Saturday, January 31, 2009

Still on my Austen kick, I gave her a chance to redeem herself after my disappointment in Emma.

I remember seeing the movie Persuasion a long time ago, before I had any established opinions about Jane Austen or her works.

Fortunately, it was such a long time ago that it didn't impact the effect of reading the book.

Persuasion is classic Jane Austen. Anne Elliott is exactly what Austen heroine should be: intelligent, modest, patient with those she loves, and willing to endure hardship for what she knows is right.

The book was decidedly sadder that her better known novels. The suffering that Anne endures because of her friends and family's influence over her is painful.

But equally rewarding is her ultimate happiness that comes at the end of the book, when she is rewarded for her consistency and endurance.

I wish that all things might end so happily.

They might, if I too had the patience to wait eight years for things to work themselves out.


Thursday, January 29, 2009

I feel that I have been a complete slacker, since it is over one week since the Lost premier and I haven't mentioned it!

(To be fair, I didn't watch the Lost premier last Wednesday, because I was out of town. I watched it Saturday with my husband, who, sweet guy, waited to watch it with me.)

I have three points that I would like to make.

One, I wish that I could tell you to start watching Lost. But I can't. You can't just start now, with this season and think that you will like it at all. You will have to do what I did. Rent all the previous seasons, and watch 4 episodes every single night for over a month. No, seriously, that's what I did. I hadn't watched any of Lost before March of last year. But a good friend kept telling me that it was exactly the type of show the my husband and I would like. So I broke down and rented the first season. And then pretty much didn't sleep for the next month.

Lost is strange like that. For those who have seen it since the beginning, it is the most amazing, complicated, exciting, mind-twisting show there is. But for those who missed a couple episodes, or a season, or who pick up with season 3 or now, it is just too confusing and weird.

Second point: This blog will NOT turn into a Lost recount and theory page. There are plenty of Lost theory pages I could contribute to and have discussions on. This will not be one of them. And as for recounting television shows on a blog. If you watch the show, you don't need a summary. And if you don't watch the show, you don't need a summary. (Seriously, would Jack, Locke, and Desmond mean anything to people who don't watch the show?) I stopped following a blog, because for over two weeks, the only thing the author wrote were summaries about MTV's The City. Don't watch it, don't care to. So stop giving me daily reports. Write about how you like it, or a funny story. But not the screen play. Please.

Last and final point. I really need DVR. I mean really. Which is kind of funny, since there are times I want to throw our television away (okay, not really, since it is so pretty, and I really like movies.) So here's the scenario. Lost is on at 8 pm. Bedtime at our house is at 8:30 pm. (Or sometimes 9, or 9:30, or um. No it's at 8:30). And because we still like to think of ourselves as good parents, bedtime takes priority over any TV show, Lost or otherwise. So we record it. Which means my husband has to set the VCR and we then watch it after the boys are in bed. On the VCR. Which means no HD. Occasionally grainy picture. Problems with the color and sound. And the always anxiety that my husband set the VCR wrong. If we had DVR, we could just watch whenever, without the silly VCR programming. And it could still be in all it's HD glory. And as our schedules are only getting busier, and we are home less, the case for the DVR is growing. I think I'm going to win this one.

Or maybe, the cable company with thwart my efforts and just put it on demand.


Tuesday, January 27, 2009

I've been a little behind. Not just regarding posting here, but in things in general. And I suddenly realized that January is about to slip away.

And I realized that because I haven't posted any New Year's resolutions, people may think that I didn't make any. (It's still January, so the year is still new enough.)

I did make resolutions, but I'm hoping that actually writing them down will make them easier to keep.

So here it goes...

I will be softer. I will be gentler. I will yell less and listen more.

I will learn to bite my tongue. Just because something should be said doesn't mean that I have to be the one to say it.

I will complain less. I know that the year holds more difficulty ahead, but I did make the choices that lead to that. I will recognize my role in the difficulty and the role my complaining has on my family. I will do my best to minimize the latter and live up to the former.

I will be healthier. I will cook more meals at home, eat sugar less, take fewer second helpings. (Hopefully this year, more of the meals I make at home will actually appeal to the people living there.) I will try to have one fruit or vegetable at each meal. My boys like broccoli and spinach and nothing else. So I think those will work (That's a lot of spinach for one year though.)

I will stick to my exercise plan. I know that I feel better when I exercise, but I am always falling off the wagon. I'm great for the first two weeks, but, you know, something always comes up. Like my pillow. I will try to stick to it this year. I will try for 5 days a week, but at minimum do 3 days a week. (My goal with the last two resolutions is to lose 15 pounds by next Thanksgiving. I need to lose more, but by starting with 15 pounds this year, maybe it won't sound so overwhelming.)

I will take time to paint. I will paint at least one picture this year.

I will work on my sleep routine. I will try to go to be before midnight and wake up at a normal time, even on the weekends (but still reasonable. Don't expect me to be the one all wide-eyed and bushy-tailed at 7 am Sunday morning.)

I will plant a garden.

I will finish at least one of the scrapbook projects I have started. Maybe the planets will align and all four will get done. But I'm only promising one.

I will continue to kiss my children before I go to sleep, even if they have been asleep for hours.

I will continue to make snuggling, hugs, kisses, and silly songs part of our daily routine.

I will try to make a new friend and invite them over to my house. (This one is probably the most difficult one for me.) But especially as I may be moving to finish my medical training, I don't want my family living like hermits any more.

While I know that there are thousands of other things I could choose to work on this year, I'm pretty sure that this will keep me plenty busy. I made sure my list wasn't too long, so there will be plenty of things to work on in the coming years.


Saturday, January 24, 2009

Like mentioned before, I have momentarily (or maybe completely, who knows) abandoned my fantasy reading kick. I have transfered to Austen. For now. At least until some more of my books that I'm waiting for at the library come in.

I decided to not just do what I have always done, and not just re-read Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility. (Okay, I did re-read them, but I didn't just stop there.)

I decided to read some of Austen's books that I just couldn't get through the last time I tried.

So I started with the other one I had on my shelf: Emma.

And I was reminded why I haven't actually ever finished Emma. The book, despite having all the period charm of Austen and a wonderful insight into the culture and roles of men and women at the time, is just plain boring.

Every other book of Austen's that I've read was compelling. There is something to keep you reading until the end of the book. Two lovers, torn about by circumstance, family, or society: Will they end up together? Two completely different people, alone in the world: Could they ever end up together? An individual, kept down by society: Could they ever find happiness?

But there was no drama to Emma. I felt that the entire book was a description of what happens when wealthy people have too little useful employment on their hands, and therefore fill their time meddling in the affairs of other people. Of course, nothing positive could ever result from the interference.

Emma, a beautiful, wealthy, socially connected women, has no serious activity to occupy her, so she need to arrange the lives of those around her. And it is worse than that. She is positively the worst individual at reading personalities, ambitions, or desires in other people. She prides herself of being insightful and observant, but is wrong every single time. She doesn't even have enough insight to recognize her feelings towards other people.

The only person in the book who is likable at all is Mr. Knightley, who is generous, thoughtful, and truly observant (as his views on people tend to be right.) I like him a great deal, and actually feel sorry that he ended up with Emma, and not Jane Fairfax, who is probably the only truly sensible, intelligent female in the book.

The book is lighthearted enough, but lacks any true substance that would entice me to read it a second time. My heartfelt apologies to Jane Austen, my literary heroine, for being so critical of her work.

Letter to Our President

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Today we witnessed the 44th president sworn in. President Barack Obama.

Regardless of how you voted, regardless of your personal political views, this is an historic moment. The first black president of the United States of America.

The inaugural speech was wonderful. There were moments I felt tears well up in my life.

Some of my favorite parts

"It is time to pick ourselves up, to dust ourselves off, and start rebuilding America."

"[The leaders of countries] will be remembered, not by what they destroy, but with what they build."

I have some things I would like to say to our new president...

Dear President Obama,

Congratulations on becoming president today. I know that this is a important moment, not just for you and your family, and not just for black Americans, but for all Americans.

I have listened to many of speeches that you have given over your road to the presidency. I want you to know that your words have given me reason to hope. For the first time in a long time, I feel reasons to be hopeful for the future.

I have two young children, and I worry about their future everyday. I think about how I will provide from them, next month and next year. I think about providing them opportunities. I wonder how to make sure they are safe, go to good school, have college accessible to them. Every parent hopes that things will be better for their children than they were for them. For the first time, I feel that this may be true.

I have watched friends and family lose homes and lose jobs. I have watched loved ones stress about medical bills and decide between essential bills and medication. I have watched schools, hospitals, and government fail people I know and love time after time. I have prayed for change. You have promised change.

Thank you for the hope.

Pride and Prejudice: BBC or not?

Monday, January 19, 2009

I have recently switched my new affair for fantasy novels for a familiar love: Jane Austen.

Of course, it all started with Pride and Prejudice.

I've read this novel more than I've read Harry Potter. More than any other book I can think of. And I love it more with each reading. So I guess that it fits with my prior, as yet unchanged, definition of a good book. This is definitely my favorite book.

The re-reading of the book lead to the re-watching of the movies. Both the Focus Films version (or as we call it, the Keira Knightley version) and the BBC version. Which lead to debates between my husband and me about which one we like best (yes, he joins in. He has been caught unawares in my web. Insert evil laugh here!)

I think the general consensus is that we like the BBC version better. But I'm not going to stop there. I'm going to give you a breakdown of my view on each aspect (okay, not every aspect, but a great deal.)

1. In General: The Keira Knightley version is much, much shorter, and thus more appropriate for "casual" viewing; you know, wanting to watch an entire movie in a single night. I also think that the cinematography of this film is far superior to the previous version. The filming is absolutely stunning. However, due to it's brevity (but not just due to that), I feel that you don't get a good sense of the characters and their personalities. The1. In general: The Keira BBC version is much better at delving into the characters and all their subtleties. The new version does do a better job of showing "country" versus "city," but I couldn't help think, that although they were country people, the Bennetts would never let their hair get so messy.

2. Elizabeth Bennett: Keira Knightley is gorgeous. There is just not getting around that. But I still think that Jennifer Ehle does a much better job portraying what Jane Austen herself called"delightful a character as ever appeared in print." I felt that Keira smirked too much.

3. Jane Bennett: The girl who plays Jane in the new version is much prettier than Jane in BBC version. That's all.

4. Mr. Darcy: I love Mr. Darcy. He is probably my favorite literary male ever. (Oh wait, I momentarily forgot about Edward Cullen.) I also like Colin Firth. But I like Mr. Darcy in the new version much better. I find Matthew MacFadyen more dashing. I also like how they portray him taller than everyone else, especially in the first ball scene.

5. Mr. Bingley: I like Bingley on the BBC version much better. He smiles more, is more pleasant, and much less goofy than the new version.

6. Mrs. Bennett and daughters: All more irritating all the BBC version. As my husband said, "I can't stand Mrs. Bennett on the BBC version. Which means she is doing a better job." Ditto on Lydia.

7. Mr. Wickham: The budget-version Orlando Bloom they rounded up for the new version just didn't cut it for me. Give me the original Wickham, who is instantly more dashing and distrustful.

8. Mr. Bingley's sister: I have to admit that I forgot about Caroline Bingley, until my husband mentioned, "I think the girl they got to be Mr. Bingley's sister is much better than the guy that played her in the BBC one." Enough said.

9. Mr. Collins: Much more slimy and silly in the BBC version.

10. Charlotte Lucas: This character can almost be overlooked in both the book and the BBC version. The new version did a fantastic job of expounding her character. I especially love the scene where she comes to tell Elizabeth that she is engaged to Mr. Collins. Her lines of "I'm 27 years old. I've not prospects. I'm already a burden to my parents. So don't judge me, Lizzy. Don't you dare judge me." (I know, not perfect quotes, but good enough.) You learn so much about her character at this time.

I think that is enough hashing through the films. If you add it up, I think that the BBC version wins.

But I don't really care. Just as long as I get a little Eliza and Darcy, I'm good.

(If you disagree or agree with any of my "analysis," I would love to hear it!!)


Thursday, January 15, 2009

The most basic and powerful way to connect to another person is to listen. Just listen. Perhaps the most important thing we every give each other is our attention... A loving silence often has far more power to heal and to connect than the most well-intentioned words.

- Rachel Naomi Remen (physician and author of Kitchen Table Wisdom)

The Host

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Despite the fact it has been a while since I posted, I have still been reading. Not a lot else to do when the majority of my time over the last few weeks has been spent traveling by my lonesome.

By now, everyone is well aware of my, um, slight preoccupation with Twilight (or maybe it's just Edward. I'm not going to expose myself by delving into that analysis. Although I did tell my husband that he was not "allowed" to read them because I was not feeling up to sharing my fantasy world.) But this is completely off track.

I have said before that I don't think Stephanie Meyer is a strong writer. But her ability to create characters and emotions that suck readers into her stories is uncanny.

I just finished reading The Host, which is Meyer's first book for adults.

First, technicalities. The writing, while still not superb, is much better than the Twilight books.

But it almost doesn't matter. The book is FANTASTIC. I was surprised by how much I loved the book. It was almost harder to put down than Twilight.

Once again, without giving anything away, the basic plot:

The world has been taken over by an alien invasion. These aliens take over the human mind, removing their awareness and identity. But when one girl, part of the human resistance, is captured, she refuses to go down without a fight. Melanie forces her memories and emotions on the alien living inside her body.

That is all I think I can fairly tell you. There is more on the book jacket, but I just can't bring myself to give that much away.

This book, with all its aliens, and invasions, and spaceships, and blah, blah, blah, is surprisingly not about any of that.

It is about what it means to be human. The emotions and connections that make us who we are, not just as people, but as individuals. It examines what it means to be human, in the ugly ways and in the beautiful ways. And what it is to be us, as an individual.

The people in the book are not perfect. They are selfish, hurtful, greedy, easily offended. But the amazing thing about them is that they are people. They also are selfless, forgiving, patient, and loving.

The theme of this book is about what it means to love someone. That all people, seen through the eyes of the person that loves them more than anything, are amazing, beautiful, and precious. We are defined both by who we love and who loves us.

This is a beautiful book. Read it. Then tell me about it.


Sunday, January 4, 2009

Usually, as soon as it starts snowing, I get busy making paper snowflakes. It's a family tradition that goes back to when I could first hold scissors.

Along that line, here are some of the most amazing snowflake pictures I have every seen. I've used images from this website for gift tags, Christmas cards, and my desktop background.

It's amazing to think that these exquisite works of art are falling all around us as it snows.


Speeding Up

Friday, January 2, 2009

I'm not sure exactly when I noticed it.

I think it was late in my senior year of high school.

Before then, life, despite its ups, downs, highlights, and disappointments, had moved in a normal pace. School. Home. Summer. Winter. The rhythm was the same.

But now, I was on the brink of the rest of my life. All the major events of my life were about to start taking place. The ones your parents start planning for the day you are born. I was going to graduate high school. I was going to move into my own apartment. I was going to start college. I had met the man I was going to marry.

I was 17.

And at that point, time sped up. No just figuratively. I could actually feel time moving faster. And was still accelerating past me.

I recently read that as we age, one year becomes statistically shorter. When you are 2 years old, one year is one half of your life. When you are 50, one year is 1/50 of your life.

I wasn't aware of the math then, but never the less, I could feel it.

I still feel it every day.

I blinked, and college was over. I went to sleep, and medical school was over. I turned around, and my children are taller.

Some days still trudge by, measured out by pager beeps and sibling squabbles.

But most days, I feel things slipping past me, sand between my fingers.

And there are days I hate time for stealing my children's youth when my back is turned. They were infants, then toddlers, and now children. And my heart aches to think they will be teenagers, adults, and leave.

The strangest part of all of this is that I feel stationary, stuck in the same place as when this began. I feel 17 while the times of my life speed past me.