Thursday, March 31, 2011

Get really thrilled. I've started a book blog.

I'll wait here while you go find a container for your joy.


I said for years that I had no desire to do a separate blog for each topic I write about. About which I write. Stupid prissy syntax rules.

But lately I've thought ... well, maybe just one.

My whole life has revolved around books, bookstores, libraries, buying books, selling them, reviewing them, and I find I want to praise or rant about them fairly often. Thus, a book blog.

I've put it up, after only 3 days of tinkering, and there will be more tinkering, but there it is. AND it has only one new entry. I copied several old entries from this blog to that one, but my regular readers have already read them. The most recent entry is the only new one you'll find, for a few days anyway.

I actually had second thoughts. I mean, how often will I write in a single-topic blog? At this point - heck if I know! And do I really have much interesting to say about books and reading? But it took a lot of cutting and pasting to set it up, and I hate to have wasted the effort.

Problem is, I'm a classic example of someone whose résumé makes her look like she knows a lot about something, when she really doesn't.

For one thing, I was no English major. Or even English minor. I took exactly 2 classes beyond the required Freshman Comp.

One was on Hemingway and Fitzgerald. I actually took that course at the local college in the summer, in hope of using it to meet my freshman comp requirement, but that didn't work. I liked the class though.

The other was a "half-course," brief and for half-credit, on Jane Austen, Thomas Hardy, and Margaret Atwood. Also liked the class, and liked 5 out of 6 of the books, but I could NOT slog through Emma. Emma is actually terrific. I read it last year and adored it, but my barely-formed brain couldn't handle that ThomasHardy-esque sentence structure in 1977.

And that's it for my actual literary education. I've read a gazillion mysteries and an odd assortment of other stuff. Sometimes I don't get around to an everybody's-read-that till late. I read To Kill a Mockingbird when I was 52. Oh, and it was really good. You should read it.

I don't toe party lines. I hate Wuthering Heights. Why it's such a BeeLOVEed CLAssic is beyond me. For once the movie made more sense.

Anyway, I'm a vast sea of ignorance. But I visit other book blogs and sometimes They. Drive. Me. Stark. Raving. Insane. As little as I know, I've realized that there are bloggers out there who read with most of their brain cells asleep. If they book blog, I might as well book blog.

It will include observations on how humanity values and treat books.

Since posting may be sporadic (or may not), to save time for readers who still check for updates instead of getting notifications, I have changed my link-list ...

----> over there on the sidebar ----->

...into that "most recently updated" mode. Blogs will creep down until they're updated, so that you can glance at it as it crawls toward the murky bottom of the list, and skip it till Fresh Deathless Prose shoots it to the top again!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

ALL right, TO your corners!

Let me back in! I'm the Good one,
she's the Bad one, remember??

I don't know what's gotten into our Beloved Cat Family lately, but maybe the change of seasons affects animals in ways that make them feistier, more restless....or something. Our long-ago vet explained the howling-at-dawn behavior: Outside, they perceive animals waking up and moving around, and the daytime species get active. Spring might be doing the same thing. Gearing up the territorial instinct or something.

Graymatter and Downyflake have never had much sibling love. They grew up together from adoptable-age kittenhood, and it was kind of a disappointment to us how little they wanted to do with each other. We mostly blame Graymatter, who is completely intolerant of any other cat she did not grow up with. But Downy gets fed up too, and plots little revenges. Lurks behind chairs to pop out and smack her. Trapped her in a corner of the bathroom the other day, and just lay down. "You can't get past me. I can just lounge casually right here...."

There's been an escalation lately. This morning they got into a yowling, fur-flying thing and we exiled Downy to the porch. Was it his fault? Who knows? He was the one we could catch.

As Downy takes a rest from his protest, Graymatter gets behind the curtain to check him out.

It seems to have helped. As much as The Bitchlet dislikes him, cats dislike change even more, so we let him back in, and she seemed to find having him around a little more tolerable.

For the time being.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Talent optional

Since my needlecrafting skills are limited to basic stitches and simple squares or rectangles, it was kind of nice to realize we had a real need which called for exactly that skill set.

We have 3 stations in the kitchen at which we deal with making protein shakes, handmixing various things, or making tea. That in turn causes an annoying series of clacking/clanging sounds as measuring cups and big mugs move from step A (ingredients) to step B in the case of shakes and pancake mix (blender). I could get cheap potholders at the Dollar Store, but something wider and thinner than a potholder was called for, to cushion sound but lie flat and accommodate multiple mugs or bigger bowls.

Crocheting this took about 2 hours. Nice, since we'll need 6 in order to have a set to use and a set in the laundry. The yarn is variegated, so no skill was needed to create the color palette. One down, five to go.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Snark that Springeth Green [PG-13]

On Saturday, July 17th, 2010, we got a morning phone call from NY, that my 85-year-old mom-in-law had been taken to the hospital with congestive heart failure. All day we waited for the next phone call.

But when the phone rang it was my father next door, saying that my mom was going into the hospital with congestive heart failure.

I didn't know what CHF was, really. I would never have believed that my dear mom-in-law would see her 86th birthday (2 months later) much less be back to driving and active life, which she now is. At the time we thought we might lose them both that very day, and Larry and I were basket cases.

We sat in our (South Carolina) ER waiting room with my parents, and we tried to talk normal things like the garden. The Brussels sprouts were doing well.

Mom summoned a smile and said, "Well, your mom will be very happy to help you eat them."

Days later her doctor discovered the MAC infection that was too much for her, and she died on the 28th.

We ignored the Brussels sprouts and most everything else. Every time I looked at those pretty plants, I'd think, "We should think about how she'd enjoy them, she'd want us to enjoy them." It didn't work. Everything went to seed and the gardens dried up into rectangles of dry brown stalks. As I felt a little better it seemed a shame, but at the time, the very thought just reopened the loss. We debated whether we'd even do gardens this year.

So flash forward to mid-February in South Carolina and a couple warm days. And the dry brown stalks have re-greened and are producing little sprouts. Photo taken Feb. 17th.

This seems like some kind of Spiritual Symbolism. You can't say no to The Giver of Life, for Lo! the .... something something [INSERT BIBLE QUOTE HERE].

I'm coming back to life too. And we will hope it's only a phase of my fuller emotional engagement, but i am grouchy as holy hell.

I'm sure no one has noticed. Shut up.

But it does not resemble Biblical doves with olive leaves, and rainbows of promise and renewal. I yell at everything.

Stupid kitchen knives that won't slice an onion evenly.

Stupid [bleeping] gigantic water tank in our bedroom closet taking up a desperately-needed quarter of its space so I have to stand on something to reach teetering piles on high shelves, which fall off when I try to pull something out. Really hate that water tank.

Stupid Facebook's "New Photo Viewer, created because we Luv our members so-o-o much! Or maybe because if it ain't broke, we fix it!" that CROPS THE BOTTOM OFF MY PHOTOS. And claims it doesn't, when I go to the charmingly spelt "help centre."

[Bleeping] giftwrap industry. The giftwrap industry is phasing out flat sheets and the choices are gift bags, which don't pack well when you have to immobilize a breakable, or big rolls, which are holiday-specific, to force you to buy more instead of using the leftovers. And then store them. It's a whole Temperamental post in itself.

Getting angry about spam email is the most pointless of the pointless, but spammers have destroyed what started out as a great way to message, and the more copies I receive of Hookup2nite! and money scams and TARA! wanting to read my palm, the angrier I get. I find myself wanting something very ugly to happen to "Tara." Then I convince myself that since this is a spambot and not a human being, it doesn't harm my soul to wish it. But my Higher Power probably wants me to remember that it's the thought that counts.

Oh, and there's a whole rant I wrote but haven't posted, about a video that subtly mocks and humiliates older women. I want to take the little bastard CameraPerson and ... never mind.

My Craving To Criticize threatens to take me over. I read other blogs (no, none of this refers to you guys who are on my blogroll) and want to write whole long responses full of phrases like "What planet is she on?!" and "mentally deficient puling," and "Praise Jesus! feeling good about ourselves is the cruise-ship to Hell, you tell 'em, honey!"

I know my readers kinda like my snark posts and I'm happy to do them at times, but a constant stream of it doesn't wear well. I'm indulging myself with this post, but believe me, the 10 separate posts it could have been would be overkill. Yet it's all I seem able to write or think lately. I'm really not in the mood for The Examined Life, I have no desire to examine my life right now, I just want to eat chocolate and say swear words, but I kind of need to look beneath it all at the cause.

The real me is a grouch, but I'm also well aware that none of these relatively trivial things is what I'm really angry about.

What am I really angry about? The last half of 2009 I went to 5 funerals in 6 months, including my uncle, Dad's only brother. And I begged off of attending a 6th funeral. The summer of 2010, you know about. The illnesses and deaths of people dear to us have kept slamming us since. Larry's uncle, who meant a whole lot to him, died a few weeks ago. We are wrung out and feeling brittle and I really want to slash God's tires, but I get sent to Celestial Voicemail instead. Your fury is important to us, please hold.

So I blow up about matters either trivial or outside my sphere of influence. That Serenity Prayer again. What can I change and what can't I?

According to grieving literature anger is part of the grieving process, and there's no exact formula as to when you hit that patch. I've hit it. So, at the moment the voice of the turtle is heard in our land and it's saying, "%$*#!"

Monday, March 07, 2011

Introducing Seattle Smallhold

Please allow me to introduce yall to my college roommate, Rebecca, who has just started
a blog about her urban homesteading experience in her Seattle neighborhood!

I have few pictures that we're both in but here's one pair in which we passed the camera back and forth and took each other's picture, there on the Stephens College campus. Warm spring day 1974.


...and me:

She's extroverted, positive, and generally kickass, while I'm introverted and a pessimist. Just imagine us rooming together.... 8~) She's one of my favorite people and I think you'll find her blog an interesting read.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Me, Gandhi, and hell

I've got a bunch of half-written posts, but instead of wrapping up any of them, I run into an attention-getter online and veer off on the Vitally Important Subject of ...

Is Gandhi in heaven or hell?

It's strange to be a nomad who ambles between the secular world and the fundamentalist Christian world. I often feel like an illegal alien in both places, but I read writers and bloggers in both. Those who don't keep up with the fundamentalist blogosphere just don't know what you're missing! .... Yeah, you probably do know, and that's why you choose to miss it, and here I come, ruining everything.

I bet that the, and i'm not being sarcastic, the absolute storm that blew up over the weekend about an upcoming book, was something many of my readers didn't hear a whisper about.

It starts with this video :

...and major writers in the Christian blogosphere, who have books out and big followings, are having this massive discussion about the theology of heaven and hell. Commenters are writing hundreds of comments, some as long as a blog entry themselves, most fairly respectful if adamant, a few quite vicious. A friend's blog sent me here.

I ended up in a wonderland of links. I learned that there is such a thing as evangelical universalism, that arguments as to whether hell exists and whether God would send anyone there aren't all -- there's the question of whether consignment to hell must be eternal, or whether it can be a place that still carries hope.

I learned who Brian McLaren is, and that traditional evangelicals think he's theologically loose and dangerous. One blogger worries that Rob Bell's theology
"not only dishonors God, his Word and his Christ, but could also be directly responsible for some passive church-going people ending up in hell."
You gotta understand, I'm not here to tell anybody which side they should be on in these issues, or even to say that there shouldn't be conflicts over them. Historically, people have been tortured or killed by the thousands over doctrinal points, so to live in an era in which people blog 20 paragraphs, and opponents blog 25 paragraphs, is a great blessing - and a huge leap forward.

It's the claim that these are salvation making-or-breaking issues that gets to me. It's the way they contradict their own belief system.

You either believe you need salvation through Christ's redemptive act, or you don't believe it. If not, then the whole issue is like one of bridge players discussing a rule. You don't play bridge, so you don't care.

The problem is that even those who do believe it seem to think that these other doctrinal points can negate that salvation. In doing that they deny their own theology. They holler "The Bible is THE Word of God!" but over pulpits or keyboards they reveal a bait-and-switch. Well, sure, Jesus said that "Whoever believes in Me" thing, but he was just giving the executive summary. You can't expect it to be that simple.

In other words, they -- not pagans and atheists, but the Bible-believers themselves -- are saying that the Born Again experience isn't the answer after all. They're giving the doctrinal point about the nature of hell unwarranted importance. Does anybody who believes Christ is The One Way also think that someone who accepts Jesus as his personal savior will get burned anyway for claiming those in hell have hope? Such a doctrine is THAT evil, and causes a full-cache dump?

John 3:16 - For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
[TERMS AND CONDITIONS: This offer is null and void in case of doctrinal incorrectness on matters of transubstantiation, free will, predestination, wifely submission, pre-tribulation versus post-tribulation rapture, the eternity of damnation, whether praying to a saint equals worship, the male gender of God, or other clauses which may be added without notice.
[ ]yes [ ]no -I have read and agree to these terms and conditions]

Opinions on theological matters are fine. It’s the claim that this stuff is a critical salvation dealbreaker that gives me a migraine.

Either hell really exists or it doesn’t. If it does, then it’s either a changeable hopeful state, or it’s eternal. My conduct of my life has...what, exactly, to do with the answer? It falls into that “Can God make a rock so heavy he can’t move it?” category. Does it matter if i take a stand and it turns out to be the wrong one? Does it say anywhere that failing a quiz on points of doctrine would actually open the trap door and dump me in the incinerator? Why does anyone think it rises to that level of importance?

My daily battle is to live the Serenity Prayer. To try to figure out what I can’t change and what I can and should, and then to find the courage for it. Not only the courage to take risks, but to not get dis-couraged when it seems like my effort is too small to matter.

Which is why I loved this Gandhi quotation (No, I have no idea what quotation the art show incident was about) when I spied this sticker at a booth at the Burlington County NJ Farm Fair in 1999, and have kept it in sight ever since.

So I have to come out of the closet and say, I like this video. I'm interested in the book. Once I read it, I may or may not agree with it, but I've never thought humanity understood what love really was.

Our concept comes from desire and couples frolicking in the daisies and mothers refusing to believe their kid committed mass murder. We don't comprehend the fierce uncompromising cleansing love, that's fully compatible with an equally uncompromising justice. Our concept of wrath, as in God's wrath, has got to be just as corrupted by our experience of human rage and violence.

To require anybody to comprehend God - to comprehend God's love, God's wrath, or eternity itself -- is an absurd thing to ask. To say that incomplete understanding of the incomprehensible is hell-worthy would qualify as downright abusive, if such a pronouncement actually had the power to decide who burns and who doesn't.

But it doesn't, so debate away. I'm going to take some Excedrin and go look at the garden.