Thursday, April 27, 2006

Thursday Thirteen - "Interesting" people

Thirteen "Interesting" people Jessica has met

1. Freshman year of college, I had a roommate who was known on campus as one of "The Twins." She and her sister were pretty, blond, wore lots of makeup and quite large breasted. (I was none of those things - but I digress.) The Twins were also drug dealers who sold cocaine to members of the football team.

2. My roommate's boyfriend (then fiance and finally husband) was a drug dealer who dabbled in insurance fraud outside of Boston. He carried a gun. How do I know he carried a gun? Because when I went to see my roommate during spring break, he came home at lunch and took off his sport coat so I would see his gun in the holster thingy he wore on his chest. Needless to say, I didn't eat much lunch.

3. When I lived in New York in the mid '80s, I had several friends who worked at investment banking firms. One memorable summer, a bunch of us rented a house in the Hamptons. I could only afford a share of a few weekends. (Well, actually, I couldn't afford shit. My mom gave me the money because she felt bad for me even though she couldn't really afford shit either). Anyway, in about May of that year, one of the guys - my friend's boyfriend - was indicted for insider trading. He was accused of selling information to a Taiwanese business man. He, of course, lost his job and spent the entire summer at the house in the Hamptons (rough life) dodging the press that couldn't seem to get a picture of him. (Geez, now that I think of it, I could've taken a picture and sold it for enough to buy my own friggin' house in the Hamptons. Man, I was short-sighted.) Anyway, the guy was eventually convicted (or maybe he plead guilty, I can't remember now) and did some jail time.

4. Back in March, I talked about my "roommate" in Connecticut during the summer that I housesat. He was a Christian Rock singer from Oklahoma. It's almost unfair to call him "interesting" in the way I consider my top 3 people "interesting." He was a nice guy. Just really, really different from me. I have nothing against Christian Rock singers from Oklahoma. Seriously.

5. In that same Thursday Thirteen post I talked about most (if not all) of my crazy bosses. So I'll lump them all together for #5 - the severely obese manager of the local Baskin Robbins who didn't like kids, the crazy "creative" guy who nearly threw a Pitney Bowes stamping machine at my head and the other crazy creative guy who didn't like the fact that I left my computer on overnight (among other things).

6. When I lived in New York, I had a boyfriend who was a bike messenger. With an earring and a tattoo. If you knew me in person, this would really surprise you. I mean, come on - I'm a lawyer for a very WASPy company in Chicago, I send my kids to private school and I'm wearing a sweater set at this very moment. People like me don't date bike messengers. Usually. (Not that I have anything against bike messengers. Seriously.) At the time, I was having a mid-twenties crisis or something. But when I found out that he had been a heroin user (and might have still been at the time we were dating) I got out right quick. Plus he had a cat that hated me. And that was a serious deal-breaker.

7. At one point in between stints in NY after college, I worked as a temp in the law office where my Mom was a legal secretary. I was one of several temps working on a project where various franchise documents were converted from one word processing system to another. We sat in a windowless room every day, eight hours a day, proofreading the most boring documents ever written. So we spent most of the time talking to each other and became friends, of sorts. There was one guy who was probably the most socially inept person I've ever come across. He would wear the same shirt every day - even when he got blood stains on it from cutting his chin shaving. He didn't shower very often and was a big fan of Edgar Cayce. (Not that I have anything against Edgar Cayce fans. Seriously.)

8. One of the other guys was a former model and member of some band in London. He was one of the most beautiful people I have ever seen. And he was a really nice guy. And he wasn't gay. Seriously. But he was painfully boring (not that I wouldn't have dated him if he was interested, but he wasn't). We went out to dinner once, just the two of us. I've never been out with someone who turns heads like he did. People would stop in their tracks to look at him. He'd have people literally staring at him and either he was totally oblivious to it or he simply learned to ignore it. I am so sure that people were saying to themselves "What the hell is a gorgeous guy like that doing with that average looking thing?"

9. We had a nanny for our kids that was so pretty, most men would do a head turn thing when they saw her. It really made her uncomfortable. She was interesting because she came from a very wealthy Mexican family - they own a chain of hotels and lots of real estate. She grew up with servants. Literally. At the time, she was here with her boyfriend who was from a working class family. He worked delivering pizza. She wanted to see what it was like to work, she wanted to speak better English and she likes kids so she got a nanny job. We've never had anyone who worked harder than she did. The kids were well taken care of and the house was spotless when we came home. She would work with our oldest daughter to teach her how to clean her room and put her own clothes away (with our blessing, of course) because she said, "I don't want her to learn to be lazy, like I was as a child." 9/11 really freaked her out and she went back to Mexico a few months later. She has since dumped her working class boyfriend (who is still working here for the pizza place) and is apparently going to marry a guy from another really rich family. And she's not working anymore. Go figure.

10. I know this doesn't really count because I didn't actually meet the guy, but when I was working for the TV commercial production company, Tom Petty called to talk to one of the directors (who had been a big music video cinematographer) and I answered the phone. I said "May I help you?" to Tom Petty, people! You so want to be me.

11. And while we're on the subject of famous people I've come into contact with, this guy is one of our neighbors (ok, so he's only sort of famous and only in Chicago. But still.) See, you DO want to be me.

12. Staying with the theme . . . I had lunch (and several Bloody Marys) with this famous blogger. I can honestly say that I knew her before she had a following approaching that of The Dooce. Does that give me extra brownie points?

13. I know I'm cheating you out of a thirteenth but a girl can only know so many "interesting" people in her 41 years. Give me a few years - I'm sure I'll have more!

See the Sidebar for loads of links to other Thursday Thirteens!

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It’s easy, and fun! Be sure to update your Thirteen with links that are left for you, as well! I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 13 things. Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Enough already

I am soooo soooo sick and tired of hearing about Tom and Katy and Suri and Britney and Kevin and Paris and Nicole and Branjelina and whoever the hell the other "it" people of the moment happen to be. It's not like I'm so damn serious that I want to hear only about the war in Iraq and how ridiculously high oil prices have gotten. I'm ok with hearing about the occasional celebrity siting, new movie premiere, sports star shenanigans and other lighthearted fare. But, seriously, enough of the obsession with the lives of people that happen to make movies for a living. They are NO DIFFERENT than you and I except they have gobs more money and think it's a good idea to inject obscene amounts of collagen into their lips and other body parts.

Monday, April 24, 2006

That explains it

I took my five year old daughter to the zoo yesterday. Our neighbors joined us with their six year old daughter and four year old son. We were in line for lunch at the food court and I was goofing around with their son. He said "You're crazy!" and my daughter said (quite loudly for someone who is usually so quiet we constantly have to tell her to speak up) "She's not crazy. She's old! She's 41 years old you know."


Friday, April 21, 2006

Check it out!

Check out my new "tag cloud" in the sidebar by a site called ZoomCloud. Apparently, this thing looks at the last 10 or so posts and pulls out frequently used terms. Then it weights them, putting the most used terms in the biggest font and places them alphabetically in the "cloud." If you click on a term, it will take you to a list of posts on my blog that use that term.

I know it's in alphabetical order but I find it somewhat disturbing that "attachment parenting" is the first thing on the list and is in a HUGE font. (Great, now that I've used that term again, it'll stay huge for the next two weeks!). I only used it in one post. Okay, two. If you read the post where I referenced the parenting strategy that shall no longer be named, that was the "ideal" espoused in certain parenting books that made me feel horrible about myself.

There is a function that helps you help the tag cloud figure out what terms to highlight. So I guess I can go in there and tell it NEVER to mention that particular thing again. But I think I'll let it do its thing for awhile and see where it goes.

I love technology. But if I'm being honest, I love it mostly because it gives me great little toys to play with while I procrastinate!

Happy Friday!

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Thursday Thirteen - Space Cadet version

Thirteen Examples of Jessica's Space Cadet Nature
1. Last week was spring break. Before break, there was an announcement that the school would have a spirit week, starting with Pajama Day on Monday. We weren't sure whether spirit week was the week after break or the next week. My kids thought Pajama Day was the Monday after break. Not wanting them to be embarrassed by being the only kids in school wearing pajamas, I thought it would be a good idea to check the school's online newsletter. Which I did. And I told the kids they were right so they wore pajamas to school on Monday. You guessed it - Spirit Week is NEXT WEEK. My kids were just about the only kids in school with their pj's on.

2. I was so upset with myself and apologized to them about one hundred times. My five year old said "That's ok Mom. It wasn't as bad as the time you switched our lunches." Oh, that makes me feel so much better!

3. M Girl wanted bacon for breakfast last week. I look in the fridge and said "There's no bacon." My husband (who does all the shopping and generally knows these things) said "Check again, I think we have another package." So I checked again and confirmed that we were out of bacon. You are so smart - you guessed it again! We had a package of bacon. Right in the drawer where I looked. Twice.

4. We're finally putting our balcony gardens together. We have three balconies - one attached to each of the kitchen, dining room and den. We've put some planters on the kitchen and dining room balconies. Before I went to work, I wanted to ask my husband to check periodically during the day to see how much direct sun the balcony off the dining room gets. He kept saying "Wait. I'm confused. What balcony?" And I kept repeating myself. Three times, I think. Finally he came up to me, looked me in the eye and, with a smile (bless him) said "Honey, are you sure you want me to check the DEN balcony? Or are you talking about the dining room balcony? You keep saying den."

5. I am so lucky to have a husband who knows he should listen to what I MEAN and not what I SAY .

6. Where was I?

7. Oh, right. I was writing about how spacey I've been lately.

8. I realize that the title of this entry is misleading. I don't actually have thirteen examples of how spacey I am. Well, I suppose if I could remember things better, I might be able to come up with thirteen. But the point is, I'm not thinking very clearly these days.

9. Does anyone think I need a vacation? Or maybe a nap. A vacation takes too much work. (Says the woman whose husband does the vast majority of the vacation planning).

10. Have I mentioned lately how lucky I am to have a husband who accommodates my spacey nature and loves me anyway?

11. Love you, honey!

12. Oops. I just realized I forgot to eat lunch. I think I'll go do that.

13. Have a great week everyone!

See the Sidebar for loads of links to other Thursday Thirteens!

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. ItÂ’s easy, and fun! Be sure to update your Thirteen with links that are left for you, as well! I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 13 things. Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

Wednesday, April 19, 2006


"BAGHDAD, Iraq - Separate groups of gunmen entered two primary schools in Baghdad on Wednesday and beheaded two teachers in front of their students, the Ministry of State for National Security said."

Why? Who could do such a thing? What purpose could such brutality serve? I ache for those children . . . for all the children in the world that are growing up amid violence and hatred.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Maybe I'm just grumpy . . .

Am I the only person bothered by the title of this book (12 Simple Secrets Real Moms Know : Getting Back to Basics and Raising Happy Kids). The reason it bugs me is that it implies that "real" moms know something that the rest of us "fake" moms don't know. And the kicker - the stuff real moms know is really simple so if you don't know the same stuff, not only are you a fake mom, you're stupid too. Also, I'm not sure it's our job to make our kids happy (especially because our kids would be happy if we gave them a dumpster full of candy and let them watch Cartoon Network every day but that really wouldn't be good parenting, now would it?) - but that's a whole other post.

As regular readers of this blog know, I am a total self-help book junkie. Maybe I'm pulling back from that addiction because this is totally a book I would have bought a few years ago. But now, with the benefit of nearly 8 1/2 years of childrearing experience, I can say with confidence that any book that claims to have simple answers to questions about raising kids is full of shit. Of course, that's just my opinion.

The truth is, after our second daughter was born, I gave away every child rearing book we bought (with only a couple exceptions). Not because I thought we knew all the answers but because the books only made me more confused, less likely to follow my own instincts (and my husband's) and made me feel guilty for not being the kind of mother the books said I should be.

For instance, the books about attachment parenting by Dr. Sears made me totally nuts. I think I was about as attached as a parent could be after A Girl was born. That kid was constantly attached to one breast or another. Seriously. I was a human pacifier. I am still amazed that I was able to go back to work without her still attached to me. The attachment parenting books said things like "an attached parent instinctively knows what her baby wants when she cries." Ok, maybe some people are infant mind readers but not me. I think I had it easier than the average parent because when she cried, it pretty much meant I needed to whip out a boob and all would be right with the world again. But there were times when I had no clue what the hell she wanted and frankly, I'm convinced she didn't either. (In fact, just last night she asked me "Do you ever just feel like crying for no reason?") I won't opine on whether attachment parenting is good or not because I couldn't bring myself to finish the book.

Then there are the books designed to get your child to sleep. Don't even get me started. Every book out there claims to have THE answer to solving the baby sleep problem. The book that so many people rave about - the Weissbluth book - was my least favorite. He happens to be the head pediatrician at the practice our children go to. I've met him briefly and he seems to be a nice man. However - he has a whole chapter of his book devoted to blasting mothers who don't let their children cry it out. He says, basically, those mothers have bad relationships with their husbands and are using the child to avoid their relationship issues. There's also language in the book that made me cringe about kids who don't sleep well growing up to be fat and stupid. I know first hand the evils of sleep deprivation. I know that it's important for kids to learn to fall asleep on their own. I also know that my desire to "rescue" my baby from crying too much was not necessarily in her best interest in the long-run. BUT - to malign all mothers who find it difficult to let their babies cry until they throw up (the babies, not the moms) is ridiculous. The whole tone of his book is that if you don't do what the great doctor says, you're a bad parent and your children are doomed to a life of sorrow. Maybe in my sleep-deprived state I was a tad sensitive but, honestly, I think that's the LAST thing new parents need to hear.

So, back to the reason I even started this post. To me, there's no one right way to do things when it comes to raising a family. There's only a right way to do things for your family. Unless you're outright abusing your kids, no one should judge you for making the choices that work for your situation. Some people swear by the cry it out method of getting your kids to sleep. We tried it and it was a complete failure (mainly because my oldest was as stubborn as they come). Eventually, we figured out a few things that worked for us and she's a fairly well-adjusted 8 year old who sleeps very well. With our second, I don't remember it being as big an issue. I was lucky enough to be able to nurse our kids for a full year each and I used to be pretty judgmental about mothers who didn't nurse. But I realize now that everyone faces their own challenges and what worked for me and my family might not work for them. Maybe I should write a book about it and call it "Raising a Family: Some stuff that worked for me and might work for you but if it doesn't that's ok." What do you think?

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Nothing to say

Really. For once in my life, I have nothing to say. There are lots of thoughts floating around in my head, colliding with one another. I can't decide whether the best analogy is a bunch of bubbles bumping into each other, some merging and becoming bigger, some bursting or whether it's more like swirling protons, crashing and splitting into unrecognizable particles. Either way, I can't seem to form a coherent idea. I am a true space cadet today.

So, why am I blogging on a day like today? Because I said I want to write more and if I'm going to do that, I just can't sit around waiting for the perfect idea to materialize. The way my brain is working (or not) these days, I'll never write another thing if I don't just sit down and do it.

Here's a sampling of the crap in my head:

We saw Spelling Bee, The Musical this weekend. It was good, you should see it.
I have lots of books I'm reading. I really should finish a few of them. The pile of books on my nightstand is taller than I am. And I'm not short.
I wish I didn't have to go to my 3:00 meeting.
I really like the song on my iPod right now. It's called San Francisco by Secondhand Jive.
Should I eat something? I'm not sure if I'm hungry or just feel like eating. Can I take a nap?
I need to call my mom. Soon. Maybe later. God, I don't feel like having a conversation with anyone right now.

I'm not sure if it's PMS or a new medication I'm taking or if I'm just crazy. Maybe the shrinkage in my brain caused by child birth is now catching up with me. Or I've lost too many brain cells watching Spongebob with the kids. I don't know.

Ok, now I'm going to my 3:00 meeting and I will make an attempt to appear intelligent. The only problem is that sometimes when I try to appear smart, I end up looking just the opposite. Maybe if I keep my mouth shut and look like I'm thinking intelligent thoughts, that'll do the trick. I'll let you know how it works out.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Thursday Thirteen - blah, blah, blah

Thirteen Ramblings

1. I am not a big fan of chocolate. Weird. I know. Pretty much everyone loves chocolate, don't they? I must be missing a gene or something.

2. More than almost anything, I'd like to have a container garden. We have three balconies on our apartment, all devoid of growing things (except spiders and that creeps me out).

3. So what's holding me back? I have a black thumb. If I were to start a garden, I'd go and spend lots of cash on containers and plants and all the plants would be dead in a month. The containers would sit there, empty and sad for five years before I either got rid of them or got all optimistic again about my ability to grow something.

4. My kids would probably like having a little garden. If I thought I could actually get them to help on a regular basis (without a lot of badgering and ill-advised yelling), maybe I'd do it. But that reminds me of when I was a kid, living in a house with my two brothers, two step-brothers and one step-sister. We were all able bodied and our parents figured we could rake and mow the lawn as part of our chores. ha ha. Within a few months after we moved in, one of our neighbors left an anonymous, type-written note in our mailbox that said something like: "Your lawn is a mess and the leaves from your lawn are blowing all over the neighborhood. Your neighbors spend a lot of money and effort maintaining their lawns and you're messing it all up. Get your act together."

5. That week, my dad hired the same lawn service all our neighbors used. Come to think of it, maybe it was the lawn service that left the note . . .

6. I really can't wait for Spring. (I know, my kids have informed me several times that technically it IS Spring but someone forgot to tell Mother Nature that it's not supposed to be 30 degrees outside during Spring. How the hell are the tulips supposed to bloom when it's so damn cold?)

7. I've decided I don't want to be controversial right now. Mostly I want to concentrate on the writing that I'm not doing much of. Whenever I post about my struggles with writing (like here and here) I get great advice from the community. I'd like to use that community support to get myself writing more.

8. So my latest struggle is naming my characters. Perhaps I just need to let go of the struggle and allow the characters to name themselves. Sometimes, when we try too hard we make things impossible.

9. Speaking of struggling, I'm struggling with this post. I'm almost never at a loss for words except when I need them.

10. Who besides me was TOTALLY surprised that Mandisa got booted from American Idol last night? I was so sure Bucky was going home. Frankly, this season is shaping up to be more of a dud than I hoped. The last two weeks have been bo-ring. I think they should stop making them do songs in different genres and let them choose songs in a wider range. It was ok to do songs from the 21st century, for instance but making everyone do country songs doesn't make sense.

11. Have I mentioned lately how much I love TiVo? I do. The only problem with it is I don't actually know when anything is on anymore. And that's not really a problem. I just set it to record the shows I like on a season pass and I don't think about it anymore.

12. It occurs to me that the term TiVo is becoming like Kleenex or Xerox - I shouldn't be using a specific brand name when I mean the generic thing. So I should say DVR instead of TiVo, just as we should say photocopy instead of Xerox or tissue instead of Kleenex. I'm sure all the trademark attorneys out there will love me for that.

13. Hallelujah! I actually finished this post. I wasn't sure I would make it all the way to the end. But here we are. The End.

See the Sidebar for loads of links to other Thursday Thirteens!

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. ItÂ’s easy, and fun! Be sure to update your Thirteen with links that are left for you, as well! I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 13 things. Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

A rose by any other name . . .

I'm having a helluva time naming characters in my stories. Currently, I'm working on three different story ideas (either I'm quite the multi-tasker or I have ADD). Anyway, I feel like one of the things that's holding me back in developing the stories is my discomfort with naming my characters. I keep waffling between different names. A character without a name is a character that can't be fully developed.

Naming our children wasn't as hard as naming my characters. From the time I was a girl, I was sure I would name my daughter Samantha. Thankfully, my husband was fine with that name and up until the ultrasound, that's what we planned on naming our first child. Don't ask me why but after the ultrasound I looked at my husband and said "Call me crazy but I just don't think she's a Samantha." Strangely enough, he agreed and we eventually chose another name that I think suits her perfectly.

We didn't name our second daughter Samantha either. It just didn't seem to fit. My husband called me one day during my pregnancy and said "I was thinking about _____ for a name. What do you think?" I said "I love it. But her middle name has to be ________. With an "e" at the end." He said "Why with an e?" I said "I don't know. I just think it needs to be that way." He said "Ok." And we were done.

Given the ease with which we named our children - real people with real lives that could be negatively impacted by poorly chosen names - why am I having so much trouble naming fictional characters? I'd like to say that names don't matter but I know they do. I'm reading a book called Cross Bones right now and I don't particularly like the name of the main character - Temperance (she's called Tempe for short). For me, it doesn't particularly fit the character and just makes me think of Arizona which detracts from the story because, as you can imagine, the story has absolutely nothing to do with Arizona. The book's ok but I think it would be better if the character name wasn't so distracting.

So, all you fiction writers out there - how do you name your characters? Do you do an online search of "baby" names? Do you choose names that have a meaning that corresponds with your story? For you readers and writers out there, does a fictional character's name matter to you? What are some of your favorite character names and why?