Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The Post That Should Have Been Written on May 15th (My One Year Blogging Anniversary)

The QC Report was noting in her most recent post how annoying it can be when your blog and real lives interact (or don’t, as the case may be). I could certainly sympathize when she observed the frustration she feels as she relates an anecdote to a friend only to be met with a barely stifled yawn and, “I know. I read your blog.” Then, because someone (someone, mind you, I had no idea even knew my blog existed) has rolled her eyes and said that to me, I’ll encounter another friend and preface my story with “Let me know if you already read this on my blog,” only to be told, dismissively “I don’t get blogging. So, don’t worry. I haven’t read your blog” (this being the friend who works in the IT department and is the master of text messaging one-handed on a cell phone that’s in his pocket. Why Tech Whiz doesn’t “get blogging” is beyond me). Anyway, I was glad to read that at least one other blogger has such friends.

This may sound like I have obnoxious real-life friends. I don’t. It’s just that, after a year of doing this, I’m still not sure how to blend my blog into the rest of my life. I mean, it does seem pretty obnoxious to assume people are logging on and visiting my blog first thing every morning. By the same token, it seems that one of the nice things about having a blog is being able to say to friends I rarely get to see, “If you want to keep up with what’s going on with me, just read my blog.” But then Ms. Accuracy who resides with all those other characters in my brain (the ones some of you have been reading about for a year now) will worry, because my blog doesn’t exactly relate my day-to-day activities. This means I usually end up saying something more along the lines of “I have a blog, and if you sort of want to keep up with what’s going on in my life, you can read it.” Then, of course, I immediately forget I’ve said anything about it. One day I get an email from someone of a certain age who used to go to church with me, and when she mentions my blog, I realize she has access to such things as what I think is the sexiest part of a man’s body (okay, that hasn’t actually happened yet, but I’m always fearing it’s going to).

For a long time, I just assumed none of my real-life friends (well, with the exception of you, Danny, at whom I practically threw my URL) were reading my blog. I found out the hard way that this was a stupid assumption on my part. Let’s just say, don’t tell one friend about your blog without telling all other friends and acquaintances you share in common, or one might just get a little pissed. I’d still wager a large sum of money that most of my real-life friends don’t read my blog, but I’ve come to realize some do, and a few of those have even come to rely on it.

That adds pressure of the, “Ohmigod, if I don’t hurry up and blog about the fact Bob and I are moving, nobody’s going to know” sort. Believe me, blogging creates enough pressure for someone who teeters on the brink of an OCD diagnosis without adding more, but then there’s this one, “If I blog about this before calling everyone in the family, are they going to be upset, because they had to find out about it through my blog?” My family members, whom I initially thought would be the only ones who read my blog, haven’t let me down and, I’m pretty sure, are still my most faithful readers, which introduces a new pressure. Are my siblings and I being too cliquish, as I’ve been told by real-life friends we’re wont to do, making others who visit the blog uncomfortable?

Then, of course, I’ve complicated matters further by turning blogging friends like Dorr and Hobs into real-life friends. Actually, I highly recommend these sorts of friends. They comment on your blog; you comment on theirs. No one ever has any doubt about what the others do or don’t know. One of the first things we say to each other, if it’s the case, is, “I didn’t get to read your blog post yet today (or this week or whatever).” It’s those sneaky friends who read your blog and never comment you have to watch out for. And what’s with these people who visit my site on computers that don’t register location on my site meter, so they remain complete mysteries. Sitemeter even denotes them as ?Unknown, like I’ve got some CIA agent on my trail or something.

Oh yes, and then there’s the other thing I do. I’m like an overzealous reformed smoker or drinker who’s had her corpus callosum cut or something. One part of my brain doesn’t know what the other part is doing, and instead of telling everyone to quit, I’m telling everyone to start. I beg my friends to start blogs (as if I need more blogs to read). I’ll tell complete strangers on the street that they ought to start a blog. I tell everyone I know that the best thing I ever did was start blogging, how good it’s been for my writing, what great people I’ve met. I’m beginning to judge people, people about whom I know absolutely nothing, based on their answer to the question “Do you have a blog?” I’m completely obnoxious, I know, but I just can’t help myself.

If you’ve been blogging for a while now, and you recognize yourself in any of this, I’m hoping I’ve provided the same service for you that Ms. QC provided for me: you are not alone. You are in the company of at least one other crazy fool who is still trying to figure out how this blog life fits in and around the rest of her life. If you don’t recognize yourself in any of this, could you please let me know where you went to get help?

Monday, May 28, 2007

F-F-F-Fears and Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes

I’ve made some rather startling discoveries about myself during this whole process of discerning Bob’s call to the ministry. Isn’t it always interesting when you think you know so much about yourself, and then you discover, given certain circumstances, that nope, you are just as clueless about the real you as that stranger sitting across from you on the subway? As a matter of fact, he may even know you better, if he assumes certain traits of all human beings, those that six months ago you would have hotly contested were not traits of yours.

I don’t mind too much when my discoveries turn out to be good ones, when, for instance, I find I was wrong to think I’m not the sort of person who will say, “What do you mean? That’s not a square. It’s a triangle,” when everyone else in the group is calling a three-sided, closed figure a square. I like discovering I’m not a sheep who just follows the crowd the way I generally assume I am. I like knowing I’d probably be the neighbor who would call the police if I heard Kitty Genovese screaming.

But the discoveries I’ve made during this process haven’t been such noble ones. For instance, I’ve discovered I’m terrified of leaving my comfort zone. Me. The cheerleader who’s favorite line for all her friends is, “Rah! Rah! Change is good!” (I guess that means I’m also discovering I’m one of those awful people, full of advice for others she never follows herself.) I’m the one who’s always looking at others with that oh-so-critical eye, thinking, “How can she possibly still be living there/with that loser/sticking it out at that dead-end job? Isn’t she bored/frustrated to tears? She should move/kick him out/find something that allows her to use all her great talents.”

I’m the one who never understood how my parents could have lived in the same house for 24 years, leaving it occasionally for stints in other places but always coming back. I was especially amazed by my mother, the diplomat’s daughter, who’d lived in all kinds of exciting cities all over the world before she was married. Not that I would have relished moving around as a child. Switching schools every so often was hard enough without also being uprooted. My little judgmental mind was very good at ignoring this fact, though, when it was sitting back, deciding what boring lives my parents lived and vowing never to fall into such a trap.

My parents have since made up for their years of stagnation, having moved three times since I graduated from college. Meanwhile, I, the one who was going to move every five years or so, the one who wanted as many different living experiences in this short life as she could get, have been living in Connecticut for nearly twenty years. Granted, I lived in many different apartments with many different roommates during the first seven of those years, but this July 1st will mark twelve years of living in this one house. My fourteen-year-old self is looking at me with utter disdain. Not only have I let this happen, but I don’t seem overly eager to rectify the situation.

I’m not looking at the opportunity to move as a great new beginning, my next big adventure in life. Instead, I’m clinging to things I never thought were all that important. I like the fact I know where everything is here. I like my work-day routine, in which I spend half the day upstairs and half the day down. I like the way we’ve let nature take over and let our yard grow mostly wild, despite curious looks from neighbors (looks I used to find embarrassing, constantly feeling the need to explain we’re environmentalists). And then there are the things I know are important: I adore all my friends in Connecticut and nearby New York. I love living on a quiet, dead-end street. I love, love, love New England with its picturesque towns, gentle mountains and fabulous shorelines, as well as its winters. If we’re going to move, it’s supposed to be somewhere else in New England, preferably Maine.

There we have it: the queen of change is afraid of change, so afraid she was willing to let her husband turn down a job that was practically custom-made for him, so she could stay, if not in the same house, at least on familiar turf. That’s not going to happen, though. Bob is scared, too, but we both realize fears are never a good reason to pass up a wonderful opportunity. We’ve made a decision. We’re moving to Pennsylvania.

Guess what. I’ll eventually know where everything is there, too (and I’ll have the fun of making those discoveries). I’ll settle into a new work routine. I’ll make new friends, and all my wonderful friends from Connecticut and New York can easily come visit, as it’s not that far away. We’ll have plenty of room for guests. My fourteen-year-old self has already packed up her room into the moving van and tells me she’ll be waiting to show me the ropes when we follow her in the fall.

Meanwhile, bear with me, please, as I deal with all my anxieties and fears over the next few months. Like, for example: “Ohmigod! What are we going to do with twelve years’ worth of accumulated junk?!”

Saturday, May 26, 2007

I Didn't Know I Was THAT Much of a Dork!

Your Score: Pure Nerd

73 % Nerd, 13% Geek, 43% Dork

For The Record:

A Nerd is someone who is passionate about learning/being smart/academia.
A Geek is someone who is passionate about some particular area or subject, often an obscure or difficult one.
A Dork is someone who has difficulty with common social expectations/interactions.
You scored better than half in Nerd, earning you the title of: Pure Nerd.

The times, they are a-changing. It used to be that being exceptionally smart led to being unpopular, which would ultimately lead to picking up all of the traits and tendences associated with the "dork." No-longer. Being smart isn't as socially crippling as it once was, and even more so as you get older: eventually being a Pure Nerd will likely be replaced with the following label: Purely Successful.


Also, you might want to check out some of my other tests if you're interested in any of the following:

Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Professional Wrestling

Love & Sexuality


Thanks Again! -- THE NERD? GEEK? OR DORK? TEST

Link: The Nerd? Geek? or Dork? Test written by donathos on OkCupid Free Online Dating, home of the The Dating Persona Test

Friday, May 25, 2007

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

8 Things Meme

8 Random Things about Me

I found the rules for this one over at So Many Books. Here they are:

1. Each player starts with 8 random facts/habits about themselves.
2. People who are tagged, write a blog post about their own 8 random things, and post these rules.
3. At the end of your post you need to tag 8 people and include their names.
4. Don’t forget to leave them a comment and tell them they’re tagged, and to read your blog.

And here are my 8 things:

1. (Thing about my curiosity) I’m wondering why the number 8 was chosen for this little exercise.

2. (Thing about my hobbies) I love frogs. I’ve been collecting them (not real ones, of course. They belong outside, where I can hear them performing their nightly operas this time of year) since I was about five or so, and I still have the first one I got (although its head broke off and had to be glued back on).

3. (Thing about my esthetic tastes) My favorite color is green, and I just found out that the human eye can detect different shades of green better than any other color. Bob said he thinks this is because, as we evolved, we had to figure out what all those different greens in the jungle were. That’s probably true, but I also don’t think it’s a coincidence that a lot of the foods we eat tend to turn green when they go bad.

4. (Thing about my gluttony) I can live without lots of things, but if someone were to tell me I could never have butter, cheese, or cream again, I think I’d have to slit my wrists.

5. (Thing about my early reading adventures) The first “chapter book” I ever read alone was Ramona the Pest by Beverly Cleary. My aunt gave it to me for Christmas when I was in second grade, and my mother and I read it together the first go-round, but then I liked it so much, I decided to read it on my own.

6. (Thing about how I don’t fit too well into the human race) I know summer is supposed to be the best season, and everyone looks forward to it, but I’m not a big fan of summer.

7. (Thing that’s a little racy) I think the sexiest part of a man’s body is the forearm, and that forearms look best in long-sleeved shirts with the sleeves pushed up rather than in short-sleeved shirts. I couldn’t even begin to tell you how this odd fetish of mine developed, but I’m sure there’s something buried deep in my subconscious.

8. (Thing about my laziness) I’m glad I don’t have to think up anymore of these.

I can’t possibly come up with eight people to tag who haven’t already done this one, so I’ll be a copycat and say what everyone else is saying: if you haven’t done this one yet, consider yourself tagged.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

The Immeasurable Pleasure of Reading About Ruins (Or Litblogger Imitation #2)

Thoughts on:

Macauly, Rose. The Pleasure of Ruins. New York: Barnes and Nobles Books, 1953. This was my second book for the 2007 nonfiction reading challenge.

When I was a child, my parents dragged us to every historic site that piqued their interests throughout the British Isles, France, and Germany. During these trips, the only thing that really piqued my interest (well, besides food, candy, and books that were not accessible in my home state of North Carolina in those days. These would be real fish ‘n’ chips, Opal Fruits, and Tin Tin respectively) were castle ruins. It seems to me I asked every morning if we were going to a castle. I soon learned to say “castle ruin,” as I had been disappointed a number of times by “castles” that seemed no different from those boring old estates exhibiting plump, extremely-comfy-looking chairs and sofas we weren’t allowed to sit on; dark paintings of prominent figures that teased me with the idea of being followed by their eyes, the way they do in scary movies, but never did; and velvet drapes that just begged to be hidden behind if only, again, I were allowed. These were fake castles. A real castle had crumbling towers, archways, and secret passages, the perfect backdrop for playing knight in shining armor (surprise, surprise: I was a knight, never a princess). Most exciting was a castle with a moat that still had water and might be hiding the remains of an ancient dragon (or at least had a cool drawbridge). In my teens, I became fascinated with Stone Henge, the mystery of it as intriguing as the actual remnants; Battle Abbey, sure I might see some ghosts wandering around in the battle fields; and Hadrian’s Wall (perhaps a little too influenced by the fact I’d graduated from Tin Tin to Asterisk the Gaul by then and had become fascinated with the Roman occupation).

My love of such spots hasn’t waned over the years. Bob and I discovered Avebury. Ahh! Avebury, where the village weaves in and out and around the ancient stones, and the sheep lie down against them. (Oh, and while you’re there, you can get great scones with clotted cream and jam). Our visit to Tintern Abbey revealed it to be a place likely to make those who guffaw at the notion of inanimate objects casting spells think twice. Meanwhile it causes people like me to roll over, expose their bellies, paws in air, begging, “more spells. Please. More.” Tikal was a place that made me desperately wish, not for the first time, I had a time machine. But you don’t even have to take me to foreign lands. You can tell me you’d like to show me a ghost town in New Mexico or some rich man’s old estate on an island off the coast of Maine that was left to rot during The Great Depression, and I’m there. Needless to say: I love ruins. Nothing quite grabs hold of the reins of my runaway imagination and says “Gee!” quite the way a good ruin does.

Those of you who have followed this blog and my comments on others’ blogs know I also happen to be infatuated with Rose Macaulay. Thus, when a friend of mine lent me Pleasure of Ruins, my first thought was, “How can I go wrong with Rose Macaulay’s take on ruins from around the globe?” After all, two infatuations have got to be better than one. Happily, and for a change, I didn’t ask “How can I go wrong?” and end up in some prison in Mexico or something.

Let’s just say that, like reading Slightly Foxed, my natural tendencies to horde went off on their own little adventures (maybe to some Mexican ruins) by the time I’d reached page 15. I sat down with this book and immediately wished I didn’t have anything to do at all (eat, drink, sleep, be married…) for the next 15 hours or so until I could finish it.

In typical understated British fashion, what should have been called Pure Unadulterated Delight and Ecstasy of Ruins has been called merely Pleasure of Ruins. This fascinating hybrid of history (most especially odd historical tidbits); guide to archeology, art and architecture; travelogue; and collection of quotes from other travelers’ diaries (and I’m talking here about such travelers as Dickens and Stendhal) is pretty hard to classify. Her signature wry and witty observations (so familiar from her novels) add to the enjoyment. Imagine traveling around the world, spying on travelers from past centuries, with a less-depressed, less self-absorbed, and more-knowledgable Dorothy Parker.

I’m pretty sure the following quote from the first section was the culprit that had me thinking, “Well, maybe I’ll do those yoga stretches at 11:30 tonight instead of 10:30 and then head on up to bed.”

[She’s talking here about ruins in early eighteenth-century art and literature.]
So the mood swelled and grew: ruin, horror, gloom, adders, toads, bats,
screech-owls, ivy, wasted towers, Gothic romance, multiplied cheerfully, in
poetry, prose, and paint…(p. 23)

But maybe it was a couple of paragraphs down when I read this:

..and early in the eighteenth century one charming new symptom emerged. The wind of fashion blew (who can predict when or why it blows?), and it was natural that the active and outdoor British should be blown by it from their contemplation of
ruin in pictures and literature and ancient abbeys into their gardens and parks,
where they could grow up new ruins of their own. (pp. 23-24)

By the time I’d reached the end of the first section, though, my thoughts were more along the lines of, “Hell, who needs yoga stretches and sleep?” Unfortunately, sleep which always eludes me when I have the attitude, “I must get to sleep,” overcame me before I’d gotten much past page 50. Good thing, really. This is not a book to be gobbled. This is a book to step inside and lounge around in with a picnic, sipping your wine slowly, while admiring the surrounding beauty. Breathing is a bit of a hazard, though, as stopping to do so might cause one to miss some particularly spectacular morsel wrapped up in the prose.

Whether Macaulay is introducing us to what could be the earliest examples of historical re-enactors (Emperor Caracalla imitating Achilles in Troy) or disparaging the early popes for their ruination of artifacts from Ancient Rome, she’s the picnic’s fruit salad appetizer: the juiciest and sweetest of berries, melons, and peaches with some capers and red onions thrown in to add a little bite. You eat and eat, but you’re never full. Her appetizer marvelously fulfills its role, leaving the reader hungering for a tad more.

She made the reader in me want to go read more travel diaries of the well-known. She made the scuba diver in me want to dive down to see the ruins of Sida. She pissed off the archeologist in me, who’s still sulking in a corner somewhere, because I never pursued that career path. Anyone teaching ancient history, art, or architecture ought to have their students read this book first before delving into those huge texts full of facts. What a way to grab students’ imaginations.

I’ll just leave you with a few more perfect spoonfuls of her fruit salad:

Few cities have been more often and more catastrophically ruined than Antioch,
during the last two and twenty decades. Frequent and horrible earthquakes, still
more frequent and only a little less horrible Seleucid Kings in a passion
(usually well-justified), Persian generals in victorious orgies of destruction,
Saracens and Ottoman Turks in anti-Christian hate, crusaders in anti-Saracen
rage, Bibars the Egyptian and the Mamelouks, who sacked and smashed the city
almost to pieces in 1268 – all these ruin-makers have done their part; and
finally the Turks, after their custom, let it moulder to decay while their new
town Antakia rose, full of mosques, from Antioch’s quarried ruins…Antioch itself
is a ghost, not to be seen but felt. (p. 57)

Those early travelers in Crete…went around probing ruins, copying inscriptions,
digging up and stealing statues, condemning the superficial accounts and errors
of previous observers…With tenacity and through many pages they argued about
sites. “The position of Apterd being once settled, we shall soon determine that
of Berecyntos.” All this determining of positions must have been a charming
employment. But to have them already determined saves time, and sets the
traveler free to enjoy what he sees. (p. 114)

The famous deserted Roman towns of Italy – Pompeii, Herculaneum, Ostia and
others – unlike those crumbling tropical capitals which contend against the
encroachments of forest and modern building, present to the world an aspect less
brittle, more established and secure. They have achieved ruin; they have been
disinterred, set in order, we know where we are with them. (p. 286)

Well, I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to board a plane, whetted appetite in search of a little meat, hearty grains, and vegetables. I’ve heard the best food is found in Turkey. Might as well start there. Oh, wait a minute, I have a job. I don’t have ten years of vacation. Better head to the library and its ancient history section instead. Meanwhile, I think my next trip around the world, offering a completely different experience, is going to have to be taken with Elizabeth Gilbert, since so many of you have been recommending her.

(Hmmm…Methinks I’m beginning to realize how much fun this litblogging stuff is. Maybe I’ll have to stop being a timid voyeur among all those running around Tilting at Windmills and finally add a post of my own.)

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

When Luddites Blog

I've just composed my first pencast a la Mandarine. I'm so proud. Wait. What's that you say? You don't see anything? Well, that's kind of odd, isn't it? Let me help you out a bit. Picture this: I sit down to write as legibly as I can a nice post all about why you won't be hearing a podcast from me anytime soon. It's a good post. I'm happy with it. I even tell a little story. Then, I take my post upstairs to the scanner.

I've only used the scanner once. I have this slight problem, which is that if I do something computer-related very infrequently, I don't remember how to do it. Thus, I had to take out the instruction book and remind myself how to use the scanner. All was going along swimmingly. My pages scanned beautifully. I saved them all onto my hard drive.

Now picture this: I try to get them onto blogger. Picture me calmly saying, "Hmmm...I guess that didn't work. Maybe I should try something else." Picture me trying a couple of other things. Picture none of them working. Picture me trying the same 3 things about twenty times, even though I know damn well they didn't work the first time. Picture me saying something a little harsher than "Hmmm...I guess that didn't work." In fact, picture me saying some things a pastor's wife shouldn't even know, let alone actually let spew forth from her mouth. Picture me wanting to throw the computer down the stairs.

By now, you've got a beautiful portrait that paints a thousand words. One of these days, I'll type up that blog post and post it anyway, and you can picture it as a hand-written document composed with my Mark Twain signature fountain pen.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Excuse Me While I Panic

I’ve been noticing that quite a number of my favorite bloggers seem to be suffering from some sort of blogging malaise. They’re noting that they’ve been losing interest in blogging. Some of them are taking breaks. Some of them are shutting down their blogs. This state of affairs has left me in a bit of a panic for two reasons.

The first reason is that it seems to me people are getting blogger burnout around the 1 ½ - 2-year mark. As I sit here writing this, less than a week from my one-year blogging anniversary, I can’t possibly imagine ever getting bored with my blog. I so love it and the navel-gazing opportunities it provides. That being said, however, I happen to know very well that I’m the same (never-learn-from-past-experience) person who has started every single job with an enthusiastic feeling that I will never be bored. Lo and behold, give me some time in any job, and I will become bored. The only exciting factor is trying to figure out how long it will be before boredom sets in (receptionist for legal newspaper = three months, acquisitions editor for reference publisher = three years, executive editor of math and science for education publisher = who knows? I’m hoping three decades). I don’t want it to happen to me. I don’t want to get bored with blogging.

Let’s face it, though. I got bored blogging about telecommuting after what? Two weeks? Something like that. I had to open myself up to other topics in order to keep going. And I know perfectly well, boredom is a feeling not limited to work environments. Bob loves to joke about how I’m constantly taking up new interests with overzealous glee (“I’m going to learn to knit!” “I’ve got a bread machine, and we’re never buying bread again!” “I’m going to learn to speak Spanish!”), and six months later, he’ll notice I’ve moved on to something else (knitting needles, bread machine, Spanish CDs banished to the backs of closets). Incidentally, this is yet another reason (let’s call it reason #1,000,007) I’m not a great candidate for motherhood. Can you see me six months into it deciding I’m bored and stuffing the baby in the back of a closet?

Of course, I’m also well aware of the fact that feeding my ego trumps boredom. Comments approving of what I write will keep me going for months; I’m sure, even if I do start getting bored. As a matter of fact, that complimentary post of Mandarine’s a while back will probably be enough to keep me going for at least five years. So maybe I shouldn’t worry about this until I stop getting comments.

My second fear is that everyone I’ve come to know and love is going to disappear. Childhood and adolescent abandonment issues are pushing themselves to the forefront of my brain. All the cool, popular people are going to leave me behind, and I’m going to be stuck hanging out with nothing but the political bloggers or the “I’m-visiting-my-friends-the-Smurfs” bloggers. Because my abandonment issues are so good at convincing me I should just be a chameleon, if I don’t want to be alone, I’ll find myself composing such articulate comments as “Oh yeah? Well, go suck an egg,” to someone blogging about what a hero Sam Brownback is and how he so deserves to be out next president. Or worse yet, I’ll start blogging about the cocktail party with the trolls I attended that was certainly more fun than anything the Smurfy-One was doing.

Wrapped up in this fear, I decided I’d better go see if I could find some new friends before it’s too late. My real-life friend Victoria informed me that The QC Report was well worth befriending. I thought I’d make my way out to L.A. and pay her a little visit. Half an hour later, my sides aching from the laughter, I was lighting incense to the gods in hopes they’ll keep this new friend of mine from ever coming down with blogger burnout. An added bonus to discovering her is that she'll be a great impetus for me to continue my weak attempts at being funny, which will surely help me avoid my own boredom. You know how in kindergarten you were so thrilled with your bright, colorful finger painting of your family (including all the pets), and then you looked across the table to see the budding Picasso, with his multiple brushes lined up, stepping back to consider his “Variations on Someone’s Family,” and then stepping back in to touch up the purple, rectangular cat with a few well-placed strokes? Then you know how I felt reading this blog. I’m going home to beg my mom for some paint brushes.

Next, I headed into New York to knock on The Alternate Side Parking Reader’s door. If you’ve ever been stupid enough to decide to live in New York with a car and no parking garage space, as some of us have been (actually, judging from the numbers of people taking up all the prime spots on the alternate side between 11:00 – 12:30 in Morningside Heights, I have to change that “some” to “many”), you will immediately be able to relate to this new friend of mine. It also helps to be obsessed with All Things New York. Neither of these traits is required, though, to enjoy this highly readable and funny blog. You may have a little trouble understanding the thrill of discovering alternate-side-of-the-street parking has been suspended due to a 7-inch rainfall, or why someone would keep dialing 311 to make absolutely certain it was really true. Just pretend you’re a kid listening to the school cancellations three times on a snow day to make sure, and you’ll be about halfway to understanding the feeling. This blog isn’t even a year old yet, so I’m betting it will be some time before blog boredom sets in. Then again, how can anyone living in and blogging about New York ever be bored? Frustrated, lonely, exhausted, anxiety-ridden, yes. But bored?

So, I’ve pushed the panic button and realized I don’t really have much to worry about. Yet. But, please, don’t any more of you tell me you’re thinking about abandoning your blog. In return, I’ll try not to be boring and not to get bored.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

A Night with the ADHD Insomniac

(The Attention-Deficit-Hyperactivity-Disordered Insmoniac -- from here on out referred to as ADHD-I --went to bed at 10:30 and fell fast asleep. She’s not sure exactly what it was that woke her up, heart pounding at 12:30, because all she remembers dreaming about is a dog with a red bandanna playing with a soccer ball, but she’s been awake, fretting about work and other life issues ever since. Ages ago, she slipped away into the guest bedroom, so her husband wouldn't be bothered by her restlessness.)

What time is it? 2:00 a.m.? Already? S**t! I’ve got to get some sleep. Come on, sleep…Okay, not a good idea to think about sleep. Don’t think about sleep. Visualize. Take a deep breath. Count sheep. There’s a big fat sheep happily jumping over a fence. Looks like something that could outsmart Wile E. Coyote. One. One big fat sheep. Two. Two big fat sheep. Three…four…five…six. Did I remember to turn the laundry room light off before coming to bed? What about the deck light? Yeah, I think I did. Stop it. Focus on the sheep. Here comes another one. What is that six? Seven? Seven, I guess. Eight. Nine… Oh f**k! Who am I kidding? The only way I’m going to conjure up a sheep right now is if one comes through the ceiling and lands on top of me. I’d like to strangle the idiot who came up with the notion that counting sheep is a way to get to sleep.

(ADHD-I throws off the covers, because it’s too hot. She tosses and turns for a few minutes. She flips upside down with her head at the foot of the bed – that used to work when she was a kid and couldn’t sleep. She lies there for who knows how long. Feels like sleep is just on the horizon. Her back starts itching. Her legs start itching. No amount of scratching seems to help. It’s a deep-down, way-below-the-surface-of-the-skin sort of itch).

Damn! What’s the matter with me? Why am I so itchy? What’s that a symptom of? AIDS? The Ebola virus? I can’t remember. Ought to get up and look it up online. No. I am not going online. I’m going to sleep. I have to sleep.

(ADHD-I now starts to get cold. She flips back around and gets back under the covers. She lies there for what seems like a very long time, but is only five minutes.) That’s better. I can just feel my eyelids getting droopy. Look into them. Look into the darkness of them. Pretend you’re in a dark tunnel. Don’t think about anything. Remember that time in first grade when you got in trouble for talking, and Ralph was the one who was talking? That was so unfair. And don’t forget that time in junior high when nobody would let you sit with them on the school bus. And then there was the time you tripped on the stairs in high school…God.

What time is it now? 3:00!? Okay, if I get to sleep within the next ten minutes, I can skip breakfast, get up at 6:30, and that will still be a little over three hours, plus the two I got earlier, which means I'll be getting really close to six hours of sleep. Six hours of sleep isn't bad. Lots of people only get six hours of sleep a night. Hell, lots of people seem to thrive on only four hours of sleep a night. They brag about it. Wish I were one of them. If I were, I wouldn't brag. Oh, s**t, I forgot to give Lisa her book back last time I was in the office. Uh-oh, did I leave that book at the office? What did I do with it? I hope I didn’t lose it. Dammit, I’m hungry. I’m going to ignore that growling stomach. If I were asleep, it wouldn’t be bothering me. (Stomach growls a few more times.) Wait a minute. I think I read that hunger keeps you awake. Cheese and milk have that stuff in them that makes you sleepy. Better go get some cheese and milk.

(ADHD-I makes her way downstairs to the kitchen to get some cheese and milk, making sure not to look out any windows on the way, lest she sees some scary-looking face looking back in at her. She cuts herself a chunk of cheese and pours a glass of milk, spots a Cooking Light magazine on the kitchen table and takes it back up to bed with her anything-but-light, wee-hours-of-the-morning snack. She props herself up in bed, eats, drinks, and reads recipes until she’s sure she can’t keep her eyes open any longer. The magazine is slipping from her hand. She turns off the light and curls up under the covers. She’s beginning to dream. Suddenly, there’s an unidentified thump from downstairs.)

What was that?! (Heart pounding again, she sits up in bed and listens.) Is it someone in the house? If someone’s in the house, do I have time to slip into the closet and hide? No, wait a minute. The closet was a terrible hiding place in Halloween. I wonder if I’d hurt myself if I jumped off the second-floor deck? Is that someone coming up the stairs? (Listens intently, but all she hears is the sound of the morning newspaper being delivered.)

S**t! The paper’s already being delivered. I’m never going to sleep now. I’ve got an hour at best. Should I just get up? Nah. Might as well just lie here and make the best of it. Lying still is almost as good as sleeping according to that one article...

(Twenty minutes before the alarm goes off, she slips into a near-comatose state.)

Saturday, May 05, 2007


Right now, it seems, Bob and I probably have three choices. We can move to a little town in Lancaster County, PA (if you’re like me, you knew nothing about this area of the country until Harrison Ford oh-so-attractively brought attention to it in the movie Witness, and still basically know nothing about the area, but would love to run into him walking down the street); we can move back to the much bigger town in Connecticut where we met; or we can move down to an even littler town in Augusta County, VA., where my forebears staked out their turf before migrating to Albemarle County, VA. Augusta County and Lancaster County are breath-takingly beautiful spots, places where many Americans vacation every year. The town in Connecticut is basically a utilitarian suburb of New York City (I know, because I used to live there. To announce you were going to vacation there would be like announcing you were going to vacation in Trenton, NJ). However, it’s a mere 40-minute train ride from Grand Central Station. And if someone were to invent truth serum and inject me with it, of all the places I say I’d love to live in the world (Edinburgh, London, Maine, San Francisco, Santa Fe, Bonaire…), under this serum’s influence, I’m sure I’d blurt out, “Are you nuts? There’s no better place in the world to live than New York City!” Screw warmer climates. When I retire, I want to be on the Upper West Side with a view of the Hudson.

So, why am I even considering living anywhere else? Well, first of all, I’m well aware of the fact that blah suburban towns are not Manhattan, and that they can suck you in to such an extent that you rarely hop on that train to the city. Secondly, we haven’t yet received an official call in Connecticut. I won’t bore you with the details of the tedious process of “receiving and accepting a call” (church speak for being offered and accepting a job) in the Presbyterian Church USA. Suffice it to say I don’t want to put you to sleep, nor do I want to have to produce what we in the publishing world would refer to as a 120,000-word manuscript. Pennsylvania has “called Bob” (and we have two weeks to accept). Virginia has informed him he’s their first choice; they’d like him to come back and preach in a neutral pulpit (required formality), which basically means that if he doesn’t stand up in front of a congregation and pick his nose, they’re going to call him.

Imagine, if you will, then, a 200-year-old church in farm country where the Amish and Mennonites (quaint and fascinating to you at this point, from an outsider’s point of view) trot by in their buggies pulled by horses. Farm markets pop up out of the landscape the way Wal-Marts do in other areas of the country. Focus for a moment on that four-bedroom, 100-year-old manse next door to the church. While I write this, it’s being renovated. A brand new kitchen, brand new bathrooms, and new appliances, as well as sanded and polished hard-wood floors await the new residents. Said residents don’t have to pay for anything in the way of upkeep of this house, except the telephone. Someone else will worry about such things as cutting the grass, adding water softeners, salting the driveway when it snows, and plumbing concerns. Imagine me (if you’re familiar with my more macabre side) living in a place with a back yard that’s basically a cemetery. Those of you who are more familiar with my animal-loving side can picture me on my morning and evening “commutes” (the walks I take twice daily), encountering cows, horses, goats, chickens, and even mallard ducks waddling across the street, purposefully quacking which each step, as well as an occasional bunny chowing down on someone’s bush in a front yard (I know. I took this walk last Sunday). Wouldn’t that be hard to resist?

Now, imagine another church. The cows are still very much in the picture in the fields that surround the church. Some of them are lying down, but I’m sure you’re familiar with the way they all stop and turn and stare at you as you come along. This is a stone church built in 1740, and those cows, apparently, sometimes like to come join the service when it’s summertime and the congregation is sitting out on wooden pews in front of a makeshift wooden pulpit in the oak grove on the property. Across the street from this beautiful and historic church is an old clapboard farmhouse, built on the original logs of the original manse with stunning views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. You can live there if you want, or if you don’t (say you’ve gone online and have discovered a beautiful log cabin for sale), you can get a housing allowance to pay for your mortgage.

I’ll ask you to imagine one more thing. You’ve sat down and have even shared meals with the members of the pastor nominating committees for these churches. They were all so ingenuous. They all wanted so badly for you to like their churches. They all raved about your husband and his ability to write and to communicate. Many of them indicated that they just wanted to hug him. How can you possibly say to them, “Sorry, but we don’t want to come to your church?”

Meanwhile, what do you do when, after a week of traveling in Pennsylvania and Virginia, the minute you cross back over the Connecticut (a place where you moved 20 years ago just until you could figure out a way to work and live either in NYC or Boston) line, you find yourself realizing you love this state? You find yourself wondering how you can ever leave. You enter the doors of the house with which you’ve had a twelve-year-long love-hate relationship and regret ever having said one nasty thing about its magnificent being. What do you do when you suddenly discover that 23-year-old you who always relished the idea of moving every few years, never staying in one place, and discovering new places has been squashed by a 43-year-old you who thinks 23-year-old should have been locked away years ago?

I don’t have any answers. I’ll keep you posted. Oh, and by the way, we’ve just discovered the church in the San Francisco Bay area that we thought had lost interest hasn’t…