Monthly Archives: June 2011

On making shit up

So why am I not writing more?  Yes the allotment is taking up a fair amount of my free time, but I’m still wasting a good 4-5 hours every day that I could be using to make stories and create fiction and, you know, lie in a socially acceptable manner.  Why am I not doing that?

Somebody motivate me or give me a deadline or something!  Please!  Because seriously, I don’t need to watch more Hollyoaks, it’s not even that good right now, and it’s never been as good as Days of Our Lives.  Particularly the summer when Marlena was possessed by the devil and John Black (her ex-husband) found out he used to be a priest (he forgot because of amnesia due to something Stefano did) so he had to exorcise her.

Perhaps this is the problem, I’m too easily distracted by soap operas.  I need to burn my television (no I don’t, don’t worry television, I won’t really burn you).  Or at the very least I need to avoid it.


This crisis in creativity has been brought to you by a viewing of the movie Bridesmaids, which was very funny and I liked quite a lot but only served to remind me that I can write (and have written in the past) funny things too.  So why am I not doing it?  Because I am lazy, that’s why.  And I really need to get on the ball and stop messing around watching stupid tv shows all the stupid time and write a stupid book already.



Filed under book? what book?

Tiny epic moments

I’ve been thinking about defining moments lately.  About how some of them are huge and how you know, as they are happening, that this is something that will change you forever.  But then there are others that are so small they ought to be inconsequential but somehow, in the grand scheme of things, they grow larger and become touch points in your life that you are unable to forget.  Silly things, really, mundane even, that stay with you and retain an almost freakish clarity.  Or moments that just seem typical or average as they happen only to grow out of proportion in hindsight so much so that you forget that they were ever small moments at all.  And these ridiculous small moments weave together and change you just as much as the grander moments of heartbreak or exultation.  You become you are through these tiny ambushes.

I’ve mentioned this before but it still shocks me that an egg sandwich has had they power to change my life as much as it did.  Who would have thought on that cold Christmas day as we stopped at one of the few cafes open in Barcelona after a fruitless attempt to visit the Gaudi museum that I would eat a bocadillo (huevo y jamon, por favor) that would be responsible for 4 months of solid illness followed by over 5 years (and counting) of arthritis based pain.  Just one stupid sandwich, and it changed the way I think about my body and my health and my functionality as a human, forever.  One sandwich that forced me into a crash course on learning how to navigate the NHS (cry if you have too, it makes people uncomfortable and sometimes gets you an earlier appointment).  Just a stupid everyday sandwich that sent bacteria into my joints and gave me a new appreciation for the days when everything works right and an equal frustration for the days when my lower back and knees feel like they’re conspiring against me.

And then there was that blind date I went on in May of 1999.  I only agreed to it to get my friend Rachel off my back.  I didn’t want to date anyone.  I was moving to Las Vegas soon, I had plans and things to do, what’d I need some weird Straight Edge character hanging around for?  And then that weird Straight Edge character showed up at my door in Hamtramck, telling me how he;d just gotten his hair cut that afternoon and it looked stupid so please don’t judge me on this.  And how he’d just ended a 3 year relationship 3 months earlier and he was excited about going on a real date, and I was like, who is this spaz and doesn’t he know you’re not supposed to bring up past relationships until at least the 3rd date?  But now I know that spaz is one of the best people I’ve ever met and that I would be lost without him.

And there was a bike ride while listening to Beck’s Odelay on my Walkman down a summery street in Port Huron that made me realize I was going to get through the year ahead and make something better out of it, all because of the way the sun dappled the street and the way the music in my ears made me feel.

And the feeling of sweat on my skin in Oklahoma on the drive back home from Las Vegas that gave me hope again after six long months in the desert where I actually started to miss humidity.  The lesson there:  I need to stay in green places.  Places with rivers and lakes and ponds and deciduous trees.  A small moment in the midst of a big one, a weird lonely drive cross-country with my cats, listening to a mix tape from a friend in Minnesota as I made my way west to east from the desert, over Hoover Dam, through more desert and mountains and plains, and back into the surprising lushness of Michigan.

And who knew that my first grade teacher’s decision to have us write a story about every colour of the rainbow would give me this life long love of words and making things up?  I still remember laying in the loft part of this play structure in the room thinking about what I would do for violet.  An interplanetary story involving a hot air balloon and a new unheard of world where everything was purple.

There are more, of course, countless mix tapes and letters, drawings scrawled in the back booth at Denny’s, marshmallows purchased for a view of the cute bag boy, concerts attended, meals eaten, buses taken, boys crushed on, beers drunk, etc.  Too many to count, really.  Which is funny, because so often when compared to the big moments (weddings, cross-country drives, international moves, deaths, etc) they can seem insignificant but really they probably carry most of the weight in making me who I am now (overly wordy music fan who won’t eat eggs in foreign countries).

And there’s no real point to this except that it’s what I’m thinking of lately as I continue to deal with the rather more obvious events of the last year.  Maybe it’s just a way to remind myself that the death of my father will not define me forever.  Yes, it is important and it is defining, but it is not everything and there was so much more I got from him in those small moments (A conversation while driving to our old house to pick up a last truck load of stuff about divorce, and MFAs in Creative writing, and love.  The time he tried to convince me that Cornish Game Hens are so small because they are herded cross-country by helicopters.  More than I am able to write about at the moment without crying) and they mean just as much as the sad and frustrating end.  Maybe, hopefully, more in the long run.

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Near death gardening experience

An old sunflower stalk tried to kill me yesterday.

I was doing some clearing on Sunday and was moving a massive rotten sunflower stalk to the compost heap.  I tossed it onto the heap but either the sunflower didn’t want to accept its fate or the heap was feeling over burdened because the stalk bounced back and beaned me right in the head.  And you may not know this, but sunflower stalks, even old rotten ones, are really, really hard.

So beware the hidden dangers of sunflowers.


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Filed under dorking it up, garden

Exciting news!

Apologies if you are also my friend on Facebook, because if you are then you already know what I’m about to tell you because I haven’t shut up about it since Sunday.

We are number 84

Jeremy and I have an allotment!!!

The American readers of this fine blog (and maybe some Canadians too) may be asking themselves, What the hay is an allotment? Well, my friends (or enemies reading this and hoping to find my life is a disaster so they may partake in some Schadenfreude*) here is Wikipedia’s definition.  Basically though, an allotment is a bit of land set aside for citizens such as myself to garden on.  Usually there are loads of them all together on one big piece of land, but they are shrinking as people try to build housing on every available inch of the UK.

We’ve been on a waiting list to get ours for over 3 years, which is actually a relatively short amount of time (I know someone who’s been on a lists for a decade), and our allotment isn’t really just ours.  It also belongs to an elderly man named Harry who can’t take care of it after decades of tending it himself.  We haven’t met him yet but have been told he only comes by twice a year.  His health is poor and he has a very hard time walking at all, much less taking the 2 busses from Clapham.

Alien allium

Because the allotment has barely been tended over the last few years our first step in caring for it is to clear a lot of it out.  There isn’t a whole lot that’s salvageable at the moment (in one spot there are all these gone to seed broccoli plants that are as tall as I am, no lie), but we are finding more as we work our way through.  We’ll be keeping the artichokes, rhubarb, strawberries, blackberries, asparagus and gooseberries going as it would be silly not to.  And last night we found some garlic while we were weeding.  Otherwise, weeding is our main occupation right now, with trimming the grass around the edge of the allotment coming in a close second place.

We’re trying not to make too many plans until we get it all cleared out and have a better idea of what we’ll be working with and then we’ll begin planting.  On Sunday while we were knee-deep in mud due to all the ran this weekend a really nice man named Allie gave us some tomato plants and advice and shared his rakes and scythe with us.  We saw him again yesterday and he has apparently decided my name is Karen (‘It’s my allotment name!’ I told Jeremy after he left) and he told us how pleased he was that we hadn’t been scared off.

Gardening Wellies

Hopefully by the weekend we’ll have cleared out the bulk of the allotment (minus the corner we want to use to compost) and we’ll have some idea of what we want to do with the bathtub in the middle of the space and most importantly, we’ll be able to start planting.

I can’t wait!

* Sorry if you did come here for some Schadenfreude, because I’m doing pretty okay, outside of losing my dad of course, and if that makes you happy then you’re a real jerk.

If it makes you feel better I’m probably sad about the fact that you, whoever you may be, don’t like me, but it doesn’t keep me up at night or anything.  Also I stubbed my toe yesterday, and I spilled coffee on my shirt on Friday.


Filed under dorking it up, garden

It’s not that 34 is old . . .

but Tea Obreht, the winner of this year’s Orange Prize for Fiction, is only 25.  And having been 25, I know for a fact that 25 is very young.  You don’t feel young when you’re 25 because you’re probably done with college and working a normal job and doing grown up things, but it is still pretty damn young.  And when I was 25 I had not won any major prizes for fiction.  Not unless you count that $500 scholarship in 1998 a major prize ,nd I do not, it was very nice and I was really pleased to have won it, but it was more minor than major.

So, yeah, 34 is not old, but it is nearly a decade older than 25 and I am feeling a bit like anunderacheiver at the moment.  I want to write a book and win prizes too!  And I want it to have happened 9 years ago.  This, of course, is not an option which means I need to stop slacking and get on task.  It’s not like there’s an age limit on these things and Tea Obreht’s good fortune doesn’t mean that I can not also succeed.  I can succeed, I know that, but seriously, 25.  That’s just ridiculous.


Filed under book? what book?, culture it up, grumpus


I like this photo because Florida and James look so happy together. Nevermind that something bad will surely happen again next week, Michael will join a gang, someone will lose a job, times will not stay good! Here they are sharing a happy cuddle, hooray!

Here is something you might not know about me.  I love the show Good Times.  A lot.  Back when I was at school (and by school I mean Wayne State University my esteemed alma mater) I would watch reruns whenever I could. 

I also owned not just one, but two, yes TWO! mugs that said DYN-O-MITE! that were purchased and the Highland Park Goodwill.  I loved how relentlessly depressing the show was while still having these ridiculous sitcomy moments.  I loved JJ’s paintings, I loved Michael’s nerdiness, I wasn’t as huge a fan of Thelma, but she had some pretty sweet outfits, Willona was the coolest ever, and of course I loved James and Florida, the bedrocks of the Evans family. 

And this is why I can never read, think or say the word Florida without thinking of Good Times.  In my mind the state is named after the character rather than the other way around.  Which is all a rather convoluted way of saying that I can’t go to Florida without thinking of Good Times and hearing the word Dyn-o-mite! repeated over and over in my head.

Which leads me to our very enjoyable trip to the Florida just a few weeks ago.  We arrived in Florida (Dyn-o-mite!) on the 19th of May to attend a wedding on the 21st, the happy couple showed a shocking lack of concern for the predicted apocalypse, which was wise given that it didn’t happen at all. 

We stayed with Jeremy’s grandfather in his pretty house on a small lagoon (at least I think it was a lagoon, maybe it’s just a pond though) and I spent a lot of time watching lizards on the back deck because on day 2 of vacation I contracted the cold that will not die.  Jeremy was still sick as well, having picked up the cold on his way back from soviet Russia the week before, but he was in slightly better shape than me. 

How to twist (in case you forgot)

We still pushed through all the festivities which were all very fun despite having no voice and a stuffed up head.  We managed, bravely, to dance like crazy at the reception.  I seem to be resorting to the twist a lot lately.  I’m not sure when this became my go to dance, but it totally is.  Luckily it’s pretty easy regardless of how crap you’re feeling.  So I drank some wine, had some cake, and twisted the night away.

I did choose to refrain from the hora (or as I described it to the manager of the restaurant where we had our reception “You know, the dance with the chairs, like in movies?”) as I was worried that my lack of balance due to a stuffy head might endanger the other guests.
Most importantly though, it was a really lovely wedding.  Jeremy’s cousin and her new husband looked tremendously happy and in love.  I’m really glad we were able to get back to the States to be a part of the day.
I spent the following day in bed watching Law and Order: SVU reruns because that is what you do when you are sick and can’t talk or stop coughing and everything hurts and you want to die.  Probably if I’d been able to spend more time in bed watching Law and Order reruns I’d have gotten better much more quickly. 
And on the following day we were back on an airplane and on our way back to England for approximately 8 hours before we were off to Spain.  The Florida (Dyn-o-mite!) portion of the trip was short but very good.  It was really nice to be back for a 100% happy reason rather than a memorial or funeral, where it’s all mixed emotions and melancholy. 
Although to be fair, the melancholy was still around (it just will be for a while, I know) as I had to scratchily let a few people know about my dad and spent a good portion of the reception thinking about dancing with him at my wedding reception and just missing him in general, which will probably be the case at all weddings I attend going forward, just with varying degrees of intensity.
But anyhow, it was a great trip despite the cold that refuses to die.  I still got to dance and have grits and hang out with Jeremy’s side of the family (some of whom have promised to share some excellent cognac with us when we’re in Michigan next.  Hooray for Gina and Al!). 
More on Barcelona soon, promise.  I need to get my festival notes together so I can try to remember all the awesome I saw.

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Filed under america, travel

Pause for Sympathy

I promise I’ll tell you more about Barcelona and Primavera and weddings and Florida soon.  Honest!  But right now I need to tell you about the fact that I have had a cold since the 20th of May and it won’t go away!  It is very frustrating and I would like it very much if you would feel lots of sympathy for me because I have been sick forever and my voice sounds ridiculous and I’m very tired of it.  VERY TIRED!



Filed under health (or lack thereof)