Put the book down.

Everybody pretty much knows how much I love my nook (Barnes and Noble’s book reader).  And I do.   But the last few months have been not full of disposable income so I have been forced into a renewed love affair with my library card.

The littles and I moved into a town roughly the square mileage of The Mall of America.  I do like living in a small town.  People wave, even strangers.  The guy at the gas station saw me getting the empty grill propane tank out of the back of my van and sent someone out to help, exchange the tank and loaded it up.  All before I even produced cash.  The parks are exquisitely clean and safe.  Our church pastor always has Tootsie Roll pops in his pockets for the kids.  I like living here.

The one downside is that the library is about the size of my living room.  And two-thirds of that are children’s books.  And most of what’s left is large print.  I wanted to support my local library but it was a constant source of frustration.  I had to look elsewhere.  I found out that the Big City library (all 9 branches!) would take us for a fee.  The amount is not insignificant but we have made it worth every penny.

I have to say that having 9 library buildings at my disposal has made reading from an actual book fun again.  I put the book(s) on my list and, usually within the week, it is held on a shelf for me and I pick it up.  By my count, I have requested and reserved almost 70 books since October.  In nook terms, that’s at least $500 worth of reading.  A bargain by all standards.  And, I didn’t have to look up, find and browse at all.  Admittedly, that’s part of the fun but usually not fun at all when toting one or more littles.  They are less than patient when I don’t know if J.D. Robb is in fiction or mystery.  (Fiction.) 

Since fat camp ended, I feel like I have a ton of time freed up.  This isn’t to say that I haven’t been putting in the time.  It’s just my time and not scheduled time.  Okay, I’m probably one workout behind but so far, so good.  I’m trying to embrace the lower intensities needed to burn fat calories and that’s mentally really hard.  For one, I really need to work at not losing track of where I am in a heart rate sense.  And, two, I don’t burn as many calories total.  There for a while, I wouldn’t leave the building unless I got to 700 calories.  Now, it’s a struggle to get past 500 before they make me come and get my littles from kid care.

Wait.  This isn’t about the gym.  That’s for another day.

What I meant to say is that I seem to have some time on my hands.  And what better way to use it?  You know, until the pool opens.  I’ve been sticking my nose in books.  An endless stream it would seem.  I always have 5 or 6 lined up and waiting. 

The point of this is that I picked up “The Last Lecture” by Randy Pausch.  Remember this guy.  In the summer of 2008 (as I was still reeling) this Carnegie Mellon professor was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer.  He was in his thirties, married with three children under 5.  (Sounds vaguely familiar, yes?)  He did a lecture that fall.  “The Last Lecture.”  What you want the world to know before you go.  What would you tell people?  How have you made an impact?  Sum up your life.

This guy was a father.  A teacher too but he wrote this lecture (which I think you can see on YouTube in its entirety) for his kids. These are all the things about their old man that he wouldn’t be around to tell them about.  Sprinkled in between charming stories about how he fulfilled nearly all of his childhood dreams and fantasies are snippets of his life with cancer.  His life and how he chose to live it and tackle it and absorb it. 

If you haven’t read it, please finish it for me.

I got to the middle (it’s a short and sweet 207 pages) and had to stop.

I had to stop because I couldn’t take it.  I couldn’t take that this guy (and his wife) did it right.  They fought and fought hard.  They fought together.  But they knew when they were licked and faced it head on.  They told him that he would have 3 to 6 healthy months.  He lasted a year or so.  I like to think it was his attitude and the determination to make every day count.

Want to guess why I can’t go on?  Why I can’t bear to finish, not right now?  Because I feel like we attacked this thing all wrong.

We attacked it with fear, adrenaline and denial.  The combination creates a fast flame that, obviously, dies quickly.  We couldn’t maintain.  He wanted to fight to the end.  He wanted the girls to know, someday, that he did everything he could.

But what happened, from my perspective, is that what he chose to do to himself through the chemo/poison cocktails he wanted them to infuse into his cells…what he chose took away most of our good days. 

At the time…it was the only thing in our arsenal.  We never asked how much time he had with or without treatment.  Not once.  And I wasn’t allowed to research it.  The one time I tried to look haunted me for several years.  I think he bought himself some time but was it good time?  That I don’t know.  The end was the same.  Obviously.

I say “he” and “him” here but I am just as much a part of this.  I think I was very much in shock the entire time.  Traumatized.  I went out and right away got two different jobs.  Part time.  But it was time away that I regret very much. 

I just don’t know.  The outcome would not have changed and that’s the only thing I know for sure.  But I feel like we could have gone about it a little better.  This is a common feeling, I hear.  When you are the caregiver and the person you care for passes.  We are the ones left to think and analyze and wonder.  We have all the time in the world.

It was a good book.  And definitely worth reading.  And maybe I’ll try again.  You know, later.  Later, later. 

Until then, I’ll go back to mysteries, young adult paranormal romances, historical fiction and minor bestsellers written by former comedians.  I can’t help myself.

Love you forever.

For years I have been a self-proclaimed book dork.  When I was a kid, I would max out my library card every week and the librarian ceased to be astounded when I returned what I had and came back for more.  I would read the side of the cereal box at breakfast because I could not go without reading something.  Anything at all.

And while my personal reading has ebbed and flowed over the years, I am still likely to have a stack of books waiting for me.  I love a good story, the escape.  I love the moment when you have to pause and re-read because “Did that really just happen?”  I love being in love with a character. 

My tastes are varied.  My current genre loves are mysteries and young adult.  “Twilight” was a gateway series for me for sure.  (And there are SO MANY young adult series better in every way than “Twilight”.)

But this isn’t about me.  Or my book dorkdom.  Or even my spring reading list.

This is about Ella.

Ella is nearing the fourth quarter of first grade.  I had no idea at all that first graders grow and change and learn so much at once and Ella has had an amazing year.  She absorbs, understands and repeats.  Her reading has gone from piecing together sight words to actual story reading.  As in, real books.  Some with pictures and some without.  She has more confidence and is willing to sound out new words.  I’m not in her classroom but whatever they are doing, is working. 

And it’s not just reading.  Science concepts have come home.  She can tell time and count change to make a dollar multiple ways.  She is socially aware.  She is beginning to understand history and the time long before her life, my life, your life. 

Here’s a good Ella story:  At the beginning of February, the girls and I went to see the national touring production of “Mary Poppins.”  We have actually seen a fair bit of live theatre in the last few months, in no small part, due to a multitude of friends who work in the business.  (I don’t pay for theatre tickets. Usually.)  The girls are benefiting from this arrangement.

“Mary Poppins” was staged at the local Orpheum Theatre.  Every town has one.  Or used to.  This particular space has been renovated to the point of absolute beauty.  You can really get a feel for how much pride went into that building and how much pride still goes into it.  It is the same theatre that the opera company used when I worked for them.  I love it.  I have loved it since I first set foot in there as a high school student. 

Anyway, we saw “Mary Poppins” on an unseasonably warm Sunday afternoon so the building temperature hadn’t regulated yet.  It was hot.  Warmish.  Ella was fairly sweaty in her winter dress and tights.  She says she’s thirsty at intermission.  The line to get a $4 bottle of water is so long that I’m not sure we can get one before intermission ends so I direct her to the nearest drinking fountain.  The drinking fountain is made of marble, ornately carved to look like a cherub holding up a basin.  They are all over the building and still functional.

But, they are not refrigerated.  And we are downtown, within a stones throw from the river.  The building is old.  The pipes are probably old.  You can imagine what it tastes like, right?

Ella takes a drink.  Steps back.  Takes another drink.  Uses her sleeve to wipe her mouth (we are working on not using sleeves as napkins).

As she is walking away, she says “That drinking fountain would have had a Colored sign above it.”

In front of a crowd.

When I got over what she said (and she wasn’t saying it to be mean at all), I realized how very smart that statement was.  She took a concept (Civil Rights, MLK, et. al), had water from a drinking fountain that was sub-par and made the association.  That moment opened up a whole month’s worth of discussions about history and politics and emotions and empathy. 

A life lesson.  And really kind of funny given the situation.  Out of the mouths of babes and all.

My Ella. 

My Ella sat on a little stool tonight as I was making pie (and skipping Fat Camp you’ll notice) in honor of National Pi Day (3.14), and read Robert Munsch to me.  He’s a family favorite author because he lends himself to a good dose of humor and repitition and kids being kids.  We own three or four of his books and, when I went to the library this morning, I found three more we haven’t read.

One of the books was, arguably, his best book, “Love You Forever” about a mommy who rocks her baby boy when he is asleep.  And rocks him as an older child and a teenager and a man.  The man, in turn, rocks his mommy (which is a little weird) and then goes and rocks his own daughter.  It’s mostly written for us, the mommies and daddies, I think. 

The mommy repeats, “I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always, As long as I’m living my baby you’ll be.”  Five or six times this is repeated by my growing and changing Ella.  She is reading every word to me, turning the pages, showing the pictures to me.  She hesitates at words very seldom.

I had to take a moment.  I had to turn away and pretend to read the recipe. 

She ended the book, closed it and said “Mommy, don’t you like it that I read the whole entire book?  Mommy?  Are you crying?  Why are you crying?”

Ella I’m just so, so proud of you.  I love it when you read to me.

“You’re kind of like that mommy in the book.  I’ll always be your baby, right?”

All I could say was Yes.

As long as I’m living, Ella, my baby you will be.

(The pie was French Silk and, I’m sorry to say, it was delicious.)

Choose your own adventure.

What if I never had kids?

Don’t misinterpret this as a regret.  It is not.  Definitely not. 

I’m reading this book called “Pictures of You” by Caroline Leavitt.  It just came out and I don’t even know how I knew to reserve it at the library in time to get one of the first available copies.  There are 40 people in line after me so I figured I should read it.  I’m about 100 pages in and I almost cannot bear to go on.  It’s the story of two women who crash into each other on a deserted highway in thick fog.  They are both running from something.  One woman dies and her son sees the crash from the shoulder of the road.  The other lives but is haunted that she caused the death.  The boy refuses to accept that his mother is actually gone.

I turn the page and there is grief.  The husband, suddenly a widower.  The boy, grieving as children often do.  The survivor, overwhelmed and lonely. 

I almost can’t take it.  But, it is well written and I still don’t know where I found the book recommendation; I seldom add a book to my shelf without one.  I will finish it.  Probably in the next 24 hours if things go my way.  So then…it will be 48 hours. 

Do you remember your life before your children?  I do.  I remember being 25 years old in my very own apartment that I shared with nobody except a naughty kitten and some mystery bugs (turned out to be earwigs…gross).  I remember hanging the towel just so.  Dutifully eating leftovers.  Sacked out on the secondhand sofa with a 14 inch tv for company.  I did my laundry, hauled in a giant mesh sack, only about once every 2 weeks.  sidenote: this fueled my need to always have more underwear than I need.  You never know when you might be short on quarters and have to stretch the laundry a bit.  Phone calls to my sister and my friends were lengthy and largely uninterrupted.  I drove a purple Dodge Dakota Sport pickup.  It was a two seat, manual transmission with knobby tires.  I was living the dream.  I could go to work for 80 hours a week and nobody cared, not even that runt cat.

And then I met Stephen.  He was still married and we were on a double date.  They set me up with a chef friend of theirs who was super sweet but turns out, he was super sweet on someone else and not at all interested in me.  We used to joke, Stephen and I, that our first date was a double date with other dates.  A shade over two years after that double date, we were married.  Shortly after, Will was born and, well, you know the rest (or you can read about it here). 

What if….what if Stephen had gotten cancer before the kids were born?  Or in between Will and Ella?  What if Ella and Amelia were never able to be born?  What if we had waited?  What if we had decided to travel or finish degrees?  What if we had wanted to own a home or pay off the SUV first? 

That’s not the point. 

My point is this:  what if I came home to an empty house?  You know, that fall Sunday morning in 2007…what if all I could do was curl up on the couch and not move?  Not breathe?  Not eat?

I didn’t get that.  I have often said that I didn’t get the chance to really get it all out.  To stew and dwell.  (Yes, yes I know that writing about it over three years later IS dwelling but you know what I mean.)  I was resentful of my responsibilities.  And tired.  I remember being so very, very tired. 

If we had chosen differently…the thought is mind-boggling and, quite honestly, keeping me up tonight. 

What if I had to finish this life really, really alone?

I don’t know that I could have done it.  I don’t know that I would have made it.

Or, would I have been able to move on?  Get it all out and pick myself up and go back to work.  Get another cat.  Get rid of the sensible family vehicle and buy a truck.  Date.  Kiss.  Make it just another memory.

So instead of reliving our days together through the eyes of our little girls, I could chalk it up to a bad experience.

I don’t really know.  I didn’t get to choose; it was a series of seemingly insignificant events, much like a random double date, that added up to one big event.  And three babies.  And two funerals.  

And one quiet mama, crying alone in the dark.

Escapism.

I have a confession:  When Ella gets on the bus at 7:19am, I usually go back to bed.  Okay, I almost always go back to bed.  Shit.  Always.  I always go back to bed.  My phone even knows to alarm me so I can get Amelia to school on time. 

I’ve been all wrapped up in several book series, most of which are Young Adult.  I’m not embarrassed.  Okay, maybe a little.  I tried to read a non-YA book and it took me a week of stops and starts.  Adults are way too complicated.  I much prefer the simple “I like him does he like me; OMG there’s a killer vampire” storylines that appeal to teenage girls. 

Let’s just call it prescreening.  You know, for that time in the not too distant future (name that theme song!) when my littles will have their noses stuck in various and sundry steamy teen romance novels.  I always consider myself lucky that my own mother wasn’t much of a reader and didn’t bother to pick up some of the paperbacks I found in my grandma’s back bedroom.  (Some of those romance novels are thinly veiled erotica rags.)  (Thus was the beginning and the entirety of my sexual education.) 

The gist of this is that I stay up far too late reading.  Life as I have always known it has ceased for the most part.  Only recently have I ventured past city limits for a reason other than my weekly trip to the library.  Notice that I’m not mentioning the gym.

Let’s not talk about that.  Please.  It’s been a whole week without it and I already feel squishier.  Granted, I’m working again.  Sort of.  I’m volunteering my time to pull flies for A Christmas Carol again this year.  It’s a pain in the ass to find a babysitter all those nights (and somewhat expensive for a volunteer gig) but totally worth it.  My triceps aren’t squishier that’s for sure. 

I’m still in a funk.  I thought it was seasonal but it might be something more.  I have a near constant low-level frustration and maybe even anger.  And it’s not going away.

Maybe I thought things would be different after three plus years. 

I feel like there is so much I want to do and either the drive is gone or what I want to do is not possible, either logistically or financially.  And then there are the things that are out of my control. 

I have applied to Grad school.  I have been kicking it around since summer and I finally did it two weekends ago.  It’s a four semester fast track program for people who already have a BA.  After four semesters I will have a teaching certificate for secondary education.  I’ll be able to teach anything in the language arts field: literature, creative writing, drama, speech and journalism.  I’m not so sure about the journalism thing.  I can copy-edit the crap out of an article but I don’t think I could show someone how to power up a Mac much less do a page layout.  Oh well…the other fields are a natural for me.

Part of the application process is providing a writing sample (250 words) stating why I want my teaching certificate.

Yeah.  About that.

I’m going to go ahead a guess that “It fits in my kids schedule” isn’t an acceptable answer.  Nor is “I’ve never had a pension” and “I’m tired of paying for my own crappy insurance.” 

I suppose that I should talk about my “scope of practical knowledge” and “life experience”.  Or some such.

I’ve taken the first step.  I’ll write their essay.  Eventually.  I’ll find 3 people to write a letter of reference.  (I know of two and need to find a third.)  I’ll arrange to have my transcripts sent.  I’ll go for an interview.

I feel like this is the right thing to do.  I’d say that this is for me but that’s not true.  Not entirely.  I’d like to be a useful contributor to society again.  I’m tired of living like this, afraid every time the van clanks funny and sticking cash into an envelope for late in the month trips to the grocery or doctor co-pays long past payday.  I hate that.  It can’t be helped at this point, not without professional intervention.  The only answer is to get off my ass and get a job.

If it plays out right, I will be in my very own classroom the same fall that Amelia starts Kindergarten.  See?  Just like I planned it.  Sort of.

This?  Is not going to be easy.  I suspect I will come through it just fine.  I feel like I know what I’m doing.  It’s the logistics that are dragging me down but, as I’m fond of saying, we’ll burn that bridge when we come to it.

In the meantime, I’d really like to not feel like I’m being sat on all day.  I mean that figuratively.  There was a time when somebody was always on me.  Now, they use their words (whiny and demanding by late afternoon) to attract my attention.  I just have this feeling in my chest, a tightness, that isn’t going away.  It’s not a physical thing.  Physically I still feel healthy and strong.  No, this is something much more sinister. 

And it just isn’t going away.

Everywhere I turn, I am reminded of what I don’t have.  And I’m not talking about a new car or a bigger tv.  You and I both know that I am not talking about anything material at all (although it would be nice to have something under the tree that I didn’t pick out/purchase/wrap for myself). 

The feeling isn’t going away.  And I’m not sure I can get past it to even enjoy what I do have.

Killing Time: what’s on my summer reading list.

Because nobody needs to read another post about my lack of fat camp, my mental state and the fact that my job is sucking my soul out through my pores…I give you the first annual Notes to Self reading list.

I love reading.  I really do. 

In February, during what would turn out to be my last opera gig, I bought myself a Nook.  That would be Barnes and Noble’s e-reader.  I love it.  I love it every day.

For all you purists out there, I know.  I love turning the pages.  I love the back covers.  I love the smell.  Reading can be, and often is, very tactile. 

But the last time I moved (and you all who helped can attest to this), I think a good quarter of the truck must have been books.  My books and the girls’ books.  Boxes and boxes of books.  I go through books like a fat man with a six pack and a pound.  (Mmmm…Taco John’s…wait? what?)  I have a houseful of books.

Yes, we have a library card.  My my tiny town library is about the size of my living room. I, personally, might have more books than our library.  And, because I live outside the city limits, I have to pay $40 per year to use it.  Which I do.  Because I’d like to support said library.  They are building a new and bigger one.  I’ll probably still have to pay $40 but at least I could actually maybe get lost there.  Isn’t that the beauty of a real library?  The ability to get lost in one?

I spent the money and got a Nook.  Since February, I have downloaded (some for free) slightly over 70 books and have read more than 40.  The point is that, not only am I carrying what amounts to 3 boxes of books, I have anything and everything that I *feel* like reading at any moment.  Fiction?  Historical fiction?  True crime?  Classics?  Current Events?  Got it.  Check, check and check. 

I still have real books.  My beloved Nook has not replaced the paper and ink and never will.  Not completely.

What am I reading? 

 The Blind Side by Michael Lewis.  I haven’t seen the movie (yet) so I thought I’d read the book first.  This was actually a library find.  I am pleasantly surprised to find out that it’s part biography of Michael Oher and part football play book.  There is quite a bit of history into the different NFL player positions and what each position does.  This might be a little basic to those of you raised to be offensive linebackers (I?  Was not?) but it helps someone like me who is a fair-weather football watcher.  I mean, I love the food and the season.  I love listening to the crowd get all pumped and I adore college football but mostly because of the bands.  Not that I was in band.  I sat with the band.  I dated the band.  Well, not the flute players but you know what I mean.  I may or may not have dated my way through the drum line in the years 1994-1997.  Not that it has anything at all to do with this book.

I’m about an eighth of the way through it.  The first few chapters were a bunch of NFL history but now that it is getting into the actual biography, I’m hooked. 

I Love You, Beth Cooper by Larry Doyle.  Complete coincidence that this is also a movie.  Is it a movie?  Or did I imagine it?  I don’t think it did well.  Jen Lancaster had this on her summer reading list two summers ago and I’ve been looking for it ever since.  I found it in the deep discount pile at Barnes and Noble so I nabbed it.  This is pathetically funny in a Napoleon Dynamite meets Orange County kind of way.  Geeky kid has a crush on popular girl and decides during his high school graduation speech that he is going to live life without regrets and tell everyone what he thinks of them.  Starting with Beth Cooper.  He’s pretty full of himself and doesn’t realize his own dorkiness.  It’s equal parts bus wreck (can’t. stop. watching.) and endearing.  Short book.  Easy read. 

 It Sucked and then I Cried: How I had a baby, a breakdown and a much-needed Margarita by Heather Armstrong.  This is ripped right from blogdom.  Heather is the author of the much-lauded blog Dooce.com and this book chronicles her pregnancy and the birth of her daughter and the severe and debilitating Post Partum Depression (PPD) that followed.  She had it so bad that she put herself in the hospital for a week.  Traumatized.  Heather has a wonderful voice that lends itself to story telling quite well.  (Probably why her blog is so popular…duh.)  I don’t know that every mother or mother to be should read this book but maybe those of us who have come out the other side can appreciate it and maybe can help out another new mama.  I’m fairly certain that I had some significant PPD when Amelia was tiny.  I remember thinking that she was breathing too fast (a sign of an infection in a baby) and that she was surely going to die while I was sleeping.  I even called the doctor (God bless Dr. Kyle for not locking me up right then and there) with her breaths per minute to see if she was going to live through the day or if I should take her to the ER right then and there.  Amelia was 9 days old.  I know.  Certifiable.  Anyway, I can appreciate this book completely.  And it’s really freaking funny. 

You Couldn’t Ignore Me If You Tried: The Brat Pack, John Hughes and Their Impact on a Generation by Susannah Gora  Seriously?  With a title like that how could I NOT read it?  I have this on Nook but I think this might have been better as an actual book because then I could lend it out to everyone born from 1968-1977.  We’re talking about a very specific section of Generation X.  Does the name Jake Ryan make your heart flutter just a little?  Raise your hand if you can quote, in its entirety, any of the following movies: The Breakfast Club (Me!), Sixteen Candles (Me again!), St Elmo’s Fire, Say Anything, Pretty in Pink.  Yes?  Then you need to read this book.  Each chapter discusses a different movie and there are several chapters on some of the key players: Ringwald, Sheedy, Hall and a chapter devoted to what a total weirdo John Hughes was.  He loved you and then he hated you.  Repeat.  Did you know that he wrote Sixteen Candles just for Molly Ringwald? 

A Dirty Job by Christopher Moore.  I know he’s a pretty prolific writer but I just got into him this spring when I read Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal.  If you haven’t read it, you should.  Now, I am Lutheran to the core, born and raised, so I can appreciate much of the tongue in cheek Biblical humor and I have to remind myself that this is fiction!  But so very, very funny.  And quotable: “Nobody’s perfect.  Well, there was this one guy but we killed him.”  See.  Hilarious.  I haven’t started A Dirty Job yet.  It’s sitting, patiently waiting, on my Nook.  But I hope it’s as good as Lamb.  This is book about death.  And it had better be funny. 

So, that’s the short list.  If all goes as planned and I quit my job next week sometime (Really?  Am I ballsy enough to just up and quit after 7 weeks?), I should have everything read by Independence Day weekend.

No matter.  My Nook goes where I go. 

I do, however, need to detach my debit card from my Nook account.  It’s all too easy to window shop.  And then window buy.  And then wonder if I’ll ever get around to reading The Scarlet Letter.  Again.  Or The Wind in the Willows.  Again.  But for a dollar, how could I not just carry it around with me?

Wonder bread and butter.

We got home from MSP late last night.  Relatively.  It was a decent trip.  If you don’t count the mid-level anxiety attack I was fixin’ to have while waiting for Jen Lancaster to speak.  This, on the heels of half an hour at Sephora and forty-five minutes in Macy’s looking at shoes.  Very, very girly.  (I was not the one doing all the shopping…my travel companion is in a wedding this weekend.  Expensive things, bridesmaids.)  Very, very not what I do when I go to a mall. 

In my own defense, I am usually trailed by my gaggle of littles and I’m fairly certain that I saw a “you must be this tall to enter” sign at Sephora.  It would be Ella’s own itty bitty corner of heaven though.  She has been pointing out to me about every 6 hours that her BFF has *real* makeup.  I tell her that she’s beautiful just the way she is.  She tells me that she really likes to sparkle.  Don’t we all?

It was good to see Jen speak.  I was fine once she started her reading.  She looked tired.  Really tired.  Still fabulous.  And she must enjoy herself or, publicist be damned, she wouldn’t keep the schedule she keeps.  New city every day.  Kind of like tour except not on a bus.  With a half dozen smelly people.  But there is usually a wet bar.  So there is that.  It was good to see her.  I like that she’s a real person.  What I don’t like, and I believe I mentioned this last year, is her wonder bread following.  By that I mean, every person woman in the room looked exactly the same.  White.  18-39 years old.  Back fat.  Highlights.  Pasty. (That part could be because it is Minnesota in May.)  I think, though, that this audience is her bread and butter.  So to speak.  I think she is writing to that audience.  Because I’m pretty sure that Jen is dumbing herself down for her books.

I get the feeling that she’s lived a mildly sordid life but that she really enjoys staying home and out of corporate America with her husband and her house and her menagerie.  I get the feeling that she has grown up.  She’s quick with the snark but she would never hurt anyone’s feelings, wine or no wine.  (I would, however, pay big, big noney to get all drinky, drinky with her.)  I think she reads.  Alot.  Maybe more than me.  So far, I like her taste in books.  I have read several that she has recommended. 

But what do I know?  I was the one near the back having a minor meltdown because all the big haired, big calved women around me were all speaking at the same time, in the same pitch, telling the same stories that we *all* read in her books and on her blog.  Yes, ladies, we are *all* her BFFs.  Yikes.  Made me feel like I had athlete’s foot, pinkeye and a tooth abcess.  All at once.  Itchy, irritated and in pain. 

My travel companion suggested therapy for the condition.  Suggested that it might become dibilitating.  Wouldn’t want to limit my life experiences.

Raising readers.

The littles are growing up around me.  They have become, for better or worse, friends.  Ella was talking today about her friends from school, naming them off one by one starting with her “best-best friend” and, I suppose, working down from there. 

What about Melia?

“She’s not my friend.  She’s just my sister.”

Well, you know, sisters are your first and last friends.  She will *always* be your sister.

“Auntie Monica is your sister.  Is she your friend?”

She is my best friend, yes.

“Okay, well Melia can be my friend then.  But maybe not my bestly friend.”

Fair enough.

I have to admit that I enjoy large bits of our days.  Except from the half hour before supper until the half hour before bed.  I remember that time being tough when they were infants but it’s still difficult.  And, it’s far worse during the early days of the week.  I will be interested to see if that continues into the summer.

Ella is learning to read.  As I have suspected for a few months, she knows quite a few words on sight.  I caught her “reading” a book about a week ago.  I took the words out of the book and wrote them onto cards and she really is reading…probably 20 or so words.  But it’s something! 

I love books; it’s no secret.  I am reading no less than five books at the moment.  My idea of the perfect day involves a compelling book, a variety of seating surfaces, an endless supply of beverages and food that can be eaten with one hand (and that doesn’t require a napkin), open windows and only the sounds of nature. 

I made it three days after the release of Jen Lancaster’s fourth book before I had to go and buy it.  Hardcover.  Full price.  I’m not all that bright.  I am three quarters of the way through Pretty in Plaid.  It’s the story (in memoir form just like the other books) of her childhood and adolescence.  Basically a prequel to Bitter is the New Black.  As much as I love Jen and her blog and her other three books…it took me a good 125 pages to start to enjoy this one.  The constant use of present tense irritates me.  I didn’t really start to enjoy it until she got to college age.  Basically until she figured out who she was and quit trying to be what she thought other people wanted her to be. 

The fact that Ella is reading thrills me to no end.  I want her (both of them) to get lost in books.  I want them to disappear into the world of wizards and vampires and munchkins and hobbits. 

Not to mention that it has to be a heck of alot quieter than it is now.

Hot mess.

I love Chelsea Handler.  I am in the middle of her second book after laughing my ass off at her first.  I highly suggest both.  Anyway, in this book, she refers to herself and her friends frequently as a “hot mess.”  As in, “You are a hot mess.”  Sounds dirty (yes?) but it’s not.

From the Urban Dictionary: 

(Noun)  term used to describe somebody that has NO REASON to look the way that they are lookin at the time.  Also describes somebody who is lookin like a DAMN FOOL.

Word.  I think that pretty much describes me and my ill fitting track pants, giant boobs, precarious mental state, propensity to pick fights with those that are closest to me, addiction to both peanut butter, chocolate and Discovery Health channel after 10pm.  I am a collector but not a user-upper.  My kids don’t know whether it’s okay to kiss me or if they should run from me.  Instead of crying, I seek out those who have it worse than I.    And, until a few hours ago, I hadn’t had a haircut or, more tragically, a color since halloween.  I was a sheep dog with a dark (and silver) streak down the middle of my skull flap.  Criminal.

A hot mess.

I don’t know what I want.  I want to be fit but hate to sweat.  I have to make a drink before I can watch Grey’s because the beeping and the cancer make me want to crawl out of my skin.  I want to go out, be out, be impressed and impressive but I sit here in my chair and get older. 

I don’t know what I want.  But at least I know what I am.  Lookin like a DAMN FOOL.

   
 

Holiday travels.

I will keep this short because I’m on FIL’s computer.  We are still in the backwoods of Missouri and will be until Tuesday (so don’t rob my house).

This trip has had it’s ups and downs.  Amelia has had a mystery fever since the night we arrived.  Neat.  The fever has curtailed but now she has a rash (read:scarlet fever) so a call to Dr. Kyle will be in order.  I think that means strep throat if I remember right from when Ella had it a year or so ago. 

On the upside, I have started a finished TWO books.  I have read “The guy not Taken” by Jennifer Weiner and “Candy Girl” by DIablo Cody (screenwriter for the movie “Juno”).  I will comment futher later, especially about “Candy Girl” (which was fan-effing-tastic). 

We also went to fireworks in a very, very small town.  Even though Amelia was a whiny, whiny mess the whole time, it was wonderful people watching.  Lots of teenagers with unfortunate lack of orthodontia, lots of toddlers without shoes, playing in the dirt and rocks, tallboys in paper bags, cheap (and possibly financed) tats and a number of late middle aged who arrived probably right after supper so that they could get a good seat but then left as soon as they anticipated the finale. 

My girls are good travelers, there’s no doubt about that.  I was watching the little family in the SUV at the truck stop.  Dad changing the little one in the back, mom wrangling coolers and two preschoolers dashing for the picnic tables.  It made me want to keep driving.  I have that travel itch again.  I haven’t cried once since I’ve been here although I have wanted to.  We were here last July.  Right before they found the brain tumors.  He had a headache the entire time.  And I brushed it off as dehydration…

Tomorrow is a trip to the peach orchard.  Ymmm….