Thursday, January 31, 2008

Ever Feel Like You Just Can't Get Caught UP?

I think I can pinpoint just why I can't get anything done. I have three children, and I'm thinking there's a direct causal relationship.

I mean, they're great kids. But.

This week, in some ways, I've been right on top of things. Mailed off my passport renewal (including a photo that is nearly glamorous - for a passport photo). The office offered to do it for me ... for an additional fee of $35. For that, I figured I could stick all the forms in the envelope myself, thankyouverymuch. Laundry is folded. Wrote some actual letters (read: not e-mails) and put them in the post. Tidied up downstairs. Read an entire book to Sylvia. Grocery shopped. Collected and totaled the Girl Scout cookie orders.

Finished the first tacky novel. It was ... OK. But I didn't have high expectations. It wasn't Shakespeare. Or Fitzgerald. Or even Margaret Atwood (whom I like, by the way).

And those are just the high spots. Keep in mind that I'm doing it alone this week (I know - what else is new?)

So tonight, I can just settle back and enjoy the debate. And Lost. And not feel guilty about not folding laundry or putting things away. Because I already did!

Let's see how long this productive streak lasts ... maybe I'll make it all the way through tomorrow!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Evening meetings and junk reading

It's only Tuesday. The week feels long.

I have two evening meetings this week. I hatehatehate evening meetings. There was a time, about five years ago or so, that I averaged three, maybe four, meetings a week. I did it. And I often hauled my kids with me, because Gary was traveling and I really hated, in principle, to pay for a sitter when I was volunteering. I would set them up in the nursery/child care space, and the girls would watch a movie, play games, do homework.

The girls are older now, so they can stay home. But I'm not sure whether it's really easier - now I worry about whether homework is getting done, rooms tidied, baths taken, Sylvia put to bed on time.

Tonight's meeting was not long - only an hour and 15 minutes. But so much of what was discussed did not feel important. If there's one thing I can't stand it's a meeting that is not run efficiently. Yes, there was an agenda, but it was not followed.

I have another meeting tomorrow night. With luck, I will have to pick up Alison, so I can cut out early if need be. Let's hope it's run better than tonight.

I like to help out; I like to do my part. But I'm just too used to my evening routine of staying put. Plus I checked our four (count 'em, 4) really trashy novels from the library. I should do better, but I have to alternate my reading selections. A little Faulkner, a little McEwen, a little Shopaholic. It's like junk food: A little is OK, but too much will make you ill.

But right now, I'm craving some tacky literature. I am going to indulge. Guilt-free. Because as bad as it is, it's totally worth it some days.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Funny to me, anyway

Two funny stories.

But first: I've written about this before, but wow, one of the things I love most about being a parent is reading with my girls. I love to re-read books I loved as a child, and I love to discover new books with them. (This is part of the reason home schooling does not appeal to me - we get introduced to things which are beyond my ken.) The last 24 hours, Sylvia and I have spent every spare minute reading Blubber by Judy Blume. She is one of my favorite children's authors, and the girls love her, too. And boy is that book ripe for discussion. We had some mean kids when I was in school, but even the meanest (whom I remember well) was no match for the girls in that book.

Now, on to the funny stories.

No. 1: I went to the theatre a couple weeks ago with my friend, N, and her friend, H. H asked N a question, prefacing it with, "Since you are a woman of a certain age ..." N is over 50. She was not offended, but somehow H thought she should point out that she is 35. Naturally they looked at me, and I said I'm 41. N was completely surprised - "Really?" she said. "I thought you were just a young thing." Which I thought about for a second, then said, "But you know I have a daughter who is 16; how old did you really think I am?" To which H replied: "She thought you were a teen pregnancy success story."

No. 2: Gary and I went to the theatre last week (it is really just coincidental that both of these stories precede theatre outings). Maddie helped me get ready to go, and she brought me a pair of earrings. "No," I said, "I think I'll go fancier - it's after 5, so I'll go with the diamond earrings." "And the bracelet?" Maddie asked, volunteering to get them for me. When she returned, she said: "Here are your best friends!" It took me a second ... what a funny kid.

Maybe not a teen pregnancy, but a success story for sure!

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Accepting that time is passing ...

I got our piano tuned. The girls are currently not taking lessons (though I keep encouraging them to take it up again - I can't deal with forcing them), so it doesn't really get played. But Maddie wanted me to practice her solo/ensemble piece with her. And I couldn't very well play the accompaniment on an out-of-tune instrument.

It's been to play a bit - I've hauled out all the old sheet music and had some fun. I've worked on the piece to play with Maddie, something by Handel. Basically, it's a bunch of chords. And I'm struggling. My public performance days are over. If they ever existed.

Though I played accompaniment for Alison a few years ago, and she got a 1. I warned the judge before she started to not listen too closely to me (!)

Last night we got dinner at a new little Cajun place. Yum. Then caught Michael Clayton, which is back in theatres. (And learned that movies at Rave are always cheap - it was not a fluke last time.) It was good, though not great. So now we have seen all the Academy Award-nominated films. For the first time since ... well, ever, I'm thinking. I'm trying to decide which one I would choose, then which one the Academy will choose. I am usually very bad at predicting. Gary, on the other hand, is very good; two years ago, he guessed every major category correctly.

Gary will be traveling this week, so I'll be single parenting. On the downside, I'll have no adult conversation at night before bed. On the upside, no fixing dinner every night. I'll be an optimist and look forward to my lack of time in the kitchen.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

The plot thickens

Barack Obama won the South Carolina primary. Exit polls indicate that he won the majority of the black vote - overwhelmingly so. Polls also indicate that voters in South Carolina believe that the United States is ready for either a black president or a woman president.

Caroline Kennedy is endorsing Obama; her cousin, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., endorsed Clinton. Dennis Kucinich is out; John Edwards is still in. Michael Bloomberg is said to be mulling a third-party bid (read a history text, Bloomberg - you can't win). Fred Thompson is out, and I expect Giuliani to drop out soon - even his own hometown newspaper not only did not endorse him, but said:

"The Rudolph Giuliani of 2008 first shamelessly turned the horror of 9/11 into a lucrative business, with a secret client list, then exploited his city's and the country's nightmare to promote his presidential campaign." It describes Giuliani as "a narrow, obsessively secretive, vindictive man."

Ouch. This is getting good - nearly as fun to watch as American Idol.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Rough day

It was a tough one today.

First, it's cold. I know, compared to the Midwest, it is, in fact, not cold. But it's all relative. So, for me, it was cold today. Brrr. And you have to remember that we sort of purged the winter coats upon moving here (as if they would fit the girls anymore, anyway). Chilly - the fireplace felt good.

Secondly, I wore the brown boots today. And the heels are higher than the black boots. Thus, my feet were tired. Looking great has its price.

Third, headache. Woke up with it. Not a migraine (I wouldn't be typing this if it were). But it was a headache, none the less.

Tonight, we've ditched two girls (one is babysitting, one is at the movies), and picked up two additional girls. Sylvia really can't go a weekend without sleeping with her two best friends. While they played, Gary and I decided to play some Wii (we are nothing if not fun. And competitive.) The girls documented our game, including bits of conversation. It was scintillating:

Gary won the first game.
Cindy won the second game.
Gary losing at Bubbles. Cindy is winning. Cindy finds it strsfull (stressfull).
Alison got 3,000 points at this game.
Playing ping pong.
Switching is hard.
Gary won ping pong.

You get the idea. I doubt they ever spy on us again - the relative pay off is not worth it.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

January = Blah

It's official: I have the January blahs. Chalk it up to weather, January, winter, restlessness, or my December MasterCard bill (Christmas x three kids is so pricey), or life in this suburban hell, but whatever you call it, I am in a mid-month funk.

But I'm thinking things will perk up here shortly.

And maybe it's only a one-day funk. It wasn't around yesterday, because yesterday was incredible. Gary and I enjoyed my Christmas gift of tickets to Jersey Boys. Which was fantastic. We headed out just before 6 (would have been nice to leave earlier, but I had already traded days in the gymnastics carpool last week to go to the theatre with my friend Nancy, so I could not weasel out again without losing all credibility), and after 50 minutes in rush-hour traffic, we made it to the theatre district in time to catch a bite at the über-cool sushi joint that abuts the Hobby Center (where I risked my life by eating the tuna, along with smoked salmon and vegetable tempura). It was rainy and cold, so we took advantage of the über-cool tunnel system that connects Bayou Place (where many of the chic eateries and bars are located) to Jones Hall, Hobby Center, Wortham Center, and the Alley Theatre. And parked in the garage - didn't even need my umbrella. Made it into our seats just before 8 and did not have to leave half a glass of wine behind - timing is everything.

I knew I would like Jersey Boys. But I did one better - we loved it! It was like The Sopranos meets musical theatre. Really, how can you not like a show about a boy band from Newark whose members keep getting sent upstate? Or who have mob ties? Which made me wonder, aloud, if everyone from Jersey is connected? Gary asked me if I had not been paying attention: The only way out of the hood is to get sent up, knocked up, or mobbed up (though how the middle one helps I'm not quite sure). Suffice it to say, the show was incredibly entertaining. And the musical numbers were good - even, I'd venture, if you're not a huge Frankie Valli fan. I would not define myself as a huge fan, but there are a couple of songs I quite like, and the show did them justice. It used most of the numbers to tell the story, which gave all of then more meaning.

In short, I liked it. But you might take my review with a grain of salt: I love Broadway musicals. All of them. Every one I've ever seen, and I've seen several. But Gary liked it too, and he is probably more discriminating about his musicals than I am. And very tolerant, I should add, as he is happy to attend with me. And I refuse to pick up a fishing pole to make him happy. The thing is, though, I do not expect him to go with me (why do you think we have daughters? or I have friends like Pete? or Helen? or JoAnn?) and I do not keep him from going fishing. It all works out.

Sooooo ... even after that amazing night (which left me very tired today, as we weren't in bed til midnight), I am feeling the winter blues. But, as I said, there are remedies.

Such as, I've quit reading a couple of blogs regularly. These are not blogs written by friends, and how I started reading them is a long story. I read several. But two in particular are getting to me - the word "sanctimonious" comes to mind as I read them. I doubt they miss me. Even on my blah days, I refuse to make time for blogs I find annoying. Life is too short.

It was a blah start, so it'll be a blah ending. Blah. But brighter days are in store.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Thoughts for Tuesday

I love my days at home.

I love that I don't have to get dressed and leave the house right away. I can work out, read the paper, play on the computer. Read. Fold laundry. Do a little writing. Shop. Do what I want, when I want.

This doesn't mean I accomplish a lot, necessarily. We'll just consider it at-home therapy. Sometimes, it's just whatever gets you through the day.

Lots of thoughts running through my head. Thoughts on spring break - we've made reservations for Big Bend National Park, which is, apparently, the least-visited national park in the U.S.A. We'll go there for a few days (staying at the Gage Hotel, circa 1920 - looks very nice), then on the way back, stop in Corpus Christi or South Padre for a couple days at the beach. The girls are not thrilled. One opted for skiing in Colorado, which another vetoed because Barb, my brother's girlfriend, will not be there. Another suggested Hawaii, but that is on the itinerary for 2011. Boston, but we think that might be more enjoyable in the summer. The Grand Canyon was discussed - doable, but a long drive - and Florida was also suggested (but we have beaches here, plus we've been there a bunch o' times). Our rationale for Big Bend was that, while we live in Texas, it is very accessible. But once we no longer live here (and we won't be here forever, trust me) it would take way too much effort to get there. So, Big Bend it is.

Oscar nominations are out - no big surprises. As much as I enjoy movies, the Academy Awards are not that important. They are totally political, and they are not necessarily indicative of who really has talent. Barbara Stanwyck, Annette Bening and Glenn Close have no Oscar wins, but Julia Roberts and Helen Hunt do? Please. Still, it's a game to try and predict the winners. I'm always way off - Gary, on the other hand, tends to guess them all correctly. Yet another game I can't win (but I'll take him in Mah Jongg any day).

Caught American Experience last night on PBS, all about Walter Freeman, the neurologist who popularized the lobotomy, inventing the transorbital lobotomy procedure. It was fascinating (but American Experience usually is). He really wanted to do something to help the mentally ill, and you do have to put his work into the context of the treatment options for mental patients in the 1920s and '30s (there were none) and their very bleak options - not to mention the conditions in which they lived, which were horrific. But it was indeed shocking to see how this almost barbaric procedure was performed, with very little information on the outcome, no long-term studies on the side-effects, and without the consent or even knowledge of many of the patients or families.

Some families were grateful, feeling that their relatives were returned to them more subdued, without violent or suicidal behavior. Other lobotomy patients were not so fortunate, having been rendered virtually incapacitated, both physically and mentally (Rosemary Kennedy is the most famous example). Others were simply left as less than they were before - more docile, but without emotion or memory. Freeman would do as many as 25 in a session, having the staff at mental hospitals simply wheel in the neediest cases, without the knowledge or consent of the families or patients. He was not a trained surgeon and had no license for surgery; at some point his ambition surpassed his desire to help people - something even his own children said in the show.

Gary had to leave the room - the filmed footage of the actual procedure was very difficult to watch. But, as I said, it was gripping. In the mid-50s, with the introduction of thorazine, which could produce many of the same results without surgery, the practice dropped off. But Freeman continued performing lobotomies until 1967 - ! - when a patient died on the table. He performed the procedure on children, at least one as young as 4 years old.

A mental health professional I heard speak once said that 25 percent of the population is afflicted by mental illness, from depression to schizophrenia. This has been true for eternity, but it's been difficult to know how to deal with a malady you can't see.

There is no good transition out of this subject - suffice it to say, it's not an easy issue. Most of us know someone who is affected, either as a patient or family member of one.

On another note, Happy Roe v. Wade anniversary. No activities planned for me, but I'm happy in spirit, anyway. Let's hope my daughters do not see the clock turn backwards.

And that's enough for today!

Monday, January 21, 2008

Happy MLK Day

We're approaching the MLK holiday in typical American fashion: doing nothing.

Naturally, I'm a big believer in everything he stood for (maybe not the womanizing, but I'm of the it's-none-of-my-business camp - same as I view Rudy Giuliani's three marriages or the Clinton's fidelity issues. It doesn't get in the way of the greater good). But I'm not sure the best way to honor him is to let kids out of school and have a white sale.

In other random bits, we:

• realized that the 10.30 p.m. movie can be tough, especially when it is a nearly three-hour movie. There Will Be Blood was OK. I think it was just too late for me. Fantastic performances by Daniel Day-Lewis and especially Paul Dano - he deserves an Academy Award nomination for his turn as the minister. Being out til nearly 2 a.m. makes getting up the next day very difficult when you're my age, let me tell you ...

• found out that not every Sunday features a good, much less great, speaker at the UU. This week was sort of a bust. He titled it "This I Believe," based on the NPR series. Sort of random, very disjointed. If his delivery was any indicator, don't listen for his to be read on air any time soon.

• turned over our kitchen to the Cy Woods German club yesterday afternoon. Those kids were LOUD. Nice group, but LOUD. Made it tough for me to relax on the sofa. But I am caught up on my Newsweeks now.

• traded one kid for a friend, so we still had three girls last night. Made pizza, watched football (glad we were at home and not in the -5 F stands - brrrr), then watched The Squid and the Whale, very underrated movie. Loved the dialogue, loved the performances by Laura Linney, Jeff Daniels, and Jesse Eisenberg. Yes, they were all a little self-absorbed, but I think that's the point. Good bit of writing. Though I'm thinking someone in that school would have recognized a song by Roger Waters - come on!

Laundry. Reading. Orthodontist. Lots of Wii action. In other words, a glamorous and fast-paced Monday. Makes you envious for life in the Northwest suburbs of Harris County, does it not?

I thought as much. Must go throw the clothes from the washer into the dryer. The excitement never ceases.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Saturday Night is All Right for Fighting

Just a song title, folks - no fighting here. We are:

• hosting a sleepover for Sylvia's friend. As usual - no weekend would be complete without it.
• checking out returns from South Carolina. McCain won. Thompson will drop out soon. And Guiliani needs to wake up - I'm think that when you come in behind Ron Paul - four times - you're history.
• enjoying our IKEA purchases. Love, love, love IKEA. But they've changed their dinner menu, so our meal was not as good as it usually is. However, it's a big sale weekend, so you can't beat $11 for dinner for four.
• cold. It is chilly here - below 50. Brrrr.
• getting ready to head out to catch There Will Be Blood. I'm figuring that when the Academy Award nominees are announced, we will have actually seen all the Best Picture nominees. (Assuming, that is, that neither Bratz nor The Bucket List makes the cut. Why am I so hard on The Bucket List? Don't know - it has just gotten under my skin. And I like Rob Reiner. Who knows. But I think my harshness is deserved - the reviews are terrible.) We are making up for all those years when we saw about two movies a year that were a) not animated or b) didn't star Lindsey Lohan or one of her contemporaries. Maddie saw Mad Money last night - you can add that to the list of films I'll never watch.

Gotta run - the cinema awaits.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Love, Janis

I was never much of a Janis Joplin fan. I am familiar with her, naturally; I even found her intriguing enough to watch an episode of Behind the Music, full of letters read by her sister, and narration by Kris Kristofferson. But I couldn't say that I was that into her.

Until last night.

After Love, Janis - the off-Broadway show chronicling the last four years of her life, currently at the Alley Theater in Houston - I am a total convert. The show was simply amazing.

I loved it for the music. The performances. The costumes - exact duplicates of outfits Joplin really wore. I loved the woman who did the singing - they have two different women who alternate nights, because of the vocal strain - and I loved the woman who did the spoken parts.

Mostly, though, I loved that the show made Joplin very human. The letters she wrote to her family were very sincere. They talked about her career, about her music, her trials with her band, with her performances, her fatigue, her demons.

Mostly, though, they were letters from a daughter to her parents. Letters written about leaving home, missing family. Thanking her parents for Christmas and birthday gifts, wondering how her younger brother and sister were doing, reminding her mother to write more often. They were touching, at times poignant, as they seemed to be trying to maintain this connection between a life she once had - and didn't like much - and the life that she seemed to want but which overwhelmed her.

The end, of course, is no surprise. It's always tragic to watch someone so young end up self-destructing. She crammed a lot of life into her 27 years - maybe too much. Today the city of Port Arthur embraces her, but it took 18 years for them to acknowledge the death, or life, of their most famous former resident. While she may not be a role model for any generation, she made her mark, and it's worth noting.

I don't feel a real connection to her. But I did come away with somewhat of an affinity for Joplin, the woman, and her music. The show did what it aims to do; it presents a different Janis than the hard-edged musician you might have seen on stage. She is the Joplin you need to see, along with the concert Janis that is interspersed into the show. She's a Janis Joplin you won't forget.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Happy Birthday!

Happy Birthday, Gary!

He's celebrating in Peoria, at a slew of business meetings. (Bummer.)

I, on the other hand, celebrated for him, by going to the Alley's production of Love, Janis. I am guessing I had the better day, which hardly seems right ... the price he pays for corporate loyalty.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

School Daze

Tonight, we are working on a diorama.

Well, more accurately, I am observing. I helped do the shopping, but Sylvia is doing the work herself.

I like the observing part of the school project. I like sharing the enthusiasm; I like the creative process. But as for gluing the tiny bunnies next to the tiny pond with the tiny trees and the itty-bitty bushes, I'm fine with someone else doing the work.

And, to be fair, it is not my assignment - it's hers. So I can - guilt-free - let her do her own work.

Leaves me time for more important pursuits. Like updating my iTunes. Making phone calls to friends. Checking primary results (I know, I know, the Democrats aren't participating. But I still have interest in what the GOP is up to). Watching American Idol.

But I'm providing critical emotional (not to mention financial) support. That's the important thing. I'm totally there for her. But without Elmer's glue on my fingers.

Win - win - win .... but not for John McCain - !

Monday, January 14, 2008

A Difference of Opinion

I mentioned, casually, that I had no intention of seeing The Bucket List.

Be quiet about it, Gary said. G and S (neighbors and colleagues of Gary) said they want to see it.

So, I mused, just because we have a difference of opinion, I have to keep quiet about what I like? Or don't?

Saying I don't like a movie, or a book, or a play, isn't a judgment against someone; it's not an indictment of their bad taste. It's simply stating my opinion. Which is merely that - nothing more.

Just because I love the opera, watching Stephen Colbert, and have tickets to Jersey Boys next week (cannot wait!!!) does not make me the arbiter in taste. I don't expect everyone to share my thoughts, my likes and dislikes.

Though I am certainly drawn to people who do - there is a reason I find certain people fun to be around. (You know who you are ...)

But must we all keep our opinions, our feelings about popular culture, quiet so that we do not offend others? Do people out there not have thick enough skin that we can respectfully disagree about which movies we like?

No politics. No religion. And now, no movie preferences?

For the record, I am anxious to see There Will Be Blood. I'm excited for new episodes of Lost, and thanks to Pete, I'm totally jazzed about American Idol. As I already mentioned, Jersey Boys is next week, and I'm trying to figure out how to get to NYC to see Young Frankenstein on Broadway. I'm totally loving Rufus Wainwright sings Judy Garland. I crank up the radio whenever Peter Frampton comes on. And if we can work it out, The Magic Flute is upcoming and we'll be there.

You're free to disagree (wrongly - !). And I won't take it personally.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Saturday was such fun ...

Such a nice Saturday.

Shopping with Maddie. Dinner out with Gary, Sylvia and her friend, Isabelle. Ate at La Hacienda - spinach quesadillas, tamales, and Margaritas. Mariachi music. Very nice. Movie at home. Nice evening.

(We wanted to catch a movie, but There Will Be Blood is only at River Oaks, which meant leaving the house by 10, which meant one of the older girls had to be home from babysitting by 10. Didn't happen, which is OK. No decent movies (that we haven't seen) showing at local theaters - Veggie Tales? National Treasure? PS I Love You? First Sunday? I Am Legend? The Bucket List? No thank you - we'll catch There Will Be Blood next weekend.)

(And Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman, I am shocked at you two. Talent of your calibre appearing in a schmaltzy movie like The Bucket List? You cannot be that desperate for a paycheck. Ick.)

Sunday was somewhat less fun. Excellent guest speaker at the UU today - very bright spot - then downhill from there. Gary left early for a week in Illinois, attending meetings. Leaving me to grocery shop (yuck), do laundry (double yuck), and harangue children to clean bedrooms (triple yuck). All in all, not so rewarding.

Can I rewind to Saturday night at La Hacienda? Pretty please?

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Nothing like a Saturday at the mall ....

I know. Saturday at the mall. Grrr. Shiver.

But there's a catch: I had only one kid with me - it was almost delightful!

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

I have had such a productive week. I am so on top of things - at this point every single one of my Christmas decoration is stored away. Can you believe it? And it's only Jan. 12 - !

But I actually did get some stuff done. Made some appointments, cleaned up, tidied. Shopped. Already shared my success, as it were, of Stein-Mart. But then I hit the mall - alone, all by myself - and found sales at Ann Taylor AND Loft (my faves - you've heard it before) and Macy's. I am looking so hip these days. I did not go to the make-up counter, and I did not get new shoes (though I looked). Those purchases will wait til next week.

I've been on that elliptical every day this week. I cannot read on that thing (sad) so I have to either find a radio or TV program or listen to the iPod. I think I need to find more suitable workout music - I love all the tunes on there, naturally, but some of the jazz and the standards don't really motivate me to move the way they should. Dave Edmunds, Alex Chilton, the Clash, Queen, those make me move. Buddy Holly, even. But Frank and co., not so much.

I also picked up my passport renewal stuff and got my picture take - popped right into CVS on a whim. Took one look in the rearview mirror and figured, for a passport, I look just fine. And let me tell you, that photo is nearly glamorous. Nearly - it's a passport photo. But if you were to compare it to my old one, where I was about three months pregnant, still vomiting, it's got modeling potential.

Picked up copies of Law & Order Season 1 at the library - I am so missing Ben Stone I can hardly stand it! I need a fix.

So. Now we are at today. Where I cruised the mall with one child. Alison drove to a school meeting, Sylvia was playing with friends. So Gary, Maddie and I hit Target in search of an appropriate band concert uniform (black pants and white shirt - simple items, not to be purchased at trendy teen stores - explicit instructions from the band director). She recommended Target, where we actually found appropriate pants in the girls section, along with the requisite white shirt from the boys department. Score one.

Gary then dropped us at the mall so he could venture to Franklin Covey (um, no thanks - big snore). Maddie and I found appropriate black shoes and a sweater/camisole combination at American Eagle. We looked around, and even found Gary a birthday gift - which we successfully sneaked out to the car when he called to let us know he had arrived. Man, are we good. Stealth birthday gifts - we even kept him out of the trunk on the way home - I think a career in espionage awaits one of us.

Now we're trying to figure out how to get rid of the third kid tonight so we can go out - two girls are babysitting and third one is making plans with a friend. Must employ all available child psychology to encourage girls to go next door, not stay here.

Great day, great end awaiting. Maybe, if we play our cards rights. Wish me luck ...

Friday, January 11, 2008

On Words


I heard this word somewhere recently, and it's been running through my head all day. Perfidious. Perfidious. I thought I knew what it meant, but I looked it up just to be sure: Treacherous.

Sometimes, I just like the sound of certain words. Ameliorate. Vacillate. Delineate. (Notice a trend here?) Promulgate. But my favorite word in the English language is probably quintessential. Something about it just works for me. It is the, ahem, quintessential fun word to say (!)

There are a bunch of words I quite like in German as well. Vorabredung. Anmeldung. Aufgeregt. Fernsehapparat. Vergangenheit. Beschäftigung. Ausbildung. Fortbildung. Eigentlich. Und so weiter ...

Most of those words have very average meanings - I could even write a sentence: Das Fernsehapparat Fortbildung is eigentlich total aufgeregt. In der Vergangenheit habe ich die beschäftig Fortbildung vergessen. Na ja, ach so, das ist die Warheit. Das Satz ist auch total Quatsch. (Loosely translated: The television conference is totally exciting. In the past, I totally forgot the career seminar. It's true. And this sentence is complete nonsense.)

But didn't it seem impressive? You should hear me say it, if I turn on the German accent - it sounds totally cool.

With my mind on words (they're kind of my thing - studying journalism and English will do that to you - I absolutely love the book Eats, Shoots and Leaves), I read the annual list of words/phrases we should retire. Most of these, I don't think I've ever used. But I definitely won't use them now - they're banished after a year, or more, of misuse.

The list includes:

• perfect storm
• Webinar
• waterboarding
• organic
• wordsmith/wordsmithing
• author/authored
• post 9/11
• surge
• give back
• "blank" is the new "blank"
• Black Friday
• back in the day
• random
• sweet
• decimate
• emotional
• pop
• it is what it is
• under the bus

My husband (who lives in the corporate world) assures me that several of these are very overused and ought to be banned. I'll take his word for it. And I'm going to add my picks:

• my bad (I sooo hate this expression)
• yada-yada (who ever said this before they heard it on Seinfeld? It's been off the air for 10 years - enough already)
• grandbaby (it's a child - that expression sounds so hokey)
• retail therapy (just overused - put it to rest)
• senior moment (equally overused)

Generally, I know a word is past its expiration date when it reaches the vernacular of my husband's grandmother - she's a sweet woman, but on the cutting edge, she is not. Once she's using a slang term, you know it's about three years past its prime.

I'm a big believer in the philosophy of Ernest Hemingway, who felt there was no point in using a 25-cent word when the nickel word would do just as well. It's the, ah, "quintessential" writing paradigm that I emulate. It's possible I'll forget, but you won't hear "my bad" - a simple "oops!" will have to suffice.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

She's Driving

I spent two hours at the Texas DMV today.

And it wasn't for me.

Today was all about my eldest daughter getting her very own driver's license. It's an exciting moment for her, and a sobering one for me.

I remember so well that day in August of 1982 when my own mother went with me to the office in downtown Springfield, MO, to take my driver's test. I remember what I was wearing (big surprise, huh, Tammy?!?): Levi's jeans, a pink IZOD shirt, and sandals; I remember what I drove (my parents' silver 1978 Ford Granada - but I was quickly given permission to drive their 1966 blue Ford Mustang ... what a car ...) I had heard all the horror stories about the local test - the cranky woman examiner (got her) who did not wear a seatbelt, even when you asked her (pre-seatbelt laws), the parallel parking, the tuning fork - designed to control all of the traffic in the downtown - what a laugh.

I passed the test, and listed my weight at 90 lbs. Smiled sweetly for that photo. And walked out with a full-fledged driver's license.

Feels like yesterday. But we are a few years, and a few pounds, past that day. Today I was there with my own 16-year-old daughter. She actually took the driving exam in driver's ed (which she took at a private school, as it's not offered as part of the school curriculum), so today was merely turning in the paperwork, getting the photo taken, and writing the check. She did not write down 90 lbs for her weight, but we did only pay $5 for her first-time license. (And this process still took two hours, most of which was spent standing in line. But boy are they serious about queue etiquette - I saw more than one person being told by the officials there that they had been observed cutting - thank goodness for law and order!)

Her license has some restrictions on it. She has to renew it annually until she is 18; she has to provide proof that she is enrolled in school. She has a curfew, as well as a limit on how many passengers under 18 she can have in the car. Just as well.

Tonight she took each of her sisters out for a little solo spin around the neighborhood. I told her she can drive to a friend's this weekend. But we're taking it slowly.

And to secure my place as an official mother of a driver, I splurged for the +1.00 readers the eye doctor suggested, in lieu of bifocals. May as well cement my status, huh? I'm no longer an ingenue, no longer the parent of little girls. At least one of these little girls is nearly an adult - she certainly has adult responsibilities now. But it's OK - really. Looking at her and the person she is becoming, it's all worth a few wrinkles around the eyes.

Lucky for me, the way my eyesight is changing, in a few years I won't be able to see them at all ...

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Things I Learned Today

Today I found out:

• Being the cookie mom for the Girl Scout troop is always more work than I remembered.
• The online quiz they made me take to reconfirm my status as cookie mom? Dead easy.
• The construction on Spring Cypress really affects the travel time you estimate. And not in a good way.
• They've changed the roads in the subdivision next to mine, and already the navigation system does not work. Which meant several extra minutes of driving around, hitting dead-ends. And aggravation.
• I thought I liked Stein-Mart. But in fact, Stein-Mart is full, lately, of clothes that look good only on women who currently represent Lafayette in the Indiana Legislature and like to wear lots of sequins. I mean hey, if it works for you, embrace it.
• But I did enjoy the corner of the store that looks as if it's just perfect for people who work as dental assistants. Or nurses in pediatricians' offices. Or just want to look that way.
• Also enjoyable? The conversation the woman next to me had. With herself.
• That even though I did find a lot at Stein-Mart that turned me on - I thought - I still managed to drop a few dollars there. Meaning, apparently I can spend money anywhere!
• I have to give myself credit - in that way, I am more talented than I thought.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Youth. Vanity. Keeping the frumpy away.

Went to the dentist today. Not one of my favorite activities - no need to expound on why. Just not something I enjoy. Yet I do it - naturally. It's a necessity.

When I am there, I am there for business. It's not a social call. To the dentist and her assistants, I don't really want to chat about my kids or what's new or what movies I've seen recently - we don't have that sort of relationship. The dental assistant commented on something not dental, and I mentioned that my doctor was aware of it. She persisted in offering advice, and I repeated, yes, my doctor is aware of it. (And thanks for your non-expert opinion, lady.)

Is it any wonder I hate going?

But that is beside the point. The bigger point, today, is my youth obsession. Must hold onto what I have - the grey hairs and the upcoming bifocals are reality, but I still look - and act - fairly youthful. All of those years of being carded in bars (til my late 20s - and last month!) and being denied access to R-rated films are paying off. I may have looked 12 at 17, but now I look 35 forever ...

To clarify, I am not youth obsessed, but merely cognizant. I do not want to look prematurely old or frumpy. Lucky for my girls, I am a fun mom, a cool mom - but not too fun or too cool. Because that gets me nowhere, really.

And lucky for me, there is literature to support me as I hold onto eternal youth. Sunday's Houston Chronicle is full of little gems; these bits of wisdom can help you look like a stunning woman rather than a fashionless grandmother - and those two words are not, in fact, mutually exclusive.

From Christian Dior:
• Avoid too much makeup
• Always wear earrings
• Don't forget, a bag is not a wastepaper basket
• Jewelry - I prefer the finest to the biggest. To wear a big diamond on your finger means only that you have a lot of money - it means nothing in elegance.
• Shoes - It is by her feet that you can judge whether a woman is elegant or not.
• A lot of woman today should go back to school again and learn the art of walking because it is extremely important.
• Anything you do, work or pleasure, you have to do it with zest.

Ten Things You Can Do To Take Off Ten Years:
• Pick pink for your pout - How about a lighter red?
• Arch your eyebrows upward - Done!
• Cover grey brow hairs with pencil and powder - lucky me, don't have this problem
• Slim down your eyeliner - OK
• Falsify a few eyelashes - Considering
• Don't outline your lips with dark liner - Done!
• Lighten up on the foundation and powder - Don't use foundation
• Unchain your reading glasses - Don't have any ... yet
• Lose the suit. Switch up the pieces instead - I don't even own an actual suit, though I have the separates
• Slip on heels or high-heeled boots - Wiggle room here - sometimes it's about comfort
• A skirt should hit right at the knee - too short or too long ruins the look - Done!

So the last one was a bonus. Bottom line? Fashion changes constantly, and you've got to keep up. You don't have to go nuts every year, but it's worth it to buy one amazing piece each season to work with what you have.

I'm working hard on keeping the dowdy look at bay. But not too hard, because really, I'm just lucky that way. As I said, all those years of looking too young are playing to my advantage. But it's nice to have a few tips to help me as I ease into my late 30s.

Or so I keep telling myself.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Back to school = organization

The girls went back to school today. So:

Check this out:

My very clean and organized desk. It's a new look for me - no mess, no paper scraps, no post-it notes, no books, no files.

Consider it one of my resolutions for the New Year. It was on my list of things to do this week. It's not an overly ambitious list, just one big task a day (and yes, clearing off this desk counted as a big task, as it involved filing and organizing the cabinets-that-are-so-good-at-disguising-clutter.

This desk is great - I love the streamlined, Swedish modern look. But it really only works if it is kept tidy. Thus I'd like to keep this room looking great and not have to go into mad-panic-cleaning mode whenever we have company, as this room, my office, doubles as our guest room. If I had chosen to, I could have included a second shot, one that shows the very neat and organized bookcases (well, they always look that way - how can bookcases be disorderly?) and the general absence of miscellaneous paraphernalia throughout the room. But I'll let you use your imagination.

You can just stare at my desk and enjoy the calming effect of space.

In other news today:

• I'm glad I tuned into the repeat of Saturday night's debate yesterday (thank you, NPR) as I had missed bits of it. Several thoughts, among them:

I don't always disagree with Ron Paul - he is essentially a Libertarian, and I respect him/them for the consistency. However, he/they do not want ANY government spending, and I'm not sure that's an idea I can totally support - no libraries? no support for schools? no assistance of any kind? That might sound extreme, but essentially that's their bottom line.

And I'm curious about Mitt Romney's statement that the group who really lacks health insurance is those who make more than $75,000/year - I'd like to see the documentation on that.

• My husband finally got around to hanging our above-the-fireplace artwork - no photo, but maybe some other time. It's not a piece of wrought-iron scrollwork, but don't tell my HOA, as I think it's required decorating here.

• My husband is great. Even though he, once again, loaded dirty dishes on top of the clean dishes in the dishwasher. He means well, but he really cannot tell the difference. Nor look at the indicator light on the door. Nor think to ask me. But he is always properly remorseful.

Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert come back tonight - I'm looking forward to it!

That and enjoying my very clean room. Tune in for further installments: Tidy pantry, organized linen closet, straightened wrapping paper closet.

All in good time, folks, all in good time.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Customer service (or lack thereof)

I've become the customer everyone hates.

Why? Because I demand service. Proper service. And at the proper time.

Even worse, I am not hesitant to point it out.

I turned in a McDonald's employee I saw leaving the restroom without washing her hands (though I felt bad because she was crying as she left). I reported the rude flight attendant on United (got a voucher for United). And I complained about the salesclerk at Kohls (the manager didn't seem too concerned, frankly).

I should point out that I also recognize good customer service - our local post office gets a bad rap from people in my subdivision, but they have been nothing but courteous and accommodating when I've been there - which is a lot, by the way, especially the time before our house was completed and we were in temporary digs, as I had to pick up my mail every day. I think our area has just grown too fast and it's tough for them to keep up. But they deserve some credit for doing the best they can and always smiling when they're with me.

And I think rude customers should be held accountable, too; it is not right to mistreat the waitstaff or the sales help - they're just doing their job. In fact, we were such excellent customers at Balthazar in Manhattan that we scored a box of free dessert - though I doubt that had much to do with our excellent manners and more with our server's interest in one of our party - !

So I'm not really all that bad. And I don't complain every day. Even yesterday, when I had three slightly negative experiences. Though one isn't really customer service, but I'll tell it regardless.

No. 1: My mother-in-law sent the girls pre-paid VISA cards for Christmas. They tried to use them, and it turned out, we hadn't read the fine print: We needed to activate them. So I gave the girls cash and figured I could use them. Went online yesterday, and it turns out I am opening an account with this VISA company (the name escapes me). I now have three, preloaded, reloadable VISAs. They were purchased with a value of $25 and there was a $9.95 activation fee for each one! I cannot believe my MIL did that - did she not notice? Outrageous - it's like usury. I went ahead and activated them, so I now I have these three accounts. I'll get the cards in seven business days (for an additional $19.95 I could have had them overnight - !); as of Jan. 15 they will be assessed a $4.95 usage fee. Gasp - what was she thinking? My plan is to use them immediately and destroy them. But I had to open an entire account in order to use them, which irritates me - I do not need any more credit cards, thank you. I should say something to my MIL, but I hate to be critical, so I'm thinking about how to handle this so she doesn't get defensive. I know she just wanted to give the girls shopping options, but these cards are a major rip-off. Next time, I would suggest cash.

No. 2: This is the best one: Took Sylvia to Justice to return a Christmas gift. Justice is a less expensive, more appropriate version of Limited Too (ie, they don't sell thongs to 8-year-olds). Wow, is it pastel in there - Sylvia and her friends are completely smitten. Had to ask for help getting an item from a very tall rack, and the one employee was on the phone - had been for a while. When we went to check out, the girl on the phone summoned the other clerk without missing a beat in her conversation, which sounded personal to me ("Was it your Sprint or your other one? Uh huh.") Maddie and Sylvia's friend are both in line to make separate purchases, as are others, and this girl continues to talk. So I turned to the woman behind me and said, "It may be awhile - she's on the phone on a personal call." Keeping in mind it's been at least 15 minutes by now. The woman behind did not miss a beat - she asked the clerk, "Is she on a personal call?" The clerk said, "She's the assistant manager and she's talking to someone from another store. But she isn't allowed to use the register anyway." Excuse me? That makes no sense. The woman and I just shook our heads. The line gets longer; finally, by the time Maddie and Isabelle have checked out, the asst. manager finally says, "OK, I gotta go," (she is right at the counter, and we can all hear her) promptly opening the register (thought it wasn't allowed ...). When the woman behind me got up there, she very casually asked for the name of the store manager. I'm sure she'll get an earful.

No. 3: We can knock No Country for Old Men off the list - saw it last night and liked it - verrry suspenseful - I was on the edge of my seat! We were a few minutes into the movie when we realized the door to the theatre was open, letting in both light and noise - a great deal of noise. And no one seemed to notice - the corridor outside had employees but no one shut it. Finally, when you could hear the phone conversation coming in, nearly as loud as the movie, Gary got up and shut it. At primetime prices, I want to hear the movie, not someone outside on the phone.

See? I'm not really unreasonable. I just want what I'm entitled to. This year I am going to make a real effort to commend good service, not just complain about the bad. That way I can balance out the guilt I feel for reporting people.

Salesclerk of Houston: Consider yourself warned ...

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Killer freeways vs. free Margaritas

Of all the things I dislike about Houston (and there are a few, though they are less about Houston and more about the 'burbs), the traffic is No. 1.

Until you've lived in a city this size, with freeways, you don't know traffic. Sure, Chicago and LA, anywhere on the East Coast, you're competing. But for my money, Chicago is easy - even driving in the city. And St. Louis, Kansas City, and Indianapolis are a snap. I'm no longer intimidated by any of those cities. Only cities in Europe, or maybe Mexico City or Tokyo, give me pause.

Yesterday I had to brave the roads twice - once when I headed south of I-10 for the Hillary Hub, where I was one of many Hillraisers " ... participating in more than 150 Hillary Hubs around the country in a critical effort to raise $1 million in one day for our campaign. As the primary moves to New Hampshire - where we have a great organization and support, as well as endorsements from several major newspapers - we still need the support of people like you ... "

You get the idea. The script had lots and lots of talking points, but I could only focus on a couple, otherwise I would trip over my words. I got a few people to give, lots of others had just given (like last week - that should be noted in the database) and others just couldn't do it at the moment. But no one was rude or just said No.

Kind of fun. I'm still not totally committed to Hillary - I'm playing the field - but I have to say, I enjoyed the energy of being with a group of volunteers all working for a common goal, and being part of the effort. And I enjoyed the hourly conference calls that gave us a little pep talk - we heard from Hillary AND Bill - pretty exciting. Though I'm easily star-struck, perhaps.

My only complaint? Why did they have to print out those phone lists in such teeny tiny print? I had to hold it a foot in front of me to read those itty bitty numbers, and I was constantly asking the young(er) woman next to me for help - is it an 8? a 6? a 3?

I've known that bifocals were on the way, but it's more evident now than ever. Sigh ...

Then last night I had to head out on those roads a second time to attend a 30-year celebration for one of Gary's colleagues. They had a dinner at a Mexican restaurant - with spouses - and endless Margaritas - weak Margaritas, by the way. It was OK - it was a spouse corporate event - enough said. But lucky for me, not too much work chatter. Those engines and the sales philosophy is only interesting to a point, you know?

We were home by 7.30. And after a busy day soliciting volunteers and being social, I was beat. Next time they should start the party later than 4.

Traffic. Phone calls. Margaritas. Shop talk.

I think I've covered it.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Election Time

It's official: Mike Huckabee and Barack Obama are the frontrunners.

For now, anyway - this can all change in the weeks - well, days - ahead.

We tuned in to the Iowa Caucuses last night. It's fascinating - what does it mean, exactly, to caucus?!? Alison was asking for an explanation - I think the room divides into groups and you join the group for the candidate you support. Sounds more fun, and more social, than merely voting in a primary. I think we should all institute caucuses - great way to meet people.

But seriously ... we turned on CNN and watched pretty closely at first. Huckabee was declared the apparent winner very early on; the Democrats use a different system so it took longer. We took a break so I could read to Sylvia (From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, one of my childhood favorites) and Gary watched football. So it took a bit longer - after 9 - before we knew that Obama had been declared the winner for the Democrats. Joe Biden and Chris Dodd are both out.

But nothing is for sure. Remember Howard Dean?

With this news in, I am still undecided. I am attending a Hillary Hub today, though I'm not entirely sure she's the candidate I support. However, I can certainly work for a woman for president, so I am willing to give some time. My ideal candidate has no chance, the other candidate who intrigues me also has no chance. The candidate I see as a hidden gem has, sadly, little chance. Of the remaining candidates, I like John Edwards. And he is still in there.

I don't dislike any of them - I could support Obama (even with his lack of real experience - maybe good intentions and values are more important, and we're on the same page there) and I've already said, I could - and will - support Clinton. If any woman has the nerves of steel for the job, it's her.

I'm just glad I have 11 more months to watch and see. Though the candidates will be chosen long before then. In some ways, makes me long for Great Britain, where the candidates only campaign for a few weeks. But of course, you're not really voting for your candidate but for your party. And you stuck with the royal family. And no written constitution.

Maybe I'll stick with what I've got. Plus it makes for good reading over the next few months. Stay tuned ...

Thursday, January 03, 2008

The quiet hour

The girls are not yet up, which means I have the house to myself. I love this time of day. I have the radio on, so I can get the update on the Iowa caucuses and the late night shows I forgot to set the DVR for (I think I got the whole scoop, so I'm good). Not even the dog is up (without the kids, why bother?) so I can enjoy my solitude, plan my day.

Yesterday we loaded up one Christmas tree, watched one bad movie - we had to, as we had to see if the DVR was working (last week, out of nowhere, everything on it was flagged as ready to be deleted. I cleared it out, but everything was gone within two days. So I reset it and had to make sure it was working) - and then we headed to the mall. Maddie had some items to exchange (she bought some items in the wrong size) and Sylvia's $10 was burning the proverbial hole in her pocket. So she is the proud owner of yet another Webkinz. And I have new boots - my old short black boots have sort of a roundish toe, and I decided I needed a pointier toe. Done - and such a bargain!

So today I must finish packing up the Xmas decorations. Putting them out is so much fun - we oooh and aaah over each ornament, remembering who made what and when, marveling at the girls' 2-year-old artistic skills, fondly recalling certain vacations or times in our lives. So special - it is such fun. Except that one member of my family is sort of grinch-like at times and seems to feel that perhaps four trees are beyond necessary. With which I disagree heartily ... until today, when I have to put all this stuff away and this family member has gone back to work. Sigh. At which point I feel like four Christmas trees is, indeed, excessive. We put away two last night, so only two remain. Though we did pack up all the ornaments. And remember how I just said each ornament is special, has a story? Suddenly, last night, I was seeing ornaments whose provenance is a mystery - I have no idea where they came from nor what their relevance to our lives is. They were tossed into the box, or wrapped, and packed away. Maybe next year my memory will return.

I am also culling the decorations, getting rid of stuff we no longer use. And there is a bunch of it - some of it has been gifts, some of it, who knows. But it's going. (And that will include an item a well-meaning relative gave me just this year - not my style, no place to put it, so may as well freecycle it to a better home).

It's still quiet. And the newspaper awaits .... good day, all!

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Everyone's a Critic

I may not write movie reviews for a living, but it doesn't mean I don't know what I like. And frankly, just a because a critic likes it doesn't mean it's great (re: My Dinner with Andre ... though perhaps I would feel differently if I watched it again - that can happen).

Keeping in mind that I have not seen every movie released in 2007, these are my favorites, in no particular order:

The Lives of Others - Fabulous German film about life behind the Berlin wall, working against the system, and relationships. Highly recommend.

Waitress - Quirky comedy about a woman in a miserable relationship who channels her energy into making pies with themes that relate to her hellish husband and unborn child. Great supporting cast; notable, too, for the death of the writer/director, Adrienne Shelly, who was murdered just as her film rose to prominence.

Sicko - I don't blame people who don't like Michael Moore - and there were a few horrific Moore-esque moments in this film - but I am, admittedly, not one of them - I think he's a riot (not to mention spot on). But the message - Americans deserve better, affordable health care - was hard to find fault with, even if you despise his tactics.

Atonement - Very good period piece - one of those British dramas, circa 1935, that you have to love watching: beautiful country estate, divine costumes, attractive people, great story. Heard the book is better. Not as good as the hype; not the best movie of the year. The "surprise" at the end is not one you can't predict. But good. And I'm not a big Keira Knightley fan.

Gone Baby Gone - Wow. Did not see that ending coming. Great acting, gritty story. Not an upper, but a great look at the other half. Underrated gem.

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street - Great film adaptation of the Broadway musical. Three reasons to see this film: Stephen Sondheim (who wrote Sweeney Todd); Johnny Depp (enough said); and Tim Burton - I generally like him, and often like the Burton/Depp collaborations. Plus Helena Bonham Carter, who is underrated. Be forewarned: It is bloody and gory. But it holds your attention just the same.

Juno - It's all about good writing, and this one had it. Maybe the dialogue is too clever, but it's a movie - do I really want to hear a conversation like I could have at home? Loved it. That Ellen Page was a riot - watch for her.

Movies I want to see (and will, just haven't gotten around to it):

Before the Devil Knows You're Dead - Hear it's great.

This Is England - Gritty English working-class youth in the 80s - I must see this!

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly - The reviews are amazing. I don't quite get it; hope it's not going to disappoint.

The Savages - Maybe I'll wait til it's on DVD and watch it with my brother ...

Michael Clayton - Not big on the corporate thriller, but it has George Clooney. And good writing. I'm in.

Superbad - Sophomoric, I know, but funny, all the same ...

Away From Her - I hear the performances are fabulous.

Margot at the Wedding - Even though it has that insufferable Nicole Kidman, I think it looks good. Jennifer Jason Leigh should redeem it.

Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story - Just sounds funny, and I love John C. Reilly.

Death at a Funeral - I'm always up for a good British comedy.

American Gangster - Denzel Washington - need I say more?

No Country for Old Men - The Coen Brothers are my favorite!

La Vie en Rose - For Marion Cotillard's performance, if not for the film itself, which I hear is mediocre.

Movies I will see, even though I'm not particularly excited:

There Will Be Blood - I know, I know: It's based on an Upton Sinclair novel. The reviews are good. It has Daniel Day Lewis. I'm not excited. But the reviews are good. And my husband wants to go.

Movies that were entertaining, if not the best of the year:

Enchanted - Cute Disney-ish film. Amy Adams is a delight. And we love scouting out the NYC locations.

No Reservations - Not great art, but entertaining enough. Don't like the Catherine Zeta Jones, but I like Aaron Eckhart.

Hairspray - I do love my Broadway.

Movies that inexplicably made other "best of" lists, but not mine:

The Namesake - It was OK, but the trailers were very misleading. And the ending was a dud - it just fizzled. Not worth the hype.

Movies I refuse to see:

Charlie Wilson's War - Because it took place here in Houston, I have had to read all about it. I've heard enough. The other reason? Julia Roberts. Ick.

Ocean's 13 - No thank you.

PS I Love You (or anything of that ilk) - I love a good romantic comedy. Key word is good; the previews totally give this one away as anything but.

License to Wed - Heard it is terrible. Too awful for words. Is Robin Williams that desperate for a paycheck? And Mandy Moore - we loved you in American Dreamz and Saved - don't stoop to this level!

Anything starring Diane Keaton - Has this woman lost her mind? This woman, Annie Hall, is turning out total crap. Makes me cringe.

Movie I caught on DVD just this year:

Junebug - Delightful. And a reminder that everyone's family - not just yours - has a certain level of crazy. And again, that Amy Adams is great.

Holding my breath for the Academy Awards ... they are totally political and mean very little, really (Reese Witherspoon over Felicity Huffman? Come on!). But I always get sucked in.

And frankly, I would match my list of the top films of the year against any critic. However, I am considering myself lucky - critics had to sit through PS I Love You, and I only had to watch the trailer to know that it was a klinker!

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Happy New Year!

2008. Wow.

The passage of time never ceases to amaze me - the speed at which it occurs is alarming. Part of me feels like a sophomore in high school, partying in a classmate's basement, while another part of me is celebrating the new year with my brand-new infant daughter. Or my third infant daughter in a foreign country.

None of these scenarios is the me of today - the most recent of those events is nine years old. The me of today rang in the new year with my husband and two of my three daughters at a neighbor's party (the eldest no longer finds us cool enough to party with), then went to another friend's for a New Year's Day open house, where we toasted the year's possibilities.

The possibilities overwhelm me - they are endless. The open house today confirmed that - we were with a very special group of our Houston friends, mostly church friends, and they are an amazing assortment of people. A list of their talents, education, and accomplishments would amaze you - it always does me. (Houston is too big, but in Peoria and Lafayette, places where I felt more connected, when I would glance through a list of movers and shakers in town, the number who went to my church was shocking. My editor always laughed about how many letter writers to the newspaper were people I knew from church.)

So today I was forced to confront the new year and deal with it head on. But I did so in the company of great friends, people whom I know will make a difference in 2008. It was a good feeling. A lot is set to happen this year - it's an election year, after all - but rather than dreading any of the changes in store, today, we were feeling optimistic, energized by the possibilities.

Plus David Letterman and Law & Order both return soon ... does it really get any better than that?!?