Thursday, February 26, 2009

My 40 days have come and gone . . . and I still haven't written about the fabulous surprise my husband came up with.

My life feels like one long list of things I haven't yet done. Which, I suppose, is kind of the point of living. If I ever reach the end of the list, what will I do next?

I have a wonderful post about branding floating around my head, but it will have to float for at least another day. I find it difficult to concentrate on being intelligent and witty while teaching my high school sophomore the basics of driving around an empty parking lot and attending junior high parent teacher conferences and helping my 4th-grader put handcuffs on her biography/puppet of Harry Houdini and reassuring a crying 2nd-grader that, no, his watch is not two minutes fast as a neighborhood child teased.

I love my life. But it does make intelligent and witty a state devoutly to be desired rather than my natural state of being.

But I do have one piece of advice before I dive back into my natural state of being. And the advice is for me.

"Laura--do not, under any circumstances, tell your trainer that your goal is to run in St. Stephen's Green in Dublin in May. And do not ever, no matter how happy you are, proclaim that a given weight is 'hard, but not hard enough'. If you do these things, you deserve every ounce of sweat and every quivering muscle that ensues."

I'm just saying.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

This was going to be a post about my wonderful, darling, devious husband and the surprise he pulled off for the end of my 40 Days of 40.

It's still coming.

But tonight, I have to do a little complaining about a night on which my feminist sensibilities went right out the window. Or in this case, down the drain.

I've spent the last two hours covered in filthy pipe water, courtesy of my backed-up kitchen sink. I've changed two sets of clothing, disconnected and reconnected a bunch of pipes, scrapped gunk out with a knife, and made multiple trips to the bathroom to dump the bowl that will never again be used for any type of food product in my house.

Two hours, one set of dedicated friends, a wire hanger, two loads of laundry, a mix of vinegar and baking soda, and a plunger later . . . the sink is working.

And I may never eat again. So really, it's a win all the way around.

Especially for my husband, who missed all the fun by being somewhere else tonight.

Feminist or not, I agree with Buffy: "I was raised to believe that the men dig up the corpses and the women have the babies."

Friday, February 13, 2009

My friend, Patty (see her blog at Pat Esden in my sidebar) assigned this meme to one of her characters. As someone who knows a good idea when I see it, I shamelessly stole--er, make that borrowed--the concept.

Meet Kieran Holt--17-year-old Londoner who has come to Whitby, Yorkshire after the death of her sister and gets more than she bargained for when she comes across an old house that she may or may not remember.

1. What are your nicknames? My mother, Vivian, calls me Kiki. I hate Kiki.

2. What do you do before bedtime? Study. It’s soothing.

3. What one place have you visited that you can't forget and want to go back to? Apparently Sorrows Court—though I’ve never been to the Yorkshire coast before. Explain, then, how I remember this house. And its long-dead owners.

4. What are some of your favorite scents? Books. New books, old books, libraries, bookstores. Oh--and fresh shortbread.

5. If you had a million dollars that you could only spend on yourself, what would you do with it? Buy a bookstore, hire someone to run it, and spend my days alone in a private library upstairs. Or possibly move to Africa and work in a public-health clinic. I’m 17—I don’t quite know yet.

6. What is your theme song? "The Wanderer" by Odd Project.

7. Do you trust easily? No.

8. Do you generally think before you act, or act before you think? According to my sister, I think and think and never act.

9. Is there anything that has made you unhappy these days? Besides my sister being dead?

10. Do you have a good body-image? I have a body. It works. For now.

11. What have you been seriously addicted to lately? Avoiding everything that might bring up painful memories of Alix.

12. How many colors are you wearing now? Olive green cargo pants, white t-shirt, pink hoodie.

13. What’s the last song that got stuck in your head? “Everything’s Magic” by Angels and Airwaves. I could swear my iPod knew what I was feeling the first time I looked at Sorrows Court--it sure picked an appropriate song.

14. What’s your favorite item of clothing? Alix’s flannel shirt that she always wore around the flat to keep warm.

15. What was the last book you read? Non-fiction? Just finished A-levels, so too many to list. Fiction? I’m a closet fantasy fan—Twilight by Stephenie Meyer.

16. What would you do with an extra five hundred dollars right now ... the only catch being that you have to spend it within a week? I have a trust fund and a generous trustee—an extra five hundred dollars would go into the fund and gather interest like the rest.

17. What items could you not go without during the day? iPod. Music is my most reliable distraction at the moment.

18. What should you be doing right now? Going to sleep. But I think I’ll go explore the Great Hall of Sorrows Court by night. There is definitely something odd in this house. It might just be me—or it might not.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


Who would have guessed that 70's hair could be so much better than 80's hair?

I'm not sure I can remember thirty years ago. Once I start thinking about being 10, I inevitably think about my one and only daughter who turned 10 a few months ago. (Of course, her birthday party is next week--it's just been that kind of year.)

So I thought . . . what are the differences between me at 10 and my daughter at 10?

1. I had a cat. My daughter does not. I do not wish to discuss the subject further. (Except to say: "Mom, now I totally get why you didn't want the cat. And apparently I'm meaner than you are.")

2. I have one brother. She has three.

3. I was a quiet, shy child. My daughter keeps getting moved at school and church for chattiness.

4. I had a radio. All feel free to laugh together, especially my daughter with her purple iPod shuffle.

5. I had a banana-seat bike. It's nice those seem to have the gone the way of dinosaurs.

6. I had color TV. With four channels. And if I was really bad, I had to watch the black-and-white set in my parents' room.

7. My big summer vacation was driving to Mexico in a motorhome with my cousins. My daughter is flying to Mexico for the second time this summer for a beach vacation.

Still, it's not all differences. We do share some things in common, besides our eye color. The biggest of these is reading. Nothing makes me happier (even while I'm telling her sternly to go to bed) than to find her reading in bed after 10:00 at night. Or shutting herself in her room when she "just has to finish this book now!" Or buying her books for Christmas and hearing a genuine squeal of delight.

Some pleasures remain the same.

Thursday, February 05, 2009


I've now done three workouts with my personal trainer.

Three workouts in which she nearly made me cry (once with the body fat calipers, twice from reaching the physical edge.)

I'm proud to say I have learned something important from The Biggest Loser--Don't Ever Say I Can't. (Not out loud, at least--screaming it at the top of my inner lungs is another matter.)

What keeps me going the last five reps of a weight that's making my whole body tremble? Force of will? Stubbornness? Dreams of size-6 jeans? My jiggly stomach?

Alas, no. My motivation is much simpler.

Also fictional.

Captain Malcolm Reynolds.

I've got my Firefly DVD set sitting out on the trunk in my workout space. And when the screaming inside threatens to erupt out of my mouth, I just focus on Mal. And I hear what he said to Simon once: "You ain't weak. Don't know how smart you are . . . but you ain't weak and that's not nothing."

That's not nothing. Words to motivate--for me, at least.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009


Arthur Conan Doyle and George Edalji. Non-fiction, I guess. Mystery about nasty letter-writing and vandalism that eventually lands Edalji in prison. Conan Doyle took up his case after his release from prison and helped clear him. Sort of. Honestly, that's all I remember. That's not a good sign.

Written by a Welshman in the 12th century, this history isn't so much fact as storytelling. But what wonderful storytelling! It purports to tell the history of the ancient Britons who were ruled over by the Romans, invaded by the Saxons and Angles, and finally driven to Wales and Cornwall. Geoffrey of Monmouth was the first major writer to give King Arthur a written form and many of the romances that picked up his story got it from Geoffrey's history. In many ways more informative about Geoffrey's time than those of the kings he's writing about.

Benedict's second novel (after the haunting ISABELLA MOON), it defies easy labels. Mystery? Suspense? Horror? Paranormal? It's got bits of all of them, woven into a story about three teenage girls who drive a young priest out of their school and, years later, have to deal with the consequences. When Varick comes to town, disaster follows for all three women: Del, struggling to fit into her perfect life; Alice, whose marriage is coming apart at the seams; and Roxanne, the artist who started it all. And when deals are made with the devil, not even the innocent are safe. Not an easy read, but beautifully written and haunting in its own right.

Aislinn is a high schooler who has always followed her grandmother's cardinal rule: Never Let the Fairies Know You Can See Them. But when a particular fairy goes out of his way to be noticed, Aislinn finds herself caught in a power struggle that's spilling out of the fairy world into hers. The Summer King needs a Queen in order to defeat his Winter Queen mother's reign, and he thinks Aislinn is the one. An urban fairy tale for today's teens, with a pace that never lets up and a plot that has some interesting twists. I'll definitely read the next one.

Ahhhhhh . . . this is how historical fantasy should be done. And where better to go than back to Sevenwaters, where Marillier's fame began. Clodagh is the sensible 3rd sister of 6 who keeps the household running while her mother is perilously pregnant. When baby Finbar is born, the long-awaited son and heir, rejoicing quickly turns to tragedy. Finbar is snatched from his cradle, replaced by a changeling child. But only Clodagh can see the changeling for what it is. Distrusted and frightened, Clodagh sets out on a quest to the Otherworld to find her brother. She's aided (naturally) by Cathal, who has his own secrets and a disturbing knowledge about the Fair Folk. Marillier is a master who doesn't disappoint--and she throws out enough hints to give me hope of more Sevenwaters books to come.

The sequel to OUTLANDER, equally lush and romantic. The bulk of the story takes place in France and Scotland in 1743-44, with Claire and Jamie trying to stop Bonnie Prince Charlie's invasion to restore his father's throne. With Claire's knowledge of the disaster awaiting the Highlanders at Culloden, they work behind the scenes to undermine the prince's fundraising while trying to avoid being labeled traitors. But history, it seems, cannot be outwitted--on the eve of the fateful battle, Jamie sends pregnant Claire back through the standing stones to her first husband, Frank. The book is framed with Claire, twenty years after her return, bringing her daughter back to Scotland to tell her about her birth father, who died at the Battle of Culloden in 1744. Or did he? I thought this one was a little overwritten and could have used some serious editing, but overall I enjoyed the romance and adventure and I have the third book waiting.

Detective Chief Inspector Alan Banks is called in when a domestic violence call leads to the discovery of a vicious serial killer. The fittingly-titled AFTERMATH is complex story about what happens after that discovery and the mysteries that still have to be untangled, not least the question of motive. FRIEND OF THE DEVIL involves several characters from AFTERMATH, but I thought the first book was the more compelling. Robinson writes good characters, but I can't quite get into him the same way I've fallen in love with Reginald Hill, who also writes police procedurals set in Yorkshire.

A re-read for book club. When Iris Greenfeder gives her writing students an assignment about fairy tales, she sets in motion an uncovering of long-held secrets--not least of which is why her mother died in a hotel fire when Iris was ten. Selkies and stolen necklaces, reformed criminals and hotel millionaires, a hot summer and a search for a mother's missing manuscript . . . Goodman writes smart, romantic, and richly atmospheric thrillers that are great for book club questions like: What's the difference between a smart thriller and a dumb one?

Monday, February 02, 2009


I'm a few days late with this. I think it's because I could only take so much humiliation in one week. After the body fat percentage, I had to fill in the cracks of my esteem before I dared post this photo.

Of course, it was 1989. I was not (please, tell me I was not) the only 20-year-old walking around with bangs to heaven. The truly sad thing is that I spent more time doing my hair in the years of this style then I ever have before or since. So much effort--so little reward.

Aside from the tragedy that was my hair, 20 was a good enough year for me. I was a junior at BYU, loving Shakespeare and the Romantic poets and Victorian novels. I finally had my own car (and a driver's license--that's another story). I had a job at a doctor's office and friends and even some dates from time to time.

It was also a turning point year for me. It was the year I pondered what I wanted in my life and the year I decided to take a break from school. One week after my 21st birthday, I started a new adventure as a missionary in Haiti.

There is no better decision I could have made. Haiti changed me, physically and emotionally. I would not be who I am today without those 18 months spent with Haitians, speaking their language, loving their children, being part of their lives.

I'm starting to see a pattern here--20 was the year I prepared for Haiti; 30 was the year I found myself in a new state and new home; what will 40 be?

Can't wait to find out.