Has It Really Been a Year? Happy Birthday, ProfMomEsq!

It does not seem possible to me. At all. But, there it is.

Happy Blogging Anniversary

I started this blog on my 40th birthday as a present to myself, so I think my blog should have “birthdays” and not “anniversaries.”  I mean, it’s not like my blog and I are dating.  It sprang forth from my soul!  (Or, at least, my Mac.)  So, Happy Birthday to my blog!

[INSERT YouTube video of (a) The Beatles singing You Say It’s Your Birthday; (b) 50 Cent *ahem* singing In Da Club; or (c) some furry looking animal creature singing one or the other of those songs in a weird, squeaky voice while popping out of a cake.  You decide.  They block my shit at work …]

When ProfMomEsq was born, I had no idea where I’d go with it, or where it might take me. Frankly, I was thrilled I came up with a blog name.  Do you know how HARD that is?  It’s really, really, really damn hard.  It might’ve been harder than naming my kids.  And can I just tell you how pissed off I was when I went to set up a YouTube account for the blog and someone ALREADY HAD MY BLOG NAME as her user name?!?!  There is no freakin’ way someone else thought of that.  None.  Zero. Zip. Nada.  *glares at audience*

Truly, I expected to spend a lot of time talking to myself here.  I figured I could just barf up whatever word vomit I had in the pit of my stomach, and it would sit here in this little corner of the Internet, collecting dust bunnies and supporting spider webs (ha!) and yellowing a bit at the edges.  I had not even the first inkling of the amazing, funny, smart, wonderful people I would meet each time I pushed the magical button.

Defcon 5! Defcon 5!Screen Shot 2013-02-06 at 3.55.32 PM

I think it’s safe to say that the last 365 days truly changed my life.  I accomplished much more than I dared hope.

71 posts written

32,282 views (and 8,199 of those came in one day!)

924 comments

Most frequent search terms: “garden gnome” and “flipping off.”  (Right.  I don’t know either. But, you people have issues.)

Second most frequent:  Hobbit and Lord of the Rings stuff.  Now, I KNOW what this is about, and all you kids trying to use my blog to do your English homework, GET OFF MY LAWN!  Also, go hug your English teachers for assigning that shit, because s/he’s much cooler than mine ever were. And for fuck’s sake, READ IT!

204 people who think I’m worth following around.  (Right.  I don’t know either. Did I mention you people have issues?)

One post Freshly Pressed.  (Thanks, WordPress!)

Some awards. (One of which I shamefully have not blogged about yet.  Sorry, Joy at I Can Say Mama!)

Most viewed:  this one.

Most comments:  this one.

My favorite post of the year:  this one.

Writing is a solitary endeavor, but no one blogs alone. So, this seems like a really good time to say, “Thank you.” Thank you to everyone who stopped by for a read, introduced him/her/itself, left a comment, linked back or helped me pimp this sucker.  Thank you to my adoring husband, who proofread and approved most of my posts.  (But, the typos are all mine – don’t blame him.)  Thank you to my beautiful daughter, who is the frequent and involuntary subject of many of my posts but whose life I gleefully, proudly and lovingly share.  Thank you to my son for being the background music for many of my writing sessions and for not being utterly embarrassed by me even though I’m a dorky mom who says “yo” a lot even though it’s not cool.  Yo.  Thank you to the rest of my family and to my friends for your support of this project in ways big and small.  I love how much more connected this makes us … in a slightly ironic way.  😉

I’d like to especially thank the people who – wittingly or unwittingly – helped me get started in the blogosphere and kept me going:

  • Heather at Between the Covers – you are my most regular commenter and always quick with a RT.  Thank you.  I’m so happy to know you. My bookshelves are all the better for it.  😉
  • sj at Snobbery – thanks to you, I have some nifty pictures on my blog and lots of new fun tech toys, like Jing and Goodreads and Spotify and Storify. You introduced me to some great people through the LOTR read-along, too!  Thank you for being nice to an old lady.
  • George Kinnard at Coalescence – I don’t know how you found me, but you did, and you offered me some wonderful words of wisdom and support for which I am terribly grateful.
  • Rose at Love Many, Trust Few – my fellow autism-mom halfway across the world. I’m still reading along with you, even though I’m not as good about the commenting as I was.
  • Amy at Lucy’s Football – I still cannot believe you blog every day.  You were certainly an early inspiration for me!
  • Jillsmo at Yeah. Good Times. – you are the reason I know that the people in my computer are (sometimes) *real* people. You also were the catalyst for meeting so many of the awesome people I now know.  You also helped understand that IRL friends are not necessarily from Ireland.  I ❤ you.
  • Jim at Just a ‘Lil Blog – mostly because you introduced me to Lexi at Mostly True Stuff, but also because you’re a pretty cool dude, no matter what Lexi says. That, and you wrote one of the funniest blog posts I’ve ever read.  (HINT:  clam/shazam!)
  • Elizabeth at Muse~ings – for helping me keep my chin up by agreeing to my New Year’s Eve “Jar of Success” blog project. I can’t wait to open our jars!

Finally, I want to thank an extraordinary group of mostly women and a few very gullible select men who write blogs for the autism parenting community.  You know who you are, but I hope you also know I think you are all incredible, remarkable, inspiring, marvelous, ridiculously funny people.  And you all smell suspiciously of bacon.  I’m hugging you all now, and you feel weirdly boxy and kind of cold.  Also, why do you keep beeping like that?

Happy First Birthday to ProfMomEsq.  YOU – yes YOU (Quit looking behind you. There’s no one there, and people are staring.) – are the best birthday gift I could receive.  Let’s see if we can make it another year, no?  Word!

The Hobbit and the Fellowship of the Ring: So Many Questions, So Little Time #PtBiB

Behind, behind … I’m so far behind.  For a lady who was so excited about this LotR group read, I am not doing nearly all that I planned.  Thankfully, sj at Snobbery and David at As You Were are totally overachievers awesome at keeping up with this project, so you need to go read their blogs for the best summaries, great analysis of story line and characters and a round-up of the other bloggers who are much better than I in the group-participation department.  (Special shout-out here to Kate Sherrod at Kate of Mind – her blog is awesome not only in the LotR department but in general, so go check her out!)

I’m pretty sure sj and David are secretly snickering at how far behind I lag – the way the dwarves all rolled their eyes at Bilbo.  Or, I’m imagining it, because I have  a guilty conscience.  Either way, it gave me a reason to Storify something.  Apparently, I accidentally published this before it was done, but after spending about three ridiculous hours figuring out how to embed this em-effer into my blog, here you go:

  1. Last night was the #PtBiB Drink-along the Second.  We learned a lot of valuable lessons from the first drink-along; chief among them, how to nurse a hangover.  This time, I learned the importance of being ON TIME.  sj, though, learned that one Tweet too many will land you in the Twitter version of the Mines of Moria.
  2. popqueenie
    @ProfMomEsq Yupyup. Kinda wishing I was still in there.
    Sat, Jul 21 2012 10:32:50
  3. This is, perhaps, because I suggested to Heather (@Between_Covers) that we torture sj by Tweeting glowing comments about Peter Jackson while she could not respond.  I’m just guessing.
  4. ProfMomEsq
    @popqueenie I … um … good morning? [backing away slowly with my coffee]
    Sat, Jul 21 2012 10:35:55
  5. ProfMomEsq
    @popqueenie You? Tired? I’m relieved actually – I was starting to suspect you had a third hand and eyes behind your head. 😉 Go nap.
    Sat, Jul 21 2012 10:40:10
  6. Well, yes.  This is a woman who herds the cats that make up this little read-along group of ours, writes blog posts summarizing ten to twelve chapters of reading per week, writes blog posts organizing the drink-alongs (replete with countdown timers!), reads other books and posts reviews about those, mothers FOUR children (one of whom eats something like 9 waffles at a clip) – AND THIS IS JUST THE STUFF ABOUT WHICH I KNOW!!  I’m actually goddamned relieved that she’s tired, because – yes – it makes me feel better about myself.
  7. I don’t know what’s exhausting David.  Maybe its the blogging and book writing at the same time?  Maybe its his crazy wide-deep knowledge of ancient and mythical languages?  Just typing all that made me need a nap.
  8. ProfMomEsq
    <—– dragging guilt-ridden, lazy ass to blog. Damn overachievers, you two. @DavidJonFuller @popqueenie
    Sat, Jul 21 2012 10:59:38
  9. DavidJonFuller
    @ProfMomEsq No, no… @popqueenie makes me look like a piker.
    Sat, Jul 21 2012 11:24:23
  10. Crap, David.  I cannot argue that with you.  I know the pain.
  11. popqueenie
    @DavidJonFuller Heh. I’m still kind of a slacker anyway, compared to some. @ProfMomEsq
    Sat, Jul 21 2012 11:38:26
  12. Compared to who exactly?  Because I need to avoid being ever standing next to this person.
  13. DavidJonFuller
    @popqueenie Um, if you go on in this vein, I will have to kill you. How many pages have you read this week? Words written? @ProfMomEsq
    Sat, Jul 21 2012 11:47:27
  14. David is clearly a glutton for punishment.
  15. popqueenie
    @DavidJonFuller Oi, pages read? Hang on. @ProfMomEsq
    Sat, Jul 21 2012 11:48:29
  16. ProfMomEsq
    @popqueenie I’m not listening. LALALALALALALALALALA [hands over ears] @DavidJonFuller
    Sat, Jul 21 2012 11:50:04
  17. popqueenie
    @DavidJonFuller Just under 1000 (not including the LotR stuff) pages since last Friday. Around 4300 words written on the blog since Monday.
    Sat, Jul 21 2012 11:55:08
  18. popqueenie
    @ProfMomEsq See how considerate I am! I removed you from that conversation so you didn’t have to see. 😉 @DavidJonFuller
    Sat, Jul 21 2012 11:56:06
  19. Shit, I should have said “LALALALALALALA!  I’m not looking.”  Stupid, stupid verbs.
  20. DavidJonFuller
    @popqueenie Usss! Farðu í helvíti, andskotans ófurhöfundurinn þinn.
    Sat, Jul 21 2012 11:59:18
  21. How can I not admire a guy who can curse in Icelandic.  (Wait, is that a language? … running to Google.)
  22. DavidJonFuller
    @popqueenie I would kill you, but then I DID ask… @ProfMomEsq
    Sat, Jul 21 2012 12:00:10
  23. ProfMomEsq
    @popqueenie I must find way to assign #LotR as required reading for legal studies students. [evil laugh] @DavidJonFuller
    Sat, Jul 21 2012 12:00:06
  24. DavidJonFuller
    @ProfMomEsq @popqueenie Have’em discuss the finer points of the treaties between Gondor and Anor, or Rohan and Mordor.
    Sat, Jul 21 2012 12:03:40
Yessssssss.  And I will make them write papers about it, which I will pass off as blog posts, and then you two will NEVER catch me.  Bwahahahahaha.

So, basically, these two are showing me up. Please go read their stuff (which is terrific). Once you’ve done all that, then come on back here, and read the dissertation I’m about to write, then bring me your praise, your quarrels, your tired and restless, in the comments (which I heart SOOOOOOOO much).

Question 1:  Tom Bombadil – Why doesn’t the Ring turn him invisible?  What is his alignment?  General thoughts on his character?

Tom Bombadil by John Howe

Tolkien deliberately left Tom Bombadil a vague and mysterious character.  In doing so – he left open the possibility that Tom is good, evil or some of each.  He also left open the possibility that Tom is not a being but the physical embodiment of something less tangible – something spirit or even god-like.  The best analysis of this that I’ve read so far is in the Encyclopedia of Arda, here.

Noticeably absent from this well-done analysis of Tolkien’s enigma is the crackpot theory that Tom is the alter-ego of the Witch-King of Angmar.  I’m not even going to link you to this crap, because none of it is (in my opinion) supported by actual evidence, it ignores completely what little evidence Tolkien left behind regarding Tom’s origins and nature, and it reads to me like so much conspiracy-theory bullshit.  (Which is, of course, a highly technical term.)

When I encountered Tom Bombadil, there was nothing about him that struck me as evil.  I was, in fact, quite a bit more fascinated with his wife, Goldberry, whose origins are just as quizzical.  At least as to her, Tolkien wrote that represented the seasonal changes in the real river-lands.  (The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien, No. 210 (1958).)  Ultimately, I think Tom represents something akin to Mother Nature – not meteorological but botanical.  He represents the will and heart of all forests, which were once nearly all connected.  I think this explanation makes the most sense to me, because it is consistent with Bombadil’s known character traits – his imperviousness to the Ring, his power, his unwillingness to leave the forest, his companionship with Goldberry, and his existence before Morgoth’s arrival in Arda.  (See, The Fellowship of the Ring, “In the House of Tom Bombadil”) Plus, how can you think evil of anyone/thing that has a pony named Fatty Lumpkin?

Image Credit:  http://misterdavid.typepad.com/middle_earth/paradoxes-of-life/

Question 2:  Strider/Aragorn – Srsly, would a note have been enough to make you trust this stranger?

I don’t have a big fancy analysis for this one.  My answer is yes.  Given all the circumstances confronting the hobbits at that moment — the potential exposure of the Ring, Merry blabbing the name “Baggins” about, the chase of the Nazgul, the unwelcome attention of Bill Ferny, and the delivery of the note by Barliman Butterbur (albeit late – very, very late), all make this plausible to me.  Butterbur seemed none to trusting of Strider, and he vouched that the letter was from Gandalf.  In fact, Butterbur was rightly afraid Gandalf would work a terrible spell on him for the delayed delivery:

Poor Mr. Butterbur looked troubled. ‘You’re right, master,’ he said, ‘and I beg your pardon. And I’m mortal afraid of what Gandalf will say…. But I didn’t keep it back a-purpose. I put it by safe. Then I couldn’t find nobody willing to go to the Shire next day, nor the day after…; and then one thing after another drove it out of my mind…. I’ll do what I can to set matters right, and if there’s any help I can give, you’ve only to name it.

Given the option of trusting a Man for whom Gandalf vouches and continuing their harrowing attempts to evade the Black Riders on their own, trusting Strider seemed logical here.

Bert, Bill & Tom by John Howe

Question 3:  Since we just finished reading The Hobbit together – What the Snape is up here?  It took us less than five chapters to get from Bag-End to Bill, Bert and Tom – but this time ’round, it’s taking forfreakingEVER to get to THE VERY SAME TROLLS!  Why is it taking so long to cover the same distance?  Discuss.

This is the worst part about falling behind in my reading — I forget details.  There are only two things that come to mind for me here.  Bilbo was traveling with Gandalf and 13 dwarves.  I can’t remember whether they had ponies, but I do know they weren’t being pursued – at least not by the Black Riders.  So, their route was rather direct, ensured by Gandalf and the dwarves’ familiarity with the lands through which they traveled.  Comparatively, Frodo is traveling with three other hobbits, none of whom have ventured much beyond the borders of the Shire.  They are leaving in a state of emergency (as opposed to the urgency that sent Bilbo on his way), all the while pursued by the Ringwraiths, who cause them to lose their way more than once.

I actually didn’t mind how long it took for the Company to reach the trolls, especially because it resulted in the detour through Farmer Maggot’s land.  I had forgotten all about Farmer Maggot, and reading that part was like reading a new book for me, which was truly enjoyable.  This, however, marks the beginning of the end of any fondness I had for the movies.

Question 4:  How awesome are Sam and Merry?  Like, really, why are they the only ones not acting like total dumbasses right now?

I’m not sure where we are in the story when sj poses this question, but – as a whole – Sam, Merry and Pippin in the books are not the Sam, Merry and Pippin you see in the movies.  On the whole, they are not dumb or asses.  While they have their moments, the movies attribute quite a few bone-headed moves to these hobbits that were not so attributed to them in the book.  In fact, the also get robbed of really smart moments.  Merry more or less solving the riddle of the door to the Mines of Moria springs to mind here …

Question 5:  Did anyone else think Elrond’s Council was just TOO.  LONG?

For the love of Elbereth and Target gift cards, yes.

Image credit:  SingleBuilder via Flickr

Question 6:  Who’s your favourite member of the Fellowship so far?  Why?

I don’t have a favorite.  I like them and dislike them in equal parts – at least until they get past the Falls of Rauros.  After that, I’m a pretty clear dislike on Boromir.  I particularly liked Legolas when the Company was battling Caradhras.  The cold was terrible and the wind worse; snow was falling many feet deep, and the Fellowship could not move forward or back.

‘If Gandalf would go before us with a bright flame, he might melt a path for you,’ said Legolas.  The storm had doubled him little, and he alone of the Company remained light of heart.

‘If Elves could fly over mountains, they might fetch the Sun to save us,’ answered Gandalf. ‘But I must have something to work on.  I cannot burn snow.’

Aragorn and Boromir set about using brute force to clear a path through the snow for safe descent.

Legolas watched them for a while with a smile upon his lips, and then he turned to the others. ‘The strongest must seek a way, say you? But I say: let a ploughman plough, but choose an otter for swimming, and for running light over grass and leaf, or over snow — an Elf.’

With that he sprang forth nimbly, and then Frodo noticed as if for the first time, though he had long known it, that the Elf had no boots, but wore only light shoes, as he always did, and his feet made little imprint in the snow.

‘Farewell!’ he said to Gandalf. ‘I go to find the Sun!’ Then swift as a runner over firm sand he shot away, and quickly overtaking the toiling men, with a wave of his hand he passed them, and sped into the distance, and vanished round the rocky turn.

Coming Up Next:

I have a couple of proposed topics of discussion for the future.

First, in my copious spare time, I stumbled across this essay about – among other things – Tolkien’s view of women as reflected by the way he develops the female characters in his books.  Do you agree or disagree?  I can’t wait to write about this.

Second, the Hubs asked me this morning, “If you could bring only one character from The Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings to life, who would it be?  Why?  What if you could ask him/her/it only one question?”  The Hubs just asked me this this morning.  I had no immediate answer.  But, I’m definitely pondering it and will write about it soon.

Wordless Wednesday: #TheHobbit

Image Credit:  John Howe (via Dana Mad Gallery)

Bilbo with Beorn by John Howe

hiding in trees

Chapter VI: Out of the Frying Pan – Into the Fire by Alan Lee (via Dana Mad)

Smaug

Scouring the Mountain by Ted Nasmith

For more stunning Middle-Earth art, visit the Dana Mad Gallery.  You can search by Topic in the left sidebar menu to find Middle-Earth artists.

My Blog May Not Have a Theme, But It Wins AWARDS. It’s Like the Seinfeld of Blogs!

GUESS WHAT!

Nope. That’s not it. Guess again.

No, I didn’t win an award. Guess again.

Stop being so impatient. I KNOW what the title says. “AWARDS”! As in plural. As in more than one.

I got TWO awards. TWO! Can you even imagine? It’s like getting TWO gold stars on the top of your paper, instead of the usual one (which is super nice, but not nearly the same awesomeness factor as TWO).

Great Work!

Yeah. I know this paper got THREE gold stars. Apparently, you can get one or three. Two is unheard of. Until now, anyway.

Award the First

The lovely, eloquent and very gracious George Kinnard over at COALESCENCE nominated me for the Kreativ Blogger award, because I have tricked him into believing I know what I’m doing over here. He is too kind to me, really. George in fact DOES know what he’s doing over at COALESCENCE, and you should definitely go check out his blog. I particularly like his “Sunday Spin” feature, because he never fails to find a song that brings back great memories for me or to introduce me to something I’ve missed out on all these years. George also wrote a very compelling series of posts about his relationship with his father. You lucky souls who are just finding them get to read the posts all at once. I suffered through the cliffhangers (and the wait was worth every minute!).

Award the Second

One Lovely Blog Award

Jim over at Just a ‘Lil Blog gave me this award after he wrote a story about poo and called my blog “themeless.” Oh, alright. He didn’t actually say my blog had no theme. But it was definitely implied. Definitely. (I mean, why would he say such a thing?)

I know what you’re thinking. Jeez, lady. You’re awfully snarky toward a guy who just gave you an award. It does say your blog is lovely.

You’re right, you’re right. Here’s the thing. Jim is waaaayyyyy funnier than am I, which means I’m totally jealous fella. In fact, he is THREE times as funny (see here, here and here), AND he has a legitimate day job. [Or so he says, anyway. I have my suspicions.])

Whachya got in the basket there, kid?

Blogger by night. ALIEN by day!!!

As part of accepting these awards, I have to write seven interesting facts about myself (see below). I feel like these should be at least as funny (if not more so) than the stuff Jim wrote about himself when he got this award. It’s so much pressure! I have never done anything as interesting as crapping myself at work. I feel like the America’s Got Talent contestant who had to perform after Susan Boyle. (Yeah, I don’t remember who the fuck that was either.) But, I’m going to try, dammit. In the immortal words of Tina Fey (well, they will be someday), “My ability to turn good news into anxiety is rivaled only by my ability to turn anxiety into chin acne.”

Do NOT, for the love of Pete, Google “chin acne” images. I think my eyes are bleeding.

So, without further ado (and before someone hooks me off my own stage) here are the strings attached to these awards.

First, I have to link back to the folks who gave me the awards. I did, and I – in all seriousness — encourage you to go read what they contribute to this Internet thingy. It is time well spent.

Also, I have to paste the award images into my post. Done. Easy-squeezy.

Now, here is the first hard part (which I mentioned above): seven “interesting” “facts” about me. What’s with the quotes?, you ask. Uh … you’ll see.

The Seven Wonders of Me

Wonder #1. I skipped the seventh grade. I went right from sixth grade to eighth grade. Cool, right? WRONG. See, my parents had the opportunity to do this little grade skipping stunt every year I was in school before the sixth grade. But my mother, in her infinite wisdom, waited until just before I hit puberty, to give it that extra kick of awkward that every 12 and 13 year-old girl needs in her hormone-raging life. (Also, I would like to personally thank my DNA right now for waiting on the boobs until I was a freaking sophomore … in COLLEGE. You come late to the party and then you leave early, too??? WTF.)

Wonder #2. I have a tattoo of Calvin from Calvin & Hobbes. Yes. It’s a fucking tramp-stamp.Transmogrify!!

I got this tattoo before “tramp stamp” entered anyone’s vocabulary, okay? It’s not like the tattoo artist took me aside and said, “Listen, dude. I know you want this somewhere that your mom future potential employers won’t see it, but people are gonna make wicked fun of you in a few years when some hoochie mamas start getting all kinds of stupid shit tattooed in the exact same place.” Nope. He just took my $75 bucks and set every nerve ending in my lower back ON FIRE while telling me to HOLD STILL.

Look, I was in Berkeley when I got the tat, doing things you do in Berkeley. I had big tattoo plans, and those plans involved a lot more than Calvin dancing on the back of my hip in his cool shades. Hobbes was supposed to be there, too. Susie eventually. It all seemed like a good idea at the time. But a lot of things seem like a good idea when you are in Berkeley, stinking drunk well hydrated and stoned stupid well fed.

I also got this tattoo before I had children (which involved gaining and losing about 90 pounds each time. That’s NOT an exaggeration.) Calvin isn’t aging quite as well as one might expect for such a boyish face? So, no, I’m not going to show you an actual picture.

Wonder #3. I once worked as a temp for various Turner companies. I worked at TBS for a day in the video department that was responsible for putting those nifty stat graphics on the screen during a baseball game. You would not believe the amount of work that goes into that or how many people it takes to pull it off. (Or, at least, the number of people it took in 1990. Now it’s probably some snot-nosed 21-year-old with a Macbook who’s multi-tabling no-limit tournaments and fucking around with GarageBand at the same time.)

I also worked for Turner Publishing for a while. You remember when folks were giving Ted Turner a shitload of grief for colorizing old black and white movies? Well, I assembled press kits designed to convince people it wasn’t going to send Mr. Turner to cinemagraphic hell. I have no idea whether the press kits worked and, frankly Scarlett, I don’t give a damn.

My last temp gig was for the president of CNN (at the time, Tom Johnson). I answered his phone, at which I was spectacular, thankyouverymuch. Although playing receptionist was not nearly as exciting as assembling press kits, Mr. Johnson’s office offered a decidedly better view. The front of the office was a long glass window. The office was perched over the CNN Atlanta newsroom, so I had an excellent view of – among other things -the top of Bernard Shaw’s head.

I did these temp gigs between 1990 and 1991, when the Atlanta Braves (owned by Ted Turner) became an outstanding baseball team. The Braves had one of the best pitching staffs I can recall — John Smoltz, Steve Avery, Greg Maddux, in particular. When the Braves were in the playoffs, work stopped all over Turner (and downtown Atlanta in general). We stood around televisions (which seemed to be everywhere) and held our collective breath with each pitch. We tomahawk chopped when we passed each other in the halls. I always liked baseball, but that whole time made me fall in love with baseball — with being a fan of baseball. Eventually, I realized that I did, indeed, leave my heart in San Francisco. (Holy Shit, Matt Cain!) But, I have to give the Atlanta Braves credit for lighting the fuse.

Wonder #4. I once went to a nudist camp. With my family. We were on vacation. No, I have no idea WTF my mother was thinking, either. No, I have not yet mentioned this to my therapist, thank you. I can barely afford her as it is, and you know that little confession will run me another year of sessions.

Wonder #5. Ah, first date stories. Aren’t they fun? Usually, first date stories are told at the wedding reception, little rom-coms that they are. Well, I don’t do anything the “usual” way. No. The Hubs and I had our first date at the theatre. The O’Farrell Theatre. It has a juice bar. (NSFW. Unless you’re a stripper. Then, I’m thinking your boss won’t mind. It’s like professional development or something?)

Listen, I’m sure this isn’t a big shocker now that you’ve read Wonder #4. And, to be fair, it wasn’t really a date. It was a dare. Close, but not the same.

Here’s what happened. The Hubs and I went to law school together, but we didn’t really talk because he was all tall-dark-handsome-I’m-too-good-for-you-don’t-even-look-at-me. (He, as you can imagine, has a completely different story. He says I was mean to him because I thought he got a better grade than I did in Contracts, and I got up in his face about it all über-competitive-like.)

Anyway …

At the end of law school, the Hubs and I started interning in the same place, and we occasionally had lunch together with another law school person. Somehow, the conversation turned to strip clubs. (Weird how guys manage to slip that into random conversation …) I’ll spare you the details, but the conversation ended with the Hubs “daring” me to go into the O’Farrell.

I showed up at our appointed time and place. Because dare, yo. But it wasn’t until that moment that I realized, Shit. I’ve never been alone with this guy. We’re driving all the way to the City together. We’re gonna be stuck together in a car forEVER. What the fuck are we gonna talk about? Well, now I’m standing there. In the parking lot. Where he’s waiting. And looking at me. It’s kind of too late to be worrying about this?

The Hubs at least had the good sense to feed me and liquor me up first. (I’m pretty sure this was the only part of the “dare” that was actually supposed to happen? Please see earlier discussion about the Contracts grade.) After dinner, he’s all, “You ready?” in his Cocky McCockerson voice with one eyebrow raised they way he does when he’s trying to make me weak. I downed my drink, said, “Fuck it. Let’s go,” and walked toward the front door of the restaurant. Between there and the front of the “theatre,” he gave me like 300 three chances to back out.

There are a lot of other details to this story, but I’m pretty sure my sister-in-law reads this, and even though she lives like 5,000 miles away, I can still feel her glaring at me all big-sister-like. So, I’m going to tell you only this. At one point in the evening, my future husband declared to me, “You are the coolest chick ever!” If you were there, you would know that he meant it. At least until the hot-ass woman who was expressing herself through dance to put herself through college took the Hubs’s money but gave me her phone number. And, don’t think for one second I’m not still flaunting that shit twelve years later. (Please see earlier discussion about the Contracts grade.)

Wonder #6. I lost my car once. I was at the Danbury Fair Mall in Connecticut. As you will see (if you click the link, which you should do, because it’s a map the helps this whole story make more sense for those of you who are – like I am – directionally challenged), there are six ways to exit the mall into the parking lot. Well, I parked my car in the area marked P3 and went into the mall through Macy’s. I made a mental note of where I parked. Then I set about shopping. Several hours later (I was in college – the halcyon days of free time), I exited the mall via Macy’s and went to where I parked my car. NO CAR. In fact, not only no car, but shattered glass in the parking spot where my car used to be.

This is in the days before cell phones, so I am left wandering around the mall parking lot muttering and crying, trying to figure out what to do about my stolen car. Luckily, golf-cart security guard sees the spectacularly hot mess I’ve become and stops to assist me. As I gasp for air in between my tears, I tell him my car was stolen. He smiles — a knowing, condescending, patronizing smile.

Mall Cop: Are you sure this is where you parked it?

Me: [saying aloud] Yes. [want to say] Yeah, I’m sure, you wanna-be, jelly-roll-eating, golf-cart-driving, glorified-parking-attendant.  Because, broken glass.

Mall Cop: Why don’t we just drive around to the other side of Macy’s and take a look-see? (Gesturing to the area marked as P4.)

Me: But, I know I parked here. And there’s glass. Clearly my car was stolen.

Mall Cop: Yes, I see the random glass to which you are pointing, ma’am. There’s a lot of that in this very, very big parking lot? So … [pats seat next to him in golf car]

Me: [pouting and sniffling] Fine.

So Mall Cop drives around to P4, and we start cruising up and down the parking rows. Round about the fourth row, I see the familiar red bumper. My face starts to match my car. I can feel Mall Cop laughing inside.

My car was right where I parked it. In P4. I really hope Karma enjoyed that shit. I probably deserved it, but …
Wonder #7. I am undefeated at Boggle.

BRING. IT.

I have never lost a game of Boggle to anyone. Seriously, my family won’t even play it with me anymore. For a while, we played with varied rules. I could use only five-letter words or higher. Everyone else could use three-letter words or higher. Still, undefeated. When Scramble with Friends came out, I was SOOOOOOO excited. Not anymore. Random opponents – creamed ’em. Family — dusted ’em.

I’ve been beaten at SWF only once. I was playing – of all goddamned people – the Hubs. He’d lost like 500 five games in a row to me. When I was taking my turn, Helene started pulling on me and asking for something, but instead of pausing the game, I got all cocky and just set my phone down on the table. I figured I had a healthy enough lead to win. Damn if he didn’t beat me by like two points. Don’t think he doesn’t flaunt that shit either. (Please see earlier discussion regarding Contracts grade.)

Now, no one will play that game with me either unless I let them slaughter me at Words with Friends. (*Ahem*Kevin Burdick*Ahem.)

The Seven Wonders of the Blogosphere (or at Least My Little Corner of It)

The last condition of these awards (and this is the HARDEST PART) is that I nominate others (seven others, actually) to receive them. I hate this part. I hate it for two reasons. First, I don’t want to leave anyone out and hurt feelings. I don’t deal well with guilt? Second, I know a lot of people really don’t like these awards, because they’re like email-this-or-bad-luck-forever-for-you forwards, only a lot more work than just hitting the “Forward” button and dumping your contacts list in there. And, I don’t deal well with guilt?

But, listen. My blog is a little fledgling blog, and I get so stupid-happy when people come by and “like” my blog, and I get warm-fuzzy-blissful when people comment (unless a person writes a trolly-crap-wagon comment, then I get all package-punchy). So, you can imagine the euphoria when I got TWO AWARDS. If nominating seven of you for an award is the price I must pay for happiness, I’m going to sit here and convince myself that you’ll forgive me. Please. Please?

So, here we go. These are in no particular order, but I’ve chosen blogs that I think are worth a lot more readership and comment participation than they’re getting. Also, if you’ve already told me that you are anti-the-awards, I am not going to make you write me a public thank you letter in which you politely decline the award but silently curse my name and wish for pigeons to poo on my freshly washed car. If one of my nominees happens to fall into this particular category, I beg you, please, do not wish the Karma pigeons on me. I wash my car myself. I’ll buy you a coffee or something and we’ll call it square, ok? Thanks.

1. Love Many. Trust Few. I nominate this blog and its author, Rose, for the One Lovely Blog award. I don’t even know where to begin describing what a wonderful blog Rose writes. She fosters several children one of whom is on the spectrum. She is a fountain of hope, knowledge, patience, wisdom. I LOVE reading her blog. And I look forward to the comments she leaves on mine, which are often insightful and comforting.

2. MrJMFlynn. This blog I nominate for the Kreativ Blogger award. Mr. Flynn is a freshly minted law student at the University of Michigan. He writes about a wide variety of subjects, and he writes well. I particularly like his posts that relate his experiences as a new law student. He also understands how to engage in healthy debate, and I’m enjoying watching him develop into a future lawyer (much as I usually try to talk folks out of it).

3. Ashley Jillian. Ashley gets the Kreativ Blogger award. She is a self-proclaimed “media savvy and fashionable math nerd.” She is also an aspiring comedian. Her blog posts are quirky, funny, witty, snarky — a lot of the things I enjoy in a writer. She’s got a crapload of followers already, so she probably doesn’t need this little award. Still, I’m glad she’s out there, and I hope to see her make it on the comedy circuit.

4. It’s Bridget’s Word. Bridget kicks ASS in the autism advocacy department, and I want to hug her more than give her an award, but the One Lovely Blog award will have to do. When Bridget writes, she does it all ballerina-ninja style. She mesmerizes you with graceful eloquence, yet she’s forcing you to reallythink about something. She doesn’t blog as often as I’d like (*ahem*), but when she does, I appreciate her point of view, because she is autistic and can speak from knowledge and experience even “experts” lack. You can also follow Bridget on Twitter @ItsBridgetsWord.)

5. nerdmommathfun. Ringer for the Kreativ Blogger award. So, I’m a total math-a-phobe? Seriously. I have a problem. But, I have NO problem with the lovely person who writes this blog. First of all — great sense of humor. I appreciate the “overuse” of emoticons. But, I also love the series of posts for the “kiddos” who need help with their math homework.  Let’s be real — it’s not just the kids who need math help, okay?  I was unable to help Nate with his math homework after about the fourth grade. So, factor on, Nerdmommathfun. Factor on.

6. Muse~ings. Elizabeth is an English teacher, so I love her by default. But, she’s also got One Lovely Blog (and now has the award to prove it). She writes about her experiences as a sometimes ninth-grade, sometimes twelfth-grade teacher. Her posts are funny:

Your name sounds French. Can you bust out with some French?

Uh… Just because I have a French last name doesn’t mean that I’ve got mad French skills. My maiden name is Taylor. It doesn’t mean that I can alter your suits for you. I can only swear in French and, even then, I am not sure if I am saying them correctly. For all I know, I could be saying “fish” when I really want to say “shit, er, crap.” That’s how I rock my French. (I don’t swear very well. I feel guilty.)

She is also practical and insightful about teaching and learning. But, Elizabeth also shares a good deal about herself, including about depression/anxiety and how it affects her in her personal and professional life. I genuinely appreciate people (especially women) who are willing to put the issue out there and discuss it, because every voice brings us one step closer to acceptance and understanding.

7. The Third Glance. Another One Lovely Blog nominee. This blog is written by E, who is a Ph.D student and Autistic. What I love about this blog is the way E shares stories. E expresses thoughts about autism based on concrete experiences, which puts thoughts, actions and communications into a context for me that I think helps me – as a parent – better understand and communicate with my daughter. E is an honest, compelling, smart and thoughtful writer. E’s site also has a fountain of other spectrum-related resources.

So there you have it. Seven facts. I’m sure you’ll tell me whether they’re interesting. And seven wonderful blogs. Thank you again to George and Jim.

The Most Epic Blog Post EVER about Absolutely Not a Damn Thing!

I returned from Connecticut on Monday. I’m not sure I even mentioned I was going. It was a last-minute decision, and how it came about was funny in a way.

After the dramedy that was my trip to Monterey, I hit a bit of a blogging roadblock. When I write a post, I try to publish it before I start second-guessing it.

(ASIDE #1: This sometimes means I need to push that pretty blue “Publish” button before I’ve sufficiently proofread, and it drives me nuts that I can’t fix it for those of you who subscribe and read by email. Which is not to say that you shouldn’t subscribe. Please, please do that. It’s so good for my ego, and you end up getting email that has nothing to do with refinancing your penis enlargement by taking cheap drugs from Canada purchased with money you helped rescue from a Nigerian bank account. So, win-win. But, you know, forgive my sucky proofreading even though I write snarky blog posts about other people’s sucky proofreading.)

Anyway …

After I wrote my next post, I couldn’t publish it. I just … hated it. It felt like I was trying too hard. I liked the idea, but the words were killing it – and not in a good way. So, I sat on it for a day. Two days. Three days. Still no likey. I lose at writing. I haven’t deleted it yet, so it can’t be all the suckage. But, every time I see it sitting there, I wince a little. It’s like looking at a picture of me and realizing that yes, I did wear that dress. In public. On purpose.

Why did I give those shoes away? WHY?

When I get all self-doubty and distracted, I clean and organize stuff. I don’t mean like mop floors or scrub toilets kind of cleaning, because who the hell ever wants to do that?? I mean I like to empty out a closet, throw a crap-load of stuff away (or, mostly, donate it) and re-organize the remainder. It helps me think. It always has.

(ASIDE #2: When I was a little girl, and I got into trouble (which, note to *my* children, wasn’t often), I would re-arrange all my stuffed animals by color or size or animal type. Sometimes, I’d rearrange the books on my bookshelves in alphabetical order. This helped me stop fretting about whatever got me into trouble (or work through the anxiousness that went with waiting for whatever punishment was coming). When I was in high school and struggling with math, I’d take all the clothes out of my dresser, re-fold them, and return them to the drawers using some new system of organization. By the time I got done with this project, you’d have thought I cleaned out my head, not my dresser, because I’d somehow finally understand how the hell I was supposed to work those math problems. During my work-from-home period of lawyering, I found that I could not possibly concentrate on writing a brief if the kitchen or living room was in disarray. Once the dishes were done, the toys picked up and the laundry folded, then I could sit down and write an outline for my arguments, and out they’d come like water from a spigot. It’s telling when you find yourself sitting on the floor of your mother’s kitchen (located in a house in which you no longer live) with the contents of her lower cupboards scattered around you and your mother says, “I’m sorry about whatever is bothering you, but I really like it when you get like this at my house.”

(ASIDE #3: I think I love trashing or donating stuff the way some people love to hoard. It’s a little bit of a problem. Every time I go into the garage with my “cleaning” face, my husband goes into a bit of a panic. He’s overall an exceptionally patient man who understands me in ways that – honestly – freak me the fuck out sometimes. But, he definitely had an I-will-straight-vagina-punch-you look on his face when I started eyeballing his giant Tupperware container full of old CDs. The container is still in the garage. I like my vagina enough not to ever, ever touch it. The container, that is. Not my vagina. Because that just wouldn’t make sense. And, there kids, is an excellent lesson in the dangers of vague pronoun references.)

Anyway …

When the blog-block frustration came, I decided I would counter it by turning to my clean-and-organize routine. My first project was to update and record the passwords for the bazillionty Internet accounts I have in the book I purchased for this about – oh – six months ago. As I entered my “S” accounts, I got to Southwest Airlines.

(ASIDE #4: I flew Southwest so much for work-related stuff that I became an A-List member. This is really saying something for a girl who HATES HATES HATES flying. I don’t care about all the logic and statistics; there is something inherently wrong about a tin tub hurtling through the air at 550 miles per hour 38,000 feet off the ground, especially when said tub is stuffed with too many people who have consumed crappy airport food and bear overstuffed luggage. Unless Capt. Sully is flying that shit, because then we’re cool. (And it’s not what you think. Yeah, he landed the plane in the Hudson, and that’s all the awesome, but I also read his book about how he learned to fly, and I’m pretty sure that he could land an Airbus A380 on the head of a pin in the worst turbulence ever. He also lives near my house, which is … notable?))

Anyway …

My Xanax prescription courage earned me more than enough A-list points for a few round-trip tickets to LaGuardia, which happens to be one of the airports closest to my birthplace and where some of my favorite people in the whole-wide world still live (or rest).

I sat, alternating my gaze between my Southwest points balance and the dining room table, which was covered in materials for the visual schedule boards I was building for Helene. I thought about how her IEP meeting was coming (gonna talk about that in another post) and how, with each passing day, my anxiety about that meeting was growing. I thought about what I’d be asking my husband to do, taking charge of the whole house on his own for five days, if I went. I debated whether I could get Helene (a) out of the car at the airport, (b) through the airport (and, particularly, security), (c) on the plane, and (d) off the plane (alive, anyway). I thought about how utterly perfect a salve on my wounded psyche the trip would be. I thought about how pissed Nate was going to be at me for going without him. I thought about Dunkin’ Donuts. And pizza. And breakfast sandwiches at Penny’s that come on a fluffy, soft Kaiser roll and filled with warm scrambled eggs, slightly melty cheese, crispy bacon and … wait for it … potatoes. Sheer breakfast culinary genius. (Especially at 2:30 a.m. after about 6 gin and tonics. At least, that’s what I’ve been told.)

I sent a message off to my cousin, who replied that I should come, because she was having a Kentucky Derby Party. My first thought was, Shit. How am I going to pack a hat? Then I forgot all about that because she said, “Oh. And by the way. I’m pregnant.” Heeeeeee-eeeey. I hadn’t even met her first baby in person. I mean, we’ve met. On Facebook. (Oh, how many wedding toasts will start with those words about 20 years from now …)

It was just the sign I needed, and before I knew it, my flight was booked. As much as I wanted to take Helene and Nate, I couldn’t. Nate had school, and I just couldn’t predict how Helene would handle it. I had visions of having our TSA encounter become a headline-producing, YouTube viral sensation. That is not how I imagine my 15 minutes going down. Or, at least this is the story I told my husband in my weird, I’m-totally-the-boss-of-you-but-I’m-actually-begging-you-to-give-me-permission voice to justify my Houdini-like exit from our home. For FIVE WHOLE DAYS.

Alone. Solo. Singular. Just me, myself and I.

Of course, I had to take the plane that left Oakland at dark o’clock. But, I figured, Who will be at the airport at 5:00 a.m. on a Wednesday? ALL the people, that’s who.

See. ALL the people. ALL of them. Like bees. Or seagulls.

Fine. I outsmarted all y’all, because I have a fancy, schmancy A-List card from Southwest that’s kind of like a Get Out of Jail Free card from Monopoly. I get to go the front. ;. I like it because it lets me get to the Flying Tube of Doom faster, so I don’t stand there contemplating how much I HATE flying.

After I got on the Supersonic Beer Can with Wings, I read a book. An actual book. The book after The Hunger GamesCatching Fire.

WAIT. STOP!!! Do NOT hit that “Unfollow” button until I have a chance to defend myself.

I fully acknowledge that I may have squandered a precious reading opportunity. I had every intention of reading The Earthquake Machine by Mary Pauline Lowry. (Thank you, Insatiable Booksluts.) But, my trip was planned at the last minute, and my choices before I left dwindled down to going to my sister’s to raid her closet for something to wear or going to the bookstore. It was not an easy choice until I realized that choosing the bookstore would mean I’d either (a) have to read the book fast enough to tear it apart and fashion a dress of its pages (are you listening Project Runway?) or (b) I would attend my cousin’s Kentucky Derby party naked. Some of you may think: Choose (b)! Totally choose (b)! But, that’s only because you haven’t seen me naked. Unless you are truly willing to sacrifice your gift of vision for the chance to see me try to fashion a dress out of the pages of a book, believe me that going to my sister’s for clothing was far and away the superior choice. Plus, she has really good taste in clothes and more than any one person could possibly need.

See? No one is naked. I can’t have you worrying about this while you read the rest of this epic-length post. Focus.

So, I had to buy a book in the airport if I wanted to read on the plane and keep my promise to read actual, tangible books.

(ASIDE #4,562: Airport bookstores are an excellent lesson in economics. A quick glance at the shelves will reveal books that are popular. These are not necessarily books that are good. It is also a somewhat depressing statement about education, politics, religion and any manner of other topics that I want to write about today like I’d like to be poked in the eye with a very hot, sharp stick.)

Anyway …

I didn’t read the Hunger Games, but I saw the movie with Nate. The end of the movie was very unsatisfying for me, because it clearly left stuff hanging like an old man’s testicles. (Not that I’ve ever seen an old man’s testicles. I’ve just heard about them. I buy my husband a lot of lotion.) Not knowing how the whole deal ends really bothered me. A lot. So, I read it to satisfy curiosity; surely that’s forgivable, no? I was, in fact, SOOOOOOO curious that instead of forking over $21.00 for the two movie tickets I’d probably have to buy to find out the ending (and after waiting a really, really long time to boot), I forked over $37.00 for two books and some relatively instant gratification. See? Economics. (And now you know I was not a straight-A student in high school.)

(ASIDE #7,028: Listen. It was that or 50 Shades of Gray. I was too embarrassed to be reading 50 Shades of Gray – at all – let alone while sardined between two people who were certain to be overweight, balding, middle-aged, slightly sweaty business men, who order those little bottles of booze on the 6:00 a.m. flight because they’ve haven’t gone to bed yet so it doesn’t really count as early-morning drinking, and who are over-the-shoulder readers. Because that’s what karma does when you read a smut book on the plane in tangible form instead of on your Kindle. Plus, I cannot read funny books on airplanes anymore. I think it might be a rule for me on Southwest, because the last time I did that, I laughed so much and for so long that the man sitting next to me asked me to change seats and the flight attendant offered me a paper bag to breath in. (Thanks a lot Tina Fey and your bossy pants.))

I started Mockingjay on leg 2 of the trip. This flight was shorter, so I didn’t finish it until I got on the flight back home. All I’m going to say – in case one of you has not read this crap-tastic wonder of rainforest waste – is that I want about 4 hours of my life and $34.00 back. That was the best ending you could come up with Ms. Collins? Really? Stabby. Stabby. Stabby. I think even Katniss Everdeen is pissed at you, lady.

Wait. What was I saying? Oh, yes. Getting to the East Coast … Anyway …

Many of my memories are tied to smells. I wrote about my grandparents’ house. But, lots of other memories can be triggered for me by a scent. The boy I dated in high school and college wore Drakkar cologne. (It was the 80s, okay. Stop it.) Every once in a while, I’ll walk through some department store and catch a whiff, and it brings back something — usually Senior Ball and the wreck our limo got in, which we caught on film about 20 years too soon for it to be attached to this blog. The minute we get out of the car in Lake Tahoe, and I breathe in the mixture of pine needles, smoky wood and cold stone, I remember the first truly spiritual experience I had at 12 years old, standing alone in the snowy woods, marveling at the feeling of harmony that seemed to make my whole body hum. Well, stepping off an airplane and onto a jetway, where my nose is assaulted by New York humid air laced with jet fuel, makes me feel about 10 years old and floods my mind and heart with memories of summer vacations. Because, for many years, that was exactly what the gateway to summer vacation smelled like for me.

It’s a funny thing, geography. What it can do to your mindset. It took forever for my suitcase to come off the plane. I didn’t care. I was happy to just stand there and watch people – to hear conversations laced with that familiar accent that I work so hard here at home in California to lose, but which I can fall back into faster than you can say Thirty-Third Street as though the letter R does not exist. When I walked out to find the shuttle bus to Grand Central Station and saw it driving away, I thought, eh. The weather was muggy but not too hot. It was still light out. Cabs were driving negligently and blaring their horns at one another, as good cab drivers should. Tourists were walking around with the wide-eyed, what-hell-is-this look that I find mildly amusing only because I don’t have the cajones myself to fly as far away as from whence they came.

By the time I got to the train station near my cousin’s house, I was absolutely peaceful. I was home.

My trip wasn’t all sunshine and roses, okay? Well, the Kentucky Derby Party had a lot of roses. That’s – like – mandatory. And, there was some sunshine, but also some thunderstorms, too. With lightening. Oh, how I miss those.

BANG!

The point is, most of the trip was fun, but a few minutes, not so much. I went to see Grandma Rose in the nursing home. That was sadface. I’ll talk about that later. Not today. I also went to the cemetery to see Grandpa. We had a nice chat. Right when I said I missed him, a pretty little butterfly landed on Grandpa’s headstone and just sat there a few seconds, moving its wings like it was waving, then flew off.

One of the very best parts of the trip was seeing my cousins’ kids. So. Damn. Cute.

A ridiculous amount of undeniable cuteness.

On the left is G. (No. Your other left.) She summed herself up perfectly when she said to me, at 6:30 a.m., before I even had my eyes open let alone had coffee, “Are you awake? I have a lot of questions.” Yes, you do, little G. Yes you do. And I will answer every single one. Because you are the AWESOMEST.

ASIDE # … fuck it. This whole post is an aside. Deal with it.

Anyway …

We had some excitement the night I stayed at G’s house. My cousins used to have a wooden deck off the back of their house. A raccoon, who was around so long they named it “Jerry,” lived under that deck. But, the deck had to be torn out when my uncle started building an addition onto the cousins’ house. (See, even raccoons are not safe from the volatility of the housing market!) G is not a big fan of Jerry, because Jerry makes a lot of mean-like barky, growly noises. So, I think she was pretty happy when Jerry was unceremoniously evicted out from under the deck.

It seems, however, that Jerry did not go far.

After dinner, we heard an awful lot of sirens and saw an awful lot of flashing lights going on outside. Turns out, the neighbors had an electrical fire in their house. So, my cousin’s husband went to help. G didn’t like this, because she was pretty afraid that her dad would get burned by the fire (which was already out by that time – and FYI – no one got hurt, so please don’t worry that this is going somewhere horrible). To help her feel better, another neighbor took G with him to get a generator out of the shed in the side yard to loan to the neighbors. Guess what they found instead? Yep. Jerry. And Jerry’s babies. (Imagine everyone’s relief that “Jerry” is a unisex name.)

Jerry was apparently pretty pissy about the visit. She didn’t leave a forwarding address, okay? And the whole mean, growly, barky thing did not sit well with G. She told me, without reservation and in absolute and complete seriousness, “I am not brave.” (Bad news for you, Jerry, because G runs her house like a BOSS. Pack yo’ shit, lady, ’cause you are moving.)

So, now G comes back to the house worried not only that her dad will be burned by the fire, but Jerry will eat him when he walks home! So, I showed G all the pictures I could find about cute raccoons on the interwebs, and I read to her all about what raccoons eat. I don’t think she was entirely convinced that “Daddy” is not on the list of things raccoons eat. (Seriously, G, Daddy’s not there – raw or cooked. Pinky swear.)

Little G, I will not eat Daddy. I’m too cute for that kind of thing.

I will eat marshmallows though. Got any of those? Who doesn’t like marshmallows? (Unless, you’re dreaming and you’re trying to get away from a bad guy, but your legs won’t run, because they’re stuck in Marshmallow Fluff. Maybe that’s just me.)

All too soon, it was time to go home. My flight home was at dark o’clock, too. I need to give a huge shout-out to my youngest cousin who picked me up and drove me to the airport at 3:45 a.m. A! M! And … AND! … she brought donuts.

I think that’s the Whitestone Bridge. At sunrise. Which is too damn early to be taking pictures out the window of an airplane.

Going home always evokes mixed feelings for me. Of course it is a good feeling to come home and hug my kids, kiss my husband, sleep in my own bed, drive my own car. But, I never like leaving Connecticut. The walk through the airport to the gate where the Gravity Defying Sardine Can awaits is Sucky McSuckerson. I’m unwillingly plodding closer to the plane and further away from people who feel like “home” to me, no matter how long I’ve been away. Plus, I lose all hope of rationalizing away my flying phobia. When I’m going to my destination, I can get all brave, puff up my chest, do my breathing exercises, and think positive, happy, Valium-induced thoughts about how I am more likely to be killed by tripping over my own two feet than in a plane crash. (My husband is vigorously nodding his head up and down right now and probably pointing to the latest purple welt developing on my knee/thigh/arm/ass.)

But, when I’m coming back from my destination, my only thought is that I have the luck of the Irish: if I didn’t have bad luck, I’d have no luck at all. However, I do I appreciate the odds being ever in my favor: Southwest Airlines has a zero-fatality record for its passengers.

So, here I am. Back at my desk. Plotting the ways I can trick my husband into agreeing to move to Connecticut. Or, at least to get on the plane and visit Connecticut.

This blog post is now almost 3,700 words. My blogging friend sj, who knows a lot about books and (more importantly) about Dodisharkicorns, tells me that 4,000 words is the line between blog post and the chapter of my first book. So, I will stop here. (I did not do all this work to write a blog post and then have it not be a blog post.)

I leave you with a little easy listening for your next airplane ride. Until then, stay thirsty my friends.

Verb, Scalpel, Diction, Hammer: ProfMomEsq’s Rules of Grammar (And Other Stuff)

I’ve spent some time lately considering how I might distill some of the writing advice I give to legal writing students or new lawyers. I think this list represents the most important tips I can give, but I’d love you to add your thoughts/advice in the comments. I’d also like to add a disclaimer.

While I am writing this, I’m having a cocktail and exchanging Twitter haikus with my cyber-sister @jillsmo (who writes a really damn funny blog here), so if some of my sentences seem a little matchy-matchy or strangely rhythmic, it’s her fault.

Okay …

1. Wield Your Pen (or Keyboard) Like a Scalpel Not a Sledgehammer. If having surgery, would you prefer the doctor just cut you open willy-nilly or would you rather the surgeon made a single incision as precisely as possible? (If you’d like to be cut open willy-nilly, this metaphor will be totally lost on you, so just skip to #2.) Choose your words with the precision of a surgeon. Don’t leave your reader scarred by your random musings (unless you write a super-witty, extraordinarily useful, and crafty blog like I do). Get to the point, and make sure your words actually convey your intended meaning. Be a minimalist, and keep it simple.

2. Write As If Your Mother Will Read It (a/k/a Don’t Be An Asshole). We’ve all received a communication from someone who pissed us right the fuck off. You know you still smart at the one letter or email that was the equivalent of a red flag waving at your inner bull. Not long ago, I stopped speaking on the telephone to opposing counsel for one of my cases, because he insisted on screaming at me on the phone. So, he instead resorted to writing me emails IN ALL CAPS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (just like that). He was begging for a smack down of epic proportions, and I was itching to do it. Instead, I walked away from my computer and into my boss’s office, vented then collected myself, and responded simply and only to the issue that needed to be addressed. When opposing counsel and I later got into a discovery dispute that resulted in the attachment of his lovely emails as an exhibit to a motion, I wasn’t embarrassed, and I wasn’t dressed down by the judge. In open court. On the record. In front of a full courtroom.

When you write in response to something that starts feeling a little too personal, remember these two things:

Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves. — Confucius

Strong and bitter words indicate a weak cause. — Victor Hugo

You might succeed in making opposing counsel (or to whomever your missive is directed) as angry as you are by figuratively ripping his/her face off with your acerbic wit, but what you are not going to do is impress a third party (i.e., the judge). And, that kind of defeats the purpose, doesn’t it? The best revenge is success, so stick to making your important point and save the Snarky McSnarkerson for Twitter. Or your blog. Don’t unleash her in your professional writing.

3. Since ≠ Because. I frequently see these words used interchangeably, even by writers I consider to be quite good at their craft. But, the words are not synonyms. Since refers to a temporal relationship between two events. For example, if I write, “John gained ten pounds since he quit smoking,” the words describe an event occurring during a period of time between the day John quit smoking and the day the sentence is written — those two points in time define when John gained some weight. However, the sentence does not convey the cause of John’s weight gain. If that’s what you take from the sentence, it is an assumption not an inference. (See Point 4, below.) However, because refers to a cause/effect or correlative relationship. If I write, “John gained ten pounds because he quit smoking,” the sentence expresses a connection between quitting smoking and stuffing your face full of Hostess chocolate mini-donuts. Not that I would know this from any kind of personal experience. At all. WHAT?!

4. Inference ≠ Assumption. This concept is best illustrated by example. My son and I are home. There is no one else in the house. I bake a cake. I leave the whole cake on the kitchen counter and exit the room. When I return, there is a piece of cake missing. I know these facts: (1) I am home; (2) my son is home, (3) no one else is in the house, (4) a piece of cake is gone, and (5) I did not eat it. From those facts and by a process of deductive reasoning, I infer that my son took the piece of missing cake. (I have no evidence he actually consumed it.) Now, let’s say that I am home, my son is home and my husband is home. I bake a cake. I leave the whole cake on the kitchen counter and exit the room. When I return, a single slice of cake is missing. I cannot infer that my son took the cake, because it is equally possible that my husband took it. If I conclude that my son took the cake, I am making an assumption, not drawing an inference. See? Inference, good. Assumption, bad. You know what your mom told you happens when you assume …

5. Your ≠ You’re. Your is a possessive pronoun describing something belonging to you. You’re is a contraction of you and are. As in: Please proofread your work if you’re going to post it, because there’s always some Reddy McRed-Pen down the comment thread.

3. Don’t Use Five Words When One Will Do. You’d think it would be challenging to clear your throat in writing, but I see this a lot in the form of cumbersome, unnecessary phrases that reduce simply to if or because: due to the fact that, in the event that, should it come to pass that. Quit writing this crap. It’s lawyer-like (or “professional”-sounding) only because (not “to the extent that”) it is a textbook example of lawyers’ bad writing habits. When you use phrases like this, the words have the same effect on your reader that a lot of ums, uhs and other verbal tics have on a speaker’s listeners. It reads like you’re tripping over yourself and are unsure about your point, which sucks if you want your writing to inspire a reader’s confidence in you.

4. Use Strong, Active Verbs. Nothing waters down your writing faster than weak verbs. First, learn how to form past-tense verbs to avoid past perfect and past perfect progressive verbs that aren’t as powerful as the past-tense conjugation of an irregular verb. For example:

Neither of the parties had knowledge that the gun was loaded.

Why use three words – “had knowledge that” to convey what is said with one – “knew”? The stronger sentence is:

Neither party knew the gun was loaded.

Second, use a verb that actually describes the action your subject is doing to your object. For example, consider the difference between these two sentences:

ProfMomEsq hurt her toe.

ProfMomEsq stubbed her toe.

Both sentences convey the idea that I was hurt, but the second one is far more descriptive of how I was hurt without adding any additional words. After reading the first sentence, you think, Bummer. I like that ProfMomEsq lady. Too bad she hurt her toe. But, after reading the second one, you think, Oh! Ouch! I hate it when I do that shit! Sucks! See? It’s like magic!

Third, avoid the passive voice. For example:

Paralegals may be employed by a law firm to perform tasks sometimes performed by lawyers.

No good my friends, because the subject and object of this sentence are backward. Who is doing the employing? The law firm. Who is employed? The paralegals. Hotel. Motel. Holiday Inn. If your friend is actin’ up … Switch!

A law firm may employ paralegals to perform tasks sometimes performed by lawyers.

Unless, you know, you want your writing to read like Yoda wrote it. Then, by all means, please put your objects at the beginning of your sentence. Irritate the shit out of your reader, you will. But, it’s your paper …

5. Proofread ≠ Spellcheck (or Vice Versa). You MUST do both. Period. End of discussion. Because I said so, that’s why. You will sit there until you clear your plate. Now, put a sweater on. It’s cold in here.

6. Quotation Marks – Learn Who’s in the Club and Who Isn’t. Period: in. Semi-colon: out. Question mark: in if it’s actually part of the quote, otherwise out. Comma: in. Yes, it is that simple.

7. The Abbreviation A.M. and the Words “In the Morning” Should Not Appear in the Same Sentence. It’s called redundancy, people. No likey. It’s bad bad.

8. Stop Capitalizing Words that Aren’t Capitalized. There is no better way to announce to a reader your uncertainty about the meaning of a word than to capitalize a noun that does not need capitalizing. This epidemic may afflict only the writing of new legal writers, but I see it enough that it makes my list. If you don’t know, look it up. If you have to guess, err on the side of using the lower case, unless the word is the first one in your sentence. (And, I really, really hope that last part went without saying. But, just in case.)

9. If You Have to Point Out How Clear or Important Something Is, It’s Not. Sentences that start like this — “Clearly, it is important to note that” — are usually followed by a point that is neither clear nor important. Make your words get a dollar out of 15 cents. Choose words that make the point both clear and important – not because you said so, but because the articulation of your reasoning makes it so.

10. Buy a Dictionary, then Use It as Something Other than a Doorstop. Please.

#Writing as a Process: Betty S. Flowers’ Madman, Architect, Carpenter and Judge

No matter how many times I tell students that writing is a process and that first drafts will never be good enough, they generally refuse to believe me.  They also are, as evidence suggests, quite skeptical about my ability to instantly identify writing that is a first draft.  (TIP: spell-checking and proofreading are two very different things.  Ask the student who continually mistyped public as pubic throughout his final memo.  And for the love of Hemingway, your and you’re are two different words, but spell-check does not know that. You, however, having graduated from elementary school, should!)

So, a few years ago, I adopted a somewhat paternalistic approach to the final memo assignment for my legal writing students.  I assign a closed-universe, single-main-issue memo and give the students a week to do their pre-writing work – reading, briefing, issue-spotting, outlining.  Then, I meet one-on-one with each student to help him/her with that pre-writing process. I use the word help somewhat loosely here.  More than anything, the meeting forces the students to engage in some pre-writing process, because they a) must show up, b) must bring outlines, notes or charts but not a draft, and c) must answer my questions about their writing plans.  So, it’s a sort of passive-aggressive kind of help.

While requiring this meeting effectively prevents procrastination and catches wayward analyses before they sled off course in Ethan Frome proportions, it doesn’t seem as effective at teaching students the important connection between the pre-writing and the actual writing of the memo.  I haven’t quite found a way to persuade students that pre-writing is not a project completely isolated from writing.  For each effort I make to explain how and why pre-writing and writing should scaffold, I hear at least one student uttering these words:  But, how do I start?!

Huh? Why don’t you see that’s what you’ve been doing the past week??

My frustration with my inability to teach students past this hurdle is magnified, because I know what the students feel.  I know the angst of a blinking cursor, pulsing in time with the dull ache in your brain, as you stare at the blank Word document that is clearly mocking you.  I know the taste of lukewarm, hours-old coffee choked down at 2:00 a.m. in a desperate attempt to stave off the beckoning warmth and security of a blanket and pillow.   I know the nagging doubt – the lack of confidence in your competence or intelligence – that pollutes your mind and robs you of words when you are drafting work that will be judged – academically or literally.  I know the first sentence is often the hardest one to write.

But, I also know I found a way to get past that. So, I pilfered my memory for some resource that might help. And there it was – a fabulous essay I read a while back by Betty S. Flowers, titled Madman, Architect, Carpenter, Judge:  Roles and the Writing Process.    She captures the writing process – from inception to completion — in such a perfect set of analogies.

To my aspiring writers (especially those with a legal analysis memorandum due next week) I say:  Read this essay, then follow Ms. Flowers’ advice, and let your inner madman out.  Write whatever comes out of your head, in any order, even if it has absolutely nothing to do with your topic.  Don’t self-edit during this time.  That can come later – much later – as you transition to each of the other roles.  No one will ever know what you wrote in your first (or second or third draft) – that is the magic of the “Delete” key.  Let it be as simple as moving words from your outline to a blank document — because it really is.