Thursday, November 25, 2010


This is the first Thanksgiving I've had with my family in two years and though absence makes the heart grow fonder, I found that this year I was even more aware of how much I have to be thankful for. I am thankful for:
1) My parents laughing together, just the two of them
2) The fabulous cinnamon cucumber pickles it took the neighbor two whole days to make and seconds to enjoy (she's in her eighties too--we bought six jars from her this year and she nearly burst with pride)
3) The fact that the English language is ever increasingly accepting of the sentence that ends in a preposition "I have a lot to be thankful for."
4) Spontaneous home manicures with my little cousins
5) That cars provide a tropical microclimate against the single-digit temps outside as we go over the hills and through the woods
6) Not finding any spiders bigger than a dime in my room all year long
7) Family members who zone out the conversation because the pie is so good
8) Overhearing my aunt trying to make a legitimate case for "team Edward" to another adult
9) Memories of last year's urban family thanksgiving in Cali where the mixed group of bohemians shared tofurky, gluten-free rolls, and home-brewed beer
10) Family and friends who love me better than I deserve, mean more to me than they can possibly know, and the great God who supplies them

Monday, November 22, 2010

Song Steps

Amazing, I wish I could think of something like this to inspire and motivate people to do change one behavior for the better...just give me time.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Fall Reading

Tortilla Flat by John Steinbeck
This, my fourth Steinbeck novel, was recommended by a dear friend—I’m so glad he suggested I read it because I feel sure it’s about the last of the Steinbeck novels I would’ve gotten around to. It’s about Danny, a poor, former soldier (WWI) who returns to Monterey to an unexpected inheritance: two houses. Danny uneasily slips into the role of a landed man and inadvertently is given a chance to reconcile his new station by the fact that his friends—each a bum in their own way—begin to matriculate first into the spare house, then into Danny’s own home. The plot tracks various episodes in the paisanos’ lives and their forays into love, theft, scheming, camaraderie, religion, all soaked in the men’s dipsomania.

I found the story really slow initially but realized it was me, not the book that wasn’t measuring up. Once I began to examine the unique personalities of the friends and read into some of the symbolism of the book, it began to come to life. Three quarters into the book the reader unexpectedly starts to feel the pull of the ending and begins to regret that some dramatic conclusion looms, as they always do in Steinbeck novels. The end hits hard, not just once but twice. The plot resolves poetically and the only way it can and would only be considered simply a “sad” ending if the reader has missed the point of the climax entirely.

Currently reading:
We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson
Jackson is the famous author of The Lottery, a short story published in The New Yorker in 1948 that evoked such a strong response that many unsubscribed from the magazine entirely, sending Jackson hate mail by the boatload. Even my Mum, renowned at our Lutheran school for her liberal literary tastes said of the story, “it’s not the sort of story you want to be known for teaching, sure I would recommend it to some of my students but I never taught it.” Despite its macabre theme and unsettling ironic points, the piece is one of the most anthologized short stories in American literature.

I started We Have Always Lived in the Castle yesterday over my lunch and when I physically returned to my desk, mentally I remained behind in the pages of Jackson’s eerie novel. I was singing its praises to Peter over coffee last night and, as he’s a writer, I asked him how an author manages to engross the reader when a) the protagonist is unlikable, b) the action is practically non-existent, and c) the passage of time is slow. He explained that the author has somehow made me care about the main character without my actually knowing it and is thus able to interest me in every move she makes. Whatever it is, I’m hooked and I can’t wait to get off of work today so I can be alone with my book.

Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
I’ve taken up another cinderblock of a book in Atlas Shrugged. Peter and I read The Fountainhead this time last year simultaneously (which means he started it and I followed close on his heels like a little sister) and we’ve opted to do the same with Atlas Shrugged this season. It’s good for our friendship; he’s a hermit and I’d rather be living in a commune so we’re able to discuss Rand’s philosophy on society heatedly (and we love any excuse to argue with one another). I can’t wait to dig in. I found her very surprisingly readable last year.

Want to read:
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott—it’s time to finally read this, don’t worry, I’ve got the Kleenex ready. Besides, I am named after one of the characters (albeit, the most boring March sister…oh well, the name “Meg” is prettier than “Jo” and I can only hope I meet a better end than Beth).

Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy

Possession by A.S. Bryatt—I will always associate this book with my overnight stay at the Denver airport last year trying to get home for Christmas and Alison’s wedding. It’s dense and I’m worried I’ll have to restart the whole thing, but it’s really well written so it’s worth it.

Sense & Sensibility by Jane Austen—Mum and I are reading this one together whenever we get around to it.

The Winter of Our Discontent by John Steinbeck—I’m ready to add a sixth to my Steinbeck collection.

A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller—don’t tell Mom, but I’m 99% sure it will be under the Christmas tree this year and I can’t wait to devour it; I’ve heard good things.

The Omnivore's Dilemma
by Michael Pollan

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender—the plot is about a woman who
can detect the emotions of whomever is cooking for her (her mother feels certain discontent when she makes lemon cake) and her brother and father have equally unusual gifts as well. It’s a magic realism book which could either be genius or completely awful but I’m optimistic.

Great House by Nicole Krauss—who also wrote The History of Love, which was so sad but very good, I will give her one more chance in this one. It intrigues me.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010