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June 29, 2007

With summer comes the return of my EVIL ARCH NEMESIS!

Summertime is upon us here in Southern California, we have your heat, your wildfires, your Friday light traffic conditions (one hour door-to-door today! woohoo!) and the return of my hateful, awful, life-ruining Evil Arch Nemesis.

I used to think my evil and life-ruining arch-nemesis was the parking lot attendant at the park-n-ride, but since I can avoid him by driving to work and also since he is the parking lot attendant I'm not sure he counts as fully life-ruining. Maybe it was all the self-help I ingested, I don't know, but I started cutting the guy some slack and before long he stopped being (so) evil. However, because nature abhors a vacuum -- except for Dysons, nature loves Dysons -- before long the void in my life where the parking lot nemesis had stood was soon replaced by a more cruel and horrible villain, one who COMES TO MY NEIGHBORHOOD and TORTURES ME.

This is my evil arch-nemesis:

evil-arch-nemesis.jpg

Yes, it's the ice-cream man.

You may be asking yourself, "Now why is she calling the ice-cream man hateful and evil? Ice cream is happy and brings joy to life, especially in the summertime!"

Listen, people. I like ice cream. Nay ... I LOVE ice cream. But my evil arch nemesis parks out on the street and blares one song, ONE EVIL SONG, at the highest volume for hours and hours on end. You can hear it inside the house with the doors and windows closed and the air conditioning on, you can hear it with the TV on, you can still hear it through earplugs and a pillow over your head. You hear it because it bores into your mind and putrefies your soul.


Evil lives, folks, and it lives in the small world of Encino-adjacent.

Posted by laurie at 8:41 AM

June 28, 2007

Annie, j'adore.

When my friend Annie was moving halfway across the country with her two young children and her husband, Gerry, she asked me to write a little "guest entry" for her website. I had never done such a thing, and I had no idea what to say since Annie is a well-known Knitting Goddess(TM) and I myself enjoy making rectangles in garter stitch, so I just did what I do best and got personal.

Here is a picture of me and Annie on the one-year anniversary of my divorce:

annie-and-laurie.jpg

She had no idea when we met up that night at a Chinese restaurant in Los Angeles that we were marking a rather infamous occassion. It was right before Christmas, and cold outside, and things had been threatening to go cold inside me, too. You can be over a thing, for all intents and purposes, and still the anniversary of it stings a little.

We sat at that restaurant with Drew, the Crochet Dude, and we talked and laughed and ate amazing good food and then later, when we practically closed down the joint, we moved on to a local coffee shop and chatted some more. It was Annie's idea to go get coffee, and I was so glad she suggested it! I hadn't had so much fun in weeks and weeks, just gabbing with old friends and relaxing, the three of us sharing ideas and even getting to see a peek at Annie's flip-books, still in concept stage at that point.

There are a lot of things you don't know about Annie Modesitt, like how funny she is, and kind, and how she fills up a whole room with her exuberance and energy. She likes going barefoot, and has two of the most beautiful kids on the planet, and I tell you all these details because I wanted to share with you the one gift Annie gave me that cold night in December. She gave me warmth. I saw the way she talked about her husband, her kids, and the joy on her face just gave me hope and made me think that perhaps somewhere out there, even in a crazy mixed-nuts place like Los Angeles, maybe there is a fit for me, too. And when I speak about him, whenever and whoever he might be, I hope my face lights up the same way hers does about Gerry.

That is a lovely, beloved gift.

I'm sure ya'll have read or heard by now that Annie's husband Gerry was recently diagnosed with cancer. I can't even imagine what she's going through, with the kids, responsibilities, fears, work, the love of your life ... oh, the love of your life.

Annie is offering a pattern right now for a donation, you can find it here. There has also been a website set up by fans in support, We Love Annie, and I hope you will open your heart and your pocketbook if you have it, or send her a card just to say hey to your mama, that kind of thing. Her mailing address is:

Annie Modesitt
1043 Grand Ave.
P.O. Box 117
St. Paul, MN 55105

And if you pray, whomever you pray to, I hope you'll keep that little red-headed family of four in your thoughts and good wishes. They are fireballs, all of them, lovely and adored.

Posted by laurie at 9:47 AM

June 27, 2007

Hello I have my shoes please.

bob-flip-flops.jpg

Posted by laurie at 10:07 AM

June 26, 2007

Oh, Knitting. There you are!

Sometimes I wish I were a really good knitter. I also wish I were a great athlete, a gourmet cook and could play the whole song "Me and Bobby McGee" on the guitar when sadly I cannot strum a single chord. I do not believe anyone needs any clarification in the "great athlete" or "gourmet" categories. My accomplishments in almost failing volleyball and successfully serving tater tots at dinner parties speak for themselves, thank you. Oh, also I'd like to be a great singer so I practice a lot at home but my audience is TOTALLY UNAPPRECIATIVE.

soba-hates-my-singing.jpg

But anyway, I like knitting so I keep doing it even though I'll probably never be really GREAT at it. I think that's okay. I'm like Glen Bateman, a character from Stephen King's big ol' diseasy epic "The Stand." He loves to sit and paint watercolor portraits even though he is admittedly terrible at painting. He just enjoys the activity, finds it relaxing.

Also on a completely rhetorical note, is it wrong to take life advice from a fictional character in a horror novel?

Summer is historically (by that I mean since about 2005) a slow time for me and knitting. We just do not spend a lot of time together, since it's five hundred degrees each day and there is no moisture in the air and I feel like if I rub the sticks and string too tightly together I might get a spark.

But I started knitting anyway, doing a little bit of catch-up on a project that I started I KID YOU NOT in the year 2005. Yes. That is correct.

It is a cable-knit scarf from this book:

knitscarvesbook1.jpg

And this is the pattern I'm using:

knitscarvesbook2.jpg


And this is what it looks like so far, after sitting inside a Ziploc on and off for many years and finally being pulled out again to keep me busy during "Confessions of a Matchmaker," a television show which I find endlessly awesome. Meet my first ever cabled scarf:

whitecablescarf1.jpg
Those brown things at the top are little pieces of yarn I use to separate out the cable areas. I cannot memorize a pattern to save my soul, the end.

It actually surprises me that I was able to produce something this pretty from my own fingers. Now of course, I only have produced eight inches of it in a two year period but hey, pretty is pretty! Even if it is pretty slow going!

whitecablescarf2.jpg
This picture makes it look bigger than it is.

Had I known then what I know now -- which is that I am a scary tight knitter and my stitches are very small -- I would have gone way up on the needle size or the weight of the yarn. But when I decided to make this scarf way back when I was in the midst of a Very Serious Budget Crisis, and I found a couple of skeins of this white Caron yarn in the discount bin once at JoAnn's Fabrics and it fit the bill (hah! fit the bill!) and it's really lovely, soft yarn even if it is on the smaller side of the scale. (It's been discontinued, i think, and I don't have the ball band to remember what it's called but it has angora in it.) I'm going to make little pom-poms for the edges when it's all done, which at the rate I am going will be some time in the year 2027. I hope I still have a neck then to keep warm!


soba-plots-my-death-again.jpg

Posted by laurie at 10:36 AM

June 22, 2007

Hello, it is Friday!

Yes I know I said I wouldn't be writing or even sitting in the same room as a computer but I tend to lie about these things. Liar liar pants on fire! Except I am not wearing pants, so there's that.

It's just that some folks emailed me about the deadline for the essays for Chicken Soup For The Divorced Soul. I double-checked with my Top Secret Chicken Soup Insider, and the deadline for entries is definitely July 30, 2007.

Here are the details again if you missed it:

The guidelines: Share your insightful, hopeful and heartfelt stories in Chicken Soup for the Divorced Soul and you’ll have the chance to win the Grand Prize of: • $350.00 cash • Publication of your story in Chicken Soup for the Divorced Soul (spring 2008) • Ten (10) signed copies of the book • The chance to become a local celebrity by having a book signing at your favorite local bookstore • Don't forget to read the Contest Rules

Also I think they should include a call for "witty stories" in there because I would like to hear some funny stories myself. I could have used that in my divorce, and frankly ya'll are funnier in the comments than I ever am, so get cooking! I mean, writing! And even if you don't win the Grand Prize but your essay is accepted, you get a small cash compensation and of course the coolness of being a published author in a well-known bestselling series.

If this sounds good to you, submit your essays to:
divorcedsoulcontest@comcast.net

(Please make sure you put CAP in the subject line so they know to read ya'll essays first. heh.) Oh! And you can submit more than one story. This works well for us wordy types.

NEXT ON THE AGENDA:

And also there is this thing called the Blog Reader Project and even though ya'll know I detest the word "blog" because I think it sounds like something you'd hork up while having a bad case of flu, they do have a neat survey that I guess is trying to figure out who reads what and why and also what brand of toothpaste you like. I don't know. I only know I am a terrible sucker for online surveys, so here it is if you are looking for Ways To Seem Busy At Your Desk:

Take the Blog Reader Project survey >

And finally, if you were wondering what I may be having for breakfast on this, The Day I Turn Old, well I am not telling you. But if you did happen to guess "cheeseburger from In-N-Out" you would not be very wrong. That is all I have to say about that.

Have a great weekend!

no-can-has-cheeseburger.jpg

Posted by laurie at 9:53 AM

June 21, 2007

Another one, so soon?

Tomorrow I'm not writing or emailing or working or doing anything at all except sitting on a beach with a big, fat book.

Tomorrow is my thirty-sixth birthday.

For as many years as I can remember I have always dreaded my birthday. Bad things always seemed to happen, or the milk was spoiled, or for whatever reason that one day could never live up to anything at all I wanted. I can get terrible morose sometimes and it's an awful trait, not attractive in a person at all.

This year is different, because I don't feel puddled up and lonesome, I don't have anything special at all planned but just the same I'm content and looking forward to doing absolutely nothing. I'm not sure if I got to shake the birthday curse or maybe it shook me. And when did that whole curse thing start, anyway? Maybe it started one year when something went bad, so the next year I was half-expecting disaster and got it. Then it came again and again. Or maybe I was dreading my birthday and then something bad happened to prove me right. Either way, I can't remember the last time I felt lighthearted before a birthday, except this year.

It's a change so fundamental it's like ... it's like that time I decided I was no longer a vegetarian and called my dad and asked him to smoke a rack of ribs because I was driving to Mississippi that very night and needed barbecue. With maybe a side of brisket.

It's that kind of change.

. . .

A few years ago I booked a vacation for myself and Mr. X. It was still fairly soon after 9/11 and we were right in the midst of the SARS scare, it was on the cover of every newsmagazine and people were wearing surgical masks on the subway. Planes were flying half-empty and I found a roundtrip ticket from Burbank (!) to Charles De Gaulle for less than $500. IN JUNE. It was unheard of. We booked our favorite hotel room, and I remember that all-over happy feeling I got when I pressed "send" on the payment for the plane tickets. I love Paris. Even though I dreamed of going there one day I had no idea I would actually leave the forever-dusty small towns where I grew up and go to THE REAL PARIS FRANCE ... and not just once but twice or three times. I love that city almost as much as I love Los Angeles. Plus, spending my birthday in Paris was on my then-Life's To Do List, a long list of 100 Things To Do Before I Die, a long numbered and bulleted typed-up list I'd made on the last day of 1999. I was excited to cross off:

#68: Spend my birthday in Paris

[I had to go find that list and re-read it just now and it made me a little sad and reminiscent. A lot of it is sweet and goofy and some of it is personal, as those sorts of lists should be.]

So, one of my big Life's To-Do List items was to visit Paris, France on my birthday and I was going to really do it! Tres exciting! I started planning and mentally packing and just that looking-forward-to feeling you get when a vacation looms out in the distance, making life inside cubicles and spaghetti dinners at home seem less mundane, everything tinged with excitement because in so many days I will be on an airplane to somewhere good.

A few weeks before the trip, Mr. X did a Very Bad Thing. And it affected us in lots of ways both emotionally and financially and I was very angry. I was hurt, and upset but most of all I was plainly pissed off.

I'd have moments when I sort-of forgave him ("It was just a stupid thing to do, people make mistakes...") then other moments when I held it against him like a mean-faced ogre, conveying my disappointment in every inch of my body and permeating every room with my dour, nasty little attitude of wounded unforgiveness.

I was mad, and also he is ruining my birthday, my vacation, our goddamn marriage... no, too scary to think of that last one. He is ruining my birthday! I said it like a mantra.

One day I was at work-- we were back at the old building then, a complex rabbit warren of beige cubicles with flickering computer screens. I remember very clearly sitting at my desk and trying to work and thinking all the time, what do I do? it's ruined, all of it, what do I do? Do I go on this vacation? Do I go and be mad at him? Do I not go thereby basically punishing us both? How on earth can we return to normal after what's happened? Damn him!

Then, in some flash of enlightenment I'm frankly surprised I was capable of at the time, I asked myself: Why would I choose to be unhappy? Why can't I go to Paris and try to have the best time possible? What kind of person sits here and thinks of all the ways of her unhappiness? Why can't I just let go?

Is it possible to be so fundamentally screwed up in the head that you actually choose to be unhappy?

Just that morning I had sat alone in my Jeep at the train station and pitched a royal hissy in the car, alone, crying and hollering about failed everything. And I was actually considering going on the pre-planned, already bought and paid for trip BUT sulking and having a miserable time just to prove a point.

Of course I had no idea what point I would be proving by choosing to be miserable on vacation, as if being wounded and cranky would hurt the buttmunch who screwed up my best laid plans anyway. It is a universally known fact that plan-ruining people could care less about how you feel, or they wouldn't have ruined the plan to begin with.

And I remember asking myself: What does it say about me as a person that I actually have to decide to be happy? Or that the equally appealing option was to be miserable in an I-told-you-so sort of way?

. . .

The truth is that I was very invested in my unhappiness. I wanted to be happy, I did, but when The Bad Thing happened (and we had so many Bad Things happen, like many couples do) I couldn't let go, I just stored them up in my little ledger of hurtful things. It was a role I knew, it was something I took comfort in. I could whine and carryon and be sad and in some way this gave me a fair amount of power. I was at least in control. I was in the driver's seat, I had a roadmap, and the town we were going to was Misery. Next stop, Whinealot!

We did go on our trip and we had a nice time, considering. Of course ya'll know how well that all worked out in the end.

I'm thinking of all this today, have been thinking on it, because something inside me clicked together like two missing pieces of a puzzle this week. I was sitting at my desk, at work, new building and now in an office (!) but getting that familiar twinge of Woe Is Me, because my birthday is coming and this one is a biggie. My thirty-six! Year of the golden pig and all that.

Then I thought, "Nope, not this year."

It's a nice Friday off work and I'm not going to think about deadlines and expectations and dates and money problems and the treadmill and birthday curses and why is he off being married and I still can't commit to a mascara ... this is my life and it will all work out somehow in the end. Me + one book + the beach equals birthday, no curse. The end!

That is what my divorce did for me. It taught me how to see that every soul-sucking craptastic event can have a surprisingly good outcome. It's finally knowing that even if something bad happens I can make jokes about it later. When he left I thought it was the VERY WORST THING ever to happen, and yet now sometimes Jennifer and I joke about that time I actually tried to set his favorite DVD on fire in the charcoal grill, waving my coffee-cup of Jack Daniels and declaring in slurry twang "I will never find love again, but hell if he is getting this goddamn DVD!" I was like a drunken, mad Southern Belle stood up at Winter Formal, declaring to everyone and God Is Her Witness that "I am truly dried up with love! You hear that you little peckers! I am SHUT OF YOU ALL!"

And hey, it worked out pretty great in the end. And the jokes get funnier the more divorced I am. So who's to say other bad things won't work out just as well? I'm tired of Very Bad Things and birthday curses, I'm tired of picking sad over happy. I AM SHUT OF YOU ALL.

That's a change, I tell you what.

And the best change of all is that I'm different in one way that counts more than all the others, a thing so different in me I almost didn't recognize the me in that birthday-in-Paris story. I was ashamed and embarrassed when I realized it. I looked back and I thought: why did I stay so long?

I don't even know that girl anymore. I would never ever stay five minutes with another man who did Very Bad Things, not to mention stay for years. I was a little humiliated for myself, ashamed of not making good decisions. Why did it take me so long to learn that lesson? Why was I so weak? Why wasn't I smarter than that? Why did I stay? And I sighed and let go of that one, too, for the first time maybe ever I felt a little compassion for someone who got married hoping it would all somehow work itself out and seeing that it did, really. In the end it all worked out just fine.

And that's a nice birthday gift, I think. And in case you're wondering it is much harder to grill a DVD when it's still in the plastic case. Just in case you yourself may be needing that little piece of advice. I am just saying is all.

Posted by laurie at 11:36 AM

June 20, 2007

Mid-week Round-Up, like a rodeo but with less cows! We do have chickens, though!

Hi. My name is Laurie and sometimes I get two weeks behind in my life and now, on a day like today when I am caught up to only being ten days behind in living my life, I have things to share of an urgent and also list-filled nature.

Such as, #1: I think whoever moved your cheese is also infecting my cheese with mold.
Because folks, it does not matter how expediently I try to eat up all the cheese, the more expensive it is (see: Whole Foods shaved parmeseano regiasomethingo) the more quickly it sprouts forth with green hairy mold. I am tired of things molding in the fridge. And futhermore, I would like to have a cute man in red bikini pants bring me drinks with little umbrellas in them. Which has nothing to do with cheese, but suddenly I thought of vacation and you know, thoughts collide.

Which brings me to #2: I totally stacked the deck on the okra.
Today is Wednesday, Farmer's Market Day in downtown Los Angeles. The market happens to have one single lone seller that carries fresh okra. I bought a mess of it last week to cook along with my lone okra pod and it was GOOD. I now have a bountiful harvest this week of one more okra pod and I plan to make it part of a family and eat him forthrightly with much flourish and frying in cornmeal. Amen.

If you want my recipe for fried okra, it's right here!

june20-2007-okra.jpg
This was my dinner last Wednesday night. And so shall it be this Wednesday night. This is what summer tastes like!


Important Item #3: I am Talking to YOU, Great American Author To-Be!
Get our your writing fingers and your adjectives, because I just got word that the Chicken Soup For The Divorced Soul book is now accepting essays for publication.


The guidelines: Share your insightful, hopeful and heartfelt stories in Chicken Soup for the Divorced Soul and you’ll have the chance to win the Grand Prize of:
• $350.00 cash
• Publication of your story in Chicken Soup for the Divorced Soul (spring 2008)
• Ten (10) signed copies of the book
• The chance to become a local celebrity by having a book signing at your favorite local bookstore
• Don't forget to read the Contest Rules

And even if you don't win the Grand Prize but your essay is accepted, you get a small cash compensation and of course the coolness of being a published author in a well-known bestselling series.

If this sounds good to you, submit your essays to:
divorcedsoulcontest@comcast.net

(Please make sure you put CAP in the subject line so they know to read ya'll essays first hee hee.) Oh! And you can submit more than one story, but all submissions must be in by July 30, 2007.


More Very Important Updates #4 and Final: Roy is Cute
From the "I will never be asked on a date again after I reveal this fact" file, here is proof that not only am I a big cat lovin' freak, I am also a woman who really needs that wine. I don't just take pictures of my animals, no. Because see that could be explained away. But sometimes I also take video.

Enjoy my spinsterness, folks. Pass the wine!


Posted by laurie at 10:51 AM

June 15, 2007

Weird Facts

I am so happy it's finally Friday. This has been one of those weeks where every morning I have hoped desperately it was Saturday already. I've been coming in early and leaving late, so there has been driving involved.

commercialmeatco.jpg

I got behind this fellow the other day and in my precaffeinated state, I was puzzling out for about three miles why exactly would a meat company have a big marblebag thong as their logo?

Then I thought, "Oh, you're a dummy! That's supposed to be a cow head!"

Then I thought, "Meat thong! Hah!"

Which kind of is a theme, sadly, to this entire column. Consider yourself warned.

So, people are often sending me these little internet chain letters where you're supposed to make a list and I like doing that, I do, but often I am off on some tangent or another and just forget stuff. Also I have an electronic mail issue, but more on that later.

Anyway, a whole bunch of folks sent me this list you're supposed to make of Seven Random Facts About Yourself including Sally, who has a website called "Living Without Meat" and I got a hearty chuckle (sorry, Sally) because my mind was waaaay in the gutter on that one, hee, then I straightened up and felt so bad for being in the mindgutter that I went and did Sally's to-do list. I cannot imagine there is something I have not already bored ya'll with having to do with me, but here you go, seven more bullet points that begin with "I" ... which is a pet peeve of mine but I am not putting it on the list. Just so you know.

1) I love silence.
I spend a fair amount of my time just being silent. When I go home I don't always put on the TV and sometimes I just spend the whole night quiet, punctuated with occassional talking to the cats. But the noise is off. Looking back on my weekend in New York City, I think my main problem was that I did not have a single moment of silence. I love being quiet and still, it makes my mind calm and makes life feel happy and manageable. The proverbial Cone Of Silence itself is not quiet enough for my taste when I want to do some writing. I do manage to shut out the world when I get going, fingers flying in my ridiculous two-finger hunt and peck on a keyboard or pen on paper, but I just like it to be quiet ouside me because I guess inside my head it's noisy. Or something. What with all the voices. Meat thong!

2) I loathe email.
I wish it didn't exist and I'm trying to find a way to not have to do it. Does that make me old, and boring, and weird? Unplugging for just five days during my trip got me so behind I may never catch up and I feel frustrated all the time with it. I don't like being that behind on a thing. Speaking of which...

3) I could unplug forever.
You know how some folks can't really go a whole day without going online or checking the email and all that? I have literally seen a person vibrate with the anticipation of going on a computer. It is something to behold. But I am someone who if left to her own devices wouldn't go online at all or do anything even near a computer. I guess it's because computers are my job and so when I'm not at work developing secretary spread I would just be happy if I never saw a computer screen. But also it seems like online there's all this stuff I have to do (see: email) and I'd rather be drinking wine and reading a good book or knitting. Or writing, or lint-rolling the cat, or vacuuming. I also refuse to have a crackberry or a palm pilot, and in fact they kind of scare me. I see guys all the time driving and checking their blackberry and it seems impossible to me that your human safety in an automobile is less interesting than an email but whatever. Who am I to judge He And His Blackberry!

4) I write longhand.
I still find pen on paper the most pleasing thing ever.

5) I won't date guys who wear those little cellular phone cyborg earpiece thingies.
I know. I'm horrible. Feel free to send me hate mail, I'll get to it sometime this fall.

6) I have never been bored.
I guess it's the voices in my head keeping me amused, but I honestly don't think I have ever been bored. Even in long, slow-moving stifling traffic. I just go off someplace inside and think my little thoughts. In long, insufferable meetings I'm happy to make lists. And waiting in line is always good for people-watching. Maybe it's a sign of mental weakness or something but I just don't think I have ever once been bored.

7) I am fantasizing about vacation OBSESSIVELY.
I haven't had a real, REAL vacation in over a year and I am freakishly obsessed with vacation right now, even though I cannot feasibly take one until 2008. Oh you know that thing I said about unplugging, blah blah blah? Until I can unplug, while I am in front of a computer you can bet your last dollar I am online searching for vacation deals, reading Sherman's Travel Top Ten Lists, checking out the deals (updated daily) on SmarterTravel.com, and hanging out at Kayak.com. The best BEST feature of Kayak? If you click on the word BUZZ in the top navigation, you can search for all the cheapest flights from your destination to anywhere in the world, broken down by region. I love this because I am the sort of traveler who says, "Hey look! Five hundred bucks roundtrip to Ireland, let's go!" even if I never thought of Ireland as a destination. Online travel websites are like porn and crack cocaine combined, I love them.

8) I love taking pictures.

I know ya'll already know this fact, and also wasn't this supposed to be a Top Seven List? But I take my camera everywhere because life is funny and needs to be laughed at later in the privacy of your own home. For all my talk of unplugging, I sure would be lost and sad without my digital camera. I used to spend nearly fifty bucks a month on film and developing back in the day, now my little camera allows me to capture all the artistic wonder of the world free as a bird.


spideypants.jpg


Have a great weekend and keep your meat thong in your meat pants!

Posted by laurie at 10:14 AM

June 13, 2007

Where The Big Things Grow

I wanted to title this, "Hey little girl come over and look at my big zucchini" but I am sensitive to the amount of perviness in that title and frankly I am actually trying to get rid of the kids in my neighborhood (shhhh, don't tell God) because they are loud and appear to have parents who just feed them sugar and caffeine all day and then set them loose right as I am getting home and trying to do such things as "relax quietly to myself."

Also I don't really want anyone looking at my zucchini without my prior consent.

Hello! Hi ya'll!

So, anyone who knows me at all in real life -- even with just five minutes of knowing me in their resume -- knows that I am completely crack-ass addicted to Self Help. I love to get my crazy on in the self-help aisle! I have always been this way, I swear to you I was the one five-year-old reading all the self-helpy children's books ("The Little Choo Choo That Could," anyone?) and I am particularly fond of the whole Psychology Of Happiness movement, which is basically just a fancypants way of saying that if you focus on the positive stuff, you won't so nearly as much want to sit in a corner eating your hair.

So, let us focus on the positives of this year's Grand Gardening Experimentation. There are many positives, the very biggest one of course being that anything at all has managed to grow since in my life I have about 2.8 minutes per month available to devote to the care and tending of a garden. I feel it is some weird Southern compulsion that makes me plant a garden vegetable or two or twenty each year, and then my more citified and also tired and lazy side thinks, "I planted your asses, now Darwinize! Survival of the fittest, baby!"

Here are the developments thus far in Bad Backyard Gardening 2007:

Somewhat Positive Slant On Bad Thing #1:
Victor the green-headed onion passed on. Yup, he's gone to meet the big Allium in the sky. He got brown and kind of crumbly, then he died. You may be asking yourself, What is positive about that? I did not know either. I in fact asked myself the same question. As you may recall, Victor appeared as a beacon of hope in my life when I was under a deadline that I was still keeping secret while also working full time, visiting the family, trying to stay sane and also find my pants. So I was a little sad when I discovered he had up and died on me just very recently. Then I realized I now had a nice, empty pot for the MASSIVE AMOUNTS OF PEPPER PLANTS springing forth from my patio region. And ya'll know I have to keep these special Texican chili pequin peppers alive because my dad planted them by hand, each seed lovingly put into the soil with TWEEZERS, and then put into a dome-like thingy and they all germinated and now I have peppers literally coming out of my hoohah. Well, not literally. I was maybe stretching the meaning of "literally." I do not for the record have plants in my hoohah. Anyway.

garden0607-pepperfarm.jpg
Baby's First Pepper Farm.


Somewhat Positive Slant On Bad Thing #2:
I have also managed to get two pots um... recently vacated by previous tenants, both of whom were of the family name "Thyme" and neither of whom liked my fickle watering strategy. See, I like to keep all the plants guessing as to when they might be drinking again, I find it keeps us all on our toes. Also, I work late and sometimes it is dark and spooky outside, and I'm not watering anything except a wineglass at that hour.


Somewhat Positive Slant On Bad Thing #3:
The cucumbers don't like me and frankly, it's mutual. So we're on the same wavelength, I guess. That's positive! Also, why is it that after two months of growing cucumbers my next door neighbor Mrs. Lee has literally bushels of shiny, green cukes and I have managed to grow one (1) spindly, bitter-tasting cucumber that gave me a splinter? Oh wait. We're being positive ... so, the good news is that before long I will have three new vacant pots for my ever-growing farm of peppers. I hope the peppers bloom soon and start producing something. My dad keeps asking if they've bloomed yet and I feel like the poor first-time mom whose kid isn't potty-trained yet and she feels like they're already falling behind in development and will never catch up with the cool kids.

Somewhat Positive Slant On Bad Thing #4:
I planted six okra seedlings and so far, after two months of growing, the tallest one is still less than a foot tall. On the plus side, I did harvest one perfect okra pod last night, and I think the clouds parted and I heard angels singing, "Aaaaaaah." Also after that the angels may have said, "Hey ya'll, that's real pretty ... but how the heck do you fry up just one okra?"


And finally, Somewhat Positive Slant On Bad Thing #5:
Each year I plant a tomato seedling or two and each year I watch with great hope and wonder as absolutely nothing happens at all, then the small spindly dwarfy things just burn to a crisp in late June. So for the rest of the summer I'll have this big giant pot with a huge tall tomato cage on it and hovering near the bottom half is a sad little hunched-over ten-inch tall plant in the dirt. It's kind of comical really. It's the embodiment of hope and failure all at the same time.


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But we are not gardening with sadness and death today, we are gardening with selfhelpishedness! Which means that we look on the positive side, and that side is just around the hedge in the back 40 where I planted my okra in their raised bed with such care and precision, and then because I somehow had these two little zucchini seedlings and nowhere to put them, and they looked about half-dead anyway as soon as I got them, I just stuck one on each corner and called it a day.

Then night came, and more days passed, and while other things in the garden mysteriously mutated and died and passed on through the karmic vegetation loop, my backyard began sprouting forth with GIANT HUGE FORMIDABLE GADZUKES.

Those two little half-dead zucchini plants turned into a forest of squash. And they just keep coming! And nothing will stop them, not even my mysterious watering regimen. I left town for a few days and what had once been a teensy little four-inch zuke grew while I was gone and morphed into a Lock Ness Zucchinister!

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So I do hereby declare I am pretty much not going to plant anything next year except zucchini! Seriously. I now know from first-hand experience that there is nothing to make you feel more triumphant and FEROCIOUS in the gardening world than growing an eleventy-ton squash. I swaggered around the patio and told the tomatoes to enjoy the ride this year, buckos, because next year it's nothing but squash all the way! That's right. Sayonara little piddlyass plum tomatoes! Forget all about you, dumb won't-grow-for-nothing cucumbers. And okra, much as I love you, one pod does not a dinner make. Next year I am going to plant nothing but squash and watch the whole yarn turn into a scary funhouse of funky big zucchini.

Plus if I have a surplus I can use them as rockets on the kids across the street. Oh hah hah! You know I am JUST KIDDING. I would never do that ... I wouldn't dare harm an innocent squash!

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Posted by laurie at 9:46 AM

June 11, 2007

Wildlife Patrol

What goes on in my house while the world spins on its axis and cars honk on the streets?

Roy sleeps:
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When not hiding under the covers, Bob spends much of his time sitting in this position, permanently startled:
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Or he gets a bath from his sister, Franklin D. Kittycat:
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Sobakowa ponders her manifesto:
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And Roy continues to be painfully adorable:
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Oh weekend. Why are you so short?

Posted by laurie at 11:02 AM

June 7, 2007

Tourists let loose in the big city! And on boats.

Can I ask ya'll a question? Is it just a Los Angeles thing or did every human on the planet have their morning news interrupted this fine June day by BREAKING NEWS that was THE MOST IMPORTANT THING EVER and for the next half hour there was a news conference about the OH MY GOD Paris Hilton jail situation?

Because I do think the sun could be exploding and still all any of the news channels would talk about is little Paris Hilton. But to be honest with ya'll, I was far more distressed by another news story making the headlines:

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Yeah, so good luck with that. Also: if we are the unwashed masses and it is climbing into the 100s by late summer, can we call in stinky to work? I need to check with my boss on that one.

Speaking of stinky, and work, I wanted to post pictures of touristy stuff yesterday but oh yeah, ya'll! I have a real job! One at which I was required to do such things as "work" and "earn my keep." Coming back to the office after any time away is like returning to a brand new job all over again, many new and exciting pieces of paper have kept the chair (and desk) (and cabinets) warm and cozy, waiting anxiously for your return. Hello, nice to meet you new ad campaign. I am your director.

So, without further Parising and unwashed ado, this is a movie of me being overwhelmed in Times Square. I don't know why the image isn't showing up but click on it and it plays video:

And this is a guy I stopped on the street in the middle of Times Square and asked to take his picture and he acquiesced because his T-shirt was nothing if not New Yawker friendly:

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Actually, he was very friendly and didn't mind at all having me take his picture. I might have even flirted if I hadn't been so overwhelmed and all, "Please, Faith, get me back to the hotel expediently! Now please!"

Speaking of cute Faith here she is with some crazy lady on the airplane:
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And here we are having dinner with my fam at Junior's in Times Square which was close enough to the hotel that I could try to avoid the teeming masses of people. I had a kind of hard time with the sheer density of humans packed into such a small area. I have never been someplace so crowded and I think I had sensory overload every minute of every day we were there. But I also had a great cheeseburger here:
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Also, this was from some other night and aren't my folks so damn cute you cannot stand it:

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On the last day we were there I was SO DONE with all that other stuff so we got to do some real sightseeing, since up until that day all we saw was the Javits Center and the hotel. We signed up for one of those double-decker bus tours and played Robo Tourists for the day (Faith went to hang out with a friend of hers who lives in the city.) And even though we knew we were being Total Tourists From Down South™, I have to tell you the bus tour and especially the boat tour of the Statue of Liberty completely rescued me from hating New York City. You get to see the general layout of the city without having to watch where you're walking or stress about getting hopelessly lost. If you only have one day it's a great way to get a general picture of a giant, nutty place.

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My favorite picture ever:
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It is my goal in life to share the self-portrait taking bug with all people of the world, and I am starting with the family:
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The boat ride was my favorite part, which may sound very surprising to many people who know me, or rather used to know me and are no longer speaking to me. But more on that later, here's me and dad not panicked at all for our safety:

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By the way, we are not tourists very much, are we?
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So my relationship with boats is ... quirky. I know that will surprise ya'll. I am fine with speedboats down at the lake, and canoes and kayaks. I like myself a fishing boat and a barge, but only if said boat is still kind of smallish in size and most importantly, I need to be able to see the land. The land which I will swim to when we capsize and sink. As we were standing in line to get on this boat, I was already looking for the life jackets and me and my family were laughing about the time -- the ONE time -- I went to Catalina and How Very Embarrassed Other People Were For Me.

I may have already told you this story but it is good and I like to re-tell things because A) I am Southern B) I am touched and C) I have been drunk a lot in my past and can't remember things, or so I say.

And if you think I am kidding about the Southern part, I DARE you to ask some Southerner for directions. I know my people. We are wordy. Plus, directions sometimes contain very enticing but completely unhelpful items such as "Turn left where the old truck used to be," or my favorite "Go out Franklin Road until you get to where they were going to build that church that time, but then the pastor was caught with that woman from down at the high school, you know the one? And they had that scandal? With that fellow from up in Wayne County?"

But that is not the point! Fete attencion!

It was sometime back in the '90s and I was much younger and skinnier and dumber, if you can believe that. I had just moved to Los Angeles and finally made a few friends and I was still too scared of this city to drive on the freeway. So people had to come to my house and pick me up and drive me places, if we planned on going anywhere outside Woodland Hills, and believe me if you are in your 20s and live in Woodland Hills you must leave it to have a good time. Also isn't it funny how I am now thirty-five years old and still live in the Valley and still people have to drive me everywhere to get me out of the house.

Moving on.

So my new friends invited me to Catalina Island. It was supposed to be a very pretty place and good for eating fried shrimp and drinking and carrying on. This sounded like so much fun, especially for me with all my many memories of South Padre Island. So I got all cuteified and fixed my hair and we get down to Long Beach and suddenly I am supposed to be getting on a BOAT. Perhaps other people, people not Southern, would have assumed based upon the word "island" that boat transport would be involved. But where I am from you can drive to all the islands, such as South Padre, and also all the Florida Keys (or at least the good ones, with the bars.)

I stared at the girls, stared at the Catalina Flyer line, stared at the boat.

"It's a BOAT."

And they knew I was a little particular even then, but was I brain damaged? Because hello we have to get our tickets and get on the damn boat, it will be LEAVING. And that is where the DRINKING is.

I tried to weasel out of the boat ride with every inch of polite but horrified I could muster. I started in on the germ angle ("But there are germs, the germy kind! And portopotties! I don't do portopotties!") and then I asked if we could drive (insert image here of three California gals rolling their eyes dramatically).

Finally I told them that I was sure, just sure, I was karmically reincarnated from a small child that died in steerage on the Titanic and I was mortally terrified of big boats.

"I'll wait while ya'll go to your deaths in a watery grave."

And they ignored me.

Sensitive to the amount of ridicule they would heap on me and also the amount of disgusted talking about me they would do behind my back, I finally climbed about the Titanic, err, Catalina Flyer, and promptly found a helpful boat employee.

"May I see your safety rating please?"

"Our what?" he asked. Bewildered.

"Your safety card or whatever it's called! Don't you have to produce or post a safety rating?" I asked, desperate. Crazy. "Like how well-maintained the boat is and do you have any life rafts, that sort of thing?"

"Um, let me ask my supervisor," he said. And he disappeared. Hiding, one can only assume, from Wild Eyed Twang Lady.

Then the motor started and I gripped the side rail and that is when someone in a striped shirt appeared who I assumed was the supervisor and he tried his very best to assure me and my three roll-eyed friends that the boat was safe and nobody had died yet.

"YET being the operative word!" I declared. There I go with the declarations.

And then somehow someway I managed to get myself a large, embarrassing orange life jacket WHICH I PUT ON OVER MY CUTE OUTFIT. Like a big MENTAL CASE. And I climbed the stairs up to the top deck so I could sit there at watch, in my orange life vest, and stay alert for icebergs and sharks and submarines.

My friends were so embarrassed the pretended not to be with me and the talking behind my back commenced in earnest which really, can you blame them? Orange totally clashed with everyone's cute outfits, plus, they had to be seen with their friend, THE DORK IN THE LIFE VEST.

But I lived, and that is what matters.

So you may be surprised to hear I enjoyed the Lady Liberty Cruise more than any other thing on our whole trip, but that was because my parents were there and they are both good swimmers, and we were seated very near the exits and, most importantly, the supplies:

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So that is all of our trip! I hope you enjoyed the ride, be sure to tip your tour guide and wash your hands. And enjoy the view from the boat ... but be sure you scope out the exits first. Just in case.

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Posted by laurie at 10:24 AM

June 5, 2007

Did that really happen?

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I went to New York City, met nice people, had a nervous breakdown, paid $7 for a bottle of water the size of a eyedropper, got drunk in the green room, met Famous Individuals, inappropriately hugged EVERYONE ON THE PLANET, also inappropriately hugged a plastic GLOBE at the convention when I was maybe 18 sheets to the wind and finally done with all signings, made an ass of myself at public speaking gone awry, actually showed the audio guy my industrial strength Spanx, told a crowd of people about the time I used Nair on my girly parts, shook so badly at the first ten (ok, fine, twenty) (thirty) minutes of signings I appeared to have come down with Earthquake Hand Syndrome and also I disinfected a New York City taxicab with a pack of handiwipes in front of both my editor and my publicist because I am nothing if not concerned about the health and well-being of all HCI employees. I mean really now. Someone has to look out for their safety!

But before all the book stuff, Faith and I got to go to Vogue Knitting and meet Tanis, who graciously showed us around and let me take pictures of... pictures of her dog. But her dog is so cute!


Me and Tanis, her puppy Mercury decorates her ofice walls.


Funniest postcard ever, Vogue's yarn room. Thank you Tanis!

Then we went to the hotel which was in Times Square, Place That Had Too Many Humans, and checked in. This was the amazing view from the hotel:
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And the very best part was look who came to BEA! My mom and dad and Aunt Pam! We all had dinner together and not like we are tourists or anything but I totally asked the waiter to take a picture. It was merely the tip of the "I am a dorky tourist" iceberg.
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L-R: My dad and mom and Aunt Pam and me and Faith.

I am not going to lie to ya'll. I was TOTALLY FREAKING OVERWHELEMED by all this. Out of my element. Fish out of water, olive out of martini, lunatic out of asylum. I have a small, quiet day-to-day life that I love and this was as far out of my comfort zone as one could go. (Oh also I am fine with my hair now. But last week, it was... well ya'll know. I was very accustomed to hiding behind my hair. Everything about this trip was exposed. I maybe need therapy. And more wine.) Also, I will not lie and pretend to be a cool girl, about every ten minutes I said out loud which cat I was missing at that moment. Please judge silently to yourselves. But I got home late last night and all felines were well and happy and sort of mad at me. But snuggly! Where was I? Oh yes. Book Expo America:

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I've known this Book Convention thing was coming for months, and I decided to do the business professional thing and email my publicist to see if I could weasel out. Or at least try to figure out what the requirements were and also, DOES THE JAVITS CENTER HAVE A BAR? Hey guess what! Turns out they do sell alcohol at the Javits Center! And I am so spreading the word because $6 screw-cap tiny bottles of wine can be a lifesaver when you are messy inside. OH!!! Do ya'll remember when I was full of fear and anxiety about knocking the whole HCI booth on top of Jack Canfield?

Well I first ran into him at the bar on Thursday night but I did NOT even spill anything on him, or knock him over, and I may have yammered on about Harper Lee or some other nonsense but he was sweet and did not call security even when I somewhat overzealously hugged him. Then informed him that is just what I do, I hug people crazylike, and since he is a World Famous Self Help Author I knew he could take it but yay me for not knocking the booth on his head. Yet. Then on Friday I accosted his head at his booth signing which was right after mine:

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I am a big fan, can you tell?

And then on Saturday I may have been silently getting snockered to myself in the green room prior to OH MY GOD I HAVE TO TALK IN PUBLIC, and he and Mark Hansen walked in, disturbing the fung shui of my nervosness and started taking pictures off me to blackmail me, Future Self Help Cat Lady Who Drinks Wine Out Of Overpriced Screw Top Teensy Bottles.

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Faith, Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, me.

But WHATEVER. Like ya'll did not already know I like my wine. Also, my editor Allison called me right before the speaking event to say, "Laurie, whatever you do DO NOT BE YOURSELF." And we all laughed then Mr. Chicken Soup snapped another blackmailing picture. Self Help Authors are evil and cruel as it turns out and also rather funny.

I super-sucked at speaking, the audio sucked even more than I did (!!!) and I do believe I actully said to A REAL LIVE AUDIENCE, "I am so nervous ya'll and everyone keeps telling me to just breathe deeply but I cannot take deep breaths because my pants are too tight."

And my parents were in the audience. I am so being disinherited as we speak. Whatever! Made it through it! It's over and that is all that matters!

Here are my folks with my awesome editor Allison:

Then this happened:

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Stephanie Pearl-McPhee is beyond rockin. She showed up in the line like she was a normal person, not OH MY GOD THAT IS THE YARN HARLOT. After she left I kept pointing to her rapidly shrinking form in the crowd and saying to people in my own line, "Did you see that? She is FAMOUS. I am DYING." and people looked at me like, "This drunk cat lady person is goofy. But free book! Yay!"

The thing about the Yarn Harlot is that she is inspiring in ways that kind of exceed even YARN. She is simply herself every day, following her own individual path, and by walking it she opens doors for women in ways she may never even know. It was an honor to meet her. I held her sock. I would like to say I didn't wash the hand the shook hers but who am I kidding? I was disinfecting every eighteen minutes and showering twice a day. That includes Chicken Soup people too. I am not germy now. Come hug me!

Oh, also, I met another hero: Deb Stoller. Um, did I say I "met" her? I guess I meant to say "I left my own autographing table, ran down a hallway and literally hugged her drunkenly and told her she saved me by creating a book so perfect." And also I believe I may have said something about "center-pull balls" before they offered to get security. Whoopsy!

I took a lot of pictures and sweatily hugged folks:

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Me and my folks at Friday's booth signing.


Me and Faith, Allison with the ForeWord sign.


Me and Colleen, I LOVED meeting you, I wanted to bring you home to Los Angeles. Thank you for calming me down on Saturday. And lovely Courtney doesn't seem to mind that I face-hugged her.


Mary was a riot, yes I use blotting papers. I am so foisting them on you next time I see you hee hee. Hi Shannon! Nice to finally meet you!!


Me and Stella, thank you so much for the notebook, I loved it! Meeting you felt like meeting an old friend. And me with my Aunt Pam. I love you Aunt Pam!



Me and Stephanie Klose who I was so happy and excited to finally meet after two years!

The funniest part is right now someone is saying, "Oh Lord have mercy, how can you be so socially awkward and still smile in these pictures? You are a big dumbass." It is funny because the nice folks who stood in line and saw me sweating, shaking and about to fall over with overwhelemedness will tell you the truth. But it is a testament to my Southern upbringing that I can smile even when I want to hide under the booth. Although I may have accidentally almost begged the Anti-Craft gals, Renee and Zabet, to take me home, kidnapping style. It's okay though. You know why? Because I MADE IT. The only thing I wanted to do was finish it and I did. Amen sisters.

And Oh my God, the very best part was my family, my lovely crazy amazing family, they know me and love me anyway. And my dear friend Faith who endured the most stressful weekend ever, without her I would have been lost. Thank you. And I will have more family pictures tomorrow because we stayed an extra day to do sightseeing and ya'll we are funny. I am not even kidding you. We are the kinds of tourists you laugh at and point at. My family makes me feel home even when I am in a city so foreign it feels like another planet.

You know something? I could have never done this even a year ago. When you get down inside yourself after a thing, the one you trusted leaves you and you're alone for the first time maybe ever, you think nothing of yourself. You make life life small and controlled. You do what you can to be invisible. You hide. Even later when you know it's time to come outside yourself you wonder, why? Why risk it?

So some people will never know how hard it is just to get to the airport, do that one small thing, get on the airplane. And it's okay. Not everyone is the same. But somewhere out there is a woman just like me who is wondering what she did to make him leave. She wonders why even bother? Why not just give up?

And now I know you don't give up because you never know what this life holds. You just never know how much of your ownself you can be.

Last night I came home and dropped everything on the floor, I flopped spread-eagle in the middle of the rug and hugged and petted on the cats until they were annoyed. I took a long shower and poured a glass of wine. I watched Bob eat the tag off my suitcase, I kissed Roy, I told Soba her manifesto was so right for BEA (and BEA is in Los Angeles next year so look for the irritated-looking feline with the angry bestseller, I am sure.) I lint-rollered Frankie because ya'll, that damn cat is just not normal. She loves to be lint-rollered.

I am home. I love my tiny, mismatched home with its felines and Tivo. I love the smell of my house, the crazy lovely neighbors, my ugly brown carpet, my crickets at night, my space to breathe and be quiet and still. I am so glad to be home. I missed this home, the one I never thought I would be able to stand sleeping in alone. I missed it so much.

That in itself is a triumph. A small, perfect triumph.

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Posted by laurie at 10:37 AM