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Archive for February, 2012

Gah!

I know — it’s amazing I’m a writer after a headline like that.  I had a great post planned for today — I’ve been working on it for a bit, writing a line down here, changing a word there — but I haven’t finished it, and I don’t want to do it halfway, so it’s more pink sox today, folks.

In my defense, last week was vacation week, and all my spare brain cells were in heavy rotation losing at Connect Four, convincing my son that when bowling, the ball doesn’t score bonus points if it goes in someone else’s lane, and missing my daughter as she flitted about with her friends. And then today … the dryer broke. It made a noise like a jet engine at takeoff and refused to spin a cycle further.

I was supposed to research new dryers today, or at least research a way to get the even older dryer that lives in the basement upstairs and functional again, but then a friend called and talked me into a walk.  (She’s very persuasive.) And we walked, and the whole time I was yammering about dryers and small children and not watching the trail so we got lost and had so much fun finding our way again that I forgot about wet clothes and electrician bills and everything else.  I just walked and laughed and tried not to trip up and go sprawling.

It was a good reminder.  February’s almost over, which means that spring is coming, and then school will be out, and while I live for summer vacation, it’s bittersweet.  It means my kids are a year older, another grade down and another step further down their own path, which will be separate from mine. My son has learned to read this year.  My daughter has grown into her own self a bit more, and I can glimpse, through the oncoming years, the person she’ll become.

That time’s not that far off, and I know these days are precious. All I can do is wander with them, point out the obstacles that could make them stumble, and enjoy the journey.  Hope we forget how fast the days are passing, and laugh.

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Or at least February vacation, so if you’re expecting a real blog post, you are sadly mistaken. Instead I thought I’d share with you a few of the activities we’ve done in between the playdates and the sleepovers.  (I’m not including the part where I pry the DS from my son’s hands, of course.  That goes without saying.)

We’ve watched Microcosmos — you’ll never look at your backyard the same way again.  (If you are squeamish, you may not even go outside again.) It’s an award-winning movie about the natural world, up close and personal.  If you are watching it with kids, be warned : It features a ladybug one-night stand and some serious snail lovin’ that could lead to an interesting discussion.

We’ve found all the Dr. Seuss books we own (a grand total of six) for a Seuss-in.

We’re teaching the Slobbering Beast  how to do this …. — I’ll get back to you on how it works out.

We’re working through our final Kiwi Crate, featuring pirate activities.  (Although my son has enjoyed it so much I may have to sign up for more.)

And I’m stealing time to read The Snow Child.  (It is gorgeous, and check out the book trailer — it reminds me of Where The Wild Things Are.)

Where are the Wild Things?  They are at my house.  So that’s it till next week.

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A few weeks ago I was watching an episode of Downton Abbey. It was the scene where Lady Mary breaks it to Matthew that he’ll never walk again, and probably never sire children, either.  And then, at the conclusion of this cheerful conversation, she asks brightly “Would you like some tea?  I would!” and trots off to make a cup.  I couldn’t help but laugh.

A cup of tea just isn't enough...

My junior year of college, I was lucky enough to spend a semester in England (thanks, Mom and Dad!!) taking classes and working for a member of Parliament.  My MP was of the party that was in power, which meant he had a gorgeous office in Parliament, and I got to do exciting things like research the effect of wind turbines on livestock and examine why soccer hooliganism was an increasing problem.  (As opposed to one of my dear friends who I met on that trip, whose MP was not in power, who had a cubicle of an office and got to spend her time filing.) I was young and American and probably a large pain in the ass, but Mr. X bore it all graciously.  He overlooked my inability to distinguish between Manchester United and Liverpool, my mispronunciation of the River Thames (coming from New London, I always said the A) and my constant snacking on Hob Nobs.

And then one day when we were working late he asked me to make him a cup of tea.  I of course being a good American girl hopped up, found a clean cup, heated some water in the microwave, and then started rustling through the cabinets, trying to find a bag. I still to this day remember how he stopped what he was doing when I put the cup of hot water on his desk.

“What,” he asked, all British restraint clearly gone, “is this?”

“Well,” I said, “I’m still looking for the tea bag.”

This, as you can imagine, did not go over well. And while I can’t remember what paper he was trying to finish, I do recollect quite clearly that the next morning we had a lesson in Tea.  It was a long lesson, and involved ideas that were foreign to me, such as the proper temperature of the pot, the use of a tea cozy, and the benefits of savory versus sweet biscuits.

Tea, thanks to Mr. X,  became an ongoing part of my education.  I sampled clotted cream in Cornwall, tried English Breakfast at a tea house near Windsor Castle, and had tiny sandwiches and cups of Earl Gray in china cups, brought by pages inside the lunch room for Parliamentary members, overlooking the River Thames.  (I pronounce it correctly now.)

When I came back home, I kept in touch with the friend whose MP was not in power.  We met a few times a year, and always tried to visit at least one tea house where we tucked into sandwiches, scones, and yes, tea.

One day, she suggested we meet at a restaurant that specialized in Japanese tea for a change.  I was reluctant — no clotted cream? no scones with lemon curd? — but my friend, who has been to Japan, persevered, and gradually my tastes evolved.  I still love a milky cup of English Breakfast and sugar on morning when it’s cold and raw out, but most days I take my green tea straight.

The stuff my friend got me hooked on is expensive enough to qualify as a present, not a foodstuff, and I’m always grateful that my husband keeps me supplied at Christmas and birthdays.  But what I don’t always remember to appreciate is the experience.  Whether English or otherwise, the tea isn’t the only point.  It’s the ritual, the warming of the pot, the waiting for the water to heat, the leaves to unfold — that creates a space in time, that slows down the day a bit and allows you to gather your thoughts and your strength, if necessary, for what is coming.

Before my kids were born, I collected all kinds of tea paraphernalia — fancy clay teapots, antique English tea strainers, speciality cups.  These days I tend to just grab the nearest mug and go. But today, and tomorrow, and for as many days as I can remember, I’m going to take the time to warm the pot, and use the time while I’m waiting just to breathe.  I hope  you do the same.

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Hey there.  I had such grand plans for this blog entry –brilliant posts about tea, or riding, or reading and riding and letting go.  But then I caught a cold, and the Slobbering Beast cut his foot (I don’t think he even noticed, but it looked as if Jason had visited our house) and I wound up taking a week off from running because every time I went outside I sounded like Typhoid Mary and I was worried the beast would be crippled for life.

And then I went yesterday, and it was hard.  In fact, since no one under 18 is reading this blog (also a post for another day) I can say that, without a doubt, it sucked.  It was still cold and I was slow and I couldn’t get out of my own way and when I was running up the very last hill, I seriously considered just stopping.  But then I remembered how, in my little group of friends who run, I am low person on the totem pole, clawing out my miles each week just to stay there.  And how the person who wasn’t even ON the totem pole just went out and ran a 5k, so my status is in jeopardy.  So I kept running, and while I wouldn’t say it ever actually got easier, I finished.

The thing is, I am at that point in my writing, too.  I just finished a good section of my story, and I have been polishing it and playing with it until I am reasonably pleased, and then I had to put that section away and start another chapter and it is hard.  (And yes, I realize everything is relative  and my worst hard writing day is so much better than the type of awful day many people have on a regular basis, but it was not good.)  I wrote 1200 words yesterday and wound up deleting 800 of them, and those last 400 are on probation too.

Eventually, I will find my way and my rhythm.  I’ll put up enough words that I can see the ones that belong, and someday I will be happy with this section too.  But not today.  Which is why instead of a scintillating blog post, I am offering you … pink socks.

Actually, they are red, because in the heart of New England that's how we roll.

Fans of Joshilyn Jackson will realize I am completely stealing this.  For everyone else, pink socks are the glorious and entertaining stories that never quite get told over at Faster Than Kadzu.  We may read about them, even glimpse them, but the pink socks never actually materialize. Instead, Joshilyn waves very shiny things in our general direction to distract us.

So, for starters, did you know Miz Jackson has a glorious new book out?  And she’s running a very fun virtual booksigning? (Although I would love to participate, I’m buying my copy this spring at this wonderful book store, which is now for sale.)

Also, Writer Unboxed is running a portion of its auction again.  If you are a writer, this is a great way to win some exposure and support one of the best writing communities on the web.

And speaking of community, Vaughn Roycroft, who is always the first to give a shout-out to other writers, has a spanking new website out that is totally worth a look. Go see it and tell him I said hi. : )

Finally, in the more good news category, author Sarah Pinneo, who runs the extremely helpful blog Blurb is a Verb, had her book Julia’s Child release this week.  I snatched it up immediately, and am having a blast reading it.  She has a wonderful voice and totally nails the Oh My God Are Those Organic Carrots Really $200 And Are They Worth It  vibe.  (And, little note here — one of her reading partners is the lovely Rosemary DiBatistta, who just signed her own THREE book contract.  Wowza!)

And finally for real, someone pointed out that I didn’t provide a link to my Pinterest boards, so I  put it in my sidebar.  I hope to see you there.  And next week, Pink Socks!

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