‎"...a little 'trouty', but quite good" ~ Eve Kendall, North By Northwest

Thursday, December 31, 2009

how Chris Brogan taught me to use my phone

Just a little warning: I had 3.5 hours of sleep last night and I woke up this morning all wide-eyed, with a teenager crush on the world. What I'm saying is, beware of majestically long sentences with rainbows and sugar sprinkles popping out of them.

At one point last night I was standing in the wings watching a Clutch show, and Chris Brogan taught me how to use my Droid.

It all started a couple years ago when I begged a mutual friend to ask Lindsay Maines if I could interview her husband. Lindsay did a quick Google background check on me, found that I was absolutely not to be trusted and we've been friends ever since.

Now I know the last two paragraphs are all linky-linky name droppy and all, but seriously, I don't know anybody. I am a shy little hermit. How I end up in these situations is completely beyond me. It seems the simple smallness of the world does all the work and sometimes it's just a matter of showing up.

Last night, we showed up.

I must here admit that I had the giggles almost all day yesterday. We, the Trouts, were going to see, ON PURPOSE, four hard core bands - a significant switch from the tea-and-crumpety pace life has taken lately.

This is fine for me because although I am an old and persnickety owner of chickens/knitter of felted squid/would-be player of mah jong if someone would teach me, I have a history of rock shows.

Chris, on the other hand, is just plain persnickety.

We spent most of the show in the balcony, staring saucer-eyed at the mosh pit. Have you looked at a mosh pit from above? It bears a striking resemblance to something you'd see on a microscope slide.

A few songs into the Clutch set, we met up with Lindsay (if you didn't click the link, her husband is the bass player), who scurried us back stage. And that's when things got surreal.

The next thing we know, Lindsay's heading back out to collect Chris Brogan (who I wrote about here). And the four of us head off to find a place to watch the show. On stage.

Standing in the wings, Chris Brogan and I both pull out our Droids for a picture. I notice the band is more glorious on his screen than mine so I poke around and discover that you can zoom with the Droid's camera. Wonder of wonders. Chris said he discovered it when he saw a guy at the Pixies show do the same thing.

Which means that not only are rock shows a business expense, they could probably be paid for out of the kids' 529 account.

So I basically went to a Droid workshop with a couple thousand of my closest friends (who were, I must say, pretty awesome as show crowds go). A few of those new friends we hope to keep forever and always. Because as tea and crumpety as we've become, we have an awful lot in common with people who love rock and roll.

For instance, we could all use a nap.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

Twas the morning of Christmas
And all through the house
Not a creature was stirring
Except for the mouse
Which is in the Havahart trap.

It should have heeded socio-traditional advice.

I think our kids are broken. It's almost 7am and neither is stirring. I wish they would wake up because I really would like to open my presents and it just doesn't look good for the kids to find their parents all squealey under the tree with ripped paper in their hair.

On another note, we saw Santa last night. He dropped by a party we went to and gave a little gift to each child. We have a picture of our kids sitting in his lap. Which is a Christmas Miracle.

We have this picture because Sugarplum and Studley knew that Santa was our Upstairs Neighbor. Otherwise I would have a picture of Santa, alone, with the sound of screaming just out of the frame. I have lots of those pictures.

It went better with Mrs. Claus when we had breakfast with her a few weeks ago. Sugarplum thanked her for all the gift-wrapping, since she had observed that Mrs. Claus probably did it all.

"Actually, we have elves for that," Mrs. Claus answered.


The kids woke up and we opened our stockings. Chris has been looking disparagingly at my awesome pile of loot, as if I had anything to do with his behavior over the last year. Can I help it if Santa thought I should have an entire box of dark chocolate covered almonds with sea salt and turbinado sugar? Santa knows how awful I am capable of being and was probably very relieved at the way things turned out this year.

We're taking a little break to brush our teeth with new toothbrushes, play with Studley's Cootie Bug and to say hello to our friends.


We wish you a very merry Christmas (or a happy Friday). May you get a pony.

the Trouts

Saturday, December 19, 2009

happy blizzard!

Can someone tell me why kids are so frantic to go play in snow?

It's barely light out, yet something primal woke them from sound sleeps and marched them to the slider in awe. Note: In this part of the world we call sliding glass doors "sliders."* I am not from this part of the world.

I am from a snowier part of the world. We made snow caves and snow angels. All winter there was snow snow snow snow snow. My mother, who was not from that part of the world, was fond of noting that our town often looked like a Christmas card. It was true.

I, too, woke up early to enjoy the snow. This is what I do to enjoy the snow: Make coffee, look out windows, enjoy the quiet.

I like going out in the snow if it involves reaching a warm destination which serves food. I like going out in the snow when I am properly equipped and no particle of actual snow touches my actual body. Frankly, I cannot believe I survived my childhood.

The chickens, for the record, stand with me on this point. Did you know that chickens are quite expressive? Right now they have "this is not remotely funny" written all over their faces.

Meanwhile, the kids have made so many snow angels they are eliminating the need to shovel.

And I'm making more coffee.

Which I'll share with the chickens.

(child labor)

*In this part of the world, liquor stores are called package stores. Officially. So yesterday everyone was "off to the packie" in preparation for the storm. I love New England.

a career on ESPN

We had breakfast at Hole in One this morning. It's a donut shop. GET IT?!?! Hole in One?

On our way out, Sugarplum asked about the name and why they had golf clubs on their sign.

Me: Sugarplum, do you know what a hole in one is?
Me: Like in mini-golf?
Sugarplum: Yes! when you hit the ball and you get a goal without hitting it again. But it's much harder on a REAL soccer field.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

you'll get a live mouse for Christmas and like it. so there.

I think it's because our television is really awkward to get to. And once you get to it, there are no comfortable chairs. And it's drafty.

That seems the only explanation for why Christmas has become something altogether different around here. The people telling us what to do and how to feel are musicians. And lord knows they are a bizarre lot.

We have seriously been spending all our time going from party to fundraiser to charity rock gig to reckless celebration of all that's right with the season. We have not been shopping. We're not sure what we're supposed to shop for. But we do know we should send some cash over to the NOAH shelter and we should help underwrite a couple of radio shows we dig and make some woolies for women and kids or warm up those who are not loving the winter so much. We know this because instead of sitting in an uncomfortable chair, in a drafty room, watching tv, we've been hanging with our friends.

I know, I'm getting preachy.

But dagnabit, Christmas is not about getting a Lexus. And it's not about getting in a twist if you don't get a Lexus.

So I think I'm making everyone dorky little presents this Christmas, and contributing to some local organizations with what's left over. Maybe I'll make pipecleaner reindeer antlers and make some of these mice into Christmas gifts, if people are really lucky.

And yes, there's a big package on its way here from Amazon because we do not sleep on beds of nails and transcend all human desires. If we know someone really could use something, we try to get it for them. Also I ordered myself a new phone to take the pressure off.

But there's a balance.

Amazon doesn't sell the life we want. It just sells things to make our lives look like the lives we want.

Frankly, I'd rather have a life.

(I forgot to mention all the people who gave their time and talents to the "Christmas Miracle" cd. 22 tracks, one weekend. Benefits Fragile Footprints @ Jordan Hospital. Puts things in perspective, no?)

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Why my house looks so splendid

We had our annual Trout Towers Christmas Sing last night. It rocked. Friends came and played guitar, piano and saxophone. Choirs of angels did their thing. Chef/caterer friends took pity on my guests, saving them from my Cheez Whiz Surprise.

You are probably wondering how I got my house looking so terrific when all I do is sit around and Tweet. Wonder no more, I'm reposting my tips for party preparation. Et voila.

Since I am obviously so adept at this, I thought I'd share some of my tips so you too can enjoy your home during the holidays and beyond. Many of my tips won't apply to you because you may not have a house like mine. The magazines I read often have lovely ideas for things like organizing one's 45 square foot pantry, so I don't see how usefulness factors in to good, quality writing.

I have titled it "Tidying Up" because it has nothing to do with actual cleaning. The cleaning part is really the least of one's worries and may be considered optional.

I will go room by room. I read a lot of magazines and that is the way it's done.

Bathroom. This is a bad place to start because people will insist on using it after you've tidied and completely destroy the ambiance you've created. We will revisit this room later.

Pantry. Pantry shelves with no doors in the middle of your kitchen/dining/living area pose the first problem. Resist the urge to take everything out, clean the shelves and put everything back by color, size and nutritional value. Save that for another day or for someone else to do.

Dig around in the back and find those jars of things that looked delicious but you can't figure out how to use. Dust them off and set them aside. Push everything else to the back of the shelf and line delicious-looking things neatly in front. Make sure things like Artificially Flavored Banana Pudding are stashed behind the matching jars of lentils, black beans and wheat berries. Repeat for each shelf.

Livingroom: Bookshelves are decorative - but such breeding ground for clutter! Go through all the shelves and remove socks, coffee mugs and the dog's brush from on top of the books. Many of these items will fit behind the books if you are careful. Also, moving books to the front of the shelf and keeping the spines in an even row gives the illusion of order. If you want to really go all out, organize books by subject - especially if you have lots of books on a particularly high brow subject. This makes it easier for guests to see what interesting people we are. I say "people" even if we are single because we always refer to ourselves in the plural when we are interesting, no?

Bathroom, a: If you have a powder room which is specifically for guests and does not have personal items on counters or in cupboards, skip to Bathroom, b. If you do not have a powder room, it's important to leave some personal items on the bathroom counter. This makes it look as though someone actually lives in the house and you are not squating in a model home with fake matresses. It may also satisfy the guests who are curious about your toiletries and ensure that you will not walk in to find someone sitting on your bathroom floor surrounded by the 16 rolls of toilet paper they had to remove in order to access your secret stash of 1970's cleaning products.

We once knew a general contractor who intentionally left things amiss for the building inspector to find. That way the building inspector didn't have to go looking for problems, potentially settling on a much bigger issue (like pulling up the foundation). Preparing your home for guests is no different.

While it is important to leave some things on your counter, it is acceptable to put away things like deodorant, lice combs and any secret products used to create your all-natural look which no one needs to know took 2 hours and 7 products to achieve. Organizing cupboard items is similar to arranging your pantry. Chose several products you don't use but would if you had time. Set aside. Push everything else farther to the back of the cupboard. Let's not kid ourselves here. It's already a jumbled mess in there, so just push. Place items removed from counter in as many gallon-sized ziplock bags as it takes and mingle bags with items in back for easy retrieval later. Place the items you've never used in front of everything else. Finally, set a time limit for how long people are allowed to stay in the bathroom.

Bathroom, b: If you have a powder room, lock the doors to all other bathrooms in the house.

General: Once you've hit the big trouble spots, consider your guest list. If there are any tall people coming, climb up on a stool and see if there's anything you don't want them noticing and reporting on later. Just last night I cleaned off the top of my refrigerator and believe me I slept better knowing that my extra smoke detector, last year's calender and pile of expired coupons would not be discussed on the car ride home. If there are toddlers coming, call the parents and tell them you have just fumigated for flying rats. There is just no way to trouble shoot effectively for a toddler, and they will probably pull a sock out from behind your books.

Finally, keep the lights low and you may be able to dispense with the cleaning part completely.

Good luck and happy entertaining!

Monday, December 7, 2009

I believe

I've been preparing myself for the time when Sugarplum and Studley ask me point blank if there's a Santa Claus.

I've prepared for this eventuality by treading lightly along the way. I am not (usually) the one who reminds them that Santa is watching and they will be SO HOSED on Christmas morning if they don't shape up. I don't tend to talk about Santa at all, really. I don't want to be called out for a big lie, no matter how goodwilled.

I try to neither deceive, nor undeceive. Especially the latter. Let it be known that I am not a spoil sport.

Still, there are questions.

Last year, our friend played Santa at a Christmas party. Someone spilled the beans, and the kids knew it was their friend behind the beard. Interestingly, it made Santa much more approachable. It was the first Christmas eve they didn't spend screaming their fool heads off while buried in my armpits.

That night, Studley explained to me that Santa needs helpers. Lots of helpers. This explains why one year, TWO Santas appeared at the same party. (One was drunk.)

This year, Sugarplum asked if she could give some of her toys to Santa, so kids who don't have much could get some extras. When my heart finished bursting with pride (that's a lie, it hasn't), I told her we could help Santa by dropping off the toys at one of our community outreach offices. Parents could pick up the toys and give them right to their kids. This would make us elves. And it would save us some shipping.

Sugarplum then began fretting about what happens to people who can't afford a Christmas tree. How will Santa know where to leave the presents?

I told her if Santa knows us well enough to give us a gift, he certainly knows where we'll go looking for it.

How does he do all this? Santa is legion. He starts as a whisper, and works his way into the loneliest places. He finds the forgotten. He doesn't need a tree, or plastic candy canes that blink or the fanciest lights on the block. He finds and cheers us, whatever state we're in. He does, however, like cookies.

This Christmas some friends of mine joined forces with We Can, and hosted Handmade for the Holidays. People were encouraged to knit mittens, hats, blankets, etc. for women and children in need. Did you know that there are over 20,000 single moms living under the poverty line on Cape Cod? Santa's got his work cut out for him.

It's a good thing he has lots of helpers - helpers who know about generosity and grace and joy and warmth.

Without them, Santa is nothing.

With them, Santa is the manifestation of kind-heartedness.

And you better believe I'm going to tell my kids that's real.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Ginger Lace Cookies

I'm feeling gifty. And cheap.

So I'm giving you my grandmother's recipe for Ginger Lace Cookies. If I can't fit in my clothes, nor should you.


Hazel's Ginger Lace Cookies

3/4 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar, plus more for rolling
1 egg
4T molasses
2 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. cinnamon
2 cups flour
2 tsp. baking soda

Beat together the butter and sugar, add the egg and the molasses. In a separate* bowl, mix the dry ingredients. Add them to the butter mixture.

Roll dough into small balls (about a tablespoon, aka superball-sized) and roll balls in sugar. Do not press down.

Bake at 375 for 10 minutes.

I'm taking a batch of these to Studley's Winter Festival at school, where he will sing Jingle Bells with eight of his short compatriots. If you are wondering what Christmas is all about, I'm pretty sure ginger cookies and singing 4 year olds factor in heavily.

*I can't write the word "separate" without thinking of A Separate Peace, on which I wrote a brilliant book report in high school. I did not receive an A+++ because I spelled "separate" wrong 40 quajillion times. Stupid word.

I can spell it now because of The Offspring: "you gotta keep 'em sep-a-rated."

I should teach English.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

an extra freebie post you'll wish you hadn't read

Whenever I have to change my clothes in the middle of the day, I envision my upstairs neighbor (the male one) coming around that end of the house and, feeling pranky, jumping up to scare the daylights out of me.

I can picture his face as he does this: All happy and funny and then all horrified and staggering.

He would either a) die himself dead or b) poke himself in both eyes with the nearest branch, screaming "gah! my retinas!"

I've taken to changing in the bathroom.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

in which I am all that

Chris went to a cd release party last night and I did not.

I did garner this quote, though:
"Chris, who only mastered the CD, was there ... and Susan, who is pretty much the embodiment of all that is musical and good on Cape Cod, was not. What the ???" -Bill O'Neill

Bill is a music writer who's been published in the Boston Globe, the London Sunday Times, CMJ New Music Monthly, the Harvard Independent and the National Enquirer. I am ripping up my resume and having that quote printed on a beer koozie.

He brings up a good point. What makes actually being INVOLVED in a project more important than sitting on one's couch thinking about how great the project is? That's like saying TURKEY is more important than GRAVY.

Which is totally us because, if I may be honest, I wouldn't be involved in the music community nearly so much if it weren't for Chris. I've had to roast him for YEARS to get to the gravy.

Although I didn't get to go to the party, I did make the coveted liner note cut. For which I am grateful. And a little boasty.

I have some thoughts on liner notes.

Young people who are credited in liner notes should be credited in a very small font so they and their peers can bask in the glory amongst themselves. The rest of us should be in 14 point.

Finding myself in the liner notes reminded me of scouring albums for mention of myself as a teenager. There were all these random names in the Special Thanks section, so it seemed reasonable that eventually mine had to show up. Besides, you never know when you'll discover, via liner notes, that Trent Reznor has a secret crush on you.

Which is probably going to happen once he gets ahold of one of my beer koozies.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

how many people can you cram in your kitchen?

I just read a Lifehacker thingy on figuring out how many people you can fit in your home for a party.

I was curious about it because we have this annual Christmas sing and I'm never sure how many people to invite. Our house is not big. The first year I invited twice as many people as I had chairs because, hello, it's about the dorkiest party ever and I was pretty sure no one would come. I was right.

But! The people who did come were freakishly enthusiastic because guess what? We have dorky friends. Who like to sing. So they asked us to have the party again the next year. They campaigned, actually. Because apparently no one else is dorky enough to host this particular sort of party.

I know this because I've been trying to get someone else to do it for years.

A woman I babysat for in high school had a Christmas sing at her house and it was the best part of the holiday. Cookies, decorations, music - what's not to like? I can't even sing. I've been angling for an invitation to a similar party ever since. Invitations have not been forthcoming.

Anyway. It's been going on a few years now and it seems I'm totally blowing the lifehacker calculation. I invited 75 people and then asked Chris to invite the people I forgot.

So... 5 feet times 75 guests equals... how big is 375 square feet? I can't picture it, but I think we'll have people sitting in the tub. Good thing Chris can rig speakers throughout the house.

The calculation should be altered for Christmas parties, I think, because there are so blasted many of them. Weirdly, people feel they should show up for their own office parties before they come to my singy thingy. WHATEVER.

It's okay. I'm not afraid.

It's December and our lives are full of eggnog and open houses and music music music (the noise noise noise noise).

Which is a lifehacker calculation all of its own.

Monday, November 30, 2009

if only we could giftwrap kindness

I'm cross-posting because my life and my work overlap kind of a lot. I wrote this for Left Bank Gallery this morning:

This is the time of year when we are not sure if we're heroes or villains.

Everything around us says "buy! buy! buy!" and if we are honest, we are saying it, too. It's the time of year when we are best able to get these beautiful things off the shelves and into homes. And pay the mortgage. We are idealistic and pragmatic. So in some ways, we are part of the Holiday Consumer Machine. The "show your love with stuff" machine.

We like to think of ourselves as more than just a cog, though. Or rather, we are a cog in a different kind of machine.

Last year we proudly supported the Handmade Pledge. It echoed much of our own reasoning - and gave good incentive for shopping at places like Left Bank. What's not to like?

To some extent, we also supported the No Buy campaign. Which might be considered self-defeating.

We say "no" to commercial gifts that an advertising mechanism says we need to buy. We say "no" to the "more is more" mentality and the culture of waste. We say "no" to being sold a bill of goods that benefits no one in the long term.

That said, we have no desire to shut down the whole gift-giving culture. Not only would we be shooting ourselves in the foot, but we like getting and giving presents just as much as the next guy. Giving makes us feel good. Helping other people give makes us feel good, too. We love finding the perfect gift instead of the panic gift.

Intentionally or unintentionally, we are all voting with our dollars this season. When you buy from a store that supports American craft, you are giving your money to people all over the country who spend their lives making things just a little more human. The medium AND the message are completely different from what we're being sold commercially.

It's probably obvious where our votes are being cast. And judging from the fact that you've read this far, we're probably preaching to the choir. (You sing beautifully, btw.)

Let's work together this year to bring joy, generosity and good will back into the spotlight. It's been overshadowed by profit for too long.

Let's be heroes.


(I write the Left Bank Gallery blog.)

Sunday, November 29, 2009

a deadline of one's own

Chris has been in overdrive lately. Which is good.

I have been left to take care of the kids and mother-in-law on my own. Which is bad.

It's not all bad, of course. We're in a groove mostly. But the kids had all last week off and oh my lord. It turns out I go a little nutty when I don't get a break.

So I stopped in for about 12 seconds to change my clothes between kid gigs today and in those 12 seconds I cataloged all the reasons I was going out of my mind and how not down with being a single mom I was. And then I went to a kid's birthday party before he could respond. Which may have worked out for him.

My phone rings while I'm at the party. It's Chris. He's gotten the kids a sitter so I can go to the gig he's working tonight. A gig I didn't know about.

That sitter may have saved his life.

So! I show up at the restaurant and the first 3 people I see are people I know and like and they all smile and wave and I think "OH NO! Did Chris plan a 'I'm sorry Susan's life is so stinky' flash mob?" Okay, there were only three people but Chris doesn't know how to use his phone very well.

It was not a flash moblette, as it turns out.

We had a nice evening gazing into each other's eyes and wondering what adults do on dates. He apologized for pushing me to the edge of sanity, saying "sometime you'll have a deadline and I'll be stuck with the kids for a week."

"Like when I go on my book tour?" I asked.


So now I have to write a book.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

visions of Sugarplum(s)

Sugarplum pushed a laundry basket out of her room, loaded with toys and games she had outgrown. "Can we send these to Santa," she asked, "so he can give extras to kids who don't have much?"

I told her we could take them right to Lower Cape Outreach or MassAppeal, and then kids who didn't have much could have them. It would be like we were being Santa's helpers. We would technically be elves.

I like being an elf.

Later that day....

Sugarplum: I know what I want for Christmas! I want an American Girl doll!

me: Really? And what will you do with your American Girl doll?

Sugarplum: I'll dress her and then change her clothes and....

(discarded doll appears in thought bubble over her head)

Sugarplum: Maybe I just want craft supplies.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


My MiL wants to make Blancmange (cornstarch pudding) with wine jelly (orange jello made with wine) for dessert. I don't mean to be rude, but OH HORK.

She's not making us eat wine jello tomorrow, for which I am grateful. As a result, "gratitude for invisible friends" has been ousted from the top position of the thankful hit parade.

But you're a close second.

On Thanksgiving, be sure to save room for pie. And know that I dig you a whole lot.

"When Good Things Happen to Bad Turkeys"
marker, tempera and feathers on paper
Studley Dooright, American
(shown courtesy of the Dooright estate)

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

second star to the right

This is a sun oven.

It's for "camping" which I think we all know is code for "Armageddon." I can't help but look at something like this and think how handy it would be in the End of Days. I'm not that skilled at cooking over an open fire, but I could do brownies in this.

I think we should get one, just to be on the safe side. Also a desalinization thingy, a biodiesel still and some solar chargers for our cell phones. We could store them next to the 5 gallon drums of rice and beans. We will be prepared. We will be ready. We will be....well honestly, we'll still be the gigantic sissies we are now and will probably have to hand over all our stuff to the first 12 year old hoodlum who comes our way when civilization hits the skids.

I don't know the first thing about the Rapture, but I suspect it was thought up by someone who was about to buy a sun oven. Someone who didn't like the idea of protecting it with a sawed-off shotgun. Someone who knew she probably wouldn't make it if she had to plant land mines around her chicken coop.

I didn't think about things like this before Sugarplum was born. Within months of her birth, however, I was figuring out how we'd survive once the grid crashed. I thought about how I'd have to break into the library to steal a book about cleaning fish. I made elaborate plans for moving into an underground house like Peter Pan. It all got very complicated.

It would be so much easier if we could just be sucked up into heaven like a Polly Pocket in a shop vac.

Assuming the kids haven't sent Polly Pocket to the "spa" and melted her in the sun oven.


I've added a couple of the comments left on my facebook page. They made me laugh.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

so la di da

I hesitate to mention this, lest you think less of us or are in the position of having us axed, but we had our Yacht Club interview today.

Bwahahahahaha! No really. We did.

No one has summed up the whole concept of us joining a yacht club better than Brighton. She said.... well, she didn't actually say anything because she was doing that laugh where no sound comes out and you wonder if you should call 911 because she appears unable to breathe.

We are clearly cut out for this yachting thing.

Chris showed up for the interview in jeans and a t-shirt. I was wearing a really cute shirt somewhere under my Old Navy fleece. We are a power couple from way back.

Note: whenever I try to type "power couple" I end up typing "poser couple." Hello, Freud.

Also, Chris started to park in the Commodore's parking spot because if there is a sign that says "this is not for you. Go away" that's where he'll go. I pitched a total "gah! you are going to get us kicked out before we've even had a chance to steal all the toilet paper" fit and he relented.

They're going to have a super-secret meeting before they decide whether we're in or not. We're hoping they do it soon because we're planning to get everyone on our Christmas list windbreakers with the club insignia. I don't think we have time to apply to a back-up club.

I'll let you know how it goes. Or you'll notice my avatar wearing a polo shirt. Either way, it's a sure sign that Armageddon is closer than we thought.

(why are we doing this? Because we met a bunch of the people over the summer and liked them tremendously. Because by "yachts" they mean "tugboats." Because it has a splendid view. Because it's lonely here in the winter. Because we secretly want to be Mary Ann and the Professor.)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

lies lies lies

Dear girl from 7th grade,

I still feel terrible about your rings.

You gave them to me in art class because I had pockets and you didn't and you didn't want to wear them when we were doing that something or other with clay. You forgot to ask me for them after class, and I forgot I had them.

After art, I went to gym and had to change into the 100% polyester, electric blue gym suit that snapped at the shoulder, itched, gave tall people wedgies and was the biggest reason I hated gym and junior high. Moreover, I had to negotiate getting out of the undershirt my mom made me wear, without anyone seeing. I didn't notice when your rings fell out of my pocket.

You are meaner than me, so when you asked me for your rings the next day, I lied. I told you I had forgotten them at home.

You know in Demian (not Damian, that's the Omen), when the protagonist tells a lie at the very beginning and it ruins his whole life? Where he's pretty much OWNED by the lie? Yeah. Hermann Hesse stole that idea from me and junior high.

Here's the thing. You had a turquoise ring and a mood ring. Turquoise rings and mood rings were sold at the souvenir shop on Main Street. I figured if I could get my family to stop in there some time, I could buy you new rings on the sly. I did not take into consideration what I would do when you said, "er, these are not my rings" and beat me up anyway.

Of course, I didn't tell my family about the dilemma I was in, so they never took me there, so I had to keep putting you off.

It's amazing I didn't flunk out of school right there. I skipped, I feigned illness, I hid in my locker.

When I finally did get to the store, there were no rings left. Or maybe the rings they had didn't look like the rings I thought you had. After all, I had seen them for about 6 seconds - between the time you handed them to me and when I put them in my pocket, so how would I know? At any rate, I finally figured I had to tell you the truth.

You said I was a jerk and that I owed you $10 so you could get new rings.

That $10? Best money I've ever spent. I just wish I could stop feeling like hiding in a locker whenever I see a mood ring.

Monday, November 16, 2009

the luxury of angst

First of all, THANK YOU. I wrote that last post feeling like I was ruining Sugarplum's childhood. Now I feel like I wrote something so common as "I am afraid of running out of coffee." Thank you for the solidarity. The internet, as it turns out, is very good at inter-netting.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, some irony.

In the midst of my hand-wringing, Chris is still working on recording an audio book. The book is Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States. Howard's son, Jeff, is doing the reading.

For those of you unfamiliar with the book, let me just open it arbitrarily and share a passage:

"The law said the doors could not be locked during working hours, but at the Triangle Company doors were usually locked so the company could keep track of the employees. And so, trapped, the young women were burned to death at their worktables, or jammed against the locked exit door, or leaped to their deaths down the elevator shafts." p. 326

Well now there's some existential angst for you.

I imagine one of those women fretting about being taken for granted or another woman complaining about the food and it kind of makes me laugh. Sort of. These issues we have, they are a luxury.

It's a beautiful day. The kids are at school. My daughter, even though she's a girl, is allowed to learn to read. She can do anything she wants with her life. Anything. My son will eventually learn how to put on his own pants and then can also do anything he wants with his life.

I, too, am doing what I want with my life. I am here on purpose. And I'm awfully grateful.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

the fear of her becoming me

I have caught Sugarplum trying to keep me from breaking.

I don't know why I'm so fragile right now. I miss my solitude. I am tired of doing everything for everyone. I'm tired of people complaining. I'm tired of being taken for granted. I'm tired of not being able to work on my own projects. I miss being able to disappear for an afternoon without asking someone. I resent that Chris can disappear for a day without asking someone. I miss and resent and envy and mourn.

I love love love Sugarplum and Studley. I wouldn't trade them for the world.

I don't know what I want.

I want to not feel sad when my MiL won't eat what I've made for dinner.

I want to not feel taken for granted when I find myself alone with the kids, again.

I want more hours in the day so I can have some solitude without giving up my family time.

I want more hours in the day so I can make some progress on my own career alongside my full time job of keeping the family alive and well.

You're imagining how difficult it must be to deal with me, but really, it's not. What you hear now? It doesn't come out. It just sits there, inside. Where Sugarplum sees it.

And she does her best to keep me from breaking.

Saturday, November 14, 2009


I have a new post over at Opera Betty because I will get you to like opera yet, people. It's about Turandot, which is almost exactly the same plot as the Penguin and the Pebble if Marina had a tendency to have the penguins with unsuitable pebbles beheaded.

And the Puccini score is almost exactly like the Barry Manilow songs, if by "almost exactly like" you mean "exactly like except you can listen to it."


Friday, November 13, 2009

this is my world

It was movie night here at the Towers.

Movie #1: The Penguin & the Pebble.
Synopsis by Sugarplum: Mommy mommy mommy I don't want to watch this why do they have to be so mean it's scaaaaary the seal is going to eat him no no no no I want to go sleep in your bed and you come with me please can't we pick another movie is the scary part over aaaauuuuuughhhhh.....! Oh, they made it?
Synopsis by Chris: are we seriously watching a movie with music by Barry Manilow?

Movie #2: a documentary on Les Paul (I missed the title, sorry).
Synopsis by Chris: Neumann U47, Lake Audio monitors, Tannoys, Neve console, Yamaha NS10, Ampeg tape recorders....

Thursday, November 12, 2009

wag more, slink less

Yesterday a friend of mine was telling me about a rescued dog who had been so abused, his tail was perpetually pasted to his belly.

One of the ways they worked with the dog was to pet the length of his back, straightening out his tail as they went: top of the head to the tip of the tail. From what I understand, the petting, plus the physiological placement of a happy tail, helped convince the dog that he was safe.

Which is awesome.

The shame is, you can't go around petting people from the top of their heads to the tip of their tails and get away with it.

Yesterday morning I went for coffee and the woman who sold it to me made me feel like I was ruining her entire day by asking her for something. She was like "here, let me tape your tail to your belly for you."

I don't mean to be a "hey everybody, be a little nicer to each other" Pollyanna Happypants kind of person, but WOULD IT KILL YOU?

This is my chicken wisdom du jour: don't let anyone push your tail down. And for extra credit, try making someone feel safe. Top of head, tip of tail.

That is all.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


Our chicken? The naked one? She now has blue quills poking out of the naked parts of her body. I assume these will be feathers. Or the kids have been practicing chicken voodoo. Or she's seeing an acupuncturist.

Frankly, this is more than I ever needed to know about chickens.

The other chickens are not making fun of her (they're leaving that to us). They don't laugh at her, or ostracize her at the water bowl. They don't talk behind her back or chat amongst themselves about how well/poorly she's doing. They do not discuss her situation and arrive at their own conclusions regarding her lifestyle, diet and relationship status.

They are not bringing her non-chicken noodle soup and then praising God that it's HER and not THEM who is naked and quilly.

They are just letting her grow her feathers.

As much as I've learned about chickens, it seems I could learn a few things from them.

Monday, November 9, 2009

the mommy wars, internal version

This one's a little ranty. You may want to skip it.

It's about how fun it is to be a stay at home mom. Sorry, work from/stay at home mom. I know, it's hard to remember that I work from home, especially with my MiL apologizing for waking me up every time she walks through the livingroom. Where I work. Or sleep, apparently, after I've collapsed in a puddle of Fabio-inspired truffle drool. Because that's what stay at home mom's do, don't you know.

Don't get me wrong, it really is fun. I mean, on Saturday I went with the kids to a fair where I got to eat hot dogs, stand around by myself while the kids did crafts and threw chickens (stuffed, PETA) and watch battery-operated pigs race to the finish line.

Battery operated pigs are admittedly hilarious. But if it were you, would that be YOUR first choice for a Saturday afternoon?

Activities with kids have their own, built-in charm. Top of the list is the look of absolute rapture on your kids' faces. Second is the unintentional humor. I'm a sucker for unintentional humor.

But when that's your down time? We have a problem.

The fairs and festivals and parties and celebrations happen on weekends and evenings, which would normally be time off. So you get your "time off" at these Screamingly Fun activities and because you are a Happy and Friendly person, you make it seem Screamingly Fun (remember look of delight on cherubic faces) and the people around you say "oh! how Screamingly Fun your life must be!"

To which I say, "are you effing kidding me?"

So you line up things to do. You make plans. With adults. And then you hope you're not tackled with resentment and an overstuffed inbox.

Which you are.

But it's okay because today is the day you get to go to work like a normal person. And then make dinner and play with the kids and put them to bed. There will be a semblance of order. There will be routine. All will be right with the world.

And maybe the kids will both sleep through the night without losing their pillows or having nightmares about scary dogs.

And you'll wake up anyway, sit on the edge of their beds, and just watch them sleep.

Which is more fun than pig races.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

music appreciation, by me

We had an emergency back up pianist at symphony today. He played Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. No lie. (it had some variations that Sugarplum hasn't learned yet.)

The regularly scheduled pianist canceled last week and our artistic director (who is infinitely hipper than your artistic director, admit it) found the new one via some recommendations and YouTube.

The audience was all "what is this YouTube of which he speaks?"

The emergency back up was Frederic Lacroix. He came from Ottawa. With his piano.

I picture it like that Clare and the Reasons line:

"we were driving to a gig in toronto and olivier forgot his green card so we had to leave him at the border and then the steering wheel caught on fire. Can your car do that? No, I don't think so."

And since he had to bring his piano (it's a fortepiano), I pictured him driving along with it strapped to the top of his car with its little legs sticking up like a trophy kill.

Which is funny only because even I know "fortepiano" is an oxymoron.

The other thing I find funny is that the last time I searched for a guest artist on YouTube, I came up with a video of her all drunk and smudgey at a nightclub. It is maybe not her audition tape.

Lacroix (who was not all drunk and smudgey) played Mozart's Concerto No. 19 in F major for Piano and Orchestra, K. 459. I think. It's off the top of my head, you know.

After the intermission, the rest of the orchestra played Mozart's Symphony No. 40 in G minor, K. 550 without him.

There's this lovely little moment in the k. 550 where it's a minuet but instead of 8 measures it's THREE MEASURES. I know! I couldn't believe it either.

And then I thought about how much I will miss Steven Tyler.

The end.

Friday, November 6, 2009

wicked classy

Thanks to the nature of Chris' work, we have famous and quasi-famous people dropping by the house from time to time. Thanks to the nature of my nature, I am often caught vacuuming off the dining room table, sporting prom eyes.

I need to learn where the mirrors are in this house. And use them.

In other news, the chickens are molting.

One of them is experiencing Severe Feather Loss. When she fluffs herself, it looks like an invisible predator is shaking the stuffing out of her. Is there a product on the market to help this? An "I'm not just the president, I'm a client" kind of product? Because if this goes on much longer, I'll be carting her to the salon for some feather extensions.

I have totally blown the chickens' salon budget for the month.

And now that I've described my morning mascara debacle AND chicken plummage, I suppose it's time to admit that we've applied for membership at the yacht club.

(pauses to admire puzzled looks)

I know.

Let's put this in perspective, shall we? Just last week, Chris was heard singing "Morning Has Broken" on the radio. It was truly awful. We are an embarrassment to society. And yet? We made it through the "if anyone objects, speak now or be forever miserable" phase.

I have no idea how this is going to go. There's an interview. There's maybe a secret handshake to learn. There are penny loafers to make Chris wear.

My question to you is, what does one wear to a yacht club interview? I thought I might get us some matching sweatshirts, with a three wolf moon motif. Except with chickens.


Wednesday, November 4, 2009

I wrote Jet Blue a song but it made the dog howl

Do you know how much fun it is to run into an acquaintance at the airport and when he asks where you're going, say "to have tea in D.C."? If not, you'll have to trust me. It's fun.

Things I spent more money on than my airfare to Baltimore:
bus fare to the airport
a sandwich at the airport

To which you say, "dang, that's an expensive sandwich." And I'd agree. I'd also admit I got a $9 fare from Jet Blue.

Bahahahaha! Nine dollars! To the city closest to where my very best friend in all the world lives! WHAT ARE THE ODDS?

I flew in yesterday, she took me to tea, I head home today. But not until I've trashed her house and eaten all her food. Old habits die hard.

A quick pantry scan this morning, while she's out being responsible, turns up a jar of Nutella, bags of chips and cheesey popcorn (which she says the dog got into but I think that's a ploy) and a big bag of Halloween candy. I made myself some frozen waffles and eyed the ice cream sandwiches while rooting around in the freezer.

In the words of my brother in law, our pantry contains Cup-o-Miso and Soy Ahoy.

So for $9, I get tea at the Mayflower, some serious Friend Time, and all the cheesey puffs I can eat before she gets home.

For $9 more, I can go home.

Thank you, Jet Blue, for both trips. Just don't ever leave me alone in your house.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Smashing Pumpkins

Sugarplum wanted to be a pumpkin this year. I was all set to spray paint her orange when Cotuit Center for the Arts came through with a costume. Yet another reason to support the arts.

Thursday, October 29, 2009


This is not a post about health care reform. It's a post about why I wasn't on the debate team.

Last night I crashed a biotech company's dinner party. This could have been awkward, considering my stance on the pharmaceutical industry. An industry I have traditionally considered evil.

These are my pet peeves:

Peeve 1: Advertising. Makes me crazy.

Peeve 2: I can see no ethical value in giving doctors a kickback for prescribing a certain drug. Seriously, how is this practice okay? I want to know I'm getting what's best for me, not best for someone's bank account.*

Both of these relate to the big business aspect of the pharmaceutical industry. I find that aspect annoying.


Last night I picked up a friend at the airport and scurried her to her hotel for the conference she was attending. We only had a couple hours to chat before her welcome dinner and, wouldn't you know, her flight was delayed an hour and a half (snow! rain! acts of God!). The hosting company was kind enough to let me tag along at dinner, so I could at least see my friend while she did her thing. I'm letting the company go unnamed because, well, would YOU want to find yourself named in one of my posts? I thought not. Also, I can't spell it.

My friend works for a non-profit organization that builds awareness of Hep C, and helps people get treatment. She's in town to get funding from Unnamed Company.

I hadn't thought about biotech companies funding things like her non-profit. I thought they mostly funded penthouse apartments overlooking the park. See? My debate points are starting to slip. I'm sitting on my side of the table going, "hmm, good point."

We were introduced to one of the scientists working on the drug they are testing. His heart is in the right place, wouldn't you think?

And then I met my professional counterpart, the person who does for them what I do for art and live music. Know what? He's just as passionate about working for his client as I am about mine. He's also friends with the guy who did the book signing last night, which is just plain weird.

The world, it is small.

It is so small, in fact, that if we all used our powers for good, not evil, we'd really get somewhere. And that, my friends, would be some fine health care.

*Most doctors are admirable people and can be trusted to do the right thing. Really, the rest of us should be taking Hippocratic oaths, too.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Chris Brogan and Geek Girl

You know when you buy your ticket, you get your sitter, you drive your car, and you arrive without getting lost only to remember, as you walk in the door, that you hate these things?


Geek Girl had a fundraiser book signing thing tonight and I was all "yay! I have no idea what this is! Let's go!" I use the plural in the schizophrenic sense, not the more than one person sense. Which means that I went to a social networking thing by myself. Which I hate.

Honestly, if I were good in social situations would I be spending all this time on my couch in the dark?

I had never heard of Geek Girl, but with a name like that, who needs to know what it is? Also, I'm sorry, Chris Brogan, but I don't get out much and I had not heard of you either. I have remedied that, stat.

Usually I go to these things for the cheese platters because oh my lord the actual content never NEVER applies to me. Ever. I don't even totally know what I do for a living, so how can what they say apply to my job?

That said, if Chris Brogan is ever doing any kind of anything within a 100 mile radius of you, get off your couch and go. Seriously. He was funny and smart and everyone in that room was all "dooooode, why didn't anyone ever TELL ME THAT?"

And? Wonder of wonders, it applied to my job. I cannot wait to get back to work. Coffee is brewing as I type. Clients will not know what hit them. Hopefully in a good way.

Geek Girl, thank you so very much.

Chris Brogan, I would kiss you except you specifically asked us not to.

Everybody else, get Trust Agents if you want to be as smart as I'll be once I read it.

Oh look, it' been a NYT bestseller. Ahem. (I knew that.)

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Where is my trumpet fanfare?

The first thing I heard as we approached the gates of King Richard's Faire was a bagpiper, playing the theme to Star Wars. I had a vision of the piper's home life.

Piper's mom: honey, your father and I can't send you to D&D camp and Trekkie camp this year. You'll have to pick one.
Piper: (looks baleful and goes to basement)
Piper's mom, yelling: You are 23 years old and critically vitamin D deficient. Come out of the basement, now.

If you were feeling some sort of solidarity, some kind of like-minded kindredness to humanity, I suggest you take a trip to a renaissance festival. It will wobble your mind in wonderful ways. And I speak not only of the mead.

There are some PEOPLE out there, people.

The minute we walked in, Sugarplum and Studley's jaws went slack. They looked just like the kids in the Disney World commercial. Starry eyes and all.

They did not dig the jousting. I did. Not as much as a demolition derby, mind you, but as entertainment goes, jousting is quite passable. It made me think I was living in one of Sugarplum's puzzles. I wished, in fact, that all the people around me had been more conscienscious about dressing to period. As it was, about 70% of them were renaissance-compliant.

What we mostly did was walk around and oggle people. The costumes! Some people obviously worked at the fair, but most I'd say did not. They came, they costumed, they caroused. There were orks and Mongolian ninjas and merry maids a milking. There was one woman dressed (quite convincingly) as a fairy. She moved like a bird and made cooing, chirping noises. There was a man on stilts who had his legs camouflaged and instead had small, puppet arms and legs, to make himself look like a baby sitting in a very tall chair. A baby with a grossly large head and a nightmare-inducing smile. The kids loved him. I said "anyone need the loo?" and rushed them off.

There was a ladder thing that you could climb for $3. If you made it to the top, you won $10. As we walked by, the man running the ladder thing was saying to someone, "congratulations! you have the grace and agility of a falling rock!"

There were knife throwers! There were drummers! There were pasty-faced teenagers in black leather!

King Richard's Faire is set in a pine grove. Half-timber buildings house the candlemakers and cloakmakers and horseshoe clangers. It is very much like walking into a medieval market. Which, it occurs to me, is the point.

I have read enough historical fiction to know that I don't want to hang out in a medieval market. You get thieved and bullied and you never get a fair price for your wool. But I would like to be a fly on the wall long enough to see the juggling and piping and rabble-rousing. Also the dude with horns.

King Richard's Faire let's you do that. People are pleasant and say charming things to the kids. None of the orks threaten to eat them. This is because there are turkey legs and "pigge sandwiches" so the orks aren't hungry.

So now I just have to ask, do you hang out at renaissance festivals wearing a serving wench costume? Or are you more the king's court sort?

Either way, we had no idea how much we dig you.

(This post inadvertantly brought to you by the Cape Cod Chronicle. Thank you for a lovely day, Chronicle peeps.)

Thursday, October 22, 2009

in the tall grass with the big dogs

When I first moved back to Cape Cod, I was invited to join a group of fiction writers. We met once a month and handed out copies of our recent work so our fellow writers could flay us. It was fun.

I was, shall we say, the odd man out. I was working two jobs and was not a professional writer. The others, ALL the others, were retired. They all had published work under their belts. I think I was invited to join them for my baking skills.

They were very, very professional. I learned how to format my work for submission because that's the way they wanted it printed out. It was not okay to skip a week because you had been out too late the night before.

I lasted about a year.

I've been thinking about that group a lot lately, because yet another writing group has made the mistake of inviting me to join them. Its been 10 years, so the last one must not be on my record anymore. This one is exactly nothing like the last one. This one is like that one, on steroids.

I've been following Polite Fictions since it started last summer. Some of my favorite writers on the internet are participating. It's a "write your bit and pass it on" kind of thing. I would be lying if I didn't admit to secretly wishing I had been invited. Kind of like how when I was 12 I thought it would be fun to be a guest child star on Charlie's Angels.

Except the producers of Charlie's Angels never sent me an email invitation.

I think that would have been easier. Frankly, I am terrified. It's a story I'd never attempt myself and I'm suddenly running with the big dogs. I have never felt more like a papillon.

On the plus side, I can't spend my week thinking about what to write next. It's a pretty safe bet that if you think of some great lines for someone, that character will be dead by the time it's your turn again.

Also, I've gotten really spoiled with this blog. I can write in my own voice all day long. If you haven't noticed, my voice isn't particularly gangstery.

To say the least, it's a stretch.

And I've never been happier.

p.s. If you're here finding shelter from all the swearing on the internet, do yourself a favor and don't click the link. Trust me. I mean you, mom.

p.p.s. A big fat thank you to everyone at Polite Fictions. It was a horrible mistake inviting me and I'm really glad you made it.

Tracy Chapman

There was a group of women at the coffee shop today, mostly all strangers. One heard a Miami Sound Machine song and said "they were the band at a wedding I went to ages ago."

And another woman said, "we almost didn't sign up Tracy Chapman at a talent show."

She described being at the Pied Piper in the '80s, surrounded by flashy drag queens. Tracy showed up in jeans, looking "like a tiny refugee," according to this woman. "Yeah, yeah," they said. "We'll get you signed up. There's the line." She barely made it in.

When she sang, the room went silent.

You just never know when you're in a room with something golden. Until the gold shines.

I'm awfully glad I was out of coffee at home this morning.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

duck season... rabbit season...duck season... rabbit season...

I love this little town so much I want to lie on the sidewalk, all stretched out like a starfish, and smile.

But I can't do that because people around here are hip to their sea life and would be all "SEA STAR, please."

On the other hand, I could do that because no one would step on me. Because there is no one here.

This is what happens to super cute seaside towns after Columbus Day weekend. Or in this case, after OysterFest weekend. One week you're having to consult your magic 8 ball to decide what snack to eat from which restaurant. The next week you're looking at empty buildings and wondering if the people in the house next door made coffee.

I was all set for coffee and a scone from the Wicked Oyster this morning, but was not totally awake and came into town the wrong way. Doubling back, I ran into a detour. They've been fixing the water system (I have no idea what they mean by this) and have been closing bits of town, one bit at a time. This morning it's the bit in front of Wicked Oyster.

Wellfleet is like Peter Cottontail's dear old briar patch. What? You don't know about Thornton Burgess? You weren't raised in the Rocky Mountains by a mother who was in total denial and raised you on New England children's stories? I'm so sorry.

Anyway, Wellfleet has about a thousand and one ways in and out. Want to get somewhere? There are six ways to go. Wellfleetians like their options. Options such as going somewhere else for coffee.

So I turned around and headed for the Flying Fish (don't you love these names?).

Flying Fish is closed.

Since the nor'easter had ended, I walked through town to the Marketplace. A car stopped right in the middle of the cross walk in front of me. She said "oh, I'm sorry!" It was no big deal because it was a Prius and I could have stepped over it. That's another marvelous generalization about Wellfleet: vehicles either get 102 mpg or are work trucks.

A landscaping truck stopped in front of the bank. Settie stepped out and said "good morning!"

Flo Hoops was also in search of coffee, and said nice things about Sugarplum's mad hooping skills while we poured.

A man I didn't recognize came out of the Lighthouse and said "what a beautiful day!"

It's kind of like that time when Danny Meadow Mouse escaped from Hooty the Owl and fell from the sky into the middle of the Dear Old Briar Patch. Danny Meadow Mouse probably needed a cup of coffee and Peter Cottontail was all "here! wrap up in my Snuggi!"

The restaurants and galleries may have closed their doors, but the people have reopened their own.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

OysterFest 2009

I live in a place that has an oyster festival, replete with shucking contest.

There is, no lie, a $1,000 first prize. The dude who won it this year was the World Champion oyster shucker two years ago. You can call him Chopper. Everyone does.

Wellfleet is a teeny, tiny, two-street town. Over the course of two days, tens of thousands of people come to OysterFest. In other words, it is a walking anxiety attack.

anxiety issue 1
Parking! There's no parking. But there are buses to take you from the beach lots and into town. Also, if you work in town you might be able to park at your work and then get parked in but the people who park you in are friendly and leave their cell numbers on their windshields. They will not, however, return your calls when it's time to leave. You will get out anyway.

anxiety issue 2
Tens! of Thousands! of People!
There are people you know, and people you don't know, and people you know but you don't know how you know them and it's probably best that way. There are lines for everything. If you are smart and have done this before, you will arrive bright and early and get your oyster fritters before the lines form. And then you will go hide in the tent with your husband.

anxiety issue 3
Why is your husband in a tent? Because he is the sound engineer and the tent is keeping his sound board dry despite a nor'easter. At one point, they will need to tie the tent to a parked car so it won't blow away. The walls of the tent are blowing in on all four sides at once. Good times. I'm not so worried about anxiety issue #3, but I fully expect Chris to wake up in the middle of the night, screaming.

I didn't go on Sunday, when the storm hit. This means I missed the shucking finals.

Shucking finals? Are hilarious. You should see them sometime. I know this because
I listened to live coverage on the radio (thank you, WOMR), which was almost like being there. But dryer.

I don't remember putting "live in a place that has oyster shucking contests and community radio" on my list of things to do, but I'm glad it ended up there.

This was last year. It looked like this, but wetter.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

bff stands for all sorts of things

Dear Sugarplum,

Up until this year, we drove you to a school far, far away, in a place where no one knew you. Now you go to school in our town and you think that's absolutely great.

You have no idea how wrong you are.

You think it's great because you are allowed to have friends now. Before it was just too far to drive for playdates. But now? Friends live right around the corner. You have a friend coming over tomorrow in fact! Which gives me just enough time to lecture some sense into you.

Rule number one.
Tell her nothing. And by nothing, I mean nothing. Everything you say, think, do or wear will be held against you for the next 12 years. Oh sure, she's your friend THIS WEEK but eternity (or the road to senior year) is a long time, my friend, and alliances change like Studley's underpants.

Do not tell her you like Justin. Justin is a year younger than you and that will get you a reputation as a...as a... I have no idea. But even as you step up to accept your valedictorian thingamajig, you'll hear a wave of sniggling and it will all be Justin's fault.

(Aside to the internet: Sugarplum does not have a thing for Justin. She thinks he's a silly little boy who sometimes tries to impress girls by catching dragonflies - girls like dragonflies! - and then inadvertently torturing them so the girls have to watch as the dragonfly writhes and DIES IN HIS SWEATY LITTLE HANDS. Oh, the humanity.)

If something dreadful happens, we cannot just up and move. First of all, what if we move to a house that is not named Trout Towers? What if it's The Snoggery? Will people find me on the internet? Will I have to pay yet another $24.95 to register a domain?

Furthermore, we can't physically move because we have too many books. The last time we moved, the movers said "we're sorry, we didn't know about all the books. Please don't ever call us again. Also, you have a pottery problem."

So we'll just have to stick it out and you'll have to hide in your locker, same as your father.

Rule number two.
You might want to jump a little higher when I ask you for help around the house. Otherwise, I might let it slip that you still sleep in your My Little Pony pajamas.

Love you,

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Giselle, and why she should have done an online background check

I saved my program so I could tell you who was magnificent in Boston Ballet's Giselle, but then I left it in the car and there are coyotes out there, people. My love for you (and name dropping) ends at coyotes.

There were no coyotes in Giselle. Not in the original story, at least. The story's about a girl who's in love with a nobleman but she doesn't know he's a nobleman and then the hunter-dude who digs her exposes him (not literally) and she goes a little crazy and then dies. Because she died with her love unrequited, she becomes a willi in act two. Willis are spirits who live in the woods and kill men by making them dance themselves to death. Or, they are the girls from town DRESSED as spirits, who randomly kill passers-by who anger them. It didn't say this in the program, but I recognized pretty much everyone from the the first act so it must be true.

The hunter-dude is the first to die. And then the nobleman shows up and Giselle saves him by... I don't know, doing the dancing for him? Don't quote me on any of this because my program has been eaten by coyotes and I read the story a very long time ago.

I think it's a little risky for the men to show up in the woods at night, knowing about the willis and all, don't you? It's like Travis thinking his love for Old Yeller will make the foaming stop.

Boston Ballet's willis were particularly dead-looking and a little ghoulish (though lovely! please don't show up at my house and eat the cat!). There is something especially stunning about a scene that is at once beautiful and eerie (a theme which pervades our decorating sensibilities here at the Towers). Melissa Hough danced the part of Giselle and was outstanding - both dead and alive. Jaime Diaz was the scoundrel who broke her heart. Nicely done, Diaz. I don't remember who danced the Queen of the Willis, but she was splendid. The Queen of the Willis is like the Sugarplum Fairy, if the Sugarplum Fairy ever ordered her minions to kill people.

This was the first ballet we attended in the Opera House instead of the Wang (not counting the Nutrcracker, because it doesn't count). We didn't think we'd like it because change, as you know, is bad. But then we noticed the opera house is like someone left the Wang in the dryer and we think we'll be okay with it. It's kind of cute. Also, the restrooms are more conveniently located and it's a block away from Penang.

And that, I believe, wraps up my ballet review for this evening. Goodnight, and for the love of all things holy, don't walk in the woods at night.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

the facade

This morning I told Chris I had been emailing Joey Mars. Chris (like you) said, "who's Joey Mars?" So I reminded him that Joey Mars is the artist who painted the front of Provincetown's Shop Therapy:

He's a cool dude.

"What were you emailing him about?" he asks.
"To see if he'd paint the front of Trout Towers," I answer.

One of the things I like about Chris is the look on his face when he's not sure if I'm kidding or not. If he's not careful, though, his face will freeze like that.

(I emailed Joey pictures I had of Evan Dando wearing his shirt. If there were pictures of Evan Dando wearing my shirt..... well maybe I wouldn't want it. Nevermind.)

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

the critics rave

The Midnight Gardener came by on Sunday for "Studley's Birthday Party."

Stop twitching. I used the quotes properly. It was his party in name only, as I think I only remembered to invite two of his friends and 75 of ours.

The Midnight Gardener devoted a post to us this morning and we are very flattered. He covers the whole "yeah, right, it's a party for Studley" thing. Also, "the party invitation encouraged us each to bring a dish to share…and confessed that the party had only been organized because they were out of good snacks at Trout Towers."

I'm glad people are paying attention.

But really, my favorite part was this:

"Her Troutship is smart and funny and full of clever observations on all sorts of fun things in life from the local music scene and parenting to gardening and chicken farming and hula hooping. You never know what you’ll find at Trout Towers...."

I'm smart! and funny! and full of it!

He posted some fab pictures of the bits of garden I haven't killed off yet. Really, you should march over there now and see. That's the caterer, btw, not me. I'm taller and thinner and remembered to brush my hair.


And if you are here visiting from the Midnight Garden, the first thing you should know is that he has a longer attention span than I do.

The end.

Monday, October 5, 2009

operatic comments

Over at Opera Betty (where I have a new post, btw), I get lots of comments. They're mostly in Russian, so if anyone can help me translate I'd sure appreciate it.

And yes, chickens find rubber humans hilarious. Don't ask me how I know this.

The other comments crack me up. Valuable post? Really? I TOTALLY fell for that one, and now have a lifetime supply of something unmentionable and a pair of his and hers bathtubs.


This week I wrote about The Rake's Progress, first performed in 1951, on 9/11. The libretto would be way more hilarious if it weren't hitting so close to home, world-wise. I'll live up to those comments yet, darn it.

(I still don't know what makes the swishing sound between my ears.)

Sunday, October 4, 2009

just, ew.

This one may get me into trouble. It's sort of like taking pictures of Chris' underpants and posting them. Which I promised not to do.

But I was looking through some old photos and was reminded of the crack house bathroom we moved into last year.

I will not dwell on this.

Chris has been working away - ripping out the medicine cabinet, fixing sheetrock, installing new lights. We are a reality t.v. show, minus the billions of onlookers. And budget. We also like to think we are cuter and funnier.*

But I digress.

Anyway, this was our sink:

When the plumber came to put in our new sink yesterday, I said something like "man, you should have seen the old sink" and he said "lady, I have SEEN YOUR SINK." I don't know what he meant by that, but it didn't sound flattering.

For my very fancy birthday, I asked my sister for a new bathroom sink. She said "not a manicure?" and I said "I want a sink or I will tell mom."

So she gave me a sink. And now we live in a Swedish crack house.

That's the robot vacuum, peeking around the corner in the hall, btw.

As long as I'm posting pictures of underpants, here's one I took of the corner of our dining room last year.

The entire room was that blue, with maps from National Geographic as wallpaper. May I back up a moment? This house has a rich and vibrant history, and there are probably some people out there who are all "but those maps were THE AWESOMEST." To which I say, no, they were not. They were also impossible to get off. Literally. Chris had to rip out the sheet rock.

Same corner, one year later:

I took pictures today because we were all squeaky clean for Studley's birthday party and the light was so gorgeous it made everything look like... I don't know... somebody else's house?

It doesn't look like this now because it's dark and also, we had a party. There are bottles and mostly-eaten snacks everywhere. Gift wrap is scattered all over the floor. Someone peed in a chair.**

Wild times, I tell you.

In non-underpants related news, the sun came out for our party. This was good because, as you can see, not so much room in the rooms. Although I suggested we have the entire party in the bathroom and that would have been awesome. I mean, if people can't talk about Trout Towers' parties in the old what-happens-in-Vegas sort of way, we can at least give them SOMETHING to talk about.

The other good news is the playlist we had going for the (mostly adult) kid's birthday party did not randomly choose to play Fun Lovin' Criminals' "Scooby Snacks," which opens with a delightful little clip from Reservoir Dogs.

No really, send your kids over! We can totally be trusted. See our sink?

*I don't honestly know if we're cuter and funnier because I can't remember watching a reality show all the way through. No offense to real life reality families. I am sure you are cute and funny.

** Studley's friends can't hold their apple juice.

Friday, October 2, 2009

girls' night out (or, a public apology)

The problem with girls' nights out is that the girls in question tend to congregate in lovely little wine bars, featuring jazz guitarists and owners who bring you dishes of olives that have nothing at all in common with bar mix.

If you have ever been privy to these nights out, you know the ensuing conversation has quite a lot in common with bar mix. The conversation, if it had control of its own car keys, would obviously rather be at a sports bar, if not a strip club.

As the night progresses, the conversation becomes more aggressive in its search for rowdier company. It offends. It regales. The women in question sometimes notice it rooting around in their purses, looking for phones to call cabs, and are briefly aware that the conversation is totally inappropriate. Its behavior is atrocious, frankly. But the goat cheese and walnut crostini beckons and another round is ordered.

Women are complicated creatures. We like artisan cheeses and olive tapenade. We like places that hire acoustic guitarists for our entertainment. We like chairs with hooks on them to hold our purses. We like beautiful spaces with art on the walls. We like lengthy conversations about Capt'n Frosty's Clam Balls.

We are women with lives that spiral in all directions. We have careers, babies, heartbreaks and crushes on men ten years our junior. Our worlds so rarely collide. But when they do? Please try not to be offended. It's the olives talking.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

the official, non-muffin-top related, anniversary post

A little over eight years ago, I remarked to a friend that I was getting married on the autumnal equinox. I don't know squat about seasonal celebrations, but I figure anything with a name like "equinox" has to be good. Right? A day when you can balance an egg on its end seems to me like a good day to get married. It's an omen.

"Ah," said my friend, "the downward spiral into darkness."

Which was not the metaphor for marriage I was looking for.

Fortunately, I can rationalize anything. I figured if we were going to spiral into darkness, it was a good idea to do it together. After all, who wants to be all alone in the dark? I have plenty of my own dark, and quite frankly I'm glad to have someone to hold on to.

More recently, a friend observed that the equinox is an "apex for change." This, if you're wondering, is why you should talk to the friends who are recently engaged when you're getting married, and not so much the ones who are recently divorced.

Our marriage has definitely been more "apex for change" than "downward spiral." And for this I am truly grateful.

I admit it, I take much for granted. We just live our lives, right? We squabble over who left the kitchen the bigger mess. We go to work. We figure out who's doing what with the kids. We spiral through the darkness. But in the process of living our lives, it seems we've been growing up. Not all the way, but more than I realized and in ways I didn't think applied to us. We are a different version of ourselves than we were eight years ago. And it's way more okay than I thought it would be.

I have always been proud of Chris. First I was proud of how smart he is. Then I was proud of what a good dad he became. And now I'm proud of the adult he's turned into. I could not, would not, ask for a better partner to spiral anywhere with - into change, or darkness or the bright light of a new day.

If you're there, honey, I'm going too.

Here's to many, many more years of balancing eggs.

Sunday, September 27, 2009


I was raised on classical music. I converted to punk rock at some point in high school. I get confused sometimes.

I was at symphony this weekend and I couldn't help but wonder what happens when a violinist breaks a string. Where are the roadies and guitar techs? Does some dude in a black concert t-shirt and a laminate scurry on stage, grab the violin and whisk it into the wings for restringing? And if so, why have I never seen it? Maybe at symphony they use kabuki puppets so we don't notice all the scurrying?

Or! Maybe the idea of having so many stringed instruments is that if one blows out, the others can cover for it. Violinists are like the extra wheels on a tractor trailer truck.

I played in a student orchestra in high school and honestly don't remember what happens if you break a string. I was mostly afraid I'd lose an eye when a violin string broke. I remember breaking them when I was tuning, so maybe violinists don't break strings while performing. Or they just break them on the hard core pieces, for which they have spare violins lined up on little violin stands. They need the spares because sometimes? violins get thrown.

I don't seem to ever get tickets to those performances.

So! Cultural weekend! I was mistaken for an artist, which was fun. I was told I looked like Juliette Binoche, which is always very welcome (the resemblance is strikingly...dissimilar). I met a very creative and thinky person whose work I admire - and found him worthy of all accolades. And I went to symphony and compared the first and second violin sections to semi trucks.

Time for bed. My work here is done.


You blow my mind every. single. day.

I forget you are little and wonder why you act like a child sometimes. You are so capable, it's confusing. You are some of the best company I could wish for.

Seven years ago today, I was walking the hospital halls, waiting to meet you. Daddy was asleep in the (very uncomfortable) reclining chair, PERL programming book at his feet.

When you were born, just in time for lunch, you looked right at us as if you had known us all along. You are the part of us that makes us US. We have no idea what we did before you.

This year, you want grown up things for your birthday. Tea with friends. Symphony tickets. I'm on my way out now to buy you flowers. You will take out all my vases and arrange them yourself.

You started a new school this year, where you didn't know anyone. Now you have a pile of friends, and eenie-meenie-meinie-moe to decide who to sit with on the bus. Who is this couragous and confident girl, who stands where the deer in headlights once stood?

I am so proud of you. So proud to know you. We are all truly, truly blessed.

Happy birthday, Sugarplum.

Thursday, September 24, 2009


Bloom was a good chicken. She ate all her food, played well with others and laid the cutest little eggs you ever did see. Her hobbies included eating slugs, taking dirt baths and digging up plants.

Bloom is survived by countless siblings, living all across the continental US and anywhere else the hatchery ships. Her friends, Mourning Glory, Despondent, Bereaved, Forlorn and Woebegone will have a private memorial service at their home this afternoon.

We'll miss you, Bloom, and hope there is a heaven for chickens.

Pictured by the Japanese footbridge in the garden of her home on Cape Cod, before she accidentally invited a hawk to come for tea.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

this is not the official anniversary post

Chris was going on and on about the muffin tops at JoMama's Bagels, which they grill and butter.

me: do you love their muffin tops more than my muffin tops?
chris (sensing he's getting set up): no honey, you have the best muffin tops ever.
chris: I did it wrong, didn't I?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

night terrors

When Sugarplum was little, she had night terrors. To the uninitiated, "night terrors" means that you wake up screaming, but aren't really awake and whatever is making you scream is still very real. You are too caught up in the nightmare to wake up. In other words, night terrors are a metaphor for life.

Being new at this, we didn't know how to deal. Your kid screams and you go in and hold her, right? Except she's not awake and in her reality, the giant squid she's been screaming about has just rushed into her bedroom and grabbed her. It's maybe even making her scream extra loud because a giant squid that calls you "sweetie pie" and runs its slimy tentacles through your hair is just plain creepy.

Thanks to the pediatric advice of Google, we learned a little bit about what we were dealing with and could approach it with a little more finesse. Which means, we didn't touch her.

I'd go in and use my best exorcist voice to let her know I was scaring off the scariness. Or I would say "Sugarplum! you're not afraid of it!" until she believed me. Or I'd tell her she was smarter and stronger and better than "it." And then I'd sing to her and run my slimy tentacles through her hair and tell her it was all gone.

We stopped trying to wake her out of the dream, and started changing her experience.

Sugarplum eventually outgrew it, and we were pleased to note that Studley was not following in her footsteps. Until last night.

Last night we heard the familiar screams and went to go administer the pep talk. But where Sugarplum was just screaming her little lungs out, Studley was saying something almost intelligible.

Studley (sobbing, gasping, screaming): don't take my lunch!
me: it's okay, you have your lunch. No one's taking it.
Studley: (hiccup.... snore....)

I wish it could always be this easy.

And I wish I could remember to do this for myself. When I'm awake.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

consumer culture

Last night we went to a party filled with hipsters and artists and intelligentsia. Also some drunk people. And us.

The Upstairs Neighbor went with us and at some point she noted that there were cupcakes in the den. Which seems like a good reason to check out the artwork in the den, no? Cupcakes procured, she and I sat on the bottom stair (which faces away from all the party action) and hid. Big Daddy (which is for all intents and purposes his real name since that's what everyone calls him and I know none other), came around the corner.

"You haven't seen us" we said in unison.

They were delicious. All jacked up on sugar, we then moved into the "I love you, man" phase of the party. Orange frosting brings out gratitude for friends and family. It would have emboldened me to actually talk to the people I was tickled absolutely pink to meet, but they probably left when they noticed the cupcakes were all gone. They are funny and smart. I just googled them to see if they had any videos I could post and show you what funny, smart people I know, but I didn't find anything so they are funny, smart, not-famous people and I am glad I ate their cupcakes.

And then today I ate oysters and oyster fritters and tempura veggies and am feeling ever so slightly unwell. I went to Boogie on the Bay, a WOMR festival that has music, food and art/craft/whatnot vendors, and I have a strict policy of No One Leaves Until the Last Dollar is Spent at such things. Thus the tempura veggies.

And then the kids had the audacity to say they were hungry when we got home and is it my fault they were making noodle necklaces while I was supporting the culinary arts SINGLE-HANDEDLY? I think not.

I made dinner for them and my MiL because I am a saint or some other sort of divine being, and then I tested the usefulness of technology by texting Chris "please bring me a whoopie pie when you come home." I had forgotten about them when I bought the tempura veggies. And then I put the request on my facebook page, for good measure. If I don't get a whoopie pie, wireless technology is a useless waste.

And now, we wait. On the bottom stair.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

what I am doing when dawn is still rubbing its eyes and swearing softly

When I was little we bought all our boots at Kleist's Boot and Saddle. It was across from the Rockin' I, where we bought our jeans.

Taped to the desk at Kleist's was a sign that said "Eat a live frog every morning. It will be the worst thing you do all day." I have never forgotten that sign. Obviously.

I do not eat live frogs every morning, but I have started taking morning exercise classes, which I think is the same thing. What is all this talk about exercising in the morning and feeling energized all day? Is this a "better living through chemistry" situation? I may need something a little stronger, because the morning class with an herbal tea chaser is not doing it for me.

Which is not to say that I will stop. I am awake just as early as I used to be, but I don't have to drive as far every day, so I have a bit of time to burn. Also, I am chubby. Additionally, while Chris would probably not be hip to helping out* so I can dash off every morning to have coffee with a friend**, he is hip to covering for me so I can get to an exercise class. Especially since I'm doing it for him.

Hahahahaha! I'm not doing it for him. I'm doing it so I can go out and buy all new clothes.

Anyway. I've taken pilates and yoga, and am deciding which to go with. Here's what I've discovered:

Item one.
Pilates works and develops your core. After taking a pilates class, I realize I already use my core in myriad ways. Sneezing, for instance, engages the core. Which now hurts.

Item two.
People in pilates have better pedicures than people in yoga. What's with that? I went to pilates and realized I needed a pedicure. And then I went to yoga and discovered that running barefoot through wet grass and arriving with grass clippings stuck to my toes is a mark of distinction. I expect they will want to line me up for a photo shoot, which means I can work off my classes by being a foot model. A yoga foot model, not a pilates foot model.

So I think the answer is to do just enough pilates to keep me in enough pain to make yoga feel like a blessed relief.

The other option is to feed Chris more cheesecake so he goes up a size or two, which will make me appear thinner. Then instead of going to class, I'll sneak off to have coffee with a friend. For which I will need a pedicure.

* Someone has to tell Studley to put his pants on. 700 times.

**Chris is actually the nice one of the family, and does let me put down my mop from time to time. If I were him I'd be all "I don't care if you're working, woman! Make my dinner." And then I'd rub my belly and search for the remote.