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December 2006
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February 2007

Shy? Not so much.

Shy_lucy_1 "Is she always this shy?"  Is a question I hear a lot when I'm out with Lucy. After observing her for a couple months I've decided that she just has a very discerning personality. She doesn't mess around being polite to people she doesn't like right off the bat. I don't know if they smell bad, look funny to her or put off some wicked vibe, but she's pretty blunt. She cocks her head to the side and I can just hear her thinking: you can crouch down and pat your leg as much as you want, pal. I'm not coming.

The first time it happened, she was still pretty new to me. Lucy and I were playing in the front yard when a guy working on the construction project next door stepped onto our side of the lawn. She instantly got all growly and into her if-I-could-bark-yet-I-would mode. This guy went on about how cute she was and how all dogs and kids loved him. Not mine. And I felt a little bad, like Lucy was being rude and hurting this guy's feelings. I gave him a treat to try giving her and stood by him as he tried to coax her over. She didn't flip him the bird or anything, but she made it clear she would have nothing to do with him no matter how hard he tried.

"Wow. Is she always this shy? I mean, really, because dogs always come to me."

"Ummm...yeah she is. I guess we'll have to work on that" (in truth? Shy? Not so much. She's pretty much a beef treat and belly rub whore)

I'm so stoked that she is already protective of me. Her little growl is kind of comical but I love that her instinct is already to have my back.

his new wife

Isn't it odd how someone can be an intense part of your life and then fade somewhere into the recesses of your mind only to be brought back alive by some random trigger? I haven't thought about an old friend, well I guess an ex-boyfriend, in years but was reminded of him as I flipped through an old journal tonight looking for material for an essay I'm working on. It's not that I've forgotten K. exactly, I just don't ever think about him, so to see all these details come back, things written at the time of dating him ... for a moment it was the late 90s again and I was in Bellingham just moving into my first apartment. Then, in a later journal, I found these notes:

K. wasn't like a boyfriend you imagine. In a sense he was, he was romantic, but it seemed so staged. Still, we did fun shit together. Why do I remember myself in a business suit with him? I'd just dropped out of school and was doing Mary Kay. God. That's not a fun flashback. I remember hiking up at Baker, tripping at the beach, checking out my first apartment, and him feeling ... well, not feeling because K. didn't feel. He was just so logical about everything. I knew when I saw it that it was my apartment. And I realized I didn't have to do it his way. He wasn't my boyfriend. Not really. Because I loved B. So I can’t blame K. for what happened next – I never have- that’s probably why we could go back to being really good friends so fast. Gloria Gaynor – the party – tripping together – Chuckanut. What brought it all up tonight is Niki sayingI wonder what his new wife is like?”

Well – she gets her eyebrows and her nails done. Professionally. French manicure, nothing too bright. She wears khakis and sweater sets. She loves to cook, but not the meat. She enjoys hiking, but hates getting dirty, she’s into camping but can’t pitch a tent. Her name is like Meredith or Bonnie. Or Bethany. Probably Bethany."

Nik: “Are you just making this shit up?”

Me: "Well yeah, but you can see it, right?"

wear a vest

When I was 17, I rode a motorcycle for the first (and next to last) time. As we started to go, I got scared and touched my foot to the ground. Pain. Excruciating pain. Essentially, that's what I've been doing to my insides since we "sort of" decided to "probably" move to Portland. I realized it was time to make a decision and commit to it, putting my energy into what I want to happen rather than adding to my list of things I'm afraid might happen.

So I've officially given my notice at work this week. It's kind of a weird feeling to be giving a six-month notice, but with all the planning already for next year, I wanted to give everyone as much time as possible to plan and cross-train before I'm gone.

There are some kids and people I'm really, really going to miss! For the most part, though, I'm looking forward to going back to writing.

We've been having this to-move-or-not-to-move debate for so long now that it feels good to have made a decision. Matt says he thought we'd already made it, but I was still going over the pros and cons in my head like a CD stuck on repeat. And then there were the Negative Nellys (some loving, others not so much) with their gloom and doom about all the reasons moving to Portland was a bad idea. And it's true, there are a lot of reasons not to do this. But we've decided. It's our next thing. So it's time to start packing. Again. I did mention to Matt that this will be one of those cards I play for the rest of our lives. As in "You're going to [insert something that does not thrill me here]? But I moved to Portland because of you!"

As with any public announcement now begins the commentary and advice. The first student to hear I'm moving to Portland had this piece of wisdom for me: "Wear a vest."

Isn't it Ironic?

Maybe I've already done this one, but found this scrap of paper and had to share (again?).

I'm at the library. In the quiet, no cell phone zone, perusing the new book selection. This woman beside me is prattling on to her friend on her cell phone. I try to ignore her until she says in an annoyed voice to her friend:

"Hello! Presence of mind! Awareness of where you're at!"

At which point I gave her "You are one of the stupid people they warned me about" look.

No Wrong Answers

I'm working on some character development and I'm curious what comes to mind when you hear these names ... For each name, I'd love to know what kind of a person you picture in terms of appearance, personality, quirks and habits ...

  • Silas
  • Vanessa
  • Ethan

Remember though that everyone looks a little stupid and self-conscious in "Hello My Name is ..." tags. And there are no wrong answers ... if you're not into posting online, I'd love for you to email me your first impressions and thoughts when you hear these names.

A dog named Lou

Lucy_in_yellow_truckWe didn't have a lot of time to name our new puppy since she was so unexpected but as soon as we decided on Lucy, we knew it was completely the right name for her. We wanted a name that would shorten to "Lou" and at first started with LuLu but she is so not a LuLu.

We wanted Lou because it was a dog named Lou that connected Matt and me in the first place in 1998. I was working at what I now refer to as the Postal Crook and Matt was working for a log home company traveling between Washington, California, Colorado and Nevada. Since he moved so much, he had a post office box established before I even started working there. I'd never met him but had sent many bundles of Box 184's mail to his various addresses. Because of the type of mail he got and because he lived in a place called Camp Sherman, I just assumed he was an older man. If you're me and you work at a place putting up people's mail you a) love, love, love your job and b) make up stories about people based on what they get in the mail. So as far as I was concerned Box 184 was an old guy.

One day my boss mentioned that Box 184 was going to be in town house sitting for some friends of ours, and taking care of their dog Lou. Couple days later, this jacked up yellow Toyota pulls into the parking lot with the unmistakable Lou riding in the back. I was sure it was Lou because there is no other dog like him on the planet, a Lab-Grizzly mix.

Box 184 hops out and he is SO not an old guy. If it weren't for Lou in the back of the truck, Box 184 could've come in, got his mail and left and we might never have met.

Saint Rita's Revisted

I mentioned before that during the National Novel Writing Month contest I was amazed at the stuff that came spilling out from somewhere inside me. Stuff like story lines I hadn't even thought about before and fully-developed characters with stories of their own to include in the novel ... I'm just going through my draft and was surprised to find the scene where Izzy's mom is found by her biological daughter. The one no one knows about. I wrote that scene before mailing the paperwork off to search for my own birth mom, so it's interesting that maybe on some level I knew how it was going to end up. I remember writing that section and thinking it was too forced, that it doesn't really happen like this and even wrote some notes at the bottom of that chapter suggesting I re-work it. Even though it was a secret in Vanessa's life, and she has a very "arms-length" relationship with her daughters, she is too warm and fuzzy with her biological daughter on the phone. She goes too fast from shock to acceptance. Even in the part I wrote, Vanessa isn't sure if she wants to meet her true first-born face to face. But I tried to cover that up and change her mind even though it didn't ring right as I wrote it. I think I need to write it so that Vanessa doesn't want to meet her daughter. Use what you know, right? And maybe that way, it's also a chance to get some more perspective on why someone would make that choice.

It was an ordinary Tuesday morning when Vanessa got the call that rocked her world. She was taking on Ginny's lasagna challenge. Ginny had made it sound so easy. So why were there pieces of squash and broccoli all over her kitchen? And why did she have three noodles leftover? She had no idea how she was going to get this meal made and cleaned up before the girls got off the bus. But for now, she was too busy chopping and dicing to worry about all that. Ginny was right. There was a meditative effect in cooking. Vanessa had no idea. She always thought that was something people said to make themselves feel better about not having a cook. She was just scraping the vegetable mixture into her new Williams-Sonoma bowl. She smiled thinking of another of Ginny's lessons. Encouraging her to use her money in ways to make this new life easier, Ginny urged her to "Buy stuff that makes you smile in the kitchen. Hell, splurge on the pretty sponge." When the phone rang, Vanessa had to dig under several dirty kitchen towels to get to it. She barely caught it with a breathless, "Hello?" There was a pause on the other end. Damn telemarketers. She pulled the phone away from her ear to punch the off button but heard a quiet, "Hello?" Followed by a louder one.

"Yes? Hello?"
"Is this Vanessa Medici?" Her stomach flipped at the sound of her maiden name.

"Who is calling?"
"This is ... my name is Morgan. I uh ... Well, I found your name through a Gwen who knew you ..."

"Who is this?" Her voice getting shrill, Vanessa leaned against the counter to hold herself up, feeling her knees give when she heard Gwen's name.

"I'm the baby you gave up for adoption. I mean, I think that. I think that I might be." Silence. "Hello? Are you still there?" More silence. "Please don't hang up!"
"I won't." Vanessa finally whispered, sliding to the floor, back pressed against the counter, legs curling beneath her, smearing the lasagna mess as it spilled over her lap and onto the tiles.

"Okay. Um. I don't know what to say next actually. Are you still there?"

"How did you find me?" Vanessa finally spit out one of the six thousand questions swirling in her head.

"I didn't start looking until a couple years ago but ah, it wasn't easy. Those Catholics over there are pretty tight-lipped. Oh! Sorry, I don't mean to offend you."

"Oh, God. No, you couldn't say enough bad things about those nuns to offend me. So, who cracked?"

"Well, no one on purpose. After my phone calls and letters went unanswered for so long, I showed up there with my pregnant belly and checked myself in, figuring I could get some information from the inside."

"Were you really pregnant?"

"Yeah. Um. But so at Saint Rita's I found some photo albums and eventually found Gwen who told me about you."

"How is Gwen?"

"Oh, she's fine. I guess. I mean, I don't really know her or what to compare her to. So, ah fine I'd have to say."

"She was a crazy, crazy kid that one," Vanessa smiled ruefully, remembering her last real friend. They hadn't talked since coming back from Europe. Both agreed it would be too hard to explain how they knew each other. And though they were close, they reminded one another of a time best forgotten.

Indian Food Rocks


Somehow I've become known among my group of friends for my salads. You have no idea how much that makes me laugh inside. People ask me for my recipes and I'm thinking to myself, if you only knew that I hardly ate vegetables for six years - pretty much from the time I moved out of my parents house and in with Matt. I think that was even part of my dad's toast at the wedding: "Matt's a good guy. He helped Nathalie with her self-imposed math block and got her to eat her vegetables."

At first I only made two salads repeatedly. Then I started experimenting with my own funky combinations. It felt safe I guess, if I fuck it up, it's just lettuce, right? Recently I realized I'd gotten into a little rut, though, making the same versions of my creation to take to every dinner party and casual gathering. So when a friend invited us over for Indian Food the other night I decided to try something new. But what the hell goes into an Indian salad? Helllllooo Google. I searched for Indian salad ingredients and wandered over to this cool website: Indian Food Rocks. I tried making her Spring Salad. It was super easy and cheap to make. And it turned out pretty tasty. Except that I still hate beets. Luckily, everyone else seemed to like them.

Spring Salad

1 bag (8 oz) spring greens

1 can mandarin oranges

1 can beets, cut into thin slivers (or use fresh boiled beats)

1/4 cup red onion, thin sliced

1/2 cup sliced almonds

1/2 cup Kraft's Light Raspberry Vinaigrette (I used Newman's Light Raspberry and Walnut)

Drain the mandarin oranges, reserve 2-3 Tablespoons of the juice to add to the dressing

1. Toss all ingredients together

2. Mix in the dressing

3. Done Deal

To read a cool blog and get more yummy recipes like this check out Indian Food Rocks.

A Twist on Dickens

Someday I'll have a site with Frequently Asked Questions. But for now, recently there's been just these: "What's up with Ani and what happened to Izzy?"

My writing. Right. That's what I'm supposed to be working on. Damn, this work nonsense is cramping my style. Yet, it's so nice pay for things like my mortgage and running water.

So Kickin' it with Ralph and Ani are on hold for now but I keep adding scraps of papers with notes on them to my binder. I consolidated the category for Ani into the Writing category in an effort to make the site a little less cluttered. The most recent scrap was added Friday and is on the back of a mortgage bill. It says: Ralph has a brother named Rufus.

Materials for Making a Stand and Izzy are still strewn throughout my office from the writing contest in November. I'd started writing it thinking it was a young adult novel only to find myself in the middle of a few uhhhmmm... not so PG-13 scenes. I am seeking out examples of writing for adults where the main character is as young as Izzy. Well, there's Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird of course ... so this could still work. I could start getting back to work on it right away with a little help from y'all. (that word is one of the reasons I wish I was from the South).

Here's my idea: Kind of a twist on Charles Dickens' concept of the Serial Novel. It's said that all of his major novels were published serially in weekly, or monthly, installments. Many installments ended like sitcoms do these days, leaving readers engaged and wanting more. A certain retired English teacher I know says Dickens sometimes used feedback from readers to influence how he wrote his next installment. Of course, I'm no Dickens, but ... I'm thinking I could post installments of the draft of Izzy's story and work it through with feedback from you guys.

Your thoughts?