Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Good thing #3

Next in my series about self-positivity... minutiae.



I have the ability to remember tiny details about many things I encounter. It's not like knowing trivia, and I definitely do NOT have an eidetic memory, but rather I'm good at remembering song lyrics, or the Dewey Decimal number of a book I retrieved for a library patron one time, or the location of my first chicken pox welt, or the exact way that my grandmother would say my name.

On the first point, my husband is always astounded at how I can remember the lyrics to songs I haven't heard since grade school, or even since high school. Old 80's TV theme songs ("Perfect Strangers" comes immediately to mind), multiple verses of Christmas carols where most people only know the first... Maybe he's more amazed because he doesn't sing at all, and I adore singing, and when I find a song I like, boy I glomm onto it like nobody's business. Maybe it's burned into my memory from sheer repetition. You know, when you listen to a song so many times that people around you beg you to listen to something else just for one hour? Well, I can usually memorize a song within a day or so.

A few months ago, I was cleaning up the library at the end of my shift, and I picked up a stack of books that was on the table and put them away. About ten minutes later the librarian came up to me with a woman in tow, asking if I'd put away any of the woman's books about mosaics. I said yes, and immediately rattled off the Dewey Decimal number that most of them came under (738.4, or close to there), and left to continue my clean up. A few minutes later, they came back and asked me if I remembered where the last of her books was. Though the call number didn't spring to mind, I did remember where I had shelved it, and retrieved it within seconds of reaching the shelf. The librarian was quite impressed with my memory, and she seems to me to be one of those people who is hard to impress.

Movies and plays. I regularly quote from them (movies moreso), but not just quote, but recite entire scenes from memory, complete with gestures and tone and facial expressions. Yes, I took drama in high school, and yes, I love movies, so that would naturally translate well into memorizing them on my part. In high school, after a few weeks of practicing, I'd know the entire play off my heart and could correct someone flubbing a line, or fill in if someone was missing. If anyone had a question about the script, they'd say, "Ask Nadine, she'll remember." (Though my memory didn't work so well in my favor during a sketch in grade 12, and I forgot my lines almost from the very beginning. I wasn't pleased with myself.)

It seems to be related to reading - that which I see, I remember. I sometimes feel like I have comprehension issues when I hear things (if I had a penny for every time I asked someone, "What?", I'd be a gabillionaire), so often I put on subtitles when watching a film of TV on DVD. I feel bad that it annoys my husband, but what is being said sticks so much better if I read it. This, I feel, is why I can remember so much that I read.

I like that I remember details.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Good thing #2

Continuing my mini-series on things I like about myself, the second stone on my "happy bracelet"...

I read fast. Very fast. Not in that fake "learn how to read books in five minutes" garbage, but pretty fast. In the second grade, the seventh-grade boy who lived down the street, Sean Puff (who I had a massive crush on), nicknamed me "Speedy Reader". I glommed onto that sobriquet with gusto. "I'm a Speedy Reader" I'd tell everyone who'd ask.

I don't know why I read so fast, I just do. I tore through the fifth (and biggest) Harry Potter book in about six hours - over a hundred pages an hour. I finish a regular paperback in about two hours or so.

Perhaps part of it is simply the great desire to find out how the story ends; I hate not knowing with a passion that surprises even me. I've been known to be late for things more often that I care to admit because I couldn't put a book down. I've been exhausted some mornings because I began a 400-page book at 10:30 PM and "forgot" to turn out the light until about 3 AM. "I'll just finish this chapter," I say, while my husband's disbelieving look gets replaced by his back as he turns away from the light of my bedside lamp. A few hours later, he'll roll over and mumble, "Are you done the chapter yet?"

The small downside of reading fast is that I sometimes gloss over details in a story. But then comes the joy of rereading, again and again, and discovering all the little bits that I missed.

People ask me how I read so fast. I truly don't know. The human brain operates faster than we give it credit for sometimes: I understand faster than my brain can process the words, if that makes any sense; it sort of leaps ahead and tries to figure out what's going to happen ahead of time, and sometimes it's even right.

But anyway, I read fast, and it allows me to read a kid's picture book in about 30 seconds at work. ;-)

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Good things.

In cleaning out the cabinet beneath the bathroom sink, I came across a bracelet I had purchased for myself. It's nineteen pieces of rose quartz on a stretchyelastic, each piece rounded and polished. I bought it with the specific intent of it being my "happy with me" piece of jewelry: every time I felt sorry for myself, or thought I was useless or pathetic, I would wear it and think of all the reasons, one for each stone, why I liked myself.

So, in contrast to my last post about what I can't do and what I don't like about myself, this, and future posts, will be about what I can do and what I do like about myself.

When I bought this bracelet, it was late fall. I first wore it on a train - though I don't remember where I was going. As I fingered the beads, I thought about snow, and . . . snowmen.

I am really good at making snowmen. I know it doesn't seem like a difficult thing to do - roll up three balls, stack them, and stick some twigs and rocks in it - but I do more than that.

I smooth each ball out and pick out the bits of grass that have gotten stuck in the snow. I carve features into the face with my bare fingers and small sticks, and use the darkened pennies fished out of the depths of my coat pockets for irises.

Ears are difficult - carve them too low, and the snowman becomes a snow troll. Carve them too high and they look, well, not right. Noses can get too big really quickly, but just as easily shaved down with the right-sized twig.

You need a couple of pairs of thin gloves, so you can work your individual fingers into the sometimes unyielding mass of snow. The reason you need several pairs is that they will inevitably get wet and your fingers get cold. A good pair of waterproof mittens are best for smoothing out large areas like the snowman's back, front and legs.


Yes, I try to give my snow people legs, or the illusion of legs. One Christmas, Andrew and I stayed at his parents' house, and made an eight-foot snowman whom we affectionately called PHuFFO'H - pronounced foo-foe - Patrick Hugh FitzFinnigan O'Hara. He was so called because when we were done, my father-in-law gave us a giant shamrock hat to put on his head. PHuFFO'H had what looked like giant boxing gloves for hands, his arms akimbo. He had a slightly large head, but nice round cheeks, a big smile, and pants and shoes.

A year later, we walked through a park near our apartment and on the fly made Helga the Hausfrau. She was about half of PHuFFO'H's size, but she had lovely wavy hair made up into a bun in the back, a beautifully curved stick to delineate her mouth, and a matronly apron. over her dress. Her hands were on her belly just below her respectably sized bosom.

I am good at making snowmen.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008


It occurred to me yesterday that I am a unique person. (Though one might argue, isn't everybody unique?)

Compared to most people, I cannot move much of my face.

Through an interesting quirk of genetics, I cannot arch my right eyebrow by itself. Nor can I curl my tongue, flare my nostrils, or wiggle my ears.

It's fascinating, really. Both my parents can curl their tongues, as well as both of my brothers. My youngest brother, in fact, can dip his tongue into three or four nubs. (And let's leave the 'lucky girlfriend' jokes aside, shall we?) My other brother has double jointed elbows.

One of my friends from high school could flare her nostrils on command, and my husband, the ultimate betrayer, can wiggle his ears and arch both eyebrows independently AND flex his pecs. How's that for talent?

But what caprice of creation deemed that I, the firstborn of my family, have none of these marvelous abilities that most people take for granted? Honestly, the looks I get when I tell people I can't curl my tongue, you'd think they won the lottery. Because I inevitably have to demonstrate that no, in fact, my tongue is curl-defunct. *bleaaaagh*

It's the most common of these tics, you might say, though probably tied with the dual eyebrow arch. Ear-wiggling and nostril-flaring seem to be less common abilities, and still, I have none of them. For a while, I was pleased to find out that I have some double jointed toes, until I found out that most people do too, courtesy of our simian ancestry. But I wonder at the usefulness of curled tongues, flared nostrils and wiggled ears in the context of monkey life. Did some antecedent of mine starve because they couldn't curl their tongue into some tree's hollow to eat some tasty bugs? Did the lack of flared nostrils cause an untimely death by a predator that was not scented in time? Was there a secret ear-wiggling code that my great-to-the-nth-grandparent wasn't able to learn, and was abandoned by the family group as a result?

Not that it's obvious, but I reek of jealousy.

But I do do a mean left eyebrow arch, though.
-- ^

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Gardening on Earth Day

So I only learned after the fact that I was working in the garden on Earth Day. It's just so beautiful today!

I am taking pictures weekly of the garden and posting them on Facebook. I also have been trying to post a video tour I made last year with my dad's camera, but it won't work for some reason. I think there's a three-video limit that they're not revealing.

But the garden is looking pretty good. I spent the first part of the morning cutting dead branches off one of my rosebushes and weeding my vegetable garden. I was quite surprised to return from Toronto yesterday to find all the hyacinth in full bloom, and some of the tulips budding. So I decided that today would be the day I start the large haul of spring garden cleaning. There was a hyacinth in my vegetable garden and I had no idea how it got there. My brother-in-law stopped by to drop off my key and said that there had been hyacinth and tulips there before, around the fishpond-which-is-now-my-vegetable-garden. Once it dies for the season, I'll move it. I guess I didn't notice it since the veggie garden didn't get planted until the end of May, early June of last year.

The second part of my day involved raking under the willow bushes, and pruning the crap out of the one by the front fence. I actually bagged most of what I chopped off this time, as opposed to leaving it on the ground to kill the grass like I did last year. Tomorrow I'll be cutting down the large branches that got lopped off, then shoved back under the willow and bagging them too.

It's amazing how huge these willows are. I focused on cutting off lower branches so that one day we can put a bench underneath its canopy. Heck, if we had a bench now we could probably manage it. A few wispy branches in the face isn't too bad.

So, giant dead lopped off branches (and a forgotten dead juniper) aside, the yard is shaping up quite nicely. I think last year's clean-up involved about fifteen bags of yard waste, and so far I'm only up to two. I'm thinking maybe two more bagsful and I'll be done. A great improvement over last year.

Thursday, April 03, 2008


For those of you who are following my photojournal on Facebook, our renovations are going well, though have stalled of late.

We have temporarily left the bathroom (much to my husband's chagrin) to focus on our second bedroom. See, back in September or so, our darling Ash the Cat chewed through the aquarium filter hose, and caused over ten gallons of water to leak into the room's carpet. We removed the carpet, sold the entire fish set-up to some hopefully responsible aquarists, and suffered with bare chipboard subfloor ever since.

We always knew we were going to replace the flooring upstairs, since the carpet was at least ten years old if it was a day. Wood of a sort (hardwood or laminate) were the options we had largely considered. I ordered some lovely bamboo hardwood samples from a company in Vancouver. We even went to IKEA recently and purchased laminate flooring.

Unfortunately, the floor in that room is very uneven: there is a huge dip down the middle of the room, about nine feet long, roughly four feet wide, sort of oval shaped. The reason I know it's oval-shaped is because my husband and father-in-law purchased some levelling compound from Home Depot, which, when poured, filled the dip very well.

Unfortunately (again), the levelling compound curled up around the edges when it dried. To boot, it still wasn't level enough to allow the laminate to snap together as it should. We're able to return the two unopened boxes of laminate, but not the two opened boxes with cut pieces, or the underpad foam, or the "flooring tools".

We'd heard about a sale on laminate at Home Depot, so with heavy hearts we went to look, hoping it was better quality than the IKEA crap. What we found, and what Andrew had to sell me on, was parquet flooring. Easy to install, much more flexible than hardwood or laminate, and you can measure your progress quite well since the tiles are each one square foot.

Well, it was quite a bit easier. We still had to beat the tar out of the floor to get rid of the cracked levelling compound (we used the scrap IKEA boards to fill the dip - oh, the irony!), but the floor looks beautiful.

If only we can get started on the shower again...

Oh, shit.

Another spring is upon us, and, oh, shit... it's everywhere. The doggy droppings abandoned by lazy pet owners.

Apparently, there's this unusual property to snow that makes people think that crap magically disappears when it's dropped into its fluffy white goodness. Well, news flash, people: it doesn't disappear.

It sits there.

And waits for some unsuspecting springtime pedestrian to walk in it. Because... *drumroll* ... IT DOESN'T VANISH.


It was almost comical this winter walking along the path plowed through the park and seeing atop a four-foot mound of snow a pile of tiny, tied up plastic bags. The mound of snow ostensibly hides a trash can, so that when the snow melts - TA-DA! - the bags will naturally fall into it.

But alas, that's not how it works. What will really happen is that the snow will melt, and people will find that the snow plow veered a little too far in one direction, and that the garbage can they assumed was beneath the mound of snow is about twelve feet to the left of the now huge pile of bagged dogshit, and then, lo and behold, the dogshit will be on the ground again.

One might assume that I, being a chronic pedestrian and frequest walker of said trail, have actually stepped into a pile of doo. As luck would have it, I have been fortunate to escape this scenario thus far. But I know that the time will come when I'll be running for the bus, and will just see the little dessicated-on-the-outside-but-still-ripe-on-the-inside-pile-of-crap at the last possible moment. I will have a split second to twist my ankle just so I don't get the full-on shit squish, but I will get a wet piece of turd on the side of my boot that just won't go away, no matter how hard I frantically scrub my boot with the remaining slush on the side of the path.

Moral of the story: always make sure you have poo bags when walking your animal. And just take the poo home in the winter. Think of your fellow pedestrians.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Valentines' Day haiku

This Valentines' Day
I got a sweet love letter
From my dear husband.

It made me laugh, and
I remembered happy times
Like last night's dinner.

"What is a birthright?
Why did Esau give his up
for a chicken dish?

"Jacob must have been
one hell of a cook; did he
make teriyaki?"

Many giggles, snorts,
hushed up by my napkin, as
Andrew sat, musing.

"Was teriyaki
worth giving up his birthright?
Jacob was a fink."

"Maybe they'd now be
'Esavites', not 'Jacobites',"
I said, chuckling.

"But a whole birthright!"
My husband was indignant.
"For teriyaki!"

"It's not even that
delicious," said I, giggling.
"I don't care for it."

Later he bought me
red roses, because there were
no more peach-hued ones.

He says that roses
stay the same price all the time.
Despite what they say.

"Roses in August
cost the same as those in March.
Well, the ones you like."

It doesn't matter.
They still smell as sweet, don't they?
Shakespeare did say so.

I love my husband.
I love to write haiku, for
him and for me too.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Decor "whoa"s

My husband has informed me that a store in our local mall is closing. While this, in itself, is not really news - many of the stores are closing; the place looks like a ghost town during weekdays - it happens to be one of the stores I like the most.

Bouclair is a store which, up until recently, sold lots of fabric - I mean hundreds of different ones - along with sewing notions, pre-fab curtains, and various decor items: pillows, throws, mirrors, etc. I was looking on their website and smack on the homepage this week was the following ad:

Branches Starting at 6.99

Now, I don't know about you, my humble readers, but having a bunch of dead, or worse, plastic, branches artfully arranged in a vase just doesn't do it for me. Nor for the cat, who would no doubt knock it over in that "everything has to be on the ground" way that cats have. Nor really for anyone who doesn't live in a pristine, Zen-like atmosphere or has a maid.

I remember vividly, while watching Juno recently, just a few seconds of a manicured feminine hand rearranging things : aligning picture frames so they were slanted just so, polishing an upstairs banister, and adjusting what I assume were scent sticks so they fell in a perfectly equal spray.

Who has time for this for everyday??? I mean, maybe it's easy when you both work away from home and have no pets or children. Shoot, even then my house was a sty. But maybe that's just me.

I mean, to me, decor is wall hangings, paint colors, and the color/material/texture of furniture and accessories like pillows and throws. Not big vases filled with sticks or, heaven help me, giant bowls filled with plastic balls. Useless tchochkes are a huge pet peeve with me. Yes, you can have mementoes of people and places. But jeebus, keep it simple and uncluttered. Keep it contained. Have a cabinet specifically for those things if you must. But don't have things scattered all over hell's creation until you're knee-deep in crap and can't reach what you need.

Arg. I can't wait until I start my new job. Much clutter to clear. Much spring cleaning to do. Even though it's not spring yet. No like time like the present, aye?

Thursday, January 24, 2008

F-word and other obscenities

My hubby bought me the soundtrack to Tenacious D and the Pick of Destiny for Christmas, along with an MP3 player. I ripped it onto my player, and have been listening to it almost non-stop. They seem more amazing the more I listen. Genius! Their gratuitous use of the f-word is not vulgar, it's oddly apropos. I mean, they're f*cking rockers, man!

At least, I don't think it's vulgar. Well, I mean, I know it is, but put into the proper context, it's not. It's just a very useful word in this movie.

"A long-ass f*cking time ago, in a town called Kickapoo..."

"The government totally sucks, you motherf*cker..."

"I totally miss the honesty and special times / and honestly /
I totally miss the f*cked up thing you do /
Dude I totally miss you / I really f*ckin' miss you /
Dude I totally miss you all the time"

I've been trying to avoid using vulgar language as much (hopefully, by the time I have a kid, the vulgarity will have been phased out about 90%) but have been failing miserably. It's all I can do to not take religious names in vain when talking to my mother on the phone, or using the word "shit" when my mother-in-law is in the room. When did I become so potty-mouthed? Eh, probably university. Even in high school, I rarely used the f-word, and "shit" was used sparingly. "Bitch" was probably the worst word in my pithy arsenal. Hey, I was the girl whose best friends deserted her in 6th grade because I didn't know what a condom was. *shrugs*

Now I try to be all copy-cat creative with stuff I've ripped off from books or movies. "Jesus Christ on a piece of toast!" had its heyday in my everyday rants while I was at SDM, though occasionally politely substituted with "Cheese with rice!" *nods out to JPF, of the rib0flavin persuasion, if he's reading this* Of course, after watching Team America, the use of "Jesus titty-f*cking Christ" skyrocketed.

Lately, "H Murphy!", or simply, "H!" has been my expostulation of choice. It doesn't mention any religious figures - only a poor guy named Murphy - and so shouldn't offend anyone's sensibilities. (In case anyone cares, that one super-morphed out of Diana Gabaldon's "Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ!" Since I was not alive when Roosevelt was, and then wanted to use my dad's popular, "Jesus Murphy" without the "Jesus" part... QED.)

In French of course, it's all about religion. Bodily functions rarely figure into French cursing, in my limited experience. It's all about Dieu, tabernacle, hostie, and calisse, with the occasional merde thrown into the Jésus, Marie, and Joseph mixture. I'm really not as conversant in French cursing as, say, the average Quebecker. I remember this guy I went to high school with, Sébastien Larocque, and boy, could he curse. Pretty, in a kind of a bad-boy way, but a real prick. But I do remember being amazed at his ability to create blue streaks, en français. Hence the color of this post. But do I remember any of his unusual church-and-fornication collaborations? Alas, no.

Not that I'd use it, of course.

Pet peeves

... when people spell it "perscription" instead of "prescription"
... when people say "the" to rhyme with "duh" when it's not appropriate, e.g. the end, the apple, the elephant. People, when the noun following begins with a vowel, "the" is almost always pronounced "THEE".
... when roof is pronounced like Tim Allen says it. It should rhyme with "goof", not have a soft double 'o' like "book".
... when people don't listen when you ask them a question, and answer with something really random. Honestly, if you weren't paying attention, or you didn't understand, it's okay to ask for clarification. I won't get mad.

Nuff for now. I'm sure I'll have more. Just needed to vent.

Thursday, January 17, 2008


I will be going shopping after work today. I was inspired by a dream I had last night/this morning.

Short version of the dream: I was in an apartment that, in the odd way dreams allow, belonged to my friend Steph and my two great-aunts simultaneously. One of my great-aunts asked my youngest brother if he wanted to go through the stuff in the attic. Me, on the lookout for new clothes, latched on to this idea. I found myself attracted to several green shirts. One was a thin silk blouse with long sleeves, in a beautiful emerald green. The other was some sort of polyester/rayon shirt in a similar green, but which went with an overshirt that gave it a gold and purple shimmer. To be honest, the "overshirt" looked like a bib. Again, in that funny way that dreams are, it changed from an overshirt, to a bib, to a decoration that slipped over the sleeve, if you only wanted a hint of color.

Anyway, this dream really made me want new clothes. That, and seeing three shirts hung up and two dozen empty hangers. (I have since done laundry, and have more shirts, however.) But I still want new shirts. I haven't bought any new shirts in almost a year, so I think I'm entitled to a little spree before I am making less money. So... green shirt it is. And hopefully an orange shirt. And maybe a yellow shirt. I've had enough of blue for now; half of my wardrobe is blue, red, or black. No more bruise colors! I want spring colors!!

Hmmm... Old Navy, Smart Set... I can usually get tons of shirts for cheap there. Man, I miss H&M.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

New job. And great movie.

I did it. I'm back at a library. Well, I will be in two weeks.

I have resigned from the Service Canada Centre, and will be working as a page (read: shelver) at a local branch of the Ottawa Public Library. For considerably more money than I made at the same job in Halifax, but I digress. It will be part-time work; fewer hours than I'd like, to be honest, but there's always a possibility of extra shifts. Lower pay rate. A and I crunched the numbers last night, and if we stop ordering in or eating out four times a week we should be okay.

Working part-time will certainly help me out with going back to school, which I hope to do in the fall. I want to upgrade my three-year bachelor's degree to a four-year degree, preferably by upgrading my English minor to a second major.

The trap will be all the free time I will have. Last time I was unemployed (or partially employed), this translated to a lot of TV-watching and video game-playing. Now that we have a house, and not an apartment, this will give me lots of opportunities, which I dearly hope I'm smart enough to take, to clean, to decorate, and to learn to cook more than my current eight-dish repertoire allows.

Andrew and I celebrated last night by watching Juno and eating unhealthy cinema food. They're not kidding when they say they make their money of concessions. We went on cheap ticket night, so, 2 tickets = $8.40, concessions for two = $25. (!!!)

Juno is such a great movie. Ellen Page is a fantastic actress. One of my favorite scenes is when she's imitating "this girl who took too many behavioural meds and tore off all her clothes and dove into the fountain at the mall and was like, 'ARG, I'M A KRAKEN FROM THE SEA!'". Her expression is priceless. Highly recommended movie. Such funny dialogue in an otherwise poignant movie. Examples:

Juno: There are ads in the Pennysaver for parents?
Leah: Yeah! 'Desperately Seeking Spawn'! They're like, next to the ads for parakeets and lizards and shit.

Receptionist: Free condom? It's boysenberry.
Juno: Uh, thanks, I'm off sex right now.
Receptionist: My boyfriend wears one every time we have intercourse. It makes his junk smell like pie.

Juno: I went, but the receptionist kept talking about her boyfriend's pie junk...
Leah: Yummy!
Juno: And the place smelled like a dentist's office, and there were these weird water stains on all the magazines, and, and Su-Chin was there, you know, from school? And she was like, "Your baby has fingernails!" Fingernails!
Leah: Ooh, so you think the baby would, like, claw your vag on the way out?

In theaters now. Watch it!!!

Monday, January 14, 2008

Men can't be pregnant, last time I checked.

So I'm reading the Globe and Mail online just now. Get to the 'Life' section, and see the headline, "We're having a hard time getting pregnant". Presumably written by a guy.

I am so sick of men claiming that "we" are pregnant. No, "we" are not pregnant. She is pregnant. "We" do not have a swollen uterus. She has a swollen uterus. "We" do not get morning sickness (unless you're one of those men who gets sympathetically ill). She gets morning sickness. Yes, you are partly responsible for the creation of this beautiful miracle, but for the love of god, you are not pregnant too.

I understand you men want to be included; that it must be difficult to watch your significant other get attention lavished on her (whether the positive, gift-giving type, or the negative random strangers grabbing her belly type) and little on you; that your physical contribution to the process is ignored while people are in awe of your woman's changing form. But surely, there are better ways to announce your great fortune, like in the following examples:
  • We're expecting a baby!
  • I'm going to be a dad! (or a mom! for gay couples)
  • My wife/girlfriend/fiancée/life partner is pregnant!
  • This is our new nursery! Ta-da!
Never having been pregnant before, maybe I'm being a tad insensitive. But I know when I call my parents at the end of my first trimester, I will not say, "A and I are pregnant!" In fact, I will probably say something like, "Hello, Memère!"

(And for those reading this, this is not a hugely veiled post about me being pregnant. I'm not. I just watched
Juno yesterday and have pregnancy on the brain. Fantastic movie, BTW. Everyone should watch it. Amazing. And funny!!! *wipes tears of laughter from her eyes*)

Thursday, January 10, 2008


There is something so satisfying about discussing books with someone, especially books you love. The expression "shared joy is increased" is totally true when it comes to sifting through the details of a story that someone else loves the book just as much as you do.

Even better, is when you have a book that you love and reread so often that the colors of the cover are duller than when you bought it new (because who uses dust jackets anyway; they just get torn!), the pages are softer, and you remember that time you were eating spaghetti while reading that left a tiny spot of sauce on the lower right corner of page 49. (Mmm, that was good spaghetti...)

I was on the bus this morning on my way to work, and saw the woman across from me reading The Giver by Lois Lowry. It's one of my favorite books, but one of the saddest I've ever read. She wasn't very far along in the book, maybe the first twenty pages, but I glanced at her between penning answers to the morning's Sudoku to see if her face revealed any hint of awe or puzzlement. I saw nothing but a slight frown as she digested what was happening to Jonas. I hope she enjoys the book.

I feel the same way when I read passages aloud to my husband from various Harry Potter books (he maintains that, between seeing the movies and hearing me recite pages upon pages, he doesn't need to actually read them now) or books written by one of my favorite authors, Diana Gabaldon. I just love watching the look on people's faces, or hearing their gasps, laughter or exclamations when they read a certain passage or hear it for the first time.

I speed read. I always have. My nickname in second grade was Speedy Reader (or Shorty, depending on who you talked to). It maybe stems from my unfailing need to know how something ends - I need to know right now! So I tear through a book, grabbing the essentials and missing out on some of the details. But I need the details. So I read it again.

And again.

And again.

Until I'm talking to someone about the book and say, "Oh, remember when this character said..." then I repeat the text word for word, and they look at me blankly and ask, "How many times have you read this?" "Um, thirty-five times, why?"

I get a lot of head shakes after this.

The thing is that I pick a book apart like it's a tangled ball of a hundred pieces of string; I ruthlessly pull and yank at story elements, stopping occasionally to unravel a knot of information, until I have a nice collection of straight, unknotted pieces of story, which I bundle carefully back up to make a nice tidy yarn again. It is so tremendously satisfying.

Anyone who knows me even a little bit know I'm a huge fan of the Harry Potter series. But it's because of the details. Seemingly innocuous tidbits play a huge part in later books. When talking about this to people, I frequently mention the example of the Vanishing Cabinet.

In Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, the second book in the series, the caretaker's cat is Petrified. This makes the caretaker, Filch, dole out extra punishements in his misery. On his way back to the dorm after a rainy and muddy Quidditch practice, Harry is talking to a ghost, then gets caught by Filch for dirtying the floors. Just before assigning punishment, they are interrupted by a loud crash above them. The ghost convinced the school's poltergeist to topple over the Vanishing Cabinet on the second floor to distract the caretaker. The Cabinet is broken.

In the fifth book, the school is in the clutches of a maniacal Headmistress who creates the Inquisitorial Squad, students who have the same authority to punish students that teachers have. Friends of Harry's stop a member of the Inquisitorial Squad from taking points away by shoving him into the broken Vanishing Cabinet. The member of the Inquisitorial Squad reappears, disoriented and confused, after several weeks.

In the sixth book, Harry's school nemesis, Draco Malfoy, finds out that the Cabinet is actually one of a pair which, when fixed, would actually create a passageway between them. Harry, in the meantime, only comes across the Cabinet again in passing, finding it in a hidden room with other broken magical objects, where he needs to hide a book. Draco later fixes the Cabinet, and uses it to allow Death Eaters to take over the school.

See? Who would have thought (besides the author, natch) that a simple cabinet, mentioned casually as a tool to avoid detention, would turn out to be integral to the takeover of Hogwarts? Rowling does this over and over throughout the series. And I simply looooove reading them again and again to pick up on the little details that turn a simple story into a wonderful saga. And even better, is unraveling these threads with someone else.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Reno woes, or "Cry Me a Ceramic Dust River"

My hubby and I are renovating our master bathroom. We started just before Christmas (what were we thinking!) and are technically half-way done. Thus far we have...

- removed the old vanity
- removed the shower unit
- ripped up the old, peeling, cracking, vinyl floor and the crappy 1/4" plywood beneath it
- reoriented the sink drain and faucet supplies
- installed stop valves on the sink faucets (there were none; older house)
- ripped out tiles which were above and around the shower
- drywalled where we had to access the sink drain
- installed the new vanity
- installed cementboard, new tiles, and grouted
- installed a new faucet

What we have left to do...

- build a shower curb out of 2x4s
- custom build the shower floor (so many steps to this!!!!)
- tile said floor and curb, and tile shower walls
- install baseboard (should have done this before we installed the vanity, whoops)
- fix the drywalled hole *wince*
- wash aaaaaaalllllll the grout off the tiles, as it is very gritty
- prime and paint

We can at least use the toilet and sink again, but the shower has a ways yet to go.

Doing It Yourself certainly has its pitfalls, and a potentially steep learning curve. Lesson number one for bathroom projects: don't grind ceramic tiles in your bedroom, even if they are tiles for the on-suite bathroom. Just... *shakes her head* just do it in the basement or the garage or something. *brushes ceramic dust off her clothes for the millionth time in the last month* The shit just never goes away. Note to self: buy some TSP to wash down the walls, and the shelves, and the hangers, and the furnishings...

It was such a relief when, ceramic dust notwithstanding, our bedroom stopped looking like a construction zone: toilet on a plastic bag in a corner, tools next to it looking lonely, pieces of chipboard and cementboard lying against the wall, furniture crammed next to the bed to make way for the movable workbench, a clamp underfoot in a bed of crumbled cement, bits of tile and wood shavings. Oh, did I mention we slept in the guestroom while this was going on? ;-)