Wednesday, October 5, 2016

A Literary Discussion, Part Three

Can you believe how fast this year is flying by?  Here are links to the full challengepart one, and part two.

#9.  The Divine Comedy by Dante Alleghieri

There are some books in which you know that while you may get the gist of it when you read it for the first time, you probably won't get all of the complexities of it, The Divine Comedy falls into that for me.  Scholars spend their whole careers studying this book;  I spent a week and a half reading it....

So, here is my take...  It's basically a mid life crisis book that ends up giving us a guide for life.  Dante has reached the mid point of his life and is asking and pondering some pretty deep questions.  He is taken through Hell, and gives a pretty gruesome and gory vision of it and some say, our idea of hell,  Purgatory and Heaven.  I found things to take from each section to incorporate into my life...

Cinnamon and Gunpowder by Eli Brown (a book club's selection)

This book robbed me of sleep!  What a fun, light, yet never lame summer read!  A chef is taken hostage by a female pirate....the bad guys turn out not to be such bad guys and as for the 'good guys' just read and find out...

#30 . The Stories of Anton Chekhov by Anton Chekhov

A collection of absolutely amazing short stories!  You are taken to Czarist Russia and given glimpses into everyday life with mastery of plot and the execution of words.  Some stories are only a few pages long, but others are 20.  He knew how to stop, not give to much, but at the same time, not to have a story feel incomplete.  Ironically, I had meant to read a couple of stories a night and then read something else, but I inhaled this collection of Anton Chekhov's....

#40 . Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf

For the first little bit of the book, you feel like you are on a merry-go-round with characters jumping on and off and feeling a little lost, but then you see through the chaos and once again the brillance and gift of Virginia Woolf shines through.  Simple moments, like a walk through a park, can trigger a thousand and one memories and choices taken or not taken.....

The Food of a Young Land:  The WPA's Portrait of Food in Pre-WWII America
           (a food challenge item) by Mark Kurlansky

Did you know that FDR's New Deal had a provision in it to help writers get back to work as well?  It was know as the Federal Writer's Project (FWP).  Their first task was to complete guidebooks about the entire United States and some of them are still in use today.  Their second was never completed, a documentation of what Americans were really eating in 1940, not the flashy, trendy food, but what they were having dinner every week.  The organizers sent writers out to find out but the beginning of WWII ended the project and it was lost to oblivion until the author stumbled upon a box in the Library of Congress.....


#43 . Collected Fiction by Jorge Luis Borges

Another collection of short stories for this challenge, but this one I did not speed through, but slowly absorbed and contemplated.  Jorge Luis Borges is a master of words and of the short story.  I would only read one a night because they took all of my concentration and I didn't want to miss a word.  There were some stories I liked better than others, but I think that is the case in most collections....

#4.  Moby Dick by Herman Melville

Call me Ishmael, nope, I'll call you someone who ignores all signs and warnings.  Captain Ahab, take some advice from Elsa and 'Let it Go!!'.  The Whale, maybe you could take some anger management classes.  I read the true story last year that inspired Melville to write Moby Dick and enjoyed it soooooooooooooooooooo  much more than this.  I was actively cheering for the whale....  Moral of the story, vengeance never ends well, pay attention to signs, and if you're a whale avoid big boats...


#26 . Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner

Pull up a chair, relax, sip an iced tea or a cocktail on the porch and enjoy this Southern masterpiece.  There are multiple narrators with varying degrees of fact, but each tell their own truths and isn't it interesting that a person's truth may not always be fact.  Faulkner's gift (or the thing that drives non Faulkner fans crazy) is his ability to tell a story in an non linear sense...you jump all around the time line of this story of a man who wanted to build an empire without learning from not only his mistakes from the the past, but a collective community's .


#31 . The Red and the Black by Stendhal

A tale of a young man who doesn't fit into his family, he is teased for reading, and has ambitions for a different life.  He is taken in by his town's mayor as a tudor and proceeds to make some questionable decision, like starting an affair with the mayor's wife.  There are times you are very angry at the main character, but as the book progresses you become more sympathetic, even as he commits a very surprising crime, because you see that the rules of the life he wants don't apply to him because he wasn't born into that life.....

I have to admit that reading these classics one right after another has been more challenging than I thought....it has slowed my reading down quite a bit.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

The Funniest Feud...

As you may have figured out by reading the blog, Bacall, my Basset Hound, is a pretty laid back character......

A walk in the afternoon instead of early evening, ok...
A neighborhood cat roams by the house while she is sitting on the porch, not a peep....
A dog walks by on a leash, she may saunter off the porch to go say hi, but nothing too obnoxious...
Bacall just rolls with life and accepts it as it is, she may give you a typical sad Basset look, but a few minutes later, she is back to her happy self...

There is, however, one MAJOR exception to her bliss.

Pete, the cat.

Pete is a beautiful white cat with blue eyes who lives one street north of us..
Friendly by all accounts...

But Pete does something a little differently than other cats,
he walks on a leash.

Yep, Pete the cat is a leashing walking cat.

AN ABOMINATION!!!  A CRIME AGAINST HUMANITY!!!  ARROOOOOOOOOOOO!!!
Bacall is mortally offended by this fact...

The first time we saw Pete, it was pretty late at night and they were walking him in the street, apparently this gives them a little extra warning to get Pete to safety if a dog comes near.  Bacall saw them first and didn't leave the porch, but started barking up a storm.  It wasn't her intruder/danger bark, but something new.  I have learned that it is her 'I am offended bark'.  I was even a bit shocked to see a cat on a leash on a walk, so I talked to the owners and found out all about Pete and his love of going on walks...

After Pete and his crew continued on their way, Bacall didn't settle back down immediately, she grumbled for a good ten minutes.  If you have ever been around or owned a Basset, you know about the grumbling....  She was muttering her discontent with Pete...  I can just imagine the translation of it.  'Cats don't go on walks, it's a dog thing!!!'  'Meeko says cats don't do these things!'  'This is just wrong!'

Pete goes for his walks pretty late at night to avoid dogs, so we don't see him a lot, but every single time, Bacall lets them know she thinks it is soooooooo wrong.  A couple of nights ago, Pete and his peeps strolled on by.  They now know they can walk on our sidewalk and Bacall will not hurt them and I'll come out and talk.  This time they had a friend from out of town and her first comment to me was, "Why do I feel like I am being lectured by a Basset Hound?".  My response, "Cause you are...."  She knew immediately that it was not a dangerous bark but an indignant one.  She then went over and petted Bacall and just laughed at the whole situation.  I, however, did something that I had never done before.... I petted Pete, who by the way is a very, very soft cuddly cat.....

Let's just say, the indignant barks turned to a new subject...
Me.....

I am in the doghouse for petting Pete, the leash walking cat.

The joys of living with a Basset Hound.
(Any ideas of how to get out of the doghouse?_
Melissa

Thursday, July 21, 2016

10 Random Things...

My writing binge of June has faded away, and ideas have come in but not enough for a whole blog, so I decided to revive a 10 random things entry, so July doesn't fly by without at least one.

#1.  Holy Cats has it been a HOT HOT and DRY summer!  It rained for about 5 minutes the other day and I was excited as a kid at Christmas!

#2.  Ice Blocks are back in stores...  I searched and searched last summer when family was in town last summer to no avail, this year, as they were visiting again, I FOUND them!!  We were able to revive a summer time tradition of tempting fate and injury and ice blocking down the hill at Sugarhouse Park.


#3.  Did you know that at the Winter Olympic Park in Park City you can do extreme tubing?  You cruise down the ski jumping hills and can reach speeds of 50 mph...  Here's a little video.. and I did it!


#4.  Sometimes you need visitors to come to town to become a tourist in your own area again.  It's fun  to do the things that on the surface seem touristy...  My tip, don't wait until someone comes to town, get out and explore your area so you know the really fun stuff.

#5.  I've started knitting stuffed animals to giveaway.  I'm leaning towards donating them to 'The Teddy Bear Cops Program' which gives them to cops for them to give to kids in accidents and other stressful incidents.  I've got to check to see if SLC has a program set up, if not I may start one up....

#6.  My tv viewing has plummeted this summer and I haven't even missed it....  It's going to be interesting to see what happens in the fall.

#7.  I have joined the ranks of Red Butte Garden Volunteers...  I am a second generation volunteer as my Mom is a volunteer as well.  I have done one shift and had a wonderful time.  I can't wait to have more opportunities to get involved.

#8.  Miss Bacall's favorite summertime activity is hanging out on the porch, so it has been a lot of fun to talk to all my neighbors and dogs as they stroll past....

#9.  My health journey is an adventure....  I am recovering, not as fast as I would like, but I am recovering.  There have been a few hiccups, but no major setbacks.  The main thing that has come out of this whole thing, I LOVE my medical team.  They are a mixture of traditional and for lack of a better word non traditional approaches and they work together!

#10.  Don't go into shock, but I am still rolling forward on my New Year's Resolutions!!!  My pushups are almost there!  My bad habit just got another reason to stay away.  My book challenge is going nicely, and for the most part, I have enjoyed the books.  I've seen movies in theaters!  My food challenge is keeping me on my toes in the kitchen.  My daily walk has had some misses, but has started a wonderful routine that connects me to my neighborhood.  The Weird Holidays have been SO MUCH FUN!!!!  and I now have others giving me suggestions now!

I hope your summer is going well!

Melissa


Thursday, June 30, 2016

A Literary Discussion, Part Two..

It was a bit of hit and miss for my reading time this quarter, but I still managed to get some good books in....

Links to First Quarter and the Challenge List


#45.  Candide by Voltaire

Oh what a fun read!!!  A little over 100 page satire about suffering, it was a hilarious and quick read.  I knew nothing about it going in and couldn't of been more surprised and happy about this book.   Voltaire accomplished in such a short amount of pages something that I'm not sure that no one else could of, he left out all of the fluff and left only substance.

#18 . Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

One of the hardest challenges of reading books that are so well known and have adaptations of them is to let go and not try to put parts of a movie into a book, having said that, however, this short first entry into the Alice series was enjoyable and confusing, easy yet deep, fun and thought provoking.  I will be continuing on with Alice as soon as I have time.

#35 . Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

Prepare to be uncomfortable, really uncomfortable, but just buckle down and read...Make it through the violence of the first chapter and take a breath and continue and read...Cringe at the cruelty both in your face and the more subtle but just as damaging cruelty of not seeing someone...Read on, and make it through this heartbreaking book about a man who becomes invisible due to the fact that society only sees one thing, the color of his skin.   This is probably a book that needs to be read more than once to truly appreciate everything in it, but I'm not sure I can read it again, but I'm glad I made it through once.

#32 . Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift

When is an adventure book not just an adventure book?  When it's a top 50 book....then it becomes a satire on travel books (everything is perfect, even though we are stranded in a strange land), politics, society, education, and religion.  It's short but packs a lot in as Gulliver starts out as an idealistic travel and ends up a bit bitter and having little faith in people.

#33 . Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

Absurd, yet entertaining...  This is either the most brilliant book I've ever read or the dumbest and I'm not sure I'll ever make up my mind about it.  There is a crazy cast of characters and a plot that takes a while to figure out and you are introduced to the origin of a phrase that I'm pretty sure that you've used before...Catch-22...

#21 . The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger

My first thought about Holden Caulfield is that he is a spinning top reaching the end of its run and is wobbling trying to hang on.  You know it's all about to fall apart and even Holden is aware that sometimes he is a bit too much.  The book is a fascinating read of teenage angst and pain that made me react in two very distinct ways.. first, I was drawn back into my teenage years and struggling to find my way and I was right there with him, although my experiences were quite different from his....and then second, I wanted to look him in the eyes and tell him to for just a second breathe and realize it may not be as bad as it may seem...  This book has been loved and controversial since it was published, and I found that I am a fan of this coming of age story....

#23 . Nineteen Eighty Four by George Orwell

War is Peace.  That line alone scares me the most, because it was written a long time ago, yet it is the phrase that is used over and over again to justify wars today.  War is the path to Peace.  No, not really.  Somehow peace isn't popping up after the bombs drop.  This book is just chilling because it show what happens when you just go with the status quo and follow like sheep.  Pay attention and speak up!  Horror flicks don't scare me, but books like this do....

#25 . To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf

Chaotic beauty describes the first 30 or so pages of a dense, yet never boring, 200 page novel.  It's a novel of detail of the mundane, yet never boring, lives that we live, and the unexpected consequences of losing someone.  I LOVED the beauty of the prose, it almost read like a poem and the celebration and understanding that life is truly lived in the little moments of life....

#36 . The Stranger by Albert Camus

What an utterly baffling book for me.....  The main character is both sympathetic and completely dislikable.  It's a weird balance of feeling sympathy and wanting him to be anything other than he is.  It's also a book about the meaning of life and finding peace where ever you might be and what ever your circumstances are, but the theme that is resonating for me the most is this, 'what happens when you don't react in a way that society expects?'  Are you judged and condemned for simply not following societal norms?  A short novel of less than 150 pages that packs a punch.

#6.  War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

Well, I finished it... By the end, I felt like I was reading two separate books, one I really enjoyed and the other, I could not wait for it to be over.  Tolstoy said back in the day that he did not consider this a novel, and I agree with him.  There were aspects of a novel, but the other part was like a droll, boring history teacher....  Ironically, it's not a hard read, so don't let that intimidate you when you see that it has over 1300 pages.  I'm glad I read it, but doubt I'll read it again.

#28 . The Trial by Franz Kafka

What would you do if you were arrested for a crime, but never told what you are accused of?  What would you do if the people that are charging you with that crime are not a normal court, but have the power to destroy your life?  What would you do with the unrelenting pressure that goes along with all of this?  Would you give into paranoia?  All of this and more are brought into question into this dense novel.  I had always been a bit intimidated by Kafka, but found 'The Trial' to be deep and thought provoking, but readable.

#15 . Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

DID NOT FINISH...  I couldn't read this book.  I gave it 100 pages, but felt sick to my stomach as the narrator, Hubert Humphrey laid out his reasoning for finding a 14 year old girl sexually attractive.  .  ARE YOU FREAKIN' KIDDING ME?  Life is too short to feel like you need to take a shower after you read.  The ironic part in all of this, Nabokov's writing is amazing and I am going to find another of his books to read, but I can not stomach Lolita.

#1.  In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust
       Swann's Way (book 1)

I had never heard of Proust or this book, so I am immensely grateful for this challenge for bringing it to my literary life.  I ADORE this book!  And the more French authors I read, the more I come to realization I love their writing style.  This is a subtle, slow moving novel about memories and time.  I cannot recommend it enough.  I cannot wait to continue this 7 part series of novels...


#29 . One Thousand and One Nights by India/Iran/Iraq/Egypt

I read it over the span of a month and really liked taking a tale or two a night.  I loved all the creative and smart women who outwitted arrogant, and sometimes mean, men.  I loved the learning that both the men and women did.  Fables and tales hold a great place in our history and it was fun to read ones from another part of the world.

It was an interesting 2nd quarter of reading.  I was introduced to authors I had never read before, books that challenged me, and once again, books that I fell in love with....

Still reading,
Melissa







Friday, June 10, 2016

Weedy Wisdom

There are a few trees in my yard that in the spring drops little seed pods.  In a normal year, a few of them sprout and I weed them out of the flower beds, however, this year, due to the cool temps and rain, it seemed like a couple million of them took hold.

seed pod weeds at the base of my roses

Every time I turned around there were more of them to pull.  It got a wee bit frustrating and all I could see in the garden were weeds.  I had lost sight of the big picture.....

the big picture, when weeds exist but aren't the focus....

Then it happened, quite unexpectedly,
a change in my thinking and attitude...

There is a HUGE lesson in weeds and weeding, for me at least.

You have to decide what is worth cultivating and taking care of,

Yarrow in the garden
and just as important,

you have to decide what to eliminate.....

another crazy weed

There is a gardening quote that goes a something like this, 'a weed is just a flower that you don't like', and sometimes it's just the location where it's growing that makes it a problem.  For example, I love mint, but always keep in a pot, so it doesn't strangle and take over everything in the area.  Lovely plant in a pot, but in the earth, I would treat it like a weed.

The little seed pod weeds would be appreciated if I needed more trees in my yard, but as I already have more trees than I know what to do with, they are a problem, so I need to take them out.

And here is the thing about weeds, if you don't dig down and get to the root of the problem, they are gonna come back and you'll be dealing with the exact same problem in a week or two.

Combine all the lessons above and that's how I realized that weeding has a bunch of stuff to teach me...

Sometimes to grow, you have to let go and get rid of the things you no longer need.....

Lamb's Ear on the parkway

Sometimes to thrive, you need to change locations so you will be appreciated....

Dianthus in the east bed

Sometimes you have to dig a bit deeper to get to the root of an issue, so it can finally be dealt with...

the elusive and precious Basset in bloom...

and the one I love the most, if you do a bit of work, you can see the results...



Learning from unexpected places,
Melissa


Monday, June 6, 2016

Taking Time....

Over the past couple of months, I have been trying to become more aware of things in my life that I had not been acknowledging or taking the time to notice and appreciate....

It's a bit like being a tourist in your own town, neighborhood, or even your own home and not taking for granted the things you see on a daily basis.  Living in the moment.....and acknowledging all that is in your life.

In my closet, I turned my hangers around until I wore the clothing item and then switched them.  The result, feeling like I had a whole new wardrobe, when in reality all I did was stop wearing the same clothes over and over again...

In the house, I went through items and rearranged and switched up the decor.  It seems like a new space and changed the energy, and once again no money spent...

Then there are the memberships, opportunities, parks, and the like that are in your area,  Red Butte Garden is one in mine and my amazing Mom volunteers once a week there, so it's not like it isn't on my radar on a regular basis.  As a benefit for volunteering, she has been given a membership to the garden that she has generously included my name on, so I have free admission.  Ask me how often I visit the garden......maybe once a year, if that.  Isn't that just sad?

In April, mom kept saying how beautiful the garden was and that we needed to go up and visit, and we actually did!  Wandering around and enjoying the spring blossoms made us both realize that we should visit more often just to appreciate the gardens, so we made a goal of visiting the garden once a month for a year and  sometimes you have to write it down and hold yourself accountable.  It seemed weird to write it down and make a goal to do something that you enjoy, but I hadn't been visiting, so maybe this will get a habit going.. The benefits of going to the garden are endless....time together, seeing the different plants in bloom, getting out in nature, having a nice walk, and I could go on forever, so it is worth making it a focus.

April Crab Apple Blossoms
I also took my camera, because I have been trying to take more photographs while at home, not just on vacation, so I did.  It was a pretty smart decision.....

An April bloom that was gone in May
As we made our second visit in May, something immediately came to our notice, the blossoms of April had given way to the blooms of May.  If we had not visited in April, we would of missed the crab apple, lilac (many different varieties, all of which made me sneeze) and all of the other wonderful things we saw.  I barely recognized the crab apple trees without their blossoms..


Life, as we all know, runs in cycles, but I don't know about you, but sometimes when you are in the thick of it, you do not always take the time to notice the little beauties that occur on a regular basis in our lives.  I think that is the reason that I am such a fan of gardening and nature is that the second you step into it or work in it, you are immediately reminded of the little things that you might of missed otherwise....even the weeds, there is a big lesson in weeds.  :)

May Chives in Bloom

Visiting more often with the intention of appreciation, I am noticing things that I never had noticed before.   I was drawn immediately to some beautiful purple blooms in the Herb garden and was SHOCKED when I saw they were chives.  I never knew they bloomed like that, I always cut them and use them before that happens.....

Two flowers growing side by side in harmony, yet completely different
What you see when you take time to sit on a bench next to the pond...
It's not just Red Butte that has me slowing down and taking time to notice, I've been doing it in my neighborhood as I amble with Bacall, my dog.  Flowers, squirrels, birds, trees, and yes, the neighborhood dogs have all caught my eye... And since I'm not appearing to be in such a rush, I've been talking to my neighbors more.  It snowballs and becomes something bigger without even really trying.  I love that....

I'll end it with this, a plant that grows in my front yard.  The beauty is right there everyday, all I have to do is look....

Everyday opportunity to see beauty....

Take some time to notice what's around you, or what you have purchased and never used, you might just be surprised at the results...

Taking time to smell the flowers...
Melissa











Saturday, June 4, 2016

National Hug Your Cat Day....

June 4, 2016 NATIONAL HUG YOUR CAT DAY!
When I saw this holiday on my list of odd/weird holidays, I knew I was going to celebrate it...
Meeko's opinion, however, was a bit different than mine....

First, I had to hunt up the lazy furball.  She was napping on the bench she has claimed as her own.
as I woke her up

My mere presence in front of her woke her up, a major crime in her book.  She was in the middle of her mid afternoon, pre meal nap and should not of been disturbed.

are you feeling the joy?
I informed her of my intention and the fact that it was National Hug Your Cat Day and how could I, as a responsible and loving owner, not partake...  She didn't care, and still said no...

Prepare for the hug, and the murder she will be committing tonight.

I continued on and picked her up and still her enthusiasm lagged, but then she cuddled for a brief moment before demanding to be freed from my love so she could continue with more important things...

Back to her nap...

like napping....

As for Bacall, she observed it all with her usual excitement level and is patiently waiting for National Hug Your Hound Day on September 13th...

Contain your excitement, Bacall....

Loving these fun holidays,
Melissa