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Books?

Had I updated?

The reason for my relatively prolonged absence was – in all seriousness – b/c I wanted to read more.  To read again.

I had said, back then – that I was sure there was a book I was forgetting.

I realized, just before my return, that there was.

I had re-read Wicked.

Which was not as good as I remembered.

Then I read The Book Thief.

holy shit.  What a book.  Please read it? [While you’re at it, check out the flap — the author is so freaking cute!  Not to mention 12.  If that.]

I mean, it’s narrated by DEATH!!  you have to read it.  so you aren’t scared anymore, of dying.

Because you see that death cuddles with you.  He loves you. And appreciates your soul.

And you should also read it, because it reminds you that even when a nation goes dark; evil; nasty – there is so much love.  It’s probably the majority of people who still love.  Probably.  They’re just so scared.

What a book.

___________________________

Then I read Middlesex, and it blew me away.  I think that Jeffrey Eugenides is a genius.  1000%.

Every time I read about the little girl’s skirts and her dolls, I had to shake my head – slightly confused.  Even though so little info had been given.  The voice was amazing.

___________________________

Then came The Abstinence Teacher, which a close friend of mine didn’t like.

And I didn’t like its predecessor.

Nor did I like the fact that it lacked a POINT!  (Geez!!  Is it too much to ask????)

But it had some real honesty, some honesty I could connect with. And which I found to ring true.

So, I liked it.  And didn’t really want it to end.

But it did.  So I moved on.

___________________________ 

This book is weird, but compelling.  The rec came from my sis, who I adore, so I’m sticking with it.  I’ll keep you posted.

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When E was in 2nd grade, I read her some books.  3 books.  Outloud.  Every night, after her sister went to bed, we curled up in my bed, and read a story.

I was a single mom at the time.  For some of the year, we lived just the 3 of us, and for some of the year, my sister and her son were in the house.  I think my sister listened in on some, when she was around.

First we read the Golden Compass.

Then the Subtle Knife.

Then the Amber Spyglass.

Yes, she was 7.  Or 8.  I’m not sure which.

And I read her stories about souls being wrenched out of humans, and of religion as evil, and of young, young love.  Stories of hell, of death, of courage and strength.  Stories that wrestled with the fabric of the universe, with the afterlife, with the “what ifs” of other worlds.

Beloved has chastised me for this ever since.

I may protest a bit too much when I say, “yeah, and it was FINE!  She loved the books!  I read them outloud – we talked all through – she asked questions, it was FINE!!!”

But now she’s 11, and the first book (or as E will complain loudly about – 3/4ths of the first book) is now a movie.

We went to see it today.

Just the 2 of us, because I don’t allow my children to see movies before they read a book.  At least a good book.  I refuse to have anything to do with their mental pictures being created by Hollywood instead of by their beautiful brains.  (Oh, and E re-read it on her own during 5th grade).

Sometimes their father flips me the bird and takes them anyway.

But that’s because he can be a fucker, when he wants to.

________________________________ 

There was a scene that struck home my old love of the books:

The 12 year old girl was having an altercation with her benefactor; unaware that the icy, nasty, manipulative woman is her mother.  Until that point, their relationship was cordial, and the girl felt lucky to be taken in by a wealthy woman, after having lived in the care of a college – scholars and servants.

But there was a test of wills.

Between the woman and the child, there was a cold stare, a defiant glare, and at the most, the grabbing of the child’s arm.

Their little daemons, though – these animal-formed physical manifestations of the humans’ SOULS.  Souls!!  The woman’s daemon attackd the child’s, pinning it to the ground.  The kids’ daemon (in cat form) took a fully submissive pose, despite it’s hair on ends, and regretfully gave in to the attack.  A full-on attack.

And I thought – wow.  You see a mom bitch at her kid in public, in thier house.  You may see a kid slightly shrink back.  Perhaps a little bit of numbness in the eyes.  You may think, “wow, that tone seemed kind of harsh.”  But you don’t see the absolute wrestling match of the wills.

But it goes on all the time.

It would be really helpful, I think, if we had that window into each other.

I want a daemon.

But I also want everyone else to have one, too.

______________________________ 

I do not recommend the movie.  Not until you read all THREE books.  They are incredible.   Then I will tell you that the movie was pretty well done.  The characters were nicely drawn, the plot quickened, but far from stripped.  It was stripped of some subtlety, but I think that was a pass to the Catholic Church.  Who obviously never read the damned books.

___________________________

Afterward, E and I went and bought her a MacBook.  That was fun, too.

Finally, around 4:30 p.m., we were home again.  We had big plans to decorate the tree (J and Beloved put it up today), but instead, J had a weird, random crying fit that she had forgotten to type a report (due Weds.)  That took some time.  First to get the old Dell computer to respond to any key strokes or mouse clicks (seriously, it took an HOUR), then to get her to stop the crying, and then for her to do the actual work.

Hopefully we’ll decorate our solstice shrub tomorrow (our celebration of the season, and not of anyone’s birth-so-he-can-die-for-me).  I have been watching my co-workers one-by-one leave “new associate transition period” and enter “regular associate slammed-with-work period” and fear that my turn is around the bend.  Will I have to post-pone tree trimming?  Will I have to cancel my Christmas weekend with my parents next weekend?  Will I have to give up a vacation day the week after?  I sort of feel like all of those are possibilities, from what I’ve seen.

We shall see.

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Craziness Ensues

I think tonight was the first night of my run where there is something every night until the girls leave for the holidays.

Went to a book group thing with E through her school.  They do it twice a year, where everyone in the grade reads the same book, and a teacher moderates a discussion.  Parents and kids both read the same book.

For the third year in a row, when they handed out the sheet asking if we had suggestions to make it go better, I said that they should start the session with a 15 minute talk on etiquette for book discussions.  Kids don’t automatically know how to moderate their own selves.  When I go to a book group, I know how to temper my contributions.  I know how to think carefully about what I want to say, and contribute once my thoughts are formulated.

It appears, from tonight and the past 2 years, that kids don’t know this automatically.  It is not innate knowledge.

Without direction, kids may decide that their every thought must be heard.  They may have excellent thoughts, but the thoughts are interspersed with many “like”s and many “totally”s and a lot of “ummms” as they process their thoughts out loud, and with the floor.

Oh.  Maybe I’m not talking about “kids” but rather “a kid.”

And perhaps that kid came out of my womb.

Just perhaps.

And perhaps that kid won’t LISTEN TO HER MOTHER that instead of saying “oh, and also ….” after talking for the past 8 minutes straight, she should put a period at the end of the sentence, and give others a chance.  Instead, she’ll tell her mother, “but I can’t!  If I do that, then the subject will change, and I’ll never get to share my idea!!!!”  I told her that a book discussion is not an E-Forum.  it is not time for E to share her every single thought.  it is a time for many people to share ideas, and build off one another, and perhaps bite their TONGUES every now and again, for the sake of listening to others.

But if the school told her … you know, like I suggested above, she just might listen.

Maybe?

At least her ideas were good.  She was really into the book.  She seemed pretty capable of deep exploration of the themes and the more difficult concepts.

So, at least there’s that.

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And I suppose he is right.

But when did we see Wicked? Early October, right?

ONE MONTH LATER

J is in the shower.

E is in her room, huddled with a black witch’s hat on and the soundtrack insert in her hand.

“Defying Gravity” is coming from both mouths, at high volume, in very different parts of the song.

What have we done?

E is begging to go see it in New York.

It’s like she’s 2.

“Again! Again!”

(which for her, at 10 months, was “Ah Dah! Ah Dah!”)

I wish my kids would stop singing.

Beloved tells me there are people who wish their kids would stop playing video games, and others who wish their kids didn’t watch so much t.v., and others who wish their kids would stop drinking and running away from home.

That perhaps my kids constantly singing songs from soundtracks isn’t so bad.

But … I think they’re (or at least E) bordering on obsessed.

___________________________

Today, I was productive. I did unbelievable (for me) amounts of work. Wanna know what I did?

  • Cleaned out my medicine cabinet. It’s now 60% empty.
  • Purged summer clothes from the girls’ drawers (pulled the winter clothes from storage yesterday, while J had a friend over – a friend who could take the items which have since been out grown, so it worked out well. They were also both eager participants in the process, which also helped. E appreciated having the whole thing taken care of while she was out of town).
  • Did 9 loads of laundry. Which was exhausting.
  • Scrubbed the bathroom with bleach. We usually use natural cleaners, and I often assign the sink and the toilet and the sweeping to the girls. But every now and then (in my mind, in my plans – once a month; in reality – twice a year), I do it myself with the powerful cleaners. Today was that day. I last did it the DAY before the bar exam. Maybe two days before. Which is only 4 months … even a little less. Maybe I’m getting better.)
  • Cleaned out the coat closet floor. This entailed much throwing away. Much space-finding for bags (I’m addicted) which have not been used in some time. It was hard.
  • Sorted through our “extras” – which for us is hats, gloves and scarves. I got rid of singles, of those things which were too stained to salvage, of gloves that no longer fit the growing hands in the family. I washed the fleece which seems to be a cat-fur magnet. After they were washed, I went over the more stubborn items with a lint brush. This took at least 2 hours (the lint brush stage). I am so determined that our things WILL NOT have cat fur on them. WILL NOT.
  • Cleaned out under the bathroom sink. It was gross. I filled an entire garbage bag with almost-empty shampoo bottles that I felt, while a student, were too precious to throw away – that I may need them during those days where the loan money had run out and so had the shampoo.  It’s nice to feel that I can now confidently say that when next we run out of shampoo, I can buy some.
  • Took J shopping at the Gap, and bought her jeans that fit; even without the sea levels rising (she’s a 10 Slim, for the most part) and a super-cute dress. I bought Beloved some socks. I bought me black gloves to go with my work-coat, and a grey hat. I bought me funky blue and green striped gloves and a matching scarf to go with my not-work-coat. I bought E nothing. She was in NY.
  • Took J out to lunch at a new place in town. We had a good time.
  • Before the store and lunch, I dragged J to Starbucks with me. I got her a hot cocoa so she didn’t feel like I was a selfish bitch of a mom (I also tricked her BFF and her yesterday into thinking that I was the nicest mom in the world for taking them for hot cocoa after a frigid soccer game, when in reality — it all comes down to my addictions). I later felt a bit conspicuous, walking through the Gap with my Starbucks cup, and my 9 year old child following behind me with her own 9 year old sized Starbucks cup. Hmmm.

I think I will next read Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office, because I am a MILF.

But in the meantime, the family is going to eat brownies – in acknowledgment of E’s excellent progress report 3 weeks ago (oops, we lost track of time) and watch Star Trek … after I vacuum.

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Woo hoo! Family trip!

Beloved is part of a bloggy universe.  They had a convention this weekend, and he did not go.  Which is obvious from one of my previous posts in which I complained about his Ridiculously Safe Driving.

He didn’t go because registration was required just as we returned from Europe, and he knew we didn’t have the moola to spare.

It was in chicago.

But he was missed.

He was told – next year – like it or not – he’s going.

guess where it is next year?

Portland, Oregon!

I said, “okay, I guess you need to go, I’ll take the girls somewhere.  Maybe we’ll go to Hawaii for the weekend.”  (ha ha ha.)

Then he said, “why don’t you come?”
And told me where it is to be.

We just told the girls today about our many (joint and several) trips to Portland.  The time he was waylaid on a trip to Seattle and stumbled upon Powells Books.  The time I went for a friend’s wedding.  The time we went together and he met said friend and I met said bookstore.  About how we both had considered moving there (pre-law school discussions).

We got home, and J started to write one of her many stories.  It was about her mom and her step-dad getting married at Powell’s Books, and the road trip they took in order to get there.

Come on – as if we’d get married IN a book store.  Isn’t that taking our collective obsession a bit too far?

This is said tongue-in-cheek, which you’d know if you saw our home, since the first thing everyone comments on is the books.  And in our bedroom, we don’t have a floor.  We just have a mosaic of books.  We don’t have end tables.  Just stacks of books.

So hopefully next Columbus Day, we’ll journey across the country and check out Portland.

Woo hoo!

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I picked J up today so she could get pieces of metal glued to her teeth.  She was pretty nervous, and so we kept trying to have conversations about other things.  She told me:

My friends are in E’s classroom from 4th grade, and they checked out a book, and there was a note in it, written by E, about her nickname, and they were telling me about it in recess, and they thought it was really funny.  

I thought it was a little strange, and thought – man – If the “note” was something personal, E is going to have a fit.  I couldn’t quite decipher from what J was saying exactly what the note said – just that it was a note that E had written in 4th grade, and now the current 4th graders (J’s friends) were passing it all around amongst themselves, getting a kick out of it.

After J’s appointment, we went by her BFF’s house to show off the braces.  Her BFF’s mom and I are friends.  The Mom dug in her pocket and said, “[the girls’ friend] gave this to me today – I don’t know why she gave it to ME, but now I’m giving it to you.”

It was the famous “note.”

My Name 

    By [E]

My name is E.  No one can say my name isn’t and be right.  Not unless [J] stops calling her friend Squirty.*  Then my name is [E], Squirty, or Squirt. Then you could also call me Squirty or Squirt.  Ok, now you can call me Bean**, or maybe Spaghetti Head,*** but NOT Squirt.  It’s either mine and only mine or someone else’s name and only theirs.  Hopefully Squirt will soon be mine again.  Hopefully.  But not surely.  Only hopefully.

* I don’t remember how it started, but sometime when she was in 3rd grade, I started to call E “Squirt.”

**  I was given a book.  I read the book to my child all the time.  The ex and I both loved the book, and loved the title of the book, and started to call E “Bean.”  Honestly, I still call her that.  My dad calls her Beaners, which is much uglier, but it is a variation on this standard.

*** I don’t know how I started this one, either.  But I did it when she was a toddler – perhaps a preschooler.  It also has stuck, and in a weird convoluted form, makes up one of her e-mail addresses.

I remember 2 years ago, when J started to call her friend [another E] Squirty.  My E was offended.  It is now this other E who is in 4th grade.

I found it all very amusing.

I also was quite relieved.  If my E is going to write notes and stick them in books to be found by later classes of kids, this is one that I’m proud of them finding, and I think she should be, too.  At least it wasn’t some gobbledy gook about a premature 4th grade crush.  Ick.

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Blank & Empty

I got nothin’ to say. (Yet, you know I’ll fill this page.  Feel free to click elsewhere.)

I was up very late last night, watching Six Feet Under, which I picked up from the library after spying on E.  I went back to bed after they left for school, justifying it as the “last time” until I retire.  Which I hope to never do.

Whenever Beloved goes to bed before me, I stay up super late.  I think I see that he does the same when I go to bed early.  I wonder why that is?  Once he’s asleep, I know going to bed seems less fun.  There isn’t the promise of cuddling and chatting as we drift off.  Not to mention the nightly back scratching fest that he spoils me ROTTEN with.  There may also be the other side of the coin (for both of us) – it’s precious alone time.  In the house.  Alone time, but yet with the security of your family being close.  It’s sort of enjoyable, and hard to give up for the sake of sleep.

___________________________ 

I have to clean my house.  It’s not so hard today.  Things haven’t been in too rough of shape, what with me HOME ALL THE TIME.  I have to go shopping for E’s birthday party this weekend.  I have to take J to get braces.

Oh, and I’m driving to CT for the day on Friday.  Sis is in town from CA, and Mom has the nephew for the day, and I figured if I was super-productive today and tomorrow, I wouldn’t need to be here the day before E’s party.  Which honestly is not that big of a deal.  Four girls are coming over, and they are eating and watching movies.

E did make a special request, though.  Which I think evidences her pre-teen changes.

She asked me for “real, matching pajamas.”  She has always shunned her “real” pajamas which have sat in her drawer until they became too small for her (and thus fit her sister) as she wore over sized t-shirts of my own and MY father’s (from his company).  Which she then sheds at bed time, to sleep in her underwear.

Now she wants real, matching pajamas.

I’ll go with my mom and sis to pick some out for her in CT.

Today is truly my last calm and peaceful day.  Insanity starts tomorrow with J’s braces, then me to CT, then E’s party, then my parents and sister are here for the day on Sunday, and then Monday – work.

Egads.

So I guess I’ll just take today as blank and empty.  I’ll read Ahab’s Wife, and do some laundry – perhaps vacuum.

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being mean about god

I checked out god is not great by Christopher Hitchins yesterday.  I was sort of excited to think that I really felt like I had it in me to tackle a non-fiction book.

Yeah, it requires an abundance of energy.

I hate reading non-fiction.  Hate.  It.

I didn’t hate reading school assignments.  They were decidedly not fiction.  But for “pleasure reading” – I just can’t do it.  Even memoirs can drive me nuts.   I don’t give a shit how profound or funny – I hate ’em.  (Case in point:  Eat, Pray, Love – my year’s worst book.  Freaking whiny self-important self-absorbed annoying woman.)

At my first book group (which was represented to me as a fiction-reading group!), a couple of women started throwing out a few non-fiction titles.  That was the prelude to Eat, Pray Love* being shoved down my throat, although it wouldn’t be chosen for a few months.  They also mentioned the Omnivore’s Dilemma, which sounded to me like the most godawful book in the entire universe.  I don’t want to know the history of a potato.  Who the hell cares?  Not me!  Unless, of course, the potato has children.  And feelings.  Which it talks about.  A life-altering tragedy?  An epiphany?   (I do care, actually. I care about the industrialization of agriculture, and I care about additives in and mutations of my food – but give it to me in a magazine article.  Not a whole freakin’ book.)

But the god book – it just seemed so me.  I do not think god is great.  I think that the god written of in the bible is a real meany-head, and his meany-head-ness is used to do many, many bad things.  People give themselves the license to be meany-heads, because after all, they are created in this meany-head’s image.  So, no, I do not think god is great.

I also know in a very deep and meaningful way that I am comfortable with the fact that I don’t believe in the god that I was raised to believe in.  I don’t believe that the bible is written by that god.  But I do not have a concise sentence, or even paragraph, in which to convey the reason for my lack of belief.  I can talk about the reasons and the process, I can talk about the issues that made me start to question what I’d been taught, and where those questions brought me.  But it takes a hell of a long time.

This book promised a concise intellectual reasoning.

But in the first chapter, I’m finding someone with more bitterness than myself, and it’s not even clear why.  I also find it slightly misdirected and off-point.  And off-putting.

One benefit that I have from my upbringing is that I feel I can clearly look at both sides of arguments over Christianity.  I know the counter-arguments.  I know the thought process.  And this book’s arguments thus far just do not answer those of believers. I doubt that believers are Hitchins’s intended audience, but what’s the point in having the discussion if it’s easily dismissed by those it’s discussing?  (I know he aims his attack at all religions, and not specifically Christians, but they are one of the major groups.)

Hitchins says that one of the four main  irreducible objections to religious faith is that “it wholly misrepresents the origins of man and the cosmos.”  Uh.  “No it does not.” says the Christian.  It’s like saying, “Religion is bad because it is wrong.”

I wanted to enjoy this book, and to have a running conversation with myself here.  But so far, I’m put off.  Hitchins is belittling and dismissive (‘If you read Hawking on the ‘event horizon,’ that the theoretical lip of the ‘black hole’ over which one could in theory plunge and see the past and the future … I shall be surprised if you can still go on gaping at Moses and his unimpressive ‘burning bush.'”( p. 8.)  Must I point out?  To those who believe in Moses and his “unimpressive burning bush” don’t see it as a “theory” but as a history.  This will remain “impressive” and much more so than something that has, to them, not been proven).  He generalizes the attitudes and beliefs of atheists in a way that offends me.

I am thus far hugely unimpressed, and find it doubtful that I will find any categorization of my own thoughts and feelings coming from this man’s pen.

I am going to continue, though.  I’m going to look for something of value.

I’ll keep you posted.

* This book is also another bullet point on my list of reasons why I don’t like Hilary Clinton.  Despite being a rabid democrat, I don’t like that woman, and I don’t want her to get the party’s nomination.  I can’t go so far as to say, “and I won’t vote for her” because I’d vote for a rock on the democrat ticket before I voted for a nasty-ass republican, but I don’t want her.  I’d vote for bible-thumping anti-gay marriage John Edwards before I’d vote for “I’m proud of my vote for the war” Clinton.  [That looks just wrong.  I may need to work through this more in my head before the primaries come to town, because really – I would vote for an anti-gay marriage person first?  Not really something I’m proud to have just said.  And when put that way, it’s really not true.]

ANYWAY – the point of this asterisk being – Hilary liked Eat, Pray, Love.  (So the book section of Oprah magazine said recently.)  She is therefore dumb.    Then again, I read Oprah magazine ….

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Swept Away

Yesterday, I mentioned the book Into the Forest by Jean Hegland. When I was pulling up the link from Powell’s, I saw that she had another book, Windfalls. It said it was about motherhood. I’m a mother.

So when I found myself at the library later in the afternoon (picking up Star Trek Season 1 to share with the Q’s), I looked the book up. It was on the shelf, and I grabbed it (along with Christopher Hitchens’s “god is not Great” – which deserves a grumbly post of its own).

I opened the book at 7 p.m. last night, after dinner.

Guess what time I closed it?

2 a.m. It was finished.

And I lay in my bed and cried.

It was about motherhood, and the loneliness of it. The loneliness of looking back and remembering your child at age 10, and her happiness just at being with her mom, and then seeing her 15 year old self, so different and sullen. The realization that the real “true” daughter that you remember at age 10 is gone. And you’ll never see her again.

It was about the loneliness of being a mother to young children. The loss of yourself, and your interests that goes with. But also the loneliness when you realize that your children still aren’t 100% yours – they are their own people, and regardless of what you lost of yourself, you don’t necessarily get it back from them. And the transference of loneliness when your children are lonely and are having a hard time.

The author exquisitely captured some of the darkness I experienced as a mom to young children. And made me fear intensely the coming changes with my girls. I thought about how with one of the characters it seemed so clear that children need their time of separation – not necessarily rebellion – but separation, before they can fully be an adult. I remember it keenly.

And I lay there in bed (listening to Beloved saw logs) with tears as I thought about how I can handle it when the girls are in their late teens/early 20’s.

I know they will need their distance. But the answer can’t be to just turn my back on them – give it to them without question. Because that isn’t the point, is it? The point is to push back against the pull of your parents. If your parents aren’t wanting you around, wanting the connection to stay, then the process is something different. Something sadder, and less a process of growth.

The book was also interesting in that it told similar stories for very different people – across class and intellectual differences, the lessons were the same.

I also was sad, in my bed, thinking about homelessness and the tragedies that people endure, and what the reactions of society are toward people who have suffered to the point of giving up. Could it be different? Could there be a system that helps people decide not to give up, that encourages them to find hope?

I eventually had to stop thinking about the book, because I wasn’t sleeping.

But it was an excellent read.

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Update on the Project

My summer project is going alright so far. I had hoped to read a book a DAY during my time off, but have fallen far short of that. Instead, I’ve just been plodding along.

I read Water Witches by Chris Bohjalian. It was mediocre. Not bad, but not great. I didn’t miss the book when I finished. While there were interesting aspects (dowaging for water, the effects of a drought on the psyche in this world of global warming, the push and pull between the skiing tourist industry with environmentalism), the characters didn’t really work, and the ending was super-contrived.

Then I read The Stolen Child by Keith Donohue, and I was just in love. What a fantastic book. I hate to say what it was about, because it makes it sound like a fantasy novel. Like a story made for children, with sparks coming out of wands and magical pleasantries and evils. It had magic in it, but the magic was almost of nature, and could not be called evil or good. There was no good side or bad side.

It was about a changeling. I suppose two changelings. The boy who was stolen and the “hobgoblin” who took his place. The story alternates between the two “boys.”

The author did an amazing job. Just amazing. I read a review that said the book was “spare and unsentimental” and I wondered if I would like it because of that. Instead (as the review said), I loved it because of that. The author spoke of the demons that the two characters fought in such a realistic manner that I closed the book surprised that they aren’t issues everyone struggles with. What? I didn’t live for 100 years suspended in growth and aging? I didn’t lose my life to an imposter?

Interestingly, when I told a friend about the book, she said, “Oh, I wonder if I should read it, it sounds like it could be similar to the things I struggle with over my adoption.” And she’s probably right. I wish it wasn’t a library book, I’d give it to her.

I wish I was reading more. I got stuck reading Number9dreams, which I couldn’t get into, and it made me avoid reading. Then Water Witches was a little slow. Finally, upon delving into The Stolen Child, I’m reading like I wanted to be for this entire month – in every spare minute and eagerly.

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