Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Update on My 101 List

I checked off 3 items during April. Slow and steady . . .

Record family history (Create a family tree with my grandmother? Photos? Stories?)
Take Clay’s picture professionally at least once every 6 months
Make a will
Make a living will
Talk with Laura about Clay
Send a Christmas card to an estranged family member
Write to my grandmother
Attend services at three local churches - I have visited The Church at NorthShore, Old Fannin Baptist, and Pinelake. I'm not sure if any of these churches are right for us, though. I'm considering visiting some other churches, maybe even outside of my denomination, to find a place where we fit in.
Volunteer in a way that’s meaningful to me
Go back to the gym – at least 3 times a week

Lose 10 pounds
Keep it off for 6 months
Train to run 3 miles without stopping
Try a yoga or pilates class
Go to the International Museum of Muslim Cultures
Go to the Smith Robertson Museum
Go to the Lauren Rogers Museum
Take an art class (pottery, painting, etc.)
Paint a picture
Learn to play at least one song on the guitar
Write a food article and get it published
Write at least one poem or short story
Paint the front porch swing
Tile the master bathroom
Plant some flowering shrubs in the back yard and DON’T let them die - So far, everything is still alive. If stuff starts dropping off, though, I may have to uncheck this one!
Plant an herb garden
Fix the patio table
Get a window shade for the baby’s bedroom
Have an energy audit done on the house

Paint the shed in the back yard
Paint the inside of the garage
Take Clay swimming
Drink wine in California
Ride in a helicopter
Ride in a hot air balloon
Go to Graceland
Go to New York City
Create a “great books list” and start reading (at least 5 books)
Create a “great movies list” and start watching (at least 5 movies)
Treasure hunt on Highway 49
Host a New Year’s open house party
Host a “dinner among the leaves” party
Host an Easter brunch
Throw a Kentucky Derby party
Celebrate the Chinese New Year
Pay off the last of my student loan
Buy some sexy new underwear
Attend at least one live concert
Go the fall flower show/festival in Crystal Springs
Visit a botanic garden
Learn more about the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict
Watch a meteor shower
Give blood
See snow
See the ocean
Adopt an Angel at Christmas
Go bowling
Pay for the person behind me in line
Do an anonymous good deed
Learn to bake a good loaf of bread
Go on a day hike
Write a letter to the editor of my local newspaper
Go on a vacation sans baby
Let Clay ride in the convertible with the top down
Perform in at least one stage production
Attend at least one Mensa meeting
Attend at least one college alumni event
Get back in touch with some of my college professors
Learn how to play poker
Learn how to shoot a decent game of pool
Make a real paella
Make a real sangria, to go with the paella
Get a facial
Start taking vitamins again
Take mom to have her makeup done
Discover 5 new recording artists I really like and buy their CDs
Find a pair of sunglasses that will change my life
Find my signature fragrance
Take some pictures of leaves turning color in the fall
Set up and take some faux-tography shots of the baby
Write to Grace
Visit Grace in Oregon
Go on a picnic and eat food that I MADE, not food that I bought
Visit a dermatologist
Book a session with a personal trainer
Buy sheet music for a song I like and learn to play it on the piano
Learn to do a passable waltz
Bring the baby to visit my dad at work
Take a bubble bath
Light some candles just for us, when we DON’T have someone coming over
Make mint juleps and drink them on the front porch swing
Go ice skating
Preserve Clay’s foot and hand prints - This gave me no end of hilarity. I will have to post a blog entry about it soon.
Attain APR accreditation
Buy or make Clay a kick-ass Halloween costume
Give a gift that I made
Send someone flowers for no reason
Begin using my wine notebook again and identify at least three new wines that I like
Buy a birdfeeder and set it up in the back yard

Fix the broken window pane on the porch
Spend an afternoon lying in the hammock

First day of the challenge: January 1, 2008
Last day of the challenge: September 28, 2010

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

See Mom Run.

I've been using the jogging stroller, and it's GREAT! I'm running .5 to .75 miles of my usual 2-mile loop now, and I think I'll be able to increase that amount at a fairly decent rate. Booger seems to enjoy the light and fresh air, too, so that's an added bonus! (Even when we were walking the whole way, I could tell he was appreciating his daily constitutional.)

I've done precious little running in the past year, but getting back to it now makes me remember why I like it. Even running a little bit of the way helps you cover the same ground in way less time than walking. Plus, it keeps your heart rate up.

Right now, I'm doing run/walk circuits, which gives me time to rest a little when I get winded and take a few swigs of water. (I never carried water with me on runs before I had the baby. You had to go ahead on the trail and leave it, etc. Too much trouble. But now, there's a little cup holder in the stroller just for the sports bottle! Nice!) The short-term goal, though, is to work my way up to a total run of 3 miles, with no walk breaks. I think that should be achievable in a relatively short amount of time. I will keep you posted on my progress!

Edited to add: When I jog, I can soooo tell that my chest and rear are HUGE. As in, larger than they've ever been. Aaack.

It's alive! My creation's ALIVE!

More planting this week! I got all of my patio plants potted, and I also put the ferns I'd purchased in the ground. The rainy weather we've been having has been heaven for everything I've put out and moved around this season. All the plants look GREAT!

I deliberated for a while about whether or not to plant an herb garden, and I finally settled on planting herbs in pots as a sort-of in-between solution. So, now I've got chives, three types of basil, mint, dill, sage, oregano, and thyme in pots scattered around the patio. I have not grown my own herbs for a few years now, and I've really missed it. I have about 5 rosemary bushes in the ground out back (I LOVE rosemary.), so with those and all the herbs I have in pots now, I should be pretty well set!

Oooh, and I picked out a new arbor at Lowe's. It will be my first official Mother's Day present!! Wow! Can't wait to get it installed and move the jasmine vine over. (Poor thing. It's stretched out along the ground, and it's still blooming like crazy!)

That might be all of the gardening I do for a while. I'll still maybe order some bulbs for fall planting. I've also already got the soil sample kit for the bed under the window (where everything keeps dying), so I should know something about that soon.

In the meantime, I've noticed that the squirrels are attacking my bird feeder. No surprise there, but now I have visual confirmation of the furry little thieves. Who knows if I've fed ANY birds at all? Those plump little squirrels definitely approached the feeder as if it were one of their regular watering holes!

Bright light! Bright light!

We have a lovely back-yard neighbor. Though I do not know him well, he seems to be a nice man with a beautiful family. And a boat. And a Hummer. And an extra detatched garage (brick, to match the house) that he built last year. And sometimes, he'll put a space jump in his back yard, for the kids. (Thank God we built a privacy fence.)

My only problem? His two garages are right on the perimeter line of the property, so they are what backs up to our rear property line. And our master bedroom is located at the rear of our house. So that means that, when he decides to work late into the night in one of his garages, WITH ALL OF THE SECURITY FLOODLIGHTS ON EVERYWHERE, the light shines directly into our master bedroom window. It's no big deal, really. We finally just put heavy curtains on that window, and we draw them shut to block out the light. But the guy routinely works in his garage until, like, 1 or 2 a.m. And he leaves the lights on all that time.

What is he DOING in there? Building a hot-rod truck from scratch? Creating unique wood sculptures? Planning to take over the world? I tell ya', wondering about it has lost me almost as much sleep as the light shining in my eyes.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Why I hate scary movies

I made a brave attempt to watch I Am Legend this week, but I didn't get very far before pleading the heebie jeebies and begging to be let off the hook. I am NOT a scary movie person. I hate them. I hate them because I have a very flexible suspension of disbelief. And later that night, when I am huddled under the covers, I have the distinct sensation that the bloodthirsty zombie (or vampire or serial killer or whatever) is breathing ominously on the goosepimpled flesh of my neck.

And now that I'm a mom, I like scary movies even less. I mean, what if some crazy-creepy virus DOES get created, and it infects all sorts of once-normal folks who then turn into depraved, angry, superhumman lunatics? What will that mean for little booger? How will I protect him? I guess what that goes back to is the fear that I really CAN'T protect him from many horrible things that may or may not happen in the future. A fear that is very real, even though the gory movies that inspire it are not.

But hubs LOVES scary movies. He's in there watching 28 Weeks Later right now. Which is why I'm in here, in my nice, safe little cubby of an office, blogging furiously and confident in the knowledge that I will enjoy a night of deep, dreamless sleep.

'Ats a spicy sauce!

Hubby and I had the chance to eat at Franco's Italian Restaurant in Clinton last week. I'd been wanting to swing by there for a while now, but it was always closed when I happened to be in town! We were able to get over there on Tuesday, and I am happy to report that it is a nice little place.

We both chose variations on cheese tortellini - he with a shrimp and crab meat alfredo, me with a crawfish cream sauce. Yum! Portions were large (we each ate half and had the rest for lunch the next day), and each entree came with a salad (which was servicable, but nothing to write home about) and bread. Though we only had iced tea that evening, there is a full bar at the restaurant. Prices were reasonable for the fare, portion size, and area. (I think our total bill came to a little less than $40.) Service was quick and friendly, and the decor was simple but nice (and very clean).

I will definitely go back to explore other options on the menu!

Fishy tale.

I just finished reading The Mermaid Chair, by Sue Monk Kidd. While I enjoyed it on the whole, there are a few things that I'm having trouble reconciling.

Here's the basic plot: Jessie, estranged daughter of Nelle, receives a phone call early one morning. Some of her mother's friends inform her that her mother has cut off one of her fingers. Nelle's friends, who still live near Nelle on an island off the Carolina coast, beg Jessie to return home (where she hasn't been in a while) and care for her ailing mother. Jessie says a quick goodbye to her husband, Hugh (a psychiatrist), and heads for the island. Once there, Jessie is confounded by her mother's actions and seduced once again by the island that she used to call home. She meets a monk, Brother Thomas (yes, there is a monastery on the island - a bit of a stretch, I agree), that she feels an immediate attraction to. Brother Thomas - whose given name is Whit - tells Jessie that he was previously a lawyer, before the death of his wife and unborn child sent him hiding away from the world in the monastery. Brother Thomas, who has not yet taken his final vows, begins an affair with Jessie which changes them both indelibly. Along the way, Jessie learns more about herself, her mother and her late father.

Mmmkay, my opinion - Kidd is a fabulous descriptive writer. She has a way of catching the spirit of a place and making you feel as if you are there - what you see, what you smell, the types of food you'd eat. It's very seductive. She also has an affinity for the mystical, as is clearly seen in her first novel, The Secret Life of Bees (which I adored).

However, there were a few things that didn't gel in this book for me. I could never reconcile Jessie's infidelity to her husband, Hugh, who seemed like a nice, educated man whom she truly loved and had spent twenty years with. The two of them had a lovely daughter together, and what seemed like a happy life. Kidd tries to make Jessie's actions sympathetic to the reader by showing us how her art had played a smaller and smaller role in her life as a wife and mother, but I kept coming back to the fact that this was Jessie's CHOICE. Hugh never forbade her to create her art. She even had a home studio where she could work. She just never made the time to go up there. My final conclusion was that, if Jessie had lost a piece of herself over the years, married to Hugh, it was because she didn't keep it alive. She couldn't blame that on the guy.

Anyhoo, since Jessie had felt that her own identity was somehow "absent," she felt justified/allowed/able (?) to make the decision to cheat on her husband. (At least she asked him for a separation first, but that was cold comfort to him, as you can imagine.) Via this affair, she rediscovers herself, begins to paint again, feels more alive, etc.

Overall, I'd say this book is worth reading, but it wasn't as good as The Secret Life of Bees, in my opinion. I'd give it, say, 3 stars out of 5.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

In honor of Earth Day

Since I had the baby, I've been more concerned than ever about keeping the planet clean. I'd rather us make some progress in dealing with our own mess before handing the planet off to the next generation. Sooooo, in honor of Earth Day, I made a couple of small moves towards doing a better job of being less wasteful.

Firstly, I called our waste management office. See, we don't have recycling in our neighborhood (primarily because we are in the county, and not in a city). But I was wondering what I could/should do if I wanted to recycle independently. Turns out, there's a drop-off point within about two miles of my house. Yay! So, they are sending me the literature about what I can drop off there, and the Bradshaw household will start recycling.

Secondly, I bought reusable grocery bags today at the grocery store. Now, I only bought four, but I figure if I buy a couple more every time I go grocery shopping, I'll soon have a nice little stash. Then, I'll only need to get the plastic bags when I need more cat-litter-scoop receptacles.

Things that I have been doing previously include buying more organic produce when I grocery shop, purchasing alot of fresh fruits and veggies at our local farmers' market, and trying to combine trips so that I use less gas. We've also been switching all our lightbulbs over to the compact flourescent kind over the past few months. What are some other ways to do better? What are you guys doing?

Saturday, April 19, 2008

My little miracle

Warning - this is going to be indulgent. And it's going to be about the baby.

Little man has his second tooth now. He's cruising around on the furniture, standing with just one hand on something to steady himself. It won't be long before he's standing, and then (eeeek!) walking! He will be a year old in less than three months.

Before I had a child, I'd hear parents say all the time, "The time goes by so fast. They grow so quickly." And I'd nod my head sagely, as if I had any idea what they were talking about. Since booger was born a little more than nine months ago, I've come to understand what they were trying to tell me.

I keep thinking back to when Clay was first born. He couldn't roll over. He couldn't regulate his own body temperature. It was a chore to cajole him into nursing. Shoot, he couldn't even pass a big fart without getting all worked up about it.

Now, the kid is nearly walking. He's babbling. He's crawling all over the place, moving his little person around, standing up, putting food in his own mouth. We play a game where I touch his eyes, nose, and mouth, and when I do, I call them by name. (Then, I always give him a big smooch. He loves that!) Today, when I said, "Eyes, nose, mouth," the kid POINTED to my eyes, nose, and mouth! I mean, jiminy! He's turning into his own little dude, isn't he?

Sometimes I'll see him standing up, or peeking out the window, and it almost breaks my heart. In the beginning, he needed me for everything. And, yes, it was a huge chore. But now, now that he doesn't need me as much anymore, it's a little bit sad, you know? A relief, but also a little sad.

Right now, I'm just trying to live in each and every moment and not wish anything away. Not to think to myself, "Boy, it sure will be easier to take care of this kid once he's walking/eating with a spoon/dressing himself." Not to wait impatiently for the time when he won't be on a bottle anymore or when he'll be potty trained or when all his teeth are in.

Right now, I want to hold on to each thing as it comes. How he calls for me when he wakes up after his nap, and he's all warm and soft when I pick him up. How he loves it when I sing goofy, made-up songs during bath time. How he hoots and giggles when "the claw" tickles his little belly.

I want to be fully present in the "now" that I have with him. Because it's all going by so fast already, and I know that one day, he'll come up to me and ask for my car keys. Or he'll give me a quick hug and a kiss and then move across the country to some great job opportunity.

Ooof. What will Mama do THEN?!

Make millions online from home in your pajamas!

Ok, I just have to post a little rant here. Once you become a full-time mom, it starts. The emails. The solicitations online. Everyone seems to want to pitch to you about an opportunity to work at home, make tons of money, easy as pie, etc.

You go to the Web sites listed in their posts/email signatures, and you find more of the same: big promises that you can earn lots of money working part time from home, assurances that you won't be cold-calling or telemarketing, and more promises that it's EASY MONEY. But, oddly enough, no specifics. No information about how much it costs to start up (and it should cost NOTHING), no company names, no job descriptions about exactly WHAT it is you'll be doing. You have to call the agent/poster to get that info, so they can waste 30 minutes of your time with a telemarketing script.

I often find these "offers" on a site that I frequent (and that has a community bulletin board about working/careers). Invariably, the post about this amazing opportunity is the first/only post by the individual. So, in other words, they are NOT on the board to make friends or join the community. They are there to drum up leads. (And I would bet money that they receive an incentive for getting other people to join their "business." There's a name for this. It's called a pyramid scheme.) They have also infiltrated MySpace, where they will send you unsolicited friend requests so they can market to you via bulletins.

If you try calling them out, they get defensive. If you do nothing, some innocent person out there thinks that maybe this is a legitimate offer, and they may fall for it. (I'm not the sharpest cheese on the cracker myself, but I know when I am being scammed. I mean, if the opportunity is SO GREAT, why the hard sell?)

At any rate, suffice it to say that if it sounds too good to be true, it is. So far, Jeff Bridges is one of the only people I know that has made a significant amount of money while wearing his robe. (See The Big Lebowski.)

Friday, April 18, 2008

PRisms!

Last night, I missed Mississippi Moms book club because I went to the annual PRism Awards banquet in Hattiesburg. Once a year, the Public Relations Association of Mississippi holds a competition for all public relations practitioners in the state. You know the drill - you submit your work, a panel of judges reviews it, they pick winners, etc. Well, I had entered some work that I'd done last year before leaving the office to take care of booger.

A few weeks before the banquet, they sent award winners an email to let them know they should be present at the event to pick up . . . something. (Which is very nice. Then, when they are handing out awards, the winners are there to to accept them. There is nothing sadder than handing out awards to, well, no one.) So, I had no idea if it was just honorable mention or what. But I thought, "Hey, I'll go down there just for the evening, eat some good food, catch up with all my PR friends again, and maybe slink off with a certificate of achievement or something."

The event was held in Hattiesburg's Lake Terrace Convention Center. I have passed by it many times, but had never been inside until last night. It is a very nice facility. I was also super-impressed with the food. I would love to get recipes for the great little fried olives, phyllo tarts with mushroom and caramelized onion, and tiny beef wellingtons with dipping sauce. Dinner was a nice salad, chicken with new potatoes and green beans almondine, and a little ramekin that contained a cross between chocolate mousse and creme brulee (with this weird, very small spoon. like we were elves?).

It was sooooo fun to see all my colleagues again, too. There are truly a great bunch of people working in public relations in Mississippi - funny, nice, smart, personable, accomplished. It makes for a great, collegial environment in which to work.

So anyway, after chatting and eating and having a nice time, I was expecting the actual awards ceremony to be a bit of a disappointment. But we won two first place awards and a second place award! And the first place awards were in two campaign categories (internal pr campaign - long term and community service campaign), which I thought was pretty important. Woo to the hoo! Our second place award was in the video/broadcast category.

I have to admit that, particularly now that I'm not working, winning something was gratifying. It made me think, "Hey, I'm good at this. Even though I'm not doing it right now, I am still talented, dangit." It was an affirmation that, when you spend most days chasing after a crawling 9-month-old and singing "Trot Little Pony," can be pretty darn valuable, KWIM?

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Kathryn's is YUM!

Hubby and I had the occasion to eat dinner at Kathryn's Seafood and Steakhouse in Clinton this week. It's owned by the same folks who operate Kathryn's in Ridgeland.

The restaurant was nearly empty. (It was 5 p.m. on a Tuesday night, however.) Service was speedy, and the food was delish! We started with fried gradoos, which are balls of wilted spinach, battered, fried, and served with a dipping sauce. Hubs had the steak (no surprise there), and I had the Redfish Veronica (a fried filet topped with shrimp and a creamy lobster sauce). For side items (ordered a la carte), we had the garlic mashed potatoes and the steamed broccoli.

My only complaint - there are ALOT of fried items on the menu - the gradoos, the fish, even the ROLLS. (I kid you not. The rolls are fried.) In this day and age, the chef *might* want to trend his menu towards more healthy options.

Also, prices are a little spendy for Clinton. We ordered an appetizer, our two entrees, plus two side items, and our bill was around $65. With tip, it came to nearly $80. Just an FYI.

Feet in my shoes

Well, in my quest to lose ten pounds, I seem to have stalled. I'm holding at a little less than five pounds left to go. Sooooo, in an effort to blast those last few pounds (hopefully, before we go to the beach in a month or so), I found a jogging stroller on craigslist. (No WAY was I going to spend $100 on ANOTHER stroller. I have so much baby crap as it is that I'm getting tired of "investing" in huge pieces of plastic junk. Used it is.) Booger and I tried it out last night, and I think it's just the thing. First, I'll start adding circuits of jogging to my usual two mile jaunt. Once I'm able to run most of it, I'll add a third mile to my routine. So not only will I be blasting more calories, but I will be that much closer to my goal of training to run for three miles without stopping. Woo to the hoo!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Getting my hands dirty . . .

Ahhh, the past few days have been bliss, pure bliss! We have had gorgeous, sunny, cool, breezy afternoons, and I have begun my spring planting!

First I moved a few perennials that were not thriving in their former locations. Two mock oranges as well as some holly and daylilies migrated from various parts of the landscape to the south side of the house. They are my first (and only) plantings on that side of the house, and though they look a little lonely now, I'm hoping that they will fill out into a nice, lush hedge.

Secondly, I cashed in my Home Depot gift cards for more shade plants for the back: I shifted some azaleas further down in the back bed and, in their place, planted two fairly mature golden acuba. Then, in the back left corner of the yard (where we had a pine tree removed earlier this year), I planted a dogwood tree with a few hydrangeas scattered around it.

I also purchased two large ferns (plus an assortment of six or so small ones) to frame the bench and arbor (currently draped with a little confederate jasmine) on the right side of the yard. I've got to get those in the ground tomorrow.

Lastly, I got most of my patio plants. I tend towards red geraniums for patio plantings because they love the sun, don't mind if they get a little dry in between waterings, and bloom well into the fall. (Plus, I love red!) So, those have to be potted up.

Remaning to do:

1.) Sadly, I've got to replace the arbor at the back left gate. During the tornado last week, the arbor I had there (which was covered with a mature vine - gorgeous) SNAPPED in half. The bottom of it is still concreted into the ground, even as the rest of it lies a few feet away on the ground. Luckily, the vine had minimal damage. So, now I just have to find a new arbor, install it, and gently move the vine over. Eeesh.

2.) I think I may go ahead and plant my herb garden. I was going to save it until I planted a large, serpentine bed along the patio we had poured a few years ago. However, that bed will require a retaining wall, TONS of plants, dirt brought in, etc., which is a project that I don't think I am up to this season. But I don't want to wait another year on the herbs. Sooooo, I might just create a small portion of that bed now, and enlarge it later when I have the time/energy/money to devote to a project of that scale. I'm thinking thyme, some parsley, chives, sage, and several varieties of basil. Maybe oregano? I've already got several established rosemary bushes growing elsewhere, so there's no need to repeat that herb. And mint, well, don't get me started. Maybe in a pot somewhere, but NOT in the ground.

3.) Run a soil sample on the bed beneath the back left window. Everything I have put in this bed has limped along. Azaleas died. Hostas died. Not sure what to do next. So, I'm going to run the soil sample (I have the kit already.) and see if maybe the dirt is too alkaline. If so, that could be an easy fix.

4.) Order some red carpet lillies and/or red hyacinth for the front yard. The foundation plantings in our front yard are evergreen and mature, so I'm not going to pull those out. I would, however, like to add in some pockets of seasonal color. I planted two curbside beds a couple of seasons ago, and those are growing nicely. I've added some mums to the foundation beds, and now I'd like to build on that with some lillies (for summer color) and hyacinth (for spring color). Then, it would be totally feasible for us to have something blooming out there for a large part of the year, which would be nice. I've ordered in the past from Breck's, and I have been very pleased with their product. (My stargazer lillies from them are just beginning to come up for their second year of gorgeous blooms!)

Reading aloud

The staged reading of The Ones that Flutter went very well last night. Thanks to everyone who came out for it!

I really enjoyed this play, and every time I've read it, I've found something new. It's a very layered work. Sylvia Reed, the author, draws many parallels between the various characters over the course of the play, and these echoes offer a "completeness" to the viewer that allows for more acceptance of the ambiguous ending. There are alot of symbols in the work that point to themes of peace, safety, sacrifice, death vs. life (i.e. What is really living?), and freedom. There is some serious depth here.

I'd be very interested to see if this show could be produced successfully on the mainstage. The only problems that I (and the talk-back audience) pointed out were some unneeded confusion regarding Julie Ray's relationship to Roddy in their first scene together and the difficulty of letting the audience know where each scene falls chronologically. If those two things could be dealt with successfully, I think we have a hit on our hands here.

Cool Hand Luke

I had never seen Cool Hand Luke all the way through until this week. I had seen snippets, but I had never sat down and actually watched the entire movie. Sooooo glad I did.

Paul Newman is gorgeous and amazing as Luke, a charming convict on a Southern road gang. Luke is quiet, and he has an uncanny way of asserting his own indomitable will even though he's in jail. This leads the other convicts to lionize and look up to him. (There are also alot of Luke-as-Christ images/ideas in the film.) A loner and a non-conformist, Luke chafes under the restriction of prison, and he makes several unsuccessful escape attempts (which only serve to make the convicts think more of him).

Newman was wonderful. He had an inscrutable quality about him in this film that was really integral to Luke's character. Plus, it didn't hurt that his face was so perfect that it looked sculpted out of marble. ~Sigh.~

Ever since watching the film, I've had the song "Plastic Jesus," the tune Luke sings when he discovers that his mother has died, stuck in my head. It led me to the Web to find out more about the song. Turns out it's an American folk song that has been attributed to a few different writers since the late 1950s. The version Newman sings in Cool Hand Luke is slightly different from the lyrics one can find online. At any rate, I've had trouble getting it out of my head. Now it's your turn.

Friday, April 11, 2008

It's bright in here

I recently finished reading A Thousand Splendid Suns, Khaled Hosseini's follow-up to his wildly successful novel The Kite Runner. A Thousand Splendid Suns focuses on the women of Afghanistan and their experiences in a war-ravaged Muslim society.

I really enjoyed this book as well, though it was difficult to read sometimes. There are two primary characters in the book: Miriam and Laila. Miriam is the illegitimate daughter of a wealthy businessman. When her mother commits suicide, her father marries her off hastily in order to avoid his shame. Mariam is married to Rasheed, an abusive older man who punishes her when she can't give him a child. Meanwhile, Laila, a younger woman, discovers that she is unwed and pregnant just as her parents are killed in a bombing. In the interest of self-preservation, she becomes Rasheed's second wife. The two women go on to develop a friendship and an enduring love that, in many ways, saves them both.

As difficult as life was for the male characters in The Kite Runner, it is infinitely more difficult for the female characters in this novel. Muslim society can be cruel to its women, who are expected to remain obediant and subservient to their husbands, regardless of the treatment they receive. My heart ached for the characters, for the pain and indignity they suffered, and for the society that enabled such injustice to be carried out.

Hosseini's writing is a tad more flowery in this novel than in the first, but not overly so. And because this novel is set against the backdrop of very current events, it feels more topical.

Hosseini is accepting questions about his two novels this month via his Web site at http://www.khaledhosseini.com/. If you email in your questions about the book(s), he may answer it via a video feed on the site. I thought that was a clever way to communicate directly with his readers, especially since his books seem to be on the fast-track to becomeing book club staples.

I thought this was an excellent second novel. Hosseini used what he already knew (and what he already knew his readers were interested in), but gave us a fresh take on it by examining it through a different lens and a more current time. I thought this was a great way of "giving people what they want" while still growing as a writer/exploring new territory for him.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Fire in my belly

I went to my first bellydancing class at Millsaps this week! Woo to the hoo! I had been interested in taking the class ever since my friend, Janice Jordan, started teaching it several years ago. The course is offered as part of the college's Enrichment Series. Each season, they offer an impressive, interesting roster of courses to the community. Most of them are 6-8 weeks and only a hundred or so dollars each.

(The birth of this course is actually a whole 'nother story. Shortly after I graduated from Millsaps, while I was still working in their communications department, the Millsaps Players produced Carnival. I was cast as Rosalie, the magician's assistant. The costumes were SO KILLER. It was one of the few times as a performer that I LOVED the clothes I was wearing. Anyhoo, Janice was cast as one of the bellydancers for the show. She hadn't danced in a while, and doing the show, I think, got her interested in it again. She started teaching the course shortly after.)

When the Enrichment course catalog came out this spring, my friend Stacey called me up. She said she was interested in taking bellydancing, and told me that she thought I was one of the only people she knew who would also be game. (She totally sold me on the whole, "Get back in touch with your heritage" line. Sly as a snake in the grass, that one.) Plus, now that I am about back down to my pre-pregnancy weight, I am noticing that my clothes still don't hang right. I figure bellydancing is as good a way as any to pull those poor, stretched-out stomach muscles back in.

I showed up with some apprehension, imagining a class full of waif-like coeds and ME, a pleasantly plump stay-at-home mom. I shouldn't have worried. There were women of all ages, shapes, and sizes in the class, and I immediately felt comfortable. We practiced rib cage slides and hip swivels, pelvic thrusts and inner thigh lifts. (I think Brian is going to really appreciate what HE gets out of this course.)

I'm really looking forward to next week! Janice broke some news at the first class - we will hold a small performance at Hal and Mal's once the course is complete. Eeeek. Here's hoping that I have the guts for that little venture.

Staged reading

I'll be doing a staged reading of a new play, titled The Ones That Flutter, at New Stage Theatre this week. The play is part of the theatre's Eudora Welty New Play Series.

The play tells the story of a prison warden who is having regrets about things he's done in his life. His abusive father, his bookish brother, other estranged family members, the nature of his work - it all haunts him a bit. The play has some beautiful language in it, as well as some surprising script turns.

If you're interested in coming out to hear it, we will be giving the reading on Saturday night. Here's the skinny:

THE ONES THAT FLUTTER
by Sylvia Reed
Saturday, April 12th
7:30 p.m.
Admission is free, and no reservations are needed.
Call 601-948-3533 for more information.

The reading will be held in the Hewes Room, to be followed by post-performance discussion.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Bright lights, big city

Watched Hollywoodland this week. A nice period piece with interesting performances by Ben Affleck, Adrien Brody, Bob Hoskins, and Diane Lane.

Based on actual events, the movie tells the story of George Reeves' death. (Reeves was the television actor who portrayed Superman in the 1950s television series.) The movie is fairly accurate in its depiction of real-life events and relationships.

Reeves (played well by Affleck) is a small-time actor looking for work. He meets and strikes up an affair with Toni Mannix (a beautiful and tragic Lane), wife of Ed Mannix (Hoskins), a VP at MGM. Toni turns George into her "kept man," buying him a house, expensive gifts, etc. Reeves lands the part of Superman, but he takes it only because he wants some money of his own. (He feels that the series will never get picked up, and that no one will ever see it.) What he soon discovers, however, is that he has been pigeon-holed into the small-screen character, and that attempts to secure other work, particularly in film, are futile. A depressed Reeves eventually breaks it off with Mannix, taking up with Lenore Lemmon. Shortly thereafter, Reeves is discovered in his bedroom, dead from a gunshot wound to the head.

Louis Simo (Brody) is an invented character, a private investigator hired by Reeves' estranged mother to look into his death. Simo is dealing with his own frustrations - separation from his wife, and ailing relationship with his son, problems with his mistress, moral justification for his line of work, and money trouble. Set against the backdrop of his query into the Reeves case, these issues sharpen and lead to a determination for him to discover what actually happened to a fellow "Superman."

Performances were uniformly solid, with Affleck deftly capturing Reeves' descent into hopelessness. Lane is gorgeous and giddy as a woman who discovers a young lover, and harrowed and haunted as a woman spurned and bereaved (or guilty?). Hoskins does well, too, as the understanding (and potentially violent) husband in an open marriage. Brody is the true centerpiece of the film, however, drawing all of the material together and reflecting it back at the viewer through the lens of his current troubles.

The feel of the film is authentic. I loved the sets, props, and costumes, with Lane in particular serving as a showcase for such. Production values were high on this film.

What I enjoyed most about this movie, though, was that the ending was left ambiguous. The filmmakers do not give us an answer about how they think Reeves met his end. (Sifting through the details of Reeves' life, Simo imagines several different scenarios for the star's demise.) Rather, they let us see the myriad of possibilities, understanding that what happened on that June night in 1959 will most likely remain one of Hollywood's unsolved mysteries.

Friday, April 04, 2008

I was a Miss Hospitality pageant judge

Late this afternoon (after I got over my shakes from the Wal-Mart episode), I had to be downtown at the TelCom center to judge Jackson's Miss Hospitality pageant. The pageant is run by the Jackson Convention and Visitors Bureau, and the winner competes for the state title later this year.

Basically, Jackson's Miss Hospitality is responsible for making appearances at local events, performing in a few commercials promoting the city as a tourist destination, and being present at some bureau functions throughout the year.

I'm not completely sure why the CVB asked me to be a judge (They probably thought, "Let's ask Nicole! She's not doing anything!), as I'm not a very "pageant-type" person. The closest I ever came to the pageant world was entering Junior Miss in high school, and I didn't even win that. I do have experience in public speaking and being on camera, though, so I guess I have a little expertise to lend there.

At any rate, we had several very good contestants, and we chose two wonderful young women as Miss Hospitality and our runner-up. I think our selection will have a great shot at the state competition!

(PLUS, they gave the judges some great goody bags, with items from the Mississippi Museum of Art gift shop, gift certificates for free lunches at Schimmel's and Old Capitol Inn, and more. So, who wants to go out to lunch?)

How I almost died at Wal-Mart.

Ok, let me preface this by saying that I rarely shop at Wal-Mart these days. Target is just as close, and I tend to like their stock better. And I do my grocery shopping at either Brookshire's or Kroger.

But today, I had a very odd collection of things to buy (some books, an outfit for the baby, a few grocery items, and some hardware things) and not much time to do it. Soooo, I loaded booger into the car and headed for Wal-Mart. The day was rather cloudy, so I threw an umbrella in the car.

As I pulled into my parking space, a few drops of rain landed on my windshield. I got out, got the umbrella, my purse, and the sanitary wipes (for the cart. Clay always likes to gum the handle. Ew.). Then, I went to get the baby. Once I had him in hand, the rain started coming down. I tried to open the umbrella, and all of a sudden this HUGE gust of wind hit us from behind, pulling the umbrella inside out and nearly knocking me over.

The wind really started coming at us then, and the baby started crying. I started running for the doors for the store. As I ran, I heard this huge boom behind me. I turned for a second, and I saw that one of the cart corralls (where you roll your cart in to store it in the parking lot) had COME LOOSE from the ground and was blowing around, slamming into some cars in the lot.

As we approached the doors, Wal-Mart employees were there, waving us in. When we got inside, a very nice woman from the deli counter gave me some paper towels to dry the baby off with and directed us to the center of the store, where everyone was going to wait out the tornado.

We got down on the ground with our backs to the fitting room, and I put some clothes over little man's legs and feet, just in case. (He was actually a little trooper. He didn't fuss at all.) I called my husband. The network wouldn't let me put a call through, but it did let me leave him a (probably rather frantic) message.

It was scary. I mean, I didn't even know there WAS a tornado coming. (Stupid me. I never watch the Weather Channel.) I hadn't heard a siren all day. The thing just seemed to come out of NOWHERE. And I felt like a bad mom. Here I was, at a cruddy Wal-Mart, and a tornado was coming. I'd put him at risk, and if something happened now, I might not be able to protect him.

We could hear all this hail coming down, and the BOOM of the cart corralls as they knocked into people's cars in the lots outside. As I sat on the floor, I thought that dying in a Wal-Mart, with my baby and I covered with cheap capri pants, was definitely NOT the way I wanted to go. I mean, what kind of obit would I have? What would be written on my tombstone? "She only wanted a one-stop shop"? "Baby's life worth the savings"?

At any rate, when the worst of it seemed to be over, the store employees told us to go home. I went into the parking lot expecting my car to be totaled, but it was miraculously dent-free. I saw several other vehicles, though, that were not so lucky. Some whole back windshields were out where the cart corralls had knocked into them.

I loaded my sweet, precious baby into the car and drove straight home, where I kissed on him and thanked God that my own poor judgement hadn't wrecked everything.

Sheesh.