Monday, August 30, 2010

Autumn is Coming to Oklahoma!

Seasonal decorating is always a challenge for me, although it's one of my favorite things to do.   I've been looking forward to bringing out my autumn things, but with the temperatures in the 90's here in Oklahoma, it seemed a little premature.  Thank you to Marty at A Stroll Through Life for hosting a fall "Tabletop Tuesday" on her site; visit there and you'll see how beautiful she makes the transition from summer to autumn throughout her home.  You'll also have the opportunity to see many other blogger's ideas and examples of how we can decorate for this most beautiful season.  Part of the participation process is for me to offer my own example.  I confess that I haven't made the transition yet (although I surely will begin now), but I have a photograph from last autumn.  The little squirrel was purchased from Martha Stewart about 15 years ago, the leaf he's resting on is from Cracker Barrel, and the acorns and nuts were purchased years ago from Hobby Lobby.  The temperature is already dropping; I can feel the crisp weather of autumn coming on!

Friday, August 27, 2010

"Julia, You Have a Call in Phone Booth Three"

Residents are moving into college dorms this week across the country, including my alma mater, the University of Memphis.  It was 46 years ago that my parents drove me the 100 miles to Memphis and my memories are still vivid of the building, the reception and meeting area, and my room on the third floor.

One feature of West Hall's reception area was to be almost as important as our own rooms.  It was "communication central" and is in stark contrast to the cell phones and other technology students have available today.  It was also a step down from the princess extension phone I had in my bedroom at home.  Across one wall were ten or twelve phone booths.  At first, it didn't register exactly how important the booths would be to my personal life.  The first hours and days were spent in getting acquainted with other dorm residents, making new friends, attending dorm meetings, and going to classes. 

Going to classes and the student center introduced another element to my life -- meeting new boys and developing new relationships with them.  This is where the phone booths came in and why they became very important.  There were no phones our rooms; there were no phones in the halls on our floors.  If someone called for us, we were notified through an intercom system and we went down to a phone booth to take the call.  I was not the most popular girl in the dorm, although I did receive my share of those exciting announcements of a call downstairs.  It must have been exhausting for some of the more popular girls, running up and down the stairs to the phone.  Since it was 1964 and not 2010, there were also expectations about how a resident should look in public; you never knew who might be coming in or going out, so you tried to look presentable when you took your call.

I learned about another means of communication after I pledged a sorority.  The entry to one part of the student center had a series of bulletin boards, one for each fraternity and sorority.  These were used for announcements of events and other chapter information, as well as honors, engagements, and other news about individual members.  The boards also served as a posting place for notes to the members.  We stopped by the boards several times a day to check for notes, the most important of which were from guys.  I think that, for some of us, you could trace a courtship from the early notes ("Meet me for a coke at the Sigma Phi table at 2:00?") to the engagement ("I love my ring and I love you!").

I still have some of the notes I received during that time, as well as some of the messages taken when I wasn't available for a phone booth conversation, and the "sign-out" cards which recorded where I was going, with whom, and when I would return.  Some of the notes are reminders ("Don't forget to pick up your Ole Miss football ticket. Larry") and some are sweet ("You are a fine woman with a great personality and much beauty. Ric") They are an informal record of my first months of college that now seem quaint.

Today, visits with children and grandchildren often include a third party -- the cell phone.  My college-age granddaughter places hers on the table while she talks to me and a vibration tells her that her boyfriend has texted her.  Instant connection - no waiting - no anticipation.  She's never picked up a love note from a bulletin board and I doubt that she's ever used a phone booth to talk to a boyfriend.  She doesn't know what she's missing.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Book Recommendation - Sharing the Journey: Women Reflecting on Life's Passages

I have a small library of books that I have bought because they are part of a collection (Christmas books, pop-up books, books about the south, books about books) or because I saw them at a book festival and had heard the author speak, or because I might run out of something to read (not likely, since I usually have a dozen or so library books checked out at any one time).

There are a few that simply spoke to me -- about women, family, friends, home -- and I knew that I would want to read and probably reread.  Sometimes, these books get shifted to the bottom of the stack or left on the shelf because the library books are due, and I simply forget about them.  Often they are books of essays or anthologies and, once I do get around to reading them, I find myself enthralled with the treasures they hold.

Sharing the Journey: Women Reflecting on Life's Passages edited by Katherine Ball Ross is such a book. The 68 essays within are in sections such as Childhood, Motherhood, Grandmothers, Sisters, Places of the Heart, Rituals, The Past, Writing and Writers, and "The Quiet Center of One's Life" and are by some of my favorite authors, including Jane Smiley ("Horse Love", "Jane Austen's Heroines", and "Giving Love a Melody, Memory a Tune"), Whitney Otto ("Collecting Grandmothers"), Madeleine L'Engle ("A Crosswicks Kind of Christmas" and "Too Obvious to Forget"), Carol Shields ("Parties Real and Otherwise"), and Diane Ackerman ("The Deer in Springtime").

Here I found essays that spoke to me personally, such as Susan J. Gordon's "May Your Life Be One Sweet Song", about her grandmother's girlhood autograph book; M.J. Andersen's "At Grandmother's Table", about her grandmother's love of and lifelong accumulation of dishes; Susan Minot's "Messengers of the Heart", about the importance of letters in her life and "Reflecting on Foot", about the pleasures of walking; Catherine Calvert's "Wrapping Up a Memory", about Christmas gifts; Patricia O'Toole's "Passport to the Universe", about libraries; and Susan Allen Toth's "Hiding Out," about the importance of finding private spaces to nuture imagination and spirit.

I found this book so engaging that I am going to buy several copies to give away.  As a blogger, I discovered an additional bonus between its pages.  Reading these essays helped me recall numerous people, places and incidents from my own life which could later be subjects for my own blog.

Sharing the Journey: Women Reflecting on Life's Passages is available from your local library or from Amazon through the link that follows.

Happy Reading! 

Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Plain Princess: A Fairy Tale Revisited

The Plain Princess, by Phyllis McGinley, was my favorite fairy tale when I was a girl.  The story is about Esmerelda, who has everything a princess could want.   She lives in a kingdom where girls who are considered beautiful have noses that turn down, mouths that turn up, and eyes that twinkle.  Esmerelda, unfortunately, has a nose that turns up, a mouth that turns down and her eyes have no twinkle.  Esmerelda, in a word, is spoiled, but her royal bubble is burst when the prince to whom she is betrothed wants nothing to do with her, pronouncing her "plain."  The king and queen do their best to help their daughter, consulting with every available physician and wizard, but nothing works.  Dame Goodwit promises that she can make the princess beautiful in three months, if Esmerelda comes and lives with her and her daughters.  While there, the princess learns the value of working, sharing, and unselfishness and when she returns home, Dame Goodwit's promise is fulfilled; the princess is beautiful, with a nose that turns down, a mouth that turns up and eyes that have a merry twinkle.

This, of course, is a story of internal beauty and its rewards.  I believe that it held a promise for me and other little girls that, even if we weren't "beautiful" and might never wear a crown, others would recognize us for our good hearts and dispositions.

There are many mothers who are still teaching that lesson to their daughters and many girls and young women who work hard and give of themselves unselfishly.

On the other hand, there is evidence that girls are being sent another message --- one that says "demand to be treated like royalty", "expect that your parents will spend beyond their means to make you happy." 

Hearing a four-year-old describe herself as a "diva" makes me want to gnash my teeth.  I wonder if the mother knows what a diva is, or if she has explained it to the child.  The word implies a certain level of success in performance coupled with a difficult personality.   Is it the success or the unpleasant personality that the child possesses?  I believe that it is most often the personality -- in other words, "I'm a brat -- live with it!"

The "bridezilla" personality is another manifestation of the acceptance of bad behavior.  Why would anybody subject their best friends and family members to tantrums, manipulation, and plain nastiness and then excuse it by saying "I am a bridezilla" or "I've always been a diva"?

The traditional "Sweet Sixteen" party, an event to celebrate that special birthday, implied that the girl was actually "sweet."  Today's "Super Sweet Sixteen Parties" are exhibitions, usually masterminded by the daughter and (very highly) financed by the parents, to demonstrate that the girl can outspend her friends, classmates, or those enviously watching on television.   To add a little "punch" to the envy or hurt feelings of those not invited, the invitations are given out in a very public way.  You may be invited to the invitation ceremony, but that doesn't necessarily mean you'll receive the coveted invitation. 

All of this is to say that maybe something has been lost in the concept of royalty.  As Americans, we have limited our tradition of kings and queens to celebrations like Mardi Gras, homecoming queens, those honored at local events like Frontier Days and the Blackberry Festival, and pageants like Miss America.  At least a portion of those have demanded a level of service and good manners with the crown.

I think that the self-proclaimed "divas" "bridezillas" and "royal" celebrants of the "Super Sweet Sixteen" parties are deluding themselves.  What they need is a three-month stay at Dame Goodwit's house.  She would straighten them out and the entire kingdom would benefit.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

I'm Joining a Rooster Party!

This is a new adventure for me -- and no, I don't claim to be a rooster.  Barb at Bella Vista has invited us to post photos of our rooster decor.  The only roosters I have are a pair that currently reside on the top of my refrigerator.  I move them around as season or whim prompts me.  I'm in the mid-to-late summer phase, which means I look for fruits, vegetables, colors, etc. that fit my late-summertime mood.

If you visit Bella Vista, you'll see the many others who are joining the party, and their ideas and examples of decorating with roosters.  And you'll probably want more roosters, like I do.

Here are mine:


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Recently Read Fiction Favorites

  • A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly
  • A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick
  • Alice I Have Been by Melanie Benjamin
  • Between, Georgia by Joshilyn Jackson
  • Bridge of Sighs by Richard Russo
  • Broken for You by Stephanie Kallos
  • Confessions of a Former Rock Queen by Kirk Bjornsgaard
  • Every Last One by Anna Quindlen
  • Faithful Place by Tana French
  • Fly Away Home by Jennifer Weiner
  • Freedom by Jonathan Franzen
  • Gods in Alabama by Joshilyn Jackson
  • Home Safe by Elizabeth Berg
  • Homer and Langley by E.L. Doctorow
  • Innocent by Scott Turow
  • My Name is Mary Sutter by Robin Oliveira
  • Noah's Compass by Anne Tyler
  • Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout
  • Private Life by Jane Smiley
  • Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier
  • Roses by Leila Meacham
  • Sing Them Home by Stephanie Kallos
  • So Much For That by Lionel Shriver
  • South of Broad by Pat Conroy
  • That Old Cape Magic by Richard Russo
  • The Children's Book by A.S. Byatt
  • The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest by Steig Larsson
  • The Girl Who Stopped Swimming by Joshilyn Jackson
  • The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Steig Larsson
  • The Given Day by Dennis Lehane
  • The Good Daughters by Joyce Maynard
  • The Help by Kathryn Stockett
  • The Last Time I Saw You by Elizabeth Berg
  • The Lonely Polygamist by Brady Udall
  • The Murderer's Daughters by Randy Susan Meyers
  • The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender
  • The Sky Took Him by Donis Casey
  • The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas
  • The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski
  • The Swimming Pool by Holly LeCraw
  • The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell
  • The Wind Comes Sweeping by Marcia Preston
  • Where the God of Love Hangs Out by Amy Bloom
  • Wolf Hall by Hillary Mandel
  • World Without End by Ken Follett
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Favorite Nonfiction and Memoir

  • All Over but the Shoutin' by Rick Bragg
  • Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver
  • Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott
  • Book Lust: Recommended Reading for Every Mood, Moment and Reason by Nancy Pearl
  • Getting Over Getting Older by Lettie Cottin Pogrebin
  • Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
  • Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America by Barbara Ehrenreich
  • Sharing the Journey: Women Reflecting on Life's Passages by Katherine Ball Ross
  • Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things by Randy O. Frost
  • The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey
  • The Artist's Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity by Julia Cameron
  • The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin by Benjamin Franklin
  • The Children's Blizzard by David Laskin
  • The Emperor of all Maladies: A Biography of Cancer by Siddhartha Mukherjee
  • The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom by Miguel Ruiz
  • The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell
  • The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dustbowl by Timothy Egan