Entries in Dancing with myself (32)



How goes it with ZF-360, many of you are asking? It’s going very well overall, but I’m going to need every minute of writing time this week to finish it up. Yesterday I declared that I’d make my deadline no problem, but I didn’t knock on wood quite hard enough.

Today I did some serious frogging, and believe me: frogging when you’re writing is even more painful than when you’re knitting. It’s all good, though; I’m very pleased with what I’ve got. It's just not enough.

I’m fairly certain I’ll be busy at work on ZF until Friday morning, when I hand Patrick the manuscript and Kara and I take off for the geekified bliss that is Readercon. Since I won’t be posting again until the Monday after that, I thought I’d keep you all occupied with a quiz/contest.

There will be two winners: the contestant with the greatest number of correct answers, and the contestant with the most entertaining answers. Though most of these are multiple choice questions, you’ll get extra points if you elaborate on why you made the choices you did.

Trust me: the very real prizes are fabulous, so get after it, already.

1) Though it is a fine song, which of the following does not appear in Luisa’s running mix entitled “Me Likey?”
a. “Mirror in the Bathroom,” by The English Beat
b. “The Ghost in You,” by The Psychedelic Furs
c. “A Forest,” by The Cure
d. “You Give Love a Bad Name,” by Bon Jovi

2) Luisa’s second cat was named for:
a. A French Canadian idiom
b. A character from The Lord of the Rings
c. The lead singer of The Bangles
d. A flavor of quark

3) ¿Quién es más macho? Latrell Sprewell o George Clooney?

4) Which junk food would Luisa readily admit to enjoying?

a. Magic Shell ice cream topping
b. Taco Bell Beef Enchirito
c. Lucky Charms breakfast cereal
d. All of the above
e. None of the above

5) The first LP Luisa bought with her own money was:
a. Saturday Night Fever soundtrack
b. Grease soundtrack
c. ABBA: Arrival
d. Billy Joel: The Stranger

6) If Luisa were to pursue a Ph.D., in which field would it be and why?

7) Which of the following great American writers does Luisa loathe most?

a. Norman Mailer
b. Philip Roth
c. Ernest Hemingway
d. Saul Bellow

8) If Luisa could commission one production by The Metropolitan Opera, which of the following would she choose?
a. The Turn of the Screw, by Benjamin Britten
b. Pilgrim’s Progress, by Ralph Vaughan Williams
c. Lakmé, by Leo Delibes
d. Orlando, by G. F. Handel

9) What is the air-speed velocity of an unladen swallow?

10) Luisa's hero Hugh Nibley wrote, “Sin is waste.” Which of the following does Luisa consider the most sinful waste of time, energy, and/or resources?

a. Playing Weboggle
b. Memorizing all the words to The Barenaked Ladies hit song “One Week”
c. Getting a massage
d. Watching Law and Order

BONUS QUESTION: A still photo of Ralph Fiennes playing Charles Van Doren in the movie Quizshow appears at the top of this post. This is because:

a. Ralph Fiennes is at his most attractive in that film.
b. The surnames 'Fiennes' and 'Van Doren' both appear in Luisa's extensively researched family tree.
c. The results of this quiz are fixed.
d. None of the above

Hasta la vista, babies!


Tag! I'm it.

Kara tagged me for a fun meme I've seen floating around lately. Thanks, friend! I can't think of a better way to perk up a Monday morning than with a bit of mindless memery.

Remove the blog from the top, move all the blogs up one, add yourself to the bottom.

Smiling Mom
Twas Brillig
Ennui in the Grocery

What were you doing ten years ago?

Ten years ago, Christian was three-and-a-half and James was nine months old. I was pushing my trusty MacLaren stroller around the Upper West Side, shuttling between playgrounds, the Dinosaur Museum, and Sal and Carmine's pizza place. Christian would hold onto the handle of the stroller, trot along beside me at quite a pace, and chatter about prehistoric life and heavy construction vehicles.

What were you doing one year ago?

This time last year, Christian was 12.5, James was 9.5, Hope was 7, Tess was 5, and Daniel was 2 (sorry; I know that's a bit tedious, but it helps orient me). I was finishing my submission for the Readercon Writers' Workshop: the first chapter and synopsis of ZF-360, this novel I'm almost finished writing.

I had just retired as a Sales Director with Mary Kay and was tying up all the loose ends that accompanied that decision. I was thoroughly enjoying spending tons more time with Patrick, since he'd started his own practice here at home the August before. I was neglecting our yard. I was gearing up for our big renovation. It was a hectic time; the present seems much more serene in comparison.

Five Snacks You Enjoy:

1) Toast with butter and raw honey

2) Ronnybrook drinkable yogurt

3) Red Vines (They must be stale.)

4) Fresh peaches. Or fresh cherries. Or fresh pineapple.

5) LU Little Schoolboy cookies with cold, raw milk

I'll forestall protests by telling you that to label chocolate a snack demeans it. It is an essential food that should be consumed daily for optimum health.

Five songs you know all the lyrics to:

Well, since I'm the local Rainman of song lyrics, I'll list five albums.
1) Genesis: A Trick of the Tail
2) Bach: Cantata No. 140 "Wachet Auf!"
3) Dead Kennedys: Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables
4) Oklahoma! Original Broadway Cast Recording
5) Harry Connick, Jr.: We Are in Love

Things you would do if you were a millionaire:

1) Pay tithing.
2) Give a chunk to Heifer.
3) Buy Merritt Bookstore.
4) Take the family to Florence.
5) Save anything left for college.

Five Bad Habits:

1) Pride
2) Sloth
3) Wrath
4) Extravagance
5) Not ironing

Five things you like to do:

1) It involves Patrick.
2) Play with the kids.
3) Read.
4) Nap.
5) Not iron.

Five things you will never wear again:

Rose Taffeta:

Cat Sunglasses and Five-Inch Heels:

Maternity Outfit and Bad Parisian Perm:

Plaid School-Uniform-Type Dress (Happily, I wear a Missionary Tag again):


Five Favorite Toys:
1) iPod
2) MacBook

Where will I be in ten years?

Right here in this house I love surrounded by my amazing family. All the fruit trees we're planting this week will be mature and bearing, and the yard will look terrific. I'll have published several books.

Christian will be finishing college, James will be on a mission, Hope will be finishing high school, Tess will be begging to take her driver's license test, and Daniel will be a bran-new teenager. Yikes. I need some chocolate and a cup of valerian tea now.

Five people to tag:

And there you have it! Must fly; I have tons of writing to do before we go see the Mets play the Twins tonight. Let's go, Mets!



I’ve noticed that other bloggers will sometimes make lists of 100 facts about themselves either when prompted via meme or as part of their profiles. I enjoy reading these and decided early in my blogging days that my 100th post would be one of these lists.

1. I am of average height.
2. My shoe size used to be smaller than average, but my feet got bigger during each pregnancy.
3. My shoe size is now a half size larger the current national average.
4. My two younger sisters are much taller than I am. They are also much prettier.
5. I consider this rude and disrespectful, but I forgive them both because I love them and their feet are bigger than mine.
6. Patrick and I have five children; this is far above the national average of 1.8 children per family.
7. We’ve been married almost 17.5 years, another fact that bucks many trends.
8. We are two of the most happily married people we know.
9. I was born in Reno, Nevada.
10. But since I spent most of my childhood in the San Joaquin Valley, I tell anyone who asks me that I’m from California.
11. I do not endorse the current governor of California, but I like his wife’s family very much.
12. According to my parents, I taught myself to read using Scrabble tiles when I was two years old.
13. The first conversation I remember having about a book was an argument with my uncle over the plot of a Hardy Boys mystery. I was about four and a half.
14. That same weekend, I surreptitiously fed my unwanted green beans to my step-grandmother’s poodle, Mitzi.
15. Mitzi subsequently vomited the vegetables into the pool during an important grown-up cabana party. I got in huge trouble for embarrassing my grandfather.
16. I haven’t really trusted dogs since.
17. I taught my sister Angie to read the summer that she was four and I was eight.
18. In late August, when she could read random verses out of the Bible, I drew a diploma for her and we celebrated with cookies and bouquets of dandelions.
19. When I was in sixth grade, I took a peanut butter and mustard sandwich in my lunch every day.
20. I didn’t particularly care for peanut butter and mustard sandwiches.
21. But my desire to be unique was greater than my desire for food-derived pleasure.
22. I have since figured out ways to be unique without sacrificing my taste buds.
23. I love trying new foods, and eat as varied a diet as possible.
24. But I could eat toast made from homemade bread and spread with unsalted butter and raw honey three times a day and never tire of it.
25. Angie and I once discovered that Chips Ahoy! (normally an inferior brand of store-bought cookie) taste fantastic if you spread sour cream on top of them.
26. I played the flute all through junior high, high school, and college, but I would have preferred to learn the oboe or the cello.
27. My seventh-grade orchestra teacher gave me my flute when he learned that our family couldn’t afford to rent an instrument. It had belonged to his wife.
28. Though the flute is not my favorite instrument, I treasure mine and the memory of that thoughtful, generous teacher.
29. I have eight direct ancestors who were passengers on the Mayflower.
30. I have 28 direct ancestors who fought on the colonists' side of the Revolutionary War.
31. Patrick and I are fifth cousins.
32. I discovered facts #29-#31 when I became obsessed with genealogy about five years ago.
33. Working on genealogy is my second favorite thing to do on Sunday afternoons.
34. Napping comes in first.
35. When I was in high school and college, I got by for weeks at time on three hours of sleep per night.
36. My two favorite classes at BYU were “The Literature of C.S. Lewis” with Philip Flammer and “Pearl of Great Price” with Hugh Nibley.
37. While I was at BYU, I co-managed a short-lived but very cool restaurant/night club called The Backstage Café.
38. I also sang in a band; we performed frequently at the restaurant.
39. My two most requested numbers were “Pearly Dewdrops Drop” and “These Boots Were Made for Walkin.’”
40. My boyfriend Chris was the other lead singer.
41. When Chris and I broke up, I dropped out of college and moved to the East Coast.
42. Many people warned me that if I moved away from Utah, I’d never marry someone of my faith.
43. I met Patrick in New Jersey four months after moving.
44. My first job in New York City was at the Research Foundation for Mental Hygiene.
45. Many really smart neuropsychiatrists worked at RFMH: I learned a lot during my time there.
46. ‘Mental hygiene’ is a phrase rich in mockery fodder; it still makes me snicker like a sophomore.
47. When I was 22, I went on a mission for my church to Montreal, Canada.
48. It was the best thing I’d done spiritually in my life up to that point.
49. My French improved faster during the six months of my mission than it had for the 12 years I’d studied it in school.
50. I doubt, however, that I would have learned how to conjugate verbs in the conditional perfect tense while I was in Canada.
51. I have not kept up with my French, unless you count listening to Saint Privat and translating Tintin books for my kids.
52. I feel guilty and depressed when I contemplate #51. So I try not to.
53. My mission was cut short when I was diagnosed with severe Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
54. For a year and a half, I slept about 20 hours out of every 24.
55. I gradually got better and now do fine on about seven hours of sleep per night.
56. But napping remains high on my list of luxury activities.
57. When I was little, I wanted to be Irish-Catholic and live in Manhattan.
58. One third of that dream has come true: Patrick and I lived in New York City for the first eleven years we were married.
59. I loved living there; we probably would have stayed there forever if we had had only three kids.
60. I am thrilled to be living in the Hudson Highlands and plan never to move.
61. But I visit Manhattan at every opportunity.
62. Paul Newman, still gorgeous in his late 70s, once held the door open for me at a New York theater.
63. I smiled and whispered, “Thank you,” then walked in congratulating myself for not fainting.
64. I finished college through BYU’s Degrees by Independent Study Program.
65. I received my Bachelor’s Degree in 1999.
66. I was 32 and had three kids when I graduated.
67. My grandmother taught me to knit when I was 10.
68. When I was 18, I started knitting a sweater for my boyfriend Dennis.
69. Our relationship fell prey to the infamous ‘Sweater Curse,’ and I didn’t knit at all after that for 14 years.
70. My friend Carmen got me back into knitting eight years ago; I’ve been at it ever since. Dennis, meanwhile, is now a successful mortician. Thank you, Sweater Curse.
71. I am a huge Anglophile.
72. I am also a Francophile and a Celtophile.
73. And a turophile.
74. But not a coulrophile; I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that all clowns are evil.
75. I felt confirmed in this knowledge when I saw the movie Poltergeist.
76. The fiction I write is usually somewhat dark and scary.
77. When I was six and she was four, my sister Stephanie and I collaborated on several little homemade magazines. I wrote the stories and she illustrated them. We then sold the magazines to my mother.
78. I wrote my first book, Antoine and Colette, when I was 14; my Creative Writing teacher gave it a ‘B,’ complaining that it was somewhat derivative.
79. She was right; Antoine and Colette will never see the publishing light of day.
80. I consoled myself with Jung’s theories on archetypes and resolved to do better.
81. My first published novel, Shannon’s Mirror, came out in 1991.
82. After I wrote it, I stopped writing fiction so I could finish my college degree.
83. Once I graduated, I felt too overwhelmed by young motherhood to write at all for several years.
84. Now that I can no longer reasonably be called a ‘young mother,’ I am glad to be writing again.
85. I find blogging to be an excellent warm-up for my fiction writing.
86. I love Paris in the springtime.
87. I’ve actually only been there in February and in August.
88. Places I hope to visit someday include Florence, Machu Picchu, Kuala Lumpur, Pondicherry, The Isle of Skye, Istanbul (not Constantinople), St. Petersburg, Antarctica, and Graceland.
89. Having my appearance change as I age is much harder to deal with than I ever imagined it would be.
90. I have a goal to come to grips with both my vanity and my pride in this matter.
91. Patrick sometimes calls me ‘Grammar Fascista.’
92. This is because unintentional errors in spelling, grammar, and usage drive me crazy.
93. Believe me, it is a curse to be reduced to yelling at the television every five minutes when these unforgivable lapses on the part of advertising and programming writers occur.
94. Which is one of the reasons I tend to avoid TV.
95. Except for Mets games, Medium, and The Upside-Down Show.
96. And watching the Knicks back when Latrell Sprewell was playing for them.
97. And Firefly. That was the best TV show ever written.
98. Of course, grievous errors also occur constantly in the world of print. Sometimes I read with a red pencil in hand.
99. But not often, because even I realize how crazy and futile that is.
100. There is a book that I absolutely loved as a kid. Hiding marbles in the hollow trunk of a sycamore tree was key to the plot. I have forgotten both the title and the author of this book; if anyone out in the ethersphere knows what book I’m talking about, please contact me at once. I will be forever in your debt, and might even be able to come up with a reward for you.


The Rest is Still Unwritten

When I stall out on one of the novels I’m writing and start wondering why I even try, I sometimes cheer myself up and get myself going again by indulging in the following daydream:

My first mainstream fantasy novel is published. It’s gotten some nice reviews, and people other than my family members are actually buying it and reading it. One day I get a call from Locus magazine; the fine editors thereof would like to interview me and put a flattering photograph of me on the cover of their publication.

I’m thrilled, since I’ve been reading Locus on and off for something like 25 years. The assigned interviewer emails me some preliminary questions, and they go something like this….

Actually, the following questions were posed by the fantabulous RaJ. Maybe if Locus ever actually does want to interview me, I can request that he do the job free-lance, because he’s really good at making up stuff to ask people.

1) You decide to write the story of your life as a series of novels, one book per decade. What are the titles?

Doh! RaJ, stop stealing ideas out of my head!

Decade 0-9: Michelle, Ma Belle (I went by my middle name until my junior year of high school; I used to think Paul McCartney wrote that song just for me.)
Decade 10-19: Message in a Bottle
Decade 20-29: Under the Blossom
Decade 30-39: The Smallest Seed

2) If you could make one trip through time – a minimum of one hundred years in the past – and visit with one person for an hour, whom would you want to meet and what would you ask or say?

Just one person? Just one hour? Okay, okay; I’ll quit whining.

I'd have a universal translator, right? If so, I would visit my ancestor Alice de Montmorency; she must have been terribly lonely while her husband, Simon de Montfort, was away at the Albigensian Crusade. I’d want to meet her children; I’d ask her for a tour of her house and grounds, all the while peppering her with questions about life at the court of Philip II.

3) In an odd coincidence, you too find yourself at the terminus of a trans-galactic wormhole, face to face with a genuine space alien. This alien comes from a world of Deep Thought, full of engineering and scientific marvels but no “society”; members of its race have lived in solitude and isolation for eons. The alien wants you to explain your best friend in fifty words or less (work with me here okay?). Given a few minutes to compose your answer, what would be your response?

My best friend is not essential, as your antennae are not, Gentle Alien; but would you want to live without them? Think psychic mirror; think completion of a two-part puzzle. Though Day and Night are pleasant in isolation, experienced together they complement one another in a joyous, eternal dance.

4) What is Luisa's kryptonite i.e. your "one" weakness, your point of vulnerability where your super powers seem to fail?

Pride. All my troubles stem from it; all my bad choices are born of it.

5) Multiple choice (you get to pick which one you want to answer):
a) How can you mend a broken heart?
b) Skip ahead a few years to a time when a human brain – thoughts, memories, the whole works – can be fully and verifiably "saved" and restored to and from digital media. For all practical purposes this would enable a person to persist for hundreds, even thousands of years using replacement "bodies," or even to exist without organic bodies as we know them. Do you think we would lose something essentially human in this process? Why or why not?

Though I enjoy those Bee Gees (and their late lamented foxy little brother), my inner/outer SF geek chooses b).

Digital storage of the contents of the brain would be cool, but I think this too, too solid flesh is crucial to the human experience. Creators of virtual reality are always seeking to make it more ‘real,’ i.e. truer to our normal perceptions. We can’t seem to do without the myriad sensate inputs that generally go unnoticed until they are gone.

More information than you probably want: I occasionally use a facial hair removal product on my upper lip; one time when Daniel was tiny, I got a little nuts and put it on my jawline as well.
I experienced almost instant regret. Rubbing my cheek on the top of my baby’s downy little head—an indulgence I savored at every possible opportunity—was much less pleasurable for at least a week. Those tiny hairs had been transmitters I had taken for granted, part of a sensual experience I wouldn’t ever trade for a slightly less hirsute visage.

Therefore I think the generation of replacement bodies—or the availability of forms incorruptible—would be key for life as we know and enjoy it to continue indefinitely.

Thanks, RaJ! That was good fun.


To [Write] of Many Things

Well, what a relief. Tess's surgery is behind her and she is recovering nicely so far. My anxiety level has abated sufficiently for me to be able to play some blog catch-up.

The fabulous and articulate Bub and Pie was interviewed meme-style recently; after giving her answers, she asked her readership if anyone was interested in being tagged. Of course I raised my virtual hand! Here are her questions and my answers.

1. What are your favourite D.E. Stevenson books?

First, thank you for pluralizing the question; I never could have chosen just one. But if it were a life-or-death issue, I'd pick Anna and Her Daughters. I also love Bel Lamington, Amberwell, Listening Valley, and Mrs. Tim of the Regiment. Mrs. Tim is written in diary form, and I recommend it highly as a model for any mommyblogger. If Mrs. Tim were in possession of a computer and internet connection (and if she were not a fictional character), she would be at the top of my blogroll. The Young Clementina is also terrific, but has a higher ratio of bitter to sweet than is usual for Stevenson (not a bad thing).

Actually, I've never read a book by Stevenson that I didn't like. She was a prolific writer, having had over 40 books published in her lifetime. Riches! I tend to hoard unread books by dead writers I love. I parcel them out to myself slowly, because I dread the day when I come to the end of his/her body of work. I realize that this is a bizarre habit.

I love Stevenson as much for the lovely images she conjures as for her characters and stories. Examples: the children’s secret rhododendron hideaway, Ponticum House, in Amberwell; Bel’s rooftop garden in Bel Lamington; the bucolic Scottish village of Ryddelton in many of her books; the old grey church with the leper window in The Young Clementina.

Note to Publishing Universe: Stevenson needs to be back in print! I keep hoping that Persephone, with their high regard for female writers of the early 20th century, will get on the stick. They republished Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Making of a Marchioness and Winifred Watson’s Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day. They’re a perfect fit for my dear Dorothy Emily.

2. What is your Myers-Briggs personality type? (And did you know it off the top of your head or did you have to go to humanmetrics.com to find out?)

I totally had to go to the website. I loved taking that test! It was like one of those Seventeen magazine quizzes from when I was a kid. (Trying to look intelligent after that disclosure.) But I do realize it is serious science.

The results: I am an INFJ: Introverted iNtuitive Feeling Judging. The I, the N and the J were expressed moderately, while the F was expressed distinctively.

According to the website, my type makes up less than two percent of the population. The explication of my personality was all very flattering (Eleanor Roosevelt and Mohandas Ghandi were also INFJs!!!), but I suspect that everyone is rewarded with an ego boost when they read his/her results.

3. What are the most important rules to follow in naming one's children?

Ahh, grasshopper, we have indeed had much experience in this area. I'll list the guidelines we used in order of ascending importance.

a) Consider using names of relatives or close friends whose character attributes you would like to see embodied in your child.
b) Enjoy the happy coincidence when the names you've chosen are those of favorite literary characters, songs, prophets, and/or versions of the Bible. (For parity's sake, this link and this link, too.)
c) If you have a common last name, choose a more unusual first name.
d) If you have a difficult last name, give your child a break with something easy and/or short.
e) Check the monograms of your potential choices; eliminate any that might cause embarrassment.
f) Say the full potential name aloud and ensure that it flows metrically.
g) Go to the SS website and check the popularity of your candidates. Consider avoiding any in the top ten unless you really, really can't.
h) Research the meanings of the names you are considering.
i) Ignore lists you made when you were 12 years old. Unless you are naming a cat. Even then, tread cautiously.
j) Have a back-up name, and resist definitely settling on one choice until you have seen the child.
k) Compromise amicably with your spouse and work as a two-person team. Try to ignore suggestions from other people, includng in-laws and your other children, no matter how adamant they may be. If we hadn't done this, Hope would instead be named 'Sedutto,' after five-year-old Christian's favorite Manhattan ice cream shop.

4. What is your favourite colour and what does that reveal about you?

I immediately thought of The Holy Grail when asked this question. In order to foil the maniacal bridgekeeper, I will counter with a question (favorite color of what?), then give a multi-part answer:

Chocolate: Brown
Ice Cream: Caramel
Baseball Uniform: Blue and Orange
House: Roycroft Bronze Green
Horse: Palomino
Rose: Sharifa Asma pink
Sky: Maxfield Parrish blue
Wool (this week): Two-way tie between Hollyhock and Northern Lights
007: Three-way tie between Ash Brown, Chestnut Brown, and Blond

What does this reveal about me? That I can’t for the life of me give a simple answer to a simple question.

5. Do you live to work or work to live?

Ummm, may I live to play?

I ask that question seriously. I am handsomely provided for by my prince of a husband, which means I have the great luxuries of staying at home to raise our children and spending my spare time pursuing my various obsessions: writing, reading, knitting, cooking, eating, and gardening.

My gratitude to God for this great gift does bring with it a sense of obligation to find ways to give back something meaningful to society. This recognition also makes nearly all (but not ironing) of my work feel like play most of the time. Sorry to sound like a Pollyanna, but it's true.

Thanks for the honor, B&P! Now it's my turn. If any readers, onymous or lurking, would like to be interviewed, leave me a comment, and I'll think up some questions just for you.