Monday, January 16, 2012

What's new for the New Year?

I was recently looking at some pictures Naomi took of fall scenes around here. I was musing nostalgically about how nice our recent fall was when it hit me that the pictures were from the year before. I'm sure this will give-away the fact that I am a bit ditzy, but I was a little confused and confounded for a bit. The same season, same scene, two different years, so alike in our little neck of the woods. But really, except for some natural disaster or human intervention, why would it look different?
This past year, like our country road, has been relatively free of change. Which is no small milestone in the life of our family. When you are married to a gypsy, and have a good number of children, change is common fare. Moves ( to a new house, new state...or country) another baby, job changes, school changes, spiritual changes...the list goes on and on from year to year. But this past year has been relatively stable. Which is a gift in many ways.
Even my New Year resolutions ( that I didn't make) would be the same. Lose 30 lbs, try to tone up this flabby body, be more present to my children and those I love, complain less. Maybe an added less scatterbrained. As someone who has had a pretty good memory throughout her life, I find I can't rely on my memory quite so thoroughly as I used to. :) Focus. It's a word I use a lot around here, but a good example starts at the top.
So this year, like the last, not much out of the ordinary is staring us in the face. A new boy in college, a girl trying to figure out where to go to college, a boy contemplating his future are some of the things will be different this year. Otherwise we are sticking with the status quo.:) It will be interesting to see what possible "natural disaster" or "human intervention" will change that as we progress, but for now, we rest at peace in sameness. :)

Quotes I am pondering:

"One thing I do find intolerably the idea that one should have to renounce one's personal life in the name of universal love. I believe that there are obligations that are ordained by God, that no one has the right to deny them, and that the obligations actually promote rather than hinder the spiritual life." Sophia Tolstoy 1887


A bit ironic that I had two "connections" with popular media this month that touched on similar themes in different contexts. Both were about light skinned peoples ( specifically Southern) interactions with dark skinned peoples.
One was a book: "The Poisonwood Bible" by Barbara Kingslover. Two things that surprise me about this book and the effect it has had on me are the title; it doesn't sound very favorable toward a beloved book ( it isn't) and that I found out later it was on the "Oprah Book List". Erg. But it was a very engrossing read. If you can peel off the layers of Miss Kingslover's apparent bones-to-pick with Christianity and Westerners ( Americans?) in general, her descriptions of southern folk and culture are both humorous and spot on. And while there is probably no one who dislikes the tired, old "religious man = bad man" character than me, the one in this book rings a bit more true than the usual overblown caricature. Misguided and blind to the fact that he needs healing as much as those he is coming to "save", he is someone I know I've met in the past, or maybe there is a little of him in us all.
The story is one of a southern family ( who interestingly enough, hail from Bethlehem, Georgia....a town we've actually lived in!) who go to the Congo in the 50's as missionaries and how Africa changed all their lives. The point is well taken that while wealthy ( even if we think we aren't) white, Christian, Westerners may have a lot to offer those in third world countries, a dose of humility is often what is missing. For however strange and outlandish we think their customs and practices may be, they certainly have cause to think ours are as well.

The other was "The Help", which I didn't read, but watched the dvd. So I can't comment on the quality of the book. It may be very good. It certainly is a story that is good to be reminded of and outraged over. I found the acting in this one pretty sub par ( except for the two black maids, who were excellent). I need to haul out the thesaurus to find a solution for my overuse of "caricature", but that is what I would call the women portrayed in this and large. Additionally, the fact that everything had to be wrapped up in a happy red bow by the end, no matter how implausible, was annoying. For instance, although we are introduced to example after example of injustice to the "help" by their employers throughout the film, near the end, one suddenly enlightened couple invites the maid to dinner at THEIR TABLE ( no less), and that wonderful act of kindness gives her ( said maid) the courage to leave her abusive husband! Come on.
Ok. I wasn't feeling well, and Naomi wanted to see it, so it seemed a good choice for a mother-daughter movie night. I can't say it was totally a wasted experience, but not a movie I'd watch again.


The Photographs and Diaries of Countess Sophia Tolstoy by Leah Bendavid-Val

(Let's say I am sort of "leafing" through this one more than reading it at this point:)

"A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President -Destiny of the Republic" by Candice Millard.

You know, the focus on Abraham Lincoln's assassination ( or JFK's) usually take front and center in history books, so much so that we forget there was another president who was assassinated. Of course, James Garfield was not in office very long, and so, not a pivotal character in our countries history. Nonetheless, this is a fascinating tale of his short presidency and the assassination that made it infamous. There are all sorts of sub stories going on in this book--related to the assassination and the presidency, that give it an added punch. I haven't yet finished it, but it's one of those books I look for every opportunity to read. Really hard to put down.

Watched: The Red Shoes

This film was made in 1948 and re-released on DVD recently. The acting and plot may be somewhat 40's-esque, but it was worth watching for the lovely ballet scenes and terrific costumes. The "fab" way some of the men dressed back then ( especially in Europe and among the art crowd) was delicious. :) I think the intense use of color took everyone by storm back then and it is no less appealing now.

Comings and Goings: I would say we had a very wonderful Christmas, which we are all grateful for. It was a lovely family time, and we had much fun together. Tim was off for a week, and we had some visits with friends and extended family, as well. Let's not forget the extra treat of warm, snow-free January weather. We got a new trampoline for Christmas and I hemmed and hawed over the suitability of putting it up during the winter. Those kids have had MANY opportunities to use it, so I'm glad I overrode conventional thinking for once! :)
December 20th (Gabriella Ruth, 5!) started our most intense birthday season ( 5-in-a-six-week-period + Christmas and New Years=help!) Last night we had a dinner party for 30 ( and that's only 3 families among our crazy friends :) for Dylan's 21st birthday! On my birthday ( 1-30) Gabi, Naomi and I will be in Florida at DisneyWorld, thanks to my dear parents. How about that!? It wasn't fun having Tim fly out of town every week, but those frequent flyer miles come in handy. :) Manny's 7th birthday is right after New Year's and we'll finish things off with Jed's ninth the beginning of Feb.

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Streams of consciousness from a mother of 10 who usually can't collect her thoughts and finds commas a nuisance.