Sunday, January 31, 2010

Why My Hips Persist ...

I'm half Serbian.

Serbs love food.

My hips are testament to that. They're proportional to the rest of my body, but boyish they are not.

Today, sorting through books, including cookbooks, I ran across a recipe that explains a lot.

Behold the ingredients, especially in the icing:

Yugoslavian Walnut Torte

Ingredients for cake:
1 1/2 cups finely chopped walnuts
7 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
9 large eggs
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

Ingredients for icing:
1 quart whipping (or heavy) cream
1 cup confectioners sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon rum (optional)

That's right, a quart of heavy cream.

I think I just outgrew my pants.

Friday, January 29, 2010

The 2010 3-Day: Training ...

Hello, walkers!

The weekend is almost here! So, let's talk about training. Over the course of the year, the weekends are when you'll likely do most of your training.

For those of you who are thinking, "I don't need to train. I walk every day. I walk from the train station to my office. I walk around the grocery store. I walk all over the house for 12 hours, picking up after my kids," allow me to tell you a story:

Many 3-Days ago, one night in camp, lying in my tent, I heard a woman in the tent next to me on her cell phone. I wasn't eavesdropping. It's pretty hard to not hear people when the only thing separating you is two layers of nylon.

But she was telling the person on the other end of the line that she had a blister. Of course, blisters are common on the 3-Day. (And you'll be provided with plenty of blister-care products at the pit stops and at camp, not to worry.) But Ms. Next Tent didn't just have your garden-variety blister.

Oh, no. Ms. Next Tent was reporting that she had a blister ... that covered the entire ball of one foot.

Are you wincing? I'm wincing.

Do you know what else Ms. Next Tent was reporting?

That she hadn't trained at all. Not a step.

Clearly, Ms. Next Tent was not planning on walking the next day of the event.

And, if I had to wager, I'd put money on the fact that she probably didn't walk any kind of distance with any regularity.

I might even double down on the fact that she got a pedicure before the event. Do not get a pedicure right before the event!

Why, you ask? Sandal season might arrive one of these days, but do yourself a favor: skip pedicures between now (OK, maybe not now, since it's only January ...) and the event.

Take care of your feet, of course, but trust me, you do not want to embark on a 60-mile trek with soft, pink feet.

It's not sexy to say, but on the 3-Day, calluses are your friends.

Personally, I don't follow the 3-Day training schedule. But here's the key: I walk every day. My typical morning walk is 3.5 miles. Some days, I go for two walks. Some days, I go for three.

I walk. A lot.

But that's me.

If you don't walk sizable distances regularly, you absolutely must train. You must acclimate your feet to massive amounts of mileage. You must also break in two pairs of shoes. (Yes, you need two pairs. If it rains, you'll need a dry pair of shoes in reserve.)

So, to sum up:


A few words about the training schedules: Yes, they seem rigorous. They are rigorous. Do you need to follow them to the letter? The coaches would like you to think so. But I know what you're thinking: It's not always practical to log that many miles on back-to-back days.

But do the best you can to lace up and get outside.

Training on a treadmill isn't the same as training on terrain. (Though walking on a treadmill is better than not walking at all.) You want to get your body, including your feet, used to walking on a variety of surfaces. Most of the 3-Day route is on pavement, but we might walk through forest preserves on gravel paths or on compacted dirt along the side of a road. Try to walk on a variety of surfaces.

Get your gear in order sooner rather than later and wear it when you train. Break in your T-shirts and shorts as well as your shoes. (Wear a 3-Day T-shirt as a billboard of sorts. People will strike up conversations with you about the event. Let them know how to contribute to your fundraising, which will be the topic of my next post.) Planning on carrying a fanny pack? Carry it on your training walks. Load it with whatever you're planning on carrying on the event route. You want to replicate, as closely as possible, the conditions of the actual event. Distribute weight evenly on your body. If you carry a bottle of water, switch hands from time to time.

Oh, and two last bits of advice (though, as ever, if you have questions, pop 'em in the Comments and I'll address 'em for you there): SOCKS and BODY GLIDE (or something like it).



Many walkers wear these socks.

I am not a saleswoman for Thorlo, and I know what you're thinking: "That's a lot of money to spend on a pair of socks!"

Yes, it is. And you should buy at least six pairs (plan on two pairs a day, and change at lunchtime).

But trust me: The money you spend on good socks will be some of the best money you'll ever spend in your life.

Good socks will help prevent blisters, and on the Monday following your event, when you're not cursing every step, you'll be grateful for your sock purchase, as extravagant as it may seem at the time.

White cotton socks are absolutely what you do not want to wear. White cotton socks will absorb your sweat. You do not want to walk in sweaty socks. Moisture leads to blisters.

If you've been in the military or know anyone who's been in the military or have seen "Forrest Gump," you know that it's imperative to keep your feet dry.



(You can find it at most sporting-goods stores as well as online.)

Friction is a walker's foe. Friction causes blisters. Eliminate friction, you'll eliminate blisters.

Body Glide looks like a stick of deodorant. You rub it all over your feet before you put on your socks and shoes. The slick barrier between your feet and your socks will inhibit the formation of blisters. (Rub some between your toes, too.) Tote it with you in your fanny pack or backpack and reapply it at lunchtime when you change your socks. Or at pit stops. Or whenever you feel the need.

It's like a little stick of magic. It will make all the difference in your 3-Day experience, as well as your training.

OK, I've blathered on long enough for one post. As ever, though, if you have any questions, let me know.

Update: A few words about shoes:

Megan, in the comments, asked about what shoes to try. That's a very good question. I'm a New Balance girl myself. Go to a store that specializes in athletic shoes and talk to the staff. Tell them that you're doing the 3-Day. The shoes I wear are designed for walking. Cross-trainers may work for you.

This is key: when you go to get fitted for shoes, wear the kind of socks you'll wear on the event. Generally, you'll want to get shoes that are a size larger than you normally wear, to accommodate thicker socks (like the Thorlos I mentioned above) as well as to allow for your feet swelling.

Once the staff has laced you into a pair, they should watch you walk and recommend shoes accordingly.

Good shoes are not inexpensive, but buy the best you can afford. Good shoes and good socks will make all the difference in your walking experience.

That said, I've seen people do the entire event in sport sandals or Birkenstocks. (I've also seen people walk in Crocs and flip-flops, but I never asked them if they thought that was the best idea.) Athletic shoes aren't the only option. Try different options if you have them. Walk a few miles in each. Your feet will tell you whether or not they're a good idea.

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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Many Wrights ...

A sampling of Steven Wright wisdom and witticism to kick off your Tuesday ...

I used to work in a fire hydrant factory. You couldn't park anywhere near the place.

I was walking down the street wearing glasses when the prescription ran out.

It doesn't make a difference what temperature a room is, it's always room temperature.

There's a fine line between fishing and just standing on the shore like an idiot.

When I woke up this morning my girlfriend asked me, "Did you sleep good?" I said "No, I made a few mistakes."

You can't have everything. Where would you put it?

When I have a kid, I wanna put him in one of those strollers for twins, then run around the mall looking frantic.

I installed a skylight in my apartment. The people who live above me are furious!

I went to a restaurant that serves "breakfast at any time." So I ordered French Toast during the Renaissance.

I just bought a microwave fireplace. You can spend an evening in front of it in only eight minutes.

A lot of people are afraid of heights. Not me, I'm afraid of widths.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Haves And The Have-Nots ...

We become acutely aware of it, even at a young age.

The haves and have-nots show themselves in clothes and toys. Some kids have everything first, other kids lag far behind.

As if a continuum of stuff is any kind of worthwhile measure.

I remember standing in the living room of the house in which I grew up, asking my mom if we were rich.

Of course we weren't. We lived in a raised bungalow on a block that looked like a Monopoly board for its architectural sameness. Houses were distinguished by the colors of the railings or a bit of decorative block built into the front facades. Our accent color, speaking of Monopoly, was green. But not quite Monopoly-house green. Our green was slightly more jade. The color of spearmint.

But we had steak for dinner. Often. My friends didn't eat steak all the time the way we did. Then again, my friends' parents didn't buy sides of beef at a time. We did. My father's friend Roger had a dairy farm and some of his cows, well, they ended up in neatly wrapped white packages, neatly stacked in our basement's full-size freezer. Apparently, a half a cow yields a fair amount of steak. And so, when mom was stumped for a dinner idea, steak was on the menu.

So much so that I grew sick of it. She'd very kindly make a chicken breast for me instead.

Rich, though, we were not.

What defines "rich" is open to interpretation, of course. If you have to ask, you're probably not.

Last week, I read about a new Lexus that's been in development for five years and will begin to be delivered later this year.

Only 500 will be produced in the world. There are more people on the waiting list than there will be cars, so prospective owners will be selected to receive a car. Lexus wants its cars to be driven, seen, not parked in garages as part of lavish collections. Why, I wonder? It's not as though anyone else will be able to buy one.

The price tag? $350,000.


Yes, $350,000 for a car.

I find that, frankly, sickening.

Yes, I'm a bleeding-heart liberal, but as a friend recently said, "I'd rather have a bleeding heart than none at all."

Friday night, I finally saw "The Blind Side." The theater was packed, the effect of The Golden Globes last weekend, I reckon. By the time it was over, two Kleenexes were soaked through.

What an extraordinary story.

And watching it, I felt much the way I did when I saw "The Soloist," the realization of what can happen when someone simply cares.

Well, cares and acts.

Who knows how much of Leigh Anne and Sean Touhy's money went toward Michael Oher's education and other needs, but it was money well spent. Money that others might spend on a $350,000 car to sit in a climate-controlled garage, they spent to help someone change his life.

Of course, they could well afford their immense act of love, monetarily.

But they didn't just write a check. It is their selflessness that is so striking. Money gave Michael an advantage he otherwise would not have had, but more important than the money was the love, the humanity, the opening up of one's family to another, not for any incentive, but simply because it is what we should do.

Granted, not everyone can make a gesture on that scale, but every act of kindness counts.

Contrast that with this:

Friday night, as I was watching the story of the Touhys, George Clooney, ever the humanitarian, was presenting, with the help of a slew of his famous friends, a telethon to raise money for the people of Haiti.

And someone I know on Facebook posted this: "Does it make me a bad person that I'm annoyed that the 'Hope for Haiti' telethon is on every friggin' channel?"

I was stunned.

I commented: "Well, since you asked, um, yeah, it does. It's a few hours to help an entire country that's been devastated by a natural disaster. Pop in a DVD." [It wasn't even "a few"; it was two.]

Here's a person who's on a computer in a comfortable home in a lovely part of the world, with their spouse and children, all of whom are safe and sound. The children have not been orphaned nor lost. They have electricity and Internet access, and, I suspect, satellite TV service, watching said telethon on what I presume is a flat-panel television. They have drinking water and plenty of food and clean clothing and every other advantage that comes in living in one of the richest nations on the planet.

But they're annoyed because for two hours – two hours – the airwaves were given over to people who could have easily stayed home and called their accountant and authorized a big check but who instead came together to raise money to help the people of nation whose lives have literally been flattened, who had little to begin with but who now want even more for the most basic human needs, like clean water and simple food and whatever medical care they can receive? Whose mothers and fathers and brothers and sisters have been lost to a death toll so large it is almost impossible to comprehend?

I was the only person to answer in the affirmative. Everyone else reassured the poster that they're not a bad person. Said one: "It doesn't make you a bad person. Why does it have to be on EVERY channel?"

Seriously? Because by airing it on EVERY channel (and it wasn't on EVERY channel; we have more channels than we can watch), they were able to raise as much money as possible to help a devastated nation.

I can't fathom that kind of callousness. If the worst thing to happen to them that day was that their usual Friday-night programming was preempted to help victims of a massive earthquake, they're leading very, very blessed lives.

That they can't empathize, that their first reaction isn't to pick up the phone and give whatever they can but to instead be annoyed saddens me greatly.

On my Facebook page, I display this quote:

“Wherever there is a human being, there is an opportunity for kindness.”
— Seneca

There will always be haves and have-nots, I know. But let's let kindness exist in the divide.

Friday, January 22, 2010

A Legal Scholar I Am Not ...

Yesterday was a big news day.

Conan O'Brien was given $45 million for himself and his staff to pack up their things, clearing the way for Jay Leno to return to the "The Tonight Show" on March 1.

Also, the Supreme Court ruled that corporations can spend unlimited sums of money in efforts to elect the candidates of their choice which means that corporations can also spend unlimited sums of money in efforts to quash the candidates who are not their choice.

Which story were you and your friends talking about?

This morning, an e-mail from Doreen arrived in which she wrote:"Did you watch Keith's special comment last night? If you have not watched it, save your answer for post-viewing. Question: Is he exaggerating or are we all going to be serfs in 10 years?"

I hadn't watched it last night. But thanks to the Internet, I called it up this morning. You can read the text or watch the video here.

And then I replied to Do:

"I think Keith tends toward the dramatic, so I don't immediately accept the entire doomsday scenario.

But I do think the Supreme Court's ruling, while technically legal, has set us on a dangerous path.

The one saving grace, of course, will be an informed citizenry. It is us, after all, who cast the votes. The corporations can buy the ads and the ads may lie, but that doesn't mean the truth won't be out there.

Maybe now, the country will get off its collective ass and give a shit again.

Or maybe it won't. In which case, we'll get what we deserve for our apathy."

Is yesterday's ruling indeed the second coming of Dred Scott? Olbermann certainly seems to think so. But whereas that decision intended to forever render black citizens not citizens at all, not in the sense intended by our founding (white) fathers, yesterday's decision declared that corporations, having the same rights as individual citizens, must not have their "voices" restricted.

Except that corporations, of course, no matter the legal distinctions, are not the same as citizens. Most corporations have much more money than most citizens. There are exceptions, of course – Oprah, Bill Gates, Warren Buffett – but generally speaking, Joe Q. Public's bank accounts don't look the same as, say, Halliburton's.

Halliburton, of course, can't step into a voting booth. But every employee of Halliburton can. And it can throw millions upon millions of dollars behind its chosen candidate in any given election. Which translates, in our current political system, into buying its candidate of choice. And once a candidate is bought, he or she will be expected to do the bidding of the entity that got them there.

You see the problem.

It can be argued that politicians in Washington (and elsewhere) are already beholden to corporations and special interests, that the system is already broken. Lobbyists hold far more sway than constituents.

But part of that is the constituents' fault. I have friends, Doreen chief among them, who are very engaged in politics. But she is the exception, not the rule, in our society.

The morning of November 4, 2008, was the only time I've ever had to wait to vote, and not just because I arrived at my polling place before it opened.

In every other election in which I've participated, I've always walked right up to a voting machine after signing the voter roll, page after blank page, only a few signatures in a sheaf.

People don't bother to vote. People bitch, of course, about all sorts of situations, but many, and often those who bitch the loudest, don't take the time to get to know the candidates' platforms and then go to their polling places on election day and cast their votes.

L.A. Dave regularly lamented the dearth of voters at his polling place on election day. He always voted. He loved the "I voted!" sticker he'd receive after his ballot was cast. He had more than just a casual interest in politics. He studied it in college.

But everyone needn't be that invested. They just have to care. It's our country, after all. Nature abhors a vacuum. If we're all exercising our right to vote, for whatever and whomever we choose, we have a loud say.

But if we stay home? If we can't be bothered? If we don't think our vote matters? Well, then, we're right.

A vote uncast doesn't matter. Because a vote uncast doesn't count. Literally.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The 2010 3-Day: Greetings ...

Hello, walkers!

Once again, I'm touched to have been asked to be a 3-Day Ambassador, and this is my first entry for 2010. Given that I've written about the events before, some of what I post over the next few months may seem familiar to some of you. (Because I'll be repurposing some content from previous posts.) But if you haven't seen it before, it's new to you! Future posts will discuss fundraising, training, the event itself, and anything else folks would like to read about. Just let me know.

In January, the idea of the 3-Day may feel like a bit of abstraction. The walking season doesn't kick off until well into the summer and extends well into the fall. But time moves swiftly. Whatever weekend(s) you'll be walking will be here sooner than you think.

In years past, I've hosted and co-hosted informational meetings for first-time walkers. Reassurance from someone who has done the walk and who can answer questions about what to expect seems to assuage a lot of anxiety.

And so this is an open post to all first-time walkers who might be wondering whether it was wise to take up this challenge:

Yes, it was.

I am not overstating anything when I say that the 3-Day will change your life in ways you cannot begin to imagine.

If you're nervous, that's perfectly normal. You're embarking on a substantial journey. Sixty miles is certainly nothing to sneeze at, but electing to participate in a 3-Day isn't just about walking from Point A to Point D. It's about stepping well outside your comfort zone, especially if you're doing the walk "alone."

Of course, there's no such thing as doing the walk "alone." From the moment you arrive at Opening Ceremonies, you'll be surrounded by more than 2,000 other walkers. Once you drop your luggage off at your gear truck, take in the sea of pink that you'll see swelling near the stage and know this: One of those people is about to become one of your best friends.

The 3-Day coaches do a great job of doling out information about the events, but talk to veteran walkers, too. (Anyone who's done the event once is a veteran walker in my book. They can provide first-hand accounts of what to expect, which can be an invaluable balm to soothe cases of nerves.)

If anyone has any questions – and no question is silly – feel free to post it in the comments and I'll share my take on it.

This will be my seventh event. At this point, I've pretty much seen it all.

And yet, every year, I'm amazed all over again. (If you'd like to read my account of last year's Chicago event, click here.)

Here's a starter tip: Stash a pocket pack of Kleenex in your waistpack and several more in your luggage. If you're anything like me, you'll need Kleenex several times throughout the 3-Day. And when you line up for Closing Ceremonies, hold a pack above your head and watch how fast people ask you for 'em.

Nothing compares to a 3-Day. You're about to experience more love and kindness than you can imagine. As my friend Devereaux says, "I want to live in the 3-Day universe."

You're going to love it!

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Dreams. Weird, Weird Dreams ...

I dream. Well, everyone dreams. But most people don't remember their dreams.

I do.

Some more than others, in varying levels of detail.

But last night's? Whew.

Generally, caffeine doesn't affect my ability to go to sleep. Then again, I don't usually consume it at 10 o'clock at night. Which I did last night. So I was up until about 1 this morning. So last night's dreams were really this morning's dreams. Timing aside, though, they were doozies.

One was about my friend Dave. He was standing in the sump pit in my crawl space, manipulating my sump pump to keep my basement from flooding. The part of the basement in which I was standing was very dim and there was a strange blue light in the crawl space. I shined a flashlight into the space, and when Dave saw me, he crawled out and I held him to me because he was so weak, he could barely stand up. I told him that I needed to take him to the hospital. He told me that he'd be OK in a minute. [Note: Hmmph. Stubborn men.] I insisted. So we went to a car, which was parked inside a very '70s room, dark paneling, dark carpet, with a sliding glass door. The car was more like a dune buggy in that it was mostly just a frame with wheels, but it was very small, more like a child's plaything than an actual car. And a teenage girl was with us, but it wasn't his daughter. She had dark hair and a bad attitude, pissed that she had to sit in the back seat.

So I drove us toward the hospital but I wasn't sure if I should take him to the emergency room or to admitting, so I had the pissy girl drive him to the ER and I went to another part of the hospital and would walk and meet them there. Except that the hospital didn't look like a hospital. It looked like River Oaks, an open-air mall near where I grew up (it was later enclosed, but in my dream, it was still open), and it was the day that all the bathrooms were being cleaned. Only some of them were being cleaned automatically, like with car-wash apparatuses and some of them were being cleaned by ... wait for it ... nuns.

[What's that? David Lynch is on the phone? He'd like to option my dream?]

And in another dream, or a continuation of the Dave portion of the dream, or a prelude to the Dave portion of the dream, I was in my bedroom on a sunny, spring day, but everything was shoved to the middle of the room, like I was going to be painting or like I was cleaning, and my windows were open and the curtains were missing so anyone outside could see right into my room. And I wasn't fully dressed and a guy I was expecting showed up early. But he showed up with another man, who looked like someone out of the early 1800s, the way he was dressed, and he had very straw-like hair, clearly cut with something somewhat dull. He looked a bit like a scarecrow, come to think of it. Like a scarecrow flunky to this man I was awaiting. [I never in my life thought I'd write the phrase "scarecrow flunky." It's kind of a great name for a band.]

The man is someone I knew in real life, who proved himself to be an immense jerk last year, but of whom I was recently reminded because a photo of his is the cover of album that was released a few months ago, and the band is now making the rounds on TV. Except that in my dream, he had long, grey hair, pulled into a ponytail, so he looked like Len, Samantha's cheesy neighbor in that episode of "Sex and the City" in which she thinks she's entered menopause and decides she'll never score another hot young guy, so she sleeps with him instead. And then ruins his expensive sheets.

We were supposed to be going to some arty event together, but in my dream, as in real life, he was proving to be a jerk, so I decided not to go, and I got so mad that when a woman I used to work with appeared suddenly, I literally threw her out of my house, down my driveway. She ended up quite bloodied. And I had no idea why I was taking my anger out on her.

And then there was the part of my dream marathon about my brother Paul, doing something up on my roof and then a bunch of men on my front lawn, in the dark, in the rain, clearing away large cardboard boxes that covered my yard, putting them out by the curb to be picked up by a garbage truck the next day.

I have a dream dictionary. I'm sure it will be of no use to me this morning.

But I'm of a mind to consume more caffeine about 10 o'clock tonight and see what my brain comes up with next.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Doctor Is Taking A Week-long Hiatus ...

I may have a slight "House" addiction.

It wasn't on last night. And while I didn't exhibit all the traditional symptoms of withdrawal – for me, that's a headache from a lack of caffeine – I missed my boy.

Mind you, I could have watched last week's episode again. It's still on my DVR. And it was particularly good: House and Wilson's cute neighbor mistakes them for a gay couple. House plays along with her assumption to get into her good graces so he can have a "revelation" about his sexuality and then sleep with her. Wilson one-ups House by proposing to him in front of her.

House, if you were wondering, pulls off "gay" much better than Wilson. His reaction to seeing his newly delivered "A Chorus Line" poster is a little moment of perfection.

But – confession time – I'd already watched it a second time, and watching it a third time just seemed wrong.

See? I'm no junkie! I can quit any time I want, man!

Says the woman with the first five seasons of the show on her bookshelf.

I had been thinking about buying them for a long time. They were part of my Amazon Wishlist.

L.A. Dave told me to look for them on eBay. He assured me that I could get new copies, not used DVDs. And he was right. And I even tried bidding once, on the first three seasons, bundled together. But I didn't win.

And then, well, it seemed indulgent to spend money on a TV show I'd already seen. But when I had satellite TV installed before the digital conversion, I set my DVR to record "House" any time it aired, both first-run and re-run episodes, on any network.

I had a lot of "House" on hand. Sixty-six hours worth, if memory serves.

But then my brother Paul gave me Seasons Four and Five for Christmas. And then I discovered that Target was selling every season for $17.99.


So I went to Target to buy the first three seasons, only to discover that the first season was sold out. So I got a raincheck.

And then, on New Year's Eve, I went to another Target and – cue the angels singing – there it was. Season One. And it was mine.

And watching much of Season One was how I spent the better part of my New Year's weekend. I just finished it, actually. And I have yet to break out Season Two.

But my deal with myself is that I can watch an episode a day if I watch it from the treadmill. And by "from the treadmill," I mean that I have to be walking on the treadmill. I don't sit on the treadmill to watch TV. Though I would, if that would somehow count toward my day's exercise.

L.A Dave interviewed Hugh on several occasions. He's mentioned in the post that I wrote about L.A. Dave's death. Which the family used as Dave's eulogy. Hugh Laurie, therefore, was mentioned during Dave's memorial service.

Which is fitting, actually, because it was Dave who turned me on to "House." He told me I should watch it. (For some reason, I didn't start watching it when it premiered.) And one summer evening, I caught a rerun. And from that moment on, I was hooked.

Aside from Hugh Laurie's dreaminess (more on that in a moment), the writers of the show are simply the best in the business.

No, I haven't seen every show ever made. Yes, "Lost" is pretty damn cool. But "Lost" is a completely different animal. "House" is a medical drama. And ho hum, how many of those have we seen over the years? And how many of them have been the reheated leftovers of other medical dramas? "House," though, reimagines the medical-drama recipe.

Now, then, Hugh. No, he is not Taylor Lautner. But I am not 15.

Hugh, though.



First of all, I love the name Hugh. Second of all, he's British, and oh, how I love a British accent. Third of all, he rides motorcycles. And while I don't like motorcycles because I worry chronically that those who ride them will be killed, there's something really hot about certain guys on motorcycles. (L.A. Dave did a story about Hugh and his bikes, and this is the picture that ran with the piece.) Fourth of all, he's a musician. A very good musician. Fifth of all, he's a writer. A very good writer. If you haven't read The Gun Seller, you should. Sixth of all, look at him. No, he's not Metrosexual Pretty Boy. He's real. Slightly scruffy, a face full of character. And, as this photo reveals, he has lovely hands. I have a big thing for men's forearms, wrists, and hands. (Click on the image to see a larger version.) Seventh of all, he's funny. Click here to watch him talk and play piano. His vocal stylings in this particular piece leave a wee bit to be desired, but he's singing for comic effect. I do believe Hugh could sing rather more pleasantly on another song. Then again, even if he couldn't, I wouldn't care. The man already has more than his share of talents.

Hugh's leg, thankfully, is just fine.

But House and his cane return with a new episode next Monday. Just in time for my next fix.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Easy Like Sunday Morning ...

One of the quasi-happy outcomes of being un(der)employed is that Sundays no longer carry for me the same measure of dread.

In the yin and yang that is life, I love, love, love the feeling of a Saturday morning and correspondingly hate, hate, hate(d) the feeling of a Sunday morning.

Because Sunday inexorably leads to Monday. And, well, Mondays. Talk about bad PR. If any day of the week needs an image makeover, it's Monday. Friday and Saturday are the A-listers, of course. Sunday has the weighty paper and pots of coffee to recommend it. Thursday is the new Friday. Wednesday is Hump Day. And Tuesday succeeds simply by virtue of not being Monday.

But Monday. Oh, Monday. You are the hair shirt of weekdays.

For most. Not for me. Not lately. Now, Mondays bring with them the sensation of "You should be working," not the sensation of "Oh, God, I hate my job."

Granted, the Dread Formerly Known As Monday has been replaced by worries about cash, there, in the background, the sustained note in the soundtrack of a scary movie that keeps you on edge.

But aside from that, Sundays are better now. I wake up, boot up the computer, put on a pot of coffee, pour a sunny glass of orange juice and pop a Centrum onto my tongue, check e-mail, run through my morning browser routine, and then set up on the loveseat in the living room, my favorite afghan folded in quarters and laid across my lap, coffee in my Sunday Love Mug (a birthday gift from Angela, named by me) within arm's reach, laptop on my lap, jazz wafting out of the computer in my office, and I write. And sometimes, I even hit Publish.

Ideally, of course, I want to work and look forward to Monday. That is the dream. Well, a dream. I have others.

But to wake up on Monday – and every other day of the week – and feel excitement for the day ahead? How great would that be?

Granted, I can do that now. It's all a matter of choice. And every day brings with it 24 hours of possibility. But it would be even greater if somewhere in that plan were paychecks. Or checks in general. If I work for myself, I don't expect to receive paychecks, per se. Paychecks are the province of The Man, food-pellet rewards after two weeks of pressing bars and stepping into the break room or kitchen only to discover that someone drank the last of the coffee – again – and didn't put on another pot.

A week or so ago, whenever it was that all that snow fell, I was outside as darkness descended, shoveling yet again. When I was done, I trekked across the street, through the slushy ruts, to help my neighbor clear his snow. The snow nearest the street is always the most offensive, thanks to the plows, the wettest, the heaviest, the most likely to induce pain. So we'd shovel a bit and then rest for a bit, but we chatted all the while. And I told him how much I'd love to be working on a book, to wake up and put on coffee and sit down and write.

And then I chuckled and said, "Well, that's exactly what I do right now. I just don't get paid for it."

So that's the piece of the puzzle that I need to place. To date, that piece of the puzzle has been of the 1,000-piece variety, the cornflake-sized bit of cardboard that is easily lost and which renders the puzzle incomplete. Instead, I'd like my life's puzzle to be of the pressboard variety, the pieces of which don't fit into each other, but which fit into obvious individual spaces. I'm quite sure I could fit the fire truck piece into the fire truck-shaped space.

Yes, I know that would be too easy, and that the fire truck piece doesn't relate to any other piece of the chunky puzzle. But for the moment, that would be OK. I'd be happy just to feel like I've found my place again. Then I can work on puzzles that are more complex.

But in the meantime, I have Miles Davis to keep me company, and hazelnut-flavored coffee, because we like something warm to drink in the morning. And between the laments of Miles' trumpet, I can hear the ticking of the clock on the wall. There's a serenity to this Sunday morning.

I hope it lasts.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Waxing Poetic ...

If I had to, I'd probably rub a candle on my mouth.

I don't think I'm a lip-balm addict, per se. But I also don't think I could quit. Cut back, maybe. But hell, a girl's gotta have a vice, right? I could do worse than lip balm.

When I was younger, I lived in a ChapStick world. Didn't we all? I remember cherry-flavored balm. Insidious stuff, flavored lip balm. It encourages you to lick your lips, thus protracting the chapping and requiring the use of more balm. Way to go, ChapStick titans: create a legion of junkies, keep 'em coming back for more.

I wasn't a big fan of the Bonne Bell LipSmacker craze. I remember having a tube of 7-Up, though why anyone would want a lip product that tasted like the most boring soda on the planet is beyond me. I did recently buy a tube of Dr. Pepper, because I read on some blog that it imparts a nice color and bit of sheen and it was good to keep on hand.

I can't find it now.

And anyway, I never trusted Dr. Pepper. No one can tell me what it's supposed to taste like. I once heard prunes were involved.

As I transitioned into adulthood, with all the benefits that bestowed – FICA rage, the social injustice of finally having to buy one's own deodorant – I remember being a consumer of ChapStick Medicated and ChapStick Overnight Lip Treatment. I was still under the ChapStick spell, like a Stepford Wife, but different.

One year, for Christmas, my cousin Patty gave me a little sampler of Burt's Bees products, lip balm included. It was OK. At the register at Walgreen's, I spied tinted Burt's Bees and bought a tube based on the color of the cap. I choose poorly.

Softlips hit the market and I was intrigued. The tubes were thin and sleek, the Virginia Slims of the lip-balm set. And French Vanilla? I love vanilla.

I bought a two-pack. What is the point, I ask you, of what is essentially fine-point lip balm? It might be handy if you're applying it to the lips of toddlers, but it doesn't make sense for adults. And the product itself felt ... insignificant.

Then one day, out with my friend Kelley, I suddenly smelled vanilla. I turned to her and asked her what she had just put on.

And she showed me her tube of lip balm.

And my life would never be the same.

Karite-Lips Shea Butter Vanilla Lip Balm, where had you been all my life?

I'll tell you where it had been: lurking in the cosmetics aisle of Whole Foods. The first time I went to buy it, I was a bit surprised at the price. It wasn't priced like other lip balms, but I had to have it. Unlike Softlips, Karite-Lips comes in a slightly bigger tube, perfect for swiping across one's lips for even coverage. And the texture is silken yet substantive, but not heavy or waxy.

I was hooked. I returned to the store many times, buying five tubes at once, to have one in my makeup bag and one in the car and one on my nightstand and a couple in reserve. I gave tubes to friends, sharing the shea-butter joy.

And the last time I went to buy it, it was up to $8. I bought my usual five, laying down more than $40 for lip balm. And I knew I had to make a change.

Yes, it can be had for less money online, but once you factor in shipping, it's not much of a deal, and hello, carbon footprint. Really? Do I need to involve UPS in my procurement of lip balm?

And so began my quest for a replacement.

I can tell you right now, none of them are worthy.

I bought Blistex Deep Renewal. Pah. Was I actually applying anything to my lips? It didn't feel like it.

I bought Nivea A Kiss of Moisture. Meh. What kind of kiss would that be? It's like a polite peck of moisture. I want a full-on snog.

My mom brought a tube of lip balm to me that she'd gotten from her dentist's office. They gave her one and she liked it so she went back to get one for me. It's lemonade-flavored. It's promotional lip balm, and I don't love it, but I like it better than others I've tried.

I bought Aveeno Essential Moisture. Essential to whom? Fish? It has a touch of shea butter in it, but it also contains jojoba oil and oatmeal. Why is there oatmeal in my lip balm? I'm trying to cut out carbs.

Through it all, I kept dipping into my stash of Karite-Lips. I'd dispensed with keeping tubes everywhere and relied on the single tube in my makeup bag. It's been lasting well enough.

But one day, out and about, I had lunch with mom and in the process of eating and using a napkin, had removed everything from the surface of my lips. We stopped by Target so I could pick up a tube of something (as well as other things we needed; I didn't make her go to Target just so I could buy lip balm) and I stood in front of the display, rejecting tube after tube. I'd tried most of them at one time or another.

And so I settled on something I hadn't tried before, True Shimmer in Botanical Berry by ... ChapStick. All these years later, I wasn't very far from the cherry flavor of my youth. But I must say, it's pleasant. It does indeed smell and taste like berries. And it's tinted a pleasing shade of pink. And it fits well in the change compartment of my wallet, so I'll never be without a balm.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Reality Check ...

The problem with reality is its realism.

I live in a writerly world, very much in my head. I'm always spinning stories and bits of dialogue and, with my fingers fluttering over the keyboard, can create whatever reality I choose. Only, I'm not creating reality. I'm creating fantasy. I'm painting a pretty picture of a life that will exist in two dimensions, not three.

Oh, that pesky third dimension.

Most people know what I'm talking about, most women especially. The disenchantment of which I speak typically reaches its peak at the holidays. Pictures in magazines or 15-second spots reveal a holiday ideal to which we all aspire: twinkling lights, glowing candles, a pleasant holiday din punctuated by bursts of laughter, a lavish buffet which looks pristine all night long.

The problem is, in a single frame or a few seconds shot on a set, we don't see all the preparation that had to happen to make it all real. We don't see the actors who will play the family members in the commercial arrive in their sweats, their faces make up-free. We don't see the food stylists painting the turkey with shoe polish to create the illusion of golden-brown perfection. We don't see the decorators adding layer after layer of detail to turn a basic set into holiday bliss.

We just see that one moment that ends up in the pages of a magazine.

No wonder reality is such a letdown.

Because most of us don't have people to make the holidays happen. Or any other day, for that matter. It's all up to us.

That's why staying at a hotel is so lovely. Staff members cater to your every whim. You don't have to do anything except pick up the phone and dial room service. Your room is clean (ideally), but you didn't have to clean it. Your bed is made, but you didn't have to make it. Your sheets are soft, but you didn't have to wash them. Your pillows are fluffed, but you didn't have to fluff them. It's all just there, done.

But at home, the jig is up.

With a winter storm in the forecast earlier this week, I went to the store one night to pick up provisions. I had visions in my head of being cozy, inside my house the next day, watching the snow fall, baking cookies, sipping coffee, reading, writing, napping.

And indeed, it snowed the next day, and indeed, I watched the snow fall. And I sipped coffee. And I read. And I wrote. I didn't nap. I did bake, eventually, but not before shoveling a lot of snow.

It was all pleasant in its way (well, except for the shoveling and the ensuing Advil I needed to pop), but you know what would have been even more pleasant? If someone was here to do it for me.

Not a spouse. This isn't a whiny treatise about wanting a man in my life. But it would be lovely if one of those hotel employees could have popped by to bake cookies for me and deliver them, with some freshly brewed coffee, to me, here, on the couch in the living room, while I clacked away on the keyboard, writing, or while I read, curled up under an afghan.

It's not a servant I seek. I don't want someone to do things for me all day, every day. I just want someone to appear in those moments when I think "You know what would make this moment perfect?" to make the moment perfect, and then disappear.

Perfection. I just want perfection. Is that too much to ask? (She asks, grinning, knowing full well that it's too much to ask.)

Not constant perfection. That would become dull. But occasional perfection. Every so often, I'd like my life to resemble those pictures in magazines.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Lacing Up ...

At the moment, thanks to two days of shoveling, walking from the couch to the kitchen is a bit of a chore.

Seven months from today, though, right about this time, I'll be at the closing ceremonies of the Chicago Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure. There will not be snow on the ground.

But I will probably wish there were.

This year's event will be my seventh. To date, the generosity of my friends and family has contributed more than $15,000 to the fight against breast cancer. I truly cannot do this every year without you.

And so, fundraising is underway for this year's event.

And once again, your generosity will be very much appreciated.

I know that the economy has taken a toll on many and that financial circumstances may have changed. But contributions start at $5. And dollars add up quickly. How's this for a deal: I'll walk 60 miles in three days – in Chicago ... in August – if you'll skip one Starbucks between now and then and contribute that cash to the 3-Day. Ooh, or better yet, one Starbucks a month! Or whatever dollar amount is right for you, as they say on public television.

My account of last year's event is here if you'd like to know more about the goings-on.

I encourage everyone I know to participate in a 3-Day at least once. It's very truly a life-changing experience. If you'd like to participate in an event (the 2010 cities are listed here) and you have questions about anything at all – fundraising, training, the walk itself – I'm always happy to talk 3-Day shop. Just pop a question into the comments. Or check out the 3-Day's FAQ page.

Thanks, as ever, for your consideration. Together, we'll find a cure.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Cookies! ...

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, I launched a baking blog.

It's been, um, languishing, for quite some time, but today, I posted a new entry and recipe, for Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Oatmeal cookies.

Get bakin', people!

Who, What, Where, When, Why, And How ...


Can someone please apply the brakes on the progress train? I don't want it to stop, but a little drag to slow things down a bit would please me.

I realize that the aforewritten sentence places me squarely, irrevocably, smack dab in the center of "old." That's fine. I'm 40 now. AARP has me in its sights. I do wonder, though, if I will ever be old enough to eat those wee senior servings of food and feel full. What's that about?

My point, though, is that things are changing and time is fleeting and it's all too fast. And that's not the stirrings of a mid-life crisis talking. I'm all about getting older. I know I'll accomplish far more in my 40s and 50s than I did in my 20s and 30s. (Hey, that won't be hard to do! Insert rimshot here!)

But this morning, my pal Paul (or someone who works for Paul's company) posted this on Facebook: "So which is it? Is the new Apple tablet friend or foe to the newspaper industry? As important, what will newspapers and other local news media have to do differently to take advantage either way?"

I read that and thought, "It's too late."

I don't mean to go all Droopy Dog on you here, but I foresee a time when newspapers, as actual newspapers, will cease to publish. There will always be news-gathering and -disseminating organizations, but I truly believe we're witnessing the last days of newspapers.

I was talking with one of my brothers about this a few months ago. The explosive growth of the Internet has made newspapers entirely obsolete. Twitter was the last straw. We can now get our news instantly. Granted, only 140 characters at a time, but in our age of instant newsification, the content in a newspaper is dated before it's printed.

"Analysis!", the industry cried when it was becoming clear that the quicksand of the Internet was sucking it down fast, when it suddenly found itself grasping for whatever might keep it from going under.

Consider again, Twitter. We've conditioned ourselves, in a very short amount of time, to get information in very, very concise summaries. Call it the headlinification of news. Granted, there's more to a story than can be Tweeted, but these days, readers want gists of stories in the moment, and they seek out substance later, usually online.

I don't receive the print edition of any newspaper. I've subscribed to and canceled several over the years. And why do I cancel? Not because I can read them online for free. I'm happy to pay for a product that provides value. I pay for Internet service. I pay for satellite service. I pay for DVD service. I pay for hosting service for my domain.

There's talk of Facebook starting to charge for its service. People are screaming. Give me a break. Yes, it's been free. But "free" isn't a sustainable model, no matter how popular a site, no matter how much advertising it hopes to attract.

The advertising model worked well for newspapers and magazines. They weren't making their money off of their subscribers. Their subscribers enabled them to charge more money for ads. But newspapers and magazines are dropping like flies. And advertising budgets aren't what they used to be.

So would I continue to use Facebook if I had to pay for it? Yup. As long as I thought I was receiving a proportionate amount of value for the monthly fee.

But newspapers? They're in a downward spiral. When it became apparent that this Internet thing wasn't just a fad, newspapers scrambled to create presences online. I seem to remember that the first staff of the Chicago Tribune's online effort consisted of three people. And they posted content from the newspaper onto the Internet. Get it here or get it there was the model. OK.

But as online presences grew stronger, as advertising revenue started to shift online or, as in recent years, go away, newspapers cut staff to save money. The problem was, the staff being cut? They were the ones who produced the content of the newspaper, in print or online. So the content started shrinking or lacking depth. And as there was less and less worth reading, people read less and less. We all like to look at pictures, sure, but there are only so many online photo galleries you can justify and still call yourself a newspaper.

The industry laughed at the creators of USA Today. And what's the No. 1 paper in the country?

The pace of life has changed. We want our information in short bursts. Maybe we've just gotten lazy. Or maybe there's now so much information coming at us all the time, all day, every day, that the last thing we want is more.

I'm as guilty as the next gal. Doreen prints out articles (because she doesn't like to read long stories on a screen) and then sends them along to me when she's done if she thinks I'll have some interest, and I love receiving my Doreen-O-Grams in the mail, but if anything is more than a few pages long, odds are I'll only read a few pages. And then I'll set it down to come back to it later, but later never comes. Is anything in Newsweek longer than three pages now? I'll have to check. But a lot of what I read in that publication fits on a single page.

I even read fewer books than before. My consumption habits have changed. I want to skim everything, not delve into one thing. It's the intellectual equivalent of shallow breathing.

And that's not good. We need a more-informed public. We need people to care more about politics and less about celebrity gossip.

Me, I can and am retraining my brain to read longer-form stories, to return to books, actual books, not the screen of an e-reader.

But I don't see a day when I'll subscribe to a newspaper again.

I recently looked into getting Sunday-only delivery of the New York Times. That's the one paper I'd like to receive. Sunday-only delivery is $7.50. Per week. Assuming four Sundays in most months, that's $30 a month. For four editions of a newspaper.

Granted, it's the grand dame of Sunday papers, but there again, newspapers have done themselves a disservice. By steeply discounting their rates to subscribers in order to boost their ad bases, they've devalued their products in the minds of consumers.

Not that I would, but I could get Sunday delivery of the Chicago Tribune for .99 cents a week. I don't even know what the newsstand prices is these days, but I think it's north of $2.00. And so my brain thinks, "Wait. If I go to a store and buy it, it costs two dollars, but someone will bring it to my home for 99 cents?" And my very next thought is, "Well, you get what you pay for."

So the notion of spending $30 to get four newspapers doesn't make sense to me. I recognize how much effort goes into producing a Sunday paper, especially the New York Times', but I've also been conditioned to not pay a lot for ink on paper.

The answer, then? I have no idea. I'm glad I'm not a newspaper consultant. The most logical suggestion I've seen is micropayments, a user's account being charged a penny or some nominal amount every time they click on a story to read it or click through to the next page. A fee-for-service model makes sense, I guess. Those who consume more will pay more.

But the key was, is, and always will be the content. If there's no "there" there, they won't come. It's been true of print editions and their endless redesigns and it's true of electronic editions, too.

The hurdle, then, is how to get people to come back, how to convince them to care again.

As soon as I have the answer to that, I'll become a newspaper consultant.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

'Conveyor Belt Of Love' ...

Oh, how I wish I had made that up. But no, "Conveyor Belt of Love" is an actual show. On an established (and in my mind, now less-respected) network: ABC.

Last night, my cell phone rang. Very few people call me on my cell phone. Hell, very few people call me. But I digress.

It was Angela. I saw her name in the display just as the phone stopped ringing. I texted her back, suggesting she call my landline. I don't get good cell reception in my house. Then I saw an e-mail from her, telling me about "Conveyor Belt of Love." She told me to turn to channel 7. She wanted me to see it for myself.

So I did.

I was on Facebook at the time, so allow me to pull over my initial thoughts:

"This is it, right? This is the nadir of civilization, right? It has to start getting better from here. Right?"

"I. Can't. Stop. Laughing. This is the most asinine thing I've ever seen! Thanks for calling to tell me to tune in, Angela! This is the best worst thing I've ever seen!"

"Am I seeing a man in a Speedo holding a sleeping Pomeranian?"

"Did I just write that sentence?!"

"Georgia Boy made a 'rose' out of a paper napkin! Note to all potential suitors (of me): DO NOT EVER MAKE A ROSE FOR ME OUT OF A PAPER NAPKIN."

"Is dude really Native American or is he channeling one of the Village People?"

"The Pomeranian is named Rambo?!"

It was funny at the time. It may be funny in the future, not that I'll be watching again.

But in the grey light of morning, reflecting on it, it's just sad.

It encapsulates all that's wrong with dating in one show. All the women are, oh, 25? All are "hot." The producers went for "diversity" and cast an Asian woman, a Middle Eastern woman, a Blonde woman, a Brunette woman, and, if memory serves, another Brunette woman.

They sit on a dais. They hold large paddles. On one side, "Interested," on the other side, "Not Interested."

And then men start moving across the stage on a conveyor belt.


Some men are automatically met with five "Not Interested"s and they just keep on, um, conveying, right off the stage.

But sometimes the girls (I'm sorry; technically, yes, they're women, but it's hard to think of them as anything but girls) like what they see and the dude on the belt gets to make his case.

So then the girls render their judgments. If more than one girl indicates that she's "Interested," the guy gets to choose the girl with whom he wants to be paired from the "Interested" pool of girls.

And then he stands elsewhere on the stage, off the belt, on a platform that contains the girl's name. The idea is for each girl to send one guy to the platform to be her date later.

But wait! The guys keep coming! And girls can bump their current guy if someone better comes along.

Isn't that charming? They don't even know the guys yet, but some of them get the heave-ho.

Eventually, all the guys have appeared and then the girls go on their dates and actually get to know the guys. Whatever there is to know.

I'm shaking my head and sighing now.

It's too bad that "vapid" doesn't rhyme with "Cupid," otherwise we could craft a much more clever name for the show.

Keiko, the Asian girl, decides early on that she wants the buff guy in the Speedo holding the Pomeranian. She never wavers in her decision. His name, turns out, is Johnny. "I want you to worship me," she tells him on their date. Lovely. That's the basis for a good relationship.

In the end, even their dogs don't get along.

Ah, karma, thanks for letting me know you're still around.

Of course, the "hot" girls are all attracted to the "hot" guys, so the guys who come across the stage who are less than cover-model handsome or have a waist size above 30 or might, God forbid, have some quirkiness about them are either automatically written off or bumped in later rounds.

Except one guy, a sommelier. For a white wine, he likes Riesling.

Like, ohmygod! Blonde loves Riesling, but the sweet stuff, not the dry stuff!

So, like, she totally chooses him, even though the other girls are all looking at her like, "Gawd, are you kidding me? Look at him. I mean, he doesn't even have gel in his hair! And he's wearing, like, khakis, and they have, like, a pleated front! Don't you know that you're totally ruining your future?!"

Sommelier and Blonde go on a date. A wine tasting. And he just can't believe that a girl like her would ever go for a guy like him.

And one of the Brunettes wants to go on a date with her guy again, even though he planned a picnic for them, and brought cheese, and she's lactose-intolerant. But he has really soft lips, so he'll advance to Date No. 2.

The only dating show I've ever watched intentionally is "Beauty and the Geek," which I thought was a clever premise when it first landed on TV. Of course, the geeks are made over during the show, and like, ohmygod!, the girls just totally can't believe how cute those guys are underneath all their geekiness!

Because, of course, as we all know, looks are really the only thing that matter. Which is why every bachelor on "The Bachelor" looks like he was just yanked out of a cover shoot for "GQ." And all the women look like variations of Barbie.

But at least The Bachelor gets to travel by limousine, not a conveyor belt in sight.

Update! Need to see it for yourself? You can watch the whole episode! Click here! Click here! Hurry!

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Laundrypalooza ...

Turns out, I can write even without the presence of a Christmas tree.

I'm sitting in the same spot, but the room is decidedly brighter, both because I am sitting here much later in the day than when I usually write as well as because the tree no longer blocks much of the light through the large window.

That the trees outside are bare and the ground is covered with snow and that the sun is shining probably have something to do with the brightness as well.

I had so much ambition yesterday. The first day of the new year. The perfect time to take down decorations and give the house a lick and a promise and organize everything to the point of OCD.

And I started. I took all of the ornaments off of the Christmas tree in the living room, methodically, all of one kind then all of another and made stacks and piles on the kitchen counter to facilitate easier storage later.

But then I realized that I was hungry. So I heated up a plateful of Chinese food and plopped myself in front of the teevee machine and began to scroll through the on-screen menu. And do you know what was on?

"Vertigo," that's what.

As if I wasn't going to watch "Vertigo"?

So I did. And by the time it was over, it was dark outside and there's just something odd about doing chores of the de-decorating sort after the sun has gone down. So I kept watching TV.

This morning, though, having had my fill of television yesterday, I was all about getting things done. Both trees were dismantled and put away by 9:30 a.m. Dishes were done. Recycling was gathered.

Which left laundry.

You know that scene in "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" in which Richard Dreyfuss makes the model of the mountain in his living room?

That was my pile of laundry.

Some of it was already at the base of the basement stairs. The remainder was mounded in a laundry basket in my bedroom.

I sorted all of it into piles and made a discovery.

I have an entire load of "greys."

Most people have "whites" and "lights" and "darks" and "colors." I do, too. But I also have enough clothes that are grey to make up a load unto themselves.

How's that for a metaphor for my life?

Thank God for the enormous yellow sweatshirt.

Now, granted, I like neutrals. The rooms in my home vary in color, but "muted" is the order of the day. I don't do brights. Primary colors belong to boxes of crayons and stoplights.

But I never paid attention to the fact that I owned so much grey clothing. Sheesh. My life is a Xanax.

[I just looked up images of Xanax. Do my eyes deceive me or are these pills grey?! How funny. I swear I didn't know that about them.]

So now the laundry is being laundered, load after load, and I am clacking away, and once I hit "Publish Post," I will – gasp! – read a book! Standing up, very possibly.

I think I exceeded my couch quota yesterday. I don't much feel like sitting today.

I would go for a walk, but it's 14 degrees outside. Fahrenheit. And I prefer the skin on my face to remain room temperature whenever possible.

Perhaps I will fire up the treadmill. Now that I have all five seasons of "House" on DVD, I have told myself that I will treat myself to one a day and watch from the treadmill. On which I will be walking, it should be noted. I will not sit on the treadmill and watch TV. Well, I would. If that would allow me to achieve an increased level of fitness.

Alas, it will not, I'm guessing.

Here's hoping your new year will be full of love and clear of clutter.

May your days be happy and your laundry be clean.