Author: Luisa Perkins
•4:21 PM
1) Yesterday I spent an hour re-teaching myself trigonometry so that I could help Christian study for a quiz on sines, cosines, and tangents. I used to be good at math, but it's been a solid 25 years since I did any problems like these. It paid off; he did very well today.

2) Bucky is home at long last! My cherished prize for winning Radioactive Jam's Haiku Contest (perhaps you remember) has languished at the framers lo, these many months; I finally went and retrieved it today.

3) Last, but most exciting: The Writing Game results are up! If you'd like to read a short story I wrote this week called "Truck Stop," as well as a lot of other fine tales, follow the happy link . I'd love to know what you think.

the writing game

Author: Luisa Perkins
•9:59 AM

I saw my midwives on Monday; they're all great, but I lucked out and got my favorite, Helene, who attended Daniel's birth. Because my midwifery group is connected to a federally-funded public clinic, there were many tests to undergo and much paperwork to fill out. I came home with a sheaf of pamphlets; I browsed through them Monday evening. Patrick looked over at what I was doing and asked, "So, has anything changed since last time?"

That question got me thinking about how different an experience things are this time around, especially as compared with the first time. Here's some high contrast for you:

In 1993, I was 26 and pregnant with our first child, Christian.
I'm 41 and pregnant with our sixth. We haven't yet found out the baby's sex.

I went to the doctor immediately upon finding out I was pregnant--at barely 4 weeks.
I put off going to the midwives until after the holidays were well and truly over--at about 20 weeks.

I obsessively read any and all literature on pregnancy and childbirth, especially What to Expect When You're Expecting.
What to Expect is on my list of Ten Least Favorite Books Ever. When the nurse handed me my bundle of pamphlets the other day, she said, "Here. But you probably know all of this already."

I had considerable trouble gaining weight.
I am gaining weight with, um, grace and ease. (Seriously: I'm right on track; all is well.)

I couldn't wait for my pregnancy to show so that I could wear cute maternity clothes.
My pregnancy showed much earlier than I would have thought possible; most maternity clothes look too improbably twee to consider wearing at my age. So far, I'm mostly making do with my usual uniform.

I worked 60 hours per week at a high-profile investment bank in Manhattan.
I work 112+ hours per week at the best (but lowest-paying) job in the world.

I slept in until noon on Saturdays.
I sleep in until 7:00 a.m. on Saturdays.

I craved the following sandwich: scrambled eggs and cheese with butter, salt, and pepper on a soft roll. I had one nearly every day. I also craved white cheddar popcorn, Orangina, and mint chip ice cream.
I crave grapefruit juice, cold cereal, and juicy, medium-rare cheeseburgers.

I was terribly nauseated for months, then dealt with premature separation of the pelvis near the end.
No nausea at all. We'll see how it goes with the ol' pelvis, but so far, so good.

Patrick and I took a three-week trip to Paris, the Loire Valley, and Switzerland. Pure heaven.
We're planning a five-day, kid-free fling in London and Bath in April. Can't wait.

Then and now:
I have a super-mega-bionic sense of smell. Believe me, this is not a gift.
My talent for napping serves me well.
I'm thrilled beyond words to meet the new person who will be joining our family.
Author: Luisa Perkins
•7:34 PM

"There [is] a feeling of recognition, as of meeting an old friend, which comes to us all in the face of great artistic experiences. I had the same experience when I first heard an English folksong, when I first saw Michelangelo's Day and Night, when I suddenly came upon Stonehenge or had my first sight of New York City – the intuition that I had been there already."
--Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958)

It's late November 1989. Patrick and I are sitting in my room at my mom's old house in Orem, Utah, making wedding plans. I've got my little pink clock radio tuned to KBYU; Bach Partitas and Chopin Preludes play softly in the background. We're busy figuring out logistics for the ceremony itself (to be held in Salt Lake City) and our two small receptions: one in Provo, Utah, and one in Englewood, New Jersey.

All at once, I become distracted from our conversation by the most beautiful piece of music I've ever heard. Patrick and I sit and listen, bewitched. The gorgeous waves of sound transcend the poor radio's tinny speaker and wrap us in a bubble of timelessness. When the piece ends, we both exhale at the same time; it seems as though we've been holding our breath for several minutes.

The announcer, in the mellow tones cultivated by all classical radio DJs, informs us that we've just heard Ralph Vaughan Williams's Symphony No. 5, and I am officially in love. I must learn everything I can about this mysterious British composer. I've never heard of him before, yet there is something in his music that awakens deep recognition--what Plato calls 'anamnesis'-- within me.

Remember, it's 1989. In the dark days before Teh Google, I have to hunt down information on Vaughan Williams on foot; fortunately for my compulsive research needs, Patrick returns home to New Jersey, where he has his musicologist father's extensive library to hand. In my Christmas package, Patrick includes a cassette that features Vaughan Williams's Symphony No. 2 and the piece that follows this post: "Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis."

The Fantasia captures my devotion in the same way the Fifth Symphony does. Based on a hymn tune by Tudor composer Thomas Tallis, its modal antiphony evokes the stark beauty of an ancient church. I listen to it again and again, and over the next several years collect recordings of as much of Vaughan Williams's work as I can find. I love it all; it's as if this composer wrote music specifically for the desires, needs, and tastes of my spirit, all decades before I was born. I appreciate and enjoy most classical music from the past thousand years (with some notable exceptions), but in Vaughan Williams's music, I often feel that I hear the voice of God Himself.

In 1993, a friend and I hear the New York Philharmonic perform Symphony No. 5 in Avery Fisher Hall under the baton of the great André Previn. At the end of the Fourth Movement (the Passacaglia), we enter the same kind of trance Patrick and I experienced years before, nearly forgetting to breathe, then gasping and flinching in unison as the audience around us breaks into thunderous applause.

Not long afterwards, I learn that a prominent NPR radio personality listens to the Fifth Symphony before every airplane trip, because if he dies in flight, he wants it to be the last piece of music he's ever heard. I can understand why; for certain people, the music of Vaughan Williams is potent magic indeed.

I went to Youtube to see whether any of RVW's music was to be found; it was an odd coincidence that the very first link that popped up was that of an old friend, Christiaan Crans, conducting Indiana University's Ad Hoc Orchestra playing the Tallis Fantasia. I remember hanging out with Chris late one night discussing our deep, almost religious fan-love for Vaughan Williams. I haven't seen Chris since we both moved away from Manhattan nearly seven years ago, so tonight I had a double delight. I expect very few of you will sit through all 17 minutes of the piece that follows, but as Emperor Joseph II is fond of saying in the movie Amadeus, "There it is."

For more Music Monday, stop by the fabulous home of Soccer Mom in Denial.
Author: Luisa Perkins
•7:33 PM

Author: Luisa Perkins
•3:32 PM
I've been working on a fun new story, part of Jen at A2eatwrite's Writing Game.
the writing game

Check back here on Thursday to read the results! (Oh, don't worry; I'm sure I'll post something else in the meantime.)
Author: Luisa Perkins
•1:50 PM
In one of the first scenes of the movie The Two Towers, several orcs argue over what to do with Merry and Pippin, their hostages. Some of the monsters would like to eat the hobbits; others are determined to follow orders and bring them back to their master. A fight ensues; one orc is killed in the process. The mob is momentarily shocked into silence, until its leader, Uglúk (pictured above) utters the memorable line that titles this post, and the orcs fall to.

It's one of the few times director Peter Jackson indulges in a little action-movie-crowd-pleasing cheesiness; it's the "Hasta la vista, baby" line of the film. As grisly as it is, I love the scene; the way I see it, the orcs are making the best of a bad situation. They've found the silver lining to a pretty dark cloud.

I went to the mailbox this morning with more than my usual apprehension; somehow I knew unpleasant news waited inside. Sure enough, I pulled a self-addressed, stamped envelope out of the stack; it was another rejection letter. This is the third I've received since sending out a gaggle of eleven query packages at the very beginning of the month (five on The Holly Place and six on ZF-360).

This letter was the least desirable type of rejection: an impersonal form letter on which even the signature was photocopied. It's the kind of information that makes me realize how large, yet how pathetically fragile my ego is. I know dealing with rejection is a part of any professional writer's life, just as frogging is a part of knitting and diapers are a part of mothering. I also know that querying is to getting published as dating is to getting married; you've got to find just the right partner to make things work. I know these things intellectually, so I'm trying to buck up and not take the rejection personally.

(But it feels personal. I told a writer friend the day I mailed the last of the packages off, "My babies are going out into the world. It feels like sending Christian [my 14-year-old] off to college." She answered, "No! It feels like sending Daniel [my 4-year-old] off to college!" And she was right.)

I decided when I got today's letter that I'd make my own silver lining: Christian, Daniel and I would go out for lunch (Christian is home early all this week due to mid-term exams). When I need to restore my sense of well-being, a thick, juicy cheeseburger is just the ticket, so we headed down to Garrison Market and indulged. It wasn't fresh orc, but it was mighty tasty.

So this is me, striving for sanguinity. At least the black dog is nowhere in sight; I really am fine, and I've got great plans for the rest of the day. I'll spend the evening at the Manhattan Temple with Patrick and another dear friend, and then the three of us will try out the highly rated and fabulous-sounding Café Gray, where not only meat like Pan-Seared Duck Breast, but also deliciousness like Skate Schnitzel, Lobster-Watermelon Salad, and Cherry Brown Butter Tart are featured on the menu.

And who knows what tomorrow's mail will bring? When it's all said and done, I'm sure the right thing will happen. Right?
Author: Luisa Perkins
•8:35 AM

Author: Luisa Perkins
•9:52 PM
Dawn did a fun meme on her blog the other day; I couldn't wait for a chance to do it myself. It seemed like a great choice for Music Monday, and it goes like this:

Go to……

1. The first article title on the page is the name of your band.

2. The last four words of the very last quote is the title of your album.

3. The third picture, no matter what it is, will be your album cover.

4. Use your graphics program of choice to throw them together, and post the result as a comment in this post.

(Don’t forget to follow the Terms of Use at Flickr and provide a link back to the page at Flickr.)

I've sung in bands before, but we never made any recordings (except for when someone's brother videotaped us with his Betamax camera; I'd give my eye-teeth to get a hold of one of those tapes). So coming up with a band name and album cover was a fun exercise in fantasy, and the result, after a little manipulation using Microsoft Publisher, is above.

My random Wikipedia article was on Rocket Science Games, and the full quote that came up on the random search is attributed to St. Augustine: "Oh, Lord, help me to be pure, but not yet." Apt, apt; so very apt. The gorgeous photo is Občas modré nebo, by mariannakoutna.

Of course, my fantasy doesn't end with just the outside of the album; I like to imagine what my band would record if given the chance. I've always wanted to sing in a band that played a mixture of Celtic, bluegrass, zydeco, and folk-rock; years ago when I mentioned this to anyone, they looked at me like I was nuts.

But now there are bands I love that make similarly blissful fusions: Nickel Creek, Donna the Buffalo, and the Duhks, to name a few. The Chieftains love to hook up with roots-type people from all kinds of traditions and come out with greatness. And if Alison Krauss and Robert Plant can mix up some cross-genre magic, why not Rocket Science Games, too?

For more Music Monday fun, visit Soccer Mom in Denial. And if any of you make your own album using the above meme, be sure to let me know!
Author: Luisa Perkins
•9:51 PM

Author: Luisa Perkins
•6:51 PM
Thank you so much for all of your prayers, encouragement, ideas, and support. It means so much to me to have such a wonderful circle of friends who care about me. Today I was back to my regular self, and it felt amazing. I'm certain your good thoughts were a big part of my turnaround. I owe you.
Author: Luisa Perkins
•2:02 PM
I struggled with depression for many, many years, but about year ago, I kicked it in the teeth and banished it from my presence for a good long time (I hoped forever).

Oh, I've had sad or frustrating days since, days in which things have gone wrong, or in which I think I'm a bad writer or mother or laundress (or all of the above), but those have been just normal dips in the ride we call life.

Depression is palpably different. Today when I wasn't looking, it came back and snuck in the back door like a mangy dog, laughing, drooling, and reminding me what a black plague it is. And I hate it, because even a whiff of it reminds me of what a constant, unwelcome companion it once was. I don't want it back in my life again.

I'm hoping it's just a hormonal thing. I hear pregnancy plays havoc with hormones (yes, my somewhat atrophied sarcasm muscles get a bit of exercise when I'm depressed).

Here's how I know it's depression, and not just temporary doldrums:

The house is full of terrific books, but I don't want to escape into a single one of them.
The house is stocked with a variety of good food, and I'm hungry, but nothing looks appealing enough to eat.
Rowing to the song stylings of the Black-Eyed Peas and Lenny Kravitz doesn't cheer me up.
A long bubble bath doesn't cheer me up.
A long snuggle with Daniel doesn't cheer me up.
A long nap doesn't cheer me up.
The idea of popping in Persuasion, Fanny & Alexander, The Magic Flute, or A Room with a View and knitting for a couple of hours doesn't cheer me up.
The prospect of dinner with my hot husband at a great restaurant for Date Night tonight doesn't cheer me up.

This is not good. Not good at all.
Author: Luisa Perkins
•8:33 AM
Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I've tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.
- Robert Frost
Author: Luisa Perkins
•10:55 AM
(If you don't, then see the post just below this one.)

On our last trip to London, Patrick and I met Carmen at the fabled St. John, Fergus Henderson's shrine to creative traditionalism. I'd read, used, and loved Fergus's fabulous cookbook, Nose to Tail Eating, and I couldn't wait to see what he had in store for us. Imagine my delight when the waiter announced that the special was a Roasted Pig's Head (meant to serve two).

I ask you: How could we pass up such an adventure?

After our lovely appetizer, Bone Marrow and Parsley Salad, Carmen snapped this photo of our brown and crispy piggy, and we fell to eating. The meat itself was delicious, but Patrick ate a bit too much of the rich fat and ended up having a bad sense memory of the experience. But I loved it (even though I'm pretty sure I ate an eyeball).

We're going to London again in April for the opening of the new musical Gone With the Wind (P's client, William David Brohn, is doing the orchestrations). We're planning a side trip to the newly renovated spas at Bath, complete with visits to Stourhead and Longleat. Patrick has never been to Hampton Court Palace, so I must take him. But I'm hoping he and Carmen will consent to a return trip to St. John. For Patrick, it will be a palate-of-the-mind cleanser; for me, it will be another exciting pilgrimage to one of the high priests of English cuisine.
Author: Luisa Perkins
•4:14 PM
Friends of ours from the City recently moved about ten minutes away. (This is joyous thing.) One of them emailed me last week; she and her husband wanted to eat out that night, and she was soliciting input on local restaurants.

Instead of tossing off a few ideas in reply, I spent a half hour writing detailed and strongly opinionated reviews--complete with rapturous anecdotes on specific dishes or snide comments on the abilities (or lack thereof) of the chefs--on every restaurant within a fifteen-mile radius.

(Granted, we live in a tiny town surrounded by national and state parks, but it was still a pretty long list. You can't have this many Manhattan ex-pats living in close proximity without a few decent food joints.)

I cc-ed Patrick on the list, knowing he would have passionate comments of his own to add. And he did--but afterward he emailed me this simple message: "We're freaks."

We are both freaks about food. It's a darn good thing we have each other, because we understand one another. Oh, I know all of you have foods that you like or you don't like. I suspect, though, that you are not as far down the food-obsession continuum as we are. We aren't just disappointed by mediocre or downright bad food; we get mad. We don't just savor delicious things; we are transported, practically Meg-Ryan-in-When-Harry-Met-Sally-style.

I love to go back and read my journal of our first trip to Paris. It reads something like, "We walked past the Eiffel Tower, then ate at the most exquisite café. The flaky, buttery, oranais pastry was filled with ethereal vanilla cream and topped with mouth-watering apricots that tasted like they were just picked. The hot chocolate was thick and dark--it didn't pack quite the punch of Café Angelina's, but its warm creaminess was still heavenly, like drinking straight ganache...."

See what I mean? This was not an isolated incident, either. Over and over, I mention in passing iconic, world-famous monuments while getting to the important stuff: blow-by-blow descriptions of every single meal we consumed. (I do wax rhapsodic about specific artworks and the birthplace of Marcel Proust, however. I'm not a total barbarian.)

Our addiction was enabled for many years by the fact that we lived in Manhattan, which is pretty much Mecca for restaurant goers. We never could bear to repeat-visit places (take-out was another story) because there was alway something new to try. A few exquisite exceptions: Picholine, Bouley, and the late and very lamented March. But those are once-a-year-type (for our budget) places, anyhow.

But we're not snobs. Give me a plate of really good biscuits and gravy, or a bowl of granola and milk, and I'm a happy girl. Patrick enjoys such low-brow delicacies as Kraft Singles and Entenmann's chocolate chip cookies on occasion. We're not snobs, but we are very picky. We want whatever we're eating to be the very best it can be. Otherwise, why bother?

I was surprised and thrilled to receive an award this week. The stylish and bionically witty Deb Barshafsky of the great food blog Bitegeist named me the 2007 Fan of the Year. The next day, my prize arrived in the mail: a lovely Israeli goat cheese in its own little insulated case! Delish, Deb; a thousand thanks! I'll try to wear the crown with dignity.

Last night Patrick and I ate at Grifone, which is near his office in the City. It is truly a hidden gem: quiet, elegant, with real waiters (not actors marking time) who know their business. I started with a Cold Seafood Salad that was to die for. I've never had squid so tender and non-chewy; the plump shrimp were also perfection, all tossed with crisp celery, a little butter lettuce, and the perfect vinaigrette. Then I had the Tagliatelle with Ragu Sauce (NOT the stuff in the bottle). The pasta was homemade, with that unmistakable, velvety texture and superb sauce-holding capability. The sauce tasted like pure-Italian-Grandma-love. Someone had simmered it for hours; the meat almost melted in my mouth (which is now watering at the memory).

P had some lovely mussels and a beautiful Osso Bucco; his chocolate cake, though, was the star of his line-up. I've never had such a good chocolate cake in a restaurant. My dessert was also stellar: a simple Pear Tart. We floated off to Grand Central for the train ride home, a little dreamy in the wake of a perfect meal.

Food-obsessed? Absolutely. But neither of us is seeking treatment for this particular malady anytime soon.
Author: Luisa Perkins
•4:52 PM
Thursday, 10 January is a:

Join Soccer Mom in Denial and the rest of us who are reading instead of blogging! I'll post about what I read on Friday.
Author: Luisa Perkins
•4:32 PM
Yup, that's me--it's pretty much how I think of myself still, even though this picture was taken about 37 years ago. My dad is a phenomenal photographer; one of my earliest memories is of going to a friend's house for a playdate and asking, "Well, where's your darkroom?"

There's a lot of pretty nerdy stuff going on with me at the moment; allow me to share some details.

1) I'm trying out some new software designed specifically for writers of longer works (e.g. novels, research papers). It's called Scrivener, and so far, it seems to overcome a lot of MS Word's shortcomings. Plus, its name is all cool and Melvillian; I love it.

I have two novels I'm marketing at the moment: ZF-360 and The Holly Place. Both are long--around 95,000 words--and with Word I haven't had a good solution for maneuvering around in these mammoth pieces of writing. With ZF, I broke the manuscript up by chapters, but that makes things like a global search and replace completely tedious. THP, on the other hand, is one big document, which makes scrolling to a particular chapter or page quite painful. Scan, overshoot; scan the other way, overshoot again; resist the temptation to commit seppuku--perhaps you know what I mean.

Scrivener was created by a writer, and it has a lot of cool features that are fabulously intuitive and easy to use. Finding all the parts of a manuscript written in one point of view, for example, to check for continuity: easy-peasy. Moving chunks (big or small) around: lead-pipe cinch. Saving a version before making some experimental, wholesale changes, then switching back if that doesn't work: no problem. I don't want to be hasty, but so far? Scrivener = Awesome. If you are a Mac-using writer, go check out the 30-day free trial.

2) I think I'm finally going to move all of my genealogy stuff from my desktop to my Mac. This means I need to buy Reunion, since PAF only works for Windows. But it will be great to have my massive pedigree chart and family group sheet collection fully mobile; I think it will be worth the work.

As always, I am not being compensated for my endorsements in any way whatsoever.

3) I do love me a good anagram, so imagine my delight when my pal Herb forwarded a link to this site to me. Scroll all the way down to near the bottom of the page (under the "Try GMP" section), then input any text you like to find a list of one-, two-, or three-word anagrams.

My favorite of my full name is 'limelike sulpharsenic.' It makes me want to run right out and buy that as a domain name. Here are some others for the rest of the family:

Patrick: skerret triarchy pipkin
Christian: kindliness polyarthic
James: sheepskin present jam
Hope: nurselike pieshop
Tess: diespark insensate
Daniel: jinn purselike dead
New Baby: spinnaker webby

Oh, you have no idea what a timesucker this particular little site could become for me if I let it....
That's all for now, my friends! Stay tuned for more "fablious" (as Tess would say) geekery coming your way soon.