Friday, April 27, 2007

This Is What A Relationship Looks Like From The Inside

The scene: Our bedroom, early morning. I'm getting ready for work. spiceboy is sleeping soundly.

"spiceboy, spiceboy, wake up!"

spiceboy struggles to sit up. His hair is standing up from his head in spikes, and he's making the adorable squinty-mole face that always disappears as soon as he puts on his glasses.

"What?" he asks in his scratchy-sleep voice.

"Does this outfit look cute, or is it too much like pajamas?"

He props himself on his elbows and shakes his head, as if to clear it. "That's what you needed to ask me? I'm sleeping!"

"But I need your help," I say, gesturing to my outfit--flowy cropped black pants and a black and white striped tee. "Does it look like pajamas?"

spiceboy does not reach for his glasses to give me an assessment. Instead, he falls back onto the bed, burying his head under the covers. When he finally speaks, his voice is muffled by the duvet. "NO. It doesn't look like pajamas."

"But you didn't even look," I say.

spiceboy pokes his head out from under the covers and throws me a look that suggests he's certain this kind of bullshit is not what he signed on for when we took our wedding vows.

Point taken.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

My First Love

I fell in love with books for the first time when I was in the third grade.

My teacher was Mrs. Hall. She was very strict, and since I was a terribly a shy child, I was terrified of her—her brusque manner of speech, her high expectations of us—the way she wielded a long wooden paddle at us when we acted up.

The only time I wasn’t afraid of her was during the lazy, slow hour after lunch, when she’d turn off the overhead lights and pull a tall wooden stool into the center of the front of the classroom and read to us.

Mrs. Hall’s voice lost its harsh edge when she read; she had a beautiful reading voice. It was not too loud, and not too soft, not too fast, and not too slow. She read us many books while perched up on that stool, her ankles crossed, her posture ramrod straight.

And thus, my life as a truly devoted reader can be traced back to the gentle rise and fall of Mrs. Hall’s voice in that dark little classroom, where she read to us read from the pages of one little book:

Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White.

I have read many wonderful books in my life, books that broke my heart, books that I’ve read over and over and over until the pages become soft and worn, until the covers fall off. But none of them will ever evoke in me the rush of emotion, the swell of love, the sweeping feeling of pure joy, that I got while reading Charlotte’s Web.

I remember when I got my very own copy. My dad drove me over to the Walden Books in the Beaver Valley Mall, and held my little hand in his big hand while he plucked the book from the shelf and gave it to me.

Oh, the thrill of a new book!

I still remember the smell of it-- that great book smell—a cross between oatmeal and papier mache. I remember thumbing through the pages, examining the illustrations of Fern and her beloved pig, Wilbur.

I read that book so many times I could recite the first chapter by heart. And sometimes, late at night when I couldn’t sleep, I lay in bed and whispered the words out into the darkness.

And now here I am, a grown up, sitting in my grown up clothes in my grown up office. And, perhaps through the influences of Mrs. Hall and E.B. White, I edit books for a living.

I realize this may sound like a very romantic and creative job, and I like to think that maybe it was, back in 1952 when old E.B. first published Charlotte’s Web. But so often now, ugly words like author platform and marketing budget and publicity campaign and other such nonsense make it difficult to remember how easy it is to love a book.

Last week, I was suffering from a major case of book burnout, so I looked up Charlotte’s Web on the internet. I was relieved to find that several editions of it were still available, one of which featured the original cover artwork by Garth Williams that I remember from the third grade. So I pointed and I clicked, and within a day or so, a hardcover edition of Charlotte’s Web was delivered to my office.

And last night, after a particularly rotten day at work, after dinner was eaten and the dishes were done and spiceboy had taken Betty out onto the rainy sidewalks for her nightly stroll, I picked up my fresh copy of Charlotte’s Web, and I began to read.

Can one’s heart break with nostalgia? By the time I got to the illustration of Fern lovingly feeding Wilbur a bottle on page 6, I swear mine did.

And by the time I got to the description of the barn on page 13--
The barn was very large. It was very old. It smelled of hay and it smelled of manure. It smelled of the perspiration of tired horses and the wonderful sweet breath of patient cows. It often had sort of a peaceful smell—as though nothing bad could happen ever again in the world
I was so overwhelmed by the familiarity of the words the rhythm of the language, even after all the years that have passed since I last read it, that I cried.

And by the time Wilbur meets Charlotte on page 32, I was back in the third grade again, and restless with the pure joy that comes from falling in love with a book, from reading a really great story. A wonderful feeling.

I read and read until I fell asleep.

I woke up in the middle of the night, long after spiceboy had switched off my bedside lamp. The wind blew in through the window, smelling of rain and city soot, carrying with it the sound of squealing brakes, a blaring horn.

I adjusted the blankets around me and folded my arms behind my head. I thought back to when I was a little girl, alone in my bed at night, whispering the words of the book I loved the most, and I was surprised at how easily the first line came back to me, and all of the lines that followed, as I whispered them out into the night.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Upon Discovering the Vast Collection of Shoes I Keep Under my Office Desk

I pull open the bottom desk drawer, revealing a jumble of flats and summer sandals. spiceboy’s jaw drops.

Next, I roll away the chair, revealing the piece de resistance: The pumps. They are arranged beneath the desk in a perfectly straight line, their bright colors offset by the industrial gray office carpeting.

“Oh my god,” spiceboy breathes, taking in the sight. He points to a pair of teal suede pumps, then a pair of black heels, then the red peep-toes.

“I’ve never even seen those before. Or those. In fact, I’ve never seen most of these before. It’s like you have this whole other life I don’t even know about.”

I can’t tell if he’s impressed or horrified.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

On Nostalgia

Driving back to New York yesterday through the Pennsylvania mountains, I found on the backseat of our dusty car an old, scratched Ani DiFranco cd—Living In Clip, it was.

And I fished it out of its broken case and fed it into the player, and it was like riding in the car with an old friend I hadn’t spoken to in years. I sang along with all of the songs, loudly and out of tune, and the memories were good, and enhanced by the scratchy kiss kiss kiss noise of that battered old cd spinning ‘round in the player.

I don’t miss that time in my life, necessarily, but I miss what I didn’t know then, and the heady sense of freedom that came along with that unknown. I was just a college student ready to cut loose, with my battered shoes itching to roam and my tip money in my pocket, standing on the brink of some great something, ready to sniff out the adventures and happiness that lay just around the corner, or over the next rolling Pennsylvania hill.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Statcounter, Denmark, Poop, etc.

I love my Statcounter. I love it because it lets me know who's visiting me, and from where, and for how long.

I love checking it to see who's dropping by, especially on the days when I find someone who's discovered the blog for the first time, and then goes back to the beginning and reads all of the posts in sequence. It's so nice to be able to connect with people in that way.

Good, cuddly, warm blogging vibes there.

In fact, I'm assuming that most readers come to this blog with innocent intentions: They like the writing, they are bored, they want to wish me well, or they are friends keeping up with my life (or the ghosts of friendships long laid to rest who feel the need to spy on me daily, which is uncool but whatever).

And then there are the weirdos. The people floating around out there in cyberspace and doing Google searches such as:

girl pooping

pooping girl

girl on toilet

girl going to the bathroom

I get pooping visitors usually once or more a day. Strangely enough, a lot of them are from Denmark.

Are there really that many people out cruising the Internet looking for pooping girls? Ick.

And why are the Danes more obsessed with pooping women than anyone else? Are they a big pooping culture? Is pooping sexy in Denmark? Is pooping sexy anywhere?

I suppose there are some questions that were never meant to be answered. Good luck to you, poop-seeking Danes. May your random Internet searches help you find what you're searching for.

Happy Wednesday.

Monday, April 02, 2007


I struggle with them this morning, hopping from foot to foot, jumping up and down to pull them into place, in a rush to get them on and get out the door. I am careful not to snag them with a fingernail, or to get my underwear all bunched up underneath them. They immediately make me feel itchy and claustrophobic.

At work this morning, I meet Molly, the daughter of a coworker. She is an adorable little person with big, curious eyes and long ponytail the color of honey. She is polite, and says, “I am very pleased to meet you,” in a careful voice, as if reciting it from a script. She lives on the 6th floor of her building, and enjoys drinking milk while watching cartoons.

I wish I could spend the day talking to her, sitting on the floor and coloring in books, discussing the finer points of cartoons, munching on cookies, and seeing the world the way she sees it.

As she talks to me, her eyes flick from my hair to my arms to my legs, which she points to with a tiny, pink-painted fingernail. “Why does your leg have a pattern on it?” she asks.

“That’s my pantyhose,” I say, stretching the material away from my leg, then letting it spring back.

She ponders this very carefully, tilts her honey-colored ponytail to one side. “Why do you wear it?” she asks.

I want desperately to come up with a good answer for her, something that explains the way things turn out when you grow up, something that explains the strange things that grown up women sometimes do, like wear pantyhose, or mascara.

I realize that everything Molly sees makes an impression on her, and without even meaning to, I have made an impression, sent her a message. I wish I could tell her that she is a perfect little creature, and that she shouldn’t ever act as silly as I have, with my pantyhose, my blush, my mascara.

So I say to Molly, “I guess I don’t know why I wear it.”

She looks at me, then back at my legs, and scrunches her eyebrows in thought, as if she knows there is more to the story, and that she’s not entirely sure she likes the way it ends.

I’m inclined to agree with her.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

I've Been Busy

Here are some shots of Betty in the meantime.

More soon!