Friday, May 12, 2006

What am I reading? Everything.

Recently, I was at a fundraising event and was presented with an anonymous trivia card to fill out, requesting that I list my favorite authors and favorite books, and toss the cards in a bucket. Then we were to draw a card randomly and -- while mingling and making what used to be called small talk -- try to peg who wrote which card. I was appalled. Sure, it's fun to find out a friend or new acquaintance likes the same things you do. But maybe I'm a bit strange, because I think what I read and why I like it is kind of personal.

I read because I love to and because I want to know and because I love words and how they are put together and I even love the ink and grit of the newspaper and the smoothness of the magazine pages and the smell of books (yes, they do have a smell) and I love the way I feel while I am reading and how I feel right afterward and even sometimes for a long time after, and because frankly, if I did not read I'm not sure I could carry on for much more than a few days and still feel like the adult human being known as me.

I am both particular and indiscriminate in my choice of reading materials. It has to be interesting, I have to relate to it on some level, and it has to touch me somehow. That's about it. It does not have to be "literary," although I love many books which are. It does not have to be written by a favorite author or a prominent author or any author that anyone else may think is important or brilliant or a worthwhile investment of time. Fact is, some of the best uses of wasted time in my life have been reading stuff I might ordinarily not have thought to read, just because I stumbled across the book or magazine or newspaper or website or blog.

The "great books" and legendary writers have never held any particular allure, or at least any more so than books that have turned out to be great to me; although there are some "great books" I love for reasons I often even do not understand -- just as I love many quirky, offbeat, under-the-radar current-day writers, as well as a few (horrors!) popular genre authors who make me laugh out loud or feel something or simply (and wonderfully) because they make me nod and inwardly smile and think, "yes, that's real and strange and true and messed-up, just like life." So you will find Shakespeare on the same shelf as Piccoult and Wolff next to Quindlen and Malamud and Bryson...right next to Dr. Seuss's "Oh, the Places You Will Go."

Because that's what reading is all about -- going places and, at least in my case, not being too concerned about what anyone has to say about my mode of transport.

And what are you reading these days? (Or is that too personal?)

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Thoughts from a frazzled hausfrau

Sure, I work at various part-time and freelance jobs for hours each day, and no, I don't usually act much like a traditional housewife/homemaker/stay-at-home-mom or whatever politically-correct term is currently in vogue to describe someone for whom many many daylight hours are spent tending children and/or tending to home-and-family related details. But. But when your office is in your house and your family acts like your work is not, things can get sticky. And the thing to do then -- aside from renting an office or driving 40 miles west to sit on a bench in a quiet state park or unplug the phone and fax and click the laptop closed -- the thing to do then, is to look around, enjoy the moments and laugh.

► How cute are little seven-year-olds boys; that is, your own little boy, at bedtime, fresh from the bath, dancing around the room in underpants, with slicked down hair, using his GI Joe for a microphone and crooning, Rock and roll.

► How is it that my 12 year old son cannot remember that trash goes out on Monday and recycling on Thursday, but he can retain a season worth of stats on a dozen NASCAR drivers, as well as list the Heisman trophy winners for the last six years and know the order of picks in the NFL draft?

► My sister in law sent me an e-mail the other night that rattled me: Going on vacation this summer? What? Did I miss spring entirely? Is school out already? Last time I checked, I still had weeks to think about that. Then I remembered. She is recently retired, her only child is 28 and gainfully employed, her husband still works and her grey roots are always covered. See, the woman still has brain cells.

I , on the other hand, have two kids under 12, a husband who, while otherwise wonderful is still, alas, male; plus work deadlines, and, in my family room, I have 7,832 ragged scraps of
cardboard otherwise called Box Tops that will net my child's school $783.20, if, if, I can find a few hours before the deadline next week to trim them, inspect for past expiration dates, wipe cookie dough from the slimy plastic ones, count them out in groups of 50, zip them into plastic bags, fill out the submission form and get to the post office.

► Like all Moms, I save things because they might come in handy. Recently, I realized: They will not. At least, not until about a month after I have put it in the trash or sold it for a nickel in a garage sale.

► I got the call about my father's failing memory while in the car on the way to see Chicken Little with assorted children. The sky is falling all right.

► We were fired from our lawyer last week. Let me say that again. Last week, our attorney, who charged us $400 to change precisely two words in a document, gave us the sack. Pick up your file, was how his secretary put it if I recall exactly, and I do.

► Why do I like doing the laundry so much (other than that I am a complete moron)? Probably because it is the only mess in my life I can clean up inside of an hour.

And your day?