Friday, March 30, 2007


image I don’t have enough books to fill up my bookshelves.

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “Poor Christina! Whatever will she do?”

Either that or, “I hope the obnoxious b***h gets the pox.”

But I don’t care, because I don’t have enough books to fill up my bookshelves!
Let’s start the tour with a full shot of the bookshelves. As you can see, they cover two walls in my office, and even extend over the top of the bathroom door. Coming soon — a library ladder so I can get to the top shelves!
On the wall with my desk, the bookshelves are wide because — Ta-da! — two sections push aside for storage. Inside, I’ve got bookshelves for my foreign editions and an office storeroom for papers, manuscripts, photos, etc. Someday I’ll even unpack the boxes and put stuff away. Really. I swear.
Finally, the pièce de résistance! Because the only place where we have a view of Mt. Baker is from those very high windows in my office, the top of the bookshelves/office storage is a nest. I’m going to get a comfortable bunch of cushions for up there, and railings are being made, and when everything’s ready, I will climb my library ladder, hop into my hiding place, and sleep. I mean, write. Work. Write.
This bookshelf, my dears, is the epitome of every dream I ever had as a child. Books, bookshelves, a place to hide my mess, and a place to hide myself where I can pretend to be Jo March. I’m so happy!

And now — I’m off to buy more books!
imageChristina’s Website

Friday, March 23, 2007


The Webster’s Dictionary definition of shame:
1 : a painful emotion caused by consciousness of guilt, shortcoming, or impropriety
2 : a condition of humiliating disgrace or disrepute : IGNOMINY .

As it happens, I’m not blogging on being arrested, a shame to which I have not (yet) been subjected.  But at some point yesterday I realized that I was suffering little arrows of shame repeatedly.  The occasion that brought this bitterly to mind?  I took my children to a museum and then we wandered into a restaurant that turned out to be very, very nice (the kind where a waitress seems to have nothing to do but stand by your table, refill your glass, and smile in a long-suffering type of way).  I won’t go into what inspired shame.  It makes me turn pink and my blood pressure goes up.

But I started thinking about it.  My experience of shame has changed its focus over the years, but it doesn’t seem to go away.  Here’s a few things that used to shame me that don’t even make me blink anymore:

1) buying a box of tampons when a very cute teenage boy is bagging groceries (though I might not enjoy buying Depends, if those lie in my future)
2) having the bottom of my bikini fall off in the pool (I don’t wear bikinis, so this is not a problem)
3) buying romances in front of intellectuals (I’m a crusader now)
4) breaking into uncontrollable giggles during sex (no need to elaborate)
5) having my bra straps show (they’re designed to show, besides no one cares)

The cruel thing is that although I’m tougher and older and smarter...I still find myself ashamed.  A lot.  Some of it is self-inflicted.  For example, like most working moms, I tend to shop frantically, ahead of time, for holidays if I happen to find myself alone and in a cash-accepting environment.  So a couple of weeks ago I madly bought a lot of chocolate eggs, rabbits and the like.  Along with 12 marshmellow easter eggs covered with chocolate.  Oh no, I thought, looking at them. I can’t buy this: it’s too many and the children will get sick.  But then the brilliant thought occurred to me that I could eat a few myself (they’re my favorite!), thus throwing myself into the path of junk food to save my children.


Every day around 4 I got into the habit of sneaking into my own closet, grabbing a marshmellow egg and sneaking back out again. 

Anyone want to guess how many eggs are left?

Oh the SHAME!

How about the rest of you?  What no longer shames you...and what’s shamed you most recently?

Monday, March 19, 2007


image I bet when you saw that pic you thought this was going to be another one of my legendary “Hot Guy” blogs, didn’t you?  But if we’re going to be honest with each other around Squawk Radio, I thought it was time to introduce you to the guy who REALLY makes my heart pound faster.  That’s right--Richard Simmons! Richard first saved my life several years ago when I suffered a severe back injury after being body-slammed across the footboard of a hospital bed by a psychotic patient in a mental hospital.  (Hush, Liz.  I was a nurse, not a patient.) I was too afraid to move to go back to the free dancing that I had always loved and it was Richard’s original SWEATIN’ TO THE OLDIES that got me moving again and rebuilt my confidence.

I now own close to a dozen of his workout tapes and DVD’s and have been fairly consistent over the years in doing them at least 3 times a week.  (Hush, Xtina.  I am NOT exaggerating.) You should know that I’m not a big believer in doing anything I don’t enjoy.  (Eloisa will tell you that I love to race walk but I won’t run unless a bear is chasing me.) I was overjoyed when I read a recent study that said people who only do what they love tend to be more fulfilled and successful.  I hate treadmills. I hate ellipticals. I hate indoor bikes. But I love to dance! And Richard’s workouts are essentially dancing to some really cool music.  Plus he uses real people in the videos instead of buffed-out size zero scary women in thong leotards so you can’t help but feel like, “Hey, if that 300-pound man can do the twist, then so can I!” I adore his new 80’s music DVD: SUPER SWEATIN: PARTY OFF THE POUNDS because doing aerobics to Toni Basil’s MICKEY is every bit as much fun as you always dreamed it would be!

I’ve been struggling with my weight recently as women of a certain age tend to do. (I only know because Connie told me.) I couldn’t figure out why my bras were getting tighter in all of the wrong places. Then suddenly the missing ingredient of my exercise plan came to me! It was Richard!  I’d quit doing the workouts when I was on a particularly crazy writing schedule and had never gotten back to them. And all of the biking and weight lifting in the world wasn’t going to loosen up those bras. So I dragged out SWEATIN’ TO THE OLDIES on Monday afternoon. By Tuesday morning (I kid you not), I had lost 4 pounds.

As I was dancing that afternoon, a couple of other miraculous things began to happen--my cloud of PMS began to lift and I started having new ideas for my book. I also had a really corny thought--When I do this, I feel like the person I’m supposed to be.

I know. It’s hard to believe a fey little fellow like Richard, whose voice sends my cats (and my husband) racing madly for the screen door, could have such a profound effect on a life. But when I’m sweating to the oldies and Richard shouts, “You were born to be a star!”, I almost believe him.

So what about YOU?  Will YOU share your most fun and effective exercise tips, tapes or programs with us? 

Teresa’s Website

Friday, March 16, 2007


image I’m on a short vacation with my family (Doodah, David, and Beloved of Doodah’s) and a few nights ago after listening to Frank Sinatra croon “I Did It My Way” the conversation turned to regrets. Specifically, we started asking one another the following question: If we were to take the big dirt nap tomorrow, what would we regret not having done in our lives? (Yeah, I know. Morbid. But we’re mostly Irish so morbid sentimentality is sort of a genetic privledge.)

Of course, no one could limit it to one thing so in a fit of inspiration I declared it LIFE LIST night. I proposed we each write a list of 25 experiences IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER we would like to have before we deep six it (again. Irish. Many names for “death") So we did.

After half an hour some of us couldn’t come up with twenty-five, some of us came up with thirty. Interestingly, many of our answers were similar. Some were surprising. (Who woulda guessed Doodah wants to learn fly an airplane?) We enjoyed the exercise so much I’ve kept the lists with the plan that in five years’ time, High Fiving the Grim Reaper not withstanding, we’ll check our lists to see which ones we’ve achieved and then revamp them.

So how about you? Ever make a Life List? What was number one on your list?

Thursday, March 15, 2007

The Squawkers Tell You What You Should REALLY Beware on the IDES OF MARCH!

image All poor Julius Ceasar had to worry about on the Ides of March was being stabbed in the back by his best friend.  We Squawkers have to worry about that on an hourly basis PLUS cope with these other terrors of the modern world like cellulite and rude cell phone users.  Hope these helpful tips will help you survive your own Ides of March! 

1. Beware of people who talk on their cell phones in places where you’re forced to listen
2. Beware of all-automated customer phone service when you’d rather talk to a person.
3. Beware of painful lip-plumping products
4. Beware of people applying makeup or otherwise self-grooming while driving
5. Beware of cashiers making snide comments about the romance novel you’re buying when they should be grateful you’re spending your money there!

1. Beware of that box of Thin Mint Girl Scout cookies that’s been in your freezer since 1978
2. Beware of men who tell you on your first date that you remind them of their mother (or their ex!)
3. Beware of any weight loss plan that promises DRAMATIC RESULTS IN LESS THAN TWO WEEKS!!! (when the tiny print at the bottom of the screen says you have to follow a sensible diet and exercise daily)
4. Beware of that pesky strip of toilet paper that insists on following you out of the stall and through the expensive restaurant
5. Beware of desperate romance authors at mall booksignings who offer you candy to come over and fondle their books

1. Beware of answering any question that begins with, “Tell me the truth...”
2. Beware of going barefoot to an off-leash dog park.
3. Beware of hair stylists who wants to make you look “sassy.”
4. Beware of one-size fits all anything
5. Beware of cute little girls dressed in khaki uniforms who appear at your door carrying clipboards. If this happens, do not open the door. If you open the door, do not bring your checkbook. If you bring your checkbook you are doomed to spend months of aerobic exercise combating the results of this ill-fated meeting...unless you are Terri, who hides her cookies in the bottom of her freezer (like any cookie could hide from me! :snortsmile)

1. Beware of the home improvement document that includes the word “estimate.”
2. Beware of the school parent association official who uses the word “volunteer.”
3. Beware of the retail sales associate who, under the fluorescent lights of the fitting room, utters the word “fabulous.”
4. Beware of the twelve-year-old who strings out over several time zones the word “pleeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaase.”
5. Beware of the kitten who resembles the word “angelic.”

1.  Beware of overly wet mascara (like Lancome’s), because life is too short to spend your time looking like an owl.
2.  Beware of anyone who resembles Borat.
3.  Beware of the computer.  (This item added by my daughter, who wants me to read Stuart Little right now.)
4.  Beware of Stuart Little.  There are some children’s classics that are just too weird for words.
5.  Beware of SUGAR DADDY by Lisa Kleypas.  It kept me up half the night and I feel like a frazzled french fry.  And I look like one too.  And I would feel like one, except for this warm romantic glow I got from the book!

1. Beware of a cigar-smoking woman named Kitty who claims to be a decorator, moves in, drinks wayyyy too much tequila, and “beautifies” your home. (photo is Xtina’s house.)
2. Beware of the new ballet flats. They may be in style, but remember — you weren’t in ballet for a reason.
3. Beware of looking too closely at current photos of Daniel Radcliffe (especially if there’s a horse involved.)
4. Beware of construction workers who come to your house to sand off the lousy finish on your woodwork and refinish it (when it should have been done right the first time), and when they leave a fine silt shifts out of your airvents for weeks, covering everything with dust including your windows, and all the wall trim, and your new bookshelves and all the books you lovingly placed and the picture frames and the knick-knacks which you have wayyyy too many of, and that metal tree sculpture you accidentally left up in the entry which is made of wires and how are you supposed to dust that?
5. Beware of husbands who promise to dust your metal tree sculpture with the air compressor of his nail gun.

So have you ever experienced any of these horrors?  And if you could warn the Squawkers and your fellow Squawkees about something they should beware on the Ides of March, what would it be? 

Tuesday, March 06, 2007


My desk top is dying, my notebook is dying, and never have two electronic deaths been so unlamented. Why? Because this time, this time, I am going to run with the cyber-wolves. This time, I am going to get me such a fast, such a secure, such a solid machine I will never have to replace it again! (Yeah, I said that four years ago, too. So?) The only question I have is where will I find my new Compu-Couer? Should I stick to the path I know best and replace these rotting hulks with a Vista-licious PC because as all my current software is made for Windows? Or will I fly in the face of fiscal responsibility and get me one of them new Mac Notebooks running OX Leopard?

I don’t know! I’m having a hard time deciding so a few times a week ( and twice on Saturdays) I haunt the aisles at CompUSA, fingering the Toshiba Satellite keyboards and playing with the plasma touch screens. I pour over hard drive configurations and study Computercentric magazines like they were the new testament. I whisper into microphones and test angle shots of my face on webcams but eventually I end up standing under the “COMING SOON” banner advertising Leopard and whimpering with impatience.

The only misgiving I have about getting a Mac is the fact that Mac people hate Bill Gates. Which is fine. PC people hate Bill Gates, too. Hate with impunity, I always say. But no Mac-ite hates Steve Jobs. They love him. They love him and they LOVE their Macs. Which has lead me to wonder why. Which has led me to talk to more and more of the Mac-amillions and the more I talk to Mac people, the more their enthusiasm unnerves me. They get a manic look their eye, like a proselytizer spying a potential convert. I want to buy a new computer, not to join a cult! When you first turn on the computer does Steve Jobs appear to you that night and make you his Apple-slave (and do they get to wear cute togas?) What do they really do at those “free” Apple workshops (and does it involve microchips?)

So, tell me, what do you own a PC or a Mac and why? And if you own a Mac, did you have a microchip implanted when you bought it and, if so, does it also control your appetite? (Okay, okay, I just thought it was worth asking)

Monday, March 05, 2007

Liz on the Family Bed

imageI’m not a morning person by nature. If I had my way, I’d go to bed every “night” at four A.M., sleep until noon or so, then get up and go about my day. In fact, that WAS the way I lived my life as a single person with my own place. I was tending bar then, so I could work ‘til the restaurant that employed me closed, then go out with other night owl friends to bars that stayed open even later, then come home and decompress over the mail and newspaper, then go to bed just before the sun came up. I didn’t have a problem with insomnia back then, because I was able to live by my body’s clock with no problem.

Ah, good times, good times.

As a married mother, however, I have to live by a bunch of different clocks. The school clock. My husband’s job clock. My mom’s doctor’s appointments clock. Some days, the New York publishing clock. And none of them run anything like my own. I’ve suffered from chronic insomnia ever since I stopped working nights and started living my life by day.

There have been some nice benefits from living during the daylight hours, however. I no longer have to make my bank deposits via the ATM and wait to have them post. I can get prescriptions filled while I wait. Sunrises, I’ve discovered, are every bit as beautiful as sunsets. Still, it was fun to go to the all-night grocery store at three A.M. and see the cashiers running up and down the aisles to keep themselves entertained, and never have to wait in line to pay for my purchases.

The one thing that has made my forcible entry into morning-personhood bearable, however, is the family bed. Morning, surprisingly, has become my favorite time of day, because that’s the part of the day where my family and I steal a little time for closeness. We deliberately set our alarm clock ahead a half hour every weekday morning, and we program the coffeemaker to have our coffee waiting for us when we wake up. My husband always brings me my first cup in bed, then he and I spend about fifteen minutes holding hands and chatting about what the day ahead holds, or what happened yesterday.

At the halfway point, my husband goes to wake up our son, and then both of them stumble back to our room and tumble into bed. By now, both cats have joined us, as well (or, more likely, they’ve both passed the night sleeping between my husband and me), so the bed, a cozy queen-size, is more than full. My son usually dozes for another fifteen minutes while the cats wrestle and pounce around and over him. If we’re lucky, he might mumble something meaningful (he was a real chatterbox until he became an adolescent--go figure), but more often, he just sleeps.  He’s joined us in the family bed every morning since he was a baby, a custom I always adored, but which I honestly didn’t think would continue this long. I love that it does, though I doubt it will last much longer.

Which is all the more reason to embrace these quiet mornings with the family for all they’re worth. And to me, they’re worth more than anything. Certainly more than a little readjustment to my body’s clock.

So how about you? Do you have any morning rituals to help you face the day? Things you have to do, or else the day seems a little off-kilter? What do you like better--morning life, daytime life or night life?

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