.

    It was there during a phone call with my daughter, who asked what was wrong and why did I sound sad. I told her that people I cared about were hurting. We spoke of other things, but she ended the phone call by saying, "I love you, mommy" and I told her I loved her, too. It was several hours later, in the dark time before dawn, that I realized how long it has been since she called me mommy instead of mom and how very much I had needed to hear it just then.

    It was there in the cold wet nose and large brown eyes of my dog when he came in and nudged me earlier this morning, reminding me it was time for his breakfast, that I'd been awake for hours while he slept on, that I'd been writing long enough. And because I looked, I saw it there, the simple unconditional love and the absolute trust that I will take care of him.

    It was there in an emailed picture of fresh snow framing a hibiscus blossom that made me smile through the tears. Thank you, Booko. I hope you don't mind that I share it here. Perhaps there are others who would welcome evidence that there is beauty and life to be found in even the most stark landscape.

    The good stuff is there, I know it is. I need to sit quietly and be patient, waiting for its return as if it were a wild creature startled away by a loud noise or a sudden movement. If I pay attention, I won't overlook it upon its return, won't fail to recognize that its presence is made more dear by the cost of its absence.

    I know I will find it again, and soon. But for the next little while, I think I just need to be sad.

    Because it has been one of those weeks.