Friday, November 30, 2012

[sic] by Scott Kelly

I love the cover; it's simple and complex at the same time.
It's difficult to find a really well-written book that has a driving concept behind it. Some start with a great idea and others have beautiful prose, but to have both interwoven in one book is a rare, lovely thing. The Age of Miracles is one - the idea that the planet's revolution is gradually slowing sings out with lush phrases.

[sic] is another. The book is about a group of kids who play a game called Eureka, invented by David, the ringleader (more about him later.) In the game, if someone gets tagged "It," they must do something in the next fifteen minutes to completely change his life. Or her life. 

At first the game is simple - a damaged, gorgeous girl gets tagged and kisses a nerdy guy in front of everyone in the school, David switches paperwork between two McMansions. But as things progress, the game and the changes inflicted by the kids themselves become more and more trippy.

That's the concept, and it's a good one. A lesser writer would have created a decent manuscript that tells the story of the kids and the game as a compelling enough read. But this is Scott Kelly, who is a real wordsmith. Look at how he describes Kent's father, the landlord of the trailer park where the Eureka players all live:
Scott Kelly, the author

Kent's dad slept under an awning. Rolls of fat spilled out from the sides of the larn chair. Dad once warned me to stay away from Mr. Gimble - fairly easy advice to follow, because the landlord seemed violent and pissed off at all times.
A sweaty thatch of faded blondhair gave way to fat cheeks and thick jowls. What struck me most was how sad Kent's dad looked. Not mad at all. Just a defeated frown, like he was about to start bawling in his sleep. Like dreaming was torment. Like it hurt to be.
I could guess the cause of his nightmares: the landlord hated being alone with himself.

The narrator is Jacob. He frames the story as he speaks to police, to a youth psychologist, and also to us. [sic] begins with David's death, and throughout the book, Jacob is trying to describe what happened. I dare you to read that first paragraph and not want to find out what happens:

My personal savior is named David Bloom, and presently he's falling about ten stories from the top of a water tower. And my stupid stunned mind; all I can think is that he looks great doing it. Arms spread, fingertips extended, face serene - homicide by stage dive. His body returns to the earth below, the ten-story drop reducing him to a streak of white and blue cloth, brown hair blown back from closed eyes. Maybe he's smiling. Maybe I just like to think so.

By the way - the story is told in the past tense, a big plus for me. I'm not a present tense fan at all. After that first paragraph, the tense switches smoothly to the past, and Kelly makes it work. And the added concept of David's fall (or flight) is extended throughout the book, as Jacob seeks the blame for David's death: "I blame the death of David Bloom on the fact that after the math, David always won. His solar system spun, and we were trapped in its orbit."

David himself is the catalyst, although his influence extends through the other kids. He is attractive: 

David's skin shone against low-hanging sun, wisps of curled brown hair a halo charged by the dawn's light. Never got a haircut his mom didn't give, so it was shoulder-length, in calm curls. 
Angry almond eyes.

The other kids are vivid characters as well. There is Kent, the son of the landlord, who could have been a simple, static character but reveals layers of personality as the story unfolds. Cameron is the damaged beauty, molested by Kent's dad, who kisses Steven, the dweeby guy. There's Emily, the girl who is "all dyed black hair and army boots." She might be one of my favorite characters, even though she is dangerous - perhaps because she is dangerous - she refuses to put up with things as they are. Perhaps it is the reason that she embraces Eureka. The kids are the players : they are called the Six.

And then there is an outsider, Nora - an overweight girl that Jacob falls for. The description of her and the growing relationship between Jacob and the girl who refuses to play the game that takes over the lives of the Six. 

That creates a great tension between her and Jacob, although the other relationships (between Cameron and Kent, Emily and Jacob, and Jacob and David himself) are also explored deeply. 

It's as if Kelly stretches things, so we can see the thoughts and feelings behind the mumbled conversations and making out sessions between the members of the Six and Nora. He finds the "liminal spaces" (read the book to find out what that is) hiding in their interactions.

There were some sections that made me pause. For example, in the second half of the book, when David talks to the Six about his philosophy, he doesn't sound like a teen but a professor. I get that he is supremely intelligent (he paints impressions of music so you can almost hear it) but would a teen kid really say, "Change is the only constant, and so we must constantly change"?

I was also disappointed that Nora became a thin girl. Over the course of the book, she loses weight and shows off her mile-longlegs and her "athletic ponytail." I would have loved the originality if Jacob had continued to fall for her, pounds and all.

However, I must say that these flaws (along with one POV change and one over-compression of events) stood out BECAUSE the book is so good. If that lesser writer had offered the book, these would have been lost, as trash inside a messy trailer gets kicked to one side. In the glowing symphony of Kelly's book, I noticed them because of the beauty of everything else.

And let me mention here, before I forget, the soaring beauty of the grackle image - those birds that pick trash near the trailerpark. They occur throughout the book, and it is a lovely, sustained metaphor.

I would still highly recommend [sic] because of the concept, the writing, the characters - and the amazing ending. The book accomplished that rare thing - it entertained me and made me think, at the same time. 

You can purchase [sic] on Amazon or add it to your Goodreads list.

As well, read more about Scott Kelly's book on Facebook or his author website.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Print Proofs!

I just had to show off what arrived in the post today:

They look all shiny and new!

And then there are the maps:

And the drop caps:

And the journal entry pages:

Hurray! Thanks again to my cover designer, Lisa Daly, for the wonderful print format she did. As usual, the proofs look perfect, thanks to her hard work. 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Laundry Day

NOT what my laundry room looks like.
Well, it's that time again. Actually, who am I kidding - it's ALWAYS that time. How does laundry happen so often? I swear I just filled an entire castle moat with clothes, towels, and sheets on Monday, so why is every single hamper in the house filled to the brim? Did some clothes wear the other clothing behind my back?

Here, in no particular order, are the kinds of laundry I wrestle each week:

1. Whites - The worst. Each load is filled with such bitty, piddly stuff. Socks, undies, and bras - those instruments of torture that wind themselves around everything else. 

2. Towels - The Tank load. Each towel weighs, when wet, more than my eight year old.

3. Sheets - It's winter, and my husband just looooooves his Kingsize flannel sheets. Of course, Mr. Man doesn't have to wash them, nor does he realize that each sheet takes an entire load. 

4. School uniforms - My kid is a parochial school student, which means uniforms have to be ready to go in the morning. Just when I have the system down, the principal schedules a "Walkathon" or some such thing, and I have to rush the gym uniform into the laundry that morning for wearing on what was SUPPOSED to be a non-gym-uniform-day. And, yes, I do have a special "The pants will be dried before the bus arrives" prayer.

5. Fave jeans - I don't get it. Kid and I both have our favorite pairs of jeans. As soon as they are washed and folded and in the drawers, some time warp occurs and they immediately have to be washed again. In other words, the good stuff is always laundry and not really clothes at all. If someone could explain this phenomenon, I would be very grateful. Thanks.
NOT what my favorite jeans look like.

6. Mattress covers, bathroom rugs, slippers - The rare laundry loads. They don't get done that often, and when they do, I seem to have to dedicate the machines to their use all day. 

7. Delicate / Handwash items - Never get washed. They live permanently at the bottom of the basket.

And then there are other issues, such as the detergent-to-softener ratio (I'm always almost out of one and the other is too heavy to lift) or the "Clothes Can be a Table Centerpiece" theory, when everything is washed, folded and just needs to be put away. That last step is  beyond my feeble strength, apparently. 

And the one lone sock - but no. I'm sorry I ever raised such a hideous subject. We won't even go there.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Self on the Shelf

Our elf, Harry, has reappeared. Every year, on Thanksgiving, his story shows up on my daughter's bed, and we read it, and in the morning she finds Harry. 

I thought that this year she might have outgrown Harry a bit. 


She is more into him than ever, if that's even possible. 

Here's the deal : First of all, Harry has to remember to hide. I must admit that sometimes Harry stays up late and forgets to hide. He nearly did that the VERY FIRST MORNING, so when Kid came down the stairs, Harry had to leap to a new place. 

Harry misjudged the leap and landed on his head, where he stayed all day. We aren't allowed to touch him, because that is the law, and heaven forbid if we break that law. So, Harry had to lie on his red pointy cap all day with his blood rushing to his head. Not good.

Second, Harry is starting to get a bit overwhelmed with all the gifts and letters he receives every single day from Kid. He appreciates them all, but he is starting to run out of places to put them.

Third, Harry maybe sort of is running out of places to hide. Kid has proclaimed that he can't hide in the bathrooms; since she doesn't want him to see her "doing her business." (Her words.)

Fourth, looking for Harry can be a bit stressful. When it's a school day, like today for example, and Kid has to eat and dress and brush teeth and instead is running all over the house, looking for the elf, it becomes Agita City. 

Fifth, the kid is already starting to miss Harry. And it's not even December. She wants it to be Christmas, but not really, because then there would be no more Harry. I'm just saying that we had a long, long conversation on this very topic. 

Sixth, Harry has a really - what's the word - knowing expression. The sideways glance, the grin - it's  starting to freak me out a little.
Wearing the "Classic Couture Collection." Really? Really?

Seventh, we were in Barnes and Noble the other day, and I saw that you can now buy clothes for Harry. And a DVD of his life. And a female companion. It took a lot of ingenuity and perhaps maybe a few lies to keep kid away from that whole scene.

Still, Christmas will come, as it always does, and Harry will fly back to the North Pole. A new year will arrive, and eventually, Kid will turn nine. At that point, I'll wonder if she'll be into this whole deal next year. Perhaps this could be the Harry's Last Hurrah.

As in Point number 5, I'm going to try not to miss it already, before that even happens.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Gone Girl, a review

Last night I finished Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. It seemed to be THE book of the summer, and contrary as always, I read it in the fall.

A friend of mine told me it was a great read, filled with lots of twists. I did indeed find plot turns at unexpected places, and the book itself had that elusive Compelling Factor that made me want to keep reading.

To be honest, I was a bit disappointed. For one thing, I couldn't emotionally connect with any of the characters except Boney, the police detective, and she was a background figure who appeared in only a few scenes. (I think I would have enjoyed the book much more if it had been told from her perspective, but perhaps it would have been a stretch.)

Maybe I'm too much of a traditionalist : I expected more of a cozier read, and Flynn instead offers a harrowing tale of marriage turned inside out. That's not a bad thing at all, and it betrays my own shortcoming, not Flynn's.

When Amy disappears, her husband, Nick, begins a search for her. The disappearance itself is strange, and it grows stranger as the book goes on. It is their wedding anniversary, and Amy always leaves him a scavenger hunt for his gift. In the book, the scavenger hunt is intertwined with the disappearance.

Amy herself is a wonderful creation. She was nothing like what I expected - she's no victim having the vapours, that much is for certain. And that is a wonderful, rare thing. What she is - what the reader thinks she is - gets turned on its head as the story progresses.

The ending is pure genius, but as I said, I never connected with any of the characters. I never read a chapter saying, "Oh no, oh no!" the way I would if I really loved the hero or the heroine. That's a biproduct of the twisty, turning plot, and I can understand that and the genius behind it, but the lack of connection was my visceral reaction.
Missouri, captured perfectly in the novel

As I said, it was compelling. I never wanted to stop reading it, which is a mark of an assured, professional writer. Flynn's prose is deft enough to bring you into several different worlds, from Manhattan to Missouri. I would recommend downloading the sample on Kindle to see if you like it first.

To be honest, I enjoyed Sax and the Suburb and Terps by Elaine Gannon much more (the second, alas, is out of print.) Sax is a jazzy murder mystery, and Terps is a tender, honest story of a marriage, and I was able to connect with the characters in those books right away. But I do appreciate Gone Girl as a completely different, new sort of detective story.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Seasonal Stuff

A week ago I brought out my Big Sipper mug and started using it for my morning, lunchtime, afternoon, and evening cups of tea. I love this mug because it is one Big Ass Mug, meaning it holds lots of tea in it so I can keep slurping away. 

I also love it because it looks so seasonal, with it's candy cane handle and cheery red color. In fact, the mug has made me long for seasonal stuff. I want to smell cinnamon and spices. I want peppermint and roast turkey. I'd like snow on the windowsills and a fire in the hearth. I want skiing, long walks with hot chocolate at the end of them, shopping in New Hope, PA in those tiny little gifty boutiques, receiving fat letters in the post and sending huge packages to those who live overseas.

I know that in a few weeks I'll be tired of rolling out cookie dough for hours, so long that my back goes into strike mode. I'll be sick of the mall crowds and the search for that One Toy that everybody wants to get for their kid, including those Modern Scrooge Viruses: grownups who go and buy up the wanted toys and sell them on eBay for premium prices. Shame on them!

(I'm talking to you, Mr. Suit ahead of me in line with ten identical Monster High dolls in your shopping cart. I am So Onto You.)
OK, you guys are cool. Carry on.

I'll be beyond sick of the song "All I Want for Christmas is my Two Front Teeth." I'll be tired of wrapping after my tenth paper cut. I'll be sick of cards after writing out my one hundredth Have a Wonderful Holiday. Seasonal Overload - it's coming. It always does.

At the end of it all, that Day will arrive. Kid is 8, so she's still into the whole Schmebang - the cookies, the milk, the stocking, the gifts. She'll wake up and come into our room (she always has to wake us up first, I don't know why) and we'll hear her feet pound down the stairs. There'll be a pause, a moment of "Oh! My! Goodness!" and the feet will pound back up the stairs. 

At that point, Seasonal Overload will somehow return to Seasonal Magic again. We'll eat Pizza Freets, our traditional breakfast, made by Poppy at the deep fryer. I'll have a humungo plate of cookies out, and of course the Big Sipper will be filled with tea. Kid's uncle will come over to watch her unwrap gifts. We'll have roast chicken and pasta (hey, we're Italian) for dinner.
Still in PJ's. Nothing beats that - NOTHING.

I'll enjoy every single second because as Kid hurtles inevitably towards the age of 9, 10, and teen years, the season will change. The gifts will become far smaller and much more expensive (phone, laptop, clothing store gift cards.) They'll be less fun to buy and wrap. I'm dreadfully afraid those pounding feet going up and down the stairs might just disappear. 

As Kid turns into Teen my husband and I might be the ones waking her skinny buns up.

And so I'll do my best to love every little moment, even the Mr. Suit guy with the ten Monster High dolls. Yup, even him.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

That Certain Age

Once upon a time, there was a girl who could keep her belly flat and her skin fresh by eating whatever she wanted - mint chocolate chip icecream, cheeseburger, fries, chips - and going out to the clubs til 2 to dance it all off. 

Yeah, that girl doesn't exist anymore. 

She's been replaced by me - a woman of a "certain age" who only has to look at food, apparently, and calories leach into my skin. Sand bags seem to have been sewn onto my thighs and butt at some point. I am itchy, cranky, grumpy, and sleepy - a veritable compendium of the worst of the dwarves. 

As I battle age and the mirror, I'm most annoyed by myself. I LIKE the idea of age. I think wrinkles are marks of experience, and gray hair is lovely, like strands of silver. I just didn't bargain for the fuzzy feeling in my brain that stops my thought processes, nor the gradual slipping away of things that I used to do without thinking.
OK, we can't all be Jamie Lee, but I do love her hair.

Example: water skiing. When my husband taught me to waterski, years ago, I loved it right away. I was able to stand right up on the skis and jet around the lake on my first go. It wasn't pretty, but it did happen. This past summer, I went to try waterskiing again. Holy incompetent arm muscles! That awkward moment when the handle slips from your grip again and again and the boat has to circle back a gabillion times to pick up the old lady in the water...

Here are a few things that I've done to combat all of this:

1. Embraced my wrinkles. I really don't mind them at all. 

2. Started taking iodine supplements, which have erased the fuzzy feeling in my brain and made my husband quite happy. (And, no, I'm not adding more details for that last point.) Do check with your doctor if you start taking any supplements, but mine - I take natural Gaia thyroid support as well as iodine and seaweed - have seriously changed my life.

3. Taken up weightlifting. I always worked out with weights, but I've added pounds to what I used to lift to compensate for disappearing muscle. I WILL get up on those skis next summer.

4. Given up sugar. It was an easy way to modify my diet. Sugar is a serious addiction, but when you replace it with fresh fruit and agave, it's not so bad. Oh, all right - Halloween sucked. Ok? Ok. And I'm not looking forward to Christmas Cookie season. Goodbye for ever, homemade pizzelles.
Buh Bye.

5. Doubled my workout time. I do work while I'm on the treadmill, so it doesn't eat into my productivity.

6. Started eating a lot more raw greens. A LOT more. And I don't drown them in processed dressing, either. Goodbye, Ranch and Blue Cheese. (PS - Olive Oil makers, if you put EVOO in little takeaway packets like ketchup, that would really come in handy. Just saying.)

7. Eyed the frozen mini hotdogs and tacos wistfully as I pass them by with my cart. Edamame is a somewhat / not really / ok they're good but they're not mini hot dogs, now are they sort of substitute.

8. Replaced my large, frozen drink cocktails with ultra Lite beer, white wine, Skinny girl margaritas (love them) and, at times, green tea. Cut down on all of the above (except the tea) to one or two a weekend. Yes, this has been a very important point for me. 

While I'm grousing and carrying on, I must point out that age has brought some very good things into my life:

1. A fantastic family

2. Friends who are settled in their own lives, and we can all be settled together

3. No more of those exhausting dating issues

4. My writing career

5. Peace with myself and my world in general.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Quick, Yummy, Healthy Food to Make

I got two requests from friends for some recipes. The First is an appetizer, and it is So Totally Healthy that Health will shine out of your fingertips when you make and eat it. 
Healthy Person!!!!!!


1 1/2 cups seedless red grapes, chopped
1 avocado - peeled, pitted and diced (I add it last so it won't brown or go mushy)
1/4 cup chopped red bell pepper
2 tablespoons chopped yellow bell pepper (I chop both peppers and freeze what I don't use for later)
2 tablespoons chopped sweet onion
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 clove chopped fresh garlic
ground black pepper
salt to taste
dash of Frank's Hot Sauce if you want

All of the above measurements really aren't necessary. I just quartered a lime and squeezed the hell out of that sucker over the chopped up junk. Mix it all up, refrigerate for 30 minutes, and serve with Baked Scoops chips, or regular Scoop chips if you want, but the regular ones will stop the Health Shining Out of Your Fingertips deal a bit.

And now for the entree:

I don't really use my crockpot a lot because many crock recipes taste the same - of creamed chicken soup. But this one had loads of fresh herbs, and it made the house smell yummy all day, and my husband gave it the thumbs up. Plus - easy! And cheap!

Plus cholesterol doesn't pop out of your chest like a Baby Alien* when you eat it! So, there's that.


1 lb top round steak
1 cup chopped onion
2 tbls chopped fresh parsley
1/2 tsp fresh dill (adjust for taste. Dill really packs a punch.)
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard (you can scale back on this if you want. 2 TBLS really does make it very Dijon-ish.)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1 8 oz package of sliced mushrooms
3 garlic cloves, minced

1/3 cup flour
1 cup beef broth (I like my own Stop n Shop's organic brand, but Rachael Ray's is good too.)
1 8 oz carton reduced-fat sour cream
2 cups cooked medium egg noodles

Cut steak into 1/4 inch slices. I made mine about an inch long.
Place steak, onion, and all ingredients through the garlic into an electric crock pot. Stir it all up.
Measure flour carefully and put in bowl. Gradually whisk in the beef broth, getting those lumps out of there.

Pour broth mix all over the stuff in the crock pot and turn on to High. Cook for one hour, stirring occasionally. 
Turn heat down to Low and cook for 7 - 8 more hours, until beef is tender. Turn off crock pot and remove lid; let sit for ten minutes.

Stir in entire container of sour cream. (If you didn't do the last step the cream can curdle.)

Serve over noodles.

*Did you notice how I didn't include an image of that? You're welcome.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012


We are planning another trip to Ireland this summer. My sister and I used to visit every summer when we were children, since our mother was born near Dublin. I've taken my daughter to visit our family there, which involves much visiting of aunts and drinking of tea. 
Betcha I was wearing one of THESE babies!

How I remember those tea/aunt visits. We would arrive, dressed in our Sears best, and a huge tea would be laid out - slices of buttered barmbrack, chocolate bikkies, bowls of smoky bacon crisps .... and it was always a big score if the spread included Fuller's Walnut Cake.
Barmbrack. Add some Irish butter and it is heaven.

We had to sit in absolute silence as the adults chatted. Sometimes an aunt would take pity on us and give us an old Enid Blyton annual or let us out into the garden (if it wasn't lashing down with rain.) Still, often we had to stay indoors, perched on a leather "pouffe" and wait while the grown ups chatted endlessly. I really believe it taught me great patience and gave me the ability to entertain myself with nothing more than my imagination.

So when I brought my active, easily-bored daughter to visit said aunts, I was nervous about the whole deal. I shouldn't have been. First, the aunts were kindness themselves and heaped old toys - and new shiny presents - onto her. Plus Kid found an Irish cousin to be besties with, just as I had when I was a child. When it was time to leave Dublin and go back to America, Kid begged me - literally on bended knee - to stay for "just one more day, please please please."

But this trip won't be to the Dublin area, with the aunts. Instead, we're heading out West, to see Hen's Castle (a tiny ruined castle on an island in a lake) and the Cliffs of Moher, the Burren, Dingle ... whatever we can fit in.
The Burren. Real magic happens here, no lie.*

I remember my own first trip to the West. I was eighteen, and our mother drove us all over the countryside. It was the days before the Celtic Tiger and the EU, so Ireland had no highways and travel was often down tiny hedgerows where only one car could pass at a time.

The sights were so lovely that they gave us a headache. No joke - I believe we got sick from too much beauty. We'd turn a corner, the sun would poke through the heavy clouds and light up that tiny little stone castle in the middle of the island, in the middle of the lake. And my sister, and I, and our friend, would all gasp and grab for the Instamatics. (Hen's Castle is simply not to be missed.)

Or, simpler than that - we'd drive past a farm and see a white mare with a coal black foal - a "magic foal,"we called it. Or a grey kitten with green eyes that matched the fields around it. Or, later, sitting by the banks of a stream with our sandwiches and thermoses of tea... Mum tells me to stand up and jump, and everyone gasps - "Ooooooh!" We were sitting on turf, of course, which magnifies movement under you so a jump feels like a small earthquake.

Or, later, the smell of that turf burning in the grate at the Bed and Breakfast, or the pub down the road. 

I hope that my daughter enjoys that as much as I did. If she survived the aunts, she'll be fine. Plus, the bestie cousin will be there, so the signs are good.

* Picture of The Burren courtesy of TD Giddings. You can see more landscapes here.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Power and Revolution

Power is a very important thing, a concept that I only fully realized when we didn't have any. We live in the center of New Jersey, right in the path of Hurricane Sandy and the recent nor'easter storm, so we got hit twice.

The first time was kind of fun, as it always is, for the first day. My husband had to stay home from work, since they had no power there either. He did work during the day on his iPhone, which we recharged on our car. Outside, the rain fell and the wind whirled, giving us a secure feeling. As night fell, I lit a try filled with candles and we started a fire. We played Uno (our daughter won) and I read books out loud to her. There was a certain solidarity, a family feeling of togetherness that we hadn't had in a long time.

Perhaps the power stole it away.

The next day wasn't so fun. The well stopped working, and we had to flush the toilet with water from the tub. That makes you confront nature and survival - fast. There were no showers to be had, of course, nor could I wash dishes. I believe I became pretty cranky that day, born of fright as I saw the water supply dwindle. 

Still, we read more books and played more Uno (kid won again, which made her very happy.)

On the third day, we had had it. We loaded up the car with empty water bottles, dirty dishes, dirty clothes, and our own dirty selves. We drove to my brother-in-laws house where I had the longest, hottest shower of my life. I washed all the dishes. I did the laundry. We turned on the news. We charged up our electronics. 

Kid played iPod, and I checked in on my laptop. That family solidarity melted away. 

We went to a diner and had stuff that you can't eat without power - salad and baked potatoes and ice cream. I kept going to the bathroom just for the wonder of being able to watch a toilet flush, whenever you want it to. We stopped and got gas and more water and canned foods (I won't be able to eat soup or Spaghettios for a very, very long time.)

Arrived back home, and the fun returned, since we were all clean. We played more Uno. Read more books.

When the power came back on, the feeling was - indescribable. It was the middle of the night and I was adding wood to the fire to keep it burning. I was in a daze. What the hell is that? I remember thinking. Kid was ecstatic when she found out she could watch TV the next morning. I scrubbed the floors and toilets, and did about ten more loads of laundry.

And then the Nor'easter came - and it all happened again.

Now as I write this on my laptop, I can hear the power rushing through the house. The fridge is humming. So is the heat. And it is wonderful to have, and I feel desperately sorry for those folks who survived BOTH storms without power at all, but I wonder - with all the electricity and convenience, what have we traded for that? My kid won't want to sit and read books anymore. We won't play Uno together again, nor have carpet picnics. 

I'll be interested to watch the upcoming show, Revolution, about the permanent loss of power on Earth. I think there is a mental adjustment, a deep psychological change that occurs with a severe change in lifestyle, but whether it is good or bad, I have yet to decide for myself.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Mal d'Escalier

It's a wonderful French phrase, and it describes me most of the time. Mal d'escalier means, literally, "staircase disease." 

It's that feeling you get when you walk away from an exchange with someone. You've had a discussion or an argument, they gave one last remark that was pretty good, and you either responded with a lame comment or no comeback at all.

And just as you start up the staircase it comes to you - the perfect riposte. The most elegant argument ever, that would certainly that other #*$%! down if you could have but said it to them. But, since you are already on the staircase, it is far too late to say it. And you must go on forever, knowing that you lost an opportunity to shut down a #$*$%!

Delivering a great comeback is a rare, wonderful thing. One of the best was Wilkes' return to Montagu:

Montagu - "Sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox."
Wilkes - "That will depend, my lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress."
Not much to look at, but he did have game.

Can't you just imagine the shocked gasp, followed by applause, followed by the surging exaltation in Wilkes' spirit? Yeah! Told him! Take that, Montagu, you ass! Buh-bye!

However, with social media there is less and less mal d'escalier. A lag in response times, as well as an opportunity to edit my own remarks gives me the ability to sound wittier than I really am. So, when I post on Facebook or Twitter, I can phrase my comment exactly how I want it. I can type it out, edit it, look up a reference, and send my little comment out into the world.

Online troll; actual photo. Only the wooden paneling of mom's basement is missing.
I don't often join in online arguments because even a witty comeback doesn't fly on some sites. Wilkes himself might have been drowned out by online trolls if he had posted his superb riposte on, say, LinkedIn or any of the various news sites out there. "My Mistress! Your (sic) stupid. Why dont (sic) you pull you're (sic) lip over you're (sic) head and swallow." 

It's for that reason that I stay away from those (and I use the term loosely) discussions. They are sometimes like an unending Fibonacci sequence, stopping only when the thread is buried with thankfulness on all sides by another discussion that is just as useless.

I don't mean that ALL social media is like that, of course. I do think, though, that a) chatting online makes me sounds more intelligent than I really am and b) online arguments can be meaningless and endless. It's sad, but there you are.

So, if you ever meet me in person, don't expect the urbane cosmopolite who writes on this blog. I'm just as wizened as the next fellow.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Life Post-Hurricane

That previous life - I can hardly remember it now. It hit me last night as I was washing dishes, that there was an existence with soccer practice and grocery runs, cooked meals and phone calls. And I took all of that for granted.

As an example, yesterday I went to the grocery store after a week of pounding rain and punishing winds, and NO POWER. The store had very little produce; I was lucky to grab one bag of spring mix salad. And what happened to the stuff that they had to throw out? The meat, the frozen goods - where did it all go? There must be dumpsters full of it all now, and that was only one Shop Rite.

Gas lines are long, but not as bad as they are in New York. We're on the odd-even system, and when I found out our "day" was yesterday, I nagged my husband to go and get gas even though we really didn't need it. "We have 3/4 of a tank," he objected. "Plus, it will all be over in a few days anyway."

Perhaps it will, and for those people by the shore and in NYC, I seriously hope that help arrives very quickly. Which reminds me, I'm seriously lucky. I have a house. My kid is fine. My husband is here.  And I will keep repeating that over and over again, especially since it is the:

Don't look - it might burn your retinas

Yup, I'm lucky, lucky, lucky gal, said the frustrated writer as she cleared up the American Girl Doll school set up in the family room and brought her husband a sandwich.

If you do want to help out those seriously affected by the storm, here are some links:

American Red Cross
The American Red Cross continues to mobilize resources and relief workers to respond to Hurricane Sandy’s impact. Help is needed to provide essential aid including shelter, meals, basic health care, etc. 

To make a donation to the Hurricane Sandy relief effort, you can go to the following site or you can call 1-800-REDCROSS.

United Way
The  United Way of New York City and United Ways along the Eastern Seabord have established the United Way Hurricane Sandy Recovery Fund to address near-term and long-term recovery needs of communities most affected by the hurricane.

Visit to donate to the Fund. 

You can also use your phone to text RECOVERY to 52000 to make a $10 donation.

The Met Council

To make an immediate difference, text the word SUSTAIN to 20222 and reply YES to make a $10 donation directly to Met Council. You can also easily make your gift online ( Volunteers are greatly needed to hand out food and water to seniors who are without electricity. 


(Tips to Consider Before You Donate)

· Give to only charities you know and trust.
· Check a charity before you donate. See the Better Business Bureau's Wise Giving Alliance at
· Be alert for charities that seem to have sprung up overnight.
· Ask if the caller is a paid fundraiser, who he or she works for, and what percent of your donation goes to the charity vs. the fundraiser.
· Don't give out personal or financial information unless you know the charity is reputable.
· Never send cash. You can't be sure the organization will receive your donation, and you won't have a record for tax purposes.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Heart Search - A Review

I never read a book quite like Heart Search. At first it seems like a horror story, then a romance is mixed in, and then things go - sideways.

It begins with a creature hiding in wait. He attacks a man named Joshua, who is in the park thinking about Remy, the woman he is about to marry. What happens to him will change both their lives forever.

When Joshua comes home to Remy, he has obviously been changed drastically. After a few devastating scenes, Joshua takes off. He is disgusted with himself.

Remy decides to go after him, and at this point the book follows her search - her Heart Search - and Joshua's adventures with his new life. Her search takes her around the UK, exploring different towns and villages. 

The writer obviously knows the country inside and out, and it is fascinating to read about different areas of England. It's like a travelogue, with the added dimension of a travelogue of the heart. Remy searches the country, but she also searches that unexplored wilderness of her own soul.

Joshua, meanwhile, is experiencing a very different kind of adventure. He meets the others like him and  gets completely immersed in their world. 

At the same time, some very odd things begin to happen to Remy, leading her beyond the "woman's fiction" style of her half of the adventure.

The two plot threads are woven together nicely and I never lost track of what was going on. Furthermore, Carlie Cullen's writing style is very clear and professional, and she handles the two sets of characters beautifully.

There is a cliffhanger ending, but the story is resolved enough to make reading this book a very satisfactory experience. I really enjoyed Heart Search thanks to the writer's skill and characterization. Remy and Joshua came alive for me, as well as Becky, Remy's twin sister. 

The fantasy portion of the book is well-done, too; Cullen deals out the action and excitement adroitly and keeps the reader wanting more.