Friday, April 30, 2010

coming this weekend to a marathon course near you...

This Sunday I am running the second leg of the marathon relay, with The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's Team in Training.

I am going to (briefly) emerge from (relative) anonymity to let you all know about this, and to encourage you to donate to my cause, if you feel so led.

My Team in Training Page

I will bet every single one of us knows someone affected by blood cancer of some sort. It may be a friend of a friend, or a coworker with whom you are not especially close. My friend H is running for her father, and for her young cousin. It might be a young nephew or niece, or an aunt, or a mother. In my case, it is the former principal of my boys' school, a man I met maybe a total of half a dozen times.

We applied for kindergarten for Primo in the spring of 2006. We interviewed with principals and toured facilities and sat in on classes. H came home from an initial tour and meeting at our school, absolutely bowled over by the spirit and dedication evident in every child, every class, every teacher, every project he saw there. This remarkable environment was headed up by Mr. O'Keefe, a smart and compassionate educator who made everything with which he was involved better. He helped make the school into "the crown jewel of the...public school system," and he was tireless in his efforts to make the educational experience for his children more engaging and more challenging. He clearly loved those children, and they clearly knew it, and they loved him right back.

He met my son twice, and each time I was blown away with his level of engagement with Primo. He remembered every detail about Primo, and he really cared what my son needed, and, equally impressively, was interested also in what he had to offer. Do you know what an expectation like that can mean to a child?

Mr O'Keefe passed away last spring, and my son requested that I take him to the funeral service. I did, and I can tell you that while everyone was sad, even in his passing Mr O'Keefe touched each of us, brightening our lives and strengthening our love for our school and its community.

As I churn out my 4.5 miles Sunday morning, I will think of Mr O'Keefe. He may not have been my best friend, or a friendly neighbor, but he was someone incredibly special who was taken from us much, much too soon, by a disease which one day, I hope, will be curable.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Name? Austin Danger Powers. Sex? Yes please!

The Dangerous Stuff from the Toffee House.
I was given a free sample while shopping at a charming little stationery store last week. Then, when the owner discovered it was my birthday, she nicely gifted me a half-pound bag of The Dangerous Stuff.
She knew EXACTLY what she was doing...
I am pretty sure their secret ingredient is crack.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Ohioans and fifers and mares, oh my!

I am waiting for the two year old to fall asleep (the four year old conked out in his brother's bed about an hour ago) so I can go downstairs, eat potato sticks from a can, wash them down with a rum-and-Coke, read The Walking Dead, and watch "2012."

No, H is not here. What makes you ask?

(PS Lots of vomits round these parts this past week (on the part of my children, that is). Lots of good reading, though, and also, some delicious chocolate/candy addiction. If I ever find my camera cord, I have knitting p0rn to show you, too. More later. xoxo)

Sunday, April 18, 2010

“What most persons consider as virtue, after the age of 40 is simply a loss of energy”

OK, so old Voltaire has been dead for several hundred years and yet his wisdom lives on in me.

I turned forty today.
My mother used to tell me that the forties were her best decade.
I think I understand why.

Myself, I have a good husband, four dear, healthy, lovely children, a house and a neighborhood I wouldn't trade for anything, smart, funny, loving friends (both IRL and on the 'nets), and I can rest assured I will be able to pay my student loan bill every month - a lovely feeling.

Said husband conjured up for my birthday dinner pizza from my favorite place, a delicious chocolate raspberry cream cake, and one of the Sandman graphic novels I did not yet own. (Last night he took me out for an amazing sushi dinner. It's been a veritable 48 hour celebration.)

My body, despite its lumps and flubber, is strong and fit, and heck, in the past ten years bore and nourished four children quite handily.

In my thirties I became a runner, taught myself to knit, and took up zumba (in that process becoming enamored of wholly inappropriate hip-hop artists young enough to be my teenagers) -- and in the next decade, I have plans to learn to rock climb, play women's ice hockey, and continue to improve my skiing form.

My life is coming together.
I am slowly growing comfortable in my skin.
I realize life can change, and will continue to be full of ups and downs, surprises and adventures both large and small, excitement and boredom and happiness and love. I realize there may be great grief in my future, but I rest assured there will also be great joy.

I received this heartwarming and thoughtful email from an acquaintance who is growing into a real friend:

Congrats on completing your 40th year!

Enjoy the day, the week, the month--enjoy it all! Really. Why not?

Ten years from now even Quarto will be in middle school, yes? It will come fast.

Along the way, more blessings and wonders and surprises than you can imagine. In those ups and the inevitable downs, friends and neighbors will always be close by. As we are now.

This birthday--as on each day--you are our gift. And we celebrate!

Happy Birthday!

And I think I am finally old enough to not give a crap what people think of me, not even about how I spend my hard-earned money. So I just placed an order for several more Persephone books. Happy birthday to me!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Someone at Amazon loves me.

Amazon Assist for Firefox? Best thing EVER.

No longer do I need to navigate between tabs (WHAT did we do before tabbed browsing?) to look for a book I read about on someone's blog. I have the little toolbar at the bottom of my screen, and voila! I pick the book I want, and if I wish to read more, Amazon opens that record in a new tab.

For that matter, WHAT did we do before Amazon?

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

"This is Ground Control to Major Tom..."

Capsule reviews:

The Girl Who Chased the Moon – Sarah Addison Allen

Another enchanting novel from the author of Garden Spells (but stronger and more cohesive than Sugar Queen, in my humble opinion). I loved the characters – our lovely heroine, Emily Benedict, who returns to her lost mother’s hometown to discover her mother’s secrets but live her own life; Shelby Vance, Emily’s giant, reclusive grandfather; Julia Winterson, the lonely baker with secrets of her own. The story is straightforward but woven with enough magical threads to keep you guessing and entranced. And I feel it's only fair to warn you that it makes you hungry, too.

One Thousand White Women: The Journals of May Dodd – Jim Fergus

Little Wolf, the leader of the Cheynne Indian tribes, proposes to President Ulysses S Grant that 1000 white women be given to the Indians as brides, to bear and raise mixed race children within the Indian tribes; he contends that this action would bond the Indians to the whites and promote peace. President Grant reacts with outer horror and shock, but secretly approves a plan to recruit the thousand women from prisons, brothels, mental institutions, and tenements. May Dodd engineers her escape thusly from the mental institution to which her socially rigid family had committed her, and travels west, to marry the chief himself and live among the Cheyenne. Her journals tell her life’s story, and her adventures going westward and living with the tribe. This is a work of fiction, but it could easily be read as truth, so clear and real is May. I have no idea how I didn’t read this book when it first came out; it’s a debut novel that more than pleasantly surprised me.

Nanny Returns – Emma McLaughlin & Nicola Krauss

The Nanny Diaries broke my heart at its end, and you’d think I’d have learned, but no. I WANT Nanny to swoop in and save Grayer X (and, in this book, his younger brother Stilton) but instead a combination of mature, compassionate decisions on Nanny’s part and some heavily coincidental but nevertheless satisfying happenings in the lives of Mr & Mrs X wind up leaving me brokenhearted again. Every child deserves the unconditional (if at times smothering : )) love that they give us. I may yell at my kids and I may crave a few hours of alone time, but I adore my boys and play with them and listen to them and don’t care if they get dirt on my clothes or muss up my hair. I’ll take maple-syrup-sticky fingers patting my cheek in love and chocolatey fingers clutching mine any day over a perfect coif and unblemished manicure, and I’ll never understand why you’d have children if you felt otherwise. Apparently neither does Nanny. A satisfying sequel to the only other book of McCaughlin’s and Krauss’ that I liked.

I am wrapping up The Forgotten Garden and have the newest Maisie Dobbs waiting. So, you know, hang around...

Friday, April 09, 2010

"I am a Jedi master, you idiot!"

So, I went to the "new" library today, where my two year old ran around like a crackhead (me, arms loaded with books, in hot pursuit), undressed in the middle of the reading room, and pressed the alarm button in the elevator. They may never let me return. (I am picturing the head librarian dramatically pointing east, telling me to run away and never return, to the bullet-riddled wasteland of the OTHER library branch.)

But I had forgotten that *this* library participates in the Bestsellers program, which means they have stacks and stacks of all the newest books.

After finding for Primo the next three Alex Rider books and a bunch of Star Wars graphic novels, I snagged Emma McLaughlin's and Nicola Krauss's Nanny Returns, which I have a real reluctance to read, since the ending of The Nanny Diaries broke my heart -- but I'll read it anyway; and Elizabeth Gilbert's Committed, since I am one of those people who enjoyed Eat, Love, Pray and I want to read more of her whackadoodle exploits.

The only book that could have truly completed this trilogy was Julia Powell's Cleaving: A Story of Marriage, Meat, and Obsession, which I am DYING to read because, hello? Luuuunatic! Plus, I want to find out what her amazingly long-suffering husband winds up doing.

(Which reminds me, I read somewhere that Elizabeth Gilbert's first husband is writing a book. The marketing campaign I imagine for that one amuses me no end.)

But instead, I picked up my reserved copy of Anne Rice's Out of Egypt (shut up) because a friend recommended it after a conversation about Christianity and Easter and (wow, this must be the whacko post) Mel Gibson's "Passion of the Christ."

It's gonna be a good reading weekend.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Mythology is the handmaid of literature; and literature is one of the best allies of virtue and promoters of happiness. - Thomas Bulfinch

I am reading real, grown-up books, I am, but this past week, my son's copy of The Lightning Thief was lying right. there. and I didn't want to get up off the couch, so...I started it.
And sat up waaaaaay past my bedtime last night reading it.

I don't think it's a poor man's Harry Potter.
I do think it's grounded pretty firmly in Greek mythology and as such is working within a known universe, but using a new twist, which
I think Riordan is a good writer - funny, succinct, with little flourishes that make you go, "Huh."

Primo wants to see the movie but I don't want to. I want to finish reading the series before clouding it with someone else's (let alone the prosaic and didactic Chris Columbus's) view of this world.

In other news, I am so seriously tired that I am starting to wonder if I am perhaps anemic. If I didn't know it was not physically possible, I'd be terrified I was pregnant, that's how tired I am. Y-A-W-N.

It's summer here. Which kinda bites, since none of my summer clothes quite achieve the level of comfort, both physical and sartorial, that my yoga pants do.

And I am about to turn forty.

Maybe THAT'S why I am reading children's books.