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Saturday, July 30, 2011

Bath Time with the Debt Ceiling Negotiations

"I have a question about the debt ceiling."


"It needs to be raised, right? The ceiling?"

"Yup. It's not an actual ceiling. But yes."

"Everybody knows it needs to be raised?"


"Because they are bumping their heads on it?"

"Kind of."

"Do they know how to raise it? Like, do they have the tools and stuff?"

"They just need to vote to do it."

"So why don't they?"

"Because, since it would be really dangerous to NOT raise the debt ceiling, some people are trying to get their political agenda enacted as the price of passing it."


"Do you know what that means, political agenda?"

"No. Is it like if you said hey buster don't open that car door while we're speeding down the highway! and I said I am opening it unless I get another cookie?"

"Yeah. Kind of."

"Woah. So did they get the extra cookie?"

"Well, at this point it's like if I said okay fine you can have another cookie just close the darn door. And then you said actually I'd like that other cookie and also my brother can't have any cookies for the rest of the year and I want a whole bag more cookies and no chores and also I want pony."

"Wow. All with the car door open on the highway?


"Are they grown ups or kids?"


"I bet their moms are gonna have a talk with them after this, with very Not Proud faces on."

Thursday, July 14, 2011

the deepest secret nobody knows

I don't really care that much about Roger Clemens's perjury trial but there is something here in this segment of an article just posted on the New York Times website that I absolutely love:

The federal judge presiding over Roger Clemens’s perjury trial declared a mistrial because the prosecution revealed information Thursday that he previously deemed inadmissible.


Keep up with the latest news on The Times's baseball blog.

Major League Baseball



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The United States District Court Judge Reggie Walton abruptly stopped the trial and scolded the prosecution for playing a videotape of the 2008 Congressional hearings on performance-enhancing drug use in baseball. The part of the tape that worried him included comments made by Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, a Maryland Democrat, about the credibility of Andy Pettitte, Clemens’s former best friend and teammate, who is expected to be one of the star witnesses for the government.

Pettitte testified that Clemens had admitted to him that he used human growth hormone in 1999 or 2000.

The prosuction also played for the jury a part of the Congressional hearings in which Cummings read an affidavit from Andy Pettitte’s wife, Laura. In the affidavit, she said that her husband had told her about a conversation he had with Clemens about Clemens’s use of human growth hormone.


And he is reading stuff aloud? Into the Congressional record?

See, and I thought I was as surprised as I could get about Congress today.


Rachel Vail

Monday, July 11, 2011

Words, words, words

I just had to figure out (for a character) what the clear membrane covering a fish's eye is called. Nictitating. A nictitating membrane.

I think it's my new favorite word. Nictitating. I'm going to use it randomly, inappropriately, as much as possible today.

That's so nictitating!

Nothing, just nictitating -- how about you?

What's your favorite word?


so far today I ran lines with my younger son (who is in a play and man, he has those lines DOWN), went for a run, paid a bill, posted the link for the JUSTIN discussion guide here and there, and made some tea.

I know there was something else I was supposed to do and tick, tock, the day is getting away from me...

Ack! Was it -- figure out this chapter that is looming ahead of me refusing to divulge the secret of how it wants to be written???

Oh, wait, no. I think it was: put a warm compress on the sty in my eye.

Phew, that was a close one.

What are you doing today?

Rachel Vail

New Study Guide for JUSTIN CASE!

Thank you to all the educators who have been asking for a study guide for JUSTIN CASE: School, Drool, and Other Daily Disasters.

Let me know if it's helpful to you and your kids...

Rachel Vail

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Mission Optimism

My almost-12-year-old son came up with a project for us yesterday.

He said he had noticed that when he was feeling grumpy or sad or worried, it was sometimes hard to rally himself out of the mood. I feel the same way, I admitted. He nodded.

He said that he had tried something recently that surprised him: he decided, mid-bad mood, to just smile. Not to think anything particularly happy, or count his blessings or whatever, just to smile. And he noticed that within a minute or two, he actually felt significantly happier and calmer.

He suggested that we try, for one week, to catch ourselves any time we feel at all crabby or down -- and immediately smile. And see what happens.

I know I have read that this has been proven to work, and that cognitive-behavioral therapy emphasizes stuff like this -- but where he came up with it, I don't know. He doesn't either. But I tried it this morning: while I was on hold with Pottery Barn trying to return my non-functional curtain rod A SECOND TIME, I smiled a huge exaggerated smile at my son -- and I actually started laughing. I felt not just marginally better but more like the way your nose feels 20 minutes after a Sudafed -- suddenly open and clear.

The return phone person answered and everything went smoothly.

So I am going to try my son's Mission Optimism for this week. I'll let you know how it goes -- for me and for him -- what our successes and failures are. Anyone want to try it with me??? Let me know if it works or doesn't for you.

Rachel Vail

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

How I know it's time to take a break:

I've been writing with the computer unplugged, lately. I write until I am down to about 20% of battery, sometimes less, and then I realize, well, that's it, then. Ought to go run or take a yoga class or a shower or something productive to recharge, while my computer does the same.

The other prompt for break-time is when it hits me that what I have achieved so far in the current draft is the dawning realization that this is not working, and a new draft must be started from page one.

At that point I tend to put on loud music and sing along even louder; make a fresh pot of tea, and sometimes banana muffins or, if I am really tossing more than 25 pages, something stronger. Like cookies. Or a glass of Bourbon. Maybe Janis Joplin.

The other way I know it's time to take a break is if it is time to pick up a kid from someplace.

In that circumstance I generally skip the making of the tea, etc., but not necessarily the singing. Which sometimes scares the neighbors in the elevator, but it's New York. I will not be the weirdest person they encounter that day.

I tend to WANT to take a break when it hits me that I have no earthly idea what to write next, but since that is an experience I have multiple times per minute, at least during the first maybe 20 drafts of a book, I try very hard to resist it.

Some days I think I would be very good at sluggery, and must rage against the temptation toward it.

When do you take a break? What do you do for it?

Rachel Vail

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

What I love about summer

How was your holiday weekend?

Mine was great, except that my older son went away to camp and I miss him terribly already.

But other than that it was a pretty wonderful weekend.
I went with my husband and younger son up to CT, where the rivers are flowing full and the overabundance of shades of green put Benjamin Moore to shame.

We went to a concert/picnic Saturday night. Nothing says summer like a Jimmy Buffet cover band and a cold beer on a blanket with people you love, as the sun sets...

Except maybe a boat dock. What is it about being on a boat that brings out the most mellow side of me? Somehow the world feels soothed.
Back to work, now. Trying to keep that mellow feeling but still be productive! I have a book to write...

What did you do over the weekend?

Rachel Vail