Sunday, June 20, 2010

the elegance of the hedgehog a novel about a woman who at first glance is quite ordinary - so ordinary most people would look right through her. but renee michel, the conceierge of an upscale apartment building in paris, has a secret that only the most perceptive sense. intelligent, witty and compassionate, renee is so much more than she appears to be, and the juxtaposition between who we really are, who people think we are, and who we pretend to be forms the nexis of this most moving story.

The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery (europa, 2008) is an extrordinary novel about ordinary people who are extraordinary in unexpected ways. i laughed out loud - so loudly, in fact, i was glad i was alone while i was reading - and then wept buckets at the end. i enjoyed it so much, i devoured it in a day. however, i know its one of those increasingly rare books that i will reread again and again.

and furthermore, the war will end. blessed be.

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Monday, June 14, 2010

the very angry tea party

i'm going to say a lot of things in this post that aren't considered politically correct, so if you are a Gentle Reader easily offended, i urge you to consider stop reading now.

one of the things i always find interesting about spending time with my brother david is that it gives me insight into how the Other Half thinks. im talking about the people who dont get to haul around an IQ like mine. (if you're the sort of person who wants to take issue with the fact i know im intelligent, stop reading NOW.)

david's thought processes aren't just slower than mine. david lacks an intrinsic ability to make connections. it's hard for him to understand something as concrete that if he oversleeps and the dog refuses to go out with me, the first thing he must do upon awakening is to walk the dog - not eat his own breakfast the way he always does. david's mind seems to function more or less like a one-way track. things happen in serial progression not because they must but because in david's world, they do. as a child, i remember that david didn't play with his toys unless there was someone else to play with him.

the reason i find david, as a high-functioning downs' syndrome person, so illuminating is that he is not that far off the mean. so when i was reading in the new york times this morning, about The Very Angry Tea Party, what occured to me is that the Tea Party isn't so much angry as afraid, and the reason they're afraid is that they're just Not That Smart.

the reason the tea part is so angry and afraid is that they lack imagination. like david, they can't play unless someone shows them how. they can't dream a better Dream unless someone dreams it for them. i know the thinking of a Typical Tea Partier because my mother (shudder) is one. (as someone very wise said, if it's a good idea to keep your friends close and your enemies closer, i guess it can't get any better than that.)

the basic thinking seems to be that they perceive themselves as being at risk for losing "everything"...that "everything" is in limited quantity and that "everything" should belong to the people who "work" for it. i use quotation marks because these are loose terms and must be understood in the way the Tea-Partiers themselves define it at any given moment in time. i think this is why some of us on the Other Side of the Bell Curve are sometimes confused and might think of Tea-Partiers as "liars."
they're not deliberately "lying" - i want to believe - they're just being loosey-goosey with their language and not cluing the rest of us in. (not only do they lack imaginations, many of them lack vocabularies. this is not my mother's issue, however.)

the Tea Partiers - like my mother, goddess bless her - aren't so much angry as afraid, and the reason they are afraid is that they lack imagination. like my brother, they just can't imagine doing anything differently from the way "it's always been done." or "the Way our Founding Fathers wanted us to do it...", whatever That Way is. the writer of the new york times article points out quite eloquently the illogic contained within the Tea Party's platform.

of course they are illogical. scared, angry people who aren't terribly smart to begin with can't be expected to be rational. they may well be the salt of the earth and the backbone of the nation (and their children are certainly our cannon fodder) but by what they say and what they want they show they aren't that smart.

clearly the answer is that what's needed is not denigration. i don't make my brother feel bad because he thinks he's supposed to have breakfast first. and until these people can stop being afraid, i don't think explanations will help much either. there's really only one answer and it's what works most effectively with my brother but how to apply is beyond my ability.

and furthermore, the war will end, despite the Tea Party's efforts to the contrary. blessed be.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

he's my brother

my youngest brother, david, was born with down's syndrome. for those gentle readers who are not aware of what the condition is, it's caused by an extra chromosome in every one of david's cells.

david still lives at home, and probably always will. when my mother wants to go away with my stepfather, she has to find someone who doesn't mind being with david.

for the last few years, that someone is me. what always fascinates me about my time with david is not how much my little brother and i are different, but how much we are alike.

both of us love irish music. both of us love to write. both of us love to dance. both of us love dogs. both of us, on occasion, have loved too much.

and furthermore, the war will end. blessed be.

Friday, June 11, 2010

he aint heavy

i havent disappeared down another black hole... im spending a few days in new jersey taking care of my little brother david while my intrepid mother is off paddling dragon boats.

i'll be back late monday.

and furthermore, the war will end. blessed be.

Monday, June 7, 2010

just me and my girls (mostly)

me and libby on the penthouse balcony:

me and elissa having coffee in the penthouse:

at the wedding - ma barker and her gang:

just me and the girls:

Sunday, June 6, 2010

i just adore a penthouse view

even she's not sure how it happened. my stepdaughter elissa, who's never shy about complaining if something is not to her preference, spoke right up to the management of the waldorf-astoria hotel in new york city, so much so that they moved her out of her (smelly) room and upgraded her - not her father who paid the bill, mind you - into a penthouse on the 38th floor:

the bedroom:

the office:

the view from the balcony:

makes me want to start singing... darling, i love you, but give me park avenue...

and furthermore, the war will end. blessed be.

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Friday, June 4, 2010

get me to the church

... be sure and get me to the church on time.

im not sure i'll have time to blog tomorrow morning, so i thought i would fill all my Gentle Readers in now that i have not disappeared into some black hole in the Blogiverse,...i've simply gone to new york for a wedding. Beloved's cousin's wedding, to be precise.

included in this junket is breakfast in brooklyn, swinging at bb king's with southside johnny, a stroll through central park zoo and aisle seats to Hair. (this is important because at the end you can run up on stage and dance with the cast if you are so inclined. as Gentle Readers can doubtless guess, Beloved is so inclined.)

we're staying the night at the waldorf. i'll be back on monday to share what shade of red we painted the Big Apple.

and furthermore, the war will end. blessed be.

physical chess

my fencing equipment arrived last night. today im taking the day off from the gym. not only do i have some errands to run this morning (in preparation for the wedding in new york we're attending tomorrow) but my body says it wants a rest. they don't call fencing physical chess for nothing. my left shoulder is still sore from the other night, and my inner thighs are aching.

fencing is so good for one's lower body i don't understand why more women don't do it. it's done in a sort of half-crouching position, knees always bent, thighs always flexed. there's no side to side movement that's so hard on women's knees as in other sports. but because the largest muscles in the body are constantly engaged, when they fatigue, everything fatigues, and the chess game, at least in my experience, ends very quickly.

my immediate goal, over the summer, is to build my endurance to the point that twenty minutes of footwork doesn't make me break out into a sweat.

and furthermore, the war will end. blessed be.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

dangerous company

a few days ago, i spent a delightful morning at rose's talking about the magical energies of herbs. what i love about rose is that she makes it clear that Real Magic - even those involving plants - is not about a cookbook recipe. Real Magic is about energy, relationships and interactions. if you wish to make magic with a plant, it's always better if you get to know it first.

and how to know which plants to work with first? if you're not immediately drawn to one, go out in your gardens and your yards, advised rose, and see what calls you.

when i came home, i took a walk. i know a lot of the plants that grow here, of course, but there's always a new friend to make. this year i noticed a beautiful vine growing in a patch of shade beside the rock wall along the one side of the drive way. it has dark green leaves, and beautiful purple flowers with yellow centers.

oh yes, i thought, blissfully. this one. so i snipped a bit of it, brought it in, stuck it in water, and waited for Grisan the Garden Goddess (GGG)to come and tell me what it was.

"oh annie," GGG said, when i explained what i wanted to know and why. "im not sure how close you want to get to this plant. this is nightshade, and it's poison."

there was a time i might've recoiled and declined the invitation to the dance. but im braver now, and i understand the energy in the plant that makes it poisonous also makes it powerful medicine that should not be misused.

so very, very carefully, i embrace my new friend.

and furthermore, the war will end. blessed be.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

oh, the places i've been....

how'd it get to be JUNE?

i can't believe that its been so long since i last blogged. what, you may wonder, have i been up to?

we moved Beloved's mother up to connecticut from brooklyn last month. goddess bless her, but it's like having my grandmother alive all over again. the good part of this, of course, is she's NOT my grandmother and so i don't have to take a thing she says personally. unlike poor Beloved, of course.

i've been taking care of baby jake one day a week, and working out for the rest - well, maybe not quite ALL the rest, but since i finally got over the horrendous cold i had in april, i've rediscovered how much i like to workout. i've also rediscovered how much i enjoy fencing.

yes, fencing - as in foils, not stolen merchandise. so far i've survived four classes, and all i can say is that if i hadn't started working out three months ago fairly seriously, i would never have lasted through the first class. as it was, i had to put the car in cruise control even in 35 mile an hour zones so i could bend both legs on the drive home that first night.

we've also continued to do work on our projects around the house. so far, we've finished the laundry room, the new workout- hobby room, and the entry hall. Beloved has embraced the principles of feng shui as enthusiastically as he embraces just about everything else.

i've been spending a lot of time working in the gardens this year with the help of a wonderfully talented gardener friend, and things are looking much spiffier this year than they have in the past. im also very excited because this afternoon when i got back from the gym, a Very Large Piece of Equipment was parked at the top of the drive - which can only mean that the Driveway Project (in which we plan to tear up our driveway which resembles the surface of the moon in spots and replace it with something more like a road) is about to begin.

so what about YOU, Gentle Readers (assuming i still have some).... what have you been up to this spring?

and furthermore, the war must end. blessed be.