September 30, 2011

Updates, Announcements, Confessions


I'm beginning to understand now why so many bloggers dedicate an entire blog just to their reading life.  Trying to keep up with reviews, reading challenges, and everything from just general life that I want to blog about all in one place is somewhat baffling, because it means I could easily write about 5 posts a day.  My whole point in naming this blog what I did, though, was to highlight the quite disparate threads of my life that all meet in my one brain, so I'm not prepared to start splitting everything off into forty different blogs.  I've done enough of that already.  So, multiple posts looming ahead; fair warning has been given.


NaBloPoMo.  (If that means nothing to you, click here to read the relevant post in the archives.)  I finished my first month of NaBloPoMo, and did indeed meet my goal of posting every day.  Having done it once, I was thinking of taking a well-earned break from it, until I found out October's theme: BETWEEN.  Talk about a theme speaking to a person!  Michael and I are between jobs, lives, future plans, rocks and hard places--if it's a major circumstance you can get stuck between in life, we're pretty much there right now.  In other words, I'll be continuing to NaBloPoMo until further notice.

Brigid the SuperToddler did NOT develop any black eye after falling and banging her nose on the coffee table last night--YAY!  I prayed earnestly about this, and all I can say is thank God.  She has a little cut on her nose, but she's going to be just fine.


DRUM ROLL PLEASE!  **crashing cymbals**
I'm hosting my first ever reading challenge/blog hop here at The Beauty of Eclecticism, called the Read Your Own Library! Challenge.  Rules and further explanations are available here, and I hope you'll join us, because it's going to be lots of fun!  If you have books on your shelves that you've owned and been meaning to read forever, this challenge was made for you (and me, because I'm in exactly the same boat).  Tell your friends!  This will be an on-going monthly challenge, and the link will open here on the 5th of each month.  This will give you a few days to decide what book(s) you're going to read and get your post written.  The link will close on the 8th of each month, by which time I assume that everyone who is going to enter for the month will already have done so.  Hope to see you there!

The Beauty of Eclecticism is on Facebook!  Yes, your favorite blog has its own page on Facebook now, and WE NEED "LIKES," so come like us, won't you?  In return, we'll give you daily updates on blog doings in your Facebook feed (provided Facebook doesn't CHANGE the Facebook feed yet again).

You may have noticed that there's a new link in the right sidebar called "Commonplace Book."  A Commonplace Book is a place to record awesome quotes and other useful information one stumbles across while reading, and I decided that a dedicated blog to store such things would be my one concession to separating my reading somewhat, so that it doesn't totally overwhelm The Beauty of Eclecticism.  Click on the link (or click here) and check it out.  Quotes!  Get your fresh quotes here!

--End of Bulletin--
We now return you to your regularly scheduled life, already in progress.

Maud Hart Lovelace Reading Challenge

This month, Sarah over at "A Library is a Hospital of the Mind" is hosting her 3rd Annual Maud Hart Lovelace reading challenge.  About four years ago, I stumbled upon a delightful little book called Betsy-Tacy at the public library.  It's a children's book, and though I often enjoy young adult or even children's fiction, this one was just a bit elementary even for me.  Still, it was sweet and fun, a real comfort read.  It reminded me a bit of a few of my other favorite authors, particularly Laura Ingalls Wilder.  When I discovered that there was actually a series of these books, I determined that someday, I would get back around to the works of Maud Hart Lovelace.

Imagine my surprise, then, when I discovered that Betsy-Tacy is actually quite a long series, and that Mrs. Lovelace traced her characters all the way through to their adulthoods and marriages!  I simply LOVE series like that, because they tend to bring their audience along with them, letting the reader grow up with the main characters.  Of course, if you discover the books as an adult, as I have done with these, you miss some of the joy of that experience, but when I found Anne of Green Gables, I was the same age as Anne in the first volume.  As I grew older, I found that I was most interested in whichever installment of the series showed Anne at an age closest to my own.  (Indeed, I'm getting ready to read them again in the next few months, as it will be the first time that I've read them since I had my first child, and I'm looking forward to re-reading the 6th book, in which Anne begins having children.)  I'm all anticipation to read more of the Betsy-Tacy series, because I expect that they, too, will lose their elementary aspect more and more as the characters mature.

I abhor reading series out of order, and as I review for several publishers, I can only take on one of the Betsy-Tacy books for this month, so I won't advance as far into the girls' adventures as I would like during this challenge, but I definitely mean to go on reading them after this month is over.  I'll be reading Betsy-Tacy and Tib, and I sincerely hope that my daughter will enjoy these delightful books when she gets older, so that she can experience growing up with them in a way that I wasn't able to do.

Selective Hemophobia

Today did not end well for the poor little SuperToddler and me.  Why do they have to be so everlasting accident prone at this age?!  Yes, I know; they're called "TODDLERS" for a reason.  They toddle, and they fall.  They get too excited, and run faster than their brains can process the orders to their feet, and they fall.  It's a heart-rending and exhausting age for mothers, I'm beginning to learn.  But why does it ALWAYS have to happen right in the middle of a wonderful, smile-inducing giggle from them?  Why does it invariably happen just at the moment that they're at their happiest?  Again, I know; they call it "RECKLESS abandon" for a reason, as well.

Tonight, Brigid was watching one of her favorite shows, a final, savored episode before it was time to start the bedtime routine, when she suddenly slipped, hit the bridge of her nose on the corner of the coffee table, and stood up already launched into that "I'm sobbing so hard, I'm holding my breath, and I may turn purple any minute!" cry that lets me know that actual injury has occurred.  She had only a small gash line across her nose, and the amount of blood was surprisingly tiny.  I mean, it didn't bleed--you know, actual blood flow--so much as it just welled up, like tears you never fully shed because the movie was kind of sad, but not truly heart-rending.  In other words, she's going to be fine, although she may have a black eye tomorrow, which I profoundly dread.  That doesn't change the fact that the slightest sight of HER blood does things to my mind and body chemistry that the appearance of my own blood could never hope to match.  I find myself wanting to phone for ambulances, worrying about septicemia, asking my husband if she'll need stitches--all while trying to stay on my feet because I'm having a bad old-fashioned case of "woozy."

None of this overreaction is helped at all by the things I lived through with two terminally ill parents.  When you're constantly worried about two diabetics, for whom every little illness could be fatal, you learn some very unhelpful patterns of thinking that resurface any time your husband or child get a tiny sniffle or a paper cut.  I'm going to have to develop a thicker skin if I'm going to survive as a mom, and I realize that, but when your OWN mother was the voice of medical reason in the family--"She'll be fine, honey.  Oh, they just trip and get bruises and dings so easy at this age!  It happens to all of them; don't worry."--just died seven months ago, your skin hasn't had much of a chance to thicken back up yet.  I miss my mom.

September 29, 2011

5-Minute Friday: On Friends

When  my parents became too sick to attend church anymore, and slowly melted away from ravaging diseases until they died, finding out who their real friends had been was one of the strangest experiences I've ever had.  It wasn't the people they'd gone to church with for over 10 years who stood by them, watching over them, understanding that an inability to leave the house did not mean the abandonment of the faith that once led them to the church building every Sunday.  It wasn't the people with whom they supposedly had the most doctrines in common who proved to be their dearest friends, their pastors and their supporters; it was the elderly pastor and his wife from THAT OTHER denomination in town that took care of my parents.  These two, dear people ministered to the pastor and his wife who were no longer physically able to minister to others, who were broken-hearted at the loss of their own abilities to nurture new babies in Christ, and needed a little nurturing themselves as they made their way to their exit from this life.  Maybe that's the important point we miss in the story of the good Samaritan, the fact that there was nothing wrong with the Samaritan.  Jesus used a Samaritan as an example because the Jews to whom He was speaking would immediately recoil from such a person, and Christ's ultimate point wasn't just about who was kind and helpful, but about our prejudices.  My parents were Pentecostal; the pastor and his wife who "adopted" them in their final days were Baptist.  Maybe it's time we all just grew up and realized that our best friendships are wherever we make them, with whomever we're willing to ignore our prejudices toward long enough to see their inner goodness.

Busy Work

So, it occurred to me the other night, after reading back over the post entitled "How to Sound Well-Read," that I may have left one and all with a false impression that I did not enjoy college.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  In fact, I loved being a university student, and it certainly wasn't because of all the parties (which I did not attend) or other unauthorized recreational activities (which I did not engage in).  We must remember that at the time, I was a good little Pentecostal preacher's daughter.  No, my primary joy in life during college was all the reading I did, because I did a massive amount of reading and research--it's just a shame that I couldn't get class credit for most of it!

Indiana State University
(my FIRST alma mater)
My favorite activity was to lose myself in the library stacks of whichever academic institution I was attending at the time (I've graduated from three), in those innocent, halcyon days before I had a cell phone, so no one could find and bother me.  I studied everything from medieval Islamic art to the Jewish Talmud, read everyone from Owen Wister to Anne Rice, and discovered British comedies like Jeeves and Wooster in the AV department.  I developed a life-long passion for research, as a matter of fact, and whenever I want to know more about a topic, or whenever I'm worried that my SuperToddler might be suffering from this or that ailment, all those hours of searching library catalogs and shelves stand me in good stead.  Probably the single most helpful thing I learned in more than ten years of university studies was how to do adequate research.  Usually, I was just setting out to satisfy my own random curiosity about a topic or a person; hour upon hour I spent in the basement or the back corner of the top floor of a library, my beloved books and I the only inhabitants of the planet, as far as I knew during those long sessions.  As I said, most of it earned me no course credits whatsoever, because I couldn't seem to find a class that was dedicated, for example, to the question of what actually happened to the famous library of Alexandria, and even if a class and my interests coincided, it was hard to fit a semester on Norse mythology into a tightly-packed degree program in linguistics.

Unknown nice librarian lady, Minnesota, 1974. 
(Thank you, Wikimedia.)

I have three master's degrees, and not one of them has helped me to eke out a lucrative career for myself.  The time I spent in the library stacks, however, continues to benefit me on a daily basis, whether I'm drawing once again upon the stores of knowledge I acquired there, or figuring out the best way to begin a major research project because I'm curious to know more about Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.  I have the tools to know where to begin, which authorities to consult and which so-called "experts" to blythely ignore, because of a couple of library systems that ran like well-oiled machines, and were always there for me when I needed them.  THAT was the worthwhile part of ten years of college.

I must say, the classes I enjoyed most were the ones in which I was allowed to choose my own reading materials.  Granted, these were not that common, but especially in graduate school, university departments begin to trust their students more to work independently, and they also realize that they can't tailor a class for the varied interests of every single student on campus.  Thus, the independent reading course was born.  For anyone who's never experienced it, this is exactly what it sounds like--you work out a reading list with the professor, you go away and read it all, you meet with the professor once a week to make sure that you're on track, and at the end of the semester, you present yourself to take an exam that the professor concocted based on the master list.  In some cases, you write an extensive paper as the final project, which is even better, since YOU get to control what's on the "exam" if it's entirely a treatise of your own making.  I did a couple of these independent courses, and actually quite enjoyed it.  There are days when I miss academia.

Which is why I've begun to suspect that for me, blogging has taken the place of independent studies.  Having set myself the goal of trying to post something every day, I know that I have a specific task, I know when the deadline is, and I seem never to have a shortage of things to write about.  I've even found ways to add the assigned reading component back onto my daily life; I've joined not one, but THREE review programs that give ME free books and give the PUBLISHERS in question an honest review of the book.  It's a little like writing book reports again--you remember, I'm sure: "My Book Report, by Jenny Campbell," written in pencil on that 2nd-grade paper with the blue lines on it, and the 'y' always a little crooked, much to my chagrin.  Still, it's a way to keep taking independent reading courses, since I get to pick which of the publishers' new books I want to review, and I get the textbooks FREE!  Nobody ever gave me THAT deal in college, I can promise you.  Here's an example: I find American military history interesting.  Not interesting enough that I would ever take a whole semester-long course of that and nothing else, but still interesting.  So, when a publisher offers me a free, hardback biography of an American general I'd never heard of before, but who was instrumental to our victory in one of our big wars (I don't remember which one; I haven't actually started the book yet), I'm going to happily take them up on it.  Like I said, this gives me the same opportunity to keep learning and the sense of accomplishment that attending college did, without me having to go into $20K a year of student loan debt for it.  Book reviewing, here I come!

September 27, 2011

Strange Day, Wonderful Husband

Well, I got an unexpected day off from Mommy chores today, but unfortunately, it wasn't as pleasant as it might sound at first.  Early in the afternoon, I managed to strain an abdominal muscle.  I really didn't think it was any big deal, though, until I then lifted little Brigid the SuperToddler into my arms, and seriously contemplated letting out a full-throated cry of pain.  I've had this happen to me before, and I know from experience that if I rest it for the remainder of the day and get a good night's sleep, I wake up feeling much better in the morning, so I decided I'd better call in the cavalry, as none of that healing-type stuff was going to happen with Brigid and I home alone together.

Enter my wonderful husband, who is blessed enough to have a job (for a few more months!) at which he accrues paid time off that he is at liberty to use as necessary, so he took the last couple of hours of his work day off and came home to rescue us.  The SuperToddler was a bit befuddled, watching me supervise from a semi-prone position tasks which I normally perform myself as a matter of course, but she rolled with it, and had a lovely time playing with Papa and being chased around the house by him.  It was a nice evening for them together, and I took some Ibuprofen and had a relaxing soak in an epsom salt bath.  Who knows?  Maybe God just threw me an unscheduled break.  Either way, I am very grateful to have a husband who can and will take over diapers, play time, and emergency interventions to retrieve toys from under furniture any time I really need him to do so.  Just thought I would brag on him a bit.

Night Table Reading

What's On Your Nightstand A rare post composed during "the daylight experience" (one of Robin Williams' finest turns of a phrase) to join in with a new blog hop, "What's on Your Nightstand?"  Actually, the hop is certainly not new, but rather, I am new to it.  The idea here is to check in once a month on how many books are stacked up on the ever-growing pile beside my bed, how long they've been there, and how many of them I plowed through in the past month.  So, we begin.

At the moment, my stack is small, and my ambitions are very modest, since I'm about to start my own reading challenge here on The Beauty of Eclecticism in October.  (More on that in an upcoming post, or just click here.)  Currently, my lull-me-to-sleep choices are the Harry Potter series yet again (I believe this is my sixth time reading them all the way through, and I'm just about to finish Goblet of Fire--again), and The Know-It-All: One Man's Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Person in the World by A. J. Jacobs.  I know I'm quite likely the last person in the English-speaking world who is finally getting around to reading this book, but what can I say?  I was busy reading Jacobs' The Year of Living Biblically first.  (AWESOME read, by-the-way.  Extremely funny.)  So, those are my meager goals for the coming month--to keep pegging away at Harry Potter, finish The Know-It-All, and choose and read at least one book that fits the parameters of my own reading challenge/blog hop.  That choice is yet to be determined, but that makes three books that are or will be on my night table.  I think I can handle that in a month.

September 26, 2011

How to Sound Well-Read

I have a confession to make, and to any former professors of mine who may be tuning in, I can only apologize and say in my own defense that I'm certainly not unique in this failing.  Throughout my entire college career, I only read about one-third of the total readings that were assigned to me.  Honestly, though I suppose there are truly Hermione-esque college students in this world who actually read all or nearly all of what they're told to, I believe that the vast majority of us prioritized and simply bluffed our way through when we had to in order to keep up with everything.

Clearly, this is not such a great idea when the entire course is dedicated to a particular author, or even worse, to a specific book or set of books.  I did my level best to keep up in the whole semester devoted to nothing but Dante's Divine Comedy; otherwise, I would have looked like a total idiot during 90-minute discussion periods about nothing but the assigned chapters.  However, in classes that are meant to cover a broad range of topics, a large period of history, or an expansive set of ideas, a little breadth of knowledge about life, basic history and Western culture will get you nearly as far as reading the assignments will, especially since far too many professors simply regurgitate to you in class what they asked you to read in preparation for hearing them say it all again.

Obviously, it's easiest to keep up with the readings that aren't ass-numbingly dull.  By the time we were into our second play in the graduate course simply entitled "Shakespeare," my professor had given us enough grounding in Shakespeare's jargon and mind-set to really open his works up for us, so I found plays like Othello and The Tempest to be real page-turners.  I don't think I ever completed a reading assignment earlier or more blissfully than when I was "required" to read Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice.  I expected to have a fearfully dull time in the course called "Chaucer," until I actually started READING "The Miller's Tale," and discovered that most of the characters in The Canterbury Tales are randy old goats who tell stories simply to try and outdo each other in a competition of ribaldry.  After that discovery, the book went pretty quickly!

But there were acres, scores, legions of books and articles and short stories and poems that I was supposed to read, and chose the path of greater resistance but more free time instead.  Because it's harder to fake your way through a 50-minute discussion of a text than it is to simply have read the damn thing, there's no doubt about that.  I know it indicates some inherent character flaw in me that instead of just doing what I was told, I often just bided my time and found a way to insert an intelligent-sounding comment when someone veered onto a subtopic about which I had some knowledge.  Sometimes, I even found a quiet corner where no one would notice me, read as fast as I could until I caught up to a part they were all ABOUT to discuss, and then was able to contribute to the conversation.  Like I say, I know this must indicate that something is truly messed up in my psyche.  Or that I was simply assigned WAY too much reading material, like everybody else, and came up with a coping strategy that kept me from drowning, like everybody else.  Because you see, once or twice, I showed up for a class completely innocent of the slightest hint of preparation for it--AND SO DID EVERYONE ELSE!  It would've been funny, if it hadn't made our professor so angry, as we all sat there giving him frightened, deer-in-headlights expressions in response to every question.  It was in those moments that I took some comfort from the knowledge that at least I wasn't alone in my slacking.

I was thinking about this tonight because I've been playing the neverending trivia over on the bookish site called "goodreads," and I started noticing a somewhat disturbing and highly amusing pattern.  These trivia questions are concocted by members of the site, and since "goodreads" is just a book-based social media spot--the Facebook of reading geekdom--its members are drawn from "all sorts and conditions of men--and women."  (I wish I could remember where that quote is from; any of you know?) (Update: I think it's the name of a chapter of one of the "Anne" books, maybe Anne of Avonlea.)  Some of the questions were clearly written by non-native speakers of English, many of them were obviously devised by people who've read the Harry Potter series even more times than I have, and most importantly, "goodreads" really needs to come up with a way to sift out repeats.  Because the same questions have been posed so many times about the same authors and their books, and because you are shown the correct answer once you move to the next question, my score has recently sky-rocketed, since I now know who killed whom or what the missing item is in several classics I've never read, and which famous author wrote which famous quote in a letter to which one of their infamous lovers.  So, if you want to sound well-read, come do trivia on "goodreads," find out a few simple facts about famous authors that you can toss out at parties, and look up half a dozen literary terms in the dictionary, like "simile" and "post-modern."  It's much cheaper than bluffing your way through ten years of "higher learning."

September 25, 2011

Review of "The Corruptible"

(Ahh, the SuperToddler has calmed down and the house is still, so maybe I will be able to write this review tonight, after all.  We'll give it a shot and see what develops...)

NB:  My Kindle copy of The Corruptible was provided to me gratis by Waterbrook Multnomah Publishing Group, with the understanding that I would, in return, provide them with an honest review of the book.  I have now fulfilled my disclosure obligations, Uncle Sam.

Written by former Marine and current homicide detective Mark Mynheir, The Corruptible is a Christian murder mystery.  If that phrase sounds a little off to you as a genre description, you're not alone; I didn't realize such a thing existed, either, until I read this one.  As an Eastern Orthodox Christian, I've often been a little leary of overtly Christian novels, because they usually seem to push one particular type of Christianity to the exclusion of all others, but I found this novel refreshingly free of that kind of glaring denominationalism.

Police detective Ray Quinn was forcibly retired by a gunshot wound in the first novel of this series (which I have not yet read, but now hope to read soon), and has now opened his own detective agency.  The life of a private eye is not paying as well as he might have hoped, and debts are mounting, when a very lucrative case falls into his lap.  What seems to be a straightforward missing person, however, soons turns into a homicide investigation which has Ray semi-officially working with his former colleagues in the Orlando Police Department.

Mynheir's novel was pleasantly entertaining, with a minimum of preaching and a healthy dose of page-turner plot.  Regular viewers of the hit show CSI will find a few plot points and at least one character uncomfortably familiar, especially since both are set in blistering hot cities, with an odd flavor to them that springs from their predominating business interests.  It is obvious throughout the book, however, that the author speaks from personal experience on matters of evidence-gathering and investigational techniques, and it is not surprising that various forms of popular culture will share similar details, if they've got their facts straight.

Two rather weak characters slow the work down a bit.  Crevis Creighton, the lovable but dopey sidekick, truly is loveable in a hang-dog kind of way, but has such a limited IQ that he's more of a stereotype than a well-rounded character.  The actual client in this case, Armon Meyer, suffers from the typical foibles of a rich businessman in such novels--soulless, devious, slimy with a veneer of respectability, he's utterly flat, again a sort of plot device instead of a person.

Despite those issues, however, The Corruptible was a solid read, kept me guessing until the last chapter, and is full of a wry wit that I found delightful.  I would recommend this book to anyone in search of a decent mystery, especially all those not likely to be put off by the occasional reference to religion.


Okay, now I'm really confused.  Brigid the SuperToddler continues with serious sleep disruptions, screaming and crying and just generally being miserable, and as I can discern no physical cause, I would assume that it's night terrors, except the information I read said that it doesn't start this young, and that she's probably just having nightmares.  And I didn't even know toddlers COULD have restless leg syndrome, but apparently they can, so that's just perfect--something new for me to worry about!  I have no idea what to think, but I feel like I'm going to crawl out of my skin because I just have to let her cry, and have no way to help her.  I try to go in her room and comfort her, but she's trying to go back to sleep, and being bothered only makes her more upset.  Of all the unpleasant experiences in the world, feeling helpless is definitely one of the worst, and it's not one that I'm used to as a mommy, since I can normally alleviate her toddler woes fairly easily.  I guess it's good training for when she's sixteen and some obnoxious boy breaks her heart, because I won't be able to fix that, either.  I was planning to post a book review tonight, but it's clearly not going to happen.  The crying continues in a weak, intermittent fashion, and I can barely think straight, let along string together coherent sentences.

September 24, 2011

We the People

The documents upon which our country is founded, and of which we are most proud, were banned reading in their day, or at least, they should have been under the laws of the time.  Every phrase that Thomas Jefferson penned in the American colonists' declaration of independence was treasonous, as was the act of drawing up a constitution, forming a government in direct opposition to the monarchy to which every man in the room had once sworn loyalty.  These were dangerous, seditious documents, and though they contained no lovers in flagrante delicto or boy wizards waving sticks in the air and shouting fake Latin, they were every bit as distasteful to some readers as explicit sexual narratives and magic-laden fantasy fiction are to many readers today.

This is Banned Books Week, and it calls up a torturously complex subject in our society--how we respond to those with whom we disagree.  The principles of democracy are already an exhaustively preached sermon in American life, and especially in American politics, but all bets seem to be off when certain subjects are broached in our reading material, particularly in books aimed at our children.  The subject of banned and challenged books is one about which I feel very strongly, not least because I used to be such an ardent supporter of censorship.  As a proudly self-proclaimed Fundamentalist Pentecostal, I actually took a white-out pen to my novels, denuding them of anything that I found morally objectionable.  Of course, I had to survive the first, unsanitized reading in order to do so, but I've always been an avid re-reader of good books, and I didn't want to be faced with the foul language I was expurgating more than once.

The story of my journey from vigilante censor to champion of "radical activist librarians" is a long one, but the upshot is simple.  I've decided that intellectual freedom, rather than suppression, is the only true solution to a host of humanity's ills.  I have a toddler, and there are many things in this world to which I do not want her exposed until she is emotionally ready--and a few to which I profoundly hope she will never be exposed at all!  But in my mind, the process of helping her develop, mature, and acquire the skills to make good choices for herself about what she reads, is simply parenting.  No doubt I will fail at times.  Nevertheless, I consider censorship no solution to anyone's problems, not to mention an excellent way to someday find yourself or your descendants burning books.

Follow this link to see a list of books banned or challenged from May 2010 to May 2011 at the American Library Association's website.

Why Mothers Go Gray

I really wish I knew what is happening in my poor little SuperToddler's mind when she goes from sound asleep to the banshee scream from Hell in 60 seconds flat.  I know she's not having night terrors; she falls back into sleep just about as quickly as she left it, and goes sometimes for several hours before this happens again, or it may not happen again the whole night.  But she's done it at least once a night for nearly a week now.  No major changes in our day-to-day existence have arisen to totally unbalance her world.  If I go into her room to check on her, she responds to me, and seems actually to have awakened--in fact, she has more than once dismissed me with a quick kiss and a forceful, "Night-night!"  She's extremely sleepy, after all, and wants to get back into her bed.  I know the feeling!!  So basically, we've got a blood-curdling shriek that rips my mind out of sleep and my body out of bed in one fluid, terrified motion, only to then have Brigid immediately return to slumber.  Meanwhile, I try to figure out where the several years of my life span that just fell off of me rolled to under the furniture so I can pick them back up, along with what's left of my quickly shredding brain.  I then try to fall back asleep while simultaneously trying to ignore the fact that just about the time that I do, the whole process may start over.  She's been to the doctor recently; I know she's healthy.  I researched all this online, and found answers I already knew--teething, and maybe the occasional nightmare.  Knowing all that doesn't help that much at 4:00 a.m., though I'm grateful to be assured that she's okay and this stage will pass.  It's just been a long week.

September 23, 2011

Frackin' Sweet!

So.  The Light Barrier.  Broken.  Yes, that's right, geeks and science fans everywhere.  Something verifiably moved faster than the speed of light in Europe today.  Well, actually, for the past three years, and presumably a lot longer than that, if these results turn out to be repeatable, scientifically verifiable evidence.  Let's back up and see the larger picture.

In an almost inexcusably oversimplified manner of speaking, here's what physics looked like on the issue of light speed from the time of Einstein (at least) until now:

In other words, man can, has, and does on a regular basis, travel faster than the speed of sound.  This achievement was called "breaking the sound barrier."  You'll also notice, in my little diagram, that possible speeds smack head-first into a brick wall when they reach light, because nothing can travel faster than light.  Nothing.  "Not nobody!  Not no how!"  This really sucked for us geeks, because Star Trek and all its children, off-shoots and wannabe-s depend on faster-than-light travel to reach other planets.  Otherwise, it would take so long to reach anything beyond our own solar system that the astronauts would arrive at their destination not even as corpses, but as skeletons.  Really dry, crumbly ones.

But, if the announcement made by CERN (a really serious and super-reliable group of scientists in Europe) turns out to be accurate, and not some kind of massive instrumentation failure that's been happening consistently for three years, physics now looks like this:

And if ANYTHING really CAN travel faster than light, then as of today, the future quite possibly looks a little more like this:

Keep the faith, geeks of the world!

September 22, 2011

5-Minute Friday: Growing

The Gypsy Mama
Most people don't think of Fall as a growing season.  Mention "growing things," and folks assume the next words out of your mouth will be something about Spring, new planting, tulip bulbs, and twitter-pated animals.  (I can't believe I was all of 33 before the etymology, so to speak, of the term "twitter-pated" dawned on me!)  Yet, Autumn is a growing time, an important step in the process of nature's functioning and continuing to thrive.  First and foremost, things do actually come into their own in the autumn; granted, most plants are beginning to wrap their withering leaves around themselves, slowly sink into their cozy beds, and hunker down to wait for the spring thaw, but there are growing things that come to fruition in autumn, or even winter.

More importantly, however, is the round of "seed time and harvest," the fact that, as Scripture says, there can be no new life until there is death.  A seed falls into the ground in order to give life to a new plant in its own likeness.  Autumn has always felt like a very refreshing and alive time for me, because everyone and everything draws a long breath after a rushed summer full of activities, sweat, and daylight savings time, and we allow ourselves the rest that is vital to growth.  I've never seen falling leaves as signs of death and growing old.  Rather, the autumn pause is a time to refresh and prepare for the new burst of life that spring will bring.  It's all a necessary part of the process of growing.

Welcome to the Red Sea Place

Unexpectedly today, I was traveling along, roaming through a wilderness of my own making but one which I have begun to accept and learn to be content within until my circumstances change, when I pushed through a clump of scrub brush and suddenly found myself gazing upon the gentle but inexorable tides of the Red Sea.  Only one other person in the world--my brother--can truly understand the terror that the words "Red Sea Place" engender in me, but I believe we can rectify that.  I'll attempt to bring you into the circle of "family speak" in which this phrase has horrifyingly real meaning.

My father was a Pentecostal preacher for the majority of his adult life, and he was continuously developing an ever-growing canon of sermons that were familiar friends to his wife and children, as if they were members of our family.  Within those sermons were encapsulated the observations, philosophies, and faithful nuggets of truth by which our family lived.  One of them was called "The Red Sea Place."  For any who may be unfamiliar with the Biblical backstory, here's the short-hand explicitly detailed.  It begins with the Exodus, the great event during which the enslaved people of Israel left Egypt, the land of their captivity, to journey to the Promised Land, the region of the Earth today known as the Holy Land.  The Pharaoh who had freed them in response to an onslaught of plagues God sent against Israel, came to his senses not long after the Hebrews left his land, remembering that they were a huge component of the Egyptian workforce, and that the country's economy would likely be wrecked by what he had done in his angry haste.  Thus, he personally led his army of war horsemen and charioteers to capture and drag back the essential slaves.  Before they knew what was happening, the Israelites, led by Moses, found themselves standing in the middle of a desert, with mountains on three sides, an army behind them, and the Red Sea dead ahead.

There was, quite literally, not a thing the Israelites could do to save themselves.  They could walk into the sea and drown, or stand there, unarmed, with their wives and children as easy prey, and be slaughtered.  And Moses asked God what He thought He was playing at.  And God said, "Quiet!  Watch, and see that I AM GOD."  The rest, if you've ever seen Cecil B. DeMille's classic film, The Ten Commandments, is history, with parting waters and whales swimming up to say hello through the giant curtain of water as the Israelites walked, on dry ground, through what had so recently been a huge sea.  The Egyptians naturally played monkey-see, monkey do, and the waters crashed in upon them as soon as the Israelites were standing clear on the opposite bank.

What, then, are the characteristics of the Red Sea Place?  It is a situation in which you see yourself faced with no options whatsoever, or rather, options like starving and homelessness, and you can only stand there waiting until God gives you further instructions.  Once He does, you must move quickly, and do exactly as He says, although the alternatives are so obvious that you'd never dream of doing anything else, anyway.  Once you've passed through the miraculous deliverance that will only appear the second you absolutely must have it, your life will be forever changed, and there will be no possibility of going back to where you were before.  Thus, Red Sea Places are usually accompanied by a certain air of hope and excitement for a new beginning, but that promise can only be fulfilled by surviving the intervening terror.  Often, the months building up to the arrival of a Red Sea place have a feeling of impending upheaval about them, life growing incrementally more stressful and tightening down the screws, especially for those who have experienced these moments enough times to recognize the pattern.

Throughout most of my childhood, the symptoms of these on-coming catastrophes usually resulted in us moving across states or even across the country, my parents seeking new jobs, all of us leaving behind friends, church, and schools to start all over again.  I swear, I identified very strongly with Ma and Laura Ingalls when I was growing up and reading the Little House books, and got very annoyed with Pa every time he started demonstrating wanderlust, because as far as I could tell, they usually weren't even facing the Red Sea of life, and he uprooted them, anyway!  At least when my parents did it to us, there was usually a lost job, huge financial crises, medical catastrophes and the death of our only vehicle involved.  One time, the house we were renting simply got sold out from under us!  We were moving, whether any of us liked it or not.  In another case, a flood hit our town, and the foundations under our house began slowly drifting off to make their own way in the world.  It was an extremely wearying way to grow up.  I think I've finally just accepted that this is how my life is going to be, but I hate it for my poor little Brigid the SuperToddler's sake.

Michael works for a company that is a government subcontractor.  The contract is nearly over.  We expected that his layoff would take place in the autumn of next year.  Today, he discovered that it will happen in January.  We're waiting to do, one more time, whatever seemingly impossible task You have planned for us, God, but You're going to have to send us a telegram or something, soon, and let us know what it is.

September 21, 2011

Reading with Happy Feet

Penguin Books, to the best of my knowledge and memory, has never given me so much as a free #2 pencil.  (They sent me a couple of free catalogs once, when I requested them, but they do that for everybody.)  The following gush is completely unsolicited; I just love Penguin, and always have.

Can anyone explain to my satisfaction why I, like generations of Britain's bibliophiles and casual readers, should be so utterly captivated by one of the world's simplest book cover designs ever?  I mean, I can take a guess why Penguin's multiple but dead-similar lines of covers were popular for decades.  The clean lines, the clear, crisp text, the bright colors that allowed the shopper to distinguish at a glance between genres, all combine to create an aesthetically superb effect.  I understand that.  Now that we've all finished being amateur marketing experts for a moment, let me just say that those perfectly reasonable-sounding arguments still don't answer my question.  You see, they don't satisfy me; they are NOT "to my satisfaction," as I requested, whereas the plain-jane Penguin cover, monochromatic and seemingly unassuming, is deeply satisfying to the souls of both my inner art critic and my inner bibliomaniac.

Photo courtesy of
the penguin blog
I must admit, I had never seen such a Penguin cover in my life until about two months ago; until then, I had only ever encountered the more contemporary yellow-jacket version typical of university bookstores, or the latest, sleekest, predominantly jet-black model which was rolled out by Penguin at about the same time that I started graduate school.  My ignorance of Penguin's iconic image of a by-gone era stems largely from one simple fact; I always bought and read Penguin USA versions.  More and more, however, I have insisted on having copies of books from their country of origin whenever possible since I began collecting the British originals of Harry Potter, and when I stumbled across Penguin's postcard collection on Amazon, I was hooked.  It was a side of Penguin I'd never seen before.  The British side.  The aspect of a famous publisher from a time when even its paperbacks were wrought with a level of care and skill rarely met with today in any format from any publishing house.

I miss you, Dad.
Of course, the blogosphere has been abuzz with the gorgeous new Penguin hardback classics (one of which, Cranford, I reviewed in an earlier post), and though these beauties bear no resemblance to the 20th-century Penguin triband at all, I love them, as well, and am slowly collecting them.  (It's going to be REALLY slow collecting, though, since I'm not supposed to be buying any more books in the immediate future.  I know; good luck with that.)  AND NOW, I learned from a fellow blogger today that Puffin, Penguin's children's division, is publishing ITS classics in adorable, newly-designed hardcovers, as well.  Christmas presents, anyone?  I cannot allow there to be a nice edition of Anne of Green Gables somewhere out there in the world of which I don't own a copy!  Seriously--I have no idea how many copies of that book I actually own.  It's getting ridiculous.  I can't even tell myself that I'm buying and saving them for Brigid, because she doesn't need five copies of the same book any more than I do.

Anyway, this meandering panegyric to Penguin of a post is all in aid of saying only this--I can't wait until Thursday (payday), when I can order my used copy of The Case Book of Sherlock Holmes--one of the missing volumes that I mentioned in my last library project post--in all its green-banded, Penguin-ish, 1959 glory!  Hey, at least it only takes a small, used paperback novel to make me happy, and I'm certainly not the only one.  There's even a Penguin Collectors Society!  Who knew?!

September 19, 2011

30-Minute Autobiography

Having your first appointment with a new therapist is a lot like going on a first date, with a couple of very important differences.  I mean, you have to go through all the work of getting acquainted with someone, trying to teach someone else a lifetime's worth of your stories, your idiosyncracies, and the shorthand of how your thought life functions, all the while knowing that it will be two or three more "dates" before you have any idea whether this relationship will really work, and whether all this energy invested will have been worth it.  Those all-important differences I mentioned make up for a lot, though; there is absolutely no sexual tension (unless you've got even bigger problems that need to be dealt with!), and it's not only okay but absolutely expected that you'll be totally self-absorbed.

Therapy can be dangerous, though, especially if your life really has sucked to a great extent.  The more you tell the story, and watch even a professional counselor go "Oh, holy shit!" by the time you get to the fourth or fifth major death in the family, flood, bankruptcy, or car that died in the middle of the road and never moved again under its own power, you start thinking to yourself, "Wow, my life really HAS sucked!"  And NOW you're REALLY depressed, not to mention the fact that an AWESOME pity party could well be in full swing any time.  Another way that my life has sucked, however, is that I have rarely lived in one place long enough to get past this initial, "Ooooo!  The awesomeness of your sufferings!" stage with somebody to reach the point where we could start being productive.  Since I know for a fact that Michael's job is going to keep us here for at least another 6 to 8 months, I'm hoping for better things this time.  My family and I need me to overcome the more paralysing effects of PTSD, and more importantly, the rest of the world really needs there to NOT be one more person enjoying her own morose celebration of self-pity!

Loving Loopholes

Don't you just HATE it when you've set yourself the task of reading the books you already own before you buy any more or check out any more library books, and then you discover that one of the books you've got is part of a series, and NOT the first in the series, so now you HAVE to buy another book?  Yeah, me neither!

So, here's the story.  As Michael and I have completely run out of our beloved Midsomer Murders, the British mystery series that we had been devotedly tearing our way through whenever we had a SuperToddler-free 90 minutes to watch one, we switched to streaming 1980's adaptations of Sherlock Holmes from Netflix.  Michael read the books by Sir Arthur Conan-Doyle when he was young, but I never have, despite the fact that I own a beautifully hardbound, illustrated copy of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes in my legendary personal library.  The episodes we've been watching are actually quite good, and they piqued my interest, so I decided I would make this my next undertaking in the "Read Your Own Damn Library!" challenge.  I had just opened the book, and was reading the first paragraph while enjoying the feel of the gilt-tinged cover in my hand, when I noticed that the words on the page were not squaring with my expectations at all.  Dr. Watson was talking about having just been married, and how he hadn't seen Holmes in months, so he stopped by the rooms they had formerly shared in order to pay a little visit.  HUH?  Even if I've never read the books, I've seen movies, I've watched Data play Holmes on Star Trek: The Next Generation.  I've been exposed to bits of the story like anyone else who was born into an English-speaking culture, and I had clearly missed a lot of ... something.

Wikipedia to the rescue!  Oh, how did I live before I could consult with my trusty Wikipedia?  Okay, we'll save that episode of waxing rhapsodic for another time.  (But let me just say, did you know there is also a site called Wiktionary?  A writer's best friend, I assure you!)  Sufficeth to say, I consulted my faithful friends online, and discovered that my beautifully hardbound and illustrated edition of Sherlock Holmes is only a selection, and not one that contains the vast majority of the Holmes canon, or the beginning of it, for that matter.  Amazon Time!!  So, I found old Penguin Classic paperback copies of each of the pieces of the puzzle I needed, and will be ordering them incrementally.  Obviously, they're used, so it'll be $1 here and $.75 there, until I have them all.  See?  It's all a legitimate part of reading the library I already own, right?  Riiiiiiiight.  I don't believe it either, but it's fun to pretend.

September 18, 2011

Just Keep Swimming

I think most of the Blogosphere has put the famous quote from Dory the Adorable Ding-Dong in Finding Nemo to their own use at some point.  I even saw an entire blog that was called "Just Keep Swimming" the other day.  But can you blame us all?  It's an incorrigibly, infectiously hopeful life philosophy.  I am especially attached to Dory, because I lived with her for a year.  No, seriously, my beloved college roommate, Keegan, will be the first to tell you that she is, like Dory, easily distracted by shiny things, uncannily skilled at misplacing important items, and generally a bit flustered much of the time.  What she probably wouldn't tell you herself, however, is that she has the largest, most golden, purest heart of just about anyone I've ever met, and she was always pushing me to "just keep swimming."  It is advice that has served me well over the years.

So, today, I've done a lot of swimming.  It's been a quiet, steady and productive day, with plenty of networking and blog-related explorations interspersed between playing with Brigid, getting her meals prepared and sending her--unwillingly--off to bed at the usual hour.  My readership, though modest, is growing, in modest increments.  My confidence is being restored and bolstered up with every post I publish.  Another article is waiting in the ViewsHound queue, which means I once again spin the roulette wheel and see if I can win one of their prizes soon.  I did "what my hands found to do" today, as the Scripture says, and though it wasn't much, it was what I had to give.  It all seems to be bearing quiet fruit, for which I am grateful to God, and to all of you.

September 17, 2011

My First 5-Minute Friday

Congratulations to me, for I have joined my first Linky party.  I am meant to write, unhindered by my own inhibitions about whether or not my work is up to snuff, for five minutes every Friday in response to the prompt provided.  Obviously, this is a Saturday, and not a Friday, but I only discovered this Linky today, so I'm a day late, (and ALWAYS a dollar short, believe me).  Here goes.

People say that children experience complete innocence, a carefree existence, that childhood is the happiest time of life.  They're right, of course, about the complete innocence--at least that's how our children come issued to us; it's up to us to make sure they maintain it until it is appropriate for them to develop "a better acquaintance with the world."  But as for being carefree, that is absolute nonsense.  Children have their own worries and cares, I assure you, they just appear carefree to those who don't take a small child's burdens that seriously.  However, their joy is more perfect and complete than that of any adult.
When my daughter sits on my knee, watching her favorite tv clip from the show "Charlie and Lola" AGAIN, she giggles and kicks her little legs and generally enjoys this treat with total abandon.  No fears about whether she looks silly.  No obsession with what she "should" be doing at this moment but isn't.  Utter joy.  Sheer happiness.  Children aren't carefree, they're just less demanding.  I know; that sounds crazy.  Believe me, my child is a demanding individual.  She wants what she wants when she wants it like every other 2-year-old, and it's my job as a mom to continually teach her the fine art of controlling her passions and making compromises with me until she really begins to grasp self-control.  When I say she's less demanding, I mean that she is more easily pleased.  It is not as difficult to fill her with pure joy as it is for me to experience such a feeling.  Childlike innocence and childlike faith go hand-in-hand, and the result is childlike joy.

September 16, 2011

Cloud Illusions

As you all are aware, I have been delving heavily into what the internet has to offer me in the way of writing opportunities, and particularly into the mysterious depths of the nebulous "Blogosphere."  In so doing, I have visited A LOT of blogs recently--and I mean, A LOT--picking up tricks of the trade, tips and hints for how to make my HTML behave, and so on.  I've seen many stylistic things that I liked, storing them in my memory banks in case I'm ever lucky enough to be able to sink money into blog templates and themes.  But I am not here tonight to talk about the things that have inspired me; rather, I must vent my spleen to someone about something that really ANNOYS me.  I'd like to talk about the cloud.

For those among us who may not yet be up on the lingo, I am not now going to launch into a tribute concert to Joni Mitchell.  Though I do LOVE the song "Both Sides Now," especially now that I have seen clouds from both sides.  And I really love her song "River"; it always takes me back to the winter that Michael and I got engaged.  BUT none of that is relevant now!  Back to the rant at hand.  I am not going to talk about Joni Mitchell and her cloud illusions, nor do I wish to discuss cirrus, or cumulonimbus, or any other sort of meteorological phenomenon.  I am talking about the cloud display now being used on websites all over the world as an alternative to the simple, old-fashioned list.  Or to employ a visual aid, I am talking about THIS:

Someone please explain to me, who on earth decided that this would be a visually pleasing or useful way to arrange information?  Yes, I know; some bright spark would write me a short treatise on learning styles, on brainstorming and flowcharts and free association, to all of which I can only reply that I took that same Ed. Psych. course.  Forgive me if the prejudices of my own learning style are showing, but every time I come across one of these random hodge-podge "clouds," I suddenly start having fond visions of doing considerable violence to the screen in front of me.  There.  I have released my irrationally vitriolic feelings toward something that has no relevance to life, the human condition, or the important events of the day.  I feel better.  Thank you.

September 15, 2011

God Save the Queen

I'm obsessed with the BBC.  No, I'm serious.  I discovered the wonders of British television when I was eight, far too young to be watching a rather risque show which I certainly didn't understand called "Are You Being Served?"  I particularly loved the accents; it just seemed that no matter what was happening on the screen, nothing truly bad could ever happen in a world where people spoke like that.  PBS quickly became my favorite tv station, and these days it is the only broadcast station I watch.  (If I can't stream it from Netflix, I live without it, whatever it is.)  But it took the advent of the internet for my true love affair with the Beeb to begin.

I was sitting in the office of the librarian for whom I worked as an assistant at Indiana University, during my second year as a graduate student, slipping slowly into utter insanity.  The data entry I had been assigned was easily as interesting as watching paint dry, my boss wasn't there that often, and there were no windows not only in our office, but anywhere above the second floor of this 11-story building.  See what I mean?  Since I was working at a computer, I figured the internet had to know of a way that I could save myself from lunacy.  After about an hour of digging--I know, I got paid to surf the web; I do at least feel suitably ashamed of myself--the room seemed suddenly to be filled with choiring angels.  There on the screen in front of me were the words, "BBC Streaming Radio".  Surely, this was too good to be true.  At the last second, the computer would develop facial features, laugh its chips off at me, and point out that I wasn't actually IN the British Isles, and tell me I had a lot of nerve even attempting this.  Except, when I clicked on the magic button, a Real Player window appeared, and the voice of some delightful BBC chick whose name has been lost to history came piping through my earphones, informing me that she would next be playing a comedy show, first aired in the 1960s, called "I'm Sorry, I'll Read That Again".  It was the beginning of a passionate love affair that carries on to this day.

But that's not the end of the story.  Oh, no.  With so many BBC television series available on DVD these days, my collection has grown to truly ridiculous proportions, and I am doing my best to indoctrinate the younger generation as quickly as possible.  In an effort to get my toddler addicted to tv that Mommy DOESN'T mind watching over...and over...and over...and over again, I have introduced her to the BBC's delightful show, "Charlie and Lola," based on the equally wonderful books by Lauren Child.  It chronicles the adventures of 7-year-old Charlie, his 4-year-old sister, Lola, and their imaginative forays into a world that is entirely their own (in the "What do you want to be when you grow up?" sense, not the "Walk through that piece of furniture and find Narnia" sense.)  I am delighted to say that my sweet little SuperToddler not only enjoys Charlie and Lola, not only finds it funny when I imitate the accent for her, but was trying her best to speak with the semi-posh, middle class, London pronunciation of her new playmates tonight.  It was a very proud moment for me as her mother; I swear, I nearly got misty-eyed.

September 14, 2011

WTF Wednesday

Okay, gang, I will be the first to admit that I've led a sheltered life.  I was always the kid freaking out because I found out my friends had *actually* tried smoking pot once in their lives, and if it was more adventurous than running through the fountain on the campus of my alma mater--which I did once--then it was far too daring for me.  So when I got baffled and irritated in the McDonald's drivethru last night, maybe I was just demonstrating how high my ivory tower has always been.  Maybe this is some new rite-of-passage on which I just never received the memo.

I put it to all of you: has order-and-run drive-up behavior become a new hobby of America's youth?  If so, somebody please clue me in on this.  I was sitting in my car last night, not-quite-patiently waiting to pick up my burgers, but waiting all the same.  The truck in front of me was parked at the window, looking for all the world as if they, too, were innocently waiting for their food, when the window opened, a hand extended an ice cream cone toward the pickup's driver, and the truck drove off.  I thought the driver must have gotten angry about something, and drove off in a huff, but when I got to the window myself and said something about it, the employee working there told me that this was apparently the "customer's" idea of a joke.  Moreover, these annoying pranks are sometimes accompanied by violence, such as projectiles flying at the head of the unsuspecting cashier.

This was a new one on me, and so befuddling that I just had to blog about it.  Is this how people entertain themselves these days?  Can't they just commit normal misdemeanors, like decorating bathroom stalls with soft porn?  Perhaps steal a toilet paper dispenser on a dare?  At least those fall into the mythical category of "victimless crimes."  Surely the poor woman working the drivethru at 10:00 p.m. on a weeknight for minimum wage didn't do anything to deserve someone lobbing missiles at her through the window!

September 13, 2011

You're Hurting My Schwartz

I'm watching what is without doubt the worst episode of a Star Trek series I've ever seen, and continuing to let it play out of sheer, morbidly unhealthy curiosity to see how bad it can get.  The cheezy, badly-acted, poorly-cast destruction of one of my favorite franchises is so awesomely bad that I just had to share.

Here's the deal, and I know that for any Star Trek geek out there who is reading this, what I'm about to say is heresy--I hate the mirror universe episodes.  I understand why the concept first arose, and I think it was effective in The Original Series.  Star Trek's Federation is supposed to be the ultimate accomplishment of all human endeavors, the epitome of what we are capable of achieving if we sufficiently evolve.  (Please, let's not dive into metaphysics here; sufficeth to say that Gene Roddenberry wanted to give humanity a hopeful vision of the future, and at times, I've been really glad that SOMEBODY did!)  It made sense, then, to project a different course for human kind, imagine what might become of us if we didn't follow the peaceful course Star Trek predicted, if we let our baser selves hold sway to the total exclusion of our better natures.  Besides, all that goody-two-shoes gooeyness every week could really get on your nerves.

So, enter the Mirror Universe, a parallel dimension in which Kirk, Spock, McCoy and the gang all existed, but as the most villainous versions of themselves imaginable.  The whole Federation was a demonic parody of itself, the real "evil empire."  The end of that episode left us with some hope about the power of one man to make a difference, as "our" Captain Kirk convinced "their" Spock to try and steer his Empire toward a more righteous course.  A Next Generation novel that I really enjoyed, Dark Mirror (by Diane Duane), involved Picard and his intrepid band in rescuing "our" Enterprise and "our" universe from their doubles.  Why, then, have all the subsequent Mirror Universe episodes been so HEINOUSLY bad?  Deep Space 9 did several, and among other highlights, one of the main characters FELL IN LOVE WITH HERSELF!  It was hideous.

And yet, this attempt trumps them all.  I've enjoyed Star Trek: Enterprise, the most recently made series, more than I expected, given how many of the fans have trash-talked this show.  But this is by far the worst Mirror Universe I've ever seen, and some bright spark turned it into a two-part episode!  I mean, they've just taken control of the original Enterprise, and they're walking around the Original Series sets wearing Original Series uniforms, and it still sucks.  That takes some sort of perverse talent.

September 12, 2011

The Wild Things

This is what I want it to look like in my head right now, the thought processes that would be marching through my brain and blythely onto the page in a perfect world.

Here's what it ACTUALLY looks like in my mind at the moment.

Those of you who have children instantly feel my pain, and need no other explanations, I'm sure.  For those of you who don't, here is a quick, albeit intentionally unhelpful, description of what's happening in this scene.

  1. Yes, two peas are wearing berets in this picture, and no, they don't have measles--they have freckles.
  2. Why yes, now that you mention it, that cucumber-shaped superhero is wearing toilet plungers on his mask.
  3. That IS a tomato, standing there looking put upon and put out by what he is putting up with.  That is his usual expression, by-the-way, and I know how he feels.
  4. Indeed, the musical notes flying at random through the air are sadly misshapen, and becoming ever more so the more times they flit through my head like a needle stuck in the groove of a broken record.
If you're baffled--and I'd be concerned about you if you weren't--I can only say this: check out a DVD of a kid's show called "Veggie Tales" from your local library, watch five minutes of it, and all will become clear.  Also, since my daughter usually spends at least one night of each week at Grandma's house, my in-laws are NEVER ALLOWED TO GO ON VACATION AGAIN!!!!  One week of preparations, plus two weeks in Hawaii, equals three weeks that Brigid and I have spent constantly together without a break of any kind.  (I am not exaggerating.  I took two hours off to go to the doctor, and Brigid does consistently sleep in her own room; that's it.  She even wanders into the bathroom when I'm in there to make sure I haven't vanished off the face of the earth in the last two minutes since she saw me.)  My daughter and I absolutely dote on each other, are devoted to one another, and she's getting tired of my company at the moment.  Everybody needs a break.

Six Degrees of Geekeration

Well, that day that every lowly geek dreams of happened for me earlier this week.  Yes, a famous geek took the time to personally send me an e-mail!  This is the 21st-century answer to the signed photograph in reply to a fan letter, and I was totally thrilled about it.

So, the famous geek in question--she's not just A famous geek, she is currently THE reigning queen of geekdom.  Her name is Jen; ironically, I don't actually know her last name, and I rarely think of her just as "Jen."  I usually think of her as "Jen and John," since her husband is an integral part of the geekery.  Jen (and John) runs the website called Cake Wrecks, and if by some miracle you read my blog and HAVEN'T heard of Cake Wrecks, you poor, benighted soul, let me give you a quick run-down on it.

Cake Wrecks is the place where those "professional bakeries" that are part of Super Wal-Marts and Targets and what-not get called out in front of the entire internet to answer for the travesties they create and have the nerve to sell to an unsuspecting public.  It's not as mean as that might make it sound, but it is dripping with sarcasm, which if you're going to geek, is the only proper way to geek, really.  A geek who has lost his sense of sarcasm isn't a whole geek any more.  To balance out the hard-core cake critiques that make up her usual fare, Jen also does features on beautiful, unbelievable cakes that you'd swear must be molded from clay or something other than actual food, just to demonstrate that it CAN be done correctly and THAT'S why she's so tough on people who do it so very incorrectly.  The photo at the top of this post is an example of the kind of cake catastrophe we're talking about here; I took that particular photo myself at a local store, and when I tell you that I sent it to Jen but it didn't make the site because it wasn't ENOUGH of a wreck, you can probably get a feel for the scope of baked devastation she finds.

Anyway, besides singing my mother-in-law's praises on this blog for giving me the geek-tacular gift of Lego's for my birthday, I also sent a shout-out to Jen about it, because she likes to hear how her loyal geek subjects are doing from time to time.  I really didn't expect to hear back from her, but I did, in a very sweet e-mail that made not just my day, but...well, my life, really, to this point, with the two big exceptions of my marriage and my daughter's birth.

Nice famous people!  Who knew?

September 10, 2011


Craft-Transmitted Diseases

I saw a piece of Flair on Facebook recently that said, "Glitter: the Herpes of the Crafting World," and a thought to which I had been trying to give adequate expression most of my life was finally accessible to my brain.  Glitter is the spawn of Satan!  I'm serious.  That shit gets EVERYWHERE, and there's no getting rid of it, and if you drop one tiny speck of it, it will do the forbidden dance of love with some of its glittery friends in your carpet, and years later you'll be finding its offspring STILL ON YOUR FLOOR!  Glitter is like sand; go to the beach sometime, and see if you're not still finding sand in impossible nooks and crannies of your body a decade later.  Sand and glitter share another common feature; children love both.  God help the mommies of the world.

So, why am I unloading my deep loathing for glitter (and sand) on my innocent readers?  Let me give you a hint; are you at all surprised to learn that this has to do with Brigid the SuperToddler?

Every year, Brigid's grandmother, my genuinely wonderful mother-in-law, Debbie, goes on vacation to Hawaii.  Debbie feels about snow, cloudy skies, and ambient temperatures below 90 degrees Fahrenheit exactly the way I feel about glitter (and sand).  In my perfect world, I would live in the Fjords, where I could be cold forever.  In Debbie's perfect world, she would send me a postcard in my snow-bound wonderland from her sunchair-strewn beach.  We meet halfway by living in the same city in central Washington state.

Right now, Debbie is on her annual pilgrimage to blistering heat.  On her sacred journey last year, she brought Brigid back what can only be described as a glitter globe, as it sloshes around bits of craft herpes instead of fake snow.  I didn't mind the glitter globe, though; the SuperToddler loved it, and the evil powers seemed to be neutralized by the thick plastic casing and the water in which the glitter swam.  Brigid would happily shake it, the glitter would stay quarantined, I would smile benevolently on a world as it should be, and everyone was content.

I underestimated the malevolent genius of glitter.  Brigid accidentally dropped her glitter globe about three days ago.  The plastic proved to be not nearly so thick and solid as it appeared.  The craft herpes saw its chance, and made a desperate bid for freedom.  I tried to stop it.  It won.  Amidst Brigid's saddened wails of "Broke!  Broke!", which really did rend my mommy heart, the contaminated water seeped into our living room rug.  The water mopped up easily.  The dastardly glitter has not yet BEGUN to quietly lie there multiplying in my carpet.  I have found it on my recliner, on Brigid's feet, on my clothes, on my face.  We didn't spill that much of it.  I cleaned up quite a bit.  I wiped, and swept, and generally tried to be the responsible mother in time of spillage.  I'm still finding bits of this glitter in Brigid's DIAPER AREA, I kid you not.  Take this warning, friends; beware the dire consequences of glitter exposure.  Friends don't let friends have unprotected glitter crafting!

September 09, 2011

Beautifully Ordinary

After a lifetime of calling 9-1-1 for my parents, of ambulances, of floods and moving just as I made friends in school and bankruptcies and exotic illnesses and panic attacks and PTSD, being bored can have its charms.  Actually, I wasn't really bored today; it was just a slow, peaceful day, a rare moment when Michael was home and all three of us were together.  We spent the day having lunch out, getting the groceries, and just enjoying each other's company.  It wasn't exciting; like I said, I've had plenty of exciting.  Slow, calm and peaceful make a nice change, especially now that Brigid the SuperToddler understands being told things like, "Just five more minutes, and then it's time to leave," and "Papa will be right back; he just went to the bathroom."  Less baby panic over non-emergencies equals greater Mommy tranquility.  It was a good day.

September 08, 2011

A Day Like Today

Have I mentioned how much I love the Metropolitan Museum of Art?  Kidding, since I know I've probably mentioned that one fact more than any other on this blog.  And you thought it was just because I like looking at the beautiful Egyptian tomb paintings, didn't you?  I do, obviously, but the Met is a very special place for me.  Besides meeting the great female pharaoh and long-time hero of mine, Hatshepsut, there, I had a once-in-a-lifetime moment at one of their other sites.  Oh, yes, the Met doesn't just encompass the huge building in Central Park; they have other outlets for their awesomeness, as well, and one of the best is known simply, elegantly, as The Cloisters.

The Cloisters is actually a large collection of cloisters and other parts of medieval European monasteries, salvaged from a host of unworthy uses (one old monastery was being used as a stable) and utter ruin to be compiled into one beautiful museum.  All these disparate pieces were woven together into a re-creation of the sort of ideal medieval monastic institution, and it is simply gorgeous.  So peaceful and serene.  The main cloister of the complex hosts an heirloom garden, stocked only with plants available to the monks and nuns of the time period depicted.  Rooms throughout the museum are filled with artifacts suitable to the rooms in which they are placed, so that the fact that they are "exhibits" is made as inobtrusive as possible, their presence a part of the organic whole. 
The "monastery" features everything from a chapter house and running fountains to a private chapel wherein lie the bones of a long-forgotten noble European family.  It is a truly amazing experience.

Sounds wonderful, but why am I telling you all this, right?  Because five years ago today, on one of the balconies of The Cloisters overlooking the Hudson River, my wonderful husband, Michael, got down on one knee, asked for my hand in marriage, and then lovingly and patiently helped me lean up against the wall and rest for a moment when I nearly fainted from excitement.  I'm not kidding.

He couldn't have chosen a more perfect spot, or a more perfect day.  (The Feast of the Birth of Mary, the Mother of Christ, was a date he was guaranteed to remember if I ever decided to play, "Guess what tomorrow is, honey!" games with him.  I tested him just yesterday.  He passed with flying colors.)  Nor could either of us have chosen a more perfect match for ourselves.  There have been horrible events in the past five years--the death of two parents, a bankruptcy, a high-risk pregnancy that got really scary in the last few weeks--but we survived them all together, along with our happy, healthy Brigid the SuperToddler.  There have been wonderful events in the past five years, too, and good or bad, I wouldn't have wanted to tackle any of them without him.  And to think, it all started on a sunny day at The Cloisters.
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