Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Long Time Coming, Long Time Gone

Shortly after winter set into New England last year, I stopped running outdoors. The family I worked for had a StairMaster in the basement, so I switched. I figured it would be excellent cardio training, and I wouldn't have to brave those shoulderless, slick Connecticut roads on foot. Then spring arrived, and with it the realization that if I were to run outdoors, I would acquire the runner's tan I got every summer, regardless of my vigilant application of SPF 70 water-and-sweatproof sunblock. During a normal summer it was just funny; during the summer preceding my wedding, for which I'd be wearing a strapless dress, it was unacceptable. So I kept it indoors. When I returned to Kansas City, I joined a gym that had a StairMaster, and until two weeks ago, I remained a member. I could have resumed running, and wanted to, half-heartedly anyway, but my lack of satisfaction over routes available near my home coupled with my need for new running shoes kept me gym-bound.

And then there came spring. Higher gas prices. Tedium at the gym. Some gym employee that really enjoyed Cher. The monthly expense that I couldn't justify when the weather was so nice. And so it happened that I canceled our membership and bought some running shoes. We both started bicycling more. I left the shoes in the box, thinking bicycling would be enough for now.

For many reasons, it wasn't. I couldn't get up to the level of exertion that makes me feel like I've gotten a good workout. I spent too many of those rides on the way to and from places to get snacks. The five pounds of winter weight that normally fall off as soon as I shed my winter coat stuck around. I had trouble sleeping. It just wasn't enough. A couple of nights ago, in the midst of persistent insomnia, I felt a familiar sensation. It was the sensation of needing to run.

When I lived north of the Plaza, there was a route I used to run that I loved. It's seven miles round trip, safe, hilly, familiar, comfortable. It's an out-and-back, with the turn around point not so far from where I live now as to be unreasonable to drive to, except in the sense that it seems ridiculous to me to have to drive somewhere in order to run. But I don't live now where I lived back then, and it was drive and run or deal with running in my neighborhood, which, NOTHANKYOUVERYMUCH. I drove to the nearest parking lot and parked. Stashed my bag under the seat, fiddled around with my keys until they felt comfortable in my hand, and took off running.

I'd love to say it was glorious, that it was one of those runs that was pure magic, that every felt good and right and perfect. In reality, it was okay. I made it all seven miles without walking, which is what I wanted out of the deal. I had to stop to rearrange my shoelaces on my right shoe several times, having neglected to compare the lacing of my new sneaks to that of my old. I struggled a bit on some of the uphills, and my right hamstring was not very happy on the last mile. It was...normal. Some runs are magic, true, but some runs completely suck, and this was neither. I can live with that. I will live with that, three times a week, all summer, and hopefully into the fall and through the winter. Some of those runs will undoubtedly suck.

But then, some will be pure magic.

It's good to be back.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Grammar Monday is on Holiday

It will return next week, when I have more time to address capitalization. I kind of used up all my time today doing...uh...stuff.

For now, please to enjoy these They Might Be Giants songs for kids.





I bet you didn't even know that West Xylophone was a country.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Another Round of Lots of Nothing

So the baby I'm watching today has a barn which plays an electronic version of "The Farmer in the Dell" and "Old McDonald Had a Farm." So far I've managed to make both songs even worse than they already are by singing along in my overly dramatic American Idol voice. I have yet to add hand motions and/or interpretive dance. You'll have to wait until I get really bored to witness that spectacle.

...

Tomorrow I am taking Lucy Snowe to a kitty cat reunion with two of her three sisters. This is corny, I know. Shut up. We are going to have so much fun that you'll be jealous! No, really, we WILL! I know this for a fact because Lucy even likes going to the vet (weirdo), so any trip out of the house is sure to be a hit.

...

Though I've managed to kill nearly every houseplant I have ever had (if it doesn't meow, I have trouble remembering to care for it), it seems that my garden is doing fairly well. Peas are up and ready to climb, potato plants are coming along nicely, carrots will be thinned fairly soon, and the onions are looking hardy. Green beans will go in this week, I hope, and cantaloupe will soon follow. The dead bird, however, will not make it. But I didn't grow him. I'm just leaving him there as compost. (Jack and Mary Liz, STOP TRYING TO TOUCH THE DEAD BIRD, FOR THE LOVE OF PETE.)

...

I feel we must all take a moment to recognize that Cate Blanchette always looks perfect. As does Helen Mirren. Let us all now take a moment of silence while I wish to look so fabulous myself.

...

I am really looking forward to summer, even though I do not enjoy the heat. This mostly has to do with my new! improved! summer! schedule! Right now I work Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday from 6:30 to 8am, then from 3 to 6pm (or 8pm if the situation necessitates it). You'd think that with those short hours, I would get a lot of things done. Alas, but no. Not anymore, anyway. It seems I am at the end of my rope when it comes to getting out of the house shortly after 6am. I now consider my work days a huge success if I manage to unload the dishwasher during the day. Fortunately for me (and all the projects I have yet to complete, which have languished these past few weeks), I have one more week of the crack of dawn schedule before my fabulous new summer schedule begins. I'll switch it all up by working Monday and Friday from 7:30am to 6pm. As odd as it may sound, I much prefer two long days to three early rising days with short hours.

Is it evident yet that I am not a morning person?

...

I keep forgetting that this is a holiday weekend. Memorial Day? What? Should I be doing something about that? Perhaps involving a grill?

Are you doing anything about that, perhaps involving a grill? If so, can I come?

Monday, May 19, 2008

Grammar Monday: Using the Wrong Word, and How to Stop

I'm just going to throw you a quick lesson tonight. There are two sets of words that most people use incorrectly. Let's set this straight.

1. Nauseated/Nauseous Nauseated is the word to describe feeling sick, while nauseous refers to the thing that might make one nauseated. I am nauseated by the nauseous smell of last night's leftover fish.

2. Disinterested/Uninterested Disinterested means that you are impartial; it is a good thing for a judge to be. Uninterested refers to being bored or lacking interest. It's a good thing the referee is disinterested and can make good calls without caring who wins, but too bad that I am completely uninterested in football and am stuck at the game without a good book.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Millions of Peaches, But Just One Peaches For Me

My very first bicycle was called a Cactus Rose, and I remember thinking it was so beautiful. Banana seat, streamers on the handlebars, plastic basket featuring plastic flowers on the front. It had one speed, and to brake you simply had to push backwards on the pedals. I loved that bike until I got old enough to determine that I needed a three-speed, which was followed by my assertion that the only way to be cool was to have a ten-speed, which was followed by my absolute delight that the bicycle we found at Sears Surplus was a twelve-speed. Like, NO WAY. Nobody had more than a ten-speed, and I got a twelve. I thought I was pretty much The Jamz.

Today's kids are no different. In the beginning, it's all about the decoration on the bike. Jack's first big kid bike featured flames, and Mary Liz is pleased as punch with hers because it has a basket and the word TAFFY painted (more than once!) on the purple frame. Jack has since moved up to bigger bikes as he has gotten bigger (good grief, that kid is tall), and now it's all about gears and how many, just like I remember it.

My Peugeot bike, the one I've been riding for years now as an adult, brilliant teal with a Mixte frame, had ten gears, at least as far as I could tell. I didn't really pay attention because honestly? I always left it in the same gear. That one gear worked really well, so why would I switch? In fact, that one bike, though it was between thirty-five and forty years old, worked really well, so why would I switch? There seemed to be a little something wrong with it, what with the occasional clanking and the chain randomly falling off a little bit, but I figured it could be fixed. My plan was to get it fixed, have some new brakes put on, and keep on riding.

So yesterday I took the bike into our new local bike shop to have it looked over. The clanking had become a little more pronounced, and in fact the bike barely worked on the uphill, so I figured it was time to get it taken care of. The shop owner looked it over and shook his head. The diagnosis was not good. Terrible tires (still the originals! after all this time!), marginal brakes, completely destroyed derailleur. Bits of the bike were simply missing. It would cost nearly as much to fix the bike as to get a new one. As much as I loved that old bike, I decided that it might be a good time for some test rides on newer models. I tried out two--one with three speeds, that was brown, and one with one speed, in shiny peach. I was drawn to the peach not for any practical reason but simply because it was prettier. I rode both, and laughed at myself a little bit for even trying out the three-speed. Who did I think I was, anyway? A girl that ever in her life changed gears?

And so it happened that the pretty bike won the contest and came home with me. She's spectacular. I have named her Peaches Gingersnap McBride, a name that met with the approval of my young charges and the kids down the street, as did the bike itself. She's a cruiser, with a nice, comfy seat and handlebars spaced wide so I can sit up straight when I ride. I plan to get a basket for her front and a rack for her back so she can carry groceries home in style.

my new bike looks just like this

There's just one question left to be settled, and perhaps you can help me out with this. Do you think she needs handlebar streamers, or would that just be too much?

Thursday, May 15, 2008

While I Was Making Dinner, My Phone Rang

"That was Jay Nixon's people. They want me to be in his commercial."

"What do you have to do?"

"Um, I don't know. Show up and be awesome?"

Monday, May 12, 2008

Grammar Monday: Put on Your Stone-Washed Jeans for This Topic

Now, let's all do the step-and-snap. White man's overbite! GO!

If this week's topic had a theme song, I believe it would be this gem, circa 1990. Subjunctive mood must have loved 1990.



Subjunctive mood is the mood of wishful thinking, the woulda, coulda, shoulda of grammar books everywhere. Well, if it's even in your grammar book. I don't remember hearing anything at all about it before college, when it became one of my very favorite things. Subjunctive mood addresses a situation or circumstance that might have been, or might be, but simply isn't. The verbs used in this mood are sometimes called conditional verbs. We often employ be verbs, most commonly were and (duh) be to create subjunctive mood. I'll start with examples using were.

If I were a chef, I would be better able to prepare bok choy.

I wish he were a quiet child.

If Alice were here, we would have cake.

If he were a concert pianist, he would make more money than he does playing synthesizers with his friends.

We could go bicycling if it were warmer.


These are in the subjunctive mood because none of the situations exist; they are only wished for. I am not a chef, he is not a quiet child, Alice is not here, he is not a concert pianist, and it is not warmer. Similarly, we use the verb be to indicate a wished for scenario.

She asked that he be on time.

I suggested that the cat be let inside.

He insisted that he be allowed to leave on an earlier flight.


Again, these situations do not yet exist. He is not yet on time, the cat has not been let inside, he has not yet been allowed to leave on an earlier flight. In the case of be, these things are obviously all possible; they have just not yet come to pass.

The subjunctive mood is not restricted to were and be, of course. One can also use other verbs in conditional scenarios. These are sentences that suggest something that should be. These are often identified by the use of the word that before the conditional verb.

I insist that you finish the chocolates.

He urged that she go to church every Sunday.

She demanded that Jane eat the rest of her asparagus.


I like to call these the should examples because you could place the word should directly in front of each conditional verb, but like the silent you of directives, it is simply left out. You should finish the chocolates, she should go to church every Sunday, and Jane should eat the rest of her asparagus.

So there you have it. The wouldas, the couldas, the shouldas, the wishful thinking. If only these things were true. And maybe they will be.

Jane, go eat your asparagus.

(Thanks to Jenni for the topic.)

Saturday, May 10, 2008

This is What We Do Now on Friday Nights

Today I spent the day with a baby on the verge of toddlerhood, ten whole hours of day, and she slept a grand total of one and three-quarters hours. This would have been just dandy except that I did not sleep much at all last night. In fact, I'd say that four hours would be a generous estimate. I had an enormous peppermint mocha to get me through the first half of the day, but the second half was a little more challenging than I normally prefer. Still, even after I was done, there was more to do. I had ERRANDS. During the first errand, to Whole Foods, I bellied right up to the coffee bar and ordered a medium iced coffee, which I proceeded to spill right down the front of my shirt. I would have cared, but the caffeine hadn't had enough time to kick in, so I was still feeling a little...vague. By the time I hit Target, two errands later, I did have the good sense to pull on a sweatshirt over that mess, but the fact still remains that the patrons of Whole Foods and Michael's got to see me in all my coffee-stained glory. Brilliant.

I'd take time out to care a little more about it now that I've been alert for a few hours, but A) I didn't see anyone I knew, and even if I did, most people are familiar with my ability to spill things on myself with alarming frequency, and B) What I really care about is my purchase of a Furminator. I'd read about them on Dooce's Daily Chuck, and had stopped into PetSmart earlier to check them out, but after the shock of the price tag, I had to take a moment to decide if it would be worth it.

Um, it was worth it.

phae and her furminated fur

That's Phae, looking much more svelte than before, and the fur that Jarod furminated off her back. Just her back. We still have her sides and tummy to go. It is unbelievable, and also unbelievably satisfying. After all, we are Americans, and if there's one thing that Americans like, it's a tangible result, concrete evidence of effort. Behold, the result of our efforts, the fruit of Jarod's labor and the $34.99 we paid for the Furminator.

phae's furminated fur, next to size ten well-pedicured feet

The birds in our neighborhood will have very cozy nest this year, I think.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Grammar Monday on Tuesday: Don't Quote Me, Part II

Well, here we are on Tuesday, finally getting to Grammar Monday. As much as I felt my SNAKES IN MY HOUSE story was important enough to delay our regularly-scheduled programming, I must now admit that the delay was also because I find this week's promised topic to be about as exciting as watching paint dry. I also find it to be annoying. But here we go anyway, and soon you will be vaguely familiar with how to use other punctuation marks with quotation marks.

When quotation marks are being used to quote something someone said or when writing dialogue, the rules are very straightforward. Punctuation related to the quote goes inside the quotation marks.

"Is this a nail?" he asked.

She remarked, "I've seen better high jumpers before."

"This is the best day of my entire life!" she exclaimed.


Also note how, in the second example, a comma is used to transition from the introductory verb into the quote. It goes before the quote mark. Similarly, if you are transitioning out of the quote into the verb, the comma would also go before the quotation mark.

"I haven't ever been to North Dakota," he lamented.

Easy, right?

Well, here's where things get a little more hairy. In other instances of using quotation marks (such as short story or song titles, referring to a particular word or phrase, or when indicating sarcasm), whether the punctuation goes inside or outside the quotation marks depends on what kind of punctuation mark you are using. Commas and periods always go inside the quotation marks, even if they are not related to what is contained in the quoation mark.

One of my favorite found poems is "Mornings Like This."

I've never really liked the song "Free Falling," but plenty of people do.


When it's a colon, a semi-colon, an exclamation mark, a question mark, or an apostrophe (and it is not part of a direct quote), it always goes outside the quotation marks.

There is no reason to call me "sweetheart"; my name will do just fine.

There are two varieties of the fruit that Mary Liz used to call "bapples": pears and apples.

Oh, no! I got the blue screen on my work PC when I downloaded "Hey There Delilah"!

Did you like "The Gift of the Magi"?

For me, part of "Of Mice and Men"'s appeal is that I cry every time I read it.


I'll admit that the apostrophe outside the quotation marks looks absolutely wrong, but that is the correct way to do it. However, if you choose to put it inside, I won't judge you.

Finally, parentheses go outside the quotation marks if the entire quote is in parentheses, but outside if only part of the quote is in parentheses. (This probably should have been grouped above with the direct quote punctuation, but I forgot to do it until now, so you'll just have to handle it as well as you can.)

There was a small problem when it came to choosing seats ("Judy prefers the window seat, but will climb over me twelve times to use the bathroom, so don't let her have it."), but drawing straws saved the day.

He suggested, "Perhaps we should find a hotel (if there is a hotel to be found in the middle of North Dakota)."


Hopefully that's clear, and I've covered all the various punctuation marks you might want to use when also using quotation marks. And hopefully you didn't fall asleep before you were done reading.

Unless you're an insomniac, in which case I just did you a favor. Sweet dreams!

Monday, May 05, 2008

We Are Experiencing a Slight Delay

Grammar Monday will be postponed until tomorrow due to the following breaking news story:



That there at the end? Was me holding up the still alive snake with a stick. Live tiny snakes! In my house! IN MY BEDROOM!

Just in time for Jarod to go out of town for two nights. Life sure is awesome!

Thursday, May 01, 2008

One Step Closer to TOTAL BASEMENT NIRVANA

In an effort to whip my basement into shape, this weekend I am having a yard sale. Many have commented to me, "It's called Goodwill, Mary," and I would like to assure all those people that my neighborhood Goodwill already knows my car thanks to the many, many, MANY donations I have already made. They will continue to see me on a regular basis, I'm sure, as I take yard sale leftovers and other random junk I find in the basement to their back door. However, before I throw it all into their capable hands, I'd like to try to make a little cash.

Yeah, I know. I'm greedy. Greedy for a new basement shelf. A new, BIG basement shelf, one that is large enough to hold our luggage. For months now I've been drooling all over a shelf at Target, and now I am determined that it shall be mine. We will have our entire basement organized! I will stop at nothing, even sitting outdoors in the weather for nine hours, taking money from people who would like to help me part with our crap!

For those of you who are wondering just how much of it is my crap and how much is my husband's, I will honestly tell you that it's about 50/50, which surprises even me. I was certain that I had thrown out all the things I would no longer want or need when I packed up all my stuff and moved to Connecticut for fourteen months, but it turns out that I am willing to send a lot more stuff straight out the door if it means that every item in my house has its own little home, that everything in my basement is lined neatly on shelves or folded into bins.

I really don't know how it came to this. I am, by nature, a cluttery person. I like leaving things out. I like keeping things for sentimental reasons. I really enjoy leaving a trail of shoes between the sofa and my closet. But somehow I now equally enjoy having everything neat and tidy, lined up and in order. I think it's because, somewhere along the way, I became a grown-up. I like having a budget and eating my vegetables, and I subscribe to magazines of the home and garden variety. I don't pick up Us Weekly nearly as often as I used to. I occasionally sing Billy Joel hits under my breath while I vacuum. It's kind of ridiculous.

Someone, please help me.