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Archive for June, 2007

I was almost asleep when the phone rang.  I didn’t recognize the voice on the other end of the line until he identified himself. C. apologized for calling so late but said he knew I’d want to know. My friend J. and her son M. were killed today in a car car crash in Utah. Two of her other children are in critical condition. Neither her husband or her second son were with them when it happened.

I stayed calm until after I’d called Joe to let him know, and then dissolved into sobs. The thought of this family without their mother is heart-breaking. And my friend and I haven’t been in touch since she left Texas to return to Utah, but she’s the kind of friend that we could go 20 years and never talk or see each other, but as soon as we did run into each other again it would be like no time had passed at all.

She wasn’t happy here in Texas. Things had been difficult for them, and I know that she and her family were very glad to return to Utah. I honestly haven’t thought of her very often, and when I did, I hoped that the reason she hadn’t been in contact with me was because she was happy and doing well there. Just before they moved, I took her to lunch one day and we said our farewells. She couldn’t give me the phone number and address because she didn’t have them handy–it was a very sudden, unexpected move–but promised she’d get in touch with me. I’d known her long enough to know that she might, but she probably wouldn’t. And that was okay. We all do what we need to do.

But in the 11 years or so that I knew her while she and her family were living here, they were true friends to me and Joe. Their oldest daughter, now in critical condition in a hospital, was a newborn when we moved here from Utah. They were the first family to welcome us at church, the first to befriend us. And I can’t say there were never any bumpy times, because there were. But there was never any question as to the firm love and friendship that existed between our families.

J. had a unique talent for putting her foot thoroughly and completely into her mouth. She also was very blunt when she spoke. The combination could be offputting to some, but I found it endearing most of the time.  And our paths ended up taking such different directions, too. But you know, when I lost some friends about the time that I decided to stop trying to be what I wasn’t and start being what I was, she never questioned it. She always loved me unconditionally. I wanted to change my name to Faith? Fine. I don’t think she ever called me Ginny again after that. I didn’t like country crafty stuff anymore? That’s great. She went to the Picasso show with me at the Kimbell Art Museum instead. 

For years we spent every Christmas Eve and every Easter Sunday with their family. It was a tradition that each of us cherished. I treasure the time I spent with them. The children are so loving and endearing.

I never thought, when I said goodbye to her that day, that it was the last time I’d see her on this earth. That really makes me sad. The thought of her husband’s grief, and her daughters, and her other son, and their trying to have to make their way without her, breaks my heart. If you’re the praying sort, please keep their family in your prayers. Their oldest daughter R. must be about 14 or 15, and their other daughter, E., is several years younger. Both these girls are in the hospital.

I just don’t even know what to say. I’m so stunned that words are failing me right now.

UPDATE: The son I was originally told was not with her was in fact in the car, and is in critical condition at the hospital. He has about a 50-50 chance of making it; there is a lot of pressure on his brain. The youngest daughter, E., is not going to survive. The oldest daughter, R., is already improving and will survive.

While Joe was on the phone this morning, talking with a friend out here who is tentatively planning on going out there with him, I was going through my boxes of photographs. I have so many of them, both when they were at our house and when we were at theirs. It’s a comfort even amid the pain to see the children when they were babies, when they were hunting for Easter eggs, when they were jumping on the bed or opening Christmas presents. It was good to find one of myself with J.  How can you not talk with someone for six or seven months, and not miss them? I just knew she was there, knew she loved me, knew that when we did talk again it would be like no time had passed at all.

It’s been a sober reminder to me to tell my loved ones that I do love them. To take photographs, because while it’s true that the pictures in your heart are the best, it’s nice to have those moments captured on paper as well.

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Okay, I have to just say right now how nice this glorious cough medicine is. The monster calls it liquid gold. She’s right. I took a teaspoonful when Joe got home with it, and I slept for 5 blessed hours.  Okay, yeah, peculiar dreams, but peculiar dreams I can cope with.

Joe then came in and made me get up so he could take me out for dinner. He decided I needed plenty of salsa. I can’t taste a whole lot yet, but the salsa was good. And I had spinach-mushroom-onion quesadillas. They were a whole lot better than the ones I had at Studio Grill last weekend. I ate a couple of wedges, and saved the rest for my lunch tomorrow.  And I got a virgin strawberry margarita to go. It’s nice, too, cold on my throat, and not too acidic that it burns the throat.

“Gee honey, you look like hell!” Okay, he didn’t really say it that way, but that’s basically what he said. “This illness is really taking it out of you, isn’t it?” I’ve had these delicate lavender circles beneath my eyes all week due to lack of sleep, and they’ve gotten a little darker every day. And he came in at one point to wake me up and ask me if I could get off work tomorrow so that we could go to Galveston for a 3-day weekend.  WTF?  He’s such a sweetie, but sometimes I wonder where he gets his ideas. But I can’t get off tomorrow, so it kind of doesn’t matter.

And why does my decision to become a vegetarian fill people with such amusement and/or animosity? It’s not like I’m going around preaching to people or anything. But one of our friends called Joe when we were about to leave the restaurant, and from Joe’s end of the conversation, I could tell he was joking about the whole vegetarian thing. And when I asked our server how the refried beans were cooked (because I didn’t want to eat them if they were cooked with lard, of course), Joe said, “Honey. You’re a Mormon. You don’t have to go to these extremes.”  I think I’ve only gotten him to be marginally accepting of my diet because I told him that it helps me stay away from the fast food restaurants. But when I said that being Mormon and being vegetarian aren’t mutually exclusive, he said they are. :rolleyes  Because we’re not supposed to teach that a man must not eat meat, according to the scriptures. But if you want to go get all with the scriptures on me, dude, first of all I’m not preaching or teaching to anyone else. This is a choice I’ve made for myself. Furthermore, the Word of Wisdom teaches that it’s pleasing to the Lord that we NOT eat meat, except in times of winter, cold, or famine. I just don’t get it. I’ve gotten such odd reactions from the few people to whom I’ve mentioned it.  Why should anyone care what I decide to eat or decide not to eat? It’s an enigma.

Okay, well, the coughing has definitely started back up. So I’m going to put in a movie I’ve seen a thousand times, take another teaspoonful of liquid gold, and crash again.

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Sick and Tired

Literally. I’ve got another of those upper respiratory infections I’m so prone to. So now I’m taking antibiotics and a strong decongestant. But last night I woke up multiple times coughing, and twice the coughing fits were so strong that they woke up Joe, who was trying to sleep in another room. I called the doctor’s office this morning, and they called in a cough syrup prescription for me.  I’m so tired I could just cry. I haven’t had a full night’s sleep in a week now, thanks to this thing. And staying home from work today doesn’t seem to be doing a whole lot of good because I still haven’t been able to rest. I’m trying to prod Joe into going to pick up my prescription for me so I can maybe, perhaps, actually get some sleep. Sleep would be good.

I’ve missed rehearsals every night this week, and I feel like a complete louse. I need to be there. Of course, I wouldn’t have been a whole lot of use, since I couldn’t talk very much, but still. I don’t like missing rehearsals.

I really don’t have much positive to say today, so I’ll quit now. Wish me serene sleep, okay? I really need it!

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Just checkin’ in

Leaving now for the doctor’s office.

I Scored a 100%!

Mingle2Free Online Dating

Online Dating 

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Lots of Booky Goodness!

My Amazon shipment, which was due on June 28th, arrived yesterday. And since I’m still feeling absolutely horrid, I rushed into my bedroom, put on the jammies, and crawled into bed with my three books. Yay!

Into the Wild – Sarah Beth Durst

Julie and her mother live in a town that’s probably pretty much like the town I live in. Of course, unlike Julie, I don’t have the wild living beneath my bed, which avidly grasps anything that it can and turns it into fairy-tale magic. Nor do I have Rapunzel for a mother. Yes, Rapunzel owns a beauty salon, and her adopted mother manages the Wishing Well Motel. One night as Julie’s grandmother has joined Zel, Julie, and the Seven Dwarves for dinner–she’s left the Three Bears in charge of the Motel, lest anyone attempt to make a wish in the wishing well–Julie loses her temper in a big way and says something incredibly hateful to her mother. Well, teenagers do that sort of thing, and they and their parents pull through it okay. However, the next day Julie finds out that the Wild is no longer under her bed. It has escaped, and is taking over the world. Her mother and grandmother have vanished, and she knows what she has to do.

The story of how Julie rescues her mother, and learns a little something extra about herself and her family, is beautifully told. The adventures are fast-paced and enthralling. The support characters are supportive (Julie’s best friend, who valiantly blows her trumpet for hours to help Julie, and her “brother,” Puss-in-Boots, are among the most memorable of these) and multi-dimensional. I highly recommend this book. My thoughts upon finishing it were, “Wow! I can’t wait to read about Julie’s next batch of adventures.” I hope there will be a next batch of Julie adventures, because I like the characters, and I like Sarah’s writing style.

Curse of Arastold– Jo Whittemore.

This is the second book in the Silverskin trilogy. You can read my comments about the first book here.  I liked this one. It lacked some of the jarring flaws that the first book had near the beginning. The characters had already been set up and developed, and they continued to develop in a very believable way.  Ainsley has been infected with the Illness–a devastating scourge that inevitably turns its victims into dragons–, and this book tells of their pilgrimage to heal him. He doesn’t believe that he can be healed, and he’s not quite sure that he wants to. When he goes to sleep, he has dreams of being in another place, with someone called Penitent, and they are hunted by the dragon Arastold, who created the Illness in the first place. Megan doesn’t give up on Ainsley, however, and her valiant stubbornness leads them to some exciting places and the book draws to a very satisfactory close.

Onaj’s Horn– Jo Whittemore

The last book in the Silverskin trilogy, Ainsley and Megan, along with a unicorn, a ferret, an elf, and a few other assorted characters, save the world from a tyrannical despot. Just remember that things aren’t always what they seem. The Pearl of Truth that was given to Megan in the first book, and subsequently imbedded itself in her heart (for details, see Escape from Arylon) is a pearl of great price, and serves the intrepid heroine well. Ainsley continues the journey to likeability in this book. I was very satisfied when I finished the book. I want to know what happened next, as I always do with characters I care about, but their story is told in such a way that I can believe they’ll live happily ever after, for the most part.

So do I recommend these books? Whole-heartedly. Go. Read.

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“Mo-o-o-o-om!” Taylor whinged.

It amazes me how many syllables she manages to put into a one-syllable word.  I swear one day I’m going to count them, and give her a prize. Well, maybe not. I don’t want to encourage her.

“Yes, dear?” My tone was politely snarky. In other words, you’re acting like a brat and we both know it. So you’d best straighten yourself up.

My daughter knows me well. She quit slouching over the back of my seat. In a perkier and therefore much more acceptable voice, she asked, “Are you going to order my wand today? I gave you the money for it last week.”

In all fairness, she had. It’s just that I had made a rush trip out of town, and barely got home last night. There wasn’t really time to think about going online to buy an official magic wand from Alivans. “I will, sweetheart, I promise.”

“And you remember which one I want, right? The crystallized purpleheart wand–” she began, and I chimed in, “with the Swarovski crystals.”

“I do remember, and I promise to order it today.” I did. To give Taylor her due, she had slaved away at all kinds of nasty chores to earn the money for the wand. I figure when she’s wanting to raise money for frivolities like this, the nastier the chores the better. So she had to do things like clean up all the dog poop out of the back yard (that got her $20 towards her wand–more than I usually pay for single chores, but she really earned it). And I saw her passing up movies that she wanted to see, because she wanted the wand more. I promised that if she saved up the money for her her wand, I’d pay for the shipping. She was delighted. I’m also paying for her copy of The Deathly Hallows, but I haven’t told her yet.

So the days passed. She called me every day as her hopes were dashed yet again. “It didn’t come yet, Mo-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-om!”

“I’m sorry, sugar, that I didn’t pay for the express shipping.” I was, too. Trust me. “But it will be here soon. Just be patient.”

And finally the glorious day arrived. She called me, joyfully excited. “It’s here, Mom! It’s here!”

“Great.  Don’t break it or anything until after I get home, okay? I want to see it first.”

She groaned. “You’re such a mom.”

Not even five minutes later, my phone rang again.  I picked it up, but before I even got the receiver to my ear, I recognized the high-pitched shrieking as Taylor’s. “Honey, what’s wrong? Stop screaming and tell me what’s wrong. Is there blood? Are you hurt?” 

Her wailing shriek continued uninterrupted. I couldn’t get any sense out of her. I grabbed my purse and headed out the door, telling my secretary I’d give her a call when I got home and found out what had happened.

As I drove up the street toward our house, I saw an unusually large number of people crowding the streets.  My heart beat faster. I wasn’t sure what to expect. Fire? But there wasn’t any ominous smoke. Murder? Well, she was yelling pretty loudly, so she wasn’t dead. Beyond that, I had no clue.  I had to abandon my car. I couldn’t get anyone to get out of the way for it. 

Trust me when I tell you I never ran so fast with 3-inch heels on in my life.  As I neared our house, the high-pitched wailing was still going on, still unabated.  The eyes of the bystanders were large and eager. 

A friend came up to me as I got close to the house.  “Sheila, I tried to find out what was wrong, but she wouldn’t stop screaming.”

“Thanks!” I hollered over my shoulder as I frantically unlocked the front door and ran into the house.

When Taylor saw me, she stopped shrieking. Her batteries must have run down.  “Uh, hi, Mom?” she said feebly.

“Where’s the blood? What happened?”

She pointed upwards.

“Is someone upstairs? Did someone try to –” my voice trailed off as I looked up toward the ceiling. The dog was hanging upside down, his left hind foot highest, and he had a patiently perplexed expression on his face.

I stared at Taylor. I doubt I looked patiently perplexed. “What. Happened. Here.” I said, gritting my teeth, trying not to start screaming myself.

“Well, after I took my wand out, I thought it would be funny to try the levicorpus spell. So I pointed it at Stan and said ‘levicorpus.’ And that happened,” she said, in a small voice.

This wasn’t making sense. I went to the wet bar, poured a shot of Jack Daniels, and slung it back. Then I looked at the ceiling. The dog was still there.

“And what would the counter spell be?” I asked, trying to stay calm.

“I don’t remember.”

“Well, what book was it in?” I’m getting a CAT scan after this. I can’t believe I’m having this discussion.

Her face brightened up.  “Oh! Half-Blood Prince!” She raced upstairs, and then back down again, this time with a large book in her hands.  “Lessee, it’s on Christmas, I think. . .” She riffled the pages. “Here it is!”

Taylor pointed the wand carefully at Stan. “Liberacorpus!”

Stan began to plummet to the floor.

“Taylor!” I yelled, and she rushed to catch him.

When Stan had all four paws safely on the floor again, he looked around the room and then bolted upstairs. I knew where he was going: under the bed. I can’t say that I blamed him.

Then she looked at me, a huge grin on her face. “Mom! My wand! It’s really magic!” And before I could stop her, she pointed it at the vase of flowers on the table. “Wingardium Leviosa!”

And damned if that vase of flowers didn’t soar up into the air.

“Give. Me. That. Wand.”

“No! It’s mine! I saved up for it! You said I could have a magic wand!”

As we were struggling for her wand, the doorbell and the phone simultaneously began to ring. I threw the phone to her and ran to the door. There was a tiny little man standing there, wearing a suit that had to have been at least a century out of date.

“Good afternoon, madame. My name is Geoffrey Cadwalladder. I am a representative of Alivans. I think a serious shipping error may have been made.”

“Oh! You think so, do you?” I said sarcastically, as I ushered him into the house.

He took a quick look around, assessing the situation. “Oh, yes, dear, dear, dear.” And then he whipped out a wand and pointed it first at the flowers, which obediently returned to the table, and then at Taylor. She froze for a moment, and he swapped out the wand in her hand with another one.

He looked at me quickly. “I assure you, madame, that the one I have just given her is indeed a genuine toy wand. I’m so sorry about the error. She won’t remember any of this, nor will any of your neighbors.” He then flitted out the door as rapidly as he’d come in.

Taylor stood frozen for another moment or so, then answered the phone as if no time had passed. “Hello? Oh, hi, Lorena. Hey, Mom! It’s Lorena.”

My secretary. What was I going to tell her?

Taylor threw the phone back to me, and cheerfully pointed the wand at me. “Wingardium Leviosa!” I instinctively clutched the wall, and she laughed merrily. “Mom, you’re so goofy!”

I stared at her in stunned silence, then put the phone to my ear. “Hi, Lorena. Um, well, I guess she just had some kind of a, well, a fit or something, but she’s okay now. Thanks. I’ll be in tomorrow.”

I guess I should be lucky that she fancies herself a Gryffindor. Heaven help us if she’d tried one of those unforgivable curses, huh?

_______________________________

This was prompted by my sister saying wouldn’t it be funny if someone ordered a “magic” wand from Alivans, and actually got a magic wand. Because the very first spell I tried with my magic wand was the levicorpus spell, and L-squared, aka Charlie, is probably really glad it didn’t work.

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Challenges

I got ambitious and signed up for 3–count ’em, ONE, TWO, THREE–reading challenges. But this is a good thing. I’ve been in a literary rut. Nothing wrong with that, because even then I’m reading mostly good books with a bit of brain candy here and there. But still, it’s nice to expand the horizons from time to time. So I made a rule for myself that I can’t have anything on these lists that I’ve already read, and no counting a book two or three times. It counts once. Period. So, with no further ado, here are my choices:

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For the Armchair Traveler Reading Challenge, we’re to pick six books that take us elsewhere in the world. And it has to be real worlds, so no Middle-Earth or galaxies far beyond our own. Here are my tentative picks for this challenge:

  1. AUSTRALIA: The Broken Shore – Peter Temple
  2. INDIA: The Space Between Us– Thrity Umrigar
  3. JERUSALEM: Someone to Run With– David Gossman, Vered Almog & Maya Gurantz, translators
  4. MOSCOW: The Archivist’s Story – Travis Holland
  5. WARSAW: The Polish Complex– Tadeusz Konwicki, Richard Lourie, translator
  6. CAIRO: The Cairy Diary– Maxim Chattam, Susan Dyson, translator

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Something About Me: Each participant picked 5 books that represent herself or himself and posted them on the blog. For the fun part, we get to pick books listed by the other participants, and read them. Here are my choices for now (know that this list will probably grow longer):

  1. I, Elizabeth– Rosalind Miles. This was on Soleil’s list, and she’s been spot on with her recommendations thus far.
  2. Leave Me Alone, I’m Reading– Maureen Corrigan. This is on several people’s list, and as I have frequently uttered the sentiment whether aloud or silently, it seems like one I need to read.
  3. So Many Books, So Little Time – Sara Nelson. I know nothing about it beyond the title, and the fact that it is another non-fiction. But I love the title!
  4. The Historian– Elizabeth Kostova. I had actually bought this on sale at Half-Price Books a few weeks ago. But Lisa says it’s okay if we start reading early, which is good, because I started reading this during my lunch break today.
  5. The Man with the Beautiful Voice – Lillian Rubin

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The Book Awards Challenge has us reading at least 12 books by award-winning authors. The approved awards are listed in the sidebar at that block, but include the obvious (Nobel, Pulitzer). There are a lot to choose from.  Here are my tentative selections for this challenge:

  1. Chasing Vermeer– Blue Balliett. Edgar winner.
  2. Acceleration– Graham McNamee. Edgar winner.
  3. The Boy in the Burning House – Tim Wynne-Jones. Edgar winner.
  4. Coraline– Neil Gaiman. Hugo winner.
  5. Maisie Dobbs– Jacqueline Winspear. Agatha winner.
  6. Amelia Peabody’s Egypt: A Compendium– Elizabeth Peters, Kristen Whitebread, Dennis Forbes, editors. Agatha winner. This is the only exception to my rule about the books being books I neither own nor have looked at. I do own this one, and I have skimmed it. But I’ve never sat down and really read the whole thing.
  7. Feed – M.T. Anderson. National Book Awards winner.
  8. Waiting for Snow in Havana: Confessions of a Cuban Boy – Carlos Eire. National Book Awards winner.
  9. March – Geraldine Brooks. Pulitzer winner.
  10. A Confederacy of Dunces– John Kennedy Toole. Pulitzer winner.
  11. The Sea– John Banville. Booker winner.
  12. Behind the Scenes at the Museum– Kate Atkinson. Costa/Whitbread winner.

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