Monday, April 30, 2012

April Reading List

1.  Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy (audio) I adore Tolsoy's gift for character building, and because he was so very good at that I absolutely despised Anna.  In fact, I was rather relieved when her story finally came to an end, being thoroughly sick and tired of her selfishness.  Yep, I get the point of the book.  Nope, I don't feel one darn bit sorry for Anna.  I don't know that I can say that I enjoyed the book.  I'm glad I read it, truly, but I was relieved when it came to an end and I could move on.  Actually, it was completely worth it for the birth scene of Levin and Kitty's baby, which is quite possibly the most glorious birth scene I've ever read in a novel. 

2.  Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins...also 1/2 of Catching Fire - Stick with me, this is going to be a bit of a rant. 

First off, I absolutely hated the book.  I know, I know....let the vicious attacks on my opinion begin.
A disclaimer:  Although my intellectual mind understands the dystopic novel for both its purpose and its place in literature, I have always hated reading that genre.  (Also, the more popular the dystopic book the more I tend to hate it.)  I have enough darkness in my life, thank you very much, and find it difficult to get past that aspect of the genre - thus making it difficult to absorb whatever point the author had intended.


With that in mind, I really didn't want to read the Hunger Games, finding the entire premise to be distasteful.  In fact, I felt about it the exact same way that I felt about the movie Titanic:  I didn't want to go see 1,500 people die, and I hated watching 1,500 people die.  I didn't want to read a book where teens are forced to kill teens, and I hated reading a book where teens are forced to kill teens.  I broke down and read the dratted thing because I wanted to be fair and informed in my own opinions.  (If you don't vote, you can't complain sort of thing.)  I honestly don't know, though, if I'll be able to finish the series. 


The good:  Suzanne Collins is a talented writer, and I can see why so many people have been swept up by her books.  Kudos to any writer who can get so many people reading!  I also think she's actually quite brilliant in her use of mythology and cultural references in the books.....

The Bad: ....although it saddens me because I think 90% of her readers have no idea of what exactly she's brought into her work.  I also think that perhaps most of them are missing the point...or at least that's the impression I'm getting based upon the many, many conversations I've had/heard/read about the books. 

Also, I personally found Katniss to be an unrelatable character.  I just couldn't connect - and for me that detachment got worse the further into the second book than I got.  I get it, a lot of people look at her and see a take-charge badass who is more than capable of saving the day.  My logic brain fully understands where Collins was going and why she created Katniss as she did.  In fact, I think she did a fairly brilliant job of character building for the world she created.  That doesn't mean that I have to like it, though.  My personal impression was that Katniss is cold, manipulative and emotionally stunted.  (I can feel the daggers being thrown my way....)

In fact, I think my problem with Collins is that all of the characters are "too."  Enough said.

For those of you who are interested, there is a really fantastic article at The Atlantic, comparing Bella Swan and Katniss Everdeen. We can have the full Twilight V. Hunger Games debate on another day.  For now, all I will say is that I completely agree with the article....and that as a mom I will one day let my girls read both series with no qualms whatsoever so that they can make up their own minds on the subject.

3.  Catherine the Great, Robert K. Massie - I will now sheepishly admit that, although I really enjoyed this book, I didn't actually finish it.  Once Catherine became Empress it all got rather bogged down in politics - as it should - and I freely admit I lost interest.  (To be fair, it's a very long book and I read 3/4 of it.)  When I found myself reading along at only a page or two/day I decided to give up.  Life is too short, and there are too many other books to read.  Having said that, Massie does a phenomenal job of telling his story in such a way that Catherine's life reads more as a novel than as a dry history book.  I actually don't know much about Russian history, so it was definitely a worthwhile read. 

4.  Defending Jacob, William Landay (audio)  Unless you've been living under a literary rock, you've probably heard some of the great buzz that Landay's newest book has received.  It was a Books On the Nightstand recommendation, and Landay was actually one of the guest authors at a recent BOTNS retreat.  Not going to say anything because I don't want to give anything away (although I am rather proud that the end included two things that I had suspected!), other than to say I really, really wish I had someone to discuss the book with.  It would be SSOOoooo much fun to bounce ideas off of someone! 

5.  The Magician King, Lev Grossman - I've had this book for a while but hadn't read it because Grossman's first book really just didn't do anything for me.  Yeah, it was fun, but I found little that was relatable in much of it and felt that overall it was a rather indulgent book for the author to have written.  I'm glad I finally read this one, and honestly wish I'd read it immediately after finishing the first.  Where the first really felt like it just existed to poke fun at other books, the second actually deals with character development in some really interesting ways. 

6.  Wildings Book 1: Under My Skin, Charles De Lint - Heavens know he's my favorite author, and so new work from him is always a treat.  Under My Skin is the first in a three book series, but De Lint made sure that it could stand alone.  I absolutely adored it - both for the continuation of some of De Lint's most frequent themes as well as the modern tweak he added to his own style.  Can't wait for the next book!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Turtles






Springtime

It's one of the prettiest violets I've ever had....but, sigh, this is another example of how my camera hates the color purple.  The picture below, taken indoors with a flash, is closer.
  • Having turned the corner on the Princess shawl, the crazy obsession to work on it has loosened.  Truly, obsession is the right word to use.  I could barely stand to put the thing down!
  • The Green Woman is feeling pretty smug.  Why?  I listened to her, allowed myself to fall into the rabbit hole with that obsession, and now that it's over I feel like something inside has cracked open.  My creative juices are flowing again, and good things are coming.
  • One of those good things?  I'm writing again, and I feel like I actually have something to say.  I don't know where this adventure is going to take me, but it feels really good to be starting off on the journey.
  • On another happy note, I'm very, very happy to share with you the fact that my seasonal allergies are under control this year!  Normally I'm sick for weeks at this time of year, usually with infections heading into my lungs by this point.  Thanks to the  magic combo of my allergy drops, mucinex (the only OTC meds that have ever made a difference) and Nasopure (a saline nasal wash)  I am mostly symptom free and functional!  Yay!
  • I can't stress how big a deal this is. 
  • Seriously....I can actually sleep at night because I'm not full of snot!  That's all kinds of good!
  • Unfortunately, Lucky the lamb died yesterday.  My dad has been doing lots of research, and it looks like there might be a genetic glitch in the flock.  Hard decisions are going to have to be made, but that's just the way it is on a farm sometimes.  (My father took Lucky's body to the diagnostic lab at the vet school this morning so that we can find definitive answers as to what happened.)
  • I came home yesterday to find a turtle in the drive.  It was very exciting! 
  • I joined a team for a Slim Down Columbia Challenge.  We weigh in next week, and I think it's going to be fun!
  • I haven't been doing so great with my allergy diet lately.  My doctor had warned me that the hardest time to resist was during the times of year when seasonal allergies were at their worst. I'm back on track now, but its' been a rough few weeks.  I feel better about it, though, after listening to the opening story in this last weekend's This American Life.  Apparently, I'm not the only one who does dumb things sometimes.
  • Spring cleaning has begun.  I'm making the girls put together all of their puzzles one by one to find out which ones are missing pieces.  A bit nuts?  Yep, but it's been bothering me for years.
  • I have started a NEW project with my knitting....which is something that hasn't happened in quite some time.  More soon!
Have a great week!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Turning The Corner


It is official!

I am on the very last leg of the fantastic journey that has been the Princess Shawl.

Yesterday morning, after more than a little bit of fussing, I turned the corner and started doing the narrow band of edging that runs across the top.  I've not actually done the math, but I'm guessing this will involve about 40-50 hours of work....a relatively short amount of time given how much effort has gone into the rest of the shawl.

That's right.  The end is clearly in sight!

The crazy fussing yesterday was partially due to my own tendency to over think things. To be fair, though, I did have some genuine questions about how the pattern was written as no instructions were given for turning the corner with the edging..  Some browsing on Ravelry showed me that I wasn't the only one who had such questions.....and has sparked some ideas for future discussion/thought.
For now, suffice it to say that I made one wee adjustment to the pattern by adding an extra repeat of the edging to the corner via short rows for a little bit of extra fullness in the fabric there.

Two more things:

1.  The Princess is attracting a LOT of attention these days.  People seem to be drawn to her, despite what our modern opinions about lace shawls may be.  Most of them are amazed with the amount of work involved and with the beauty of the design.  To them I just smile and say, just wait....the real magic will come when she's blocked......

2.  Now that I'm close to finishing, there is a very real question of what I shall do with the finished piece.  Honestly, I have no idea.  Even with the Princess I can feel myself pulling away from the finished product.  I've always been a process girl, and am remarkably detached from even the best of my work.  I am a stay at home mom, with nowhere truly fancy enough for a piece of this magnificence....nor would I truly want to risk damage by wearing it for lesser events.  The fact of the matter is that it will probably be carefully stored away somewhere as a just in case.  Who knows, maybe one of the girls will want it someday.  We shall just have to see.  These things do tend to take on a life of their own when I'm finished with them.....

Monday, April 16, 2012

Farm Lessons

 This is Lucky.
 Saturday evening, my Gillian witnessed Lucky's birth....her very first such experience.
She called me just after it happened, full of excitement and joy.

30 minutes later, she witnessed the birth of Lucky's twin....a lamb who had died in the womb.

Two days later, Lucky still can't stand on his own, and though he is an aggressive nurser and his mommy is doing her best, it's now been long enough that it's unlikely the problem is birth trauma that can be overcome.  My parents are losing hope quickly.

To grow up on a farm is to grow up with a close connection to the cycle of birth and death.  I know that this is tough for my girl, but I am also very glad she is going through it.  I want my children to be in touch with the natural world - and all that it entails.

I myself grew up in my dad's clinic.  I began "assisting" him in surgery at the age of 2, and I was his constant companion on farm calls.  As a result I was 12 before I saw a live calf born, since the situation is usually pretty desperate before the vet is called in.  I grew up knowing that such things were just a matter of fact.  Life and death abide hand in hand, and sometimes things just happen.  I don't ever remember being frightened - although I'm sure I was occasionally upset.  What I do know is that my upbringing gave me open, clear eyes, a firm and practical opinion about animals in general and livestock in particular, and a profound appreciation for the world as it is.

Gillian?  When she told me about the dead lamb, she leaned over and told me, "It would have been more of a loss had it been a ewe instead of another ram."  She then went on to describe Lucky's birth in great detail, obviously with wonder still in her heart.

She's learning.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Kritter

Shortly after I graduated from college, Sean and I began to make plans.  Being quite tired of apartment living, Sean was going to first buy a house.  Shortly thereafter we would get engaged and then I would move in with him once we were married.

Really, what this meant to Sean was that he would at long last be able to get his own cat.

But not just any cat....it had to be a BLACK kitten.

It was spring, and I assumed that this would be a fairly easy request to fulfill.  I was wrong.  Would you believe we spent an entire weekend searching every single shelter in the greater Kansas City area to no avail?  Oh we saw plenty of kittens all right....kittens in every color of the rainbow - except for black.  Worried that our quest was going to fail, we decided to try one last place - the Petsmart close to my house that normally only adopted out adult cats.  To our great surprise, the first cage we saw held two tiny black kittens.  When the employee opened the cage Kritter lept out and attached himself to the front of Sean's shirt....

...and it was love at first sight.

To be honest, Kritter was always a one-person sort of cat, and Sean was his person.  He never quite forgave me for moving in on his territory, nor for bringing another cat and (heaven forbid) a DOG into his home.  To compound the problem, he knew I was responsible for his eventual declaw....although that could have been avoided had he not destroyed my couch out of spite for my crimes against his territory.  So my own history with him was, well, rather questionable.

However, he loved Sean with every fiber of his being.  Sometimes it seemed they spoke their own special language.  It was like they were made for each other.

When he allowed Gillian into his small world - a priviledge she worked very, very hard to earn - it was a special gift indeed to my small girl.

In an act of great compassion, the day after my Tynan cat died Kritter curled up next to me in bed and spent half the day purring softly for me.....something he had never done before, and which he never repeated.  It was, however, a gift that Tynan had often given me over the years, and it is my belief that Kritter knew I needed it that day.

Yesterday afternoon we had to say good bye to Kritter.  At 15, his poor body was worn out, and Sean made the compassionate decision to end his suffering.  We were fortunate that circumstances were such that my father was able to help Kritter with his passage in as peaceful a manner as possible.  As per the girls' request, Kritter will be buried on the hill at my parents' farm that has provided the final resting place to our family pets for the last 20 years.

Thank You Kritter.  You were a great cat, and wherever you are now I hope there are plenty of moles for you to hunt and a few old friends to keep you company.

We love you, and we miss you.


My apologies....I managed to accidentally delete the contents of this post late yesterday.  I've reconstructed it to the best of my abilities.  

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The End Is Near....

The Green Woman is getting  excited.....

The center panel of my Princess shawl is almost....ALMOST....done!  I have about one repeat left, plus the break pattern at the end.  All in all, I'm estimating that's about 20 hours of work left to do.  I know, I know....I can hear some of you groaning, "20 Hours!"  Believe me, that's minor given just how much work has gone into this beast already. 

Once I've completed that middle portion I'm going to stop and take a moment to fix the broken tail at the bottom and address one or two minor pulls that need to be eased back into the fabric of the shawl. 

Then it's on to the top border. 

If all goes according to schedule, I should be able to take a completed Princess shawl to my May guild meeting....

Oh yes, the Green Woman and I are most definitely excited.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Friday, April 6, 2012

Springtime

The ewe on the left is Lila, and on the right is her mother, Willow. The two babies on the left are Lila's twins, Itsy and Bitsy, so named because they were born at roughly half the size of the rest of the lambs even though they were full term.  Willow's baby, Nellie, is only four days older than the twins but is of average size for a Jacob baby.

There just aren't enough hours in the day to accomplish everything I want to accomplish.

With the coming of the spring I feel the Green Woman moving within me....pushing me to do more, to try more, to start more, to play more.  I make lists of projects, reinventory supplies, search for ideas, remind myself of things I've always wanted to do and find myself giddy with possibility.

And yet I'm keenly aware that right now I need to rest a bit and do nothing.  It seems so counter intuitive, but for me it's an important part of the creative process.  I'm worn out - depleted - and if I'm to move on the well must be replenished.

So I gently shove the Green Woman away for just a little while longer, promising her...

Soon.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

They DO Exist

 This is my husband's aunt's beautiful home.
 This is the watering hole that she and her husband built in the circle of the drive in front of their house.  It's probably not even 15 feet from the front door.
 And these....these are the javelinas I've been waiting almost 15 years to see!
 I've heard stories of them since my first visit to meet Sean's family.
 Everyone swore they were as common as dirt and appeared frequently.
 But they never appeared when I was there....
and in fact were hiding the day we went to the Desert Museum.
 As our plane took off the other day, I said a little prayer.
 Dear Uncle Joe, Wherever you are now, please send me a javelina.  Thank You.
 I put a plea to the javelinas up on my FB page, threatening to forever believe they were a hoax created by the people of Arizona if they didn't show.
 Then we waited...and carefully put out every food scrap we generated.
 We'll thank the Methodist women for the four bags of wilty lettuce they sent home with us after the funeral and reception because...
 The last day of our visit, with the lettuce strewn accross the watering hole...
They appeared.

And I love them more than I can possibly say!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Refilling The Well


We are home, and I am tired.

I am the kind of exhausted that sends a person to bed for a few days if he or she is not careful.  Between the unexpected travel, the circumstances for our visit, the fact that I have been trying to pretend I don't have food allergies for a couple of weeks and some ordinary, every-day stress I am worn out.

And....

As I have learned my lesson well over the years...

I am going to take a couple of days to rest, relax, get caught up on life and refill my well.

Then, I promise that I have some fun things to share with you.