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Family Names

August 23, 2011

I just spent an hour looking through this family tree book that my mother put together back when she and my dad were still married, and it was AWESOME.

My favorite part was definitely the names. I love family names. I am a little bit hipster that way. Here are some of my favorites:



Isaac Horatio

Alvin Augustus

Etta Mabel

fun fact: my great great grandfather Abner Lake had 13 children (2 wives) and a really cool name

Here’s another not-so-fun fact: The wife of my great x 6 (or 7?) grandfather Henry Lake, who immigrated to Portsmouth, RI in 1651, was burned as a witch in 1653. WHAT? That’s what the book says anyway. Did we burn witches in the (not actually a country yet) U.S.??? I thought we only hanged them. I mean, either way it’s bad, just slightly SLIGHTLY more humane. I’ll need to ask my mama about that one.

Family histories are incredible. As I get older, my parents have started dropping random facts into conversation as if they expect me to have known about this massively important thing they/their sibling/their parents/their childhood friend went through. No. No, I did not know about that. Tell me more.

And oh, there’s so much more. Most fascinating of all is the knowledge that my parents lived entire full lives and experienced enough joys, triumphs, tragedies and heartaches to fill several books all before I was even born. Long before.

I find that both encouraging and depressing. Encouraging in the “so much life ahead of you” way. Depressing for the same reason.

P.S. I’ve never had a baby, let alone named one, but I think everyone indulges in the occasional name research binge. Have you ever been to What about the name voyager website?? Well, have you? Maybe you should just check it out to be sure.


How Was Your Fourth?

July 6, 2011

How was everyone’s fourth of July weekend?? Mine was pretty good, but a definite departure from the traditional July 4th All-Day Beach Day BBQ that I grew accustomed to in L.A. It felt strange not to get up at 5 AM, drive to the beach to claim a fire pit, camp out all morning with just Jennie, a crossword puzzle, and a thermos of coffee, grill all afternoon for 20-30 people, and watch fireworks up the Southern Coast of California from the warmth of our beach bonfire. Some traditions are just impossible to argue with. I’ll have to get back to L.A. for future holidays….

But I did have some fun new experiences here in the Eastern part of our big, gorgeous country. Saturday, I got up early to drive up to a small town outside Charlottesville to meet one of my all-time best friends, Mary (expect her to become a recurring character here and over at Garlic, My Soul) and her boyfriend and several of their friends from up in Northern Virginia.

Together, we all got in our bathing suits, got on a bus, and were deposited at one end of the James River with naught but a cooler and some sturdy rubber inner-tubes. Three and a half hours later, we emerged from the river after a delightful afternoon alternating between floating lazily and shifting into what we dubbed “Code Orange or Code Red” to occasionally lift our butts out of the water and away from unfriendly rocks. We quickly became intimately acquainted, as all pretense of being graceful, cool, or sexy completely vanished the moment we beached on a shallow rock and had to crab-walk/scoot as a team over the hump, or someone started to float away from the group and the closest person hastily offered whatever appendage offered the best grip-be it a clasped hand, extended foot, or just the back of the nearest calf. We played “Would You Rather” and “Marry, Screw, Kill” for hours, and everyone politely listened while I told them alternate versions of their favorite Disney fairy tales. (Did you know Snow White was only 7 years old in the Grimms’ version??)

After that, I drove the five hours down to Charlotte, NC and arrived at about 2 in the morning, so I could spend a couple of days with my Mama. We had a glorious “nothing day” on Sunday in which we did very little, but managed to consume three square meals. For the Fourth, itself, we went to my Aunt’s house and ate cold salads, deviled eggs, grilled chicken and shrimp, and beer. I watched my cousins dance under the instruction of a Wii game, and swam with the dogs in the pool. After a few hours, I got back on the road and made it home in time to finish my Heinlein novel for today’s class.

I did not have much occasion to reflect on Independence Day itself, but it should be said that I have a renewed appreciation for our huge country this year. Some time during the 10 days it took Jennie and I to drive from California through Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, and Tennessee, I was reminded just how incredible our country’s history is for its ability to incorporate and govern a people from so many backgrounds across the width of an entire continent. We are heirs to an incredible cultural legacy that only continues to grow, and the natural wonders of the world-from the redwood forests to the gulf stream waters-are at our disposal.

So happy (belated) Fourth of July Y’all.

July 4th 2010

Beach July 4th – 2010

Jennie and I alone on the beach at 6 AM – July 4th 2010

Becca and Me -July 4th 2010

Grilling for the masses with Jennie – July 4th 2009

Football on the beach – July 4th 2009

Me at the Grand Canyon – Road Trip 2011.

I do love this big country of ours. Happy 4th of July!

How’ve You Been? The Same

June 28, 2011

As most of you know, I’m in a graduate program for the summer. This is my first experience with graduate school, and I’m finding it equal parts delightful and terrifying. I’ve now attended a total of 4 classes and one 3 day literary conference, which for my particular program constitutes 1/6 of my total academic session. Clearly, this qualifies me to comment like an old pro…

Some things I’ve discovered that I didn’t know I loved, but now that I know, they’re a lifesaver.

1. Voice memos on my iPhone! I commute to school, and it’s about 20 minutes each way. I discovered yesterday that I can still be productive in those 20 minutes by TALKING TO MYSELF and recording it, so I can map out a journal entry that I need to write or some general notes I want to get down on paper as soon as I make it to the library. Love it. As a bonus, it’s funny (if a little discouraging) to hear how much less eloquent I am when speaking than when writing. Here’s hoping this trains me to organize my thoughts more clearly when I speak.

2. Studying in restaurants. God bless the restaurants that allow me to show up with my books, order a coffee and a sandwich and read quietly in the corner for 3 hours. This is so much more fun and relaxing than studying at home, and I highly recommend it.

3. Bill Hader’s recurring Stefon character on Saturday Night Live. I’ve been watching a lot of 2009 and 2010 SNL on Netflix Instant because it makes a great hour long break without getting me sucked into a serial drama that will eat up all my time.

Home Away Home

June 28, 2011

A common pattern in young adult and children’s literature is one where the protagonist begins at home, which is safe but boring, and then sets out into the world where they have adventures but ultimately encounter some form of danger, and in the end they return home once more to safety and security with a renewed appreciation for those things. In one way or another, most children’s fiction can be broken down into that basic pattern or some variation on the same theme.

In contrast, much adult fiction portrays exactly the opposite. In adult fiction, characters often begin in a relatively safe (but maybe boring) home environment, and they set out into the world to have adventures and they stay there. They encounter dangers or conflicts, but they must resolve those conflicts on their own, without retreating permanently back to the safety of the place they came from.

Our lives as children, young adults, or adults do not mirror the fiction geared toward us, in part because life is messier, more complicated, and constantly evolving. So, you should take this next statement with a grain of salt.

It’s unclear whether my life is turning out to be a children’s story or an adult one.

I’m hoping it can be both. Welcome to my new blog.