Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Jewel-Like Miscellany

In case anyone asks, I would like this bird to grace Nesting Ground Headquarters:

From woodworker Palo Samko.


Risa says that when she misses me, she goes into my room and looks at my bookshelves. I'm not sure if this is sweet or sad. I'm going to guess the former, since the latter would indicate that I am constantly gone. In fact, I only leave them once a week for date night.


Must draw someone's—anyone's!—attention to the nugget of sweetness that is this colleciton of children's stories from Eleanor Farjeon. It was first published in 1955:

There's a simplicity and a soothing sort of symmetry that makes these stories so lovely. And because YOU are so lovely, I am going to while away the next several minutes typing one out in its entirety. My children audibly SIGHED after this one:

Young Kate

by Eleanor Farjeon

A long time ago old Miss Daw lived in a narrow house on the edge of the town, and Young Kate was her little servant. One day Kate was sent up to clean the attic windows, and as she cleaned them she could see all the meadows that lay outside the town. So when her work was done she said to Miss Daw, 'Mistress, may I go out to the meadows?'

'Oh, no!' said Miss Daw. 'You mustn't go in the meadows.'

'Why not, Mistress?'

'Because you might meet the Green Woman. Shut the gate, and get your mending.'

The next week Kate cleaned the windows again, and as she cleaned them she saw the river that ran in the valley. So when her work was done she said to Miss Daw, 'Mistress, may I go down to the river?'

'Oh, no!' said Miss Daw. 'You must never go down to the river!'

'Why ever not, Mistress?'

'Because you might meet the River King. Bar the door, and polish the brasses.'

The next week when Kate cleaned the attic windows, she saw the woods that grew up the hillside, and after her work was done she went to Miss Daw and said, 'Mistress, may I go up to the woods?'

'Oh, no!' said Miss Daw. 'Don't ever go up to the woods!'

'Oh, Mistress, why not?'

'Because you might meet the Dancing Boy. Draw the blinds, and peel the potatoes.'

Miss Daw sent Kate no more to the attic, and for six years Kate stayed in the house and mended the stockings, and polished the brass, and peeled the potatoes. Then Miss Daw died, and Kate had to find another place.

Her new place was in the town on the other side of the hills, and as Kate had no money to ride, she was obliged to walk. But she did not walk by the road. As soon as she could she went into the fields, and the first thing she saw there was the Green Woman planting flowers.

'Good morning, Young Kate,' said she, 'and where are you going?'

'Over the hill to the town,' said Kate.

'You should have taken the road, if you meant to go quick,' said the Green Woman, 'for I let nobody pass through my meadows who does not stop to plant a flower.'

'I'll do that willingly,' said Kate, and she took the Green Woman's trowel and planted a daisy.

'Thank you' said the Green Woman; ' now pluck what you please.'

Kate plucked a handful of flowers, and the Green Woman said, 'For every flower you plant, you shall always pluck fifty.'

Then Kate went on to the valley where the river ran, and the first thing she saw was the River King in the reeds.

'Good day, Young Kate,' said he, 'and where are you going?'

'Over the hill to the town,' said Kate.

'You should have kept to the road if you're in anything of a hurry,' said the River King, 'for I let nobody pass by my river who does not stop to sing a song.'

'I will gladly,' said Kate, and she sat down in the reeds and sang.

'Thank you,' said the River King; 'now listen to me.'

And he sang song after song, while the evening drew on, and when he had done, he kissed her and said, 'For every song you sing, you shall always hear fifty.'

Then Kate went up the hill to the woods on the top, and the first thing she saw there was the Dancing Boy.

'Good evening, Young Kate,' said he. 'Where are you going?'

'Over the hill to the town,' said Kate.

'You should have kept to the road, if you want to be there before morning,' said the Dancing Boy, 'for I let nobody through my woods who does not stop to dance.'

'I will dance with joy,' said Kate, and she danced her best for him.

'Thank you,' said the Dancing Boy; 'now look at me.'

And he danced for her till the moon came up, and danced all night till the moon went down. When morning came he kissed her and said, 'For every dance you dance, you shall always see fifty.'

Young Kate then went on to the town, where in another little narrow house she became servant to old Miss Drew, who never let her go to the meadows, the woods, or the river, and locked up the house at seven o'clock.

But in the course of time, Young Kate married, and had children and a little servant of her own. And when the day's work was done, she opened the door and said, 'Run along now, children, into the meadows, or down to the river, or up to the hill, for I shouldn't wonder but you'll have the luck to meet the Green Woman there, or the River King, or the Dancing Boy.

And the children and the servant girl would go out, and presently Kate would see them come home again, singing and dancing with their hands full of flowers.

The Little Bookroom is just one of the beautiful hardcover volumes in The New York Review Children's Collection. Swoon.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Power Out, But Corny On. Very On.

It's just me and the kids tonight, and I have to admit I was secretly thrilled when the power went out at about 8:00 pm. I was in the middle of putting them down for bed, and their lights were already off, so they took little notice of the outage. All three went down easy, and then I lit four fat candles and cleaned up the kitchen. At 9:00, I crawled into bed to read and write—free of my computer (it was charged, but my wireless connection was down), and the siren call of my iPhone (um, not charged). Unfortunately, five minutes later the power was back, and now here I am sucked right onto the Internet.

Oh, well. I don't feel too guilty on the writing front, though, since by some miracle I managed to write quite a bit today. It must have been the white noise created by the non-stop arguing my children were so determined to engage in. "What are they fighting about?" asked the spousal unit when he called to chat before dinner. "What AREN'T they fight about?" quipped your Nesting Ground Mistress. None of them were angry with me, however, so I steered clear of the whole thing. I prefer to let them work out their own differences whenever possible lest I risk becoming their referee for all time.


Yesterday was transformative. And you can just stop your eye-rolling right now; it WAS. Just imagine your Nesting Ground Mistress in a room filled with almost every conceivable type of person. Now, if you will, imagine that we didn't even notice the things that made us different because we were too busy being what Barack Obama believes we can be: Americans united by the possibility of real change.

Yes, I've taken an entire bottle of corny pills and at this stage, I don't really care who knows it. Of course, I liveblogged the whole experience over at Twitter, which I will now—gosh, how lucky are YOU?!—re-create here:

10:24 AM January 26, 2008 from web: Back at Obama HQ with my friend J. and a room full of other volunteers. And—forgive me—I'm fired up and ready to go!

10:35 AM January 26, 2008 from web: A neighbor is here, too! I've never met her before...

10:46 AM January 26, 2008 from web: Ten calls so far. Two people "leaning towards your guy."

10:54 AM January 26, 2008 from web: Someone just rang the bell! Gah—I wanted to be the first one!

11:07 AM January 26, 2008 from web: Everyone's ringing the bell but me. It must be my frog voice...

11:16 AM January 26, 2008 from web: Okay...my friend J. is about to ring the bell for the SECOND time.

11:57 AM January 26, 2008 from web: YES!!! Just rang my first bell!

12:16 PM January 26, 2008 from web: One of my tablemates just rang the bell. I do believe our table is on a roll...

12:49 PM January 26, 2008 from web: There's a ukelele musician here (he went to Obama's high school). Just a guess, but I bet there's no ukelele playing at the HRC office...

01:00 PM January 26, 2008 from web: End of my shift. Made 81 calls. This place is BOOMING: old, young, white, black, brown. It's a beautiful thing....

01:04 PM January 26, 2008 from web: OMG, the ukelele band is playing a special OBAMA song...

01:10 PM January 26, 2008 from web: This band is killin' me. Now they're playing their "team song." I wish I brought my real camera. iPhone pix to follow...

[at this point I received an e-mail from Sunny asking what all the damn bell-ringing was about]

02:20 PM January 26, 2008 from web: Wily wants to know about the bell. We're calling independents, so when we find an Obama-ite or win over an undecided, we ring the bell.

04:45 PM January 26, 2008 from web: Obama has won EVERY age group in South Carolina. Talk about unifying...

If you would like one of my corny pills, you need only ask.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Possible Nightmares of Varying Intensity

This will disturb my sleep considerably tonight. Those who know me well, will realize that I'm not kidding:


Apparently, it's a big deal when the second graders sing "Let There Be Peace on Earth" at the Star Assembly. Such a big deal, in fact, that Risa and Vida have been practicing the song non-stop for weeks now.

Well, the Star Assembly is today at 11:15. I'm saying this more to myself than to you. As a reminder, you see. Because if I miss the Star Assembly which is today at 11:15 and at which my daughters are singing "Let There Be Peace on Earth" and which is a very big honking deal for them, I will be in big, big trouble. Nightmare trouble.


Later this afternoon, I'll be making my first phone calls on behalf of the Obama campaign. By my 50th call, I imagine I'll be pretty disheartened. Or maybe not! Maybe I'll be pleasantly surprised. No matter what happens, though, I'll keep dialing.

Click on this quick message from Lorna Brett Howard, former President of Chicago NOW:

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Distractions, Literary and Otherwise

Almost every short story I've read to date this year (there's a running list on my sidebar) is from the anthology My Mistress's Sparrow Is Dead, edited by Jeffrey Eugenides. It's billed as "Great Love Stories, from Chekhov to Munro," and this is no false claim. Of course it's out just in time to pick up for Valentine's Day and give to your lover-ly. All proceeds go to the awesome 826 Valencia.

Gilbert Sorrentino's "The Moon in Its Flight," which I think was written in the early '70s, has been a standout for me so far, especially since I am new to his writing. I admire the dreamlike quality he creates in this story, the blink-and-you-might-miss-it perfection of a teenage summer lake romance in 1948 New York. He throws in all these authorial asides, but rather than disrupting the motion of the story, they add a sort of topnote or a parallel story/essay. Anyways, I'm inspired to pick up Sorrentino's story collection, also titled The Moon in Its Flight.


I'd be remiss (um, to myself) if I didn't mention that I've been driven to distraction by the upcoming California primary. I know it seems like he's been my guy for a long time now, but I was only 98.7% (random!) committed to Obama until quite recently. In fact, I would have liked to be able to stand behind a woman in this election. Unfortunately, in her effort to win, Clinton is consistently resorting to...I don't know what to call it...complete lunacy? Worse than complete lunacy, actually, since complete lunacy cannot be helped and certainly isn't meant to hurt. Whatever you want to call it, it's shameful. This article at the Huffington Post is just one of MANY to chronicle the fact that her team's attacks on Obama are outright lies.

Now, I'm not stupid. I'm sure Obama is spinning in his own way. But it's not her way: it's not ugly, it's not vicious, it doesn't reek of Karl Rove circa 2004.

So...this Friday and Saturday and—schedule permitting—into the following week, you'll find me phonebanking at Obama's South San Francisco field office. If I call you, be nice! Hey, like my shirt?

Thursday, January 17, 2008


A few days after Thanksgiving, while standing in line at Trader Joe's, my wandering eyes landed on a 4-oz bar of Toblerone. Into my basket it went. I hid the bar in one of the kitchen cabinets, and once every week or two, I break off one of the triangle-shaped pieces and eat it in five small creamy, yet slightly crunchy, yet slightly chewy, bites. Today, though, I've had three pieces. I don't know what, exactly, that reveals about the kind of day I'm having, but there you have it. Viva La Toblerone!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Tracey Flick Lives!

See?! I'm not the only one picking up Tracey Flick vibes:

Obviously, I have my favorite Democratic candidate, but I'm not hatin' on Hillary (although if I have to hear that "...ready on day one..." thing again, I might have to take emergency measures). I just thought this was hilarious.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Thinking About Tomorrow

Our attempt to see "There Will Be Blood," was thwarted Friday night when we realized that the 8:30 showing wouldn't let out until 11:30. And so we ended up in a theatre packed with folks of every age to watch "Juno." Not the most accurate vision of teenage pregnancy, but clever and sweet nonetheless. The couple next to us walked out in the first ten minutes, shortly after the hilarious Juno described her obsession with boys and their running shorts. I think it was "pork swords" that pushed them over the edge.

Even though it was a diverse crowd, there was a huge contingent of teenagers. I always get a little sad and wistful whenever I'm around groups of young hoodie-clad women clutching their cellphones and their tiny bags and whispering urgently to each other. I can barely look at them, especially when the SU points out the obvious. "Jesus," he always says. "That's our future." And in my head I scream, "For the love of fish and chips, macaroons, and malted milk balls...noooooooooooooooo!"

It's unfair of me to pass judgement on this teenage tribe. First of all because I was once a card-carrying member. Second, I know they, like all of us, simply find comfort and security in the ways they are alike, and I know this is not bad in and of itself. But every once in awhile I see one who is different in some can't-quite-put-a-finger-on-it way. It's something about the way she doesn't abuse a flat iron, something about the way she doesn't seem as invested in playing follow the leader, something about the way she keeps a book or a journal in her purse instead of five kinds of lip gloss, something about the way her existence doesn't appear to depend on the next text message she receives.

I don't know. But when I see a girl like that, I always secretly (well, not so secretly NOW) hope: Maybe THAT's our future.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Friday Night

Last night I was browsing the magazines at Borders and standing about two feet to the left of a man who was, in turn, about a foot to the left of the New Yorker. I reached for the New Yorker and then walked around the man to the adjacent stand. A few seconds later, I heard him voicing some sort of complaint. When I realized he was directing his comments to me, I looked at him for several seconds without saying anything. He was a tall and imposing person, and though I felt intimidated, I certainly wasn't going to shrink. "Excuse me? What's the problem?" I asked.

"You practically hit me in the face with that magazine," he said.

This was a ridiculous lie, but I felt it would be a waste of time to point it out. "I'm sorry," I decided to say. "I didn't realize that was the case." I then walked around to the other side of the fixture. He continued to watch me over the top of the stand. Non-reaction, I guessed, was my best bet. He started saying other things that I couldn't make out, and I continued to ignore him. Then he very quickly walked over to me and said, "Do you even have a green card? Because it doesn't look like you have a green card."

"What?! You are going to stop talking to me right now," I said.

"I'm from immigration and I want to see your green card."

At this point, I was completely rattled. I walked over to the cafe staff and told them I was being harassed. Much to their credit, they used their headphone system to call a manager over quickly. The man yelled something and then walked to the music section, where he was approached by the manager. I bought a bottle of water, and when I handed over my money I found—much to my anger and embarrassment—that my hands were badly shaking.

After watching the manager speak to the man, I assumed he would leave. I sat down at a table, took out my laptop, and went through the motions of doing what I had come to do in the first place, which was write. Soon, the manager joined me.

"So I talked to that customer, and I guess you hit him?"

"What?! I did not hit him. He was standing near a magazine that I grabbed."

"Oh. Well, I told him if anything like that ever happened again, he should come and find a manager."

"I think you're missing the point," I said. "He was also making offensive racial comments."

"Oh, well then I'll ask him to leave then."


The manager went to talk to the man again, and the cafe manager came over to my table. "I'm really sorry," she said. "Here's a coupon for a free drink."

It was a ridiculous—albeit well-meaning—gesture, so I just said, "Thank you. I appreciate that."

I don't know if the man was, indeed, asked to leave. If he was, he didn't do so. He kept skirting the edge of the cafe staring at me, but I decided to stop paying attention. About a half hour later, it was time for me to pick the SU up at the airport. By then, though, it was completely dark outside. Had the man left? Was he crazy enough to be watching me through the cafe window and waiting for me to leave? Again I felt anger and embarrassment: I was going to have to ask someone to walk me to my car.


Five minutes after leaving Borders and still thinking, of course, about what had happened, I saw some movement in the car to my left. I turned to look, and it was a twenty-something-year-old man who felt the inexplicable need to wave to me and display his ability to exercise his tongue in a highly offensive manner.


Now, this is something that every woman deals with on a fairly regular basis. On any other night it probably wouldn't have fazed me at all. But to be subject to sexual harassment right on the heels of dealing with racially-motivated insults was too much. By the time I made it to the airport, I was a highly demoralized person. Thank God for the SU, who is basically the only person in the world who inspires me to answer the question, "How are you?" in an honest way.


I have something to say to the next person who looks at me and sees a woman who is a doormat for ignorance or crude sexual advances:

I fucking DARE you.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Brilliant Vs. Lazy

Exhibit A: In the morning, I scroll through Tastespotting, or, as I like to think of it: food porn at its best. By the time I'm done, I'm so vicariously spent that I find no problem with serving my children breakfast for dinner, as I did tonight. This is either brilliant or lazy.


Well...it's lazy. It's lazy because I wouldn't have done it if the SU had been here.

Exhibit B: It is now 9:24 pm, and I am already hunkered down and ready to turn off the lights. This is either brilliant or lazy.


It's brilliant. Vida woke up at three this morning to regale me with the details of what she described as the "scariest nightmare ever." I didn't quite understand what was so scary about a cat who "wouldn't move out of the way no matter WHAT," but I suppose that nightmares, like anything else, are relative. I rolled over to the freezing-cold side of the bed and let her claim the warm spot. An hour or so later, another small person wandered into the room. She didn't even say anything. Just climbed over me and took over the middle of the bed. I watched the clock tick off the minutes for about half an hour, and then I guess I fell asleep. Or maybe—judging from the way I feel right now—I ran a marathon and lifted some weights. So, yes, it's a brilliant idea to go to sleep at 9:24 pm.

If you're keeping score, that's one point for Brilliant and one point for Lazy. I will now take my brilliant, lazy ass to bed.

A Brief Tale of The Great Acorn Squash Debate

"What's this?" says the snippy new checkout person at the market. She says it because there is no identifying sticker on this particular piece of produce.

"It's an acorn squash."

"No it's not."

"Yes, it is," I say.

"Acorn squash is orange. This isn't an acorn squash."

"Yes, it is," I repeat. I'm fully prepared to say it again, if she likes. In fact, I'm prepared to say it several times.

"Acorn. Squash. Is. Orange," she says.

I'm officially enraged, but never mind. I say, "Well, acorn squash is orange inside, but it's green outside. This is an acorn squash."

She holds up the acorn squash and turns around to face the other checkout people. "Hey!" she yells. "What is this?" They just stare at her. "This!" she says. She shakes the acorn squash. "Right here! What is THIS?"

Nobody answers her. So I do. I say, "It's an acorn squash."

"I'll go see," she says.

"Hokay, you go see."

When she returns, she says, "It's an acorn squash."

I say, "Yes, it is."

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Borrowing Playbooks

I love following this campaign, truly. Hillary is giving her New Hampshire victory speech now, and cheering right behind her are what look to be a bunch of teenagers. Contrast this with Iowa, where elders like Madeline Albright, Wesley Clark, and others shared her stage. And no sign of Bill Clinton (at least that I can see). Way to change it up!

At the moment, there's only a 2% difference between Hillary and Obama, and like the sappy dork I am, I'm wishing on unicorns and shooting stars that the remaining 9% of votes still to be accounted for will all belong to Mr. Obama. Alas.

Nevertheless, this is (almost) better than Season 2 of Rome...

Monday, January 07, 2008

You Blog In ________, You Do Real Writing in ________

You campaign in poetry, you govern in prose.

This doozie of bad comparisons was proffered by Hillary Clinton in the day or two after Iowa. I can't even imagine how frustrated she must be by Barack Obama's uncanny ability to mesmerize and inspire every time he opens his mouth. I hope she doesn't go all Tracey Flick on us:


The girls are back in school today, and the house is so very...still. Even when they're upstairs, I can usually hear their (surprisingly) heavy footsteps and the sound(s) of their weird kid games. So I'm actually kinda lonely sitting here in the quiet.

I wanted very much to begin the year by working on a new story, and I've surprised myself (since I'm not, you know, particularly good at following through on my personal goals) by doing exactly that. I know I'll finish it, too, because it started the way almost all my finished stories start. That is: I saw something. And in my head, I keep seeing it.

In fact, I'm seeing it right now. So I think I'll get to work.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Oh. My. Obama!

I know it's only one state, and there's a long way to go, but STILL.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008


Currently Reading: What Is The What: The Autobiography of Valentino Achak Deng by Dave Eggers


Deconstructing Penguins: Parents, Kids, and the Bond of Reading

Watching: Rome, complete seasons 1 and 2 (Titus Pullo is on trial at the moment! He will be condemned to death in the Arena! Soon Lucius Vorenus will come—reluctantly—to his rescue in a scene that has no gory rival! Why can I not let this show go?! Why am I yelling?! I don't know!)

Managing: the penning of thank you notes

Sweating: the penning of thank you notes

Contemplating: Wii Fit

Anticipating: Sweeney Todd, The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

Resisting: a cold

Enjoying: the sight of Risa lounging in a chair and reading Roddy Doyle's hilarious (from what she tells me) The Giggler Treatment

Trying: to drink more water (I do this every January; every January I pretty much fail)

Appreciating: The painting by Joy Mallari that serves as the inspiration for this year's Romeo Forbes Children's Storywriting Competition