Friday, July 17, 2009

Holy Pineapples, I Own a Dyson

It started about 10 years ago, when I became a homeowner for the first time. I inherited my grandparents' old Electrolux canister vacuum-- which worked just fine, but was a serious pain to lug around and vaguely smelly, and by the end, was being held together with duct tape. May it rest in peace.

What I had heard was that there was this magical vacuum called a Dyson that made people-- otherwise sane people-- actually like vacuuming. It was the strangest thing I'd ever read. First I figured they were members of Mr. Dyson's immediate family, but it was just too widespread. His family would have to be speed-typing insomniacs to write all those reviews.

How in the world could anyone actually write out loud that they LIKE vacuuming?, thought I. And it went even further than that; people actually wrote words like "I love my vacuum!" and "Vacuuming is fun now!" It was just crazy enough that I decided then and there that someday I had to own a Dyson.

A neighbor got one. I coveted it from afar.

It became a status thing in my mind. One day, when I was very, very rich, I was going to buy a Hawaiian island... and a Dyson.

Problem was, then I became a single mom to a toddler and Dysonland seemed even farther away. I bought a very cheap, but well-reviewed Hoover for my new place, and I tried so darn hard to like the beast. There HAD to be a reason why other people liked it, but I couldn't figure it out. The thing clogged every single time I used it, and I wound up spending more time taking it apart, poking wiry things through the hose, re-vacuuming after knocking the dust out, etc. than any human should ever spend on any cleaning activity.

One of the main problems was that I have fairly new carpets that are still shedding, and the cheap vacuum could not handle that at all. Each time I used it, I imagined it crying out to me, "For God's sake, woman! I cost $60! What did you expect of me?"

That's where Dyson stepped in... and sent me a vaccuum to review.

*cue: clouds parting. Insert sounds of Hallelujah chorus here*

What they sent me was this:

It is the Dyson DC25 Animal, their latest Ball vacuum.

I believe that this vacuum and I were meant to be together, and it has taken destiny this long to make it happen because destiny is a putz. Where were you last year, destiny?

The first time I used it, I had to empty the canister literally every room (and I had vacuumed using El Cheapo Piece of Junko about three days earlier). There were entire cats in that canister. It is so oddly satisfying SEEING the junk in your carpet in a clear canister rather than having it all hidden away in a bag, where one can only wonder what disgustingness might have lurked.

So, yeah, it took care of the cat hair and the shedding carpet. And it's lightweight and very manueverable: the ball means that you can turn it any which way you want while you're pushing this thing around. It's a very neat feature.

Then comes the coolest part for me: it's certified asthma-friendly by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. I'm lucky enough to be blessed with both asthma and allergies, and vacuuming has been a particular nightmare this allergy season. It has always seemed that my vacuums kicked up more stuff than they took care of. Not so with the Dyson, which has a lifetime HEPA filer that traps allergens.

The wand attachment is built right into the handle-- you just open a cap on top and the wand extends out from there. Very simple.

There are no bags to worry about, and it's easy to empty and put back together. The handle is ergonomic, and there's no need to change settings when switching from bare floors to carpet. The machine just knows.

Also, it's freakin' purple.

There are three details I'd love to see improved: 1. a larger canister, 2. a little more room to maneuver the wand-- it's kind of awkward as is, and 3. a retractable cord. All corded things in life should have retractable cords. Cords are very cordy.

Even soulmates, however, are not expected to be perfect. My love for my Dyson is unconditional and everlasting. I (heart) U, DC25 Animal.

But as far as the whole "Vacuuming is fun now" thing goes? Well, let's not get crazy. Let us draw the line at "significantly more tolerable than ever before."


Wednesday, July 15, 2009

I'll tell you what's a little surreal... see something about Nick Markowitz on TMZ. I tend to forget that this is a "media-interest" case because it's become very personal to me. But it was a movie, and stuff that gets made into movies... winds up on TMZ, I suppose.

It's just an odd clashing of cultures. I watch TMZ and other such entertainment shows from time to time when I need to completely turn off my brain and feel jealous of some celebrity in a bikini, or feel smug because I have my life put together better than Amy Winehouse and have not yet had my nose fractured by walking into scenery at the Tony awards. I check in on Brangelina's brood and find out what antics Richard Simmons is up to.

I don't go there to find out about a 15-year-old murder victim. And when I saw an online caption, I secretly worried-- were they going to say something tasteless as usual? Nope-- just the quick facts about Jesse James Hollywood's guilty verdict. What a relief. Same with the other entertainment sites; they mostly just reported it straight, aside from a little discussion about how none of this would have happened if Jesse James Hollywood had a name like George Smith.

The Honoring Nick Markowitz Facebook group is closing in on 1000 members in just about 2 weeks. I'm so glad it's bringing his family some happiness to see that people are remembering Nick.


Thursday, July 09, 2009


The last picture taken of Nick Markowitz

Today, a jury convicted Jesse James Hollywood of first degree murder and kidnapping.

This conviction comes nine years after the crime: the murder of 15-year-old Nick Markowitz.

He will be sentenced next week, and the only options are life in prison, or the death penalty.

Given those options, I can say just one thing:


All the way on the opposite end of the country from the courtroom in California, I couldn't be there. Instead, I stayed on the computer, with 85 tabs open so I could refresh, refresh, refresh every potential source that might break the news first. A woman on the Honoring Nick Markowitz group announced it first... I cried when I saw the word "Guilty."

Nick's parents, Susan and Jeff, have had to wait nine long years to talk about this publicly; all that time, either a judge or the DA's office had asked them to remain silent. There were four other trials before this one, all resulting in convictions. The shooter, Ryan Hoyt, is on death row. The gag order will be lifted as soon as the sentence is pronounced. It will mark the final trial, the final step in the quest for justice for Nick.

Now they get to move on to the rest of their lives. Now that the "justice" part is done, they get to honor Nick's memory without the constant weight of courtroom trials hanging over them. I'm not sure that Susan even knows what "normal" feels like anymore-- I hope it's a time of positive rediscovery for her.

Sharlene Martin is representing the book deal for Susan's story. I'm hopeful that we'll have the manuscript finished in a few months. You'd think that this would be such a depressing subject to write about, but Susan is such an upbeat and funny person that it makes it much easier. Even though I make her talk about difficult things a lot, we still spend most of our conversations laughing.

I'm just thrilled to have a bit of my faith restored in the justice system. The jury got it.

So in case any of them read this post at some point, I want to thank the person who informed police about Jesse's whereabouts in Brazil, the DA's office, the detectives who were there in the courtroom nine years later, the victim's advocate who has been so good to Susan, Susan and Jeff's family and friends who've been there with them in court and in spirit, and everyone who works to keep Nick's memory alive.

I hope today brings you all a sense of peace.


Sunday, July 05, 2009

Honoring Nick Markowitz

Several months ago, Susan Markowitz contacted me to ask if I'd help her write her memoir. Her only son, Nick, was kidnapped and murdered when he was 15 years old. This was the basis of the movie Alpha Dog, which starred Justin Timberlake, Sharon Stone, and Bruce Willis. After seeing the movie and reading about her story, I knew this could be the most important book I'd ever write.

Susan spent several years in and out of mental hospitals and attempting suicide. As she explained it, each time she told her story in a group, suddenly everyone else realized they didn't have any real problems. Susan's first letter came to me one day after I was in court fighting for custody of my daughter, and I was very down. It was as if God was flicking me in the head and saying, "Here's some perspective for you."

I hate that Susan has to be that perspective. But nine years after losing her son, she is remarkably strong and put together, and ready to do great things.

This week marked the end of the murder trial of Jesse James Hollywood. Jesse was a drug dealer who had a falling out with Nick's half-brother, Ben. He and his cronies snatched Nick for revenge, and held onto him for three days before executing him and buring him in a shallow grave on a hiking trail in California.

After Nick's body was found, Jesse ran off to Brazil. The other kidnappers and murderers were caught and convicted, but Jesse stayed on the run for 5 years before someone turned him in for the reward money. While in Brazil, he fathered a child, believing he could not be extradited if he had a Brazilian-born child.

The trial lasted a month and a half, and it's in the jury's hands right now.

I created a Facebook group to honor Nick and to provide a place for people to show support for his family. I'd love it if you'd join:

We just accepted a book deal from Berkley and will have details soon about when the book should be released. I hope to do it justice, because I think this is a story that might just change a lot of lives.