November 30, 2006
christmas!, story, and smoke
posted by soe 5:26 pm
How it got to be Thursday is beyond me, but since it’s here, let’s celebrate three beautiful things from the last week:
1. There were no Christmas lights lit save for the Delaware Highway Patrol Barracks in the middle of 295 when Rudi and I drove north Wednesday night. On Friday evening, a few houses had their lights on. By the time we began our drive south Sunday night, there were lights everywhere, and Rudi and I were able to exclaim, “Look! Christmas!” over and over. It was very exciting.
2. Last Christmas my folks loaned us an audio book to listen to on the drive home. Unfortunately, I forgot we didn’t have a cd player in the car. But I wisely ripped it to my iPod before we left for Thanksgiving, so we were entertained by a Christmas-themed Stephanie Plum mystery from New York to Maryland, making the drive seem substantially shorter and earlier than it was.
3. Last night someone in our neighborhood lit a fire. I’m not sure where exactly the fire was (although my guess would be the house kitty-corner to ours because they always get a supply of wood delivered every fall), but the smell of a wood fire wafted through my open window and curled around me as I sat at my desk.
November 28, 2006
posted by soe 2:12 pm
I think that, after nearly four years away from a weekly yoga practice, it’s time to resume going to class.
After four years of not practicing the skill regularly, the ability to relax with deep yoga breaths is starting to wear off.
My shoulders seem to be permanently around my ears.
My jaw is always clenched, even when I’m asleep.
I have an ongoing headache.
I want a disciplined class again. I want an instructor who corrects your position with the lightest fingertip touch so that you immediately know that your back is not, in fact, yet flat. I want a room filled with camraderie and silence as everyone finds their own boundaries and paths. I want to begin with breathing together as one and sun salutations and to end with corpse pose and namaste and a bow.
And, luckily, I can have that. I live in a hip section of town where yoga studios practically surround the Burrow. It’s just a matter of valuing myself enough to get off my butt and walk three blocks to partake in the next class. Here’s hoping I move in that direction soon.
November 27, 2006
posted by soe 11:56 pm
Television ends sweeps month strong with a great week of tv. Monday is usually the only night of the week where we keep the tv on all three hours of prime time, having found four shows that we enjoy: How I Met Your Mother, The Class, Heroes, and Studio 60. Tonight’s shows were all good episodes, I’m pleased to report.
We also get Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown and a Great Performances featuring James Taylor later this week. This promises to be a week filled with lots of knitting — and some housecleaning in anticipation of our tree-trimming party this coming Sunday — so it’s nice that the television offers us quality background entertainment.
November 24, 2006
the five best things about thanksgiving
posted by soe 7:29 pm
These are the things I like best about our Thanksgiving Day tradition. Do you have favorite traditions?
1. Doughnuts. Dad and I (with or without Josh or Rudi or Rebs or Caroline) have stopped at Dunkin’ Donuts every year as long as I can remember. Some years we have had to stop at more than one.
2. The Macy’s Day Parade. Yes, yes. I know it should be The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. But isn’t the morning really all about Macy’s as a feel-good brand? I mean, until they fire Santa Claus and all…. I’m glad they were able to have the balloons this year even if they were practically scraping along on the ground. Better underinflated than not there at all, I say.
3. Food. Everyone gets in on the act at Thanksgiving. Gramma makes the turkey and the pies. Dad makes the rolls. Rudi makes carrots and peppers. I make mashed potatoes. Mum makes everything else. And it all tastes wonderful! This year Mum was ahead of the game and had tons of stuff prepped and hanging out in the fridge just waiting to be reheated, so Thanksgiving afternoon was relatively stress-free.
4. Blessings. It’s good to have a day to count your blessings. We should have more than one such day. But I’m glad we have one at the very least, because I have a whole lot of things to appreciate.
5. And last, but far from least, family. I love my family (and the extended family members who have celebrated with us over the years). I think of you all this weekend, whether you were around my table or not.
November 23, 2006
window dressing, priorities, and local acts
posted by soe 11:29 pm
HAPPY THANKSGIVING EVERYONE!!!
Three beautiful things from the week before Thanksgiving:
1. A glass building has gone up near my office in recent months. Because the office does not yet have interior walls, sometimes you can see a little person working on one of the floors. One morning this week a window featured a bright yellow ladder and a brilliant blue tarp.
2. I am not going to reach 50k for NaNoWriMo and I’m okay with that. I’m currently hovering around the 33 page mark and I hope to hit 25k before next Friday. But I’m not going to sacrifice working on crosswords with Gramma or baking cookies with Mum or playing board games with Dad to finish; otherwise I might as well have stayed back in D.C. Karen and Grey Kitten continue to fight the good fight and they have my best wishes for their success. (And, no, I’m not abandoning the novel. I still think it has potential, and now I can focus on rounding out characters and building some more realistic plot devices — but in more manageable time increments for my schedule.)
3. While walking the Help the Homeless 5k last weekend, I was delighted to discover that the organizers had lined up local musical and performance acts to keep us motivated along the way. At first I thought it was just mitzvahs by a local junior high step dance troupe and by a barbershop quartet. But then I strolled past a bluegrass trio, an a cappella group, a folk duo, a gymnastics troupe, a pair of drummers, and a mariachi band. They really helped to provide a sense of fun and ambiance for something we all would have done anyway.
November 21, 2006
five favorite thanksgiving dishes
posted by soe 3:43 pm
Tomorrow afternoon Rudi and I join travelers across the nation in the great seasonal migration. Adding several hours to the normal trip is worth it only because of what waits at the other end — loved ones.
Thanksgiving is a day filled with tradition. I offer you my favorite traditional holiday foods:
- Stuffing — plain old Pepperidge Farms variety from the blue bag
- Mashed potatoes — made with milk or cream, not broth
- Turkey — I prefer mine dry; I understand I’m in the minority on this point
- Cranberry sauce — Either Gramma’s homemade or the smooth canned version
- Carrots and peppers — Rudi’s contribution to the day and the most recent addition to the traditional food column
- Bonus: Apple pie — Worth waiting all day for and worth adding to the end of any list
May your own holiday be filled with what you love.
November 17, 2006
busy weekend ahead
posted by soe 3:50 pm
The weekend ahead is going to be a busy one.
We start tonight with a Bob Dylan concert. He’s performing with the Raconteurs (Jack White’s second band) way out in Fairfax. I’m pretty sure that’s in West Virginia. (Okay, it just might as well be…) I’ve heard Bob perform before on double-bills with Joni Mitchell and with Paul Simon. I like Dylan. (Who doesn’t like Dylan?) But I really believe that his songwriting far surpasses his ability as a singer, even if Bear Mountain Massacre is a kick-ass song.
I’ve not heard anything from the Raconteurs, although Sam did not give it a ringing endorsement. But it would seem that’s because they were a bit too … cheesy … for his tastes. I like cheese. Particularly if it’s in tune. I’ll reserve judgement.
Tomorrow I will rise before is humanly reasonable and go on a walk to raise money for programs aimed at helping the homeless. Thank you to those who donated to help me raise money for Martha’s Table. Anyone else who would like to contribute is welcome to head here… My friends Sarah and Amani also will be walking tomorrow morning. I’m particularly grateful to Sarah who is no more fond of the early morning than am I and who, therefore, is less likely to mind if I spend the first mile or so half-asleep under my warm, woolen hat, a cup of tea nestled between my gloves.
Tomorrow night, Rudi and I head out for another oldie but goodie — Brian Wilson of Beach Boys fame. (Last week I wouldn’t have thought it necessary to explain who he was, but I’ve been asked several times, so I’ll just make it easy for you.) I’ve never been impressed with Brian’s live appearances on tv, but Rudi has seen him in person thrice now. And the last time he raved about the show and said I should have gone.
FYI, Rudi lists that show as one of his top ten concert experiences ever in his blog:
A magical night, as Brian and the band performed SMiLE in its entirety. Brian was in a fine voice, and his band is top-notch. The brass instruments ace actually played by horn players, the string parts by a string sextet. And the Warner is a wonderful old theatre, perfect for concerts like this.
Rudi has a pretty good sense of my tastes after 11+ years together, so when he says, “You’ll regret not coming,” I listen. And I’m looking forward to the show.
And somewhere in there I need to pound through some major quantities of words. The problem with a word-count goal is that you stop thinking of the best way to say something and start thinking of the longest way to say it. I already lean more toward the Faulkneresque in my writing style, but apparently I need to be yet more verbose. (That sentence contained 20 words. I could have said, instead, “I already have a tendency to write long compound-complex sentences that make people’s heads spin while they try to suss out the meaning I intended, but apparently I need to use even more words in an attempt to say what I mean in the least concise way possible,” which would have given me 44 words.)
I eked out only a thousand words last night. Just as I was checking my email before going to bed at 3 a.m., the ringleader of NaNoWriMo dropped all the participants an email saying, as long as you’re at 35,000 words before next Friday you’ll be fine. Ummmm, yeah. If we double what I have written up to this point, I’m still not at 35,000 words. (Ooh! How would that be for a narrative trick? I could just pause where I am currently, go back to the beginning and retype everything that’s happened a second time! Better yet, I could just cut and paste! Instantly, 35,000 words would no longer seem so intimidating! And if I paste it in for a third iteration, I will nearly be done! I think we have ourselves a new plan!)
Does anyone else sense sleep-deprivation induced mania coming on here?
November 16, 2006
yellow lane, watercolor, and pretty paper
posted by soe 5:41 pm
There are always three beautiful things to think about on Thursdays:
1. A street near my house is lined with ginkgo trees. In early fall, when their fruit is dropping, it’s not really a pleasant place to walk. (Ginkgo fruit, when it splits open, smells like dog poop.) But in late fall, their leaves turn a brilliant yellow and the trees stand gorgeous against the deep blue of the sky. Sunday, in the midst walking through a driving rain, I paused on the corner to see that the leaves had fallen in the storm, blanketing the whole street in rivulets of gold.
2. Today is kind of like an Impressionist watercolor painting or like Bert’s chalk drawings in Mary Poppins, even down to the tower rising up out of the mists. Living in D.C., most people wear sensible, dark, business-like colors and carry black umbrellas when it rains. But just often enough to keep it interesting, someone pops up wearing color — a turquoise polka-dotted umbrella, pink paisley galoshes, or a chartreuse rain kit. My own rainy day outfit includes a pink and yellow raincoat, a rainbow-hued umbrella, and my green corduroy hat. I feel cheery just putting it on.
3. On Saturday, Rudi and I stopped by Eastern Market on our way to a belated lunch date. While we were there we visited the card vendor, who sells British cards, wrapping paper, and stationery items for cut-rate prices. We came away with several boxes of Christmas cards, half a dozen sheets of wrapping paper, and half a dozen gift tags for something like $11. Now I just need time to address cards and packages to label and to wrap in pretty paper….
posted by soe 1:42 am
I need some names for a cappella groups in my novel. Ever wanted to name a band or a singing group? Now’s your opportunity…. Leave me a comment with your ideas.
(For those who did not attend a liberal arts college in New England, an a cappella group is a singing group that does not use instrumentation in their performances. Some adapt modern pop music and fake the instrumentation with human voices.)
(Edited to add: As the strains of my favorite Kris Delmhorst song came over the computer speakers tonight, I passed the 15,000 mark. And it’s not even 3 a.m. yet!)
November 15, 2006
nanowrimo: the first half
posted by soe 2:45 pm
Two weeks have passed since the beginning of NaNoWriMo and I continue to trail behind the word count I’m supposed to have in order to get my novel to 50,000 words by the end of the month. This is particularly problematic since the second half of the month includes two concerts and the Thanksgiving holiday, during which I plan to spend many hours stuck in traffic. Some of this problem has been alleviated by the arrival of the laptop, but I can (and should) only write when not driving, so it’s not wholly fixed.
The first part of the writing experience can be found here.
Day 6: The night of the James Taylor concert. It has been a crappy day at work and JT has finally turned it around for me. I opt to become
a bit more behind in lieu of actually going to bed in a good mood acquainted with the candidates I need to vote for in the 2006 election. I do not regret the decision. Words written: 0.
Day 7: Election night. The day starts with clouds and ends with a steady drizzle. (It is November, after all.) But I walk from my polling place to work in the morning, so I feel more energized and less resentful of a day spent inside. Plus, didn’t you know that all great novels really get going on “a dark and stormy night?” I alternate between typing and goofing off. I knit and watch House. I return a few emails. I watch election coverage, and rejoice as good news rolls in. But I also put in 2000+ words, which is the daily goal at the time.
Day 8: I sleep in a writing position over the keyboard.
Days 9-11: Writing officially goes on hiatus for several days while I reconsider whether I want to keep writing a novel. Reaction is mixed.
Day 12: After encouragement from home and abroad, I get back into the saddle and plot out where the book is going. This helps to resolve several questions. I include the outline in the same Word document that contains my manuscript, so it currently is being added to my word count. Hearing that one of the D.C. moderators is writing while undergoing cancer treatment does not make me feel encouraged about my slacking off; nor does it lessen my desire to slack off instead of write. The first conflict to feature both a suspect and a victim takes place.
Day 13: The novel crests the 10k mark and surpasses 20 pages. Suspect #3 is introduced. A person can get by on 4 hours of sleep. I know it’s possible. It just hurts. When is my victim going to die?
Day 14: I attend my very first write-in at a nearby coffee house. Sadly, less writing gets done than one might expect because participants are so excited to talk to someone, anyone. I did hear the reassuring tale of a girl who, last year, wrote the final 34,000 words of her novel in the last two days. I pick a random plot device out of a tin: A rusty hatchet. Despite my novel being a murder mystery, it does not really help my story. Perhaps it fits one of my readers’ stories and they would like it for their novel. If so, I bequeath it to you with the best wishes of the DC NaNoWriMos.
Day 15: My goal for tonight is to write 2,600 words, which will bring me up to 15,000 words over the first 15 days, and to kill off my victim right at the end. That will place the murder pretty much at the end of the first third of the book, which seems about right for the standard mystery genre formula I’m following.
You can’t read my novel, but you can view my progress. Please note that the progress bar measures by actual date. My own progress is recorded in “college days” (the idea that a day does not end until you go to bed; i.e., if you haven’t gone to bed in 36 hours, you’re still operating on one day’s worth of time), so writing that happens after 11 p.m. (their clock seems to still be running on daylight savings time) or so tends to get shuffled into the next day’s work. So really the progress bar makes me look like less of a slacker than I am.