Monday, November 30, 2009

The NaNoWriMo Song

Woo hoo!

Special congrats to my husband and youngest sister, both of whom also won NaNoWriMo . . . and beat me to the finish line!

(For my Facebook friends, I know the embedded video doesn't come through so here's the link: )

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

And special thanks to our Maryland family for hosting us so delightfully.

(Gratuitous piece of information: the girls LOVED the plane trip.)

As for me, I'm finishing up NaNoWriMo (note sidebar).  Back soon!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

It's Not Time

Earlier today a good friend sent me an email with the subject: It's Time.

She linked to a article called "How to Look (at least) Ten Years Younger" and said:

Look at photo 2 before and after...this is what you should do with your hair!!!  Today!!! 

Here's the image:

She does look fabulous.  Of course, according to the text accompanying the photo, she's also 54 years old, with a dull complexion and coarse, gray hair.


I turned thirty-five this fall and have been thinking unhappy thoughts about aging.  And it's true that my hair has more gray in it than it had a couple of years ago.  (The gray is made more obvious by the fact that my hair is dark and very long.)  This brings up the awkward question of coloring.  I have never colored my hair.  Never!  And I don't want to!  I like natural hair.  I like my natural hair.  I like the idea of growing old naturally and celebrating that.  And yet.

I am not ready to go gray.

But I don't want to further damage my hair.  I don't want the expense and time commitment of maintaining a coloring regimen.  I don't want to stain my towels or pillowcases or even to have to think about staining towels or pillowcase (or shirts since I frequent dress and leave the house with wet hair).  Plus, my naturally aging mother will be very disappointed.  And yet.

I'd rather not have long, scraggly gray hair.  Yet.

I told my friend that it's not yet time for me, because:
  1. I still like my long hair
  2. I can't presently afford to color my hair, and
  3. I need a cut with wash-and-go capability.  Or, as I wrote her back, "My hair might look like crap when I don't style it, but it's a simple cut so it's functional. I've had shorter/layered/styled hair before and it requires daily maintenance.  We can pretend that I'm going to become a person who gets up an hour early to style her hair every time she washes it, but it's unrealistic and simply not going to happen.
    I've made that decision before and it just sets me up for failure and extremely crappy hair." 

(I'm arching my back in this picture to make my hair look longer. The picture was taken a few months ago, so my hair really is this long now but perhaps due to winter humidity is no longer quite as curly.  Anyway, the arched back and tipped head are why I seem to have no neck or waist in the photo.)

      Sunday, November 22, 2009

      Because We Can

      I'm adamant that we not start celebrating Christmas before Thanksgiving. Ellie's choir is working on their Christmas show, but other than that we don't sing Christmas music or watch Christmas videos. And our house is still decorated with pumpkins and turkeys and leaves, browns and oranges and yellows.

      But this year . . . I don't know. I'm feeling a little ready.

      Today we watched Shrek the Halls for the first time - but certainly not the last - of the the season.

      As always, I wonder what's the song at the beginning of the Christmas Eve dance party in the swamp. I'm taking about the very first hard beat followed by, "Yipee yah yah yah yah yah-oo! o-o!"

      Shockingly enough, googling the lyrics didn't get me very far.

      So I did what any curious and competitive wife might do: I challenged my husband to a Google-off!

      It was much harder than you might think the find the answer.

      And I won!

      Of course, by the time I solved the puzzle, Paul had moved on to playing Super Mario Galaxy on the Wii (the girls were playing downstairs and we a few minutes before dinner was ready). So it wasn't really much of a competition. But still: success!

      (For the curious, the song is Because We Can by Fatboy Slim. I've never seen Moulin Rouge.)

      Credit to AvatarsDB for the image.

      Thursday, November 19, 2009

      They Call this Soccer

      And it's fabulous.

      Wednesday, November 18, 2009

      Take, Eat

      A kindergarten teacher gave her class a “show and tell” assignment. Each student was instructed to bring in an object to share with the class that represented their religion. The first student got up in front of the class and said, “My name is Benjamin and I am Jewish and this is a Star of David.”

      The second student got up in front of the class and said, “My name is Mary. I’m a Catholic and this is a Rosary.”

      The third student got in up front of the class and said, “My name is Tommy. I am a Presbyterian, and this is a casserole."

      I found this here.

      The congregation to which we currently belong does less with casseroles than others I've attended, but I like the spirit of this joke. This is where Christian community is for me, for my family of faith. In sharing a meal together. In smothering a hurting/mourning/celebrating/busy family with hot dishes. When a new baby is born, we take over a blanket and a casserole and the message is this: when things get rough, we are here for warmth and comfort and nourishment. We learn together, worship together, play together. And we always bring food.

      As we serve, we say: "Come, share this bread with me."

      Tuesday, November 17, 2009

      Monday, November 16, 2009

      The Talker Teacher

      Ellie's classmates like Hannah Montana and super heroes. Ellie is less interested than she used to be in Pixar movies and early morning cartoons (Dora the Explorer is apparently so preschool). But I won't let her watch Hannah Montana or super hero movies.

      Lately, the girls have been into The Little Mermaid. We talk about how Ariel wanted to be human before she even met Prince Eric; the human world always held a strong draw for her. We talk about how she rescued him, then he rescued her, then they fought the evil Sea Witch together. It's an imperfect movie but it's not so bad and they're having fun with it.

      Two of the scenes the girls are most interested in this week are the wedding scenes. So Paul and I brought out our wedding album and showed the girls. I can't believe we'd never done that! Ada's been walking around for days, saying, "You got married, Mommy? You got married, Daddy? Mommy, you married Daddy? Daddy, you have a pretty ring."

      They loved looking at the pictures and recognizing our church, their aunts, uncles, and grandparents.

      "That's Grandpa!" Ada said, looking at a picture of my dad officiating at the wedding ceremony, wearing his robe and stole. "He's the Talker Teacher!"

      Out of the mouths of babes.

      Sunday, November 15, 2009


      First: Low Income Women Can't Get Abortions, But RNC Staffers Can
      The Republican National Committee's health insurance plan covers elective abortion - a procedure the party's own platform calls "a fundamental assault on innocent human life."

      Federal Election Commission Records show the RNC purchases its insurance from Cigna. Two sales agents for the company said that the RNC's policy covers elective abortion.


      Leading up to passage of the House health care reform bill last week, 176 House Republicans joined 64 Democrats in voting for the so-called Stupak amendment, a measure that prohibits federal funds from being used to buy health insurance that covers elective abortions.

      So, abortion's OK if you work for the RNC but not if you don't? Makes no sense. Now that the policy - which has been in place since 1991 - has come to light, the RNC says it will change its plan to stop covering elective abortion.

      Second: Homeless Held Hostage by Catholic Church in D.C. Fight for Gay Marriage

      If gay couples are allowed to marry in our nation's capitol, the Catholic Diocese of D.C. will cut off social services to the city's homeless.


      According to the Post, roughly one-third of the city's homeless population currently receive services from Catholic Charities, the Church's charity arm. That's about 68,000 people who will be cut off from shelters, medical services, food programs.

      I understand that the Roman Catholic Church feels strongly about the issue of gay marriage. But what do gay marriage and hunger and homelessness have to do with each other? Is it worth letting people go hungry and cold - in the winter! - because the city in which they live holds a political position the Church finds problematic? Are starving, freezing people less important than a political position?

      Thursday, November 12, 2009

      Tuesday, November 10, 2009

      What's Sexy?

      What's sexy?  Sharing NaNoWriMo with a writing spouse.  Taking a break to watch our favorite TV show.  Writing some more.

      What's not sexy?  Snotty noses.  Toenails long and sharp enough to draw blood. 

      But I still love you, honey.  From a slight distance, but I still love you.

      Sunday, November 08, 2009

      How Women Look

      Unhealthy body images abound. There are women in magazines vs. women in real life. On one hand, the women in magazines are often extremely thin or unnaturally proportioned (more on that in a moment). On the other hand, women in real life are often overweight.

      I'm sure that many of you have seen this video from the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty. It's always worth a look:

      Have you also been following the flap over professional model Phillipa Hamilton? She says she was fired by Ralph Lauren for being too fat ("You no longer fit into our clothes") despite the fact that she says her weight has not fluctuated over the 8 years of her employment.

      Maybe that's not so wrong in the fashion industry. And she hasn't sued her former employer for wrongful termination. The way the situation became public was when Ralph Lauren released an advertisement featuring Hamilton in which she was photoshopped to humanly impossible proportions. Her head was bigger than her pelvis.

      I've heard graphic artists defend this sort of photoshopping by talking about the difference between art and reality. But when it comes to marketing images, it seems obvious to me that the line is less fluid. If you want to create interesting conceptual art depicting humanoid creatures and display it on the wall of a gallery, have at it, man. But if you want to sell actual clothes to actual women and the picture proports to a photograph of a woman wearing the clothes, well it should probably do so!

      In the process of manufacturing images from photographs and blurring the line between art and marketing, the artist is shaping what we as a society see as attractive.

      Shouldn't a marketing campaign show the product itself in its most flattering light, rather than creating a product that does not - and can not - exist? Does that not come dangerously close to the idea of false marketing? In fashion, make great clothes and show them on tall skinny models, we get that. But to take those tall, skinny models and digitally alter them still further? This crosses a line, in my opinion.

      For the record, this is how Ralph Lauren photoshopped Phillipa Hamilton.  And this is how she looks in another photo.  (Google her or watch the video below for more.)

      Hamilton is 5'10" tall and 120 pounds, which gives her a BMI of 17.2 - officially underweight. "Healthy" starts at a BMI of 18.5. (In order to hit the bottom of a healthy BMI range, Hamilton would have to gain nine pounds.)

      There are problems with BMI as a tool for determining if one is overweight or obese in part because it doesn't take muscle mass or frame size into consideration. My husband and I often joke that if he achieved what our Wii Fit suggests as a healthy weight for him, he'd no longer be capable of performing all the exercises it offers.

      Similarly, when I am at what is - for me - a very healthy, strong, fit, attractive weight, my BMI is on the cusp between "healthy" and "overweight." Yet at that weight I am by no stretch of the imagination "fat" and if I were to lose additional weight, much of it would be muscle!

      "In the developed world anorexia nervosa is the third most common chronic condition of adolescence."

      Yet the vast majority of "health" coverage in the media related to children and weight is about obesity. And the media reports themselves are fueled by advertisements promoting unhealthily thin women and girls.

      So what is fair? Surely, companies should be allowed to use create artwork to sell their products. My suggestion is that when photos are edited beyond the retouching of blemishes, there should be a disclaimer on the image itself.

      And we consumers need to be more conscientious about voting against these practices with our dollars.

      Thursday, November 05, 2009

      Ellie's Peter Pan Birthday Party

      Photo Legends: Paul's map of Neverland in the foyer, Indian Camp in the family room, part of Pirate's Cove/Mermaid Lagoon in the basement (lagoon itself not pictured at other end of "plank"), fairy flower treasure hunt, playing outside, You Can Fly game in the living room, pirate ship/Neverland Island cakes in Tinker's Nook.

      Wednesday, November 04, 2009

      Contest Winner and Sneak Preview

      First, thanks to everyone who participated in The Stiletto Gang's Hallopalooza scavenger hunt!

      Since there were 22 entrants for the drawing at Yeah, but Houdini Didn't Have these Hips, I did a an actual write names on paper, cut, and have disinterested third party select a slip of paper drawing.

      I mean "disinterested" very seriously; I pulled my husband away from PragProWriMo to choose a winner.

      Congratulations to LibraryMom! An email is coming your way.

      In other news, please check back here on December 2nd for the next meeting of Barrie Summy's Book Review Club. I plan to review The Surrendered Wife by Laura Doyle.

      You heard me right!

      An Apple Pie for Dinner

      This month, for Barrie Summy's Book Review Club, I'm writing about An Apple Pie for Dinner retold by Susan Vanhecke and illustrated by Carol Baicker-McKee.

      This is my first "sponsored" review, by which I mean that the publisher sent me a copy of the book to review. At first I was excited! Then I was worried. What if I didn't like the book? Worse, what if my kids didn't like it?

      They're sort of "off" new things, lately. And they each definitely have favorite books they like to read. Over. And over. And over. We have three bookcases, each with 3-4 shelves, stuffed full of children's picture books and board books. Additional children's books are stashed on bedside tables, busy bags in the car, and beside nearly every chair in the house. (Adult books are largely confined to the floor-to-ceiling bookcases in the basement and one small bookcase in Paul's and my bedroom.) We are readers. But we are very opinionated readers.

      So I introduced An Apple Pie for Dinner with some trepidation.

      Our first time through the new book, Ada (age 2-1/2) and Ellie (age 6) listened quietly then requested Where the Wild Things Are.

      The second day, I included An Apple Pie for Dinner in my stack of suggested books for naptime (Ada) and bedtime (Ellie). They both picked it first. And we've read it at least once a day all week.

      This is a rousing endorsement, indeed! But what do they actually like about the book? Is it the illustrations? The story itself? The idea of the quest? I asked Ellie, who walked away shaking her head.

      I asked Ada, who also looked at me like I was crazy. "Apple pie. For dinner."

      Oh, that.

      So let me tell you why I like the book, instead.

      The illustrations caught me first. "This is a fabulous graphics program," I thought. "I had no idea you could make this sort of thing with computers. I wonder how it's done. It looks so real! But no way did the illustrator create textured diorama/mural art pieces for every single page." Oh, but she did. From the endpages:

      Carol Baiker-McKee created three-dimensional, mixed-media bas-reliefs to illustrate this book. Carol explains: "Mixed media is just a fancy way of saying that I created the artwork from lots of things, including fabric scraps sewn into clothing, embroidery, baked polymer clay, pipe cleaners, pieces of wood, and interesting things rescued from the trash and bought at rummage sales."

      The art makes the book worthwhile, all by itself.

      But the story is great, too. It's based on an old English folktale (The Apple Dumpling) which might be why the plot seemed slightly familiar to me. But I'd never heard the story told quite this way.

      Granny Smith wanted to make apple pie, and she had everything she needed, except apples. She did, however, have plums. So she packed a basket full of plums and set off to find someone who wanted plums and had apples. Instead, she found a woman who wanted plums but had feathers. And so it went until Granny finally found a man with an apple orchard who just happened to need what she had in her basket at the time.

      I don't want to spoil the ending, but the story winds up with every character in the story eating apple pie for dinner at old Granny Smith's house.

      Click on over to the author's website to see some of the artwork and decide if a journey through the book isn't worthwhile, even knowing that there's a Happily Ever After ending.

      I'm still having fun after twice daily readings for a week. Our current challenge is to find all the hidden ladybugs. Because a good children's book entertains the reader as well as the listener and this one does that.

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      @Barrie Summy

      Sunday, November 01, 2009

      Balls in the Air

      I'm a deadline person. As a due date approaches it draws my full attention like a beacon and I focus until I've met my goal. This process has worked well for me for 35 years, but I'm currently finding myself with quite a lot of beacons causing light pollution in my brain.

      First and foremost, I'm a mother, now. And not just a mother, but a mother of children who have activities and responsibilities. School, classes, meetings, conferences, therapies, sports, commitments, stuff, junk, and above all, PAPERWORK. Keeping on top of all that could easily be a full-time job.

      But it's not because there's no time for it to be!

      There's the need to exercise. And eat right. I find focusing on those two activities much easier when I can let other things go. Like housework, which I can't let slide too far because it seems I'm having people over a lot lately. So there's hosting/event organizing for the list, too.

      And editing my work in progress. And freelancing to pay the bills. And, oh, look at the date! November is National Novel Writing Month and I'm nearly 2000 words into my new novel.

      Plus we have this influenza A/H1N1/swine flu joy, which hobbles us all. (Ellie's the one who's sickest at this point, but she's on Tamiflu and she's doing OK. I'm trying to embrace the required quarantine and see it as an excuse to loosen the schedule a bit.)

      Despite all the more immediate activities, I can't forget that Christmas is coming and homemade gifts don't make themselves the week of December 20th.

      So forget fun things like reading novels and watching television and playing Nintendo. Perhaps I'll work them back into the rotation in January!