We’re having a blast with visiting friends, but I’m missing blogging! And by the end of their stay, I’m going to be woefully behind. Yikes. I’ll have to think of some wicked-efficient way to catch up. In the meantime, I did add a new page dedicated to my 250 Books Project. If you like, have a peek.

Hope you’re having fun, too. Talk with you soon.

Urgency Day: 478

500 Things Items 23-25: The Scarlet Letter, The Awakening, Jane Eyre

  • Sam’s public school fees paid for them
  • 3 more checkmarks under “cultural literacy”
  • Sam gleefully contributed them
  • Donations to Sam’s book drive

Do you have warm and fuzzy memories of reading 19th century novels in high school?

Neither does Sam.

Boy oh boy, did he love Slaughterhouse 5. That book really grabbed him. Ditto To Kill a Mockingbird, Oedipus, Twelfth Night, Ender’s Game… I could go on and on. But the 19th century workhorses of the typical bourgeois American high school English class? Having read a number of them now, Sam says a polite but firm, “Not my cup of tea, no.” And here’s a few for your book drive.

Sam’s mama was an English major and also the little sister of a voracious reader. When books such as these were assigned in classes, I was already familiar with them. Perhaps not from having read them, though occasionally from having seen a movie version, but aware at least of their titles and respected status.

When I say I was familiar even though I hadn’t read them, this does not adequately represent my level of intimacy with these titles.

My sister is a few of years older than me. She left for college far sooner than I was prepared for. In her absence, I took some comfort in hanging out in her room and sleeping in her bed. It was wondrous to lie there, on my stomach, propped up on my elbows and read, no absorb, all the titles of all the books she had lined up, in alphabetical order, along her headboard-bookshelves. This, I knew, was what it meant to be educated: Reading all these books. These books. They were the keys.

On some holiday or occasion, our parents had given her a set of books, “The One Hundred Greatest Books.” They were, to be frank, cheap paperbacks which fell apart at the first reading, but it didn’t matter. The rubber bands which held together the finished volumes were validations, check-marks on the path to worthiness and a true liberal education.

The titles are still etched on my brain. To this day, if I see a book that was in that collection, I still conjure the font, the heft, the jacket blurb from that edition. And when I come across other books that have since become accepted as part of the classical canon, I honestly deem them “Johnny-come-latelys.” Of course I have evolved. I am relieved and thrilled that the canon has expanded beyond dead white guys and a couple of Bronte sisters, and that now my son’s reading list includes Vonnegut and Lee and Card.

But in my school days, when my teachers assigned The Return of the Native, Hard Times and The Portrait of a Lady, I already knew these were classics, these were Good Books. They had the imprimatur of the rubber bands.

But what I couldn’t figure out for a long time was, once I actually read them, why didn’t I, you know, like them? These books, which were included in The One Hundred Greatest Books for heaven’s sake, these were classics! Surely that meant they had gone through some sort of official vetting process, where all subjectivity was eliminated and what you were left with was the essence, the purity of Great and therefore good Literature.

What was I missing?

I still squirm a bit with betrayal when I say I don’t like these books. I quibble and say, oh I see the artistry, or in their historic context, the freshness of their perspectives, or their influence on ideas and other writers. But that’s quite different from saying, “I like these books.”

In fact, I do still like all these books. I like about them exactly what I liked when I was a lonely eight-year old, lying on her beloved absent sister’s bed, staring at those wondrous titles and dreaming of someday being able to say I had read all the classics, all one hundred of them. Sure I like the promise they hold of stories and adventures, but also I crave the certainty of a definitive and finite path to rigorous enlightenment. A path– and a reading list– I am very much still on. But most of all,  I like their connection to my Donna.

And now I really admire that Sam has no pulls on his inner critic.

No equivocating: he just didn’t like them.

End of story.


Sunset on Twilight

04/26/2010

Urgency Day: 480

500 Things Items 19-22

  • Series read at urging of darling nieces
  • Really enjoyed book 2
  • Never going to make the 250 list
  • Donations

I guess I’m not an Edward girl.

Is it age? (probably) Is it wisdom? (probably not) Is it that I am actually an Aragorn girl and I already married him, so no need pining over an immortal, slightly creepy fictional vampire? Definitely!

At any rate, the Twilight series will not be in my Very Streamlined Library.

Which brings up an interesting point: Series definitely count as one entry in the list of 250 books. I would never have just one volume of the Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter, although I might have only The Lion, The Witch, The Wardrobe from the seven-volume Chronicles of Narnia. But then again, probably not.  If it does make the cut, I pledge not to count it as 1/7 a book.

But here’s a tricky bit of accounting. I am counting the Twilight books separately for purposes of my 500 Things project. Wow, I can almost hear the indignant shouts of “hypocrite!”

Different project, different rules.

Even if you quibble with that logic, I have on other occasions clumped together several related things and called them one donation. I’m thinking of the cookie cutters or the school supplies, so I think I can take this liberty.

Nothing like starting off the week with a good juicy rationalization.

Two of my nieces encouraged me to read the Twilight books. I loved their enthusiasm, and these books were certainly all over the popular media, so I gave the first one a try. It was, well, good enough that I tried the second. I actually really enjoyed the second one which propelled me with increasing disappointment but a sincere desire for closure through the last two.

Let’s just say I really like the movie soundtracks.

Blog alert:

This week will be devoted to the book project. Sam’s chapter of National Honor Society is collecting books to donate to several local causes. The second period class at his high school that collects the most donations gets a bagel/donut breakfast as a reward. Even though I won’t get– and couldn’t eat anyway– the yummy breakfast treats, I am happy to help Sam’s pursuit of a mid-morning carbo-coma.

And truly, the timing couldn’t be better for me. Culling the library is easy and even enjoyable, and I could use the simplicity this week. We are preparing for the arrival later this week of very dear friends. I’ve got some baking to do!

Gluten free, of course.


Urgency Day: 483

500 Things Item 18: Vacancy Light Sensor

  • Left behind by previous owners
  • Never opened/used
  • Zero parting pain
  • Donate or yard sale

Happy Shakespeare Day!

Officially, the 394th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare. Unofficially, but by tradition, the 456th anniversary of his birth. Neat, huh!

The unofficialness of his birth date has to with our only having official documentation of his baptism on April 26, 1554. But during this time, it was customary to baptize babies three days after their birth. Hence, the very cool opportunity to celebrate both biographical details conveniently on one rockin’ honorificabilitudinitatibus day (really, Love’s Labor’s Lost, 5.1.41)

His birthday is, of course, a matter of some controversy, as are so many things about the Greatest Genius Who Has Ever Lived. And why is it that so many small-minded people make much ado about nothing over birth certificates!

And what the heck does all this have to do with the light sensor I listed today?

Initially, it suggested to me using a quote such as “What light through yonder window breaks.” But then I realized the function of the sensor is to turn off the lights in a vacant room, which wouldn’t have helped poor Romeo much.

So then I thought, maybe a quote about deception, since the point of the device is to deceive people that you are home when you are traveling. Try, say, Iago, “I am not what I am.” But upon closer inspection of the package, that’s not at all the function of this sensor. It simply turns off the lights if you leave a room and forget to turn them off. Only I was deceived there.

Well, I am all for controlling the electrical “ghost load,” the number of unnecessarily plugged-in and/or turned-on electric devices in our homes and offices.

Fellow Earth-Day-is-EVERY-Day Believers:

The ghost load is a huge drain on the grid!

And Lord knows, I am the member of our household who acts as the light police, turning off abandoned lights and chastising, admonishing and encouraging my housemates to do the same.

Good, a ghost quote then. “I’ll make a ghost of him that let’s me,” wherein I am making ghosts of left-on lights? That’s a stretch, and of course, Hamlet meant “hinder” when he said “let.” Yikes.

Oh bloody hell. I tell you what. Celebrate Shakespeare Day however you wish. With a favorite quote or movie version of a play, or any of several Star Trek references (my fave: the gang rehearsing scenes from Midsummer in “Time’s Arrow, pt. 2”), some Bard-inspired music (I love Mendelssohn’s Midsummer and Prokofiev’s R&J), and most certainly with a toast:

It’s not enough to speak, but to speak true.

(Midsummer again— recently revisited, so on my mind)

Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none.

(All’s Well…)


I wish all of you, and especially my friend Cable,

a very happy Shakespeare Day.


Urgency Day: 484

500 Things Item 17: Gold Star Candy Dish

  • Purchased for some long forgotten holiday party
  • Corralled M&Ms etc. every single time I needed it to
  • Zero parting pain
  • Theme yard sale

I am definitely not giving myself a gold star.

In fact, this innocuous little gold-painted star-shaped candy dish epitomizes everything I am trying to purge from my life. Why did I feel compelled to purchase a specialized themed candy dish for some event I don’t even specifically remember? Believe me, I had and still have plenty of bowls, dishes, cups, baskets, glasses, crocks and pottery that would have done the job just fine. Too many. Some will be showing up here, no doubt.

Oh the continuing self-flagellation.

[Bring in the chi, Suzanne, bring in the chi.]

I know this relates to my holiday-decoration problem. I was in my basement just this morning organizing a bit (Oh, happy day!), when I found a couple of holiday things that still needed to be stowed in one of the seasonal bins. They were a Yankee Candle Co. pine-scented candle and the last string of little white lights that had finally been removed from the back deck.

Rationalization warning!

The candle was a gift and does provide a lovely verdant Alpine forest kind of scent for holiday visitors to our powder room. Fine. And I was beginning to think the lights should have just been left up for summer al fresco dining pleasure. I must have forgotten to tell my handy husband about this idea for repurposing the “holiday” lights. They came off the deck with the recent first grass cutting of the season. Very spring season. Very not holiday season.

At least all the decorations came down from the front of the house in a timely manner. But this time, the gold star candy dish won’t just get stored.

Our dear friends in Fredericksburg are participating in a community yard sale this very weekend. I am consumed with envy or jealousy or whichever one isn’t too venial. I asked for pictures and details. I am actually a yard-sale groupie. Good luck, guys! Sell the damn boat and anything else you can.

And remember, much like Tom Joad fighting the good fight,

“Wherever there’s a yard sale that is soul-cleansing, I’ll be there.”


Urgency Day: 485

500 Things Items 16: Dead Mouse and Unused USB Port

  • Contributed by Paul from his office
  • Many usefulness units reported
  • No parting pain other than replacement cost for the mouse
  • Recycle (new category!)

What can I say about my sweet husband? Stepping up and contributing to my project.

I love you, darling.

What can I say about a dead mouse and an unused USB port?

Not much.

I can report that the death of this mouse engendered a lively household debate about computer mice in general. Sam and I are passionate about our wireless mice. The freedom! The mobility! The reduction, if only by one, of another cord from our lives!

Paul resolutely didn’t care– which flabbergasted us partisan mouse-users.

Actually, he came around when he found that a wireless mouse costs about the same as its tethered kin.

Mice freedom, if not a free mouse.

I got nothing on the USB port.

Tickled to Pieces

04/20/2010

Urgency day: 486

500 Things Item 15: Charles Freitag Jigsaw Puzzle

  • Gift for Paul from Laura
  • They love doing puzzles together; I love watching them
  • They love new challenges
  • Gift for my FHF client and her son

Paul and Laura are puzzle buddies. Serious puzzle buddies. What makes it “serious?”

They have a rhythm.

They have an unspoken puzzle-doing language; they have an order: sorting, corners, areas; they work as a focused team, with no apparent competitiveness. There is seamless motion, and there also is an unselfconscious- running commentary:

“Can you believe how they covered up this part of the picture with a label?!”

“This red looks very different from the red on the box. Or is this brown?”

“Do you have any of my old man with a rag?”

“Yes, do you have half of the other white chicken?”

I don’t do puzzles with them. I cook their dinners and refill their glasses and revel in the easy rapport of my husband and my niece.

Besides, I’d just disrupt their dance.

Last week, to my delight, I discovered that I have other puzzle-doers in my life.

In the two years that I have known her, I never knew my FHF client loves jigsaw puzzles. And now she is teaching her four-year old to do and love jigsaw puzzles. I couldn’t be more tickled.

I was in her apartment last week, and there was a completed Thomas Kinkead puzzle on her kitchen table. It was very small, just 8” by 8” I would say, and I asked her if she liked doing puzzles. She absolutely lit up and said, “Always.”

I’ve seen that delight in other faces before.

I told her I had some puzzles I could pass along, but they were much bigger than the one on her table. “No problem,” she said. “We’ve got a felt!” And she pointed to a large piece of green felt that could role up and accommodate even an oversized puzzle in various states of completion.

I am so happy to share our old puzzles with her and her little boy. And she gave me a great idea for a Christmas present for my puzzling pair. [Hint: it’s green.]

So do I have to get rid of 501 things now?

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