Book Talk and Thoughts: What I’ve read, what I’m reading. Looking for inspiration and answers.

I’m so happy and relieved that I have a good book to look forward to reading. I really need it right now. How could I have forgotten how amazing and useful and essential it is to have a good book to read? How could I have forgotten? Isn’t that the story of my life?

I’m going through another existential, life-changing moment. But that’s what happens when you’re estranged from your family- a family that never really gave you much of an identity anyway. As always, I’m still figuring out who I am, and still striving to be who and what I envision myself to be. On top of having no extended family of my own, a flimsy sense of self and self-confidence, and no career- on top of all that- add the current situation in the country. Politics. It was rough this year. And it’s still going.
There’s a lot to think about. Maybe not for everyone, but for me there is. That’s just how I am. It’s who I’ve always been.
And like I said, there’s been a lot to think about. I think many of us have been shocked by the reactions of people we know and maybe we’ve even shocked ourselves with our own thoughts, reactions and behavior. So this has been a major opportunity for self-reflection and growth for me.
Why do I think the way I do? What is important to me? Can I have respect for the opinions of others? How should I react when others don’t respect me or people I’m close to? Can I continue to spend time with people whose opinions and beliefs seem so far from mine? Should’t I, as an adult, be able to spend time with a variety of people? But if I don’t feel like I can, isn’t that ok too?
But the most important question I’ve come to ask myself is- Why do I see myself as ‘lesser’ than others? Why do I discount myself? Why do I think and act as though everyone else is better than me, smarter than me, and has life figured out more than me?
It’s true. This is how I have always perceived myself. Over the years it’s gotten better. However, in the past few months it has been brought to light just how much I still perceive myself as ‘lesser than.’ And it’s more than I thought.
Which brings me to the other part of my current fluctuating existential/ self-identity issue– friends. I’ve been having a difficult time with friendships for several years now. I’ve purposely cut off all contact with two and I’m currently pulling away from another (or two), and it’s difficult meeting new friends when you’re nearly forty years old…..
This pattern of not being able to maintain long lasting friendships had me very worried. I don’t want to be the kind of person who cuts off relationships left and right. (That reminds me too much of my mom.)
However, my counselor pointed something out to me- it actually isn’t surprising (or bad) that as I grow and change the people I choose to have in my life changes as well. And, to take it a step further- If I was then the person I am now, would I have engaged in a relationship with the same people? Probably not.
All of my previous relationships were based on a faulty self-perception. The way a person perceives his or her self can definitely determine who they spend time with.
So now, with a new and better sense of self (and growing), I realize that I don’t need to feel bad for not wanting to be around certain people anymore, or at least not as much. If I don’t feel like being around someone- I should’t force myself to do it. It doesn’t mean I’m a bad person.
And the number one thing I have got to stop doing is thinking that everyone I meet is better than me in some way. I’ve got to stop it. I’m going to do it. I’m on my way.

So, needless to say, with all of this going on internally and externally; with the external world seeping into, influencing and infiltrating my internal world- I’ve been in need of some inspiration. So what do I do? Turn to books, of course!
I wanted more than just ordinary inspiration. With my current existential, identity, emotional, self-searching crisis I felt that I needed spiritual inspiration. I thought about going to church, but for various reasons I didn’t pursue it. I’m not Christian or Jewish or any other religion. I’m not religious at all. I even have a hard time believing in God- I want to, I try to, but I can’t honestly say that I feel anything the way some people seem to. However, I know that none of this prevents me from going to church. Churches love to welcome people who are searching for answers and wanting to have more faith in a higher power. Anyway, in the end I decided not to go that route.
I chose books instead.
The first one I stumbled across was The Snow Queen. Obviously it was the title that intruiged me. It’s also written by Michael Cunningham. He won the Pulitzer Prize in 1999 for his novel The Hours. (I haven’t read it but the movie was really good.) So I figured ‘Hey, Pulitzer Prize winning author. There’s a very good chance this book will be really good.’
The plot of the novel The Snow Queen also has a spiritual element. The main character, Barrett, is walking through Central Park one winter night when he happens to look up towards the sky and sees some sort of mysterious light. The light doesn’t immediately disappear, it hangs around for a bit and seems to be a conscious being that is “looking” back at him, or “regarding” him.
I was hoping that a profound meaning associated with this light would be revealed at some point in the novel. I was hoping (and it was implied) that witnessing and experiencing this light would lead to life-changing inspiration for Barrett. His experience does have an effect on him, but it doesn’t impact his life very much at all which was disappointing. In fact, I was disappointed in the story and the characters overall. I would go into detail about why but that’s not the focus of this particular post so I’m not going to do that.
I was also hoping to discover a more clear reason as to why the novel was titled “The Snow Queen”, but that didn’t happen either.
The novel does have a lot of good quotes though, so maybe I’ll do a post with those at a later time. The writing is amazing. Real critics have described it as poetic. Real critics liked the novel because they got it. Maybe if I read it again I would understand it more and therefore like it more. One last thing-  the novel refers to god as She at least once, which I really appreciated.

After I finished The Snow Queen I turned to Woman of God (James Patterson, Maxine Paetro). Now that title makes complete sense in relation to the story. Woman of God (by James Patterson, Maxine Paetro) is a great novel. For me it was a much better novel than The Snow Queen and lot more spiritually inspiring. However, I was a bit disappointed in it as well, but only because I was hoping for (and maybe even expecting) the plot to go in a very specific direction. It didn’t. *Spoiler alert.* The novel opens (first chapter or two) with rumors that the next pope might be a woman. Now that got my attention. Spirituality for me must include a female presence, not only male. This has been and continues to be for me the most difficult part of modern main stream religion- the lack of female representation. Anyway, I was hoping the novel would focus on that theme but, sadly, it doesn’t. That is a significant part of the novel, especially towards the end, but it wasn’t present for the bulk of the plot. Most of the novel takes place in war-torn South Sudan which I did not like. I learned a lot, but it wasn’t the type of novel I set out to read. Woman of God may not have been the super inspirational novel I was looking for, but I can see how it could be that for others. It’s a combination of Dan Brown and Danielle Steele. With one unimaginable tragedy after another it reminded me of Zoya, and the theme of the role of women in the Catholic Church reminded me of The Divinci Code.

This novel, Woman of God, I recommend as a good read. Very worthwhile.

Well, my search for inspiration continues.
Next up, Victoria. I’m very excited about it. I think I’m going to find a lot of inspiration in this one- maybe not spiritual inspiration, but I fully expect to be inspired. The novel is about (as you may have guessed) Queen Victoria. It’s written by Daisy Goodwin and is apparently very well researched. Daisy Goodwin is also part of the PBS Victoria TV series. So I’m thinking that this novel is the real deal as far as historical fiction goes.
Based on what I’ve read on the book jacket, Victoria and I have a lot in common- both of us trying to figure out who we are, having to determine who we can trust and who we can’t, struggling to believe in our worth and abilities despite being told otherwise. Maybe through reading Victoria’s story I can learn about and absorb her strength. Maybe I can stop having so much self doubt and stop thinking that everyone knows more than I do, that everyone except me has life and success figured out. Maybe Victoria’s story can inspire more trust in myself- my talents, my abilities, my experience, and my intuition.
I’m always looking for answers in books. And honestly that’s actually worked out pretty well for me.
I’ll let you know how it goes this time.

: )

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Halloween 2016

Autumn
Fall

Happy Halloween!

Today is going to be a good day. The weather is perfect for Halloween- cloudy, slightly breezy and a bit cold. I love it. And for possibly the first time ever in my parent career all celebration is taking place on October 31st. My daughter’s class party is this afternoon and Trick-or-Treat is tonight as well. So much fun!

I am such a nerd.
(Oh well!)

I aslo have other plans to enhance my Halloween/ quintessential autumn experience today. I’m going to take a walk at the local university, enjoy the cooler air, listen to the crunch of the leaves as I stroll through the campus. Ahhh…. So peaceful, so lovely…
So cliche! But I don’t care if I’m unoriginal, I’m happy!

laughy face

After my walk I’m going to the grocery store to get hot dogs and crescent rolls to make Mummy Dogs for dinner. I might also do “witch/zombie fingers”. Those are just mozzarella cheese sticks with diced bell pepper pieces as the finger nails. Use a butter knife to slice little lines in the cheese stick to create more “finger-like detail”.
If I have time I’d also like to sit and watch some more Halloween themed TV and movies on Netflix and Hulu.
Just as I suspected, my Penny Dreadful phase came to an end, but it happened much sooner than I thought. I made it into season 2, just to the episode where it goes into Vanessa’s backstory and her finding out she’s a witch. And I think that may have been my favorite episode. Maybe that’s why I stopped there.
I’ve also watched a few episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Witches of East End, three of the Underworld movies, The Addams Family movie, and Jane Eyre. You might be thinking,  Jane Eyre?
Yes. Jane Eyre. I don’t know about the earlier film adaptations but the one from 2010 is a good Halloween choice. The book is even better for Halloween. Don’t believe me? Check it out for yourself.
Today I’d like to watch The Nightmare Before Christmas, Halloweentown, Jane Eyre, and/or Corpse Bride. Last October I constantly had on Nightmare Before Christmas, Corpse Bride or Jane Eyre- even just as background while I went about my chores and stuff. But, sadly, this year Nightmare Before Christmas isn’t on Netflix so I haven’t got to watch it. ; (
However, I did get to at least listen to it via YouTube. That was pretty cool. Maybe I’ll do that again. That way I’ll actually get some things done- laundry, dishes, cooking, vacuum, dusting, etc. Corpse Bride and Jane Eyre are still good options too.

Whether I get to sit (with the cat on my lap, of course) and enjoy a movie this morning, or at lunch, or later tonight with the kids- it’s already a good day. I’m doing this blog post and feeling good about it, I helped my daughter do her hair for her class party- she’s a “zombie cheerleader”- so cute!  I walked her to the bus stop and we were actually on time. And I’m about to take my husband to work because we are currently down to one car. I kind of like that I get to take him to work right now because I feel needed and like I’m actually adding value. Sometimes that’s a feeling that’s hard to come by when you’re a stay-at-home parent.

Even though I’ve spent several paragraphs talking about Halloween, the truth is I’m very ready for Christmas! It’s crazy, I know. Oddly enough I think it’s because of the unseasonably warm weather- it sent me over the edge. I’m so tired of heat and sunshine! All it did was make me want clouds and cold even more.
For several days now I’ve had to fight the urge to turn on Christmas music! But tomorrow- it’s on. Christmas music all day!
I am going to hold off on the Christmas decorations though. Tomorrow I’ll take down the Halloween stuff but leave the fall things for the next few weeks. I’m going to try to make it until  November 21st before putting up the Christmas stuff, but I might end up doing it the week of the 14th. And I’ve already got some Christmas movies lined up on Netflix and Hulu. I’m so excited!
But for today I’m going to focus on staying in the present moment and season.

Happy Halloween
I sincerely hope you’re having as much fun as I am today.

 

Penny Dreadful

I’ve moved on from Touch and have discovered Penny Dreadful. I’ve much to say….

The Showtime series Penny Dreadful was one of the suggestions in my Netflix profile, and since I was wanting something to get me in the “Halloween spirit” I decided to give it a try.
Wow. This show is no joke.
I’m not usually in to horror shows or movies so I don’t know how long I’ll stick with Penny Dreadful, probably just through the month of October.
It’s a very interesting show. The characters are strong, the settings and costumes are excellent. If you like horror/fantasy you will probably like Penny Dreadful. Vampires, demons, witches, a werewolf, apparitions, curses, Dr. Frankenstein and his “creations”, The Egyptian Book of the Dead- all of these are part of Penny Dreadful. So too is Dorian Gray which I found very interesting. Dorian Gray as a character in a horror/fantasy story? Brilliant.
Dracula and Frankenstein’s monster I expected. But not Dorian Gray.
I’m only just barely familiar with the story of Dorian Gray. I know it’s by Oscar Wilde and I know that the character Dorian wants to remain young and beautiful forever so he somehow transfers part of himself to his own portrait. The portrait ages, Dorian does not.
But that’s all I know. I didn’t know that the story  apparently gets much darker and deeper than that.
Obviously I’m going to have to read that now. It was already on my list but now it’s been moved closer to the top of that list.
The Dorian Gray character on Penny Dreadful is, so far, pretty fascinating. He’s got a vampire-ish (Vampiresque?) thing going on. Pale skin, dark hair falling into his eyes, well dressed, often exposing a good portion of his pale chest, rings on several fingers, silver chain-like necklaces, bit of a preoccupation with blood….
You get the picture.

In addition to great characters and visual presentation Penny Dreadful also has great dialogue. For one thing, it’s set in Victorian London so by default the language would already be pretty rich- and it is. It’s also very quick, smart, and clever.
For example, you’ve got Dr. Frankenstein and his “monster” -characters created by Mary Shelley- quoting the poetry of her husbandPercy Bysshe Shelley.
Ah, I see what they did there, very clever.
And Dr. Frankenstein’s creation names himself after another poet, John Clare. (But I didn’t get that one on my own, I stumbled across it on Google while searching other things.)

There’s lots of dark romantic poetry quoted throughout the series, at least so far. I’m only up to season 2, episode 3. (“The Nightcomers”) However, based on the little I’ve read about the show it looks like poetry is a staple throughout the series.
I’m actually learning a lot watching this show. Poetry, history, vocabulary- I keep having to look up words! But I like doing that sort of thing. The dialogue in Penny Dreadful is so delicious that they don’t really need to add poetry to it, but it’s awesome that they do.

If this belief from heaven be sent, if such be nature’s holy plan
Have I not reason to lament
What man has made of man
(Wordsworth)

There was a time when meadow, grove, and stream
The Earth, and every common sight
To me did seem
Apparelled in celestial light
The glory and the freshness of a dream..
(Wordsworth)


More Quotes from Penny Dreadful 

You’re a man with a bloody knife like everyone else out there, so stop putting on airs.

Do you know anything about electrical currents? Your country is making such strides as we labor in the dark ages of coal and peat.
Have you any experience with the principles and applications of galvanism?

Sir, I have urgent need of a necropsy. Will you assist us?…

Lividity, null.
Rigor mortis, null.
Notable ocular hyperemia. 
Ocular reaction, null.
Dental malformation, not naturally occurring due to isotropy.

Nature’s rarely so neat, nature abhors symmetry.

Trauma and penetration of the chest cavity through the manubrium seems the likely cause of death,
but I expect you know that.

Well, it would appear you have an Egyptian man of no particular age, who, at some point in his indeterminate lifespan, decided to sharpen his teeth, cover himself in hieroglyphics and grow an exoskeleton. 
Or you have something else altogether.

Trust me, those Egyptians were a bit madcap when it came to specifics.

Isn’t that a delicious word?
Papyri?
Sounds like something eaten by little Persian boys, doesn’t it?

Life and death… The flicker that separates one from the other, fast as a bat’s wing, more beautiful than any sonnet. That is my river. That is my mountain. There I will plant my flag. 

You seem to be a freethinker who might imagine a world less constrained by what we think we know of as truth.

Man does not live only in the empirical world.

But if one is to engage with the primordial forces of darkness, one must expect a bit of… social awkwardness.

I am not a creation of the antique pastoral world. I am modernity personified. 

Is the language not rich with felicity of expression?

And most of those are from episode 1 alone!

Also, just a few of the interesting words I’ve learned…

cutaneous eccrine pores
tensile exoskeleton
Solipsistic self-aggrandizement
piquantry (or maybe piquancy)
Atropa belladonna (Deadly nightshade)
erythrocytes
thrombocytes
dilettantes
predation

 ephemeral: transitory, lasting a very short time

Demimonde: In Penny Dreadful it refers to the “other” world, a place between life and death, or as the character Vanessa Ives puts it, “A half-world between what we know and what we fear”. The literal French translation is indeed half-world.
The definitions I found via Google:
a group of people considered to be on the fringes of respectable society.
(19th-century France) the class of women considered to be of doubtful morality and social standing.

I’ve also learned about the name/term itself.
Again from Google, penny dreadful: a cheap, sensational comic or storybook.
I think they were more like comic books than storybooks, and very inexpensive, hence the word ‘penny.’ (Obviously.)

So, like I said, I’m just barely in to season 2. Finally there are some witches involved. Although, these are very strange, very creepy kind of witches. Evil. And I don’t like that Penny Dreadful is so heavy with the devil theme so, like I said, I’m not sure how long I’m going to stick with this. I prefer my witches more along the lines of Hermione, Sabrina, and Samantha. ; )
I didn’t expect Penny Dreadful to be this intense. I thought it was going to be something fun like The League of Extraordinary Gentleman, but it’s more gory and shocking than it is fun. Fascinating and smart, yes, but also very, very gory. Sometimes even disturbing.
Once November comes I’ll be in Christmas mode and will not want to watch something like this. But it’s cool for now and even strangely inspiring- I really feel the urge to paint. Huh. Go figure.
Anyway, Penny Dreadful adds a little bit of edginess to my quiet normal suburban little life. I like my entertainment to be edgy- not my life. I like my life calm and peaceful. And these days I can achieve that most of the time.

 

Striving For Beauty and Completeness

Two things.
One, I went off on my son last night.
And two, I’ve been watching Touch on Netflix the past week or so.
I’ll tell you how these two things fit together.

Touch is a really cool show. I liked the earlier episodes more than what started happening in season 2. The earlier episodes had a more positive message. The episodes in season 2 are increasingly more tense and violent but still good. One of the episodes we watched last night (my son watches it too) had an incredible line of dialogue regarding a deeper meaning behind numbers- specifically the number known as The God Sequence. On the show it’s also called the Amelia Sequence. Amelia is one of the show’s main characters. This is how she explained the number in her own words:

“The numbers define the recurrence relation of interconnecting parallel and distributed systems– systems that strive for beauty and completeness, that permeate all structures, forms and proportions, whether cosmic or individual, organic or inorganic, acoustic or optical. The magnetic resonance of the spins in cobalt niobate crystals proves their existence at the atomic scale. But I believe the proportions are evident in human genome DNA. The systems appear in recognizable biological settings, too, like the branching in trees, phyllotaxis, and the fruit sprouts of pineapples.”

Well me being the word lover that I am I thought this was just absolutely beautiful and stunning. In fact, after my daughter was in bed I spent an hour searching for that episode just so I could hear that quote again. And as it turns out some of those words and the idea they convey really helped me out as the night went on.
My anxiety was elevated again. This time it was due to my concerns regarding my son. I am really, really, really frustrated with him. He has learning disabilities and impulse control issues, but the impulse control manifests itself mainly in the form of lying, so it could be worse, but still….. it’s exhausting. However, that isn’t what was really bothering me and keeping up into the early hours of morning. What was really bothering me was how I had reacted to him earlier in the evening.
Like I said, I went off on him. I told him I quit. I give up. Do what ever the hell you want because you don’t listen to me anyway so what is the point of me continuing to put forth so much effort into doing what’s right for you? I said all that and then some.
And then some more. And then some more.
Oh, he was freaked out all right.
He asked me why I was freaking out.
What?….. What?!…. WHAT?!!?  Why am I freaking out?!!? 
Because, damn it! You don’t do ANYTHING unless I make you do it!!!!!!!
It’s exhausting.

He’s fifteen and he still has almost the same hygiene issues that he did when he was 11!! Why is it taking so. many. YEARS! to teach this boy to take a shower?!?? How is that possible?!!?
Same thing with brushing his teeth. I’ve been teaching this boy to brush his teeth since he was TWO!!!
All of this is stuff my 8-year-old daughter can do on her own- stuff she’s been able to do for at least the past year.
And added to the hygiene issues is the school issue. I have to keep a constant eye on his grades, but slacking on classwork and studying is more typical teenage behavior.
But hygiene?  My husband and I just cannot figure that one out. Our family counselor was a bit baffled by it as well.  But I’m starting to see the answer– he’s lazy. That’s it. He’s just that lazy. It’s pathetic. He doesn’t want to do anything that doesn’t have something to do with video games.
I swear sometimes I just want to punch him in the face!
I don’t of course. Cussing him out is bad enough. I don’t go off on him like that all the time. It’s not something that I want to do. I don’t want to be that kind of parent. But sometimes I lose control. Like I did last night.
I stand by the main points that I tried to get across to him, but I don’t stand by how I said it. I could have and should have been more calm about it. I wish I would have been. Sometimes I am. But not yesterday evening. And as the night when on and I was sitting in the living room alone with my thoughts, reflecting- I regretted losing control like that.

So that’s what was keeping me up past midnight last night. Years ago I would have mentally berated myself for this, but I know better than that now. I’ve also learned that you can’t just make yourself stop thinking certain thoughts- you have to replace them with different thoughts.
So as I was trying to come up with better thoughts for my anxious brain, as I was searching for a reason and asking myself Why do I act that way, small snippets of the Amelia Sequence dialogue calmly materialized in my mind.

interconnected systems….
systems that permeate all structures, forms and proportions…
cosmic or individual, organic or inorganic.
Systems that strive for beauty and completeness….

It was that last one that struck me. Suddenly my reaction to my son made more sense.
I thought to myself  Oh my gosh! That’s IT! That’s why I got so upset with my son. It’s not because I’m a bad mom or a bad person. It’s because I’m a human being striving for beauty and completeness. I may not always achieve that, but it’s what I’m always moving towards.

Because that’s what we all are, aren’t we?
Individual organic systems striving for beauty and completeness.
That’s why I worry about my son.
(And freak out when I feel like I can’t help him.)
That’s why most of us do most of what we do-
We’re striving for beauty and completeness.

I made a mistake in the way I handled things with my son last night and I regretted it. But remembering those words, striving for beauty and completeness, really helped me move on. Hopefully the next time I make a mistake I can use those words again. Maybe they can even help me avoid the mistakes a little more often.

Strive for beauty and completeness.

Beer With Breakfast

An escaped hyper pit bull at my daughter’s bus stop? This calls for Blue Moon.

So. Here I am. 10:45am. Sitting at my kitchen table. Drinking a beer. My second, actually. I had my first…. Hmm…. 20 minutes ago?

Pick your poison. What’ll it be?
Beer is my drink of choice and Blue Moon is my beer of choice. It’s brewed with orange peel so it’s cool for breakfast, right? I love Belgium-style beers. (New Belgium Fat Tire is another good one.)  My body does not react well to wine or liquor.

img_1700

So beer it is. This morning it’s beer because, as I stated above, there was an escaped pit bull at my daughter’s bus stop.

I do not like those dogs. I’m not comfortable with dogs in general, I’m just not used to them. Growing up we had only a few pets- some goldfish, two hamsters, one guinea pig, and the occasional temporary cat. My mom is very allergic to dogs so we never had one, and most of my childhood experiences with dogs were not so good. Dogs are so freakin’ hyper! When I was little even small dogs scared the crap out of me. Big dogs terrified me.
And you have to understand that as a child my parents didn’t have us around the most refined or responsible people. Most of them were not responsible dog owners so their stupid dogs were really stupid and scary- jumping in my face, barking, growling. Pretty much just actin’ a damn fool. It’s no wonder I didn’t like dogs.
Now that I’m older I’m good with small dogs, I’d even like to get one one day. But I’m still very leery of big dogs. I’m also completely distrusting of pit bulls, rottweilers, bull mastiffs, and all the other dogs on the Top Most Dangerous Dogs list, but especially pit bulls.

Pit bull advocates will argue that they’re a “misunderstood breed.”
Bull. Shit.
It’s not about the likelihood of whether or not a pit bull will bite (or out right attack), it’s about the physical harm they are capable of causing.

The dog that was at my daughter’s bus stop this morning is a dog we are somewhat familiar with. It’s a neighbor’s dog. It used to get out a lot but other people complained so they finally took better action to keep the dog in the house or the yard. It’s been a while since this dog has got out, but somehow it did this morning. Several other kids and families were on their way to the bus stop as well, and almost all of them were scared or at least nervous about this dog running around.
It’s a very hyper dog. The owner never takes her for a walk! So when she gets out she bolts straight for people- adults and kids alike. Like I said, she’s a very hyper dog so it’s hard to tell if she’s just trying to play or if she’s being aggressive. I do know for sure that she’s bitten one kid. It was a girl who was visiting at the owner’s house. She was playing with the dog and I guess the dog got confused or too rough…. I don’t know. The fact is the dog bit the girl on the arm.
Luckily, as my dayghter and I were about to walk down to the bus stop I happened to see the dog dash across the street. So my daughter and I got in the car to drive to the bus stop instead. On our way down the street we could see a couple of families (moms and their kids) who were already huddled together because of that stupid hyper-ass dog. Unfortunately,  once we got to the bus stop we saw that the dog was there. Only one kid was ok with that dog- the rest were scared and either standing back frozen with fear or running away, which is the worst thing you can do! But I’m telling you- that dog makes people nervous.
I was parked right at the corner by my daughter’s bus stop. The bus was there waiting for her. But she couldn’t get out. She didn’t want to and I certainly wasn’t going to let her anyway. The dog was on the other corner and the bus was across the street. I was afraid the dog would chase my daughter when she crossed the street to get on the bus.

So she stayed in the car, the bus left, and I ended up having to drive my daughter to school- which isn’t really a big deal, far worse things can happen. However, we did bust our butts to make sure she was ready to go in time for the bus. We even made sure we had time to actually walk to the bus stop. This is an accomplishment for us! And then here that damn dog comes ruining everything.

I tried not to let it ruin my morning, but it kind of did.
It really raised my anxiety, and I just couldn’t seem to let it go.

I was really looking forward to today. I’m going to the craft store to get some fall and Halloween decorations. (I love this season!) And I have a special dinner planned for tonight- crockpot mac and cheese, turkey tenderloin, and baked zucchini. My husband is out of town for work this week so I invited a friend over for dinner. She is an excellent cook and one of the most amazing, generous people I have ever know so I want to make sure I really do it up for her.
But, like I said, my anxiety was up and running and I was starting to feel like I wasn’t going to be able to follow through on all of my lovely plans for the day. So I thought to myself, How can I fix this? What can I do? 
Normally I would take my medicine- Xanax. But I’m out. My appointment is next week so I’m sure I can wait until then for a refill. But since I didn’t have that available I thought, Well, sitting down with a beer would be nice right about now.
I’ll just sit, sip my beer, calm down, and then I’ll be good to go. 

I needed to go the grocery store anyway- macaroni, toothpaste, children’s ibuprofen (my daughter has cough and sore throat). So I just added a six pack to my list. In addition to the beer I also got myself some smoked salmon sushi, an avacado, and ice cream. Whatever I needed to help reset this day.

I’m so surprised, and you might be too, that it took so very little to send my anxiety soaring to such a high level. However, anxiety is a complex, multi-layered thing. There usually isn’t just one cause behind it. A pit bull at my daughter’s bus stop will always be a cause for concern, but there’s more to my anxiety this morning. I’ve been having strange, angst ridden, emotional dreams ever since shit went down between me and my mom back in February. Last night I had a dream in which I was very angry at my husband because he purposely left our kids at a fast food/gas station!  So, obviously, in the dream I was very worried about my kids. I’ve also been having a little trouble with my fifteen-year-old son. I’m sure the dream, as well as my concerns regarding my son, had something to do with my anxiety this morning.
I wish this didn’t happen.
There is a voice in my head that’s been saying, Ok, I’ve GOT to get rid of this anxiety thing.
But lately there’s been a different answer.
Maybe you’ll never be rid of it. Maybe it will always be there, for your entire life. There is no getting rid it. You just have to live with it. Minimize it, manage it, but there is no getting rid of it- no cure. 

Well, I’ll manage. I’m feeling better already. I’m going to turn on some music, finish my sushi, make eggs and toast, some coffee, and then I’ll be good to go. I’ve got plenty to keep me busy- shopping, cooking, decorating, dishes, laundry. I like having a lot to keep me busy, but I also like that most of it doesn’t have to be done today. Most of it can wait until tomorrow and I like that. My husband will tell you- I am the Queen of tomorrow.

Eh. I’ll just do it tomorrow.

Like Scarlet-freakin-O’Hara, I am the queen of tomorrow.

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A New Approach: Books on the side

It’s been four weeks since my last post. To be honest I thought it had been longer. It feels like it’s been longer, but that’s probably because of the time of year that it is (was)-
back to school time.
Back-to-school is always a pretty busy time of year so I probably shouldn’t be too hard on myself for slacking off on my blog, but I am a little disappointed in myself. I’ve started and then abandoned a blog more times than I can now count, I’ve lost track. I’m not proud of this, I’m actually a little embarrassed by it. I don’t like to be the type of person who says they’ll do something but then doesn’t follow through.

So here I am again, four weeks later, picking it back up. And I actually had to sort of make myself do this today. Pitiful.
There are several reasons why I decided to come back to this blog today, several reasons why I decided to keep plugging away.

  1. A lot of people know that I am attempting to be a “blogger”, some people even consider me a writer. I want to live up to this if at all possible, or at least give it more than a half-ass try.
  2. My husband got me this nice, expensive laptop for Christmas last year and the whole point of me asking for it was so that I would be able to blog. I need to do what I said I was going to do. It’s important to me that I be true to my word.
  3. I realize there needs to be more to me and my life than husband and kids.

One day my kids will be grown. They’ll be gone. Even if they still live close to home, even if they still live at home, the kids I know and adore today will be gone. Because they won’t be kids anymore and it will be oh-so-different. I know this because my son is fifteen. Obviously I can’t hold him and kiss him the way I used to. It’s a different relationship now. Luckily, my daughter is only eight so I can still hug her and hold her and smother her face with kisses. XOXO  And it’s a good thing too, otherwise I would be very lonely right now.

But one day that will change too. My daughter will grow up and I won’t be able to hold her anymore. And then I’ll have to get a puppy.

My point is, I know there has to be more to me and my life than my family. I don’t want to wait until the kids are grown and gone to start something for me. I want to already have it in place. Besides, I think it will make my kids respect me more and help them see me as more of an actual person. Having interesting, successful parents- parents they can be proud of- is important for kids. It’s good for the development of their own identities, and it’s good for the adult relationship between parent and child.
This is why I think it’s important that I keep blogging and writing.

I’ve almost always wanted to be a writer. I can remember thinking in fifth grade that what I wanted to be when I grew up was a writer. And from then on that’s what I always talked about doing. But I’ve always been too scared to actually do it. Besides, even if I did write an entire novel, how in the world do you get published?! Where do I send it? Who do I send it to?
I’ve tried looking into this a little bit but it’s so overwhelming, and now with ebooks and the internet making it so easy to self publish- it seems even more overwhelming to me.

However, I don’t want to give up on writing entirely. So I came up with a plan to help me keep going. First, I have given myself permission to choose something else to do in addition to writing. I don’t know why I didn’t think of this before, I don’t know why I thought I had to choose one or the other. For about the last 6 months I have thought about taking some art classes. I’d also like to (maybe) do some “crafting”- but to me that still falls into the art category. I told my husband the other night,
“Hun, I don’t think I want to be a writer. I think I want to be an artist.”
He said ok.
I then said, “Would you be disappointed in me if I decided not to be a writer?”
He said no.
What I didn’t say in that moment was that I think I would be happier doing art vs. only writing. Writing can be exhausting!  Not to mention frustrating and depressing, at least for me. Most of the time I put a lot of time and effort into something but end up with very little in return- almost no one reads it, and I myself am rarely ever completely satisfied with my end product. I can’t stop editing!!! Writing is a very solitary thing, perhaps even isolating. It can be very lonely, which can be depressing. And I’m not saying anything that many, many other writers (if not all writers) have said before.

With me being already so prone to depression I figure I should have something else in addition to writing. Something that is easy to share with others, something that will naturally lead to me being around other people rather than alone with my laptop. I think art can fit that bill. Art classes are plentiful, accessible, and affordable.
And I used to be pretty good at it back in school. My creations were always being chosen to be shown in various shows…. But I never got to see them. My parents never took me to the events where my art was being displayed. That makes me so sad. That’s another reason I want to try it- I want a second chance to experience that. I think it would be good for me; good for my psyche, good for my soul.
As I mentioned above, when I write I am rarely completely satisfied with the end result, but when I do something more creative- something that involves color and the use of my hands-  I’m more likely to feel satisfied, even happy. And, like I said, it’s easier to share with others. For example, card making. Occasionally I will make cards- birthday cards, thank you cards, Christmas cards, etc. It’s fun and it’s very purpose is to be shared with someone else. I want to do more of that kind of thing.

But I don’t want to give up writing entirely. The most realistic way for me to continue writing is actually this blog, especially if I do it in more of a journal style. That’s the kind of writing I’m best at anyway- less structure, just let the random thoughts flow. If I allow myself to do that I’m more likely to sit down and do it. I wanted this to be a book blog, that’s the type of blog I’ve wanted to do from the beginning, but I discovered something. I love to read, but lately when I’ve been reading with the specific intention of writing a review/blog post it takes away the enjoyment that I usually get from reading.

So I realized that I needed to take a step back and rethink this blog. Should I give it up altogether? Should I completely change the type of blog that it is? I didn’t want to do either so I found a middle path. I’ll continue with the blog but switch to a more intimate, diary-like type of approach. I’ll focus more on the details of my life and inner world. Considering everything I’ve been through (and what I continue to deal with), all the therapy I’ve done, the tremendous growth I’ve experienced– I have a lot to offer. Maybe that should be the main course and books can be on the side. I’ll still want to share my thoughts on books sometimes, but not always. I have to allow myself that flexibility.

Review: Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister

I was going to read Confessions in September or October, but I couldn’t resist. I decided to take a peak at the beginning of the book, maybe read the first few lines or paragraphs, maybe the first chapter, but once I started I didn’t want to put it down so I just kept going. It took me a week or two to get through it, it’s kind of long, but it’s really good!

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I’d give Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister 4 out of 5 stars. It’s not going on my Favorite Books list, that would be a 5, but it is very good and I definitely recommend it. There were two reasons I decided to read this book. First, I wanted another challenging read. I just got done reading After Alice a few weeks ago and it was very challenging. I expected Confessions to be the same. The second reason I decided to read it was because of what the Detroit Free Press said about it: “An arresting hybrid of mystery, fairy tale, and historical novel . . . . Confessions . . . isn’t easy to classify or forget.”
Hybrid of mystery, fairy tale, and historical novel? I definitely agree.

The novel has a few mysteries, I won’t say whether they are solved or not, and it has a surprise ending. Really, I did not see that coming! The characters are very well done, particularly the evolution of “Cinderella” and her “evil step-mother” -who they started as and who they eventually became. You gradually get to know each individual a little more with each passing chapter. This makes it a very authentic experience and makes the characters seem so real that when the book ends you know you’re going to miss them. (I really loved the main character, Iris. She was so relatable. I do miss her.)

Maguire’s version of the Cinderella story suggests that we’ve got it all wrong. Cinderella wasn’t forced into being a servant in her own house, she chose it. She did not hate her step-sisters and they did not hate her. These sisters loved each other. And as for the “evil” step-mother . . . . well, that’s more complicated. In the end I felt that the step-mother was, at the very least, extremely selfish, but other readers might come to a different conclusion about her.

The other Gregory Maguire novels that I’ve read, Wicked and After Alice, were a bit difficult to read and follow, but I did not have that problem with Confessions. I’m not sure if this was because I’ve gotten used to Maguire’s writing style or if Confessions really is just easier to read than the others. To me Confessions seemed to be written in a more straight-forward way, no intellectual sidebars, and no obscure words or phrases.

Another reason this may have been easier for me to read was because I’ve read Girl With a Pearl Earring which is like a pre-requisite for Confessions. Both novels are set in the Netherlands during the Dutch painting renaissance, the Dutch Golden Age of painting. Both novels give detailed descriptions of life in the Netherlands at that time- the people (rich and poor), the markets, the canals. (The canals becoming clogged with giant chunks of ice or freezing over altogether was really fascinating!) Each novel also gives a detailed description of the art and science of the painting process which I found very interesting. If you read either of these novels you will learn A LOT about painting- color, light, the moods of the artist, and how they made their colors.

I learned a lot from these novels! In Confessions the reader also learns a lot about the history of one of the things the Netherlands is renowned for: tulips. What, besides paintings, canals, wooden shoes and dikes, is more Dutch than tulips?! But did you know that Tulips are not native to the Netherlands?
This is why I read people, this is why I read. I learn something new every time.

So, obviously, in addition to Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister I also highly recommend Girl With a Pearl Earring. But if you happen to be working on an autumn-themed reading list I recommend Confessions. With its secrets and mystery, imps and changelings, it can be a little dark, and wouldn’t make a  half-bad Halloween read.

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Thoughts: Harry Potter and The Cursed Child

If you’re a Harry Potter fan then, by all means, read Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. I really enjoyed it, couldn’t put it down!  However, you have to remember that you are reading the script of a play. This is not a Harry Potter book, and if that’s what you are expecting you might be disappointed. We Harry Potter fans are accustomed to the specific type of storytelling and writing that we experienced throughout the Harry Potter series.
J. K. Rowling was always very detailed in the way she wrote about the wizarding world, the main characters, and even the minor characters. Don’t expect that level of detail with Harry Potter and the Cursed Child because, I repeat, it is not a Harry Potter book, it’s the script of a play.

*** Spoilers***

HP and the Cursed child focuses on Albus, Harry’s younger son, and Scorpius, Draco’s only son (and only child). Albus and Scorpius are able to be friends because Albus is, in some ways, a lot like Harry, but Scorpius is almost nothing like Draco. Harry’s son and Draco’s son becoming best friends? I did not see that coming. But it does make sense.
Both boys have the heavy past of their famous fathers weighing on them, they know that everyone is watching them, they feel the pressure of expectations, and they each feel like they have disappointed their father. In other words, Albus and Scorpius have a lot in common, they understand each other. For various reasons they become outcasts at Hogwarts so all they have is one another. They need each other. Friendship was one of the main themes in all of the HP books so it was nice to see that emphasized again in this new story.

Another main theme of this new story is that changing even the smallest detail of the past can have disastrous consequences. Albus sets out on a mission to change a major event in Harry’s past- the death of Cedric Diggory. Albus overhears a conversation about the existence of a time turner that can take witches and wizards not only hours back in time, like Hermione did, but years back in time. Albus drags the reluctant Scorpius along for the ride.

A powerful time turner? Overhearing conversations? Friends and adventure?
Oh, so this is a Harry Potter story! Yes. While this may not be Harry Potter storytelling as we know it, HP and the Cursed Child does have some quintessential HP elements. That was really cool to get to experience again. There are surprises and magic; wands and spells, magical artifacts, and- in this story- a bewitched man-eating library! (Hermione, obviously.) As I read the script I kept wondering How in the world can they pull this off in a play on stage? We’re talking some serious theatre technology.

So, as I was saying, Albus sets out to go back in time and prevent Cedric’s death, but each time Albus and Scorpius make even the smallest change to the past they end up in a drastically changed future, a future that is far worse than the life they were already living. This was, for me, the most brilliant part of the play/story. Several key, and perhaps favorite, Harry potter moments from the original books are revisited. Then, in addition to that treat, we are treated to glimpses of alternate future realities.
What would the wizarding world have become if Harry had not survived and defeated Voldemort? What if Cedric Diggory had lived, but had been humiliatingly defeated in the Triwizard tournament? What if Ron hadn’t got jealous when Hermione went to the Yule Ball with Viktor Krum? These are just a few examples of how events, big and small, can largely impact individuals and the future.

Another treat in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is that we get some more time with our old friends- Harry, Hermione, Ron, Ginny, Professor Dumbledore, Professor McGonagall, Moaning Myrtle, even Draco. The invisibility cloak makes an appearance too, as well as Pepper Imps and Chocolate Frogs- Albus’s favorite. The reader gets to know Albus and Scorpius really well, but not the other Weasley or Potter children, which was disappointing. Rose, Ron and Hermione’s daughter, plays a small part. We get the gist of her personality- ambitious and somewhat intense, just like her mother. (Which I really liked.) Ron and Hermione’s son Hugo is hardly even mentioned. Harry and Ginny’s son, James, and daughter, Lily, make brief appearances, but that’s it.
This is where the play differs from the books the most. If this were a HP book, Rose, Hugo, James, and Lily would have played much more significant roles; they would have been fleshed out, well developed, and, I’m sure, lovable characters. We also would have seen Neville and Luna, and more of Hagrid.

As I mentioned above, Albus and Scorpius experience several different alternate realities or possible futures. And that’s what I felt like the play was- one possible continuation of the Harry Potter story, but it doesn’t feel real and solid the way the original series did. This is obviously because it wasn’t a Harry Potter book- you can’t do in a play what you can do in a novel. It just isn’t the same, and it isn’t meant to be. But If J.K. Rowling were to take the story in this play and turn it into a full-blown Harry Potter book then maybe it would feel like the true continuation of the Harry Potter (or wizarding world) story.

With that said, I should clarify again that I did really like the story- plenty of adventure, suspense, mystery, and magic. The best part for me was getting to be around magic again, and catching up with Harry and Hermione. I also liked that Professor McGonagall had such a big part in the play, she was always one of my favorites. I wouldn’t change much about the story itself, I just want it in book form so more detail can be included! However, there are two things I might change. First, Ron.
Ron’s character in the play is more like the Ron of the first few novels- blundering and awkward and not exactly the equal of those around him. He didn’t have much of a role in the play. He makes several appearances but he seems to be there more for comic relief. I was disappointed in this the most. (It was worse than Harry’s son being sorted into Slytherin house!) By the end of the final Harry Potter book Ron had experienced a lot of growth. He was more skilled and showed a lot more courage and bravery than what he did in the first books, but in the play all of this is taken away and he seems to be right back where he started. I didn’t like that. I don’t think he needs to regress quite that much, he deserves better.
The other thing I would change is Albus being sorted into Slytherin house. I just don’t think it fits. I realize that a good story needs to have conflict, but I think that was satisfied with Harry’s and Draco’s sons becoming best friends and being Hogwarts outcasts. The only way I wouldn’t change Albus Potter being sorted into Slytherin is if a really good philosophic or prophetic reason could be given to explain how or why he’s in Slytherin house. Any house but Slytherin! And with there being such a focus on Cedric Diggory I think it would fit the story really well if Albus and Scorpius were to be sorted into his house- Hufflepuff.
Hufflepuff House of Hogwarts: The Adventures of Albus and Scorpius. You see! Now that’s the beginning of a great story!

 

Why Harry Potter means so much to me

Inspiration.
Where would I be now had I not believed that my life could be better? 

I didn’t read the first Harry Potter until a year or two after it was first published. I kept hearing about this amazing children’s book and I eventually decided I should read it just to see what all the fuss was about. As it turned out, I was pregnant with my first child when I finally made the time to read Harry Potter. Those wonderful books provided me with a much needed way to escape. I was young, unmarried, and broke. And very, very scared. That was almost 16 years ago. In fact, tomorrow, August 1st, will mark the anniversary of the day I found out I was pregnant. I have never been so scared in my life. I was terrified, petrified. I felt humiliated and so, so alone. I wanted to crawl into a dark hole and never have to come out.

Well, obviously I had to carry on. It was a physical, emotional and financial struggle for many years.  J. K. Rowling and Harry Potter helped me get through it. Naturally, Rowling’s personal story was very inspiring to me. I remember how shocked I was when I found out that she had started writing Harry Potter when she was a broke single mother. I mean, I just couldn’t believe that I had something like that in common with an author whose books I was starting to adore- whose books the world was adoring.
It helped me feel less humiliated.

And all through those days of struggle when my son was very young and I was feeling lower than ever, I never let myself forget that J. K. Rowling -the author of Harry Potter, for god’s sake!- had once been where I was. It gave me hope. Her personal story helped me believe in possibilities at a time in my life when the word IMPOSSIBLE was stomping and marching through my mind every minute of everyday. Lack of money, lack of love and affection, a job I hated, no college education, no confidence left in myself- these were my dementors!   And J. K. Rowling’s unexpected super-success was my patronus. Her success gave me hope and helped me believe that “astonishing” things can happen.
So I carried on.

Then, of course, there was Harry Potter! Those books are so much fun to read! I had never read anything like it- who had?! The adventure and imagination in those books is incredible. Reading Harry Potter is like literally jumping into another world, it’s the ultimate escape- an escape I truly needed at the time. ‘Books can take us places when we have nowhere else to go’- I read something like that recently. And that’s what it was like when I read Harry Potter. For just a few moments, I left behind my poverty and other single-mother woes and stresses, and went instead to beautiful, mysterious, ancient Hogwarts castle where I got to learn about magic. I got to go to another place, a place that came to feel like home, and it lifted my spirits immensely.
Escaping to a better place is what made me fall in love with reading in the first place. Being scared and pregnant, and then a depressed, stressed-out single mother: these were not the first times in my life that I wished I had a better place to go to. When I was little I used books to escape my life. I used books to escape my homes that were not homes. My childhood was not good- that was one of the main reasons I was so freaked out about having a baby! I couldn’t let happen to him what happened to me and my brothers. Books got me through a lot growing up. Sometimes they were the only thing that comforted me or made me smile.

That’s another reason Harry Potter means so much to me. I immediately related to him and his oppressive, intimidating home situation, especially eleven-year-old me. Eleven was a very rough year for me. Every year until I was sixteen was a rough year (to say the least), but eleven was particularly difficult. So even though I was twenty-one when I read the first Harry Potter, it tapped into that scared eleven-year-old girl that was still stuck inside me. When Harry finds out, on his eleventh birthday, that he’s actually a wizard and that his parents were a witch and wizard too- something happened to me. That eleven-year-old girl inside me got up. I will never forget that moment. I go back to the first book and read that part again and again.
As the story unfolded and became more magical
and more exciting with each passing moment, I felt my eleven-year-old self start to brighten and smile. And when Harry finds out that he’s also famous and his parents are heroes and they left him piles of gold- my mind was blown. The scared, timid, poor, nearly friendless little eleven-year-old inside me was thrilled to be reading this story, pretending and imagining that it was her who all of these wonderful things were happening to. And then to see so much of myself in the character Hermione (my favorite)…. that was the icing on the cauldron cake.
And I haven’t been the same since.

My life today is different in every way possible from what it was 16 years ago when I found out I was pregnant and scared out of my mind. That’s why the Harry Potter books and story mean so much to me. There were so many details that made it such a personal experience for me every step of the way. I related to the author and the characters.
J. K. Rowling and Harry Potter inspired me to believe in possibility, to believe that astonishing things can happen even in the least likely of places, to the least likely of people. Even when it seems that the odds are too far against you.
It is because I believed that my life could be better that it actually became better.
The Harry Potter books had a lot to do with that. They changed the way I looked at the world, they changed the way I saw myself.

Review: An Old-Fashioned Girl, final thoughts

So much wisdom encapsulated in an entertaining little story!

I haven’t had time for blogging this past week. It’s very difficult to blog when you have kids at home all day. However, several weeks ago I did a 2nd, more in depth review of An Old-Fashioned Girl. It’s practically an essay! Only god knows why I do this, why I write so much… Why in the world would I write an essay that no one is going to read?! Why?!
But it’s a good thing I did, I guess, because I don’t have anything else to post nor time to come up with anything else.
So, here you go- my 2nd review of An Old-Fashioned Girl, written several weeks ago.

As I was saying…

So much wisdom encapsulated in an entertaining little story!

I did a review of An Old-Fashioned Girl on June 30th, but in that one I focused more on a character comparison and analysis of Polly and Fanny, especially Polly.
In this review I will still have a few more things to say about Polly, but I will focus more on the novel itself and its themes.

I thought this story was going to be nothing more than Poor Girl and Rich Girl find that they can learn from each other. But it’s so much more than that. I was really surprised by how long this story was! It isn’t the longest book, in terms of pages, that I’ve ever read, but I think it seemed longer because it moves kind of slowly. It isn’t boring though, at least not to a reader like me who really enjoys 19th century novels.
The characters are entertaining and very distinct from one another, and a lot happens in the novel, but most of the events are minor and unfold slowly. There was, however, one plot twist at the end that I did not see coming. (Excellent!)
Another thing to note about this novel is that it is told in two parts. Part two begins 6 years after the end of part one, but in a way they seem like two totally separate books.

If you’ve read Little Women it’s hard not to make comparisons between it and An Old-Fashioned Girl. The length, scope, and pace of each story is very similar. The setting and characters and their interactions are also similar. Both books deal with regular day-to-day life events, as well as common milestones. Both stories are very tame, mild, and wholesome, and have several very clear opinions, themes, and moral lessons which are presented throughout the story . . .

The rich unfairly judge and snub the poor, love is more powerful than poverty, poverty can be a great teacher, self-improvement leads to a good life, hard work and purpose are essential for a good life, what you do is more important than what you wear, little girls shouldn’t grow up too quickly, one should strive to be as selfless as possible, doing for others is one of the keys to happiness, women should help lift each other up, the bond between women is very important and empowering . . . etc., etc., (I’ve also noticed that death and grief seem to be recurring themes in LMA’s stories.)
The brilliant part, and why LMA’s work is widely considered to be so enduring, is that these things are still very relevant today- as anyone who reviews either book will point out.

After reading An Old-Fashioned Girl I think that the theme and belief most important to Louisa was “work and purpose.” Time and time again this is directly stated throughout the novel, either by the narrator or the novel’s extra-perfect “little Polly.” I know this won’t go over well with some readers, but sometimes Polly was so perfect that it was down right annoying. She was like Mary freakin’ Poppins! “Practically Perfect In Every Way.”

However, Polly was likable, and even occasionally relatable- she has hopes and dreams, she cries and doubts. As I stated in my first review, Polly was an interesting character, but  not an entirely realistic one. She represents the ideals that LMA holds so dear, she is the story’s protagonist and catalyst.
Much more realistic are the members of the Shaw family, especially Mr. Shaw, Tom, and Fanny, who are so very flawed that they all eventually find themselves very unhappy, but they each achieve great personal growth and happiness by novel’s end. Personal growth and self-improvement are also major themes in Little Women.  Based on what I’ve read by LMA fans these themes are in almost all of her work.

Now, back to “work and purpose.” In the story, Polly, who is poor, is often much happier than her best friend, Fanny.  Despite the money, conveniences, and luxuries she has, Fanny is often dissatisfied with her life. Polly encourages her to try and find something to do. She tries to persuade Fanny that if she had a purpose she would be happier. As the story moves on, Fanny comes to believe this more and more, and to her relief and satisfaction it eventually happens.

” . . . feeling that at last necessity had given her what she had long needed, something to do.”

“I shall groan and moan by and by, I dare say, but . . . I’m half glad it’s happened, for it takes me out of myself, and gives me something to do.”

Through An Old-Fashioned girl, Louisa May Alcott adamantly declares that people without something substantial and meaningful to do will not be happy. Idleness leads to “listlessness,” meanness, and possibly a depressed-like state. Work and purpose make for a good life, they keep a person happy and healthy.

“. . . Polly came to know a little sisterhood of busy, happy, independent, girls, who each had a purpose to execute, a talent to develop, an ambition to achieve, and brought to the work patience and perseverance, hope and courage. . . . All these helped Polly . . . for purpose and principle are the best teachers we can have, and the want of them makes half the women in America what they are, restless, aimless, frivolous, and sick.”

I agree wholeheartedly! I know from personal experience how true this is.
But you need love too, especially in childhood. True, LMA included the theme of love in this story- Polly’s family is very loving- but LMA did not directly state or emphasize the importance of love and affection to the degree that she did work and purpose.

I say that if love and affection are in place then, yes, bring on the work and purpose! These are absolutely necessary for human beings to be happy and healthy. This is true age-old wisdom going back thousands of years.

I have to say it again, so much wisdom encapsulated in an entertaining little story!

The following are some of my favorite quotes from An Old-Fashioned Girl:

” . . . she received, from an unexpected source, some of the real help which teaches young people how to bear these small crosses, by showing them the heavier ones they have escaped . . .”

 

” . . . that indescribable something which women are quick to see and feel in men who have been blessed with wise and good mothers.”

 

” . . . hearts are so “contrary” that they won’t be obedient to reason, will, or even gratitude.”

 

” . . . soon she had other sorrows beside her own to comfort, and such work does a body more good than floods of regretful tears, or hours of sentimental lamentations.”

 

“I can’t sell myself for an establishment.”

 

” . . . so she put her love away in a corner of her heart, and tried to forget it, hoping it would either die, or have a right to live.”

 

“Blessings, like curses, come home to roost.”

 

” He exaggerated his faults and follies into sins of the deepest dye.”

“He was either pathetically humble or tragically cross.”

 

“Why are bad boys like cake?”
“Because a good beating makes them better.”

 

“Everybody fell to eating cake, as if indigestion was one of the lost arts.”

 

“The gentlest girls when roused are more impressive than any shrew; for even turtle doves gallantly peck to defend their nests.”

 

“Occasionally a matrimonial epidemic appears…”

 

” . . . love and labor, two beautiful old fashions that began long ago, with the first pair in Eden.”

 

“I’ve had so many plans in my head lately, that sometimes it seems as if it would split . . .”

. . . which is exactly how I’ve been feeling about this blog.