Thursday, April 30, 2009

Calling, or Curse

I have a special calling. Not an avocation because I don’t love it. Nor is it a true vocation because I don’t get any money from it—in fact, it only gives me suffering and sanctification. My calling is talking to tech support personnel.

I think my phone number must be flagged when I call. The techie doesn’t even tell me his/her name anymore. Nor do they even try to fix my problem. In less than five minutes the tech dude told me the printer had a hardware failure, and they’d be sending me a new printer because it was under warranty. How often does that happen?

See, it has to be a calling. Besides no one I know is on the phone with tech support as much as I am. No one is on the phone even half as much as I am.

Maybe it’s me. After all, I am the person who had to wear copper grounding bracelets—yes, you read that right. Apparently, my personal electricity is a bit “different,” and early computers weren’t shielded well enough.

If you don’t believe me, you could talk to the IT (information technology) people at the publishing house I used to work at about 18 years ago. My office was on the seventh floor, I think we had ten floors—that many people worked at that branch, and the IT people knew me by name. They were always bringing me a new computer. (It got to the point that my boss would send me to another floor when they brought me a new terminal.) They’d pick up my old terminal, which had frozen or printed whimsical characters all over the screen, and take it away for “repairs.” Once the whole computer system for the entire building was shut down—they traced it to my terminal. They had to reboot the entire system from back-up tapes they’d made the night before. Yep, those people knew my name. They probably even had a voodoo doll of me down in the bowels of the basement where their offices were. I knew never to venture down there; I’d never see daylight again.

I guess I have a calling to talk to tech support people. Or, maybe it’s a curse.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009


If you’ve read my blog profile, you know that one day I hope to have novel published. I’ve been writing and studying writing for years. In order to get published, you almost always need a literary agent. Publishers rarely slog through the “slush pile” (the name for unsolicited manuscripts) because they no longer have the resources to do. So, you need a lit agent unless you’re going to self-publish/vanity publish or go with a very small publisher.

A few years ago, I got very close to “landing” a literary agent. He loved my young adult novel. But in the end he turned it down because the agency determined the book wasn’t commercial enough to worth their time and money. Very sad.

But, ever the optimist (my family terms it stubbornness), I continued writing. It’s probably not stubbornness or optimism that keeps me writing, but the addiction of putting characters together, watching what they do, and sharing their story. Next, I wrote an historical fiction for adults. Then, I found out that historical fiction wasn’t selling at the time. So, that too was put in a drawer. And I started another young adult book. I completed Screwing Up Time. Then I edited and edited and edited. I queried lit agents. I got several bites, but no fish.

I took a class taught by a woman who was a former editor for some of the major publishing houses. Much to my chagrin, I learned that very small mistakes (e.g., using a word/phrase/gesture now considered cliché can get your manuscript rejected within the first page). Sad, but true.

Guess what? I had some clichés. I did another edit and de-cliché of the manuscript and began sending query letters. A couple of weeks ago, a literary agent asked for a “full.” In other words, she wants to see the whole manuscript. So, I’m waiting to hear from her.

On Monday, another literary agent I contacted emailed me and said that she found the first couple of chapters “fascinating” and was very excited to read the rest. I sent it off, and I’m waiting to hear from her now. I know the economy scoffs in the face of debut authors, but I’m hoping (remember, I said I was stubborn).

My kids are hoping too. I’m 16 thousand words into a sequel, and they want me to finish it. But I told them that if I can’t get an agent let alone a book deal, there’s no point in finishing the sequel. But, I have to admit, I’d really like to work with Henry, Miranda, Kate, and Peter again. I love Henry's snarky sense of humor and how Miranda can put him in his place. I'm amazed at how Kate's character has grown. And, of course, I want to see Peter (the villain) get his just rewards once again. In the sequel, I’ve put them in an impossible situation, and I’m desperate to make it even worse and then help them get out of the mess.

Monday, April 27, 2009

The Enigmatic Anemia Puddle

Imagine me carrying a overfilled basket of laundry through the house, and stepping into a puddle of water on the hardwood floor. I put down the laundry to examine the puddle. I’m now in detective mode. I like of think of myself as Lord Peter Wimsey or Inspector Alleyn, but they’re men… Why aren’t there any uber-cool, romantic-figure detectives who are women? Maybe I can be the first. At any rate, I examine the puddle. Is this the result of a new leak? Did the roofers rip us off…and the attic is full of rainwater, which will bring the ceiling down on our heads? I look up at the 10 foot high plaster ceilings—no water stains. Good.

But where did the water come from? Did some lazy child (not one of mine who always say, “I am eager to play computer, Mother, but first I need to see if you need any help”) spill and walk away, rationalizing, “It’s just water, it’ll dry?” That could be. But my kids aren’t big water drinkers—they’d rather have milk. (Soda is a once a month treat at our house. Yes, I’m cruel and unusual.)

Ah. It hits me. There is a third option. Our dog Jezebel loves ice cubes. (I know you were thinking she piddled, but you’re wrong) Perhaps one of the kids gave her an ice cube, and she spit it out. She’s been known to do that when the ice makes her tongue too cold. And then, the cube melted into the puddle.

I wipe the water with a clean towel, which now becomes dirty. But, why does the dog like ice cubes? It can’t be the coolness. She lazes the day away on an air conditioning vent. Is Jez anemic? I know that when I get anemic I chew ice cubes. That and my fingernails peel. Do dogs get anemia? Or maybe the whole ice thing is a ploy. Maybe Jez wants me to think she’s anemic so she can get bloody beef in her bowl instead of Pedigree puppy food.

Sorry, Jez, think again. If there’s any beef in the house, it’s going on the grill with a sprinkle of Montreal steak seasoning and crumbled blue cheese. The beef goes on my plate. You get more Pedigree. Yum, yum.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Thrust, Parry, Riposte

I spent the morning at the Tennessee High School Foil Championship. (They even had a team from as far away as Memphis.) Luke and several other members of the Knights of Tiftonia participated in the event.

If you’ve never been to a fencing match, it’s a very cool thing. The fencers must salute each other at the beginning of each match and after every point (the person who lost the point must salute first). This was an electric match (non-electric foil is called “dry”) so the participants are “wired.” Their swords have a current running through them and when the sword tip makes contact with another fencer’s lamé (a silvery metal overshirt), then the lights and buzzers start.

The matches can be quiet or loud. (Once one of our fencers fenced someone who made quacking noises—but that is the exception rather than the rule).

Anyway, here’s a summary of one of the play-by-plays:

“Thrust, parry, riposte, counterattack (white light blinks on buzzer buzzes).” No point. The hit was “off target.”

“Thrust, parry, riposte, counterattack, more attacks.” (Green light and white light blink on and buzzer sounds). No point. Why? A point doesn’t count if the other fencer has right-of-way and also made contact, even if it was “off target.” Foil fencing (as opposed to saber fencing) is very gentlemanly. Of course, historically I don’t think they cared who had right-of-way as long as you wounded/maimed/killed your adversary.

“Thrust, parry riposte, counterattack, parry, riposte, etc., etc.” (Red light goes off). Point scored. This time the red player made contact and had right-of-way. Yeah for the red light fencer!

Here's a picture of Luke looking quite dashing in his fencing gear.

Here Luke is on the left. (He's wearing the striped socks--it's hard to tell them apart once their masks are on.) Notice Luke's sword is in his opponent's guts. Point for Luke!!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Box Hill Picnic

In case you don't know, the Box Hill Picnic is the pivotal turning point in the Jane Austen novel, Emma. Since Emma is the novel we read this month, we decided to have a picnic at the Chattanooga Nature Center. (I got to see a red tailed hawk up close and personal--I love red tailed hawks. Actually, all hawks.) We spread our quilts at a river's edge and had great fun: good food, Jane talk, lovely fellowship, and it wasn't too hot.

Also, my dress wasn't too hot and I could actually breathe much to my surprise. Here are the pictures I promised of my gown and hat. If you'd like to see our Box Hill picnic, here's the link to our blog site:

The Cause

I’ve often thought those Green Bay Packer fans were, well, a bit over the top. After all, they sit through blizzard-like snow conditions with yellow hats shaped like cheese wedges on their heads. Sometimes, they sit there shirtless—apparently, it shows their devotion to “the team.”

Never in my nightmares, did I consider myself that “deranged.” Not until today. This afternoon, I’m braving 87 degree heat with humidity that can only be described as liquid air to go sit in a park. And I’m not doing this in shorts and a tee-shirt. No. I’m doing this in a fully-lined Regency gown and hat. Not to mention the requisite undergarment that prevents me from taking anything other than a shallow breath. (Though I think that might be Ariel’s fault—I can’t reach the lacing to tie up and back. So, she laces and laces and pulls and pulls. Ariel could teach Mammy a thing or too about corsets.)

Why am I braving insufferable heat and humidity wearing clothing rightfully discarded by our modern civilization? There can only be one reason…Jane Austen. We are having our monthly Jane Austen Society meeting. And, assuming that I don’t pass out and have to be taken to the Emergency Room for hyperventilation (can’t breathe deeply so I have to take lots of short breaths) or heat stroke, I should have some pictures to post.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Fashion Jeans

Yesterday, Ariel brought me a stack of clothing. She dropped it onto my dresser and announced, “I see the boys have been folding laundry again.”

(Notice the word “boys” is italicized. That’s because she is no longer allowed to use her favorite word “dweebs.” The boys filed a protest about her word choice in referring to them, i.e. they didn’t like being called “dweebs.” Ariel filed a counter-protest—“dweebs” is an endearment, which denotes the love that she feels for them. The judge, me, laughed derisively, though I told her it was a good try.)

Back to the laundry issue.

Me: “How do you know that the boys folded?”

Ariel, after unfolding a pair of jeans that had been mistakenly included with her clean laundry: “Note the straight leg, high-cut waist. This screams I am a home-school mom.”

Me (Obviously, she’s confusing homeschool-ness with 90s fashion, but that’s not the point): “Those jeans are comfortable and slimming. Besides I have two pairs of low-cut flared jeans.”

Ariel: “One pair was a hand-me-down.”

Me (realizing she’s right) “I bought the other pair.”

Ariel: (She says nothing, but raises an eyebrow—she was with me when I bought them and knows that the only reason I purchased them was because I was too cheap to spend $40 for the home-school mom/90s version.)

Me (knowing she has yet another point): “I read that regular-waisted straight-leg jeans are back in style.”

Ariel (conceding my point): “Yeah. That’s really depressing.”

Monday, April 20, 2009

Scrofulous Lawn

Why is it that I can grow flowers, but not grass? I put time, money, and energy into gardening. And my flower gardens look great (except for what the drought killed). My roses, lilies, tulips, etc., all bloom happily. I give the yard just as much attention: roto-tilling, grass seed, water, fertilizers, weed killers, mowing, even hand weeding when necessary. And how does my grass reward me? By growing only in the flower beds.

I have to admit that I take it as a personal affront. If I can convince recalcitrant orchids to come into flower, why can’t I get grass to grow? Is this supposed to be some sort of humbling process to rid me of my green-thumb hubris? If so, I admit it, I can’t get my grass to grow. So, is that good? Will it grow now?

I don’t think so. Here’s the thing that’s even weirder. I’ve been known to dig up a nice patch of green grass growing in my flower beds and transplant it into the yard. I even do it in the spring rain to avoid damaging/drying out the roots. Imagine me slogging through the mud, rain dripping off my baseball cap, digging up tufts of grass and replanting them in the middle of the yard. I consider it a job well done until the next morning. When I go out to check on the plugs of grass, they are shriveled and brown. How does this happen? It was a great mystery to me. Until…

This morning I had a revelation while I was showering (I have all my great thoughts while washing my hair). I know why the grass dies. Last year we had a lush emerald green carpet for two months, and then it one day it was a disaster. Cal and I couldn’t figure out what happened. But now I know. During the middle of the night, lawn care companies looking for new accounts troll the cities spraying Round-up and tossing fungus spores on people’s lawns. Then the next week they come by and spread seeds of nutgrass, crab grass, Devil grass, and the infamous dandelion. A couple of weeks later when your beautiful lawn is now a wasteland of weeds and disease, they leave a flyer on/in your mailbox (which is illegal) advertising their services.

But I’m on to them now. It’s only a matter of time before I catch them in their nefarious schemes. But that would mean staying up late for days—and I need my sleep. Maybe I can be content with a scrofulous yard. Besides I can always blame the lawn care people.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Moloch Fiend

A few weeks ago, the children decided that Jezebel needed a “baby.” Cal and I had had the dog spayed when she was six months, and the kids felt that she needed an opportunity to express her female hormones since we so cruelly had her “taken care of.”

Amongst themselves, they decided to give Jez a stuffed animal. After all, Jill (our previous dog) had been extremely maternal towards her stuffed animals. She “nest” up her bedding, lay her “baby” in the middle, and cuddle up around it. Obviously, Jezebel needed this emotional support too.

The next step was to procure said “baby.” It was decided to give her a jointed stuffed bear. Apparently, the “jointed-ness” made it more life-like (though one would think that the bear’s overalls detracted from that, but no matter). The other important factor in the selection was that owner of the bear was willing to part with it.

One night, the children put the bear in the kennel where Jez sleeps. The next morning, Jez got up and carried her “baby” in her mouth. There was much ooohing and ahhhing—Jez was mothering her baby bear.

Later in the week, the kids were disappointed to discover that Jez occasionally chewed on her baby. But since there was no damage done, they put it down to Jez’s immaturity—“she’s still a puppy.”

Yesterday, Jez was walking around with her baby’s head in her mouth. And as Jez has been doing for a while, she shook her head so the “baby’s” body jerked back and forth. Ariel asked, “Mom, why does she do that?”

I said, “Because she’s trying to break its neck.”

Imagine screams of horror.

I said, “She’s treating it like a small animal that she’s caught and plans to eat.”

Children’s faces looked at me like I’d turned their precious animal into a Moloch fiend.

“Hey, don’t blame me!” But they did. Why do they always “shoot the messenger”?

Here's a picture of Jez chewing her "baby."

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Where’s All the Food Going?

Things they are a’changin’. For years now, Luke has always had a second meal around 10 pm. He goes to the refrigerator and collects a plate full of dinner leftovers, reheats and eats. On occasion, when there aren’t any leftovers he makes a pan full of scrambled eggs or several PB&J sandwiches. There have been more and more of these leftover-less nights, but Luke hadn’t noticed this yet. It appeared to be a random glitch in the system.

Then the other night, Luke came to me. He was incensed that he couldn’t find the leftovers because he knew there were leftovers. (NB: “incensed” means Luke’s eyebrows were drawn together in a scowl.) I explained that Jacob beat him to leftover fajitas.

Luke’s eyebrows now rose, and his forehead furrowed. How come Jacob ate his food? What Luke has failed to notice is that Jacob has now entered the bottomless-pit-I’ll-eat-butter-if-I-need-to phase of life. This is why we’ve had the glitch in the leftover area.

I’m wondering what will happen next. Will Luke move his fourth meal to 8:55 (Jacob has his fourth meal at 9 pm)? Will both boys decide to gorge themselves at dinnertime? And what happens when Matt joins the fray? Join us next time for: “Food hording at the Kellers.”

Post Scriptum: For those of you wondering, I’m almost done with re-re-re-editing my YA novel. Sadly, this means I have piles of ironing to do, not to mention the Regency gown that’s giving me nightmares.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Woe to Me

In spite of all my griping about the publishing market, editing, etc., I received an email yesterday from a literary agent who’s excited about my novel and wants me to email her the whole manuscript (known as a “full”).

Instead of dancing around the room singing “WooHoo” as one of my writing friends has suggested, I sighed heavily—no doubt, this is only a prelude to a prolonged rejection. Yes, I’m that much of a Puddleglum. (If you don’t know who Puddleglum is run, don’t walk to the nearest bookstore—if one still exists in your neighborhood—and buy C.S. Lewis’s The Silver Chair.) Then, we had some intra-family discussion regarding the particular literary agency. Ariel said, “Oh, boohoo, it’s a famous agency with lots of important clients—even more reason for Mom to be depressed.” The boys all boo-hooed with her.

I’m a bit taken aback. I have good reason for my cynicism/misanthropy/self-pity. In case my children don’t remember, I wrote a book several years ago that was loved by a literary agent and even won an award for unpublished novels—but it never got published because it wasn’t commercial enough!

My family is completely unsympathetic. Now I’m hurriedly getting the manuscript ready to send—one more read-through, fixing a couple of scummy paragraphs, etc. Ariel’s been a help; she reads through the chapters finding typos, redundancies, and occasionally saying things like “This section’s rotten, your voice totally breaks.” My response, besides a quivering lip, “Woe to me for I suffer.”

Monday, April 13, 2009


I don’t have a good sense of rhythm. That’s why I’m a poor musician, that and nerves. On the other hand, Jacob and Ariel have rhythm. Jake’s teachers usually assign him all kinds of fast syncopated music because he has nimble fingers and an “internal metronome.” (For the uninitiated, metronome is a device that makes “beeps” or “ticks” according to the rhythm of the music.)

This internal time keeper is not a gift they inherited from me—I run the treadmill and have for years because I don’t have the coordination and rhythm for aerobics. (I also do the treadmill because I can read my favorite detective novel/thrillers while I exercise—unless they fall into the washing machine. But that’s another story.) During Ariel’s violin lesson today, I discovered that this internal metronome is a scourge. Ariel and Jacob rely on their sense of music and don’t count. Both she and Jacob admit they rarely count, they just “feel” the music or hear it in their head and match it.

But, this doesn’t work for Ariel anymore—the third movement of Mozart’s Concerto in G won’t allow it. Her instructor told her, “Ariel, Mozart is among some of the most difficult violin music there is. You are not counting—you must be absolutely precise. You are just playing the long notes (a long note being an eighth or sixteenth note) and thinking that’s about right, and then moving to the next note.” Ariel smiles politely. Her instructor continues, “I know you are doing this; I used to do this too. You cannot respond to tempo—rhythm is a river.” This metaphor is lost on me, though I suppose there is some kind of organic theme.

Of course, after the first page, the tempo alters to something very fast, which causes her no problems at all—I think it’s all 32nd and 64th notes (also called hemidemisemiquavers, or in French quadruple-croche) or worse. As the lesson proceeds, he lectures Ariel on bowing, emphases, stylistics, ad nauseum. After the lesson, I said, “Are you okay?” Ariel answered, “Oh, yes, wasn’t it a wonderful lesson—he doesn’t let me get away with anything. He’s such a good teacher!”

Friday, April 10, 2009

Eskimo Kisses

The boys came home the other day to discover that Jezebel had silver toenails. All three boys pitched a fit. They knew what had happened. Ariel had struck. She’s been talking about Jez, saying that she’s the ultimate Goth dog. She’s solid black with a spiked collar and a nasty growl. To complete the picture all she needed was silver nails and piercings. Of course, Ariel knows better than to pierce anything. Jez gets vey worried about pain; Cal even has to comfort her when it's time for a nail clipping.

We are currently (providentially?) out of nail polish remover so the boys are scrapping silver paint off the dog’s nails. But, it’s kind of ironic really. Jezebel puts on a great show with her vicious guttural growl, the hair that stands on end, and the big spiky teeth. It's even better when you see her watching birds through the window with her nostrils flared and her muscles quivering. You can almost hear her saying, “If it weren’t for the glass…”

But aside from birds (you can’t get beyond breeding), she’s an old softie. She loves just about any creature, especially hamsters. Clara and Sam spend the night in their cages on the dining room floor because they are too noisy. First thing in the morning after Jez eats, she checks on the hamsters. And the hamsters, who are obviously stupid animals, climb the bars of their cage to say “Hi” to Jez. They stick their noses out, and Jez rubs noses with them. Yep, that’s right—they give each other Eskimo kisses.

After that, Jez checks the floor. The hamsters throw the food they don’t like out of their cages and Jez eats it. She loves hamster food. It could be that they just have a deal going. A Lab-hamster shakedown along the lines of “Throw out your food, or I’ll eat you.” Could be. But Eskimo kisses are hard to fake.

Here’s a picture of Jez with Clara. I tried to get a photo of them rubbing noses, but I’m a slow cameraman. You’ll have to take my word for it.

And here's picture of Jez waiting for a snack of hamster chow. Be sure to check out the silver toenails.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Corrupter of Youth

I am one and one half chapters from finishing the end of another edit of my young adult manuscript, Screwing Up Time. Yep, that’s the title, at least until I change it. What can you expect from a person who names her sweet black Lab, Jezebel?

I’m supposed to be excited that I’m almost finished, but I’m not. Why? I could tell you that it’s because the market is terrible. This is true. I could say that it’s because selling a debut novel is like trying to sell Detroit car stocks to an out-of-work GM salesman. This is also true. I could say I’m sick and tired of editing…way true. (Unless you’re a literary agent who wants to sign my book—then, I’m eager to make any and all changes you’d like.)

No, the real reason I’m not excited is that I have a “project” waiting. I have to take 8 yards of fabric (uber-feminine material, tiny bronze and brown flowers on a white background, I prefer plaids) and turn it into a Regency gown. Ariel and I are part of a Jane Austen club, which is very fun. But I have to get my dress made before our spring picnic. And, of course, the dress is fully lined. Yuck! Thankfully, I bought the $15 pattern for 99 cents and the fabric for $1.50 a yard. I can pat myself on the back for shrewd savings. But now, I have to cut out the pattern and fabric. And sew it. In my spare time. It’s got scads of pieces and yards of trim. I should have started weeks ago, but I needed to finish editing first.

I could tell my JA group that I couldn’t finish the gown in time because I was editing SUT. But, women who live for Austen aren’t likely to forgive me for writing a book called Screwing Up Time. They might shout “corrupter of youth” and throw their fans and gloves at me. Not to mention petit fours. That would be okay. I like petit fours.

Here’s me with my yards of fabric. Maybe I could turn it into a toga—Austen at a costume ball…

Monday, April 6, 2009

2 Plus 2 Times 8

Peace, serenity and irenic calm have return chez Keller. Not really, but at least no one is sick anymore. And yes, Ariel and Matthew both think that it’s due to their militant efforts to keep the house free of germs.

Ariel was able to go to her Calculus 2 exam without a barf bag. Friday morning just before Luke and Ariel left, Calvin decided he’d help Ariel “warm up” for the exam.

Cal: Okay, Ariel, this will warm you up for the exam and give you the confidence you need. What’s 2 plus 2 times eight.

Ariel: Are the twos in parentheses?

Cal: Uh, sure.

Ariel: Then, the equation is 4 times eight. And 4 times 8 is 28.

Me (listening in and dumbstruck): Ahhhhhhh!

Ariel: What?

Me: 4 times 8 is not 28.

Ar: It’s not?

Me: No! It’s 32.

Ar: Oh, right. 4 times 7 is 28.

Me: (I shake my head in grief.)

Ar: It’s not like it matters. Multiplication isn’t real math—that’s what calculators are for.

Cal: Ariel, you are so never touching my checkbook. Do you realize that your husband will have to balance your checkbook?

Ar: Dad, most math people don’t worry about simple math. (Smiling excitedly) Do you know I can calculate how much work is done when someone raises a bucket from a well with a hole in it and the water drains out at such a rate that it’s empty when it reaches the top?

Me (I think: Who cares? We’d throw the bucket away.) But, I say: Have fun. I’ll pray the test goes well.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Insanity Chez Keller

Luke and Jacob have the stomach flu. And that’s sad for them—they curl up under blankets, eat saltines, and try to get to the toilet “on time.” You’d think that Luke and Jake would be my biggest hassle. They’re not. It’s Matt and Ariel. They are obsessed with not getting the flu.

Once the first puke happened, Ar and Matt grabbed my dust masks (I’m horribly allergic to dust) and slapped them over their noses and mouths. Then, Matt proceeded to clean the entire house, including books and the dust masks, with Lysol wipes. He’s a walking advertisement for virus-killing. He even covered his face with the wipes.

When Luke walked through the living room to get from the master bedroom to his bedroom, Ariel and Matt started screaming, and Matt attacked Luke with (you guessed it) Lysol wipes. Luke retaliated by breathing on the computer keys. It took Matt quite a while to clean each and every key.

Matt will no longer use the boys’ bathroom—he has to use ours. Ariel has told the boys to hold their breath when they walk through her room. (You have to go through Ariel’s room to get to the master bedroom.) She had banished them from the room earlier—they had to walk by way of the deck, but a nasty thunderstorm precluded her arrangements.

Matt has made plans to move a trundle from Ariel’s room into the living room so he doesn’t have to breathe the same air that Jacob does (they share a room).

Ariel’s excuse is that she has a Calculus 2 exam tomorrow. I don’t know why she’s so concerned—I’ve saved one of those airsickness bags. She can take it with her and puke her way through the test.

Matt says he just hates vomiting. Before I realized what he was doing, he ingested 2300 % of the recommended daily dose of vitamin C. Now I’m pushing fluids into him, too.

Yep. Insanity reigns chez Keller. Y’all pray for me.

Here are pictures.

Blog Small Talk

I’ve been writing this blog since last November, and I had a first today. I got a comment from a stranger! That is so cool! Thanks, Jennifer Hudson Taylor.

It’s an odd experience to write about your personal life and not know who’s reading it. For example, sometimes I start telling a story and the person stops me and says, “Yes, I read about that on your blog.” Then there’s lag in the conversation. What am I supposed to say, “Oh, I’m glad you read it”—which I am. Or am I supposed to say, “Do you enjoy it?” Because what if they say, “No.”

Or what if they say, “I think you were really unfair when you referred to Microsoft as Imperialist Swine"? There’s nothing like that to kill a conversation.

There needs to be a blog equivalent of small talk. I’ve come up with some examples:

Blog equivalent of “guy car” talk.
So, that’s an interesting blog background you have. Did you get it from The Cutest Blog on the Block? (Though I think this would only work for girls, not too many guys want to talk about “cute blogs.”)

Blog equivalent of the “weather” talk.
Have you gotten a lot of hits lately? No. I heard it slows down around the holidays. Yeah, it was Flag Day last week.

Blog equivalent of “job” talk.
How do you like blogspot? I’ve got a friend who uses wordpress, she says it’s got a faster load time. (Of course, this could get ugly if the person points out that the reason your load time is so long is because you have way too many pictures of your homely dog posted. Yep, really ugly, really fast.)

Blog equivalent of “where were you born” talk.
How long have you been blogging? Oh, that long…and you still haven’t learned to how to use html code!

Hmm…maybe the lag in conversation is better. I can always change the subject by saying, “Did you catch the latest Obama speech?” or “Have you heard what the Archbishop of Canterbury said?”

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

NEH Grant!

I won a National Endowment for the Humanities grant! Really—it’s not an April Fool’s joke. I wish I could say that I won it for my writing. But I didn’t. Instead, it’s for teaching. I applied for a Picturing America grant. It’s an attempt by the NEH to encourage students to understand American art history and its implications to American history, sociology, culture, etc. The most awesome thing is that I received dozens of 4 foot by 2 foot museum quality laminated reproductions of American art. And it comes with a teacher’s manual detailing the history of the artist and his/her interactions with the culture. I hope to teach the class this summer. Can you tell I’m excited?!

Here's another photo.