Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Thursday Thunks, July 29, 2010

1. We know how creative Berleen is with her terrific tee-shirts and such, so how about you? Do you draw anything or perhaps your name in the sand when you go to the beach?
I scrapbook and cross stitch. That's pretty crafty. As for drawing, stick figures are the way to go for moi.

2. Kimber doesn’t always leave her house. I wonder if she knows what is out her back door. What is out your back door?
Trees and a state highway. And the other half of the horseshoe driveway that goes through my condo complex.

3. Do you prefer the beach, a pool or a lake? Why?
The beach. More opportunities for people watching, plus I love the salty air scent. And there's nothing like the feeling of sand between your toes.

4. What is something recently that happened to you that you are REALLY excited about?
Life's been pretty dull lately. Like I said on Facebook the other night, there are some potentially exciting changes coming up, but first I gotta go through Freakout Mode. (I'm not ready to share those changes in Blogland, yet, though. However, I must add it has nothing to do with a new man in my life).

5. I am fortunate that I come from a very close family. Are any of your great-grandparents still alive? If not did you ever meet them?
I only met my great-grandparents through stories my own parents told.

6. When was the last time you spoke in front of a large group? Tell us about it.
About a week ago, at a church meeting. Nothing major, just expressing an opinion.

7. Have you ever bungee jumped? Would you ever bungee jump?
No to both questions!!!

8. How strong emotionally do you think you are?
I'm a little weakling.

9. Kimber and Berleen still have NEVER met, yet they are best friends. What is the first thing you notice about people when you meet them?
Eyes are the windows to the soul.

10. Who do you mess with the most?
My best friend. Because it's FUN!!!

11. Who was the last person you talked to on a landline?
Uhhhh...what's a landline?

12. I finally saw Avatar this week. What was the last movie you watched long after it came out and loved?
I honestly don't know. I'm not into movies.

13. What did you dream about last night?
Blackness. Pitch blackness.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The songs in my head

I discovered this video the other day, and it is my current YouTube favorite. Your favorite NPR personalities spoof Lady Gaga.

It's nice to finally put some faces to the names. And that Guy Raz is HOTTTTTT!!!!!! (And Ari Shapiro's not that bad looking, either).

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


Ever have one of those nights where you're just not hungry enough for your usual dinner, and then, a few hours later, you find that you've got a ravenous appetite?

Such is the case with tonight. I really didn't feel like eating a complete dinner, but I needed something to tie me over, so I opened a can of organic sweet corn, heated it up a little, and ate it. I figured it was a vegetable, and it would fill me up.

And now, six hours après le repas, I'm feeling it. I'm starving.

Or am I?

Is it because I'm housesitting and I'm bored and I really want to go home? Is it because of the thunderstorms that moved through the area, and I'm away from my cats right now? Is my hunger more emotional as opposed to physical?

Either way, I'm going to bed. I figure I can have a nice, wholesome breakfast in the morning.

Something with protein.

To keep me from going hungry.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Book Review: About Alice, by Calvin Trillin

This is the latest in the string of memoirs that men have written about their late/critically ill wives. I assure you, kittens, that it was purely coincidence that I read three of these books in a row. But this volume was in the bargain bin at Borders, and I had heard a lot of good things about it, so I picked it up.

About Alice is a loving, affectionate memoir about Alice Trillin, who was the muse, editor, and chief critic/confidante to New Yorker magazine writer Calvin Trillin. Alice, he writes, was the one who ensured that her family ate three square meals a day. She was the one who insisted that a parent attend every single performance of their child's play, no matter how poor it was. She was Calvin's biggest critic, reading over every draft of a piece that he wrote for the New Yorker. He knew the minute that Alice frowned that he would have to rewrite, most likely several drafts worth, of his story.

Mostly, About Alice is a story of courage. Alice Trillin was diagnosed with lung cancer when her daughters, Abigail and Sarah, were very young, seven and four, respectively. She wanted to beat the disease in any way she could, in order to see her daughters grow up. She ultimately survived, and watched her daughters marry. Calvin Trillin writes admiringly about Alice's determination, especially during her final years.

I was not familiar with Calvin Trillin's work before I read this book, and I am not sure if I would pursue his works any further. While About Alice was a very touching story, it was very dry at times. This had nothing to do with the subject matter. Sometimes Trillin can get on a tangent and ramble on about topics that have nothing to do with the main plot. This is where I found the book to be tedious. However, you can't deny the affection, admiration, or love that he had for his wife. That is really what makes the book worth reading.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Thursday Thunks--July 15, 2010

Okay, okay, I know I'm posting these on a Friday, but SHEESH!!!

1. Billy Mays died about a year ago. What kitchen gadgets have you bought that you've used less than three times? What are they?
My Pampered Chef cookie press. I just can't seem to get the hang of it. Not that I have time to bake cookies these days...

2. What celebrity would you like to shake some sense into, and why?
Mel Gibson. Given all of the press about his rants on tape, I don't feel the need to explain.

3. Jimmy Buffett just did on concert to benefit the victims of the Gulf. Name a Buffett song that you like.
"Come Monday"

4. How did you feel about Ringo Starr turned 70?
A Beatle is 70 and still rockin'! Good for him!

5. What sport do you absolute see no point in watching?
Synchronized diving. What's the point of it?

6. Trivia time. Do you know the first names of the French twins?
Michelle and Ma-Belle.

7. You are in the best seafood restaurant in Canada. What type of meat do you order?
The rarest, juiciest steak available.

8. How far would an electric car have to go without a recharge before you'd buy one?
100 miles

9. Did you see that a high court ruled that you can swear on regular TV? What word can you just not wait to hear?
Motherf---er. I can't even swear on my own blog.

10. You are in the finest steak and rib joint in Kimberville (Arizona). What seafood dish do you order?

11. What was the last concert that you attended that really sucked?
I've never been to a sucky concert, thank goodness.

12. What type of accent would you like to have, if you were forced to change yours?
I've got a thing for Australian accents.

13. Kimber's got four kids with chicken pox. Berleen is not feeling the love today, so I was asked to host. What do you miss most when neither originator of TT is asking the questions?
Honestly, it's been so long since I've thunked that I can't answer this question!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Book review: Jan's Story, by Barry Petersen

CBS News correspondent Barry Petersen had an idyllic marriage to one-time local TV news anchor Jan Chorlton. They were the couple known as "Darling and Darling." They spent many happy years traveling the world together, as CBS News sent Petersen on assignments in such places as Tokyo, Moscow, and London.

Yet over time, subtle changes occurred with Jan. First there was the depression, the unwillingness to leave the apartment. Then came the memory lapses and the strange behavior, ranging from leaving the stove on to wearing street clothes to bed instead of pajamas. Finally, Petersen contacted a neurologist back in the States (he and Jan were living in Tokyo at the time), and after a phone consultation, Jan was diagnosed with Early Onset Alzheimer's. She was 55 years old.

At first, Petersen was Jan's sole caregiver, but the role soon became physically, emotionally, and mentally taxing, as Jan's behavior and emotions became more difficult to handle. He then hired a live-in nurse to become Jan's caregiver, but her emotional outbursts became more difficult to handle, especially in public. Finally, after much painful debate, and careful consultation with Jan's friends and family, Petersen made the difficult decision to place Jan in assisted living. At the time, the Petersens were still living in Tokyo, and Jan was sent to a nursing home in Bellevue, Washington. Even after Jan was placed in assisted living, Petersen was still unprepared for the continued taxation that this decision took on his mental and physical state.

Jan's Story is an incredibly honest, candid look at the repercussions that friends and family face when dealing with Alzheimer's. This is one of those books where you really experience the emotions along with the storyteller; I found myself feeling angry, sad, and pained as Petersen wrote about losing his beloved wife. He refers to Alzheimer's as "The Disease," something that has taken his Jan from him--even though her physical presence is still there. At one point he writes that it is like going to the same funeral, over and over again.

This book is a quick read, something that most readers may be able to finish in one sitting, because the storytelling is very engaging. However, the emotions are so raw and strong that I had to put the book down after a few chapters before I felt ready to read it again.

I was inspired to read Jan's Story after watching this segment on CBS News Sunday Morning, where Petersen serves as a correspondent. As painful as it was to watch, and as painful as the book could be to read, it is still a moving testament to the struggles that Alzheimer's families face every day.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Book review: Love is a Mix Tape, by Rob Sheffield

Ahhh, the mix tape. At first it was a rite of passage as an adolescent: When a friend made a mix tape especially for you, that was one of the ultimate signs of true friendship. Same goes for when a boyfriend or girlfriend made you one; it was a sign that he/she really cared.

I remember creating mix tapes as early as the fifth grade. Back then I would have the radio on for hours, listening intently for my favorite songs, and would press record the minute they came on. In high school and college my mix tape creations evolved to bumming CDs and cassettes off friends and dorm mates. I was meticulous about creating the perfect playlists. I purposely chose songs that would forever remind me of that one special occasion, that one special car trip, that one special place or person in my life.

For me, music can take me places that other senses can't: It stirs memories, feelings, and passions way down deep in my soul. If you play, for instance, "Sherrie," I'm immediately transported back to my college's mailroom. That song was playing the first time I ever checked my on-campus mailbox. You play "American Pie," and I'm back in Boston, in 1993, when I was at a leadership conference for Catholic youth.

Rob Sheffield, a contributing editor for Rolling Stone, feels the same way. Each chapter begins with a list of songs on a mix tape that is significant to a specific year. Love is a Mix Tape is, indeed, a love story about Sheffield and his wife, Renée, a punk-rock loving girl from the deep south. He uses the mix tapes to chronicle their courtship, wedding, and first years of marriage. He and Renée, at the time, were both freelance music writers. Early in the book, Sheffield recalls the first time he met Renée, in a bar in Charlottesville, where they were both attending grad school:

When the bartender at the Eastern Standard put on a tape, Big Star's Radio City, she was the only other person in the room who perked up. So we drank bourbon and talked about music. we traded stories about the bands we liked, shows we'd seen. Renée loved the Replacements and Alex Chilton and the Meat Puppets. So did I. (p. 3)

Rob and Renée's love affair lasted seven years, ending with her sudden death at the age of 31. (No, this is NOT a spoiler; it was written in the summary on the back of the cover.) Following her death, Sheffield is plunged into a very deep grief. He writes candidly and frankly about his panic attacks, his self-imposed isolation from his friends, and the depression he experienced upon her passing. Throughout his journey, like he did earlier in the book, Sheffield includes his mix tapes, and reflects on how certain songs got to symbolize this painful time in his life.

One of the reasons why I enjoyed Love is a Mix Tape so much was that it was as much of a journey into music history as it was a memoir about a lost love. Sheffield is passionate about punk, and reflects upon how he and Renée felt when they saw their music "go mainstream" in 1991. Then again, one shouldn't be surprised about this aspect of the book, considering that Sheffield is a contributing editor for Rolling Stone, the granddaddy of music journalism. Sometimes, though, Sheffield goes off track when he starts writing about the evolution of music and veers far away from the main storyline, but he always returns to it when a fresh chapter starts. If you're really into music, you'll appreciate this layer to the memoir, but if you're not, you may find it a little tedious.

I have to recommend Love is a Mix Tape for the storyline, the storytelling, and the commentary on the music industry. Sheffield also includes, in several places, his thoughts about the iPod and how that has made the mix tape obsolete. Which reminds me...there were some excellent songs on all of the mix tape lists that Sheffield has included in this story. You may wish to have your computer beside you as you read, so you can download some of the songs from the iTunes bookstore. If anything, this book helped me fill in some gaps in my iTunes library.

BONUS LINK: There is a website called that is about preserving childhood memories, especially if you were a kid growing up in the 70s or 80s. Here is a page dedicated to the mix tape. Enjoy!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Book Review: The Elegance of the Hedgehog, by Muriel Barbery

A friend of mine had read this in her book club, based upon a recommendation I had made. I was quite surprised; I don't even remember recommending the book when I was in said book club! (I had to drop out due to work commitments). But I guess someone had seen it on my bookshelf, and thought it would be a great book to read.

I had picked it up at Borders because of the subject material. It takes place in Paris, at an apartment building at 7, rue de Grenelle. Renée Michel is the building's concièrge: a modest widow who goes to great lengths to conceal her intelligence. On the outside, she is poor, homely, and aloof. But take a look inside her apartment and you'll see copies of works by Proust, Marx, and other great philosophers. She quotes from such works of literature as Anna Karenina, and is very familiar with classics of the American cinema, especially Gone With the Wind.

Paloma Josse is a twelve-year-old girl living in Madame Michel's building. She is a member of France's upper class, la bourgeoisie. Her father is a member of parliament, her mother has an advanced degree in literature, and her older sister, Colombe, is a philosophy student at the École Normale Supérieure. Like Madame Michel, Paloma strives to conceal her intelligence, but, unlike Madame Michel, she is not always successful; she still earns high marks at her school. Paloma is a withdrawn child, one who plans to commit suicide on her thirteenth birthday, and then burn her family's apartment.

The first half of the book alters its narrative between Madame Michel and Paloma. Each character has their own unique way of looking at the world. Madame Michel was born to a family of poor laborers, and her upbringing has greatly affected her perception of people. Paloma was born under opposite circumstances; however, she is not very fond of being rich. She is almost embarrassed by it. Her narratives, while slightly tinged with the sort of drama only a twelve-year-old can provide, are still very deep and profound, and very mature for her age. Both Madame Michel and Paloma quote philosophers to support their opinions, and use colorful metaphors to describe what they see. For example, here's Paloma's first impression of Madame Michel:

Madame Michel has the elegance of the hedgehog: on the outside, she's covered in quills, a real fortress, but my gut feeling is that on the inside, she has the same simple refinement as the hedgehog: a deceptively indolent little creature, fiercely solitary--and terribly elegant. (p. 143)

Neither Madame Michel nor Paloma interact with each other much, if at all, until a wealthy Japanese man moves into the building. Karuko Ozu soon befriends both ladies: Paloma, because of her love for Japanese culture (especially manga), and Renée, for her love of Tolstoy. Their friendship with Karuko helps them through some difficult times: Paloma, through her adolescent struggles, and Renée, with an incident that has haunted her since childhood.

The friend who had read the book before I did advised me to have a dictionary next to me as I read the text. While I didn't have it next to me the whole time I read the book, it is still a good thing to have on hand. I learned lots of new vocabulary just from the first half of the book alone.

Additionally, the first half is packed with lots of intellectual and philosophical material. You will need to pause after reading a few chapters. Fortunately, each of the chapters are very brief. Once you've digested what you've read, keep going, but slowly. The Elegance of the Hedgehog is like a rich chocolate dessert; you can't gobble it up within five minutes. The pace of the book picks up in the second half, though, and once it starts, you don't want to put it down. The characters in this book are very well-developed, and their eloquence and ability to articulate is amazing.

So far, this is the best piece of fiction I've read all year. I like any book where the protagonists stay with you for a long time, and I certainly will keep Renée, Paloma, and Karuko very close to me.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

My state of mind right now

Lucy Knisley is a Chicago-based cartoonist who publishes her own comics via her website. I first discovered her after I read her first book, French Milk, which I reviewed last year.

I had the chance to rediscover her recently, and as I was perusing her comics, I came across this little gem. It perfectly describes what I'm going through right now.

I hope you can all click to enlarge the drawing, but if you can't, you can find the original right here.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Lookin' for love online...

So I decided to take the plunge and register for some Internet dating websites. The results have been far less than promising...

First up, here's what eHarmony had to say...

And here's what had for me...

Looks like I really AM fated to be a crazy cat lady...

Monday, July 5, 2010

When friends join the "Mommy" and "Married" Clubs

WARNING: This post may be perceived as whiny and selfish, so if you wish to spare yourself, don't read!

Over the past three months, I have had two friends get married and one friend have a baby. I am thrilled for all three of them. One friend came off of a very difficult first marriage and finally found a man who loves her and cares for her deeply. My other recently married friend finally found someone amazing after years of less-than-stellar partnerships, and many tears shed over, "Why can't I find a guy?" And my friend who just gave birth finally did so after years of trying, thinking of foster care, and fertility treatments.

And yet...there's this other side of me which feels...well, bitter. Depressed. Left out. On the outside looking in.

My friends and I have a lot in common, as you know. We've all had our share of adversity when it comes to men and children. I had another wedding to go to yesterday, and during the ceremony, I started to think, "I'd like for that to happen to me." And then later, during the reception, I thought, "Why hasn't it? So-and-so has a girlfriend, and so-and-so is now married, why am I still single?"

And then I was sitting next to this guy at the reception, and we really hit it off, and we had a good time. My friends couldn't understand why he didn't ask me for my phone number--and then the bride tells me that he, well, plays for the other team. I told her that I was kind of disappointed that we didn't exchange information, and after she told me, I felt awful. Awful that I felt like he was leading me on, and awful that I told her that I was sad--on her frakkin' wedding day!--what was going through my head! So now I've hurt my friend's feelings, and I won't be able to talk to her until after her honeymoon--if I do.

After the ceremony, people were talking about getting together with the bride, mostly couples. Well, I'm single. This really started to hurt. Badly.

Here's the thing: I have never complained about my lack of a romantic partner, but yesterday, it hit me like a ton of bricks. Now I realize I may be missing something. My philosophy is to never complain about something unless you can do something about it, but the thing is, I'm scared as hell to join an internet dating site or put myself out there to meet someone. And at this point I must confess something: I've never had a steady boyfriend. I'm afraid of dating right now because my lack of experience is going to count against me. That, and I'm afraid of getting my heart broken. Basically, I'm either the gay man's best friend, or guys aren't interested in me more than friendship. What is wrong with me?

And my friend with the baby: Yes, I know she has new priorities now, and can't spend as much time with me. She's spending time now with her mother friends. Again, I'm feeling left out, and I shouldn't be. It's a pretty damn cute baby, too, and I really would like to spend more time with her and the baby. But as my friend says, weekends are saved for family time.

And I am not a part of the family.

So why am I taking this to the blog, as opposed to face-to-face contact with my friends? Easy. I'm afraid of pushing my friends away. They're going to think I'm acting like a two-year-old. Which I am. So I am better off putting a smile on my face, faking everything's cool, and pushing my feelings way down into my gut and not saying a word.

Not like they'd care. My friends are a very tight-knit bunch. They all live within the immediate area--except for me. They're all in a choir--except for me. They all get together for dinner before choir rehearsal--except for me. Geography, I realize, pays a huge part in this. I have a mortgage; it's not like I can switch apartments. And I have a steady job; not like I can switch in a jiffy (especially in this economy).

I'm at the point where I plan not to return phone calls, to isolate myself from the world. And I know that's not healthy. I just can't believe I'm feeling this way, that I'm not stopping myself from doing so. Not like anyone would care; I've pretty much come to the conclusion that I'm always going to be on the outside looking in, career-wise or friend-wise.

I used think that I was okay being the single, crazy cat lady.

I'm not sure about that anymore.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Happy Canada Day to all of my brethren north of the border!!!

And to celebrate this glorious holiday, here's a little Conan love for you! This clip was taken from one of the shows he did in Toronto years ago, not sure which year:

Limbo Contest! from Darci Frederickson on Vimeo.