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January 2009

Girl's Got Skills

I went to hear Ann Hood, author of The Knitting Circle and local celebrity, speak last night at our town library. Curls went with me. It's only the second time I've been to hear an author speak or do a reading. I went to see Jodi Picoult about a year ago. She did a reading. The event was supposed to be held at a local Borders, but they had to move it to one of school auditoriums because of the crowd they were anticipating. She had a packed house. So I was a bit surprised by the small crowd for Ann Hood. She's also a best selling author. Not the number of best seller's Jodi has, and I don't think there have been any movie deals, but still. Curls and I were the youngest people in the group by a decade, on average, probably a couple of decades. And there were less than thirty people. I have to think it was lack of publicity. I really doubt they did any. I only knew because it was held at my local library and I saw the announcement they had about it.

So what was best selling author Ann Hood doing at my little local library at a small, unpublicized event? She grew up here. Graduated from the town high school, and has a soft spot for the library she spent so much time in as a girl. She'd also missed an engagement with the library's book club a few months ago.

She was a great speaker - intelligent, inspiring and entertaining. I have to admit, the only of her books I've read is The Knitting Circle, which was good. I read it because it was sort of an extra-curricular book club book. We didn't actually have a meeting on it, but we've all read it now. It's not the sort of book I'd normally pick up on my own - that kind of depressing, woman's book. I generally steer clear of those. I'm not for tear-jerker material for the pure sake of tear-jerker. You know what I'm talking about, Nicholas Sparks springs to mind. I did love The Notebook, though. I could watch that movie endlessly. I do have a bit of a thing for Ryan Gossling. I remember him from when he was just a kid, playing in that Young Hercules series, and before that, that really stupid show where the rich kids went to school on a boat that traveled around the world? But I digress. The point is, if it hadn't been highly suggested to me, I might have passed on The Knitting Circle, but that coupled with the fact that she's a local author made me give it a go. And it was really good. Well structured, well-written, and more than just your random tear-jerker that doesn't seem to have much of a point but making you cry.

Listening to a writer speak about their work, about their passion for books and writing, it evokes a peace and happiness in me. It may be the sort of thing others experience listening to their priest/pastor/rabbi orating. It's grounding. Writing is empowering, it's cathartic. Writers often speak of not choosing to write but being driven to it. Ann Hood touched on all of that, and she was funny and likable. A precocious girl, reading Little Women at seven-years-old, In Cold Blood at eleven, and crank calling band members from the library when she needed a break. At seven, I was reading Nancy Drew and The Bobsey Twins. At eleven, I was all about Sweet Valley High. I didn't hit the classics until high school and I've still yet to read either Little Women or In Cold Blood. Little Women is one of my favorite all time movies, though.

What's most impressive to me about Ann Hood, is not that she's a best selling author or travels all over the world writing about her travel experience (though I'm jealous, I must admit), it's the diversity of genres in which she writes - fiction, nonfiction, essays and novels. The woman not only has intelligence and talent, she has range. I intend on picking up more of her work. To listen to her explain about how she took her grief over losing a child and fictionalized it, about how the women in the knitting circle are symbolic of the protagonist moving through the stages of grief as Ann sees them, was illuminating. A very enjoyable evening. A very wonderful author and woman.

Now Curls, is of course, always after me to write my own book, her and my husband too. I do love them for it. And I love writing. But working full time, raising my kids, my husband's business, working at those ten pounds I want to take off before our vacation in April, it doesn't leave me much time for writing. It barely leaves me much time to blog, let alone write something well thought out and potentially publishable. And I suppose if i really wanted to write, if I was really being driven to it, I'd be willing to take any risk, make any sacrifice in order to do that. But I'm not. I can just picture myself as one of those unemployed people telling people about how I'm writing a book that never gets finished. (Not like Polly, who is actually writing a book that is quite good with great characters, plot, theme, engaging writing.)

I like my job. I like working in the technology field, trying to stay at the forefront of what's going on with databases, web development and technology. Generally, I'm barely hanging on and ten steps behind, but in a country where our math and science skills are pitiful, and our technology often behind that of other countries, I enjoy at least trying to be part of the solution. I like being a woman in a field dominated by men, knowing that my mere presence is a step towards equality. I'm going to stay parked on the IT bus, at least for now. But I always have writing in my hip pocket, in case I need a change, or am forced to make a change, down the road. Maybe at some point, the two skills will come together for me in some way I can't possibly anticipate. Technical writing might be a logical thought, but let me stop you there. It'd be a cold day in hell. Sounds like watching paint dry.


Smart is Back

The day has finally come, and I'm so overjoyed that we no longer have to endure GW and now have President Obama. It's almost hard to accept that it's reality. You crave something so desperately for eight long years, and in the mean time drudge on day after day, watching people you despise run our country into the ground and when it finally ends, it's almost hard to breathe. I keep waiting for someone to come and snatch it away. It's too good to be true. It's hope and intelligence, reason and compassion personified. I sporadically found tears of joy and relief running down my cheeks in the past week. The passion with which this country has embraced our 44th President is nothing short of awe inspiring. The shear number of people that descended on Washington this week, with not even a hope of actually seeing the President in person, but just to be there in the midst of this historic event, even if they had to watch it on a big screen television at the mall, now that's really saying something.

Of course, we can't expect Obama to turn this mess around in a few months. He is a human being, not a magician. I completely understand that. But just to have a President that can speak to people, speak and sound intelligent, speak and really reach people, oh at the moment, that's a really nice feeling. I hear he even wrote his own inauguration speech. *Sigh* I'm in love. The birds are singing, the flowers are blooming, spring is in the air. . . Well, maybe I'm getting ahead of myself, but at least there is hope in my soul and a happiness in my heart while NE is plunged into the worst deep freeze of a winter we've had in a decade.

I threw an inauguration party. It just had to be done. I bought a life size cut out of Obama and we took pictures with him and played pin the sticker on Obama. We also played pin the shoe on bush. Curls did a great job putting that one together. And we had a Bush pinata filled with Dum-Dums, toy soldiers and horses. They were selling actual Bush pinatas, but they looked nothing like him, so I bought a cowboy pinata and taped his face to it. Worked out great.

My boys both have t-shirts that read, "Smart is Back" and on the back "Obama 2008." They wore them to the party and school yesterday. I'm thinking they'll be great for 4th of July too. Blackstone and I have t-shirts too. Somehow my woman's large felt more like a woman's medium to me, though. That and my tight jeans landed me some not so flattering pictures. On the bright side, perfect motivation to take off those holiday pounds and then some. Pictures like that are almost enough to turn me anorexic. I'm too smart and hungry for that, however. I just ramp up the workout schedule and cut the calories dramatically. I know I'm doing it right when I eat just enough that I don't want to gnaw off my arm and wake up starving every morning. This lately lands me eating oatmeal and drinking chocolate soy milk at 6:45 AM and watching news coverage of Obama while tears run down my face. A very heart healthy start to 2009.