Thursday, August 30, 2007

"No, 'tis not so deep as a well, nor so wide as a church door; but 'tis enough, 'twill serve." - Mercutio

A plague – or is it a pox (it’s a plague AND a pox – whatever did we do before Google?) on both your houses!*

After I finished Doomsday Book, I used my mad librarian skillz to track down some more plague fiction. (Historical, which leaves out fab plague books like Stephen King’s The Stand and Michael Crichton’s Andromeda Strain.) (And whatever did we do before WorldCat?)

Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks is a terrific book. MUCH much better than Brooks’ dismally dreary and dull March; honestly you’d never believe the same author wrote them both. Maybe it’s just that the plague is much more exciting than the March girls’ father?

Red Noses - Peter Barnes. One of my favorite plays EVER. A disillusioned priest decides to combat the Black Plague with humor, assembling a troupe of misfits to wander the countryside ministering to the people. Scathing satire on the church, and the nature of man – brilliant stuff. (Just for the record, Barnes also wrote The Ruling Class, which was made into an incredibly disturbing movie, with an incredibly disturbed Peter O’Toole. Barnes clearly had his claws out for religion, but he does it so well.)

Boccaccio’s Decameron is sorta like Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, only easier to read and set in Italy during the plague. It contains many stories, very loosely connected. A classic worth checking out.

THIS book by Susanna Gregory, A Plague on Both Your Houses, not only looks great, but is one of a series that looks fantastic. One reviewer compared it to the Brother Cadfael books. High praise indeed.

A little sci fi with your plague? Try Michael Flynn’s Eifelheim. Aliens invade medieval Germany, just before the plague strikes. Of COURSE they do.

The Trumpet Shall Sound - C. Worthington Murphy. The Plague approaches Sweden.

A Company of Fools - Deborah Ellis. The Black Plague invades YA fiction.

Years of Rice and Salt - Kim Stanley Robinson. A fictional look at history without Europe, which was wiped off the map completely and thoroughly by the plague (yes, even more efficiently than in real life; conservative estimates put the actual mortality rate at fifty to seventy-five percent of all Europe).

Pestilence - William Roberts. A prize-winning Welsh novel. About the plague. And Arabs assassinating the king of France. Seriously.

Rumor has it that Ken Follett’s newest, due out in October, titled World Without End, is a sequel of sorts to the wonderful Pillars of the Earth and is set during the plague years of England. Worth keeping in mind.

And other titles that cropped up in WorldCat but which I can’t find to save my life.
Happy hunting, if you wish!

The Sower Went Forth Sowing - David Muckle
Year of the Death - Reuben Merliess/Merliss

I know there must be others; feel free to offer up titles. (Yes, I am talking to you people who made me read Doomsday Book to start with.)

*Mercutio, Romeo and Juliet, Act III, sc. 1.
I know you want to know.

Another Suburban Family Morning

So I'm still working on Revolutionary Road, which is excellent. I'm taking it slowly, though, because of the stress: You know the agony and intensity of Who's Afraid of Virgina Woolf? Well, stretch that out over the length of a novel, and you'll see why I've had to take breaks. There are times when I can't bear to check in with Frank and April Wheeler, the main characters of the book, because they are so selfish and angry and unhappy and . . . so very real that it's just exhausting.

I still have about a hundred pages to go, so I'm not quite sure how the story wraps up, but I can absolutely recommend the book. If you're interested in the marital drama of a young suburban couple in the mid-1950s, and you're ready to consider that perhaps less than we might think has changed about the dynamics of relationships in the last fifty years . . . then this book will hold you (sometimes reluctantly) spellbound.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

"Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies." - Mother Teresa

The Newsweek that arrived in my mailbox yesterday was the usual fall preview.
The book section was small, but encouraging.

First to pique my interest: Oliver Sacks’ Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain.
I find Oliver Sacks fascinating; his explorations of the brain’s intricacy and quirkiness are always good reads – insightful, informative, and well-written. Generally starting out with the odd case study, he then dissects the whys and wherefores, as far as possible, of a relevant disorder. Good stuff. His latest book explores the intertwining of music and the brain; if not a perfect Christmas gift for my husband, at least a book he might enjoy, marrying the art and the science in a way his mathematician/musician brain will appreciate.

Alice Sebold, of Lovely Bones fame (I have not read it), and lesser Lucky fame (I have read it and found it powerful and scary), has a new book titled The Almost Moon. I am not yet convinced of Sebold’s powers as a writer, but I’d be willing to take a look.

Peter Hoeg’s newest, The Quiet Girl, features a clown as its protagonist. I HATE clowns. But if this book even comes close to touching the oddity of Smilla’s Sense of Snow, I might pick it up at the library.

Lynne Cheney has a book coming out titled Blue Skies, No Fences.
Back when I was a hormone-addled adolescent, I recall picking up somewhere a copy of a book called Blue Skies, No Candy by Gael Greene (my paperback had a different cover, though). Judging from the Amazon reader reviews, I was not the only sex-crazed teenager to discover and, uh, appreciate this book. I wonder if Mrs Cheney is aware of the title parallelism? I am guessing she is not, as Cheney would DEFINTELY not approve of Greene’s sexy book. You’d think an astute editor would have caught the title similarities and advised accordingly.

And last, but certainly not least and not mentioned in Newsweek but crossing my radar and engendering much discussion via email with my personal Catholic advisor (otherwise known as Joke): Mother Teresa’s correspondence, Come Be My Light, detailing among other things her decades-long crisis of faith. That this woman could continue the charitable work at which she labored for years in the squalor and poverty of India, while not feeling one iota of her God’s presence, is just amazing to me. I have a post brewing about this, so won’t say anything else till I have really hammered out my feelings and thoughts, but I definitely want to read this book.

And now I must grocery shop, as we have no food – or at least no bread, milk, yogurt, or bananas, which amounts to the same thing – in the house. And the grocery store is right next to the Barnes & Noble - even though I have a library copy of The Last Witchfinder and a secondhand copy of The Dante Club sitting on my nightstand.

Monday, August 27, 2007

“I don't have pet peeves, I have whole kennels of irritation.” - Whoopi Goldberg

Current pet peeves (and no, this isn’t about my PETS):

None of my maternity clothes fit me anymore.
Between having been passed around from cousins to sisters-in-law to coworkers and being washed/dried God knows how, and the fact that I am thirty pounds heavier to start than I was when I bought all these maternity clothes for my first baby, I have exactly two skirts and a dress that fit me still. All three of which I am heartily sick of, anyway.

Having to take all three children grocery shopping – or for that matter, any kind of shopping – with me. Thank GOD school starts this week. I am already planning a mammoth shopping trip to IKEA with just The Baby. I need some rag rugs for the bathroom floor, and a kitchen clock, and some plain cream-colored fitted sheets and maybe a nice poster for the bathroom wall and a decent poster frame...and I want to look at the wooden bunk beds which we are considering for the two older paper napkins and candles – both tapers for the candlesticks and fat columns for the mantelpiece - and...cinnamon rolls. I DEFINITELY need cinnamon rolls.

Opening a book – in this case, a Lord Peter Wimsey mystery I was looking forward to reading, that I picked up at a yard sale or somewhere – and having it REEK of cigarette smoke. Yuck. My already sensitive stomach did a few turns before I gave up and started my brand new copy (courtesy of Gina for, I think, my last birthday) of Sixpence House. Which is delightful - but the author’s taste in used books is a tad...arcane.

People who don’t pick up the Freecycle stuff they said they wanted. If I wanted three cans of Iams dog food, a box of Pez dispensers, and a 16” pillow form to sit on my porch for three days, do you think I’d have posted it on Freecycle in the first place?

People who send your children home from birthday parties full of lemonade and cake and pizza, with a full bag of candy and more junk food. I am all for the little guys having a good time, but really, do they need a whole bag full of crap to bring home, thus necessitating me spiriting it away when they are not looking? Because I’d like them to have some teeth left in their mouth and some lining to their stomachs...

Children’s socks that are not even nearly big enough once they’ve been through the wash. Especially children’s socks with little bulldozers on them that you bought as sort of a treat, instead of the usual boring white sweat socks.

Having H announce at 4 pm over email that he has plans that evening. AFTER you arranged to go out with coworkers after work. And after he has been out two nights already that week. I am hardly a jailer, I am happy he has friends, but God, does the man have an active social life. To the detriment of mine.

Getting a terrific haircut with layers and chunky bangs-sort of things, that will not be pulled back into an elastic any more because of said chunky bangs-sort of things.


Well, except this part:

To my mind, the only possible pet is a cow. Cows love you. . . . They will listen to your problems and never ask a thing in return. They will be your friends forever. And when you get tired of them, you can kill and eat them. Perfect. – Bill Bryson

Sunday, August 26, 2007

And Green Can be Cool and Friendly-like

The weather has changed, and it's a cool and lovely morning to sit on my porch, look at all the green I'm lucky enough to be surrounded by even though I live in the city. The humidity is gone, the birds are singing, and I found a $50 Border's gift card in my wallet and bought books yesterday!

Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates is so good I can't put it down (other than to tell you how good it is).
History Lessons for Girls by Aurelie Sheehan is the gamble book of the bunch--the author's name came up when I was searching for something about Scarlett Thomas. We'll see.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky is a book I've coveted since I read a library copy a few years ago. If you like books about teenagers and haven't read it, do so.
Absurdistan by Gary Shteyngart might be terrible--I don't know--but I liked his other book and have been waiting for this to come out in paperback.
Bel Canto by Ann Patchett is a replacement copy of this lovely book. I don't know who borrowed it and never gave it back, but now I can rest because I have one back on the shelf.

Sigh. Isn't it lovely? And they're all mine! :-)

And now, back to reading for a bit until I have to go and get ready for work at the library. Where, you might recall, there are more books. Life is good.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

"In a utilitarian age, of all other times, it is a matter of grave importance that fairy tales should be respected." - Charles Dickens

I just finished John Connelly’s The Book of Lost Things.

I haven’t read any of his other novels – they seem to be mostly thrillers from the look of things on Amazon – but judging from this book, I might be compelled to check out other stuff he’s written.

Maybe. Because it’s not that his writing is so gorgeous or amazing – it’s good, don’t get me wrong – but it’s his story that’s superb. It’s fantastic and creepy and funny and satirical and thoroughly engrossing. It has hints of AS Byatt’s Little Black Book of Stories, with elements of Harry Potter and more than a passing similarity to some Neil Gaiman - parts of Sandman but especially Coraline.

There are overtones of Kirstin Bakis’s incredibly strange (but good) Lives of the Monster Dogs and notes of Carolyn Parkhurst’s disturbing (but good, if weaker) Dogs of Babel. [However, no dogs were harmed in the writing of this post.]

But this palimpsest is neither plagiaristic nor derivative; Connelly makes his creatures and his plots his own. He reworks all the horrors and tragedies and humor into a beautiful and strange little book, complete with a hero with whom one grows increasingly sympathetic a little bit more each page, as he grows and matures, and a lovely and sweet if haunting ending.

I didn’t want it to end.

And here I am again, at loose ends for something to read.
I think I hear Bruno Bettelheim calling...

If you happen to read fairy tales, you will observe that one idea runs from one end of them to the other--the idea that peace and happiness can only exist on some condition. This idea, which is the core of ethics, is the core of the nursery-tales.
~G. K. Chesterton
All Things Considered, 1908

Friday, August 24, 2007

Cruella de Ville: What kind of sycophant are you? Frederick: Uh, what kind of sycophant would you like me to be?

Oh for fuck’s sake. I am NOT mean to the dog. He’s a perfectly nice dog, who is fed, and bathed, and walked regularly. He is given treats and played with and petted. I take him to the vet for regular checkups and anytime I think something’s up.

(Although you all, my sycophants, may tell me I should do otherwise.)

But he is NOT a child.

I made a mistake.
Not a nice one, or one I am proud of, but a mistake nonetheless.
I went into this with the best of intentions, both for my family and for Punto.
I am not one of those people who consider my pets my children. It’s fine if you are (more leeway than you give me, apparently) but I am not.

And it is NOT fine for a dog to poop on the floor after being let out before we go to bed, and without coming to get someone to let him out if he is feeling unwell. Which apparently he is not. And after having kept the exact same hours without poop incident for the previous four months just fine.

I now understand why some people crate their animals at night.
I also understand why sometimes people quit blogging.


I am reading The Book of Lost Things, and it is deliciously creepy.
I am also reading The Long Exile, and the story is intriguing but I don’t much care for the author’s writing style.
Also dabbling in Rosamunde Pilcher’s cozy September except my stomach is not handling the food descriptions very well at the moment.

Otherwise we are all lying around under the ceiling fans, getting to the pool as much as we can, and torturing Punto the dog.


He is as usual being fed and watered regularly and walked and petted and has his very own fan to lie in front of.
Maybe if he’s very lucky, I can find him a home with central air?
If I do, and decide to keep him, do you think Anonymous et al. will crucify me for THAT?

Thursday, August 23, 2007

To his dog, every man is Napoleon; hence the constant popularity of dogs. - Aldous Huxley

I can’t take it anymore.
The following me around the house; the watching me sleep, waiting for me to wake up to attend to his needs, the whining to wake me up to attend to his needs; the senseless noise; the heavy breathing.

No, not H.
No, not my boys.

It turns out, people, that *I* am NOT a dog person.
Or perhaps I am just not a big-smelly-needy-slavering-annoying-dog person.

Maybe a nice smaller dog, one who actually acted like a dog and not another demanding child who will NEVER grow up. Maybe. Maybe not.

I admit, I am in a bad place right now because the stupid dog pooped – a giant, enormous poop – right in the middle of my living room yesterday morning. He’d been let out at ten pm, it was seven am. H thinks maybe he was a little unwell. I don’t know. I DO know that if he does it again, he’s GONE. He may be gone anyway. I have another baby coming soon, and I can’t handle the level of need from this animal.

Nothing is EVER enough for him. I take him out for a half-hour walk, give him treats, and he wants more – longer walks, more attention, more food. I can’t prepare so much as a glass of iced tea without him trailing me around the kitchen staring at me mournfully, hoping for scraps. (And before you ask, he gets PLENTY to eat, and if his, uh, output is anything to judge from, he poops three to four times a DAY.)

I thought having a dog would be fun for the boys – they could play with him, throw sticks, whatever - but they could not care less, probably because the dog wants ME, and only me. He won’t deign to run around with them, or fetch for them, or do anything with them, so they’ve given up trying.

I am completely torn and feeling guilty as hell. I want to give him away, find him a nice home with people who will love him for who he is. And maybe I should just stick to my cats and my goldfish. Maybe I was never meant to have a dog. Maybe I should stop trying to talk myself into this.

He was at my friend’s house for the day while we were at the amusement park. When we got home and there was no howling, no jumping, no slobbering, no demanding – it was so lovely to just come home and not have him NEED something. It was lovely to just deal with the three boys and not worry about what the hell he wanted.

I KNOW I am a cold, heartless, terrible person. I know this.
I love my kids.
I love my cats.
I do NOT love this dog, much as I wanted to.

And I don't need him to love me, either.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Tin Roof! Rusted.

What do you do when you find yourself camping at Lake Erie, and you've forgotten to pack a pot in which to boil water? Fear not! Take your trusty Swiss Army knife and cut off the tops of two aluminum cans. Place the cans on the toast rack, and use the SA knife's pliers as pot holders. If, like me, you're using the boiling water to make pasta, you can even use the discarded tops of the cans as a strainer!

I know, I know: Brilliant. I don't mind telling you that I was so pleased with myself that I hardly minded the rain, which started beating on our tin (aluminum?) roof sometime late Saturday night and never really stopped.

Monday, August 20, 2007

"We're just two lost souls swimming in a fish bowl..."

My six-year-old is lying on his bed, reading Encyclopedia Brown and listening to Pink Floyd.

I don't even know what to say about this.

"Have you ever tried...not being a mutant?" - his mom to Bobby Drake/ Iceman

Most people like Wolverine.
Or perhaps the world’s sexiest bald man, Jean-Luc, er, Patrick Stewart.

Me? I apparently am WEIRD because I dig this guy:

H and I watched X-Men 2 the other night. Despite nursing a raging, chronic headache, I was drawn in and watched all the way to the end. I remember thinking, “I am going to hate this,” as comics are so not my thing, but as with the first X-Men, I really liked it. The X-Men are only slightly less cooler than Neil Gaiman’s Endless, and I actually think they’d all get on really well.

Not that I would be willing to test that theory...


Just finished Val McDermid’s The Grave Tattoo. It was exactly the sort of book I needed. Smart, not really a mystery but mysterious enough to keep me intrigued, and as usual, written with McDermid’s impeccable and evocative prose and superb research.


It’s a rainy Monday, and we are all still in our pajamas.

Primo starts school next Thursday, and Seg the Thursday after. My summer energy is about run through. I had promised the boys a trip to the local play center, but I don’t think I can face the place today, not with my head throbbing the way it is. It’s bad enough they’re all three up in the attic playing Irish music very loudly and drumming along and, from the sounds of it, teaching themselves to jig into the bargain.

Maybe they’ll settle for new school shoes shopping and maybe some ice cream.

Maybe they’ll let me go back to bed.


Friday, August 17, 2007

Pokemon...are anything but innocent - they are a foreign-made manual of perversion...designed to lure kids away from God. - Tristan Shuddery

My little Pokémon fiends are off evolving and attacking and doing whatever else it is that those little Pokémon dudes do.

There are somewhere around 450 Pokémon, each one with special powers and evolved forms - each of which Seg and especially Primo can tell you about in detail. I can name about twelve. Invariably pronounced incorrectly. Even so, I do have my favorites.

Of course, everyone’s favorite is little yellow Pikachu.

I also happen to enjoy Tentacool

who evolves into Tentacruel.

Mewtwo is a catty little pistol (pun intended), cloned from the more innocuous Mew Pokémon, who hangs out with the “bad guys” and cracks me up.

Jigglypuff is so unthreatening as to be laughable. He sings his opponents to sleep.

Psyduck just makes me laugh. His special powers are initiated via headaches.

As does the description of Golduck, his evolved form:
“a stronger, larger, faster and more intelligent evolution of Psyduck.”

Um, my GOLDFISH is a larger, faster, and more intelligent evolution of Psyduck, for God’s sake.

The game itself actually appears to be a lot of fun, and requires some serious strategy and planning. The rules are fairly complicated, but the two oldest seem to have them down pat. (Terzo merely contents himself with wandering around and shouting, “Pikachu!” every so often, at the top of his lungs.)

A trip to the grocery store to purchase another starter deck so that they all have enough energy cards to play a decent game has resulted in QUIET in my house – for hours at a time.

Turns out, though, that Pokemon is "The Yellow Peril."

Even so, I wish I had discovered Pokémon in June.
Maybe next summer I can try some "crack-cocaine."

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

They Say I'm Lazy But it Takes All My Time

Have you seen The Simpsons Movie? Well, I just had an epiphany, and there wasn't an Inuit woman in sight. Ready for this? I have decided that it's okay if my income never increases beyond normal cost of living raises. Seriously! I don't make a lot of money BY ANY MEANS, but I am able to afford an apartment I like a lot in a neighborhood I love. I keep food on the table and my modest car well serviced. I have a retirement fund and small savings account. I'm able to make it through Christmases and birthdays without selling my soul, and I can manage a decent vacation every other year or so. I pay my share of my son's tuition at the greatest school in the world. I can afford books (and bookshelves) as long as I keep my eye on things, and I replace clothes or shoes as needed and as things I love go on sale. I even budget out money for various charities that are important to me.

What else do I need? Nothing.

So there. Maybe it means little to you, but ever since I was in college I had this, "Someday when I have money . . . " mindset. I envied my doctor/lawyer/pharmacist/engineer friends for their incomes, and often wanted to kick myself right in the useless English Writing degree.

And now guess what? I just realized that it's okay if I never have any more money than I do right now.

Despite my good girl, please the adults facade, I am coming to terms that there's something I share with Bart, rather than with Lisa Simpson: I'm an underachiever and proud of it.

"In books I have traveled, not only to other worlds, but into my own." - Anna Quindlen

What to read, what to read.

I ditched Pushed, I finished Pledged, I decided I didn’t give two hoots about Plain Secrets.
I started The Long Exile and I think I am going to like it very much, but it’s much more nonfiction than I am in the mood for right now.
I picked up a copy of The Great Mortality at HPB this past weekend, so while I was fifty pages in and enjoying my library copy greatly, now the pressure to read it right this instant is off.
The other night, nauseated and headache-y, I resorted to an old favorite, Rosamunde Pilcher. I picked up Winter Solstice as I have only read that one maybe three times (as opposed to more than half a dozen time, like all her other big novels).
It hit the spot that evening, but what I long for right now is a big, fat story but one I haven’t read yet.

So I did what I do when this mood strikes: I consult Anna Quindlen’s list of “Ten Big Thick Wonderful Books that Could Take You All Summer to Read (but aren’t beach books).”

1. Gone with the Wind - Margaret Mitchell
2. Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray
3. East of Eden - John Steinbeck
4. The Forsyte Saga - John Galsworthy
5. Buddenbrooks - Thomas Mann
6. Can You Forgive Her? - Anthony Trollope
7. Sophie’s Choice - William Styron
8. Henry and Clara - Thomas Mallon
9. Underworld - Dom DeLillo
10. Lonesome Dove - Larry McMurtry

[ones already - and loved - in bold]

So. There you have it.

I guess my first reaction is, ‘Oh my God, I HATED Underworld, so she can’t possibly be right about that. And if she’s not right about THAT…’ then maybe the fact that I can’t seem to get any further than fifty pages into either Buddenbrooks or The Forsyte Saga is more an indication that she and I do not share book taste.

Even if I adored Gone with the Wind and read it in a week during my first week of grad school; or even if I gave Lonesome Dove a shot even though I don’t care for Westerns, and LOVED it, or for that matter, ignored the fact that it was an Oprah selection and gobbled down East of Eden. So, you know, she was right about those.

She was right about the Trollope too. Although Trollope can be hard going sometimes, and I am not really in the mood to work that hard right now.

And, um, yeah, I liked Sophie’s Choice so much that I read every other William Styron I could get my hands on..

I have Vanity Fair upstairs.

I could give Buddenbrooks another shot since I really enjoyed the fifty or so pages I read the first time I tried. Or maybe I should give the Mallon a first shot.

For that matter, I could dip into the reccs in the rest of Quindlen’s book and haul out my copy of Green Dolphin Street, but I found it at a yard sale and it’s unpleasantly musty-smelling – NOT what I need right now.


I want a big fat thick pleasant book to read – newish, so it doesn’t smell, and not too hard because more brain cells seem to hibernate by the day, and not too fluffy because right now I am easily bored. A cozy English novel would be best, but I also don’t see any reason to limit myself.

Sigh. You know, it’s really enough to make one turn to mindless television watching.

But what if there’s nothing on?

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

"I got an MBA for this?" - Zack Carey, in "Showgirls"

From: My crazy college friend D
To: Every woman she knows
Date: Aug whatever yesterday was, 2007
Subject: Pole dancing (yup, really!)

Hello ladies!

OK, I am planning a Women's Night Out, and here is the info:

Sunday Sep 30 (lots of notice, you'll see why in a minute) 7:30p - 9p (with probable hanging out after)for no reason at all at Fitness with a Twist (
[Note from BB: Check out those instructors. Honey, those are strippers.]

This is a one time 90 minute "class" where we will learn pole dancing and cat-walk walking and learn a dance routine if we want. Attire is casual, we will be the only ones there, the woman who runs it says to try it barefoot or wear "strappy but secure" shoes. They have props (hats, boas, etc.) It is BYO snacks and beverages (alcoholic and non as we prefer).

If we get 15 women it will cost $13.50 each. THERE IS A LIMIT OF 15 WOMEN IN THE CLASS! So please let me know ASAP if you can make it, and then please don't cancel unless there is an emergency as the rest of us will be stuck footing the bill!
[Note from BB: Or tucking it in their g-strings.]

I think this will be a blast! I hope some of you think so as well.



I appreciate my friend D’s efforts to keep her friends together and connected.
I appreciate her trying to break us all out of our professional, approaching-middle-age molds.
I even appreciate her suggesting we try something new.

But I went to college so I DIDN'T HAVE TO LEARN TO POLE DANCE.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

She's an Extraordinary Girl

She is, indeed. Or, I am, I mean. Why? Because I made the right decision about the camping trip!! We went to my parents' house for the entire weekend, and skipped the campground entirely. I know this was the right decision because my parents' neighbors' college-aged kids tried to go to the same campground and found it all washed out from the storm; it was a mess, and no one was allowed in the lake. They set up camp in their backyard, and we set up in my parents', and life was good.

We had a fire in their outdoor fireplace and toasted marshmallows for s'mores (with Green & Black's chocolate, thank you very much). We had much Phase 10 by lantern light. (The boy seems to have inherited his father's skill and ruthlessness for the game, cheerfully skipping his grandmother, mother, and friend with abandon, and beat us all.) I cooked bacon, eggs and pancakes on my little camp stove.

There was soccer and football and general merriment, and even apple and blueberry picking from my parents' trees and bushes, which resulted in the baking of several pies. In all, it was much like having a private campground with much more comfortable outdoor furniture and a much tidier bathroom. (Plus, you know, my mother's pies.)

The best part was when we were leaving, and my dad said (their 38th wedding anniversary was Thursday), "Thanks for coming, that was a really nice anniversary gift." Aw! I don't know when my dad became such a softy, but it was sweet.

It was a lovely weekend, and now I'm ready to start the week. I have the day off tomorrow, but I go to the library in the afternoon for my part-time employee orientation. I'll get my official photo badge--woo! :-)

“Myth is an attempt to narrate a whole human experience...of which the purpose is too deep for mental explanation or description." - DH Lawrence


Pushed: The Painful Truth about Motherhood and Modern Maternity Care by Jennifer Block was NOT a book I couldn’t put down. In fact, I put it down several times, rather forcefully, and the only thing that kept me from flinging it across the room at least once was the fact that it is a library book. When I realized that Block was not only making me feel like a horrible mother for wanting crazy things like pain relief and reliable medical care for my baby, but also like I was somehow betraying motherhood in general, and my maternal instincts in particular, I put the book down for good. Aren’t pregnancy, childbirth, and babycare hard enough without strewing the already hazardous way with more doubt and expectation?

Yes, yes, wouldn’t it be lovely if we could all just crouch down in the backyard and pop out our babies without medication and having to be hooked up to machines? Wouldn’t it be lovely if we were all confident enough to have a breech birth in a wading pool in our living rooms? Wouldn’t it be even nicer if, when you decided that you are perfectly ok with giving birth in a hospital and would like some relief from those vomit-inducing, screechworthy labor pains, that you could do so without feeling like you are subverting nature?

I am all for natural childbirth. I tried it with Primo. But apparently my first sin was having my water break before I had dilated at all. Then my second sin was calling my doctor who, because it was my first baby and we’d had some touch-and-go moments earlier in the pregnancy, asked me to come in so she could keep an eye on me. Apparently my third grievous sin was then proceeding to shake uncontrollably and vomit copiously, causing some worry about fever and infection, at which point my doctor asked me – ASKED, not demanded or assumed – if I would care to be induced. (Would I LIKE to have a root canal? No. Is it possible that one is indicated and therefore it might be a good idea? Better question.) As it turns out, I WOULD care to be induced, if only to make the dreadful gutheaving STOP sometime in the next two days. I mean, yeah, it would produce my baby, but oh my god, I wasn’t even really in yet and already I was dying for labor to be over. My fourth sin – oh why keep counting, apparently I broke every rule in the book. But I came home relatively unscathed – my doctor tries very hard to avoid episiotomies and was successful – and with a healthy, howling baby. You know what? In MY book, that equals a successful birth experience.

As someone once pointed out to me, you could have dental work done without Novacaine, but WHY? I’ll tell you why NOT – there’s no great dental governing body out there declaring that root canals are perfectly natural and if we could just let go of all our medically-demanded and socially-pressured expectations, we could just BREATHE through our root canal and go home and cook up a steak and eat it that same night.

Do I sound pissed? Because I am.

I see both sides. I have a friend who had a dreadful labor experience in a hospital, contracting and pushing for close to forty-eight hours before she finally agreed to a c-section. I also know a couple who wanted to have a homebirth with a midwife and did so, but the baby (a breech) got stuck in the birth canal, the midwife and mother did not call 911 soon enough, the baby suffocated, and the mother nearly bled to death. Both moms went on to have another healthy, successful pregnancy, and are wonderful mothers to their children. Both of those mothers chose to deliver their second babies, respectively, in a hospital again, and in her living room again. This time all went well. As long as you can live with the consequences of your choice, without giving in to expectation or deluded ideas of what is “right” and/or “natural,” then you should do what feels right for you and your child, and what works for you.

Here is what I am for:
Any birth experience that works for you and gives you peace of mind, and that results in a healthy baby and a healthy mother.

If what works for you is having your baby in a paddling pool in your family room and cutting the cord yourself, then I say go for it. More power to you.

If what works for you is having your baby under a doctor’s care in a hospital, then do it.

Heck, while I don’t personally get it, if what works for you is scheduling a c-section so you can get back to work in time for the big client presentation, well, I kinda feel sorry for you and your kid, but what the heck, it’s your birth experience.

Why does everyone feel as if they have the right to dictate women’s bodies and what those bodies do? What man in his right mind would pay the slightest attention to anyone telling him that, for example, kidney stones are perfectly natural and he should just grit his teeth, relax into his pain, and pee blood until the damn stone sees fit to pass?

Should midwives be certified, and a legal, viable option for a pregnant woman? Absolutely.
Should you be able to pick a hospital or a birthing center or the comfort of your own home? Absolutely.
Should you have pain relief? Absolutely, if you want it.

Should you be free to give birth how you want to? ABSOLUTELY.

But Block’s book just perpetuates the “REAL women give birth without intervention” myth.

If you want to read a more interesting and much more levelheaded view of childbirth, and how the choices made by mothers and doctors affect maternal and neonatal mortality rates (which is where the real story is), read Jessica Mitford’s The American Way of Birth. I am not arguing that there are not doctors out there who only want to pop out your baby in time to make the second round of golf that afternoon; I am certainly not arguing that sometimes mothers are pressured into medical procedures they’re not comfortable with and don’t want (I should write a post about my numerous run-ins with the genetics counselor). I am merely arguing that these “exposes” of the maternity system in America always seem to fail to take into account that some mothers are happy to give birth in a hospital rather than their backyard, and that for some of us, epidurals are God’s gift to moms. And we are not lesser women or worse mothers because of it.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

“The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie- deliberate, contrived & dishonest- but the myth- persistent, persuasive & unrealistic.” - JFK


Alexandra Robbins’ Pledged: The Secret Life of Sororities is a weirdly compelling book. I find myself not wanting to put it down. Robbins does a terrific job of helping us get to know the girls she has undertaken to follow throughout a year of sorority membership, and rather than perpetuate mindless stereotypes, she intelligently and thoughtfully explores, dissects, and exposes the stereotypes and the truth behind them, both by in-depth, research-based investigative reporting and though a careful character analysis of her four subjects and her relationship with them as well as their relationships with their sorority sisters.

God, am I glad that I never rushed a sorority (not that any of them would have taken me anyway, probably, I apparently didn't worry nearly enough about how I looked).

But some of the other stuff this author talks about - I just don't know. I guess it takes all kinds. But now I get why people look at me funny if it ever comes up that I used to hang out at a fraternity when I was in college, and that my boyfriend was one of the brothers. Maybe there's some truth to all the stereotypes of Greeks. It's just weird, since it so doesn't gel with what I experienced - but then I wasn't deeply involved, like being in a sorority.

I always liked being at the house, I always felt safe there, I liked most of the brothers (actually, the other girlfriends were more the problem, what is with women hating other women?). Most of the brothers - I mean, really, most of them - were all right guys.

It's hard to reconcile my memory of fun parties, and being involved in events at Carnival that I might have skipped otherwise, and even more ritualized events like formals (even if I never did get my lavaliere - but I wasn't bitter. Ahem.) with the crazy stuff the author talks about in this book. Maybe I was just naive. Maybe it's because my boyfriend never seemed to take a lot of the stuff all that seriously. Maybe the house I frequented really was different from the norm.

I remember how heartbroken I was when I wasn’t selected to be an official little sister, before national outlawed little sisters. Later, some of the bigs officially made me a ‘friend of the house,’ but I still couldn’t wear letters. I LONGED to wear those letters.

I would have killed for a lavaliere from J. He either didn’t love me enough to be bothered, or, looking back now, what I think was probably the case, he didn’t take much of fraternity ritual very seriously at all and probably had very little idea how very very badly I wanted to be lavaliered. Yet when he proposed - with his fraternity pin AND his grandmother’s ring - after college, I turned him down. (Although I have to admit I did fondle that pin a bit…I had wanted it for so long. I mean, the ring was pretty, but that pin…)

But I knew from the get-go that sorority membership wasn’t for me. I have never been a woman’s woman. I’d have imploded in the hothouse atmosphere of a sorority house. This book merely proves me right in that regard. Some of the girls assert that they have found lifelong sisterhood with their sorority sisters, but others are as dismissive of the senseless rules and political playmaking as I would be. The sex, the drinking, the drugs, the partying and casual hook-ups, all ring very true to me, and that’s just from this GDI’s college experience in the early nineties. I am not sure how much being in a sorority contributes to these girls’ behavior, and eventually that is the conclusion Robbins reaches as well. But in the meantime, what a heck of a read. Like "Dynasty" meets Little Women, with a dash of The New Girls or "Clueless" thrown in for good measure.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Red Rain is Falling Down

Okay, so it’s not red, but it’s still raining. No, my basement hasn’t flooded. No, no trees have fallen on my house. I’ve made it through this week of storms and possible tornadoes totally unscathed. My problem? You may remember that I’m taking the boy and one of his friends camping this weekend.

The weather is supposed to turn gorgeous, but for now, it’s not. And I’m afraid that I’ll drive up to the campsite tonight to find nothing but a big patch of mud, and not a place to be able to secure tent stakes. I don’t mind dirt and mud (if I did, I’d never go camping in the first place), but I do mind not being able to set up the tent. I don’t know what to do.

My parents’ house isn’t too far away from the campground, so I’m considering taking the boys out there to spend the night. My mom will be thrilled, and maybe we can camp tomorrow when things have dried out a bit. I guess one night spent fireside is better than nothing.

In related news, I have introduced my son to the card game called Phase 10. Do you guys know of this? It’s a sort of Rummy-related thing that’s shelved with Uno and Skip-Bo. I’m no fan of the other two, but Phase 10 may be my favorite way to pass time with other people. It can become a rather nasty game, filled with nerves and fear and risk-taking, and much shouting of things like, “What are you doing?” and, “You are EVIL!” and “Why do you hate?” The boy’s dad and I used to play this with our friends when we lived in Michigan, and I’m so pleased the boy seems to like it as much as I do. He can’t wait to take it camping and beat the crap out of his friend. Nice boy. Little does he know that I will be beating the crap out of the both of them.

I’m taking some Wodehouse with me, and also some (likely horrible) librarian mystery (I think it’s called The Cataloger of Death, or some such thing) that I picked up for free. I’m also taking a new Fables comic and The Doomsday Book, to give that one another go. Should I find myself with time to read, I’ll be well-stocked.

Until then, I’ll just be over hear, waiting for the sun to come out. You know, tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

"Sometimes there's poetry written right on the bathroom wall.” - Ani DiFranco

I have been recently very annoyed by the stark white walls of my upstairs bathroom. The entire room – bath surround, sink, floor, up to about waist-high on the walls – is covered in vibrant Pepto-Bismol pink tile. So when I painted the ceiling and upper walls, I chose a fairly bright white semi-gloss. The ceiling is about nine feet high, though, and the upper walls and ceiling comprise a lot of wasted space.

I recently bought brackets to put up shelves over the floor cabinet that holds washcloths and handtowels, the apothecary jars of Q-tips and cotton balls, my bath salt collection, and other assorted bathroom junk. I hung the photos of the boys in the bathtub on the wall opposite the tub, over the two towel racks. I have a lovely little etched-glass and mirrored medicine cabinet over the sink, and some botanical prints in weathered green-painted frames for the awkward corner wall, right over the chrome bar for the hand towel currently in use.

BUT I have a giant expanse of high white wall behind the toilet.
It needs some artwork.

I looked into ordering vintage soap ad posters, but decided that was too cutesy. Especially in a Pepto-Bismol pink bathroom.

I can’t have the boys draw me something because I already have their crayoned schematics of my kitchen framed and hanging on the kitchen walls, and fingerpaintings hanging in the front hall over their coat hooks. Too much of a good thing and all...

I am not interested in generic pastel paintings of flora, fauna, and fields, and the posters from Carnevale in Venice in '95 and my repro of Marc Chagall’s Paris opera house ceiling are already displayed in my living room and upstairs hallway.

So I turn to my Internet friends, like I do in times of doubt and trouble.

I spent a peaceful hour the other morning sipping tea and shuffling through dear Suse’s lovely photos on Flickr. (It was almost as good as actually having coffee with her – almost.) I was entranced by her seemingly effortless and evocative shots of everyday items – she makes the ordinary so lovely: a stack of vibrantly dyed washcloths, a round basket with soaps in it, that resembled a little bird’s nest, a translucent amber bar of Pears soap.

I fell in love with a photo of her armchair by the fireplace, piled round with books and school papers, which I want to hang in my bedroom because looking at it makes me feel cozy and warm and relaxed, much like I imagine I'd feel in her house.

And so I emailed her: why don’t you have more photos of your bathroom?

Her mudbrick house is so cozy and charming, and she has such a way with little touchs of handmade beauty – her soft stuffed Christmas trees, her knitted gnomes, her nature table. I will bet her bathroom is definitely photo-worthy. Or at least some of the bathroom-type stuff in her bathroom is photo-worthy, and would look simply fabulous enlarged just a bit, framed in a simple frame, and hung on MY bathroom wall by way of decoration.

I think I need about three more bathroom-type shots, Suse, to accompany the soap, the basket, and the flannels.

Could you get right on that?

Thanks, dear!

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Heart of Darkness

Hello. Did you know that Western Pennsylvania has been transplanted into darkest Africa? Yes! It has! We have 6-billion% humidity, but DROUGHT CONDITIONS. My glasses fog up when I step from an air-conditioned building into the outdoors. There was a bit of heavy rain yesterday, but we are supposed to be making an effort to conserve water. I don't get it. And more importantly, I don't like it.

To make matters even better, we're having our annual picnic lunch here at work today. In the parking lot behind the building. Nothing like BBQ and blacktop in the heat of the workday afternoon to say, "Thanks--you do a great job." Want to show me how much I'm appreciated? Send me the hell home for the afternoon.

In other news, I officially declined the offer from the hospital. I think I did the right thing. I'm starting the part-time job at the public library next week, and will continue to be patient until the right full-time job comes along. I admit that I regret turning down the hospital because of the possibility of meeting a hot surgeon, but . . . I'll get over that.

Then again, I'm taking the boy and one of his friends camping this weekend, so maybe my future lies in some hot lumberjack-type fellow. I've always had a weak spot for a man in flannel.

My dining room in filling up with camping gear. I'm trying to plan and pack carefully, as this is the first camping trip I've undertaken as the sole adult. Who's in charge of putting up the tent? Me. Who's in charge of the fire? Me? Cooking? Me. Everything else? Me. I'll put the boys to work, but I'm trying to make sure I do as much as possible ahead of time so the weekend isn't just one big drudge-fest.

Speaking of camping, if you have any favorite campfire dishes to share, I'm all ears. (Or, I suppose, eyes.) Anyone?

Sunday, August 05, 2007

"Snakes and snails and puppy dog tails, that's what little boys are made of."

I. Cannot. Take. The. Noise. Level. In. My. House. One. More. Minute.

In his infinite wisdom, H bought the boys Styrofoam pool noodles and they (the boys, not the noodles) are running in and out of their bedroom, conscientiously slamming the door each time in order to keep the cool air in (“Do you think I am air-conditioning the entire house?!”), whapping each other with the noodles.
I know a baby’s laughter is supposed to be a heartwarming and joyous sound, but when Terzo laughs so hard he is shrieking and breathless, it always, ALWAYS means that havoc has ensued. Markers have been wielded, or diapers pulled off, or children are leaping about the living room, from couch to piano to coffee table without touching the floor, inviting cracked skulls, broken bones, and blood.

My nerves can’t take much more of this. How long before school begins?


I spent several hours today shopping for new bed pillows for the boys, and buying hair for Mimi (yes, I will definitely post photos, fear not), and making fitted sheets from flat because God forbid the two boys alternate a set of Pokemon sheets (brand new, given to me by my boss, and unattainable on EBay without much bidding and gnashing of teeth – I am such an EBay wuss). I head to Target, or much more likely the thrift shop, tomorrow to buy solid-colored flat sheets, and solid pillowcases (one of which will be split along with the one Pokemon case and turned into two one-sided Pokemon cases. And then the boys can argue over who gets the pillow with Ash and who gets the one with Pikachu.)

Meanwhile, I am calling yet more concrete people to see about putting steps into our retaining wall - the project that is holding up the fencing, the mulching, the shed, the rebuilding of the back porch, and new porch short, just about every outside plan we have.

And I suddenly have a yen to put up bamboo shades in my bedroom. Because the filmy cream linen drapes are very pretty but do damn all to keep the morning sun from baking me alive. And I have this theory about nice heavy velvety drapes in the winter reducing the draft...Hi ho, hi ho, it’s off to Target I go...


Conveniently, fortuitously, the brand-new Half Price Books is two stores away from Bed Bath and Beyond.
It was insanely crowded, but I managed to find a way to spend some money anyway. It definitely merits a return visit some nice quiet weekday afternoon, although the North Hills HFB is still the best in my humble opinion.

I got for Seg Dorling Kindersley’s Titanic book; coincidentally enough, I had just ordered online this morning Robert Ballard’s Exploring the Titanic, a book mentioned as a major hit with her first grade classes by the funny, witty, and lovably quirky Bailey White, in Mama Makes Up Her Mind, and other hazards of southern living.

I picked that volume off my TBR shelves last night because H and I had had a huge fight and I needed comfort reading; it seemed like it would fit the bill and indeed it did. It was light enough to make me feel better, but not frothy enough to make me feel as if I were wasting my time completely. There was only one wee little thing that marred the experience: in one of the first stories, Ms White explains that her father went off on an archaeological expedition, leaving her mother home alone with several small children. As a sort of consolation prize, the leader of the expedition gave Mama his grandfather’s telescope. Through the years (the father returned and then left again, permanently this time), Mama spent long evenings looking at the skies and the fields and forest surrounding their farm with that telescope. Especially as she grew older, feebler, and increasingly immobile, the telescope allowed her to remain involved in life outside her house. Unfortunately, on his deathbed, the expedition leader desired his grandfather’s telescope, and over her family’s protestations (“What’s he going to do with it, he’s DYING?!”), Mama carefully packed it up and sent it back to him. Shortly thereafter, she received as a premium from some public radio station a pair of cheap plastic binoculars, which took the place of her beloved telescope. They were not nearly so powerful or effective, but she continued to use them. The story winds up with Mama using those cheap binoculars at their vacation home, and a kindhearted marine biologist taking pity on the frail old woman and taking her out on the boat so she can see what’s really going on.

But the entire last half of the chapter, I screamed internally (because everyone else here was asleep), "Buy your poor old mother a new telescope, you cheap-ass ungrateful children!" I mean, I KNOW that would have ruined the story. I KNOW that would have derailed Ms White’s point that Mama made do and was a scrappy and self-sufficient woman, even as an old lady. (And I KNOW (or at least I hope to God) that that it is just a good story and really they went out and bought her a telescope akin to the Hubble.) But throw your readers a bone and buy your mom a telescope, it’ll be the best couple hundred bucks you ever spend.

But I digress.

You all want to know what I bought, of course you do. For Seg, the Titanic book [a whopping $8], and for Primo, two Encyclopedia Browns (Shows the Way & Takes the Cake) [$2/each] and a Matt Christopher hockey book [also $2] that he hadn’t read yet (the number shrinks ever smaller).

For me (because it’s ALL ABOUT ME and *I* didn’t get new Pokemon sheets):

Under the Banner of Heaven - Jon Krakauer. [$1] I love Krakauer’s writing, it’s his only book I have not yet read, and it was on the clearance racks for a dollar.

The Enchanted Castle - E. Nesbit. [$2] I thought I might read this with the boys. Also, Paddington Abroad [$1], since the first Paddington book was such a rollicking success. (They make me hungry, those Paddington books. It's all the marmalade and jam-and-cream buns that bear devours.)

A strange little book called Lobster Moths [$1] written and illustrated by Diane Redfield Massie. No idea about the story, but the line drawing illustrations were so charming that I figured for a buck I could take a chance.

Being Dead - Jim Crace. [$2] Jim Crace is one of those authors whom I want to love. But since I have never actually read any of his books, so therefore I have no idea if I do. I have had Quarantine, his novel about Jesus’ forty days in the wilderness, sitting on my shelves for several years now, and I am dying to read his newest, The Pesthouse, because it’s firmly set in the post-apocalyptic genre that is so popular these days, and according to Amazon, is "less crushing than Cormac McCarthy’s The Road." (Well, that’s a fucking relief. I am not sure what could possibly be MORE crushing than The Road, but that’s just me.) Crace seems to be a tad on the weird side – this book is about a dead couple. Being dead. Per the title. I’ll let you know how it goes.

The Haunting of Hill House - Shirley Jackson. [$1] Although it’s only called The Haunting (I am promised on the front cover that the text is unchanged), due to the fact that at some point someone made a movie out of it. (Starring Catherine Zeta-Jones and Liam Neeson, among others. Huh.)

So all in all a successful afternoon. Although, did I then pick up one of my new books to read? Of course not. They will live on my shelves until their time is ripe. I am finishing up Doomsday Book, and I have two library books, Pledged; The secret life of sororities by Alexandra Robbins and Plain Secrets: An outsider among the Amish by Joe Mackell, demanding my immediate attention. But I pulled The Obituary Writer by Porter Shreve off my TBR shelves this afternoon (because Doomsday Book was ALL THE WAY DOWNSTAIRS) and am about fifty pages into that.

So, you know, at least I have a plan.

Friday, August 03, 2007

This is Not My Beautiful Wife!

Have you ever had two interviews with a total of four people who can't tell you enough how much they love you (actually using the word love--who does that?), and how perfect you'd be for a position, and then be offered a job you've spent two years earning a Master's degree to qualify for . . . only to find out that the pay and benefits that come along with said job aren't even close to being as good as the job you presently hold? The job that a moderately intelligent monkey could handle with relative ease?

It's no picnic, let me tell you, and it only gets better.

I came home from the two-and-a-half hours I spent being dragged around and introduced and fussed over, to discover an email from one of the women who so desperately wants me to take the job--she thinks they can improve their official salary offer and wants me to CALL HER AT HOME THIS WEEKEND.

It's rather a pleasure being so heavily courted, even if it's by the (seemingly) poorest fella at the party.

AND THEN, I got a call from the main branch of the best public library in the whole world--they offered me a part-time job (ten to twelve hours each week, evenings and weekends) in FIRST FLOOR FICTION. Woo! A foot in the door, doing library work that I'd love!

But if I take it, can't take the job at the medical library, because they'd want me to carry on with some extra school.


Not sure what's going to happen, but I kind of have a feeling I'm going to keep my day job and work the part-time gig until one of the universities around here (like the one I currently WORK FOR) deigns to hire me. University jobs have sweet perks, and they're hard to give up. Working in a university library would pretty much give me the best of all worlds.

If you have fingers, cross them.

Meanwhile, the boy is on his way home from Cedar Point, and possibly the single most fun day of his life. His favorite ride was the Top Thrill Dragster. 120 mph. 420 feet tall. Is it possible to be a mama's boy and a thrill-seeker?

“I fear one day I'll meet God, he'll sneeze and I won't know what to say.” - Ronnie Shakes

The plague! Time travel! String theory and paradoxes! What more could you possibly want in a book? Connie Willis’s Doomsday Book is exactly the sort of book I love most. It’s got wonderful characters with whom I would like to hang out, it’s got some futuristic elements that are just far-fetched enough to make it sci-fi but just NOT far-fetched enough to make it thoroughly believable. (No involved, stretching-credibility explanations needed for the sci-fi elements, in other words.)
And the plague! Who doesn’t love the plague? *I* love the plague.
I have a feeling I’d be one of those people with natural immunity (no, no desire to test that theory), and so I’d be nursing people and digging graves and arranging quarantines.
I deal very well in a crisis.


I have broken my reading-from-my-shelves vow to request Melanie McGrath’s The Long Exile: A tale of Inuit betrayal and survival in the high Arctic from the local library. The boys and I have a carton of books to return; I must finish Silver on the Tree as it was due back three days ago. And due to some research I was doing for a patron, I am now burning to read Alexandra Robbins’ Pledged: The secret life of sororities.


I took the boys to B&N Wednesday afternoon for a children’s activity having to do with designing and making your own book. Wednesay’s theme was the Titanic; it seems that the whole program is following the Magic Tree House book series. At the end of the summer, the pages and book jackets the kids create will be displayed at a reception, and a raffle held for a signed copy of Mary Pope Osborne’s newest Magic Tree House book, Monday with a Mad Genius. (I preferred my first attempt before I looked up that title: Mad Man on Monday. Sounds like a follow-up to that Duran Duran song we all knew and loved – ahem – “New Moon on Monday.”)

Primo carefully used black paint impasto to capture the swirling, angry, and icy cold North Atlantic; Seg glued cotton balls to his paper for the iceberg. I love the way their brains work.


Dudes, I clearly need some sort of book meme to round out this post. But I haven’t got one. Sorry. (Although Jess’s thoughts of compiling food references in her favorite books is compelling.)

The End.

When You're a Jet, You're a Jet All the Way . . .

So, um, Hi! It's been a while, you say? Or maybe you assumed I was BB, and are now vaguely confused by my intrusion? Yeah, I've been awfully quiet, but I've been lurking and linking and keeping tabs on everyone . . . and when BB asked last night whether I'd mind if she noodled around with our template, I thought, "Boy, I really should post something, huh?"

So here I am. Some things are different or changing, like the fact that I've finished school and am now qualified to be a real librarian. And I have a meeting today at which I think I might be offered a cool job as a medical librarian (fingers crossed).

Other things are the same, like the reading/bookstore habit. I think I'm getting worse, and may have to check into some sort of facility: It's now almost impossible for me to be within 25 yard of a bookstore and not visit it. And buy at least one thing. I went to the bank Tuesday over lunch and was sucked into the B&N vortex. When I was spat back out, I had a copy of Watership Down for the boy. I went to the (shudder) mall last night to pick up a jacket I'd ordered, and was sucked into that B&N and left with a girly book by Madeleine Wickham, who it turns out is the Shopaholic author Sophie Kinsella. I also picked up a Wodehouse I didn't have, and Stardust, which I have to read before the movie comes out.

I read my own copy of Ehtan Frome the other night (picked up years ago for a buck, so that doesn't count). I just bought and read the new Jasper Fforde (decent beginning, slow-ish middle, exciting ending), and a very likely horrible book called The Links: The THird Millennium that I *had* to buy because the poor author was sitting at a card table in Borders, all alone, trying to move copies. I felt so bad for him! So I bought the book, and he signed it, and I wished him luck, and . . . I will probably never, ever read it.

So that's pretty much what's been up with me, book-wise, since Harry Potter.

Still just with the one kid, who is on his way to Cedar Point for the first time, with his dad and grandparents. I took him and another kid on vacation to Las Vegas (the nation's toilet, as far as I'm concerned) last week, and we rented a car and drove to the Grand Canyon, which was one of the best things I've ever done. Ten-year-old boys are surprisingly excellent company.

Oh, and speaking of the boy, he (accidentally) plowed me in the nose/glasses with a soccer ball last night, and I'm sporting a charming bruise. I'm counting on it being a nice ice-breaker at my meething this afternoon.

Good times.