Playing Catch-Up With ThinkIt

One of the problems I have every year with these prompts is that it takes me a day or two to think of an answer. That being said, I’m sure you will look at a few of these and think, That took her time to come up with? Jeez. Click!

So, without further adieu…

December 3 – If you could meet someone new in 2013, who would it be? Or would you rather spend more time with someone you already know?

No, I do a pretty good job of socializing as it is. I’m kind of making a career of it. Who would I like to meet in 2013? Anyone but my maker.

December 4 – What was the wisest decision you made this year?

They ask this one every year, and if I can think of anything, it’s stupid material stuff. I got a minivan that has made it easier to load the kids into the car and has cut down the squabble factor. I bought a new toaster oven that seems to do the trick. I started Practice What You Pinterest, but I can’t say that has turned out to be wise. Decisions? I didn’t really make any major ones this year, and I make too many little ones every day to single any out.

Oh, wait! I decided to avoid MSG. It’s made a world of difference with my migraines. That counts as wise, right?

December 5 – Interview 3 people about their favorite moments of the year. Share what you heard.

This was a fun one, and I actually got several good answers:

Michelle H. said that her best moment was her sister’s wedding and seeing her own daughters all dressed up for the event. She also enjoyed a moment the day before the wedding when she threatened to bitch-slap her sister.

Nadia had two as well. First was the day (May 23, 2012) when she had lost enough weight to fit back into her wedding gown. (Way to go, Nadia! I’ve kissed my gown goodnight until my daughter can wear it.) And October 31st, when she had officially lost 100 pounds.

That is one FINE looking man.

That is one FINE looking man. I bet he smells better than cinnamon.

Robin said the day after Election Day was the best moment for her. (Yes, many of us felt we could breathe easier that day…)

Meredeth gave some silly story about her daughter becoming potty trained, until she remembered that she had met George Clooney. Not to belittle A’s milestone, but duh, M. I would deal with diapers for a decade to have that guy press his shoulder into mine like that.

Michelle M. enjoyed seeing her daughter graduate high school to go study veterinary medicine.

Several friends said that their moment was when Notre Dame beat USC to go to the National Championship.

Three friends had babies this year, so those moments trumped all the others for them.

Kelly’s daughter underwent surgery that changed her life for the better.

Bill got pulled onstage during a concert to sing and dance with the band.

Kevin had a great one too. He said his moment was seeing his wife present their son with his high school diploma on a stage, where they shared an affectionate whisper. It was a message. “Tell Dad,” the graduate said, “the Phillies are tied in the tenth.”

For me, there were a million little moments. Edison’s excitement waiting in the audience at Asbury Lanes for the Potter Puppet Pals to begin; watching Craig, one of my fellow potter_puppet_pals1wizards “bonding” with two “gnomes” made out of potatoes, while sitting on a bench looking serenely at the lake; laughing with Manfrengensen until tears came out of our eyes; asking Clooney whether I tell him I love him enough and his response, “Uh, duh”; laughs with my lady friends who lunch/and/or/breakfast at Panera; hearing my son referred to as “a ringer” during  a Quidditch match; meeting our new niece and our new nephew; almost passing out while driving Manfrengensen to the hospital after his bike accident; holding my daughter’s hand; watching her try on the shoes I wore to my wedding; The Book of Mormon. I’m surrounded by magic every single day.

December 6 – How do you want get involved in your community this year?

I did a lot this year to get involved in my community. I still cook once a month for a local soup kitchen, and I started teaching Sunday school. I will continue to do those things in the coming year, and I will look for other opportunities, chiefly ones that involve aiding the poor in our area.

So there, all caught up…now let me get to the myriad other things I have on the docket today.

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Unplugged

Today’s prompt from ThinkIt:

Unplug for an hour, a half day, or a whole day. Choose a time that feels a little uncomfortable. How did you feel? What did you do? Reflect on your experience. How much did you unplug this year? How does this experience make you feel about unplugging in the coming year?

I did spend an hour unplugged today at church, which is nothing new, and not really any kind of sacrifice, but it does put me in touch with my thoughts. I do tend to feel the absence these days, when not connected to those unseen but so-compelling forces that draw us to whatever place this is. We used to live our lives in a moment. Now we kind of live it in a binary state.

The Monsignor does his usual thing. I am glad all that singing of the Our Father is over. Never could get into that. Not to mention that the Monsignor sings like an alley cat in heat. Plus it’s nice to see the purple and pink of the Advent season. I love the holidays.

Two rows up I see the lady who brings her two young sons, one of whom always insists on being held while she’s standing. The kid has to be at least six or seven years old. How does she hold him up like that? She must work out. I wonder what she benches. I should try to bench something. Who am I kidding? I lift the lightest things I can find when I go to the gym. And that phrase right there is laughable. When. I need to start doing that…

So here I am, sitting in a Catholic church feeling guilt. Shocker.

6a00e54ffb0bef8834016760e71ebf970b-800wiThree rows up, there are those two ladies…are they sisters? Are they twins? They have the same sort of fashion sense, and totally the same hair style, like the one Lucille Bluth has in Arrested Development. I wonder what they talk about.

The Monsignor steps up to the plate for the Gospel. I swear, I don’t know anyone else in the world who consistently makes the word “you” a two-syllable one. After the Gospel, he reads his homily, which is all about…I really need to be sure to clip Clooney’s fingernails today. And the Princess really needs to wear leggings under her dresses if she’s going to sit like that. I wonder who cleans this place, and how often. The lady behind me just coughed into what sounded like her hand. I’m going to have to shake that hand in a few minutes, and then, would it be rude to use hand sanitizer before I go to get Communion?

The lady at the end of our pew is the lady with the terrible RA in her hands. I wonder how much pain she is in. How does she deal with that?When I shake her hand to wish her peace, her hands, despite being covered by wrinkled papery skin, are as soft as kid gloves.

I wonder what people think when they shake my hand. Can they tell how many times a day I wash my hands? Do I have the tell-tale sandpapery fingertips of someone who uses her hands all day in the kitchen?

I have not unplugged much this year. In fact, if anything, electronics have coiled their sparking tentacles even more tightly around my brain. I used to think that I didn’t need all of this, and I wonder at what point the changover in thinking occurred. Knowing that makes me think I should try to step away a bit more in 2013, but is that just another layer of guilt to lay on?


The Year In Pictures

It’s that time of year again, and this year, I really hope to keep up with ThinkIt’s Year-End Blog Wrap-Up. The prompt for December 1st is the Year in Pictures. I had a hard time reducing it to one moment, so I collected these, in no particular order:

This year, I discovered Pinterest, and have spent a good deal of time trying out ideas from the site and blogging about them.

This year, I discovered Pinterest, and have spent a good deal of time trying out ideas from the site and blogging about them.

Met this guy at PetSmart.

Met this guy at PetSmart.

Met this guy in the back yard.

Met this guy in the back yard.

Over the summer, I spent a week as a counselor at a wizard-themed camp. It was really fun, like working in an acting troupe for a week.

Over the summer, I spent a week as a counselor at a wizard-themed camp. It was really fun, like working in an acting troupe for a week.

We also discovered Breaking Bad this year and got all caught up on all five seasons so far.

We also discovered Breaking Bad this year and got all caught up on all five seasons so far.

Some of the best moments of the year were spent looking at this.

Some of the best moments of the year were spent looking at this.

Aaarghhh.

Aaarghhh.

IMG_1174

Is it me, or has this been the "Year of Bacon"?

Is it me, or has this been the “Year of Bacon”?

Family vacation

Family vacation

I’m surely leaving out many memories of the year, but hopefully they will come back to me as we continue this process over the next few weeks.


End of Year Musings Week 4: Creation

Wednesday, Dec 21: Creation
What did you make this year? Whether something personal, like a song or some art, or a work project, share your process and the end result of your creation.

I worked a lot on my novel, Erasable You, this year. I tend to write like a spider spins a web. I have ideas that I put down and then spin around them. It’s slow going. I’m not the kind of writer who can just sit and bang the whole thing out in one linear process. The name of the school is still up in the air. Its nickname is “East Plastic Jesus” Academy because of a tradition where all the fifth graders go through a kind of rite of passage. There’s a big ceremonial mass, and they each receive a cheap plastic rosary. But I’m not married to that concept…still working on it.

 

Here then, are the first few pages:

 

No one had ever accused Annabel DiLuca of being unprofessional.  In fact, they often found her quite the opposite, a bit of a stickler.  A perfectionist, an if-I-want-it-done-right-I’ll-just-do-it-myself-then kind of person, in short, a pain in the ass.  This perfectionism, though it served her well professionally, tended to make her push things too far, and being an impetuous person, Annabel often found herself in the wrong place. Annabel’s shrink, the caterpillar-moustached Dr. Anson Harrington, whom she hadn’t seen in years, had once blamed it on her broken childhood.  While her juvenile days had certainly been happy ones, with a loving father and a doting grandmother, her mother had been more or less absent, removed from Annabel’s life by a speeding late-model Chrysler Belvedere on a Saturday afternoon in 1976.

Joanne DiLuca had spent that November afternoon browsing children’s apparel shops in the old section of town where the Italian immigrants had settled, meticulously probing their overcrowded, plastic-covered wares for the right delicately stitched cardigan, something new for Annabel to wear to the family’s Thanksgiving gathering.  Joanne cut a fashionable silhouette that day, having adopted Jacqueline Onassises’s sense of style in the early Sixties and followed along through the rest of her short life. That particular day, Joanne was wearing a pink tweed car coat, and, though she was of tiny-stature, she had to turn sideways to get through the narrow the aisles in the tiny shop. The two elderly ladies who worked there, Rose and Mary Marchiano (sisters in law only), looked at her over the rims of their chained spectacles to admire the way Joanne held herself. They thought Joanne was all class, always had been, even when her own mother had brought her in by the hand decades earlier. The way her handbag swung on her wrist, she seemed so young to the two women who spent their days on kitten heels, under high, starched, silvery hair. Indeed, Joanne DiLuca must have her whole life ahead of her, married to that nice DiLuca boy from Maple Street. They remembered Anthony DiLuca from his days as a high school track star; if he hadn’t turned his ankle in the spring of 1955, he might have gone all the way to the Olympics. But he’d done all right in the end, following Old Man DiLuca into the concrete business. That family had really made something of themselves. Old Man DiLuca had made more money than Elvis selling all that rock, and here was little Joanne Petrillo (now DiLuca) living the dream homemaker life. Rose and Mary sighed to each other, thinking of their own children, long grown and out of the house. How nice.

Meanwhile, the Belvedere driver was at a college football stadium, downing beer-after-beer, first from a pony keg at a pre-game tailgate and later from a hawker in the stands.  His fate collided with Joanne DiLuca’s on a bridge to suburbia in the waning sunlight of an otherwise perfect autumn afternoon.  Annabel ended up wearing the chocolate-colored sweater her mother had purchased not to Thanksgiving, but to her mother’s funeral.  Even though the sweater had been in the car when the accident occurred, it was still covered in protective plastic, and thus escaped the wreckage unscathed.

As she grew up, Annabel felt nothing was absolute, that try as she might, the rug could be pulled out from under her at any moment.  She tried and tried to overcome the feeling, desperately clutching to control every situation, but in the end it never worked out.  The more she sought control, the less she found she had, and things inevitably spun away from her.

*  *  *  *  *

 

On the last Saturday before the start of the school year, Annabel and Matt had attended the EPJ Academy faculty picnic like a perfectly normal couple. It was a civil gathering on the grounds of a once-grand local mansion, long since abandoned, but modernly available for a modest fee-by-the-hour to the public for affairs such as these.  Her boss, Helen Stilte, EPJ’s interim-head-librarian, had been there with her husband, a boring blowhard of a civil engineer who had recently retired, but was currently a consultant to the nuclear power industry. They all mingled so politely, Edgar Stilte smiling at Annabel with a mouthful of yellow teeth that reminded her of horse corn and hayrides. They had chatted and dined on fresh fruit and finger sandwiches. At moments, Helen clung to Annabel’s arm, whispering bits of gossip about this person or that, and Annabel had felt discomfort at being introduced to her new co-workers through her supervisor’s filter. She had tried a few times to break away from Helen, hanging with staff members and teachers who were closer to her own age, but then she’d notice Helen had quietly snuck up on her, listening to her every word over the heads of the people sitting between them.  Annabel looked across the veranda at Matt to see whether he had noticed Helen’s odd behavior, but he was oblivious, holding a cigarette in his left hand awkwardly, despite the fact that he smoked cigarettes regularly, and talking to the lacrosse coach over there on the patio. Matt was wearing a rumpled tweed sport jacket that he had gotten at Good Will for less than most people spent on a t-shirt.  His tie was too thin to be fashionable, a leftover caramel-colored knitted thing from the 1980s.  His long brown hair was pulled back into a short ponytail at the base of his skull. He held what looked like yet another fresh bloody Mary, self-medicating, Annabel guessed.  This wasn’t his crowd either.

 

The only person Annabel had felt an affinity with so far was Pam, the headmaster’s very plain secretary.  Pam had gone to middle school with Annabel, and the two hadn’t seen each other from then until the day, four months ago, that Annabel had come to EPJ for her interview.  Pam had married her high school sweetheart, a medical equipment salesman who traveled around the country, and was, by all accounts, the nicest guy in the world. Though honestly, most of that accounting came from Pam herself, since no one on the faculty had actually met the man.

Annabel finally settled in an uneasy plastic folding chair at a plastic garden table with a group of blonde-haired twenty-something women dressed in varying shades of pastel dresses. Annabel felt as if she were sitting in the middle of a preppy ad for Lily Pulitzer or J Crew, and she tried not to feel self-conscious about her own frizzy brown hair or the dress she was wearing, a vintage 1940’s black and white A-line number that she had thought looked so good that morning, though now she wasn’t so sure. She shifted from time to time in her seat, uncrossing and then re-crossing her legs at the ankles, hoping to get comfortable in a place where she didn’t feel she quite belonged.

It was not so much that Annabel felt out of place at the picnic.  She was just wrestling with her accustomed awkwardness when it came to acclimation.  She felt as if she had transferred to a new high school in her junior year, and all the cliques had already been set.  There were the popular kids, now coaching the sports at EPJ; the intellectuals, those who had been teaching at the school for years and years; the administrative staff, kind of the go-between clique; and Annabel, the librarian’s drone, floating around the hive, just looking for a place to fit in. Annabel sensed with dread the familiar disconnect, the feeling that she couldn’t relate, couldn’t really understand the enthusiasm this group of people had for their jobs in general.  They were all so gung-ho about the community of the school for which they were working.  Annabel wanted desperately to feel that strongly about it.  To feel that strongly about anything.

 


End of Year Musings Week 4 – Something New

Monday, Dec 19: Something New
Knitting, a new language, underwater basketweaving… what new things did you learn this year? 

This year, I started making cakes for the kids’ parties. It’s not even close to looking professional. There’s no fondant involved, but it’s fun, and the kids will remember these.

Cake for Clooney's First Holy Communion

Clooney’s really into cars, so when it came to putting together this cake, the idea just kind of came to me…blasphemous as it may have been. The strip of road on top was made from the part of the cake that I had to slice from the bottom to make it even. It was devil’s food on the inside just to make sure I had my foot planted firmly on the road to Hell.

This is a Golden Snitch, which is a Harry Potter Quidditch thing, if you are not hip to wizard lingo.

For his 11th birthday, Edison wanted to go all Hogwarts, and we had quite an elaborate party. I did a couple of practice rounds of these cake pops before the final product. They were devil’s food on the inside as well. The wings were made of melted white chocolate that I piped out onto wax paper before applying to the pop.

The Wicked Witch of the West spelled out The Princess's name with her broom there as well. The sign was made on cardboard, and held up with chopsticks that I "borrowed" from PF Chang. I might also note that this cake weighed 14,000 pounds.

And then there was The Princess’s Wizard of Oz-themed party. (Quite a year of wizards for us over here.) The inside of the cake had layers that were the colors of the rainbow (or as close to the colors of the rainbow as I could get without putting our party guests into a food-dye-induced coma.)

For each cake, I just kind of used my imagination along with a lot of humor, patience, and icing. I’ve never taken any kind of decorating class, and I don’t claim to be Martha Stewart or anything. (And I think if Martha saw these, she would breathe a sigh of relief on that note.) Like I said, it was fun to make them, and I hope to do more cakes for the kids in 2012.


End of Year Musings Week 3

 Week 3: Experiences

Monday, Dec 12: Travel
Did you take a big trip this year? Or maybe even just a little one? Where did you go?

I took a few trips this year. First, Manfrengensen and I went to NYC in May, and we saw The Motherf**er in the Hat, starring Bobby Cannavale and Chris Rock. We also saw Midnight in Paris, and it was fun seeing a Woody Allen film in the city. And then we returned there in July with the kids when it was hot as Hades. In the Fall, we went to Orlando to visit Disney World and Universal. It was such a great trip, and we were sorry when it ended, even though the kids had Manfrengensen burning the candle at both ends.

Tuesday, Dec 13: Getting Lost
Share a time that you got lost this year. Did you learn anything?

The only time I can think of that we got lost this year was when Manfrengensen accidentally went toward the Magic Kingdom Park instead of the hotel. He had to turn the rented mini-van around and cross five lanes of traffic (and maybe even a bit of grassy divider), which he did in a hilarious goofy way that had us all laughing and white-knuckled at the same time. But hey, it was a rental, right?

Wednesday, Dec 14: Reconnecting
Where do you go to reconnect with you? Did you experience a place where you found solace?

Massage is always good for that. But really, I think I find solace in my husband and my family. That’s always the best place to be, even though sometimes the solace can be in short supply.In general, I’m pretty happy with myself these days. It’s taken a long time, but you know what? I am who I am, and that’s all I can be. I’ve come to accept that that’s a good thing.

Waiting After Traveling by Waleed Arshad

Thursday, Dec 15: Indulgence
What did you indulge in this year? Get yourself or someone something extra special? Do something you’ve never done before?

This year we bought two pieces of art by Iraqi artist Waleed Arshad. I saw his work in a local coffee shop and just fell in love with it. By the time I went back to the shop, the exhibit had changed and it took me a couple of months to track down Arshad. I actually bought two paintings, one from his Ancient Symbols collection (which was what I had seen at the coffee shop), and one from  an earlier exhibition. It’s not just a decoration in our living room. When I stop to look at it, it speaks to my heart. Just some amazing work. If you get a chance to visit his work when it’s showing in a gallery, or even if you can take a moment to explore his website, please check it out.


Friday, Dec 16: Helping Out

How did you get involved in your community this year?

I’ve been pretty involved this year. I chaired the Book Fair at The Princess’s school in the Fall, which was pretty crazy, and yet really fun. I also helped with the Christmas pageant at my church. Another thing that I do every month is cook for the local soup kitchen, which involves making a bunch of chicken and desserts. I really enjoy doing that. I like to cook, and it makes me feel good to help out every month.

Saturday, Dec 17: Choice
What was the wisest decision you made this year?

I’ll let you know when I make one.

Sunday, Dec 18: Technology
What technology changed your world this year? Pick a gadget, a website… how did it make a difference for you?

I got an iPhone this year. I was always against the smartphone revolution, though now, I have no idea why. The other day, my friend and I were having lunch, and she mentioned that her daughter wants a pink scooter for Christmas, but the salesman at Dick’s told her that they don’t make a pink scooter any more.

“That’s ridiculous,” I said. “Target has pink Razor scooters out the yin-yang.” And to prove it, all I had to do was punch “pink scooter” into the Target app on my phone. Sure enough, there was a pink Razor there that was in the same price range as the black concession she had purchased at Dick’s. What did we do before iPhones? We wondered. We settled for no pink scooter, that’s what.

Prompts courtesey of Thinkit.com


End of Year Musings Week 2

WEEK 2: Place

Thursday, Dec 8: Inspiration Spaces
When you need inspiration, where do you go? What place really did it for you in 2011?

If I want inspiration, all I have to do is go to bed. I don’t know why, but my muse is most likely to come for me there.

Friday, Dec 9: Home
Why do you live where you do? What makes it home?

I always thought, growing up, that I would end up in another town. A bigger town, a more exciting town, and I did leave a couple of times, but I always came back. It’s home because I know the place. Everywhere else I have ever lived, I never really got to know the geography. No matter how many times I drove those streets, I always felt like a tourist.

My dad still lives here with my stepmother, and Manfrengensen’s parents are only 20 minutes away. Living so close to their grandparents, I think, is just a great thing for my kids, especially in a world where proximity to family is an increasingly rare treasure. So what makes it home is family.


Saturday, Dec 10: Work

Describe your work environment or desk. Did you make any changes to it this year? How do you work within that space?

My desk never stays clean. It is a study in entropy. And everyone else in the house seems to put their crap on my desk too. So let’s see…in adition to the computer and its mouse, there are the following items: In the far right corner is a stack of blank yellow pads, which I like to use to keep notes in. The one that I am currently using to write my ideas in, however, is in the kitchen at the moment. On top of that stack is an empty manilla envelope. No idea what it’s doing there, or how it got there. On top of that are a note from the post office; instructions from Edison’s doctor about how to care for this current bout of bronchitis; two 39-cent stamps from the Comic Book collection featuring Green Lantern and Plastic Man, still attached to a larger, ripped and worn paper platform, from which all the other super heroes have been plucked and sent to points beyond; an invitation to next Friday’s Festivus celebration, and two snowmen crafted by my daughter using a foam kit at Thanksgiving.

That’s just the right hand corner, mind you. There’s also a pencil cup filled with every kind of writing instrument, save my favorite, the Pentel Flair Felt Tip, which some people in this house like to steal from me; a pair of headphones from my Rosetta Stone Italian course; Nirvana’s Nevermind, in its CD case; a pad of blue post-it notes with some etchings regarding Manfrengensen’s work; a toy store receipt; a roll of tape; some notecards in a box; a Hello Kitty memo pad with notes about a car deal I was considering two months ago; an emory board; a gift receipt from Target; three coupons to Macy’s; A Harry Potter LEGO minifigure (WHAT’S HE DOING HERE?); an origami Ninja throwing star; a list of items Clooney’s art teacher is collecting for the local ASPCA; the directions for the Smart Slicer I bought before Thanksgiving; a desk lamp; two speakers; and a Christmas cactus that is so dry it’s basically begging me in its silent plant language for a merciful death.

And the that’s just the top of the desk. I could tell you about the shelves underneath, or the bookshelves surrounding me here, but that might get embarrassing.

Seriously, how do I get anything done in here?

Sunday, Dec 11: Gathering
When you want to gather with friends, where do you go and why?

Well, I have been gathering quite a bit at Panera this year. It seems like every once in a while, I get a place, where you are most likely to find me at certain hours of the day. These days it’s Panera.

Also, we have had quite a few parties and gatherings here at the house. We’ve only been here for a year or so, and it’s a really comfortable space to have people gather. The yard is large, with a swingset/playground, and the basement has lots of things for kids to do as well. It’s nice to bring people in to visit.

Prompts courtesy of Thinkit.com