Sunday, October 31, 2010

Nothing Holds a Candle to the Texas Panhandle

I am still reading The Poe Shadow by Matthew Pearl, which gets even better as I read. It's full of phrases like "the height of sloth", which I love. Since I'm still reading that and don't have more to write about it at the moment, I wanted to talk about a book I read before I started my Read Through the Centuries Project. I loved it (and think you should read it too). 

That Old Ace in the Hole by Annie Proulx.

This is not a book I would pick up on my own. The only reason I started reading it at all is that I had read most of the books on the shelves and wasn't in the mood for the others- and it was the only one left.  I'm almost positive that I didn't up pick this book and bring it home, it was most likely a free book picked up by my husband at The Book Thing in Baltimore (which is the best idea ever by the way, every city should have one of these!). I don't think I would ever look twice at this book if conditions weren't completely perfect for me to do so- conditions like having nothing else to read.


Was I wrong. I loved this book. I even used the word delicious to describe it and I don't throw that word around willy nilly when it comes to books. A book can't just be 'good' or even 'really good' to be called delicious. I have to relish reading it and not want it to end. This was one of those books. I won't do a plot summary, I don't do them well and I find them boring to write- it's easier and less painful for both of us for you to find the summary online- but briefly:

That Old Ace in the Hole is about young man named Bob Dollar who travels from Colorado to take up residence and scout for hog farm sites in the Texas panhandle town of Woolybucket. (Woolybucket!)

That doesn't sound like a book that would be called delicious, I know!  but the characters that fill the pages and the quietly witty observations made by the main character make it so. I would read 50 pages and feel that both nothing and everything had happened. Proulx did her research and beyond the plot and quirky characters, there is an obvious appreciation of an under appreciated area and the people living there. There is also a subtle environmental message I enjoyed, but mostly it's the characters.  I will definitely read this book again. There are very few books I reread, but this is one of them.

Thursday, October 28, 2010


I did yoga today. I haven't done yoga in what feels like forever. It's probably only been months, but in yoga time, that might as well be forever. It felt great. I have not been feeling so great. It helped.

I don't know why I haven't done yoga in so long, when it really does benefit me a ton. It seems like the more I need to do something- yoga, eating better, doing something creative- the more apathetic and the more excuses I develop. I need to clean the counters, I need to check my email, I need to pack my lunch, I need to make dinner, I need to take a shower before I make dinner. All things that are necessary at one time or another, but usually not necessary for me to do right then. Instead of yoga or art or writing, which help my sanity so much in times of stress, I choose counter cleaning and dishwasher loading.

I need to do that less. I need to paint, write, and do yoga more. I'll try to get those scales balanced.

Friday, October 15, 2010

And sometimes...there's a puddle of Cat Pee

Today was one of those days.

It all started with a puddle of cat pee. That puddle of cat pee taught me a lesson. A lesson that I'm going to share with you. Because YOU are one of my lucky readers. You may be my only reader. So listen up.

It started with my husband waking up and heading to work at 6:45. Since it's my day off, I hoped that I had some more time to sleep before the Sweet Baboo woke up. (Last week he was getting back teeth and he was waking up at 5:50am, crying bloody murder, and then refusing to go back to sleep.) This particular morning he slept until 7:20 or so, which was good, but he woke up crying, which was bad. He usually wakes up with contented babbling, which means I have time to go downstairs, let the dogs out, fix my coffee, and basically do things that are easier to do with two hands. However, if he's crying, I just go downstairs, let the dogs out, grab his morning bottle (he takes cups during the day, but he's not a morning person and is too grouchy to deal with them in the morning- which as a non-morning person myself, I totally get) and take it upstairs for him.

Well, looking back, he was probably my first indication of how this day was going to go- because by the time I got his bottle...he had stopped crying and started sounding a lot more content. Hmmm. Ok. He doesn't EVER do that. He's either crying until you get him, or happy, or happy and then crying if you don't get him in a timely enough manner (which, isn't saying that he's impatient, its saying that I'm really slow). He's rarely, I dare say never, crying to happy again with no outside intervention.

Well ok, that was good. Taking that as a good sign and a welcome reprieve, I took the 'happy time' to make coffee, straighten up downstairs, and get dressed. I even put make up on. I function much better for the rest of the day if I at least get my hair and face presentable first thing in the morning. I don't know why. It makes the rest of the day much less of an ordeal. I don't know. I'm weird.

So anyhow, I was actually up, productive, and dressed by 8:30, which was so awesome to me. Plus after feeling most of the week like Bloaty MacFatpants, I was happy to find that I felt good in my clothes.

I'm going to fast forward a bit, since I feel I'm losing you over the mundane details of my morning, and as you may be my only reader, I don't wish to lose you.  Stay with me, man! Stay with me! 

Ok, so I had gotten the Baboo up, we were both sitting downstairs watching The Cat in the Hat. I with my coffee and laptop and he with his carrot muffin and banana.

That's when I smelled it.

Cat pee.

I tried to ignore it, to tell myself that my nose was making it up. Now, telling myself that my nose is making it up isn't totally off base, I have a Super Spidey sense of smell and when you pair that with overwhelming paranoia over having the House That Smells Like Pets, you get someone who frequently smells phantom pet odors.

This, alas, was no phantom.

Apparently I had left the basement door closed last night (which I am SO careful about leaving open for her) and poor Kitty had no where to do her thang. So she chose the carpet. Right in front of the couch.  Argh.

So I cleaned it up, went about my biz and then, right as I was about to leave the house, I saw another, much bigger puddle on the living room chair. Double Argh. (Please note, I was not arghing over poor kitty. I was 100% arghing over me forgetting to leave the door open for her.)

As I cleaned up the stinky puddle, it threatened to become The Thing That Wrecked The Day, which was utterly unnecessary. I mean, I had been given extra Happy Baby Time that I didn't think I was going to get at 7am, I was dressed (no small feat), I thought I looked relatively attractive, I was wearing my NEW super duper fun argyle hoodie, and I was on my way to have lunch with a favorite cousin. That does not a Sucky Day make. However, because I Am Who I Am, I was about to make it a sucky day over some cat pee.

But then I learned a lesson.

A Lesson From Cat Pee.

The lesson I learned is that there is always a puddle of cat pee some place if you look for it. Or smell for it (which I often do, because I'm That Guy). Its just how life goes. There might even be TWO puddles (which as it turned out today, there was). But, if you look in other directions, there are so many other things that are NOT cat pee and that are so much more worthy to base the quality of one's day on. (Yes, sentence ending with a preposition. Sue me.)

Things like:

A kid that makes you smile.
A beautiful fall day.
The nice cat that made the puddle who's been a good companion for 8 years.
The nice dogs that also make puddles but who have been good companions and sources of smiles for 9 and 8 years.
Having a house to keep us warm and dry.
Millions of other things that may not make our whole day, but that make up moments of it, over and and over and over.

As I'm rereading this, it is sounding really trite and cliche, but I'm not trying to be. I realize these things have been said a million times in a million different ways, and my lesson is not a new one; but how often do we actually put the lesson into practice? How often do we let the cat pee wreck all, or at least part, or our day?  Cat pee, in the grand scheme of this life, is not one of those things that matter. Not even a little. I constantly make it matter. Like when I am tired at the end of the day and have more still to do and then I go to put a dirty dish in the dishwasher and...gasp...its full! Of clean dishes! That have to be put away! Before I can put this dirty dish in there! OH NOOOOOOO!

Yup. That's usually how it goes for me. I'm trying to not be that way. I'm trying to be the kind of person that says "Oh, ok, the dishes are clean. Good. Clean dishes." How hard is that? Not very I guess, but it sure is hard for me!

I don't know if I'll ever be the "Good. Clean dishes." kind of person completely. I think there always might be an "OH NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!" before the "Good. Clean dishes." but I'm working on it. I think as long as I get to the "Good. Clean dishes." part eventually- before it ruins my day, that I'll be doing ok.

So. That was my lesson learned from Cat Pee. That there will always be puddles of cat pee in any given day, but that you just clean it up as best you can, flip the cushion over, and move on with the more happy aspects of daily living; which, much like cat pee, can be found if you look for them.

In other words...

Always Look On the Non-Cat Pee Side of Life.

The End.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Poe Poe...and I don't mean the Fuzz

I am reading a new book! Its not part of the Reading Through the Centuries Project (that sounds so official and important, no? "The *insert Public Radio voice here* Reading Through the Centuries Project"), because I'm still on Black Beauty. Since I'm using that one as part of my posts over at The Queen's Scullery, I am taking my time to dissect it. However, I read before bed every night, and I quickly found that I had to stop using that time for Black Beauty reading- I would read a chapter, turn the light out, and then sit there awake thinking of all the things I need to incorporate into posts about Victorian horsemanship. After two nights of that, I decided that a new book was needed for before bed time. It's wind down time, not wind up time if ya know what I'm sayin'.

So, new Bed Time book. I had this one in my collection, and I started reading it months ago, but then got distracted with something else. Well I'm glad did, because although it was written in the current era, this one is a perfect companion to my study of Victorian stuff. 

The Poe Shadow, by Matthew Pearl. I don't know why I wasn't so into it before, because its really good. I guess I'm really mood based when it comes to books- sometimes a book won't hold my attention and I'll get distracted by something else, but then a few months later I'll have some different frame of reference and then I'll be totally into it. That's what happened with this one.

Poe Shadow is really well written, and it's written in the style of books written in the time it was set (1849-1850's), which makes it really fun to read while doing the Victorian stuff. The fact that it's set in Baltimore is of course an added bonus, since I live here.

The basic premise is that the main character, Quentin, sees the sad little funeral of Edgar A. Poe and becomes obsessed with finding out why Poe died and pulling Poe's much maligned name out of the proverbial gutter.

I'm only halfway through it, but I'm finding myself staying up later and later reading. Check it out if you have any interest in Poe or that time period, or just enjoy a good book, I don't think you'll be disappointed!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Black Beauty 
I'm actually really enjoying Black Beauty, but in a much more intellectual way than I did when I originally read it- probably because I'm not 12. When I first started rereading, my initial reaction was along the lines of "oh...this is a mistake", because the sentences are really short and so I started to think there was a reason I read it when I was 12.  It comes off a little like a kids book at first. But I persevered, because I was all bundled up in bed, and putting it down would have required not reading at all, or going to the basement to find a new book, or reading the Scarlet Letter; and I wasn't really feeling any of those options.

I'm glad I kept going, because its proving really interesting to reread at twice the age I was originally (ok fine...I'm being a little generous on the twice). It has the reputation as a children's book, I suppose because it's about horses (and maybe because of the short sentences), but it wasn't written as such, and it's actually really ahead of its time in regard to discussion of animal welfare issues.

I'm only up to about page fifty- I haven't had much reading time lately- but I'm actually going to use it as the basis of a little research on Victorian era horsemanship over at The Queen's Scullery.  If you're interested in a more analytical look at the book and its social commentary on animal welfare in the Victorian era, or in any other aspects of Victorian culture (like keeping bees or cooking whole rabbits), The Queen's Scullery is all about it.  

Over here I will be continuing with my book project and with more trivial observations about life in general. :)