Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The happiest post ever

Alan and I are having a baby! On Friday, we will be at 20 weeks. He took this picture the day before Thanksgiving, when I was just shy of 19 weeks. We are now more than halfway through this pregnancy, at five months. Amazing.

You may wonder why we waited until 20 weeks to announce, when most people do this after the first trimester.

We’ve had a long, long road. We actually started trying back in August of 2003, well over three years ago. After a year and a half of infertility, we began having a series of miscarriages. It was my sister the doctor who suggested we wait until 20 weeks, just to be as sure as possible that things were going right.

And despite a slew of misfortunes that kept convincing us this baby too was not long for the world, she has persevered. She is a trooper! As of yesterday, she quickened – an old-fashioned way of saying I can feel her move. Instead of sweating out the long weeks between ultrasound or Doppler sessions, I now have her own feet and flailing hands to reassure me that she’s still… well, kicking.

Now that I’m a little more relaxed about it, I am loving being pregnant. Those kicks make me feel so close to her, and now that we know the gender we are both calling her by her name and including her in absurd, ridiculous, absolutely wonderful conversations.

Alan and I send our thoughts and love to those still in the trenches… trying to conceive, trying to make a baby stick… or possibly coming to grips with the idea that neither may be possible. We will never forget the pain that this normally-joyful journey can inflict, and we send our hearts to you.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Thanksgiving thoughts

Has it been a whole year we’ve been without Debi?

In the midst of the joy of reconnecting with friends amid the bounty of food we no doubt take for granted, I remember a sweet friend. Debi died last year on Thanksgiving night, and I will never experience this holiday again without thinking of her. Debi was a huge supporter of my writing, and it’s so sad to think the launch party for my first novel will be held in her bookstore… without her.

Recently, I was rereading my diary from that time last year. One of the details I wrote about was how she pronounced her own name with a wonderful Southern-ish twang twinned with some kind of inexplicable bounce or lilt. I’d love to hear her voice on my answering machine one more time: “Erika, it’s Deb-bay.”


I just went to the answering machine to play all the messages and see if indeed an old one was there. Alas, no. And somehow another message I was saving has been accidentally deleted: from my friend Stephanie who also died way too young. In the message, pathetically and ironically, she was saying “Feeling better now…”

Technology is an amazing thing, where if we are smart enough, we can capture those voices we love and keep them and replay them. For the longest time, Alan was saving one of my messages to him when we had first started dating… but that was several answering machines ago. Just to end this sad post on an upbeat topic, Alan and I were cleaning out our garage today. He found an old legal pad on which he had written some goals—one of them was “still be with Erika Mailman.”

Monday, November 13, 2006

Me on South Park

Forget wedding pictures... I'm way more interested in how my South Park character would look. You can build your own at this site.

There's also a site I visited once where you can build yourself as a Lego figure. I never figured out how to copy the image, although the South Park site is smart enough to tell you to do a screen capture (Crtl+ PrintScrn on my keyboard) and then you can go into Photoshop and crop out the rest of the screen.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Wedding: parents

Here's both sets of parents. Mine are on the left and Alan's are on the right.

My parents traveled from Maine and his from Kansas. Other family members came from New York state and Colorado. We were so glad to have them there and appreciated the long airline hours spent coming to see us tie the knot.

I'll post a few more tomorrow for those of you who aren't wedding'd-out... but it's time for dinner!

Wedding: groomsmen

Ah, virile, handsome guys!!!! I'm so happy I married one of 'em!

From left, it's Micha, Alan the best husband ever, Chris (Shelly's husband) and Daron, who is Alan's brother and his best man. In the background is the bridge we were married on. Well, at the foot of.

Wedding: bridesmaids

Aren't they gorgeous? From left, that's Kirsten the maid of honor on the left, me, and Shelly and Cindy.

Behind us is the spray from the fountain in the middle of the pond.

Somehow we never got a photo of the whole bridal party together, which is kind of a bummer, so I'll post the men separately next.

Wedding: the best photo

Unequivocally, Alan and I agree that the best photo from the wedding is this one of our friend Danny. Danny is an engineering mastermind who was briefly featured on a reality series about building big stuff called "The Mother of All."

I had gotten it into my mind that I really wanted people to play croquet at my wedding--but the rooftop garden doesn't allow treading upon the grass. I asked Danny to fashion a croquet set that could be used on flat ground. He was up at some ungodly hour soldering the wickets, he said, and it was well worth it. I love this noir-ish shot of him with the beer bottle in his mouth.

Wedding fireworks

It got cold fast! Luckily, we had a bunch of those kerosene pillars to keep folks warm--and we had warned people in the invitation to bring a wrap or jacket. This is my niece Jenny and me playing with the sparklers. Sparklers are meaningful to the Mailmans: every year in August (well, most years now that we're all grown up) we hit the beach in Maine, and there's always one night where we fire up the sparklers. Some years we've done a bonfire on the beach when we managed to get a permit.

Wedding boats

The rooftop garden in downtown Oakland where we were married is a gigantic three acres, leaving people space to wander the sinuous paths through the trees. We loved the garden because it is both urban and natural, combining our two loves. We visited many times before the wedding and sometimes found ducks floating on the pond.

For added entertainment value, we put two remote-controlled boats in the pond so this pod of guests could motor around during cocktail hour.

Wedding: just after

It feels like a million years ago we were married: August 26, to be precise. But I never posted photos! We didn't get them from the photographer until a month later, and then we weren't completely thrilled with the collection, so it's taken me a while to get up the juice to post these.

But here they are finally. This is us just after the fact, newly minted newlyweds, with our friend Jen behind us who was the officiant. We are standing on a curving bridge that spans a little pond. The bridge was rimmed with flower boxes holding gorgeous purple salvia. And yes: the bride wore black!

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Slideshowing off

7:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 9, 2006... that be tomorrow, people
$8 members of Oakland Heritage Alliance

$10 non-members (free if you
become a member) Chapel of the Chimes, 4499 Piedmont Ave.

Join me, Annalee Allen and William Wong for a lecture sponsored by Oakland Heritage Alliance. All of us have published neighborhood histories through Arcadia Publishing, and we’ll discuss our process of researching and writing.

Chapel of the Chimes is an architectural marvel designed by Oakland’s famous female architect Julia Morgan. It’s not so much a chapel as it is a columbarium. Beautifully morbid this space is, with ash containers shaped as books, placed upon a bookshelf.

Annalee’s book is Oakland: A Postcard History and William’s book is Oakland’s Chinatown. Mine is Oakland Hills.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

The final Halloween post of 2006

I had to wait to receive this glorious, full-color photograph from Samuel Adams' Daguerreotype Emporium.

But it was worth the wait to see him and Perpetual Cow!

Voting Day 2006

Well, I'm a mere shell of myself, but I'm still going to vote. On Sunday, I was in a car accident. Completely stopped at a red light, I was rear-ended hard enough that I ran into the person in front of me, even though my foot was firmly on the brake.

When I got back into the car after all the info-exchanging, I saw that a flashlight keychain was on the floor. Previously, it had been in a little cubby on my dashboard that actually slants UP, so somehow the thing flew up against gravity to land on the floor. More sobering was seeing my sunglasses on the floor. I know I was wearing them. One of two things happened:

1. I was hit hard enough that my glasses flew off my face, or
2. After the crash, I tore them off and threw them on the floor even though they are prescription glasses.

Interactions with the woman who hit me were so aggravating I can't even blog about them. A few bits of info, though: she initially didn't seem to want to exchange information and thought there was no damage, although I'm dented slightly in front and back bumpers AND when I peered closely at my bumper, the digits from her license plate are EMBOSSED into my bumper. I could read them! She stamped me!

A police officer happened along and took a report. Hilariously, when he said to her, "So, you're the one at fault?" she hemmed and hawed and tried to construct some way of not saying yes. He said evenly, "You rear-ended her, right? So you're the one at fault."

People, I know the insurance companies tell you never to admit guilt. But come on, when two people are STOPPED at a red light and you plow into them, there's no QUESTION about guilt. And in that case, it makes sense to apologize. Even in a situation where there is questionable attribution of guilt, you can still apologize for the hassle or the situation without outright stating that you caused it.

Okay, off that unpleasant topic. And on to the emergency room!

I have an ongoing health issue that required that I visit the ER to make sure I was okay from the crash. So I called Alan, he came home and drove us to the ER. We tried to figure out which one to go to and hoped we chose wisely. We chose badly.

After four plus hours in the waiting room, I made it into the emergency room, where we languished another two hours with staff members intermittently stopping by and then disappearing for long periods. I know the ER was slammed; we saw probably six different ambulances pull up during the night. The triage system is absolutely essential, but you know it's bitter when you see someone go by on a gurney and you hate them because now your triage placement has slipped another peg.

Time spent in the capable hands of the ER: six and a half hours. It was practically a work shift. I could have taught six classes.

Anyway, I seem to be okay. Okay enough to vote!

I heard on NPR that Virginia's turn out rate in the last election was a flabberghasting 8 percent. Ninety-two percent of Virginians didn't bother to vote! Kansans similiarly had only 14 percent of residents voting. (Those are the only states they mentioned; others could be the same or worse). Oakland's city percentage last June was 33 percent. Absolutely dismal. Disheartening.

Why are we* fighting so hard to install democracy in other countries, when Americans themselves don't participate in the democratic process?

*"we" refers to of course other people.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Hexe undergoes a name change

A book's title is a pretty important thing. That, and the cover art, is the first impression you get, and so it's imperative that the title catch your eye and your imagination.

And the sales team informed my editor and me that HEXE just wasn't accessible.

For one thing, no one knows how to pronounce it. It's the German word for witch, and it's pronounced "hex-uh." That wily E that sounds like an A is perplexing and some people were guessing it was pronounced "Hexy."

So, I do understand the need for a title change even while it initially dampened my spirits. But hey! It could be so much worse. The revisions I did with my editor were all embraced by me, and I never had to change the plot or the direction scenes went. I've heard from other writers who were deeply distressed at changes they had to make in their manuscript, so I feel incredibly lucky that the only change I ever balked at (and that only initially) was the title change.

We did some back-and-forthing on title suggestions over the period of two days. I picked my friends' brains and brainstormed possible titles with my agent and editor. One very fascinating tidbit of information that arose in a long, wonderful phone call with my editor: the word "devil" does better in nonfiction than "witch," but the reverse is true for fiction!

Eventually, I opened up the novel on my computer and began reading. Soon enough I was skimming because I feel like I know it now like the back of my hand and a few phrases did suggest themselves as titles... but when I got to the word trinity, I knew we had arrived.

The new title is The Witches' Trinity.

Caveat: It may get shot down in a later launch meeting, but I'm crossing my fingers it won't.

As many know, witches were reputed to mock Christianity, turning its traditions upside down and perverting them: thus, you have things like saying the mass backwards. In my novel, the witches do indeed parody the holy trinity and it in fact is part of a major plot point that I can't of course reveal. So, once the reader is finished and looks again at the title, it will resonate.

Moreover, the title Witches' Trinity is both assonant and consonant. People who have studied poetry terms (and those who took my classes at community college) will know what that means... or you can check the links! Thanks, Ira Sadoff and Peter Harris for teaching me something I still think about 15 years later.

Anyway, I'm excited about the new title and ultimately the sales team was right. It's awkward to always have to say how a title is pronounced. Hexe is dead; long live The Witches' Trinity!

Meridian fundraiser

We raised $900 for the Meridian! Not too shabby. I had just received a copy of my Ill Fame galley that very day and so stood there reading from it rather than printed-out manuscript pages, what a feeling! I was in great company with five other incredible writers. If I get photos later, I'll paste them in.

Update: here's one of Tamim Ansary, our workshop leader and the evening's emcee.

Halloween 2006 cont'd

Wanted to post the Oompa Loompa on her geometric kitchen floor. Incredibly realistic! And when I get a photo of Samuel Adams, Colonial brewer, and Perpetual Cow (his costume every year) emailed to me, I'll post that too.