February 17, 2010

Worcester Magazine

If you've not yet heard me blabbing on about this, my poem "Bargain" is now in Worcester Magazine, along with a very edgy photo of me. HA! I'm about as edgy as a marshmallow.

Analytics

Just a quickie:

I have this handy dandy little analysis tool that tells me who's reading my blog. Well, it protects the names of the innocent, but it gives an overview of where people live and what brought them to my blog. The part I like best is that if someone types a few words into google search and then clicks on my blog, it tells me what the words were.

What I have discovered is that people love birds. The blog pages with fowl photos have the biggest hits.

Also, people love fish head soup, apparently, and seek out the ingredients. I've been told it's culturally insensitive to critique other people's eating habits, but I have to say that if you've come here looking for a fish head soup recipe: Stop!Please? There are so many other delicious choices out there.

February 16, 2010

The Frost is Heaving

If you've ever been on The Matterhorn at Disney, you know how it feels to drive the road we take into town. Both give me that fresh "is there a chiropractor in the house?" feeling at the ride's end. Sometimes I worry that we're all going to smack our heads on the roof of the car on the occasion that I fail to avoid a pothole. Of course, avoiding potholes often means steering into oncoming traffic, so better a bump on the head than all-around smash up, I suppose.

The reason for the nasty roads, I'm told, is the frost heaves. As usual, I'd never heard of a frost heave before we moved to New England, and the first time I saw a caution sign for them I read heaves as a verb, as in frost heaves because. . . it drank too many cocktails? I was baffled.

but according to good ol' Wikipedia, frost heaves are what happens when the ground gets super wet and then freezes which causes it to thrust upward, tearing out anything in its way including asphalt and even, sadly, saplings. Poor babies.

As I googled around for frost heaves, I discovered there's a basketball team in Vermont called the Frost Heaves-- not a very intimidating name, I'm afraid. You probably knew this already, but if you haven't figured it out I'm a bit sport-challenged.

Click your mouse here if you'd like to see a photo of minor frost heave damage (I'll have to get out on the road and take my own photo). If you want to know more about the basketball team, you're on your own.

February 15, 2010

The Dish on Water

R and I are looking to replace a couple of appliances (yay, tax refund!) and save some water. The bummer is that none of the salespeople really know anything about how much water a dishwasher uses. We can't possibly be the only people asking this question. Grateful Mama suggested the ASKO dishwasher because it uses about two teaspoons of water per wash, but getting our hands on one seems a bit complicated. In the meantime, I found this handy article:

"As of August 11, 2009, ENERGY STAR qualified dishwashers are required to use 5.8 gallons of water per cycle or less. Older dishwashers use much more water than newer models. A dishwasher purchased before 1994 uses about 8 additional gallons of water in each cycle compared to a new ENERGY STAR qualified model. . .

If you want to save even more water: scrape don't rinse. Pre-rinsing dishes before loading the dishwashers can use up to 20 gallons of water. Just scrape food off the dishes and load. ENERGY STAR qualified dishwashers and today's detergents are designed to do the cleaning so you don't have to pre-rinse. If your dirty dishes are going to sit overnight, use your dishwasher's rinse feature. It uses a fraction of the water needed to hand rinse.

Also keep in mind, washing dishes by hand uses much more water than using a dishwashers. Using an ENERGY STAR qualified dishwashers instead of hand washing will save you annually 5,000 gallons of water, $40 in utility costs, and 230 hours of your time."

I have to admit that I've never used the old beast's rinse feature, so I guess I'll try that instead of re-washing the dishes when they come out.

My bigger problem is all of the things I don't put in the dishwasher: anything plastic (because of that whole BPA thing), pots, pans, mixing bowls (because they don't fit) and frequently used items like paring knives, beaters, apple slicer, or anything fragile like wine glasses. I end up hand-washing many, many dishes, and I don't see that changing with a fancy shmancy new appliance.

I did just give up the non-recyclable dish sponge and switch to washcloths. It's been a bit of a tricky transition as none of us can agree about where to hang the cloth-- faucet? counter? left in a heap at the bottom of the sink? (Sweet P's preference.)

Unfortunately, I haven't figured out how to trade in the Do-Be, which is a bummer because they're forever tearing along the edges. I'm open to suggestions.

PS. Frog Papa sent me a link to a dishwashing article from the Journal of Extension.
Here's an extra tidbit from them:

"3.Proper water temperature is critical for satisfactory cleaning results. The Soap and Detergent Association (2000) recommends a water temperature no lower than 130 degrees F, and other sources recommend temperatures of 140, 150 degrees F. To save energy as well as provide a safer water temperature for family use, many households have lowered their water heater temperature to 120 degrees F or lower. It is advised that consumers purchase dishwashers with an auxiliary or booster heater that increases the water temperature in the dishwasher to 140 to 160 degrees F. Such features may add to the cost of the dishwasher initially, but the energy savings from reducing the temperature on the home water heater will pay for the feature many times over."

--
For those of you who are awaiting Part III of the short story, it's going to be a while. Somehow I've skipped writing the middle and gone straight to the end, which I don't think will be fun for anyone else.

February 13, 2010

The Funny Gene

R took a small break from his nasty flu-ness last night so we could watch a movie, The Love Guru with Mike Myers, and unfortunately I spent most of it thinking that I'd rather be reading my book. R, however, spent most of the movie watching me and asking, "You didn't think that was funny?" So then I was having flashbacks of when Sweet P's dad and I split up and he said he couldn't wait to re-watch all of the Austin Powers movies because they'd be so much funnier without me in the room.

Another old beau lamented that I could pick out a sad movie in a snow storm.

The thing is, I'm sure they were right. Watching slapstick boy-humor with me is probably my equivalent of going out to dessert with someone who's on a diet. It's so much better to enjoy carrot cake with someone who's enjoying chocolate cheesecake, especially when we exchange a few bites.

I do have a sense of humor, swear. As evidence: I once tried to read David Sedaris alone in a coffee shop and was laughing so hard I was crying and couldn't breathe and nearly peed my pants. I had to leave. Also, I have been known to embarrass my friends in the movie theater because I continue laughing long after the joke passes and the other movie-goers have gone silent.

I just happen to like a more complicated humor, one made funnier by a little bit of sadness-- the way salt makes watermelon taste so much sweeter.

But here's the truth: I don't even find The Three Stooges funny. Jokes about the size of a man's penis and watching people punch each other in the groin, really not my thing.

I've often wondered if growing up without siblings-- in the traditional sense-- made me stodgy. I never really understood children, even when I was one. I spent most of my time with adults, and I feel like I missed out on some key class about how to interact with kids, especially in the crude ways, and so maybe as an adult I don't enjoy reflecting on something I never understood as a child. Or maybe I'd feel the same way if I'd been born into a whole gaggle of siblings.

And then I wondered if my taste in comedy might be a gender thing. Maybe women don't enjoy the same kind of humor as men. That would explain why all of the previews before _The Love Guru_ were for action/adventure blow-things-up kind of movies, wouldn't it?

I googled around and found this:

"How many times have you sat on the couch with your significant other while he harrumphs with amusement at some inane comedian's comments about mothers-in-law/girlfriends/tits and ass in general, sees that you're not joining in the fun and attempts to 'explain' the 'joke' to you.

"'I know what he meant, dear. I just don't actually find it that funny,' is a frequent response in our house." -- Carol Hunt, Independent.ie

Hunt goes on to discuss a very small Stanford brain study that suggests that women and men have different responses to humor. The scientists theorize that women don't expect jokes to be funny, so when something is funny it has a bigger pay off. Our brain's reward center lights up like a jackpot. Other studies show that there isn't much difference between what makes a man or a woman laugh, that people's personality types (extroverted or introverted) determine what will get a giggle.

My psychology teacher in college liked to say that there's more difference among genders than there is between them, and I think she must have been right because my friend L actually enjoys watching Goldmember-type movies with her husband. She also says that people like me are the reason Mariah Carey (and her sappy music) is famous today-- which really isn't fair; I haven't listened to Mariah Carey since high school, which was a very, very long time ago.

Next up in the Netflix que: Absolutely Fabulous. Can you believe I've never seen it?

February 11, 2010

Sweet Potato Goes Teen



Sweet P turned into a teenager yesterday: 13.

Every time I see a recent picture of my girl I think, she looks so grown up, but a few years (sometimes months) later, I look at the same picture and think, she looks like a little girl.

The days are long, but the years are short. I don't know where that phrase originates but, shew.

So, I'm trying to look at Sweet P in photos and in real life and not compare her to the smaller person she used to be, but to see her as the young woman she is right now, to enjoy her in this moment, before it's gone.

February 2, 2010

Shel & Me


With thanks to Monkey Girl for inspiring this post.

Nana Pat and Papa James gave me Where the Sidewalk Ends for my 10th birthday, and from that day forward I knew I wanted to be a poet. I quickly memorized nearly the entire book and at the slightest provocation, I would recite any one of those poems to whomever was nearest. In fact, I'm sure I became a bit of a pest to those who didn't share my passion, and really, I didn't know anyone else who shared my passion. Eventually, though, I started writing my own little ditties-- of course my poems have had a few transformations over the last 30ish years, but here's one of my very first:

Groceries

I'll get the coffee
You get the tea
I'll get the sugar
and you get me.

I'm reciting that from memory, so it may not be exactly accurate, but in any case I think it was obvious I had a bright writing future ahead of me.

Ok, maybe not so much.

But while Silverstein was inspiring my dreams of fame and glory by pen, he did something else for me, and I didn't even realize it until many, many years later: He kept me reading.

There were a few tween years when I felt I was too old and cool for picture books, and yet I was completely daunted by the idea of a chapter book. I had copies of The Black Stallion and Little House in the Big Woods floating around my bedroom, but I couldn't imagine how anyone could read a book with so many pages.

Silverstein was my bridge. He was also my connection to my Nana Pat-- the only other reader I knew-- after she died, and I guess my writing became that, too: a place to find her.



I can no longer recite "Sarah Cynthia Silvia Stout" at a sneeze, but Silverstein is still inspiring me. Lately I've been frustrated about the great many rejection letters I've received. I've been peddling my poetry manuscript around for more years than I care to count, and it's "always the bridesmaid, never the bride" as Molly Fisk once wrote of her manuscript (which has since been published).

This whole publishing business can be crazy-making as I've always said that I write poems for myself first, and yet those rejection letters are eye stingers.

Then I watched a video of my friend Monkey Girl reciting Silverstein's "Invitation," and it reminded me of my Shel days, so I Googled around, and I found this Silverstein quote:

"I would hope that people, no matter what age, would find something to identify with in my books, pick up one and experience a personal sense of discovery. That's great. But for them, not for me. I think that if you're creative person, you should just go about your business, do your work and not care about how it's received."

And then. . .

"People who say they create only for themselves and don't care if they are published... I hate to hear talk like that. If it's good, it's too good not to share. That's the way I feel about my work. So I'll keep on communicating, but only my way."

I'm going to carry that "if it's good, it's too good not to share" line around with me. It almost sounds like Silverstein was having the same write-for-self/ write-for-audience struggle that I have, and I love him for that. Chana Bloch, my poetry professor at Mills College, said that when we read to an audience we should imagine that we're giving them a gift, and maybe that's how I need to think about my submissions, too.

Also, I love that Silverstein was writing children's poetry and writing very adult-themed material (for Playboy, for example) at the same time. It gives me hope that I may be able to cross genres one day despite the fact that I've dropped the F-word in a poem or two-- Hey, I was speaking in character!