Monday, June 30, 2008

Update on My 101 List

I checked off four more items during June! YAY!! (Items in bold are completed. It's not looking TOO shabby for only 6 months in!)

My 101

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
Volunteer in a way that’s meaningful to me
Go back to the gym – at least 3 times a week

Lose 10 pounds - This one is new for June. YAY, ME!
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
- I completed this one during June as well. (See previous post.)
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
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 - Woo to the hoo! I finished this one during June! It feels soooo good to have it GONE!
Buy some sexy new underwear - This was another one of my June items. It was my reward for losing the 10 pounds.
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
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

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Fabulous movie

I had the chance last night to catch Evening, an ensemble piece starring some of the most heavy-hitting female actresses working today. Oh. My. Lord. See this movie. Now. Like, immediately.

Ann (Vanessa Redgrave/Claire Danes) is on her deathbed, reflecting on some of the defining moments of her life. Her two daughters, Connie (Natasha Richardson) and Nina (Toni Collette), grapple with the complications of their own lives and the idea of their mother's passing.

In her waning moments, Ann primarily dwells on a single weekend in her life, when she serves as the maid of honor at her friend Lila's (Mamie Gummer/Meryl Streep) wedding. During the weekend, Ann meets Harris (Patrick Wilson), whom she falls in love with and never truly forgets. However, due to a tragic accident during the wedding weekend (and relationships they share with others), Ann and Harris do not end up together. They both marry, have children, and lead separate lives. And as she is preparing to leave this world, Ann wonders if not being with Harris (and not pursuing her dream of becoming a professional singer more devotedly) is the biggest mistake of her life.

As the story continues, the viewer begins to see that maybe there ARE no mistakes in life. Only choices, the choices that make us who we are and shape our experience. (This reminded me much of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. If you go around trying to change what you've done or erase what you think you shouldn't have done, you are not going to be the same person. You won't know the same things, feel the same things, learn the same things.) Maybe the only thing we can do, upon reflecting, is be as satisfied as we can be that we are the sum of the choices we've made.

At any rate, the film is beautifully written, gloriously performed, and lovely to look at. It will make you think a bit, too. And with a cast of Claire Danes, Vanessa Redgrave, Toni Collette, Meryl Streep, Natasha Richardson, and a small role by Glenn Close, you can't go wrong.

Local and far away

I read two books recently that I thought worth passing the word along about. Though he's a Mississippi author (and someone I've had numerous occasions to see in person), I've never read much of Greg Iles' work. However, a friend recently persuaded me to give him another try.

I picked up 24 hours last week when my husband was out of town on business. Turns out it's about a group of three criminals who kidnap a woman's young child and terrorize her while her husband's out of town on business. (!) Against my better judgement (I have horrible nightmares.), I continued, and I'm glad I did. It's an entertaining, easy-to-read novel. I may check out more of Iles' work in the months to come.

I also finally got around to reading Kabul Beauty School, an amazing memoir about a divorced American hairdresser who travels to Afghanistan and opens a cosmetology school so that women there can learn a marketable skill and make some money of their own. She then alternates her time between Afghanistan and her home back in the United States (though one does wonder about the fate of her two children in the middle of all this), eventually marrying an Afghan man. Written by Deborah Rodriguez, this book provides a riveting look at the lives of women in modern-day Afghanistan. To boot, Rodriguez has an irreverent personality and a wicked sense of humor. The novel moves along very quickly, and I so enjoyed reading it. You can learn all about the current state of the Kabul Beauty School by visiting this web site.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

A book about an empty hole

I just finished reading Joyce Carol Oates' Missing Mom, and I really enjoyed it. The novel is about the impact that a mother's death has on her two daughters.

Brash, sarcastic, Nikki (at 31, the younger of the two sisters) was used to being the black sheep of the family. With her tight-fitting clothes, punky hair, and wild love life, she routinely thumbed her nose at her mother's value system. Pert, bossy Clare, married and with two children of her own, felt as though she'd lived up to her mother's expectations of her life. But after Gwen Eaton's violent death, both women find themselves adrift, unable at first to accept and cope with the absence of their mother. Alternately clinging to one another and avoiding one another, the two women slowly come to grips with who their mother was and what her passing means for their own lives and the life of their family.

I like this woman's writing. And since she's been very prolific, I'll have something to read for a while. She's cerebral without being obtuse. She's original without being unrealistic. And most of all, her characters think the things that we've all thought. These are very relatable people.

I highly recommend this book.

Poetry Project

I'm not a big fan of Carl Sandburg, at least of his lauded, earlier work. It always seemed so depressing to me, though I realize it was a timely social comment when he wrote it. I much prefer his later poems, which I think were written more for their own sake than to effect any cosmic shift in politics or the workings of industrialism. I like this one because I like poems about the sea (which I find very inspiring myself).

Young Sea
by Carl Sandburg

The sea is never still.
It pounds on the shore
Restless as a young heart,

The sea speaks
And only the stormy hearts
Know what it says:
It is the face
of a rough mother speaking.

The sea is young.
One storm cleans all the hoar
And loosens the age of it.
I hear it laughing, reckless.

They love the sea,
Men who ride on it
And know they will die
Under the salt of it

Let only the young come,
Says the sea.
Let them kiss my face
And hear me.
I am the last word
And I tell
Where storms and stars come from.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Out and about

We've been busy lately!

Last week, we trotted by WaterFest out on the reservoir. They had free food, lots of little educational booths, kayak races, and some live music. It was nice, and, since the whole thing was free, we walked away feeling pretty content.

We also swung by Little Tokyo for some steamed pork dumplings (YUM), edamame, and crunchy shrimp rolls. I love Little Tokyo. I love that there are two locations. (Even though the one in LeFluer's Gallery is called Sakura Bana now, it's still exactly the same - same menu, same management, just a new name.) Everything I've ever tried there has been good - the bento boxes, the sushi, the steamed dumplings (shrimp and pork are offered), everything. You may be able to order something bad there, but I haven't done so yet.

Today, booger and I went to the Smith Robertson Museum and Cultural Center downtown. If you haven't been yet, it's worth a trip. Housed in a historic African-American school, the museum offers exhibits on black history in Jackson and the African-American experience in America. I thought the best exhibits were in the downstairs area, but there is one room on the second floor that is particularly compelling. It features a small display on how African-Americans moved to the North and established lives there, making liberal use of quotes pulled from letters written by those living the events described. It made everything seem much more present and real.

Oh, we also took a turn through the Reservoir Botanic Garden. It's basically a paved trail through a nicely wooded area, underplanted with things like wisteria, iris, gardenia, and other native plants. It's a short trail, but it's quite nice. I think it took us about 10 minutes (strolling) to do the loop, so you could make the loop three times or so if you were looking for a short workout. I honestly didn't even know it existed until a few weeks ago, when I stumbled across it. Very nice!

Sad embers

I finished reading Anglea's Ashes, by Frank McCourt, recently. This is a memoir about growing up destitute in Ireland in the early/mid-1900s. Sheesh. What can I say? It's depressing stuff.

McCourt recounts how he was born in America, but his family moved back to Ireland (Limerick) after the death of his baby sister (a scant two months old when she died). Frank, his mother, his father, his younger brother Malachy, and his two littlest brothers, Eugene and Oliver (twins), stay briefly with his mother's begrudging family after the move, and then find a place for themselves. We quickly begin to see the pattern of their lives. They are always scraping for money and/or food. Whenever their family comes into a bit of money, their father drinks it away at the pub. Whenever their father gets a good job, he holds it for only a few weeks before being fired for one reason or another (usually as a result of his alcoholism).

This book is a heartache. Frank's life is miserable, and he loses more than one sibling to disease and starvation. Yet even after burying his own children, who died because he could not/would not provide for them, Frank's father does not change. Essentially, he abandons his family in the end.

I kept reading this book, waiting for things to look up for Frank, but any good luck was short-lived. The book offers a compelling picture of the life of the poor, but it is a woeful tale indeed. Frank's tales of near-starvation are interspersed with a rueful humor based on the personalities of people that he knew and the "fire and brimstone" tenor of the Catholic church at the time.

To be honest, I'm not sure it deserved to win the Pulitzer. I mean, sure, he was miserable. But there seemed (to me) to be no larger message, no larger lesson learned. His extended family was hard-hearted and never wanted to help. Even in the throes of starvation, his own mother would buy cigarettes instead of food to feed her family. It was just a sad, depressing account of what seemed like a fairly miserable childhood. The primary thing I took away from it was gratitude - gratitude for where I live, the people in my life, the blessings that we enjoy.

Cooking . . . and cooking and cooking

Mmmkay, a while back, I was looking for a recipe that incorporated ground lamb. I'd bought it on sale, and it's not something that I usually stock. Needless to say, I didn't have alot of recipes in mind for it. So, as I was surfing, I found a recipe for lamb moussaka. The recipe also called for eggplant, which I also had. I decided to give it a try.

Good Lord, the stuff took FOREVER to make. It wasn't particularly difficult, but it was definitely time consuming. Make the meat/tomato mixture and cook it, broil the eggplant in the oven, pre-boil the potato slices, make the white sauce, then layer everything together in the pan and bake for ANOTHER 45 minutes. Eeeek!

It was good, but I won't be making it again. Yeesh. Does anybody have a yummy EASY recipe for ground lamb? I've still got a package in the freezer!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Poetry Project

Probably because I have been reading Angela's Ashes lately (FINALLY - a review will follow), my mind has been on the Irish lately. The poem below is one of my favorites by Yeats, probably because I, too, have felt feverish, restless some nights and have had a desire to go tromping through the wilderness in in hopes of discovering all secrets of the world.

Aengus was the Irish god of love (of sorts). I have always been spellbound by Celtic/Irish mythology (my cousin had a fascinating book full of Celtic stories and wonderful illustrations that I LOVED to curl up with as a child), and I think my love of this poem plays into that interest as well.

The Song of Wandering Aengus
By William Butler Yeats

I went out to the hazel wood,
Because a fire was in my head,
And cut and peeled a hazel wand,
And hooked a berry to a thread;
And when white moths were on the wing,
And moth-like stars were flickering out,
I dropped the berry in a stream
And caught a little silver trout.

When I had laid it on the floor
I went to blow the fire a-flame,
But something rustled on the floor,
And some one called me by my name:
It had become a glimmering girl
With apple blossom in her hair
Who called me by my name and ran
And faded through the brightening air.

Though I am old with wandering
Through hollow lands and hilly lands,
I will find out where she has gone,
And kiss her lips and take her hands;
And walk among long dappled grass,
And pluck till time and times are done,
The silver apples of the moon,
The golden apples of the sun.

P.S. If you are familiar with Eudora Welty's work, you'll recognize the phrase in the final line of this verse. She titled one of her collections of short stories, The Golden Apples, after these words.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Falling from grace

I just finished We Were the Mulvaneys by Joyce Carol Oates. It was Fab. U. Lous. It's long-ish (about 450 pages), but it's worth every minute it takes to read, in my opinion.

The book tells the story of the Mulvaney family: handsome, successful patriarch Michael Mulvaney Sr., who owns a thriving roofing business and enjoys the friendship and contacts of many of the movers and shakers in small Mt. Ephraim, New York; blue-eyed, lithe, religious Corinne, mother to the Mulvaney clan and avid antique collector; eldest son Mike Jr., a football star at local Mt. Ephraim High School; Patrick, the brainy, analytical son who graduates valedictorian of his high school class and goes on to study on scholarship at Cornell; beautiful Marianne, a cheerleader, devout Christian, and popular student; and little Judd, who, even at his young age, exhibits a precocious charm.

The family lives with a friendly collection of animals - cats, dogs, birds, horses, cows, etc. - at gorgeous High Point Farm, a large estate with attending acreage and outbuildings. The house, painted a dreamy lavendar color (with, of course, a top-of-the-line roof) perches within vew of scenic Mt. Cataract. The family, as Judd (our narrator) will tell us, has a "talent for happiness." They are loved and respected in their community. Everyone knows the Mulvaneys.

But then something horrible happens to one of the Mulvaney clan. And the reader continues in horror as this awful event ripples outward, changing the lives of the happy family forever. Judd, recalling the events as an adult, tries to accurately document the story of the Mulvaneys' fall, their eventual re-discovery of one another, and their "special gift for happiness."

I cannot recommend this book highly enough. The characters are real. They leap off the page. The story is utterly compelling. The book is much about family, and memory, and the evolution of who you are and who you will become. The book is about God and those who believe in him and those who don't. The book is about doing what's expected of you and what is not expected. The book is about shame and public opinion, how others see you and how you see yourself. The book is about claiming your identity, recovering, moving on from tragedy.

Read this book. Amazing stuff. I will be picking up more by this author soon.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Riches! Riches!

I took booger to the Farmer's Market again today. We try to swing by there at least once a week, before we hit the grocery store. It is GORGEOUS.

Allow me to elaborate - tons and tons of fragrant Alabama peaches, piled into little slatted baskets. Big, red baskets full of bright green snap beans; those tiny, creamy new potatoes; purple onions; shiny zuchinni and yellow squash; and beautiful neon purple baby eggplant. Delicate little fresh peas and butter beans, huge vats of deep red tomatoes, and colorful piles of bell peppers. Dark purple plums. I swear, all you have to do is chop stuff, add a little olive oil and salt/pepper, and roast it in the oven. Or saute it quickly in some butter. Or throw it into a lively soup. Or toss it with hot pasta noodles and fresh herbs. Or braise it in a bit of apple cider to serve over ice cream. Or eat it raw, for God's sake!!!

They have crazy-fresh corn. Shuck it, cut it off the cob, then warm it in a skillet with some butter and salt/pepper. You will not believe you are just eating plain old corn! Freaking. Amazing.

Mississippi blueberries are popping up everywhere now. If you check in the Classifieds, you can even find farms where they let you pick it yourself. (That would be a fun activity with some older kids. When we were little, we LOVED picking blackberries at my grandparents' farm, and those bushes had THORNS. Blueberry bushes are beautifully thorn-free!) Booger loves blueberries in the mornings, and I heap them in my cereal, on top of frozen toaster waffles with a bit of vanilla yogurt, or on pieces of angel food cake with a dab of whipped cream.

So get out there and START EATING!! It's almost shameful how much great, cheap food is available right now.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Poetry project

Another love poem. Though it doesn't have a very original title, I love the sentiment of this one. I am rather uncoordinated myself, having never participated with any success in organized sports. I can manage to put one foot in front of the other, but much past that, and I'm lost!

Love Poem
by John Frederick Nims

My clumsiest dear, whose hands shipwreck vases,
At whose quick touch all glasses chip and ring,
Whose palms are bulls in china, burs in linen,
And have no cunning with any soft thing

Except ill-at-ease fidgeting people:
The refugee uncertain at the door
You make at home; deftly you steady
The drunk clambering on his undulant floor.

Unpredictable dear, the taxi drivers' terror,
Shrinking from far headlights pale as a dime
Yet leaping before red apoplectic streetcars -
Misfit in any space. And never on time.

A wrench in clocks and the solar system. Only
With words and people and love you move at ease.
In traffic of wit expertly manoeuvre
And keep us, all devotion, at your knees.

Forgetting your coffee spreading on our flannel,
Your lipstick grinning on our coat,
So gayly in love's unbreakable heaven
Our souls on glory of spilt bourbon float.

Be with me, darling, early and late. Smash glasses -
I will study wry music for your sake.
For should your hands drop white and empty
All the toys of the world would break.


I've been tearing through the library lately, reading all kinds of things. A little while back, and friend recommended Agatha Christie, and I wondered to myself if I'd ever actually READ any of her books. Sure, I'd seen adaptations of her work on television. I'd read plays based on her books. But had I read any of them for myself? Sorry to admit it, but no.

So, I picked up two novels - The Murder at the Vicarage and Thirteen at Dinner - at the library last week. What you notice right away when reading Christie is that the experience is probably closer than anything to actually trying to solve a crime. Christie provides you with alot of information - ALOT. And you have to decide what pieces of information are pertinent to the crime and which are coincidental. (It's not like watching CSI, where huge, lighted arrows blinkingly point to clues or red herrings. Every fact is part of a general soup of events, with no one thing seemingly more emphasized by the author than another.)

She also provides information in bits and starts. You don't learn everything all at once. Witnesses give their statements, then a bunch of other stuff happens (and more information is introduced), and then those same witnesses recall an extra tidbit here or there that they think might be worth considering. This slow reveal of facts makes it even more difficult to piece together all of the events leading to the crime. Information that you might otherwise have connected, had it been provided all at once, seems disjointed and harder to analyze when given out of sequence.

Also, all information is filtered to you through a character, General Hastings, say, or the Vicar himself. The attitudes, feelings, and mental processes of these characters also influence the conclusions you begin to draw about the crimes and perpetrators. Add to that all the interesting little people Christie populates her world with, and you can see why she has had such staying power.

Clearly, Christie had an amazingly analytical mind. My only criticism, in fact, would be that all the careful disclosures of "clues" can become tiresome as your brain gets turned around once AGAIN due to more information. One is tempted to keep a small notebook handy while reading so as to jot down pertinent facts, timelines of events, suspects/motives, etc.

With so many balls in the air (preponderance of facts, slow reveal of information, interesting narrator, etc.), these two stories were very satisfying reads. Highly recommended.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

On my success . . .

I just had to post this. I know I'm not due for another one of my 101 updates until the end of the month, but I have achieved a goal that has been a battle for me. I have lost 10 pounds! Woo to the hoo! It took me FOREVER, but the 10 pounds (plus some) is GONE! YAY, ME! So, I will happily check that off the list now, and if at the end of this year, that weight is still gone, I can check off my "Keep it off for 6 months" goal.

How on earth did it come off? I started watching what I ate. REALLY watching. I still allow myself a couple of splurge meals a week (like tonight's dinner at Trio's. YUM.), but I have to be careful the rest of the time. Plus, I started doing less walking and more running. I'm up to even circuits of walking/running now, and soon, I hope to be running MORE than I'm walking.

Anyway, I was just super-proud of myself and thought I had earned the right to brag a bit. All of my clothes are fitting better now, and I just feel better, overall.

Friday, June 13, 2008

The book meme

Stacey tagged me for this, so here goes:

1. Total number of books I've owned
I have no idea. Too many. Way too many. At least a thousand? And don't get me started on all of the magazines that I've squirrelled away.

2. Last book I bought
What to Expect: The Toddler Years

3. Last book I read
The Kitchen God's Wife, by Amy Tan

4. Five books that mean something to me
This one's more difficult to answer.
I've always loved A Prayer for Owen Meany, by John Irving. It was one of the first books I read as a young adult that I heartily recommended to other people.
David Sedaris' Me Talk Pretty One Day is almost perfect, and I laughed out loud the whole time I read it. I like the genre - humor essays - and he's great at writing them.
I think that Why Business People Speak Like Idiots is a pretty accurate assessment of business writing today, and I think it taught me something. It shows you that successful business writing/speaking does not have to be such a chore.
I'd also include at least one of the old Norton Anthologies of English Literature. It just sums up so much about where we are coming from when we write and read. Who came before us, what they thought, how that's still shaping what we think today. Plus, I think that classics are dubbed so for a reason.
Lastly, I have an old, hardback compilation of The Complete Works of Shakespeare that I always keep close. I LOVE Shakespeare. The book was one of my mom's textbooks in college (It still has her maiden name written in the front.), and I like it not just because it sums up two of my biggest interests (literature and theatre), but also because it was my mother's book before she was my mother. Plus, it's handy for looking up all kinds of things.

Not tagging anyone on this meme.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Pretty dang good.

I had the chance to see The Fantasticks at New Stage last week, and I really enjoyed it. They had a fabulous cast for the show, and it made for a very entertaining evening!

My perennial favorite, Ray McFarland, played El Gallo. Chris Roebuck was absolutely ADORABLE as Hucklebee. (And I mean adorable. I went backstage and told him so after the show.) I particularly loved he and Mitchell Moore (as Bellomy) in "Never Say No" and "Plant a Radish." They were so cute! Gordon Fox completely stole every scene he was in as Henry, and Danny Dauphin died quite convincingly as Mortimer. Though I didn't know the actors playing Matt and Luisa, I thought they both did very well, creating some sweet moments on stage together. Turner Crumbley, as the Mute, ably impersonated a wall, the rain, and a host of other necessaries.

What I'm sorry about is that I didn't see it in time to talk other folks into going as well. The show closed on Sunday. Sorry, guys. I'll hustle a little more next time.

Oh, and the theatre is promoting their next season. Here's the lineup:

Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure
Sept. 9-21
(I'm not sure why they chose to do this one first. If it were me, I would have swapped this one with To Kill a Mockingbird. Then, you could have opened with a show that people know well, and you would have had a mystery production to promote during Halloween. It may have been a rights issue.)

To Kill a Mockingbird
Oct. 21-Nov. 2
This is on my must-see list.

Gee's Bend
Jan. 27-Feb. 8

The Ponder Heart
April 14-26
Adapted from the Eudora Welty story. Another short list item.

The Light in the Piazza
May 26-June 7
I am SO GLAD they are doing this one. I read all about it on Broadway and have been lusting to see it ever since.

Personally, I think this is a great season. See you at the theatre!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Another poem

I've always loved this poem, and I committed it to memory long ago. My mother has somewhat ruined it for me by telling me that she wants it read at her funeral (Her name is Margaret, and it is about mortality, after all.), but I still like the words and the way they roll off the tongue. I think the poem sounds wonderful when read aloud because it has a soft, conversational tone to it.

To A Young Child
by Gerard Manley Hopkins

Margaret, are you grieving
Over Goldengrove unleaving?
Leaves, like the things of man, you
With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?
Ah! as the heart grows older
It will come to such sights colder
By & by, nor spare a sigh
Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;
And yet you will weep & know why.
Now no matter, child, the name:
Sorrow's springs are the same.
Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed
What heart heard of, ghost guessed:
It is the blight man was born for,
It is Margaret you mourn for.

Greening up

As a quick update, my use of the cloth grocery bags has been going splendidly! I haven't had to buy more than four bags, because each bag holds ALOT of groceries. It has actually cut down on the number of trips it takes for me to unload groceries from the car, too. I've used them at both Kroger and Wal-Mart.

On the recycling front, I have been saving recyclables in a bin in the garage and dropping them off at a place near my house so they can be recycled. Looking at the amount of stuff diverted from the trash, I am glad that we are doing this. Just changing this one thing is going to cut down our trash significantly. While we can't recycle many things this way (only newsprint, aluminum, and certain types of plastic), it's still better than nothing.

On another note, I've noticed that our local library will offer you a bag to hold your checked-out books in, and they are re-using plastic grocery store/Wal-Mart bags for this purpose. I always refuse the bag, but I think offering them is a nice way for the library to recycle! So, if you have a bunch of plastic bags at your house, and you don't want to throw them away, see if your library will take them as a donation.

More Tan

I recently finished reading another novel by Amy Tan - The Kitchen God's Wife. The novel reminded me much of The Bonesetter's Daughter in that it was much about mothers, daughters, secrets, and life in China before immigrating to America.

The book tells the story of Winnie, a young girl who survives a harrowing childhood and then a disastrous marriage in war-torn China. Winnie eventually immigrates to America and then keeps her life in China a secret from her daughter, Pearl. The course of the novel follows Winnie as she tells her daughter all of her secrets and the two become closer.

While I enjoyed The Kitchen God's Wife, and I think it is worth reading, it was difficult to absorb at times. For one, Winnie's first marriage, to an abusive coward named Wen Fu, was frustrating at times. I understand that a woman's place in 1940s China was very limited, but I couldn't help feeling that Winnie was so worried about shame and being impolite that she wouldn't do what was necessary to save herself and her children. In many ways, I felt that she allowed herself to be taken advantage of, and it was difficult to read about that.

Secondly, I wouldn't recommend reading this novel in close proximity to The Bonesetter's Daughter. The two stories are too similar. Of the two, I think I liked The Bonesetter's Daughter better, because I felt the female characters were a bit stronger.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Poetry project

I am a big fan of poetry. But no one seems to be reading it anymore. So, I think I will start occasionally posting some poetry here and there. Old stuff, new stuff. Stuff I like. Here's the first one. This poem was in a book of love poems that Hubs gave me back when we were still dating. The book was pocket-sized and bound with a red leather cover. It had a ribbon to mark your place, and I've dog-eared lots of pages over the years. This is one of the poems that I always come back to.

Jenny Kissed Me
by James Leigh Hunt

Jenny kiss'd me when we met,
Jumping from the chair she sat in;
Time, you thief, who love to get
Sweets into your list, put that in!
Say I'm weary, say I'm sad,
Say that health and wealth have miss'd me,
Say I'm growing old, but add,
Jenny kiss'd me.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Life is beautiful.

I just wanted to take a moment and note that I am thankful. Sometimes, you feel that the universe is smiling on you. You feel effusively content. You feel happy. You feel blessed beyond your wildest childhood imaginations. Many times in recent weeks, I have looked at my life objectively (or as objectively as one can look at his/her own life) and realized that it has lived up to so many of the things that I wished for when I was younger.

What I am thankful for:

I am married to a wonderful man who I love and who loves me. I have a gorgeous, healthy baby who (most of the time) is not a demon child. We are comfortable enough that we don't have to save every penny, but not so comfortable that we take our financial situation for granted. We have traveled in many parts of the world that I only used to dream about.

I enjoy the company of lots of friends. I have an extended family that loves me. I am fortunate to be able to go out with friends and enjoy myself on a fairly regular basis. I have my health (so far), and I am of sound mind (shut up, Stacey). I dearly love to laugh, and I get the opportunity to do so often. I have been showered with other intangible gifts galore - an ability to make friends quickly, carry a tune, read at a breakneck pace, catch on to (most) concepts rapidly, and make a mean roast chicken.

So far, I have never broken a bone. I have never wrecked my car. I can write a coherent sentence. (Those of you who disagree will have to take it up in the comments.) I have the use of all of my five senses. To my knowledge, I have not ruined anyone's life. Thus far, no one has hurt me beyond recovery, either physically or emotionally. When I drive the convertible on a summer night, the wind whispers around my neck and shoulders and makes me feel deliciously free.

Maybe I am tempting the fates by recognizing my luck/blessings/gratitude, but I just wanted to send out this message to the heavens at large: "Thank you. I appreciate it. I don't take it for granted. I will try to be worthy of the blessings I have been given. I will try to spread some of this joy to others and make their days brighter. I will try to enjoy what I have been given to the very fullest and squeeze every possible drop of human experience out of my life. Thank you, thank you, thank you."

That is all.

Social butterfly

I must say, I've been VERY social lately. In part because hubs has been home (which allows me to get out for the evening if I so desire), and in part because several different events seemed to line themselves up simultaneously, I have been out alot lately.

And the planets must REALLY be in alignment, because I'm also nicely fitting back into all my prepregnancy clothes now. So not only can I go out, but I have something to wear!! Hallelujah!

Last week, I met up at Mellow Mushroom with some moms I discovered online. Though I couldn't stay for long that evening, I had a really good time. (And, hopefully, I didn't scare the ladies that didn't know me. I have a rather energetic personality, KWIM?)

On Friday, it was off to Bonefish Grill for dinner in honor of another friend's birthday. Might I say that I heartily enjoy their grilled tilapia with chimichurri sauce? Good stuff. I washed it down with a glass of Menage a Trios. (Get your mind out of the gutter. It's a blend of three white wines. I think it's lovely.)

On Saturday, I met up with some of the Mississippi Moms for dinner at Ruby Tuesday, where the service was excellent, and my steak was served exactly medium rare. (That's us in the picture at left. Don't we look fetching?)

Sunday - My sweet little sis was in town from Oregon, so we invited her over for dinner. Several pounds of shrimp, couscous, and salad later, we went for a walk to catch up on each other's lives. (Oh. My. Lord. It is difficult sometimes to keep my maternal instincts in check. I have to keep reminding myself that she is a grown woman, not just my little sister!! Aaagh!)

Last night - dinner at home. Aaaah. Oh, and a very satisfying run/walk. I'm doing circuits of 2/3 minutes now, for a total of three miles. I'm still slow, but I'm getting the distance in and slowly building speed. Of course, I'm faster when I don't have to push the stroller. That kid gets heavier every week!!

Tonight - Out with little sis again for her birthday.

Thursday - Meet both sisters to have photos made. (A father's day surprise.)

Friday - Lunch with a friend.

Sunday - go see a show at the theatre.

I must say, aside from being exhausted, I'm quite proud of myself. I never would have guessed that I could keep this kind of schedule and still be an adequate parent! Seriously, though, I am enjoying it, and hoping that I can space events out a bit better in the future. Oooof.


I just finished reading The Bonesetter's Daughter, by Amy Tan, and it's fabulous. I'd read The Joy Luck Club eons ago, and hadn't read any books by Tan since. What a mistake! I'll be checking out what else she's published.

The novel begins with Ruth Young, a middle-aged ghostwriter living in modern-day California. Ruth is living with her lover, Art, and feeling out of sorts with herself. Her mother, LuLing, is a first-generation Chinese immigrant with a failing memory. Worried about her mother, Ruth moves in with her to ensure that she's eating, resting, and taking her medication as she should.

It's then that Ruth recalls a sheaf of papers that her mother gave her many years before, written in Chinese. Ruth's Chinese is doubtable, so she'd never taken the time to translate her mother's writings. Suddenly overwhelmed with her mother's frgility, she pays a scholar to translate the text. What follows is the story of LuLing's life before she came to America, and it is a fascinating tale.

LuLing divulges that she was a bastard child, not actually the sister of the woman Ruth calls Aunt Gal. She was previously married, she taught at an orphanage, and she has been keeping certain secrets about herself and her life for nearly fifty years. Learning about who her mother is helps Ruth understand her own identity and appreciate her family history.

The story of LuLing's life is rich and detailed. I loved Tan's descriptive writing about life in China and LuLing's relationship with her mother. I also enjoyed the myriad parallels that Tan drew between Ruth and LuLing, similarities that Ruth herself did not know existed until she read the manuscript.

Worth reading.