Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated AdventuresFlora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures by Kate DiCamillo
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I loved the squirrel in this story. When he learns that Flora's mother is planning to hit him over the head with a shovel, he thinks to himself:

"It was a sad fact of his existence as a squirrel that there was always someone, somewhere, who wanted him dead. In his short life, Ulysses had been stalked by cats, attacked by raccoons, and shot at with BB guns, slingshots, and a bow and arrow (granted the arrow was made of rubber--but still, it had hurt). He had been shouted at, threatened, and poisoned. He had been flung ears over tail by the stream of water issuing from a garden hose turned to full force. Once at the public picnic grounds, a small girl had tried to beat him to death with her enormous teddy bear. And last fall, a pickup truck had run over his tail. Truthfully, the possibility of getting hit over the head with a shovel didn't seem that alarming."

Out for a ride with Flora and her father, he sniffs the passing smells, including his eternal enemy/victim:

Oh, dogs! Small dogs, large dogs, foolish dogs; the torturing of dogs was the one reliable pleasure of a squirrel's existence.

Flora saves Ulysses from being sucked into a vacuum cleaner and the two become friends and have wacky adventures. Flora prides herself on being a cynic, mainly to protect herself from the pain of her parents' divorce and their bizarre behaviors. "Do not hope, merely observe" is her mantra when she meets Ulysses. On their journey, she cracks open her observational armor and returns to loving and hoping.

The story is full of quirky human characters, but none of them are as endearing as Ulysses.

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Thursday, April 17, 2014

Calm and Stillness

Another week in "The Gifts of Imperfection" e-course begins.

What is the truth of our lives? Do we want to know it? I'm not sure that I do, at least not all of it. Not at this particular moment. Thankfully, this is a process, so I'll peel off a layer at a time. There is such a thing as too much truth at once, in my experience. And it is unlikely that I'm going to publish it here. Just sayin.

But I do think it is important to do. Privately. Quietly.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Resting and Playing

The title of this week's lesson in Brene Brown's "The Gifts of Imperfection" e-course is "Cultivating Rest and Play: Letting Go of Exhaustion as a Status Symbol and Productivity as Self-worth." Phew! How's that for a title? I decided to edit it to Resting and Playing. If I say I'm going to cultivate something, I feel a bit pretentious. But I get Dr. Brown's point: you have to practice, repeatedly, letting go of the idea that you must be producing something 24/7 or you are not worthy of existence.

And I know that 5-Hour Energy was created so we don't have to rest, but how long can you cheat yourself of what you really need to stay alive?

Tuesday, March 25, 2014


KimKim by Rudyard Kipling

I am only three chapters into reading "Kim." The Great Game has yet to unfold, but I've already found a few gems.

As the Lama and Kim head for the Great Trunk Road on their journey to find the River, a local retired soldier points them the way. He comes prepared with his sword, just in case...

"The sword" he said, fumbling it. "Oh, that was a fancy of mine, an old man's fancy. Truly the police orders are that no man must bear weapons throughout Hind, but"--he cheered up and slapped the hilt--"all the constabeels hereabout know me."

"It is not a good fancy," said the lama. "What profit to kill men?"

"Very little--as I know; but if evil men were not now and then slain it would not be a good world for weaponless dreamers. ”

And a little later, they reach the road.

"See, Holy One--the Great Road which is the backbone of all Hind...A man goes in safety here for at every few koss is a police-station. The police are thieves and extortioners, but at least they do not suffer any rivals."

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Saturday, March 15, 2014

Young Men in Spats (Goodbye to All Cats)

Young Men in SpatsYoung Men in Spats by P.G. Wodehouse

Whenever I'm tempted to throw in the towel, I turn to Wodehouse. He never disappoints. What is it with British writers and humor?

"Do you know," said a thoughtful Bean, "I'll bet that if all the girls Freddie Widgeon has loved and lost were placed end to end--not that I suppose one could do it--they would reach half-way down Piccadilly."

"Further than that," said Egg. "Some of them were pretty tall. What beats me is why he ever bothers to love them. They always turn him down in the end. He might just as well never begin. Better, in fact, because in the time saved he could be reading some good book."

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Monday, March 10, 2014

Mad About the Boy (Bridget Jones #3)

Mad About the Boy (Bridget Jones, #3)Mad About the Boy by Helen Fielding
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

"HARHARBLOODY HAR. Put that in your pipe hole and smoke it, society!" --Bridget Jones

Picked this up for a fun weekend read and it did not disappoint. Some reviewers have wondered why Bridget at 50 is just as ditzy as she was in her 30s, but how much does a person really change once they become an adult? (Is Bridget an adult? ) Some of the best parts were Jones trying to figure out Twitter and manage her kids' electronic devices.

And, of course, there is a Jane Austen reference:

'We've been texting for weeks. Surely it's rather like in Jane Austen's day when they did letter-writing for months and months and then just, like, immediately got married?'

'Bridget. Sleeping with a twenty-nine-year-old off Twitter on the second date is not "rather like Jane Austen's day."'

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Thursday, February 20, 2014

Clarissa, or, the History of a Young Lady

Clarissa  Clarissa by Samuel Richardson

In January I started reading Samuel Richardson's "Clarissa" as part of a real-time read along organized by author Lynn Shepherd. The 1,534-page behemoth is the story of virtuous Clarissa Harlowe and Richard Lovelace, who is described on Goodreads as "easily the most charming villain in English literature." Set in the mid-18th-century, their story is told through letters that run from January 10 to December 18. As Ms. Shepherd describes in her blog post, the real-time aspect of the project is accomplished by reading each day's letters on the relevant date and sharing your thoughts on Twitter as you read, with the hashtag #Clarissa. Ms. Shepherd is also keeping a running summary of the letters we've read on her blog, so if you come in a little late, you can quickly catch up.

This is just about the only way I can conceive of tackling this doorstop of a book! Anyone want to join me?

"Upon my word I am sometimes tempted to think that we may make the world allow for and respect us as we please, if we can but be sturdy in our wills, and set out accordingly. It is but being the less beloved for it, that's all: and if we have power to oblige those we have to do with, it will not appear to us that we are."
-- Miss Clarissa Harlowe, to Miss Howe Jan. 20

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