Saturday, June 30, 2012

Craving a Smart but Twisted Read? (Book Review of Survivor)

   Holding my breath and sandwiched sideways between book club projects and an ever growing Goodreads list, I have rebelled and spent the last few days peeled away from the crowd. Devouring an offbeat novel all by myself, with nobody's permission and nobody's company. What has been at the center of my papery affair?

Survivor by Chuck Palahniuk, author of Fight Club 

   This feels so sneaky, except that I am neither alone nor terribly original. This book was loaned to me by our very youngest book clubber, Mysti. Also, its author Chuck Palahniuk, creator of a little thing called Fight Clubcomes highly recommended by Julia. 

   Ignoring these facts, I have for a few days been pretending to be an independent, free thinking reader. My ego takes what it can get.

Most of you know Julia by now. She is my baby sister's ten-four good buddy and my west coast literary mentor. Julia is the shiz-nay. You should read my two-part interview with her here and here. She is a cool chic with a fascinating job. 
   Survivor has been a trippy read, you guys. When Mysti handed it over to me in secret at the end of a particularly crowded book club dinner, she touted it as "a little twisted," and now I see why. So the question is, does having thoroughly enjoyed this book make me a little twisted? Cast your vote in the comments, please. 


   Survivor grabbed me with the first sentence and has since then confused me, made me chuckle, made me wonder about so many social and religious themes, and inspired some fastidious house cleaning in the most literal, physical sense. (The main character is a housekeeper by trade.)

  I definitely recommend this book, though with a few caveats: Potential readers should know that a major theme of the story is suicide and that for the most part it is handled with unemotional casualness. Dark humor, certainly. The story's sexuality could be perceived as perverse by some people, too. Finally, its religious commentary is, well, not flattering to most of the Christian community. That is sometimes uncomfortable for people, so head's up gentle reader.

   The author's message is somewhere behind and betwixt all of that, though. I was able to glean from these 289 pages (listed in reverse, by the way, another strange delight) a lot of positive energy and worthwhile thinking then even laugh and pretend to be really smart for a few days. 

"Still, just dawning on him is the idea 
that now anything is possible. 
Now he wants everything...
After moments like this, 
your whole life is gravy."

   That quote is chalkboard worthy.

   Honestly, telling you what this book is about is a bit tricky. The storytelling and flavor are unconventional for sure. I know I say that a lot, but today I really mean it. The speaker jumps from present tense action to internal commentary with little warning and even less dialogue punctuation, all the while telling his own life story and keeping a myriad of story lines and character developments taut and interesting. I loved it. I may have been cringing through about a third of the pages, but I still loved it. The laughing more than made up for it.

   Palahniuk manages to wrangle so many controversial and agitating topics at once that for the first half of the book I was constantly guessing what he wanted me to care about most. Religious cultism, extreme materialism, media machinery and our new culture of attention addiction, psychobabble diagnosis obsessions (perhaps all cults unto themselves), and more. While he prompts plenty of self analysis, I gradually learned to stop forming opinions, mostly because nobody asked. That seemed to be a message unto itself: Mass movements are bad, you guys. Think for yourself but please keep your opinions to yourself. Live your own life. 

   Through one unanticipated misadventure after another, Palahniuk pokes fun at serious stuff. He makes almost sarcastic remarks on society by building his plot in ridiculous, exaggerated ways, and by inserting just enough realism to make it all believable. Then suddenly the controversial and agitating topics are so well braided together that I saw how the story would have been incomplete without any of them. And then a moment later the story has ended. Just like that. I was so frothed up by the final chapter that I had to block the remaining paragraphs with my hands, forcing myself to only read one line at a time, as slowly as possible. I was in a panic about the ending and would have been happy for the story to continue a wile longer.

   The characters of the book are as offbeat as the book itself and provide gritty, sometimes uncomfortable texture to the weird story. I found myself rooting for everybody at one time or another, only barely understanding each of them. Is this guy messing with us? Did I just fall for a big literary practical joke? Don't care. Loved it.  


  Rumor has it that Julia just might be able to get this dorky girl (yours truly) an interview with Chuck Palahniuk. I already have a million questions, but I am pretty sure he'll be rolling his eyes because I missed something big. This novel is so layered with implication that I wonder if even its creator gets all of it. It would make either a fascinating or a devastating springboard for friendly debate.

   Read Survivor. Keep track of how often you cringe or laugh out loud. And get back with me. I need to talk about this in exhaustive detail.

Be Weird and Accidentally Brilliant,
and Keep Reading!

<a href="" style="float: left; padding-right: 20px"><img alt="Survivor" border="0" src="" /></a><a href="">Survivor</a> by <a href="">Chuck Palahniuk</a><br/>
My rating: <a href="">4 of 5 stars</a><br /><br />
WOW. Proper review on my blog, The Lazy W:<br /><br /><a href="" target="_blank" rel="nofollow"></a><br /><br />
<a href="">View all my reviews</a>

Thursday, June 28, 2012

I Have Some Questions. Ten of Them.

   Any input you have for any of these will be greatly appreciated. I am feeling kind of bad tonight, possibly heat stroke, and so writing this and asking for your brilliant, witty input is a heckuva lot more entertaining than researching this stuff on my own. Let's hit it.

  1. What is the average number of books a woman reads in her life time? How about a man? Feel free to apply any demographic you find interesting.
  2. Why oh why do the alligator hunting Swamp People never wear gloves while gripping those wire fishing lines? Drives me crazy.
  3. Do you think it's true that people now have multiple life crises, once known as a mid-life crisis?
  4. Is diet cola really, really bad for you? I mean, really?
  5. Why do you think Americans choose not to vote? 
  6. How many weeks until NBA season again?
  7. Is it even legal to shoot and kill a wild alligator in Oklahoma? Because apparently we have them.
  8. Does my buffalo understand me?
  9. What are the statistical odds that my freakishly Jurassic (and not to mention gorgeous) watermelon vines will produce enough ripe, juicy fruit to us to retire at the end of this summer?
  10. I would love to meet more authors. Do you have any suggestions?
   Sweet dreams, folks. I am under loving quarantine from Handsome. Looking forward to some fascinating answers tomorrow, because you guys are so smart and funny!!!

Feed Me Seymour

Monday, June 25, 2012

The Grapes of Wrath (book review)

   Our famous little book club tackled a modern classic this session, The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck. Have you read it? Being from Oklahoma, the ancestral land of the Joad family, you might think we all had read it before, but not so.

   Of the twelve ladies who participated this month, only four had read it in school and some of those admitted they might have had help from Cliffs Notes. So in essence this was a new read for everyone. My point is to not feel ashamed if you think you "should" have read Grapes by now, and do not feel guilty if you've only seen the Henry Fonda movie. You might be surprised by how many people are in the same boat. Just please do find time to read it eventually, especially if you are from either Oklahoma or California, the two states whose recent histories are so intertwined in these pages.

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck, a luxurious tray of fruit, and perfect coffee.
I am so blessed.

   Okay. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, you guys. For the important social and historical reasons, for the chapter rhythm of action/insight/action/insight, for the author's descriptive powers, for the characters, and for the deepening of gratitude it caused in my heart, I loved The Grapes of Wrath.

   This is the story of a tenant farming family from Oklahoma who is driven out of their home because of the Dust Bowl of the early twentieth century. They are a varied group, like any clan, and they follow Route 66 out of necessity, seeking a paradise in California.

   Steinbeck writes in such a way that you feel the excruciating detail of daily life during those hot, dry years; He builds characters worth knowing (my favorite was Ma Joad); and with his words he exposes the natural world in ways that prompt large-scale thinking. Case in point: Chapter 3. It's all about a turtle and its journey across a road. Steinbeck's telescoping observations are plain and profound all at once. He inspires humanity in strong, simple ways, just by telling the story of what was happening in our country at that time.

   One of the things that was happening, of course, was a westbound migration, an influx of people into California from here and other parts of the then suffering country, and I cannot help but make comparisons to our modern issues of Mexican immigration and border control. If you only have time to dabble, then please find chapter 21 and allow your heart to simmer in Steinbeck's perspective on this hot button issue. He paints the picture from both sides and does so poetically.

   Another impression this book made on me was a new understanding of society. Heavily on a few pages about halfway in, but really all throughout the book, the reader sees disconnected people form and reform micro societies. They build social orders and maintain traditions and rituals without being told how to do so. They live and love according to some internal directives, revealing their hearts' desires and their programmed humanity. This stuff was delicious to me. The cycles of need and relief, pain and pleasure, hot and cool, they made every page tangible.

   At our book club dinner-slash-swim party this past weekend, one member Desiree shared with us stories from her grandfather. Like many of our personal ancestors, he was a small child during Oklahoma's Dust Bowl and Depression, but beyond that he has vivid memories of traveling to California with his parents. He remembers picking fruit for pennies and traveling Route 66 by car. He remembers returning to Oklahoma to live with his brother, around eighth grade. This turned out to be his last year of formal education, but he went on to become a successful businessman and is today a well respected pillar of the community in Seminole, Oklahoma. Isn't that incredible? This cemented the Joad family story a little more and is another reminder to me of how much real, pulsing history we have in our grandparents. I am so thankful to Desiree for sharing this with us.

   Something else that we all found interesting was that the term Okie used to be terribly derogatory. Did you know that? I was surprised. I have heard and used this term my entire life and never once tasted negativity with it. But apparently, and certainly in Grapes, Okie was at that time an ugly, demeaning word used to refer to the dirty, misunderstood people from this part of the country. Fellow book-clubber Misti told us Saturday night that it was not until the 1995 Murrah Building bombing that Oklahomans adopted the word as a point of home-state pride and affection. Fascinating. Those of you not from here, have you heard this word? Do you use it? Does it mean anything to you? This is super interesting to me and I'd love some feedback.

   In closing, a few nuts and bolts statistics from our group:

  • Twelve fantastically smart, witty, gorgeous, and hilarious women read this book.
  • Only four of us has sort of read it before.
  • Three of the twelve admitted to not quite finishing the book and were honest about why. The turtle chapter was mentioned as perplexing by more than one person. 
  • Four of us would recommend this book to a friend.
  • Another novel is mentioned in the beginning of Grapes and is touted as another important read, probably a strong influence on Steinbeck at the time: The Winning of Barbara Worth  by Harold Bell Wright. Guess what was just added to my encyclopedic Goodreads list?
  • I used an ink pen with abandon while reading this book and estimate about three or four dozen notable quotes and expressions worth exploring further. The Grapes of Wrath is flush with poetry, wisdom, and social commentary. Read it.
   I hope I have encouraged you to spend some time with this novel. If you have already traveled Route 66 with the Joad family, I would love to hear your thoughts! In the mean time, I wish you the safest, surest journey possible. Appreciate whatever ease you have in life. Know that all difficulties have an end.

Proud to be an Okie


Friday, June 22, 2012

10 Things the Thunder Taught Me

   Our Oklahoma City Thunder basketball team played an incredible season this year and also took our city, really our entire state and beyond, on a thrilling and memorable ride through the NBA Finals.

   Late last night they saw a bitter end to all of their hard work, losing the championship title to the Miami Heat, but they certainly did not lose any fans. They have, in fact, cemented their fan base with their dignity, talent, sportsmanship, and sheer entertainment value. I'd love to take a few minutes to honor them.

   Now, honestly, before this Thunder season, none of our friends and family would have dubbed either Handsome or me as an avid "sports fan," but now I wouldn't miss a game for anything and I already cannot wait for next season! Now, I ride the emotional roller coaster of every victory and every defeat, and now I am beginning to understand the plethora of sports metaphors that have eluded me all these years.

   For those of you who might not know, our team mascot is a buffalo. Kinda perfect, huh? Above is Rumble, the OKC Thunder bison who walks on two legs, sometimes on stilts even, and helps bring the crowd to boiling point game after game. He is a dancin man. Err, buff.

   And you all know Chunk-hi, our own little bison. He walks on four legs, never on stilts, but he also froths us up on a regular basis and can dance if the music is just right. Like Rumble, Chunk-hi prefers hip hop or rap. Loud.

   Oklahoma City home games are becoming widely known as unsurpassed in fan support. The events are always sold out and packed with entertainment;  the crowd is always ridiculously loud and energetic; and I think you would be hard pressed to find anyone who regrets bringing this team here, who still doubts that we could support a professional basketball franchise, in terms of either money or morale. In a few short years the Thunder have become part of our civic identity, and we love them. We love them collectively as the tightly knit team that they are, and we love them individually. 

Hello Mr. Collison... Do you rebound ferociously here often?

   One of my favorite things to do during this Finals month has been to ask people "Who's your favorite Thunder player?" Do you know what happens? No one can name just one guy. Everyone starts with one player, then adds another, then another, then another, often names in tandem. It seems that the Thunder plays so cooperatively with each other that fans have a difficult time separating them. I think that is awesome! At this rate, they can only increase in their connectedness and maturity as a basketball machine.

   Do you see the score and the timer? Handsome and I were at this game, you guys. I have searched my thesaurus for words to describe the feeling but sit here empty handed. The Thunder won by the way, 149-140, after two bloody, sweaty, screaming overtime battles. That guy there is Russel Westbrook. He is one incredible athlete and never boring to watch. I love how he celebrates on court!

   Okay, I have to share some things I have picked up from the Thunder this year. Some life-applicable things I see that the best of sports can teach us, even those of us who are a little late to the sports metaphor game.

  1. Positiveness: Head Coach Scott Brooks is known for his calm, positive, forward-looking approach. I have nothing to add to this. It's simply the way to live, you guys.
  2. Focus: Brooks has also trained his team to view each game as solitary. Whether the preceding match was a win or a loss, all that matters is right now. Working to a certain extent with blinders on seems to serve this team very well, and I imagine it would serve us well too.
  3. The entire effort matters. We have watched the Thunder change the course of a basketball game in the final seconds, proving over and over again that it is never over until it's over. OKC viewers have joked for weeks about how many nails have been bitten off and how many people are on heart calming meds during the games. Follow through, follow through, follow through.
  4. Learn to tune out noisy feedback, both positive & negative. This is a tough one, both to digest and to apply, but it might be the strongest bit of advice I have personally gleaned from this season. The Thunder certainly express gratitude to their fans on a regular basis, but they also make it clear that they are not playing for media service or talking-heads approval. They play for their coach, for each other, and for victory. Period.
  5. Hospitality counts. Oklahomans are a bit divided over this topic, but I have to mention the Charles Barkley thing. If you don't know what I'm talking about and want to chat, let me know. My take away is that southern graciousness goes a very long way, in many directions.
  6. Study your opponent, then credit them. Nearly every Thunder game has been wildly different, because their opponents have been so different. Our guys start each game playing hard, then they begin to learn the other team's game and adapt immediately. The Thunder flexibility and evolving powers are pretty impressive. They also finsh each game, win or lose, with honorable and appreciative comments about their rivals. How many of us can boast the same?
  7. Speaking of honor, Play clean & honorably. Our guys can walk away from this season with their heads held high, knowing they are watched under microscopes and still regarded around the globe as a clean, honest, noble team. Everyone can learn from this, no matter your walk in life. How you play is more important than the outcome.
  8. See today's value and tomorrow's potential in each other and commit to that despite (once again) outside noise. How many times do we hear post game comments from our players, highlighting not themselves but each other? And Coach Brooks' adamant support of his relatively immature (but clearly talented) players is flat out inspirational. 
  9. Age is just a number. Thunder players are among the youngest and the oldest in the NBA, and they play together seamlessly. Enough said.
  10. No excuses. Even when supporters were making excuses for one thing or another, with the best intentions of course, the Thunder never did. I only ever heard them acknowledge errors and learning experiences, even when most people would have allowed them a public gripe session. To me, this is more testament to their incredible sportsmanship. It is also a needed reminder to us of the Oklahoma standard.

   Sincerest congratulations to head coach Scott Brooks, to all of his staff, and to every single Thunder player. You conducted yourselves as gentlemen; you played magically; and you gave Oklahoma another thousand or so wonderful reasons to be proud. We wish you all a happy, healthy off season and cannot wait to welcome you back to the spotlight! Thank you for all of this and more!

Your Newest Fan

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Why You Maybe Should Not Run

   I have been running, you guys. Remember the Iron Goat? This is a pretty huge development in my weird life, and it brings with it lots of notable observations and new trains of thought. Today while running around our back field I literally got the giggles as one thing after another seemed to conspire against me. Against the spirit of positive thinking, I'm going to share some of it with you fine people. Following are some totally logical reason NOT to run:

  • You have been over-hydrating all week and also drinking three tons of cranberry juice per day to ward off an odd pain in your back, so you need to pee every 90 seconds.
  • You are wearing yoga leggings that are slightly baggy at the hips so they scoot down every time you bounce. Which is every time you take a stride.
  • The horses occupying the field in which you are trying to run are so fascinated by your strange new activity that they stare at you until they have clearly lost all respect for you. Not that they had much to begin with. But still.
  • The songs on your playlist are so much fun that singing along with them costs you more oxygen than your struggling lungs can afford. Teach yourself how to Dougie some other time, lady. 
  • The abundant cacti are blending in with the prairie grass and the uppers of your shoes are thin fabric.
  • It has been more than 90 seconds and your neighbor just drove down the adjacent dirt road, waving at you.
  • I've heard that running can be addictive. Can I really afford one more addiction? Because we all know I am NOT sacrificing coffee. Or books. Or auctions and garage sales. Or gardening.
  • Sometimes, just sometimes, honey bees might swarm you.
  • If you sprain your ankle on those Oklahoma red rocks, your neighbor will definitely not be home any more to help or call anyone for you, because that's just how things work.
  • What if I get too skinny? (LOL)
Run at Your Own Risk, Ladies

Be Part of Savanna's Good News Today

   Good Tuesday morning to ya! Perhaps you have a lot on your plate today, or perhaps you aren't sure yet what the day holds. Maybe you need prayers said on your behalf. (If so, please leave that in the comments!) Whatever your'e doing, whatever your schedule or your worries, please take some time now and throughout the day to say prayers for Savanna and her family. Think positive thoughts, send Care Bear Stares, simply draw on every healing balm in your soul and believe with us that God is good and He wants her to enjoy her complete healing.

   Most of you either know this gorgeous child and her wonderful parents personally or remember our urgent prayer requests back in March. Savanna was accidentally hit by a bullet in her forehead and, of course, suffered severe brain injuries. But not only did she survive; she has far surpassed all of the doctors' expectations and has been healing beautifully week after week. She has even been living at home, months ahead of schedule, only visiting the physical therapist on an out-patient basis! She can feed herself. She talks, laughs, and draws. She knows everyone. She is a wonder. The family has experienced one miracle after another in every way that they might need in such a horrific accident, and today we are expecting more.

   Very early this morning Savanna and her family drove to Oklahoma City and now are in the hospital again to have the bone replaced at the front of her brain, where it had been left off for healing and access.  The surgery is scheduled for 9:00 CST, so prayers leading up to that time and following are needed and appreciated.

   Thank you, friends! I know everyone who reads this little blog is good hearted, loving, and powerful. God is good. I may not understand everything about religion or His will or how some prayers are answered, but I know without any doubt how much He loves to heal and protect children. We've seen it so much. I am thankful ahead of time for what He's doing for this beautiful young lady!

Anticipating Miracles...

Friday, June 15, 2012

Five Senses Tour, After the Circus

   This morning I woke up to a painfully quiet, slightly disheveled house. 
Handsome and I crept outside for the first Hot Tub Summit in two weeks, 
and now I am close to tears. No, wait, I am in full blown tears now. 
For the past ten days or so the farm has been filled with other people's offspring, 
and now they are all home where they belong. And I miss them. 
Every one of them, so much.  I'll share more about our week together soon, 
but this morning I need to "reset" with a Senses Tour. 
Then I need to go clean this house. Like, for serious you guys.

See:  Matt's Cool Whip hand print on the glass of the back door, evidence of a spectacular food fight. Several empty plastic two-liter bottles laying tiredly in the living room. Crumpled bed sheets on two well cuddled twin beds. Water-color artwork by Harley. Score sheet from a vicious UNO tournament. Mud puddles outside. Dried muddy footprints inside.

Hear:  Almost nothing. Even the animals are quiet this morning, possibly stunned into silence by the sudden lack of activity. I only hear the ceiling fan and the tapping of my keyboard. I no longer hear laughing, squealing, chattering kids. I no longer hear Mortal Kombat vs. DC Comics playing in the background. I also do not hear the ice dispenser struggling to produce something it does not have. I do hear a few echoes of happy people.

Smell: Time for some extreme honesty, friends... The cinnamon-vanilla Scentsy I switched on this morning is not doing much to combat the ambiguous funk. I have a date with some bleach today. And some baking soda. And every cleaning tool known to man. Thank goodness for the overnight rainstorm, because I can walk outside for some fresh air and inhale that wonderful ozone fragrance.

Touch: Breeze from the ceiling fan on my shoulder. Sore legs from running and roller skating. Tears drying on my face. Slightly crunchy wood floors beneath my bare feet. Did I mention this house is getting scrubbed today?

Think: How many miles will I need to log on each of the next sixteen days to meet my Iron Goat goals? Will Sammy ever truly get her revenge on Matt? Do my own human chickens understand the truth of things? How far-gone am I, spiritually? I wonder if that basil is ready to cut yet. It is a flat-out miracle from heaven that I didn't gain any weight this week.

Feel: A deep connection to my girls and the peace of a long view. Relief for some practical matters and high tension for some professional ones. Swells of love for these five young people who made a two-week appearance in our life. Excitement for an upcoming bee hive exercise!

We are very thankful to our friends and family who trusted us 
with their incredible sons and daughters these past two weeks. 
We had such fun, learned and remembered so much we had been missing, 
and basically loved every second. Talk about memory making!
I can promise you I will never forget this little slice of summertime! 
Now I'm going to go cry myself silly while cleaning. It's therapeutic.

Kids are Amazing.
Appreciate Them.
And Also Keep Bleach Handy.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Garden Update, Early June

   Hello there! Things are certainly growing around the Lazy W. Saturday morning I stole outside, barefoot, with a big mug of perfect coffee and snapped a few photos. Do you have a few minutes to walk with me?

   My youngest human chicken painted this "Welcome" sign a couple of years ago for a party, though I cannot remember the occasion now. I love it. I love the bright blue paint she used, and the polka dots, and I move this sign around all the time to have her and her natural hospitality near us. 
   The back door concrete corner is pretty much a landing spot for potted plants, seeds I need to plant (like the leftover wedding larkspur in that square metal can), and more. Much too much more. I can be a bit of a collector. The smallest clay pot here is loaded with seed-started scarlet Morning Glory vines that need to find a spot with lots of altitude.

   I have had a pair of hardy hibiscus for about three years now, and every year they grow fuller and bloomier. Wait, is bloomier a word? Here they are sitting in suspense near the pool ladder, loaded in tight little packages of red tissue paper, just waiting to surprise me with summer color.

   Sunflowers and zinnias. What a great summertime combination! For a long time I've been drooling over other people's successes with these two classic mid-America natives, and now I have a tiny but cheerful spot of it in the east flower bed.  Yay!!
   And yep, I do leave a few weeding tools hanging around for impromptu clean up. Also, I love that scroll-ish little tomato cage. We probably snagged it at an auction. I think when gardening season is over this winter I'll do something Pinteresting with it inside the house, for consolation.

   I always love flower beds. The vegetable garden, though, is where most of my learning is happening this year. Here's where it begins...

   I know I show this old rusty blue bike wheel a lot, but look! Her Morning Glory vine is blooming! And it matches the paint!

   In the very front of this photo is a watermelon vine, thriving in the Oklahoma sun and sand. Its twin vine is on the other side of the garden gate, and they both whisper to me promises of red, juicy fruit. They seem happy to cohabitate with day-lilies and broken shovels.

Oh, I almost forgot. Beneath and between the watermelon vines are some tiny cantaloupe babies. Yay!!

   Truitt, the smart and adorable son of some friends of ours, Trent and Carrie, was here recently. I think he's maybe about nine years old.  We were walking through the veggie garden looking for frog habitat supplies (he and his brother Tate had captured some tiny frogs near the pond) when he spotted these yellow wildflowers. Truitt asked me if they were weeds and then before I could answer, he said, "Really, who cares if they're weeds? They're still pretty. Everything is pretty in its own way." 
   I am paraphrasing a little, but let me assure you that he thought he had only captured frogs that day, but really he captured my heart.

   Behind the very pretty weeds-slash-wildflowers is a single thornless blackberry bush, a gift from my sweet Momma two summers ago. The berries are ripening slowly, and since they're not plentiful enough to harvest a bucketful for cobbler making, they are the perfect tart snack for passersby.

   One of the four raised beds is filled with only soy beans. They are thriving so far too, and I am really excited to scoop up those tender green pods for cooking and snacking!

   My one eggplant is offering up beautiful little purple blooms. The plant itself is thick and heavy, and around it is a necklace of seed-started baby eggplants. They are still tiny but growing every day. Handsome and I love us some eggplant. Good luck wishes accepted gratefully.

   Lettuce, grown from the cheapest seed money can buy. I keep cutting it with scissors and it keeps growing again thick and tender. This makes a really delish salad.

   Sweet bell peppers. These do not taste watery and bland, folks. These already smell heavenly and have the most profound crunch a pepper can have.

   Cucumber vines, filling up the big rusty cages nicely. Seri, a fellow book clubber, has promised me a fantastic pickle recipe this summer!

   Flat leaf parsley! This is so fragrant, so soft, and so fun to touch and dream about. Don't you love the way your hands smell after combing them through herbs like parsley or basil?

   Corn! Sweet corn and more soy beans. The far south west corner of my veggie yard is just dug and scraped into a little corner of American effort, and I love it. More to come there, including weeding work. Try to ignore those weeds, I want to talk more about that some other time.

Sage. So colorful and, again, fragrant. 

   Another thing I love about gardening (there are so many wonderful details) is how certain plants co-mingle. It's kinda sexy. Here we have rosemary and zucchini.

   Lift the leafy skirt and you can see young, sturdy squashes following the orange-yellow mammoth blooms. In the corner of this photo are some nasturtiums, grown from seed. I am so ridiculously excited to eat some of these peppery flowers in a salad!

   Okay, friends, I hope your garden is growing and you are learning things this year and enjoying the journey! Determining to spend time in my garden every single day, at different times throughout the day, has been the biggest mark of progress for me this year. Remember that old adage...

The best fertilizer is the gardener's shadow.

Wishing you a beautiful Monday.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

A Conversation

   We have house guests this week and next. Not Couch Surfers exactly, though the two teen-aged boys did crash in the green room last night. We have kids here, rightfully belonging to our friends and our siblings. And we might just keep them.

   Yesterday, between swimming sessions, episodes of Sponge Bob Square Pants, and high-speed rides to the mailbox, I stole a few minutes to iron a few work shirts for Handsome. Because, of course, life goes on. He continues to shake the globe up at the Commish, righting wrongs and striking impossible balances, so that I can continue to play with other people's kids and dream up new gardens and write. Anyway, yesterday Juliana joined me while I ironed. She is the youngest in the set and a sheer joy. What follows is another conversation I will not soon forget.

   "What are you doing?" We are in the Apartment. She is seated on the small, salmon colored damask love seat across from mine. She had been watching the horses graze in the middle field, just outside our window there, and reporting to me the status of the rain based on pond-surface activity.

   "Ironing his shirts." I totally resisted the urge to say painting elephants. I congratulated myself silently.

   "Why do you iron his shirts?" She was looking at me squarely now, her eight year old frame sitting as tall and straight as it could, her attention no longer divided between me, the rain, and the horses.

   "Well, it's just part of how I take care of him." She blinked those long, feathery eye lashes but said nothing. "I mean, he keeps me really safe and makes sure we have enough money for everything we need, and I take care of the animals and iron his shirts and stuff."

   "Oooohhh." Then she leaned forward dramatically, smiling with her eyes closed, and inhaled the steam from my iron. "I just love that smell!"

   "Me too, I love the way hot cotton smells, and sometimes I spray his cologne on his shirts after."

   She giggled when some cold spray starch fell on her bare feet and shins. And we discussed how it could possibly reach our feet beneath the ironing board. Then she resumed the interrogation.

   "But why do yoooouuuu iron them?" Her little face shook at the exaggerated vowel sounds.

   "Well, the thing is, he earns all of our money. Aaaannnd he does all of the hard work around here, all of the heavy jobs and the tough jobs, and I do the pretty stuff like gardening and cooking and ironing." I shook my face a little at my own exaggerated vowel sounds.

   "And shopping."

   "Umm, yes. And shopping." I searched her sweet face and grinned with hot guilt. She had been reminding me every three and a half hours that we needed to drive to town to replace a tire on one of the tricycles and also buy a chain for a forgotten bike we had unearthed from the barn the day before. "Also, sweetie, he doesn't really like to iron shirts. I think he would wash his own clothes if he had to, but I don't think he would iron them."

   "Right, probably not." She collapsed backward into the love seat and shuffled her tiny feet. I love, by the way, that she just flatly agreed with me on this. Made my day.

   "And if he went to the office with wrinkly shirts your Mom would totally make fun of him." Her Mom, our friend, works at the Commish too.

   At this, her lush eyebrows arched with profound understanding, that serious look of innocent business that only an eight year old girl can convey. "Yeah, that's definitely true."


If You Need to Get Your Life in Perspective, 
Talk to an Eight year Old.
Borrow One if You Have to.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Playing Tag With the Popular Girls

   I stalk read lots of smart, stylish, inspirational, and frankly intimidating women here on ye ol' blogosphere. In one year I have learned a truckload from these fine people and have started some pretty cool-as-beans friendships along the way. Once in a blue moon, though, I cross paths with some of them in a more intimate way. This weekend I was "tagged" by Tangled Lou over at Periphery, and you guys, I feel like I am sitting at the popular girls' lunch table, receiving an invitation to play at recess. She and the company she keeps make up some of this continent's smartest, wittiest, most soul-nourishing women, and I am pretty sure Depeche Mode, good coffee, and high-level reading habits are at the root of all this brilliance.
   What follows here is my contribution to the cause. The cause of personal confession mixed with an attempt at levity. I've given myself permission to be wildly long-winded today, so feel free to take notes. Not really.

Chapter One: Eleven Riveting Facts About Me
  1. I am an awful typist, like, the worst you will ever meet in your life. I spend huge amounts of time and energy editing the smallest typed things, even texts. It's embarrassing. Despite this, though, I can get stupidly indignant about spell-check errors.
  2. I am a recovering Grammar Nazi, but I remain proud of the fact that I can diagram almost any sentence thrown at me. Sometimes if a less than thrilling person is talking to me for too long and I start to doze, I mentally diagram their sentences to stay alert. This is fun, but the trouble is that it invariably reawakens the Grammar Nazi.
  3. Most people who know me already know this, but I have accidentally broken out my two top front teeth about nine times in my life. Or thirteen or forty, I have lost count by now. I have nightmares about them a few times a month.
  4. I first became a mother when I was twenty-two years old. I felt older and wiser then than I do now (more prideful indignation), and looking back I shudder to think of my precious daughter being trusted to the girl I used to be.
  5. I am a shameless hoarder of notebooks, spaghetti-strap dresses, romaine lettuces, and various black mascaras.
  6. In fact, I could get used to being without a lot of material things in life, but not notebooks. I probably could not function as an information-in/information-out kind of person without a stack of notebooks and a clutch of pens nearby at all times.
  7. Also perfect coffee.
  8. The level of peace I have about my girls being away from home right now is misunderstood by almost everybody. Almost. As is the depth and severity of pain I feel simultaneously. And the few people who do understand these twin emotions are more precious to me than I can express.
  9. Adulthood is different than I expected. True love is better than anyone ever told me. The notion that the glory days are all in youth is sad and misleading. These are things I hope to show my girls when the time is right.
  10. Gardens... Flower gardens, food gardens, formal, wild, personal, public... All gardens fascinate and inspire me in a thousand ways. When visiting new cities I am much happier finding their gardens than shopping their malls. And touring the outdoor spaces of  new friends is one of my favorite ways to get better acquainted.
  11. I could use some help with time management. Like, for real you guys. Please?
Chapter Two: Periphery Asks, I Answer. 
This should be interesting. Before we begin, may I submit that 
her questions are going to be a lot more interesting than my answers! Brace yourself.

1. If there were 5 birds in your yard, which one would you eat? And why?  As a matter of fact, we have LOTS of birds in our yard, and I am reluctant to eat any of them. Though I do eat their liquid offspring greedily. One day I aim at a rooster harvest. One day.

2. What's the best thing that happened to you when you were 7 years old? I was approximately this age when my parents and grandparents started their lamp company, Village Art Lamps in Oklahoma City. It was a family effort from day one. I remember Dad giving us a pile of lamp components on Grandma's carpeted living room floor and encouraging us to design lamps. Also, my Uncle Timmy had lived with us for a while. He couldn't have been older than seventeen or eighteen, and I loved him so much. I was devastated when he said he was moving out. I still get choked up when I remember that night. These things all happened together, so it's a strongly bittersweet memory.

3. If the mob was going to take one of your fingers to recover a debt, which finger would you give them? Why? (Or would you do that thing where you flip the table and grab the giant meat cleaver from Vito?) I might not have the prettiest manicure in town, but I like all of my ten fingers, thanks very much. And the only debt I might ever owe is a library fine. Is it that serious? Is losing a digit to the mob something I should worry about???

4. If you were to throw a drink in someone's face, what drink would it be and why would you do it? I have done this once in my life, and I don't want to talk about it. Yes, I am ashamed.

5. Someone gives you a gorgeous mink coat for a gift, would you wear it? Why or why not? I actually own a really beautiful black, waist-length mink jacket. Handsome bought it for me at an estate sale (because that's how we roll) and has asked me repeatedly to wear it out. He was raised with women wearing such things, while I was not. I agree it looks gorgeous and feels amazing, but I have only worn it out on the town one time, on New Year's Eve. I keep trying to think of new outfits for it but always wind up with the attitude: If I just went down two jeans sizes it would look so much better. Typical vanity stuff.

6. You are trapped in an elevator with the following people: Elton John, Kathy Griffin, Jimmy Carter and John Malkovich. What do you do? Would you take pictures with your cell phone? Okay, let's talk about this. First of all, Instagram. I would flood the web with highly edited Instagram shots of these people. Also, I saw video of a near-miss throw down between Kathy Griffin and Elizabeth Hesselbeck and was rooting for my fellow blonde conservative the whole time. Griffin is sometimes funny, but her shrill sarcasm gets to be too much. She needs to be taken down a peg or two. Carter? He was President while I was in gradeschool. I once thought my classmate who shared his daughter's name might actally be his daughter. I'd like to get that cleared up with him directly. Maybe see the photos in his wallet. I would hope Elton John didn't have ideas to steal my sultry black mink jacket. And I would invite John Malkovich for a nice meal and a garden tour somewhere. He is crazy-bones interesting!

7. Who did you want to be when you were 13? Are you that person? Why or why not? Believe it or not, I wanted to be a nun. And clearly I am not a nun today. But I also wanted to be a writer and a marine biologist. Hhhmmm, I do a form of writing now, though not for money YET, and I have all of these amaing animals, so... Maybe I was just off on the nun part and the marine part. Though I do feel tightly connected to God most of the time and I do still love the ocean. Cool question.

8. If you found a finger in your burrito, would you set it aside and keep eating? Why or why not? This is gross beyond words. As much as I love Mexican food, I might not eat for a year after this. I have a hard enough time finishing any meal where I have discovered a hair. Oh lordy, now I might vomit for real.

9. If your navel dispensed the condiment of your choice, what would it be? Why? Again, gross. Gag me with a spoon.

10. Are you a ferret person? I am so happy this has come up in conversation again. YES. Yes, I love ferrets so much. Not despite their smell, partly because of it. I like that weird, cellar-stink warning from nature. And I love their shape and slinkiness. I adore the way a ferret inspects the world and is kind of self-centered. Much debate surrounds my claim to have owned a ferret as a little girl, but I am sticking to my guns. I once had a ferret. And he loved me.

11. You are given an award for something you are very proud of. You get up to make your acceptance speech and they hand you a box of teeth. Does it throw you off? What do you do? Would you proudly display it on your mantel? Umm, did you write this question just for me, lady? Creepy though that prize might be, a box of extra teeth is not a terrible thing to have around the house. Because a person never knows when she might swim into a concrete wall, fall forward onto a gymnasium floor, or step on a heavy metal rake. Yes, yes I would accept the teeth proudly and gratefully.

Chapter Three: The People I've Tagged 
and the Things I Want to Know

   I am going to go ahead and tag a handful of writers who have my admiration as well as a healthy dose of my curiosity, but I should warn you that most of these fine people may not participate. Their blogs are either a slightly different tone than what lends to this kind of disclosure, or they have been tagged recently and have graciously bowed out of this game. No biggie, no hard feelings, no worries. I do hope you visit their blogs anyway and dip your toes in their waters.

Heather at New House New Home New Life Heather, my distant support in motherhood and also my gardening and up-cycling inspiration.
Katie at Cabbage Ranch Katie has horses, like us, and she also has a pet deer who just delivered twins! Not to mention an adorable little toddler and another on the way.
Lisa at Living on This Farm Have I pointed you her way yet? Lisa and her partner farm right here in Oklahoma and serve chef-quality feasts of locally raised foods to the community.
Brittany at Vesuvius at Home You know how you can hire an artist to render a painting of your home? I'd like Brittany to write our farm. You will fall in love with her prose and poetry, no matter the topic.
Jen Luitwieler I am a new reader to Jen's blog, but already a devoted one. She writes about running and about life, and she does so with great intelligence and sensitivity. She has a book Run With Me that is on my very short want-to-read list.
The M Half  M. You guys know M! She is the sassy chick who almost got me ax-murdered in the forest.

This is what I would love to know about you girls:
  1. What book did you finish last? What book are you reading now?
  2. How do you take your coffee? Or is it tea? Or something else?
  3. Are you a beach bum, a lake rat, or a land lubber? Where are you vacationing this year?
  4. What time of day do you find it best to shower, get made up, etc? This question is at once more serious and less creepy than it sounds. Pinky promise.
  5. Who is your most enduring female role model? Or do you have a male role model?
  6. Each of you is a special kind of writer, and I look forward to finding new material from each of you. I'd love to know about how much time you spend writing each day (or each week) and maybe also what time of day is best for your writing. What are your ideal writing conditions?
  7. Stephen King is publicly opposed to adverbs, to my understanding. I am passionately supportive of their magic. Where do you stand on this issue?
  8. Do you believe prayer can change free will?
  9. Which is more important to you, a sparkling clean and well stocked kitchen or a comfortable, well appointed bedroom and bathroom?
  10. If you had to change your full name, what name would you choose?  
  11. What little rituals do you perform in the name of good ole superstition?
   Do you know what I would really love? I would really love it if each of you had a few minutes to respond to at least a few of these eleven questions (or maybe Periphery's questions!) in the comments below, even if you don't have time to blog the whole she-bang. 

Have a really great rest of the night. Thanks for sticking with such a loooonnnng post!

No Stupid Questions, Right?

Friday, June 1, 2012

The Iron Goat in June

   Always on the lookout for a way to shake up fitness routines, this month I am trying something new. Really, it is just a new combination of classic exercises, but a fairly ambitious one. It is called The Iron Goat, and it was arranged (invented?) by a Navy friend of my little brother and sister-in-law, aimed at helping folks stay ship shape (haha) over the winter holiday. If you'd like to read more about it besides what I will patch together, well here ya go.

Mama Goat with Marshmallow, Sugar & Spice, and Lucy & Ethel in our front field. The fact that they are actually behind the fence in this shot has only to do with the fact they they wanted to be there. No amount of pleading, bribing, threatening, or fence altering could ever keep them where they didn't want to be.

   My basic understanding is that The Iron Goat is is the meat and potatoes of The Iron Man competition, but spread over the course of a month instead of crammed into one day. So it gets a person to run, bike, and swim consistently for about four weeks. What is it we always hear about setting up habits, that it takes about twenty-one days? Well this should do the trick. Either that, or by the end of this month I will hate running, biking, and swimming.

Sugar, one of Mama's twins. She really was a sweetie!

   Anyway, my gorgeous and already fit sister-in-law did this last winter with a small group of Navy friends and was one of three to complete it. They motivated each other, stayed accountable, and had fun. And I have to say that she looked incredible afterwards. Svelte, toned, and just overall very healthy, lean, and filled with stamina. Yep, that is a good and worthy goal, ladies and gentlemen.

Marshmallow with her twin girls Lucy & Ethel, posing and begging for treats and the same time.

   I have been exercising sporadically ever since our twiggy little Christmas tree came down in January, alternating between the elliptical machine, Pilates, and Jillian Michaels' particular version of torture. And I have had reasonable results. Really, I have just been working out enough to keep up with my favorite hobby, which is eating lots of good food. Now I'm ready to see some progress, and I think this is going to be great. Surely running 26.2 miles, biking 112 miles, and swimming 2.4 miles will do this girl some good! And it sounds so fun!! Most of this is outdoors, much better than the alternative. And to make things even more awesome, my fellow adventurer Tracy is joining me! She even built a spreadsheet so we can track our progress.

The Three Billy Goats Gruff. This was our motley crew of stinky, aggressive, but very lovable boys.

   Today we begin. June first, day one of thirty aimed at challenging, consistent, variety-filled, full-body exercise. My skinny jeans better get ready, you guys.

   To mark this auspicious beginning, how about two few loosely related lists?

Some Facts About Goats:

  • They are smelly. Like, worse than skunks in my opinion.
  • But they are affectionate and filled with personality and very smart. And highly entertaining.
  • Billy goats sometimes pee in their own mouths, sort of doing a crazy yoga pose to accomplish this. Seeing this strange ritual is not for the faint of heart.
  • They are so difficult to contain that I fully agree with the old adage, "Any fence that holds water will hold a goat." I actually doubt they have bones and think they might be made of jello, because I have seen with my own eyes a fat, solid goat squeeze through an opening barely big enough for a cat.
  • They will eat every weed and every low hanging branch and leaf in sight, which sounds like a great landscaping help, but they do that only after devouring every rose, hydrangea, and daffodil in sight.
  • The females tend to bear twins. This happened on our farm twice during the short time we raised goats.
  • There is an interesting and true story behind the expression, "Get Your Goat, " but I'll save that for another day.

Some Outright Lies:

  • I have a very normal, very grown-up bicycle ready to go for this June event. I am not going to ride 112 miles on a tricycle with a flower basket on the back, up and down our gravel driveway a million times.
  • I am not the least bit nervous about swimming in an Olympic pool in front of strangers to accomplish my 2.4 water miles.
  • I plan to post before and after photos of myself and also give you my starting and ending measurements.
  • I love the taste of goat cheese.
  • I have gorgeous feet from all the elliptical work this Spring, and they should only become prettier after I add running to my life.
  • My husband thinks I will finish this.

   Okay friends, please hold me to this. Tracy and I would also love to add more Iron Goaters to the fun! So if you decide to try it, let me know. We'll cheer you on too.

Be Ship Shape


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