Monday, February 28, 2011

It's Monday, What Are You Reading? #27

Share what you (are, have been, are about to, hope to be) reading or reviewing this week. Sign Mr Linky at Book Journey and visit other Monday reading roundups.

Finally. For the first time this year I can report having finished a book. And not just one but two!

This Year You Write Your Novel by Walter Mosley

It's only just over 100 pages but those pages are packed with sage advice from an experienced novelist

City of Tranquil Light by Bo Caldwell

I started this the first time just before Thanksgiving, shortly after receiving my review copy, and had to restart it twice--once just before Christmas and again just after New Years. As I've said before, it is not the story's fault.

Holiday doings can explain December but why it took me nearly two months to read one novel under 300 pages once the Holiday hullabaloo was past and after I'd established a moratorium on starting another novel before I finished this one has been a puzzle to me though I tried to blame it on the work on the baby afghan, on the flu, and on my eyes.

Sure, every one of those issues played a role but even all of them put together couldn't really explain it to my satisfaction. Then today as I read the last thirty pages with tears streaming into my collar, I realized that the heart of the problem had been my heart.

The subject of the story is the nearly 30 year missionary work in China of one Mennonite couple. It is a love story. But the love between the two young adults at the beginning of their mission--how they met, fell in love and married--is just a tiny sidebar to the deeper love stories of that love each had for their God and the love they had for the Chinese people they served for three decades germinated in that love their God held them in and blooming in their service to the people they loved--at first abstractly but eventually as heart-deep as arterial blood.

My resistance to this story stemmed from scar tissue on my own broken heart. Broken and grown bitter and cynical after the church family I was raised in shattered by doctrinal dueling, scandal and gossip and social clique power plays.

This is the kind of story I would have ate up 40, 30 even 20 years ago. It is the story I would have wanted to live 40 years ago. And now this story has gone a long way toward softening my heart toward the very concept of 'church family' again. Because the lives of these missionaries--modeled on the author's own grandparents--have demonstrated the gospel of love sans political, social or doctrinal agendas.

The key is a heart of service. And you don't have to go to China to find or offer that.

I hope I can get a review up soon that does the novel justice and without further resistance now that I understand it.

Take One Candle Light a Room by Susan Straight is the next novel I'm picking up as it is coming due on the 15th and is out of renewals. This is what I had to say about it on a recent Library Loot post:

This is a new author for me. It was also one of those surprise finds while browsing the shelves. I don't get to go to the library as regularly as I used to so most of my library loot of late are items I've ordered via their online catalog and are then picked up by my husband.

I was drawn to this by the cover art but the clincher was the author's way with words. As in this early paragraph on the first page:

Their faces are stark and somber, varying shades of amber and gray in the cold winter light. Claudine, with hooded eyes, a plumpness around her jaw from the baby, her arms crossed over breasts swollen like bags of rice under her shirt. Felonise, hair in a pompadour over her thin face, her coat collar too big around her flowerstem neck. Mary, black eyes fierce and slanted, the dark scar still visible on her face where his ring gouged out a kernel of skin on her left cheekbone. Zizi, whose light gray eyes are clear as water, her thick black braid askew on her head. And my mother, Marie-Claire, her face pale and round as a tortilla, her dark brows like tadpoles swimming toward each other, the only one who tried to smile for the camera.
The narrator/protagonist is describing five sixteen year old girls in a decades old faded photo. With language wielded like that I could even forgive a weak story but the evidence that the story will be anything but weak is in this paragraph as well. For we learn that one of these young women has just given birth, another has been assaulted by a man and only one of the five even attempts a smile.

I was drawn in and read the whole first chapter in spite of having a novel going already and several commitments that prevented me from re-engaging in the story once I got it home. And in the following week I had a couple dozen library books and DVD coming due that took precedence. It's turn is coming soon I hope.


I am still plugging away at David Allen's Getting Things Done which is not just a read but a project.

And there are thirty some books currently checked out on my library card of which at least a dozen are NF which I'll probably browse among.


Sunday, February 27, 2011

Sunday Serenity #218



Saturday, February 26, 2011

T(w)o Best Friends

Sign at Lilac Hedge Bookshop, Norwich VT

I'm communing with my friends this evening.


Friday, February 25, 2011

Friday Forays in Fiction: Quote

Charles Elbert Rhodes in the intro to William Makepeace Thakeray's Barry Lyndon:

That reading is an essential form of living, few will question. that reading is more than a receptive process,that it is even a creative process, is not yet fully accepted. Literature is as large as life; larger, in fact, than the life most achieve. Just how much literature means to us and does for us, depeds upon our attitude toward it: whether we hold that it is a means of getting away from ourselves, or a means of finding ourselves; a means of escape or a means of self-realization. The gowing minority who incline to the belief in self-realization, are not yet unanimous as to the best way to find themselves and to create larger and better selves. Before they can accomplish this they must realize that "great fiction is a laboratory course in human nature," and that it is not a substitue for life but an introduction to life.


Thursday, February 24, 2011

Bamboo Baby Afghan at 8 Weeks

Beginning the fringe work on the baby afghan was one of the items on my to do list for this week's Tuesday To Do Lists post. In order to make this project I'm resisting less amorphous, I broke it down on that list into several actionable tasks:

  • X gather all end pieces from finished balls of thread (gathered from 5 scattered locations)
  • X decide on length of fringe and number of threads by experimenting (approximately 1 inch & 4 threads per fringe piece)
  • decide on method of attaching by experimenting with the stitches
  • X find or make right sized card to wrap thread for making fringe pieces (the logo card off the Lizbeth Cordonet size 20 packages is the perfect width and the fact that it is doubled over provides a handy space to insert the scissor blade or seam ripper to cut the thread after wrapping)
  • cut several hundred white and 100 or so of each pf five pastels
  • attach several inches of fringe pieces in time for picture for Thursday's baby afghan progress report
  • on each side pair the start and stop tails together and knot them (I left this off the list Tuesday but it is an essential step in order to prevent the thing unraveling in the wash)
Well I didn't quite get it done in time for today's progress report but I did make significant progress in less than two days. The big fat Xs indicate what I've marked off on that list.

I'm not going to quite make my original goal of finishing by the end of February either. And my niece was unable to make it down our way with the baby before her six week maternity leave was over so I am going to have to mail it to her in Montana after all. So the sooner I can get this done the better. And as I've mentioned before I really need to stay after myself on this now as I'm not loving fringe work any more than the tail tucking. Note: I've currently got around fifty bookmarks with their tails still hanging out. That's a task to go on the to do list as soon as this afghan is in the mail.


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Library Loot: February 23 to March 1

Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Marg from The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries!

Marg has Mr Linky this week

Everything from my haul on Sunday's visit to the Ashland library can be seen here tho not well. There are close-ups of the covers below.

The audio book though is from a much earlier haul and is due this week. I'm preparing to listen as I tie knots in the thread tails of the baby afghan--150 some--a step that must be done before putting on the fringe. I might watch a DVD or stream Netflix instead though. I'm still making up my mind on that.

I've set up my work station in the living room tonight for the first time in weeks so I have the option of watching DVD on the big flat screen. Though the primary reason was because I hadn't gotten the pics for this post taken before Ed needed the bed. But because of the move to the living room I had Ed pull my mini-tramp out from behind the lamp and recliner also for the first time in many weeks as it is the first time since the onset of the virus I've felt able to get on it for even after my strength began to return as the virus was routed the dizziness did not abate enough for me to feel safe on it.

The book open on the book easel is The Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio which was on the shelf next to something I'd gone looking for and drew my eye with its gorgeous deep blue faux leather with gold emboss and page edges. And even though I suspected I could find an electronic download of it which would allow me to control font size and be free of due dates I brought it home with me anyway.

That night I checked Wikipedia for info on this 1300 era precursor to the modern novel and was astounded that I'd not encountered it as more than a mention in other books before this.

The book is a series of shorter stories framed by another story. A bit like Scheherazade's 1001 Tales. The frame story is of a group of young adults (as we would call them), seven maidens and three young men, forced to flee a city for a country villa to escape the Bubonic plague. To while away the time each of the ten shared a tale for each of ten days. Hence 'Decameron' which is a mating of two Greek words meaning 'ten' and 'day'.

The tales are mostly love stories of one sort or another. Many of them bawdy by even today's standards. According to the writer of the Wiki article the book is an exploration of the story form itself. If so that adds to my astonishment that I'd not encountered it before.
For big books like this I need to have them propped up in some fashion for any sustained reading and my book easel is ideal for this.

I've added to it an old elastic headband for holding the pages flat. I recently discovered a method for turning the pages without removing the band--by partially closing the book and lifting the band a smidgen with one index finger while turning the page with the other. You must control the page and the band though until the page is completely flat on the other side or risk crumpling it with the band.

This was the book I'd gone looking for. Hunger's Brides by Paul Anderson is a reloot. I started it during my 6 month stay in Longview helping with my Mom's care post hip surgery and stroke in 2009 but in all that time was not able to complete the first 100 pages let alone all 1300 and some odd pages.

I blamed this on three factors:

  • it was too awkwardly big and heavy to carry about the house with me to read in the odd moments of free time I had--like waiting on a timer in the kitchen or sitting outside the bathroom door while my Mom showered and dressed once she'd begun doing so without one of us hovering no more than a few inches away.
  • I did not yet have the book easel which I found at Powell's in Portland only a few weeks before my return home in June
  • the cataract in my right eye had advanced too far into the center for me to read with it anymore and the RP had long begun to encroach on the central vision of my left eye making reading slow and difficult as I could see only 3 to 5 letter spaces at a time. A hard thing for someone who loves big words.
I sent for it through our library system even before I'd left Longview but barely touched it the entire nine weeks I had it. Partly because I'd been greeted by a huge pile of review books in mailers and boxes upon my return home and partly because my obsession with crochet had begun that April when my Mom gave me a refresher course in it by teaching me to make a bookmark patterned off of one I'd found in a book in my Dad's office.

Mostly though it was the cataract which was not dealt with until that fall.

I was loving the story though and hated having to stop reading. It has never completely slipped my mind and I've often gone to its catalog page and hovered over the Request button but refrained for it seemed never a good time there always being too many library books crowding shelf space, mind space and time. But when we ended up at the Ashland branch Sunday (to take advantage of their WIFI while our Internet connection was kaput over the weekend) I thought of it and went to the shelf to look at it. And of course, having it physically present made it nigh impossible to resist taking it home even though all the reasons why its not a good time are still in play.

In the next pic I emphasize the size of this tome by setting beside it Ann Brashares' My Name is Memory, a love story for adults spanning centuries by the author of The Traveling Pants series. The premise is that this couple have been lovers in multiple lifetimes and one of them always retains the memories of it while the other does not.

The best way to explain my enthusiasm for Hunger's Brides is to share here, from the April 24 hour Read-a-Thon, my entry in the Hour 11 mini-challenge at Flight into Fancy which was to write a letter to a character in one of the stories we read that day.

Dear Juana Inez de la Cruz

Your precociousness in verbal and reasoning skills do not amaze me nearly as much as your tender heart. It is one thing to learn how to read at age three by spying through your sister's schoolroom window, it is another to notice and be disturbed by the way in which your family's native born servants are treated as less-than.

It is one thing to read with comprehension the reports of Thucydides at age 9? 10? it is yet another to be heart-broken when Thucydides' Athenian compatriots (representing to your mind the epitome of rationality and civilization) follow their logic to the bitterest of conclusions thus displaying it's empty heart when they slaughter all the males on the isle of Menos and sell their women and children into slavery because the people of Menos refused to swear loyalty and subservience to Athens.

You, at such a young age, 9? 10? were able to see the equality of the Athens and Menos peoples, even the parity of their respective logic (ATHENS: Exceptions would weaken us in our enemies eyes; MENOS: Acquiescing to slavery is cowardice and worse than death.) As head-shaking stunning as that achievement, it is as nothing compared to the way in which you saw your own beloved Abuelo (Grandpa) through new eyes and found him wanting in some unnameable crucial thing when he attempted to explain that ancient conflict as pragmatism (ATHENS) vs. idealism (MENOS) clearly favoring pragmatism.

The only explanation is that you were born with the soul of a poet.

Oh that we had a few such as you living in our generation.

If I could ask you to answer one question for me, it would be: Why, as an adult, did you choose to enter a cloister and take not only the vows of a nun but a vow of silence as well? Based on the reason suffused with heart you exhibited as a pre-teen, I cannot believe it was simple expediency. Not even the expediency of protecting your own life.

Your awed admirer from beyond the 'Unstable Margins'
Joy Renee

This novel too is a story framed inside a story inside a story. The outer frame being of a Professor's investigation of his protege's obsession with the life of Juana Inez de la Cruz, a nun living in Mexico in the 1600s who's remembered today for her mystical poems and who died of Plague in her mid 40s just five years after taking a vow of silence for some mysterious reason.

The plague again. And stories inside stories. Are we hearing faint notes of The Twilight Zone score?

The professor has taken from the room where she lies mortally wounded his protege and one time lover's personal journal which includes entries about himself,
and her travel diary from her excursion into Mexico tracing the story of Juana Inez, translations of the nun's poetry, research notes on the Inquisition and the Spanish conquest of the Americas and a mysterious manuscript in the poet's own voice that is part biography and part fiction.

Here I've set a chunky NF--The Culture of Make Believe by Derrick Jensen--atop the Brashares book and it still doesn't come even with the 1323 page tome that took Anderson 12 years to write.

Raising the volume on that Twilight Zone music is the eerie connection the theme of this NF has to Hunger's Brides.

From the back cover:

Exploring the lines of thought and experience that connect the atrocities of our culture throughout history, Jensen leads us on an extraordinary journey from early twentieth century lynchings in the United States to today's death squads in South America. The Culture of Make Believe is as impeccably researched as it is moving, with conclusions as far-reaching as they are shocking. What begins as an attempt to reconsider the nature of hatred soon explodes into a reckoning with the very heart of Western civilization.
I learned also from the back cover that this book is a follow up of his earlier A Language Older than Words but not until after I unpacked it at home. When I looked it up on the online catalog I learned that the Ashland branch is proud owner of that one too and it was 'in' the day I was there. Ah well, I can send for it.

I've rambled for long enough here so I'll just leave you with the titles of the remaining three:

Toward a True Kinship of Faiths: How the World's Religions Can Come Together by His Holiness The Dalai Lama

Worshiping Walt: The Whitman Disciples by Michael Robertson

The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing: Everything You Need to Know to write, publish, promote, and sell your own book. by Marilyn Ross & Sue Collier 5th ed

All three of those as well as the Brashares and Jensen books were on the New Books shelves. Ashland's New Books shelves are ten times larger than Phoenix's.


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Tuesday To Do Lists


This is a followup on last Tuesdy's post.
In an attempt to hold myself accountable I'm going to make this a weekly thing. Maybe not indefinitely but at least until I gain some momentum on these habit changes. After a few weeks I'll evaluate whether it is making a significant difference in my productivity and decide whether to continue. But if anyone is interested in joining in and making this a meme let me know.

I'm starting light with my expectations as am still recovering from a nasty virus. The focus is on some high priority tasks that meet one or more of these criteria: prepare self and environment for future productivity in creative projects; improve health and stamina and mood; tend to time sensitive commitments

Last week's todo list w/progress report:

  • Make todo lists (ala David Allen's GTD) --made much progress in several hours of work on this (see last Tuesday's post for info on Allen's book and his method for organizing time and effort for stress free productivity)
  • Laundry -- sorted on Saturday; put thru machines Sunday night and Monday morning putting away as they came out of dryer. Ed helped a lot.
  • Organize desk -- spent several hours at this spread over several days. Much progress but long way to go
  • Organize sewing/craft stuff -- ditto
  • Begin fringe work on bamboo baby afghan -- nothing accomplished as it hasn't been safe to get it out with all the disruption in the room during the laundry and organizing tasks
  • Begin cleaning out the 1000s of emails in my Gmail and MSN accounts -- had planned to devote the weekend days to this but then we lost internet from Saturday morning thru Monday afternoon
  • Begin making bib slips for all first time books checked out since last June -- ditto; need access to library's online catalog and my account for this task
  • Finish City of Tranquil Light -- didn't finish but made significant progress. In fact I read over 100 pages last night and that is the fist time since late last fall that I've been able to read for that long in a regular print book. I don't think it is a coincidence that I started using a pair of reading glasses I found while reorganizing my desk area last night, slipping them on over my bifocals in place of the clip on version I'd been using. After several hours of amazed use I took a closer look at those clip ons and realized that what looked like fog or fingerprint smudges was actually a fine mesh of teeny scratches. So relieved that my eyes had not deteriorated as much as I'd begun to fear.
  • and Write Review -- see above
  • Finish This Year You Write Your Novel -- didn't finish; did advance bookmark
  • and Write review -- see above
So this week's list will look very similar:

  • Work on GTD todo lists
  • Advance bookmark in David Allen's GTD w/attention to clarity on defining tasks vs projects and which type of list best suits which tasks.
  • Change bedding
  • Wash bedding
  • Fine tune desk area by using it and changing what doesn't work
  • Fine tune sewing/craft stuff organization
  • Sort/organize one jumbled or junk box, drawer, shelf, cupboard, or closet area -- choose one that will make the most difference in immediate efficiency or productivity. i.e. Last night I finally unpacked the shoebox of office/desk stuff I took with me to Longview last summer which is one less box taking up space in my desk area but now I need to organize the three drawers I unloaded all the paperclips, post-its and pens etc into to save time and frustration when I am in need of one of them; or pair up good socks and toss those with dead elastic and/or holes to cut 10 to 20 minutes off getting ready to go out. (will sandal and flip flop weather ever arrive?)
  • Begin cleaning out Gmail and MSN inboxes (lets specify with measurable and actionable tasks doable in 30 minutes or less: deal with newest 50 and oldest 50 for each every day until done. So won't be finished by next Tuesday but it is a realistic goal and actionable as David Allen would say.)
  • Begin making bib slips for first time library books from July to present. (lets specify as above: tend to the oldest batch first and work forward at a pace of one batch per day; also tend to latest batch (Sunday's) and then stay current going forward.
  • Begin fringe work on bamboo baby afghan -- this too needs to be broken down into actionable tasks: gather all end pieces from finished balls of thread; decide on length of fringe and number of threads by experimenting; decide on method of attaching by experimenting with the stitches; find or make right sized card to wrap thread for making fringe pieces; cut several hundred white and 100 or so of each pf five pastels; attach several inches of fringe pieces in time for picture for Thursday's baby afghan progress report.
  • Finish City of Tranquil Light
  • and Begin work on review -- some actionable tasks that can be done before finishing book: prepare bib info, cover image, author info and relevant web links; make notes on thoughts for review; collect quotes
  • Finish This Year You Write Your Novel
  • and Begin work on review -- see above


Monday, February 21, 2011

It's Monday, What Are You Reading? #26

I'm still plugging away at the same three books as I have been for the last three weeks:

This Year You Write Your Novel by Walter Mosley
The City of Tranquil Light by Bo Caldwell
Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress Free Productivity by David Allen

Those are the three I'm picking up to read from a few paragraphs to a few pages daily as I've targeted them as high priority for various reason discussed previously. But I have been handling other books a lot as I move them around in the the reorganizing project. I flit among them like a butterfly. Hoping against hope that the dozen plus novels I've got out of the library will get their turn before they are due.

I may have done a little more than flit among the crochet books. I noticed yesterday that I am now actually reading some of the patterns without referring to charts or the stitch guides.

I'm still not feeling up to par and my eyes tire easily. The nasty bug dealt me a whopper of a whammy. And Sunday the sore throat came back with a fiery vengence along with that awful sinking weariness that is often the first sign of an oncoming virus. A relapse? A new one altogether?

Or just that I overdid having spent hours on Saturday sorting and reorganizing my desk and craft areas and the laundry and then on Sunday spent another two hours redoing some of it after my desk collapsed dumping my netbook into my lap and tumbled the contents of a box of crochet and sewing stuff onto the floor.

That interrupted my attempt to get ready to go to the Ashland library in order to access the internet as ours went down Saturday morning for some unknown reason. It has come back intermittently since Sunday morning but will not handle heavy duty like streaming or gaming and will go away again without warning. So we planned to go spend the afternoon at the Ashland library using their WIFI.

I was worn out before we left the house, having added a shower and shampoo to to the exertion of reassembling my desk. But after the brief rest in the car I was up for a short walk along Bear Creek to get the pictures I planned to use in my Sunday Serenity post. Then at the library I spent an hour browsing the shelves. Ashland has the second biggest of our fifteen library county system. Only Medford is bigger and all the rest are small branches. But the Ashland library being in the town of Southern Oregon University and the Shakespeare Festival and known as the liberal mecca of the Rogue Valley has more items in its collection that appeal to the academic, progressive, artist side of me. I simply love browsing their shelves. Especially their new book shelf which is ten times the size of the one at our Phoenix branch.

In spite of all the novels at risk of going back unread, I pulled Hunger's Brides by Paul Anderson off the shelf again. It is a 1300+ page novel which I started nearly two years ago while in Longview and have had checked out several times here. I think I made it past page 100 the first time but I'm having trouble identifying where I left off and of course I forgot to put the page number on the bib slip which is a habit I used to have but lost.

I also pulled the nearby volume of The Decameron off the shelf, a book nearly as fat. I checked it out too in spite of the fact that I'm sure I can find a free ecopy online as it is from the 1300s. But the book was so gorgeous. One of those book club editions that mimic the old leather with gold emboss and gold leafed page edges. The Decameron has popped up in other reading and video watching several times in the last months and I have never read it and in fact knew little about it before starting to peruse it while at the library and then checking it out on Wikepedia where I learned it has had major influence on the development of the novel form and is a commentary/musing on storytelling itself. It behooves me as both a reader and writer of fiction to be familiar with this classic.

I read several pages worth of it Sunday afternoon and several more after pulling it from the bag after midnight. But not in any order nor more than the a few sentences on the first page.

I'll discuss Sunday's library haul along with the upcoming Tuesday's on my Library Loot post Wednesday. I will try to have a picture of the Decameron by then. Will have to take it myself as it is unlikely I can find one online and would take me longer to look than to just take it myself.

Well I better wrap this up and tend to the laundry. The forth of five loads just beeped at me. We stopped at two stores after leaving Ashland Sunday afternoon so I took a four hour nap after returning home so that I could work on the laundry tonight. It has become so urgent that even feeling as subpar as I am I have little choice.


Sunday, February 20, 2011

Sunday Serenity #217

The bridge over the creek on the Plaza in downtown Ashland. This is the same Bear Creek that flows past our trailer park near Phoenix ten or so miles north.

I stood on the bridge and pointed the camera downstream. The ones I took of the upstream view didn't turn out so well as I was facing into the sun.

After crossing the bridge and following a dirt trail several yards I spotted this steep stair. I had to as Ed to come help me down it.

At the bottom of those stairs I aimed the camera upstream towards the bridge.

And then down below my feet.

I adore Ashland Oregon. I fell in love with it while going to college there in the 1980s.

We're just have to stop waiting for internet breakdowns and doctor appointments for excuses to go spend time there.


Saturday, February 19, 2011

Blessings in Disguise

ai borked ur interwebz nexshun

Our internet connection went down this morning (Saturday) and stayed down all day and all night. It came back on for five minutes at 9AM Sunday so we continued with our plans to spend the afternoon at the Ashland library with our computers. Where I am now working on my posts for Saturday and Sunday on my netbook while Ed is gaming on his laptop across the table. I've fudged the date on this to get my Saturday post.

Because the net was unavailable I made huge inroads on the sorting/organizing of my desk and sewing stuffs. One of the tasks on my to do list in Tuesday's post. I accomplished some other things on that list which I'll save to discuss on next Tuesday's post. I also read in three books. Sorted the laundry. And watched a library DVD. Also got some one on one with Ed which I probably wouldn't have had as one or both of us would have been online.

It was 11 months to the day (March 19) last year that our modem died and we went through the weekend without internet. It amazed me then and continues to as to just how dependent we are on it. Especially emotionally.


Friday, February 18, 2011

Friday Forays in Fiction: Quote

Re Charaacter and Character Development:

All novels, short stories, and plays, and most poems, are about human transformation. the subject of the novel is the human spirit and psyche--how the characters interact in their relationships with other souls and with the world in general....there has to be movement in he personality structure of the main character or characters. This is to say that, in part, the purpose of the novel is to map out the events in the protagonist's life that cause her to change.
Walter Mosley in This Year You Write Your Novel p 40-41


Thursday, February 17, 2011

Bamboo Baby Afghan at 7 Weeks

Here it is hanging over the oven door handle again tho it has to be bunched to get it all on. It is folded over the rail approximately in half. The tails give the impression of the fringe that I will be putting on next.

I couldn't hang it on my white cane in order to stretch it out to its full width this time as I didn't get the pictures taken until after Ed was in bed. So I tried to get a shot of it at full size instead by draping it over the highbacked office chair in the living room:

It is hard to tell in either picture that the two edges (left and right in both pics) turned out significantly different in length--the last worked being several inches longer than the first worked. I discovered this shortly after putting in the last row in the wee hours of Monday morning and then trying to fold it in half. I came very near to taking out the last iteration or even two (13 or 23 rows) in order to put them back in with firmer tension. But the thought demoralized me. It would have meant another week of row work so I waited until Ed and his Mom were up to get their take and neither of them thought that was warranted. It was obvious only if you tried to fold it in half the long way which is not really the natural way. And even if she notices my niece is not going to care , so they tell me, as it is beautiful the way it is. I am not, afterall, trying to win a blue ribbon at the fair.

So here's hoping that next Thursday I will be able to show some significant work on the fringe accomplished. I have to crochet the fringe pieces on in order to secure them against coming loose. There are a minimum of 155 per side. One for each end of every row. This will be tedious and not something I can do while watching videos as I'll have to keep my eyes and my mind on the work.


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Libary Loot: February 16 – 22

Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Marg from The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries!

Claire has Mr Linky this week

This is a screenshot of the most recent batch of books and DVD from the library which my husband picked up for me last Thursday:

These are the three I was most excited about:

The secret life of Emily Dickinson : a novel by Jerome Charyn

I sent for this after reading a review at Book Journey

I've been a huge fan of Emily Dickinson's poetry since my teens and currently have a NF book about her life and her family, Lives Like Loaded Guns, checked out which I've mentioned in previous posts.

I've been a huge fan of Oliver Saks for years as well. Ever since I read his, The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat. His ability to make lucid and relevant to daily living the inner working of the mind is as much a phenomenon as the cases he is so fond of relating.

In Musicophilia he gives evidence of the profound relationship our minds have to music.

Crocheting for Fun & Profit by Darla Sims

My interest in this should be obvious I guess. My blog, over the last two years has become more about the crocheting than the reading and writing. Though I'm trying to shift the balance back to include those other interests both in my life and in my posts,the crocheting (and other thread and fabric arts) will retain a significant place for the foreseeable future.

I've been getting many suggestions in the last year that I should think about selling the crocheted bookmarks as I'm making them faster than I can give them away. I'm clueless about starting and running a business though so the first step is to see what's involved.


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Tuesday To Do Lists


Putting 'Making 2do lists' on that do list might look like a funny but it's not really as I make clear below.

As I continue to recover from that virus and motivation and ambition return, I begin to consider all the things I need to do. Things neglected while I was sick. Things neglected while I focused on the baby afghan. Things neglected while I focused on the holidays. Things neglected while I focused on NaNoWriMo last November. Things neglected while I was away from home last summer.

Basically the last seven months have been one long taskus interruptus that has left so many projects in disarray, on standby or lost in the memory holes that I feel anxiety attacks approaching whenever I begin to think about it.

But reading David Allen's Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress Free Productivity this month is giving me hope and I'm about to start applying his advice.

He doesn't advocate the traditional daily to do lists though. They require too much rewriting of the tasks as you relist repeating tasks and move the undone items from one day to the next. This is also demoralizing.

What he recommends is a project list that includes every thing you want or need to do today or in the future. And he really means everything. He believes the stress associated with that sense of too much to do comes from holding too much in our mind's limited short-term memory.

In order for you mind to let go of the lower-level task of trying to hang on to everything, you have to know that you have truly captured everything that might represent something you have to do, and that at some point in the near future you will process and review all of need to collect and gather together placeholders for or representations of all the things you consider incomplete in your world--that is, anything personal or professional, big or little, of urgent or minor importance, that you think ought to be different than it currently is and that you have any level of internal commitment to changing. pp25-26

The projects are then broken down into actionable tasks and 'next actions' lists are kept. He defines a project as anything with more than one action task. Where applicable these tasks can be assigned due dates or do by dates but only tasks with hard and fast date/time requirements should be put on the calendar which is reserved for appointments and tasks that have no time flexibility such as making a call on Friday evening to someone who is in meetings all day and will be leaving town the next morning. Or more relevant to my todos: renew/return library items anytime (date due).

So as I begin to tackle my neglected tasks this week beginning that master todo list is one of the biggies. But in order to be more efficient as I go forward I need to clean up the mess I made over the holidays and while sick by not putting things away properly. Hence the organize desk and sewing stuffs on that list in the LOL pic. And I'm still hoping to get the baby afghan ready to give to my niece by the end of February and since the row work is done it is at that stage where the project tasks I enjoy are complete and only the pesky finishing touches are left so I must stay after myself on this one.

What I might add to this week's tasks:

Finish reading City of Tranquil Light and write review
Finish reading This Year You Write Your Novel and write review.
Begin making bib slips for all the first time library books brought home since July.
Begin cleaning out email inboxes of the nearly 4000 (gmail) and nearly 2000 (msn) items accumulated since last July.

The library book bibliography slips include those books checked out on my sister's card while I was in Longview in July and August as well as all those checked out since my return. We're talking several dozen at least. But it is not as bad as it sounds as this project involves a lot of cut/paste from the library catalog to my WhizFolder Reading Journal file. Tedious but not as tedious as writing out by hand on 3x5 slips as I used to.

As for the email inboxes that is also a series of mouse-click tasks for the most part as I will be deleting much no longer (if ever) needed and moving the rest to folders or labels and making note of any tasks still associated with them.

OK. That's enough for one week as I do tend overestimate my energy and underestimate the time tasks might take. I will follow up next Tuesday with a progress report and a task list for the next week.


Monday, February 14, 2011

It's Monday, What Are You Reading? #25

Still having limited ability for sustained reading. The four days previous to today though saw steady improvements with each day a bit better than the day before. My ambition was back yesterday too.

But then today I woke with a headache and the sore throat was back and I started sneezing. Is it a relapse? A new bug? Or just the weird wonderful (not) course of the same one that got it's tentacles into me over three weeks ago?

At any rate, little has changed reading-wise since last Monday. I'm still reading David Allen's Getting Things Done; Bo Caldwell's City of Tranquil Light in a plodding paragraph by paragraph kind of way.

But I added This Year You Write Your Novel by Walter Mosley which I was in queue for at the library since October and finally got my turn and know it won't renew. Thankfully it is very short and easy which is not to say lightweight. It's just over 100 pages and packs a lot of punch being succinct and to the point. I hope to review it for this week's Friday's Forays in Fiction.

The one thing I'm already taking away from it is a reminder of how important it is for a fiction writer to stay involved in her story so as not to loose contact with that dream-like state of consciousness where it lives. Mosley is among those who strongly advise not to miss a day of writing or failing that at least working in some fashion with the story whether editing, re-reading, focused daydreaming, character sketches and so forth.

But then I know this from experience. And yet I've not touched my fiction files since NaNo ended November 30.

So one of the big things going back on my ToDo lists (ala David Allen) is daily work with my storyworld.

Meanwhile I'm watching the library due dates come and go and the books trickle or flood back to the library barely touched after their first week home. More so since I forbade myself to start another novel until I finished my review copy of City of Tranquil Light. So I just renewed that delicious stack of large print books I checked out on my last actual trip to the library three weeks ago today. Which takes me down to six weeks left with six fat novels. Not very auspicious considering I've been a month with City of Tranquil Light this time and am still not past 100 pages.

Truly it is not the story! It is:

  • having been sick
  • having been pushing so hard on the bamboo baby afghan (row work now done btw)
  • and eye strain from the italic font the diary sections are printed in

I just checked and see the library now has LP and audio editions of City of Tranquil Light and I'm seriously considering ordering one or the other to solve this dilemma.

The story, based on the life of Caldwell's own grandparents, is of a young couple who meet and marry as Mennonite missionaries in early 1900 China just before the Mao revolution which they then live through or at least he does. The story is narrated by the old man reminiscing from his retirement home in California in the late 20th century. He intersperses his own memories with excerpts from his wife's journal. She has since passed on but we don't know when. So it could be while they were still in China and still young.

Bo Caldwell is the author of the national bestseller The Distant Land of My Father. Her short fiction has been published in Ploughshares, Story, Epoch, and other literary journals. A former Stegner Fellow in Creative Writing at Stanford University, she lives in Northern California with her husband, novelist Ron Hansen.

Here, let me embed the Google Book preview so you can get the flavor of the prose:

Oh yeah, being able to control the font size helps a lot. I see Google ebook has it for $11.99. Ah, tempting.


Sunday, February 13, 2011

Sunday Serenity #216

Now that I'm feeling better and the row work on the baby afghan is done I'm yearning for the turning of pages and stories wrought of churning dreams.


Saturday, February 12, 2011

Caterday LOLing

i can haz stringz!1!  let go!1! iz no aksing!

The bug is finally letting go. Four days in a row of feeling a bit better than the day before.

Am now on row 151 of the bamboo baby afghan. 4 to go including the one I just started. Will probably finish the row work before dawn.

Am now reading for 15 to 30 minutes at a time which is triple what I could do a week ago. So the stacks of library books are starting to look appealing again. Just in time to say goodbye to half a dozen of them this coming week tho.

blu ribbin 4 cyoot iz a shoo n

Have begun to look about and notice the many neglected tasks and feel optimistic about tackling them soon.

be teh flowr dey sed

I made these three LOLs. Go vote for them or favorite them or some of the 200 plus others on and help me get on the front page with one.


Friday, February 11, 2011

Friday Forays in Fiction: Quote

looking over prow of rowboat over expanse of water. print for sale at

The process of writing a novel is like taking a journey by boat. You have to continually set yourself on course. If you get distracted or allow yourself to drift, you will never make it to the destination. It's not like highly defined train tracks or a highway; this is a path that you are creating, discovering. The journey is your narrative. Keep to it and there will be a tale told.
Walter Mosley
This Year You Write Your Novel p14-15


Thursday, February 10, 2011

Bamboo Baby Afghan at 6 Weeks

I reached the end of 14 iterations of the ten row pattern--blue-white-yellow-white-lilac-white-pink-white-green-white--and the blue row of iteration 15 aka the last iteration. So twelve rows to go or 9 rows of I15 plus the final blue-white-white. I should have that done by Sunday. Then work on the fringe begins. Tho I might decide to hand wash and block it before working the fringe.

Above you see it draped over my white cane approximately in half and held in front of the oven same as last week. The week before that it fit on the oven door handle. So you can see the progress of two weeks. About 33 rows which was the same as the first week a stride I never hit again since. Tho if I could have counted the rows I had to take out and redo I might have at least once. There have probably been at least 15 such rows since the beginning.

Below Ed is holding it open to show its full size tho he is stretching it a tad at the top.

It's probably big enough now that I could just add the two white rows for the final edge and call it good. But I've had the number 155 in my head for weeks now so I'm going to go ahead and add them.

Having it unfolded gives you a better idea of the length of those rows and why they take 50 to 65 minutes to work.


Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Library Loot: February 9 to 15

Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Marg from The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries!

Marg has Mr Linky this week

Matthew Broderick singing Marian the Librarian to Kristin Chenoweth in Disney's release of Meredith Willson's the Music Man.

I had not been aware there had been a remake of The Music Man this decade. That was one of my favorite movies growing up and one of the very few I saw in color before my teens. I've just sent for the original from the library (with Robert Preston and Shirley Jones in the roles reprised above) and the remake from Netflix. Can't wait.

My holds at the library didn't get picked up yet this week so I can't claim to already have my loot for this week. Blame the slimy little virus and Ed's work hours conflicting with the library hours. But I have high hopes that most of them will get picked up tomorrow because Ed doesn't work. Except for the three that went unclaimed as of Tuesday tho there is a slim chance they will still be there if Ed gets there early enough as our branch isn't open on Wednesday and the unclaimed holds from Tuesday are pulled sometime on Thursday. So maybe.

Since I'm already feeling those waves of fatigue crashing in again, I decided to take screenshots of the portions of my hold list showing items already waiting for me and the three unclaimed.

I didn't intend for all of these to have the same due date. I ordered them in a series of trickles but Ed and I have been having a hard time with this virus for several weeks. Three for him and two for me. So extra errands tend to get pushed off.

I haven't been able to read much anyway but those DVD and audio books are handy at times like this.

Thank God for Libraries.


Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Better Than Medicine

Ahhhhhh on steroids.

It was the first time I laughed with that warm fuzzy feeling in days.

Totally worth the coughing fit it triggered.

Excuse me while I go take another dose.


Monday, February 07, 2011

It's Monday, What Are You Reading? #24

Join the meme at Book Journey.

I haven't read much this past week as I've been hit pretty hard by a respiratory virus which further compromises my vision so I've difficulty focusing for more than a few paragraphs.

I'd listen to one of the half-dozen audio books I have checked out but focusing my attention is nearly as difficult.

So I've been getting my story fixes from Netflix streaming and DVD but I did manage to progress bookmarks a handful of pages between three books:

Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress Free Productivity by David Allen

My sister effused about this book and insisted I needed to read it too. So when I got my library copy a few days later I started it at once and she and I are doing a sort of read-a-long that will include moral support and mutual accountability via phone chats as we implement the advice. She is weeks ahead of me on that and it will be at least another week before I'm able to start doing more than read and think. But then Allen is big on the thinking before doing principle so I'm probably making more progress than I think.

City of Tranquil Light by Bo Caldwell

I still owe a review for this review copy more than three months after receiving it.

Stress much?

I've had to start it over twice since November. And that is no reflection on the story. I've just kept putting other books and other projects ahead in priority.

But this month I've put it ahead of library due dates in priority and ahead of almost all other priorities except finishing the bamboo baby afghan by the last week of February or sooner if my niece brings the baby down from Montana to visit his great-grandparents before that. I've got 23 more rows plus putting on about 300 fringe pieces. And of course hand-washing and blocking which I'll most likely do before putting on the fringe.

Lives Like Loaded Guns: Emily Dickinson and her Family's Feuds by Lyndall Gordon

I've had this checked out of the library for awhile now and included it in Wednesday's Library Loot post where I said:

Emily Dickinson has been one of my favorite poets since I was in high school. Favorite is not a strong enough word. I was in awe of her poems. Those tiny little things so loaded with meaning and often multiple meanings.

I knew little of her life though except that she never married and had remained in the family home as somewhat of a recluse and that her poems were not published in her lifetime.

I was under the impression that not much more than that was known or even knowable. I was unable to find anything resembling a biography at the time and entries in encyclopedias were scant of information.

This quite thick book tells the story of a family embroiled in illicit love, financial troubles, betrayal and a feud with another family that continued for over a century.
As I handled it during the prep of that post I began dipping in and reading whole pages here and there. I've not started at the beginning yet but I read enough in it I think it belongs in the list of what I've been reading.

So of course, upon reading Sheila's review of The Secret Life Of Emily Dickinson by Jerome Charyn I had to immediately check our library catalog for it and finding it send for it. It's already waiting at my branch for me. Along with 9 other items which I'll probably be discussing in Wednesday's Library Loot post. I don't expect to be reading it this week tho as there are so many more pressing due dates but who knows what will happen when I do my usual pre-read upon bringing it home.


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