And So It Went

I had the best weekend, y’all.

On Saturday, my GPS and I slalomed down the Orange Barrel Trail to Indianapolis, a trip that would have taken longer than I planned, even if I’d remembered which time zone and Daylight Savings Plan that part of the state is using these days.

The purpose of the journey was to meet up with writer friends I’d originally met online a couple of years ago, when I started hanging out in the comments section of Betsy Lerner’s blog. Four of us—Lyra, Sherry Stanley Stanfa, and Laura Maylene Walter, just to shamelessly name drop—were meeting Saturday, spending the night at the perfectly placed Westin Hotel, and then having breakfast with three other friends the next morning.

Lyra and I had hoped to arrive early in the afternoon to spend an hour of two writing and/or talking over snacklunch, but we’d both made a late start and the above memoryfail about the time zone, so we both showed up around four o’clock EST, mere minutes before Sherry and Laura.

We dumped our stuff with Christian the Concierge, who can rock a bow tie, and immediately set forth to find the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library, because it closed at 5.

Unfortunately, we set forth in the wrong direction, but we found a lovely park about ten blocks down where we could stop, reorient ourselves, and maybe turn the map around a little.

We did make it in time, though and it was well worth the walk.

 

Kurt Vonnegut FTW

Photo graciously supplied by Lyra–my attempt was a big black rectangle.

It’s a great place, small but high impact, with art and reading materials, displays and quotes, photographs of an astonishingly young Mr. Vonnegut—I found the evolution of his hair almost as interesting as the rest of his personal history— and also a knowledgeable assistant curator (I think?) with whom we had a great conversation about the outrageous banning of books in schools (his daughter is a lucky kid).

And a nifty little gift shop, where many Vonnegut-themed souvenirs were purchased.

I spent the rest of the evening and a good portion of the night eating, talking, drinking, talking, laughing, suddenly getting serious with the talk, moving to a quieter venue, and drinking, eating, and talking some more with these amazing women who happen to be amazing writers and, somehow, my friends.

I wore out about half-past midnight, because I am a sleep-deprived pumpkin, and collapsed into a bed so comfortable^ I would have tried to smuggle out with me—mattress, duvet, and All The Pillows—if I thought I could find my car in the parking garage and stuff everything into the trunk of my Civic before I was caught by Christian the Concierge.

The next morning, I woke earlier than I’d intended, showered, packed, wrote a very little, poked at the Vonnegut-shaped Souvenir Blister on my left foot—and so it goes—and went down to the lobby to meet Amy, who kindly helped me find my car so I could stash the mattress dump my bags. We waved at Lisa Golden, who passed by on her way to a more sensible parking space, and headed for Café Patachou, where we joined and were joined by the rest of our crew at our table, which was blessedly close to both the Self-Serve Coffee Station and the bathroom.

It was serendipity all the way through, y’all.

After a couple hours of talk both writerly and otherwise, and the eating of good food and drinking of massive amounts of delicious caffeine, we all hugged—one or two of us might have teared up a bit—and went off in our separate directions.

The GPS and I followed the Orange Barrel Trail west for five hours and a good portion of Laurie King’s Garment of Shadows, arrived home, passed out leaf-shaped bars of hotel soap to my children, who are not Vonnegut fans (yet), and collapsed on my own pretty-darned-comfortable mattress until dinner.

It was a very good weekend.

We need to do it again—soon!

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*I was later told that the others came into the room twice to get beer and snacks from the cooler, and when I woke up the next morning, Lyra was sleeping in the other bed, but I don’t remember a thing. That’s serious comfort. Or serious exhaustion, anyway, which is easier to fit into a Honda Civic, so whatever.

 

The Best I Could Do

The Best I can Do

My plans this Labor Day weekend, barring a Saturday shift at the library, were simple:

Clean my closet, organize some books for donation, crank out 1200 words on my WIP, finish gamma reading* a friend’s amazing novel, pedal nine to fifteen more miles on my exercise bike, and take naps.

A lot of naps.

Instead, I went with my family to an ill-fated baseball game,** successfully added dark purple highlights to Jane’s hair (and my thumbs), made daily visits to the brand new self-serve frozen yogurt place,*** finished reading and giving feedback on the friend’s amazing novel, completely failed at putting The Flash’s logo on Sunny’s tiny thumbs with nail polish pens, went swimsuit shopping, had a family grocery outing, water-sealed Janie’s new boots, thoroughly enjoyed my husband’s experiment with oatmeal pie,^ and laughed.

A lot of laughing.^^

Under the circumstances, one out of five is pretty good.

Except for the lack of naps, because now I’m all tuckered out, just in time for work.

I also appear to have a small, phlegm-colored hedgehog lodged in my throat and an icepick-wielding gnome prodding me behind one eye, but I’m a big believer in the curative properties of coffee and ignoring viruses until they go away or step it up.

Totally worth it.

 

How was your weekend?

 

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* Like beta reading, except a little later in the process.

** It was the second game of a double-header, and by the time we arrived, they’d run out of box seats for the voucher-holders, so we were given bleacher seats.  This would ahve been fine, except none of the seven hundred bleacher fans for the previous game left, so there were no seats at all, unless we wanted to be separated.  We didn’t, so we headed for the grass picnic section, which is a steep hill about a 60° angle from the edge rail of the stadium.  Sunny and I arranged ourselves, while my husband and Jane went to get provisions.  Five minutes after they left, the heavens opened up, and Sunny and I ran for shelter along the lane of concession stands, along with three thousand other people.  My husband and I did the “Stay alive, whatever occurs!” schtick via text and we all finally met up around the condiment stand and joined the flow of steaming humanity making for the exits, trying to keep Sunny from being pulled away by the undertow.  We all made it out safe, if dazed and oxygen-deprived, and the womenfolk huddled under an inadequate tree, while my husband ran the quarter-mile back to the car.  He picked us up and the whole soggy lot of us went to Wendy’s and had a late night supper  in our kitchen.  It was, as we all said later, a bad idea an a terrific bonding experience.

*** Where I developed an addiction to those tapioca, fruit syrup-filled boba bubble thingies.  The blueberry ones.

^ Like pecan pie, except with oatmeal.  Next time, he’s adding a few raisins.  And then maybe walnuts, too. Or chocolate chips.  We kind of made a list. . .

^^ The one that really got me was on the way to lunch Sunday:

Jane: “What kind of car is that, Mom?”

Me: “I don’t know.  It looks like a Fit, maybe?  No, it’s a Nissan.”

My husband: “I don’t think Nissan makes panel vans.  Looks like they refit a pickup.”

Sunny: “Maybe a truck and a van had a baby!”

Jane:  “Cars can’t have babies, Sunny.”

Me:  “But it still kind of makes you want to lock different types of cars up in a garage and let nature take its course, doesn’t it?”

My husband, not missing a beat:  “Nah.  The noise would be terrible.”

Jane and I, in chorus: “BWAHAHAhahahahahhahah!  I can’t believe—oh, that’s so WRONG–Dad!  Good one, hon!  BWAHAHAHahahahhahaha!!!

Sunny, after the cacckling died down:  “Why?”

 

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The Least I Can Do is the amazing and Not Usually Safe For Work brainchild of Ryan Sohmer and Lar De Souza. I’m not kidding about their ownership rights nor about its NSFWness (Sundays are generally okay to share with kids, but your parental rating system may vary) or its levels of sheer awesome and breathtaking chutzpah.

Library Meatloaf

Yesterday marked the start of the first full week of school and also the first morning confiscations of the school year.

With minimal frisking—this ain’t my first rodeo—I bagged an iPod, an MP3 player, and a set of earbuds I thought I’d left in Chicago from an eleven-year old who honestly may not have noticed they were still attached to her, and also a bulldog puppy named Meatloaf, whose seven-year old thought I was kidding when I said she wasn’t allowed to bring toys to school without asking her teacher first.

I promised Sunny I’d take good care of him all day. Remarkably, this worked and she handed him over with minimal fuss and a heartening touch of guilt.

To be honest, I meant to leave him in the car, but tossed him in my bag instead, where he quietly tangled himself in my badge lanyard.

When I pulled out my badge to clock in, there he was.

And since he was, I decided to put him to work.

Meatloaf Clocking in

Did it beep? I didn’t hear a beep . . .

Meatloaf turned out to be the perfect library page: eager, willing, and remarkably quiet, considering his owner.

He helped answer the phone:

Meatloaf Taking Calls

Yes, we’re open. Yes, I’m sure.

Look up information for patrons:

Meatloaf at the Catalog

You don’t know the title, the author, or the plot, but the cover could be blue? Or maybe red?  No problem.

And sort magazines (from his expression, clearly not his favorite):

Meatloaf and Magazines

Um . . . I’m going to need the step stool. And some thumbs.

He also shared my dinner and helped me hone my Flappy Bird skillz* on Jane’s iPod before napping in my lunchbag for the rest of my shift.

Meatloaf for Lunch

Got any Scooby Snacks?

At the end of the day, I returned one very sleepy puppy to his equally sleepy little girl just in time for him to tell her all about his day before I tucked them both into bed.

This morning, I didn’t have to remove him from Sunny’s backpack.

I found him hiding in my purse. Wearing my lanyard.

Good boy!

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*Which are nonexistent.  Someone needs to invent a game where you’re supposed to bash a digital bird into the same building over and over.  I would be the reigning champion of the world.

Post Called on Account of Chi-Town

I’m leaving work early this afternoon and heading for the Amtrak station to catch a train to Chicago, where I will be spending not nearly enough time with friends before heading back way too early Wednesday morning.*

In the morning, I’ll be taking a boat tour with a friend from Germany, whom I met online when she commented on one of my online stories and I commented back—we’ve been e-mailing each other for almost five years and though she’s visited the States before, she’s touching down for a day close enough for us to meet. I can’t wait!

I’ll be meeting Lyra (You all know Lyra, right? Why not?) in the early evening—if she can swing it—for an hour or so somewhere between her office and the last train out to her neighborhood, if she can swing it.  I hope she can—we’ve been talking almost as long and it’s ridiculous that we live this close and haven’t met.

In between?  I’m thinking pizza and shopping but I’m willing to be persuaded into visiting a museum and shopping, or maybe catching a show and shopping.  Or just shopping.

Regardless, the trip should be a lot of fun and absolutely nothing like this:

At all.

Really.

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*I thought about taking a later train, but there’s a Schlep Your Stuff Back to School Luau that evening that I really shouldn’t miss, because making my kids haul all their school supplies in by themselves on the first morning of school would be as cruel as flipping baby box turtles. If funnier.

Bragging on my Kids: Waxing Eloquent

Jane has a school project based on The House of Dies Drear, in which the young characters find a pre-Civil War chest in the attic of the house they’ve just moved into—or so I’m told, as I haven’t read it, myself.

Her mission is to build a chest and fill it with five handmade things that one might find in a pre-Civil War chest, accompanied by annotated cards.

The students brainstormed lists of stuff and the teacher chose five things for them, which is good, because my daughter’s ambition knows no bounds and we only have until this Friday.

She spent Saturday painting a landscape in the style of an 19th Century artist*. molding an inkwell out of black, bakeable clay,** dipping a feather in black paint for a quill, and sewing a pincushion out of eighty-eight cents of upholstery fabric to hold my one darning needle, which is attached by black thread to a wooden spool that cost two bucks.

That left Sunday for the last thing on the list.

Candles.

At this point, I was hoping we could just buy a couple of beeswax tapers made by someone else’s hands and call it a day, because I know for an almost very nearly  fact that people did buy candles in 1865.  But Jane was adamant.

An adamant Jane is an immoveable object, and a Jane who is adamant about doing her homework correctly can force me to do almost anything.

So we bought some wick and granulated wax and found a way to melt it without ruining my only double-boiler:

1865 Candles 4

I also rigged up a handy-dandy cooling rack, just like the ones they had in 1865, minus the pots, the barbecue tongs, the phone books, the Norton’s Anthology, and the American Collegiate Dictionary . . . and the TV listings doing their valiant best to keep the wax off my stove top.

1865 Candles 2

Necessity, ladies and gentlemen, is a mother.

The process was surprisingly easy, once the wax melted.

1865 Candles 9

 

1865 Candles

Or easy for me, anyway, because I wasn’t allowed to help, other than keeping the water and wax levels up, occasionally readjusting the rack, and telling her to be careful at regular intervals.

This is the point where Jane said, “Oh, wow!  I’m making candles! Look, Mom!  I’m actually making candles!”

1865 Candles 3

And she was, layer by layer by layer, by layer . . .

Until, after about an hour and a half, she’d created these:

1865 Candles 8And, unfortunately, this:1865 Candles 7

But she’s proud of herself, for good reason.

And if they look a little more like white carrots than tapers, who cares?

Now, all we have to do is make an authentic looking chest out of cardboard***—and by we, I mean Jane and my husband, ’cause I’m too busy prying a fine layer of wax from every surface of the kitchen with my plastic dish scraper, may its inventor be ever blessed.

And Jane has to write up the cards for each item.

She wants to use the quill.

Cover me.

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Stay tuned for a report of Sunny’s Charlotte’s Web diorama, for which she’s chosen the scene where Wilbur is told he’s going to be slaughtered and he runs around screaming, “I don’t want to die!” 

Because she wants HER shoebox creation to have moving parts.

If she asks me to crochet “Humble” into a embroidery thread spiderweb, I’m heading for the hills.

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*In acrylics, not oils, because I’m neither rich nor insane—despite the fact that I just every single one of you snickering just now—and I knew going in who would be doing the clean-up.

**Anyone who remembers the footnoted sugar paste – food coloring debacle from a month ago can rest assured that I learned my lesson and bought pre-colored Sculpey.

***The rules say that each dimension of this thing needs to be between one foot and one yard, which cleverly means that we can’t go out and get a bankers box at Office Max, because those are only ten-inches deep, $#!% it.