Saturday, July 31, 2010


Dianthus is a climber. If there is something he can be on, up, in or through, he will be on, up, in or through it, whether it is stairs, a box, a dishwasher, or a step ladder. Based on comments from people who are around other one year olds, Dianthus is unusually enthusiastic in his climbing.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Heavy Light Reading and Light Light Reading

While venturing across the country, I picked up and read several small books from other people's bookshelves, all of which are recommended for somebody and the last of which, The Good Women of China, you should all take note of.

The Mother of the Mister is a retired school librarian and maintains an intriguing collection of children's* and Young Adult books. I read Ann Martin's A Corner of the Universe and Pictures of Hollis Woods by Patricia Reilly Giff. Both are good. Like so many YA books, both are deceptively light and are actually filled with angst. Both made me cry. A Corner of the Universe felt a bit too light-hearted for the subject matter, but that light-heartedness made it readable as a pleasure novel. Pictures of Hollis Woods made me want to go out and become a foster parent.

From my mother's bookshelf, I picked up a few genuinely light books. I read the last two of the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series (first mentioned by me here) by Alexander McCall Smith: The Kalahari Typing School for Men and The Full Cupboard of Life. Correction, I read the fourth and fifth book in the series; it turns out there are now eleven and the series is still growing. The "mysteries" become even less mysterious in these books, but the charming sense of Botswanan pride is still there and the personal entanglements become all the more interesting.

I also grabbed Crocodile on the Sandbank by Elizabeth Peters, partially because it had previously been owned by my grandfather. While the mystery itself felt more like a Scooby-Doo episode than a whodoneit (their was a mummy to unmask, after all), I enjoyed the book far more than most of the few modern murder mysteries I've read, mostly because I'm really not into crime scene investigation or murders, and I am into delightful characters. Like Mma Ramostwe of the No. 1 Ladies', Amelia Peabody is an opinionated and sometimes obnoxious joy to spend some time with (Nymeth's review discusses some of the interesting attributes of the contradictory Victorian early feminist narrator). In Crocodile on the Sandbank, Miss Peabody leaves England for Egypt, without male companionship, at the off-the-market old age of thirty-two. C on the S is a great summer read in the classic sit on the beach sense (not that I have ever sat on a beach reading, but I think I could), and while I am not in a hurry to read further installments, I think it is likely that I will.

From my Mother's bookshelf, I also borrowed The Good Women of China by Xinran and translated by Esther Tyldesley. It turns out my mother has not yet read this book; otherwise I'm sure she would have warned me. This is a devastating book. The Good Women of China is similar to YA books in that it is short and uses simple language and then takes on heavy subjects that make one bawl**. Except that this is not fiction and nothing about it feels sensationalized or manipulative. The journalistic tone makes reading the true stories of "normal" women's experiences in China all the more traumatic. I'm reasonably aware of the Cultural Revolution and its effects (I've read Life and Death in Shanghai and Wild Swans and a few other memoirs), but, wow, I wasn't prepared for The Good Women of China. The editing of the stories is excellent. I never noticed the writing, which means it completely serves it purpose for the book. Everyone should read this book. It is so much more than stories of rape, suicide, abuse, denigration and unfulfilled longing. I'm not sure if anyone will want to. It is, in fact, stories of rape, suicide, abuse, denigration and unfulfilled longing. Read it anyway, but read it on a day when you don't need to be cheerful in the evening.

*I also picked up Eats, Shoots & Leaves, the punctuation book by Lynne Truss, off of my father's nightstand. Truss has a special affection for apostrophes and her voice is making me particularly paranoid that whatever spellcheck is on blogger won't accept "children's literature".

**I'm not alone with this. Many of the Amazon reviewers mention their tears and their hopes that these stories weren't really true.

Monday, July 26, 2010


Dianthus met his cousins. Prairie Dog met a distant relative. Nobody was badly bitten. It was a good trip. We are all now glad to be home, except for prairie dog who prefers life on the road.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Happy Bastille Day!

I'm frolicking in Colorado: eating good food, hanging out with good people and enjoying wildflowers.
Photos of the prairie dog, commentary and book reviews someday.
In the meantime, I'll be joining my extended family in the mountains and I hope that you are celebrating summer-- eating peaches, tomatoes, sweet corn, ice cream and basil, drinking vinho verdi and marveling that not so many months ago we longed to be warm.

Happy Summer!

Oh, by the way, thanks to my MiL and FiL, it seems that our stuff is in our house. Hooray!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Good Thing Ida Wasn't on the Truck

So we've moved.
Or at least we've left our little house in West Virginia (several nostalgic posts about my house, marmots and neighborhood to be linked here when I can post photos).
Given that the movers had given us a range of July 1-3 for our stuff to arrive in Oklahoma, we expected that we would be in the process of moving in by now.
Alas, we found out on June 30, when we called the moving company from our new town, that our stuff isn't expected to be in Oklahoma until July 13-15. We had chosen this moving company specifically because they gave us the best range of dates that would allow us to be in Colorado with family July 5-18. If we ask them to wait until we are going to be in Oklahoma, our stuff won't arrive until the first week of August. Needless to say, we aren't happy (and don't have the ideal apparel for wearing in the mountains in Colorado), but we are working things out and, thanks to some relatives very generous with their time, have a plan.
I'm just glad Ida isn't on the truck.
Ida is one of my houseplants, apparently a green nepthytis (Syngonium podophyllum). She didn't have a name until I reluctantly gave her away last week. Until then, she was just "the indicator plant" because she would always wilt before the others and indicate water was needed. Ida had been with me for almost twelve years. She was given to a family friend in 1998 following one of many cancer treatments. That friend, who did not go by Ida, gave the plant to me to adorn my first "real" apartment, saying, "It will look better in your apartment than in my hospital room."
And the plant looked great in my apartment. The plant was a turning point with my houseplant luck (or skill). Until then I had only managed to keep alive the most simple of plants, a pothos and a sansevieria from my brother, and starting with the indicator plant, I had quite the photosynthetic menagerie. The plant lived with me in the Denver apartment after the friend died of cancer in 1999. The plant survived almost twelve years and four moves with me, including Denver to Kansas and Kansas to West Virginia. I wanted the plant to move to Oklahoma as well, but the movers wouldn't take live plants and there wasn't room in the car with The Mister, Mr Splashy Pants and Dianthus, so I gave the plant away to a West Virginia friend.
I told the WV friend the story of how special this plant is to me: how it represents a family friend who was a great woman and a great bread baker and generous even when she dying. I surprised my West Virginia friend by not having a name for such a symbolic plant. So she asked for the name of the great woman who gave her to me. I told her. It's not a good name for a plant. "What was _____'s middle name?" "_______ was her middle name. Her first name was Ida." The West Virginia friend didn't think Ida was a great plant name either, and thought better of naming a plant after a human, but "Ida" fits the plant to me.
This is all a long reminder about symbols. It's a reminder to my friend in West Virginia that if Ida the plant dies, which she inevitably will some day, it does not bode ill for her, for me, or for our friendship. It's also a reminder to me that in leaving Ida and many other plants, including the two that my brother gave me twenty years ago for my first dorm room, I am not leaving behind the good wishes with which they were given. It's also a reminder to the family and friends of the woman-who-didn't-go-by-Ida, many of whom read this blog, that her spirit persists among us and I think of her often. I'll still think of her often without the plant to remind me.
Ida the plant is symbolic only because I make her so. Ida the plant is merely a common houseplant.
Still, I'm glad Ida wasn't sneaked onto the truck to be sweltering for weeks in some storage unit as we wait for a truck, any truck, to drive our stuff to Oklahoma.