Wednesday, October 31, 2007

This is Halloween!

I am the "who" when you call, "Who's there?"
I am the wind blowing through your hair
I am the shadow on the moon at night
Filling your dreams to the brim with fright
This is Halloween, this is Halloween

from the Nightmare Before Christmas, Danny Elfman's lyrics

I love Halloween. I am of a certain (pre-middle) age and have fond recollections of childhood before the invention of play-dates, so I can empathise with Amy's great rant about the nerfing of Halloween. I can empathise, but I can't quite sing in her choir because I never experienced a free-wheeling, unchaperoned trick-or-treating extravaganza.

All of my candy-grabbing was done under the watchful eye of my mother, who worked as an emergency room nurse before I was born. Although her cautionary tales and rules allowed me to get to adulthood with all my fingers and toes and both eyes intact, I missed out on fun childhood activities like jumping off garage roofs, unescorted romps through the woods at the bottom of the street, and setting off firecrackers. (To be fair, I also never had to mow the lawn, but that's about the only fringe benefit I can think of.)

Even though my Halloween was supervised and the candy had to be thoroughly parentally examined before we could eat it, I still enjoyed Halloween. I loved the ritual of it. The costume selection. The trip to Mapleside to get pumpkins. The pumpkin carving (during which I tried to gross out my little brothers by squezing pumpkin guts through my fingers). The house on my grandmother's street where the woman made us sing for our candy.

It's the rituals that I've carried with me and have tried to replicate to some degree. Our first few Halloweens in Chicago were not observed. Then, in 2001, I decided I wanted an outing to a pumpkin farm. And so our yearly pilgrimage to Honey Hill Orchard was born. I selected it because it was the only pick-your-own-pumpkin patch in Northeastern Illinois, and it offered hay rides and a petting zoo.

Without a doubt, Halloweens when we owned our house deep in the heart of Republican DuPage County were the best. Not only did I get to participate in the pumpkin collecting and carving ritual that I'd grown to love, I also got to hand out candy. I loved seeing all the kids and I can't remember a single uncostumed one among them.

In Ireland, Halloween is a little bit different. I can't speak yet about what it's like in the Middle of Nowhere (they had a kid's party in the GAA hall last weekend), in Dublin, Halloween is loud and a little scary. Practically every neighbourhood green hosts a raging bonfire and it seems that everyone and his mother sets off firecrackers. All night long. I didn't see many trick-or-treaters when we lived in Dublin and not a single one ever came to our door. (Although we didn't really live in an area that had many kids in it.)

I miss the trips to Honey Hill Orchard so much. We're still carving pumpkins, but we just buy them in the grocery store. Plus, the pumpkins over here are disappointingly small because it just doesn't get hot enough to grow them properly. This year was particularly bad because the summer was so rainy, a lot of pumpkins didn't fully ripen. The selection in the Macroom Dunnes was so poor that I convinced Peter to take me to the Tesco in Killarney. (Which is not even remotely like Honey Hill.)

On the night we bought the pumpkins, we watched "The Nightmare Before Christmas" to get in the Halloween mood. I think that film will become an integral part of our new Halloween ritual. (I also think I am going to grow my own damn pumpkins next year.) Last Monday, we carved the pumpkins and we've been lighting them each evening for a few hours. I don't know if anyone can actually see them, but for me, the journey of the pumpkin is more exciting than the destination.

Peter's Pumpkin - stencil from Zombie Pumpkins

My Decent Pumpkin - stencil also from Zombie Pumpkins

My Crap-Yes-An-Adult-Did-That-Not-A-Child Pumpkin - stencil (which looked much better on paper) from The Pumpkin Lady

PS - The first time Toby saw the pumpkins, it was outside, after dark and the candles inside were lit. His hackles went up and he had some stern words for the intruders, until he'd had enough time to thoroughly check them out. It was quite funny. I didn't expect that sort of reaction.


Tuesday, October 30, 2007


I considered doing Fun Monday this week, but I really couldn't come up with anything interesting that I never leave the house without. The fact is, I routinely leave the house without important things, like keys and money. I don't carry a purse and if I change pants without swapping out the contents of my pockets, I can end up in trouble. Plus, I have to admit that I'm not great at organised participation in things, unless it involves running around and hitting things with sticks.

Then I read Laurie's post and the Rotten Correspondent's post and realised I could probably use the Fun Monday theme as a writing prompt, because it got me thinking about security.

In 1994, I was mugged at gunpoint in Camden, New Jersey. (If New Jersey is the Garden State, then Camden is the compost pile. I do not recommend it for your next vacation.) The experience was traumatic even though I was so lucky. The thing is, for about three minutes that felt like three days, I really thought I was dead. I was just waiting to be dead. It's hard to explain what it feels like to come out of something like that. In fact, it might be impossible.

I lost a lot that night - not monetarily but emotionally. My sense of security, of self-confidence, of youthful invincibility were taken. I also gained some Major Issues, a veritable library of safety-related phobias.

I carried those issues with me for a very long time. The first year in Chicago was especially rough, getting used to living in an urban area. Our neighbourhood was decent, but I had nearly no ability to go out at dark by myself. We never lived on the ground floor, either, so I always felt okay in the apartment. When we started looking for a place to buy, we started out looking at condos because I wasn't sure I could live in a house, with all the ground floor windows that seemed to me to just be begging someone to break-in.

Eventually, we decided we didn't want to live in a condo, that we were sick of having only walls separating us from our neighbours. We found a great little house in the heart of Republican DuPage County. Peter and I talked about how I was going to manage my security issues. I was absolutely terrified of home invasion. I did some research and proposed getting an alarm system installed. Peter told me to pick out exactly what I wanted - that we would pay whatever it cost so that I could feel secure. My security was his peace, as well, since he was the one who would have to bear the brunt of the inevitable freakouts and meltdowns.

I spent ages doing research and determining what I wanted, pricing out the most extensive home security system I could imagine. Then I made an appointment with ADT. The guy they sent out was nice, if a little bumbling and lacking in the people skills department. He had been a computer programmer for years but then a series of layoffs and the dot-com bubble burst had forced him into a career change.

He talked to me about the types of robberies that occur in suburban areas. According to him, the majority of burglaries happened during work hours, were done by male perpetrators in the 14-24 age demographic, and involved front-door entry, a dash up the stairs to empty out the jewelry boxes and cash stashes in the master bedroom and then an escape through the front door. He said these burglaries took 2 minutes to perform and resulted in a few thousand dollars of loss.

Based on this, Mr. ADT Guy recommended that we get sensors put on the three house doors and a motion detector on the stairs. That, plus an ADT sign planted in the flower bed, would buy us security for the low-low price of $300. I told him to take out his clipboard and write down what I wanted:

  • sensors on the three doors

  • sensors on all the basement windows

  • sensors on all the ground-floor windows

  • sensors on all the accessible second-floor windows

  • a glass-break detector in the back of the house, in case someone tried to brute force their way in through the enormous picture window

  • battery backup

  • cell phone backup

  • heat detector near the furnace

  • carbon monoxide detector

  • He looked at me like I'd just suggested that we hop in his car and drive to the moon to get milkshakes. He tried to reason with me, providing me with the statistics on burglary that supported his minimal setup. Then he asked me if I knew how much this was going to cost. I looked at him and said "Close to $2000, probably $1700, but it could be more depending on whether we're able to go the wireless route. All that drilling and wire running if we can't go wireless will add a fair bit to the price."

    He opened his mouth, closed it, then opened it again, looking a little bit like a befuddled goldfish. I could see him wrestling with his conscience - I was clearly overreacting but he did get paid by commission. "Are you sure? Really sure?" he finally asked. I assured him that I was positive and then to absolve him from feeling like he was taking advantage of me, I told him about getting mugged and how I was afraid of home invasion, that I knew I was being irrational but that this $2000 was an investment in peace of mind for me and peace and quiet for my husband.

    We lived in that house for nearly three years and I loved it. When Peter was out of town, I felt so secure barricaded inside with the steady red Alarm light whispering reassurances that ADT was just seconds from riding to my rescue in the unlikely event of home invasion. My favourite feature of the alarm system was the coercion code. If someone busted in or pushed in behind me while the alarm was on and then demanded that I turn it off, all I had to do was enter our regular code backwards. The alarm would get shut off and the bad guy would think that he was safe. But an alert would get sent to ADT that there was trouble in the house, and the SWAT team would be dispatched without the customary phone call.

    I knew that my security system had one tiny weakness - one of the window sensors, the one in the guestroom, didn't work. I kept meaning to get ADT out to fix it, but the window was nearly always locked and was hardly ever opened at all anyway. The hassle-risk ratio just didn't rise to the level of waiting around for a guy to fix it. When Peter was out of town, I slept in the guestroom, partially because it offered the best escape route and partly because if someone tried to get through the weak point, I'd be awakened immediately. (As would my 100-pound dog.)

    When we decided to move to Ireland, Youngest Brother (YB) happily volunteered to fly right up the next weekend and help us get the house ready for sale. A couple of my barn friends also agreed to come over and help with the preparations. So on a cold, windy Friday, YB and I got up early and decided to go up to the White Hen Pantry to grab coffees and a newspaper before my friends arrived. Somehow, I managed to leave the house without my keys, although I didn't realise it until we got back.

    I used YB's cell phone to call a locksmith, who said he'd be there in 20 minutes. Which stretched to 30. Then 40. Then 50. Then one of my friends arrived, so at least we were able to sit in her car and wait. YB kept asking me if there was another way into the house. A hidden key? Of course not - anyone could find and use a hidden key. An unlocked window? No way. Were all the doors locked? Of course they were. Did I mind if he broken one of the glass panes in the back door? Yes, I minded. How about jimmying open a lock? No, there's no way you could do this. The house is 100% secure.

    After an hour, I called the locksmith again and was assured that someone was on the way. YB was sick of waiting. He popped open his wallet, extracted a credit card, and marched confidently to the front door. I waited, smirking, sure that he wasn't getting in. Within 10 seconds, he had the door open.

    So much for my impenetrable fortress. Maybe all security is just an illusion, I thought. But at least I still had ADT to protect me. At least when I turned on the alarm.

    Thursday, October 25, 2007

    The Dog Ate My Fun Monday Post

    I wanted to participate in willowtree's Fun Monday, but, well, other things got the best of me. So, I guess I'm having a Fun Thursday. The request was to do a post about clothing art.

    For our big official wedding, I hadn't wanted the whole formal dinner thing. I wanted to get married, go home and change into jeans, and then go to the pub for an evening of pints with my family and friends. Peter was mostly on board with this, as he also dreads the rubber-chicken-or-overcooked-steak-giant-ballroom-wedding dinners and he didn't want a traditional dancing reception because he doesn't dance. But it was pointed out, particularly by Peter's parents, that I was taking the whole thing a bridge too far in the casual department.

    I was eventually persauded to pull up the tone of the evening. After a few difficult days and discussions, Peter and I hammered out the perfect compromise.

    The formal dinner would be in a good restaurant and then we'd have an afters party in a pub. We had to do some research and juggling, but we found the perfect place: a little hotel in Dublin. (Yes, I should have mentioned, we were planning the wedding from Chicago and Peter had a three-week trip to Dublin over Christmas to sort out all the details.) The food there was meant to be great and we could have the afters in the hotel's bar. The hotel was exactly what I'd been looking for - a place with character.

    I put as much effort into my afters outfit as I did into my wedding dress. The perfect pair of jeans and a good t-shirt. But the t-shirt I wanted didn't exist. Whenever I need art, I turn to my very talented Middle Brother. I gave explicit instructions - Bridezilla, smashing a wedding a cake underfoot, clutching a ripped up tree in one hand and a little groom in the other. (I wasn't a Bridezilla of course, no one ever thinks they are. I did have one meltdown on the day, which I regret now, but I feel that my willingness to compromise - to change the date, the venue, and other things- exempt me from Bridezilla status.)

    Our wedding was lovely, the dinner was a pleasant surprise, and the afters were all I'd hoped for and more. We had an Irish band come in and play for a while. There was no dancing, but there was a good bit of singing. The bar was still open to the public, but we pretty much took over the entire seating area. We'd had to pay a deposit large enough to cover the number of dinners and bottles of wine we expected to use, and it turned out that we'd overestimated. The wedding coordinator told us we had 650 euro to spare and we could get a refund or use it to pay for a bar tab. We went with the bar tab. (And again, here, our luck was perfect, at the end of the night, the tab was at 647.)

    Our wedding cake had been ridiculously huge because the smallest cake that the bakery I'd selected made was 250 servings and we only had 60 people at our wedding. We took the leftovers into the afters and everyone indulged in three delicious tiers of Chocolate Heaven all night.

    My t-shirt was a big hit and I had several requests for it. It's nearly become a tradition that when one of our friends gets married, they get a Bridezilla t-shirt. (I don't know how I'm going to do that from the Middle of Nowhere now though.) Near the end of the night, I could see we still had way too much cake left and we really didn't have a feasible way to store it. I noticed a long table of women near the bar and knew that if anyone could appreciate three tiers of Chocolate Heaven, it would be a table of women. I brought them the caking, saying something like "Hi, I got married today and this is my cake. We've all enjoyed it all night and I would hate to see it go to waste. Do you think you could help us out?"

    They turned out to be a field hockey team from Rotterdam and were delighted at the surprise gift. So delighted that they sang us a congratulatory song. That's what's going on in the picture below. Sorry you can't see more detail in the Bridezilla shirt, but I'm in surprisingly few of the afters pictures.

    Monday, October 15, 2007

    The Secret to a Happy Marriage

    When I was in law school, my next-door neighbour in the dorm had a boyfriend with whom she celebrated each and every monthly anniversary. They had that peculiar tradition because they first started dating about a month before going to seperate schools and they figured they wouldn't get a chance to have an anniversary celebration if they waited until the traditional one year mark. I think they were on their 57th anniversary when she explained this to me.

    Peter and I celebrate two anniversaries each year- our real wedding and our sham wedding. But then we've never really taken the normal relationship route. After my visit in Ireland in 1994, the bulk of our getting to know each other and falling in love happened in email, IRC, and Unix chat sessions. We moved in together before we had our first date. When I couldn't find legal and gainful employment in Dublin, we spent 14 months apart.

    We saw each other for one week, right in the middle of those (very long and difficult) 14 months. Peter shocked me by proposing one night and I said yes, of course. Then we got down to the practicalities. The easiest thing to do was to bring him to the States on a fiance visa (K-1, I think it was at the time). But that would mean getting married within 90 days of his entering the country.

    As I alluded to in a past post, Peter's family and I got off to a rocky start. They weren't my biggest fans and we knew that having Peter move to the States would be rough for them. They would miss him terribly and would worry about whether or not he was making a mistake. Having their youngest child move 3000 miles and an ocean away would be difficult enough. Had he moved 3000 miles away to marry a greatly disliked and distrusted girlfriend could very well have caused irreparable damage to their family.

    So we decided to get married in secret. Not to elope, exactly, well....okay, to elope. But when I think of eloping, I usually picture the the confrontation that typically occurs when the news is announced to family and friends. We wanted to avoid that whole mess and so made the decision not only to marry in secret, but also to keep the marriage itself a secret from our families. (At this point, even the engagement was a secret.) Then, when we were settled and had the money to pay for a wedding and - most importantly - had universal familial approval, then we would have the whole white-dress-church-ceremony-big-party wedding.

    So, on 15 October 1995, Peter and I waited in the crowded hallway of the Cuyahoga County Courthouse in downtown Cleveland. (Peter had not even been in the country 24 hours at that point.) A clerk told us the judge usually liked to wait until a few couples were ready and then do all the weddings consecutively, a break in her day from the usual sentencing, bail hearings, and low-level criminal trials. So we waited with the people waiting for their court dates (and believe me, it was a bit of a rough crowd and I was probably the only woman there who didn't have my name spelled out in gold on a necklace). Poor Peter was exhausted, jetlagged, and coughing up a lung.

    Around noon, the clerk rounded up the blushing brides and nervous grooms. Peter and I were first to go, since we'd been waiting the longest. The judge asked for our witnesses, only we didn't have them. It never occured to me to bring someone (probably because only 2 of my friends and my baby brother knew what were doing). Some college girls who were in court for a field trip for their criminology class acted as our witnesses. Another bride offered to take pictures, but it hadn't occured to us to bring a camera.

    The judge, a pleasant woman, went through the marriage ceremony with more enthusiasm than you'd expect from someone who had to do this at least five or six times a week. The ceremony was super-fast and just didn't feel real. Until the judge read the Apache Wedding Prayer. That really go to me. "Oh my god. We're really doing this. we're getting married." I started to cry a little then, in that happy emotional girl sort of way. (To this day, I can't hear that damn prayer/blessing without bursting into tears.)

    And then, just like that, we were married. When we moved to Chicago at the end of the week, we were a married couple. Everyone knew us as married. When we'd go to first our families, we were not married. (Seperate rooms, baby.) Eventually, I told both my brothers and all my non-Chicago friends. Peter told one sister and, over the years, the truth trickled out to our friends in Dublin. (We'd been reluctant to tell anyone because Dublin is really just one big village.)

    It's nothing short of a miracle that we got through eight years without ever really slipping up. We had some tricky times. I had to remind myself in Cleveland not to utter the words "my husband". We danced around issues like work visas and health insurance. To make a trip to Cleveland sound more exciting one Thanksgiving, I pointed out to Peter that my aunt's friends from Ireland were going to be there. "Great," he sighed, "more awkward questions about my immigration status."

    You might wonder why we didn't just come clean, especially when Peter's family had accepted me and learned to appreciate my charms. It was just never an option because we knew his family, or at least his mother, had a high possibility of feeling hurt, tricked, or betrayed. (I knew my family would be fine with it - I'd be the third generation of secret weddings, which is a story for another day.) The anecdote I always used when the question came up was a story Peter's mother told me. When Peter was a boy, he got to eat his breakfast in front of the television in their study. His mother would bring him a tray with his breakfast and a fistful of vitamin pills. Peter's mother was a Firm Believer in vitamins. Peter, being a small boy, hated them and invented an ingenious way to deal with them.

    There was a built-in bookcase along one wall of the study and Peter would stuff the vitamins down into the space between the bookcase and the wall. He did this for years and no one was ever the wiser. Peter's mother often told people that the reason he was so healthy was all down to the vitamins he took every day. Then the remodelers came one year and decided they'd have to detach the bookcase from the wall in order to properly affix the wallpaper. I really wish I'd been there when they did it, when they unwittingly opened the floodgate to years of vitamins, a cascade of a hundreds of brightly coloured capsules and tablets.

    The workmen thought this was hilarious and called Peter's parents in to see it. They were quickly able to identify the culprit. Peter's mother, even a good 15 years after the event, was not at all pleased. She felt terribly hurt and betrayed. She felt that she'd been made a liar of, after all those years of attributing Peter's good health to vitamins. If that was her reaction to a relatively minor deception, I couldn't imagine how she would take the secret wedding and marriage news.

    On 29 May 2004, after nearly eight years of real although semi-clandestine marriage, we were officially married in the Catholic Church by a lovely and understanding Jesuit priest. We were able to have the wedding that would have been impossible eight years earlier. It's sort of funny that our sham wedding was the elaborate deal and the reah wedding was courthouse elopement.

    After Peter's dad died, we agreed we could come clean. It just seemed better to do it on our own terms that to keep the secret in the background. (And living back in Ireland, it seemed an increasing likelihood that someone who didn't know would somehow accidentally find out.) As I suspected, my parents found it hilarious. One of the first things my mother said was "All those years I said to people 'yeah, I have a daughter but she's living in sin in Chicago' and all that time you weren't really living in sin at all. You little stinker! Now I can tell everyone that you weren't living in sin."

    A secret marriage is a bit unorthodox, but in many ways, it's been the unexpected secret of our success. The first few years of a marriage can be difficult. You're getting used to living with this other person, learning how to behave when your life is not just about you, figuring out how to be a team. When your families are involved, especially when there's tension and mistrust added into the mix, the pressures and difficulties increase exponentially. When are you going to have kids? (Or, conversely, please don't do anything to tie yourself forever to this dubious person.) Where are you spending Christmas? We think you should do XYZ, why aren't you? Keeping the secret let us build our relationship based on what we wanted and needed. We didn't have any pressure or heavy-handed suggestions from outside, since the only suggestion out there was (eventually) "You should get married? When are you two finally going to get married?" (Sometimes keeping a straight face on that one was difficult.)

    I'm a practical person and the shortest route between two points is a straight line, even if sometimes that straight line goes over some very strange terrain. We got the best of all worlds - we got to be together, got to sort out our immigration issues in a straight-forward manner, and got to have the big party when everyone was ready to celebrate. After eleven years, I wouldn't change either of my weddings.

    P.S. - Happy Anniversary, Big B. I'd marry you all over again.

    Thursday, October 11, 2007

    Sleep Disturbances

    When the days start to shorten, I usually find myself sliding into hibernation and depression. I'd cower under the covers for as long as possible before submitting to the inevitable. This year, I decided that things were going to be different. Oh yes. There's a new sherrif in town and new sherrif is all about tackling things with a positive attitude.

    You may, on a good day, be able to fight City Hall, but Mother Nature is made of much tougher stuff. I can't make the days longer or drier or warmer. All I can do is figure out a strategy that keeps me happy. Like getting up early and exercising instead of moping around.

    Deciding to train for the marathon was probably the best decision I could have made in my War Against Terrible Attitude. It's given me a greater purpose and a non-negotiable reason for dragging my sorry ass out of bed and facing each progressively darker morning. At least 30 minutes of running is a fabulous salve, as it pumps happy endorphins into my brain, blasting out whatever nasties might have been hanging out on the street corners.

    I've gotten into a good routine the last few weeks - getting up at 5 (often waking minutes before the alarm), indulging in a cup of coffee and a little computer time, and then doing my run. It was working great - not only was I feeling good during the day, I was sleeping better at night. I'm prone to restless sleep, night terrors, and insomnia.

    But then my favourite baseball team, the Cleveland Indians, beat the dreaded New York Yankees in the first round of the playoffs. I love baseball (although, to be fair, I've grown to love hurling even more) and I do get some tiny pangs of regret when I realise I haven't seen a game in nearly 3 years. Now it's on to the American League Championship Series against the Boston Red Sox. (And so help me, if Manny Rameriz turns out to be some sort of series hero for Boston, I will have a melt-down.)

    I discovered that through the wonders of the Internet, international subscribers can watch games over the computer, in real-time. (US people are stuck with only listening in real-time and then being able to watch the whole game after the fact.) Little Kid Me started jumping up and down. "Can we, can we, please please please?" How could I resist, she did say 'please' three times, after all.

    It was only after looking at the schedules for the games that I saw this was going to be challenging. Most of the games start at 8 pm EST, which is 1 am here. I wouldn't even be watching the game on the same day as most people. A couple of games start at 4 pm EST, which is the perfectly respectable and agreeable hour of 9 pm here. I'm a planner and a problem solver, so I immediately began calculating to try to determine the best way to watch the games without having my eyeballs fall out from sleep deprivation.

    It seems like the best solution for the 1 am starts is to go to bed ridiculously early, like 5 or 6, and then wake up at 12.30 or 1 and call it the start to my day. The games will probably finish up around 4 am, at which point I can do my run and maybe even go into work early. (My work place is blessedly flexible and, as my manager is a huge rugby fan and plans her vacations around matches, she will probably understand the mania.) I discussed this plan with Peter and he just chuckled. He knows I'm crazy enough to do it, is smart enough to know there will probably be fallout, and is laid-back enough to not worry about it until it happens.

    The plan goes into effect Friday night/Saturday morning. Only, probably since my little mind was churning over this schedule change, I woke up at 1 am this morning. And was Awake. Well and truly Awake. "But no," I whispered to my confused little brain, "we don't want to start this schedule today. We want to start it on Friday. We'll have nothing to do for 5 or 6 hours if we get up now." My brain wasn't having it though and it took me 2 hours to fall back to sleep. I told myself that if I was still up at 3.30, then I would cut my losses. Sometimes, I'll get out of bed and do Something Productive, but I didn't want to confuse the schedule even further today.

    I guess my brain decided to play a trick on me, since I didn't warmly congratulate it on its initiative with the new schedule. I had the most messed up dreams. Vivid Technicolour dreams that involve unlikely characters. Peter and I were living in an apartment and some of his friends- the sort of friends he doesn't have because they were mostly old ladies - came over so they could sew me an outfit. Yeah. I don't know why, but they wanted to sew something from Snow White. I figured they meant her dress, but it turns out, they were going to sew me a bluebird costume.

    They were such sweet auld dears, I couldn't turn down a bluebird costume but I didn't think I wanted it, no matter how much they protested that it would look simply darling. I dragged Peter out of the apartment to talk to him about how to manage this delicate situation and we got lost in a weird Asian city. When we got back to the apartment, the door was wide open and the auld dears were all asleep, except for one who was watching the Home Shopping Channel.

    I realised right away that all of our laptops were missing. Ipods and mobiles were still in place, everything else of value was still in place, but the laptops were gone. I had a freak out, tearing through the apartment looking for the laptops. Until the thought hit me that this was not real, could not be real and I woke up to find I still had an hour until the alarm.

    Back into the breach once more, and I dreamt of some other weird house where I was living with Peter and my Uncle Greg was visiting. I found a weird spider, a giant white thing with a bulbous back end. I went to find something appropriate to kill it (I favour a shoe and a paper towel) but when I came back, it morphed into a lizard right in front of me. Then I realised that the whole house was full of lizards. Big iguana like-lizards, smaller gecko-like lizards, there was a world of lizards occupying my premises.

    Funny enough, that's not what I considered weird while I was dreaming. The giant crabs with hand-painted shells - those were what freaked me out. Probably because they kept motoring out from under the couch and biting me when I walked past, much like our cat Patches used to do.

    The alarm saved me from this dream, which was probably the close to an LSD experience as I am ever going to have. I'm not too groggy, especially now that I've had my coffee, but I am second-guessing the wisdom of messing with my schedule. Apparently. I don't handle change very well, not even subconciously.

    Tuesday, October 02, 2007

    September Reads

    September was a good reading month for me - seven books and nearly all of them were quite enjoyable. I think I'm going to change the format of these reading posts and just rank the books and give a brief summary or explanation of what I thought of them. Maybe one sentence plot summary and one sentence review.

    7. Rise and Shine by Anna Quindlan. Follows the lives of the Fitzmaurice sisters after the elder sister utters an expletive on her morning television program. This book deserves its own post on everything that is wrong with "contempory literature." (I'm gathering the mental ammunition for that post - Quindlan and Jodi Picoult are my Exhibits A & B. Anyone else have any suggestions?)

    6. The Blue Zone by Andrew Gross. Kate's perfect family implodes after her father is arrested and then enters (and subsequently disappears from) the US Marshall's Witness Protection Program. A by-the-numbers thriller with nearly every twist telegraphed from miles away. That said, it does what it says on the tin and is sort of the reading equivalent to a mindless yet fun action movie.

    5. The Lighthouse by PD James. Adam Dagliesh and his team travel to a remote island off Cornwall to investigate the suspicious death of a difficult and demanding writer. This is another book that probably warrants its own post - it was interesting but difficult to read and I'm still not sure what I thought of it.

    4.A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson. Documents Bryson and his friend Katz in their attempt to hike the Applachian Trail. Well, part of it at least. Funny and enjoyable in places, whiney and like carrying your own 70-pound rucksack in others, this was not my favourite Bryson book although it's worth a read.

    3. Snow Blind by PJ Tracy. When the corpses of two cops are discovered concealed inside snowmen, the Minneapolis PD has a tough case on their hands, which only gets tougher when a similar discovery is made in a nearby rural county. Good plot, good characters, enjoyable read.

    2. Exit Music by Ian Rankin. After 20 years (and 17 books), DI Rebus is forced into retirement, but first he has to clear up a few cases. A good end to Rebus' run although hopefully we haven't seen the end of him. (Rankin is my absolute most favourite writer, Rebus one of my favourite characters.)

    1. Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan. What if being gay were completely normal and a high school could have a transsexual quaterback/homecoming queen? This book is a rare beast - magical realism in a high school setting with a unique voice, lovely writing, and engaging story.