Monday, November 30, 2009

Mad Dash Day

I move on Wednesday.

I was a little behind on packing. A whole bunch of errands awaited me since my weekend was full of debutante-related activities. I FedExed all three signed copies of my contract. I bought my ex-roommate a frame for Christmas and printed out a picture of her and her current beau to put inside it. I shopped around for a fancy cute folder to keep my manuscript in. I started laundry. I wrapped two rounds of Christmas presents and scanned my parents' wedding pictures.

While I waited at the bank for an associate to help me open a savings account, I even got to a chance to finish a chapter and to start another one.

I also packed. Unsurprisingly, I packed my books first. Now that the airline companies have all these luggage restrictions and fees, I had to strategize. My first thought was to check a box of books, but sadly, I ran out of room too quickly. I looked through the box and couldn't find any to take out. So, I dug out a giant suitcase. The books went in the bottom section, and I lined it with lightweight, bulky winter gear. It weighs 48.5 pounds. :-)

FYI: I use the Baby Name Book to help name my characters.

Tomorrow, I need to pack my clothes.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

My Little Sister - All Grown Up and Out in Society

My sister was a debutante this weekend.

You may not know what that is. Colby had a few friends from college come down for the event, and they said their only previous exposure to debutante balls comes from Gilmore Girls. So, without further ado, a few definitions to get us through the story:

Debutante - (a.k.a. the "deb) a young lady of 21 years, who is formally coming out to society. The event at which she "debuts" is called a debutante ball. (In some societies, it's 18 years of age.)

Presenter - the man who accompanies and presents the debutante to society. It is almost always the debutante's father.

Marshal - a young man of the same generation as the debutante, who is understood to protect the debutante's interests/honor within the society. Marshals are usually the debutante's brother, cousin, friend, or boyfriend.

So that you get a visual, here are a few pre-event pictures:

The hall where the presentation takes place

One of the rooms for dinner - pre-guests

All 24 Debs, getting their pre-event group picture taken

It smacks of something, doesn't it? Something you might have seen on Platinum Weddings or Bridezillas?

Back in the day, coming out to society was also an opportunity for fathers to show off their daughters as young women eligible to marriage. My sister's hairdresser - when he was shoving her product-stiffened hair into a french twist - called it "Pimp My Kid," which is actually pretty accurate. Now, it's less about having a run-through of mock-wedding and more about upholding our Southern traditions, but some bits remain. The dresses you see before you are actually wedding dresses. The white kid gloves that extend past your elbows are required. Afterwards, a lot of the debs dry their bouquets as keepsakes.

We are not a Southern Belle-type family. When I was a deb two years ago, I was dragged kicking and screaming. I was still attending Vassar at the time. My feminist ideals were being compromised. My sister (a student athlete and aspiring athlete) and mother (a former tomboy) are of the same mind.

Of course, that said, we've lived in the South for long enough that we couldn't blow it off entirely. An actual Southern belle - a ninety-six-year-old woman who befriended my mother at bible study - thought she was doing us a huge favor by lobbying to get us into this club. Once we were accepted, it was hard to argue with someone who was a matron of society. And then, she passed away, and we really couldn't argue with her. We did it - albeit reluctantly - in her memory.

This time around, from my position as my mother's assistant, it was very busy. I was the person who shuttled around friends or bought last-minute necessities like pantyhose or ran to find the baby powder needed to put on the elbow length gloves. I realized there was a sliver of glass in my foot after Mom had already zipped me in my dress. I didn't have time to go to the hospital, so I cut a hole in my hose, grabbed some nail scissors and some tweezers, and performed minor surgery. (This was an achievement. I'm very, very squeamish.)

When it started, the ceremony just seemed vaguely silly. Here's what actually happens:

1) One at a time, each debutante walks into the hall with her bouquet and stands smiling while a herald announces her name at a podium.

2) Her father/presenter comes out in his coat and tails, and he takes her hand as she curtsies and the herald announces her father/presenter's full name.

3) Debutante and the presenter walks down the length of the room under a spotlight while the herald announces how many of the deb's ancestors were debutante club members. Little old ladies - debs themselves, decades back - look on and think private opinions about each girl's dress, father, and later marshals.

4) At the other end of the hall, the deb curtsies a second time before her father passes her off to the two marshals. The herald announces the marshals full names.

5) The marshals take the debutante's elbows and walk her across the room. At the other end of the room, the deb and her marshals pause for one final smile before exiting the room.

6) After every deb has had a turn, all the debs come out with their fathers for a grand finale: the girls dance with their father and each marshal in turn.

The boy dancing with the deb is my handsome young brother. He waltzes too quickly for the music, but he looks good doing it. The man with a similar outfit and the woman in the gold dress are my parents. The gray head in the right hand corner of the screen is my ninety-four-year-old great-grandmother.

Very silly, but tradition is often silly. There's a story in here somewhere but not quite yet. It's still too fresh, too immediate.

Mainly, after it was over, I was glad for the opportunity to celebrate my wacky, wonderful sister.

It's not just that she's coming out in society. She's turning 22 on Thursday and applying to grad schools next year. Soon, she'll be well on her way to becoming a physical therapist, the kind that everyone wishes they had - so pushy that she asks for things that your body doesn't want to do, but so cute/charming/persistent that you can't turn her down.

Happy birthday, sister!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Tale of a Twilight Convert

I've spent the last week with Stephanie Meyer's TWILIGHT saga.

Well, Books 2 through 4 anyway.

I read the first book in 2005 when I was in college. I picked it out at the library, read it, and didn't really think much of it. But I did check out NEW MOON when it pubbed a year later.

As a busy English major, I couldn't get past the first hundred pages. Bella was so devastated over the break-up - to the point of being incredibly annoying. (Keep in mind that at this point, I had never been in love, so I had never experienced heartbreak. That made me less than sympathetic.)

The other thing that deterred me was the Edward-Bella-Jacob love triangle. I have a hard time with love triangles. I have a hard time understanding how someone can be in love with two people at the same time. Most of the time, I just end up feeling bad for the third-wheel guy in novels. I can't help but think of it as wish-fulfillment for the author - living vicariously through her protagonist, a character created to be so attractive that at least two guys fall in love with her.

Then, while the TWILIGHT phenomenon was raging, I was working at a children's publishing house. It came up every day. One of my friends there was such a big fan that she reread her favorite bits almost every weekend.

Still, I stubbornly resisted.

Then, when I was visiting the afore-mentioned friend last week, I saw the NEW MOON movie poster outside her apartment, and I picked up her copy. Before beginning the trek home (train to subway to Airtran to plane), I bought a paperback copy from CVS.

Once past the problematic first hundred pages, I was hooked. I couldn't get myself to stop reading. I started staying up until at least 2AM several nights in a row. (This is impressive. I haven't lost sleep over a book since Suzanne Collins' THE HUNGER GAMES last fall.) After reading almost all of yesterday, I finished BREAKING DAWN last night.

It's not about vampires. It's about family.

It's about finding a significant other and changing your life to match theirs.

I wouldn't have been able to get past the love triangle if I hadn't realized this - if Bella hadn't mentioned that it wasn't Edward and Jacob she wanted to bring together but the two versions of herself that each brought out in her. Jacob represented the life she could have had if she stayed human.

That's something you have to respect. Being in love does do that. When you love someone, you imagine your life with that person, and when that relationship ends, you mourn not only the lost of that person in your life but the life that you imagined sharing with him.

That's what Bella was feeling when Edward broke up with her - she wasn't losing just him, but his entire family and his kind of life. The same thing happened with Jacob - she lost Jacob's pack brothers at the same time she lost him.

This is probably why the books are so popular. I can't think of another series that chronicles the formation of family like this from the perspective of a teenage girl -- not that I'm encouraging girls to get married and start families at eighteen (neither is Stephanie Meyer, for that matter). But the target audience is of the age when you start seriously considering finding someone to start a life with. At that age, you're also so concerned about how your own life will turn out that you're eager to see how Bella does it with all her new family's extra problems.

Anyway, final verdict: addicting and interesting. I'm very glad I read them.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Cake Conspiracy

This was the weekend of birthdays (none of them mine).

Included were: a dozen cupcakes, one happy hour party, one birthday dinner, one sleepover, one birthday girl, one birthday boy, several movies, and two cakes.

Here is a picture of the second birthday cake:

It turned out exactly like it was supposed to - like a black and white cookie. I must congratulate MG on a very fine cake. My only contribution was moral support.

Unfortunately, I don't have any pictures of the first cake. It was consumed too quickly. I can tell you it was slightly lopsided, and I can tell you its story:

Once upon a time, MG, bday girl, bday boy, and I were cruising the grocery store's cake section before our sleepover and debating the many flavors of yellow cake, which is the bday boy's favorite. MG, bday boy, and I noticed bday girl's attraction to a certain Rainbow Funfetti mix, but when asked, bday girl adamently denied needing a cake of her own, especially since she had a great many cupcakes to consume.

Unbenownst to her, the conspiracy had begun.

Bday boy snuck the funfetti mix into the cart. I distracted the bday girl at the checkout. When the bday mentioned the funfetti cake not once but several times on the walk home, we all became very quiet and exchanged meaningful glances. At the apartment, MG mixed the batter in a darkened kitchen while the bday boy and I made sure the bday girl stayed on the couch, watching movies rather than helping.

There was a very close call when MG called me to the kitchen to check if the cake was done, and the bday girl was up and running before I even moved. But the bday girl was lured back to the couch so that the funfetti cake could be iced. The "23" candles were lit; the funfetti cake presented, and....

...the bday girl had a splendidly happy birthday.

(I love it when people do nice things for other people.)

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

5 Fantastic Things About Going to DC

5. Not missing my flight home. I almost did. I didn't read the itinerary closely enough, and I thought my plane took off an hour and a half later than it actually did (ie. the time it arrived at its destination). I checked in less than thirty minutes before its departure time, realized my mistake, and ran. I only tripped once, but I slid across the floor, very surprised at the lack of friction. And I made my flight - JetBlue has forever won loyalty points from me. :-)

4. A trip to Georgetown Cupcake, where I split a couple cupcakes - one red velvet and one pumpkin - with my dear friend and ex-roommate, Angela. We were lucky enough to walk by early on a rainy Friday afternoon, so the wait was just over 10 minutes.

3. A trip to the National Zoo with my other dear friend Ems and her boyfriend Nick. I haven't been to a real zoo since I was eleven. This was an incredibly exciting venture for me. I took well over a hundred pictures. I won't force them all on you now. Just the ones of the baby gorilla climbing on her mom's head. :-)

Other highlights include:
  • watching one of the pandas eat a ridiculous amount of bamboo
  • staring at the prehistoric, epic-sized fish
  • seeing a convergence of elephants (we believe they were going to move to another pen for an early dinner)
  • visiting the small monkey house, and
  • catching a prairie dog with his head in a pumpkin.

2. Where the Wild Things Are. The cinema was perfect for a rainy Sunday. I can say with assurance now that it's a quality movie.

That said, I'm not sure how I feel about it. I agree with the filmmakers, who call it "a movie about childhood" rather than a kids' movie. It brought a lot of childhood memories back - and not necessarily good ones either. But I am glad that I saw it. (I even bought the soundtrack, because I kept humming the score by Karen O and the Kids.) It helps you remember how much of you was already there when you were nine, and how much you've forgotten.

1. Old, old friends. There's something fantastic about old friends. Angela, Ems, and I have known each other for ten years. Considering that we're all in our early 20's, that's a significant chunk of time. There's no posturing, and there's definitely no BSing. It's not possible. We've known each other too long. We already know all our fault, and we guess at each other's reactions even before they happen. We understand the history behind a comment without having to be told.

There is much, much love.