Monday, June 23, 2008

Right up there with Goodnight Moon except for all the profanity

blog readability test

Friday, June 20, 2008


OK, so I’ve been an iconoclast pretty much all my sentient life, everybody knows that about me. I like a little tilting at windmills, enjoy subverting the closely held and disproportionately revered paradigms where I find them.

And since armchair subversion pretty much involves making fun of stuff, I mostly like to do that. The closer to home the better. That way if I can poke a little fun at myself or my roots, I won’t come off as at least a little self-deprecating and not quite such a bitter snarky crank.

There’s plenty of good stuff to make fun of when it comes to parenting. Because it’s such a hideously intimidating prospect to begin with, people latch on to all sorts of assumptions and ideologies, which in turn have to be shot down because the rest of us are all secretly terrified that we’re doing it wrong.

If you’re Jewish, or were raised Jewish, even if your family was completely non-observant, you get to make fun of Jewish mothers – otherwise I think they’re a bit too easy of a target to really be a paradigm worth subverting. But if your family is like mine, you have all these high achievers: Professors, rabbis. And doctors! My son the doctah! Even if no one has ever actually used that phrase within earshot, it’s worth ridiculing as a state of mind. My son the doctah, he bought me a condo in Flaaaahrida! What a good boy!

But see, that’s where I’m actually kind of a jerk. All my life I’ve taken that particular cliché and distilled it down to its absolute lowest-brow common denominator, figuring it was all about status and competition and living vicariously through your offspring’s success. I never for a second bothered to think about the actual facts of it, not until this year.

My son’s not a doctah. He’s a college student, formerly a Physics major and as of this coming fall a Political Science major. But in between his sophomore and junior years he took a year off and did a Paramedic certification program at an upstate community college. He passed the last part of the exam yesterday, and he’s now a New York State Certified Paramedic. He was an EMT, riding with an ambulance company there, and now they’ll bump him up. He also has a part-time job with the county as an ambulance dispatcher, the final part of the phone chain when someone calls 911.

And you know, I finally got it. When someone says My son the doctah, sure, sometimes she means he makes a lot of money or drives a nice car or can take care of her in her old age. But there’s also this: My son saves lives. My kid, he’s not even 21 and he saves people’s lives on a regular basis. He’s doing a job that means something to him, that makes a difference in the world pretty much every time he shows up for work. And whereas sure, some folks’ sense of parental self-worth will hinge on how much money their kids make or what kind of cars they drive or how nice a nursing home he's reserved rooms in, mine is that my son saves lives.
So much for the paradigm. Every time I think about this, I am blown away. And, in case it’s not clear enough, very very very proud.

P.S. That's him when he was about 14, in his first suit. He's big now.


Thursday, June 19, 2008

Early Summer Optimism

The weather's been almost tropical, although this week without the heat -- beautiful sunny days, then violent short rainstorms in the evening. Everything we planted is very happy. and the yard itself is ridiculously lush.

We have Roma tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, yellow and purple sweet peppers, jalapeños, habañeros, white eggplant, and basil:
Corn, Savoy and purple cabbage, broccoli, and okra:
Cantaloupe, watermelon, yellow squash, snap peas, black-eyed peas, and cucumbers:
Lots of herbs and catnip:
And one very beautiful dog:

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Thursday, June 12, 2008

Happy Birthday Readerville

So I'm thinking about the word "posthumous." Not in reference to Readerville, heaven forbid, but in terms of being a reader. It's one of those words that I don't care how smart you are or how many times you've seen it in print, you will never in a million years pronounce it right until you hear someone else say it first. Or, if you were a certain kind of bookwormy kid who read a lot beyond your grade level, the first time you use it in conversation and are corrected, either gently or humiliatingly, doesn't matter. The point is that you can get far as a reader on your own, but there are times when nothing can replace an exchange.

Granted, a discussion online isn't going to teach you how to pronounce "posthumous" correctly. But a discussion online about words you've read all your life but never said out loud until the moment you realized you didn't know how to actually say them? It's just one of those small things that become points of solidarity in a community, that make you feel you're not just floating around untethered.

I don’t even know where to start. Usually I like to keep a bit of an impermeable membrane between my real life and my public one. I’m not a confessional blogger or forum poster – I do it more because I like the sound of my own voice than anything else. Just because I have this chattery need to express myself doesn’t mean that I like, or desire, life in a fishbowl. I aim for discretion in general, both as far as my own details go and especially when it comes to other people. True, I posted photos of my son as a little kid without running them by him first, but at least I didn’t include the one of him at age two, standing on the kitchen table naked, wrapped in lit Christmas lights, even though it’s possibly my favorite photo taken of him ever. I do have some self-restraint.

But it’s Readerville’s eighth birthday, and anniversaries of all kinds bring out a sentimental streak in me. Readerville is presently made up of two parts: an online forum for people who love books and reading, and an online journal organized along similar themes. You can find more details on the particulars here.

In the five years I’ve been hanging around the Readerville Forum, it’s influenced my life in ways both small and enormous, and the idea of sitting down and itemizing them is a bit intimidating. Aside from the basic stuff – finding a cool and often smart community of readers from all over, all the books I’d have never found on my own, and all the conversations both inspiring and maddening – I made friends for life there, met the man I love and live with, made a crazy midlife career change so I could work in publishing because I realized that’s where my heart was, became a more critical and conscientious reader, became a better writer, got published, and just… figured out how to embrace my own weird autodidacticism. And that’s just off the top of my head.

I don’t want to enumerate every friendship I’ve made there or what it means to me, or the unexpected ways people have propped me up and encouraged me, or my absolute stokedness about finding a career that I love and am good at, no matter how shittily it pays, or the really wonderful love story that I am – sorry, kids – not going to tell here. That’s all a little more personal than I want to get. What I do want, though, is to publicly thank Karen Templer for creating Readerville. All of us touch other people’s lives in ways we can’t possibly know, and I believe that taking the time to acknowledge that – the fan mail, the love letter – is a mitzvah, a good deed, a karma prop, no matter how ingenuous or effusive it comes out. Especially now, in this age of irony where perceived effortlessness is all, I think it’s an odd and beautiful thing to catch someone trying.

So thanks, Karen, for the cool playground. It has been appreciated in ways you probably never imagined.

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Monday, June 09, 2008

At Last

I had such great plans for my garden over the winter. I was going to order all sorts of cool heirloom-type seeds, and start them up in my attic studio, under the skylights, using my pot maker (which I've had since my days of gardening upstate -- it's a nifty little gadget). I was going to build a bevy of raised beds à la Square Foot Gardening as soon as the weather got even vaguely warm enough to work outside. I was going to have my garden rocking by the time we were out of frost danger.

But then I got sick in the middle of March and stayed sick through the beginning of May, and there went all my big ideas. I could barely get dressed every morning and take the dog for a walk every evening, much less get my gardening shit together.

I did eventually haul my sorry and still-coughing ass up to Home Depot with a shopping list of materials and lumber, and I bought what I'd need to build. And then there were a couple of rainy weekends, and then a trip up to Boston, and then when we finally pulled the tarp off everything over the Memorial Day weekend, my 30-year-old drill died.

BUT. We persevered, J got me a new drill for my birthday (as if I hadn't hinted enough), we managed to get together enough soil mix to fill the beds -- surprisingly hard to estimate, even though the book is very explicit -- and we got out to the garden center in Yonkers and bought a bunch of little plants. Not quite the same as starting my own babies from seeds, but good enough. Saturday was the hottest day of the year hands down, but I didn't care -- it was good honest sweaty work, and when it was done we ended up with three raised beds full of all sorts of good stuff. It may or may not survive the birds and squirrels and raccoons and impulsive big-footed hound dogs, may or may not thrive in 6" of soil (and I do think I need to supplement even what we have there -- I've spent more on dirt this spring than on food, I do believe), may or may not work in the conditions we have there. But it's in there, and success or failure aside, I'm very proud of my garden. (The one with the bricks underneath that looks totally crooked is actually level -- it's the pitch of the ground that's totally crooked, and it only looks weird in the photo.)
We have corn and cabbage and broccoli and okra from seed.
We have Roma and cherry tomatoes, a purple and yellow sweet peppers and banana peppers and jalapeños and habañeros and white globe eggplants.
We have sweet peas, even though it's a bit late in the season for them, watermelon, cantaloupe, yellow squash, and cucumbers and black-eyed peas from seed. Probably some other stuff I've forgotten about, and I'm going to throw some lettuce in as soon as the temperatures get out of the 90s. I already had a bunch of herbs going in planters, so that's a done deal.
But it's done. At Last. I'm a garden loser no more. And if you don't think I'm sitting back in one of those green chairs with my feet up and a sweaty cold Heineken, admiring my handiwork and blasting Etta James out the kitchen windows, you'd better think again.


Friday, June 06, 2008

Flickr Meme Thing with Pictures

OK, so I saw this on two blogs I like a lot, Two Pointy Sticks and Alecto's Ophelia. Now, sometimes I like these meme things because they're good prompts and I tend to do well with motivators -- deadlines, assignments, telling people I'll do something and then having to do it so I don't completely humiliate myself. Then again, I'm also a cranky aging punk rocker (I was about to say "ex-punk rocker," but then realized that after all those years of saying "It's not about the FASHION, man," this would be a reasonable opportunity to take that to heart -- it's not about the lifestyle, right? Right?) and you know. No meme is the fuckin' boss of me.

This one appealed, though, probably for the most part because I like looking at pictures on the internet so much. I know it's all a big old time suck -- but still, there's so much cool stuff out there to feast the eyes on, BibliOdyssey and the Nonist and Strange Maps and Things to Look At and Decocentric (even though I can't read Russian, really, just enough to sound out the words) and I check out Ffffound! every single day, even though they're in snotty beta stage forever and I can't actually join. Which I suppose is part of my problem, having a million RSS feeds and wanting to look at every single one of them. I'd probably get a lot more done if I never turned on my Google Reader. But I don't know, I like having visual stimulation, and I do think it's good for me as an artist and even as a writer to have a lot of shiny input. You know the saying Kill 'em all, let God sort 'em out? (Or, in Latin: Caedite eos. Novit enim Dominus qui sunt eius.) Well, I say, Look at all the pictures on the internets, let my brain sift through 'em when I'm asleep or something. Hey, I don't watch TV -- I've gotta have some kind of guilty pleasure.

So this meme is all about found pictures and shiny objects so I liked it, plus since there's some kind of evolved internet etiquette wherein picking up a meme from someone else's blog is a sign of love and respect (not that Alecto and Ms. Pointy Sticks don't already know that I love and respect them, or if they don't then they should), so I get to do that twice with one blog post.

So, the concept:

a. Type your answer to each of the questions below into Flickr Search.
b. Using only the first page, pick an image.
c. Copy and paste each of the URLs for the images into fd's mosaic maker.

The Questions:

  1. What is your first name? Lisa
  2. What is your favorite food? Pasta
  3. What high school did you go to? The Putney School
  4. What is your favorite color? Bottle green
  5. Who is your celebrity crush? Steve McQueen
  6. Favorite drink? Red wine
  7. Dream vacation? Morocco
  8. Favorite dessert? Licorice
  9. What you want to be when you grow up? A Dog Whisperer
  10. What do you love most in life? The family
  11. One Word to describe you. Try
  12. Your Flickr name lisapeet
1. Lisa's little paws, 2. 3 Types of Pasta, 3. The Putney School, 4. Ten green bottles....., 5. Steve McQueen and wife Neile in Palm Springs 1963, 6. Red wine, 7. Chefchouen, Morocco, 8. Old Finnish liquorice tin from the 50s, 9. dog whisperer, 10. Bear Family, 11. try, 12. lisapeet age 8

(I cheated a bit on the last one by uploading a photo of myself and naming it accordingly. But it's a cute picture, and I haven't really changed much other than the hair color.)

So that's my little photo mosaic, and I encourage everyone to make one of their own because it's a really fun way to kill a Friday evening, and there's something oddly aesthetically satisfying about it as well.

I still owe Alecto a whole nother meme, one of those that fit into the category of Interesting Prompts That Will Probably Make Me Think in a Good Way and Something Interesting is Sure to Come of It. I just haven't gotten to it yet. Too busy looking at shiny pictures and stuff. But this'll do for now.


Sunday, June 01, 2008


Yeesh. In my mind I'm still 33 1/3.

Maybe it is time for that tattoo...