Author: Luisa Perkins
•10:31 PM
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!
Author: Luisa Perkins
•10:12 AM
I can't decide which skeeves me out more:

a) that I sliced the tip of my right index finger open with the lid from the cat food can last night;

or b) that the wound is now covered by a Backyardigans Band-Aid brand adhesive bandage.
Author: Luisa Perkins
•6:13 AM
Normally I might let today go by without posting, as I am busy, busy, busy on my book, book, book. But I have a few things of interest to at least two of my readers that I should set down.

A) Today makes 19 years since Patrick and I first kissed. (Getting misty-eyed at the memory.)


B) Now, onto the kids' essay assignment today in Homeschool of Rock:

1) Watch Stevie Ray Vaughan Live at the Austin City Limits DVD.

2) Analyze Mr. Vaughan's two performances using the following five criteria: a) skill; b) technique; c) style; d) stage presence; and e) interaction with other band members. Give your view on his evolution as a performer from the 1983 performance to the 1989 performance. Take into account changes in his personal life in the intervening years; research online as necessary.

3) Christian: 5 strong body paragraphs, plus opening and closing. James: 3 strong body paragraphs, plus opening and closing. Hope: 1 solid paragraph, including topic sentence, three supporting sentences, and one concluding/transition sentence. Tess and Daniel: draw a picture of Stevie Ray and his Stratocaster.

I tell you, homeschooling is a lot of work. But worth it! We're having fun.

C) Just for kicks, here's what I do when we have vegetarian friends over for dinner in the summertime. I marinate and grill portobello mushrooms.

Grilled Mushrooms
6 large portobello mushrooms, stems cut off*
1/2 cup olive oil
The juice of 1/2 lemon, strained
1 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
3 cloves garlic, peeled and pressed
1 teaspoon sea salt
Freshly ground pepper

Wash and dry the mushrooms, then place them in a 9x13" pan, gill side up. Whisk the remaining ingredients together and pour into the gills of the mushrooms. Cover and refrigerate for a minimum of 1 hour and a maximum of 24 hours, turning the mushrooms over halfway through.

Grill for about five minutes per side on low, until just heated through. Serve alone or on a toasted hamburger bun. Makes enough for one vegetarian friend and three others who know a good thing when they see it.

*Don't throw those stems away! Reserve them for another use. I put them in Cowboy Stew the other night, and boy, did that gussy up an already good thang.

D) A Few Recent Discoveries (humming "Make New Friends and Keep the Old"):

Brillig I can't get enough of her Flashbacks and Soap Operas. You'll love her.

Bitegeist A foodie of the first order. Check out all the categories on her menu. As addictive as potato chips.

My cousin Travis I popped his name into Ye Olde Google on a whim since I haven't seen him in ages and was rewarded with his gorgeous website. Talent! We do have some talent in this family.

Go visit them; you won't be sorry! I'll have more to come in this category soon.
Author: Luisa Perkins
•10:02 AM
...for I have found that which I had lost.

On a search of the basement for our splitting wedges, I found the photo that I wanted to put with this post.

I also found a hashed recording of the song that my pal D. Fletcher and I wrote years ago for the Divine Miss N's arrival; you can listen to it here, if you like (sorry in advance about the ads).

Here are the words (D. wrote the gorgeous music, and Jeff Hardy, Jonathan Austin, and Patrick sang it at N's blessing):

"New Birth"
(For N.)

In the snow, a Lily blooms,
Its warmth belies the frost;
It waits for one to shelter it
Regardless of the cost.
Through the mist, its fragrance swells
And softens winter's air;
Breathe it in, and learn the way
To Heaven's gardens fair.

In the gloom, a candle burns,
Though brightly, all unseen;
It lights the way to happiness
For those with eyes more keen.
Through the storm, that beacon shines
With beams of radiant gold;
Follow it, not looking back,
And haven safe behold.

In the waste, a fountain springs
Though bracken thorns conceal;
The rocky path is worth the pain
The parchèd soul to heal.
Through the drought, this river flows
Its water, living grace;
Come, drink of it, and find anew
Home's compassing embrace.

(Chorus) Hope...Light...Love...
The seeds, yet deep, will bear.
And soon the hour when forth will flow'r
Their gifts, so fine and rare.

(Bridge) Every heart's a broken circle that longs to be complete.

Unfortunately, I haven't yet found the splitting wedges. The search goes on....
Author: Luisa Perkins
•10:12 PM
When I was in college, some people I knew were publishing an off-campus newspaper called The Student Review. One of my favorite columns in this excellent paper was called "Brushes with Fame," in which people would list 10 celebrity encounters. Some were entertainingly remote; others were what some of us would term "of the third kind."

Once I moved to Manhattan, I had pretty frequent Brushes with Fame of my own, but it wasn't until Patrick's career took off that our Celebrity Sightings kicked into high gear. Patrick specializes in intellectual property; specifically, he works to protect people's copyrights and trademarks. He does quite a bit of work for several Broadway types, which means we are often invited to the openings of shows and the cast parties that follow. Once we even went to the Tony Awards, but that's a subject for another post.

Most of the premieres we attend are in Manhattan, but we've been lucky enough to go to London three times. The first was for the 1994 revival of Oliver!, the second was for The Witches of Eastwick in 2000, and the third was for Mary Poppins in 2004. It is the last with which this edition of Light the Corners of My Mind is concerned.

Mary Poppins was a fun musical, much truer to the book than was the Julie Andrews/Dick Van Dyke movie. The music was fabulous (Patrick's client did the orchestrations), the sets were incredible, and the dark edge to the script made the lightheartedness stand out in lovely relief. As enjoyable as the show was, though, I couldn't help but be distracted by three things: a) we walked into the theater on the red carpet with Sir Richard Attenborough (total coincidence); b) we had better seats than Roger Rees (who, sadly, has not aged well); and c) Anthony Andrews was in attendance.

Still my beating heart. I obsessively watched Brideshead Revisited when I was 15. My friend and fellow anglophile Joanie and I came to an amicable arrangement: she would marry Jeremy Irons and I would marry Anthony Andrews. I snickered secretly whenever I contemplated how much better I'd done in the fantasy wedding department than she. Alas, I did not then know that Anthony had been happily married since 1971 (and still is). Then again, Jeremy Irons has been married almost as long.

When the teleplay The Scarlet Pimpernel came out in 1982, my love for Anthony grew exponentially. Sink me, but that rich voice; those hooded eyes; that valor disguised with masterful foppishness. My mother, sisters, and I watched a bad VHS tape recorded from the television over and over again until the graininess of the picture became unbearable. We have whole scenes memorized.
The movie became a litmus test of sorts for us. Any new boyfriend had to watch it, his every reaction carefully gauged out of the corners of our eyes. Many failed and were discarded as unworthy. No matter; an evening with Sir Percival Blakeney and a pint of Haagen-Dazs was better than most dates anyway.
I read the book after we saw the movie for the first time. This is one of those rare cases in which the movie is light years better than the book. But bless Baroness Orczy's heart for creating the character in the first place. I've also seen the old movie with Leslie Howard. I'm sorry; Leslie makes a perfect Ashley Wilkes, but he is no match for Anthony Andrews in the "demmed elusive" category. The Broadway version of the Pimpernel was horrible. Horrible. Trust me.
So there I sat in the darkened Prince Edward Theater, knowing that Sir Percy's most perfect incarnation was nearby. Would he go to the cast party? It was too much to hope for; I put him firmly out of my mind, held Patrick's hand tightly, and watched Mary and Bert's magical adventures.
The cast party was horrendously crowded; worse, the guests were segregated by floors. As we squeezed past people packed around the buffet tables, Patrick promised me that we'd get a quick plate of food, hook up with his client Bill for a round of hearty congratulations, then head back to our friend Carmen's flat and crash. We found Bill a moment later, who, gracious as always, made introductions to the people seated at his table. We smiled and nodded, shook hands when we could reach.
Bill got to the last couple; I hadn't seen who was sitting there in the half-dark of the night club until that moment. I stopped breathing. I really did, for at least a minute. His name is pronounced "Antony," by the way.
He stood up, bent slightly over my hand, introduced us to his wife Georgina, then offered me his chair. I demurred, but he insisted. I sank down on the blue cushions and made what little small talk I could with my brain having exited the building. Anthony and his kind wife left not long afterward, which was a good thing. I couldn't have taken the proximity of gorgeousness much longer.
Anthony has aged beautifully. He's taller and broader in the shoulder than he looks on screen; his evening clothes were exquisitely tailored. But there are many attractive men who wear a tuxedo well. What set him apart for me was that he really was a gentleman; he didn't just play one on TV. Solicitous, deferential, completely unpretentious...swoon, sigh.
You all know how madly in love I am with Patrick. I loved him all the more when he snuggled contentedly with me in the taxi on the way back to Carmen's, not the slightest bit jealous throughout my latest and greatest Brush with Fame. And when I called my mom and sisters, their screams as I told them the whole story were immensely gratifying.
There wasn't really anyone else to tell about meeting Anthony at that point in my life; I've met few people acquainted with the delicious pleasure that is my Scarlet Pimpernel. But one of the many joys of blogging is discovering far-flung folk with similar interests; Annette and Josi, had I known you back in 2004, I know I could have counted on you for a few more squeals of delight and envy as I regaled you with my tale.
Author: Luisa Perkins
•9:27 AM
In going over my 'Next Generation' posts, I realized that James hasn't yet been featured in a starring role. It's been a momentous week for our second son, so there's no better time for me to rhapsodize about him than now.

When Christian was our only child, Patrick and I had difficulty imagining that we could ever cherish anyone else as much as we did him. But it's a miracle how a parent's love expands to include each person that comes into the family. When James was born, I thought my heart would break, it was so full.

I went into labor with James on a tempestuous night in October. I had trained to be eligible for the Birthing Center at our hospital--a cozy, private place with Jacuzzi tubs, soft lighting, and minimal intervention. I was looking forward to laboring in that hot tub, I can tell you.

So imagine my dismay when we arrived at St. Luke's-Roosevelt after an agonizingly bumpy taxicab ride and were told that the Birthing Center was full, and that I'd have to deliver in the regular obstetrics ward. Apparently the precipitous drop in atmospheric pressure when the storm moved in had caused every slightly ripe woman in Manhattan to start contractions. The hospital staff was overwhelmed and harried; there were gowned women in wheelchairs lining the halls, panting and moaning with their partners beside them, waiting to give birth.

I was shown into a draped-off area of an exam room; a resident came in a few minutes later to check to see how far along I was. I told him I was moving pretty quickly and that I was really hurting. He replied, "You're only at four centimeters; you're not in that much pain."

Not in that much pain.

I barely restrained myself from kicking him in the teeth (he was in the perfect position to receive such a blow). Patrick and I were moved into a private labor-delivery-recovery room and told that my doctor was on her way.

I knew this labor was going fast; I also knew that, since I couldn't be in a hot tub, I wanted medication pretty darn quick. I was afraid that if I didn't get on the anaesthesiologist's radar soon, the pain-free window would close. Patrick, the best advocate in the world, went out to the hall and barked for help. I begged the responding nurse to have me checked again; the arrogant resident who had admitted me returned to my bedside.

"Mrs. Perkins, I just checked you 20 minutes ago. You can see that we're very busy here tonight. You can't have made that much progress." My lawyer then used his best powers of persuasion to convince him otherwise.

Yeah. I'd progressed to nine centimeters: five centimeters in 20 minutes. The look of shock on the resident's face was almost enough validation for me--but more on that later.

The anaesthesiologist rushed in, gave me a 'walking epidural'; for those of you who choose medication for labor, I highly recommend this route. Blessed, blessed relief. (In some other post, I'll explain why I opted for this again with Hope, but forewent meds entirely with Tess and Daniel.)

Patrick put the Fauré Requiem CD on; I realize that a requiem doesn't sound like the most auspicious music to have playing while a baby is being born, but this is one of the most soothing and uplifting pieces of music in the world. My doctor arrived, and James appeared not long afterwards.

We later spoke to my OB about the resident; she was incensed and told me at my six-week check-up that he had been banned from the OB/GYN rotation due to his insensitivity. "He should have known better," she told me. "We teach them always to respect what new mothers are going through, and that women know better than anyone what they are experiencing."

The next day, I watched the Braves spank the Yankees in Game 1 of the World Series from my hospital bed, nursing James all the while. Was that when James's love affair with baseball began? I think it's likely.

Christian adjusted to big brotherhood beautifully. When Patrick gave James his baby's blessing at church, he blessed James that he and Christian would always be best friends; this has been the happy case for the past 10 years. Christian hosted an eighth-grade graduation party for his close friends the other night; James was a welcome guest and fit right in, despite the fact that everyone else was three years older.

After the colicky series of squalls that was Christian's first year, I was braced for a second serving of the same. But James's babyhood was like gliding on a sea of glass. Beanie Babies were popular at the time; James was such a contented and snuggly little sack of stuffing that I dubbed him my Bean Bag Boy, 'Beanie' for short. He still does not chafe under that nickname; I'll probably still be calling him that when he's sixty.

He turned into a lively toddler, though, needing two trips to the emergency room before he was even out of diapers--once for jumping off the radiator (pretending to be Superman) and breaking his arm, and once (on New Year's Day) for cutting his eyebrow open on the pedal of Christian's Santa-delivered bicycle.

James has many gifts, mimicry and a vivid imagination being the most entertaining. I love to watch him play in the yard from one of our windows. He'll do both play-by-play and color commentary for his own pitching and batting sessions. He'll grab a couple of bamboo poles and imitate the moves he's seen in House of Flying Daggers and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Or he'll use his bat as an air guitar, performing as George Harrison or Jimmy Page before an audience of thousands. He's way better than TV.

James is a clutch player. Several times during the Little League season, he kept his head and made key plays--either in the field or at the plate--that won the game for his team. I love that his athletic skills are developing, but I love even more that he can keep his wits about him under pressure. James's team took first place in the Minor division this year partly due to his efforts. He picked up his trophy at the Little League picnic yesterday; it has pride of place on the mantel at the moment.

He's also a great student. He reads far above grade level, probably because he's always wanted to be able to discuss what Christian is reading, who is himself an advanced reader. He also has an intuitive grasp of mathematical concepts. James was one of a few kids awarded the Presidential Award for Academic Excellence at fifth-grade graduation earlier this week, meaning that his GPA was 92 or higher for the year. Keep it up, Bean!

For a while, I would find intriguing opening paragraphs of James's original stories around the house; either he's keeping better track of his creative work, or he's left off writing for the moment. I hope the former is true, because he has great ideas and can get his readers absorbed in his plots quickly.

James is a deep thinker and has strong faith. He asks excellent theological questions; I hope he always will. I prefer questions to answers; we know so little as mortals that we are in danger of having our minds closed to further light and knowledge when we assume we know all the answers. Questions keep us humble and open, always actively searching for more; James is a great example of that.

He is compassionate and full of affection. He never leaves the house or goes up to bed without giving Patrick and me hearty hugs. He gives terrific shoulder rubs spontaneously. There's more I could tell you, but I'm afraid you'd start thinking that he's too good to be true. I'll just end by saying that James, like Mary Poppins, is "practically perfect in every way," and I couldn't do without him.
Author: Luisa Perkins
•7:33 AM
Yesterday was a notable mail day. It's so odd how interesting mail comes in bunches, with long dry spells in between. I guess the droughts make me appreciate the good mail days all the more.

First, Molly sent me a package of yarn from Paris. The color perfectly matches the pink yarn I bought in Paris over six years ago, which is no small miracle. Now I can finish Arietta worry-free! Thank you, Molly, and thank you, Carmen! I owe you both big time.

Next came my prize for winning Radioactive Jam's Haiku Contest. It's an original cartoon depicting Bucky, the famous Titanium Spork! I love it. I can't wait to get it framed and hang it in my office. Thanks, RaJ!

And now for the ugly:Oh, Mitt. I am so very sorry. Though we share a faith and several ancestors, there's absolutely no way I'll be supporting you in next year's Presidential Election. You see, I do not agree that it is time to pick up where Ronald Reagan left off.

I'm sure you understand. Many of my readers may be fans of yours, so I'll say no more, except for one helpful hint. You might have your people do better research as to mailing list candidates, so as to save both money and trees.

Yes, Mitt. Trees. Ahh, I sense realization dawning. Your suspicions are true: I'm one of those people.

Updated: Some good email this morning! I just found out that I won The Rising Blogger Award for the day. Fun! Thank you, Judd; I'm in some very good company.

Author: Luisa Perkins
•8:35 AM
At 3:13 on Wednesday morning, I heard Tess coming downstairs and into our bedroom. "Mom," she whispered, "Daniel needs his covers back on."

My kids sleep through the night 98% of the time, but once in a while I have a mission like this handed to me. I followed Tess back upstairs, covered up Daniel, assured him that yes, he could sleep, and went back downstairs.

As I was climbing back into bed, I froze, because I suddenly realized that the dryer was on.

I went from half-asleep, Mom-task-completed status to fight-or-flight/DEFCON 1/Red Alert in a millisecond.

We have a walk-out garage/basement with a door from the driveway to Patrick's office and French doors to the (dungeon) workout/food storage area. When Patrick is out of town, you can bet that I check those locks compulsively, but when he's home, we are less than vigilant about security. We live in a tiny town with a National Crime Index of 8 (out of 100); we've always felt pretty confident of our safety.

The washer and dryer are in the area of the basement directly under our bed, and there's an air conditioning vent right by my side through which I can hear laundry cycles completing themselves. Before we went to bed Tuesday night, I sat for an hour on my bed writing with no TV or music on, so if the dryer had been on then, I definitely would have noticed it. The last time I'd turned the dryer on had been at 5:00 earlier that evening, and the cycle runs about an hour at most.

So why was the dryer on at 3:17 a.m.? Had Christian been sleepwalking (something he hasn't done for years) and gone down and turned it on? Not likely: a) as good a kid as he is, he never does laundry of his own volition; and b) if he'd gone downstairs, it would have awakened me, the way Tess's footsteps on the carpeted stairs woke me up. The basement door is right outside our bedroom.

I couldn't figure out how to explain it away and let myself go back to sleep. I hated to do it, but I had no choice: I woke up Patrick. "Honey, the dryer is on," I whispered. He sprang into action, recognizing that something was very wrong. "Are all the kids still in their beds?"

Is there a DEFCON Negative 23? If so, I attained it in that moment. I knew Tess and Daniel were safe, but what about the others? Patrick went to check; I sat on the bed and tried to come up with a viable hypothesis for the dryer situation. We'd had a spectacular thunderstorm during the night; had a power surge somehow tripped the dryer's electronic brain? But it would have to be a power surge tiny enough not to affect the clocks, which were perfectly normal.

"The kids are fine," Patrick reported, then took his uber-manly self downstairs to scope out the basement. He had our giant flashlight with him, which I'm sure would make a fine bludgeonly weapon, if needed.

I began rueing my many hours spent in the virtual company of Mr. Stephen King, because all the lessons he has ever taught me came flooding back in vivid detail:

1) The scariest stories are always set in peaceful small towns of uncommon natural beauty.

2) Only foolish, peripheral characters who end up dead (or undead) ignore or try to explain away strange phenomena like household appliances starting up of their own accord.

3) The protagonist usually loses a loved one (or six) in the battle against evil.

4) There is no help available: not the folks at the other end of 9-1-1, not neighbors, not faithful household pets. All these potential allies can end up being worse than the perceived threat.

5) Never, ever split up. The one who ventures out/up/down alone, flashlight in hand, is almost always the character who exits the stage first.

"You okay, Honey?" I tried to keep the quaver out of my voice. I heard Patrick open the dryer. "These clothes are still wet," he called up--the clothes I'd put in to dry at 5 o'clock. He started the dryer again, locked all the downstairs doors, and came upstairs.

He checked the front porch, providing us with a Hitchcockian moment of comic relief when he accidentally rang our very loud doorbell in the process. An electronic rendition of the classic Westminster Chimes melody blared through the house. Tragically, we knew we'd now awakened our neighbors across the street; they have the identical wireless doorbell, and any visitor to either house always sets off both devices.

After laughing with shame over the plight of poor, innocent John and Mary, we lay in the dark for at least another half hour trying to figure out what had happened. Then Patrick went downstairs again, only to find out that the laundry hadn't gotten any drier during our obsession session. "I think the heating element is broken," he said. Great, I thought, Not only is it possessed, it's gonna need a $200 repair to boot. Repairman or excorcist: which should I call first?

Now it was after 4:00. Fear had worn me down; adrenaline abandoned me and let me crash on my own. I was too tired to fight. Patrick fell asleep first, and I eventually drifted off myself.

What else could we do?
Author: Luisa Perkins
•6:32 AM
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:

3) Amanda
4) Millie

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!
Author: Luisa Perkins
•8:29 PM
I'm hopping mad.

Saturday morning, I went to our local independent bookstore to pick up a birthday gift. I had noticed in recent months that the shelves were looking a little bare, but when I had asked about this, I'd been told that the store was 'between shipments' or 'doing inventory.'

On this visit, the pickings were sparse indeed. As the cashier wrapped the book I'd purchased, I fixed her with my best gimlet gaze and said, "The shelves look bare. Should I be worried?" She hesitated, then replied, "Yes. The store will close in the fall."

I was devastated; this has happened to me before. When we lived in Manhattan, my beloved Shakespeare & Co. eventually found it could not compete with the volume and tactics of Barnes & Noble and closed its doors forever. When I lived in San Francisco, A Clean Well-Lighted Place for Books was a favorite hangout; I recently read that it is also folding.

Why is a local, independent bookstore important to me? For the same reason I buy the bulk of our food from local farmers whenever possible. I value the human connection. I like supporting people who are intimately involved in the work that they do, that have specialized knowledge born of hands-on experience. I contrast the experience of buying a book from someone with whom I can trade recommendations and reviews with the typical Borders/B&N experience vividly depicted by Desmond at the Rag and Bone Shop in this post. (Follow the link; it's a great story.)

Our town is charming. Main Street is lined with shops selling antiques, art, hiking gear, and clothing to a vibrant tourist trade. It also features a great pizza place, a tolerable Chinese take-out restaurant, and a pretty good French bistro, among other restaurants. But the two places I patronize most frequently are The Country Goose, an eclectic gift shop run by a quirky Welsh woman who happens to have a terrific talent for making up gift baskets; and Merritt Bookstore.

I know that I might sound like a snob; be that as it may, because it's really not about that. It's about getting what I want as a consumer. When I visit Lenore at The Goose, she asks about my kids; I ask about her dog. She knows my taste and shows me new things that will fit my gift-buying needs. Her service is impeccable; it has to be, because her business lives and dies by it. It's the same thing at Merritt. I know if I ask the manager about the latest Barry Underwood or Umberto Eco, she'll have interesting things to say, and she'll give me her honest opinion.

The last Harry Potter party in our town was fantastic. Our kids and lots of their friends dressed up and visited different shops on Main Street that had HP-inspired activities going on. Near midnight, everyone gathered at Merritt, drank punch and ate cookies, and visited while waiting for the magic moment when the boxes could be opened.

Once the clock struck twelve, everyone got his or her copy without the screaming and trampling I've read about at larger, less personal stores. After that, about forty of us--kids of all ages--gathered in the garden behind the bookstore, and staff members took turns reading the first chapter aloud. It was an enchanted evening, pardon the pun, and my kids can't wait for the next one occurring just a few weeks.

One of the reasons I hope never to move away is that we have virtually none of the faceless strip mall sprawl that makes so much of American suburbia look alike: the Applebee's next to the Wal-Mart next to the McDonald's next to the Old Navy. Our town is unique and aesthetically pleasing, and I want to do everything I can to help it stay that way. That means voting with my dollar.

Merritt has two other branches that have thrived for many years; my guess is that this is because they are farther up the Hudson, thus farther from the stiff competition provided by big box stores. I also am betting that Amazon is a player in our bookstore's demise.

I confess that I have used Amazon quite a bit in the past. It's hard beat the convenience, and the prices are pretty great if you conveniently forget about the shipping costs. I've even had their advertising widgets on this blog since nearly the beginning, mainly because I wanted a way to display what I'm currently reading. I'll admit, though, that I thought it wouldn't be a terrible thing if those widgets earned me a little cash.

Well, they're gone now. I've discovered Library Thing. I spent a few leisurely hours this afternoon cataloguing a portion of our large collection. It was like looking through an old yearbook, revisiting these old friends that are my favorite books, one by one. Now they'll appear randomly on my sidebar. (If you happen to click on them, you'll be taken to Amazon's site, but any cash generated thereby will go to support Library Thing, which seems like a really cool service so far. But if you see something intriguing, call your local store instead!)

I'm cutting myself off from Amazon from this day forward. For the next few months, when I need books, I can order them online on Merritt's website and save myself the shipping by picking them up at the store downtown. I know I have some local readers; please find it in your heart to do the same! And spread the word; perhaps we can convince the folks at Merritt that they are very much needed and wanted after all.
Author: Luisa Perkins
•9:43 AM
That's "Happy Birthday" transliterated into Cyrillic! And here are the Fab Five, singing "Happy Birthday" to one of their dearest pals.

Ten years ago yesterday a beautiful little girl was born in a faraway, formerly Communist country. We didn't meet her until almost seven months later, when two of our best friends brought her home to New York City as their own. We lived five blocks from each other for years until we moved to the country in the summer of 2001. Now we don't see each other very often; but when we do, it's always a party.

This lovely family is cautious about its privacy, so I won't disclose names or post photos, but we are thrilled to celebrate with them a decade of The Divine Miss N. Since we couldn't be together, I thought we'd stage a virtual party in N's honor.

If her stylish and kind parents, her baby sister, Princess S, and N were here, first we'd play dress-up. N is crazy about pirates. Here's a photo of Christian as Captain Jack Sparrow:

N also has a deep love for The Wizard of Oz. Here's Tess dressed as Dorothy:
Next we'd bake some party treats:
and make N a bouquet of yard flowers: She loves crafty projects, so we'd roll up our sleeves and get to work:

Of course, there would be homemade chocolate cake dusted with gold (and with 10 candles instead of 4):
Eventually, the Mighty Pathfinder would have to load up our guests and transport them back to the City, but we'd have a whale of a time until then.

We are so glad to know you, dear Miss N! And we all wish you many happy returns of the day!
Author: Luisa Perkins
•9:26 AM
I've encountered this phrase in nearly every D.E. Stevenson novel I've ever read; after the first two, I would look for it and get a zing of satisfaction when it appeared. The vivid simile is meant to convey enthusiasm. Examples of usage:

I'm as keen as mustard for our garden plans to get underway. All of our trees and shrubs from Edible Landsaping arrived yesterday; it was like Christmas opening up all of the boxes. Here's what I took out:

Thornless Blackberries
Alpine Strawberries
Cherries (sweet and sour!)

I planted the Sea Buckthorns and a Cherry from an earlier shipment a couple of weeks ago, and we already have one length of the fence lined with rasperries. Our original Summer Yard Boy had to quit after one Saturday's worth of work; he was injured at his weekday job. But we have a replacement crew arriving home from college later this week. They'll be able to plant all these worthy items and do a ton of weeding and wood splitting besides. It's so exciting!

I'm as keen as mustard about our Needlework Group. We met yesterday at my house and had a great time. We are quite loose in our interpretation of the term 'needlework.' One woman graded papers, three did beadwork, two knitted, and one cut and ironed squares for quilting. We had great conversation and a kitchen island's worth of yummy food. Here's what I worked on (Knitty's spring surprise Arietta, in yarn I bought in Paris):

I'm as keen as mustard about the salad I made for the Group. It's long been one of my favorites; for some reason I associate it with gatherings of women. It works well for baby showers and meetings of the Relief Society, and it came to mind yesterday as I was wondering what to prepare for lunch. Adriana posted a similar recipe recently, but this one is different and delicious enough to warrant publication.

Confetti Salad
2 cans black beans, rinsed and well drained
3 cans white shoepeg corn, drained
1 red onion, diced
1 orange or red bell pepper, diced
1 medium zucchini or yellow summer squash, diced
1 small can sliced black olives
2 ripe avocados, diced
The juice of 6 limes
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 bunch fresh cilantro, chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
Freshly ground black pepper

Put the first seven ingredients in a large bowl. Put the remaining ingredients in the blender and give them a whirl. Pour the dressing over the salad and mix it well. Refrigerate for at least an hour so that the flavors can marry. Stir it up again before serving.

It's a very colorful salad; I wish I had taken a photo of it yesterday before the ladies genteelly gobbled it down. Of course, it is exponentially better with fresh corn, but we'll have to wait until later in the summer for that. It's also better if you cook the beans yourself, but it's awfully good just the way I've written it.

I'm as keen as mustard about Allene's homemade Lemon Meringue Pie. She brought it yesterday, and there was one piece left over, so I've just had it for breakfast. A little slice of heaven.

What? Put your eyebrows down. Pie is a perfectly appropriate breakfast food. Eggs, citrus, butter, and graham crackers, along with probably less sugar than is in most cereals: what could be better?

Finally, I'm as keen as mustard to finish this manuscript, so I'll sign off for now. Enjoy your day!
Author: Luisa Perkins
•6:04 AM

While cleaning up my genealogy files last night, I was struck by a number of...interesting names on my family tree. When I write, naming my characters takes a lot of time and thought. I want the names to be distinctive, so that the reader can keep everyone clear in his/her head, but I don't want them to be so distracting that they pull the reader out of the story. I'd have to be writing something in the John Irving/Richard Brautigan vein in order to pull off anything close to the names of some of my august forbears. I've put some of the weirdest into loose categories below for your perusal.

From the British Isles (yes, they certainly do sound like spammers' pseudonyms):
Gotham Howe
Gillachomhghaill O'Toole
Onesiphorus Tileston
Mabilia Talesmache
Benedicta Shelving
Gwair ap Pill
Rollo Bigod
Theopharcia Baliol
John MacHell

Scandinavia (Tolkien didn't work in a vacuum):
Frosti Karasson
Eyfuru Svaflamasdatter
Gandalf Alfgeirsson
Frodi Frodasson

The American Frontier:
Catherine Vandeventer-Turnipseed
Josnorum Scoenonti Running Deer
Polly Pickle
Thomasine Lumpkin

Elsewhere in Europe:
Burkhard von Schweinfurt
Gundreda Monasteriis
Aubrey de Mello
Adam Moomaw
Hienrich von Krickenbeck

Finally, Those Wacky Puritans:
Constantia Coffin
Thankful Sprout
Deliverance Nutting
Wealthy Blood
Including my personal favorite:
Preserved Fish
Poor Preserved. I presume that his name was shorthand for "Preserved by the hand of the Lord." Maybe Mrs. Fish almost died in childbed, or something like that. Her maiden name was Grizzel Strange, by the way, so you'd think that she'd be sensitive on the naming issue. Or perhaps her name and that of her son's didn't sound odd at all to 17th-century ears.

Oh, well; I guess when it comes right down to it, it's a heck of a lot easier researching folks like Preserved than yet another John Carter or Mary White. And it certainly keeps me smiling.
Author: Luisa Perkins
•5:47 PM
Neither Patrick nor I is sure how it happened, but for the past several weeks, we both have been utterly sure that today was Father's Day. I can point to only two factors that could have led to this misapprehension: 1) Tess's Kindergarten class had their Father's Day Brunch this past Friday; and 2) today is the second Sunday in June. (You know how Mother's Day is the second Sunday in May? Yeah.)

Earlier this week I shopped carefully for Patrick's gift. I planned a special breakfast and dinner for today. And weeks ago, we planned to have a church youth fireside meeting at our house for next Sunday evening, not wanting to have it on Father's Day.

There were a couple of clues that could have been picked up on by someone slightly less sure of herself. Example: when I realized that the gifts the kids had purchased through the PTA fundraiser wouldn't be delivered until next Friday, I actually said to Patrick, "I think the PTA thinks that Father's Day is next Sunday. I'm sorry that you'll have to wait for some of your gifts." Example: when I looked at my page-a-day calendar and noticed that Father's Day wasn't listed for this weekend, I thought, That's weird. All kinds of obscure (from an American point of view) holidays, from ANZAC Day to Armistice Day, are usually listed. Why not Father's Day?

This morning, as the kids and I came into church, Patrick walked up to me quickly and said, "It's not Father's Day." I'm assuming he did this because he didn't want me to get my nose all out of joint when I realized that the speakers and hymns for the service were focused on a subject entirely other than fathers. (Patrick, as the Bishop of our congregation, is always at church two hours before the rest of us; someone had alerted him early on.)

So we split the difference. Patrick has already sent his father a gift; it's better to be early than late, right? And I still have time to shop for my dad without having to apologize for my tardiness. We had our Father's Day breakfast and I gave Patrick his Father's Day foot rub and homemade chocolate shake (yes, he does get those treats more than once a year). But I'll keep the racks of lamb in the freezer and all of the gifts in an undisclosed hiding place until next weekend. We'll still have the fireside next Sunday evening as planned. No real harm, no foul.

But here's what's still troubling me. It never occurred to me that I might have been wrong. When confronted with indicators that this might be the case, I blithely found ways to explain them away. It makes me wonder how often this kind of thing happens without my realizing it. I do think I question reality in general a lot more than the average person. But what else am I walking around mistakenly assuming is true? And am I alone in this? What about the rest of the world? What about you?
Author: Luisa Perkins
•9:31 AM

Patrick probably thinks so. Poor thing; it's difficult to imagine why he puts up with me and my crazy ideas. My latest is a little experiment with a CaféPress storefront.

I always love wearing a T-shirt or carrying tote bag with a pithy saying or unique image. I don't always find what I want, so I decided to create my own. I thought some of you might enjoy the same thing. After that, I contemplated how expensive college times five is going to be, and the rest is history.

So visit my store, if you're so inclined! The link is right there on the sidebar. I'll add new things as I come up with ideas I think are worthwhile; check back once in a while to see what I'm up to.
Author: Luisa Perkins
•1:47 PM
Despite all of the Sturm und Drang beforehand, I wouldn't trade the experience of last weekend's Pioneer Trek for anything. None of my anxieties (rain, injury, anarchy) were realized, and all of my prayers were answered.

The 150 youth (ages 14-18) were organized into 10 'families,' with couples like Patrick and me acting as their 'Ma and Pa' for the weekend. The kids were to be dressed in a fairly loose interpretation of 19th-century clothing, the exception being their shoes. Patrick's and my costumes turned out well, by the way. I don't really care for sewing, but I take great satisfaction in my work on my shirtwaist in particular.

All electronic equipment was either left at home or collected by the youth leaders before we began. The State Forest through which we would be journeying had no running water and only the most rudimentary of pit-type toilet facilities. The plan was for the groups to pull the handcarts about 10 miles on a circuitous route before reaching the campsites the first evening.

The 13 kids assigned to us were terrific. We had an even mix of boys and girls, younger and older. They were strong, affable, and funny, worked well as a team, and did not whine at all. After meeting as a family, we decorated the handcart with a banner, then filled it up with everyone's gear. We estimated that it weighed about 1,000 pounds once it was loaded.

We got in line and pulled the handcarts out of the parking lot at around 6:00 Friday evening. We were first in line, which was great; our kids set a pretty quick pace at the outset. I cautioned them to take it easy, since we estimated that we'd be traveling until at least 1:00 in the morning.

The most harrowing portion of the pull took place after about 3/4 of a mile. We turned off the paved road and took the carts down a semi-dry creek bed. This half-mile portion of the trip took about an hour; there were huge rocks and low hanging branches that had to be negotiated. The stony bed was wet, mossy, and very slippery. We all were relieved when we made it to the gravel road at the bottom.

We had frequent water breaks (we had coolers full of water in the carts, and everyone had a tin cup tied to their apron or belt loop). During these, I dispersed contraband homemade muffins and cookies to our boys and girls, since I know that the key to high morale is comfort food. The treats served us well; our group remained cheerful and energetic throughout the night.

In memory of the many women who pulled handcarts across the plains, the girls pulled the carts alone for about a mile, while the men and boys walked silently along the side of the path. Thank heaven for strong, cheerful girls! Our group did very well; I was so proud of them.

We pulled into the campsite right on schedule. The support staff passed out hard rolls and cups of broth, which were devoured in no time. Our family, hunger pangs quelled by my treats, put up no fuss with this meager fare. By about 2:00 a.m., we were all unconscious in our tarp lean-to's.

We woke up early, ate a hearty breakfast, and hiked up to the top of Mohawk Mountain; there we sang some hymns and our Stake President spoke. The hike was about 8 miles round trip, and it was very hot and humid. I was glad to have my sunbonnet as we sat together in the grassy meadow at the summit. After the hike, we had lunch.

Then the Pioneer Games began: relay races, feats of strength, and arts and crafts stations were set up around the perimeter of the camp. The families traveled from station to station in a pretty orderly fashion, then all came together for the Stick Pull Tournament, the Tug-of-War, and the Greased Watermelon Relay. Our friend Tom had been wearing a pedometer since we set out the previous evening; after the games, he informed us that we'd walked a little over twenty miles in 24 hours--half of that, pulling half-ton carts.

After dinner, it was time for the Hoe Down. The youth leaders had hired a professional square dance caller. He turned out to be a miracle worker; his gentle manner won everyone over, and his clear directions had everyone dancing--really doing it--very quickly. All of the kids lined up along the camp road for the Virginia Reel and several square dance sets. Everyone actually had a good time; I was shocked that these kids would be such good sports for so long. Personally, I love folk dancing of any kind; Patrick and I had a blast.

Once the dancing was over, we gathered at our campfires for a devotional and some Dutch oven cobbler. I had eschewed the standard-issue cake mix/SevenUp/canned peaches concoction, choosing to bring my own cobbler ingredients instead. Other leaders soon heard the news and drifted over to our camp for some of ours. If only we'd had some vanilla ice cream to put on top...but it was awfully good as it was.

The kids had a harder time settling down Saturday night. Our family was up until about 2:00 playing a PG-rated version of "Truth or Truth." Patrick and I lay in our sleeping bags cracking up at the questions and answers. Finally, everyone dropped off.

By Sunday morning, we were all more than a little aromatic, despite our best efforts with baby wipes and the masking effects of the herbal insect repellent I passed around. We passed out little journals that the leaders had made and instructed the kids to take an hour of 'solo time': no talking, just scripture reading, prayer, and journal writing. Again, I was surprised at how biddable everyone was. A couple of kids put their heads down on the picnic tables and napped, but I had no problem with that, since they weren't disturbing anyone else.

At 9:30, we gathered for Sacrament Meeting. The kids were encouraged to get up and share their feelings if they felt so moved; for three hours, we listened to some very sweet and sometimes funny testimonies. I know: the thought of a three-hour testimony meeting is a daunting one, but the time passed quickly and there was a lovely feeling of unity present.

After lunch, we packed up the handcarts again and pulled them the quarter mile to the parking lot. Along the last hundred or so feet of the path, the kids' parents had lined up and were waving white handkerchiefs and cheering. We took a few snapshots, hugged our kids, and returned them to their real families.
As Patrick and I drove home, I reflected on how well everything had gone. While I've known individual teenagers who were lovely people, I've had a deep-seated fear and loathing of the age group in general ever since I was one myself. The Trek brought me a healing change of heart, for which I am grateful.

I still wish that there had been at least a portion of our time focused on service. The pioneers whose experience we were trying to evoke were eminently practical yet generous people. The first groups that headed west to Utah built cabins they'd never inhabit and planted crops they'd never harvest along the 1,500 mile trail. They did these things to lighten the burden for those who would travel after them. If I could change one thing about the weekend, it would be to have found a way to infuse this spirit of selfless acts into at least a portion of our time together.

I have several ancestors who traveled across the plains with either the covered wagon teams or the handcart companies. We estimated, however, that this was the case for only about half of the youth at the activity. I now feel that the Trek experience functioned rather like a Seder. The Haggadah, or text for the celebration of Passover, reminds Jews as they rehearse it to one another that they would not exist as a people if God had not led them out of Egypt.

In a similar way, it's quite likely that my religion would not exist without the Westward Movement. Early Mormon history is rife with examples of bitter persecution. To find the freedom to practice the tenets of their faith, the Mormon Pioneers found it necessary to set out into the wilderness to make a new home.

Last weekend, we told the stories of our cultural heritage and remembered through physical hardship those who came before us, whether they were actual relatives or purely spiritual ancestors. I came away enriched and filled with gratitude; all of the participants with whom I've since had communication felt the same way.
Author: Luisa Perkins
•10:31 AM
I've received intelligence that certain of my relatives are hankering for news of the kids. Following are a few tasty treats for that (silent, but crucial) portion of my readership.

1) The Big Three have their piano recital this Saturday. Christian is playing Satie's "Gymnopedie No. 1," James is playing "Tango in E-Flat" from John Thompson's fifth book, and Hope is playing a sonatina by Biehl. Here's I just wrote and sent to their teacher for the program bios.:

Christian Perkins is 13 years old; he starts high school in the fall. So far he is navigating the treacherous waters of teenage life quite gracefully. He loves reading and rock and roll. He hates cleaning out the cat box, but he does it every day because he's very, very good.

James Perkins looks forward to starting middle school this September; he is 10 years old. He has been a valuable member of his Little League baseball team this season, saving more than one game with his mad hitting and fielding skills. James is an ardent Mets fan and takes it personally when they lose. He enjoys playing air guitar on his trusty aluminum bat.

Hope Perkins is fascinated with all types of undersea life. She is eight years old and just finishing up second grade. Her immediate goal is to read all the Harry Potter books before the seventh one is published in July. Manhattan is Hope's favorite place in the whole world, and she hopes to live there again someday.

2) More Cowgirl!
Tess's birthday was Sunday. Here she is in Patrick's Pioneer Pa hat and her fabulous new boa. It makes her feel very Eloise, dahling.

Her post-op check-up with the dapper Dr. S. went very well yesterday; her eyes are doing better than he expected. We'll be patching her right eye two hours per day for the next two months. Tess doesn't mind, since Dr. S. suggested she play computer games while she has her patch on.

3) Favorite Toys of the Moment:
Daniel has decided that Anakin is actually a Daniel Doll. The action figure formerly known as Captain John Smith (of Pocahontas fame) has morphed into a representation of Patrick. Daddy and Daniel have been having many adventures together this week. Here they are after having vanquished the Evil Lucite Rattlesnake: father-son bonding at its best.

4) Grammar Fascista--The Next Generation:

Christian (surveying blossoming roses in the front yard): It's great that the deers haven't bothered them at all this year. (I promise you: he really does know better.)

Hope (before I could say anything): Christian! The plural of 'deer' does not have an 's' at the end!

Christian (looking from Hope to me in astonishment): Mom! It's like there are two of you!

All I could do was beam at Hope.
Author: Luisa Perkins
•10:31 AM

This post is brought to you by the peonies and roses currently gracing our yard.

Recently a very dear friend emailed and asked me for a description of the book I'm finishing up writing. How would I classify the story I'm trying to tell? Exactly what kind of writing is it? Here's the answer I gave her:

I would call it 'urban fantasy,' except that a lot of it takes place in the woods of the Hudson Highlands (the rest is in Manhattan). But maybe that works. The setting is modern day, but there is a lot of magic being thrown around as if it were unusual, but not impossible.

ZF-360 [that's the working title of this book] is most similar in feel to
mythic fiction by people like John Crowley, Charles de Lint, Terri Windling, and Neil Gaiman. I don't think it's 'literary' enough to be called 'magic realism.' I hate the term 'elfpunk,' but that might be an accurate description.

After writing that, I found myself unsatisfied. My answer, while it gave her some guidelines, seemed frustratingly imprecise. What is it exactly that I am trying to do in my writing? Ruminating upon that question occupied my mind as I frantically sewed costumes all last week.

Have you ever been wandering lost, looking for any known landmark, when suddenly you recognized something familiar? It's as if the entire landscape shifts around both that item and you; as you orient yourself, it appears as though the world around you has changed, when it is really your brain that has done so. This happened to me in a figurative sense last night.

I was reading over the panel descriptions for Readercon, which is now exactly one month away. I noticed that the word 'slipstream' was used over and over again. It's a word I'd heard before, but hadn't bothered to look up. As I read, however, I saw from the context that this word might be a touchstone for me. Popping it into my trusty Google Search box, I was immediately rewarded with the article in which cyberpunk deity Bruce Sterling actually coined the term 'slipstream.' This is what he wrote:

This genre is not "category" SF; it is not even "genre" SF. Instead, it is a contemporary kind of writing which has set its face against consensus reality [emphasis mine]. It is fantastic, surreal sometimes, speculative on occasion, but not rigorously so. It does not aim to provoke a "sense of wonder" or to systematically extrapolate in the manner of classic science fiction.

Instead, this is a kind of writing which simply makes you feel very strange; the way that living in the late twentieth century makes you feel, if you are a person of a certain sensibility. We could call this kind of fiction Novels of Postmodern Sensibility, but that looks pretty bad on a category rack, and requires an acronym besides; so for the sake of convenience and argument, we will call these books "slipstream."

Other writers argue that slipstream is more of an effect than a genre; whatever it is, I recognized as I read that Sterling's definition captures exactly the kind of story that ferments in and emerges from my quirky brain. Apparently, I am a person of a certain sensibility.

I've always believed that relying too heavily on consensus reality is a dangerous thing. For example, I was talking with some really smart women yesterday morning about self-defense. We traded stories of the things we do to ensure that our houses are secure on nights when our husbands are away. One woman opined that it was more likely that one's house be surrounded by armed bandits than for an evil clown to attack one from under the bed. I laughed and said, "Don't be too sure about that." I spoke only seven-eighths in jest.

It seems to me that unconditionally accepting consensus reality is one of the ways by which our minds narrow and close as we age. As children, we often believe that anything is possible; the death of that openness and faith is more dangerous than we realize. Do I believe that some people see dead people, as in my current favorite TV show, Medium? Do I think that aliens have visited Earth? Do I suspect that time does not flow at a constant rate? Do I presume that trees and rocks have spirits? Call me crazy, but I reserve the right to abstain from a definitive vote on any of these questions for the present. As unlikely as they may seem, I refuse to rule them outright impossibilities.

At the end of his article, Sterling gave a list of books he regarded as fitting into the slipstream genre. I found similar lists elsewhere on the internet, and apparently an updated one will be dispersed at Readercon. Here are some of my favorites of those books generally recognized as slipstream:

Winter's Tale, by Mark Helprin
Foucault's Pendulum and
The Island of the Day Before, by Umberto Eco
Was, by Geoff Ryman
Life of Pi, by Yann Martel
Neverwhere, by Neil Gaiman
White Noise, by Don DeLillo
Shoeless Joe, by W.P. Kinsella
The Witches of Eastwick, by John Updike (I know; I usually hate Updike.)

I find it odd that before last night I didn't wholly make the connection between my work and that of the above writers. But perhaps that is because I hold them all in such high regard. I wouldn't dare to presume that my books might ever be on the same list as these.

I find it comforting, however, to be able to slap a label on what I'm doing. The next time someone asks me what kind of fiction I write, I'll be able to answer with aplomb, "Slipstream." The fact that this will most likely confuse them does not bother me; somehow the fact that there is a category out there for my stuff gives me confidence in what I'm doing.

And I'm doing it again, now that the trek is behind us! Since we have recitals, graduations, courts of honor, firesides, and baseball games to plan and/or attend in the next four weeks, I've set July 6th as the date that I'll be done with ZF-360. That way, I can hand Patrick a manuscript to read as I jaunt off to Burlington for the annual treat that is Readercon. Trust me, I'll make my deadline this time. I couldn't bear the shame of it otherwise.
Author: Luisa Perkins
•5:27 PM
If you've been reading this blog for any length of time, you'll remember that I often reference my tip-top-tier friend, Kara. I met her a couple of years ago at the reception following a Kindergarten Sing-Along; our Hope and her daughter Grace were classmates and good buddies. Hope and Grace: an auspicious beginning, no?

Minutes into our initial conversation, I knew that this was someone I badly wanted as my friend. I normally don't make friends easily, but Kara and I seemed to click right away. I went home and tried to figure out how best to impress her with my coolness and panache.

Somehow (probably despite my somewhat transparent machinations), over the next few months, we did indeed start to bond. It turns out we have an awful lot in common. She's a writer; she's a gardener; she knits; she's a geek (and I write that intending it as the highest of compliments); she thinks long and hard about a wild variety of subjects. As teenagers, I think we would have been inseparable.

Even better, our children all like each other and get along, and our husbands enjoy each other's company. As Patrick would say, "It's the Trifecta."

Kara is one of those rare people who has dramatically improved the quality of my life; she probably has little idea just how much her friendship has blessed me. Okay, I have to stop now; I'm getting a little verklempt.

All this to say: Kara has recently started her own blog, and it's very much worth your time. Her initial few posts pack intellectual punch leavened with generous amounts of humor. She's very smart, but never takes herself too seriously (the tragic flaw of so many brilliant people). Please go visit her and cheer her on; you won't be sorry you did.

Congratulations, Kara! I can't wait for more.
Author: Luisa Perkins
•12:11 PM
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.