life between the pages

“I spent my life folded between the pages of books.
In the absence of human relationships I formed bonds with paper characters. I lived love and loss through stories threaded in history; I experienced adolescence by association. My world is one interwoven web of words, stringing limb to limb, bone to sinew, thoughts and images all together. I am a being comprised of letters, a character created by sentences, a figment of imagination formed through fiction.”
Tahereh Mafi, Shatter Me

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Review: If Wishes Were Horses

If Wishes Were Horses
If Wishes Were Horses by Robert Barclay

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The theme of this book interested me because it was a romance primarily told from the point of view of the male character, and the first chapter set up some possibility of good storytelling. However, the language and plot overall were just too trite and formulaic to hold my interest. I could not like the female character, and the way she was characterised by the author resulted in neither a sympathetic nor sophisticated protagonist. Two stars for effort, and that is just barely merited IMHO.

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Sunday, October 07, 2012

Review: A Lost Lady

A Lost Lady
A Lost Lady by Willa Cather

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In this short novel, Willa Cather paints a disturbing portrait of a woman caught in the social grip of her times. At once a fiercely independent, charming free spirit and an obedient member of the quietly patriarchal backbone of Victorian society, Marian "Maidie" Forrester elicits both derision and sympathy from today's readers, as she did from the young male narrator of her story. We wonder if we could have performed any better on the stage where Mrs. Forrester found herself. I would be willing to bet that few would.

This story is an insider's view, told in the language and attitudes of the late nineteenth century, and is highly recommended for students of Women's Studies and Social History.

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Sunday, September 23, 2012

Review: Natural Remodeling for the Not-So-Green House: Bringing Your Home into Harmony with Nature

Natural Remodeling for the Not-So-Green House: Bringing Your Home into Harmony with Nature
Natural Remodeling for the Not-So-Green House: Bringing Your Home into Harmony with Nature by Carol Venolia

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Great book with some excellent ideas that are transportable across house styles and geographic areas, but I wish it had more real life examples from places other than California, with homes other than midwest-modern styles. There were only two homes out of dozens that I could directly relate to, and only one was a pre-20th century home. Still, the general information is well-written, concise, and applicable to many types of homes. Excellent information about microclimates and making your home more in tune with its location and the surrounding ecosystems. I would recommend it to anyone interested in making changes that will lower your energy footprint while preserving the personality of your home, and improving the livability of your own personal space.

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Monday, September 03, 2012

The Mists of Ideological Time

The League of Ordinary Gentlemen is the sort of blog where thinking folks go to discuss the issues. Sometimes the debate over there reminds me of my father's den, where his students, friends, and folks from our church would come to debate the issues of the day, which in that time were civil rights, politics, and the lessons of history. I was a small child then, too young to take part, but I often listened from the other room. Looking back, it is fascinating to realize how important it was that my family was free to invite people who wanted to discuss the things they felt were important to continuing the right of self-determination, and to understanding the things they may or may not have experienced in their own lives, and so to apply current events to their own search for truth and justice. It was, in short, good preparation for the decade of the 1980s, just to be sure we were aware of the potential of our species to destroy itself. Rational folk won't generally self-destruct, and yet individuals and civilizations do it all the time. How does that happen?

Recently, there was a post at the League that asked a question that brought quite a bit of discussion. (See The Incredible Shrinking Candidate, by Tod Kelly) It was posited that the Republican party behaves as if the "real Mitt" isn't there. By refusing to answer direct questions that are pertinent to his experience and belief, the writer posited that Mitt Romney is hiding his true self. And he wrote that he thinks it's the fault of the far-right wing ideologues of his party and their largely successful efforts to get him to fall into lockstep with their true-believers path, which (he writes) history clearly demonstrates is not the path that Mr. Romney has followed - and that the Tea Partiers should back off. Mitt should be allowed to be Mitt. Essentially the author asked, if the "true Mitt Romney" were allowed by his party ideologues to be truthful about what he really might offer - both his experience as a businessperson, his family values, and his political savvy - wouldn't we like that person? Might we vote for him?

To that I have to say - hogwash. We're seeing the real Mitt. Tod Kelly is missing the forest because he's looking for trees that aren't there, he's looking for substance where there really is only mist. What happens when the mist lifts? The light of day, folks, which shines on the garbage can in the backyard, the front walk that needs sweeping and the grass that needs mowing, just as it all did yesterday. The mist isn't really obscuring anything at all, but we like to pretend that it does, because it's soft and poetical and all and covers up what we'd really rather not deal with at the moment.

Here are the facts: It's clear that Mitt Romney has followed the course of action throughout his entire life that he's following now: that of choosing whatever option he thinks will get him what he wants. All narcissists can appear to be gentle, benevolent gods when they choose - it's part of their charm.

Mitt Romney would be the same paper president he was at Bain Capital, the same leader of the Salt Lake Olympic squadron, the same governor of Massachusetts - taking the road that at the time paved the way toward looking good on paper and in rare public appearances, but disappearing at the first puff of the wind of substance.

Meaning that, voting for Romney as POTUS would mean that his cronies would be the ones calling the shots, directing his paper-doll stance, pulling the strings of his puppet arms. Mitt is the perfect non-candidate. Don't think for a moment that he's actually responsible for anything except carrying out the wishes of the entities filling his pocketbook. He's meaningless and hard to pin down because that's the person he is.

Mitt Romney is the worst kind of person in the world: a classic narcissist who thinks he has a god-given mission to lead the United States (please research his religion, specifically the white horse prophesy if you doubt it), who will always act in his own best interests, and the world be damned. He has delusions of grandeur and believes that he is destined for greatness not only during his time here on earth, but in the afterlife. The shifting sands of his character are ingrained, and have served him well as far as prosperity goes. The thought of him at the helm of the biggest ship in the world means that if he believes hitting that iceberg will land him in heaven's realm, and in the meantime array his family and his own self in gilded heaven-on-earth glory, well then - it's all a part of his god's plan.

Put another way, imagine Mitt Romney at the controls of a 747 headed for the World Trade Center. He'd never hit that building, right? Look again. There's a guy who looks like Mr. Romney sitting in first class holding Ann's hand. They look around and smile, chat up their neighbors, full of charm and class. Then Mitt looks at his watch, and they bow their heads and start to pray. Paul Ryan's in the pilot seat, and he believes that building is full of liberal Democrats, lesbians, and abortion providers. Mitt is smiling and dreaming of the afterlife. No wait - that's actually not Mitt at all. The real Mitt is far away on an island in the Caymans.

Now what would happen? Yeah, I'm joking. Look closer.

Then there is the Tea Party. Fortunately there are other folks who've gone the extra mile to put the naked truth about them before the American public, so I'll share this clip from Aaron Sorkin's amazing new show, The Newsroom, where the truth is told as "fiction."

We can stop this insane bunch of crass, self-serving idiots. We must vote. Take the day off to do so if you must, but do not leave the polls until you have cast your rightful, individual VOTE. I understand that there are some places where it may be difficult to do so. How many have been disenfranchised in the past in this country, through trickery? More than one is too many - but there have been many, many people who were unable to vote because they stood by while this opportunity was literally stolen.

I have seen instances in my lifetime, in the past decade, where voting machines were moved - while voting was actually taking place - from high-minority, low-income, inner-city districts to predominantly white, wealthy, suburban ones so that there was a dearth of machines in the minority low-income districts and an unnecessary plethora of them in the wealthy, white districts; many of those machines were absolutely empty and unused during the remainder of the election. This forced many to have to leave to go back to work before they'd had a chance to cast their votes. I have stood in line to vote while poll workers went down the rows handing out cards and demonstrated how to vote a straight Republican ticket - and yes, there were unenlightened people who honestly thought they were simply being shown "how to vote." I have been there while people who were legally registered were turned away because they didn't have - or refused to show - a "proper ID."

This is America. No one has the right to do this to us. Stay, vote, and don't back down. Don't leave. Cast a provisional vote if you have no other choice. But Do. Not. Leave. Your future, your children's future, depends on your exercising the right to VOTE. Do not let them turn this country into the third world nation they can control, because that is what they want. That is what they believe God wants. They think we are stupid, and they do not respect us or the democracy they were born into. They are misguided, they are armed, and they are dangerous.

Fifty years ago a similarly high-minded group of politically-charged individuals led by a single charismatic mouthpiece spewing venomous hate went after innocent folk in the name of protecting our American shores from "communism." The McCarthy era was responsible for ruining hundreds, perhaps thousands of lives, and amounted to publicly-sanctioned ethnocentrism and racism. This time it's worse: there are dozens of charismatic mouthpieces spewing racism, misogyny, lies, and hate. They assert that our GOD is on their side, and because of that they ask us to doubt our conscience and look the other way while people who shout fear and hate take over our government. They are asking us to abdicate our democracy, and for those of us who refuse, they are doing their damnedest to take away our right to self-determination.

We should know better. Hate is hate, patriarchal control is control outright, and it preys on our fears of that which we do not understand and don't want to admit to our lack of understanding - and we should never allow it to cloud our vision. We must not give in to the claim that it doesn't matter who wins. It matters. We must not abdicate our rights as an informed electorate. To do so will result in the loss of everything our democracy stands for, and will effectively negate our Constitution and our way of life.

Don't let them take over our government again. We probably won't get it back if they do. But don't let this scare you. Let it strengthen your resolve. There is really absolutely nothing to fear except fear itself.

This election season, do not be confused by the vapor surrounding the truth, obscuring the things they really don't want you to see. Step through the mist, pick your way carefully over the rocky shoals hidden underneath the gloom of doubt and suspicion. VOTE.

Further ruminations on the heresy of Mormonism at the New York Times.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Review: Reviving Ophelia

Reviving Ophelia
Reviving Ophelia by Mary Bray Pipher

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Thought-provoking, careful, cogent observations designed to open our eyes and help us to see the difficulties our current reality is causing in young women. I don't think we can open this book and not be gripped by the truth Dr. Pipher is pointing out. She's like the child who observed the Emperor has nothing on - she may not be saying what we want to hear, but we cannot deny it needed to be said.

Re-reading this now because it's good to remember what I learned before now that my youngest is Ophelia-ing her way through her teens. And also that, our children come here pretty much perfect, "fresh from God," as Fr. Ernie used to say. It's up to us not to ruin them or allow the world to do so either.

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Sunday, June 24, 2012

Review: Skinny Dip

Skinny Dip
Skinny Dip by Carl Hiaasen

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Just when I needed an amusing and satisfying bit of reading, my cousin dropped off this book at my Mom's. I picked it up and within the first three pages was hooked. There are all kinds of reasons to recommend this book, and you owe it to the Everglades to read it. Truly enjoyable, well-written, and the characters sing with comedic absurdity and rapture by turns.

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Friday, June 22, 2012

Review: The Floatplane Notebooks

The Floatplane Notebooks
The Floatplane Notebooks by Clyde Edgerton

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This story was probably not supposed to make me cry, but it did. Rich language interwoven with humor, The Floatplane Notebooks ebbs and flows with the human foibles of a southern family, and it's as real and poignant as the best of its genre. Recommended.

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Friday, May 11, 2012

Review: Kino

Kino by Jürgen Fauth

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Amazing, amazing book. Move over, Palahniuk - and I don't say this lightly - Jurgen Fauth is here.

I need to process this book for just a bit before I write a real review, but just wanted to say: read it. It's one of those books, the ones that make you think and gasp in awe at what the writer has actually done, and I look forward to reading more of this talented author's work.

Recommended for those who enjoyed Inglourious Basterds.

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Sunday, April 08, 2012

The Greening of the Willow

Willows Lit Up by the Sun, Shishkin
So many things come bubbling up this time of year - and for some reason we seem to want to share them all, with someone, anyone, anywhere.  As the sap rises, so does the mind, so does the blood.  We feel a warm breeze, the air is scented with freshly mown grass, we hear birds twittering on the fencepost, we see the sky blue as paint and studded with wisps of cloud; we point and say, "Look, over there. Do you see it too?"  And we are happy for no particular reason. Like Lorraine DiSabato of Hoarded Ordinaries writes, "the simple experience of awareness, communication, and connection is enough."

Suddenly we believe in the simple act of renewal and rebirth.  We are reminded that nothing is forever lost, evidence is all around proving the point.  Indeed, our senses are assaulted with proof.

We move in and out of doors, laundering and airing out linens, boxing up winter's woolens, sweeping out the cobwebs from the corners. Baskets of ripe fruit appear in the markets, our nostrils twitch at the smell of baking bread. We sink our fingers into the warm, pliant earth, crumble in a few seeds, pat the soil back in place, and wait for the soft spring rains to come. New calves stagger after their mothers grazing in the meadows; Venus glows with luminous allure in the heavens of early evening.

Use up the last of winter's baking supplies with these easy cookies. Perfect with slowly steeped green tea perfumed with honey and a small dish of frozen yogurt.

Winter Begone Bars

3/4 stick butter, softened
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tbsp molasses
1 1/2 c. sugars - you can mix white, brown, and confectioner's sugars if you like
1 egg
1 c whole or lo-fat milk

Cream together thoroughly in medium bowl and set aside.

1 1/4 c. whole, rolled oats
1 1/2 c. unbleached flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/3 c. chopped nuts (walnuts, pecans, almonds or variety)
1/2 c. Ghiardelli chocolate chips
1/3 c. flaked coconut
1/3 c. whole raisins, currants, cranberries (or a mixture)

Combine dry ingredients in order in large bowl, mixing thoroughly after each addition.
Add butter-sugar mixture to large bowl, stir well to mix.

Pour into greased 13x9x2-inch glass pan.  Bake 35-40 minutes at 350 degrees F until done.  Cut into 2" squares.

Variation:  For an alternative taste, reduce milk to 1/2 cup, omit chocolate chips and add 3/4 c. canned pumpkin and pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds to batter.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Apple Ginger Pancakes

Yes, it's a pancake morning!  The rain isn't letting me get out and take care of the yard today so we'll be doing things inside.  Here's what's for breakfast:

Apple Ginger Pancakes

3/4 c. whole wheat flour
1/2 c. unbleached white flour
4 tsp. granulated organic cane sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

Blend together dry ingredients, set aside.
Place 2 tbsp. all-vegetable shortening in pan to melt.
1/2 c. plain yogurt
1 c. all-natural unfiltered apple juice
1 egg
1/4 c lowfat milk

Blend wet ingredients well with wire whisk.  Add melted shortening from pan, stir to mix.

Pour liquid mixture into bowl with dry ingredients, stir to mix well.

Drop by 1/4 cupfuls into hot frying pan, turn when ready.  Serve warm with maple syrup.
Makes about 12 3 1/2" size pancakes.

These are luscious and good for you as the ginger, yogurt, and whole grain wheat flour work wonders for your digestion, and if you top them with molasses instead of syrup, almost as well as a spring tonic! Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Gov. McDonnell Signs Mandatory Ultrasound Bill

The photo is of me about 16 years ago, with three of my children and one on the way.  As you can see,  we enjoy studying and re-enacting the lifeways of the 18th & 19th centuries in America. My children know more about the experience of our forebears than most history teachers, because they've lived it.

Today, as the mother of four beautiful daughters, one son, with a delightful granddaughter and another grandchild on the way, I am extremely disappointed in the actions of the Governor and the Virginia Legislature that limit women's access to reasonable and prudent health care and place unreasonable restrictions that intrude into the confidential trust and privacy concerning procedures that are only appropriately made between a woman and her health care provider.

Modern health care made it possible for me to have children spaced reasonably apart so my body could recover. Prescription birth control helped my doctor treat ovarian cysts, critical bleeding, and endometriosis.  I am healthier because of it. Moreover, I know had I really lived in the 18th century, I would not have survived my condition. I have the option and luxury of studying the lessons of history from the vantage point of modern understanding. I'm not certain many of our legislators even know what that is.

The legislature - and certainly no MAN - has any right whatsoever to intrude into women’s private health care matters.  I chose to give birth naturally to all five of my children, and even chose to give the first up for adoption at birth because I was still in school and too young to be responsible enough for her.  She was raised by wonderful, loving parents, she found us when she became an adult, and we are grateful for her and all of our children.  However, I still defend to the utmost any woman's right to choose not to give birth, through whatever means she and her doctor deem reasonable and in her best interests, and I will not stand by and have any access to health care denied because of intrusive, invasive, and unreasonable legislation.  My choice to give a child up for adoption was the most searing, difficult decision of my life, and I would not force that decision on anybody.  Every woman must have the choices available to her that make sense for her body and her situation.

No procedure should be dictated by an uninvolved non-medical entity, most especially the Virginia Legislature and government. I am very, very disappointed in our governor, senators and representatives and will voice my dissatisfaction in the voting booth.

Thanks to Planned Parenthood of Virginia for keeping this issue before the hearts and minds of the public.  Hopefully a day of reason is not far off, in spite of legislative efforts to the contrary.

If you would like to add your photo and story, please see Planned Parenthood of Virginia's tumblr.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Email Governor McDonnell

I just emailed Governor Bob McDonnell of Virginia.  He has the despicable mandatory ultrasound-waiting-period bill on his desk to veto or sign by Friday, March 9.

Feel free to copy/paste any of this as applicable to your situation and do likewise.

Email Governor McDonnell

Representing myself as I am was wiser than anything else I think I could do.  I decided to have my children, and gave one up for adoption (who found us as an adult) because it was the right decision for me (and for her) - but I will defend to the utmost anyone's right to have control over her body, and to make the correct decision for her own body and situation.  No one - especially any male - has the right to decide what is best for us.

The text of my email is below.

Email Subject:  A caring mother of five
As a caring mother who has five wonderful children, I am asking you to uphold the rights of women in the Commonwealth to reasonable access to necessary health care, without burdensome regulations designed to foster confusion and intrusion into the private realm of matters that are only between a woman and her doctor.

Veto HB 462.  If this measure is passed, it will most certainly not withstand the first court challenge, and will waste unnecessary taxpayer dollars, as well as hours of valuable time, better spent protecting the rights of citizens to reasonable, consistent, and necessary health care.

Thank you.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Snowflake Cake

On a day when I wake up after a quiet peaceful night and see the world is covered in a white blanket, I have to make Snowflake Cake.  It's easy and you can see where it gets its name - the white sugar dusted over the top looks a lot like a drift of soft snow. Eaten warm right out of the oven, it's a very special treat!

This cake is also excellent for when you need a speedy take-with dish to a potluck or after-work celebration.  It takes 35 minutes from start to finish and contains only a few basic ingredients.  It's delicious, light, and airy, in spite of its somewhat dense chocolate texture.  People won't believe you made it entirely from scratch!

You will need:
Large mixing bowl
Smaller bowl
Spatula and wire whisk
9x13 baking dish, greased or sprayed with olive oil

3 c. King Arthur unbleached all-purpose flour
2 c. unbleached cane sugar
1/2 c. unsweetened baking cocoa (Ghiardelli is best)
1 tsp. sea salt
2 tsp baking soda

Mix dry ingredients together well with wire whisk in large bowl and set aside.

Pour 2 c. cold water, 1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar, 1/3 c. vegetable oil, 1/3 c. unsweetened applesauce, and 1 tsp. vanilla into small bowl.  Blend well, and add to dry ingredients in large mixing bowl.

Beat well with spatula for 300 strokes, turning bowl from time to time and scraping sides until all is well blended.  The batter will be smooth, creamy, and will gleam like satin with little bubbles that form from the interaction of the soda and vinegar.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes.  Cake is done when it smells done, or when the top springs back to a light touch.

Remove from oven, allow to cool, dust with confectioner's sugar, and cut immediately into squares.  Serve warm or cold with fruit, whipped topping, or ice cream.