Thursday, January 29, 2009
Here's the clouds from this morning:
Here's Spring coming!:
A mossy step:
Random yard debris--in black and white it looks like art instead of trash:
More trash as art:
And yet more trash:
Fence post, barbed wire and wild grape vines
Sky, branches and flowers
Sky and branches (it reminds me of Eastern art a little)
Chestnut and a swing:
Rocks and a bird house:
Some unraided, dog chewed rope:
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
It'd be so great to have done all that work and now have a great space for our family to enjoy, but because it's so great now- the kids are spending time in there and without ever constant vigilance (to be read:grumping at them) the stuff just begins to accumulate all over again. Right now in there waiting for me is a tea party, several baskets of play food, dress up clothes all over the floor, dress up shoes lined up against the wall, three bags-with who knows what inside them, and a box. There are some clothes under the youngest two girls' bed.
It looks like it's been weeks since I've vacuumed, despite it being two days. The four year old got into the 8 year old's bed, and took down the things from her bulletin board, took down her chalkboard, seems to have removed her knitting needles and stashed them somewhere. Took a piece of pottery Lucy (the 8 year old) made, stashed the lid for it somehwere. GRRRRrrrrrr....Looks like someone really needs help with boundaries, but I know in her mind it all just looks so neat and pretty and interesting. I also know that I cannot just camp in their room every time she's playing in there.
Bernadette (the 4 year old) loves playing tea party. So does Andrew (the 2 year old). But their ideas are vastly divergent of what makes tea party fun. Andrew will sit and take sips of his "tea" for only so long, before his boy toddlerhood explodes and he feels the need to throw all the cups and saucers. Obviously there arises the need to keep the door closed, so Bernadette can play her favourite thing unmauled...but I also need a surveillance system installed so I can track where everybody's stuff has been stashed. Or a security guard, or GPS tracking. It seems like I just can't keep up with the clutter, no matter how much de-cluttering I do, no matter how much I surrender any expectation for what I think a house "ought" to look like. UUrrrghhh...I hate that room.
Somebody remind me that there is more to being a mom than tasks which need to be done over and over and over and over again. Somebody remind me that there is a point where this part of parenthood will get far less sucky. And for the love of all that is holy--somebody please buy our property or give us a couple hundred thousand dollars so we can have the room we need to make this a little easier!!!!
Sunday, January 25, 2009
Here's how it works:
1. Leave me a comment saying, "Interview me."
2. I will respond by e-mailing you 5 questions.
3. You update your blog with the answers to the questions.
4. You include this explanation and an offer to interview others.
5. When you receive the comment from another, you will send them 5 questions.
Here are my questions sent by Colleen:
1) Where and when did you meet your husband?
Well-certainly not a story to model ones life after, but it is likely the only way that I would have ended up marrying the man who perfects me more than any other person- we met in 1996 when were both working at the bookstore in Annapolis,MD. I was actually married (outside the Church) at the time, but teetering on the brink of divorce, and he was in a long distance relationship with someone. When I was being interviewed to transfer to that store, he said when I had walked in he just sort of dismissed me , as one of "those people"- meaningsomeonewho if she read, read crappy nooks without much conviction. However as the receiving manager at the time he overheard my interview, and how I talked about the books I had most recently read--and his interest was peaked. We ate lunch together often and hung out as a large group with other employees after work on Sunday night, and he says that he fell in love with me the night I talked about Fitzgerald. LOL! Book nerds through and through. I finally left my first husband, and was really bummed through the Christmas season, and ended up getting pregnant with our oldest son. We actually both tried to break up with each other just after New Year's, but then I found out that I was pregnant. I had already given up two babies for adoption, and just was heartbroken at the thought of giving another baby away. But my (now) husband said that we could go ahead and give it a try to keep the baby and be a family. When our son was two, we finally got married-in the Church, which was now very important to me. It took us nearly a decade, and a lot of hurt, pain and betrayal to get our relationship in wokring order--for many reasons, not the least of which was really bad PPD on my part and lots of healing from past hurts and wounds including PTSD. It is certainly not the relationship story I would wish for any of my kids, but I think that any other story for us, would not have resulted in the overall goodness that is now our marriage.
2) What's your favorite meal (appetizer, entree, dessert and drink)?
Depends on the day! LOL! We joke that food is my love language. I think one thing I could eat nearly everyday and never get sick of is tacos. I also have a serious weakness for Zaxby's fried house salads-with one ranch and one cblue cheese dressing. Oh --and I love soup. I could live on soup- hot soups, cold soups, nut soups, cream soups, veggie soups and meat soups.
3) What's one thing nobody (or almost nobody) knows about you?
Nothing that I can think of, I tend to tell everything--whether people want to know or not. Except for what I don't tell. And lol! I'm not telling. Such a Gemini...
4) If money wasn't an issue, what job would you like to have?
I honestly don't know. It would be cool to write for money. I think I'd be a great high school teacher (and have taught at some co-ops and things). If I didn't have children, I think that I would like being a foreign correspondent in areas of conflict.
5) Of all your beautiful children, which birth experience was your favorite and which was your least favorite?
I think probably my favorite would be my homebirth with our oldest daughter, Lucy. It was so peaceful and awesome. Nobody touched me the entire time I was in labor. It was just the midwife and my daughter's Godmother and my husband there. My post partum time with her kinda stunk- and she was like my worse sleeper in a long stretch of bad sleepers--but her birth was pretty awesome. One of my other favorites was my youngest daughter, BErnadette- but for a vastly different readon. Her Godmother was there, a young woman just about to finish college and get married--and she got to see my in hospital natural, prayful birth--and then went on when she had her own baby to have her own natural , prayerful birth and successful breastfeeding relationship...and I like to think that I played a part in that. Another was my middle daughter, who came with all kinds of trouble--but was a chance to revisit ALL of my previous birth trauma, but to meet it in an empowered way.
My least favorite, by far, was the second baby I gave up for adoption. It was a nightmarish experience, literally like the awful bith scenarios they always choose for TV show plotlines. I was bleeding, they wouldn't let my mom come and be with me. No one would actually talk to me as I tried to get information, they kept me in a blood soaked bed for like 8 hours. They were a few seconds away from putting me under for a c-section, when I told them that I had to push (which they didn't believe, until I forced them to look down and see, they gave me a ginormous episiotomy which never healed right. It was just awful, awful, awful. But it did make me realize that giving birth without medication, was defintiely a doable thing.
Saturday, January 24, 2009
Did you know that tomorrow is the 250th birthday of Scottish poet Robert Burns? I didn't either, but it turns out that tonight there is a concert in celebration of that nativity by a Robert Burns' cover band, Bob Hay & The Jolly Beggars. Most of their songs are songs transcribed by or poems written by Robert Burns.
I think my husband and I are going to try to ditch the kids and go have fun literary geek style!
(Here's a sampling of the music of Bob Hay & The Jolly Beggars (on their website linked above, there is a nearly complete selection of music), try to just ignore the random dancers, lol! The song, is a tribute to Jean, who Burns knocked up with twins when he was 27 , but whose father refused to let the lowly farmer Burns marry. In order to gain some money to emigrate to Jamaica, Burns wrote a volume of poetry, which turned out to be wildly popular. In the wake of the popularity of that volume, Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect, Burns traveled and met much of the literary talent in Scotland, including James Johnson who was compiling a collection of Scottish folk songs. Burns would eventually write and contribute hundreds of songs, both his own creations and traditional melodies.
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
(Just an interesting tidbit- "Obama" trips the spell check)
Here's what the Constitution reads:
"I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."Here is the transcript of the swearing in:
ROBERTS: Are you prepared to take the oath, Senator?
OBAMA: I am.
ROBERTS: I, Barack Hussein Obama...
OBAMA: I, Barack...
ROBERTS: ... do solemnly swear...
OBAMA: I, Barack Hussein Obama, do solemnly swear...
ROBERTS: ... that I will execute the office of president to the United States faithfully...
OBAMA: ... that I will execute...(he pauses)
ROBERTS: ... faithfully the office of president of the United States...
OBAMA: ... the office of president of the United States faithfully...
ROBERTS: ... and will to the best of my ability...
OBAMA: ... and will to the best of my ability...
ROBERTS: ... preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.
OBAMA: ... preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.
ROBERTS: So help you God?
OBAMA: So help me God.
ROBERTS: Congratulations, Mr. President.
Monday, January 19, 2009
FOR TODAY January 19, 2009
Outside my window... it is grey and cloudy and chilly. But not quite chilly enough to snow. grrrrr
I am thinking... that I want to take a nap, and that I wish I could find a paperback of the book I have checked out of the library, because the hard back is turning out to be non-bed reading friendly
I am thankful for... my husband being on vacation this week, AND that I am not fertile the entire time he'll be off. Last year eaach and every time he was on vacation, I was fertile. Okay, maybe TMI--but I am thankful for that!
From the learning rooms... lots of talk about the inauguration and about how the government works- it's structure, etc.
From the kitchen... tonight steaks from Angel Food Ministries, with snap peas and sweet potatoes. Hopefully to bake some kind of goody this week.
I am wearing... my jammies, even though it's 2:30. It's a reminder that it's a vacation day.
I am creating... hopefull a sort of blanket-y , wrap thing. If I can get my stitches to stay on my needles. I resorted to using duct tape, and as with all things, duct tape has made it better.
I am going... to a university gymnastics meet with my oldest two daughters in a little while
I am reading... From Here To Eternity by James Jones
I am hoping... that we won't spend the whole week fighitng colds.
I am hearing... the oldest two fighting over their chess game. The youngest two destroying the living room as they "watch" Blue's Clues (do television shows get quotations or italicized?)
Around the house... our laundry is caught up. I am hoping to work on the closet project I've
undertaken this week
One of my favorite things... though I almost never do it- is sleeping in. My husband got up with the smalls today and let me linger in bed for another hour. Can't tell you the last time that happened!
A few plans for the rest of the week: same ol', smae ol'. School stuff, gymnastics, violin starts. I am hoping to play more with my kids this week.
Here is picture thought I am sharing...
Join in the Simple Woman's Dyabook here:
Sunday, January 18, 2009
I know what I want for them. I want them to grow up to be people who love learning things--whatever it is whether it's art, or crafting, or encyclopedic knowledge of pirates, or quantum physics, or music, or topography, or reading or writing or fashion design. I want them to be passionate about something and carry with them curious minds. I want them to be compassionate and honest people. I want them to be people who balance honoring themselves with honoring others. I wan them to be selfless and humble, but not weak doormats. I want them to be competent at household things like banking, laundry, cooking, home repairs, etc. I want them to be comfortable around all kinds of people and in all kinds of situations. I want them to be comfortable with who they are, and yet always trying to be the best them they can be.
It's harder for me to pinpoint what it is I want their perceptions of me to be when they are adults. I think mostly I hope they'll forgive me. I know that I am very far from being a perfect mom. Sometimes even very far from being a good mom. I don't even always try my best. But I hope they can look back and see that mostly I was trying, trying to always be a better person, a better mom. I hope they will think that I was a good friend to others, and ready to help when others were in need. I hope they will think that I was not hypocritical to my faith or to my ideals. I hope they will look back at my motherhood of their childhood years and see that it is possible to work through some serious defects of character. I think most of all I hope they will look back and feel that they were unconditionally loved.
In a lot of ways it is very helpful to concretely spell out my hopes for them. Yet at the same time, it leaves me seriously convicted, because I see so many ways in which I think I am falling short of leaving them with those thoughts. I am going to revisit this post from time to time and assess how I am doing and try to make some short term goals, and see if I've met those goals. I think my first set of goals will be:
1. to spend some one on one playtime this week with my middle child who is seriously getting on my nerves right now
2. to spend some family playtime together this week. We'll aim small for now- how about 2 hours of just play with all of the wees ( though I am around all the time, it's unusual for me to just set aside all chores and things to just play)
3. maybe three nights this week to involve all of the oldest kids in preparing dinner. They all love to do it, but I get annoyed because our time is so pressed. But I am going to try to just start earlier- when possible.
WORLD WAR I
Johnny Got His Gun - Dalton Trumbo
Parade's End- Ford Maddox Ford
Soldier's Pay- William Faulkner
Kangaroo- DH Lawrence
All Quiet on The Western Front- Erich Maria Remarque
A Farewell to Arms- Ernest Hemingway
The Short Timers-Gustav Hasford
We Were Soldiers Once and Young- Moore and Halloway
The Quiet American-Graham Greene
The Sorrow of War- Bao Nihn
Going After Cacciato- Tim O'Brien
Friday, January 16, 2009
War Through The Generations is sponsoring a reading challenge running from January 1, 2009 through December 31, 2009, for readers to read five books relating to World War II. This project seems like such a great means of ensuring continuing dialogue about our history, as well as an impetus to continue reading great literature which so often comes out of the strife , struggles and horrors of war.
This seems like a very timely blog-challenge for me. I just checked out From Here To Eternity from the library, and have The Naked and the Dead on my short list for reading this year. That leaves only three more books to complete this challenge. Too bad I so recently read Catch-22 and Slaughterhouse Five ! I think in addition to Jones and Mailer, I will try to read Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo (which I don't think I have read, but I am not entirely sure...), having previously read a book about Doolittle's Raiders which I really loved. I don't know about the last two. I think Atonement would be suitable, and it is also on my short list, so maybe that for my fourth. And possibly Gravity's Rainbow for my fifth, as I have long meant to read some Pynchon.
Any suggestions? Any Russian novels about WWII? Anyone want to join in?
Thursday, January 15, 2009
While not a Luddite, I am someone who does not view technology as necessarily salvific. I think we often do because we can without thinking through the implications of having done so. So rather than developing and applying technology with guarded foresight, we tend to enthusiastically yield to technology's short term improvements before we understand the long term detrimental effects of technology.
However, in the case of the perception of the eventual total destruction of the planet through overpopulation, it seems that discussions of technological advancement are curiously absent. Taking the example of China where fears of overpopulation have yielded to aggressive population control measures, very rarely in my experience, do these conversations include a discussion of population concentration or a discussion of the effect of disastrous effects of Communism on the available food supply. During the Great Leap Forward, as populations were relocated, nearly 30 million people in China perished in a famine brought about largely from poor government planning. Looking at a map of population concentrations, one can see that most of China is very sparsely populated. I understand that rugged terrain, harsh conditions, water availability and arable land all play a part in population distribution; however, human beings have demonstrated the ability to live in wide and varied conditions and topographies. As technology improves further, one can only assume that human beings will be further equipped to live and even thrive in places which were only before sparsely populated.
Advances continue in agricultural cultivation and production at an astounding rate. Though it is not yet sustainable on a scale large enough to be economically viable, hydroponics (growing things without soil) continues to advance in technology. Though we need to tread lightly , cautiously, and with much forethought, the area of cloning provides exciting possibilities when it comes to food production. And no discussion about food supply would be complete without discussing the lamentable food surplus. At this point, it is not a question of having enough food to feed the world, but rather one of getting the available food to those who most need it. It is my belief, that in a global economy such as ours, that famine and starvation is almost always the result of governmental corruption, greed, and malice.
Another important consideration most often left out of the discussion by population-as-the-cause-of-our-destruction proponents, is that as economic conditions improve the rate of population expansion in a country nearly always declines. If more children are likely to survive, if children are not directly contributing to the economic well-being of the family, if parents see some material comfort and wealth as a possibility they tend towards having fewer children. This in itself can wield to detrimental effects, which one need only look to many European countries and see first hand.
There is middle ground there. There is what John Paul II referred to as responsible parenthood. Child spacing can allow a woman's body to heal and recover from pregnancy and birth. Extended breastfeeding as the norm (WHO recommends that breastfeeding be continued at least until age two), can help limit a family's reproductive rate. Bl. Mother Teresa had immense success teaching the poorest of the poor in India to successfully use natural family planning, in concordance with the teaching of the Church. Which then brings the discussion to one of prudence, which is where I think things tend to go a little awry-even amidst Catholics.
Is our child-bearing rooted in prudent generosity? Just as we would be remiss to give away all of our family's grocery money, we also can be remiss in failing to prudently use the gift of our fertility. However, we would also be remiss if we failed to give to others in need, if our grocery money went beyond the reasonable necessities. Two less packages of soda, is $10 in the hands of someone who is in need. Prudence is the great governor of all other virtues, and it is interesting to me that it is so little talked about. Yes, we are open to life, but that openness includes more than merely being open to the creation of new babies. We are open to the fullness of life.
It seems that any conversation involving overpopulation would be only half a conversation if it lacks an honest discussion of prudence and generosity, both in regards to fertility and in reference to food distribution. It seems to me that any conversation involving overpopulation would be only half a conversation if it lacks an honest discussion of technology, population distribution, and the merits and detriments of particular governments and their trade policies.
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
Eventually, my reading expanded and that fiction consumed more of my attention. There were all of the distractions of growing up, especially those I had created leaving home on and off starting when I was 15. My attentions turned towards boys, and music, and poetry; fading away from Southeast Asia.
The year before last, I read Dispatches by Michael Herr and If I Die In A Combat Zone by Tim O'Brien. Along with the World War II novel, Catch-22 by Joseph Heller, those books began to push and nudge awake this piece of me, which had been such an integral part of my growing up. I had planned since then to read Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried, which I honestly thought I had read before, but seems to have come out when I was in high school which would make it unlikely that I had read it heretofore.
Words seem so inadequate to talk about The Things They Carried. Reading it is like a first love affair. Speaking about it out loud, seems to do disservice to it's sacredness. It is all consuming. It makes you greedy for more as you read. Even it's destruction, and some of the stories do destroy you, is alluring the way young passion makes us unable to turn away.
For me, the experience was especially full of emotion, for though I am firmly routed in my Catholic beliefs, the familiarity and sense of some other life overshadowing my own current life lingered just over my shoulder, just out of view. The whispers of ghosts, just beyond hearing. The connection which was so powerful when I was a girl, nearly knocked me over. The tears flowed freely.
The Things They Carried is beyond a book. It is a piece of all who ever ever fought war. All who ever lived with those who have returned from war. I cannot recommend it enough--even though it appears now on lots of required reading lists., which sometimes make people feel as though are boring or too difficult to read. If you are not unchanged after reading it, I would be beyond surprised.
For any who have read it- what are your thoughts? For those who have not, are there any times or places toward which you feel particularly drawn??
Sunday, January 11, 2009
Study: Early Repeat C-Sections Puts Babies At Risk
All Things Considered, January 8, 2009 · A new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine reports that elective, repeat C-sections performed earlier than the recommended 39 weeks increases the risk of complications for newborns. Dr. Catherine Spong, co-author of the study, says babies born under these conditions see double the risk of "adverse outcomes" such as nenonatal death.
This whole thing just angers me. I mean sneering-at-my-computer sort of angry. We as American women have been led to believe that birthing babies with a doctor in the hospital is a scientific event, supported by scientific truths, elicited from scientific studies. We have been led to believe that all interventions have been proven to be good for the mother and good for the baby, or at least not bad. We have been led to believe that questioning routine hospital policies is something reserved for the crunchy, anti-establishment, patchouli moms.
The reality is that we still do not understand fully the mechanisms by which labor begins. We do not fully understand the intricate interplay of the mother and baby and placenta which signals labor to begin and to be sustained. We do not know the effects of replacing naturally produced hormones, with their synthetic counterparts. We do not know how the deprivation of certain hormones (like oxytocin and dopamine) effects mother and child, their relationship, their bonding, or their long term development. The reality is that in a medical culture governed by litigiousness, that the illusion of firm knowledge has replaced a humble admittance of risk, and unknowing.
The article and interview above tells us that for women who have had previous c-sections, that elective c-sections before 39 weeks puts babies at risk. The doctor interviewed seemed to really stress that these c-sections had no medical purpose. Well that's all fine and good--but it is growing extremely difficult to find a birth practitioner and hospital who will allow a woman to attempt a VBAC (vaginal birth after Cesarean). The fear-mongering culture has stressed how dangerous VBACs can be, except that the evidence is skewed through interventions, such as inductions, which put increased stress on the mother's uterus. What is a mother to do? She is told attempting a vaginal birth is a no-no, and told that a repeat c-section is also a no-no.
The top priority for the majority of the medical birth professionals is to manage a woman's labor, to try to eliminate the unknown. The main end is to create an illusion of control and safety. The blame for this is wide-spread--it's doctors and women and their families and insurance companies and hospitals-as-money -generating-businesses. Like The Emperor's New Clothes, we have been collectively pretending that we both have full understanding of the mechanisms and systems involved in birth, and that we can take away all the inherent risks of birth.
Please don't misunderstand. I feel very, very blessed to live in a time and a place where the technology exists to improve outcomes for mothers and babies who would otherwise die or be very adversely affected through birth. It is a true privilege and gift. However, in my opinion, we have erred on the side of over-using technology. We have come to view technology not as a help when things have gone awry, but rather as a superior mechanism than the natural processes of birth. Furthermore, we have come to that viewpoint, without understanding the intricacies of the consequences of technological and pharmaceutical interventions. Obstetrics has a history of of using technology first, until it is proven to be detrimental; rather than demonstrating safety and outweighed benefit/risk ratio first. If you question that, think of scopolamine, DES, and the complete lack of long-term studies of the effects of sonography in utero.
It is so frustrating when information such as this new study comes out, and flies in the face of routine procedures adopted by hospitals and doctors. It is true that the ACOG has set their guidelines to reflect the 39 week marker as the determining factor in timing for elective repeat c-sections. However it is also true that finding excuses, or creating reasons to ignore this guideline is commonplace. If I am not mistaken, there was also a recent article about the detrimental effects of induction before 39 weeks floating around recently, though I cannot now remember from which source I had read it.
When, when are we as women-as a nation-going to stop cowering in fear--accept that birth has inherent risks, and start demanding that our bodies are honored!!? The process of birth isn't something which goes wrong most of the time. Our bodies aren't defective or incompetent as a rule. We have got to find some way to collectively muster up the courage to refuse non-essential technology at our births. We have to find a way to collectively demand that ALL routine procedures and medications given during birth are demonstrated to be beneficial both short and long-term. We need to insist that our birth practitioners tell us that they don't know, when they in fact don't know-for example the long term effects of sonography exposure, or the long term effects on mother and baby of replacing oxytocin with pitocin, or the effects on mother and baby of anything more than a brief separation in the days and weeks early post-partum, or the risks for their baby if they have elective repeat c-sections.
Thursday, January 8, 2009
I wonder if we are finally moving past the adolescent angst, and the numbness, and - per Ebert’s column, simply waking up to the fact that a bunch of loud, exploitative so-called “friends” crashed the house, called it a party, drank all the liquor, cracked Mom’s prize crystal egg and then decided to have a tug-of-war donnybrook on the front lawn before toilet papering the trees, puking and passing out. The press? Some “friends.” Congress? Some “statesmen.”
Hungover, we’re stumbling around, and realizing that if we do not start demanding adult behavior, adult leadership, less spin and a little honesty, not only from our leadership and our “elites” but from each other, we’re not going to be around to demand much of anything, of anyone.
Our friends on the left have put their faith and hope in President-elect Barack Obama. Those of us still on the fence about him hope that he is at least half as great as they say. That is more than the Bush-haters ever offered Bush, so perhaps it is a place to start.
And those of us with faith know that prayer is essential. Essential.
My Thoughts: I think it is more a matter of taking the adolescent wounds we bear post Kennedy assassination, Vietnam, and Watergate- and learning how to confront those wounds and heal. But as with many people who are wounded by their families in their adolescence, it takes time to confront those demons, especially when their families remain essentially unchanged. We've had Iran/Contra, and Monica Lewinsky, and the WMD debacle--it's all just more of the same. Some people never bring their dark places to the light, and because the behaviour just repeats and repeats again, they use apathy as an excuse for living defined always by their brokenness. Add to that the dysfunctionality of their extended family preying on their wounds, and capitalizing on their deepest fears --which is precisely what the press and political pundits do in order to sell their news--and you get a people who are locked into living perpetually their wounded adolescence. And so, as with all those who are products of a co-dependent, whacked-out upbringing--we need to get to the point of accepting that we cannot change other people. We can only change ourselves. We can only change our behaviour. We can learn to set boundaries and enforce them. We can seek personal healing and try to enact change in our own lives. We can refuse to live in the fear and terror created to keep us enslaved.
Will that happen in some large scale way? I doubt it. People grow comfortable with their demons, it becomes easier and easier over time to live with what we've always known (even though what we've known has sucked). Complacency doesn't require as much effort or personal sacrifice as does healing. The changes required to heal, almost always are conjoined with loss. That loss terrifies so many of us into just maintaining the status quo and passing on our dysfunction to the next generation.
What are your thoughts? End times? Perpetual adolescence? Beyond hope?
Wednesday, January 7, 2009
The Shannon Book Club is so named, because I am pretty much the only one who ever reads this stuff. LOL!
This month the selection is The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thorton Wilder. It's a very short (150 pages) novel. The basic plot is as follows:
On July 20, 1714, "the finest bridge in all Peru" collapses and five people die. Brother Juniper, a Franciscan missionary, happens to witness the tragedy, and as a result, he asks the central question of the novel: "Why did this happen to those five?" He sets out to explore the lives of the five victims, and to understand why they died. Ironically, his quest will lead to his own death.
The last book, Mr. Ives' Christmas, turned out to be in the top 20 best books I've ever read. I still need to write up a review for it. Let me know if you are up for reading and discussing The Bridge of San Luis Rey!!!
Edited to add my Review:
I think my reading was a little skewed because of the book which I read just before this one---which was just so, so intense. However, I will still try to give my thoughts.
The writing itself, is quite lovely. Not in an ornate way like Fitzgerald or James, and not in a total tightness and precision like Hemingway or even Steinbeck...but the language is unassuming and unobtrusive, nearly formal, but not enough so to make it difficult to read.
The book winds through the lives of the five people who were killed when the Bridge of San Luis Rey collapsed. We are reading with the aim of trying to piece together why these five were killed at that specific time. Though the look into each of their lives is brief, their lives all intertwine loosely with one another, and the reader gains a satisfying enough glimpse to feel as though the reader truly knows at least the three adults who died. We get fewer insights into the lives of the two children involved- so much less, in fact, that one doesn't quite know until the last pages of the book that the two children are the other two who comprise the five who died. That lack of information, in my opinion, is the one main shortcoming of the book.
In the case of the adults, each one of them was seen as dying to avoid either maligning a new start or conviction, or to avoid great harm, or to preserve their last good action. We are given a sense of the unseen lives on either side of the tragedy in question, lives which are made up of much vice and many shortcomings. However, before their death, fir each of the adults their is a small act of redemption. In the lives of the children, we are left to wonder if they were possibly preserved from a life of dissipation or of faltering into sins which hadn't yet overtaken them.
I found the framing of the story involving Brother Junipero's book rather awkward and somewhat artificial--almost like Wilder didn't quite know how to begin and end. However, we do gain some insight into the the disposition of Mr. Wilder, I believe, which is one of hope.
If you are looking for a very solid, worthwhile read, but do not have much time to commit to reading I heartily recommend this book. It is a firm reminder that the events of our lives and the lives of those around us are interconnected. It is a firm reminder that though we on the outside might never know, that there are unseen depths in the lives of those around us. It is a firm reminder that in the face of inexplicable tragedy to maintain hope that there is purpose.
Tuesday, January 6, 2009
"It is true that we will be tempted until the moment that we die. Life is just one big test. "
Life isn't a big test, I am sorry. I don't agree with that at all. We don't believe that all life is suffering. God isn't up there with his clipboard and checklist. Everything that happens to us is in God's permissive will- everything is for our providence--even temptations and sins. Those ongoing temptations and sins are a huge blessing, because they pinpoint areas of our brokenness and indicate where we need healing-as well as help break down our pride, which is an impediment to selfless love of one another and of God.
Life is just one big love affair--and our mission is to learn to give love and be loved (this is what Bl. Mother Teresa referred to as our universal vocation), which we cannot do fully when we operate out of our wounds and brokennesses. The sins and temptations which God allows us are gifts to us that we might heal and in time serve others more fully. We sin, so what...I personally think we put far too much emphasis on that--what does that sin matter. What really matters is that after falling- we cast our eyes to Jesus, ask Him to take our hand and help us back up, and we try to be open to what it is we are supposed to learn through that fall. Sometimes those lessons take a long time, sometimes the lessons are difficult to apply to our lives. The fall is so unimportant, the whole of eternity lies in the importance of what we do afterwards. __________________
Monday, January 5, 2009
Having now watched the entire first season, (in two nights!) I have to say that I have absolutely no idea how Pushing Daisies has made it to prime time. The only guess I have is that the success of the narrator-driven Desperate Housewives is somehow responsible. I never watched more than about 30 minutes of Desperate Housewives, but for a time it really saturated our culture enough that I gained some familiarity with it. It was not my cup of tea; marital intrigue and infidelity being way up there on my list of least favorite topics with which to fill up my free time.
Pushing Daisies, however, made me feel like it would be remiss of me to be using my free time to be doing anything else. The show is very heavily influenced by magic realism, with rather fantastic elements being presented as though they are fixed reality. The basic premise of the show is that the main character, the pie-making Ned, has the gift to touch dead things and bring them back to life. The caveat? If Ned touches that that thing again, it dies for good and if a creature he brought back to life lives for more than one minute, another randomly selected animal or person dies instead.
Where Pushing Daisies takes that premise yields to a show which is part fairy tale, part science fiction, part crime drama, part comic book. In print, that likely sounds like a nearly unwatchable result. But rather than being a confusing hodge-podge, the end result is a show which grabs the viewers' attention from the very beginning of the episode, a show which draws the viewer into active viewing, rather than complacency. The colors, lighting, characters, dialogue, plots and sub-plots draw a viewer in, and holds his or her interest, attention and curiosity throughout the hour. (Or in my case throughout the many hours).
Even for those who normally would balk at a non-traditional television show, I think Pushing Daisies would appeal, if they watched just a few episodes. It isn't confusing, dark or muddling as say Twin Peaks or Push, Nevada. Pushing Daisies is full of stories of love, which grow the heart of the viewer for suffering through the impediments which keep the characters from expressing the fullness of their love for one another. It is full of an innate goodness and hope. Yet at the same time, contains enough darkness that the shadows keep the show from being flat.
If you haven't watched or even heard of this show, you can go to ABC online in order to watch whole episodes, gather more information, or read plot summaries of episodes. I know I will be there to watch episodes from the current season, as I am sure that I cannot wait until Season Two comes out on DVD !
(For those wondering about age appropriateness- I would say tweeners on up, with parental involvement in watching. The word "ass" is used, but no other language which parents might find objectionable. There is some stylized violence, nothing graphic and most often the violence is farcical in nature. Olive wears some skimpy things, and there is a view of Chuck (female) in a towel. Personally, I wouldn't object to this show being on while my children were up- the older two (ages 8 and 11)would likely find it intersting and the younger ones would most likely ignore it, as the plot would be too complex for them to follow.)
Edited to add: GRRRrrrrr--as has happened with every. single. television show, except Frontline, which I have been devoted to in the past 8 years--apparently after the finished episodes of Pushing Daisies air- the show will be no longer. What's wrong with the stupid TV execs!!!!!
Friday, January 2, 2009
Do you want to have some serious fun? Do you want to laugh like you haven't laughed for years? Then the game, Quelf, is for you! Looking at the game board for the first time you'll likely think to yourself, "I only have to go from start to finish? That doesn't seem like it will be that hard, or even take very long." And, oh, how wrong you will be.
The first indication that this game is not quite like all other games comes when you pick up the sheet of directions read: "OBJECT OF THE GAME- To have fun! Duh! Why else would you play a board game?" You garner further hints of what's to come as you choose a game piece. You will choose one of the following: The Platypus, Mr. Lugnut, Super Ninja Monkey, The Dude, The Biscuit Farmer, Queen Spatula (my-well endowed favorite), Batbileg Chinzorig or "BC" as he likes to be called, or Mrs. Pickle Feather. If needed, you can steal pieces from other games to add more players. They might wonder about this strange land they've wandered into, but really after you've hung around Queen Frostine, Grandma Nut, and Plumpy the Troll is there really much left that will shock you?
The game begins as do most games, with players rolling the die to see who will go first. It seems mundane enough. However once the player with the highest roll takes his or her turn, it becomes clear that this is not your average board game. On her first turn, a friend of ours who had never played before, found herself making an "X" with her body until her next turn. She grew weary and tried to make a lower case "x".
The colors on the board correspond with different color cards, which have players doing different things. Here is an example from each category:
Green (Trivia): "How many fingers does a one-armed thumbless woman have? Extra Credit- How many fingers and toes combined do four one-legged weathermen and three blind, armless retired submarine captains have?" (No pressure, but my 11 year old got the extra credit question)
Yellow (Stuntz): "Show your opponents your belly button. Pretend your belly button has a mouth, and talk with it in a scary old voice. Make your belly button say, 'I've seen a lot of strange things in my day, but this just beats all.' "
Purple (Showbiz): " You might not be wearing a tutu, but we'd still like to see your ballet moves. Set the timer and gracefully dance like a ballerina until the timer runs out. If you can actually find and wear a tutu for your dance, advance 2 spaces."
Red (Scatterbrainz): Players pick between two choices and then go around the table until a player repeats an answer already given, or can't come up with an answer. Example: " 'U.S. Presidents' or 'Things typically found floating in the bathtub'. You choose the topic".
Blue (Roolz): Some rules apply to everyone playing, some just to individual players. Example of an individual rule: "While it is not your turn, whenever another player speaks to you, you must play 'peekaboo' with them." Example of a rule for everyone: "When it is not your turn, you must end each sentence you speak with 'izzle'. Good luckizzle."
The game is labelled as being for ages 12 and up, but we have played with younger children who just get assistance from mom or dad if needed. There are a few more "mature" questions and challenges, but nothing that is overtly inappropriate-nothing where I have thought to myself "Wow...I sure wish my kids didn't just hear that!" There are some Scatterbrainz categories which younger children might not know, like "Heavy Metal bands"--but players can always just pick a new card. My three oldest kids (ages 11, 8, and nearly 6) have loved playing it, I think mostly because they get to see the grown-ups in their life acting like loons. The Epiphany is coming up, Valentine's Day is just around the corner...and I heartily recommend that you add this game to your collection. You might be humiliated and ridiculed- but you will not have had so much fun in a long time!
For more information go here. To buy the game go here.