Thursday, May 24, 2007

I have to be honest

I really didn't know that Smokey Robinson was still alive. But seeing him on American Idol last night? It made me LOVE this country all over again, Baby!

I mean, okay. Let's face it. There's a good chance he'd been pulled out of the rest home to lip synch Tears of a Clown. (And more than a good chance that Gwen Stefani was doing the same with her new single, in my opinion - and I really like Gwen: I love running on the prairie to Just a Girl and Sweet Escape (a great "new mommy" number). Some day - I share this because I trust you all not to blackmail me with it later - I even aspire to be known as the Gwen Stefani of literary fiction). But I digress.

And then, good Lord, they trotted out Gladys. "I found a man who can put it all together," she sang, with the top several A.I. female contenders as her backup singers, and I thought, Ms. Knight must be about 103 years old by now, but by golly, I'll bet she's still gettin' busy. She belted out Midnight Train to Georgia, and I thought, I hope those young whippersnapper girls up there with her know just what an incredible honor is being bestowed upon them at this moment.

And then....really, it was almost too much...Tony Bennett came back to the A.I. stage to sing - of all the perfect, wonderful, tear-inducing things - one of the most gorgeously joyous Stevie Wonder songs ever: For Once in My Life. This is one of those songs I like to blast at eleven on the PowerStroke's stereo while fishtailing around the dog-leg turns at 50mph on the cinder road heading toward home. Tony is the kind of guy who makes you realize that your parents and grandparents (depending on your age) came from a generation So. Much. Cooler. than your own that you might as well just give up now even trying to aspire. Even Simon looked moved.

But were the A.I. producers going to stop there? Oh, no, Missy, they certainly were not. Because then my favorite contestant of this season (other than Jordin, an Arizona girl who is darned hard not to love) - Melinda Doolittle - sang some butt-kicking modern Gospel with BeBe and CeCe, for whom she has apparently been singing backup until now. I really applaud Idol producers for airing such a blatantly Christ-centered song: I very simply DIG that about them.

Okay, three words to describe the embodiment of the un-self-conscious joy I strive to someday achieve: African Children's Choir. I mean, there they are, in this big concert hall, on this big. momentous night in American music history, and they're all like, What's the big deal? They asked us to sing, so we're singing. Isn't this fun?

And, did I ever think I would actually laugh out loud for joy at a Sanjaya performance? Well, I did laugh. (Aerosmith's Joe Perry actually made an appearance in an early version of my newest novel draft, so it was pretty cool to see him rockin' his Sanjaya cameo so hard).

The Divine Miss M. came out a bit later. I love Bette. Who doesn't? She's like everyone's favorite wacky drama/dance teacher from high school - complete with leather mini-skirt and amazingly well-preserved/surgically-enhanced face. Another joyful gal who makes me smile.

I mean - Lord have mercy - did all these established and soon-to-be superstars just look around at each other backstage and say, "This, right here, is what it's like to be blessed," or WHAT?

Okay, so then there was this sort of tweaky Beatles tribute/fugue...but it didn't last too long.

Look. I fully understand that American Idol is, first and foremost, a big, contrived, corporate form of dopamine for the masses. I do. I also know full well that there's more than just a little of the "Sing out, Louise!" element to the whole thing. But does it make me a complete schmuck to say that I like it? Call me David Hasselhoff, but not once have I heard someone say, after finishing their performance, "Oh, and by the way, I really HATE George Bush,"...or, "Those evil Democrats are ruining EVERYTHING." And I believe our country needs more of this right now. So, the show has that going for it.

And, then?

I don't know. Because, while the kids and I were driving home from a Little League game near the Grand Canyon, my lovely Dish Network DVR decided to STOP RECORDING about 10 minutes before the end of the American Idol finale.

So, you tell me. Who won?

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

so, me and my bad self...

...sat ourselves down in a dental chair first thing this morning to get an ancient filling (one that's been causing me grief for several months now) replaced. I was nervous enough about this simple procedure, but was completely unprepared for The Dentist to tell me that, if I was interested, he had time to go ahead and also do that ROOT CANAL he mentioned yesterday - the one I'd need on another tooth that I didn't even know had problems until they showed up on the x-ray.


I was so nervous last night about the root canal, and about the very real possibility of losing the tooth, that I called my oldest friend ever (not oldest as in she's old, but oldest in that we grew up on the same street). She's a dedicated dental hygienist, and managed to settle down my neuroses considerably (so, if your reading this, C, you ROCK). I'd never had a root canal, but just knowing what it entails has always been enough to make me shudder in horror. Suffice it to say I lost a little sleep last night, wondering how long I'd have to wait in painful anticipation to get it done.

I was also planning to enjoy a little sedative or nitrous oxide aperitif when the big event happened, but since I was already in the chair with one side of my mouth numb, I figured what the heck. And you know what? It wasn't bad at all. In fact, the worst part of the whole procedure was feeling like my mouth was some kind of construction zone, with all the metal and latex and heavy equipment moving about in there. It'll probably feel sore at some point, I'm sure, though it's already been several hours and the filling is bugging me more than the root canal.

Of course, it didn't hurt that the dentist is a dead ringer for Joaquin Phoenix. I mean, if ya gotta have someone drilling away on your teeth...

(If you're reading this, Dr. O, you and your staff rock, too!) :-)

Sunday, May 20, 2007

things I know for sure

1) Once five chickens have lived in your bathtub, cleaning up after two kids doesn't seem so bad.

2) It's a sad day when Miss Snark calls it quits. She's given immeasurable help to immeasurable numbers of writers, this one included. I did always wonder, though, how she managed to agent and blog at the same time, considering how prolific a blogger she's been.

3) As Jeff Foxworthy says: You might be a redneck if directions to your house include "turn off the paved road." Hey. I resemble that remark.

3) This is a great lyric: "To touch is to heal/To hurt is to steal/If you wanna kiss the sky/Better learn how to kneel..." Where's it from? Anyone? Bueller?


4) More later. I get to visit the dentist today. Yay, me. :-/

Friday, May 18, 2007

wednesday night lights and some minutia

Turns out Little League games are great girl bonding time. Our local team "blew it out the box" (as Randy Johnson would say, though I shouldn't even start talking about American Idol, traumatized as I am by Melinda's departure), winning their second of two games while we mothers chatted it up by the bleachers. Of course, we stopped to cheer when our boys were at bat.

Here are April's fingernails (the pink ones - mine are the plain Jane ones below hers) which I photographed before the game. Did I lie when I said they were glorious? I was hoping to get a picture of the opalescent tips she had the other day, but she'd already gotten them re-done. Because, like many women, she has her nails done on a regular basis. My nails, on the other hand, no longer look like they do in this picture, because I chew them to nubs on a regular basis. Hey, it's cheap maintenance.

My books arrived from Amazon a few days ago, all of which were recommended by another dear friend. I've started reading A Severe Mercy, which she tells me is going to be made into a movie.

Other than that, I got nuthin'.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

'tis the season

...for this:

I love baseball season. It's my son's fourth year (if you count his two seasons of t-ball), and it's like a yearly rite of passage when that first game rolls around and all the parents come out of the woodwork to unload camp chairs from their vehicles, clean their camera lenses and chat up other parents they haven't seen for a while. Our team's first game was last week, and the kids looked so spiffy in their new uniforms. Kicked some Little League tail, too. :-) I must blog about my friend April's fingernails, which never cease to amaze me, and which I was admiring at the game. They're perfectly manicured, with tips that look like OPALS! And she even has horses, which is just inconTHIEVEable to me (movie reference pop quiz: Let's see who can identify the origin of that word the fastest). I need to do a photo comparison between April's nails and mine so you can get the full effect.

I'm putting the chicks (I guess I can officially call them pullets now) outside during the day, in a temporary pen. Angel is happy about this. They seem to bring out her latent livestock-guarding instincts. (heh. As if. You just know she's thinking, "Chicken. It's what's for dinner.")

Unfortunately, it's also weed season. This double-whammy, dandelion/foxtail combo is the current bane of my existence:
Fortunately, though, where there are weeds, there are also these (I don't know what they're called, but they're very delicate and paper-like):

And these wild Irises:

This is one of my favorite sights of all, come spring. No one shoes a horse like that husband of mine:

Now I gotta get back to work.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

gallows humor for writers

My crack-up of the day: While researching alternate terms for a character's demise, I came across this list of writerly euphemisms for death on

Made the big deadline.
Taking minutes for the Maker.
Went to that big spell-checker in the sky.
"Lateral mobility."
The final Edit.
The eternal offsite assignment.
Documented the Big D.

And my favorite...

Very, very passive voice.

why wait 'til Sunday?

Happy Mother's Day to all the Moms in my life!

Thursday, May 10, 2007

return of the soap queen, part 1

Way back in 2000 I got a hankerin' to make some soap. I had stalked the Primal Elements display at a local bath and body shop for months - you know, those pricey loaves of incredible looking (and smelling) soap sold by the slice/ounce? I started researching the melt and pour technique, because I've loved glycerin soap since owning my first Neutrogena bar as a pre-teen. I was also drawn to the intense colors and fun designs that were possible with glycerin soap-making.

I bought my first supplies from Michael's craft supply store- little pre-cut shapes for inserts, teeny squeeze bottles of fragrance and coloring, and some cheapo plastic molds. My first successful loaf of soap was some kind of berry punch; each slice was bright pink and looked like it had ice cubes floating inside. I was hooked. My mother-in-law ordered some expensive vertical molds from Canada for my birthday, which allowed me to branch out into some fun designs, one of which earned me first place at the County Fair (insert visual image of Nicole hooking thumbs proudly in her suspender straps).

My first craft show was a small gig benefiting the local volunteer firefighters auxiliary. I had no clue how to price the bars, my wrapping technique was iffy, and I was incredibly shy about selling. Still, I moved a decent chunk of my fledgling inventory that afternoon. From there I sold at a larger holiday gig in a nearby town, and the next year I hit the two biggest holiday craft fairs in Flagstaff. In 2002 the local paper came out to do a Sunday Arts & Living feature story on my little home-based soap business, which was incredibly cool.

In all, I had five good years of soap-making and selling before we picked up and moved to the San Francisco Bay Area, where the wonderful, glycerin-rich base I used misbehaved terribly; it actually sweated beads of glycerin in the humid air, making it difficult to package and work with. I did spend a day in my son's first grade classroom showing the kids how to make pretty jewel soaps for Mother's Day, but other than that the business went on hold.

Until yesterday. Yes, folks. The Soap Queen is back. Well, that might be a bit of a stretch, since soap-selling season really doesn't pick up until November. Applications for the big shows will be mailed next month, though, so it's not too early to start ordering ingredients. I need to update my website, too, since it's been languishing for over a year. Soaping, I've found, is a great way to get the creative juices flowing when it comes to writing, which is so non-physical. So, as I get ready for this latest book to leave the nest and start working on the next one, it will be good to get back to creating something that involves getting my hands dirty - er, clean.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

cue Vangelis

On second thought, rather than cueing the theme music from "Chariots of Fire," today's story might be better set against music from a movie titled something like "Rickshaws of Warm Milk."
Yes, I ran in my first 5K this morning.

It was actually kind of fun! Except for the part about waking up at 5:45 a.m. and seeing snow outside my window. Yes, snow. In May. The boy was excited to run in the kids' half-mile fun race, though, so I resisted the urge to dive headfirst back under the warm covers.

Also, the part about my hands going numb from the cold and my face feeling like it was going to fall off during the first half of the race (running into the arctic wind) wasn't so fun.

And neither was the end, when I gave all I had in the final stretch and, after crossing the finish line, thought I might throw up on the shoes of my nice neighbor, who's job it was to pull the little information tab from my paper number.

But other than those things, it was great.

Actually, I'm being more melodramatic than is warranted (a REAL shocker, I know). It was big fun to start the race with our son, who is basically a rocket ship with feet. He flew out ahead of me immediately, so I got to watch him and the other kids hit their halfway mark, then u-turn it and race back to the finish line (we gave each other a high-five as he passed me going the opposite direction).

I had driven the course last week, so I had some idea of how long 5 kilometers is. Let's put it this way: It's longer that I am accustomed to running. This course is mainly on asphalt, too, so it was also harder than the prairie/trail running I prefer. But I did run (rather than walk) the whole thing, which was a good feeling. It was humbling, however, to see the winner of the 10K come in only minutes after I finished the 5K. What kind of supplements are these people TAKING? And while I was nowhere near first place, I did get first place for the female 30-39 age group. So, that was pretty cool. The boy came in second place in the kids' race, which meant that both of us got pretty medals to show off.

Friday, May 04, 2007

may musings

Son's baseball season is winding up, and the school year is winding down. An icy, feisty wind is still blowing outside and I still have a bunch of adolescent chickens living in the guest bathroom, but that's okay. Last weekend the daughter and I rode my gelding Zzari out to the old cowboy shed on the prairie. It came down in a storm several years ago, and is now not much more than a pile of weathered lumber on top of some rusty mattress springs. Still, an interesting landmark. Maybe I'll get a picture of it one of these days, and scan the picture my brother-in-law took of it when it was still standing.

I'm hoping to get some update work done on the blog this afternoon (links, nightstand books, etc). I don't have too many more hours, though, since Friday nights are pizza and movie nights around here. I asked the husband to pick up Talladega Nights if he makes his usual trip to the video store. I haven't actually read or heard a single review of this flick, so I don't know if it's any good.

I've been getting some very helpful feedback on the rough draft of the new novel - Beta readers rock. Also, I recently read Joan Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking, which I never blogged about. A painful read, not because of Didion's prose style, which I enjoy, but because of her nearly unbelievable story of surviving the loss of her husband at the same time that their daughter came down with an (ultimately fatal) illness. Also, just to look at the picture on the back of the dust jacket (an elegant People magazine shot from the 70's) compared to the author photo on the inside back flap is shocking. I'm not sure what else to say about that book.

I've recently gotten my hands on The Time Traveler's Wife, which, sadly, is very likely to be eclipsed by Thirteen Moons, which I picked up just yesterday. I've read mixed reviews of Frazier's sophomore effort, so I'll be interested to see if it captivates me as thoroughly as Cold Mountain did.

That's it for now. I hope you all have a great weekend!