Wednesday, April 28


I've been plagued by ironing lately and needed a really long movie to get me through the pile of shirts that have been sitting in my laundry room. I remembered reading reviews of "Australia" when it came out a year ago and the critics didn't like it because it was too long. Well, let's start this by saying I finished ironing all 12+ shirts and the movie was still going on when I finished!

Pros - I liked the fact that Nicole Kidman played a semi-ridiculous person. I'm not a Kidman fan. She has a mean face, angry eyes, and her best roles involve serious, business-like women, or else the stereotypically beautiful, cold seductresses. Worse yet, she isn't even pretty for all the hype she gets. So it was nice for a change to see her as something other than unlaughable. Hugh Jackman was good... did you ever notice how much he looks like Gregory Peck? The cinematography was first-rate. I am a sucker for expansive outdoor shots and mountainous scenery. The little kid's accent was cute.

Cons - Way, way, way too long. I thought the movie was going to end at three separate points... and the sad thing is that it could have ended at any one of those points and no one would have missed the rest. But no, it dragged on. Kidman became more and more melodramatic as the movie progressed. The villain was just too bad. And pointlessly so. He just did not seem to have enough motivation or reason to act as wickedly as he did. I didn't appreciate the typical Hollywood smack at the Catholic church, portraying the priest-run Children's Island (where all the half-breed aboriginal kids were send for "proper" training) as some sort of hell on earth. The priests themselves, while not evil, were weak and stupid. But thank God, the noble, good-hearted aboriginals, with the help of Hugh Jackman, were there to save those poor children from decimation by the Japanese. Oh Hollywood.

Overall, it was a very unremarkable movie except for its length. It was VERY long. Too long, I think. The story was not uninteresting, but nor was it stirring. The emotions were overdone and the music was too much in all the wrong places. Would I watch it again? Probably not, unless I somehow start working at a dry-cleaners, pressing shirts all day.

Washington Square by Henry James

I really liked this novel. Because I liked the heroine, I wished for her sake that the ending had been happier, but for all extents and purposes, the book kept me interested and wanting to see how it would turn out.

Catherine Sloper is the opposite of that appalling Daisy Miller. In fact, she is something of an anti-heroine... plain, large, uninteresting, unintelligent, quiet, has little to say for herself, shows a great deal of unrewarded virtue of the less enticing sort. But sometimes it's nice to take a break from the beautiful blondes and witty brunettes and read about unremarkable people, who do, after all, exist in larger quantities than do the aforesaid blondes and brunettes.

So CS is the daughter of a rich and successful New York doctor around the turn of the century. He is disappoint in her in that she is not remarkable and he has what James describes as an "ironical" tone towards her. She, of course, does not understand his irony, but admires her father, who is everything she is not. Catherine meets a handsome, dashing young man, Morris Townsend, at a party. He showers her with attention, and as this is the first of the male persuasion who has showered her with attention, she duly falls completely and wholeheartedly in love with him in her quiet, reserved manner. Dr. Sloper rightly guesses that the young man is a fortune hunter (Catherine is to inherit her father's fortune) and disapproves the match. Much of the drama within the novel focuses around her father's opinion that Catherine, being in his mind an utterly tractable and meek young lady, will eventually dismiss Townsend in favor of her father's desire. But she does not. Even after a year long separation in Europe and in the face of her father's open hostility, Catherine is intent on marrying Townsend. I forgot Aunt Lavinia. She provides most of the comic relief in the form of a wannabe Gothic heroine/female Cupid, hurting the romance more than helping it. As suspected, once Dr. Sloper makes it clear that Catherine will be disinherited should she marry Townsend, the young man leaves. Catherine takes up life as a well-to-do spinster.

What I liked about her was her single-mindedness. She gave her marriage much thought, and once she made up her mind, she did not change it. Even after Morris jilted her, she still would not promise her father (on his deathbed no less!) not to marry Morris later. She looses 4/5s of her fortune because of this. Yet when Morris comes back to claim her, she will have nothing to do with him. At some point, she realizes that the one trait she possesses entirely is her faculty for using her own mind; she admirably sticks to this to the end. I liked her almost childlike honesty, her desire to do the right thing, and her stubbornness in the face of male disapproval. This book was a very clever manner of depicting an unpopular woman who learns to think for herself and trust herself. It is also realistic in the sense that she lives with the consequences of her decisions, even if the result is not pretty in a worldly standard.

Re-readability rating - 3 out of 5

Daisy Miller by Henry James

In the interests of taking a break from reading for my thesis - which involves unhealthy amounts of mother-writer bios - I picked up Henry James' "Washington Square" and "Daisy Miller." The primary reason was because it was one of the few books on my shelf that I haven't yet read. I don't love James. "Portrait of a Lady" was absolutely ruined for me by my undergraduate professor. Also, James' overtly male-interpretation-of-female-behavior grates on me after awhile. There is a taste of condesending in his writing towards women, owing to the fact, I suppose, that his tales are primarily told through the eyes of a male protagonist whose job as a narrator is to observe the woman in question and form opinions about her. There's almost something voyeristic about this.

Well, "Daisy Miller" and "Washington Square" are no different in the above regards. However, while I did not like DM, I did enjoy WS to a certain extent. To begin, DM is about HJ's pet topic - American women abroad in Europe and how they do not fit in. Portrait of a Lady is the same thing. I won't spoil the novel for you (hopefully), but my primary dislike about DM was Daisy herself. I really do not like girls like her. Never have, never will. By 'girls like her' I mean girls who are too popular with boys, who always tell you that they have more male friends than female friends, girls who too obviously prefer men's company to women's, but who are not free enough from flirtatious behavior to make this desire for male company seem platonic. Caveat - nothing about this post is supposed to be objective. Continuing.... In DM, all the women around Daisy are faulted for judging her supposed "high spirits" and innocent interest in men. James would like her to appear youthfully independent, intriguing, unconcerned with consequences, along with this odd mixture of coy flirtatiousness and innocent disregard of proprieties. Ugh! says this reader. She is just "too" something. I don't think James understands his subject because she comes across as neither naive nor simple, but just very, very stupid. I mean, she's supposed to have grown up in New York society. Is it really so realistic that she be absolutely ignorant of normal, sensible behavior? Had she been raised under a rock on a farm in the middle of Utah, I might understand the ignorance of proper behavior. But that still does not account for her obnoxious flirtatiousness which implies a great deal of worldly cultivation.

Well, the wages of sin are quick and deadly. Miss Daisy sits out all night with a dreamy Italian in the damp air of the Colosseum and yes, you guessed it. She contracts malaria and dies. Good riddance, I thought. Oh, there may be so much more to this tale that I am blocking out by my inherent dislike of Miss Daisy, but you know what? I'm not in college and no longer need to convince a teacher of the correctitude of my opinions.

Re-readability rating? 1 out of 5 stars.

Tuesday, April 27

Blogging Therapy

Journaling has been a means of self-expression since people figured out how to write and paper became readily available. The reasons why are interesting.

First of all, there is an element of immortalizing oneself. Now, it is arguable in each individual case as to what degree this takes place, but the fact of writing something down saves it for others to read, thus creating a potentially lasting document that links the dead writer with the living world. In a similar, albeit much more grandiose manner do we see ancient heroes striving to accomplish great deeds that would earn them a place in their people's oral history, ensuring that they would "live on" after their mortal remains were dust. I sincerely doubt that the average teenage scribbler would admit to a desire to leave a posthumous legacy of literature, but nevertheless, the thought of leaving something of one's self for future generation is at least an aspect of journal-keeping.

Probably the most important role of journaling regards release. Especially in women's writing, keeping a diary is almost requisite in saying the second half of what you believe. Take LM Montgomery as an example. With one hand, she wrote those sunshiney, optomistic tales of courageous orphans, dedicated and loving children, and reunited families. With the other, she recorded her own life, with its continual fight against depression, her disillusionment with her marriage, her severe disappointment in her children, her constant questioning of her worth as an author. Some have queried if her habit of introspection actually hastened her unhappy death, as she became so absorbed in the legacy of unhappiness that she recorded for herself to the point that she no longer could see happiness in her life for its own sake. End of digression. However, the point to this story is that Montgomery needed her diary as a channel for the unhappy emotions she hid from others or kept out of her stories. In a smaller way, many of us unknown journalers write for the same reason.

So where does blogging fit into all this? Well, it is disingenuous to say that times have changed, the digital age is upon us, and writing is unpopular if not inconvenient... but it is true. I suspect that many still do keep written journals (I do) for the keeping of truly private thoughts. But for the majority of thoughts, they can be shared with a select public. In fact, this notion of writing privately but knowing that an undetermined public with be reading your "private" thoughts is a clever way of getting your story out. Think Bram Stoker's "Dracula." Mina Harper journalizes the majority of the story, and from her style, one has the impression of reading a private diary. However, one also knows that she is writing her private impressions with the knowledge that others will read them. Clever. I think that blogging is a similar thing. The writer can write with the feeling of privacy because in most cases, he/she will never know the readers. Writing for an unknown and unseen audience often frees the author to write with less self-censoring.

Which leads to my point to this entry. I like blogging because it helps me to organize my thoughts without the physical discomfort of writing for an hour. Secondly, writing is theraputic for me. Just the exercise of coming up with a topic, developing a thesis statement, organizing an argument is good for my mind. I try to keep truly private topics for my journal, but blogging gives me a sense of sharing something even though no one may be listening.

Friday, April 23

What to feed babies?

Every mom has a different way of introducing solids and a different time. I am still fascinated by the fact that Greta does something other than nurse. I started her on solids when she was 9 months old because she was very interested in eating. She never "went" for baby food or rice cereal. She started with avocados, which are awesome because she eats them right out of the shell. Then we moved on to yams, which were not and are still not a big favorite. Carrots are acceptable on most days (I steam them until they are soft but not too squishy). Bananas also go over well on most days. Greta is 11 months now and we've moved on to egg yolks. She really liked those! I hard boil eggs and feed her the yolk. She, as experience has shown, would prefer to eat the egg whole - shell and all - but as her mother has stopped allowing her to "help" peel eggs, this near-disaster has been averted.

Greta's latest favorite?? Coffee. No, I'm not completely stupid or eclectic in my choice of suitable foods for my child. Greta LOVES to drink whatever I am drinking and every morning, rain or shine, we fight over my coffee cup. This morning, I hit on something new - I would let her taste it to show her how much she hated the bitter taste. So I did. And that's right, she loved it and kept trying to get more. I should have known that she probably developed a taste for coffee via the coffee-laced breast milk she's been getting for 11 months.

Oh babies... what a daily adventure!

First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes Mommy pushing... a double stroller?

That's right, Baby numero dos is going to make his or her appearance sometime around December 15th this year. Unlike with Greta, I suspected I was pregnant from the first. Not that this matters to any of my non-existent readers (Janel excepted, who should get a prize for being the first person to post on this blog =) ), but for the first time in my life, I was having normal periods. By that, I mean periods that begin and end, not simply drag on interminably month after month. By January, with Greta at 8 months and nursing full time, we were back to normal. Just for the record, we are not having another kid to get a tax deduction!! but when we were doing taxes back in February and marveling over the credit we received because of Greta, Josh jokingly asked how soon we would need to have Baby#2 in order to qualify for another next year. Well folks, we just squeaked by... December 15th!

But all joking aside, a lot of thought and prayer (and loving) went into the making of this baby. We want a big family, God willing. I've been feeling well lately and homemaking has not been overly difficult. The thesis is even making some progress! We know how natural family planning works, but have always used it to make babies rather than wait. So when this time rolled around, there was little doubt in either of our minds that we were going to let things happen as they would. Until someone aptly pointed out to me that if I did get pregnant, I wouldn't be able to put all the work into the house we are buying. For the first time, I questioned our decision to "let things take their course." I mean, after all, God did give us brains and the ability to make decisions... so maybe we ought to exercise said abilities? Then I thought back to Greta's little life... how she was our miracle baby, coming as a completely welcomed and long-awaited surprise after two years. It doesn't work for everyone, but that's how the we function. Every amazing thing in our life has come to us as a completely unplanned, unexpected gift from God.

On March 25th, I started my morning routine as I always do - make the bed, change Greta, feed Greta, pour coffee, check Facebook. I know, I am pathetic, but Facebook is the center of my social universe. I would as soon miss checking Facebook as Josh would miss reading the Drudge Report. A friend who I had met once or twice three years ago had posted on my wall: "What is God asking you to say YES to today?" It was the Feast of the Annunciation (Angel Gabriel tells Mary she will conceive by the Holy Spirit and she says yes to God's will).

I'm not sure what I will be saying yes to in this child's life and my own, but I just pray that I always have the trust to continue to do so.


End of story ~

Greta and I fly out to Florida for a visit to family. The day my period rolls around, I test and there were those two little stripes. Josh wasn't with us, but my family was. After all the difficulties and misunderstandings of our moving away from them, it meant a lot to all of us that I was there to share with them the good news.