Friday, January 30, 2009

Rhythm: A Novel by Robin Meloy Goldsby

Goldsby's Words Flow Like Well-Written Lyrics
I am so pleased to offer a RAVE review for Rhythm: A Novel by talented writer and exceptional musician, Robin Meloy Goldsby. Having first read an excerpt from this work during the Shorts contest in early 2008, I knew it was something I would eagerly read in its entirety. Unwilling to put it down from the minute I opened it, this book not only didn't disappoint, but it also exceeded my expectations for three distinct reasons: Lyrical prose, extremely well-drawn characters--both primary and secondary--and a captivating story.

This is the story of Jane--"Jane Bowman, drums." We meet her at an early age and find her instantly loveable and sympathetic. She is the daughter of a famous percussionist, Helen Bowman, (a "heavy-hitting, Latin-jazz `congera' ") and a notorious grandmother, Isabella, known as the "Mistress of Mambo." Drums are in Jane's blood. Appropriately titled, Rhythm, the beat of this story is instantly apparent: It's the beat of Jane's heart as she makes her way through life after tragically losing her mother in a nightclub fire.

Goldsby, an accomplished pianist and recording artist, is also the author of a wonderful memoir, Piano Girl. For her novel, she has done her research. You'll have a front row seat for the jazzy undertones in the language--so much that you may even be able to hear the tunes as you read. Comical background characters like Mary One and Mary Two, along with Jane's best friend Leo, keep Jane real. Her father and Grandpa Jack offer loving support and then there's also Olivia Blue. When her story comes to the forefront it brought me to tears.

Well done, well done, well done. Five stars all the way and I highly recommend this work. Goldsby's CDs, Songs From the Castle, Twilight, and Somewhere in Time are all available for purchase and your listening pleasure.

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Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Funniest Thing My Kid Said Today:

A Series
Today’s featured child is my youngest, Camille. The world does not know Camille. She reserves her true self for her family and closest friends. And that makes us feel lucky. In public or in front of strangers, she’s the quiet one, hiding behind her protective parents and the natural grace and charm of her older sister. But at home it’s a different story. From the time she first issued a smile that covered what seemed like half her face, she’s cracked us all up on a daily basis.

It wasn’t until she was seven that I discovered she actually had a desire to be funny. We were on our annual family trip, a gathering of the Cozzens' cousins. This is currently a group of 18 and every year as the table grows in size, it’s harder and harder to get in a word. There’s a lot of natural wit, acquired education, and no place-setting for the easily intimidated. Quietly listening to the banter and seeing how one of her uncles, aunts or cousins could at any moment make the entire group roar with laughter, Camille tapped me on the arm.

“Mom,” she whispered in my ear, “what can I say to make everyone laugh?”

I wish I’d recorded every funny thing she’s said since that day, but I’m making an effort to do so now—hence this series.

We were on our way to volleyball practice. I was in the driver’s seat and Camille, who is still light enough to deactivate the front passenger airbag, was typically mute. I was listening to NPR assessments of the economic stimulus package, navigating my way through the unlit back roads of rural Pima County.

Camille didn’t ask me to change the station to the channel playing the same three songs (“Let it Rock,” “Just Dance” and “Womanizer-Womanizer-Womanizer-You’re-a-Womanizer . . .”), and I knew she wasn’t listening to the latest report of partisan politics.

Feeling a little guilty about not taking the time to have some one-on-one communication with my child—communication that didn’t involve helping her with homework or telling her to wash the dishes—I turned down the radio and squeezed her knee. “Anything interesting happen at school today?”

“Well,” she said without the slightest hesitation, “a girl ripped her pants when she did the splits on the playground.”

With a simple visual in my head, I couldn’t help but burst out laughing. We both did. And so what if there was a little touch of schedenfraude?

“Did everyone laugh when it happened?” I asked.

“Yeah,” she said, “but then we all helped her by giving her our sweatshirts to wrap around her legs.”

“Poor kid! I bet she was humiliated.”

“She was, but we got her to laugh at herself and she was okay.”

I turned the corner, heading into a busier section of town, and knew that Camille had definitely learned how to make everyone laugh. She can make them laugh not only at her, but also at themselves. That’s a gift.

Smiling, I turned up the radio and changed the dial. The tinny tune, “Just Dance” filled the car and together we bobbed our heads all the way to the gym.

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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Poop Patrol

What’s the difference between little dogs and big dogs?

The little ones like to poop inside. Especially when it’s cold in the morning.

We never had this problem with our former dogs. There was a husky/lab mix who ran off a lot; a lab/Doberman mix who liked to bite exploding fireworks; and we had a hybrid wolf who chewed through a wooden door. But all of these beloved pets—may they rest in peace—pooped outside.

Cinco, on the other hand, who is our 4-1/2 year old Chihuahua, has a going problem. It didn’t coincide with the cold weather. (And by cold in Tucson I mean cold enough to require slippers and sweaters in the morning). It started shortly after our neighbor, Wile E. Coyote, tried to have her for an afternoon snack one day back in October.

We had just returned home from a volleyball game and dropping the girls at piano. I went into my office to check email and heard Cinco bark. Parents who also have small, yappy dogs recognize their barks the same way they recognize the cries of their babies. And in a moment, her bark turned into a cry of alarm. I heard high-pitched, panicked SCREAMS.

I got up at once and wrestled with the door leading from my office to our yard. The deadbolt was released but the handle lock was slippery and I was acting too quickly. Finally getting the door open, I bolted outside and saw a coyote with Cinco in its mouth!

Talk about animal instincts. Mine kicked in immediately. I ran toward them waving my arms and yelling “No! No! Get out of here! Get out!” The coyote tried to scale the wall with Cinco in its mouth, and as I continued screaming and got closer to them, this #@$*&! dropped her, ran across the playground and climbed the wall, returning to the undeveloped desert surrounding our home. Cinco scurried to the opposite end of the yard.

She was not injured as far as we could tell. No cuts. No blood. But OMG the SMELL!!!! The saliva all over her was absolutely foul.

She had an immediate bath. I had a glass of wine. Actually, I think she recovered more quickly than I. But in the ensuing months, it’s become apparent that her internal trauma may have led to a fear of going into the backyard to do her business. And I’m not the least bit confident about leaving her out there unsupervised.

She’ll always take the opportunity when she’s on the leash on walks to the bus stop or around the property when she joins us for our after-run cool down; however, rarely a day goes by when I go on Poop Patrol, that I don’t find a Tootsie roll in one of three favorite places. Just as we have three bathrooms in the house, Cinco tiene tres tambien. They are: The Living Room, The Dining Room and The Arizona Room. Honestly! How much can one little dog poop?

I’m afraid this new habit may be too difficult to break and I’ll probably be scooping and disinfecting for a long, long time. Another difference between little dogs and big dogs is that the little ones tend to have longer life spans. We’re grateful her life wasn’t cut short by the near death experience with Mr. Wile E.; but that coyote obviously scared the crap out of her.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Moon Project

I’m the mom who cried in the parking lot after dropping off her daughter on her first day of preschool. I also cried the day she boarded the bus for the first time, heading off to kindergarten wearing a backpack more than half her size.

I cried the first time she got up on water-skis, when she saved the penalty kick that got her soccer team into the finals, and when I learned about the first time an idiot boy broke her heart after five weeks of text-message dating.

Mind you, I don’t mean actual tears. I’m not THAT big of a drama queen. What I do mean to convey about my particular brand of mother-crying is the unmistakable crying-like-lump in the throat—the one that if you let it, WILL produce tears if you don’t snap out of it and get a grip.

That said, I suppose it’s fitting I felt this now-familiar lump in my throat when I learned that my first-born daughter started her Moon Project.

My prepubescent girlfriends and I called it our “friend.” One of my college roommates called it “Pam,” short for Pamela—as in Pamela Period. I’ve heard menstruation called everything from “Aunt Flo’s in town,” to “Riding the Cotton Pony.” These days I usually call it by its symptoms: early cramps, a day or so of hemorrhaging and a red circle on the calendar to see how many days short in the cycle it happened this month. Middle age has seen a few blue moons.

My favorite pseudonym for female menses is “Moon Project,” which I first heard from my neighbor Pebbles Flintstone, now a senior in high school. I think this term is especially fitting for middle school girls who have to call home to ask for the appropriate supplies while surrounded by big-eared, highly interested listeners.

When the call came in, I was on the phone talking with a soccer mom about why her daughter wasn’t going to be at practice that night. I always enjoy speaking with this particular mom, so I didn’t activate the call waiting once I recognized the signal drowning out segments of her sentences. Of course, I couldn’t. Not only was I not wearing the 1.75 glasses necessary to see who was chiming in, I also didn’t know how to work call-waiting on my cell phone. (Can I just relate here that I never even wanted a cell phone? My family gave me a pre-programmed phone for Christmas, and each time I ask how to work something, instead of showing me, they just grab it and start touching buttons.)

So I missed the call. Two minutes later I was free and my husband walked in the back door. His home office is in an annex about 100 ft. away from mine.

“Okay, I’ll tell her,” he said as the door closed behind him with a bang. Then he chuckled and clicked off his phone. “She needs you to bring a headband, twenty-five dollars for the basketball team fee, and . . . a pad.”

I practically jumped out of my chair. Did he say “a pad?” OMG. Did I even know where to find a pad? Does anyone still use pads? I thought they went out with the belt!

The lump in my throat took form as I searched her bathroom cabinet and came up with a supply. I remembered buying a few just-in-case items a while back, and there they sat, waiting for this girl to attain enough body fat to bring it on. Even though this rite of passage seemed to be taking its sweet time in coming, I couldn’t help but once again feel that first my life and now my children’s lives are flying by as fast as an SST.

And this is what made me want to cry. I wished my mother were still around so I could call her and tell her about Willow becoming a woman.

Gathering everything I thought she needed, I made my way to school where she and her basketball team were busy getting ready for the season opener on the following afternoon. She was very casual about the whole thing, far more composed on the outside than I was on the inside. It was no big bloody deal for her. But that’s my kid. Grace under pressure should be her motto. She picked out what she needed, including the headband, and then promptly reminded me that I forgot to bring the twenty-five bucks for basketball. 

I wanted to send her to the moon.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Blue Eyes and Big Boobs

“Harris, Donegal, and Yorkshire are all representative types of what?” asked our Trivial Pursuits opponent with all the sobriety of a game show host. The question hung in the air. She and her partner didn’t exchange a look. They only stared at my husband and me sitting across the table from them, the gauntlet game board thrown down between us. They had mastered the art of the poker face and had experienced many more rounds of this who-is-the-smartest-in-the-room-game than we.

Clueless, I looked at my Trivial Pursuits partner. His strong categories are Sports and Geography. I tend to carry the History and Literature departments, (when I get lucky), and we’re both relatively equal when it comes to questions on Science and Entertainment. I think this question, the one about Harris, Donegal and Yorkshire, was for a GREEN piece of pie—Science and Nature. It was anyone’s guess, and aside from a visual of “Yorkshire pudding,” I didn’t have one.

“Honey?” I raised my eyebrows, hopeful.

He sipped his Diet Coke, wiped his mouth and said, “Tweed.”

I’m not sure whose jaw dropped open the fastest, mine or our opponents. I was like, did he just say the word “tweed?” Tweed as in fabric?

“How the hell did you know that?”

Not exactly a fashion plate, I must admit my husband does have nice taste in clothes—clothes that suit him. This includes a closet full of workout attire, about thirty-five pairs of blue jeans, fifty pairs of shoes and more pullover jackets than a parade of Olympic athletes.

“I worked in a men’s clothing store,” he said matter-of-fact-like.

Oh yes! I’d forgotten about that little stint on his resume; however, within seconds, the twisted plies of our thirty-year relationship unfolded, and I remembered that the first time I ever laid eyes on the man who would become the love of my life was in that men’s clothing store.

It was 1979 and I was visiting the home of my college roommate in Evanston, Illinois. Her name was Joyce and she was an absolute spark plug. She insisted on driving me all over town, stopping at all her teenage hangouts, just hoping to run into old friends to whom she could introduce me. One of the stops was a men’s clothing store named Selig’s. It was quiet inside with no obvious customers, and Joyce’s energy filled the place with an incongruent blast. Within moments she spotted her childhood friend across the store and shouted out his name.

The look on his face didn’t hide his embarrassment. He may have even ducked behind a circular hanging rack of tweed jackets. But there was no avoiding us.

“I want you to meet my ROOM-MATE!” she gushed and pushed me forward. I’d already been presented to a variety of friends and family that day so I was familiar with the routine. I knew this was just another important person on her list. I also knew that she’d already set him up with another college friend named Kathy, so it wasn’t at all about a fix-up for me.

I didn’t even consider him as a boyfriend candidate until I saw his face. And I distinctly recall my very first thought the first time I laid eyes upon Mike Cozzens. It was that he was far too cute to be interested in me.

He reluctantly approached us and pushed a thick strand of long blond hair away from his face, revealing a pair of dreamy blue eyes. Wow. What gorgeous blue eyes. I didn’t mean to stare, but he didn’t notice. He didn’t even look me in the face. And I’m almost certain he didn’t shake my hand. (We hadn’t yet learned how to properly introduce or be introduced.) All I knew is that he wanted us to leave. “I’m working,” he said.

So Joyce and I hurried out the door and went to a friend’s apartment across the street, which was clearly the local degenerate hangout.

It was many years before the blond-haired, blue-eyed haberdasher would look me in the face long enough to fall in love with me. But, thank God, he did. Meanwhile, I tell this story whenever I’m asked how my husband and I first met. In the nearly twenty years we’ve been married, I’ve sometimes wondered if this could be labeled a “love at first sight” situation. Unfortunately, he doesn’t remember meeting me in the clothing store. He claims the first time he met me was in a dorm room in Southern Illinois, and he thought I was “stuck up.”

And what was it that he first noticed about me? “Your big boobs,” he said just as matter-of-fact-like as he answered the question about Harris, Donegal and Yorkshire tweed.

What a guy.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Volunteer Burnout

Recently I posted a photo of my favorite Christmas gift (Dec. 27, 2008). It’s a change purse with a dolled-up Eisenhower-era babe with her head in white daisy clouds. Her frozen lipstick smile and perfectly plucked eyebrows suggest a woman with time on her hands. The caption reads: STOP ME BEFORE I VOLUNTEER AGAIN.

I’m not the only one experiencing volunteer burnout, and that became slap-my-face apparent earlier this week. Let me voluntarily relate this story:

Currently, I’m managing a girls’ soccer team. This makes me a step beyond a mere dedicated soccer mom who shows up on game day with orange slices and juice boxes. Turns out there’s a great deal of communication involved and, damn it, paperwork. I’m in the process of working on paperwork for two players. Player #1 is trying to get off our team and Player #2 is trying to get on.

After three weeks of calls, texts, emails, faxes and personal deliveries, I realized that it wasn’t only MY volunteer efforts needed to get the job done, but it involved the cooperative efforts of volunteers who are obviously far more burned out than I.

Player #1: A player transferring from Arizona to Texas. It took me approximately three minutes to print the transfer form and pull her other paperwork and player card. It was another minute to fill out the form and sign in the manager’s spot. I called Texas to confirm the address, prepared a manila envelope, and then hand-delivered it to our Club Administrator/Registrar for her signature. This was two weeks ago. The eagerly awaiting soccer mom in Texas has since contacted me twice asking for the materials. Her daughter, a talented midfielder, cannot play on a new team until the forms are first received and then processed on her end. She’s also due $475 in prepaid training fees. Last week I was assured the forms would go out this week. Today is Friday and after making another request I was told “they’d get to it ASAP—hopefully today.” Said Registrar is far too busy with her REAL job—the one that pays her—to deal with this silly soccer form.

Player #2: A player transferring from one local club to another. No state lines involved—just club lines. It’s been three weeks of gathering the appropriate paperwork for this player, a striker with promise, which is something our team could really use right now. The last signature needed before I can get her on our roster is that of the Club Registrar releasing her from her previous team. I’ve got a looming deadline and a history with Club Registrars putting this paperwork on the back burner, so I decided to squeaky-wheel the other club after Registrar B didn’t return my phone call or email for two days. (Because, of course, I have nothing better to do than invest time in this, right?)

Registrar B did return my second phone call. And, bless her little volunteering heart, lambasted me with an obviously prepared lecture on what it means to be a volunteer and how it was ridiculous for me to expect this kind of paperwork to be turned around “within 10 hours.” It was considerably more than 10 hours since I initially contacted her, however, it took 10 nanoseconds to determine that her overextended brain wasn’t firing with all cylinders.

“You obviously don’t realize that we are not paid to do these jobs,” she said. “We are all WORKING people with OTHER obligations. I, myself, am a full-time student and this, and that, and this and . . .” BLAH-BLAH-freakin’-BLAH.

I remained quiet, half listening, and tapped my foot while waiting for her to finish. Finally I was able to get in a word. All I wanted was the answer to one question: When can I get your signature on this form and back in my hands for filing? I asked her just like that—all business.

At this she sighed heavily and said, “You know, your TONE is really obnoxious!”

Okay . . . this chick obviously had issues. Maybe a fight with her teacher? A bad grade on a math test? So, I let that slide too. “You’re misinterpreting,” I said calmly. “I’m simply trying to expedite this process, and . . .”

“We’re all on the same team,” she interrupted. “We all work with the same organization . . . and you people don’t seem to realize . . . ” Again I had to stop listening. I only wanted the answer to my question.

Clearly, she had a lesson to teach and I was the soccer mom-turned-manager who was the target of her boring, burned-out volunteer career. And while I had to turn the form into a PDF to submit to her via email, she refused to offer the same courtesy to me. She wouldn’t even use a good old-fashioned fax machine.

“You have to come and pick up this form,” she said.

I didn’t argue. “Okay. Where will it be?”

Sigh! [dramatic pause] “At the corner of X and Y Streets.”

“O-kay,” I said again. “Do you want to give me an address”?

Sigh! [another dramatic pause] “It’s 1-2-3-4 Main Street.”

“Is this a business?”

Sigh! [and yet another dramatic pause—then absolute SNAP] “NO! It’s my house!”

“Ffffffffff . . . fine,” I said, definitely thinking of another F-word to say to this B-word, C-word. And by “B” and “C” words, I DON’T mean Bitter and Condescending.

The next day I had the signed form in my hand. But it’s not because I put in another minute of volunteer time to drive across town to the little house with the black gate and the blue box. I had someone who DID call her a Bitch and a Cunt do the job.

Why I'm No Longer a Catholic

Monday, January 19, 2009

What Are Irish Twins?

Friday, January 16, 2009

Can a Man and a Woman be Platonic Friends?

What's the Weather in Wisconsin?

Sent today from Melissa Pecunia, a Sandy Point Resort regular and dear friend, to illustrate the frrrrrrrrrrrreeeezing temperature in Wisconsin this morning. It's actually BELOW freezing — make that -20° — and that doesn't account for the windchill factor bringing it to -40°!

So for every person who calls the resort and asks me "what's the weather in Wisconsin?" I now refer to this photo. Would you like to know what it's like in Tucson?

I didn't think so.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Friday, January 09, 2009

The Perfect Cast for 
A Line Between Friends
Searching the Internet for images for a promo video about my first novel, A Line Between Friends, I inadvertently came across actors who I think would be key in the roles of opposing narrators Joel and Noelle.

Joel: Wentworth Miller
Noelle: Amy Adams

Saturday, January 03, 2009

After School Antics