Saturday, February 20, 2010

That Need to Know

Every now and then something catches my attention, and I am gripped by a need to know things that actually have nothing to do with my life. I referenced it a while back as being a desire to see both sides of a story before making up my own mind. That sounds terribly fair-minded of me, but I'm really not sure that's accurate. What it comes down to is this: my favorite dog breeds tend to run towards terriers, and there is no coincidence in that. I like tenacity in people, I tend to like it in animals too.

In other words, watch it when I get a hold of a bone, because I may not stop until such time as you wish to brain me with something heavy, only stopping when you are absolutely certain I've lost the ability to bring up the subject ever, again.

I know this about myself and sometimes, not often but sometimes, I will endeavor to stop myself when I find that I am teetering on that abyss. It's always something small that catches my attention. A doctored portrait, the mention of the role of early feminism in children's literature, or a line in a movie that contradicts something I already know.

Such was the case with Julie and Julia. See? There's no telling what the subject matter will be. Pop-culture, recorded history, people suffering the misery attendant to marrying someone they never loved; just something that catches me. In the aforementioned movie, I wondered why Nora Ephron and company weren't telling the level truth about Julia Child's reaction to Julie Powell's blog.

It bugged me that I somehow knew, through something I'd read, and forgotten the source on, that Child hadn't really been focused on the profanity in Powell's blog. Julia Child had not really gotten herself in a twist over flying F-bombs. No, somewhere in the recesses of my brain existed the knowledge that Julia Child had thought Powell did not love cooking. That she took no joy in food. That she was an opportunist who pulled a stunt, for attention, for fame, and that she had dragged Julia Child into the mix. Oh, and she wasn't thrilled that Julie Powell swore with wild abandon, either.

So it nettled me, and I wasn't sure why. I came home, I found the material that had led me to believe this in the first place, and I was right there, about to take the leap, about to do my regular swan dive into whatever inane thing had caught my attention when I clicked a link that brought me up short.

It was an interview with Julie Powell about her second book called Cleaving. The interview said it detailed her apprenticeship with a butcher, and her two year long extra-marital affair following the publication of her book. That little burning need to know was extinguished almost immediately, but for a weird reason, it wasn't revulsion, it was that it became screamingly clear at that moment that I had no clue what I was about to get myself into, and I was pretty sure that I simply didn't want to know more.

Which makes it sort of a pity that my son gave me a copy of the movie for Christmas. I watched it and was bugged again. Why hadn't the movie just dealt with it? It was a straightforward enough thing. Not addressing it just mystified me because I didn't believe Powell simply was an opportunist. I read a bit of her blog, after being told by a friend that I would love her sense of humor. I actually didn't, it's a little too close to my own brand of humor for me to find it particularly funny. I don't sit around endlessly cracking myself up, and the similarities in phrasing meant the Powell was unlikely to reduce me to a giggling pile.

So I listened to the commentary.

A word about that: Don't do it. I am the sort of movie and TV geek who listens to commentary. Lighting, camera angles, back stage difficulties, the writing process; I love it all. However, Nora Ephron should be legally banned from doing commentary because she has an almost fatal failing in doing it. She continually forgets that she's actually supposed to be speaking, and filling in details. There are long periods of time where, basically, you'd be sitting there watching a Nora Ephron film right along with Nora Ephron, and whereas you might start musing about the neat time-activity-parrallels, you aren't going to learn much. Unless you actually give a hang that the suitcase seen in the film belonged to the real Paul Child. Now that's the kind of stuff I groove on but I learned exactly two things of that nature in the course of the entire film. When Ephron uncorks it and actually remembers to speak? It's fun.

And then she got to the part about Julia Child's reaction to Powell's blog and, as luck would have it, said the only fascinating thing she said in the entirety of that commentary: She knew about Child's reaction, of what, and why her complaint was comprised and Nora Ephron quite simply decided that Julia Child would have changed her mind.

Well, that was me hosed. I had to know why, because learning that Powell had used her own affair to try and sell more books had not disabused me of the notion, that's for sure.

I read Powell's archived blog, and her book based upon that blog. I should have stopped there. I had my answer, after all. I agreed with Nora Ephron, it is likely that had Julia Child lived a few more years, and read Powell's first book, she would have changed her mind. Stunt or not, Powell had real affection for Julia Child, and whereas Julia might have been right about Powell having no true respect for food, she likely would have understood the quest to find something of her own. Something she was good at, something to ground her in her life, and provide purpose for her.

As I often do when considering a book, I go to Amazon and check the reviews of that book. I did so with a fair amount of trepidation because, no matter from which angle you view it, the subject matter of Cleaving is deeply uncomfortable. Not just the marital shenanigans, but the subject of butchery.

I really don't recommend perusing those reviews unless you want to be exposed to every negative descriptor that can be leveled at a person. Words like "despicable" as well as every known synonym for prostitute, or a woman of low moral standards were just flying free and loose in there.

I think that was the moment I decided I'd better read Cleaving before making up my own mind. It is one of the stranger books I've ever read. Beyond the skin-crawling subject matter of much of the book, it's not well-written. It lacks any cohesion, with long descriptions of the butchering trade, contrasted with the destruction Julie Powell brought down on her own life. Then, bizarrely, there are recipes simply inserted willy-nilly and in the final chapters of the book, Powell takes off traveling and tries to provide a humorous travel log. Nothing in the book works well, and for anyone that cooks, it's easy to spot that even the recipes are rather suspect.

I think it would be easy to say that Powell's self-depricating sense of humor turned on its ear, and that the book is about self-debasement. Possibly an act of contrition, or atonement. Powell doesn't defend her actions, if anything she sounds rather disgusted with herself. Yet, the other inescapable part is that she is seeking to profit from this often lurid tale. She's complicated, and frequently the architect of her own misery. She seems to understand this about herself, that she took the opportunities afforded to her, and proceeded to wreak havoc within her own life. Powell eventually finds her way back to her husband, and he to her but only after he has had his own longterm affair.

The situation is not remarkable, or unusual, but the choice in writing about it is on both fronts. Julie Powell's next book was going to sell, no matter what she chose to write about.

I said I like tenacity both in people and in animals, but this willful self-destruction is a form of tenacity that left me confused. Somewhere inside of us all exists the memory, the knowledge of the least admirable thing we've ever done. When we're being honest with ourselves, even the best people have something they regret, something for which they would like to atone.

I'm not sure that is what Powell was trying to do, but I do think there was an element of that in it.

Nora Ephron sounded sadly thoughtful when she said Julia Child would have changed her mind about Julie Powell. I think I understand why now.

This isn't really a book review. When I set out to find out more about something that caught my attention, whenever I do that, I am doing so to try and understand a situation.

I think I have that in common with Julie Powell. Cleaving seems to be about Powell's desperate quest to understand her own actions. That the book is a confusing mess of a thing is not surprising as the subject matter certainly indicates that's going to be the end result. So I have trying to understand in common with Powell, and thankfully, that's all I have in common with her.

On the day I finished reading Cleaving, I went to Powell's active blog and read the entry for that day. The entry was about her dog dying. Just an everyday event in a life. She talked about her reaction, and her husband's reaction to losing their treasured friend. Something to which most of us can relate. Something easy to understand. Loss, pain, love.

It was oddly fitting as an end cap to the strange experience of reading Powell's self-dissection. Most reviews of Powell's second book contain the words "more mature" which I found amusing. Julie Powell's flailing journey through butchery, infidelity and trying to understand herself seems anything but to me.

Sometimes it is better not to know.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

137 Pounds of Stink

The above does not refer to me, by the way. For one thing I weigh 131.5 lbs (curse, curse, swear, swear), and for another, I'm one of those people who thinks themselves ill-done to if I don't have a huge array of nice smelling bath products that I can use frequently. No, the stinking poundage refers to an investment of sorts. Let's begin:

Many years ago my husband, one of those people who thinks mountain biking a completely reasonable activity to undertake, because sweating in the merciless sun over rough terrain strikes him as fun, hit a patch of brush up in the high country. He was out with a group of friends and here is what they saw: My husband, scooting down a trail, astride his trusty bike, arms rigidly locked in place to absorb the shock of the many rocks, and the uneven quality of the ground, approaching a cliff. Then he appeared to attempt a motor-cross style stunt by performing a flying headstand on his handlebars, before disappearing from sight, over a cliff.

I'm told this was terribly unsettling to witness, and I'll just say, jeez, ya think? So, his friends rushed to the cliff, peered over it with a mixture of horror and nausea, where they spied my husband splayed out on a handy bush that had broken his fall, his bike at least thirty feet below, and his posture indicating that he had a few structural problems with which to contend.

My husband, upon realizing that miraculously he wasn't as dead as he thought he would be, stared back at them, his right arm at a crazy angle, and pinned partially beneath his body. He gingerly attempted to move, and his shoulder let out a sound that actually caused an echoing pop in the mountains, as the dislocated bone snapped merrily back into place. Evidently, at this time, he invented no less than four new swear words. I'm guessing it sort of hurt.

I am a mass of injuries long healed also, which is part of the reason I get to wave at my husband vaguely, with admonishments to don sunscreen as he heads off on his adventures, and I read in peace, wondering why I married such a lunatic but content with the fact that I am never expected to undertake these journeys myself. Oh happy healed, broken bones, I knew they were good for something.

However, the incident with the fortuitously placed bush, and my own long healed injuries from a car accident meant that as we both reached the summit of forty and beyond, we became achey, as a couple. It's good to do things together, I'm told. On the average morning it sounds like two twin Operatic Baritones are warming up as we attempt to rise from bed on a chilly January morning. We were also both doing a mean Tasmanian Devil impersonation in the dead of night, as we individually whirled around, trying to achieve new positions with less pressure on sore joints.

As a result neither of us were getting much sleep, and you know what you don't want to add to the stress of everyday life? A guarantee of some sleep deprivation-induced surliness in addition to whatever problems the gods of fate decide to hurl at your heads.

We used the excuse of our wedding anniversary, something for which we rarely buy each other extravagant gifts, to plunk down enough cash for a Tempur-pedic mattress. The amount was not insubstantial, but hey, ninety day money back guarantee, and an aura of desperation regarding the need to get some rest, convinced us both that it was an investment well made, and so we did.

Now, as it happens, I've been fortunate enough to learn from the mistakes of others when it came to this particular mattress. The space-foam mattress, some call it. Ten years ago a friend, with a bone depletion problem, decided to splurge on one as she battled her own aches and pains. In an effort to save money, she decided to forgo a box spring of any kind. She was also budget minded enough (read: broke) to decide that the mattress would be fine on the floor of the basement bedroom she had at the time.

She informed me that the thing was punishingly firm for the first few weeks, so I knew there would be a break-in period. Whatever else she might have eventually gleaned from her time with the foam thing was lost to those gods of fate. The water heater in her basement broke, flooding the area.

In case you were wondering, those beds make really efficient sponges. The water damage to her basement was minimal, thanks to the kindness of the bed she'd splurged upon helpfully soaking up every drop of moisture with which it came in contact. It took two weeks for the thing to dry out enough to make moving its water-logged foaminess to the dumpster even remotely possible, because we will be well into the next century before it dries.

So I knew two things: At first it will be an unyielding brick and, for the love of all things merciful, don't have one of those things near a source of water unless you decide you hate it enough to essentially water-board the thing.

No one told me about the smell though. My mother has an off-brand version, she didn't mention, "Oh, and you'll likely die from malodorous quality of this, dearheart, before you ever feel its benefits." Terrifyingly, this is exactly how my mother speaks, explains a lot about me, doesn't it? My friend with the giant plumbing-sponge-disaster didn't mention that a funk would arise from it that was practically visible. The salesman, rather understandably didn't bother to outline that feature. The specimens in the mattress-store had long since aired out enough that there was no smell of latex, or petroleum, or space related science experiments, or whatever the heck that smell might be.

He did, however, mention a break-in period in which I was encouraged to "walk up and down it, bounce, break in the cells". Okay then. Super-sponge, unyielding brick, at an ungodly price evidently has cells that must be expanded. That salesman is the person who I will blame when I inevitably am plagued by nightmares in which my bed consumes me whole. Then burps with satisfaction, in keeping with the cartoon theme, I suppose.

We've had it for three weeks. Luckily, we have spare bedrooms, and we evacuated there the first night when, as it was unwrapped by helpful, and god-awful loud, installation experts the smell began to waft out. It isn't exactly a bad smell. This is not the smell of redolent death, it's just a funky, chemical, rubbery smell that you wouldn't want to roll around on for eight hours per night. We closed all the heating vents in the room, threw open the windows, cast a terrifed look at the three thousand dollar brick of stink, and fled. I am assured that this brick weighs precisely 137 lbs, by the way. Trust me, it produces enough smell for six 137 lbs mattresses.

The next morning the smell had crept out from underneath our master bedroom door, and had reached the landing of the stairs. Every day we would check it, everyday the smell seemed to air out a bit more. Why, it took less than a week for us to be able to stand within mere feet of our extravagant anniversary gift, and eye it with increasing alarm.

By the end of the week, I could even stand to be on it long enough to flop around, trying desperately to "break in the cells" while breathing through my mouth, and quietly cursing. My husband, braver than I, and with a lesser sense of smell, took the plunge and began sleeping on it at the end of that week. I continued to huddle in the guest room. Eventually I girded up my loins enough to join my husband in trying to "expand the cells". This particular quote from the salesman fascinates me, what a lovely euphemism for "squish out the smell as much as you can so that they may someday quit reeking" (implied: sucker!).

The good news is that you really don't feel it when your partner turns over in one of these beds. You are less likely to awake because of various pains causing you to shift.

The bad news is that it still has a distinct odor. Long gone is my habit of gently easing out of bed in the morning. Now I spring up and dash towards the shower, intent upon scrubbing the scent of our wild indulgence from my person. It is lessening, and since we did insist upon the ninety day free trial, I'm not too concerned. The blessed thing has exactly 60 days to stop releasing a poof of stink each time we roll over.

I'm mentioning this because nearly every person I know at some point has wistfully contemplated a Tempur-pedic mattress. They are the most expensive, so it then follows, in our consumerist society that they are assumed to be the best. It is comfortable, and the smell is decreasing (that or my sense of smell is dying, inch by inch which I don't entirely discount as a possibility).

A handy internet search with the words "Tempur-pedic fumes" provided the information that I was far from alone in being alarmed as hell by the thousands of dollars I spent to to perfume my house in a manner reminiscent of the La Brea Tar Pits.

Let this serve as fair warning to those of you contemplating your own splurge into, what marketing assures us will be, a restful night's sleep. You may eventually achieve just that, but be prepared for the need to let the bloody thing air. Also, whatever you do, don't let them "remove your old mattress" which the installation techs will happily offer to do.

You're going to need old reliable and springy until such time as you can stand the smell of your new fangled, brick-like, handy dandy, thousands of dollars worth of sponge.

It comes with free pillows, by the way, made from the same material. They too, smell like a product of Exxon, and are firm enough that you could use them as weapons in the event of a home invasion. Whee.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Freedom of Flight and Sunflowers

For quite a while I've been meaning to tell a story, a true story, about a little girl who loved sunflowers best of all. I need to tell the story so that I am not the only person who knows it. I think you'll understand that a bit more when I tell the rest of the tale.

Airplanes are funny things. When we are on one, it is best not to think too much about the act of flight. Even if you understand the physics and engineering behind an aircraft, there is something rather magical about a metal tube, moving through the air, carrying us as cargo from one point to another. From the moment we leave the ground, until we touch down again, we have primarily placed our fate in the hands of others, and may they be capable of delivering us safely. There is little we can do to impact the outcome, we are free from responsibility to the determination of whether things will be all right, in the end. It's oddly freeing, our lives are full of responsibilities, our choices have weight. In flight, we are rather weightless, awaiting the outcome.

Fifteen years ago, on a flight to Orlando, with a change over in Dallas, I sat next to a very elderly couple. Like most travelers, I was armed with a book, something to do, something with which to ward off conversations we don't wish to have, if need be. Although I often tell stories of what a flake I can be, the fact of the matter is I'm a rather coolly capable sort of person. Good head in an emergency, and hard to shock. I'm also willing to converse with strangers, because people interest me. Truly, and without pretense, I'm often very interested in the lives of others. I'm not good at surface conversations, but I do love a good long, revealing talk.

I exchanged pleasantries with the couple, and did the polite thing, asked where they were bound, etc. These weren't outwardly happy, outgoing people, but neither were they ill-tempered. The man was farther away, at the window, and seemed absorbed in his own world. His face was dotted with bandaids, it looked as if he'd likely had some patches of skin cancer removed. I don't remember what led up to the moment, not really. I was doing the courteous, interested thing, but I like to hear people's stories, so my interest was real.

"Do you have any children?" I asked, and was told that yes, there was a son. A forty-year-old accountant, in Philly. I've no idea why that sticks in my head, but it does. There was a quality to the silence that followed, something else was there. A feeling of disappointment hung in the air.

I've never been gifted with a poker face. I'm positive that I must have done something at that moment, glanced pointedly, with an air of inquiry; something. Nothing followed though, and I was about to let the conversation drop, about to open my book and insulate us both from the need to continue when the woman next to me cleared her throat slightly:

"I had a daughter," she said tentatively. "I had a daughter too, but she died when she was eight."

I closed the book, half-turned in my seat towards the woman and nodded, "Oh, I'm sorry." I'm sure that in my tone was the expression of empathy. I put the book down on my lap and continued, "What was she like?"

There is something about the freedom of flight. The rules are different in the air. Sometimes we confide in strangers, sometimes was are confided in. For the next hour, this woman, this woman with an odd, wary quality about her at first, but only at first, told me about Sandy. An eight-year-old little girl who died long before I was even born.

She loved Sunflowers and on her last birthday party, her mother sewed her a dress with Sunflowers on the material. Baked her a cake with buttercream icing, and lemonade was made, and enjoyed on a sunny day. Sandy had a kitten she loved tremendously, too and she was a bright spirit. Liked to sing, all the time, her mother told me. She would hear her voice as she did housework, and that was hardest of all after Sandy was gone. The silence where there had once been a voice.

Every now and then, when someone tells you about someone they love, you will see that love so clearly, it is as if you are sharing in it. This woman, who had seemed so guarded at first, a little wary of the much younger woman beside her, dropped all barriers, and the love she felt for her long dead daughter was right there, in the plane with us.

It was a wonderful conversation, full of stories about children's books and favorite dolls. Treasured memories, shared with a stranger. Swing sets, and a garden.

Eventually the plane landed in Dallas, a bit delayed. Over the loud speaker the captain's voice asked that all passengers remain seated, and that people who needed to catch a connecting flight be allowed disembark first. I was one of those passengers. I rose to my feet, and grabbed my bag from the overhead bin, preparing to go. My hand was resting on the back of the seat, and my seat mate stood, and place her hand over mine giving it a squeeze.

"I haven't talked to anyone about my daughter in thirty years," She began, and I was slightly alarmed to see that she had tears in her eyes. "Thank you so much."

I was almost stunned into silence for a moment, because I was absolutely sure she was being literal. I'm positive she had told people in the years prior to that, that she had lost a daughter, but it was very clear, I was the first person she had talked to about her at any length in all that time.

"It was my pleasure, thank you for telling me about her," passengers were beginning to file out, it was time for me to go, "I won't forget her."

I never have. Every time I see a Sunflower, I think of that woman, and I think of Sandy, in her dress, drinking lemonade at the last birthday party she would ever have. Every time I see a Sunflower, Sandy lives in my memory.

As I rushed to catch my plane, I wondered why, why would this woman have told me so fully about her daughter? There is nothing particularly remarkable about me, I possess no secrets to the souls of others. I wield no magic. So why? Why did she tell me? I was honored, please don't get me wrong, I am to this day honored that someone would give me their most precious memory in such a manner, trust me so with something so delicate and fragile for them.

I don't remember who I sat next to on the plane to Orlando. I was still busy wondering but by the time the plane touched down in Florida, I knew.

Ask me how Sandy died, and I will not be able to tell you. I have suspicions, mind you. Her mother talked about Sandy being inside a great deal, not being able to play outside towards the end. If I've got my timelines right, Polio is a very likely suspect.

You see, I never asked how she had died. Or what had happened to her. I asked what she was like. That's what unlocked the memory for that woman, why she took out her most protected memories. By the time I met that woman, her daughter's death was something she had been asked about countless times. She didn't want to talk about how Sandy had died; she wanted to talk about how Sandy had lived.

The rules of flight are different, and perhaps best left unquestioned. I love a little girl named Sandy every time I think of Sunflowers. A stranger, probably no longer with us, shared her with me on a plane, long ago. Not because there is anything special about me, but because she loved her daughter so, and I asked what she was like.

I've always loved Sunflowers since, because they bring a little girl back to life, simply by remembering her.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

The Occupation

On the day, that cannot be too far in the offing, that I lose my mind entirely, I'm likely to take out all the pigeons with me. Fair warning to the avian world. Yes, Fwup the, at least, 48th still does his very best to taunt me into madness. Fwup is a pigeon, an entirely deranged pigeon, named thus because the sound he/she/they make in flight sounds remarkably like "fwup, fwup, fwup".

"Oh ho! The neighbor's got a gun." My husband chortled.

Now this is normally bad news, you will agree. An armed neighbor running about the area is a sign of badness to come, no doubt. Only the neighbor had with him only an air rifle, and the good news was that my sanity had held out longer than his. He strode into the middle of the street, and took aim at a group of about thirty pigeons.

"Oh crap," I said ineloquently, "we can't just let him start shooting them."

The war has been long. We've purchased every bird dissuading product known to man at this point. To the extent that my UPS driver finally decided that I was worth meeting by the time we ordered a wooden hawk.

"Bird problem?" He asked, laughing as he handed over a package with the words The Hunter emblazoned right next to a picture of a truly goofy looking faux-hawk.

I allowed that, indeed, we were somewhat plagued by pigeons.

"You and everyone else here," the driver lingered for a moment, "everyone around here orders this stuff. What gives?"

I explained that our problem was that in this particular suburb, there are no outdoor cats. It's a rule and it's actually a very good rule, as we aren't far from the foothills and have various predators that frequent the area, mostly from the sky. One wonders why they eschew the freaking pigeons, but the pigeons thrive in what is, to them, a haven.

They weren't fooled by the Faux-Hawk, by the way. All of my gutters have a sticky substance adhered to them, guaranteed to make it uncomfortable for birds to roost. They apparently step over the sticky stuff. At this point I'd have to live in a giant ball of adherent goo to persuade them to zark off, and all that would really do is send them flapping to the neighbors, which is precisely what happened when we called the pest control company. They flew an entire twenty feet away, and expressed their outrage with a chorus of coos that was actually worse than the nesting.

We live in occupied territory, and the neighbor had cracked first. He stood in the middle of the street, staging his resistance. Before I could make up my mind as to how to delicately approach the subject, my neighbor was joined by people from the adjoining houses, lining up to take a shot. Relieved to see that all they were doing was firing above the heads of the pigeons, in a desperate plea for some peace and quiet, I joined my husband in laughing. One man pivoted and aimed at the top of our house. We waved.

We've all lost large chunks of our sanity to Fwup and Friends. The air was filled with the sound of outraged pigeons departing, but they would be back, oh yes, they would be back. I am somewhat resigned to my fate, but on the inevitable day that I go berserk? I'm likely to be out there shaking a fist at the sky, too.

Also, my fridge pulled a Lazarus when the repair technician came. "I can't find anything wrong with it."

It sits empty, with a cup of water in the freezer, frozen solid. Mocking me with its functionality.

So, amidst fridges that rise from the grave, and neighbors reaching the end of their tethers, I was particularly heartened to see that Kyle, a lovely man over at Out Left had nominated me for something called a Kreativ Blogger award.

At this point, I must apologize to Kathryn, who nominated me a while back, but as I didn't realize I was meant to do anything with it? I failed to do anything other than say, "Thank You." My apologies for being remiss. Here is what I am to do, and since I think it is is a fun way to share some creative, and funny blogs you may, or may not know about, I'm not letting down the team this time!

Plus, it takes my mind off the infernal cooing. Here is what I am to do. I'm to tell you something about the person who nominated me:

Kyle is one of the most dedicated liberals I've ever found. His blog does a fantastic roundup of every liberal news piece imaginable. He links to and discusses all issues dear to liberal hearts (which is only one of the reasons I think he's great) and he's a champion of both Marriage Equality, and Gay rights the world over. He's also a friend to animals, a supporter of animal rights, and a champion of the environment.

Yes, yes, I'm a liberal. I'm assuming that is generally apparent, but if by some chance you didn't know? Now you do.

The other thing I get to do is nominate seven blogs in my own turn, with a brief description of why these people are so very worth your time, if by some chance you haven't discovered them. Then I am to let them know, and finally tell you seven things about myself you may not know. Let's wing our way towards this, shall we?

The B in Subtle is one of the blogs I follow, and with good reason. B is a gifted writer, with a gentle spirit and a good sense of humor. She's in Canada, a single mother who adores her young son, and you will too through her writing. She's also a very good photographer, and I was very lucky the day I stumbled across her.

This is is Frances' blog called Fairy Lanterns. I'm always in awe of people who create visual arts. I can't draw a convincing stick figure, but Frances brings a magical world to life with her tremendous talents. Honestly, you'll remember what it is like to be a child, believing all things beautiful are possible through her gifts.

I pause here to mention that I had a friend recently tease me, "Are you collecting Canadians? If so, what do you plan to do with them?" I'm enjoying them mightily, that's what.

This is ds at Third Storey Window. It's very clear that ds has a tremendous love of books, and language. Do you remember the best read you ever experienced? Where you couldn't put down a book until sleep forced you to do so? Then you slept only long enough to be able to have the energy to finish that book? ds will make you remember that feeling. Almost everyone I know loves words, and language, but ds makes me remember exactly why that is.

I'm always finding that I admire the ability to create tremendously. Most things are beyond my personal talents, and sewing is one of them. Jennifer at Pasquali Rumpus could likely sew a getaway car if you're ever in need of one. She's also a dab hand with a camera. Beyond all that? A lovely person.

I just found this blog last week, Life in the Expat Lane. Have you ever felt a yen to leave your country of origin, and experience life elsewhere, but your life circumstances didn't support that? If that's the case, this blog will take you around the world, from a seated position at your computer. I spent time with Armenian Bees last week, thanks to this blogger. She makes the world both larger, and more inclusive, at once.

This is Cricket, from Cricket and Porcupine. Again, another person who possesses the gift of creating visual art, but also writes exceptionally well. I'm hoping like mad that Cricket doesn't share Sol's penchant for roasting anyone who nominates him for a blog award of any kind, but I've got a suit of armor at the ready, just in case. Cricket's got a rare sense of humor, and deep ties to faith. I'm not religious myself, but Faith is one of Cricket's favorite subjects. The kindness, decency and love that is meant to be at the center of a belief system is something he focuses upon. I have a thing about valuing kindness, in case you've never noticed, and Cricket does but has that lovely, sharp sense of humor to go with it.

Amy, from Miscellany is quite simply one of my favorite people in the blogosphere. We encountered each other early on in my time in the blogs, and as Anne of Green Gables would say, we are kindred spirits. What makes that remarkable, and one of the neater things about blogs and the internet in general, is that Amy and I are at different stages of our lives. She's welcomed her first grandchild, I'm still trying to get my one child through college. Yet a difference in age makes no difference when there is that spark of recognition between people. I told my husband not long after we started conversing in comment sections that she's a person who if I knew her in life, we'd probably never stop talking about all manner of things. Not being present in each other's lives hasn't actually proved a barrier to that.

Finally, this is Gary from Gary's Third Pottery Blog. He's wonderfully nuts, and will take you on adventures with George, a sock monkey with an outrageous accent. He's also an insanely talented potter (I hope that's the correct term). Yet another person who spends his days creating, and sharing the results.

Now, what next? Seven things about me that you may not know:

1. I'm from the East Coast but don't have an East Coast accent. The reason for this is my mother is from the UK, my father was a Southerner. Really, it's something of a miracle I can speak in an understandable fashion at all. Every now and then I'll say a particular word and it will come out with a decided tang of places I've never lived.

2. If you have any plants, for heavens sake, don't ask me to house sit for you. Just being in my general vicinity seems to discourage them from living.

3. My cat has no name. Actually, he has about 300 of them. We call him a huge variety of things, often ending with "McGee". Such as "Tearing Down the House, Insane McGee. We meet again."

4. I frequently make a declaration of resignation from cooking altogether. My husband and son are quite used to it. Every few months I'll announce that I'm done cooking for a while, and it's sandwiches aplenty during those times. It was the only way I could combat the fact that whereas everyone in this house eats, I'm the only one who cooks well. Rather than be turned permanently into the chief cook and bottle washer, I have embraced the work stoppage. My husband and son support me in this.

5. When I was much younger, I would have described myself as conservative. This has solely to do with the fact that I'm uncomfortable in low-cut tops.

6. My husband almost never calls me by my name. We call each other nicknames for the most part. It always sounds odd to me when he uses my first name, and I once told him, "Stop that. You'll make me think you're having an affair."

7. There's an icon associated with this and I'll be over here losing large amounts of hair as I try to copy the darned thing. Wish me luck.

I also need to let anyone I nominated know that they have been nominated which I will do when I am done swearing at the icon. This could take time. (I eventually did conquer, but I had to switch from my relatively new Mac, to my PC to get it done, go figure)