Tuesday, October 29, 2013


Norah Jones and Green Day's Billie Joe Armstrong are putting out an album of Everly Brothers' cover songs. I can't tell you how much I love this! They sound amazing together.

Halloween Pre-Gaming

Halloween is still two days away, but we're already well into the thick of our celebrations. Last Friday afternoon, we went to the business district trick-or-treating in our town square.

Maggie is a black cat (of course) and Kate is Merida from Brave. I think she looks pretty good with red hair!

They got a half ton of candy and balloons and pencils and spider rings and stickers. I know some people try to minimize the candypalooza sugar-gluttony of their kids' Halloween, but I find myself thinking, "Knock yourselves out, ladies. Load up on those mini Snickers while you still can!" I guess I have a slightly unhealthy obsession with Halloween candy myself, so I'd be a terrible hypocrite if I didn't let them indulge in a little festive candy hoarding. They're going to be vacuuming up holiday treats and birthday cakes from now until March anyway, so we might as well hunker down with a pumpkin bucket of Reese's cups and get this show on the road.

Not to worry though, it hasn't all been an insulin carnival. On Sunday, Mike carved their pumpkins for them. Kate's is the orange one with the scary face and Maggie's is the white one with the creepy smile.

We've decorated the house and put up lights on the porch. We watched Coraline on TV and then Kate slept with us because she had nightmares. Maggie painted this picture of pumpkins in art class, which I think is really quite good if I do say so myself.

It's been a scary good time already.

Kate's outfit might actually be scarier than the pumpkins.

We're still planning on hitting up the neighbors for MORE CANDY on Thursday night, so hopefully I'll have additional pictures this weekend.

May you all have an extremely dreadful Halloween!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

I'm Breaking Up With You, Skinny Jeans

After several months of internal debate, I've come to realize that this thing between us is never going to work out, Skinny Jeans. I've known it all along really, but now I'm finally ready to admit it to myself - and to you. And you know what else? I blamed myself. I came here prepared to take responsibility for our failure. If only I could stop eating all those bagels, you might look better on me, you know what I mean? But now that I'm here, I'm just going to say it: It's not me, Skinny Jeans. It's you.

You're kind of skeevy. You molest my thighs in public. You caress my upper knees in ways that make me feel uncomfortable. At first, I tried to tell myself that it was just because you thought I was so attractive. I hoped that your blatant and lascivious affection for my calves would convince other people that I was highly desirable. But then I noticed that you routinely betray me at the worst possible moments; flaunting my butt crack to the neighbors whenever I have to bend down to pick something up and refusing to hold my soft mom-belly in, even for just a few minutes while someone tries to take my picture. Would it kill you to help me out here a little? Nope, it's just all about you, isn't it, Skinny Jeans.

Because you think you are so cool, don't you? I know your ego is totally out of control because everyone tells you that you are the best. All my friends say you are a real catch and I'm lucky to have you, but they are in denial and covering for their own unsatisfying relationships with their Skinny Jeans. Well, I don't even care any more. Because really, this is just another iteration of that classic story about women and their self-destructive relationships with denim. As a whole, we just can't seem to avoid the lure of those bad boys.

But I'm pulling the wool from my eyes. I know in my heart of hearts that, if this were a relationship worth investing another hundred-and-something dollars in, you would support me. You would care more about MY happiness. If I had more self-respect I would least make you buy me dinner before I let you squeeze my bum like that while I'm trying to walk down the street! But no, you would never buy me dinner. Instead, you give me the stink eye from under the table while I eat and say cruel things to me like, "Pie? Really? Do you honestly think that's wise considering you just ate seconds of mac and cheese?" That hurts, Skinny Jeans. I don't need you tearing me down like this anymore.

So I'm throwing you out. It's over, Skinny Jeans. Go find some other poor self-conscious girl to fondle. I'm not going to take your abuse any longer. I'm going to go find myself a nice, cozy pair of boot-cut stretchy corduroys in a dark, flattering color that doesn't attract so much attention. A pair of pants that loves me just the way I am. From here on out, I'm going to be good to myself, and I'm going to demand that my trousers do the same. And I'm having some pie, goddammit.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Me and My Dad in the Grand Canyon at Sundown

I think I must’ve been about fifteen years old. The fields alongside the highway were spring green with new wheat. The sun through the window was blazing even though the chilly air outside was keeping the glass cold. It must’ve been February or March in Oklahoma. The car was growing increasingly stuffy, so my father flipped on the air conditioning, probably for the first time that season since I remember the smell of Freon filling the air. Dad had checked me out of school early, and we were headed for an orthodontist appointment in a nearby suburban town.

My memory of that afternoon is nearly photographic and enables me to recapture the exact feeling of being the young teenage girl I was then. The brilliant green wheat, the vibrant blue prairie sky, the hot sun, the cold air, the chemical smell of the air conditioner, the exact location on the old back highway we always took where the road rises up to cross the railroad track, the angst and irritability of my teenage self in the passenger seat next to my father.

We were on our way to get my braces tightened. My sweater was too warm and my head was achy. If I could have seen my own face, I’m sure I would now also have a vivid vision of my scowling eyes. I can remember the feel of my frown. There’s no doubt that I was a lovely travelling companion.

My dad reached over and punched the button for the radio. He had been listening to one of the Bob Dylan Bootleg Series tapes before I go into the car, and the middle of a song jumped out of the speakers with no introduction as Bob wheezed away between shrill harmonica screeches.

I can feel myself roll my eyes in the hugely exaggerated way that only teenage girls can. I can feel the irritation rise in my chest and burst out. I can hear my snarky voice taunting my dad about how terrible this music is and why must he torture me this way? Isn’t it bad enough that he’s dragging me to the dentist? He has to assault my ears as well?

Bob and I were having a whining contest which I initially won, but what happened next changed me.

My dad turned the stereo off. He sat beside me in silence for a moment, but I could sense him gripping the steering wheel, seething, collecting his anger and his words. I waited for the backlash. Quietly but fiercely, he told me that I disappointed him. He told me I was too smart to not be able to understand what I was listening to. He had tried and tried to tell me that this music was important to him because it had a realness to it and an old soul. It had the Truth. He said that very few people in my whole life would ever just offer me the truth straight out. Most people want to tell you what they want you to think, some version of the truth that suits their own purpose. He told me that when I came across the Truth, I needed to be able to see it for what it was. I needed to learn to accept it from whomever was there to give it to me. I had to learn to hang on to it. I had to smarten up and recognize that this music was offering me the Truth and I was refusing to hear it because the delivery wasn’t as pretty and soothing as I liked. He told me to stop acting like a silly little teenage girl; he knew I could do better than that, be better than that.

My hot anger froze into indignant silence. I sat stunned, staring straight ahead, watching the highway disappear under the hood of the car.

I will play one more thing for you, he said. It’s not really a song. You should try to actually listen to it for once, and if you still don’t like it, I won’t make you listen to any more Bob Dylan. He fast forwarded the tape until he came to the beginning of Last Thoughts on Woody Guthrie. Bob’s shy speaking voice explained about being asked to write a short piece for a book about Woody and how he ended up writing five pages which he had with him and wanted to read aloud. I listened, really listened, as the words rolled out of the stereo speakers and washed over me.

The words said everything I had ever thought or ever felt. Bob spoke to me about all the things that lived inside my mind and heart. He went on for seven minutes describing life exactly as I experienced it, and I knew that these things I had thought must be true. My mind cracked. My understanding of everything shifted. I grew up in that car in that moment on that day.

It might seem silly to place so much weight on a song (or a poem) or on a change in my taste in music, but that experience of a piece of art sharpened my worldview. Today I am a fierce fan of Bob Dylan because his words describe the world in a way that I can trust.

I’m also grateful to have had the opportunity to sit next to my father, listening to music, knowing that for a moment we were both experiencing the universe in the same way, together.

And there's something on yer mind you wanna be saying
That somebody someplace oughta be hearin'
But it's trapped on yer tongue and sealed in yer head
And it bothers you badly when you’re layin' in bed
And no matter how you try you just can't say it
And yer scared to yer soul you just might forget it

Read the whole poem here.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013


I first heard about J.D. McPherson back in the summer when he did a song with Pokey LaFarge to benefit the Oklahoma City Community Fund's tornado relief endowment. The song is "Good Old Oklahoma" by Bob Wills, and I assume McPherson was chosen to partner on it because he is from Broken Arrow.

When I was born, my parents were living in Broken Arrow, which is a suburb of Tulsa and not far from their hometown in Okmulgee County. We only lived there a few years, so I don't really consider it to be home, but when I found out that McPherson is from there, I felt a connection. He's also an OU grad, a former school teacher, and a fellow fan of '50s rockabilly and rhythm and blues - so we're practically twins. Sure.

Since then, we have seen J.D. and his band on NPR's live stream of the Newport Folk Festival and on the Americana Music Awards show. This guy is obviously on the move. If only we were going home for Christmas this year instead of Thanksgiving, I'd definitely want to catch his show at Cain's Ballroom on December 27th. Be there or be square, daddy-o.

And if you can't make it to Oklahoma, just throw on your saddle shoes and have yourself a little sock hop in the living room. This cat's the real deal.

Friday, October 11, 2013


Maggie: Mom, do I have gym today?

Kate: I have gym today!

Maggie: (skeptical) You do? You have gym at preschool?

Kate: Yes! And computers! I have gym and computers today, just like you!

[Maggie looks at me questioningly. We've talked about this several times already. She knows Kate just wants to seem grown up like her big sister, and it really hurts her feelings to have it pointed out that she doesn't have gym or music or computers or library at her "school." I do a little silent head shake behind Kate's back.]

Maggie: OK. Computers and gym. I only have gym today.

Kate: And spy class! I also have spy class on Fridays!

Maggie: MOM. Make it stop!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013


An oldie but a goodie... the Raconteurs with Ricky Skaggs and Ashley Monroe.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Notes From the Nightstand: MaddAddam

Wendy friend, librarian, bookworm, and giver of lit-gifts sent me my copy of Oryx and Crake, the first book in Margaret Atwood's Maddaddam Trilogy, as a Christmas gift several years ago. It's even signed (to me, personally!), which makes it that much more special. Atwood is one of my favorite authors, which is not so surprising because she's simply one of the best writers currently publishing. Some of her books, like The Handmaid's Tale, are already classics. And her more recent work like The Blind Assassin and this current trilogy are brilliant and visionary.

I was immediately swept up in the world and the characters in Oryx and Crake. Atwood is often called a science fiction writer, but I have read that she prefers to call her work speculative fiction, in that everything she writes has already happened, has already been invented, or could easily occur based on current events and research. She simply imagines modern day conflicts carried out to their possible (speculative) logical conclusions, rather then inventing technologies that don't currently exist for a fantasy future world.

The MaddAddam world, for example, is fairly recognizable: it's an America where gated, elite biotech research corporations rule a society that has relinquished it's democracy and public safety in exchange for consumerism and technology. The environment is in serious trouble, the food people eat is barely even food anymore, and god forbid you ever express any dissatisfaction with the status quo. Just play some "reality" computer games and go have your epidermis resurfaced and you'll feel fine!

However, in the very beginning of the beginning of Oryx and Crake, a plague wipes out most of humanity and it's ethically destitute civilization. One of the survivors, Jimmy, tells the story in retrospect of his best friends, the Aspergers-y genius Crake and beautiful but damaged Oryx, in the time before the collapse.

The three books do not have a typical series-style storytelling arc. Most of the criticisms I have seen of this final book, MaddAddam, have to do with people's disappointed expectations that it did not contain some dramatic grand finale plot event. The entire arc of the story is outlined in the first book, which could stand on its own without the other two (and probably was originally intended to). But there's so much more to the story, and I assume Atwood just couldn't put it down without telling the other parts. If the first book is Jimmy's Version of the Story, then the second book is Ren and Toby's Version of the Story, and the third is mostly Adam and Zeb's Version of the Story.

The second book, The Year of the Flood, revisits the catastrophe now known as the Waterless Flood from the viewpoint of a few other survivors. Toby, Ren, Amanda, and Zeb are members of God's Gardeners, an environmental-religious group led by Adam One who come from the urban wastelands that lie outside the walls of the corporation compounds where Jimmy and Crake grew up. The book is fascinating as it gives a view of the world before and after from the other side of the tracks and shows how other people managed to survive the meltdown.

In this new third portion of the story, the recently released MaddAddam, you get all the survivors coming together to try to start putting the world back together. Once again, there's a lot of backstory for some of the characters, particularly Zeb. You also get to see what happens after the point where most apocalypse stories have the hero ride off into the sunset. It's basically all denouement (the resolution portion of a story after the climax wherein all the loose ends are tied up), which is unsatisfying to some people. I, on the other hand, am so in love with the characters that I wanted to see just exactly how they got on with the rest of the world happily/unhappily forever after. It's definitely not a perfect book and not as good as Oryx and Crake or The Year of the Flood, but it served a very specific and important purpose for me, who had read and loved the other two. But it isn't really all tied up neatly in a perfect little trilogy package.

My copies of these books, on the other hand, are tied up neatly in a perfect little trilogy package, because this book is also signed by Margaret Atwood, a matching bookend to my copy of Oryx and Crake. My friend, Amy, to whom I had given The Blind Assassin as a gift - ah, the literary karma! - invited me to go see Margaret Atwood speak in Cambridge last month. Atwood is deadpan and hilarious, both when reading from her work and when answering questions from the audience. She also wore her purse on her shoulder the entire time and had to borrow reading glasses as she had forgotten hers, which cracked us up. She reminded me of Agatha Christie's author character, Ariadne Oliver - a little scattered and eccentric, but very likeable.

So, like author, like book: MaddAddam is also deadpan and hilarious, scattered and eccentric, but very likeable. If you haven't read any of them, start with Oryx and Crake, of course. And if you can't put the story down and walk away from it afterwards, keep going. It's worth it.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013


Today's To Do List, while the government is shut down:

1. Cut the tags off all our mattresses.

2. Only come to rolling stops at stop signs.

3. Plant marijuana garden in the backyard. (Don't worry. I'm embarrassingly bad at gardening. They'll all be dead by the time the government is back online.)

4. No tip!

5. Mess with Texas.

6. Place cell phone calls during the movie.

7. Stay ON the grass.

8. Cut in line.

9. Park in front of hydrants.

10. Open all the neighbors' mail, then throw it away.

11. Studiously ignore desperate feelings about the state of our political system.