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April 30, 2007

Stitchy McBrunchpants

Me and Stitchy McYarnpants herself!

I wish I could tell you how perfect this past weekend was without sounding like Smiley McPollyannapants. Yesterday Faith and I had a little brunch and we all got to meet Debbie, the Yarnpants herself. It was so much fun to sit around on a Sunday and drink mimosas and eat brunch food and chitchat about the bad crocheted cozies of our youth. I can't tell you the last time I had so much fun or felt so relaxed even in a roomful of people (usually I need to escape to the spare bedroom.) Even before my life went ass over teakettle and back again, I never would have thought I'd know this many funny, kind, witty and good people here in Los Angeles. And now (by proxy) Boston!

I am so glad I picked knitting as my obsession, or maybe it picked me, but either way I have met some really amazing women because of it, and even one or two pretty adorable guys under 14 inches tall.

[click on each image for a larger view]

We passed around a ton of hilariously bad old kniting and crochet magazines, there's Debbie in the chair and Allison and sleepy Evan on the sofa; Faith and Stefanie chat while absurd crochet lounges in the sunlight.

Allison and Evan, that little face! So perfect! Annika and her adorable Sam, who doesn't mind at all when I smooch his ears. He laughs. I love guys who can't talk back yet!

Faith, Laurie Ann, Kendra and Brantlea. I love this final picture even though it's blurry, my friend Sara has one of the best smiles on the planet.

Posted by laurie at 11:03 AM

April 27, 2007

We like the nightlife, we like to boogie.

When I first contemplated dating (it took me forever, ya'll know, almost seventeen months to even be able to hold such a thought) my girlfriends and I would try to come up with some pre-rehearsed thing to say to any potential date who might ask if I had a cat.

Any single woman in the United States with more than one (singular) cat knows what I am talking about here. If you are married and think this should be no big deal, I understand. I was married once. I thought it was so cute having four cats. I did not have to think then of going on dates and disclosing this information to male-type people in the Los Angeles metro region. Then I got single again and trust me... it was a challenge.

Shannon suggested, "Maybe you could say, 'Oh, I have cats where you sort of take a sip of water at the plural part?"

And Jennifer suggested, "Well, you could always say you have two cats, and then when they see four explain that those were your ex-husband's cats? Maybe?"

We all laughed and also it was awkward so we stopped talking and sipped wine.

The Number Of Cats issue was surprising (see: "previously married and hadn't considered this," above) and kind of scary in the beginning. Single men (at least in L.A.) have some kind of weird thing about women with cat(s). There are even personal ads that specifically state "I am looking for a woman with no damn cats." This is another reason why I despise personal ads and yet somehow cannot stop reading them. It is much like Pringles. You hate the way you feel after eating the whole can but still, you eat the whole can.

I don't know why guys are this way about felines but since I didn't previously know this weird angle on dating, it scared me a little. Would this be just one more way I was undesireable? Would dating forever be a please-cats-stay-hidden foray into awkwardness?

But when I actually began to meet guys and go on dates, I discovered something interesting. As soon as you tell a potential date you are divorced, they do not ask if you have feline residents. They ask if you have children. It's very Pavlovian.
1) "Are you married, have a boyfriend or anything?"
2) "No, I'm divorced."
3) "Oh, do you have kids?"

So later I discovered this was an excellent time to finesse the cats into conversation.

"Do you have kids?"
"I have four mouths to feed."
"Well, no kids. I do have a few cats. They're cute."

That worked about 30% of the time. About 70% of the time I got some weird response, "How many cats?" and "Why do girls like cats?" and my favorite, a simple and defiant "I hate cats."

To that I replied, "So does Sobakowa. She hates cats." And of course I did not date that guy.

Now that I have dated all sorts of guys and have many good, bad and funny stories to tell because of it, something even more surprising has happened.

I don't care at all what some guy thinks about ALL MY cats.

In fact, my furballs are so darn cute and personable they have become a delightful, if somewhat hairy, litmus test for all future dates. "Are you married, have a boyfriend or anything?" "No, I'm divorced." "Oh, do you have kids?" "Nope. But I have four, count them! FOUR!! Cats. I totally rock. Cat ladies are sexy."

Some guys say: "Um, ok well, I gotta bounce, check you later."
Some guys say, "I love cats!"

And really now, isn't it better to just find out right at the get-go? It really is better for everyone -- for me, for the guy, and of course, it is better for my four furry litmus markers of love.






Posted by laurie at 9:20 AM

April 26, 2007

Thursday Top Ten(ish)

Back to life, back to reality... oops. Do you have that song in your head now? If it is any consolation, so do I. Back to the here and now again!

1) Sobakowa has been meowing with ennui lately.
I can only imagine her manifesto will include a chapter on this grave oversight of her fabulosity and Dictatorness.

2) Last night I was sitting on the patio (isn't that where all my life unfolds, anyway?) and Mrs. Lee said hello over the back gate, and invited me over. They were cooking over a tiny charcoal barbecue pit in their backyard. We all sat like third-graders on these small stools around the small grill while they cooked delicious meat and mushrooms (and I NEVER eat mushrooms but was too afraid to offend Mrs. Lee so I ate them and did not die and also kind of liked them) and then. Then. Then I knew I had somehow passed some test with her when I accidentally out of happiness hugged her for dinner thank-yous and instead of turning to stone (as she usually does when I inappropriately hug her) she patted me on the shoulder. This was a very big step. I think I might now be Korean.

3) My peppers kick the ass of all other pepper seedlings on earth! Rock on Dad and your badass seed-planting self!

Still life with seedlings at night, after watering. I have to plant them on Saturday into real pots, it's all very exciting and gardeny. Plus the weather has suddenly warmed up astronomically, but I think it will be good for the peppers as long as nothing catches on fire and I water them regularly.

4) There is a knit-a-square project happening right I'm sure you already know about but still, just in case....

Hi Laurie! I'm not sure if you have been emailed about this and you may have and if so, I am sorry. I live here in Blacksburg, VA where we just endured an umimaginable and horrific tragedy and a bunch of us knitters are getting together a bunch of squares for memorial blankets for the families of the victims. We will need over 2,000 squares and although there are many of us here in Blacksburg, it is still a tall order so we are trying to get the word out to all knitters so they could mail in squares. Would you be willing to mention this effort on your blog since you get so many readers? You can read about the project on my blog or just go to my Local Yarn Store's blog to get the details.
Jody Hilt
Blacksburg, VA

5) My bus has issues. The 6:30, 6:45 and 7:00 are fraught with peril in the form of Vinegar Guy. His schedule seems to vary which makes me insane. The late bus contains Heavy Sneezer and Heavy Perfumer. Heavy Sneezer sits in the back and sneezes wetly every ten minutes. Heavy Perfumer is pretty and wears awesome outfits but reeks reeks REEKS of industrial-strength perfume that makes my eyes water. Does Heavy Sneezer only sneeze because of Heavy Perfumer? I may never know since they always appear on the late bus and he sits in the very back spreading mucas germs, while she sits in the middle infecting five rows both forward and aft with her perfume. I am left to the 6:15 bus and the 7:15 bus only. At all other times I am relegated to the subway. You think my life is great on paper, then you see I HAVE ISSUES PEOPLE.

6) Is Roy T. Cat the cutest thing on Planet Earth or what?


7) Stitchy Mc Yarnpants! I just want to say "yarnpants yarnpants" all day, don't you? Well, the world-famous Stitchy McYarnpants is coming to town this weekend and even though I am shy and hate to leave my house, I have somehow managed to get my magical friend Faith to host brunch at her house which (while it has no cats) also has no cat hair and is superbly pretty. Let it be known that Ms. Yarnpants is a huge hero of mine, because she has the cutest website name on the whole internet and also has made me say "yarn sores" in conversation. A lot. I am really excited to meet her. I would also like to tell her this via email but am temporarily locked out of my own email, AGAIN. I am however on hold right now with Tech Support, AGAIN, and will have healed and healthy email in mere hours.
Me + Technology = Trainwreck.

8) Stitching 'n Bitching Burns Calories. I am sure of it! These are pictures from last week's Stitch 'n Bitch (West Hollywood Farmer's Market at 3rd & Fairfax, 7 p.m. - 9 p.m. on Thursday evenings, be there or be a granny square!) and yes I am posting pictures from a full week ago because I am still on Behind Standard Time, a full week behind in my own life. It's cool. Next week I'll be just a week away from today, yay me.

Me, yarny visitor Anna-Liza from Denver and master cake artist Frank.
Also, why is it that when I smile I lose eyeballs and gain extra cheeks?

I LOVE this picture, even though I took it from far away
and it's sort of grainy. It looks like Ellen and MJ
are solving all the world's problems while stitching away!

9 ) Finally, from the "Oh Lordy That Would Happen To Me" pile...

Hey Laurie, My mom had this gorgeous Brooks Farm Four Play, in shades of purple, teal, brown and green, and she was knitting Sonnet (from Knitty) on the plane back from San Diego to where she lives in San Jose. And she had made a lot of progress, and then she got home and it was GONE! The plane was LA based, and she has called San Diego, LA, *and* San Jose airports trying to find her project, to no avail. It's probably a total long-shot, but I am hoping that if we could get the word out among the blog community (and the general kntting community in CA, maybe) that we could find her project. She had no identifying information in the bag it was in (that was on top of her carry-on and apparently fell out) so she is afraid someone picked it up and doesn't know where to return it. Sincerely, Christa

If you or someone you know discovered Christa's mom's Sonnet, please give her a holler!

I love the innernets. Al Gore, in addition to being cute you are also damn fine for inventing such a tool where we can talk about lost knitting projects and post pictures of cats inside tents. Thank you from the bottom of my knitlovin' heart. Now can you please come fix my email? Thanks! Love, me from one week ago.

Posted by laurie at 10:17 AM

April 25, 2007

New! York! City! ... Do you have any pie, please?


First... We broke the comments with LOVE. It was awesome! That is the power of love. And breaking things! But I have a FABULOUS hosting company and Jamie from Pair's Tech Support fixed it right up. Thank you, Jamie!

Second... Tomorrow we return to urgently cute cat pictures and important questions concerning the sneezer on the bus. But there was one last thing to tell you. It's like when your best friend is on vacation in some out-of-network country for two weeks and you save up ALL details of everything that happened while she was away and spill them all at once in one huge breath, up to and including the time you semi-flirted with the Trader Joe's checkout guy and does she think his smile back was also flirting? But anyway tomorrow I promise we'll go back to normal YET IMPORTANT issues regarding the safety of my bus while The Sneezer is present.

So then. On the first weekend of June there is some kind of publishing convention in New York City and guess who got invited! Cracker Ass McCracker.

I immediately called up my parents and begged them to come with me, because I don't want to go to big, scary New York City by myself because I am ten. And the truth is, I want my family to be a part of every single inch of this. It's their story, too, especially the 2700 words I had to cut about that time we were all in Texas a few years back. (I still do not understand why a paperback can't be 4000 pages long. I mean really now.)

Our conversation went went something like this:

Me: Daddy! We are all going to New York City for a book thing!

Dad: That is very exciting! New York City, eh? Do you think they'll be able to understand my talking there?

Me: I don't know dad. They don't even call pizza "pizza" up there. They call it "pie."

Dad: I know. But doesn't that make you wonder ... what on earth do they call their pie?

Me: It is all very perplexing. I think we'll have to order some and find out!

Ya'll know I never travel light so in addition to my parents my Aunt Pam is coming to New York City for this thing, and so is Faith, and Jennifer. It's called Book Expo America and I will be at the HCI booth on Friday and again Saturday and later that day I will be in the main autographing area attempting not to die of nervousness while words try to come out my mouth. I believe they call this a "reading." I am already sweating just thinking of it.

Lord help me.

I am so nervous. I don't do well "in public." I called up Kim Weiss one day on the phone, she runs the whole publicity department at the book company so she is a professional and very busy lady with a whole lot on her mind. I'm sure she loved a spontaneous phone call in which I told I was having nightmares that I would show up at the booth and there would be the Chicken Soup For The Soul creator and famous-guy-who-was-on-Oprah, Jack Canfield, and I would probably accidentally stumble into a box or something and loose my footing and then my whole enormous self would fall into a load-bearing booth beam and the whole HCI booth would come down on Jack Canfield's head.

"Kim," I said urgently. "This is my worst nightmare."

And apparently my reputation of grace and efforless three-stoogery precedes me, because she did not even bat an eyelash. Just said, "Oh, well, if that happens I'm sure everything will be okay, Jack is the nicest man you will ever meet."

I may have also accidentally sent both her and Allison an urgent middle-of-the-night email asking what on earth does the publishing world wear, and was it formal? promwear? hootchiewear? business formal? business casual? help me!

And Kim wrote back suggesting I just be myself, as long as myself did not include hootchie wear.

So, I am very nervous and have already started purchasing shoes I can't afford.

This whole upcoming trip brought on a crisis last month, when I was complaining to Jennifer that I had forgotten New York was a humid place and how bad that was, because I had to wear the extra-heavy duty Spanx.

"Why do you need the Spanx again?" she asked.

"Because of my buddha," I replied. That is my nickname for the part of your tummy that pooches out.

"Well," she said, "It's still three months away, you could do some sit-ups or something ..."

"Oh GOD NO, I would never! Why would you even say that! That's terrible! I just want to throw money at this problem and complain about it ... I don't want to do a SIT-UP. Are you crazy?"

"Uh... okay," said Jennifer. "Weirdo."

And so as the date approaches and I get nervouser and nervouser, I thought maybe Jennifer was on to something. So I did try to do a sit-up last night, finally, in desperation. I got about halfway up. I could not go all the way up.

Then I called Drew, to tell him I had done an almost-sit up.

"You mean, like a crunch?" he asked.

"YES!! YES, that's it! I did a crunch!"

"Wow, a whole crunch?" he asked.

"Hey, look, that is a major accomplishment for me," I said. "I haven't done sit-ups in like five years."

"Five years? Are you sure?" How does Drew always know when I am maybe exaggerating?

"Fine. Maybe it was seven years."


"OKAY, ten. Ten, are you happ... no, fine! It was twelve. I HAVE NOT DONE A SIT-UP IN TWELVE YEARS."

"That's my girl," he said.

So anyway. If you want to come to New York City and see a flabby, country, nervously sweating bad public speaker accidentally knock an entire publishing company's booth down on Jack Canfield or similar, you can investigate it here. I don't know if it's open to the public or what, it might be some kind of trade show. I have no idea. But there will be actual, real famous people there, too, Judy Blume is on the list (!!!). And of course my parents will be there!

And later, if we are lucky, there will be pie. Of some sort.

Posted by laurie at 6:56 AM

April 24, 2007

Magical powers of breaking stuff

The comments appear to be broken. Awesome! I also managed to break one (1) wineglass today, one (1) expensive piece of software at work and also MY OVEN, which makes a clicking noise but never ignited and the house started smelling like natural gas so I finally got the message and shut off the oven and had microwave popcorn instead.

I'm a slow learner, but apparently a fast breaker!

Posted by laurie at 9:42 PM

Follow Up, a.k.a. "I promise I won't talk about this every day for the next seven months."

I do hereby solemnly swear not to blabber on and on about bookjunk until the end of time. I will definitely not abandon the important subjects of this here website such as poop, and cat pictures, and visible panty lines, and why is it that my face sweats? But I'm probably going to talk about bookjunk a little bit from time to time because I'm still so damn excited about it all and can't believe it's happening!

Yesterday was crazy-good. Watching the amazon.com ranking was like watching election results or an IPO on the stock market, I couldn't believe that was the cat hair book!

And most of all, thank you for all the comments! Yes of course I read every one, and I wasn't the only one. My mom called me about eleventeen times to tell me about one comment or another as she and my Dad were reading all day, and my Aunt Pam had everyone at the hospital reading, I thank you for all the awesome comments not just for me but for all my friends and family, Drew, Jennifer, Allison ... everyone who has had to put up with me being crazy about this book for ten solid months. Faith even came over to my house last night and we sat on the patio and drank champagne and turned on the laptop and through the magic of wireless innernet (I will never stop being amazed, I mean really) we read all the comments out loud, and laughed, ya'll are very funny your ownselves!

Thank you, thank you, thank you!

So now that you know (you know!), I can finally tell you some of the secrets I have held back on for, oh, the past YEAR.

Like how I once laughed and told Jennifer on the telephone that she had to take advice from me because I was about to be a published self-help author.

And she said, "You kind of make me want to smack you upside the head."

And I said, "As a self-help author, I can say with foremost authority that your response is really not very healthy. How was your childhood?"

And she said, "I'm going to hang up on you."

And I said, "Clearly you are not getting the concept of my wisdom."

And she said, "Clearly their was a mix-up in the publishing world."

Ah, I love my friends. They really enjoy having a self-help author in their midst. I am very helpy, if I do say so myself.

* * *

Or there was the time I called up my editor Allison after having not slept for eight days and worked on cutting 100 pages from the final draft and my folks were here and I was in Orange County as much as I could be, and I was working full-time and writing this website and generally going stark raving mad. I had been working on the book for months and I was officially sick of it. So after some wine and maybe crying, I left Allison a voice message that said, "Allison, I don't want to do this book anymore. I don't want to be Drunk, Divorced and Covered in Cat Hair! I am tired of being that person! I want to be Drunk, On Vacation, and Covered In Raoul The Pool Boy!! Help me. Oh, this is Laurie by the way. Bye."

I am very professional as well as being helpy.

* * *

One day in March I went to see my hairdresser Aharon and I said, "Aharon, are you available to marry me yet? I could be Drunk, Divorced, and Covered in Hairdresser! And also, look. I have gone completely grey!"

And I believe I scared him, a little. With the proposal and all.

* * *

But the best part, the very best, was when my parents were in Los Angeles and it was right at the same exact time as my final FINAL book deadline and it felt awesome to have them involved in the process. My mom was the first person to read the manuscript other than Allison, and she gave me lots of input and my folks got to weigh in on the proposed book cover designs. I loved having Dad read the dedication page.

My family is a huge slice of this book. They are in fact a huge slice of the, uh, 280 pages we sort of edited out.

Because as it turns out, I am kind of prolific in the writing department! Who knew! And so when I turned in my book, Allison said, "It's good, but there is just too damn much of it!" And I said, "What! Allison? You don't think people want to read eleventy-nine bazillion pages about my deevorce?"

And she said, "I believe what you have here is the Encyclopedia Brittanica of divorce."

Maybe one day I will release the other 3,428 pages of Drunk, Divorced & Covered in Really Verbose Cat Hair. Until then, I am just waiting on an Encyclopedia Brittanica person to call me back. Factfinding mission, ya'll understand.

Dear Al Gore, sorry about the trees. P.S. You are cute.

So anyway, you ask and I answer, best I can. In one or five or eleventy-hundred words.

Question: What is this damn fool book about, anyway?
It is the true-life (mostly) story of how someone, I cannot imagine who, got dumped and cried and ate cheetos off her chest and somehow, somewhere along the way she actually kind of figured out how to live life. Also, there is knitting. And sex. (!!!) Ok, not much but I do say the word. And there is dating. And hair removal. And made-up words that drove the copyeditor, Meg, insane. Hi Meg!

Question: Is it just the blog but put in a book?

Oh, no. No siree bob. I am a very frugal minded person, you see, and I thought it would be a crying shame to pay some outrageous amount for a book you could just print up your own damn self. So you will get to read the stuff I never, ever publish on this here website. The parts of my marriage I skirt around, stuff I don't feel okay putting up for comment. The whole first 5 chapters are the things I never told anyone, really. Then there is the entire part of my life we call "Dating." I don't talk about it online because I just cannot take that amount of advice in one sitting. Ya'll are in fact very self-helpy your own darn selves! No wonder we get along so well!

There is definitely content from the website in the book. But it's all kind of novel-ish, so it even seems different to me and I wrote the thing. I would say it is 30% blog, 70% new.

Question: Is it all true, true, TRUE?

It is, indeed. Although some names had to be changes to protect... you know. Some people. But keep in mind it is also a story. I stayed true to the facts and only tinkered with the timeline. Since the material for the book stretched over a two-year period, obviously you would have had to plod through the War & Peace of my bellyaching and carrying on, and as it turns out "Self Help" books are not supposed to make the reader want to kill themselves. Funny how that works! So the timeline is not a perfect 100% documentation of 867 days as the crow flies, and I shortened the crazy.

Here is a funny story:
Allison sends me edit version #682. The note she attaches says, "We need to trim this, there is about 30 pages too much crazy."

So I call up Faith, and in the most pathetic sad-sack voice you ever heard I say, "Faith! Allison is a very good editor, you know I love her, but... but... she says I have 30 pages too much crazy."

Faith pauses, realizing with one misstep I will be bawling and carrying on about how I do not know why I thought I could write a book, I am a failure, I cannot write for a cereal box, etcetera. Boy, aren't I fun to be around!

Anyway, Faith just takes a deep breath and says, "Well... you know what? We are all about thirty pages too much crazy. It's fine."

And then we laughed and I told her I had to go right then because in the next four hours I had to pull thirty pages of happy out of my butt. Nice!

Question: So, are you going to quit your job? Are you RICH now??
This is the very first question people ask when they find out about the book. And the answers are no, I am not rich and No, I can't quit my job.

I know some first-time authors probably get giant advances and huge amounts of money and just spend all day rolling nekkid in cash. But that is not the norm. Since I began working on this thing, I have made a sum total of Not Very Much. If you divide it up by the time I spent on it over the past ten months, I've made about thirty cents an hour.

Having said that, if the book sells okay, I will make some money. And if the book sells a lot of copies I will be able to write a NEXT book, and that is where I will roll naked, etc. But right now I still work every day, and I love my job. It's given me stability when I most needed it, my boss is awesome, and I have managed to pay down a lot of my debt and still put Meow Mix on the table. I also need my job because I cannot live on $3 a day.

And having said all of that, I didn't write this for the money (obviously, at thirty cents an hour.) I wrote it because I got the opportunity to tell this story, and because I had wished desperately when I was puddled up on the floor heartbroken and smelly that someone, anyone, could tell me I wasn't alone. So maybe another woman out there going through a crappy breakup will read it and feel less crazy, less fogged-up with despair. That is why I wrote this book.

(But if I make some money, I won't be sad about it. Party at my house, ya'll!)

Question: Do you have an agent?

Nope. Me = "Flying By Seat Of Pants." Scary!!!

Question: Will you quit doing the blog?
I don't know why I would quit. I like writing stuff down. Do you know something I don't know?

Question: Will you have abook tour?

I hope so! This is all up to the book company.

Question: Is Sobakowa mad about not being on the cover?

I don't think so... unless, does "REDRUM" mean anything? She has been spelling that out on the kitchen floor with Meow Mix every morning. I thought maybe she wants to take up drinking?

Question: Where can I buy this book?

Oh, I am so glad you asked, Mrs. PersonWho IMadeUp, you can pre-order it right here.. I really hope you like it. If not, I will give you a copy of the sequel "Drunk, Apologetic & Covered In An Ugly Sweater" for free!

Posted by laurie at 9:38 AM

April 23, 2007

Drunk, Divorced & Covered in Cat Hair!

All I ever wanted to do was write stuff down. And I will tell you a secret ... as much as I hate poetry, I sure wrote a bunch of it. About a year ago, Jen and I once spent a whole drunken night on the phone laughing about my sorry ass 19-year-old poetry. I was the worst poet on the planet, but Lord I was prolific. Luckily, the poetry phase passed and now it's good joke material. Ya'll need to come over to my house one night and we'll get liquored up and read poetry. Maybe we will even add some interpretive dance. AND A GOOD TIME WILL BE HAD BY ALL!

So anyway, I've had this big secret for a while but now that the hardest part is over, I can tell ya'll. I also hope this explains why I knitted approximately two things in all of last year and also why I have not answered an email since 1992.

I went and wrote me a book!!!

(Already, notice the awesome grammar.)

It had 1,230,912 comma splices. My poor editor Allison had to decipher my crazy and try to make it palatable to the masses. Sometimes at night I would wonder to myself, "Will Allison need to start drinking hard liquor when she sees the rampant usage of exclamation points in my writing?" (!!!)

The copy editor, Meg, probably developed a slight tequila dependancy during the time known as "Proofing a book with made-up words."

I think it will be fun to see how many drinks the marketing team has to get through, too, when pitching my book.

"Is it a novel?" "Yes, but it has pictures at the end. Like true crime novels!"
"Is it a knitting book?" "Um, kind of!"
"Is it a memoir?" "A little bit! We had to change some names... obviously."
"Is it self-help?" "Well, we think it's help-y!"
"Is it a cookbook?" "It has a few recipes!"
"Is it chick-lit?" "Hmmmm... she IS a female!"

It's just ... colorful, a book in its own weird category, True-Life Fictionish Self-Help Divorce Knitting, With Recipes, and it is called "Drunk Divorced and Covered In Cat Hair." It comes out in October. You can pre-order it right here. It's on sale, too!

We finally had to have an artist make us a cat because nobody could decide which of the Feline Foursome got to be on the cover. Seriously. we had actual editorial meetings about it. We are maybe ridiculous.



So, you know how when you're me? And you get your whole life's dreams to come true by actually writing a book, something you wanted since you were three years old? You know what's awesome? What is AWESOME is when amazon.com puts up a description of your Big Life's Dream that does not describe your book at all! In fact you have never even heard of some of the patterns listed! And OH MY GOD.

Hey, isn't that funny!

Especially the part about the "leopard pattern knitted kleenex box." Because LIKE I COULD EVEN KNIT THAT. I have no idea. I saw it and I was like, really? That's the book I wrote? WHO ARE YOU AND WHAT HAPPENED TO MY REAL BOOK?

I also love how it makes me sound like I had many years of glamorous journalism excellence ... if I can find my expose on the great tomato blight of Polk County circa 1995 I will send you a copy. It was so excellent. Or my article on bathroom fixtures. Or that time I wrote a piece for the Daily News on what people wanted to name the new baby whale at Sea World.

So even though the Cat Hair Book has been on amazon.com for two weeks I have been waiting and hoping they would update the description. They have not. Ya'll, amazon.com doesn't like me. I think maybe this Mr. Amazon is a dog-person, not a cat-person. But now I have decided to think all this is just funny and make jokes about it. Because this is what happens in my life, stuff breaks, you sit on gum, you somehow inherit a leopard kleenex cozy. I am surprised they didn't classify it as a cookbook or something.

If you want to know what the book is actually about you can click here.


My cool publisher, HCI, is the same company who does the "Chicken Soup For The Soul" books. They are some really amazing folks and they encouraged me all the way, kept at me even when I was so scared of failure I would try to hide. I wrote the first draft of this book in four months and about fell over whole from trying to do it plus work full-time, herd the felines and still look cute. I gave up on looking cute about three days into it. In fact, I went fully grey from the experience! Seriously. I have eleventy hundred grey hairs now, which is fortuitous so I don't have to get hi-lites all the time. It just mixes in with the dark blonde and woohoo, granny cat lady. Sexy.

Writing a book was WAY more work than I ever thought. Apparently there is a new-fangled thing called "spellcheck" that I am supposed to install. Also, I am supposed to understand comma usage. HAH HAH.

There you have it. I went and wrote me a book!


Ya'll know how I have been all personal growthy lately? It all came from writing this sucker. I signed the contract on my birthday last year (OH YES I DID) (never let it be said that I cannot keep a secret) and then I had about a month while the publishing world was out on vacation to just sit with my happy news and think it through but you know, not really write a damn thing And when the actual business stuff was finalized in late July and we set up delivery dates, I felt fear like I have never before experienced.

My deepest, core fear has always been that I will not live up to expectations. Always terrified that I'm not good enough. And I was so scared that the book would fail, I would fail, or that people wouldn't like my writing, would be underwhelmed, all that stuff. I wanted to quit every single day. But, uh, I had signed a legal binding document. OH GOD.

Writing this book made me face every single one of my fears: the way I hide from success because it's a lot easier to not try than to try and fail. The way I got fat and stayed there because it was an apology for the things I was good at. And there was another fear, too. The only thing that ever made me stand out as a grubby trailer park kid was my ability to write stuff down. But what if I was actually no good at it? What if I secretly sucked?

So I had to decide whether or not I was going to be scared and think I might fail ... or enjoy it and love it and just hope it all works out somehow. (I smell personal-growthy coming on!!) Finally I think after months of writing what is basically a memoir in merlot, I realized you can never please everyone. Never. Put that in your pipe and smoke it. You can only be yourself, do your best, make jokes if you screw up. Wear waterproof mascara, and keep your panties on. Bet on yourself. So I placed my bet. And the grubby trailer park girl who still lives inside me will one day hold a book in her hands with my name on it. One life's dream: check! check check!

I am grateful in ways I would have never imagined. I am grateful to each person who read my little website and kept reading. Thank you. Thank you for every kind word, every donation, every email, every comment, every positive thought, every amen, every laugh, all your stories. This book is yours, too. Ya'll have become a part of my every day life and I love you. For every woman out there who has identified with my cautionary tale, for every time I have been a little maudlin and weepy and tipsy, I also fervently hope this gives you faith that things get better.


I am blessed. I am also grey haired now, which will make me more distinguished I hope and help balance out the part where I am covered in cat hair from the knees down.

So that is my big news. Ask any questions you want (although I can answer your first question right now: No, I did not get rich, yes I still definitely need my job, no I am not rolling nekkid in money, yes I was very disappointed too, yes I am still holding out hope that will happen one day, nekkid!), and anyway, I will do my best to answer your questions.

And maybe later we'll all get liquored up and do some interpretive dance! Just as soon as I find this elusive mystical "spellcheck" of which you speak. I mean really.

Posted by laurie at 5:22 AM

April 21, 2007

I guess we don't send out greeting cards to celebrate Earth Day, right?

Are you green?

What shade of green? kermit green? Kelly green? (Who is Kelly and why does she get her own green??) Celery green? Limeade green?

I don't think I'm very green. Maybe green around the gills, a little. I definitely recycle because it's so easy ... the city gives you a giant blue can just for recycling and I get a weird thrill separating it all out because I'm a nerd that way. My recycling is mostly wine bottles, cat food cans and newspaper.

What else? I take mass transporation, that's got to be kind of greenish. And that's about it, I think. However, in honor of Ms. Earth and her Big Day coming up tomorrow I'm making a shopping list because as we know, all problems are best solved with shopping! I'm going out to the Wal-Mart in Woodland Hills where hopefully they'll have those compact lightbulbs a little cheaper than Target (always and forever with the budget, sorry Earth! I love you, but I love me a bargain, too!)

I'm going to replace the lightbulbs in my house, except (and I feel weird asking this) isn't it wasteful to get rid of my current lightbulbs that all work just fine and haven't burned out yet? Are you supposed to wait until they burn out or what? I'm never sure where the line is between being ecologically acceptable and weirdly wasteful. Southerners don't like wasteful. How on earth do you think scrapple was invented, or pork rinds, I mean really!

The most enviromentally friendly thing I plan to do, however, is KNIT. When I was at Stitch 'n Bitch on Thursday, I met a gal named Jessica who was knitting a rag rug made entirely out of cut-up old T-shirts and it was THE cutest darn thing I've seen in a long time. Later today I'm going to cull through my closet and dresser drawers and see what I can find. She was using a size 19 knitting needle, circulars with a quite long cord, and she said she cast on about 42 stitches. I watched her cut up a blue T-shirt, just making about 1" wide strips, and T-shirt material doesn't fray so there's no big mess when using it as yarn. She was knitting each stitch which I have been told is called garter stitch. heh.

Now that is some recycling I can get my behind behind. Know what I mean, green jellybean?

Posted by laurie at 9:37 AM

April 20, 2007

Addressing some stuff, plus pictures! (But not recent pictures... because that would make sense.)

I'm sorry, did someone say... cat pictures?
Gosh, I really hate it when people make very difficult requests of me, such as "Can you please post some cat pictures?"

Of course I went home last night and Roy was being so photogenic I whipped out the camera and even did some video, because I am a new breed of Crazy Cat Lady, the "Digital Proof I Am Crazy" Crazy Cat Lady.

Except, I am also "Woke up too early for thinking" Crazy Cat Lady and forgot my camera at home! HORROR!! Luckily I have many archived cat pictures:



Hee. I do admit I take a few pictures of my feline roommates from time to time. A friend of mine who has adorable children, four-year-old twins (a boy and a girl) and anyway, she once commented that I have more pictures of my CATS than she has of her KIDS. Nice.

Not A Billion Dollars, yet
A commenter recently asked if I spend a billion dollars a year on camera batteries. I used to! But then I discovered these long-life batteries and I promise you they are well worth the higher price. A single battery will last me for months, and that is even with my excessive use of flash, my penchant for blurry video, and my cat pictures.

Stitching 'n Kvetching
I went to Stitch 'n Bitch last night and I met Anna-Liza, who is perfectly adorable and she is from Denver and she knits socks so beautiful it makes you truly understand how sticks and string can make art.

[Imagine a cute picture here of me and Anna-Liza.]

[I CANNOT believe I left my camera at home!!]

I also want to apologize to Frank for going on and on and ON ON ON about his amazing cakes, but when you meet someone with a God-given talent, you do feel the need to praise them. And by "you" I mean "me." Frank is also dearest to my heart now as he offered to drive Anna-Liza back to where she was staying in downtown L.A. rather than her taking the bus at night and I find this one of the most gentlemanly and chivalrous things I have seen in a long while. Frank, you are A REAL MAN with awesome manners. I adore you. Nothing is finer in this world than a man with such manners.

Allison and Evan Update
Allison and her husband Jeff are taking Evan to Phoenix for his consultation and they head out tomorrow. You can catch up with the SuperCrafty family right here and also, of course, you can catch up with SuperCrafty shopping anytime!

And finally...
... to the person who commented yesterday wondering why I had written a whole entire column on Kitty Carlisle and nothing about Blacksburg, and for all the many folks who emailed me asking the same question, I do thank you for the notes and I wish I had a better answer, but the real answer is nothing I say makes sense, and I have no idea what to say.

It's too close to the bone for me, too much like Killeen and Columbine and Danny getting in that plane one morning and ending inside the first tower, I hate it. And I do not ever know what to say, I start to but then I just can't, I don't have the words, I have no idea anymore. Who does a thing like that? Wake up one morning and go off and harm people? I can't write about things I haven't wrapped my mind around. I don't always get it right. Blacksburg feels too close, I can't say anything right about it because I don't -- can't -- understand it. It makes no sense to me.

I do completely understand why you would ask me that question. I know I try to write things down as good as thinking them, and it seems off-kilter to talk about cats and knitting and my pants size and sourdough bread dilemmas when there is so much happening.

I think it is my way of saying: I don't know yet. My heart is there, but nothing I say comes out right. I am so sorry.

And, Finally #2 ... Rain At Last
We haven't had a drop of rain in this city for months and months, it feels perfect to have rain today and see the whole city enveloped in a big cloud that isn't smog, and even though it will take eleventy-nine hours to get home tonight in traffic it is worth it to have a day of weather. This is what I imagine is happening right now in my house:


Rainy days are a good day for that sort of thing.

Posted by laurie at 9:57 AM

April 19, 2007

Would Kitty Carlisle agree that the elixir is in the potato?

Bud Collyer, rear, poses with the panel of the 'To Tell The Truth': Polly Bergen, Ralph Bellamy, Kitty Carlisle and Hy Gardner. [AP]

Kitty Carlisle Hart died yesterday.

I loved her so much! She taught me that all could be right in the world if only I would speak with excellent elocution and also invest in a good pair of opera-length gloves.

She was so classy and smart and elegant and witty. I used to imagine that she and her television presenter co-stars would sit backstage before the show, sipping champagne and smoking cigarettes from hand-carved holders (this was before it was bad for you, you know) and someone would pass around a tray of canapes and they all knew how to say "canape" properly. And they'd talk about what was happening on Broadway and in literature and the arts and then they'd have a ham-and-cheese pinwheel and a last sip of champagne and go be fabulous on television.

It just seemed like she was from an America I never got to know, I was born either too late (in the promiscuous and messy 1970s) or too poor and either way she was like the embodiment of class and ease and elegance and she was so funny!

So what on earth does this have to do with the damn potato?

Someone at work recently said to me, "Wow, Laurie! You are in such a good mood these days!" and then another co-worker chimed in, "Yeah. Did you win the lotto? New boyfriend? Anti-depressant?" and we all laughed.

And even my boss noticed and got in on the discussion, so I finally broke down and told them the secret.

"I started eating carbs again!"

And we all laughed and they thought, oh that jokester. But ...it's actually true. I have seratonin in my brain now. Long live the baked potato.

When I was married we went through a particularly horrifying time around 9/11 (in the timeline of my life, it seems things are often divided into "Before 9/11 and After 9/11." So much changed that day.) Anyway, I was thirty-one kinds of upset, and it came with thirty-one kinds of flavors. Sadness and despair measured out in fat grams.

Because I was a stick-to-it sort of gal, I stuck to married life. And later, after we moved to a different house and found some kind of wobbly balance again, we decided to go on the Atkins Diet together. He did it mostly because I was super excited about it and also I did all the cooking. And I lost all the grief bacon (thank you, Susan, for giving me that phrase!), and I became a total Atkins evangelist. I once even had a "Left Behind"-inspired dream one night. In the dream, the rapture happened and we Atkins folks were zipped right up and transported to a bacon-wrapped heaven.

I woke up and thought, "This is a sign. A sign that I need a bagel."

I kept a diary back then (of course) and chronicled how I wanted to mug small children in the park for their cookies or ice cream cones, but I really did lose a lot of weight on Atkins and got back down almost to my high school size, which was just crazy. But the problem with me and diets is that I can't seem to stay on one forever and ever. So if I went on vacation I'd be "good" for a day or two, eating my tuna from the packet and my walnuts, and by the end of the week I was stuffing croissaints in my socks and having dinner-before-dinner. You know.

And eventually I fell off the Atkins wagon (that damn wagon) and then of course the divorce and all that happened, and I ate just to have something to do. Sometimes I think it was how I comforted myself and sometimes I think it was my way of pushing everyone and everything away. So secretive, all of it. I couldn't have even fit into a pair of opera length gloves if I'd wanted to. Unless they made those in plus-size.

Now things have changed and I have somehow found a healthy balance, somehow, thank God. But my "not-dieting" is just as weird. It's not as painful and feel-bad, but it's still weird, because it's new and doesn't follow my life pattern of dieting and failing and looking forward to tomorrow, always tomorrow, always a new plan, new pill, new diet. Always the hope it will get better, easier, skinnier, prettier, more elegant.

I went to lunch yesterday with a friend I hadn't seen in a while. He is older and married and we used to work on a project together and we became friends. Now, guys are different about food and diets and weight than girls are. I know this.

But when he saw me he said, "Wow, you look great! Your diet must really be working!" and I said thanks and changed the subject and all was well.

Until we got to the restaurant.

We both ordered the spinach salad with grilled chicken and iced tea. Then the waiter brought a single loaf of warm sourdough bread, and I reached for it. I hardly ever eat out (it's not in my budget) and one piece of bread sounded really good. I'd specifically had fruit for breakfast, knowing I was eating out at lunch (and I had congratulated myself on this, balance is always a surprise when I actually achieve it.)

I reached for the bread and he said, "Oh no... don't want to ruin your diet!"

"I'm not on a diet," I said. Hurt. Feeling fat and reprimanded and whose business is it anyway if I want to be alone in a room with this bread?

But all I said was, "Everything in moderation."

He watched somewhat disapprovingly as I put butter on my bread and ate it.

I felt weird.
I felt uncomfortable.
I felt mad, like a five year old.

Being told what I can and can't have makes me remember all the times as a kid I was put on diets even when I wasn't fat, encouraged to lose weight, always knowing I would be a better person if I were skinnier. The Low Fat 80s, the Fad Diet 90s, the Atkins 2000s. All of it. It makes me mad, I feel illogical, I feel fat, I feel less-than, always less-than because I am not skinny enough. Will never ever be skinny enough.

Out of spite and five-year-oldishness, I wanted to eat the whole damn loaf of bread, but I didn't (small victories). Just changed the subject and pretended it had all never happened.

I will never go on another diet for the rest of my life.

I know I am not as skinny as some people want me to be. I know I'm not as fat as I used to be. I know other people will always have ideas on the best, THE VERY BEST, way they think I should live my life. I am sure I have lots of opinions on how they should live their life, come to think of it.

And I don't know what happens when you have spent your entire existence since age 8 on a diet and you all-the-sudden decide to never ever diet again. I do not know. All I know is that I ate one piece of bread with real butter on it, and some salad, and the world did not end. My pants did not explode (kind of a surprise, actually, they were a little snug to begin with.)

And I went home and put a potato (my elixir, at last) in the oven to bake while I went on my evening walk, and I made green beans and then watched American Idol and it was just another day, really, no diet to plan, no points to count, nothing left to do at all except just live your damn life.

Sometimes it feels INSANE to trust myself enough to pick out my own foods without a diet telling me how. It feels CRAZY to let loose and give up dieting forever and just eat whole, nutritious food and once in a blue moon have a piece of warm sourdough bread straight from the oven.

Sometimes I get scared that it's all too good to be true. I get scared that I'll become untrustworthy, that instead of grean beans and fruit I'll end up knee-deep in french fries and gravy and not know how to stop. I don't know if the years of dieting made me think I couldn't pick healthy, nutritious foods, or if all that time of hating the diets made me specifically rebel and pick deliberately bad food.

I get a little scared just thinking these thoughts.

But then I think about my beloved friend Kitty, and wonder what she would say. She would probably say life is too short and too fabulous to spend it whining about what ifs. She would probably put on a fantastic pair of earrings, make sure her lipstick was on just-so, and go out tonight and drink some good champagne with her fabulous celebrity friends and have a few laughs and to heck with the rest of the world.

And that is exactly what I plan to do this evening, wherein "champagne" is "Diet Coke" and "celebrity friends" are "West Hollywood Stitch 'n Bitch."

Yes, I think that is exactly what Kitty Carlisle would do.

Posted by laurie at 10:02 AM

April 18, 2007

Garter stitch in the round, can I get a whut whut!

Yes, I am attempting yet another in a long line of complicated and daring and new and exciting projects ...

... a hat, almost identical to one I made two years ago. Awesome! Go me!


Although, if you think about it, there was time I wasn't sure I would ever break free of the rectangle, so I have mad love for my garter stitch in the round. I'm going to keep this particular hat and hope it works as a magic knitted talisman, willing me forward to cold and snowy vacation locations in the year ahead.

Or, I guess if I finish it up real quicklike, I could go to the East coast and wear it along with every other hand-knit item I own. How do ya'll live in such hazardous conditions? Come to Los Angeles! We have traffic and smog and women made entirely of silicone and Botox... but we have our limits in the cold and snowy department. I mean really now.

With all that weather, I almost feel bad posting more pictures of green and growing stuff. Maybe it will make you feel better if I mention once again that we have the traffic. The kind ya'll think you know all about ("Geez, it's not like there's no traffic here in Boston/Jersey City/Atlanta!") but then when you get out here you're like, DAMN. This place has TRAFFIC. Driving in L.A. SUCKS! Get me home to my normal traffic!

So, the peppers my dad carefully hand-seeded into a flat have sprung to life and are ready to be thinned this weekend:


I love these peppers as if they were my own children and hope to have an entire pepper farm alive in the backyard in six months. Let's hope summer isn't as bad as they're all saying. Something about the whole globe about to boil over and die? I vaguely suspect it's the amount of Rave #4 I used in high school which forever altered the ozone layer. I feel real bad about it, if it helps any.

And today is Wednesday, love me some hump day, except my pants are too tight. It was sort of one of those things where you're so excited you can actually zip up this particular pair of pants that you momentarily lose touch with reality and think "able to zip closed" is the same as "able to breathe and sit and retain consciousness." There is no circulation going on in my body below the waist. I got into them, dammit, but I may not be able to get myself out of them.

But that was so not the point! The point was, I hope you have a good Wednesday and stay warm if you're out in that frozen tundra of a nor'easter. (I just like saying "nor'easter" ... I have said it like seventeen times in the past two days. I feel very meteorological.) (Oh, did I ever tell ya'll I used to be the weather girl at my college TV station? I WAS HORRIBLE. It was very funny. Maybe one day I will figure out how to digitize a VCR tape and show ya'll. OOOOOH. Talk about your hee-larious comedy... and I didn't even mean to be funny.)

So that's it. That and Victor is looking kind of paltry. Maybe he doesn't like being so far from his friends on the spice rack in the pantry. I don't know what the prognosis is for little Victor... but all I can say is thank goodness I appear to have not not fully lost my green thumb already. Just last night I was looking for the microwave popcorn in the cupboard and found another onion in the bin who looks suspiciously like Victor's son ... Victor Jr.


Posted by laurie at 9:48 AM

April 17, 2007

The plants are still green -- this must be a gardening world record!


Well, it's a record for me, anyway.

Already, what? Two, three weeks and nothing has died except one lone okra seedling that got sat on by a big blue jay (to all the folks about to email me and remind me: Yes I remember you schooled me that it is a "Western Scrub Jay." I know, I know, but it's blue and I call them Blue Jays because I am rebellious that way.)

So one seedling died shortly after planting when it got sat on by a forty-ton Blue Jay, and everything else is actually alive and growing.

Even the tree out back has sensed the departure of Francisco and has started to grow leaves! After its terrifying near-death prune of 2006, I'm surpised to see it make the effort, but somehow nature has sensed the disappearance of Francisco and made a valiant effort to re-grow.

Dez assures me that Francisco has re-located to the New Orleans area and sent me this photographic proof:

Thanks, Dez. Looks like we have answered the "Where in the world is Franciso And His Mighty Pruning Shears Of Death" question once and for all. I think he's probably making the world tour of his fans... next week he might be in Wisconsin with Dale-Harriet, then he'll be in the southwest to visit Psychomom, and when the nor'easter clears out, I can only assume that Francisco will be standing in Maryse's yard in Boston, pruning shears in hand, waiting to hack something to pieces. (Ya'll give Maryse some love, her kitty Napoleaon passed on last night.)

The neighbor across the street from me uses Abel the able as her gardener but I didn't ask her for the number (I had his card somewhere, anyway, from that time I met him) and I specifically didn't have the landlord call him.

The very first gardener I had at this little house was really goodlooking and dark-haired and hardly ever spoke. It was so rainy that year, I moved in just before Christmas and I was alone with a mountain of boxes and it was A Bad Time for me, I sat on the patio all night long smoking and staring at fat raindrops, watching night slosh into morning.

The dark and silent gardener came once a week, first on weekdays but eventually timing it so he was there on weekends when I was home. He had that way of looking right through me like he could see I was lonely, so that when he was replaced with Francisco a few months later I was actually relieved. There was a time when I could have been had out of lonely and sorrow and that's never a good place for me to be, in the end.

And even now, now that I am all personal growthy and not stunk up with heartbreak and late-night cigarettes and forever-insomnia, I still think it is best not to have a very, very attractive young gardener.

I'm too practical, really.

The hedges and grass would still keep growing even if I grew tired of him, or he tired of me. Awkward wouldn't even begin to describe such a thing. And I'm no good at resisting temptation. I sure know messes, and I don't plan to volunteer for more if I can avoid it.

At least not messes that come to your house every week and have a key to the back gate.

Maybe that was too much information. Maybe all of this is, the whole diary. But I remember too clearly how it felt to be married and lonely and wearing too much makeup to the grocery store, looking for a little attention, maybe not even knowing it at the time.

Flirting with the gardener seems like a bad idea. It feels reminiscent of a time in my life I wish I could un-remember. I feel a little sad and humiliated to have been so married and yet so lonely that I just wanted a check-out clerk at the market to look at me like I was pretty.

Lord I am glad not to be back there anymore.

So the new gardener came by yesterday after work and I showed him the back forty and gave him the key to the gate. He is about 50, and tanned smooth brown from a job he spends outdoors, and he's very businesslike and gave a quick assessment of the trimming work Francisco had done.

"This guy was not knowing anything," he said very seriously. Gravely. He looked at the shrubs in front and sighed so deeply and morosely I knew he could feel those damn hedges hurting, in pain. I just thought they were funny, my little forest of stunted trees shaped by madness and half-dead from neglect.

His name is Juan and he brought his little boy Kenneth along for the walk-through and they admired my peppers but couldn't quite get the okra. I don't know the Spanish word for it, and anyway it's not a staple in Mexican food so I told him he'd just have to wait and see.

Then they watched as one of the fat, surprisingly large blue birds swooped down onto the patio and took a peanut from the bowl I fill each day, or when I remember to fill it. Those birds love peanuts. Sometimes they sit on the chairs and squawk at me until I fill their bowl.

"That is a BIG Blue Jay," said Kenneth.

"It's a Western Scrub Jay," I informed him. Just because.

* * *

P.S. I'm sorry the comments are being weird and slow and sometimes quadruple posting. I suspect the mystical comments machine thinks I am lonely and wants me to think I have a lot of friends. I deleted the messy duplicates where I could then I got tired and stared at my toes.

* * *

Posted by laurie at 9:54 AM

April 16, 2007

Really professional.

There are two kinds of people in this world: those who are forever and always dividing things into categories and those who are not.

Ya'll know what kind of people I am.

And there are two kinds of families in this world: those who feel just fine and dandy talking about poop and those who do not.

I am not from a family that talks about poop or even acknowledges that people do such vile and uncouth things, unless of course they are in diapers and not formed yet, and not Southern and well-bred enough yet to know that poop is a private and personal issue never discussed with other humans. Talking about poop in my family would be akin to just sitting at the dinner table and discussing armpit hair. In fact, you would be more likely to hear that subject analyzed at length (hee, length) than ever hear a single whiff of poo conversation.

Other families talk about poop. Other people talk about it, and some people even actually poop, which of course I wouldn't know a thing about. Being Southern and dainty and all. (By the way, discussing a sturdy Southerner such as myself with the word "dainty" is like calling Hillary Rodham Clinton "a sweet gal who married a boy from Arkansas.")

Anyway. Where was I?

Back in college Stefanie, my best friend and co-conspirator in all college-age crime, would start talking about some ailment or other concerning the lower half of human bodies and I would just go all squirmy and red in the face and squeamish. Stefanie and I worked at a little children's shop in the mall and we'd spend slow nights dusting the displays and re-doing our hairbows in the mirrors and chitchatting. One night the owner, Miss Judy, was there, too.

Miss Judy was one of those incredible Southern beauties I always hoped to grow into (it hasn't happened yet BUT I AM STILL HOPING) who have perfect hair and expertly applied makeup and everything about them is scented with Shalimar or something delicious, and they wear perfectly put-together outfits and play tennis. Her husband was a well-known judge in our little town and they lived in a large and warm and inviting house with a wrap-around porch. I still to this day remember how she would hug you and you'd smell her perfect smell and feel like she was warm and steel-strong and yet fragile all at the same time. It's a thing about Southern women.

Anyway, she was there at the shop one night doing the books and Stefanie started telling me some story about someone, Lord only knows who, and it had to do with something gastrointestinal and I went all squeamish and embarrassed and all "I do not speak of souch uncouth things!" Miss Judy'd had her nose in the books at the time and didn't see my total shame and discomfort at the subject matter and started telling me and Stefanie how she and her four best friends from school would go to New York every year for their girls' trip (I always thought this was the most glamorous thing I had ever heard, a girls' trip in New York City! with lifelong friends made at Vandy, or Ole' Miss or maybe a sorority at UT) and while they were off on their vacation watching broadway shoes and shopping and being glamorous (my interpretation, not hers) they never could poop the whole time, all four days. There she was, Miss Judy (!!!) saying how traveling could just disrupt your whole system, stop you right up, plumbing problems like nobody's business.


And she finally noticed the abject horror on my face and she reached her arm around me, comforting, like a mom.

"Oh sugar," she said. "You must not be from a family that talks about such things."

"NO I AM NOT," I said. "OH MY GOD."

"Well," said Miss Judy, after some thought. "You know, it's very natural, we all do it, there is no shame in such a thing." She could see I was unconvinced.

"I can't believe ya'll just talk about this!" I said. It was the Divide, I knew it even then, how some families can talk about politics and crazy old Uncle so-and-so like it was as easy as discussing the weather, others sweep all that under the rug. Some folks talk about the future, and some families are discussing the War of Northern Agression like it happened yesterday. Some folks never speak of money, or holy-rollers, or who makes the best dumplings, or poop.

And I just never imagine Miss Judy (!!!) was from a poop family. She seemed so well brought-up! I tried to explain, all tongue-tied and flustered in that way you do when you're the one embarrassed to talk about sex or admit you don't know how to pronounce a certain word.

"Oh, sugar," said Miss Judy. Always the Southern lady. "There is not one single thing to be ashamed of. Even Princess Diana poops."

I hadn't thought of these words of wisdom until recently, when I was in the ladies room at My Job, Inc. It is a very business professional place where women wear pantyhose and suits with princess seams, and closed-toed shoes and they have expensive degrees and know how to sit through a meeting without excitedly interjecting some crazy thing like I always do. It is the sort of place where people follow Robert's Rules Of Order and I love it, I love its sameness, I love how polite a place it is to work, I love that the people there seem well-heeled and well-behaved and I often hope desperately it will rub off on me. That I will someday be the sort of person who doesn't show up to work in black pants that have a fine sheen of cat hair from the knee down. The sort of person who doesn't get so excited she has to interrupt, the sort of person who can be trusted to speak to the board members without saying the word "porn."

I am not that person. But I have my hopes, ya'll know.

Anyway I was entering the ladies room last week at my very Professional and Proper Job and a couple of ladies came in right behind me, I didn't recognize them, they had on those stick-on Visitor badges and I assumed they were with the group of vendors doing some kind of demo in another part of the floor.

Anyway, I ended up in a stall next to one of the strangers who ... who made a noise. A bodily noise. A gastrointestinal noise. And I happened to finish my business and be washing my hands, and you know I have germ issues so I have to do the full 60-second wash, and she came out of the stall and we were standing right next to each other washng our hands and she looked a little embarrassed and apologized.

"I think I had something that didn't agree with me."

And I just smiled, because even though I used to be someone scandalized by such a thing, I knew exactly the Business Professional way to handle it. And I wanted very much to put her at ease and let her know I am also Well Mannered and a good representative of My Job, Inc.

"Oh gosh!" I said, "Please! No worries! I mean really ... even Princess Diana pooped!"

And with that I left the poor startled woman at the sink and tra-lala'ed right out of the restroom.

While it was awkward, yes, all I can hope is that one day she will pass this amazing information along, and it will free her as it did me. So thank you, Miss Judy, wherever you may be. You were right. Even Princess Diana pooped.

Posted by laurie at 9:22 AM

April 14, 2007

Changes in the yard and in me.

Since I met Mrs. Lee and now I see her and talk to her every single day, I have become a little more comfortable talking to folks in my neighborhood. A little.

When Francisco the gardener didn't show up for a whole month and the yard was shaggy and a health hazard, I called the landlord. As funny as the stories of Francisco are, I can't have knee-high weeds in the yard, it's unseemly. And it's a breeding ground for bugs and ... stuff.

"Well," said the landlord. "If you could find me the name of a new gardener I'd be happy to replace him."

As if finding someone new were so easy, and as if it were my responsibility. But the idea of Francisco murdering my new little seedlings or "trimming" a pepper plant makes me break out in a cold sweat.

So on my evening walk yesterday I decided I would ask folks on my street who their gardener was, and if they had his number (you'd be surprised how many people do not know how to contact their own gardener!) and all of this fact-finding would mean I would have to actually talk to strangers and make eye contact and while I do this sort of thing at work all day long, I have made it a policy not to be sociable and friendly and chatty to anyone near my house.

Why is this? I have no idea.

Just keeping my home insulated and private, protecting myself from anyone asking questions, maybe. Didn't want to tell people I was the sad divorcee. Didn't want people to give me that look,you know the one. Or say "Oh, you're still young, you'll find someone." As if that is the only goal, as if a woman alone is a terrible thing.

But now I'm not that sad divorcee. Now I'm just the girl with the dandelion farm in the front yard looking for a new gardener. And if talking to a neighbor leads to conversation and they ask me questions, I won't cry like I used to.

I was a little surprised. Because that was it, wasn't it?

I hadn't realized until right then, lacing my shoes, getting my house key out, zipping up my hooded sweatshirt, hadn't realized that the divorce had made me retreat from the world because I couldn't answer all their questions. I couldn't talk then about my situation. It made me feel judged and lacking and broken and I would get so upset, because I did feel judged and less-than and failed.

Now it's just details. Yeah I got divorced. No biggie.

God, I love California in the spring! Nights are always cool and the air smells like grass and orange blossoms and that white jasmine that grows on my neighbor's trellis, spilling over the gate and onto the ground perfuming the entire evening. I walked slowly down the street. At that time of night people are often out on the lawn, watering, getting home from work, collecting the mail. I stopped a few houses down from me where a man and a woman were unloading Target bags from the back of a minivan. They had a really pretty lawn.

"Um, excuse me?"

They smiled and said hi. Their cat came over and rubbed against my leg, I reached down and scratched it on the head.

"Usually she doesn't let anyone pet her, that's so strange!" said the lady, pretty and dark-haired. A little tiny version of her peeked out from around the side gate, a small girl maybe seven years old.

"I was wondering, if you don't mind my asking, who does your lawn? Because I ... well, I live here, I mean a few doors down, and the gardener stopped coming. And I kind of have to find a new one. Who hopefully doesn't like to trim trees."

"Oh, we like our guy, what is his name?" she paused and looked at her husband. They must have been married a while, they were in that comfortable place where they finished each others' sentences, trains of thought.

He couldn't remember the name either.

"Well, I'm just down the road so if you happen to remember and wouldn't mind putting it in the mailbox? I mean if it isn't too much trouble?"

"Oh, just come on in," she said. "I'm Sara, this is John." She pronounced her name Saw-rah, she had a really pretty musical accent, later she told me she was from Mexico. I liked their family immediately when she said her daughter's name was Sara, too, of course it made me smile. I'm a Laurie with a Laurie.

But I'm new to the whole neighbor thing. I spent so long locked inside myself it feels weird and scary to get out of my quiet, safe place. I'm rusty at it. For two and a half years I have been a ghost in this neighborhood, just some girl who keeps odd hours and never speaks to anyone.

So when we were sitting there -- I had been standing but she insisted I sit, would I like a glass of water? -- I tried to pretend I was a normal Southern gal back home where I know people, knew people, and this was just another day. I tried to pretend I wasn't nervous and a little uncomfortable.

She and her husband were just chatting with me, curious I'm sure and also just being friendly. "Do you have children?" That one is easy, but I was wary because often this question is followed by, "Oh, really? Why didn't you ever have kids?" and I never know how to answer it. I am constantly shocked it is being asked aloud, of me. I exhaled a little in relief when she didn't ask me, didn't pry. (You'd be surprised how many people do ask.)

"Do you have a roommate?"

"Nope," I said. "It's just me."

"Oh! Don't you get scared?" She was concerned for me, crinkled her brow up like a mom. "I would be so scared all alone."

I used to be. I used to walk the floors all night every night, listening for every noise, listening for something else to go wrong.

"Actually, I'm fine," I said. And it was true. "I was a little scared when I first moved in but after a while I started to feel more comfortable. Now it's great, I like my space."

She finally found the number and wrote it down for me on a sticky note. No more questions, so I must have sounded final when I answered her. That's good, a good sign.

She showed me their backyard, I got to pet their dog, too, and admire their huge tomato plants. We talked about cilantro, and was I the girl who had the yardsale that time?

Yes, that was me. Buy my memories for a dollar.

"Well, thank you so much for getting his name for me, I'll have the landlord call him as soon as possible," I said. "I do appreciate this and sorry again to bother you..."

"Oh, no worry, no bother," she said, "Come by any time, it's so nice to meet my neighbors." Her little girl hugged my leg on the way out.

And I went on my way and took my evening walk around my neighborhood. My neighborhood. Later I called the landlord, and the new gardener is coming on next week to see the yard and get a key to the back gate.

New gardener.
Met the neighbors.
Questions ... but not that bad, really. The answers are just adjectives. No biggie.

Posted by laurie at 8:56 AM

April 13, 2007

Friday The 13th, A Picture Friday

Sometimes I forget how many pictures I take in a day, and before long I have a folder on the computer of all these pictures, I love looking at them and remembering where I was, what I was thinking, what caught my eye.

Here is the sign of the Handy Market in Burbank, where Faith and I went one day for barbecue chicken and ribs, they set up a huge smoking grill right out on the sidewalk on Saturdays. It is so good! This was a cloudy, windy day and the sign looked like something you'd see back home, maybe down in Mississippi or off the Bayou, where you know they'd make good crawfish:


- - -

And here are mysterious guests to the West Hollywood Stitch 'n Bitch last week. I couldn't go last night because I was working late. But these sketchy (hah) characters showed up all the way from Australia. I loved their accents. They hid their faces behind hand-knit socks (her) or books (him) and it was very cloak-and-Addi:


- - -


Adorable Evan with his hot mom Allison there on the left, and happy Sam with his hot mom Annika there on the right, over at my house the day we had a yard sale. We had so much fun that day and I got to hold both babies and didn't drop either of them!

And here is Faith with her niece Mia, who I must say is the cutest girl EVER in her rockin' tie-dye outfit:


I think I am at that age now where a lot of my girlfriends are having little humans who drool. Luckily they are all so darn cute you can't help but love 'em. Also, seeing Allison and Annika handling momhood and doing so much work and still staying sane and looking cute is very inspiring, and makes me think I should stop complaining about the times I get so busy I don't have time for laundry and buy panties from Rite Aid.

Panties which do not fit, in case you're wondering.

- - -


I still take pictures of things people say with their cars, even though I sometimes forget to post them on the internet.

If you spent $40,000 on a purse, would you stick a bumper sticker on it or hang an engraved luggage tag on it with a saying? These are the things I wonder. I muse. Sometimes I drink wine and muse.

- - -

Which is how I came by these images:



Yes, those are actual photos of my television showing a sweet couple hugging. Because I was home one night and it was late and I was tired and wine-y and catching up on my Oprah show, this must have been back in February, wait... I think it was actually on Valentine's Day (!!!) and anyway, this show was on and the story was about a young African boy whose whole family was murdered and he was an orphan and met this pretty girl on his way to a refugee station. And he begged someone to take a picture of her and he carried the picture in his pocket for years and years even though he got sent to live in the USA and never saw her again or knew how to contact her.

Until one day he was on vacation, years later, IN CANADA, and he walked into a church and THERE SHE WAS. And they fell in love and he had that picture still in his pocket and now they were married and she was having his baby.

And I saw him hug her like that with so much love and joy and I did the ugly cry and took a picture OF MY TELEVISION SET because I am a dumbass and optimist and believe in true love and wanted this picture to remind me of it, because sometimes I go on dates where I am hoping an earthquake will strike so I have a good quick exit and so I NEED reminders of true love to keep me hopeful even when I am literally praying for a nice, minor 4.5 temblor whose epicenter is Starbucks.

Ya'll know.

- - -

And finally...



Hope you have an awesome Friday and try to manage to stay out of the superstition and the wine, at least to the extent that you don't find yourself taking pictures of your own television set to remind you about True Love.

And watch out for Starbucks tremors. Just in case.

Posted by laurie at 8:50 AM

April 11, 2007

It happens.


* * *

A few weeks ago I was in the midst of chaos and madness and I was having a REALLY BAD DAY.

It was just one of those days. There's not one event in particular that sets you off, but a conflagration of seemingly miniscule things piles up (rude bus driver, someone at work snaps, your computer eats an entire monthly status report, coffee spilled, project axed, to-do list growing, mean email from someone, perhaps a thing you'd hoped for and wished for falls through miserably, you say something stupid and immediately wish you could un-say it, then you break a heel) (by the way, I thought that only happened on TV! I didn't know in real life you could actually break the heel of your boots, amazing).

And you want (you really really want) to be one with Oprah and feel full of gratitude and blessings, because logically you know how good you have it, but instead you are a five-year-old and you are officially mad at the world and you kind of want to throw something. Hard.

It happens.

I got home and sat down for a minute and what made me maddest of all was that I had no more coping mechanisms left! I don't smoke anymore, so there's that. I don't drink excessively to pickle my liver and brain anymore, so there's that. I don't stuff myself at the Jack-in-the-Box drive through window anymore, so that one was gone, too.



It was actually the first time in a long time I wanted to smoke. In fact, I wanted to smoke while funneling cabernet and mainlining Jack-in-the-Box. Those were my coping mechanisms for a very long time, and for just a moment I sat and cried because I had no idea what to do.

Would I fall off the wagon? Revert? Two steps back?

But wait.

There isn't a wagon to fall off.

I can't start a new diet tomorrow because I'm not on a diet. So if I smoke or drink 800 calories of cabernet or eat a small family in deep-fried bite-size portions, it's my problem, one more in a long list, and I cannot pretend I'll fix it sometime in the far-away future with a magic diet or clean-living program or "I'll be good." There was no one counting, or taking score, and whatever I did that day was all up to me and really only affected me. Not the mean email or the snappy person or the boots or the bus driver.

A little voice in the back of my mind (great, now we're hearing voices) said, You should probably go for a walk.

Now, I like to walk. Usually. I enjoy strolling around my neighborhood and looking at the houses and yards and people and cats and sometimes I get to pet a dog. I like to meander or sometimes I walk fast, and afterwards I feel relaxed and calm. So I knew that I should go for a walk but I was MAD and wanted to SMOKE SOMETHING NOW NOW and I pulled off my work clothes and threw (threw!) a Kenneth Cole boot with a broken heel into the back yard to rot and grow worms, and I stomped around like a toddler with anger management issues, pulling on my sweats and tennis shoes.

I went out onto the street. "Fine. FINE. I'll take this g-ddamn coping walk. FINE. I AM COPING."

And I walked and walked, pretty fast, actually. The whole time muttering silently to myself something along the lines of, "Stupid no smoking no eating french fries life FINE I am on my coping walk, I'm coping, stupid coping walk, it's COPABLE. I AM COPING, PEOPLE. It's COPE-A-LICIOUS. It's... it's...


And something about this stupid train of thought made me laugh. COPASETIC. Because I was being silly and I don't even know what that word means and it was nice to be outside, and the air was clean from all the wind we'd had and people were out walking dogs, and really, to be honest, I was feeling a little better.

I have all my arms and legs. I have my lungs, now unpolluted. I have a body that has gotten used to walking so lookee here! I'm not out of breath in two minutes. At least I have a job, even if it was hard today. I can bring home the Meow Mix, then scoop out the cat pan.

That night I walked for two hours, just puttering along, saying hey to neighbors I passed, looking at pretty yards, decompressing. It took two hours, and only for a fleeting minute did I feel guilty because I should be back home, on the laptop, working diligently. I had a list as long as my arm to do, To-Do, always stuff To Be Done.

But I just walked.

When I got home I had a (single) (large) glass of wine and made chicken fajitas from Trader Joe's and later I took a shower, then I sat down to work for a few hours before falling into bed.

It's not easy to give up the things I loved, and believe me -- I did love my old coping strategies. Even though I want to be healthier and live longer and have a strong and sturdy life and wear clothes free of the Plus Size Bedazzler, there is a part of me that still wants to hide out on the back patio smoking cigarettes all night and drinking 9/10 of a bottle of wine, eating instead of talking, stuffing down every scared or tired or lonely or stressed-out feeling I have.

There is a part of me that is tired, and weak, and scared, and not ready for more Growth And Learning. There is a part of me that will always be a smoker, an overeater, someone who likes to take the edge off with a pile of wine and cheetos.

But since I am no longer on a diet, no longer "about to start a new program... tomorrow" and no longer waiting for an unspecified time in the future before I start to treat myself with dignity, every day I just have to make the best decision I can. I suspect I will see the inside of a Jack-in-the-Box drive through again, I suspect I will drink 600 calories in cabernet in one sitting, more than once. But sometimes I will also choose to go for a walk, or a long drive, or make the cats dance with me in the living room (they hate it soooo much). Or I will throw a shoe into the back yard with profanity befitting a sailor, and later slink back out to retrieve it and clean it with a damp paper towel and copasetically place it in my bag to take to the shoe repair guy the next day.

There is no wagon to fall off.

Posted by laurie at 9:22 AM

April 10, 2007

There is a weird smell in the back yard

Francisco has disappeared.

He hasn't come by to blow the leaves around in circles or kill any shrubbery in over a month. Things are actually beginning to grow. It's weird and frankly scary. There is an actual FRUIT tree in my backyard, folks! I did not know this because Francisco cut it last year right around this time when it began to flower, and so it sat there bare and sad all summer.

This year it has little blossoms and baby fruit of some sort. I am surprised Francisco cannot hear its siren song of lushness and be drawn to shear it dead.

So, with the missing Francisco and all the (new! lush!) growing greenery and over-long grass, I have spent a little more time in the back-backyard making sure weeds don't eclipse my okra. And when I was back there last week I noticed a smell. Not a sweet orange blossom smell.

A bad smell.
A poo smell.

This is the conversation I had with myself:

"Gosh that stinks, who farted!!" Then I laughed. At myself. "The yard farted! HAH HAH I AM SEVEN!"

"Really though," I said back to myself, more grownupedly. "That is some stinky smelling air."

"Maybe it's pollution," I countered.

"Well," I replied, "if that's the case then it's just a toxic cloud over the back backyard. The front yard is fine. WEIRD!"

"Fart!" I said outloud. Because as we have all seen, time and time again, I am very mature.

So at first I thought perhaps one of the neighbors had fertilized, sometimes people dump compost on their lawns and it smells poo-ish. (Yard fart!) But usually it goes away, and the poo smell has been wafting around for a good long while. I took a walk on Friday evening after work, checking out the neighbors' yards on the next street over, especially the house that backs directly up to my own backyard, occupied by The Yelling Family. Nothing.

On Saturday I was in the back-back-yard watering my okra and marigolds when the wind changed and the very very pervasive poo odor returned. Now, there are no major animals hiding around in my backyard pooping in hidden areas of the yard. I know this because my backyard shares a fence with the yelling neighbors, and they have two giant pit bulls that will eat anything, including the Department Of Water And Power guys who were trying to repair a line one day and threatened to call animal control on the neighbors. DWP used my yard instead.

So the barking dogs drive away most of the wildlife and all people.

And the question remained. WHERE IS THE MYSTERY POO SMELL COMING FROM???

It was a mystery until Easter Sunday when a freak gust of wind blew down the barely-standing bamboo screen that had been precariously attached to my side of the chainlink fence I share with Yelling Neighbors.

Turns out that Yelling Neighbors have not exactly been cleaning up after their dogs properly. Instead of picking up the poo and throwing it away, they appear to be throwing it into the small concrete area between their garage and the chainlink back fence. Which is... RIGHT UP AGAINST MY YARD.

There is a mountain of poop back there. HOW DO PEOPLE LIVE LIKE THAT?

I saw the mountain and sighed the long, sad sigh of a person who has discovered rather late in life that she is not a people pleaser after all. She actually kind of hates people. As far as I can tell, the main drawback about living in a city and in a neighborhood that contains humans is... the humans. Sometimes people are gross. Sometimes people forget that they are not the only ones inhabiting planet earth and the rest of us have to live here also. Sometimes people do things like let their dogs roam off-leash or they play techno music all night long or yell at their kids for four hours or are so damn lazy they can't throw the poop in a bin, instead they throw it up against the fence by the neighbor's yard.

I NOW UNDERSTAND WHY PEOPLE MOVE OUT TO THE COUNTRY. It is because there are no pesky "humans" nearby to ruin your good-smelling pollution.

And ya'll, I don't know what to do. I would politely knock on the door and ask if they would please stop building a mountain out of a poophill ... except. They seem kind of awful. And they are so lazy they cannot be bothered to dispose of their voluminous dog crap. They yell. What if they start a neighbor war? You know how people can be. And my gut instinct is that these folks are Neighbor War types. They'd start tossing the poo into my yard just for kicks and giggles. And then probably holler about it.

It would be one thing if I didn't have to live there and deal with them daily. But these folks are yellers, and if they scream at their own kids in such a vile and hateful manner, I cannot imagine what they would start doing to me if I stopped by to visit. I thought about leaving an anonymous note on the door, but if they are the sort of folks who will live in a pile of dog crap, will a little polite note make any difference at all?

So I'm thinking that if the Governator found it super important to pass legislation regarding my cats and their scoopable cat litter, perhaps someone in the state of California, city of Los Angeles, county of same, can help the neighbors see the vital importance of not stockpiling dog poop for the apocalypse.



I love this city, I do, but I don't always like the people. Didn't their mamas raise them better? Don't they themselves get tired of the smell? Isn't it kind of cruel to make your dogs stay in a yard near that? And isn't it a giant health hazard? And WHO ON EARTH THINKS THIS IS THE SOLUTION TO PICKING UP AFTER THEIR DOGS?

I wonder if this has anything to do with the disappearance of Francisco. Maybe the toxic fumes got to him. It's been good for the fruit tree, but not so good for general outdoor breathing.

If you happen to know offhand who I should call at the city, let me know, will you?

The mountain isn't getting any smaller.

* * *

another pic that makes no sense with this column
These cats do not smell bad.
But they are indeed spoiled rotten.

Posted by laurie at 9:17 AM

April 9, 2007

Smaller = Not so bad!

It started slowly, right around last Christmas when I found a perfect small tree and was able to decorate it (starting from scratch!) for a lot less money than I thought. A small tree takes less ornaments to look pretty and full.

I remembered then how all our married holiday trees were giant 9-foot monsters, covered head-to-toe in ornaments, filling up the greatroom.

I don't have a greatroom anymore. I have a "this is my living room/dining room/treadmill room/library/hallway!" And for the very first time I began to see that maybe my tiny house was a stroke of sheer luck. I could have found an apartment somewhere in my price range that was bigger than this house, but I needed this house.

Decluttering has been a personal mission since the day I moved in. At first it was sheerly out of necessity ("cannot find the cats or doors") and later, as I got better, I needed to get rid of the past. I think it would have been a huge mistake to move into a bigger place; all the clutter would have stayed and I would have just buried it under a new layer of stuff, stuff for my new life, without purging the objects of my old life.

Because purging is hard for people like me. It is not an easy task, feels sometimes like you're losing who you are. (But it just FEELS that way, it isn't true, of course. Your stuff does not love you back.)

And in the two and a half years I have lived in the little house in Encino Adjacent, I have pared down to about 1/8th of what I used to own. My closet is tiny, so now I only have clothes I LOVE hanging inside it. If I buy something nrew, something old has to go -- so I think twice before buying. My kitchen is barely big enough for two people to stand comfortably, so I had to say good-bye to unused gadgets, a serving platter I used once as a newlywed, all those cookie sheets with rust and spots.

I still have too many books (oh well) and yarn (ditto) and cats (heh) but I no longer trip over fifteen piles of doodads each time I try to get the window open in the guestroom.

AND THE GUESTROOM! Is! A guestroom!

It used to be the junk repository, my "office," a dumping ground for everything that didn't fit elsewhere. And let me tell you, that was a lot of "everything else." Poor cats having to walk through a maze to find the cat pan. I never used that room as an office, it was too junky. When guests came over I gave them my room (the smallest and always cleanest area of the house) and I just gave up and slept on the sofa.

It was filled with stuff I couldn't yet say goodbye to, my old computer, a lamp I'd bought when he and I moved to the North Hollywood house, all the stuff I had back when I shopped to fill up my life. It used to sometimes spill over into the hallway of the Tiny New House and even thinking about that room made me feel a shriek of panic deep inside, how would I ever fix it?

I fixed it!

It took two and a half full years but now it is a real room. That upholstered chair folds out into a twin-sized guest bed, and the stuff on the floor is the last of the clutter in the whole entire house. THAT IS A MIRACLE, FOLKS. After months and months of sorting, packing, selling at yard sales, getting rid of stuff, uncluttering, recluttering, purging once again... I think I have finally gotten my house under control. OH MY GOD.

I can't believe it myself, I just walk from room to room in total amazement. It's been two weeks now and still the clutter hasn't mysteriously re-appeared, my house is cleaner than it has ever been.

Until this very minute I had not realized I lived under a constant cloud of anxiety about my home. I would pray nobody wanted to drop by, I had fewer and fewer people over, when I was dating that one guy for a while I would sometimes hope he'd be too busy to come over because it was so stressful to get the house looking just perfect and still hide all the junk.

There's nothing to hide now! The constant stress of house-cleaning has still got a hold on me, it's like I'll start having the familiar feelings of anxiety but then I remember the clutter is (mostly) gone. It's not perfect, but it doesn't have to be PERFECT. The house is clean and mostly organized and while the fridge could use a good scrubbing and the pantry is a little jumbled, and okay, I should probably mop (gah) ... the giant, monumental hurdle is over. My tiny house has just enough.

Finally, my life fits inside my little home.

It's because of the tiny house that I was forced to pare down. And over the past couple of years I've gotten better at it! Sometimes I will even find myself looking at an object and asking what it means to me, does it remind me of the past, or marriage, or what? Evaluating. Making sure I'm not holding on just because. Things have energy and I've learned to hold onto to the good memories, or make new ones, but for the love of God get rid of all the junk.

I think I could invite someone over right this very minute and I wouldn't be the least bit embarrassed of any inch of this house. Well, maybe the crisper drawers. But who in their right mind comes over and looks in your crisper drawer?

It's not perfect, no. But that's still pretty damn good.

Posted by laurie at 1:12 PM

Tidbits, a little Dim Sum of Diary-ing

I only mind Mondays in the way that I mind being interrupted while telling a good story: you just start gaining steam on one thing and then it's time to change tracks.

But I did finally get the house (partly) cleaned over the weekend, vaccuuming even in the corners and now the guestroom/office is almost habitable for felines and humans. I cannot believe how much stuff I have de-cluttered! My goal is to have a manageable, functional little house with just the few well-appointed and well-loved items I need. And cats, of course.

It takes less energy and time to clean and organize less junk ... and let's face it, no one sits on their deathbed wishing they had spent more time dusting the damn clutter. Lord, please free me of my need to surround myself with the safety of junk. Amen.

1) But Am I Re-Cluttering?
The shopping moratorium ended on April 1st and it's certainly been evident around Chez Furball that the re-cluttering commenced, a little. Mostly buying garden stuff... but I did collect a few little things I probably didn't NEED. I have tried to be careful about not re-collecting more crap, but it's hard. It's a constant fight with the instict to surround myself. I have found that if I place a paper grocery bag in a corner of each room I will fill it up as the weeks go by, just everytime I run across a thing (T-shirt, vase, cookie sheet) I haven't used in years and years, or if it's something I don't absolutely love, I put it in the bag. This past Saturday I dropped six bags of stuff of at Goodwill (!!!). I could exhale, then. Saved from re-cluttering this time, at least.

2) The Shopping Moratorium goes back into effect...

... soon. First I need a trip to DSW Shoe Warehouse. A girl can not live on plus-size clothing frustration alone, you know.

When I wrote of the horrors of woman-sized women clothes, I did not expect to hear from (many) size 2 and 4 and 6 women who find it equally hard to find good-fitting, awesome clothes.

This made me profoundly sad because I was disavowed of my long-held notions that if I somehow miraculously managed to ever starve down into a six or four (hah) I would find perfect clothing. I cannot believe that a woman with a size-six or four or two figure has to search for goodness! How is this possible! This ruins all my ideas and dreams and fantasies! Yet, at the same time, I am comforted. It makes me feel like we are all women in this together, Us vs. The Fashion World. WE HAVE ASSES, PEOPLE. Yes, some are size 18 asses and some are size 4 asses. But we got 'em. REPRESENT. Make clothes for US.

4) Easter?
Last year and the year before I would sit on my patio late at night, maybe it was Christmas or maybe Easter, Thanksgiving, and I could hear the sounds of my neighbors through the fence. Music, the barbecue, lots of family chattering away in lyrical Spanish. I used to feel like an eavesdropper on their togetherness, listening. Last night I sat outdside with a glass of wine and lit a candle, set my laptop on the long, wooden patio table to do some work, admired my marigolds and tomato plants. The neighbors were talking all at once, an old love song in Spanish in the background, two kids arguing over a toy. I didn't feel anything except pleased and slightly hungry. Wondering if I should fire up my own barbecue grill, make dinner. And I didn't feel empty hearing them next door laughing and hugging hello, I just felt glad to have my whole Sunday to myself and be finished with my chores, cleaning house, laundry, and aren't my marigolds looking pretty!

5) Making A Space

I guess another thing about not feeling sad and broken is that you have to wonder if you are leaving a space for someone to come into. I want to do that. I want love in my life. I want to keep a space open for it.

6) The test box has given us a winner!

Since our tried-and-true harmonious pooping surface is no longer sold in California, the felines and I have been searching for a good cat litter. Most of that responsibility has rested on my shoulders since I assume they will poop anywhere they damn please. Plus, as far as I know I am the only one of us who can drive.

I tried many litters in the test box since my old fave, Clump 'n Flush, was discontinued. I tried Feline Pine scoopable, and let me tell you what, I am still vaccuuming sawdust from my house. I put it in the test box and the very next morning I had to empty it, the cats were sneezing and there was sawdust covering the floor. I found a Dust-Free litter, it was good but not scoopable. On my way out of Tams last week, the nice guy who owns the shop (and knows of my Clump 'n Flush madness) suggested Dr. Elsey's Cat Attract.

"We have another customer who swears by it," he said. "Petco stopped stocking it, so I order it for him."

I picked up the OH MY GOD HEAVY bag and carted it home, it's clay so I was expecting dust and sadness. BUT. LET ME TELL YOU. Within one day the cats had stopped using the other three boxes and all four felines were using the teensy test box... EVEN SOBAKOWA. Now, ya'll know I do love my Soba, but if the box smells like anything less than roses and spring breezes she will perhaps leave a Royal Poo right on the mat beside the box. But even La Soba was lining up to use the test box. I keeled under feline pressure and stocked all boxes with Cat Attract. If it will make the Soba love box-time, I am for it. And Roy seems okay, what with his delicate asthsma and all, and the whole damn house is happy.

Also, OH MY GOD is it expensive. Never let it be said my animals don't have excellent taste.

7) Still no answers on the CACTUS book.

Two other readers remembered this book, so I know now that I did not hallucinate it in lieu of teevee in a fit of po' kid imagination. I posted the query at AbeBooks "book sleuth" forum, but as of now not a single soul has responded. It is perhaps the greatest mystery since Stonehenge, people.

*** This Just IN *** A reader on The Abe Books forum gave me a shining beacon of light! I do believe the book I was looking for is The Plant People by Dale Bick Carson, which was published in a Scholastic (yeah) edition of short stories in 1977, making me a six-year-old reading lunatic. It is also available in a paperback, which ya'll know I ordered, and I plan to tell you IN DETAIL how this very paperback made my childhood complete and I no longer need therapy, etc. YAY, internet!

8) But oh, how I love you for loving books.
When I was little, I was always the oddest child, my reality lived more inside Laura Ingalls or Betsy-Tacy or Mrs. Frisby than in bicycling or talking to kids my age, and I knew I was probably more like Elizabeth Wakefield in public but I sure wished I could be bad like Jessica! And even though you might think my parents were unfit after I tell you this, I read "Rage Of Angels" by Sidney Sheldon and I swear to you my teenage heart melted when Jennifer Parker got back to her law office after having Joshua and found out Michael Moretti kept calling every day, he was that obsessed with her.

Ya'll, I lived in a trailer out in the middle of NOWHERE. But by age twelve I could tell you about New York City from books, smell the salty air of Chincoteague island, and I knew all about "Forever." I am so glad you loved books, too. Makes me feel less like a weirdo.

9) Roy
He is doing so much better than anyone expected! He wasn't supposed to make it, you know. But he is hanging in there, and he's eating and drinking and pooping (see #6, above) and even though he is skinny and has a dern brain tumor, that little guy is just not ready to leave the lovin' and pettin' available on earth yet.


People are forever and always being mad about someone advertising on their stupid webpage about a product. Well, I hereby do declare I do not care !! I love to share good products when I find them, I do this in real life with all my friends ("Oh My God, DREW! You MUST buy a magic eraser today or you will die of stains!") and Magic Eraser continues to be the greatest thing since sliced bread and DSW Shoe Warehouse. I got scuff marks off the kitchen/patio door, a wine ring off the counter and mystery goo off the pantry door with my magic eraser this weekend. I love you, Mr. Clean. Please come have sex with me.

Hah hah!! Just checkin' if ya'll were still reading!

11) Come Early Morning
This is a movie starring Ashley Judd and some other people, and it takes place in a little town in Arkansas and seriously, this movie made me cry a million tears. Had I not moved to L.A. and got married, you would be looking at my life in that movie. It has some not-exactly-great acting moments and it is an indie film and all, but I cried and cried in the scene where Cal runs his fingers down Lucy's shoulders and stomach and back, and she is just cringing the whole time ... even though she is skinny and pretty. The thing is that you can be all kinds of uncomfortable, can't you? in no matter what skin you got. It's a Southern movie. Could have been set out at the Little Brown Jug bar off the highway outside Murfreesboro. Yeah, me and Stefanie used to hang out at the Little Brown Jug. One Thanksgiving after about six pitchers (there were lots of folks there, surprisingly) and five rounds of darts, me and Stefanie somehow up and joined the Jaycees since they were the ones buying the drinks. Luckily when they sobered up themselves, they ignored our little membership applications. I remember calling her the next morning and thanking the Good Lord we didn't meet up with a bunch of Marines or something at the Little Brown Jug because wouldn't it have been hard explaining how we joined them. And even harder getting the application back. We got a good laugh over it.

* * *

So that is Monday Diary Dim Sum. Least I got me a Top 11 List this time.

And I am in no danger of up and joining the Jaycees out of lonely and no-good, in case you were wondering. I got my marigiods and Magic Erasers and my books and my Roy. And everyone is happily pooping. And I will have a cactus people book soon, and am making room in my life for real love, and basically everything is great except for the weird smell in the back yard.

But that ... that is for another day.

Posted by laurie at 11:18 AM

April 6, 2007

Stitch 'n Bitch 'n Australians 'n Please help me find this book!

Last night before Stitch 'n Bitch, Faith and I met up with Kellie and her husband Dave. They are here visiting the states all the way from Melbourne, Australia! We had dinner at the French restaurant inside the West Hollywood Farmer's Market, it's called Monsieur Marcel. The food was fabulous (thanks, Dave!) and the conversation was awesome. And I was kind of in heaven because I am a sucker for a charming accent, which Kellie and Dave have in spades, and our waiter had that French accent that gets me every time. You know someone could read the light bill to me in a French accent and I'd be flinging my clothes off.

(I kept my clothes on at the table, just FYI.)

I hope I get to go to Australia one day and visit them, too. You know, in my entire life I have never met a bad Australian. There is something about folks from that continent, an easy charm and quick smile that I just love. And it was lovely to see a man look at his wife with such affection, the way Dave looks at Kellie when she's talking, telling a story. Gives a girl hope, know what I mean?

So when we were done with dinner and sitting around at Sitch 'n Bitch, the three of us got to talking about children's books. We're all three about the same age, OK, FINE, I AM MAYBE A LITTLE OLDER, and we have been big readers since we were kids. When I was little I had my nose stuck in some book all the time, books were my key to a world outside the small town I lived in. I LOVED to read. We didn't watch TV in my family, and I would just read all day long and well into the night until some cruel parent forced me to go to sleep. My folks never put any restrictions on what I could read, and I remember once when I was little, my mom and I were at the checkout counter in the library and my mom had to "have words" with the library lady, who was insisting the books I wanted were certainly not appropriate for a girl of six or seven years old. My mom stood her ground in my defense, and I got my Lloyd Alexander sci-fi thankyou, and I did not turn out to be an axe murderer so all is well. Take that, library lady!

So I confessed to Kellie and Dave that lately I have been obsessed with collecting backwards, finding the books I loved as a child and getting them back into my life. Perhaps this is a sign I need more sleep. We may never know.

I found my Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, and the Marilyn Sachs books I loved as a young girl, and Betsy-Tacy-Tibb and "Secrets of The Shopping Mall" and "The Grounding of Group Six" and so many of my childhood favorites, carefully selected each school year from the Scholastic Books flyer that I anticipated the way a junkie wants a fix.

But there are two books I am DYING to find, and I can't remember their names! I was telling Kellie and Dave about them and even though Kellie and I grew up a whole world apart, she remembered one of the books too! So if any of ya'll have ever heard of these, please help a crazygirl out here. I will not stop on this nerdy quest until my geek love can be fulfilled.

Book #1, which my details are sort of vague on but Kellie remembered, too, so I am not crazy and making this up:
Main character named Laura, maybe. Family is from New York, they go somewhere for the summer, Catskills I think? where she hates the shower, it smells like sulphur. Is obsessed with Woody Allen and when she is in the city goes to this jazz bar she's heard Woody Allen frequents, and she kind of accidentally strolls into a movie set on the sidewalk one day.
**UPDATE** Thanks to commenter Kate, I think we have found this one!! I think she's right and it is "Rise and Fall of a Teen-Age Wacko" by Mary Anderson. We'll all know in one week's time because I just ordered it from a secondhand shop off Amazon.com. THANKS, Kate!!

Book #2, which is equally vague in my details but look I was like ten years old, ok:
Small dry southwestern town, kids in high school, main character a boy. His mom drives her car through the desert to let off steam. Something weird is happening in the town. Strange events... like, perhaps, are townspeople turning into cactus? Is it aliens? Cannot remember. Think the book had a title something like "Day the earth stood still" but that must not be the title since I have searched obsessively and can't find it.
**UPDATE** Still no name, but commenter Dorothy remembers this one too, where folks who loved animals and the earth were spared the fate of turning into cactii. Hee. If you know the title please share!

Do either of these books sound familiar? Am I the only person who is crazy about finding the stories she loved as a kid? I used to think my books were my closest friends, I swear I just assumed Laura Ingalls Wilder and I were probably the same person just stuck in different eras.

I was a weird child.

Thank God I grew out of that!


Posted by laurie at 11:41 AM

April 5, 2007

Dear Fashion World: I would like to speak to your Supervisor, please!

I know we talked about this last year.

And I know that the world has many important and troubling issues and most people do not come to this here personal diary expecting to see VULGAR and VILE and PROFANE things. So, I apologize for being both redundant and PROFANE, but here is actual photographic proof that the fashion world has lost their damn minds:


Listen, Fashion World, I did not want your formal shorts last year when you tried to tell me my ample hiney should be encased in dry-clean-only polyester blend cuffed short-shorts. Because hi! Nothing will emphasize the wideness (and for that matter, mayonaisse whiteness) of my dimpled thighs like the oh-so-useful FORMAL SHORTS.

I scoffed last year because scoffing is what I do when faced with four inches of nasty rayon posing as pants. These are not pants. These are like panties with belt loops. This is not helping me, people. I NEED REAL CLOTHING OPTIONS.

Since I started Not Dieting and stopped having my McDonald's dinner-before-dinner (so many drive throughs, so little time) and since I started walking every day, I have very slowly little-by-little come to notice that my work clothes are maybe a tad looser. And it was fine at first, barely able to notice it, really, but lately it's more obvious that I need pants which will stay up on their own without the help of safety pins. And normally I would be very happy about this development, except I am now at that awkward in-between size:

Not quite a Woman, not yet a Misses.

I walked all around the downtown Macy's checking out the newest styles and trying desperately to find something work-appropriate that fit (read: "plain black trousers.") There were racks and racks of size 2s hanging out, but all the larger sizes in the "normal" section were long gone. (Question: Why do stores only order ONE pair of size 16s and ONE pair of size 14s, and then twelve pairs of size 2? WHY?)

Then I went to the Women's section and interestingly enough, none of the clothes looked even remotely the same as the clothes elsewhere in the store. It's as if all designers think if you grow beyond a size 12 or 14 0r -- OH NO-- even a 16, God Forbid, you immediately give up all desire to look like a normal human being and want desperately to cover yourself in flammable fabrics that have all or one of the following:





These pictures are all sort of blurry and weirdly lit because I did not want to be hauled into Macy's Jail for taking pictures. Because if this is what is on the display floor in Macy's ... imagine what is in the JAIL.

And also: Hey Fashion Designers ... ARE YOU ALL WOMAN HATERS?

Because that is the only explanation I can come up with.

One day Faith and I were talking about her jeans. She was having some trouble with her brand-new Calvin Klein jeans, which fit her great through the hip and thigh and legs, but the waist was baggy and way, way too big.

"It's called The Gap," I informed her flatly.

"No," she said. "These aren't from The Gap, they're from Calvin Klein."

"That gap between your waist and the waistband on jeans, it's The Gap," I explained. "It's what happens when women-haters make jeans. They cut them to fit such objects as very thin straight planks of wood, legal-size paper and also yardsticks. But women? We have to get our jeans tailored at the waist or deal with The Gap."

"But WHY?" asked Faith.

"Because Fashion hates us."

And we laughed, because of course Fashion doesn't really hate us! Right? ... right?


It is enough to make you eat a mall pretzel and slink back home, isn't it?

Posted by laurie at 9:44 AM

April 3, 2007

Hot in Los Angeles

There is one smell I can identify immediately and I will forever associate it with Los Angeles, and that is the smell of a California wildfire.

Reporters and the people on TV describe the smoke as "acrid," which I guess it is, but to me a California wildfire smells like desert sage and a hint of dry eucalyptus and brown earth and heat and fear.

Apparently two dumbaii teenage boys from Illinois were playing with matches out near Universal Studios and the whole mountain caught on fire. They should be glad they are not my children or I would have paid the nice policemen to keep them in jail. Of course, I guess if you aren't from here you have no idea how easy it is to set the whole city on fire. Then again, as a teenager, you should have already passed the "play with matches" stage and be developing into the "sneak porno off the innernet" stage. I MEAN REALLY NOW.

You could see the smoke all the way downtown, a thick blanket of it settling down around the skyline. On the bus ride home we approached the 101/134 split and we had to shut all the windows because smoke was filling the bus. I got one not-very-good picture of the backside of the mountain where the fire was mostly out, just smoldering:


And most importantly, I got a sneaky profile shot of the Hot Bus Driver:
Bad picture but you'll have to trust me, HE HOT.

According to weather news, this is the longest dry spell Los Angeles has experienced in 130 years. I'm wary of the fire season, last year and the year before were too close for comfort out in Encino Adjacent. This year I have even more to protect from the scorching heat and fire danger, however.


Now, if you are right this very minute shriveling your petite, well-bred nose in disgust -- Okra! The horror! -- let me inform you that Southern Fried Okra (click for recipe) is the finest dish on earth. Served with a cold beer, some sliced tomatoes from the garden and maybe a whole ham, you will be the fattest and happiest human being around and your blood will flow finely through your veins, lubed up with oil and love.

I do not know if ya'll remember my raised bed garden I built last year, part of the Failed Square Watermelon Project of 2006. Anyway, it just sat there all year sad and empty after my tiny watermelon seedlings burned up in solid week of 118 degree Valley weather. It is now home to TWELVE little okra seedlings, because okra is a warm weather plant and allegedly LOVES the sun. The wildfire, not so much. But sun is supposed to be good for okra. There are also zucchinni in the corners of the garden bed and some marigolds because that is how I roll.


Having been a renter for five thousand years, I have always been a container gardener, and I usually have pretty good success in the containers. Check out the tomatoes and marigolds:

Cucumbers (six plants because yes, I ARE CRAZY):

I've had some of these pots for ten, twelve years now, most of them held giant cactus and succulents. But back in January we had a crazy hard frost and it was 26 degrees for several nights in a row. (That has never happened in the hundred years I've lived here!) Almost everything died. I was sad at first, but then it felt kind of good to make a clean start. I often forget that things and posessions and even plants carry energy and memories. Now I don't look out on the patio and see plants I had in a married house from way back when, I see a whole bunch of happy new little faces and just one or two old friends.

Over the weekend Faith and I wandered the aisles of the Green Thumb nursery in Canoga Park looking at their lovely herb selection and picking up each happily potted plant and smelling them, touching the leaves, and at some point I believe I even hugged a culinary-grade French rosemary. I bought Apple Mint, three varieties of Thyme, the aforementioned Rosemary, Greek Oregano, Cilantro and Basil:

[click for bigger pics]

That last pic is catnip ... in a hanging basket. I learned my lesson last year, you neighborhood alley cats who roll nekkid in planted catnip!!

I also got one red bell pepper, one yellow pepper and one purple (!) pepper, and lined them up like plant-art:

Most of my plants sit on little wheeled plant stands so I can move them into the shade this year when the Big Heat Wave arrives. I did not install a drip irrigation system because it was too expensive and I had already spent my entire budget on plants and potting soil and so on. But I cleaned the patio and arranged everything so that I can just buy one of those special nozzles for the garden hose that simulate rainwater and I'm going to hose the patio down at night when I water the plants, which (I hope) will have the added benefit of keeping Spider City at a more manageable level (the amount of dust and leaves and dirt and cobwebs on the patio was rather startling. Apparently I was very busy last year and did not have time for such pursuits as "sweeping" and "noticing the debris.")

While I would like to end this column with something involving smoke and fire and heat and me and the hot bus driver (as if I would tell ya'll anyway! Because, and Also: Hi Dad! Just sitting over here doing some Bible Study!) instead I'll tell you I spent the weekend gardening my little heart out and it was one of the most relaxing weekends I have had in ages. I used muscles I did not know I had, I got to see Faith, and I got to visit the Korean Market with my neighbor Mrs. Lee (I felt weird taking pictures, it seemed rude)(but it was fun!)

And now I have a little garden, and my hope, and a sturdy hose for the hotspots. I even found a home for Victor:

Posted by laurie at 10:25 AM

April 1, 2007

Special Edition: April Hor-O-Scopes!

Ya'll know I do love to write my little horoscopes and throw around some ghetto slang while working in things that seem vaguely horoscopey, such as "Put your panties on during Mercury transiting your House Of Margaritas." Yes, indeed.

And while this is a fine way to live your life, sometimes you have the good luck and planetary bingo to stumble on actual, real bonafide Astrological Greatness! This month I am so excited to share with you REAL and AWESOME Horoscopes written by Astrologer Phyllis!

phyllis-mitz.gif PHYLLIS F. MITZ, M.A., has had a flourishing astrology practice for close to 30 years now. Her unique blend of astrology, psychology (in which she holds her master’s degree) and spiritual focus (in which she is pursuing a Doctorate Degree) gives counsel to thousands of people from all walks of life, including celebrities, politicians, and corporate executives (she would not tell me WHO EXACTLY, but I plan to get her drunk sometime in the future, see "House of Margaritas," and find out and as soon as I do I will let ya'll know) (because I am giving that way).

She wrote these April forecasts just for Crazy Ol' Aunt Readers, and I hope ya'll will give her a big happy welcome and also go visit her website, astrologerphyllis.com. There she does trend reports and all kinds of planetary goodness on a very regular basis.

With that I now present to you.... drumroll please.....

Phyllis F. Mitz, M.A’s

Aries (March 21st-April 19th)
Despite having to deal with some annoying insecurities and/or behind-the-scenes-disruptions April can end up being a pretty great month for you. What makes it great? Movement! Between April 11th-27th Mercury ignites the good decisions, excellent communications, and fun trips that inspire your favorite feeling: The Thrill of Beginning Something New – possibly with someone new. You might be especially empowered April 16,17,and 20 as your ideas catch fire and lead to strong, expansive success. Go for it! What to do about those pesky fears or unexpected issues popping up? Treat them like you do everything else: as a challenge to become even more of a hero. But don’t be afraid to plan on good stuff happening in 2007 -you’ve (finally!) got plenty of forward motion coming!

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Taurus (April 20 –May 21st)
No – it hasn’t been your imagination – the astrological energies have been kinda tough on you ... even bringing matters of your career, home life, and heck, even your relationships to an "either this changes or I’m leaving!" showdown. Well, good news: Life will be calming down and easing up ...a little. Venus traveling through your sign will make you wonderfully magnetic, appealing and even savvier at negotiating matters to get your way through April 11th. Then she helps strengthen your favorite Taurus subjects of security and finances through the end of the month and even allures some valuable relationships into your court as well. All in all your social life will be perked up in April with some amazing dynamics with friends and generous folks who want to help you to reach your goals. Be cautious, however, during the wild energies of April 27th - April 29th, as someone might exit your life as quickly as they entered it. If they were that shaky, you didn’t want them anyway, sweet Taurus.

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Gemini (May 22nd- June21st)
Thank God you’re as savvy as you are, Gemini, and as flexible and eager to change, too! You’ll need those gifts through most of April as there’ll be shake-ups galore happening all around you – especially in your career and relationships. Many are surprising, some might be anticipated, but all are trying to lead you to capitalizing on the new ideas and alliances that are now starting to hover. Let’s put it this way: If something isn’t going to work, or if someone isn’t going to stick around, you’ll most likely realize it April 1st, 2nd, 7th, 20th, 21st, and April 27th-29th. Forget looking back, as whatever falls apart can open doors for even better prospects and relationships. That’s especially true from April 13th on as Venus transits your sign and amplifies that attractive, witty allure that you’re famous for! Capitalize on that. In fact, this whole year of 2007 is chock full of powerful, inspiring people and partners (and some mysterious strangers) who can help make your life fascinating and deliver amazing projects to your doorstep. Just don’t be so seduced by others’ power that you give them yours. Do what Geminis do best: Watch and learn from others and make it your own.

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Cancer (June 22nd – July 22nd)
Even though you’re quite a strong creature, Cancer, your recent money, health, and/or relationship issues may be wearing you a little thin. Plus, since so many of your challenges have come as a result of other people’s choices (or lack of them) you can feel left hanging - rarely a welcome position for a security-oriented crab! Not to worry – the picture is changing! New ideas are percolating, helpful people are coming to the rescue, and inspired realizations are returning that can show you what new steps to take to create more abundance and professional success. What should you do? Use your instincts and intuition to flesh out what is really important to you and what you really should let go of in order to move on. Even the abrupt shifts in plans and expectations that might pop up April 1st - 2nd, 27th – 29th can end up resulting in lucky opportunities and insights that promote your dreams even further. Travel, write that book (or letter) and take a class in something that inspires you and you’ll start to see that doors magically opening for you that you wouldn’t dream of even knocking on!

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Leo (July 23rd – Aug. 22nd)
Wow! Having Saturn, the Personal Trainer of the zodiac, traveling through your sign has forced you to work hard this past year and to grow in ways you weren’t even sure you were capable of. Plus, the very thing that makes your world go ‘round - partnerships and love – might have been a little tough, too, if not weird and disappointing. All this could have deflated your normal sassy confidence, but there’s good news: The energies that have been challenging, delaying, and even blocking you are (finally!) moving forward! New ideas, contacts, and opportunities are beginning to materialize that show you why all that ordinary drudgery you’ve been enduring has been worth it. Positive momentum begins around April 11th with really exciting spikes of goodness hitting April 20th, 21st, 24th, 25th. Will everyone around you settle down and do what you expect them to do? No. Expect some sudden shifts with money, sex, or other people’s crises affecting you, especially April 2nd, 3rd, 27th -29th. Just use your magnificent largesse so any differences between you and they can be worked out in that win-win gain you’re famous for. That way, even if you discover you have to let someone or something go, you’ll know you have tried your best.

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Virgo (Aug. 23rd – Sept. 22nd)
The good news is you are growing and stretching like mad this year, Virgo! The challenging news is it might be wackier, faster, and messier than your orderly self would have ever imagined or even preferred. Take the ride, keep reaching for the brass ring, and forget about getting it all perfect. (The trick is understanding everything really is perfect…just not the way you might define perfection!) You’re experiencing transits from many different angles that are prompting amazing changes in your life: On the one hand, powerful energies are pushing you to get into a bigger game (possibly at work), even if you don’t feel certain how to play, especially April 7th, 8th, 20th,21st, and 22nd. On the other hand, the relationships and structures you’ve depended on are suddenly shifting or even ending, leaving you to deal with a whole new set of circumstances and expectations, especially April 1st-3rd, and 28th-30th. Your job is to be smart enough to adjust your self image to meet these new challenges and to be creative enough to make positive use out of whatever goes on around you, which you certainly are, Virgo! Look at it this way: You’re in a personal growth marathon. You might not think you signed up for it, but you did. Prove something great to yourself.

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Libra (Sept. 23rd – Oct. 22nd)
People! Trips! Love! Friendship! Phone Calls! Opportunities! …and other glorious and social activities are aspected for you most of this month of April, Libra! Indeed, your ideas are bright, your communications are clear, and adoring people are all around, making good relationships ripe for the picking. So use your delightful attitude and social contacts to negotiate, make plans, travel and seal deals, especially on April 20th - 21st, and 29th -30th. Your challenge might be sorting out how much time to devote to every (new) opportunity, invitation, and offer you receive. That said, there’s still some issues in your life that even your most charming and devoted concerns can’t fix, since they’re not really your problem, (even if they affect you). Take care of your health, be super flexible about your working conditions and if anything points to a need for changes in those areas, make them. You are on an upswing. Have fun.

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Scorpio (Oct. 23rd – Nov. 22nd)
No doubt about it: The past few months have been intense and dramatic for you, Scorpio. Confrontations and crises might have been rampant: some involved you and affected you, others didn’t involve you, but still affected you anyway. The good news is that, although your changes are far from over, at least most of the shoes that were going to drop have done so, leaving you with a clearer picture of what you’re dealing with. Even better, the energies gathering now are working more for your benefit. So use your characteristic of being the “Phoenix” - one who rises from the ashes into something more glorious - and carry on. Even during the dates when surprises and unexpected shifts are erupting, matters can end up promoting you, supporting your goals, or bringing people into your life who love you and who are compassionate to your wants and needs, especially April 2nd-5th and 26th-30th. Use the innovative ideas on the 20th and 22nd to further your goals, possibly financially, and use the revelations on the 26th-28th to discover who’s in your court and who isn’t. And then do what you must.

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Sagittarius (Nov. 23rd- Dec. 22nd)
Lucky you! Your expansive ruling planet, Jupiter, is transiting Sagittarius all year, promising you substantial growth, meaningful inspirations, and fascinating connections. Your challenge is to keep your passions focused on growing what’s really worthwhile to you, while avoiding going overboard in activities that won’t really benefit you. Fortunately, the astrological energies this April will help you figure all this out. Abrupt course corrections the first 11days of April and from April 26th-30th show you what or who you might have to let go of or change in order to meet with success. But between April 12th-27th there are loads of powerful, creative, and yes, lucky aspects that will fire you up, promote your creativity, tingle your love life, and help you to expand most anything else you want to express. So do what Sagittarians do best: Look upon the changes, surprises and course alterations as learning experiences that teach you something truly valuable about yourself and life. And enjoy the ride!

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Capricorn (Dec.23rd – Jan 20th)
Money, security, things you share with others, including sex, and all that correlates with those issues may have been a little tricky lately, as you may not have been able to control the circumstances involved there. Good news: While April still holds loads of surprises in your plans, agreements, and contracts, they can end up being good surprises that help promote your plans in ways you wouldn’t have imagined. You might even discover you have some behind-the-scenes allies working for you, even if their methods aren’t always what you expect or agree with, especially between April 20th-22nd. Continue to use your characteristic caution and patient checking things out and know that later in the year you’ll able to direct matters in much more solid ways. Life is riled up for a reason now, Capricorn: You’re finding out how clever and adaptable you really are and how your problem-solving skills can work matters so everyone gains, including you, from what at first might appear as a problem.

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Aquarius (Jan.21st-Feb. 18th)
It’s been a weird time for you, Aquarius: Neptune, the planet that brings a “surrender” influence to it has been playing havoc with your sense of control. Mars transiting your sign, too, through April 6th makes you sexy, but also riles up situations and relationship dynamics that call for quite a bit of finesse and negotiations. Don’t take any of the relationship or financial challenges you’ve been experiencing personally – they’re either there to strengthen your resolve or to be an agent of your change in destiny. But do expect some shifts this month that show you what will work and what won’t. The good news is innovative ideas and clever alliances jumpstart new projects and solutions that can really benefit you, especially after April 11th. You might even find yourself quite popular and magnetic! Just be sure that you get all the facts straight and have some “plan b’s” in your back pocket incase someone or something doesn’t work the way you’ve planned.

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Pisces (Feb. 19th- March 20th)
Perhaps more than anyone else, you have been experiencing both the restlessness and the wild surprises that come from having many planets in your sign, including Uranus, the planet of freedom and of sudden changes. It’s likely changes are happening in many areas of your life, some planned and ignited by you, and others unplanned and ignited by others. The great news is you’ll be unusually super-charged for the entire month of April! Mercury traveling through your sign will prompt loads of communications, activities, and decisions through April 10th. Then Mars further empowers you to take all sorts of actions and flaunt your sex appeal from April 7th through mid-May. These planets help build your confidence and magnetism, and stimulate your enthusiasm for new goals. Just watch you don’t go overboard, or count on things happening in certain ways you expect them to, especially April 1st-4th and 27th-29th when shake-ups are likely. Look upon whatever happens with this attitude: How can I use this to become even more free?

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So those are April forecasts from Astrologer Phyllis. She has a new book out right now, too, called Astrology's Secrets to Hot Romance... And Long-Lasting Relationships, Too.

hot-romance.gif And in the spirit of full disclosure ... nobody paid me to promote this or sent me free planets or threatened me with a mercury retrograde. I just happen to think Astrologer Phyllis is really quality and awfully good people and thought ya'll should meet her!

Oh! And before you make my bagel-covered sex mistake of last month (see: Rabbi Shmuley's Kosher Sex, hrmph! Not about sex in a bagel factory after all!) this is not some raunchy "Ram Meets Crab" (hah) sex book. It's a thoughtful, usable handbook on how to understand, love and yes ... sometimes tolerate members of every sign.

The Official Descrition (which has no bagel implications) says:
Astrology’s Secrets To Hot Romance … (And Long Lasting Relationships, Too!) Is incredibly fun reading and brimming with the juicy truths, insightful revelations, and good-to-know facts that reveal how you can attract, love and deeply connect with members of every sign of the zodiac. Hot Romance not only describes specific ways to make your love life flourish, it also gives you countless techniques and insider’s advice on making all of your relationships successful and satisfying from friendships to family to coworkers. It’s the must-have relationship book! 520 pages. Here it is on Amazon.com

I was really excited to get the hook-up with Astrologer Phyllis this month, it's such an honor to have a well-respected and published astrologer writing horoscopes here. It almost makes me a little embarrassed about all the times I tried to form the Cancers into a street gang, or tried to get the Pisces folks to re-enlist for random hugging, or the time I tried to convince ya'll there was a Planet Of Mr. X.

But you know next month I'll be back doing it all over again. Maybe in Haiku format as I have been threatening for months now. Yo, yo!

Ya'll, I don't know why the pictures don't show up in Microsoft internet explorer. Blame some egghead somewhere. Then go download Mozilla Firefox, that's the web browser I use. Lord help me and the technology.

Posted by laurie at 8:53 AM