Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Sugar Sculptures and Wedding Cakes

Last night, we watched a documentary called Kings of Pastries. The film followed a competition for master pastry makers in France. The official title is Meilleur Ouvriers de France (MOF) and apparently the competition can be done for various crafstmen. This one was the ultimate reality movie.

Sixteen bakers were in the finals, which was a 3-day competition that included making a sugar sculpture, a wedding cake and various pastries that are scrutinized, dissected and tasted by men who have previously won this award. The winners get a special red, white and blue collar. How serious is the award? Apparently, in France, if anyone who has not won the competition wears a collar like the winners, he can be arrested.
I say "man" and "he" throughout this review, because I saw no indication that women were in this competition at all. I may have been misled by the film footage, so forgive me if there were actually women who had won the prize or who were competing.
The film began with Jacquy, who is French but who runs a pastry school in Chicago. The film follows him as he prepares for the 3-day competition. It also checks in on two other bakers preparing for the competition.
One of the most amazing things about the film was watching the bakers work with sugar. They pulled it and mixed the colors to make stripes. They kept stretching it until it looked like satiny ribbon and they curled it into edible bows.

(Photos are from the movie.)

I enjoyed the documentary, but was a little disappointed that (spoiler alert. Don't keep reading if you are going to see the movie) the film didn't follow someone who actually won. More than one person can win. All 16 of the finalists could have been awarded MOF. But they weren't.
Toward the end, one man's magnificent sugar sculpture collapsed and shattered. The man turned away in defeat. The other men came to him. They patted and hugged him. They encouraged him to continue.
Then the head of the competition made the announcement of the winners, his face contorted in disappointment that not all the men had won. He took a deep breath, his eyes rolled back in his head as tears dripped down his face, "And that is the end of my list," he announced in despair.
The main character had not won. The movie didn't really explain why he didn't win, what kinds of mistakes he made. When the head of the contest was interviewed, he sighed that Jacquy had been the top competitor in the competition before the finals. Perhaps he had too many opinions from other winners and that clouded his own creations, the head of the contest said. And that was the only clue as to why Jacquy did not win.
Hmmph. I gave a little snort of derision. Even Toddlers and Tiaras picks the winners to follow most of the time. Somehow, it's easier to be happy for the winner when you've invested time in him throughout the movie.
P.S. -- Don't tell anyone that I watch Toddlers and Tiaras. That'll be our little secret.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

First Paragraph Tuesdays -- Georgia Bottoms

Every Tuesday, Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea posts the first paragraph of her current read. Anyone can join in. Go to Diane's website for the image and share the first paragraph of the current book you are reading.

I heard about this book, Georgia Bottoms on NPR when they interviewed the author Mark Childress. The premise is that Georgia is a genteel southern lady who "entertains" six different men on six different nights, each thinking he is the only one, until the day the minister decides to divulge his indiscrections with Georgia.
Here's the first paragraph:
If only Eugene didn't run on so long in his sermons, Georgia thought, a person might not have time to think about how hot it was in this church. Beads of sweat were trickling a very personal path around each vertebra, into the waistband of her panty hose. It was September, but still summer held Alabama in a death grip. Georgia did not give a damn about global warming, because she knew Alabama couldn't possibly get much hotter than this. Although everyone said it was not so much the heat as it was the humidity, the heat alone was enough to drive you out of your mind. And then the mosquitoes would swarm in to finish you off.

What do you think? Would you keep reading?
I'll have a review of last week's first paragraph, Hector and the Secrets of Love soon.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Rising Waters

He hadn't been watching all the hoopla on the news, so he was totally unaware of the devastation that was headed his way.
"I was just sitting there in the bathtub when it came toward me -- a wall of water," recalls Tupi the cat.
"Nothing like that has ever happened before. It was a nightmare."
If Tupi had been watching the news, the 24-hour hurricane Irene coverage, he would have been prepared. He would have stocked up on extra food and barricaded himself in with sand bags, ready for that day someone actually turned on the shower when he was in the tub.
Tupi has since found a place to barricade himself and a friend until the "shower" has passed.
I don't mean to make fun of anyone who weathered Hurricane Irene in the past 24 hours. I know that many people have lost power and some people in North Carolina died from falling trees or flash floods.
We laughed this morning at the CNN 24-hour coverage. My feeling is that the news people have watched one too many disaster movie and are always disappointed when it doesn't live up to the catastrophe.
One female reporter was standing on a berm in front of a street and said the water in the street was a foot high and rising. Then she stepped down into it and it actually just came up above her foot. Not "a foot" high, but "her foot" high. Then a car drove past and kind of waited for her to get out of the way so it could get through. Oops. Maybe she was exaggerating just a bit. It was all a little ridiculous.
The camera focused on a downed tree branch and crews working to remove it. What destruction! Then a jogger slowly ran past in the background. Okay, maybe things weren't so bad. The news programs were ridiculous, as if no one in the world had faced such devastation. Truthfully, to the media, if no one in New York has lived through it, then it hasn't ever happened.
I'm breathing a sigh of relief that New York dodged a hurricane bullet, and I'm hoping that the overreaction doesn't make people ignore the warnings next time a storm is on the way.
Mostly, though, I'm hoping Tupi the cat realizes the danger he puts himself in when he hops into that porcelain bathtub. There, the waters can rise at any time.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Saturday Snapshots

To participate in the Saturday Snapshot meme post a photo that you (or a friend or family member) have taken then leave a direct link to your post on Alyce's blog At Home With Books. Photos can be old or new, and be of any subject as long as they are clean and appropriate for all eyes to see. How much detail you give in the caption is entirely up to you. Please don’t post random photos that you find online.
While we visited Florida, my daughter decided to recreate Stonehenge in dominoes. Here's her rendition.

We have never visited Stonehenge, so my daughter used a photo from the web as a model. Here's the computer picture in the background so you can judge how precise she was.

I'm guessing she had a much easier time putting together and taking down Stonehenge than those prehistoric guys did.

Friday, August 26, 2011


This has been a weird week for me. I have been mostly intolerant of other people. For any of you who have been on the receiving end of this, forgive me, but I'm still feeling a little grouchy.
I wish I could say, "Well, it all started with..." But I'm not that self aware.
I can tell you that I first noticed it last Saturday. I'd get all antsy in the middle of a conversation and just want to be finished talking or listening or being with people. The possibility exists that it started before last Saturday, I just hadn't noticed.
I can also tell you the heighth, or depth, of my doldrums came on Wednesday. That's when a discussion with Tucker led to him leaving for school without kissing me goodbye. I put my hand out and grabbed his bicep. He jerked his arm away from me.
"Can I have a kiss?" I asked as he pulled away.
"No," he said moving toward the door.
"Just let him go," said my husband. And my anger, perhaps wrongfully, surged toward my husband instead of my teenage son.
I dragged myself to work and my students got some half-hearted teaching that day.
I took to the couch when I got home, hoping a nap would help. I considered skipping the back-to-school night. That's when the parents go through their kids' class schedules and get to meet all the teachers. The idea of trying to juggle both boys' schedules seemed too daunting. Why did I even care? They would probably do fine.
But, I got a text from an acquaintance about a college visit and she asked if I'd be at the school, so I went.
By the time I had finished, I actually felt better, a little more upbeat.
But today again, a day when I didn't have to teach, I dreaded going to lunch and a movie with an old friend. While we ate, I winced at her abruptness to the waiter. I felt like I was cataloging her faults. I would never want someone to feel that way about a visit with me.
Everyone fended for themselves for dinner. I offered halfheartedly to make some macaroni and cheese for Tucker. I would have loved to curl up on the couch again with some mindless TLC shows, but the first high school football game is tonight. Grace asked me to go.
We'll walk in together. She'll see some of her former classmates. Squeals of joy will ensue and I'll find some other acquaintance to sit with. That's fine. It makes me leave the house and gives me a chance to spy on the boys while they are in their high school environment.
I'm not sure where these doldrums came from, but I'm ready for them to move on.
Sorry if I haven't been there to distract you this week with my witty bon mots. Maybe things will improve next week.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

First Paragraph Tuesdays -- Hector and the Secrets of Love

Every Tuesday, Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea posts the first paragraph of her current read. Anyone can join in. Go to Diane's website for the image and share the first paragraph of the current book you are reading.

Yesterday was a good day because I spent time browsing at both the library and Barnes and Noble. I came across this curious little book and I have started to read it. Hector and the Secrets of Love by Francois Lelord
has a funny cartoon character man on the front. Hector is a psychiatrist, and according to the book jacket, he travels the world on behalf of a pharmaceutical company to find a scientist who discovered the molecule that makes people fall in love.
Here's the first paragraph, plus a little more:
"All we have to say to him is: 'My dear doctor, you're going to help us discover the secret of love.' I'm sure he'll consider it a very noble mission."
"Do you think he's up to it?"
"Yes, I do."
"He'll need persuading -- you have the necessary funds."
"The most important thing, I think, is to make him feel he'll be doing something worthwhile."
"So we'll need to tell him everything?"
"Yes. Well, not everything, if you see what I mean."
"I understand."
The two men in grey suits were talking late at night in a big office at the top of a tall building. Through the picture windows the bright city lights shone as far as the eye could see, but they didn't take any notice of them.
Instead they looked at some photographs they had taken from a file. They were glossy portraits of a youngish man with a preoccupied air.
"Psychiatrist, what a strange occupation!" said the older man. "I wonder how anyone can stand it."
"Yes, I wonder, too."
The younger man, a tall, strapping fellow with cold eyes, replaced all the photos in the file, which was marked "Dr. Hector."

I don't know about you, but I'm just drawn to this book.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Sleeping Giant

This morning, while I was gone on a run, Spencer got out of bed and went to a friend's house for some early morning yoga. He and this friend have been intensely lifting weights and they decided to add yoga to the routine.
He came home and showered, screeching out the door to get to school on time.
He lifted weights after school and just got home.
"How'd the yoga thing go this morning?" I asked. Spencer isn't exactly a morning person.
He explained how they do "downward dog" and "plank." They do balance poses like "tree." "I fell asleep in 7th period study hall," he said.
"Yeah. I woke up 7 minutes after school got out."
I can picture him with his head on the formica desk, drool dripping from the edge of his mouth.
"Your friends and the teacher left you there asleep?" Earl asked.
"Yeah. They said they tried to wake me up. Then they just left."
As I was writing this, I realized that Tucker shares a study hall with Spencer. I called down the stairs to him.
"Hey, Tuck. Did you leave Spencer asleep in study hall?" I asked.
"Well, Joe tried to wake him up," Tucker said.
"So you just left? What if he'd had a heart attack or something? He could have been unconscious," I protested.
"Mom, it was obvious he was asleep with his face in his book," Tucker explained.
Now my vision changed from him lying with his head turned sideways on the desk, to him face down in his Calculus book. I feel pretty certain that it was his Calc book because that's what he has homework in tonight.
I'm not sure what the teacher's reaction was. Did she try to wake him up or did she give a shrug and close the door behind her? He did give her a hard time when she told them to sit in assigned seats. She might have given a little smile as she walked out the door, leaving a slumbering, and no longer protesting, Spencer asleep.
At least they didn't lock the door.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Saturday Snapshot

To participate in the Saturday Snapshot meme post a photo that you (or a friend or family member) have taken then leave a direct link to your post on Alyce's blog At Home With Books. Photos can be old or new, and be of any subject as long as they are clean and appropriate for all eyes to see. How much detail you give in the caption is entirely up to you. Please don’t post random photos that you find online.
I'm not sure why, but I've been obsessed with the sky lately. Here's the sky as I came out of work the other evening.

And here's the sky as we drove home from Uncle Wil's funeral last Saturday.

Sorry for the gas station in the forefront, but the sky was ominous and amazing.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Review - The Provence Cure for the Brokenhearted

I finished this book almost as soon as I wrote about the first paragraph a few Tuesdays ago. Since I'm obsessed with all things French, any book set in France already has a strong chance of winning my heart, and The Provence Cure for the Brokenhearted by Bridget Asher did steal me away from Ohio for awhile as I whizzed through the pages. My favorite part of the book was the description of the main character, Heidi, and her husband Henry. Henry had died in a car accident a few years earlier, but she still mourned his loss and missed him at every turn. The descriptions of their relationship were funny and inspiring.
I would have liked to see more of France, but the story was strong enough that it could have been set at a beach house in Maine or a desert house in New Mexico. Of course, I might not have read it then because of my France obsession.
The book does a nice job of showing Heidi slowly peel back layers and begin to heal herself and her 7-year-old son. A 16-year-old niece with her own problems adds to the angst. And, of course, the house in Provence has some magical qualities. Having traveled in Provence, I would think most any place there would.
One thing bothered me, and I feel really picky (my brother would say I'm like Jerry Seinfeld in letting one thing get in the way of my enjoyment). When Heidi is in Provence she wakes up and decides to call her mother back in the States. She says since it is 9 a.m. in Provence, it will be 3 p.m. at home. Really though, it would be 3 a.m. at home. So that bugged me. I felt like it was a little thing easy to fix by getting on a plane, flying to France and spending a few weeks there eating crusty bread and flaky pastries, thick, dark chocolates and luscious red wines. I would have been willing to make that sacrifice for my own book. Then I could have looked at the clock on my phone and written the times down correctly in the book.
Other than that faux pas, the book was lovely and made me sigh in disappointment that it was over when I came to the end and had to leave Provence for Ohio again.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

First Day of School

Today was the first day of school for my boys. This is the 5th first day of school for Spencer since he started going to school in 8th grade. We homeschooled before that. Tucker started going later that same year, but technically this is only his 4th first day of school.
When we homeschooled, we'd have "not back to school" parties. Now I send them off before 8 a.m. and see them again after 3.
This year, our school is starting very early in the year. The goal is to finish the first semester before Christmas. That way, high school students can take their exams before Christmas break rather than coming back to school for a week and taking exams then. It makes perfect sense to me, and the kids get out of school in May rather than in June, so it all evens out.
The parents who are complaining about the early start are the parents of the younger students. They can't stand the changes in the Christmas holiday. It's hard to make them understand how quickly those years fly past. Before they know it, they will be looking at kids who tower above them try and try to eek out good grades to get into college.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

First Paragraph Tuesday -- The Way

Every Tuesday, Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea posts the first paragraph of her current read. Anyone can join in. Go to Diane's website for the image and share the first paragraph of the current book you are reading.
This is a book I haven't started, so I'm reading the first paragraph with you. It's called The Way and is written by Kristen Wolf. The description of the book says Anna is a tomboy who has an adrogynous appearance and, after a tragedy, her father ends up disguising her as a boy. She is sold to a some shepherds then captured by "a mystical secret society of women hiding in the desert." There she learns "the way" of healing abilities. The first paragraph says it is set in a village near ancient Palestine in 7 A.D.
"Be a good girl and cover your face," her mother counseled.
Anna draped a shawl over her head and bound it halfway up her cheeks. She watched her mother arrange bowls of dates, cheese, and olives on a tray. She then placed a pitcher of milk among the bowls and capped it with a square of linen. As her mother did these things, her hands came to rest on her swollen belly then flew off, repeatedly, like frightened doves.
"Hurry to Grandfather and be home before morning meal," she said. She lowered the tray into her seven-year-old's waiting hands. She pulled back the camelskin hide that hung across the front door. Anna's head brushed the underside of her mother's belly as she slipped around her and stepped, blinking into the light.

What do you think? Are you intrigued?

Monday, August 15, 2011

Midnight Headache

I was 5 minutes late for work this morning. I really have no excuse, but if I was going to blame it on something, I'd probably say I shouldn't have sat down and had a bowl of cereal before rushing out the door. Or maybe I shouldn't have added that half hour of core exercise to my workout. Or maybe it was the 4-mile run. But most likely, it was the fact that I got up at 6:11 instead of 5 a.m. That was because I was awakened at 11 by a sick kid.

I went to bed at 10 with big plans. I'd get up at 5. Write for an hour, run then do P90X before getting ready for work.
Around 11, I heard Tucker in the kitchen. He had gone down to the basement to watch TV around 9 and had fallen asleep. I didn't wake him when I went to bed.
He stumbled to my bed and sat down with a cup of water and two ibuprofen in his hands.
"Mom," he was out of breath. "Mom. I have the worst headache."
I put my hand up to his neck and felt how clammy he was.
"Help me, Mom," he said. "I can't stand this."
He slid down on the bed beside me. I wasn't very helpful. It sounded like a migraine. I told him he'd probably have to sleep it off. He could try to swallow the ibuprofen.
I squeezed what I thought might be a pressure point between his finger and thumb, but he couldn't be still the necessary 2 minutes. I tried the other hand.
"I'm going to throw up," he said and headed to the bathroom.
I finally got him to take the ibuprofen as he knelt before the toilet and that's when he started puking. A lot.
I spread a sheet on the couch and got him to move to the couch. I put an empty trash can beside him. I did the pressure point thing again. He lay still. A wet cloth for his forehead. He moaned in pain.
"I think I need to go to the hospital," he said.
As a mother, you wonder. What if I screw this up? I wasn't thinking meningitis. I was thinking migraine. So I sat beside him, holding his hand, until he relaxed some.
I texted warnings to his siblings and father who weren't home yet.
Around midnight he fell asleep and I switched my alarm to 6:05 a.m. Tucker was awake this morning as I got ready for work. He still had the echo of a headache. He ate some crackers.
So that's why I was late for work this morning.
What would you have done? Would you have taken him to the ER?

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Our Family Storykeeper

I'm kind of writing around the subject here, and I'm not sure why. My Uncle Wil, my father's brother, died last week unexpectedly. Wil was a follower of my blog, the only family member other than my daughter Grace. Here he is with his son Michael and grandson Logan.
Since I can't seem to write about Wil, I thought I would divert to write about Grace and how proud I am of the way she mingled at the funeral and luncheon.
She was... well, there's no other way to put it. She was like me.
At first, I'd find her behind me as I went to hug aunts or uncles or cousins. Then she branched out on her own, holding long, involved conversations with people she hadn't met before that day. Here's a picture of Grace with her cousin Caroline, someone she has spent plenty of time with.
When we got to the luncheon, Earl and the boys sat down at a table to wait for the rest of the crowd. I started talking to cousins I hadn't seen for awhile and there was Grace beside me, answering queries about college and asking pertinent questions. I could see her brain making connections on the family tree.
Twice she has paid her own money for a month on so she can trace our heritage. In our family, she is the storykeeper.
Some time I'll have her explain how our family is related to Eleanor of Aquitaine and Earl's family is traced to Henry the Eighth.
On Saturday though, she focused on the family we have now. I didn't think about it at the time, but after a long drive home Saturday night, I was up early Sunday morning. It hit me then, how Grace, who we think of as reserved, dived right into the crowd. She was charming and sweet. The true her.
So at 8:45, I got up from my desk and crawled into Grace's bed to hug her. "Thanks," I told her.
In many ways, I wouldn't want Grace to be like me. But I'm glad that she inherited this social/family gene. Every generation needs a storykeeper.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Saturday Snapshot -- Morning Glories

To participate in the Saturday Snapshot meme post a photo that you (or a friend or family member) have taken then leave a direct link to your post on Alyce's blog At Home With Books. Photos can be old or new, and be of any subject as long as they are clean and appropriate for all eyes to see. How much detail you give in the caption is entirely up to you. Please don’t post random photos that you find online.

We planted morning glories a couple of years ago and they come back every year. They grow up the black, wrought-iron railing, and this one has decided to take over the rocking chair on the back porch.
The morning glories open in the morning then close the rest of the day. But they're back open, pink and purple, the next morning.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Concrete Beauty

This hole in the concrete is affecting my beauty routine.

No, I didn’t fall in it and scrape myself.
It’s just that the hole in the concrete, and then the filling of it, costs $2000. Because of my lack of planning, I am running out of important beauty products the same week we are shelling out money for new concrete. I’m scrimping and searching through my gym bag to find backup beauty products.
The first crisis came with my Aveda confixor, a liquid hair gel that smells fabulous. People frequently comment on the scent and I have gotten to the point when people say, “What smells good?” that I answer, “Oh, it’s my hair gel.” It does more than smell good though. It changes the texture of my hair. I look better the minute I smooth it in my hair. So running out of confixor made me a little panicked. I found a small unmarked bottle in my gym bag. It seemed like the same consistency as confixor, but the smell was different. I’ve been using it sparingly.
As the week has passed, I’ve been scraping my finger in the inside of this beautiful green jar of Aveda moisturizer so I can dab it on my face.
I feel like a kid trying to get the last of the Nutella from the container.
Soon though, another payday will roll around and I’ll be able to stock up on my beauty products, plus sit on the luxurious concrete apron behind the garage. That’s right. I’m not going to pay $2000 for a slab of concrete and let people ignore it. If I have to sacrifice beauty for this hunk of rock, everyone who visits is going to take the time to admire it.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

First Paragraph -- The Provence Cure for the Brokenhearted

Every Tuesday, Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea posts the first paragraph of her current read. Anyone can join in. Go to Diane's website for the image and share the first paragraph of the current book you are reading.
This week, I've dived into a book set in the same place as my new novel: Provence, France.
Anyone who reads my blog knows about my French obsession. I think I've read every fiction and memoir set in France and I'm always hungry for more, which is how I picked up The Provence Cure for the Brokenhearted by Bridget Asher. The author also writes as Juliana Baggott and has a website here. Here are the first few short paragraphs in Part One:
Ever since Henry's death, I'd been losing things.
I lost keys, sunglasses, checkbooks. I lost a spatula and found it in the freezer, along with a bag of grated cheese.
I lost a note to Abbot's third-grade teacher explaining how I'd lost his homework.
I lost the caps to toothpaste and jelly jars. I put these things away open-mouthed, lidless, airing. I lost hairbrushes and shoes -- not just one of a pair, but both.

I've already finished Part One and am starting Part Two. I keep stealing moments to read this book, and not just because of my obsession with France. She hasn't even gotten to France in Part One. I'll share with you my favorite part so far. She touches on incidents that help explain her relationship with her husband Henry who died two years before in a car accident. They had one of those sweet, we-are-one relationships, or at least that's the way Heidi, the main character, remembers it. Here's my favorite scene so far:
One night, lying in bed together, about a month before Henry died, my calf seized. I shot up in bed and cried out, "Leg cramp!"
Henry was almost asleep. The room was lit only by the hall light. He said, "Your leg or mine?"
I was flexing my foot, rubbing the knot violently. "What do you mean, your leg or mine? How would I know if you had a leg cramp?"
Henry was quiet for a moment, and then said, "You're right. My leg feels fine."
The truth was that Henry and I had grown so close that sometimes it was hard to know where one of us began and the other ended. We'd been together for so long that most of our memories were the same film, just different camera angles, and from years of playing the memories, even the camera angles were mostly blurred to one by this point.

I told Grace about this scene this morning and we both ended up laughing. I'm not sure if I'd want a relationship like that. Earl and I are both definitely separate people, but that is easy for me to say since I still have him. Who knows what I would think if he one day disappeared.
I'm definitely going to keep reading this book. What do you think? Did it hook you?

Monday, August 08, 2011

Senior Pictures

Does it seem to anyone else like I just posted Grace's senior pictures last month? Well, I guess it has been two years because today we went to take Spencer's senior pictures.
Like the hovering mom I am, I stayed in the background and took pictures of the photographer taking Spencer's picture.
His first choice for background was the local, outdoor basketball court. He's leaning against the fence here, but the photographer had the basketball hoop behind him.
He wore this shirt because I love the way he looks in it. The blue really brings out the blue in his eyes. Unlike Grace, and other girls, Spencer was not too picky about what he wore for his photo.
He tried sitting in front of the basketball hoop and the photographer had him sit way out front of the hoop so she could get the hoop in the background.
Although the weather is still hot, the humidity is down and the sky was a brilliant blue.
For his next round of pictures, Spence wanted to go to the railroad tracks. I had told him to pick some places that had meaning. I didn't ask why these railroad tracks have meaning. I probably don't want to know.
We hiked up the tracks to this railway signal. We were all fairly sweaty by the time we got there.
Around middle school, Spencer started having fake smiles in his pictures. Now he's so self conscious about his smile that it's hard to get a genuine one out of him in pictures. I hope the photographer managed to capture some. If not, we'll have to go with taciturn photos.
Hard to believe he's going to be a senior already.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Congressional Stalemate Ends With a Handshake

I can solve the problem of Congress refusing to compromise. (Don't worry, this isn't a political post that will make you angry if your politics differ from mine.)
This is not a Republican or Democratic solution. It's all about equality and getting to a swift resolution, unlike what has been happening in our Congress and led to downgrading of our bonds.
This idea came to me while I was teaching a class on Interpersonal Communication. One of the lessons is on gestures across cultures. I found a clip from a BBC program that talked about ways people shake hands in different countries around the world.
The Kurds in Turkey grasp hands and start shaking hands as they bargain. They do not release the hand of the other person until they have reached an agreement, whether it is on the price of sheep or rugs or honey.
Now imagine that Republicans and Democrats are paired up in the Senate and House of Representatives. They are told to reach an agreement on the budget or wars or a Supreme Court nominee. They must continue to shake hands, never releasing the grip, continuing to pump their arms up and down, until an agreement, hopefully a compromise is reached.
It's like everyone is being filibustered at the same time. They are all hostages to the handshake, which should encourage them to make compromises.
But, there's something about looking someone in the eye and touching their flesh. Hand to hand, that thumb wrapped around the man or woman's hand, it's hard to deny that person is real, that person has concerns for this issue too. Political grandstanding should scrape to a halt. It's hard to BS up close and personal.
A different issue everyday. Congress arrives, they shake on it until the issue is resolved and the next day they can do the same thing again.
With adoption of the Kurdish handshake, government should start moving forward again.
Heck, serve them some iced tea before they go to the House or Senate floor and they'll be even more eager to end debate quickly so they can release hands to get the bathroom.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Saturday Snapshot -- Windy Venice Memories

To participate in the Saturday Snapshot meme post a photo that you (or a friend or family member) have taken then leave a direct link to your post on Alyce's blog At Home With Books. Photos can be old or new, and be of any subject as long as they are clean and appropriate for all eyes to see. How much detail you give in the caption is entirely up to you. Please don’t post random photos that you find online.
Five years ago in the spring, we visited Venice. It was just a day long trip while we waited for the night train to take us to the south of France.

The sky was cloudy and the weather chilly. You can see the clouds scuttling across the sky. We visited San Marco Square and ducked in a cafe for some pizza.

One of the biggest arguments in Venice came when I refused to pay for a gondola ride for Tucker. It cost $90 and I told him he would want to come back with a girlfriend or wife. He shouted and moped. Even today he throws it up in my face. I should have paid the 90 bucks for the experience.

The boys pretended to throw each other off the bridges and shoulted out "No paparazzi" to the passing gondolas.
Who knows if we'll ever go back again as a family, but we'll always have that one day in Venice.

Friday, August 05, 2011

Quiet Mornings

Shhh. Don't tell anyone, but I love, love, love the mornings when I don't run.
This week, I've skipped running three days in an attempt to avoid some pending injuries.
When I run, I have to go early, before 7 a.m., or I just won't go. I'm that kind of person. Exercise in the morning or the rest of the day is history. And, of course, if I don't run early, I can't stop sweating in time to get in the shower and get ready for work.
Even when I don't run, I wake up early. This morning I got up about 6:15. I made myself a cappuccino, started the full dishwasher, and settled on the front porch with a book.
The air is finally cool enough so that it feels good to go outside. I wave to neighbors as they walk their dogs. I sip my cappuccino in the big Paris cup that Spencer bought for me on the top of the Eiffel Tower.
As I sit enjoying the quiet of the morning, a hummingbird hovers near the hanging plant with its simple yellow flowers. I don't reach for my camera. I simply watch the compact little body with the wise eyes for a minute before he zooms away.
The whole day stretches before me. I have to go to work and I'll return home for a few hours before Earl must leave for work.
I'll catch up with the kids who are mostly all sleeping when I leave in the morning.
They came in to kiss me goodnight the night before and in my sleepy state, I must remember to ask them about curious comments they made.
Spencer with his promotion at work making salads instead of bussing tables. Grace who went to Ezra's party with her friend Bethany. Tucker who came home from a surprise 16th birthday party for his friend Josh and said it was fun until the food on the table caught on fire. All of those things I'll have to catch up on.
But the quiet of the morning surrounds me now.
I pick up my empty coffee cup, grab the morning paper and discard them on the table inside the house.
Then I crawl back into bed with my sleeping husband, because I can.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

College Equals Fun

On August 1st, the results were released by The Princeton Review of the top party schools in the country.
On August 2nd, we were walking the campus of the number one party school in the country.
Of course, we were not part of the rush to tour campus because of its number one ranking. We had made the appointment a few weeks before in an effort to visit colleges before Spencer's senior year begins.
We're having a tough time narrowing down colleges because Spencer doesn't know what he wants to major in or whether he wants to go to a big or small college or whether he wants it to be located in a city or in the country.
"I want it to be fun," he told us after the first visit to a college in a small town, which did not stand up to his criteria of fun.
Well, with the new rankings by The Princeton Review, it appears that Ohio University meets the only criteria that Spencer set.
I will have to say that OU has had a party reputation since before I went to college. My best friend from high school went to OU, joined a sorority, graduated on time. She turned out fine.
The campus is charming, set in a town the same size as the student population. This is definitely a college town. The town actually butts into the college. Spencer was impressed with the workout facility. The major of Wildlife and Conservation Biology also caught his eye. He perked up at the idea of playing intramural basketball because they could create their own teams without having a coach or anyone to tell them what to do.
His friend Hayden came along although he had toured the campus before. Hayden, who has a twin brother, has gone on a number of tours and has remained unmoved, according to his mother. Yesterday, Hayden and Spencer seemed convinced that OU, which just happens to be the number one party school, is the right place for them.
We've got another visit set up next Tuesday that takes us to a smaller school that doesn't fall any where in the rankings on the party school list. Let's see if they can up the "fun" quotient.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Breastfeeding Best Option for the Lazy Mom

An article in this morning's Columbus Dispatch shows that hospitals are not doing enough to help new mothers learn to breastfeed. In some ways, I see that things haven't changed.
When I gave birth to my first child, Grace, 19 years ago, the hospital in Florida told me I had to give her a bottle of water everyday and sent me home with formula. I didn't know then that those things could have sabotaged our nursing experience.
Luckily, other than when she got a cold and couldn't breath through her nose, she was a good nurser. She nursed til she was over a year old and Spencer was almost two when I weaned him. Tucker was 3 and able to unbutton my blouse when I finally went on vacation to Paris with my friend Michelle to wean him.

I'm not saying anyone else should nurse their children forever like I did, but I do believe that nursing is the best option for the lazy mom. I sterilized no bottles. I bought no expensive formula. I warmed up no bottles in the microwave (which you aren't supposed to do) or pans of hot water. When my kids were hungry, I whipped out a breast and plugged them into it.
At first, I was shy about it. I'd retreat to a bedroom and nurse in private. After awhile, I was in department stores, on airplanes, on trains. I could even nurse sitting in the backseat leaning over a carseat.
The woman across the street is getting ready to have a baby. The other neighbor tells me she plans to pump her breast milk and feed the baby. What the heck?
That is like three times the work. That's more work than feeding the baby formula. Don't these women know how exhausted they are going to be once the baby is born? Maybe not.
Pumping breast milk is a tedious and unfulfilling venture. The relaxation that comes while holding a soft warm body curled againt your midsection, its tiny pink mouth sucking at your breast, its clenched fist waving in the air, does not arrive with the breast pump's plastic suction cup and whine of machinery. Once the breast milk is pumped, it has to be stored in a sterilized bottle. It goes in the freezer or the refrigerator. Then when it is fed it must be warmed up. All those bottles have to be washed and sterilized. That breast pump must be taken apart and cleaned too.
Pop that baby on your nipple and feed her!
Breastfeeding is an excuse to sit and do nothing. Curl up on the couch and hold your baby as she nurses. If I had a small paperback, I might read with the other hand. When I had more than one child, the other child would snuggle up next to me and turn the pages of a book. I could satisfy both children at the same time.
I haven't even mentioned the other benefits of nursing: the health benefits to the baby, the weight that melts off the mother, the brain power that babies gain, the reduced risk of obesity and diabetes to the babies.
Nursing is something that every mother should take the time to enjoy with her children. And if she won't do it for her children, do it for herself. It truly is the lazy's mom option. And I'm proud to say I took it.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

First Paragraph -- The Proper Care and Maintenance of Friendship

Every Tuesday, Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea posts the first paragraph of her current read. Anyone can join in. Go to Diane's website for the image and share the first paragraph of the current book you are reading.
Yesterday, I picked up The Proper Care and Maintenance of Friendship by Lisa Verge Higgins.
The cover shows the backs of four women facing the sea. They all have different colored hats on, which is kind of corny, but I've been thinking about friendship a lot lately, so I'm game for a book on women's friendships.
Here are the first two paragraphs:
When the rumbling Cessna heaved into the sky, Kate Jansen completely lost her nerve.
She seized the strap of her seat belt as the whole plane shuddered. Through the dirty window she glimpsed Jo and Sarah -- her two best friends in the world -- standing on the tarmac and shrinking swiftly into the distance.

I kept going with the opening and Kate is preparing to skydive even though she is afraid of heights. Why? Because her friend Rachel who died (don't know how yet) left her a letter with dying wishes that Kate go skydiving. The other friends' letters are a mystery so far. Why is that dead friends always have so much more wisdom than live friends. Couldn't this Rachel have helped her friends be better people while she was alive?
What do you think? Would you keep reading?

Monday, August 01, 2011

Pride and Prejudice - The Musical

This weekend was the culmination of 3 months of rehearsals for Grace and cast in the production of Pride and Prejudice -- The Musical.
Grace played Charlotte Lucas, Elizabeth Bennett's best friend who married Mr. Collins, the annoying man that Elizabeth turned down.
Here's a picture of Grace getting ready to go to the theater for the first show.

And here she is right after the show in one of her fabulous costumes.
In the book and the play, they constantly talk about how plain Charlotte is, but they didn't do anything to make Grace look less beautiful (in my opinion). They did make her act clumsy.
This production ate up a good part of Grace's summer and helped her gain some great new friends. It was the first time she's done a play that included adults in the cast, so that was a nice balance as she eases into the adult world. Some of them were creepy (Mr. Collins), some of them were parents of teenage friends, and some of them were college students.
Some of her former high school friends were in the play, which made it more fun. Here she is with Jeff who played a member of the regiment in the play, but is leaving to join the Navy this month.

It's fun to see Grace, who tends to be quiet around strangers, blossom on stage. She even steps in to move the show along when someone forgets a line. She's become a real acting pro, along with applying makeup for the cast before hand.

Cockadoodle Doo or Cocorico?

 We stood in the middle of the road, having walked together 13 miles that day and Claudine grasped my forearm. "Mais non! It doesn'...