Wednesday, June 29, 2011

A Kid by Any Other Name is Still a Kid

I was sitting at my daughter's soccer game last night, listening to parents cheering on their kids, when I realized that a lot of today's popular names weren't even around when I was a child. I can't remember knowing a single Kayla, Kaylie, or Kylie when I was a tyke, but they're everywhere now. Or Cheyenne. I never heard of a girl with that name until last year, when I noticed THREE throughout the summer on the soccer fields, although to be fair, one was spelled Sheyanne. Two of my daughter's friends are named Morgan; my best friends in junior high were Sandi and Diane. I love the name Michaela, but I haven't seen it spelled traditionally since my friend christened her baby 18 years ago. All the young girls with that name, and there are a lot of them, go by Mykayla now.

When I was little, boys were named Johnny and Randy and Kevin; they seem to have been replaced by Cody and Tristan and Brendon/Brandon/Brennan.

It's weird to think that my own name may some day be considered old-fashioned. Maybe it already is. I really don't know. Or care. 'Cause I'm that grouchy Old Lady Kim who leans out her window and shakes her fist at those pesky Jasmines and Parkers running across her lawn.

Dinner last night: spaghetti with meat sauce, garlic toast, green salad

Exactly one year ago:

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Pleasantly Plump, Perfectly Coiffed

You asked for it . . .

Comments are closed, she murmured coyly.

Dinner last night: barbecue salmon, cous cous

Exactly one year ago:

Exactly two years ago:

Monday, June 27, 2011

Pretending to Look Excited

I grew up in small town Alaska, where the sport of basketball rules, as it does in most of rural Alaska. In a few of our larger towns and in the big city of Anchorages, though, hockey is huge. The Alaska Aces recently won the ECHL National Championship and were awarded the Kelly Cup, which has been making its rounds across the state. The traveling Cup provides opportunities for sports nuts like my husband to force their wives to stand up in restaurants with the gargantuan trophy so their young children can snap blurry pictures on cell phones.

Seeing this very picture of myself prompted me to march straight to the hair salon and chop off all my hair. I'M NOT KIDDING.

Dinner last night: roasted turkey sandwiches

Exactly three years ago:

Friday, June 24, 2011

Scent of Lilac

I love the purple lilac that grows outside my kitchen window. It's just starting to bloom, and should be glorious in another week or so.

I once read somewhere that lilac is the best scent for the kitchen . . . you know, hand soap and candles and such. I can't remember why lilacs are supposed to be superior in cutting odors, but I believe it. Actually, now that I've thought about it, I don't think it was lilac. It might have been lavender. Oh, well, no matter . . .

a sprig of fresh lilac in the kitchen is still a wonderful thing.

Dinner last night: cheeseburgers on the barbie

Exactly one year ago:

Exactly two years ago:

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Sitka Rose

It's that time of year when I start wandering about my yard and the fields near my home, camera in hand, taking the same sorts of pictures of the same sorts of flowers that I photographed last year . . . and the year before that . . . and the year before that. What can I say? I love wildflowers.

Wild rose bushes run along the east side of our house, and when you look out the family room windows, you catch an eyeful of their pink blossoms. This year, they look a little beaten up. Straight out of the bud, the edges of petals are already wilting. Curled and shriveled. Kind of like me. Art reflecting life, I guess.

I wish I was brave enough to have named one of my daughters Rosebud.

Dinner last night: oven-baked chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, broccoli, green salad

Exactly one year ago:

Exactly three years ago:

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Still There

On my way home from a recent trip to Homer, Alaska, I drove past a field. Not just any field. My husband and I refer to it as our field.

Shortly after he proposed, we walked out to the edge of this clearing, where the bluff overlooks Kachemak Bay, and set my little Kodak on a tripod to snap a picture of us all young and smiling and excited about our future together. The sun was shining then, and the sky was clear blue; the mountains rose magnificently behind us as we grinned at the camera.

That photographic moment occurred some time in the Mesozoic Era, back when cameras used these spool-y things called film—I've long since lost track of the negative and any print of our engagement portrait. But the field is still there, remarkably the same. And so are we. Of course, we're not young any more, but we're still smiling! Well, maybe not smiling, but at least we're not crying. And now that I think of it, we're not so much excited about things as we are exhausted.

Dinner last night: pasta and meatballs

Exactly two years ago:

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Don't Worry, Kids. Mama's Keeping Her Day Job.

I spent an extended weekend in Homer, Alaska, attending the Kachemak Bay Writers' Conference. I've known forever about this annual conference (okay, not forever, maybe just a decade), but never had time in my schedule to participate. This year I finally made it a priority.

I don't know anything about writers' conferences, but from what I kept hearing from the presenters and attendees, this particular conference is pretty special. First, it's still going strong after 10 years, which evidently is unheard of for most writers' conferences. Second, it's set in one of the most spectacularly gorgeous spots on the earth: Kachemak Bay. I'll spare you a travel essay raving about the beaches, mountains, and ocean life; suffice it to say that you need to add VISIT KACHEMAK BAY to the top of your bucket list.

Kachemak Bay (in the winter)
the area is even more beautiful when it's warm and green in June
Third, the conference attracts Pulitzer-prize-winning and/or commercially successful and/or amazingly talented authors and poets. Past keynote speakers include such luminaries in the literary world as Tobias Wolff, Billy Collins, Amy Tan (author of Joy Luck Club—how sick am I that I didn't attend that year?), and Anne Lamott.

Rita Dove,
Pulitzer Prize winner and former Poet Laureate of the U.S.
leading an informal Q and A session
I was slightly intimidated by the many published writers attending the conference like they were mere mortals, was definitely inspired by the workshop leaders, and was a smidge depressed by the seemingly impossibility of anyone ever getting widely published again in this digital age of niche interests. A portion of the conference revolved around the business end of writing: editing, representation, publishing, distribution of one's work, etc. I mostly ignored those workshops and panels since I have no immediate plans to publish my riveting tales of twin toddlers cutting their hair, but I did converse with an interesting literary agent from New York City who sat at my dinner table one evening and the following day at lunch. I'm pretty sure he was trying to get me to sign with him. That's a joke. Not the sitting at my table, because HE DID. You would have been proud at how classy I behaved, never once clutching at his arm and screaming, Help me become the next JK Rowling!

My favorite presenter was probably Donna Jo Napoli. I was not familiar with her work, but looked forward to her talk on Historical Fiction with Respect to Children's Books. By the time the workshop ended I was in love with my new favorite author, and ended up buying a couple of her novels written for middle school readers. Did I mention she has authored over 70 books? Amazing.

Then there was the professor from the University of Alaska Fairbanks who led a great workshop with tons of useful information and strategies for dealing with omniscient narration. He reminded me of so many of my English professors at UAF; that is to say, he's very proud about the fact that he hasn't owned a television set since 1973. Also, he despises Dean Koontz. When I was in college, the contempt was directed at Stephen King. I understand where purists are coming from—literature should remain first and foremost an art form—but whatever. I love me my John Grisham novels.

Lest you think I'm all high and mighty with my liberal use of such terms as omniscient narration and luminaries in the literary world, I'll end this post with a description of my favorite moment from the conference. Over lunch—and it's important to note this incident occurred during the noon hour in a meeting room and not at 2 a.m. at Alice's Champagne Palace—an Open Mic was scheduled for writers who wished to read excerpts from their current works.

The final participant to step up to the podium described herself as a writer of "erotica science fiction." I'm fairly certain I know what science fiction is; however, having never read erotica, I mistakenly presumed it to be literature of a titillating nature. Heaving bosoms, throbbing loincloths, and such. Um, no. Turns out, erotica is merely a nice-sounding label for pornography. This woman started narrating the most graphic, er, love scene you can imagine. Actually, please don't. Just trust me that the reading was inappropriate.

I had to bite the inside of my cheek to keep from laughing, and successfully refrained from elbowing the person next to me. I mean, really, the situation was begging to be commented on by a loud-mouthed blogger who finds it hysterically surreal when the word "phallus" echoes over the sound system of a banquet room. And the kicker? The audience applauded appreciatively when the author finished her selection. We may not know the definition of erotica, but we Alaskans are polite.

Dinner last night: goulash

Exactly one year ago:

Thursday, June 9, 2011

CSI: Special Hair Unit

My friend once told me about walking into her dining room to find her daughters under the table, sitting in a pile of hair. "It looked like a crime scene," she described. I now know what she means.

The other day, I felt that sudden sense of "uh-oh." Maybe it was mother's instinct, maybe it was just my subconscious picking up on the silence from the other room, but I knew something was wrong. I ran into the living room, where the twins were playing around a small box. Both of the girls looked guiltily up at me, and spoke quickly in rehearsed voices that were a tad loud, a bit too forced in cheerfulness: "We cut our Barbie's hair!" One daughter waved a pair of scissors at me as if to prove the truth of their statement. See, Mom? I have the scissors right here! 

The odd thing was, no Barbies in sight. Also? The twins are NOT allowed to play with scissors. EVER. You may think this rule was enacted for their physical safety, but it's more about my sanity. Too many important papers, beautiful fabrics, and socks have been destroyed by twins with scissors.

I looked into the little box that sat between them. It was full of hair. Not Barbie hair, human hair. "Stand up!" I ordered. "Turn around!" At this point in the story, a good CSI agent would whip out some photographic evidence of the bloodless trauma that occurred in our house that day. But I'm not a forensic specialist, just a distraught mother. I wasn't thinking about documenting the moment with my camera.

One twin—the instigator of the entire mess—confessed that she had cut off the ends of her own braids. Actually, she didn't so much confess as hang her head silently in agreement while her sister screamed, "She did it! She did it!" She'd snipped off the beautiful 3" golden curl hanging from each plait, and then turned on her sister, whose long hair happened to be swinging loose and free in the wind.

Not only are the twins terrible liars, they are terrible beauticians. Entire chunks were chopped from the bangs, sides, and back of the victim's hair.

The silver lining of the story is the very next day, the girls' grandmother was returning from vacation and would be spending the night at our house. Grandma Vickie is a professional hairstylist who owns her own salon. The girls are now sporting shorter bangs and nicely layered, shoulder-length dos.

It all worked out, except for poor Daisy Doodle. I should mention that the girls also cut random pieces of fur off the dog's back. And there's no amount of grooming that can fix that.

Dinner last night: mac and cheese with hot dogs

Exactly three years ago:

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Is It Legal to Marry a Hardwood Floor?

I'm in love with the new maple flooring in our family room. I never really cared one way or the other about the old carpet—it had its pros and its cons—but I sure despise it now . . . well, not so much the actual carpet as the process of pulling it up. Wow. That was a good 4 hours of hard work, particularly the tedious job of prying up staples and tack strips from the subfloor.

Oh, but the prep was worth it. We now have a beautiful new clean hardwood floor that I adore. Hey! "Floor that I adore!" I'm a poet and I don't even know it! You may not think I'm clever, but my new floor thinks I'm hilarious.

Dinner last night: leftovers

Exactly one year ago:

Monday, June 6, 2011

Where to Start?

I was offline last week and it just about killed me. We emptied the family room in preparation for our new floor installation, and the poor little computer sat lonely and unplugged in the hallway for days on end. So much has been going on and I couldn't even post one thrilling sentence about it! You missed out on the new maple hardwood, our good weather, a soccer tournament, oh, and the twins CUTTING THEIR HAIR. Well, the modem is back in the wall now, so watch out . . . daily posts this week, starting with:

Why am I using an exclamation mark? "Soccer!" sounds like fun, which it might be for the players, but not necessarily for the moms who have to drive their 13-year-old daughters to game after game after flip-floppin' game for the first big tournament of the summer. Someone needs to invent a new form of punctuation that will express my combined feelings of exhaustion, slight headache, and pride in my kid's ability to pass a ball across a field using only her feet. "Soccer : P" doesn't quite work.

Dinner last night: barbecue chicken, hot dogs, watermelon, cherries

Exactly three years ago: