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April 30, 2008

(no name yet)

So, there are some very important things happening in my life right now. Also, "important" is a word which varies based on who is using it, for example my boyfriend Al Gore may say he has important things happening in his life and you know, he's getting the Nobel Peace Prize. Usually when I speak of important things happening in my life it means I finally found a brand of panties that don't ride up. So what I am saying here is that it varies from person to person.

Very Important Thing #1:
Finally, like a bad fever or something, my state of grumpiness broke around 5 p.m. yesterday. Nothing happened to trigger it, I was just listening to music on my ipod and I realized I was no longer walking around with my face scrunched up.

Very Important Thing #2:
The weather has finally cooled down to a tolerable level. This is excellent news. I did not want summer in April.

Very Important Thing #3:
This one is really the most important thing, the other two were just teasers, although having my panties out of my butt and also having my face non-scrunched are pretty good. But this is BETTER than good news. This is GREAT news.

I am getting a new brother!!!!!!!

new-puppybrother.jpg

That's right, my parents are getting a Welsh Corgi puppy and he is sure to become The New Favorite Child as soon as they can bring him home in a few weeks. That's fine with me, besides I am really excited to have a brother who is obedience trained, the other two are really out of hand. Especially my older brother who is just a real piece of work. I of course am perfect.

Also, please note that I am the editor of this column and what I say has been fact-checked by me and is true. To me.

ANYWAY, my new puppybrother has no name yet! Last night on the phone I gave my two cents which was met by many groans and sighs. You see, when I was a baby I got a stuffed animal dog who I named Sam and carried around through thick and thin, dirt and bathtime. I LOVED that Sam. Then a few years later for Christmas I got another stuffed animal dog who looked just like Sam only smaller. So he was Little Sam and first Sam became Big Sam. After that all my dogs, real and stuffed, were named Sam. Or Charley. I have only owned dogs named Sam or Charley and I think this has worked out really well for me and for our family as a whole so I don't understand why they won't name him Sam or Charley, depending on his personality.

But my parents do not share my predilection which is why I guess we kids aren't all named Guy #1, Guy #2 and Guy #3.

So, what do you think they ought to name my new puppybrother?

Isn't he the cutest? Doesn't he look like me a little, especially around the nose?

new-puppybrother2.jpg
Needs a name!

Posted by laurie at 7:54 AM

April 29, 2008

Shake, rattle and roll

The midwest is normally safe from such left-coast craziness as houses being left on the freeway, people descending into hysteria at the sight of mist and of course, The Governator. But last week I got emails from several folks in the midwest who had experienced a crazyass midwestern EARTHQUAKE and wanted to know what us seasoned Californians do when the very ground beneath us is rollercoastering.

I'm not sure I'm a seasoned Californian, I've only been here... wait... THIRTEEN YEARS? It's true, then. By Los Angeles standards I'm practically a native, aside from the funny accent. I actually remember when this town had a football team! I can remember when a two-bedroom, one-bath house only cost $375,000!

Anyway, as a resident of this great city, let me assure you the best thing about earthquakes is that you don't know when they're coming. (This same thing could be said about tornadoes, which apparently rumbled all across Virginia yesterday, and I have no advice on tornadoes at all because they scare the beejezus out of me. Seriously.)

But while earthquakes may seem sneaky, it's a good thing. There's no "season" for earthquakes, so you don't start dreading June to October. Plus, you don't have weathercasters standing outside in yellow slickers waiting anxiously for rain to begin falling and 24 hour round-the-clock coverage of THE CONE OF UNCERTAINTY. Hey, I lived in Florida (And Mississippi and Louisiana...) I know the cone of uncertainty. It is decidedly uncertain.

While earthquakes may seem like the earth's version of a Silent But Deadly fart, one which causes mass destruction and has no known warning signs, the upside to earthfarts is that no one is clearing the grocery store shelves of bread, milk and vodka two weeks ahead of time. No one has to buy lumber and board up their windows and fill sandbags and tie down the lawn furniture.

Although I personally have witnessed farts which could do such damage. I am just saying is all. A few years ago, I was on a red line train that experienced a Silent But Deadly and we all had to immediately evacuate the car at the next stop and get on another train car. It was almost lethal.

Where was I? Oh yes, earthquakes. So you build yourself a nice big earthquake kit that you have ready "just in case" and the rest of the time you live your life and forget all about earthquakes and hope for the best, which is a pretty good way to live in my opinion.

The earthquake kit is something I am famous for, because while on any given day my fridge may hold three limes and a packet of lunchmeat, my earthquake kit has all the good stuff I don't eat or drink on a regular basis. But earthquakes are special occasions, and in my opinion if you have just lived through a 7.0 and its aftershocks and there is no power and gangs of gun-toting women are perusing the neighborhood, you can have a packet of cheesy garlic powdered mashed potatoes if you want them and you can wash them down with bubble-wrapped vino.

The only thing that's different from my earthquake kit list of 2005 is the cigarettes, which are now gone as I smoked them up right before I paused smoking for good. I can't believe I haven't smoked in 16 months, that is nutty. What I think is so funny is how all these people who do not know me, really know me, were all so sure I'd change my mind about smoking again when I turned 60, because they just knew I'd come to my senses and see how AWFUL and GROSS smoking is. And to be honest with you there are entire days that go by that I think, "How many months until I turn 60 and can start smoking again?" When I turn 60, I am going to have a truckload of cigarettes delivered to me by a scandalously young male stripper, I tell you what. My sixties are going to ROCK.

But anyway, for now the ol' earthquake kit is devoid of the cigarettes. But it does have cheesy garlic mashed potatoes in powdered form.

I keep the disaster preparedness kit in my garage since there's less stuff there to fall on it and endanger the potatoes, plus my house is just too tiny for a big ol' Rubbermaid box of earthquake goodies. I do keep water in the cupboards and extra cat food in the house and so on, but the most important thing about being prepared for a quake is knowing where your eyeglasses are. Oh ye of perfect eyesight will not understand but I'm blind as a bat without my contacts or glasses, and if you place your glasses on the nightstand and the nightstand goes gyrating off into the mystic ... well, it might be a bit hard to find your eyeballs! So I used velcro to attach a small glasses case to the metal part of the bed frame. Now I know where my glasses are if the world starts moving in the middle of the night.

Listen, it is very important to see where you're going.

Also, it is not always bad when the earth moves in the middle of the night. It's just bad when you're alone and it's moving!

Also, how sexy will I be at 70 with my bottle-thick glasses and my chain-smoking? I might even get a little yappy dog to sit on my lap and nip at strangers. I will probably start dyeing my hair a color that does not occur in nature. Frankly, in my later years I plan to not give a damn, my dear. I will end sentences with prepositions and I will cut all the tags off my mattresses!!

So my advice to anyone living in earthquake country is this: Put together a nice big ol' earthquake kit and make sure it has water, food and first-aid supplies. Keep extra pet food and wine on hand at all times. And then forget all about it.

No one expects the Spanish Inquisition! You just can't predict an earthquake, so there's no use worrying about it. If only I could take that philosophy in all areas of my life...

Posted by laurie at 8:31 AM

April 28, 2008

Wish it were Sunday 'cause that's my fun day...

Breaking News: It is Hot And I Need Coffee

There's one good thing about a despicably hot weekend in April: it gives you something to talk about pre-coffee Monday Morning when your interpersonal chitchat skills are at their lowest and you're standing there in the galley actually waiting for the coffee to finish brewing because it's too much exertion to do anything while it brews.

"So!" says cheerful freakish morning-loving co-worker. "How was your weekend?"

"Hot," you mumble.

"Oh my gosh I know, but it was breezy at least! Love that sunshine! Love that Vitamin D!" says Cheerful.

"Coffee," you grunt.

- - -

The Wrath Of Vinegar Man Has Not Subsided

One of the biggest downsides of commuting is that you cannot pick who you commute with. Why I do not commute alone in a darkened vehicle with Al Gore is beyond me, but alas. I commute with them. The masses.

My evil arch-nemesis is Vinegar Man, who smells like a rancid vinegar-sweaty pickle wrapped in dirty underpants. While I know I should be feeling kind and loving and also understanding toward the various issues that face my fellow commuters and humans etc. etc., Vinegar Man makes me physically ill and I want to kill him. But first let me get my HazMat suit because I am not killing him without some filtered oxygen. Lordy his stank is so powerful it can peel paint. There are other people on the bus who've noticed it and remarked on it as well, so at least I know it isn't just my over-active olfactory. I just groan when I see him coming, shirttails flapping, running toward the bus.

The worst part of all this is that Vinegar Man isn't consistent -- sometimes he takes the 6:45, sometimes the 7 a.m. bus and sometimes the 6:30 so on any given day I have to be holding a barfbag nearby just in case. I could move my schedule around if I just knew which bus he was taking but no. Pickledeedee is all over the map. I don't know how the man holds down a job, don't his co-workers suffer? Doesn't he have performance reviews? Don't they have NOSES??? Good grief.


gaspricesapril28-08.jpg

I know I'm grumpy. Plus I forgot my earrings and my laptop. And my hair has static cling today.

But I do not smell like vinegar and that is something.

Posted by laurie at 8:02 AM

April 25, 2008

Bookworm

There is nothing better in this world than spending a day completely sucked into an awesome book.

Somewhere around mid-2006 I realized I wasn't doing much reading. I was knitting and writing and working and commuting and carrying on ... but not much reading was happening in my limited free time. I didn't want to give up my commute-time knitting for reading so I discovered the audiobook and life was lovely. Exhausting, but lovely. And things have kind of progressed at that level, with me downloading all kinds of great books and lectures and finally I discovered podcasts and that is delightful, etc. And then I went on a little vacation at the end of March and found myself in a strange place with an ipod that was on the fritz and no TV. No TV! No ipod!

Whatever would I do?

Good thing I packed some books and I could kick it old school, me and the paperback. YES I JUST SAID KICK IT OLD SCHOOL.

I'd brought a few philosophical and self-helpish pieces I needed to read for research and I packed a Joseph Conrad I'd been meaning to read for oh ... 15 years ... because I am nothing if not behind on my to-do list. I also packed an Anne Rivers Siddons paperback (love me some paperback romance) and then there was the Jodi Picoult.

I SO did not want to buy or read that book. My friend Courtney has been telling me for a while that I needed to read something by Jodi Picoult because she's an author who writes prolifically and has a huge fan base and blah blah blah good for understanding the market. But every time I went to the bookstore I'd read the blurbs on the backs of her books and they all seemed so depressing. I am all about the feeling BETTER in my limited time here on earth. I don't want to volunteer and pay money to feel BAD. That is just crazytalk. This is why I stopped watching the news.

Oh, yeah. I stopped watching the news. It started by accident, really, not as a statement to the world or a life change or anything. The local news was showing a really wretched story over and over again on the TV and I just decided to avoid TV news for a week or so until it all went away because I was crying before work every morning about some horrible thing that had happened in some other state to people I did not even know. I thought, "Maybe I should stop watching the news in the morning while I'm getting ready for work. I can watch the weather channel if I need to feel connected to the traffic alerts." That's why I watched the morning news anyway, for traffic and weather.

There is no way to avoid the news entirely, of course, since the elevators at work show nonstop news all day. And WHY do we need TV in the elevator? Why? Is fifteen seconds of silence too much time alone, untended? All that screen in the elevator seems to do is shout nonstop about the election or polls or pundits and so before long I found myself stopping ALL my news watching at home, even the nightly network news. (Full disclosure: I do watch "The Daily Show" which is now my main source of TV news. I am so Gen XYZ123.) It hadn't occurred to me how much news I watch and read -- I am and will always be a newspaper girl, so to this day I won't even consider giving up the paper -- but that's reading, which is different from watching what a network feeds you, which is what I realized I had been doing for a very long time.

And I guess things went on pretty much the same in the TV department except in January I cut out the news. Then one day I was programming the Tivo to record the about-to-air new season of American Idol and it showed all the episodes coming up -- it was something like 36 hours of television programming for one show. ONE SHOW. And I sat down right there on the floor and on the back of the light bill I added up how many shows I watch a week and with "Dancing with the Stars" coming up and a new season of "Survivor" and you know I love my Oprah and add in some CSI, or The Closer or whatever... it came out to something like 45+ hours a week of television. Even if you skip through the ads and the boring challenges and the singers you don't like, people. THAT IS A LOT OF TEEVEE.

So I opted out of all reality, including Dancing and American Idol and Survivor and I cannot believe it -- but I lived to tell the tale. I am still alive. It is maybe a miracle.

And so anyway, back to the original thread of this story which started about 17 paragraphs ago, when I found myself on vacation with no TV and no ipod and no movies I started in on my pile of books. I think I read six books in five days and it was AWESOME.

Usually I listen to books in audio form while I commute and multitask. But it was awesome not to multitask. In fact, I am here today to share with you the truth: I HATE MULTITASKING. It felt decadent and delicious to sink into a good book and sit still and read, just get sucked into a good story and forget everything on the to-do list, forget all the worries and anxieties of real life.

And my friend Courtney was right to insist I pick up a Jodi Picoult book. I decided on "My Sister's Keeper" since they're making a movie out of it and I read on a gossip site somewhere that fans of the book were crazy outraged at the casting decisions. My thinking was any book that had fans so personally connected to the characters was the book to read.

And it sucked me in! The storytelling was careful, the characters were interesting and the plot was intriguing. I really could not pull myself out of that book, I think I stayed up half the night to finish it. I went online to amazon.com to find the link to it and I started reading the reviews and I was surprised to see so many bad 1-star reviews. This is why I don't read reviews. They usually have more to do with the person leaving the review than they do the book itself. Or maybe I just have less desire to critique books now since I know how hard it is to write one and I'm all, "Good on you for finishing this whole thing!"

Also -- did you know you burn more calories from reading a book than you do while watching TV? Seriously. That's scientific facts right there.

So what are you reading? Got any good book recommendations? Right now I'm reading Le Mariage because I love thinking of Paris and I think Diane Johnson is breezy, and on my soon-to-read list are:

Plain Truth - another novel by Jodi Picoult
Prep - by Curtis Sittenfeld (again, I am years behind on my to-do list)
The Years of Extermination: Nazi Germany and the Jews, 1939-1945 -- by Saul Friedlander

I don't have as much time as I like for reading, but I'm thinking that freeing the Tivo list of so many programs will help. I find it really hard to relax in the tiny spaces I manage to have for myself, and I guess it became habitual to use TV as a perfect way to zone out, calm my mind down. But books are good for getting my mind off the worries and to-do lists, too.

If only vacation were a full-time job and reading could be my full-time zen...

But hey, at least it's Friday.

Posted by laurie at 2:00 PM

April 24, 2008

Dang

Now obviously I'm not talking about MY job, since I don't do that, I'm just speaking hypothetically here...

It's not THE most embarrassing thing to happen to me in a workplace, because this is me I'm talking about and I have done things like staple my skirt closed at the gaping hem, and say "porn" in a meeting of conservative suits and more suits, and also I once sat on my boss' lap at the Christmas party but that was back when I worked in entertainment and he tried to French kiss my ear. Then I think later he threw up on an ice sculpture. I guess actually in comparison to that last one what I am about to say is sort of boring.

BUT it always kind of sucks when you compose a really good business-etiquettey letter with stuff like "per your request" and "advertising objectives" and on and on, maybe even you add some rockin'

• bullet points!!!

And then you say, "Please refer to the attached documents and files and images for your review." And then you FORGET TO ATTACH THE ATTACHMENT.

Because you're sitting at your desk all, "I should totally get an assistant named Bryan or Jake who will bring me coffee... I am so professional and all ..." and then you get an email saying, um, hello? Can you please attach said attachments dumbass?

Then you have to send a follow-up letter that says, "OMG!!! Wouldn't that crazyass professional side of me ROCK if I remembered to attach my attachments? Ha ha! Just keeping you on your toes!"

Which SO adds to your Professionalism Quotient.

Hypothetically.

Posted by laurie at 8:13 AM

April 23, 2008

Back to the future, please.

Have you seen these billboards all around town and on buses that are supposed to be promoting a movie:

sarahmarshall.jpg

That was taken through the plastic window of my Jeep, whoopsy. Anyway, you know what would really suck? It would REALLY suck if your real name were... Sarah Marshall.

Any you know what else would suck? If gas prices got so high that more people than ever started taking mass transit so the city decided that was a good time to begin not just ticketing people who are parked in adjacent lots BUT now they're towing cars! Fun! The city really knows how to make a buck in tight times, I tell you what.

gaspricesapril20-08.jpg
The price has actually gone up since I took this picture.

And to be honest, it's fine ... I'm just getting up earlier and earlier so I can find parking in the currently-legal parking lot (who knows for how long! stay tuned!) but the real thing that irritates me, and I mean REALLY ANNOYS ME TO NO END is that I grew up my whole life thinking that by the time I was as ancient and decrepit as THIRTY, not to mention thirty-plus years old, I was just sure I wouldn't have to own a car at all because I would be going to and fro with my own personal jetpack.

I WANT MY JETPACK DAMMIT.

Posted by laurie at 8:41 AM

April 22, 2008

Earth Day Girls Are Easy

It's Earth Day and as of today, Whole Foods is getting rid of their plastic bags. You bring your own bag or you get paper bags but plastic is like, SO March 2008! Totally!

Other cities have made plastic bags an expense -- in some places, if you want plastic to hold your goodies you have to pay for it. It's been like that in many places in Europe for years. The first time I saw it was in Zurich in 2002 and the Co-Op (the local grocery store) charged for bags at the checkout. I thought it was a pretty cool idea, especially because Zurich was one of the cleanest large cities I had ever visited and it just seemed to fit in with the whole "We're Swiss, we're neutral, we make great cheese" vibe. I love Zurich, I should go back soon. The cheese is REALLY GOOD.

Anyway, before Gwen left Los Angeles, she gave me two big green woven Whole Foods grocery bags that I love and use all the time. But only at Whole Foods, of course. After Allison read about my issues with branded bags, she gave me possibly the best gift anyone has ever given me -- a pack of five Envirosax. They're these fabulously strong and roomy nylon bags that fold and roll into little tiny egg-roll shaped logs that fit neatly in your purse. If you buy the five-pack, which is what Allison gifted to me, the little logs fir in their own carrying case and the whole thing is smaller than my makeup bag.

I keep one or two bags tucked away in my handbag all the time for unexpected purchases, or to hold my lunch on the bus or whatever. I love my Envirosax!

envirosax-bag.jpg

envirosax-pouch.jpg

The Envirosax online store is here. I don't work for them or get a kickback -- I just think they're a cool product. I love them so much I even bought a set for my mom, which is news to her since they haven't arrived yet (her birthday isn't for another week.) And I plan to give them as gifts this year for Christmas. I love these little bags because they're so easy to keep on you at all times and it's so handy when you just happen to make a little impulse buy to skip the bag and use the Envirosax.

Since Allison gave me this amazing gift, the amount of plastic bags coming into my house has decreased by about 90% -- which means I am also consuming 90% less plastic and bag-related resources than before. It's not like I made cold fusion or cured cancer or something -- my life hasn't changed in some dramatic way -- but it's one very small, teetiny change that over time could have a positive impact on the planet.

Little changes are the key for me.

Of course you can always make a bag yourself, sewing one or knitting a tote -- maybe that will be my next summer project, a hand-knit grocery bag. But if you don't want to buy a bag, today the California Grocers Association has a whole list of participating stores in California that are giving away FREE re-usable bags! Apparently these bags are "soft, durable and made of 100% recycled water, soda and food containers and carry the message, 'Great Taste & Zero Waste.'" Check out the entire list here. I am all about the free.

Posted by laurie at 9:43 AM

April 21, 2008

Monday Bob

Yesterday I moved the big carpeted cat toy thingamajig over to the side of the room so I could vacuum the living room rug. The toy became extremely popular all the sudden to the felines, who liked it fine in its old location but in its new location it was Very! Exciting! There was some fighting and some turf warrage, but in the end to the victor goes the spoils...

... and the victor decided to lounge on the middle floor:

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bobarmies2.jpg

Blur courtesy of my crappy new camera which has reverse PMS and only takes good pictures one week of the month. This was not my week.

Happy Monday!

Posted by laurie at 9:13 AM

April 18, 2008

Change of Email ... and moolah

Please update your address books, do people still have address books these days? From now on, please use the cool new email page if you need to email me. Or the cats. You can also find that link in the main navigation at the top right-hand side of this website, cleverly named E-Mail.

This new system is awesome and will help filter out the spam and hopefully help me improve my response time to email which is right now something like 2.75 years per letter. Or maybe I will still be slow and poor at corresponding, but either way it will filter out the spam and for that I am thrilled.

Also on the subject of change... have you noticed the changes to the five dollar bill? I got one the other day and I stared at it for a good long while wondering if I had just been slipped a fake fiver. Then with my massive powers of deductive reasoning I decided it must be REAL because no counterfeiter would go crazypants and make a bill with a giant purple 5 on the back. You'd never guess I work in the world of finance, would you?

new-fiver.gif

Posted by laurie at 11:53 AM

April 17, 2008

Bumper philosophy in the city of angels

I take a lot of pictures of bumper stickers and general chitchat happening on the backsides of cars across this city. I'm not sure exactly why I'm so interested in them, but it definitely makes our painfully slow traffic more amusing. The bumper stickers and the nosepickers -- what would I do without them for laughs on the freeways?

I even stop in parking lots and take pictures of bumper stickers that strike me. Maybe it's because on a deeper level I am fascinated that someone would stick a slogan on such a large purchase. Cars typically cost more than a pair of shoes, and you won't catch me putting a sticker on my high heels. So I guess I think of bumper stickers as the car owners' personal philosophy, an expression (succinct and punch-liney as it may be) of that individual's view on life. And I'm fascinated that anyone can sum up their primary life's focus on a bumper sticker. Those license-plate holders with customized saying get me, too, especially because they seem like so much more work than a sticker.

This car caught my eye -- I was riding the bus one day and saw it out the window. It was a foggy, dreary, excruciatingly early morning commute and the Elvismobile got me to crack a smile:

carsays-elvis.jpg

I wonder if he or she has an Elvis Room at home? Or better yet -- a Jungle Room! I love crazed Elvis fans, they're always very nice people and they can usually appreciate a velvet painting. I love a good velvet painting.

Bumper talking amuses me to no end. You can tell the proud parents (and honor students) from the sports fans and political junkies. This one is a bit of a mouthful, though:

carsays-kid-school.jpg

"My child is a winner at Westfield Ave. Elem/Westfield Computer Science Magnet." Maybe they should just say, "My kid's school has more words than your kid's school!"

And sometimes there are bumper stickers about your honor student that make me laugh out loud:

bumper-labrador.jpg


Then there are the peaceful commuters who want us to "Coexist!" or "Practice Random Acts of Kindness" and others who want us to Praise Jesus! Support the Troops! and Listen to Viva 107.5!

Lots of folks have opinions they want to share about this country:

bumperbush.jpg

bumper-worse.jpg

I honestly tried to find a bumper sticker that said something pro-Bush just to be all fair and everything, but as it turns out I live in Southern California. Whoopsy. Although this might be pro-Bush:

carsays-guey.jpg

What exactly does "GUEY" mean, anyway?

By the way, yes I know what guey means and I freely admit I was being somewhat sarcastic in the "this is a joking website" manner, which is funnier when you don't have to point it out.

I love that people stick bumper stickers on their cars. I like seeing if the message and the car align, or if the driver has a sense of humor and I like that some folks feel so strongly about a thing that they find a single, defining message and then they adhere it to their vehicle. I'm not sure the ONE thing I would feel most impassioned about, however, is telling people in traffic that I'm so awesome ... but sadly, I'm "taken":

car-says-taken.jpg
This I don't understand. Do people just keep approaching you in your vehicle, asking you out on dates? So now we can only assume they REALLY want you but then they read your license plate holder and have to slowly back away, dejected, sad? And also ..in traffic?


And while I guess it's pretty darn cool to produce real twin human beings from your body, I think I would feel weird about letting people know my kids' names (especially in my neighborhood ... "Chester The Child Molester-ville"):

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Close-up of her little window sticker:
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Close-up of personalized plates:
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(Sometimes folks want to know how I get such clear pictures of other cars on the road. Notice these cars are all in front of my Jeep. Notice that we are all not moving. That is how AWESOME traffic is in Los Angeles.)

So I take a lot of pictures of bumpers and rear-ends. I'm reading your messages, but I guess I haven't found my own defining message -- at least one that can be summed up in ten words or less. Sure, "I like wine" has a funny ring to it, but is that something you want to stick on your car? Not to mention I already get the crazies calling me an alkie on a regular basis through the mail ... I don't exactly want to deal with them rolling up alongside me to share their OH SO HELPFUL wisdom.

"Cat ladies are sexy" might work, but I am more than just a woman with some cats. Plus, I like dogs. And horses. And guys. All of which are nice animals, but then the bumper sticker gets too wordy and inclusive.

There are election-year bumper stickers EVERYWHERE, but I don't want to wear my political notions on my Jeep. That's just not my style. I don't have any honor students, or babies on board, and I'm no one's Best Mom, Best Grandma or Best Teacher.

"I like the nightlife, I like to boogie..." might make a catchy bumper slogan, honestly I only like to boogie and enjoy nightlife on weekends if I'm not driving and if we don't have to stand in line and if it's not at some lame pick-up joint or someplace where everyone is fresh out of college and looks like an extra from "The Real World" and only if it's not crowded because I hate crowds. In fact, I really don't like the nightlife in the traditional sense .... ah, perhaps all that is too wordy for the average bumper. And in the end it's still not my defining message.

Some bumper stickers are quotations, I like those a lot. I tried to think of a single quote I would want on my bumper ... my favorite quote of all time is by Dr. Wayne Dyer. He's always saying, "Your opinion about me is none of my business." I love that so much. YOUR OPINION OF ME IS NONE OF MY BUSINESS! It's the truest thing I have ever heard. But I keep that saying close to my heart and don't really need to force it on other people. Besides, do you think Dr. Dyer wants to be quoted on the back of a non-hybrid? Would that be insulting?

In the end, my vehicle remains unadorned. There may indeed be a defining pithy statement inside me somewhere but it's probably about 587 pages long and won't fit on a little square Jeep. Knowing me, my personal philosophy probably has footnotes.

So I'll just keep taking pictures of your bumpers. And your rear-ends, too.

bumper-everywhere.jpg

Posted by laurie at 9:27 AM

April 16, 2008

This explains why the Pope won't come to Los Angeles...

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The Popemobile probably gets really poor gas mileage and you know, combine that with the worst traffic in the entire nation and a trip out here would probably break the papal bank. Plus he can't take public transportation because there's no security or parking -- I can't find space for my little red Jeep, nevermind a bigass Popemobile. The city just eliminated all the street parking near my park 'n ride lot, so when the lot fills up you have to try to find parking across the street and IF YOU'RE LUCKY and find a spot you then run across five lanes of traffic to get to the bus stop. Sometimes it's easier to drive to work than to spend 40 minutes looking for parking so you can take a bus that may or may not arrive on time. The buses get stuck in traffic, too you know ... there's no carpool lanes on the 101.

I love Los Angeles. But sometimes I want to kick it really hard in the shins.

Posted by laurie at 9:21 AM

April 15, 2008

You're a vegetable! You're a vegetable?

Normally I know when whatever misheard lyric I'm belting out in the privacy of my own mind is well, misheard. Like I'm pretty sure I have no idea what the joker, smoker, midnight toker is doing in half that song. And we already know about Harry Dupree.

But there is one song that I have listened to most of my life which I loved and I knew I was maiming the lyrics something awful but I sang it loud and proud all the way: Wanna Be Startin' Something? You gotta be startin' somethin!

Because ya'll I LOVED Michael Jackson back in the day -- that cute little Michael with his fuzzy yellow sweater, that feisty little Michael when he was BAD. I just loved him. Poor thing. Bless his little heart.

Anyway, one of my favorite songs of all time is "Wanna Be Startin' Something?" and there are two lines I knew I had all wrong:

To high to get over (yeah yeah)
Too low to get under

You're a vegetable ... you're a vegetable
You're a hee-eey
You're a vegetable....

Because Oh My God I Mean Really Now. Who would write a song like that? Who would think calling someone a vegetable was a well and very insulting thing to say in song form and possibly while moonwalking?

Then I went on the internet to look up the real lyrics because what on earth is the internet for if not song lyrics, travel deals and Web MD? And did you know that apparently the real lyrics are..

YOU'RE A VEGETABLE.... YOU'RE A VEGETABLE.

Listen (around the 2:40 mark):


And yet another (listen for it at the 2:07 mark):


Amazing. Next time I get mad at someone and I wanna be startin' somethin, I'm gonna call 'em out. YOU'RE A VEGETABLE! You hear me! A lowly old vegetable!

Posted by laurie at 8:55 AM

April 14, 2008

Valley hoe!

It was exactly one zillion degrees in the valley this weekend. Spring lasted an entire week and then hello, summer! You are HERE.

This year I set a strict budget for my gardening efforts. I set aside a specific amount of money and threatened myself with a stern voice and a wagging finger if I went over it by even a penny. I didn't want a repeat of last year when I spent gajillions all told in gardening supplies (that is an exact amount, gajillions, and not tax deductible!) and yet I had nothing to show for it but some crazyass hot peppers and a field of mutant zucchini.

Most of my budget this year went to new bags of soil and compost and dirt-related stuff. Then there was the chunk of change I spent on my Meyer Lemon tree, still happy and blooming it's little dwarf-variety $24.99 self away:

april14-08-lemontree.jpg

I bought one small four-inch container of pumpkin seedlings which are hanging out with the renegade zuke in the raised bed out back along with a watermelon seedling that is struggling and in fact could be considered muerto. (The rest of the watermelon seedlings are strewn around the yard, but more on that later.) I found a big ziploc bag in the garage with old seed packets from God Knows When and I decided they just weren't getting any younger Beavis, so I spread them on every dirt patch in the yard and we'll see what comes up. I may have thyme in the watermelon and dill in the peppers or nothing at all, but it's a good experiment. And the price was right.

april14-08-raisedbed.jpg
The pumpkins and zucchini are doing great. The seeds, not so much.

Saturday and Sunday were scorching. I was a little scared that getting a 97-degree day so soon after planting my few seedlings would dry everything up and kill the whole yard, but I think everything is doing pretty good this year so far. It's been a whole week and a day and things appear to still be alive! I believe my weeklong success is because I finally got the memo from the Universe that I live in a scorching hellhole of humanity's armpit and I stopped using all the small clay planters I have lying around -- I'm only planting stuff in my big plastic pots this year. They little clay containers are pretty and cheerful but they dry out in fifteen minutes flat during the summer, and since summer lasts until November that gives me a window of about four days to grow something.

Hey -- you! You there! The one about to write an impassioned comment or plea or admonition for my failure to investigate the MUCH BETTER option of a drip irrigation system, yes, you! You can stop typing, let me save you some advice-giving juice.

A drip irrigation system for my many cheerful clay pots and plastic containers would indeed be a delightful and transformative thing, one which I investigated myself at the hardware store and garden center and after I thought maybe I was reading the information all wrong I even got my gardeners to give me advice on it. But what most folks don't know is that I live in a magical and mysterious house built back in the 1940s by a lesser-known brother of the Three Stooges. His name was probably Ezra ... Ezra Stooge.

Ezra had likely been in possession of his contractor's license for a full four and a half minutes before he opened up a bag of quickcrete and laid the foundation for my magical and mysterious home. I have pipes that lead to nowhere, a giant hedge in the middle of the backyard, tiny doors to secret passages painted shut inside my cabinets and magical utilities that, when they need servicing, usually result in this: A utility services professional telling me, "Gee, lady, I've been with the gas company / DWP / phone company /whateverservice for fifteen years and this is the first time I've ever seen a house wired /set-up / situated this particular way! This is a real first for me!"

It is just a joy and adventure, I tell you what. Also now with the haunting, which is an excellent addition to my magical mystery house.

So anyway, Ezra made the non-standard outside electrical hookup thingamabob and the also non-standard outdoor water thingamajig located in such proximity to each other that they are in different zipcodes. My gardeners are excellent resources for pointing out all the ways the sprinklers or wiring or whathaveyou is out of whack on my house, and after some scrutinizing and measuring and using of tools they determined I would need to have a custom drip irrigation system built just for this hook-up and also have to get an electrician out to do the re-wiring and grounding and someone to cut through the siding and dig a trench for blah blah blah and .... ONE MILLION DOLLARS.

Spending that kind of money would probably make sense for me if I owned this house and wanted to live here the next forty years. But I rent and I'm on a budget with the gardening so I took what I thought was the next best route: I pushed the big plastic planters I already owned closer to the sprinklers. Now they get watered every night with the lawn. Works for me! And didn't cost me a dime!

april14-08-cukes.jpg
The cucumbers like being near the sprinklers.

So where was I? OH YES! On a budget. So after I pushed my plastic pots near the sprinklers and worked on the raised bed garden in the back without disturbing the lone zucchini outrider, I decided to use my one big backyard blank space where the old geranium used to be for my new watermelon patch. But I kind of needed some edging material and I was maxed out on my gardening budget.

This was my solution:

april14-08-watermelonpots.jpg

Cute! And kind of kooky in the crazy-cat-lady-who-lives-in-a-haunted-house way. Sort of Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle without the husband and the magic hat. Notice how I skillfully dumped the dirt in what I surmised a watermelon hill should look like. I am well and truly a scourge on the face of gardening. Then I think I sprinkled some seeds on it from 2002 and called it a day.

In other news, my mint is coming back nice and strong this year. It had practically withered away to nothing last fall since the valley was scorching and the poor thing was left in the sun while I ignored it. In my defense, the pot is a solid ceramic monster I got from an the old neighbors who used to live next door, and they gave me two of those big heavy behemoth pots before they left town. I never did anything with them, like move them, because they weigh seven hundred pounds each. This year I finally got them situated on little platforms with rolling wheels so I can wheel them around to the sun when they need it or back closer to the patio edge where the sprinklers are. I am really all about plant mobility this year, you see. Plants should have the freedom of wheels, too!

The basil which somehow never died last year is doing OK, I pruned it a little and added some basil seeds to the pot. And the peppers have bright green new leaves popping out amongst the old yellowed and tired leaves that are so 1007:

april14-08-pepperleaves.jpg

I mixed some portulaca in with everything (I love portulaca flowers, some folks call it "moss rose." All I know is that it's the only blooming pretty thing I can get to live in this heat.) I have my usual three pots of thyme which I grow every year because I LOVE the smell of fresh thyme, but I never seem to keep it alive very long. We'll see.

So that is my garden. A bunch of old seeds who may or may not emerge, some pumpkins, a lone zucchini, a big hill of watermelon seedlings and a bluejay in a lemon tree. And of course the same giant weird hedge in the middle of the backyard, surely planted there by ol' Ezra Stooge himself. What a character that guy must have been. If you ever bump into him will you please ask him where the secret trapdoor inside the kitchen cupboard leads to? Thanks, man.

Posted by laurie at 9:58 AM

April 11, 2008

Waking up

Have you ever noticed that when you're in the middle of something bad like an illness or a divorce or grief or some hardship, there are folks who tell you heartily or sympathetically or cheerfully to keep your chin up! Look on the bright side! The sun will come out tomorrow, etc. You want to believe them, you do. But the sun seems kind of far away. Or maybe nonexistent. And then after a while when YOUR pain has gone on too long for THEIR liking, they will say .... haven't you agonized long enough? C'mon now, stop wallowing! Stop moping! People have it so much worse! In fact let me tell you this story of the so-and-so gal who has it worse than you do ...

But here is the funny part. In what can only be described as a ridiculous twist of fate and conversation, when you do emerge from under the rock of despair and piece your life back together and work to regain your footing in this life, people start acting surprised that you're not in a corner eating your hair anymore.

They say, "Oh my! Look how much you've changed!" And the undertone is Hey, remember back when you were really tragically screwed up? Remember? Remember how bad-off you used to be? Remember what a big ol' mess you were? REMEMBER?

Just in case you didn't get the memo. You were a mess. Remember?

And every time you move forward or try anything new or change your hair or make an effort to be healthier or happier they say, "Gosh, you sure have changed!" It keeps on happening, too, even three or four years down the line. After a while it just gets to be hilarious and absurd, because MY GOD PEOPLE. But it's not particularly amusing when it first starts happening, it sometimes takes a while to develop a sense of humor about it.

After a while, though, something magical happens and you go selectively deaf. You maybe still hear the comments, but you stop listening to them. Others may be commenting on how much you've changed (remember how screwed up/broke/fat/sad she used to be?) but you don't hear it. They're still in a relationship with a ghost of the past, hung up on someone who doesn't exist in that same way today. And even when someone walks right up to you and says, "You sure have changed! Remember how pathetic you were that one time?" you can smile and thank them and thank God you're not there anymore. And be grateful that it's true -- Wow! You sure have changed!

If you're still in the Big Ol' Mess stage of life, don't worry. You'll get to the "Wow, you sure have changed..." stage. I've been to that particular future and let me tell you, it is bright! And the very best thing about changing is that you don't have to do a damn thing -- it happens whether you like it or not. Your life changes whether you fight it, resist it, ignore it or deny it. And more good news is that you don't have to change magnificently. You do not have to dramatically quit your job, sell all your possessions and move to an ashram. You don't have to take up yoga for nine hours a day, give up food and exist on air and mantras in your search for a new you.

You change in mundane little ways and after a while they add up and they are good. And you're more your real self than you imagined possible.

- - -

I think we're sometimes deep-down afraid to change because we're scared of what people might say about us. Or think about us. We're afraid to achieve our true desires because we know that somebody somewhere is going to peck at us like a hungry duck or pipe up with the "My, you sure have changed!" bit. Even something like changing your hair color can bring on the judgy chorus so maybe you eventually stop making changes or reaching for more in life and that way you never provoke the ire of those who sit in judgment of you. Right?

But you can't win at that game. I couldn't win at that game, anyway. Because when you follow what you think others want of you and you repress and conform and be a good girl and don't change (just like they want!) before long someone comes along and tells you your problem is ... you just never change! You never take chances!

As my father says, you can't win for losing. And that is not living at all.

It's like being afraid to lose weight because folks might comment on your weight loss. Or being afraid to share your news of promotion/book deal/boyfriend/new car/splurge/vacation/whatever because you're afraid someone will say, "Looky there! Fancypants! Who do YOU think you are?" Sometimes you don't want to have to defend your choices. Sometimes you just want to enjoy something without being pecked at by hungry ducks.

Now I haven't done a scientific study or anything, but from what I can see in my life and from watching others it seems like something happens to you, something shifts, and you eventually stop caring so much what other people say or think about you. Maybe it's aging, or maybe it's a health scare, or that big life-altering event, or a crisis, or maybe it's nothing at all but the mellowing of time. But eventually what other people think about your life becomes a lot less important than what you think.

I was watching an interview not too long ago with Dr. Christiane Northrup, author of "Women's Bodies, Women's Wisdom" and "The Wisdom of Menopause" (two MUST-have books if you're nearing 35 or over -- did you know menopause begins at age 35? Crazy, I tell you!) and anyway, one of the things Dr. Northrup said in this interview about bowled me over. She said that we have a wisdom about our true selves, the essence of who we are, when we're very young (around 11 or 12 years old). Then we begin to socialize and change and our true essence becomes suppressed. We don't re-emerge until we're much older, when we have the wisdom and skills to handle our real selves. And she said she's seen it so many times in her practice -- women hit a certain age and they start making changes, they begin a whole new career or they take up horseback riding or start painting or writing or singing or all the sudden they can't stand another plain white wall and go wild for color. Life is fresh and deep again.

It sounded a lot like waking up to me. Waking up from a long, dreamless sleep.

Looking backward, I know I was asleep. I spent a lot of time resisting change when I was married. I tried to keep the facade going and tried to live up to expectations and in time I became someone who was dreadfully afraid of change. I clawed onto the status quo like nobody's business. And of course you see how well THAT worked out.

But before all that -- back before I lost myself a little and nodded off -- I was just one big adventurous change after another, always onto something new and interesting. It clashed with my Southern people-pleasing gene a lot, so one day I up and moved west.

When I first came to California I met a woman at the Daily News named Irma. She was amazing, one of the most self-confident women I had ever known. To this day I remember the one piece of wisdom she shared with me, I even wrote it down way-back-when in my diary. She told me, "Listen honey, people grow up, they change, they buy new boobs, whatever. Others might talk about you. They might not like the changes in you, that's life, mija. When you change, people either change with you or they leave your life forever."

Irma, if you're reading this: you were right! I never bought any boobs, but I did change. I got older. Life moved along and people either kept moving with me or we lost touch. And even though I resisted the big changes in my marriage and its eventual collapse with a lot of crying and whining and carrying on, once I just surrendered to it and stopped fighting against my life path ... things got better. Then things got GREAT.

When you make changes in your life some people won't like the "new" you. It happens even when the change wasn't of your own doing -- when I got divorced, for example, none of our married couple friends spoke to me anymore. Maybe our divorce seemed contagious? When you or your circumstances change, people either change with you or leave your life. It sounds scary but it's not so bad once you stop fighting it. Yes, it's painful to lose old friends. But new people come into your life and you keep flowing with it.

So yes, of course I have changed, we all change, or at least I hope we do. I don't want to remain the same as I was when I was 19 or 22 or 33! At age 19, I was a patchouli-scented bookworm wearing incredibly unflattering broomstick skirts. At age 24, I was insecure and broke (but my rear-end was so tiny!) and at age 33 I was going through a messy and expensive divorce -- so long, farewell, tiny rear-end. Now at age 36, I'm learning to work a blender and travel alone and stop taking stuff so personally. Lord only knows what age 37 will bring. A juicer? A dog? A Jeep that runs on veggie oil? LASER HAIR REMOVAL? I have no idea! But thank God that we get to move on. If we didn't grow and change I'd still be working a massive wall o' bangs and wearing acid-wash denim. Or tragically stuck in the blue eyeshadow phase.

The changes in my life have been slow, tiny, some are incredibly mundane. It's just like waking up slowly from a very deep night's sleep. I feel like I went to sleep for a whole decade of my life. I got so caught up in trying to find a man and keep a man and have a good job and buy a car and make enough money to pay my bills and look a certain way and act a certain way and achieve socially-acceptable milestones that I started focusing all my energy externally on the appearance of a good life. And then I got married and we accumulated all that debt and there were dinners to make and housework to do and a full-time job and all that fussing and carrying on.

All my energy was then focused on The Relationship and I just unplugged from myself. I went to sleep inside for a very long time.

Then of course my life went ass over teakettle. Being newly single and untethered was the scariest thing. I was terrified. I was sad. I was a big ol' mess. But it's funny the way things work -- slowly it became bearable, then it became okay, then it became exhilarating because with no one left to focus on but me, I woke up. I am awake.

I am not sharing this so you can pat me on the back or let me know how far I've come or how much I've changed. I'm sharing this for the one woman out there who is stuck dead in the middle of her own shitty situation and is wondering how it gets better. She's wondering why people keep telling her it will be OK when all she sees in a long black tunnel. How on earth does it get better? How?

It gets better because we just change. Whether we resist it, cry about it, write about it, knit through it, drink it down, we still end up changing. And it gets bearable, then okay, then pretty damn good, then one day it's your new normal. People in your life will change with you or begin to fade out of the picture. New people come into your life. You get to know yourself. You will get through it. You will wake up, too. I'm not sure, but I think it's what we're meant to do. I think it may be the whole reason for all of it.

And before long people will be telling you how much you've changed. I hope you laugh about it, enjoy the irony of it, enjoy the feeling of being more your real self than you ever imagined you could be.

Posted by laurie at 1:13 PM

Katie & Armando, Part II

Sarah Everhart had lived two houses down from Katie and Ernie for five years. She’d felt envious on more than one occasion of Katie’s childless freedom, jealous of the tiny convertible she drove.

“That woman will not appreciate that car until she has a baby of her own and can’t find room for the car seat and the diaper bag,” she told her husband, as Katie tore off with the radio blaring some unintelligible Spanish ballad. “She better enjoy it now.”

Three weeks later, as Sarah fixed her makeup for the KABC news interview, she wondered what awful criminal had found Katie in her car, top-down, music loud. She wondered if the ten pounds added by TV cameras was a myth. She said aloud to her husband, “If there’s anything good to be said, at least they didn’t have children. Can you imagine?”

- - -

While Sarah Everhart was readying for her close up, Katie was lying on a double bed in a beachside motel in northern Mexico. She stretched, slowly, feeling each muscle. She liked the burn, the deep down ache, that came with every stretch. It had been a good night, a crazy uninhibited night, and she rolled over into the empty place where Manny had been and rubbed her face into his pillow. She could still feel him, male and warm, and their smells mixed together on the rumpled sheets and pillows.

Her kidnapping had gone exactly as planned. Armando had met her at 9:30 a.m. in the parking lot of a West Los Angeles mall. Her two duffel bags, both new, carried the only reminders of her past life. That’s how she thought of it now -- her past life. She had gone shopping for a few new things, some T-shirts and shorts and a backless dress that Ernie would have been embarrassed by. He maybe would have remarked she ought to hit the gym a few times before wearing that dress in public.

Armando had told her exactly where to park, the structure was old and the only security cameras were at the front entrance. She had thrown the duffel bags into the back of his waiting truck and kissed him on the neck. They both acted like it was a little weekend trip, no big deal, just park your car in that spot right there, OK?

As she pulled herself into the passenger seat of Armando's truck it crossed her mind that Ernie would just now be getting ready for his 10 a.m. staff meeting. The whole day was just beginning, really.

She pushed that thought out of her mind, shut the truck door and pocketed her old car keys. She’d get rid of the keys somewhere else.

They had missed the worst of the morning commuter traffic and Armando pulled the truck onto the freeway headed south towards San Diego. They didn’t talk much, didn’t stop even for gas. Manny had been as prepared as she was.

Even if Katie had backed out at the last minute you could always use a full tank of gas.


Poor Katie, she has NO IDEA what she's gotten herself into. She's a coward, really. But a romantic coward I guess. It's hard to like her sometimes.

When I first introduced Katie & Armando, I was talking about how at some point "Katie & Armando" had become synonymous in my life with "Someday." As in, "someday I will have a life that is perfectly settled and then, when that ideal time arrives, I'll have the time and energy and know-how to make my dreams come true."

I was surprised how many people emailed me or commented that they related to my craziness. And even more surprised by how many people confessed that they had a Katie & Armando of their very own -- they wanted to write their own book or build their own proverbial ark or travel somewhere or organize their craft room or decorate the house or plant a real garden or find a new job, but were also putting it off until "someday" when conditions were just right.

Some folks said "someday" stayed far away because they were too afraid of the problems that might happen or situations that hadn't yet transpired. It was interesting and surprising to me to hear it because you know, I thought I was the only one who worried about that stuff.

One evening last fall I was driving home from work in my Jeep. It was late, I'd been working some long hours to complete a project and the bus only runs until 6:30, so I'd had to drive for two weeks in a row. Traffic was bad and I was grumpy and hungry and I was really angry. I'd had a bad conversation with someone and we'd argued and I was crazy upset about it.

That night I spent the entire drive home having an angry and cutting conversation with the offender. She wasn't in the car with me, mind you. We weren't on the phone. I was completely alone, and I gave her a piece of my mind, oh you know I did. I carefully rehearsed how I'd say each verbal bombshell and when I thought through her every response I got angry all over again. I felt betrayed and misunderstood and I kept on and on at it, saying and re-saying everything I wished I'd said the first go around.

When I pulled into my neighborhood I noticed my house looked weird. It looked weird because it wasn't my house! I was so wrapped up in my mental dramatics that I had turned onto the wrong street. That's when it dawned on me -- I must have spent a good hour and a half having an imaginary confrontation with someone who was most likely already home and having dinner, blissfully unaware of me and my emotional tsunami. I'd not only re-hashed the event twenty times, I'd conjured up an entire NEW argument and given us both speaking parts in a play of my mind's making (my speaking parts were far more eloquent, of course.)

I'd wasted all that energy on one thing that was past and something new that hadn't even happened yet.

And in fact the big, eloquent and acerbic confrontation of my imagination never happened. The next day I woke up and shrugged the whole thing off. The person I'd quarreled with left me a conciliatory voicemail and in time the entire event just washed away, all that energy wasted on nothing. Crazy.

I'm glad I pulled into the wrong driveway that night. It woke me up a little, snapped me out of my head. I try to catch myself before I get too far inside my head with stuff like that anymore, like spending three days before my dentist appointment already feeling the pain. I try not to waste two weeks before a vacation worrying about the stuff that could go wrong. Sometimes I can't stop the chattering in my brain so I get out a pen and a piece of paper and I write it all down, every worry and every fear and every possible scenario of doom. Then after I record every free-floating anxiety (and it can take some time you know, I've had five pages single-spaced, back and front of worry!) I write down exactly how I wish the event/trip/conversation would go. After I'm done, I fold the whole thing up and put it away in a shoebox. One day after I die, someone's going to find that shoebox and have a hearty laugh at Ye Olde Crazypants. But it helps me in the moment to get all the worry out of my head and into some one else's capable hands. In this case, it is the shoe box's capable hands. Whatever works, you know?

I get a lot of emails asking about how to write, or get published, or get past the fear and anxiety of what might happen "when..." I never have all the answers. Everyone is different and I'm certainly not an expert anyway. I've addressed as many questions as I could in other columns, and I'm happy to do what I can, I know how good it feels to complete something and see it through and if you want it then I want it for you, too. I want you to have your someday.

A few folks who specifically mentioned book-writing as their own personal Katie & Armando talked about the fear of failure ("someone will reject my submission...") and conversely, the fear of success ("I might have to go on book tour and people will be disappointed to meet me...") Having been in both places, all I can say is that these fears pretty much have zero to do with the work, which is writing the book. Once it's written, once it's completed, then you can start to worry about the next step. And then after that, the next. If you try to worry about all possible problems and roadblocks and failures and successes and reviews and readers and events at the very beginning, you will never put pen to paper. And without writing the actual work, none of your fears mean squat anyway.

I know people want me to be able to give them details, a plan, the specific bullet-points and mechanics of exactly how to get published. A powerpoint presentation would do nicely! But I can't give it to you -- I don't have the answers. I don't know what will work for you. I don't know where you are in your head or your plan or your book. I do know that worrying about all the what if's will keep you far away from your goal. All that wasted energy on something that hasn't even happened yet.

When you do have questions about the mechanics -- how to get started or where to go once you've got a manuscript -- there are plenty of great resources out there far more knowledgeable than Ol' Crazypants. Spend a few hours in your bookstore or library looking at the bazillion guides for aspiring writers. Go up and down the shelves and find books like yours, see who your competition would be and see who publishes them. Then go online and find out if they take submissions. But even if you know all that you still need something to submit. So put your fears in a shoebox and write. If you find you need external motivation to write, there are tons of groups you can join and workshops and classes and online this and that.

There's professional help available, too. My friend and publicist Kim Weiss has a whole business devoted to helping people along the process, her website is called Help Me With My Book.com (I love that name!) and Kim and other professionals like her can help steer you in the right direction and coach you on things like platform and proposal and marketing.

I hesitate to give advice on this or anything, I think advice is probably the one thing truly more divine to give than to receive. But I get asked for advice a lot when it comes to writing. All I know for sure is that if you worry so much about things that haven't even happened yet you can worry yourself right into paralysis. Don't get so worked up about a future that hasn't happened that you stop making progress right now. Right now is pretty much all you got.

I still catch myself sometimes having those imaginary conversations, trying to re-say something in just the perfect way, or worrying about the future. I try to stop myself before it goes on too long. I sometimes have to write a letter to the shoebox. Then I breathe and try to remind myself that all I have control over is this very minute. Worrying about the ending is silly. No one knows how it ends! The ending isn't here yet -- all that's here is this one moment, this one paragraph, this one conversation.


Sarah Everhart sat down with the reporter from KABC. She hoped the news crew in her living room only noticed the antiques, not the coffee table from IKEA.

"Will the coffee table be in the shot?" she asked the photographer.

"No," he said. He was adjusting the light, moving it into the right position. "Can you turn just a little to your left please?"

Prompted by the reporter, Sarah gave a character description of her neighbor Katie. Sometimes she trembled while talking about the day Katie had gone missing, and at one point she started crying. Just a few tears, though, not enough to really make her mascara run.

"I just want her to be OK," she said. "You never hear about stories like these turning out very happy."

That part of the interview was used to promote the story on the ten o’clock news.

- - -

"A local southland woman is missing this evening, and police and searching for leads in the case."

Cue soundbite.

Posted by laurie at 11:10 AM

April 10, 2008

Doing more with less

In late 2006 when I was at the very teetering edge of financial doom, I made a promise to myself to stop buying stuff for three months. You can read about that here, and how I got started. I had been aggressively paying down my consumer debt and legal bills for about two years and I was READY to be out from under the rock of debt, ready I tell you!

So I made a conscious effort to buy nothing but the very essentials (food, gas, cat littler, shampoo, toilet paper, wine) for three entire months. The goal was to eliminate the "I feel bad today so maybe I should buy myself this one little thing..." purchases and impulse buys and just plain old spending. Another reason for the cessation of shopping was to help me re-boot my mall-trained brain and re-evaluate what is really necessary in my life.

It was an excellent experiment and it made me much more conscious of how many times I would spend randomly just 'cause. Magazines, beauty products, house supplies, decorative crap, nail polish, shoes (it's going to be ninety degrees outside this weekend! I should buy a new pair of flip-flops to herald in the summer!) (even though I already have five pairs of flip-flops!) and all the little small and "it's on sale" stuff that adds up significantly over time.

I'm blessed and lucky because things did eventually turn around for me. I've worked hard and long to get out of debt and start saving and have enough for a nice trip or two and a coffee table that I love. But I don't want to get slide down the ladder again, I don't want to think, "Oh now that I can afford it, I want ----- and ---- and another ---, too!" I want, I want, I want. I DESERVE. I need! It's almost hard to remember that what we have isn't who we are.

I love my nice things, I am not going to lie to you. But I think my personal relationship with my stuff has changed over the past few years. I guess I noticed over time that a nice handbag didn't make me any less nervous about public speaking. Or that without a big diamond on my left hand I actually felt freer than ever. Happier than I expected. I like having pretty things, but I don't need them to make me ME.

I guess I used to think all my stuff gave me security, that it anchored me to the earth so I wouldn't just disappear, unseen and unknown to another living soul. My stuff felt like permanence, it felt comforting, it felt like it was part of me.

It was really just a whole lot of stuff I had to box up and move from place to place, pack, unpack, dust and clean. It no more made me a better human than eating cheerios for breakfast made me a track star.

It's easy to forget that we can be good, happy, interesting people without our stuff to present us to the world first. It's easy for ME to forget it. I realized all this last week as I was just about to hand my credit card over for yet another shiny, pretty thing I don't need but I knew I could now afford. I stopped for a minute. I didn't REALLY want it. And I definitely didn't NEED it. But I had wanted it back a long time ago when I didn't have two pennies to rub together, and all that time I carried it inside me thinking if I had it I would be happy. Thinking, "One day, I'm going to buy that, and I'll feel so good about life." Thinking it would be something to make me into somebody.

That's just silly. I put my card back in my wallet. I went on home and as it turns out I was not diminished at all because I hadn't bought some new shiny thing. I was pretty much the same old me I'd been all along.

I don't want to be foolish with my money ever again. Just because I'm debt-free right now doesn't entitle me to live beyond my means or spend just fore the sake of spending. And I refuse to dive back under that rock of credit card debt, I spent too long getting out of it.

Instead I think maybe I will focus a little more on all the great things already in my life.

Posted by laurie at 9:48 AM

The elusive night-appearing Bob emerges for daytime floor exercises...

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Posted by laurie at 9:10 AM

April 8, 2008

Stuff and more stuff

I'm fairly certain I spent at least ten years of my life thinking the solution to my clutter issues (or piles of assorted bits, or disorganization, or whatever) was simply that I needed to find the right storage system to house my stuff. The perfect set of matching decorative boxes or bins or a carefully measured and assembled IKEA shelving system would be JUST THE THING! finally! to solve the problem once and for all.

And so almost every single foray into decluttering began with me measuring a wall or a closet or flipping through the Ikea catalog and making a list of stuff to buy. Then I would spend the whole weekend running off to stores -- the weekend specifically set aside for decluttering, mind you -- and by Sunday night at 10 p.m. I would be siting in my house surrounded by piles of excellent organizational tools, or pink boxes with little labels, or some wacky new Swedish shelverbären thing and interestingly enough no decluttering had transpired at all. Quite the opposite.

Yes, it must have been ten full years of using that particular clutter management approach. Talk about elevating procrastination into an art form.

I'm happy that living in such a small place forced me to deal with my clutter issues. At first I wasn't the least bit happy, I was actually intensely and urgently pissed off about it. I blamed the divorce, the ex-husband, the lack of financial stability, the shitty divorce lawyer, the government, the neighbors, the state of California and also the weather. Just because.

I mean imagine being too freaked out about your life to leave your house and at the same time being too freaked out about your overwhelming clutter to stay inside your house. Crazy! I spent a lot of time that year alone on the back patio smoking cigarettes and trying to decide if fleeing to Mexico was a viable alternative. And how many cats and shoes I could fit in the Jeep before crossing the border.

Those first few months in this house were almost untenable. I wish I had taken pictures of how bad it was right after I moved in, but even I was in such shock that it wasn't funny or photo-worthy or a "story to tell one day." At the time it was shameful and embarrassing and pathetic. It was 2500-square-feet of a ruined marriage moved into an 800-square-foot bungalow in the Valley.

I love my house now for being so small that it forced me to live within my means (in more ways than one.) The very boundaries created by this house outlined my new life. I would have to take responsibility for what I had, see what was really in front of me, make some hard decisions and get a move on if I wanted to have any life at all. It took over two years to really get the bulk of junk cleared out and now it seems manageable, even spacious sometimes. I can't believe I used to think this house was so small -- compared to places I lived growing up, it's a palace. I shared a room with my brother and lived in tiny dorm rooms and even when I first moved to Los Angeles my apartment was the size of a closet. You could make dinner, take a shower and open the front door all at the same time. But that was before -- before I maxed out my credit cards trying to buy happiness, before I tried to live up to some lifestyle I thought I wanted, before I began shopping to fill the void. Back before all that I lived pretty simply and it was nice. I love my little house for reminding me of that.

I haven't renounced stuff and gone off to live a monastic existence ("I am more pure and unsoiled by commercialism than you, you of the patent-leather handbag!") Stuff is great and I like stuff just as much as anyone. I love my new coffee table, for example. It's awesome and I like shining the kitty noseprints off it with a soft cloth. But that rampant drive toward acquiring crap has died inside me. There used to be a need, an impulse as strong as hunger to go out and buy something pretty, and that need is purely gone. I don't know if it was living within a budget for so long or just returning to a sense of myself or both. But the empty spot inside that I used to try to fill with treasures on sale is just ... gone. If I buy something now it's usually because I like it or need it or want it, but not because I think it will change my life. There's not a store out there selling what I needed to change, you can trust me on that one.

Rome was not uncluttered in a day so I do still have a few boxes and piles hiding around my house, mostly in the office. Partially this is from my medical condition, I have a terrible addiction to office supplies. It's 12-step worthy, really. At work I sometimes stand in front of the supply cabinet the way bored teenagers stand in front of the fridge and stare inside, waiting for something appetizing to jump out at me. In addition to the pens and hi-liters and post-it notes in every color, shape and size, my home office has been the repository of clutter and paperwork and tidbits. It's not cluttered in the meaningful and dramatic way it was back when I moved in -- that's a relief -- but it's a dumping ground anyway, the one place for stuff that has no real place or function. All that stuff I'm still trying to figure out what to do with it -- it's in the office.

Spring makes me want to clean and declutter and open the windows and get the cobwebs out (it's brief, so you have to harness the urge while it strikes, you know.) I've been doing a little work in the office every morning (in truth, all this was started by the dire need to find my paperwork for the scary taxes) and before long I was dragging boxes out of the corners and dumping clutter out of its assorted hiding spaces. Why do I have a box of zip drives from 1998? Why? It's that kind of clutter, the stuff you just don't want to deal with.

This spring I noticed something a little different, though, a nice change. Instead of running off to find more shelving and storage and clutter-hiding, clutter-holding, clutter-displaying contraptions to address the issue of my home office, I started actually removing the clutter. Bags of stuff for the trash, recycling, the shredder, goodwill, more trash. I finally wiped the hard drive of that ancient computer and found a place to donate it. Finally got rid of the power cord to nothing, the broken tape recorder, the papers I was sure I would need someday for a car I do not even own.

It appears I have finally given up hope that the solution to my clutter problem is buying more clutter. I don't need new shelves or a fancier office-supply labeling mechanism or a better closet organizer. I just have too much crap for one small room and need to get rid of it.

What a relief! I don't have to buy anything new or assemble complicated free-standing shelving components. I don't have to squint at pages of unreadable assembly directions illustrated with asexual creatures in overalls. I don't have to hope Target has some particleboard thingamajig on sale to hold my stuff. I don't have to scour Home Depot and The Container Store and OSH for new shelves that will fit the bizarro 1940s dimensions of my closet or new boxes that will fit on new shelves and conceal even more stuff.

I just have to pare down a little more. Get rid of some crap. It's really the solution to the problem.

Posted by laurie at 2:48 PM

Ouch

There was no parking at the park 'n ride today. I even got there early, but the lot was full and all the street parking for three blocks was full. How is that possible?

Oh yeah, I forgot:

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And it's only April.

Posted by laurie at 8:59 AM

April 7, 2008

Where the wild things grow

After taking some time off to go gallivanting and so on, I found myself back home on Saturday with a cold beer in one hand and a garden hose in the other. That is what heralds the beginning of spring in my life, even if it does occur a few weeks after the arrival of said season. The cold beer is the tip-off.

With the new gardeners the yard is finally green and healthy-ish. They're stealthy, they come and leave and I never see them, but the hedge on the side of the house has come back to life and even the orange tree, which I never knew until this year was an orange tree because of the severe pruning skills of one Francisco, has big juicy oranges all over it and they're not half bad if I do say so myself.

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It looks like a shrub from this angle, but it is indeed a tree.

Every year in a fit of hope and optimism I plant a few things and spend a whole weekend getting dirty and hauling bags of soil around and washing out my rather astonishing collection of containers (years of city life and renting has made me an excellent container gardener) (if by "excellent" you mean "has a lot of pots with dead stuff in them") and then I hope it all grows and that's pretty much the sum total of my gardening experience, year after year. Although this year it's different, this year I am far less ambitious than in the past mainly because I know from the outset that my time available for gardening comes down to about twelve minutes per month, and also because I live in the valley where it will soon be 118 degrees in the shade and all things green will shrivel and wither and become kindling. And out of all the money I spent in the past two years of gardening and making raised-beds and buying great soil and soil amending stuff and seedlings and tomato cages and fertilizer and SO ON, the only thing I managed to grow in two years time has been a bumper crop of my dad's chili pequin peppers, which are still alive and thriving and I even have all these seeds for replanting this year:

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And, of course, the zucchini.

I planted two lousy seedlings last year in the raised bed out back and they took over the entire yard, producing over a hundred 20-pound zukes and filling the house, the office and darkening the neighbor's doorsteps. I got piles of email from kind readers with zucchini bread recipes and I didn't have the heart to tell them my oven hasn't been used since late 2005. The zucchini kept coming and eventually I stopped going into the back garden altogether for fear one had ensnared a small animal or was plotting a path to the main house. Finally, the gardeners must have gotten tired of the spindly long vines crawling across the back garden and one day last September I came home and the whole lot of zukes had been stripped and cleared and put out in the green can by the curb.

I was free, at last.

So this year I decided to be far more sensible about this whole gardening thing. I bought the one thing I've wanted forever, a small dwarf Meyer Lemon three, perfect for the giant empty pot that used to hold my pencil cactus, pre-2006 freeze:

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I've got my pepper plants of course, pruned and trimmed and already sprouting new leaves. And I invested $2.49 in a little group of bush cucumber seedlings, we'll see how they do. One lousy cucumber at Whole Foods was the same cost as the cucumber plant at the nursery, so I took a chance. Bet big or go home! Right?

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And then I went out back to survey the back 40, and see what I might grow in the raised bed where the zukes had taken over. I thought I might do a pumpkin this year, or try again with the watermelon project. And out there, in the arid unloved raised bed, I spied something popping up from the dirt.


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Yes -- it's lone zucchini seedling, popping up in my raised garden bed.

It's going to be a long summer, I see.

Posted by laurie at 9:23 AM