if you want to destroy my sweater

While on the way home from school, Weezer’s “Sweater Song” came on the radio, and Z was intrigued. “Can you really destroy a sweater like that?” Not being a knitter, I don’t know the answer, but I said you could definitely do some damage. Then we brainstormed other ways to destroy a sweater. Here are three:

Run over the sweater with a car.

sweater 1

Bake the sweater in a pie.

sweater 2

Bake the sweater in a pie and feed it to an alligator.

sweater 3

When I listen to the song, I always picture the sweater as red. Not sure why that is.

NaNoWriMo continues to be fun! I’m going to run out of story before I hit my word count goal, but that’s what revision is for, I guess.

Pianissimo

Last weekend, Homes and my father-in-law drove to a friend’s house in Mendocino and came back with a piano.

But wait, there’s more. We already have a piano. The old piano is awesome in character and appearance. It’s at least a hundred years old, I’m sure, with a marbly-looking old wood that goes perfect in our front room. The problem is it sounds awful. Even the most tone-deaf amongst us would notice that high A sounds like two adjacent notes being played together, with an otherworldy screech that echoes the screams of a horror movie bimbo.

Unfortunately, no one is willing to even attempt tuning the old beastly thing, so the piano I’ve spent years playing (or avoiding, recently, because it’s too painful to listen to) will have to go elsewhere. I’m really hoping I can find someone who wants to make it a project and replace the strings and whatever else it needs, because it’s seriously cool. Otherwise it’ll probably have to go to the dump, because we have no room for storing it and neither does anyone else, and I will cry.

(By the way, do you want a piano?)

Dueling pianos, anyone?

But that’s a rambly introduction to the thoughts I’m having, which all swarm around the idea of success and how we measure it and how we hope to live up to success…or not. And how, in the eleven years I took piano lessons (thanks, Mom and Dad!) I never thought I’d be a concert pianist or play professionally or anything like that. I played because I liked it. Other than the “assignment” songs I had to practice for my teacher, I chose my music and learned things I wanted to learn. Like, of course, Für Elise, and the theme from The Man From Snowy River, and (cringing here) Boyz II Men’s “On Bended Knee” and Bryan Adams’s “Everything I Do.” Once I got a little better I branched out into other classical songs, some rag time, but the point is, whatever I wanted to learn – I learned it.

“Success” in music wasn’t in being the best. There was a girl in my class who could play much better than I could, and I didn’t care. We weren’t competing. I wanted to play well, because the better I could play, the more songs I could choose from. The only thing holding me back was my small hands (anything beyond an octave is a big stretch) but I could work around that.

And that’s how I want my writing to be. It’s not about who else writes what, whether someone writes better or has a bigger audience. I want to improve because the better I write, the more I can write, and the more I can do. With fewer limits, I can have more fun.

I’m playing the piano again, now that we’ve got one that’s tuneable. And I don’t play for other people. If I want to play Moonlight Sonata six times in one day, Maverick isn’t going to complain (but my hands will – too many octave stretches!). I play for the joy of hearing the song one more time, with maybe fewer mistakes. For the joy of giving myself the chills, even when I’m botching every other note, because the music is so beautiful, two hundred years later, even when played by an amateur.

If I can harness that kind of joy and appreciation in my writing practice? Dude, that’s success.

In Ancient Egypt

Sometimes Z asks for a tried and true favorite for her nighttime lullaby. “Loch Lomond,” “All the Pretty Little Horses,” and “Ally Bally” are popular right now. For awhile it had to be “O Holy Night,” sung about four or five times. But occasionally she’ll throw me a loop, and request a song about a hawk, or, in this case, ancient Egypt.

So if there are any “real” musicians out there, just stop now. I don’t know what the heck I’m doing with this. Eleven years of piano lessons taught me how to read and play music, not write it. I took major liberties with putting the measures together, and wasn’t sure a treble clef was needed at all. There’re, what, two measures that actually need that extra range, but, whatever. It’s a home-grown lullaby, plunked out on my ancient, out-of-tune piano.

Except, I might have unconsciously stolen the tune, so if anyone recognizes it, please let me know. I know the lyrics are for sure my own (and so proud of them I am! Notice the “you’ll be happy if you go to sleep” subtext. Lullabies: my favorite form of propaganda, after cautionary tales of my own invention).

Oh, also, assume that if you don’t see a note there, it’s a “rest.” Because, frankly, after scribbling and erasing and erasing again, I can’t be freakin’ bothered. And I just realized I misspelled “lullabies” on the music. That’s it. No more apologies.

And finally, if you’ve written a lullaby for your kid/niece/nephew/small friend/whoever, I’d love to hear it/read it/play it/sing it to my Z. So let me know!

She’ll Be Coming ‘Round the Mountain When She Comes

Z has this great little distractor, an old Leap Frog alphabet thingie. Z calls it her “Letters.” She spells her name on it, which was kind of cute the first hundred thousand times.

It looks like this:

It sounds like this:

“Try pressing a letter!”

“Press a letter to hear music!”

“Press any letter to hear its sound!”

“Z! says Zzzzzz.”

The music thing is, I think it goes without saying, highly irritating. And LOUD. No volume control. I keep meaning to give it my duct-tape fix (something I heard from another parent). The Duct-Tape Fix is a highly effective, low-cost way of lowering the volume on annoying toys (cheaper, even, would be removing the batteries). What you do, is find the blasted speaker, and slap a piece of duct tape over it.

The funniest aspect of the Letters is that occasionally, Z argues with the overly-friendly voice.

Letters: Press a letter to hear its name!

Z: I don’t want to!

Letters: Try pressing a letter!

Z: I said I don’t want-

Letters: Try pressing a letter!

Z: Oh! You interrupted me!

I love hearing those arguments. So maybe I shouldn’t smash the toy with a splitting maul just yet.

What I’m listening to now, though, is the tune to “She’ll Be Coming ‘Round the Mountain” over and over and over and over (keep going) again. It sounds like it was recorded in a windy field with my second-grade flutophone and our out-of-tune piano.

Where’s that duct tape?

She’s a Maniac, Maniac on the Floor

There’s a very good reason my parents didn’t name me Grace. The reason became clear in ballet class when I was six, and the instructor kept having us count to eight while we lifted our arms in (not-so) graceful arcs, and then count to eight as we lowered our arms in (not-so) graceful arcs. I assume the repeated exercise was because we weren’t getting it. Or maybe that was just me.

“I know how to count to eight. I want to leap and bound across the stage! In one of those sparkly frilly skirts! I want to be a ballerina right now. I’ll wear diamonds.”

I guess it’s a good thing they didn’t name me Patience, either.

I love to sing, and whenever I see a musical, I wish I could sing and dance together. It’s been my “wild” dream – the one I know will never come true. I think everybody needs one of these wild dreams, if nothing else than for entertainment when life isn’t treating you kind. Got a sick toddler you need to rock? Hum “Memory” from Cats and picture yourself slouching rhythmically under moody stage lights. Waiting in line at the DMV? They don’t have to know you’re smiling because you just nailed “Cell Block Tango” from Chicago and the audience is going wild. Long drive through Nevada? No way – you’re belting out “Popular” from Wicked and You Are a Star, Baby. Wearing diamonds, of course.

But none of that actually involves, you know, dancing. When my brother introduced me to Just Dance 2, I fell in love, then stole my mother’s Wii and bought my own copy of the game. Now, not only do I get to dance, I get immediate, objective feedback. And I can compete with my brother (and lose every time), which is always fun.

Favorite dances:

  • “Rasputin” by Boney M.
  • “Baby Girl” by Reggaeton
  • “Call Me” by Blondie
  • “Jump” by Studio Allstars (not Kris Kross? But it sounds just like them. Weird)
  • “Tik Tok” by Ke$ha
  • “Iko Iko” by Mardi Gras
  • “Girlfriend” by Avril Lavigne

I’ve only hit myself in the head with the controller a couple of times. Fine, maybe three or four times. Like I said, my name is not Grace. I haven’t actually knocked myself out yet, so I’m not too worried about it.

Z occasionally joins in. She’s “Baby” in the photo above, with 18 points. (She dropped the controller and found something better to do in administering injections to her stuffed animal friends.)

So I can sweat and be aware of every excruciating minute, or I can have fun and suddenly realize that my heart rate is up and I’m panting and sweating.

So. Jillian Michaels? Or a dancing video game?

Oh, daddy, I choose to dance. Even if flailing about with the controller occasionally bruises my forehead.

The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson

Why, oh why did the Internet eat my book review?

I shall have to start again, but I warn you, I’m not quite as excited to do this a second time.

The set-up: Lennie’s used to following her older sister, Bailey, around. Bailey has all the experiences with boys and doesn’t seem afraid to live. Then Bailey dies, and Lennie doesn’t know where she fits in the world anymore.

Main character’s goal: The goal changes, but without giving too much away I can say that at one point Lennie’s goal is to ignore one boy – the boy who lets her feel her grief for her sister’s death without getting swallowed up by it, and pursue the second boy – the one who is all light and happiness and helps her feel that she’s moving on from Bailey’s death.

My reaction: I thought the love triangle was done exceptionally well, and the characters were incredible, larger-than-life people. Even Bailey, who died before the story begins, is full and flawed and fabulous. The writing itself was lyrical, and I wondered how much of it was the author trying to be artistic and how much was truly Lennie’s voice. However, that was my writerly self wondering, and my readerly self kept saying, “Shut up and just enjoy the prose, you know you like it.”

Of interest to writers: The poems throughout – poems Lennie scribbles on whatever available writing surface there is, and are described as found in various places, like under a rock, or in the margins of Wuthering Heights, well, I enjoyed them and all, but then when I got to the end and ***mild spoiler alert here*** they actually had a purpose in the story line (even if it was a small purpose), I was impressed.

Bottom line: Read it for the beauty of the language, or the deliciousness of Lennie’s conflict, or the roundness of the characters…but just read it.

Reminds me of: Into the Wild Nerd Yonder by Julie Halpern.

The Vinyl Princess by Yvonne Prinz

There are a few excellent books I’ve read recently, but I have to write about this one immediately. It was just that good.

Set-Up: Allie, the “Vinyl Princess” as she dubs herself for her blog, works at Bob & Bob Records, a place that her mom says smells “like an octogenarian’s attic” (p. 10), but to Allie is heaven on earth. She is obsessed with LPs. LP: an abbreviation for those ancient things called (long-playing) records that collect dust in your mother’s attic…or, to Allie, the truly righteous and best way of listening to music.

Main character’s goals: to lead a revolution against “corporate rock and downloading and digitizing and Clear Channel” (p. 12). She also wants some romance in her life.  She sets about accomplishing the first goal by starting up a blog and a zine, and she sets about finding romance by fantasizing about a Bob & Bob shopper she calls M (for “mystery guy”).

My reaction: Throughout the book I had a weird feeling. I kept struggling to recognize a name, any name, of a band or musician that I recognized. I often couldn’t, which made me feel sixteen shades of uncool. Then I realized: I wanted to impress Allie. That’s how cool she is – she made me want to impress a fictional character. Name-dropping usually doesn’t put a person on my good side, but it worked for Allie. When she listened to Dark Side of the Moon I might have cheered out loud because for once I knew what she was talking about.

Of interest to writers: the climactic action happens almost 100 pages before the end of the book. This premature climax (I’m sorry, I couldn’t help it) works, and I’m impressed. I’m impressed whenever a book goes slightly against the grain. It works for The Vinyl Princess, as there are still some unresolved issues (namely, the revolution and the romance) after the Big Action. Nobody could put it down at that point.

The goals are sort of mixed in with character introduction, background, all that stuff that everyone says shouldn’t happen in the beginning of a novel…well, Prinz makes it work because Allie’s voice is full of awesome attitude (not sarcastic, just cool).

Bottom Line: As soon as I can find a sucker to take care of my kid, I’m heading to the local INDEPENDENT record store to buy one of the albums Allie loves. I’m not sure which one yet. I can be sure of this: I’m not buying it as a record, as I have no turntable. But I’m not downloading it.

Also, I’m so so sorry, but I can’t resist: This book rocks. He he.

For more information on the book and the author, visit Prinz’s website by clicking here.