Saturday, January 31, 2009

I'd like to thank all the little people who helped make this possible

Angie at Gumbo Writer gave me an award---a really sweet one, too. The Lovey Award is for "blogs that are exceedingly charming. These kind of bloggers aim to find and be friends. They are not interested in self-aggrandizement. Our hope is that when the ribbons of these prizes are cut, even more friendships are propagated."
"Please give more attention to these writers. Deliver this award to three bloggers who must choose three more and include this cleverly-written text into the body of their award."
Oh, who to pick, who to pick? Only three? Such decisions. How, he's kind of a jerk. Or, she thinks she's all that.* Okay, randomly, then:
*I'm just kidding. None of you are this way. As far as I'm concerned, you all rock.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Chain chain chain...

I've signed on to do the AW blog chain for this month, and everyone's posts have been interesting so far. Razib Ahmed posted about life during the economic recession. Then it was Benjamin Solah with the view that nationalism is racism. Then Fresh Hell chimed in from Virginia with a post about racial relations. Everyone had a clear point of view and something unique to say.

Oy, the pressure. My blog is light and fluffy, people! If you don't believe me, just check out my last post about Cashew Chicken.

I was inspired by a comment in Fresh Hell's blog about racism Virginia being a scary state. I do have to say, it's everywhere, even here in left-liberal Manhattan. But in places like this it's more covert. Lee-Jackson-King Day would never fly here, and if you say the n-word you won't be invitied to the next dinner party. But I have heard the following remarks, for sure:

When looking for a babysitter
"Whatever you do, don't hire a Caribbean nanny."

When applying to private school kindergarten
"Of course the Smith family will have no trouble getting junior in. They're considered 'diversity.'"

At a fundraiser
"I like supporting the scholarship fund so families like the Smiths can afford to send their kids here."

Such assumptions about those poor Smiths! Which, by the way, are untrue.

So our own negative prejudices are unlikely to go away anytime soon. But I do hope that electing the first black president is a huge step in the right direction on that front.

There, I was at least semi-serious in a post. And it didn't hurt a bit.

Next up: madderblue

Monday, January 26, 2009

Hometown hankerings

Ever since I joined Facebook and started chatting with my old high school friends again, I have had a craving for the distinctly Springfield, MO-centric dish of Cashew Chicken. It's kind of a bastardized Kung Pao, but with cashews and oyster sauce. Springfield is home to about four zillion Chinese restaurants, each serving it up hot:

It even has a wiki page!

How about you? Does your hometown have a particular restaurant you miss? Or are there any dishes you associate with your childhood?

Friday, January 23, 2009

Back to my true love for a while

I know I posted a few weeks ago about starting a new novel, but I've been having trouble getting started. Maybe it's because it will require a TON of research and maybe because it just seems foreboding to start a huge project, but I've been working on some short pieces instead. And you know what? I enjoy is so much more. I've always been a short story lover, ever since an English teacher long ago assigned dear Flannery as homework.

I think I have about 15 subscriptions to literary magazines, and I read many online. I just prefer the structure, the freedom to explore unsavory characters, the experimental voice, and the themes often found in short stories. Of course, I read novels as well--every night. But many times I find myself thinking that I would have edited out about 1/4 of the book. No one is asking me, though, and maybe it's a reflection of my attention span.

Anyway, I do realize that this means I'll likely be toiling in obscurity for a good long while. Oh well, I'll be toiling happily.

How's your writing (or any other project) going?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Like, OMG! We are so totally from the valley, you know?

My daughters and I have made a pact to improve our spoken language. Just ask poor Caroline Kennedy--no one thinks it's cute when you are a grown woman speaking like a teenager. I found myself nagging at my kids about cutting out the "likes" and "you knows" when I realized --oh no!--I do it too!

It's tough to break old habits. The super-rad image I carefully crafted at age 13 lives on today. Only now it's not so cool. So the three of us are monitoring (read: badgering) each other so as to improve the overall speech in the Cebula household. It's funny, though, because we have slightly different issues.

I'm the like-er. Sometimes I'll, like, use the word "like" as a filler, like instead of "um" when I'm, like, trying to think of a word. I also use "goes" and "like" instead of "said" thusly:

"So she goes, 'Hey, you didn't call me back" and I'm like, 'No I didn't. Sorry.'"

Wait, how old am I? Oh, that's right. 38. Old enough to know better.

My seven-year-old is the Princess of Upspeak. You know, when every phrase? sounds like a question? Seems to be more prominent among girls? making them sound really unsure? When I turned it into a girl empowerment issue, she was more willing to work on it.

My ummmm nine-year-old is the ummmmmer. Ummmm, she has a lot to say, but, ummm, sometimes can't quite get it out. I suspect this problem will be harder to, um, solve.

What about you? Do you find yourself doing this? Or do you have any other verbal crutches?

Monday, January 19, 2009

Random things that don't even go together

My kids are off school both for MLK day AND the day after (not sure what that's all about), so it's been a bit tough to keep up with blogging and visiting. Sorry 'bout that. And just look, I really don't have much prepared. Shame on me. Just a mishmosh of random things: 

--If you ever want to get some decent (and funny) insight to the workings of Wall Street, check out my friend Justin's blog The Curious Capitalist. He writes for Time Magazine, so he's not just some dude, but he has an interesting take on things. Plus, he has a very sweet wife. 

--I just finished reading The Invention of Hugo Cabret to my daughters and they LOVED it. It's a graphic novel, so I think it works even for younger kids.
--I'm a little worried about what Jon Stewart is going to do without this guy, but nonetheless how happy am I about getting a new President tomorrow? Oh, so very.

Happy New President Day, everyone!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Help me decide

That's right, I've decided to cross over to the dark side. Though I like the smell of paper and the sound of a new book cracking open for the first time and ALL THAT, I'm seduced by the fact that I can download a story in seconds and carry several books with me at once. Lugging around a fat hardcover (along with all the other kid stuff I'm forced to carry--iPods, Nintendos, and children's books like, oh, the 800-page ELDEST) on my last plane trip was the clencher.

So. Given that I'm not a gadget person *at all* and I know I probably shouldn't be making any decisions based on which is prettier, does anyone have any input? I've skimmed a few blogs comparing the two, but it seems to be pretty much a wash. I just want to it to download lots of books easily. It doesn't need to play music or give me a back massage or make dinner for a party of 12.

What do you think? And do you ever plan to join me on the dark side?

Monday, January 12, 2009

Don't be a sucka

From time to time, my friends like to visit New York for a little sightseeing. I get asked about things to do and honestly, I'm probably not much better than a Fodor's guide, unless you are dying to see the super-exciting Upper East Side. Still, I thought I'd put together a few tips to help make visits here smooth and wonderful. Feel free to add to it, New York lurkers (I know you're there, my little West Side friend).

--My biggest piece of advice for getting along with the locals is this: get out of the way. We (and I think in this case, I can safely speak for everyone) like to keep it moving. When you get up to the cash register at the deli or store, look at the screen. It's unlikely she's going to actually *tell* you the total. I don't know why not, but she won't. Take your change and immediately move down a step or two. No one has patience for the neatly-put-the-change-in-the-walleters. Feel free to mosey on down the sidewalk, slowly checking out the sites. Just don't walk 5 people astride. If I can pass, I'm happy. That's really all it takes.

--If you are using public transportation, forget subway maps. Use It's fantastic. And if you see people riding in their underwear, don't be alarmed. Chances are it's the No Pants! Subway Ride. Drop trou and join in. (Or...don't.)

--There's a very cool little "fake ice" skating rink directly behind the planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History. In the summer, it's a water park for the kiddies.

--People who work at any location of Duane Reade seem to like to argue with each other. It has nothing to do with you. Pay them no mind.

And beware of these scams:

Hot Dog / Ice Cream Vendors

They look so friendly, don't they? But double-check the prices on everything, and add up the total in your head. Otherwise, that $2 Rainbow Pop your kid is screaming for may cost you $4. Distracted parents are the easiest victims, it seems. It's certainly not ALL vendors who want to take that extra dollar or two of yours. Most are fine citizens trying to earn a living. But I've had this happen to me more than a few times (I got my eye on YOU, guy at 96th/5th!), so I thought I'd pass it along.

The I'm In Need Of Help Scam
Do you have sort of a "nice" look about you? Well, you might run into this seemingly-panicked guy: "I left my wallet in a cab and now I can't get back to Westchester! Oh please help me!" ::Looks sad, might even tear up::

I had one man lay a slightly different version on me. He was a young Hasidic man (or, at least, dressed that way) and he had his wallet stolen. He went on and on about how none of the synagogues in the area would help him out, and he only needed ten more dollars to get a ticket home. It was quite the detailed story. I, being a former sucker, gave it to him. And I saw him doing the same thing to someone else two weeks later.

The Take The Long Way Home Scam
I don't think this happens so much with taxi drivers anymore. It used to be that tourists would sometimes get a tour of all five boroughs before arriving at their hotels from the airport, but now that it's a flat fee, not so much. Still, if you need to take a livery cab with no meter, settle on the price before you get in the car.

And, of course, if you see this guy:

Keep your hand on your wallet!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Why Facebook is evil and I'll never forgive Melanie for telling me to join

Four reasons.

1.Because high school friends can find you and they will post lovely montages like this:

Can you find me? That's right, there, in the blue. Hang all over him, you little tart.

2. You will spend far, far too much time talking to said high school friends you haven't seen in 20 years and other people who write on your wall. As if you didn't spend enough time online. Get back to work, slacker.

3. People can kidnap you. I haven't quite figured that one out yet, but I've been bound and gagged in a potato sack, accosted with a spicy burrito and taken to Cancun, and handcuffed and thrown into a box. Scary.

4. You get a sad reminder that other people still have more friends then you. What else is new.

So, will you friend me? Ohpleaseohpleaseohplease? I'm Wendy Cebula.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Aw, man. I've been tagged.

You all can blame Gretchen for having to endure Six Things That Make Me Happy. Go visit her blog and throw eggs at her or something.

1. The Fam: Sweet. Lovable. Quirky. Infurating. All mine.

2. Travel: Even though I kinda hate planning a trip, and I definitely hate dealing with air travel, I still like getting away. To anywhere, really, and I'm just as happy backpacking as I am staying in luxury hotels.
Well, almost.

3. The Beach: I grew up a landlocked Midwesterner, so I'm not sure why I like the beach so much. I do, though, and I miss it during the winter months. Sniff.

4. This Ugly Dog: He's flatulent, he's lazy, and sometimes he gulps his water so fast he burps it all over the floor. Sounds nice, eh? Still. Who's a good boy?

5. Sample Sales: I don't particularily love shopping, but a) I do like having new clothes and b) I'm far, far too cheap to pay full price. So sharpen the elbows, ladies, and join me down in the garmet district for the blood sport of designer sample sale shopping. I have a few faves, so let me know when you are in town.
That's only five, but you are going to have to deal with it.
Now it's my turn to tag. Ha! Let's see....
They were semi-randomly chosen, so anyone else who wants to play can just join in. Tag, you're it!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Whatcha readin'?

I know this isn't a terribly inspired blog post, but hey, they can't all be. Besides, my TBR list is dwindling, and I'm not digging the book I just started. (After Dark by Haruki Murakami--what am I not getting? Should I stick with it?)

I recently finished The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga and it was amazing--all about the social order in India and its crude underbelly told from the POV of a homicidial servant. I spent about a month in some of the poorer rural villages in Eastern India some years ago, so any books about India, especially the lower castes, appeal to me.

Before that, I read The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski and ended up enjoying it despite its sloooow start.

Any recommendations for me?

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

I'm just not that into you

Goodbye, my current WIP. We had a thing between us, you and I, for a short while. A whirlwind romance. I even wrote three chapters of you in a frenzy of ideas. Your MC was a lot like Mick Kelly, and I loved spending time in her head.

But alas, it wasn't to be. You fizzled out, and your hook was just...well...inadequate, frankly. It didn't satisfy me. I don't think it could satisfy anyone. You couldn't quite figure out who you wanted to be. A story of racial tension? A family drama? Both were mediocre. And I've been thinking a lot lately about a completely different story. It's true. I'm sorry.

Au revoir, barely-started trunk novel.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Enough already with the snow

Yeah, okay. So I'm not actually skiing in this picture. I wouldn't let anyone take that graceful picture of me on the kiddie slopes (seriously, the lift I took is called the "Buckaroo Express." Humiliating.)

But I promise you I *did* actually show up for my lesson even though I was terrified to do so. And I tried it not once, but THREE --count 'em-- THREE times. Even though I almost took out an entire class of four-year-olds, nearly broke off my legs on the chair lift, and fell down while I was just standing there, I still had a pretty good time.

You probably guessed from my silence that I didn't take my laptop with me. Nor did I do a lick of writing, or even check my BlackBerry (well, not more than once per day.) I just enjoyed my family and the time away from the city.

We even saw some fireworks on New Year's Eve:


But ah, it's good to be back.

Did you have a nice New Year's?