Archives for April 2009

Because I don’t have enough on my plate . . .

I’m starting marathon training.

Now, don’t get all excited. I don’t actually have any plans to run a marathon in the near future. I simply need some goals and a structure for building my strength and endurance.

I used to run seven miles a day, five or six days a week. It was hell on my joints, and I eventually gave up. But then I discovered barefoot running, and have dabbled in running on and off ever since, without any joint pain. (Warning: You HAVE to work on your stride before you can go back to, or begin, a running regimen with barefoot running).

When I working on revisions for my book, I knew I needed to get more serious about exercise. Writing is a very sedentary activity. I also tend to get the munchies when I’m working on a particularly difficult scene and my brain starts concocting avoidance techniques that usually involve things like chocolate, Sharkies, red bean and rice chips, and peanut butter chocolate soy “ice cream”. So, now, more than ever, I need to keep my health and activity levels in check. I also find that running does wonders for my mental health. It’s a great way to clear my head and boost my mood.

J came across a marathon training schedule, and I decided to jump in and give it a go. I’m in week one. I don’t know that I’m concerned with graduating past the build-up schedule. I think that’s something I’ll determine when I hit week 19. But I’m loving the idea of being able to run ten miles without dying, and I think that’s a reasonable and healthy fitness goal.

Anyone want to join me?

Good fences really do make good neighbors!

So, the fence is up, and I have to say, it has done wonders in quelling my neighbor-related angst. It’s also made having two German Shepherds so much easier (except when they are outside and it starts raining, and we don’t realize it, and they decide to mud wrestle in the garden and then run through the house).

Argo has pretty much said, “Hey, it was nice knowing you, but I have a yard. . .” That dog can spend all day lying in the shade sniffing the breeze. He is blissfully happy.

Stella, on the other hand, was more excited about all the attention she gets when Argo is outside. If she did go outside, she had to come in to check on me every five minutes. We’ve just been leaving the door open so they can come and go as they please. Then J shut the door and left them outside for about ten minutes the other day, (because they were muddy AGAIN and he was trying to keep them from tracking it through the house AGAIN). Stella was traumatized and has now decided she’d rather just stay indoors, preferably with some part of her touching some part of me at all times. She likes to lie on my feet, or sleep with her head on my lap, or walk so close to me that I trip over her. We’re working on it. I’d be lying if I said that it wasn’t flattering to be needed so much, especially since my other furry confidant has chosen the yard over me, but I know it’s not healthy behavior, and I so desperately want Stella to be a happy, healthy dog. It breaks my heart that she spends so much time in a state of fear.

I am so thrilled that my view of The Crap Garden has been narrowed. Although, I suspect Mrs. Gnome has been moving her crap up higher into the trees. In defiance? For my benefit? Just because? Who knows! From the kitchen window, I can see several windsocks, a fake owl, and a gaggle of wind chimes over the top of the fence, but, not having to look at the fake deer, assorted mop handles, and all those bowling balls certainly does wonders for my mood.

The weather has been all over the place lately, but Friday was as perfect a day as anyone could ask for. I spent much of it outside working in my new office. And it was lovely.

My Oasis to Rally Upon

Two weeks ago, J and I celebrated our 5 year wedding anniversary. I meant to write about it then. I have a hard time writing about the people I love the most. Much in the same way I have a hard time writing out notes in birthday cards. Because, you know, I write. That’s what I do. And I feel like people always expect me to be super eloquent with what I write – to have the right words. But when it comes to the people I love, everything gets so jumbled up in my emotions, and I don’t feel like anything I write could do them justice.

Peter Mulvey has a song called “Words Too Small to Say,” and he’s talking about depression, but I think that concept applies to great happiness too. How could I ever find the right words I describe how I feel about the most important person in my life – the greatest, most amazing man I’ve ever met – the person who is part of everything I do and everything I am? J has made my dreams come true and supported me and loved me way beyond what I thought was even possible. How do you put words to the nuances of feelings, the comfort in quiet moments together? There’s that feeling when you go out into the world and know you have a home that isn’t about place or space or a roof over your head. It’s about having someone to come home to. And the right words for that are too big or too small or don’t exist at all.

We got married in Jamaica. It was awesome. It was simple and easy, and exactly what we wanted it to be. We wrote our own vows. I told J he wasn’t the man of my dreams, because before I met him, I didn’t have the courage to dream of anyone so amazing, and it’s true. Never, in my wildest dreams could I have imagined that this is what marriage means. I am still in awe of him.

Our song was the Redbird version of Lovely as the Day is Long. It was a last minute pick, and I’m not sure we know all the words, but there’s a line that says, “Find an oasis to rally upon.” That’s what J is. He’s my oasis. Those are the best words I have.

My New Neighbor

Monday, I was settling in to do some editing, when I heard a noise that sounded a lot like a jackhammer off in the distance. I figured it would stop, but it didn’t. It felt like every time I started to type, the noise started again. Twenty-minutes later, I was starting to lose it. I walked to the other side of the house, and it got louder. It sounded closer than I’d originally thought, and less like a jackhammer. More like someone drilling metal.

I walked around the house (followed by my canine entourage) muttering “What the hell is Mrs. Gnome doing?” and cursing our house, our neighborhood, and lawn ornaments in general. I presumed that this was another bout of insane Gnome gardening. Maybe she was making some kind of bizarre hubcap altar for Water Jug Jesus? Sometimes, I’ve seen her head into the garden with a pick axe, and then I hear the sound of metal clanking on rock for the next two hours. Maybe she’d upgraded to a power tool?

My blood was boiling. I know the world isn’t going to be quiet for me just because I’m editing my book, but my neighborhood is full of retirees who devote inordinate amounts of time to making crazy noises outside (and covering every surface of the outdoors with carcinogen laden lawn chemicals, but that’s another story for another day) and it just gets old. It’s a raw nerve that is repeatedly poked. Some days, I want to stand in the front yard and yell “Your lawn doesn’t matter! Volunteer at the children’s hospital. Knit hats for the homeless. Deliver for Meals on Wheels. Start a book club. Develop a gambling habit. Do something productive (and quiet) with your time!” Some days, I think J worries I will.

Last week, my work was interrupted by my across the street neighbor gleefully sending the remains of a hedge through a wood chipper. FOR FOUR HOURS. After spending way too much time trying (unsuccessfully) to get visions of Steve Buscemi out of my head, I decided to go to the library to work, only to be interrupted there by a girl TALKING ON HER CELL PHONE IN THE LIBRARY and two boys looking at boobs in old issues of National Geographic.

I had been hoping for a few quiet days before everyone starts mowing their lawns ad infinitum, but there was Mrs. Gnome ruining the last few mower-free days by drilling metal. I stormed around the house working up the nerve to go outside and ask her if she could please drill metal some other time, except, after checking out her yard from the window, it didn’t look like she was outside.

The noise seemed to be happening at regular intervals. I could anticipate the next round of the drilling noise correctly most of the time. And as I walked around the house some more, I realized it sounded like the drilling noise was coming from the basement.

In the basement bathroom, I located the source of the sound (or at least, I thought I had). It was an air duct. I hit it hard with my fist and the sound stopped. I felt like an ass. Even though Mrs. Gnome didn’t know I’d been walking around my house blaming her for everything that had ever gone wrong in my life, I felt guilty.

All week, the noise would start and stop mysteriously. I did endless Google searches on “drilling noise in air duct,” and “jackhammer ductwork,” and any other combo that might describe the sound and the source. I joked on Facebook and Twitter that it sounded like there was a woodpecker in the ductwork. I decided the sound was caused by the recent drastic temperature changes and the wooden beams expanding, and that it happened when the heat kicked on, or was about to kick on, or had been on recently. I decided this was a reasonable explanation, and I put it in my head that J and I would look into ways to muffle the vibrations of the duct sometime over the weekend.

But then, yesterday, when the noise started up, J said it really sounded like it was coming from outside. We counted between the drillings the way you count out thunder and lightening and determined that it wasn’t happening at even intervals. Sometimes it took ten beats, sometimes nine, sometimes twelve. J slapped the bathroom window. The noise stopped. Something fluttered outside.

I ran outside, but I didn’t see anything. Then, I heard an awful cackle coming from the roof. I looked up to see our new neighbor, Mr. Woodpecker, staring down at me with his creepy black bird eyes. After doing some research, I discovered that woodpeckers like to peck on metal when looking for a mate because it makes a louder noise than wood does. This guy, it appears, has been hitting the air vents on the roof and side of the house (which is why the noise sounded like it was coming from different places all the time). When he pecks at one of the vents, it vibrates through the ducts and sounds like it’s coming from the basement, when he pecks at a different vent, it sounds like it’s coming from Mrs. Gnome’s yard.

This morning, I woke up to what sounded like someone drilling from inside our walls. I ran outside in my pj’s, barefoot to yell at the woodpecker. He stared at me from the roof, and I swear he laughed at me. I fear Mr. Woodpecker will never find a mate and go away. He’s obviously a bastard. Who would want him? I can only hope there’s a female woodpecker with low self-esteem trolling our neighborhood.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is about a writer and her growing relationship with the inhabitants of the island of Guernsey after the German occupation, as she searches for subject matter for her next book. The story is told through a series of letters to and from her editor, the members of the Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, and some assorted friends and relations.

When I realized the entire book was letters, I worried about the way the story would unfold. I thought this method of story telling might make for choppy reading, missing details, or information being added unnaturally to the letters, since there is no other narrative in this book. But the book is a marvel. It’s so well crafted and the story progresses easily. The characters’ voices are strong and the subject matter is fascinating. I’ve read The Diary of Anne Frank, and Night, but I’d never given much thought to the challenges facing non-soldiers outside of concentration camps in German-occupied areas of Europe during WWII.

While the subject matter is certainly heavy, the book doesn’t read that way.
This book was an absolute delight to read. I finished it a few days ago and am so sad it’s over.

Sadly, this was Mary Ann Shaffer’s first and only book. She became ill, and was unable to complete the editing process. Her niece, Annie Barrows, stepped in to complete the book. Ms. Shaffer passed away in 2008, just before The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society was published.

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