In no particular order:
*It took me a week to write the letter to Madelaine below. You may have noticed that it's dated the 7th, but wasn't published until the 14th. [Ed. note: it has taken me even longer to write this post here. Touche! [[What does "touche!" actually mean? I hear people say it all the time, but it's one of those words like "caveat" that, to me, just sounds impressive without actually having a definite meaning attached...]] ] It was a struggle all week to balance writing and doing the things I'm "supposed" to be doing with my time- dishes and laundry and paying bills and, of course, playing and taking care of the child who was the object of the story in the first place. This experience has made me realize that the thing I miss the most about my childless state (yes, even amidst all the joy, there are things to be missed) is the opportunity to wake up in the morning and drink some coffee and spend some absurd number of hours trying to write something
I think Virginia Woolf once said something about "needing a room of one's own"...?
*The Amish! They are good with the baking, but maybe not so much with the math...? Suppose that a friend at church, a dear, head-covering-wearing, Mennonite-rooted friend gave you a Ziploc bag with an innocuously small lump of batter and some instructions on what to do with it. The instructions go something like this:
Day 1: Do nothing
Days 2-5: Mush the bag
Day 6: Add 1 cup each of flour, sugar, milk
Days 7-9: Mush the bag
Day 10: Add 1 1/2 cups each of flour, sugar, and milk. Scoop 1 cup of batter into each of 4 new Ziploc bags (these are new starters to give to your friends.) To the remaining batter add [a whole bunch of different ingredients.] Bake in two loaf pans.
What would you do? Would you bake with it? When I talked to Judy she was all like, "BEWARE THE AMISH FRIENDSHIP BREAD!! You'll end up going around the church parking lot and putting bags of starter into every unlocked car you can find!! You always end up throwing away a starter!!" And I was all like, "Nah, it can't be that bad- it looks like fun!"
So we dutifully "fed" our starter, and when the time came, Nate made the two loaves. They were tasty! And then we had 4 new starters. And... and then it was time to feed the four starters (we hadn't actually thought to give them away to people.) And I didn't want to feed all four starters, because that's a lot of flour and sugar and milk, and if we were going to keep all four then we would end up baking EIGHT loaves of bread in a few days and furthermore, we would have SIXTEEN new starters... So, we stuck two starters in the fridge, because Nate said that would just put them on hold (ie the yeast would just chill out for awhile and become active again later, or something.) So I fed the two starters. Then day 10 came last Wednesday. So I have the two starters, and I realize that if I feed them all the 1 1/2 cups of things, we'll have EIGHT new starters... which is still too many... so what to do?
[I ended up adding 1 1/2 cups of milk/sugar/flour to each one, and then from one bag I scooped out 2 cups of batter and threw it away, and made two new starters; from the other bag I just made 2 new starters, so that there were 2 extra cups of batter to work with, so I tried to estimate and adjust all the other ingredients accordingly.] But this isn't the point. The point is that...
1) We have a FREAKING LOT OF AMISH FRIENDSHIP BREAD. I don't think it will all get eaten. And 2) The Amish and their bread would be a lot more user-friendly if, instead of only offering a pro-multiplicative-reproduction instruction set, they also offered a more contemporary, population-control-friendly instruction set, with directions for how to END THE PROCESS, ALREADY. To wit**: give us ingredient lists for different numbers of starters that we want to make, ranging from 0 to 4. [Of course, the more mathematically competent among us, like my friend Judy, feel inclined to just MEASURE how much batter there is after scooping out the four new starters so as to calculate how to adjust the recipe to end the process.]
Are the Amish.... INSECURE about the status of starters in the world? I want to know. Perhaps I shall ask Wikipedia...
*So, a week or two ago I was browsing cnn.com and found a fluff piece linked from the December issue of O magazine (yeah, that's Oprah's magazine, which appears to mainly be about things like make-up and money management when I check its website. Hey, we can't all read Kafka all day. Cut me some slack.) The article was about "shortcuts to simplify your life," and along with the usual potpourri of random, marginally useful dicta guaranteed to make you happier and more successful and less afraid of clowns*** , I was surprised to read, "Build an Instant Home Library."
The article suggests a few sites such as everymanslibrary.com that will sell you some inordinately large number of classics for an exorbitant amount of money; one example was the Penguin Classics Complete Collection, a voluminous body of 1,000 tomes for around $8,000. I have to ask- what kind of demographic does this appeal to? It's honestly rather hard for me to imagine that any true literary aficionado would enjoy receiving 1,000 titles at once. Can you imagine them arriving in the mail? Box after box of the world's literary treasures, all with identically designed covers, piled up in the hallway and waiting to be read. Wouldn't it be so... overwhelming? I feel tired just thinking about it. Personally I would much rather buy my books one at a time, as cheaply as possible (yes, you can get many used titles for under $8, even with shipping- including fantastic ex-library hardbacks!), in the order in which I'd like to read them. I also like my books to look DIFFERENT and UNIQUE, not like so many clones of each other.
After pondering for awhile, I finally figured out the type of people this offer would appeal to. Let me present them in the full glory of a mini-drama:
The Scene: Spencer and Bambi are moving into their brand new Supersized McMansion, complete with mile upon mile of built-in bookshelves in the "home library" [as distinct from the home office, the hobby room, the game room, and the media room.]
Bambi: "Ooh, honey. What ARE we going to put on all these shelves?? We only actually own 4 books, you know."
Spencer: "Well... how about my golf trophies?"
Bambi: "Well, sure, but those will only fill up one shelf. And then we have pictures of Buffy and Coco [their kids/ pets] that would look cute over here..."
Spencer: "Yeah- but we need a lot of those to go in the entrance hallway. Really, the only thing that's going to look right on these shelves is a lot of BOOKS."
Bambi: "Books are so hard to buy though. They're so heavy. Not like DVD's, you know. I mean, if I went to Barnes & Noble and filled up the back of the X5, it STILL wouldn't be enough to fill all these shelves. Plus we'd have to pay the movers extra to move them in!"
Spencer: "Hmmm. Hey, look at this- we can order 1,000 books at once and have them shipped directly here!"
Bambi: "Oooh- and they would all MATCH, too! I love it when things MATCH!"
Spencer: "And, who knows. Maybe it would help us... like, read more. As a family."
Bambi: "Yeah! Especially if the satellite dish ever goes out for a few minutes... we would need SOMEthing to do..."
Okay, finally FINALLY posting this thing...
:-D Love, NEB
**What does "to wit" actually mean? I have no idea. But it sounds cool. Thus, I am cool for using it, yes?
***This is a Significant Issue for Some People. Don't laugh.